Friday, 2 September 2011

Friday Flash - The Widow

The worst part about a funeral is the endless stream of condolences. I sit on a hard wooden chair in the drawing room listening to an array of well-meant but deeply resented cliches. I would very much like a cup of tea, but I must keep my hands free in order to greet the many mourners at Nathaniel's funeral. I am most surprised that they cannot tell me they are sorry for my loss, that I must be brave, that I am not alone in my grief, and that I can count on their support in this difficult time, without clasping my hand in theirs. Twenty minutes of wet eyes and earnest sentiments are taking their toll.

Jacob Naseby and his wife move away, satisfied that their effusions of sorrow have absolved them of any further involvement, and I shift position on the chair. The wood does not yield and a dull ache throbs in my lower back. I stroke the black bombazine of my dress to distract me, fiddling with the crepe trimmings and adjusting the fabric. I like wearing black, but it will be two years before I will be allowed to wear grey again. You could say that I know the mourning etiquette inside out, having gone through it twice before. I smile to think I always meet my next husband at the funeral of the previous one.

Speaking of the next husband, a handsome young man approaches me. I take in the deep chestnut hair and green eyes without looking obvious. He clutches his top hat in one hand and offers me a firm handshake with the other.

"Mrs Bagshot, I am sorry for your loss," he says.

"Thank you," I reply.

"I am Daniel Tenrigg. I worked with your husband at the bank. I cannot stay long but I wished to pay my respects."

I bow my head in gratitude but take the opportunity to look at his hands. I do not see a wedding ring.

"It is such a shame about they know what caused the malady?" asks Mr Tenrigg.

"The doctor was unsure." I permit myself to look up. He starts; I do not think he expected direct eye contact from a widow. He must not realise I have had plenty of practice.

"Forgive my boldness, but I heard a rumour it was strychnine."

"What a vicious rumour! Where did you hear it?" A knot of unease settles in my stomach.

"A friend of mine, Thomas Shuggleworth. I believe he also knew your second husband, Percy Farrow." Mr Tenrigg stares down at me and I suppress the twitch in my lower jaw.

"Poor Percy," I reply.

"I believe he was a victim of arsenic poisoning, was he not?" A shadow flits across Mr Tenrigg's face, twisting his beautiful features into a detestably smug expression

"Indeed he was. Percy was a sickly fellow and he bought many medicines from less than reputable salesmen. The doctors believe one of the remedies must have contained arsenic."

"That is indeed unfortunate, Mrs Bagshot. Was Henry Tidmuth unfortunate as well?" asks Mr Tenrigg. The knot of unease blossoms into panic and I fight to control my nerves.

"He was. My first husband was an amateur horticulturalist but he mis-identified a plant in our garden. He ate the berries, thinking they were something else, and sadly passed away," I reply.

"Ah yes. The deadly nightshade incident."

"Mr Tenrigg, I am mourning the loss of my dear Nathaniel, and I have other people to receive, so please forgive my frankness if I ask you to state what exactly it is that you would like to say?" I look him in the eye but I fear the tremor in my voice may give me away.

"I have nothing to say, Mrs Bagshot. I am merely commenting on your poor run of luck regarding your husbands and their accidents. May I suggest that if you should choose to marry again, you select a more careful husband?"

Mr Tenrigg performs a stiff bow and walks away. He stops on the other side of the room and engages one of Nathaniel's cousins in conversation. The panic in my stomach dissolves into rage, and I excuse myself. My maid tells those wishing to pay their respects that I am overcome with sadness and will return soon.

Instead of retiring to my room to indulge in a histrionic wailing fit, I head for the cabinet concealed behind a false panel in the wall of Nathaniel's library. I caress the glass bottles and jars, the only belongings I have taken with me from marriage to marriage.

I am sure that one of my friends will be only too happy to take good care of Daniel Tenrigg and his suspicions.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Forthcoming goodies and a new mailing list!

Good evening chaps and chapesses,

Is everyone still in one piece after Irene? I sincerely hope so, so if you were in an affected area, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know you're ok. If you weren't in an affected area then I'm sure you'll agree with me in sending lots of good thoughts to those caught up in it.

This is a brief blog post to say "I'm back!" now that I'm back at home. Much writing and PhD research can now ensue, but more's not long until you can get your paws on my first book, The Guns of Retribution. The paperback comes out on 24 September (I'll let you know the Kindle date when I get it). I'll be organising a launch in Newcastle upon Tyne nearer the time, and I'll be popping up on various blogs too. I'll also be posting a series of articles about the perils and joys of writing historical and genre fiction so I'm trying to make the "campaign" useful and interesting as well as promotional.

In the spirit of whetting your appetite, I'm also going to be releasing a free download! Dead Man's Hand will collect the Friday Flash trilogy I posted earlier in the year, now edited and expanded, and it will include the whole first chapter of The Guns of Retribution as a little taster for you. Once I get it uploaded, Dead Man's Hand will be available from Smashwords and Amazon for absolutely nothing!

Last but not least, I'm in the process of setting up my very first newsletter, and a mailing list sign up form is now available! If you'd like to receive links to my stories and articles, as well as links to all the cool and eccentric things I find online, and even some exclusive fiction, then drop me your email using this form. I promise your details will be safe, and I won't bug you too often!

So until next time...take care of yourselves, and each other.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Photo Prompt 48

Latest prompt, ready and waiting.

If you want to use the prompt, all I ask is that you include a link to this entry and a credit to me for the photograph, and that you post a link to your story in the comments box below so I can see what you've come up with! If you don't comment on this entry, then I can't comment on your story.

The 48th prompt is Hidden Bridge.

Hidden Bridge

All photo prompts are my own photography - you can find more of it on Flickr. You can also buy my prints from Deviantart. 20% of all proceeds go to charity - the other 80% go towards my PhD fees!