Monday Mystery Mime

It’s that time of the week again, when you have to guess what Feathers and Toast is miming. Correct guesses are in with a chance of winning the mime of their choice being performed. Remember, you have to enter to be in with a chance of winning, so why not pop a guess in the comments below? We’ll announce the winner with next week’s mime.

And congratulations to Deva Palmier, Melissa Spors Hubbard, Joe Pranaitis  and Vickie Sampson for correctly guessing cocktail umbrella on last week’s mime.

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Found in Translation

It’s week three of “Found in Translation”, the section of Newsnibbles where we work with our friends at Ammy’s Delight to learn a Dutch saying, and if it has an equivalent in English.  It’s fun to learn what we all have in common, so if you have a version in your language, let us know, either in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter.

So, this week’s saying is:

De hond in de pot vinden

Which literally translates as:

Find the dog in the pot

But, used in context means:

All the food is gone

And of course, in English we say:

The cupboard is bare

What do you say in your language?

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Chapter 2: There’s a Knack to It

Badger will be taking part in CampNanoWriMo for July, and thought it might be fun to post her progress, for you lot to read and comment on.  She is writing a fantasy novel called The Smuggler’s Daughter.  Be sure to check back regularly to find out what happens next.

Missed Chapter 1? Read it here.

Chapter Two: There’s a Knack to It

“What did you hear?” Pa said, knocking lightly on Victoria’s bedroom door.

“Nothing, Pa,” she smiled at him looking up from her book.  “You know me, I never hear anything.”

“Good girl,” he smiled.

“Everything alright?”

“Yeah, we just have to be a bit careful.  There’s a new Justice in Smoke, they’re cracking down on the business.” Pa always called it ‘the business’.

“What’s coming in?” Victoria put her book down and gave him her full attention.

“Gent’s fashions, from over the water.  You learned languages in that school, didn’t you?”

“Mais oui,” Victoria smiled at him.

“Good girl, you can come with me to the meeting tomorrow.

“What time, Pa?”

“Lunch time,” Pa looked at her, his dark brow furrowed in confusion.  He was a big man, square jawed with a permanent eight o’clock shadow.  To someone who didn’t know him he could be quite intimidating, but Victoria just knew him as her Pa. “Why? Made plans, ‘ave ya?”

“Yes, actually,” Victoria laughed.  “I made a friend today, and I was going to meet her after lunch.”

“Can you rearrange?” Pa stroked his chin thoughtfully.

“I’ll try, Pa.” She tried to disguise the disappointment in her voice. “I’ll get the train to Smoke in the morning and let her know I have other commitments.”

“Thanks, Vic.” Pal smiled and quietly shut the door behind him.

The next morning Victoria was up early.  She spent a great deal of time choosing the most appropriate outfit to meet the foreign gentlemen.  Or that’s what she told herself.  She hurried down the stairs, hooking her purse onto the loop on her dress and reaching for her keys.

“I’ll be back in time for the meeting, Pa,” she called as she headed out.

“You look nice,” Pa called after her as she hurried out of the door.

The day was grey, the summer heat diminished somewhat by the sea mist, which had rolled in the night before and remained.  It left a soft lingering dampness in the air, and whilst it wasn’t cold, people were instinctively remaining indoors, or walking with their heads down, less inclined towards social interaction as they were on a sunny day.  She bought her ticket and took her seat by the window.  The train juddered into life and heaved itself out of a stationary position with an arthritic jerk.  She rested her arm on the edge of the window, as much to steady herself as anything else, as the train rattled away from the station.  She watched as hills and forests rolled by and they entered the more oppressive industrial area that was Smoke.  Black soot billowed from chimneys and carts and carriages bustled past.  As Victoria stepped onto the platform she was greeted by shouting vendors, an odd smell of fish, drains and salted meat and the feeling of needing to rush.  Everyone here was in a hurry, so she too hurried up the steps and away from the platform.  Reaching the top of the steps and the cobbled streets she realised she had no idea where she was going.  Pa had taken her to Smoke, maybe twice when she was a girl, but she could barely remember it.  She hailed a cab and asked the driver to take her to White’s.  He looked her up and down, as though deciding whether she was joking or not, then shrugged, and helped her up the steps and into the carriage.  The initial journey was bumpy, as they rolled along the cobbled street past vendors, small shops and bars.  Smoke was busy, there were people everywhere, none of them noticing each other as they hurried about their own lives, oblivious to those around them.  How easy, Victoria thought as she peered out of the window, to just come here and disappear.  It was nothing like Calms, where everyone knew you and scrutinised your actions.  The cobbles seemed to disappear from beneath them as the cab moved forward, and the buildings became, larger, brighter, more expensive looking.  They turned down a road through a huge iron gate and up a gravel driveway to what could only be described as a mansion.  It had a flight of steps leading up to the entrance, which was supported by huge white columns.

“Here we are, then, miss,” the driver offered her a hand down the steps and onto the path.

“Is this it?” Victoria felt her heart racing as she observed the massive building.  She looked down awkwardly at her dress.  It was her best, but it had several repairs, and the hem was worn.

“Yes, miss.  Were you supposed to meet someone?”

“Not here,” she took a deep breath and steadied herself.  “I shan’t be long, would you mind waiting for me?”

“Not at all, miss,” he tipped his hat respectfully and seated himself on the wheel of the carriage.

Victoria swallowed hard and mounted the steps into the entrance of the ominous building.  There was a man standing at a sort of pulpit in the entrance, a book spread open before him as though he were about to begin a sermon.  He looked disdainfully at her as she walked in, and she checked herself and tried to smooth the creases from her dress that had formed during her journey.

“Are you on the list?” he asked in a tone that implied he was certain she wasn’t.

“No,” Victoria looked straight at him.  She knew he was a member of staff, and her finishing school had trained her to always speak in a commanding way to staff, to show that you have breeding.  “My friend is here, I wonder if you would mine passing a note to her?”

“Who’s your friend?” the man asked suspiciously, although he did obligingly pass her a pen and paper.

“Isabelle…” Victoria stumbled slightly, realising she only knew Is’s first name.  It seemed however a first name was enough.

“Miss Rafferty?” the whole attitude of the man seemed to change, suddenly he was nervous.  “Would you like me to take you to their table?”

“No!” Victoria was horrified at the prospect, she quickly scribbled her note, folded the paper and handed it to him with the pen. “Please just give her this, thank you.”

The man nodded at her and scurried off.  Turning heel she hurried back down the steps and towards the cab when she heard her name being called from the steps.

“Vicky! I say, wait a mo, will you?” Is was hurrying down the steps.  She was wearing a dark green gown which perfectly complimented the red of her hair and the emerald of her eyes, but, whilst on a mannequin of this colouring it would have looked beautiful, on Is is looked almost awkward, as she pulled at it, battling to get more freedom of movement as she pursued Victoria down the steps.

“I didn’t want to disturb your brunch,” Victoria said awkwardly, waiting for her to catch up.

“Oh gosh, I wish you would, I’m on the verge of slitting my wrists with the butter knife!” Is laughed lightly.

“I have to get back to Pa,” Victoria looked uncomfortably at the cab driver.

“Well, look here,” Is said coaxingly, removing her pocket watch from her pocket and glancing at it. “It’s ten thirty now, stay for half an hour, the cab’ll have you back by midday!”

“I can’t afford to take a cab all the way back, Is!” Victoria looked away, ashamed by the admission.

“Of course not,” Is sounded mortified. “I’m sorry, Vic, look, cab’s my treat, alright?  You don’t mind waiting, do you?” she asked the cab driver.

“Not at all, Miss Rafferty,” the cab driver nodded respectfully at her.

“There!” Is spoke triumphantly. “Come on, save me from the butter knife!” She held out her hand and Victoria allowed herself to be led in.

The inside of the building gleamed.  It was pristine, and the massive windows caused light to reflect off the bright white walls and make the splendour of the dining area look more enormous than even it was.  Victoria didn’t like it, however.  Something about its size made it ghastly and impersonal; not at all like the Unicorn Pub in Calms, where she and Pa would sometimes go for lunch.  That was cosy and friendly, and you felt safe.  Here, she had never felt more exposed.

Is led her to a table facing the window, overlooking the massive and immaculately kept garden.  Victoria suspected that a daisy would not dare show its happy yellow face to disturb the oppressively bright green of the lawn.  Her ruminations were interrupted as she heard her name being spoken.

“Mother, Thomas, this is my friend Victoria,” Is introduced her and automatically Victoria found herself giving a small dip, as though in the presence of royalty. “I’d arranged to meet her here after brunch, but her train was early, so I invited her to join us.”

“Of course,” a tall, well bred woman with dark auburn hair and a stiff poise which made her appear somewhat rigid, forced a smile. “Please have a seat, Victoria.”

“Thank you,” Victoria spoke, but the words came out cracked, her mouth suddenly very dry.

“Juice?” Is had poured a glass from a jug on the table and handed it to her.  She smiled with gratitude and took a sip.

“Really, Isabelle,” the woman chided. “I wish you wouldn’t do the staff’s job for them!”

“I am perfectly capable of pouring a drink, mother!” Is shot back! “I’m not an invalid!”

Sir Thomas laughed.  “You certainly aren’t.  What do you make of her, Victoria? Quite the independent.  She’ll be going on one of those votes marches next!”

“Votes marches?” Victoria asked, sipping her drink.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of them?” He leaned back in his seat, clearly pleased to be given the opportunity to exercise his vocal chords. “Bloody women, marching on the capital, demanding the vote! What do they put back? Eh? If you don’t pay tax you shouldn’t have a say as to what it’s spent on, that’s what I say!”

“Perhaps if there were more options open to women than marriage or prostitution, which, let’s face it, is marriage but less boring, then perhaps women would pay tax!” Is shot back.

“Darling!” Sir Thomas still had a note of humour in his voice, but Is’s mother looked mortified by the outburst. “I hope that marriage is rather more comfortable than prostitution! And you wouldn’t want to end up a spinster, would you? How would you live?”

“On my wits, I daresay,” Is was confident, but not sharing the joke that Sir Thomas thought they were.

“And what about you, Miss…” he looked at Victoria.

“Smith,” Victoria lied, she did not want to advertise her surname to these people, Pa wouldn’t like it.

“Smith, what about you, do you want the vote?”

“I try not to get involved with politics,” Victoria smiled charmingly. “Leave politicking to the politicians, I have enough to do at home.”

“Well said!” Sir Thomas beamed.

“Indeed,” Is’s mother’s face seemed to relax and she leaned back in her chair. “I’m glad you’re spending time with such a sensible girl, Isabelle.”

“And of course, I live for your approval, mother,” Is looked thoroughly disappointed in her, and she felt a pang of sadness and took another sip of juice. “I suppose that’s what happens in finishing school, is it, Vic? They beat any sort of opinion out of you?”

“And teach you grammar,” Victoria gave her the most charming smile, which made Is snort.

“Oh? Which finishing school?” Is’s mother took an immediate interest.

“Le Belle Dame,” Victoria spoke with a perfect accent.  “I am only recently home.”

“That’s an excellent school!” Mrs Rafferty trilled. “How did you find it?”

“Very pleasant,” Victoria took a sip of her drink and carefully dabbed her mouth on a napkin. “The mistresses are very professional and the weather is so perfect, it almost made me sad to come home, although we have been lucky these last few days, have we not?”

“Yes, indeed, it’s been wonderful weather.”

“Well, damn, Vic,” Is laughed as she walked her down the steps to the cab. “I think my mother might actually be in love with you!”

“That’s what finishing school does,” Victoria grinned and prodded her shoulder teasingly. “Makes you personable!”

“Thanks a bunch!” Is laughed, offering her a hand into the cab.

“Aren’t you coming?” Victoria asked as she went to shut the door.

“What?”

“You told your mother we had plans, I just didn’t want to make a liar of you!”

“Good point!” Is laughed.  “Alright then!” She climbed in, reached out the window and tapped the side of the cab, which took off at a slow trundle.

“So, what are our plans?” Is asked conversationally as she peered out of the window at the passing streets.

“Well, I have to help Pa with a business meeting, but we could do something afterwards. Do you like the beach?”

“I don’t have strong feelings about it either way,” Is grinned.

“Must be the only thing you don’t have an opinion on!” Victoria laughed.

“Do you think it’s awful that I’m so opinionated?  I know everyone hates it.” Is looked awkwardly at her shoes.

“No, I think it’s wonderful! I’ve never met anyone quite like you!”

“Probably best! Too many like me and the world would fall into chaos!”

“Maybe the world needs a little chaos?” Victoria suggested.

“I don’t think it’s ready!”

They pulled up outside outside the cottage and Is offered her a hand down.

“Shall I put it on the account, Miss Rafferty?” the driver asked politely.

“Oh, yes please, if you don’t mind?” Is had reached for her purse, but put it back.

“Not at all, Miss.  Will you want picking up?”

“I’ll take a chance on the train, I don’t know how long we’ll be.”

“Very well,” he tipped his hat respectfully and urged the horses on.

“This is it,” Victoria said a little awkwardly as she led Is up the steps to the door of the cottage.  She had the feeling that the home that she and her father loved so much would seem very shabby to Is.

“Oh, it’s charming!” Is smiled brightly. “I’d much rather live here than anywhere in Smoke, it’s so impersonal and cold there!”

“Even your home?” Victoria asked as she pulled the door towards her before turning the handle.  It was old and the hinges hung slightly wrongly, so one had to both pull and lift before the handle would turn.  

“Especially my home!” Is laughed. “You’ve met my mother!”

“I thought she was very nice!” Victoria laughed. The door finally gave way under the effort and swung open with a mournful creek.  The hallway was a mess, the coat stand was strewn across the floor and all the books knocked from the shelf.  The banister leading up the staircase was shattered as though it had been struck with something heavy.

“I say, Vic.” Is touched her arm uncertainly. “Looks like there’s been an awful to do in here…”

“Pa?” Victoria’s voice trembled and came out much more quietly than she’d intended, so she tried again, this time shouting. “Pa!” She pulled away from Is and flew about the cottage, flinging doors open and checking rooms, all the time calling for her father.  When it became clear he was not there she hurried to the parlour.  At the back was an old metal safe, black with a golden knob attached to the heavy door.  She fumbled with her key, her hand was shaking, but she needed to be calm. She pressed the door of the safe firmly closed with her foot so the bolts were under no pressure. Once this was done the key turned easily.  It was then a question of twisting the knob and wrenching it open.  It was a heavy door, to someone unaccustomed to it, it would appear still locked, but she had felt the tumblers move beneath the turn of the key, she knew the safe as though it were a part of her, so she pulled hard, tumbling backwards slightly as the door swung open.  Reaching in, she took the gun in her trembling hand and pushed the door of the safe closed.

“Damn, Vic…”

She swung around and found herself pointing the gun at Is.  She was shaking and a tear rolled down her cheek as she lowered it.

“Alright,” Is put her hand gently on top of Victoria’s gun hand and pried the weapon free. “It’s alright,” she spoke very definitely and calmly. “I’ll keep a hold of this, if we need it you can have it back, alright?”

“We?” Victoria blinked at her.

“Yes, we dummy! You think I’m letting you walk into whatever it is you’re walking into alone? Wouldn’t be very chivalrous of me, would it?” she half laughed. “What exactly are we walking into?”

“I don’t know,” Victoria confessed. “But they have Pa, and I reckon I know where!”

The Smuggler’s Daughter is Copyright Claire Evans 2017, and the cover image is courtesy of Angelika Rust. To find out more about the author, visit chclepitt.com

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Monday Mystery Mime

Yep, it’s that time of the week again, where you have to guess what Feathers and Toast is miming.  Pop your answer in the comments for a chance to win the mime of your choice.

The answer to last week’s mime was ‘a Frisbee being thrown’. There were lots of winners, but none of them were you, because you didn’t enter, did you? Try harder this week. The clue is ‘something sometimes found in a drink’.

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Found in Translation

It’s week two of “Found in Translation”, the section of Newsnibbles where we work with our friends at Ammy’s Delight to learn a Dutch saying, and if it has an equivalent in English.  It’s fun to learn what we all have in common, so if you have a version in your language, let us know, either in the comments, on Facebook or Twitter.

So, this week’s saying is:

BLAFFENDE HONDEN BIJTEN NIET

Which Translates as:


BARKING DOGS SELDOM BITE

And of course, in English it is:

All bark, no bite

What is it in your language?

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Monday Mystery Mime

It’s that time of the week again, when you guess what Feathers and Toast is miming. Pop your answer in the comments, and if you win, Tallulah will perform the mime of your choice.

Congratulations to last week’s winners, Judith Evans, Michele Morrison, Paul Uhler, Melissa Spors Hubbard, Joe Pranaitis, Linda Henderson Eubanks and Abbey L Craig! Well, she is certainly going to need a lot of mime time this week!

So, the clue for this one is “something you do in the summer, in the park or on the beach”. Good luck, Nibblers!

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Books With Bite!

As you probably know by now if you’ve been following my reviews, I mark out of 10, then explain how this translates to stars on Amazon and Goodreads, who only allow 5. This is because I do not feel that 5 stars allows for enough differentiation.  So, that’s the boring bit done.

The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

This book nearly killed me! I was getting up in the morning feeling anxious.  I was worried during the day without knowing why, until I realised it was this bloody book!  I was anxious because the characters were anxious.  It is that insanely good.  Every feeling and emotion is so well painted I was actually living it, which meant I was immensely relieved when it was over, but also a little sad that I wasn’t able to immerse myself in it any further.

Everything is set up beautifully.  The characters are real, perfect in their imperfections.  Nothing is romanticised,  but every situation is intricately described, so you feel as though you were there with them.  You share in their excitement, love, heartbreak, guilt and anxiety.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a book quite so intensely.  I don’t want to retell the plot, as that would spoil it.  I went in with no idea what it was about and experienced it as though I was living it.  I would go as far as saying it is the best Sarah Waters novel I have read so far, but I have a few to go yet, so watch this space.

Obviously it gets 10/10 or 5/5

Jill, by Rose Montague

This was the final book in the trilogy, and it did not disappoint. This time, rather than one point of view, we jump between Jade, Jane and Jill. Usually I am not a fan of perspective switches like this, but here it worked.  I think because we already know the characters from the previous books we don’t need to spend as much time on development, so the switches aren’t so jarring.  I really liked the jumping between realms, and the world building involved in creating the new worlds.  This one almost had a sci fi twist in places, and I hope to see some of the worlds developed further in future books.

It felt a bit rushed in places, and I think I would have liked a bit more description, or maybe conversation to break through the non-stop action, but this is a personal preference and not a criticism of the style.  My only real criticism is that there were more typos in this one that the others, and in places they were quite distracting, but it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the book, and it was a good way to wrap up the series.

Over all, fun read. 8/10 or 4/5

Darkly Dreaming, by Chloe Hammond

This is not your usual vampire novel.  It deals with female relationships, and is as much about friendship in the face of adversity as it is about vampires.  It was so compelling that I wasn’t able to put it down, and whilst it spent a lot of time on back story, I found I didn’t mind that, as I wanted to know what happened in the lives of these characters. Their friendship was so warm and real that I wanted to be a part of it, and the back story allowed me to do so.

Chloe Hammond has managed to create a novel that is tense, exciting, emotional, scary and funny.  She deals with issues like divorce, and child abuse, which might make some readers uncomfortable, but it is clearly well researched, and it makes the situations more real for the attention to detail.  In this book, the humans are the monsters, and the vampires are the most human people.  I would highly recommend it, whether you’re into vampires or not.

10/10 or 5/5

Voopyre, by N C Stow

This beautiful little short story is inspired on Russian Folklore. I’ll admit that not having any knowledge of the subject, or area, I felt a bit lost at the start, as the short story jumps right in with no time for scene setting or character introductions.  That said, I was soon swept up in the beautiful imagery and the stylistic writing which absolutely screamed “fairy tale”.

If you are interested in learning more about Russian Folklore, I would say give N C Stow’s short stories a chance.  In her own words she “use[s] elements of it in a fictional Slavic setting to make something new.”  It was a quick enjoyable read, and a good introduction to Stow’s other works.

9/10 or 4/5

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Found in Translation

This is a new section to Newsnibbles, where we will be working with our friends at Ammy’s Delight to learn a Dutch saying, and see if it has an equivalent in English.  If you are from somewhere else in the world, and it has an equivalent in your language, then please comment on here, Facebook  or Twitter to let us know. It’s fun learning what we have in common.

So, this week’s saying is:

Als de kat van huis is, dansen de muizen op tafel

Which translates as:

When the cat’s away, the mice will dance on the tables

And of course, in English it is:

While the cat’s away, the mice will play

What is it in your language?

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Monday Mystery Mime

Can you guess what this week’s mystery mime is? Post your answers in the comments section before next Friday and a lucky winner gets the mime of their choice performed.  We will announce the winner with next week’s mime.

No-one guessed last week’s mime, which was Ice Cracking, pretty obvious when you think about it!  Have a go this week, instead.  The clue is ‘something you eat on 4th of July’.

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Chapter 1: I Don’t Mind the Daisies

Badger will be taking part in CampNanoWriMo for July, and thought it might be fun to post her progress, for you lot to read and comment on.  She is writing a fantasy novel called The Smuggler’s Daughter.  Be sure to check back regularly to find out what happens next.

Chapter One

The sun beat down hard, causing circles of of red, black, pink and orange to dance on the inside of Victoria’s closed eyelids. She breathed deeply, enjoying the sweet scent of the long grass and the sound of birds chirping above her.  The heat of the sun was cooled by a gentle breeze, which lightly rustled the trees, and somewhere in the distance, someone had set a fire.  She loved being home.  Four years of finishing school, and it had felt like she had not had a moment’s privacy.  But now she was back, in the tiny village of Calms, surrounded by fields, and a five minute walk from the beach.  Of course, it was only an hour carriage ride from the city, and at weekends the peace was shattered by city folks trying to enjoy the green.  But this was not the weekend; now, there was silence.

“Isabelle!” A shrill voice shattered the tranquility and Victoria propped herself up on her elbows, squinting against the bright sunlight, trying to identify the source of the intrusion.  “Isabelle!” The voice shrilled again. “Come back! You’ll get pollen all over your dress!”

“I don’t mind the daisies, mother!” A younger, softer voice responded.  “And they aren’t like lilies, the pollen doesn’t stain!”

“If Mrs. Sykes leaves us because you ruin another dress, Isabelle…” the shrill voice chided.

“She won’t, mother!” Isabelle sounded tired. “If it has any pollen on it, well, I shall clean it myself, but I’m certain it won’t.”

“I’m going home, Isabelle! Will you come?”  There was a long silence. “Isabelle?”

“I’ll catch the train, later. I have my purse.”

“Catch the train alone?  What if…”

“I’ll be fine!  It’s such a lovely day, I can’t bear to be inside on it.”

“If only you showed such enthusiasm for Sir Thomas.”

“Perhaps I would if he was as lovely as this day and this place!”

“You are insufferable!”

“I know!”

Then, the noise stopped.  Victoria leaned back down and closed her eyes once more, but a shadow fell over her and she tried to rest.  Opening her eyes revealed a silhouette, completely black with the sun behind it, of a woman, in a long dress peering down at her.

“I say,” the voice was the girl identified as Isabelle. “I’m sorry you had to hear all that riot! Did not see you lurking amongst the daisies.  Come here often?”

“Not for about four years,” Victoria surrendered to the disruption and propped herself back up on her elbows. “Do sit down, I can’t make you out at all with the light behind you, you may as well be a demon!”

“Perhaps I like being anonymous!” The girl laughed lightly, but obliged by sitting down opposite her.  “I’m Is,” she held out her hand in the way a man might when meeting another man.  Victoria studied it curiously.  She had been taught that ladies curtsey to one another, but never shake hands.  She supposed sitting in the position they were would make curtseying difficult, but the hand was offered with such a natural confidence that it might be the most normal thing for women to shake hands. “I say,” Is looked slightly hurt. “Don’t leave me hanging here, gosh!”

“Sorry!” Victoria half laughed, took the hand and shook it. “Victoria, Vicky, if you like.”

“Jolly nice to meet you!” Is shook her hand vigorously. “They don’t teach handshakes in finishing school I don’t suppose.”

“No.”

“Oh, I was joking.  You’ve been to finishing school?”

“Yes, I only came home yesterday.”

“Are you finished?”

“Well, I suppose I must be, mustn’t I?” She studied the strange girl, with her shock of red hair, angular features and bright green eyes that sparkled with mischief.

“How depressing,” she observed, leaning back on her elbows, matching Victoria’s pose. “What is there left to do then? Find a husband, I suppose.”  She pulled a stem of grass from amongst the many that concealed them, carefully peeled the stray leaves and placed it between her teeth.

“You really shouldn’t lean back,” Victoria said urgently, sitting up and holding out her hand. “The way your mother reacted to pollen, grass stains may actually kill her!”

“We can at least live in hope!” Is laughed lightly and lay all the way back. “I suppose you think me terribly wicked now?”

“No,” Victoria pulled herself up and hugged her knees through her skirt. “I just think you might be the most honest person I’ve ever met.  I mean, you just say what you think, don’t you?”

“Little point in saying what I don’t think, is there?  May as well be a politician!  I suppose they told you you should lie in polite society, did they?” She sat up and studied Victoria when she didn’t get an answer. “No need to worry here, I’m not polite society.”

“Not lie,” Victoria said thoughtfully.  “Just, only to say bland things, nothing that might shock, or cause controversy.”

“So you can be a bland wife to a bland husband and have bland children.  How very vanilla.”

“Vanilla?”

“It’s bland, isn’t it? Does anyone actually like vanilla? It’s what you have if you prefer texture to flavour, I think.  I always opt for strawberry,” she added after a pause.

“I quite like vanilla,” Victoria smiled, she was enjoying not having to be concerned with etiquette,  which was clearly foreign to this strange girl.  “I suppose I will suit my bland life very well.”

“No,” Is said firmly and without hesitation. “They’ve tried to mould you into vanilla, but you are peppermint with chocolate chips, I can tell.”  She sprung to her feet and held out her hand. “Care to grab a cone? I have money!”

“Alright,” Victoria took her hand and allowed herself to be pulled up.  “I suppose you will judge me terribly if I choose vanilla?”

“Of course not,” Is offered her arm as they began to walk off.  She was a good four inches taller than Victoria, and seemed uncomfortable in her dress, pulling at it every so often as they walked and shifting.  “If your prefered path is vanilla, then good for you, I say.  Would make life a damn site simpler, wouldn’t it, if we all liked what we were supposed to.”

“You mean like Sir Thomas?” Victoria asked, taking the vacant arm.  She would never normally have been so impertinent, but Is seemed not to care one hoot for formality, and it made the conversation easy and free.

“Yes! Now you come to mention it!” Is laughed as they turned onto the gravel path that lead out of the field and into the heart of the village.  The gravel made a sort of satisfying crunching sound beneath her feet and the breeze lightly shifted their hair, causing a welcome reprieve from the heat of the sun.  There was still the faint smell of smoke from the distant bonfire.  Is discarded the grass she’d been chewing and lead the way confidently to the ice cream parlour.

“Ladies,” a stout man with a handlebar moustache greeted them from behind the desk.  Victoria recognised him immediately from her childhood visits with her father, but clearly four years had changed her.  “What can I get you?”

“I’ll have a strawberry cone, please,” Is smiled cheerily at him as she unhooked her purse from a loop on her dress. “And my friend likes vanilla.”

“Actually, I think I’d like peppermint and chocolate chip, please,” Victoria smiled at the man, then glanced at Is, who was grinning so broadly that she felt shy and looked down at her feet.

“Righto,” Is opened her purse. “What’s the damage?”

The searing sun caused the cones to melt quickly, and there was silence for a long time as they sat on the bench outside the ice cream parlour trying to catch the drips before they reached their sleeves.  The silence continued long after they had finished, they simply sat, watching people pass by on the street.  First school was out, and there were mothers leading squawling infants away from the school house, followed by boys in shorts with long socks and clumpy great shoes chasing after one another, carrying jackets and ties which they had clearly stripped as soon as freedom permitted.  They were followed by girls holding hands, in knee length dresses tied at the waist with ribbons, occasionally squeaking with delight as a boy scooted past pulling their plaits or knocking their bonnet from their heads.  Victoria went inside and purchased them each a cloudy lemonade. When she returned she found Is wistfully watching  the miners as they returned from the mines.  They were grubby in their shirt sleeves and open collars, but she seemed enthralled by them, somehow.

“Is there someone else?” Victoria asked suddenly as she placed the lemonade in front of Is and climbed awkwardly back onto the bench.

“What?” Is looked up suddenly as though caught doing something terrible.

“Why you don’t like Sir Thomas,” Victoria felt awkward, as though she’d crossed some invisible line.  There had been no lines – but now there was some sort of huge awkward barrier.

“Oh,” Is seemed to shake it off although her cheeks were flush.  “No, I was just admiring their clothes.”  She pulled at the collar of her dress again, eventually deciding to unbutton it.  She sighed as though it had been strangling her.

“Their outfits?” Victoria observed her incredulously. “They’re mine workers, it’s not exactly high fashion, is it?”

“But they look so free,” she was still watching the men. “They can just be who they are, can’t they?  Look at them, collars loose, sleeves rolled, no-one forcing them to do anything…  They’re so comfortable in their own skin.” She pulled at her dress again and laughed.

“You seem very comfortable,” Victoria was studying her with interest.  “I’ve never met anyone so much themselves.”

Is looked confused, studying herself and her dress.  She pulled at her sleeves before saying. “Maybe I’m me, and this is my cage.”  She pulled a pocket watch from her purse and looked at it. “Best head off to the train station, if I’m out after dark mother will send out the cavalry!”

“I’m sorry, Is,” Victoria stood urgently with her as she rose. “I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

“What?” Is looked at her for a moment. “You didn’t,” she laughed lightly and her eyes sparkled again. “I really am that afraid of my mother, she’s terrifying!” She laughed again and offered an arm. “Walk me to the station?”

Victoria slipped her arm through Isabelle’s and walked with her to the small station on the edge of Calms.  Dusk was just starting to set in, and whilst it was still very warm there was a soft breeze now that seemed soothing.

“It’s that damn finishing school’s what it is,” Is said after a long break. “I bet you any money that if they hadn’t carted you off there you wouldn’t have even thought that you might have offended me.  Wouldn’t have crossed your mind.  They want us to always be afraid, and to know our place.”

“Maybe,” Victoria said thoughtfully.  “I can’t really remember how I was before.”

“Indoctrination,” Is said firmly.  “They’ll break you one way or the other.  Not me, though, I won’t be broken,”

They arrived at the ticket office and Is bought a ticket to Smoke.  Victoria walked her to the platform and waited with her in silence for the train.

“Well, look,” Is said as the train pulled in. “It’s been frightfully nice today, and I feel, well a bit like we’re, I don’t know, friends?”

“I think so too!” Victoria had been forcing down an anxious feeling, a sort of panic as though she were about to lose something very important and was powerless to prevent it.  It was as though Is felt it too, but she wasn’t powerless, she was strong.

“So, why don’t you come and visit me in Smoke tomorrow?” She asked as she backed towards the platform.  “I mean, if you’re not already busy?”

“I’m not!” Victoria smiled broadly.

“Well, good!  I have brunch with Sir Thomas and Mother at White’s, but should be done by two, so if you catch the two-fifteen I’ll meet you at the station; sound alright?”

“Yes!”

“You don’t say much, do you?”

“I don’t need to with you here!”

“Fair enough!” Is grinned and gave her a hug. “See you tomorrow, then.  Cheerio!” And with that she hopped on the train and was gone.

Victoria smiled all the way home.  It was still light, but there was a duskiness in the air, as the mist was rolling in from the sea.  She climbed the steps to the small thatched cottage that sat on the edge of the village overlooking the sea.  The front door wasn’t locked, Pa always left it open until she was home, so she turned the heavy knob and heaved it open.

“Pa?” she called as she untied her bonnet and hung it on the hook.  “I’m home. Pa?”

“Hi Vic,” Pa’s voice came from the sitting room.  “I’ve got some gents in with me, be a good girl and go to your room, eh?”

“Alright,” she agreed, peering in at the coat tails of the two large men who were standing facing her father. “Good night, then.”

“G’night, love.”

The Smuggler’s Daughter is Copyright Claire Evans 2017, and the cover image is courtesy of Angelika Rust. To find out more about the author, visit chclepitt.com

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