Friday, December 2, 2011

Free Fiction Friday - Installment 1.7

It’s time for Fiction Friday! How does Fiction Friday work? Well, kind of like those old Choose Your Own Adventure stories, but with a lot more room. Read the installment of the story below. At the end, you’ll find a question. You the reader will get to determine what happens next. Leave a comment. I’ll pick one at random.  You get to determine where the plot goes. So read, enjoy, and tell me what you want to happen next.  

Past Segments:  123456


                The carriage rolled along at a steady pace. The occupants were in no hurry to get anywhere in particular and enjoyed the sights flowing by outside the window. Two of them did, anyway. Mrs. Ruggiford had grunted something about it being way too early in the morning, leaned her head back against the seat, and snored. Once the carriage was rolling steadily along the newly paved roads outside of London, Lord Clampton produced a small satchel of papers and had not looked up since.
                “Look!” Minnie pointed at a roadside peddler as they passed through a small village. “I haven’t seen one of those since coming to London! Oh, Olivia, he has feathers!”
                Olivia smiled at Minnie’s exuberance. Minnie’s life must have been sheltered indeed for her to maintain such a childlike demeanor at times. She was completely unprepared for Minnie’s next move, however.
                Minnie lurched across the carriage to bang on the wall. She stayed pressed against the window, watching the peddler and presumably keeping an eye on the tempting feathers. Olivia found herself knocked off balance and landed hard against Lord Clampton’s shoulder. His head jerked upright. His eyes met hers, growing slightly wider as their gazes connected.
                “I beg your pardon,” Olivia whispered. She attempted to right herself, but Minnie was still in the way. Olivia was effectively pinned against the man’s side. She had never touched him except for when they danced, and she found it very disconcerting.
                “And how are you enjoying the trip, Miss Bedford?”
                Olivia could hear the smile in his deep baritone and found herself smiling in return, even as she looked in the other direction.
                “Quite well, thank you.”
                Minnie half sat on the seat, waiting for the carriage to come to a complete stop. “They look perfect from here! What town are we in?”
                Olivia tried to shift once more, but found herself having to lean sideways because of Minnie’s new position. She was practically resting her head on Lord Clampton’s shoulder. She could feel him craning his neck to look out the window without dislodging her precarious balance.
                “I must confess, I am not sure. I haven’t been paying attention. Why are we stopping?”
                “Feathers,” Olivia said.
                “For my hat,” Minnie added.
                The footman opened the door and Minnie all but jumped from the carriage, giving Olivia some desperately needed space. She straightened her skirts and then followed her new friend out of the conveyance and over to the peddler’s cart.
                “Oooo, look at them, Livvy. You don’t mind if I call you Livvy do you? How did they manage to get this particular shade of green, do you think?” Minnie fingered the long, green feather.
Olivia opened her mouth to answer but she never got a chance.
“I like the green, but I already have two different shades of green on the hat. Of course, they aren’t feathers. I have a ribbon and a flower. Maybe the blue one would be better? I think this shade would go well with red and purple. ”
Olivia looked back over her shoulder at the carriage. Somewhere in there was apparently a monstrously colorful hat. She was starting to think that preparing Minnie for a successful season was going to be harder than she originally thought.
Eventually Minnie settled on selecting the green one that originally caught her eye. She trotted back to the carriage holding the feather like a trophy.
She stepped gracefully up into the carriage, showing a glimmer of the potential lady she could turn into. Olivia shook her head as she followed more slowly.
She reached the carriage and found Lord Clampton’s eyes watching her closely from behind his papers. Her palms began to sweat under the scrutiny. She focused all of her attention on making it into her seat without stumbling. She situated her skirts and looked up intending to say something about the green feather.
She froze, mouth gaping open, eyes widening to a size she would have thought impossible.
                In the seat across from her, Olivia was busy securing her new feather treasure to the most atrocious, ridiculous, and appalling hat ever created.
                The wide brimmed bonnet was trimmed in white lace. The light green ribbons trailed to the floor of the carriage. A cluster of mismatched flowers, including the infamous green one, clustered along the crown. Minnie was industriously working the end of the feather into the trimming so that it would dance in the air behind the wearer’s head.
                “Guh…” Olivia darted a glance at Lord Clampton, only to find him staring at her from behind his raised papers. One eyebrow slowly climbed towards his hairline.
                Olivia jerked back towards Minnie. “That’s an interesting hat.”
                Minnie turned the bonnet this way and that, admiring her handiwork. “I know. It’s my travel hat. I started it when I left Cornwall. I picked up this ribbon on my first real London shopping trip.”
                Carefully Minnie sat the hat back in the black box at her feet. She closed the lid with an affectionate pat. “I think it’s beautiful.”
                Olivia wasn’t sure what to do. The idea of Minnie actually wearing that ridiculous headpiece anywhere was appalling, but how to tell her that without demeaning her special keepsake? She cleared her throat to stall having to say something.
                “It is so important to remember the journeys in our life,” Olivia began. “Just think how much fun it would be to display it on a statue in your bedroom when this trip is over. You could see it every morning and smile.”
                “Oh, what a fabulous idea. Thank you so much, Olivia.”
                Olivia looked at Lord Clampton out of the corner of her eye. It was amazing how important his opinion had become to her in just a matter of days. He smiled and looked back at his papers.
                Minnie turned back to the window, exclaiming over a grazing herd of sheep.
                Olivia’s gaze kept returning to Lord Clampton. It was obvious that his family, particularly his sister, was extremely important to him. She was beginning to believe that his asking her to accompany Minnie on this trip was about much more than companionship. The responsibility felt heavy indeed.
                Mrs. Ruggiford snorted, drawing Olivia’s attention. The older woman’s eyes were only half open, but it was still enough for Olivia to distinguish the wink that came in her direction. Apparently the others saw the hat as some sort of test and Olivia had passed. It made her feel like she had done something truly worthwhile.
                With a feeling of purpose that had been missing in her life for a long while, she joined Minnie in her perusal of the countryside.

Next week our traveling party will be stopping at the house of Lord and Lady Bromley to spend the night. They are going to be surprised by the fact that they are holding a large dinner party. What’s going to happen to out soon-to-be happy couple? Will some other man ask Olivia to dance and make John wildly jealous? Will they all get food poisoning? Toss out your ideas in the comments below.

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