So, last week's assignment. I've written this very... genre? I don't know which genre, but it certainly feels "genre". I'm happy with the dialogue - it's natural-ish. And the pacing is satisfying to me. Admittedly the episode is of no use as a short story, but it would fit into a larger whole, and I think the pacing would be quite comfortable for a novel. So although the narrative wasn't one that energised me, it was gratifying to know that I can write at roughly the right pace for a novel.
Of course what this doesn't show is that in two more pages I would have run out of adjectives...
Rupert crept in through the servant’s door, boots clicking on the slate-tiled kitchen floor. He winced, adjusted the long-johns beneath his coarse workman’s trousers, and tried to sit down at the wooden preparation table on one of the kitchen’s three-legged stools. The bandages made it a little difficult but in a moment he was propped tentatively on the edge.
The door from the wash-room opened to reveal Alissandra, a wash-basket full of sheets propped between her right arm and body, and a rolled cigarette and a lighter in the other. She nodded to him as she passed through into the courtyard, the door tapping in the frame as she left it unclosed.
“Close that, yeah?” She called back at him. Rupert set his face and steeled himself as he made the journey to the door. Walking was the trickiest part. No. Running had been the trickiest part.
“Bugger it”. He murmured under his breath and slipped back out into the breezy courtyard. Alissandra was smoking happily against one wall – the washing lay undisturbed in the basket beneath the line.
“What happened?” She asked, offering him her roll-up. He took it gratefully as she hoiked out her tobacco pouch to make another.
“What makes you think something happened?”
“You get caught?”
“No.” Rupert said with a tight smile. That much was true.
“You’ld be dead if you were caught.”
“True.” He let the smoke go in a hot stream of ash. “And what makes you think something happened?”
“’s in your face. I can read faces very well.”
“You’ve to stop having these delusions of being some gypsy mystic, Aliss, you’ve been told.”
“I can and that’s truth.” She overcut him. “I’m good at reading faces. So you tell me what happened.”
It would get out as soon as he told her – the serving community in the village was closed, insular, had loose tongues – but it was going to get out anyway. It was embarassment, not fear that had closed his mouth so far.
“What happened to Lord Partridge last summer. Same as that.”
“No. Noo! Oh, that’s going to cramp you, eh?”
“Well I reckon so yes.” Rupert crossed his arms in frustration and turned away from Alissandra, stifling a gasp of exasperated pain. Alissandra chuckled.
“Not so much as I was expecting, no.”
“Lord.” She leant back against the wall, rolling the cigarette from one end of her mouth to the other. “Lord, me.” Her face lit up with a devilish grin. “So what did the Posh say about it?”
“Well she took it worse than I did, didn’t she?” Rupert stared up at the clouds. “She was bloody screaming like a mad thing and I thought sooner or later that jobbing idiot Palmer was going to burst in thinking she was dying.” He sighed. “So my first time down the drainpipe and me in no fit state.”
“Wouldn’t want to be doing her sheets.” Alissandra mused, kicking a pebble over at it with a curious foot.
“No.” Said Rupert sourly. He looked into the garden proper through the courtyard archway; it made a pretty frame around the Summer Royals. Just this morning, he thought, he had been looking forwards to blanketing them up for winter. Now the notion of even bending down filled him with dread.
“Hey, you talk to Parsons?” Alissandra asked. He nodded, grimly.
“Old quack. He bloody laughed didn’t he!” The old doctor’s face had scrunched up like a boot, with the split toe as the mouth and the sun-burnt brown leather of his face scrunching up around the smile.
“Well, he must have given you something at least.”
“He told me to dip myself in salt water for three weeks.” Rupert groaned, and Alissandra laughed up from her belly as Rupert shuffled back into the house, his mouth downturned into a miserable grimace.