Posted in Tuesday Tales

Tuesday Tales: From the Word Mirror

New TT imageWelcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. This blog is devoted to sharing snippets of work in progress based on a particular prompt. Many of the books begun this way have gone on to become published novels.

This week the word prompt is MIRROR. Excerpts are limited to 400 words, so enjoy mine and drop by to visit the others as well. I continue with my historical romance,The Price of Courage, Book Two in my Canadiana Series. I pick up the conversation where it ended last week.

“My God, is that what you think is at the root of this?” Patoulet sneared, and sipped his brandy.

“Frankly, I don’t know, but either way, if word gets out among the trappers of these animals and cities of gold, more than one of them will risk his life in search of them. If this rumor makes it to France and to the ears of those whose greed is propelling them to betray the colony, then Lord help us. When a man’s eyes are blinded by his lust for gold, commonsense vanishes.”

The dismay on Patoulet’s face mirrored his own.

“But Coronado’s ravings were dismissed almost a century ago, as the blatherings of a lunatic when expedition after expedition failed to turn up the mythical cities of gold,” he said seemingly unable to take the threat as a real one. “No educated man would believe such nonsense. He did it to get the crown to fund his expeditions, plain and simple, and thus claim more land for Spain.”

“But don’t you see? That could well be what’s at the route of the dissatisfaction. Sovereignty over more land ultimately means more undisputed hunting and trapping space, and if there is gold or other fine metals to be taken from the earth, so be it.”

“Enough of these old wives’ tales and the ravings of a madman for now. This insurrection isn’t coming from some mythical place far beyond the Great Lakes; it’s coming from south and east of us, at the end of English and Dutch weapons and the arrows of their allies aimed at our settlers. I heard your mother talking. With a wife newly pregnant and two adjacent seigneuries, I would think you would concern yourself more with the here and now than fairy tales of cities of gold.”

“Believe me, monsieur. I know exactly what’s at stake here, and because I do, I’ll take nothing lightly.”

Guy clenched his jaw. Patoulet was the intendant’s representative, even if he didn’t have enough imagination to guess at what might be lurking under the snow and in dark corners, he did have the ear of the governor-general. It wouldn’t do to have them thinking he was a deluded fool himself.  He didn’t for a minute believe this was about distant gold, but the lure, whether real or imaginary could change things. New France needed all its men here not off chasing after dreams.

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out all the other posts on  Tuesday Tales

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Tuesday Tales: From a Picture

New TT imageGood morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. If this is your first visit, Tuesday Tales is a closed blog, featuring a small group of authors who, each week, share excerpts from a current work in progress. Each excerpt must incorporate a word or a picture prompt. When it’s a picture prompt like this week, all snippets are limited to a maximum of 300 words.

I am continuing with my historical romance, The Price of Courage, Canadiana Series, Book Two. Here is the photograph I chose.

milky way

Patoulet sipped his brandy. “Have you finished your survey of the seigneuries between Ville Marie and Quebec?”

“I have,” he answered. “My biggest concern surrounds six estates, owned by absentee landlords in France, devoted solely to trapping. Father Legare and his Sulpicians are checking the records to see who owns them. Land without tenants isn’t what this colony needs, especially not now.”

The intendant’s secretary nodded, his lips pursed. “While the fur trade is important, it can’t be the colony’s only source of income. Talon’s hemp cloth sells well, and our lumber commands an excellent price.”

Guy scowled. “True, but if this is about getting rich, trees and cloth won’t do it. The night I stayed with the trappers, a man stumbled into camp. At first, he seemed lucid, but I eventually took his stories for the delusions of a sick man. He raved about an area far to the west, with large animal herds so plentiful they covered the prairie as far as the eye could see and rugged mountains where a man felt he could reach out and touch the stars. He claimed that if you traveled south, the cities were made of gold.”

Patoulet scoffed. “Why would the ravings of a fevered man concern you?”

“Because among the gibberish, he mentioned Coronado.”

“Coronado, the Spanish explorer? The one whose discoveries were lost?”

“Yes. We all know the search for the passage to the orient and the quest for gold is what brought Europeans to this land in the first place. When we caught des Courts, one of the trappers with him tried to bribe Lucien by offering him information about the same thing. The last thing the colony wants is men with gold fever abandoning her in her hour of need.”

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out all the other posts on  Tuesday Tales

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Tuesday Tales: From the Word Heavy

New TT imageGood morning. Spring has arrived in my neck of the woods and with it I can see things starting to turn green. Hostas have poked their noses out of the ground, but as always, the dandelions are the healthiest things around.

Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales, the weekly blog where I  and other authors share an excerpt from our work in progress based on a particular word or picture prompt. Word prompts are limited to 500 words.

I am continuing with my Historical romance, The Price of Courage. Today, I’m leaving Lucien, Yves. and Okwaho hunkered down for a snowstorm and returning to Ville-Marie where Guy is setting things in motion for a little undercover work of his own. The word prompt is HEAVY, but I’ve sneaked a second one in as well. With the “cocky controversy” at play, I’ve given you the French translation.  Enjoy!

After a feast fit for a king, Guy led the intendant’s secretary into the room Sophie had set aside as a private parlor for the use of her guests and poured brandy into Patoulet’s goblet and then his own. It was the first time the man had traveled to the settlement. While the path from Quebec was a good one, it was by no means a road. Given the snow, the horses pulled a covered sleigh over the fields, while under heavy furs, the occupant remained fairly warm.

coq“My Lord,” Patoulet said, accepting the drink and then leaning back in his chair. “Your mother’s an excellent cook. I’ve never had coq au vin that tasty in a very long time. Hospitality in Ville-Marie far exceeds that of Quebec these days.”

Guy chuckled. “Maman will be flattered. I’ll pass your words along. It’s her intention to run the best inn in all of New France. Madame Gaudier owns the land and the building but she and my parents run it together. In time, they plan to expand as well.”

“Of course. I’ve seen the legal documents. Very generous of Madame Gaudier to share her inheritance this way, but of course the woman is young and alone. Hopefully, that condition will change once her mourning period is over.”

Guy frowned. Now that he was married to the woman he loved, how could he wish any less for Sophie?

“Do you think the king will agree to Talon’s suggestion for forced military duty?” he asked.

“With the threat against the colony and the proof we’ve provided, I don’t see how he can refuse. The other option is sending troops back to New France, and I can’t see his majesty agreeing to that as long as hostilities continue with the Dutch and the Spanish. The troops we have will serve as adequate teachers, and if we make sure every male between the ages of sixteen and sixty does mandatory military service, every parish will have its own militia. Men fight best when they fight for what’s theirs.”

Guy nodded. He was one of the luckier ones since the men working his centimes were all soldiers who’d been part of his regiment.

1280px-Maison_Saint-Gabriel_02“Akhilesh has vowed to have his braves fight at our side. We will include them in our training sessions and they in turn will train our men in the Mohawk fighting style. It’s best to be prepared for the worst.” He sipped his brandy. “Sister Gabrielle took me on a tour of Maison Saint-Gabriel last week. The stone building, just down the street from here, is easily defendable. The furnishings are now in place—Sophie helped set things up. The house will be ready to receive its first full shipment of the King’s Daughters when they arrive in June. My men were pleased to hear of that decision since so many are still without wives and fear the loss of their land. Having each shipment disembark in Quebec was a disadvantage to them.”

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out all the other posts on  Tuesday Tales

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Tuesday Tales: From the Word ROSE

New TT imageGood morning and welcome to this week’s Tuesday Tales, the place where books are born. Each week a group of talented authors share their works in progress with you, each snippet based on a word or picture prompt. This week, our prompt is the word ROSE, and each post is limited to 500 words. I’m continuing with my historical romance, The Price of Courage.

Enjoy.

“The Innu and Mohawk have never traded with one another, and an association between them based because they both serve the French will not remove old animosities. If I were Okwaho, I wouldn’t turn my back on them.”

“But he has us with him,” Lucien said, watching the brave checking the meat. “Don’t forget, Lallier holds a lot of sway with the chief. Not only did he save his life when the man was attacked by the great white bear, he agreed to marry the daughter no one wanted. She’s no beauty to be sure, but she’s borne him three strong, healthy sons.”

“Finding the oldest daughter a husband when the younger one is comelier is hard on any father. Lallier’s no fool. He’s less likely to lose his woman to another if she isn’t fair of face and form. My Catiche is beautiful to my eyes alone.”

Lucien burst out laughing. “Well said, old friend.”

“Food is ready,” Okwaho said, turning his head to address Lucien over his shoulder. “Come and eat while it is hot.”

Lucien rose, crouching low under the spruce boughs, his mouth watering at the aroma of roasted fowl. He took a wooden trencher and waited as the Mohawk served him half a partridge, some roots, and a chunk of bannock.

“Thank you.”

Yves served them each spruce tea to wash down the food.

When they eaten, Lucien pulled out the bottle of caribou and poured  pexels-photo-416118.jpeg

some into his empty mug. In the distance, a wolf’s mournful howl split the silence.

“I’ll take the first watch,” he said, passing the bottle to Yves, who then passed it along to Okwaho.

One drink would warm the blood, but until they were in the village, out of danger, none of them would have more than one.

Okwaho set his cup aside and collected the wooden trays the men used as plates. He moved over to the area beside the fire, picked up the spit he’d used to cook the partridge and tossed the bones and the spit into the fire. There was always a chance the smell of the food would attract the wolves, but it was better to have that happen now while they were all awake. Moving out of the shelter, the brave washed the platters in the snow and then returned to the warmth of the tent.

“The snow has started,” he said. “I will take the next watch.” He crawled to the back of the tent and settled between his furs.

“That leaves the last watch for me,” Yves said, doing likewise.

Lucien bundled himself up, putting on his fur cap and mittens. He grabbed his arquebus, the weapon already loaded, and stepped around the fire pit.

Instead of the soft snowflakes he’d expected, the stinging bite of ice pellets attacked his face. If this kept up all night long, they wouldn’t make it to Tadoussac itself tomorrow even though they were no more than three hours from the village.

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out all the other posts on  Tuesday Tales

Posted in Christmas, Tuesday Tales, Uncategorized

Tuesday tale: The finale of Where There’s a Will…

Badge for TT - very small (1)Christmas Eve is finally here, and while I look forward to tomorrow, I’ll miss the excitement and anticipation tonight will being.

Today’s post marks the last instalment of my Christmas story written just for you. If you missedd parts one and two, you can find them by looking at yesterday’s post.

is (2)Without further ado, let me invite you to read the ending of Where There’s a Will…

“I was sorry to hear about the accident,” he said as the limo moved along the busy Victoria street where houses shouted out their joy this Christmas. “I know how much being able to dance meant to you.”

“Thanks. Sometimes I think this is all a bad dream and like Clara I’ll wake up and it’ll just be a memory, but…”

“When life gives you lemons, you can either let it get you down or make lemonade and get on with it. You’ve never struck me as someone who’d give up easily.”

“If I were, I would never have made it. I’ll never be able to dance again, but I’ve got the memories and enough money to support myself for the rest of my life. I’m just not sure what I’m going to do with that life.”

“Coming home was the right decision,” he said. “Could you teach?”

“Ballet? I suppose I could, but I’m not quite ready for that yet.”

Their eyes met, and she could have sworn her heart stopped beating.

“You know, I’m a little disappointed about tonight,” he said, reaching out to take her empty hand, surprising her by the quick change of topic.

She cocked her head questioningly.

“I was really looking forward to carrying you out kicking and screaming.”

Brandi burst out laughing, the tension seeping out of her. “You wouldn’t have.”

“Maybe not,” he said and winked, “but we’ll never know.” He held onto her hand.

Chrysler Hall (2)Within minutes, the limo pulled to a stop in front of the country club beautifully decorated for the occasion. There had to be several hundred lights wrapped around the pillers, pine trees and other trees and shrubs, and artificial snow gave it a wintery look.

“Wow! The club certainly knows how to put on the Ritz, doesn’t it?”

“Blame your sister. She’s the one who arranges the décor. This is her baby, as is the charity Valentine’s Day dance she hosts each year. Last year, Jane’s silent auction raised over thirty thousand dollars for the BC Children’s Hospital at this event alone. I happen to know that one item tonight has already sold for twenty-five grand.”

“You’re not serious?”

“I am. The purchaser paid the money this afternoon on the proviso the item would not be put on public display. He didn’t want to chance losing it.”

“Wow. That must’ve been some … what was it?”

“A poster.”

“Seriously?”

isShe knew what that poster was. She’d signed and provided it herself. It was the one from her first ballet as the lead. Swan Lake, five years ago. Who on earth would pay twenty-five thousand dollars for a poster?

“Yup. Your sister is certainly dedicated. Wait until you see inside.”

“Without that hospital, my niece, Hope, would never have survived,” Brandi said. “Jane takes her fundraising responsibilities seriously.”

“Are you ready to face the lions?” he asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Don’t worry. I don’t plan to leave your side.”

“You don’t have to do that,” she said. “I’m sure you have friends here. I’ll be fine.”

“Don’t have to do it, but I want to do it.” He rang the doorbell before she could comment.

“You’re here and dressed for the occasion,” Jane said, when Jarrett escorted her into the club’s main room, all decked out for the festive season. “I almost expected you to back out.”

“I came close, but I figured you wouldn’t let me, and as I’ve learned on the way over, he would’ve dragged me here as you’d requested.”

“No,” he wouldn’t have,” Jane laughed, “but I’m sure he’d have tried to persuade you to attend. Now, come on over here and say hello to everyone.”

Brandi followed her sister into the room, leaning on Jarrett for support even though she clutched her cane in her left hand.

“You look wonderful, darling,” her dad said, kissing her. “How’s the house?”

“It’s great. You did a wonderful job.”

“Not me. Jarrett did all the work.”

“You didn’t say anything,” she said turning to look up at him, noticing the slight flush on his face.

“It wasn’t very much really—mainly redoing the bathroom and putting in sturdier staircases and railings.”

“Well, I appreciate it. I’m more solid on my feet right now, but when I’m tired and my back aches, I feel like I’ve danced all night.”

“Brandi,” her mother pushed forward. “Let me look at you.” She frowned. “You’re still too thin.”

“Mom, you saw me just last week. I can’t gain weight that quickly…”

“I know, but you’re even smaller than you were when you danced.” Her mother’s face turned a deep red. “I’m so sorry…”

“Mom, it’s okay. I used to be a prima ballerina. Now, I’m not. I’ve accepted that. You have to accept it too. We can’t keep dancing around the elephant in the room.”

“I know, sweetheart, but I didn’t want to be the one to bring it up.”

“Then let’s not talk about it anymore.”

Swallowing her pain, Brandi moved from relative to relative, friend to friend, shaking hands, answering nosy questions, and accepting their commiserations, until she was ready to scream.

“You look like you can use a break,” Jarrett said. “Santa’s on his way in, and while he visits with the children, let’s grab some air.”

“You’re a lifesaver,” she said wholeheartedly.

is (1)He led her down the hall to the back of the clubhouse and into the empty dining room that opened onto the terrace, a fairyland of lights and automated Christmas figurines. She stopped in front of the glass doors.
“Oh, this is beautiful.”

“Not as beautiful as you are,” Jarrett said. “I snuck this in here before I rescued you.” He pointed to the champagne bottle and two glasses sitting on the table closest to the French doors. He poured wine into two flutes, handed her one and with the bottle in his hand, offered her his other arm. “We’ve got about an hour before everyone piles in here to eat. Come outside. It’s even more magical there.”

Opening the doors, he led her to a rattan sofa and wrapped a blanket around her shoulders.

“I suppose they keep blankets out here for the guests?”

“Of course they do,” he deadpanned, making her giggle.

“You’re like a Boy Scout, always prepared.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” he said. “Look up.”

She raised her glance and saw the tiny clump of mistletoe he held high above her head.

“Merry Christmas, Brandi.” He bent his head to kiss her.

His lips were soft and tender and broke through the walls of loneliness she’d hidden behind for longer than she could remember. He slowly pulled away.

“I’ve been waiting more than ten years to do this,” he said quietly.

“But you never said anything.”

“What was I going to say? What could I have said? You were destined for great things and my place was here, but I knew you’d come home one day and I’d be waiting. You’ve always been my girl, even if you didn’t know it. The only thing that stopped me from coming to Toronto after the accident was Jane. She said I had to let you heal. I did, but I can’t stay quiet any longer. We’re on the verge of a new year, and I want you to be part of my life from now on. I won’t rush you, I just want you to let me in.”

Tears filled her eyes. “Consider yourself admitted,” she said smiling. Leaning forward, she kissed him. In the background Tchaikovsky’s familiar music played.

“If your parents named you after the song the first kissed to, does that mean we have to name our daughter, Sugarplum?”

She giggled. “No, but Clara isn’t so bad. Merry Christmas, Jarrett.”

He bent his head and kissed her once more.

 

The End

Well, that’s it for me. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales for the remaining stories written just for you. 

And may all your seasonal wishes come true. 12243301_569465426543052_289394125839172159_n

 

 

Posted in Christmas, Tuesday Tales, Uncategorized

Tuesday Tales, Part 2, Where There’s a Will…

Badge for TT - very small (1)Yesterday, I published part 1 of this Christmas story. If you missed it, you can read it here. Part 1 Where There’s a Will…

Now, I’d like to invite you to read Part Two.

Two hours later, wearing a floor-length, chocolate-brown silk gown,dress that hid the scars crisscrossing her legs as well as the unflattering flat shoes, so like the ballet slippers she’d worn for years, Brandi stood next to the tree staring out the living room window, watching for her private chauffeur to arrive. Glancing at her watch, she saw it was after five.

Great. I’m being stood up by the date I didn’t want in the first place. How perfect is that?

limo.jpgShe was about to call Jane when a black limo pulled up to the curb. The uniformed driver opened the back door and Jarret stepped out. Dressed in a dove gray suit with a charcoal shirt and a Christmas tie, he was as handsome as she remembered.

Moving out of the window, she reached for her coat and clutch, staringcane at her cane before deciding to leave it behind. Without it, after a short period of time her mobility would be limited, and she could use her discomfort as an excuse to bail early.

The doorbell rang.

Opening the door, she smiled. Standing there in all of his plus six foot glory was the one man who could still make her heart do flips. In the five years since the wedding, silver had peppered his dark brown hair, adding rather than detracting from his appearance. He was clean-shaven, the way she preferred her men. In his hand, he held a box.

“I see you’re ready,” Jarett said, stating the obvious, his hazel eyes conveying more warmth than she’d expected. “I’m glad you left your hair down. It reminds me of flowing lava.”

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll get burned?” she teased, fighting not to touch the copper curls cascading over her right shoulder, not sure whether the comment was a compliment or an insult.

“I’m hoping for it,” he answered cryptically. “I thought this might add to your holiday appearance, but you look perfect just the way you are.”

“I’ll bet you say that to all the girls,” she parried, reaching for the corsage of white roses with holly and pine. “It’s beautiful. Thank you. Can you pin it on?” She felt like a teenager going to the prom she’d never been able to attend. By the end of her last year in high school, she’d made the National Ballet and had moved to Toronto.

corsageHe reached for the corsage, pulled out the two beaded straight pins. “I’d forgotten how tiny you are,” he said bending down to attach the flowers to the left shoulder of her dress. “You know, if you’d stuck around ten years ago,” he continued as if he could read her mind, “I would’ve asked you to the prom. Since I couldn’t then, I thought I’d at least bring you the flowers, although I know you’ve been given dozens of roses over the years.”

“Yeah, but those were given to Alexandra Jameson. These are the first ones I’ve received in a very long time,” she answered, a tinge of sadness in her voice. This wasn’t the time to feel sorry for herself. She was over that, but the chances were, regret would come later once she was alone again. “Thank you.”

She didn’t comment on the prom, not because she didn’t want to, but because she was too stunned by his admission to say anything. Other than teasing her, he’d never indicated he’d been interested in her one way or another—of course, her life had been crazy back then. She’d barely had enough time to eat and sleep between school, ballet classes, and rehearsals for the ballet that had been her stepping stone to the top.

“I never understood why you danced under another name,” he said.

“It wasn’t another name; it was my middle name. The executive director thought Brandi was too kitchy for a prima ballerina.”

“I always thought it was cool.”

“You always made fun of it.”

“Maybe,” he admitted, “but it got your attention. I made sure no one else did.”

The realization that no one had ever called her by any other name but her own surprised her. Why had she never noticed?

“Why did your parents call you that?”

She chuckled. “It seemed like a good idea at the time, and given the color of my hair even back then, they thought it was fate. Back in high school, they’d dated a bit before my dad’s father was transferred to England. They kept in touch for a while. Brandi was the song playing when they first kissed and again when they kissed goodbye. When they met again fifteen years later…”

“That’s kind of romantic, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but when Jane came along four years later, she got a normal name.”

He laughed. “Her name may be normal, but your sister is a force to be reckoned with.”

“Amen to that.”

He took her coat from her and draped it over her shoulders. Before she could stop him, he handed her the cane.

“I wasn’t going to bring it…”

“I know. Jane figured you’d leave it behind as an excuse to cut out early.”

Shaking her head, Brandi sighed. “She knows me too well.”

“Sisters should know one another like that. It shows how much they care.”

He waited as she locked the door, and then tucking her arm in his, he led the way to the limo, and helped settle her into the car’s luxurious interior. It wasn’t the first time she’d travelled in such a vehicle, but it was the first time she’d done it with the man she’d pined over years ago. If he’d asked her to the prom, would she have said yes?

“Thanks for picking me up,” she said, surprised when there was no one else in the vehicle. “Where’s your wife?”

“I’m not married—never have been. The girl I wanted wasn’t available.”

“I can’t believe that blonde from the wedding didn’t get you to put a ring on her finger,” she answered horrified at the peevishness in her tone.

What the hell’s wrong with me?

He guffawed loudly. “You must mean Destiny, my plus one at the wedding. She realized I wasn’t rich enough for her and married a Vancouver plastic surgeon three years ago.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, feeling like a fool.

“Don’t be. I’m not. I consider it a lucky break.” He sat back as the chauffeur poured them each a flute of of champagne—Dom Perignon—nothing but the best.Xmas 6

“Well, this must be costing a pretty penny.” She thanked the driver who’d handed her a glass and sipped.

“Actually, it isn’t. Destiny just didn’t stick around long enough. The limo belongs to the company, although I sprang for the champagne.” He raised his glass in a toast. “Here’s to us, old friend reacquainted at the most wonderful, magical time of the year. Sort of like your parents.”

“History repeating itself?” She sipped her wine again. “So, what is it you do that has a limo on the company payroll?”

“I own a construction company. The limo impresses foreign clients when they come to view my designs.”

“I see.” She wanted to say something witty, but felt as awkward and gauche around him as she had as a teenager. It looked as if her ability to dance wasn’t the only skill she’d lost.

Now, please  drop by and visit  Tuesday Tales  for those with on-going stories. Don’t forget to come back here tomorrow for the final part of Where There’s a Will….

 

Posted in Christmas, Tuesday Tales

Tuesday Tales: Christmas Story Just For You: Where There’s a Will…

Badge for TT - very small (1)As the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I love the lights that take the edge of the darkest, dreariest days of the year. I love the parties, seeing family, and most important, the faces on the children as they wait for Santa to bring them all their Christmas wishes. I’d like to deny the commercialism associated with the holiday, but that’s simply another example of social evolution. We might decry it, but the reality is we all profit from it in one way or another at this magical time of the year.

Xmas 4This week, in honor of the season, my fellow authors and I are offering you something different. As usual we used a wiord prompt–Christmas–but we chose different ways of giving you a unique holiday gift. In my case, I present, Where There’s a Will…

This Chrsitmas short story will be given in three parts, one section each day for the next three days. Please come back and read it all.

Where There’s a Will… Part One

Brandi pushed a strand of red hair back behind her ear, oblivious to the dirt she’d deposited on her cheek. Sweat trickled down her back and between her breasts, but she felt alive for the first time in months. The warm mid-December sun, so different on Vancouver Island than in Ontario, beat down on her face as she raised it skyward allowing nature to add color to her wan complexion.

reindeer_christmas_decorationsLooking around the front yard, she smiled at the evidence of three hours of hard work. Everyone in the neighborhood was decorating for Christmas, and while she couldn’t climb a ladder and string lights, thanks to a bum leg that would never fully recover, she’d added poinsettias to her iron planters and had strung lights in the pine tree and flanked it with a half-dozen lighted deer, giving the house a festive look. No dreaming of a white Christmas here in Victoria, but she wouldn’t wallow in misery. New city, new home, new life. Where there was a will, there was a way, and by God, she’d played the victim long enough. It had never been her style, and she’d be damned if it would be now. She’d fallen, picked herself up, and dusted herself off. It was time to get back to living, but she’d do it at her own speed, not anyone else’s—and that included her well-meaning sister, Jane.

christmas_angel_decorationStepping inside the house, she admired the lights strung around the living room window and the decorated, table-top tree placed where those outside would see it as they passed by. The angel tree topper had been an extravagant purchase, but she’d loved it. Someday, it would sit atop a full sized-tree, but for now, it reigned gloriously over the miniature pine she’d plant out front as soon as the holiday season was over, a reminder that miracles did happen. Her collection of nutcrackers, a bittersweet reminder of her lost hopes and dreams, stood atop the fireplace mantel, the various soldiers and their multicolored uniforms adding to the room’s festive atmosphere.

She’d just filled the kettle when the familiar strains of “The William Tell Overture” announced her sister’s call. The thought of letting it go to voice mail surfaced briefly, but that would only bring Jane racing across town expecting the worst. Reluctantly, she picked up the phone, dreading the conversation to follow. Jane meant well, but she was so insistent at times it felt more like bullying than a loving sister’s concern. She pressed the call answer button on the fifth ring.

“Hey, Jane, what’s up?”

“What took you so long?” Jane asked, her voice filled with a mixture of suspicion, annoyance, and concern, but Brandi was certain annoyance would win in the end.

“I just came inside. I was decorating outside…”

“What? Are you crazy? You know you’re not supposed to exert yourself…”

Brandi laughed. “Obviously, you’ve never seen one of Adrianne’s sessions.”

“Adrienne is a trained physiotherapist. You, on the other hand…”

“I feel fine.” The white lie slipped off her tongue effortlessly. “I suppose you called about the Christmas party tonight. I’ve thought about it, and decided I can’t make it after all.”

“You just said you were fine,” her sister challenged suspiciously. “You promised you’d come,” Jane continued, playing the hurt card that inevitably got her what she wanted.

“I know you’re trying to do what you think is best,” Brandi said contritely, hating herself for being such a wimp, “but I’m not ready to face strangers.”

“Brandi, for heaven’s sake.” Her sister’s voice was filled with frustration, the hurt momentarily forgotten. “It’s been over a year. At this rate, you’re never going to be ready. There won’t be a single person here tonight you haven’t met before. My God, you performed in front of thousands. There’s no way I’ll let you shovel any bullshit about stage fright. You didn’t die in that accident, and there’s no reason to act as if you did.”

“I’m not comfortable driving the car in the dark yet,” she prevaricated, knowing damn well she had nothing to be afraid of. There would be no freezing rain here to ruin her life.

“Not a problem. Tom’s cousin Jarett is going to pick you up. You’re on his way. You must remember him. He was one of the ushers at our wedding. I think you two actually went to school together.”

If she hadn’t wanted to go before, Brandi was definitely dead-set against it now.

She remembered Jarett all too well—him and the gorgeous blonde who’d clung to him like Velcro at the wedding and had shot invisible daggers at her from behind venom-filled eyes. She also remembered the boy in high school who’d owned her heart, but had ignored her except when he thought to tease her by calling her names—Hey, Scotch; hi, Vodka; looking good, Bourbon; did you finish that math assignment, Gin?—he’d called her by the name of every alcoholic beverage but her own, except at the wedding when they’d danced.

You’ve grown into a beautiful woman, Brandi. His words echoed in her head, but then Yuri had claimed her and the blonde bombshell had whisked him away. Now Yuri was dead as was her career as a ballerina. She could walk, but she’d never dance again. Her last performance had been as the Sugarplum Fairy. She’d never even finished the run—the freezing rain had seen to that.

the-nutcracker-toronto1Svetlana Lunkina and Artists of the Ballet in The Nutcracker. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

“I don’t know. I get nervous in any car and it’s just worse at night…”

“Brandi Alexandra Jameson, I just knew you’d pull a stunt like this, and I won’t let you ruin this party for me.”

Yeah, it’s all about you, Jane. What about what I want?

“It’s three o’clock, now,” her sister continued. “He’ll be there to pick you up at five. I suggest you get your ass in gear. He’s got orders to carry you out kicking and screaming if he has to.”

“You’re not being fair,” Brandi cried.

“Fair has nothing to do with this. It’s for your own good, and Mom and Dad agree, so unless you want to end up here in your pajamas or worse, get dressed.”

She winced as Jane ended the call with a satisfactory slam of the phone, something impossible to do with a cellphone.

Defeated, Brandi sighed. She had two choices: dig in her heels and refuse to budge, although she was certain that wouldn’t stop Jarett who had more muscles in his shoulders than Yuri, her best friend and fellow dancer, had ever had, or give in graciously, and make an appearance. Surely there would be a plant she could hide behind. She’d stay for an hour, two at most, and then get a cab back to the house. It wasn’t a huge rebellion, but it would send a message. Wearily, moving as if she were on the way to her own execution, Brandi climbed the stairs to her room to shower and get dressed.

Well, that’s it for now. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales and don’t forget to come back here tomorrow for Where There’s a Will… Part Two.