Staying in Focus: What If The Story had Started Like This?

This is creative writing exercise I recently  completed.  I had to find ten unfamiliar words, to include in the story, and then pick a character from a list to be the protagonist. How could I pass up Scarlett O’Hara? Length of passage 1,000 words.

ten new words:

1. bumptious   adj.   brash

2. horology n.  art of making timepieces

3. lavabo  n.   a basin holding water for washing

4. moire n.  watered silk or wool fabric

5   jass  n.  a card game for two

6. panatela   n. a thin cigar

7. ratafia n. an almond flavored liqueur

8. soidisant  adj.  so-called

9 .theorbo  n .  a 17th century lute-like musical instrument

10. nixie   n.   a female water sprite

Character:  Scarlett  O’Hara

What if the story started like this?

Scarlett O’Hara sat primly on the cushioned bench, folds of moire billowing around her.  She loved the way the forest green, watered silk material seemed to glow in the afternoon light. The forest green accented her emerald green eyes, which sparkled with delight as a horse and buggy made the turn onto the tree lined drive that lead to Tara.  Ashley had come as promised, to whisk her off to a day of visiting friends at neighboring plantations.

“My, my, Scarlett, you do look pretty today,” Ashley said as he brought the buggy to a halt.  “Quite the nixie, you are my dear.” The horse nickered softly as Ashley stepped down from the buggy and handed the reins to Jeb, one of Tara’s darkies charged with watering the horses of visitors to the plantation.

“Oh, Ashley, how you do go on with those words you find in all those books you read!  You confuse me with such talk!”

“A nixie, my dear, is a water sprite of the forest. An enchanting, elusive creature, one must treat with the utmost delicacy,” he explained, as he took her gloved hand and kissed it gently.

Scarlett missed most of what he said, trying to still her rapidly beating heart, lest Ashley hear it pounding so. To distract him she asked, “Ashley, before we depart, can I have Prissy bring you a ratafia to refresh you?’

“Ah, that would be most welcome, dear Scarlett.   May I also request a laveboto wash off my dusty hands?  It has been a dry and dusty summer.”   Ashley sat down next to Scarlett, as she motioned to the waiting Prissy to procure the requested items.  As Prissy turned to enter the house, Ashley drew a slim box out of his coat pocket, and handed it to Prissy.

“For Mr. O’Hara, with my regards, “Ashley said.  Scarlett knew the box contained panatelas, her father’s favorite cigar.

“Ashley, you are so thoughtful to remember how much Pa favors those cigars.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want your pa to think me a bumptious fellow,” Ashley replied.

Scarlett sighed.  She wished Ashley would use the same words everyone else used. She turned to him and asked, , “How do they fare at Twelve Oaks, Ashley?”  Scarlett loved Ashley’s home.  Though she also loved Tara, Twelve Oaks had a grace that the more rustic Tara lacked.  Scarlett wasn’t really concerned about the other folk at Twelve Oaks.  She just wanted to be sure that Melanie Hamilton, Ashley’s cousin, wasn’t visiting again. Scarlett did not like the way Melanie blended in with the family and the plantation.  It was as if she belonged there.  And if anyone was going to marry Ashley and move into Twelve Oaks, it would not be that mealy-mouthed cousin.  Scarlett had chosen Ashley for herself.

Prissy arrived with the basin and the liqueur.  Ashley rinsed off his hands and toweled them dry, then accepted the thin glass of ratafia and took a slip. “It has been a busy week. We learned to play a card game called jass from an associate of my father’s,   a gentleman from Charleston. We also welcomed a fascinating gentleman from Savannah who is a master in the art of horology.

Seeing the confused look on Scarlett’s face, he explained, “He is a maker of timepieces, the finest I have ever seen.” Ashley’s family seemed to be overly concerned about time, Scarlett thought.   In their garden they had a sundial on which was inscribed, “Do not squander time; it is the stuff life is made of.” Scarlett thought, however, that the Wilkes squandered time more than anyone, spending hours reading books and reciting poetry.

Ashley continued telling her about the events of the past week, but as Melanie’s name was not mentioned, she became lost in her own thoughts.  How to get Ashley to become a more romantic companion was the question which perplexed her the most.  So far he was ever the epitome of a proper southern gentleman, but Scarlett craved more than a kiss on the hand. She had to move things along somehow, without compromising her virtue, of course.

Scarlett realized that Ashley had finished his drink and one-sided conversation. She turned to him, smiling prettily, her dimples accenting her smile.  She put her hand gently on his arm.  “Well, shall we be about our business, Ashley, and pay some calls on our friends and neighbors?”  Scarlett didn’t really care about these friends and neighbors either, for to tell the truth, none of them liked her very much. She imagined it was mostly due to jealousy. Ashley was, after all, the catch of the county.  But she endured these visits because it gave her more time with Ashley, and she liked to rub their noses in their jealousy by seeing her in constant company with the dashing Ashley Wilkes.

Scarlett put on her bonnet, tying the bow securely beneath her chin.  Perhaps she could convince Ashley to give the horses some proper exercise, and let them run full out.  Jeb brought the horse and buggy around from the stables in back of the house, and Ashley assisted Scarlett into the vehicle.  As he took the reins, he filled her in on their destination.

“I have a surprise for you, my dear.  Please forgive me the subterfuge. We are actually going to Twelve Oaks.  I have arranged for several friends to meet us there.  My cousin, Melanie, is coming in from Atlanta, with a group of musicians who play theorbos. They have agreed to provide us with a concert during lunch.

Scarlett tried not to show her disappointment.  “What is a theorbo,  Ashley?”

“A theorbo is a lute like instrument, from the …”

Scarlett could contain herself no longer.  She felt her vision change to red.  With a shout of “Whoa” to the horses, she grabbed the reins from Ashley’s startled hands and said, “Please forgive the subterfuge, Ashley, and vacate the buggy.  You see, I am an actually a bumptious woman wearing a moire frock and not a proper soidisant southern belle. I like a nice glass of ratafia now and again, maybe even a slim panatela.  And I do not plan to squander time listening to theorbos all afternoon.  She gave Ashley a little push, and he climbed down from the buggy.  He stared at Scarlett, speechless, as she cracked the whip and let the horses run full out, the ribbons of her bonnet trailing in the wind.

She saw a rider ahead, riding toward her, a tall man in a black coat riding a black stallion. He doffed his hat to her as she raced by. Scarlett turned and blew him a kiss…

Word Count : 1,117


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