With sweet Saturday Sample on hiatus until the new year, I’m left with a free Saturday to fill. So I thought I’d go ahead with my planned post–an excerpt from one of the stories in my Christmas Collection, All Wrapped Up.
This is from the beginning of “‘Tis the Season,” an historical tale that takes place at the traditional Christmas dinner. All is merry and bright–until Jenny, the family’s eighteen-year old daughter, gets some devastating news.
‘Tis the Season
“I believe we are all here, my dear. Will you carve the goose?”
Jenny watched Mamma smile expectantly at Papa, who looked very splendid in his new white silk cravat. She had picked it out herself last week and presented it to him this morning along with all the other Christmas gifts. It was a very special gift, perhaps the last Christmas gift she would give her father as an unmarried woman.
The same thought occurred over and over. This time next year I may be presiding over my own Christmas table. Jenny’s eighteenth birthday had been on the first day of December, which meant this spring she would make her come out with all the other young girls and be unleashed on London to find and secure a husband. And Jenny was confident she would do just that amidst the social whirl that was The Season: balls, musicals, masquerades, excursions to the theatre and Vauxhall Gardens. She looked forward to her season for so many reasons.
She smiled as she gazed around the table. The whole Crowley family had gathered for Christmas luncheon, which of course included their dear neighbors, Sir John and Lady Ellen Isley and their son, Thomas. The Crowleys and the Isleys had been friends since before she was born, Papa and Sir John having gone to university together. Their daughter Margaret had been Jenny’s bosom friend until she made her debut two years ago. Now she was married to a viscount and had just presented her husband with a son and heir not two weeks ago. Jenny could only hope she would be as fortunate two years hence.
Papa carved busily as plates were passed back and forth and vegetable dishes, bread, and Yorkshire pudding made their rounds of the table. But when her father at last sat and picked up his napkin to say grace, it was Great-Aunt Maude, sitting at the mid-point of the table, who spoke. “So, Charles, when is the wedding to take place?”
“Wedding, Aunt Maude?” Papa’s voice rose in a question, but he cut his eyes toward Mamma, who sent a frightened look at Jenny. The look puzzled her, but no more than her great-aunt’s question. To whose wedding was she referring?
“Yes, Charles. Jenny’s wedding to young Thomas here.” Maude nodded across the table to Thomas Isley, whose eyes shifted from side to side, as though he thought the old lady quite mad. Jenny thought so herself. “She’s eighteen now, and you promised me when she was of age I’d see her married into the Isley family. I have lived for the day I could see one of my family move into the titled class.” She glared at Mamma, who blushed and turned to Jenny.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds, Jenny darling.” But Mamma’s wide eyes said yes, it was that bad.
“Is this true, Mamma?” Jenny’s voice didn’t sound like her own, stilted with shock at the revelation.
“Yes, my dear, it most certainly is.” Aunt Maude nodded with such vehemence the flowers on her hat bobbed back and forth. “When your mother refused to marry up, I swore none of your family would ever see a penny of my money. Then when you were born, she came to me and promised you had already been betrothed to young Thomas here. She showed me the betrothal papers.”
The rest of the table sat in stunned silence. Jenny looked down at her hands, clasped together so tight her knuckles showed white. All her dreams of excitement and romance during her Season had just exploded with her great-aunt’s words.
And in the spirit of the holiday season, I’m giving away three copies of All Wrapped Up to three random commentors today. So be sure to leave me your email address!
If you’re still feeling lucky, and want to help me celebrate my 1st anniversary, scroll to the latest post on the blog for a chance to win a copy of my contemporary erotic 1Night Stand novella, Almost Perfect.