Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From the trunk

Well, Bryn started it. She posted a bit of random crap from her random crap folder. So, being a shameless copycat, I sorted through my stuff and decided to post this. It's from a trunked historical/western/romance. I'll probably get round to finishing it one of these days, when my brain stops giving me other ideas for other books.


Have you ever used one of these?” Kristian pulled a revolver from his belt.

Tessie eyed the gun with unease, “No.”

“It’s about time you learned,” he told her and placed it in her hand, “It’s ok, it’s not loaded.”

Instinctively, her hand curled around the butt, it felt cool and smooth to the touch.

“There isn’t much to shoot at, but you need some practice. Salim is looking for something for you to shoot at.”

She looked across the camp to where Salim was kicking through the grass. He stooped and picked up a piece of branch, about as thick as a leg, “There isn’t much around. This will have to do,” He dragged it away from the camp and fiddled about, trying to rest it upright against a rock. In the end, he succeeded and the branch rose out of the grass like a crooked finger that pointed to an evening sky flushed pink and streaked with thin, silvery horsetails of cloud. Tessie was more entranced by the sunset than the prospect of firing a gun.

Her instructor retrieved the weapon, “Watch me,”

She tore herself away from the sky and tried to follow Kristian’s instructions.

“This is where the bullets go, it holds six, as you can see, this is now loaded,” he pulled one of the bullets out and gave it to her. She held it gingerly in the cup of her palm.

“Now put it back in the chamber.” He slipped the cylinder back into place and it was a gun again. “With your thumb you pull this back, this is the hammer, and this means that you’re now ready to pull the trigger." Arm out and, with one eye closed, hetook aim at the target,.“The hammer and the notch at the end of the barrel should line up at the target." He pulled the trigger. The gun’s echoing report sent a flock of birds screeching and wheeling out of the grass and the acrid tang of cordite made Tessie’s eyes water. The target quivered as the bullet tore through it leaving a wisp of sawdust and smoke lingering in the air.

“Now, you try.” He handed her the revolver, “Don’t worry, I’m going to help you.” He stood behind her and slipped his arms around her. Tessie tried not to tremble and she wasn’t sure whether it was because of the gun or because of the unaccustomed nearness of a man. “Hold your arm out straight,”

She did and the gun felt heavy and unsteady. Instinctively, she brought her other hand forward to support it.

“Good girl.” Kristian’s breath was warm against her cheek. “Now, the hammer.”

The hammer tripped back with a satisfying click and his hand covered hers. "Line up the hammer and the notch.”

Following his example, Tessie closed one eye and took aim.

“Pull the trigger.” His forefinger nudged hers.

She drew a deep breath and pulled. The noise and the recoil took her by surprise. She stumbled back against her teacher, coughing from the smoke.

“How’d she do, Salim?”

Salim held his arms wide. “She missed by about this much.”

“Not bad.” Kristian patted her shoulder. “Let’s try again.”

Tessie steadied herself and raised the gun. The branch seemed more like a twig but she was determined to show that, if the need arose, she would be able to hold her own.

“Are you ready?”


“This time, “ he murmured. “You’re on your own, I’m just going to keep you steady.”

She bit her lip, cocked the hammer, took hard, cold aim and squeezed the trigger, braced for the recoil. This time she did not stumble and the top of the branch dissolved in a fierce shower of shattered bark.

“Well done, “ Kristian clapped her on the shoulder, “We’ll make a cowgirl of you yet.”

Tessie grinned and handed him the gun, “As it happens, my father had a gun like this, he taught me to shoot.”

The look on his face was well worth the deception but she resisted the urge to tell him to close his mouth before the flies got in. Salim, meanwhile, was almost bent double from laughing as she walked back to the campfire, sat down and returned to watch the sunset. When Kristian returned he, wordlessly, rummaged through his saddlebag and handed her a worn and cracked belt and holster. “Wear this, and, “he passed her the revolver, “You can look after this for me. I have another.”

“Thank you.”

He shook his head. “I guess that was your revenge for the whiskey.”

She put the gun in the holster. “I guess so.”

“Serves you right, “ Salim was still chuckling, “I believe that Tessie has the measure of you, my friend.”

“You are a deep one, Tess, that’s for sure.”

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another Angsty Tuesday

This marks the end of part 1 of 'Through the Mist'. Andrew and Katya have reached Gilgit and it's time for goodbyes.


By morning, the rain had softened to a gentle drizzle, cool on the skin as it shrouded the garden in silence. Katya sat on a chair on the veranda outside her room and listened to the water drip from the bushes. She rested her chin on her knees and tried to lose herself in empty thoughts. When Andrew walked out of the mist, something inside shifted, tumbled and fell away. She stood up and hid her trembling hands in her pockets. She knew why he was there.

“I just came to say goodbye.” He told her.

Katya nodded and looked at him. He may have hurt her, but he was beautiful. The drizzle turned his hair to a mass of wild and damp curls and his eyes were dark, his gaze unflinching. He was dressed for the journey. Katya didn’t know what to say. Too many words fought inside her head, too many thoughts and regrets.

“I’m taking the roan with me. I sold the other two ponies.” He fumbled in his pocket and pressed a roll of rupee notes into her hand. “This is your share.”

“Thank you.” She put the money in her pocket, glad that the roan was still in his hands. “Are you going back to Kashgar?”

He shook his head. “No. I’m going back to Baltit until I know where I have to go next. I’m going to stay with Moira and Monty for a few days.”

Katya envied him his refuge. “That will be nice.”

“Yea.” He looked down at his feet. Katya wanted to touch him one last time.

She took a deep breath. “Thank you for everything. Thank you for getting me here. I know my family will never forget your kindness. I know I won’t.”

“You won’t?”

“No. I’ll never forget. I’ll remember everything.” She swallowed.

“I should be thanking you, for what you did for me.”

“You already have. It’s all right.”


Katya closed her eyes as he drew her close. She rested against him as he held her in silence. She felt the thud of his heart beneath her cheek and gave in, letting her arms steal around him. She stroked his hair as he trembled and sighed against her ear.

“I’m so sorry.” He whispered. “Please forgive me. It was never my intention to hurt you.”

“I know and I’m sorry for hurting you.” Katya suddenly regretted those three lost days, wasted by holding onto her pain and crushed feelings.

“Didn’t I tell you at the very start that you would end up hating me?”

“I don’t hate you. I could never hate you.” She would always love him. No matter who or what happened in her life, she would always hold onto everything that passed between them.

“Thank you.” His hand was light on her hair, his voice muffled. “I couldn’t have wished for a better companion.” He stepped back, and held her face in his hands. “You’re brave and you’re beautiful, Katya. You’ll make some lucky man a wonderful wife. I’m already jealous of him, I already hate him.”

“I don’t want to be anyone’s wife.”

“You will one day. You’ll have a good life, a life where you’ll never have to worry about anything, where you’ll always have a roof over your head and know nothing but peace. That is what I wish for you, darling girl, a long and happy life.”

Katya felt treacherous tears slip beneath her lids. Andrew’s lips were warm, he brushed at her tears with his thumbs and kissed her forehead, her tears, her cheeks, the tip of her nose. “Don’t cry.” His voice was hoarse. “Please Katya.”

“I’m trying not to.” She managed a tremulous smile.

“That’s my girl.” He kissed her, a sweet, sad echo of that first, heady kiss. For a fleeting moment, Katya tasted cherries and felt a cool breeze. Then, it was gone. Andrew stood back, his hand fell away from her face. “I should go.” He said. “Just remember this, darling. You’re not the only one with a broken heart.”

He turned and walked away from her, into the dripping garden, into the swirling, soft mist. Katya watched him disappear, frozen and wordless. Running after him would only draw out the agony, twist the thorn into her heart and into his. She collapsed into the chair, hid her face in her hands and cried.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday angst.

Well, it was either post a rant against US Immigration or post another Teaser.

I decided on the latter. It's another scene from 'Through the Mist' which is still rough and ready.
It's a pivotal scene full of angst and other good stuff, because I loves my angst.

The journey is nearly at an end for Katya and Andrew.


Rakaposhi loomed over Minapin like a monolith. The afternoon sun turned the snowy flanks to blinding silver and it hurt Katya’s eyes to look at it. The Rest House was a small bungalow set in the midst of a garden brilliant with flowers. Trees shaded the lawn and the veranda looked towards Rakaposhi.

“It’s beautiful here.” Katya said as they shared a bench in the garden, after dinner. The evening sun turned the snow to a sheet of soft copper. The mountains were full of violet shadows. Birds squabbled in the trees and on the lawn.

“It is.”

They shared a bowl of cherries, picked from a tree at the edge of the garden. The yellow fruit glowed softly in the fading light. Katya idly tied one of the stems into a knot and set it in the bowl alongside the growing pile of cherry pits.

“Will you miss this, Katya?”

“Yes.” She sighed and tried to imagine herself back at home. “Will you?”

“Yes.” He set the bowl of cherries on the grass. “I’ve travelled along this road a few times and this is the first time I’ve really sat and just enjoyed the peace.”

Katya felt his hand in her hair, a touch as light as a breeze. Something inside spun slowly when he edged closer. There was so little time left and she didn’t want to waste it. She rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes as his fingers wound through her hair. His sigh was warm against her skin, his hand soft on her face as it traced the line of her jaw and trailed along her cheekbones.

“Katya.” Andrew’s voice was a whisper. His lips followed where his hand had been, soft on her forehead, her eyelids, her cheekbones, gentle as mountain rain. Katya let her hand drift to his face. No one had kissed her like this. Her lips parted beneath his and his hands were more insistent, cradling her head, his fingers curled into her hair, thumbs brushing her cheeks. She kissed him back, he smelled of soap and of mountain air. His skin was warm in the cool evening, his stubble rough beneath her fingers.

Katya sighed as he drew her close. His hands glided to her waist. She put her arms around his neck and trembled when his tongue sought hers. She didn’t know that a man’s touch could reduce her to weakness, to languid warmth. He tasted of cherries, sweet and tart. Then, he was gone. A dream snatched away by a sudden awakening.

“God, Katya.” He pushed her away and stood up.

Katya shook as he strode away and leaned against the cherry tree, his face pressed against the trunk. “God, Katya, what have I done?” His voice was all agony and remorse.

She crept off the bench and across the short stretch of grass. “Andrew?” Katya put her hand on his shoulder.

He shrugged it off and turned to face her. “I’m so sorry.” He whispered. “I forgot myself, I got carried away. I forgot how young you are. Forgive me.”

The guilt in his eyes twisted in Katya’s gut like a dagger. “I’m sorry. I can’t help that.” She clenched her jaw, willing herself not to cry or beg. “I didn’t choose when I was to be born. I didn’t choose any of this.”

“I know…What I did…was unforgiveable.”

Katya shook her head. “No, it wasn’t. Not to me, anyway.” It would’ve been so easy to tell him that she loved him. She wanted to beg forgiveness for her youth, for the ten years between them. It didn’t matter to her but to him it was a huge, dark chasm. “It was wonderful.”

He looked up into the shifting, restless canopy of the tree.”It was, but it was wrong.”

Pain spread through her, uncoiling in a slow and terrible burn. Katya dashed her fist across her eyes. “It didn’t feel wrong to me.” Her breath caught in her throat, her tears were close and she didn’t want him to see her cry. She already knew how much she had hurt him, frightened him. “It was never wrong.” She turned and walked away, wanting the refuge of her room, wanting nothing but to give in to her tears.

“Katya! Wait!”

“No… leave me alone. It’s all wrong, I’m all wrong.” She ran towards the house, through the shadowed hall and into her room. Katya flung herself onto the bed, buried her face in her pillow and wept. She curled up into a tight knot of pain. The memory of his touch was like fire, she closed her eyes and felt his lips on hers. He had given her something that she could never forget.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Wowza Wednesday

I've had a crap afternoon. So I'm cheering myself up by shamelessly whoring for comments on this extract from 'Through the Mist'. Bear in mind it's a first draft so it's rough and ready.

Katya and Andrew have reached northern India. Unfortunately, Andrew has come down with an unfortunate illness and Katya is trying her best to look after him.

The roan lifted his head and whickered. The other horses stirred. Katya took a deep, hiccupping breath when she heard the shuffle of hooves on loose stones. She wiped her eyes with her sleeve and glanced up. A small caravan of pack horses moved along the track. A small, rotund man in Uighur dress rode behind the string, singing to himself as he sat on a small grey pony. The packhorses were laden with all manner of boxes and sacks and Katya felt a faint stir of hope.

The rider whistled to his horses and they halted. Katya watched him dismount with an ease that belied his bulk. She struggled to remember what little Uighur she had learned.


The man smiled and returned the greeting. Katya wasn’t sure what he said. She’d just about exhausted her entire Uighur vocabulary. Her mind was a tangle of fear and frustration, somewhere the word ‘help’ was lost in there. She held up one finger and struggled to find the right phrase. “ er… yardem bersingizqu?” Help me please.”

He reeled off a long sentence in a birdsong lilt and then nodded.

Katya put her finger to her lip and beckoned for him to follow. She led him to the doorway of the hut where Andrew was sleeping. Katya pointed at him. “He’s sick.” She told him, wishing she knew how to tell him. Irina’s dreadful parties always involved charades at some point in the evening, a game Katya loathed because she hated standing up in front of strangers and making a fool of herself. Now, she had no choice. She pointed into the hut again and then bent double, clutching at her stomach and screwing up her face in, what she hoped, was a convincing portrayal of agony.

To her relief, the man nodded.

Katya took his arm and led him away from the door. She bent over again and pretended to vomit.

Again, he nodded.

It was no time to be embarrassed, she told herself. She would never see the man again. Katya pretended to squat and with one hand near her bottom, fluttered her fingers in a fluid, liquid way. She couldn’t think of any other way of portraying diarrhea. She held her nose with her other hand.

“Ahhhh!” Her visitor smiled, nodded and said something. He beckoned her to follow him, still chattering. Katya nodded and walked behind him. At the edge of the track, he paused and looked at his horses as if he was trying to remember something. Then, another “Ahhhh”. He started sorting through the sacks tied to a thin and weary chestnut, whistling to himself.

Katya watched him, listening to his lilting monologue and nodding in what she thought were the right places. After a few moments, he untied a sack and lowered it to the ground. After a few minutes of rummaging and whistling, he stood up with a grunt and produced a small muslin bag. He opened it and sniffed and grinned, before tying it up once more. He handed it to Katya and said something.

“I don’t understand.” She shrugged and hoped that she looked bewildered enough.

He cupped his hand, and with the other, held three fingers together, as if he was taking something from the cup, a pinch of something.

Katya opened the bag. A strange, sweet, bitter smell rose from a pale, brown powder. She recognized the scent of aniseed, but little else. Tiny fragments of bark and seed were mixed in with the powder. She looked at the man, once more. He curled his hand into a circle, like a cup, like a mug, and with the other, dropped the invisible pinch of stuff into it. Then, he held his free hand high and pretended to pour something in.

“Like tea?” Katya pretended to hold a tea cup to her lips. “Chai er… qay?”

He grinned and nodded.

“Rahmet sizga. Thank you.” Katya grinned back. “Thank you so much. Bahasi khanque?”

He waved his hand at her and shook his head.

“I must give you something.”

He shook his head once more.

Katya wanted to cry again. “Rahmet sizga.”

Another smile as he said something else. Katya suspected it was probably Uighur for ‘Good luck.” He walked back to his horse and climbed back into the saddle. “Hox.” He reached down and squeezed her shoulder. “Hox.” ‘Goodbye.

“Hox” Katya repeated, clutching the tiny bag. She waved as he whistled to his horses and he waved back. The horses moved placidly away, disappearing around the bend. Katya waited until they were out of sight and hurried towards the hut.

Andrew was still asleep. Katya put the kettle on the fire and waited. She hated to wake him, but he needed this. When the water boiled, she poured water into the cup and added a pinch of the powder, wrinkling her nose as the odor of bitter bark overpowered even the scent of aniseed.

“Andrew.” Katya touched his face. “Please wake up.”

He stirred and swatted at her hand.

“Andrew. I have medicine.” She shook him gently. “Wake up.”

He groaned and writhed. “What medicine?”

“A Uighur just gave some to me. He was heading to China.”

Andrew sat up, slowly. His eyes were red rimmed, his skin pale.”What?”

“Just drink this.” She held the cup out to him.

He wrinkled his nose. “It smells disgusting.”

“It’s supposed to make you feel better.”

His hand shook as he held the mug. Katya cradled his head and helped him to hold the cup. She watched him as he took a sip.

“Christ!” He gagged. “What is this?”

“Medicine.” Katya repeated. “Bits of bark and aniseed. I know it’s disgusting, but you have to drink it. You have to try.”

His stare was mutinous.

Katya stared back. “Please, Andrew.” She didn’t want to cry again.

He sighed. “All right, I’ll drink it. For you.”

Katya held the cup to his lips and his hand covered hers as he swallowed the tea. It took a long time since he paused between gulps to grimace and wipe his mouth. Eventually, he handed her the empty mug and leaned back against her. “That was horrible, Katya.”

“I’m sorry but if it makes you better, it’s worth it.” She stroked his hair. She loved the warm weight of him. She was sad that only his illness made her cling to her as he did.

“Thanks.” He closed his eyes. “Can I sleep now?”

“Yes.” She tried to ease away from him, to let him rest.

His arm crept around her waist. “Stay with me.”

“Yes.” She whispered, knowing she could be nowhere else.