Monday, March 10, 2014

Welcome to #MagicMondays

I have noticed a trend lately. Hashtags are everywhere. Maybe I'm slow to come around to these things, but I do eventually come around. So, I decided to start posting something magical on Mondays since I enjoy magic and fantasy. Here is an excerpt from my midgrade novella The Queen's Yeoman that will be released at the end of this month. Enjoy this #MagicMonday post.


When Saundra reached the bottom of the stairs, she was still thinking about the mysterious boy and his odd assignment. She was so lost in her own thoughts about him and the promise of being a Yeoman that she didn’t see the slippers sitting on the table until she was in her chair. As she sat down, the slender baton she had stuffed in the belt she was still wearing around her waist poked her, and she slid it out onto the table. When she placed it carefully next to her napkin, she saw them out of the corner of her eye. 

The sparkling green shoes were sitting at the far end of the table on top of a stack of newspapers, as if someone had collected them in a stack to be put away.

With the unbridled excitement of her age she shoved her chair back from the table, causing it to tip over and slam into the floor. Everyone in the kitchen looked at the toppled chair to make sure she was okay, but she was on the other end of the table collecting the slippers in her arms.

“You found them!” she shouted and everyone who had been looking at the chair was now staring at her.

“Saundra! Put those down—Pick up your chair—Sit down, and eat your lunch.” Kelly was shaking her head while their mother was angrily towering over the table.

Interpreting the instructions in her own way, Saundra slipped the shoes under her arm, walked over to the fallen chair, and tried to lift it off the floor with her one free hand. She tried twice but could not get the chair up without dropping the slippers, and she refused to let them go.

Kelly moved in her chair to stand and help her, but Ellen was next to her before anyone else could move. Their eyes met as she reached down to help her with the chair, and something in her look scared Saundra. Smiling at her aunt as if she was thankful for the help, Saundra shifted to pick up her side. Instead of grabbing the chair, Ellen reached over and pulled the slippers out from under her arm.

As they slipped from her grasp, Saundra reached to grab them back and dropped her side of the chair. The chair pounded on the floor again, and Ellen shook her head without saying a word. She pulled the slippers completely out of Saundra’s reach.

When she couldn’t reach them she looked up at the table and saw the end of her wand. She could stop this if she could just reach it. Her hand moved and as if her aunt knew what she was after, Ellen’s hip bumped her as she walked back to her seat. Saundra sat down hard onto the floor. The shock of having her goal in her hands and having it ripped from her stunned her nearly as much as having the culprit be her own aunt. She looked up at her mother and sister who were now standing over her. Kelly was reaching to help her up. Her mother was reaching for the chair, but all Saundra could see was everyone trying to keep her from reaching the slippers.

The next few moments for Saundra moved by slowly.

Ellen sat down in her seat at the end of the table.

Her mother righted her chair.

Kelley helped her up into it.

Ellen placed the slippers back on the stack of papers.

Her mother placed a bowl of soup and a plate with a sandwich on it in front of her.

When her mother finally sat down and Ellen was patting the slippers, Saundra could suddenly smell the soup and sandwich. The pungent aroma of the tomatoes shocked her and made her stomach react. For a moment she thought she was going to be sick.

“Saundra? Are you alright?” her mother asked with a concerned look on her face.

“I’m not sure… I don’t feel so good.”

“Come now, child. You’re just hungry.” Ellen countered her mother’s concern. “She’s fine, Jen. There’s nothing to be concerned about. She’ll feel better once she has some food in her. She’s been up in that dust and mildew all morning. You should consider keeping her downstairs this afternoon.”

Her mother nodded, looking at her as if she was broken and her aunt knew how to fix her.

Saundra fought the nausea back and scooped up a spoon full of soup. When she had swallowed the acidic sweet mixture and ripped off a crumbling piece of the melted cheese and bread to force it down, she smiled up at her mother.

“I’m fine, see,” she said to help her mother relax and forget her aunt’s suggestion. As she scooped more soup into her mouth and struggled to keep it down, she stared at the shimmering shoes at the end of the table. How could she get them now? Why was Aunt Ellen protecting them so?

Saundra continued to eat her sandwich quietly while she struggled with the reality that she didn’t want to believe. Her aunt was the dragon’s agent. Earlier that same day she had believed her sister had taken the slippers, but there they were and her aunt was guarding them. What was she going to do? Maybe she could cast a spell on her aunt to get them back.

She ate a few more bites while she decided just what she would need to cast the right spell. She looked down at the table and saw the wand again. That was a start, but she didn’t have anything else to work with except the bowl of soup.

She considered the possible outcome of using tomato soup and decided it was worth a try. When everyone was looking at their own food, she picked up her wand from beside her napkin. The movement caught her mother’s eye but it was too late to stop, the web of the spell was already being spun. She pointed the wand at her bowl and waved it in a circle just over the surface of the soup. With the little incantation running through her head she pointed the wand straight into the air and thought about getting the slippers from her aunt. Satisfied that she had cast the spell as well as she could, she placed the wand back on the table, picked up her spoon, and ate a few more bites. Only time would tell.

Her mother shook her head and turned back to her own food, which was not a good sign. No one else noticed her. They all continued to eat quietly.  

When Saundra was convinced the spell was not going to work—it was based on tomato soup, after all—Kelly spoke up from her own bowl. “Aunt Ellen, where did you find those slippers? Saundra had been playing with them for days before the funeral. She couldn’t find them this morning, and it really upset her.”

Saundra looked over her half-eaten sandwich at her aunt, who placed her spoon delicately in her bowl. She didn’t even react to the last part of Kelly’s question. 

“It’s the most interesting thing,” she said. “I had forgotten all about those slippers until the other day. I went upstairs to look around, you know, to see what we needed to move and what we needed to get rid of and there they were, hanging on that old full length mirror. So I took them down. I thought I might as well take them home with me.”

Saundra's heart skipped at the thought of Ellen taking the slipper where she would never be able to get them back. She would never be a Yeoman if she couldn't finish this simple mission.

“But why are they important? Why did you even want them? Saundra really liked them. Maybe you could let her have them.”

“Kelly.” The scolding tone of their mother surprised Kelly a little, but she didn’t stop.

“What? She just seems so aggressive about some old green slippers that she can’t even wear. Saundra liked them so much. What’s the big deal?” Kelly could get away with her tone because she was tired, but it was risky. Saundra felt her sandwich bubble around in her stomach a little as her no-conflict sister fought for her. 

“Kelly, they’re her slippers,” their mother informed them. Saundra swallowed a spoon full of soup to avoid the noise she nearly couldn’t stop. “They’re not Saundra’s.” 

“Oh,” Kelly said when she realized she couldn’t argue about that.

The table was silent for a few more bites. Then, for some reason Saundra never understood, Kelly took a chance she never thought her sister was capable of.

“Aunt Ellen, Saundra was really enjoying playing with your slippers. It really upset her this morning when they were gone. Would you mind at all if she—I mean—could she…play with them after lunch? It may make the packing go easier…if she’s not in our way.”

Saundra stopped eating the last of her soup and stared at her sister. For a moment she didn’t know if she was more amazed or insulted. For just an instant she thought she saw a smile on her mother’s face, but when she looked back it was gone and there was no proof it was ever there.

“You know, El. Kelly’s right. We really need to focus this afternoon or we’ll never get everything down here packed for dad. The stuff upstairs can wait until this summer.”

Saundra watched and wondered if they were really helping her or if she was just imagining it all. She looked down at the wand and shook her head. She would never underestimate the power of tomato soup again.

Ellen looked unsure of her answer. She chewed on her lip a little. After she had taken a few moments, she finally answered, “Of course she can play with them. I certainly enjoyed them for years. Just be careful with them.”

Saundra nodded her acceptance of the rules as she scooped the last bite of soup out of her bowl. A few more bites and lunch would be over, but she took her time so the power of the spell and the decision could clear the air a little. She could not wait to show them to the Yeoman upstairs. This would fulfill her quest. This would make her a Queen’s Yeoman. It was all she could do to sit still until everyone had finished their lunch.

After a few minutes of silence, Kelly pushed her empty bowl aside and looked up at their mother.

“Mom, I’d like to go read a few minutes before we get back to packing.”

“Why don’t you both go play a little while? I need to talk to your aunt.”

Kelly stood up and motioned to Saundra to come with her, but Saundra had something else on her mind. She stood up, plucked up her wand, stuck it in her belt again, and walked over to her aunt’s chair.

“Thank you, for letting me play with your slippers Aunt Ellen. I know they must mean a lot to you.”
Saundra was not an impolite girl. Her mother had taught her manners, and she intended to demonstrate that to her aunt.

“You’re welcome, child.” She smiled down at her with a very unconvincing smile and pushed the slippers toward her. Saundra carefully collected them and left the kitchen behind her sister. Just outside the doorway, they both dived to the side where they could not be seen and waited to hear whatever it was their mother wanted to talk to their aunt about.