50,716. I have officially put in my 50K words for the month of November - which, like sands through an hourglass, has almost completely evaporated...
As for the story itself, it's nowhere near finished. Captain Asing came back (I love Captain Asing) and Robin still doesn't have a personality. I figured out how to weave Harry deeper into the plot, so he's not just an amazingly hilarious interlude and Anne finally has some discernible flaws which please me greatly. I still have no idea about the sex-changed Achilles-Lucy, although since I've been secretly watching Farscape and think Claudia Black is gorgeous - Lucy will probably have her look. Madeline (who I think will have to be the more period Magdalen) is still locked up in Chrysanthemum House - although I've been leaning towards a secret marriage so the kids aren't actually illegitimate - just Papists, since the Company frowned on good Anglican employees marrying Catholics.
So if nothing else, I have a little over 50,000 words of a story that didn't really exist until November 1, a better understanding of my characters and working knowledge of 1820-30 Macao compliments of Harriett Low's Lights and Shadows of a Macao Life and my fevered imagination. I am also seriously creatively tapped out. Thankfully I have December to recover.
Excerpt from Day #27:
Despite Mrs. Healey’s belief that their attendance at Mrs. Phineas’ musicale would go mostly unnoticed save by the usual sober and Macao-anchored female set owning to it being trading Season in Macao, such was not the case.
It was becoming clear to Anne that nothing short of marriage to a suitable man would stave off the hordes of beaux who came out of the woodwork – in the case of Mrs. Phineas’ soiree, teak. Apparently the “small gathering” it had been touted as had swollen by request to something resembling a boxing match to the accompaniment of Mrs. Phineas-Hall’s selections from Mozart’s Piano Sonata. There weren’t enough chairs for all the guests and the throng of standing men who decorated the walls gave Anne a strong sense of claustrophobia that was not a product of her imagination. She was, after all, the only single woman in the room – Miss Howe having succumbed to a mysterious ailment that necessitated her inattendance.
“Don’t leave my line of sight, Anne. Not for a second,” Mr. Healey whispered after they’d been delivered by box and divested of their coats. “I don’t know what Mrs. Healey was thinking accepting an invitation to such a gathering. I thought this was a hen party – but there are far too many wolves in this hen house for my liking.”
“I am the only one wearing pink feathers,” Anne whispered back helpfully, Mr. Healey’s eyes drawn up to the curling tendrils of obviously dyed pink feathers Cassandra had tangled in Anne’s blond top knot. “Mrs. Healey assures me that I am – and I quote – just the thing. Of course, that is dependent on staying away from an open flame at all times.”
“Outside of Phoenicopterus, which I cannot believe available from Mackie’s, I don’t believe I have ever seen a bird with just such plumage as those.”
“Mr. Healey, your studies are remiss,” Anne chided as she came into the drawing room on his arm – Mrs. Healey on his other, pretending not to hear them. “It is obviously a very common specimen of the Vanitus d’Femme.”
“So it appears,” Mr. Healey returned as drolly as possible. “Not unlike the reason for this evening.” With an adroitness that most people overlooked in Mr. Healey, he managed to sandwich Anne between himself and the wall. This despite the handful of bucks who had attempted to wend their way through the tangle of chairs – borrowed or otherwise – so that they might claim Anne’s free hand. Grateful for the short reprieve, she relaxed enough to catch the stilted formalism of the evening’s performance. The only time Anne had enjoyed a musical evening had been an amateur opera where the women were all sung by men. Charles as an incredibly unconvincing Countess Almaviva had been the highlight of the year.
At intermission, however, Anne and Mr. Healey’s carefully laid plans went somewhat awry, culminating in Anne being waylaid by the particularly aggressive Mr. Greenwood of the American outfit Russell and Company. His particular brand of waylaying had much to do with the voluminous red velvet curtains and the exterior veranda. “Lady Anne,” the address was quite jarring, Anne blinking as she realized the information of her father’s posthumous raising to the Earldom was apparently common knowledge. “May I say that despite the wherefores of your ensemble, you are particularly handsome this evening.”
“Naturally, you may say what you wish,” Anne offered, noting that despite his machinations, they were not in fact alone on the veranda. An inevitable result of the enormous gathering. “Although one should take care in suggesting, however unthinkingly, that bereavement is a look to be aspired to owning to its cost.” Anne offered her sweetest look – something she had to study in front of the mirror as her frown was more native. There really wasn’t anything inherently wrong with Mr. Greenwood. He was considered handsome by Macao Society, always impeccably if severely dressed and the master of his own home, which was to say he was sufficiently in possession of capital to support a wife. But there was something about him that made her wonder whether he was considering dominion over not only Anne Edwardes but also her beau-companion, Cassandra. He would certainly not be the first to consider it.
“I apologize if such was your understanding,” he offered quickly, not at all turned off by her cool tones, unfortunately. “It is just that many, including myself, have wondered after your welfare since the untimely passing of your father.”
“That would explain the punctual attendance of your card without invitation,” Anne agitatedly tapped her fan – an ivory and silk confection that she had used to great effect in the music room – against her lower lip. She was at once sincerely grateful and equally regretful about the application of colored papers to her cheeks and mouth. While it gave her a liveliness that was not native to her mien, it also called to advantage the deep bow her of her lips which then called to Mr. Greenwood’s eyes. All at once Anne realized that tapping her fan at her mouth was an ill-advised action. But it was too late to retract it without calling further notice to it.
“One always hopes,” Mr. Greenwood responded simply, what exactly he hoped for laced in his tone and stance and the dark look he was giving her in the half-light of the veranda.
“In the absence of enthusiasm, one does what one must of course.”
“If the only reason is a lack of enthusiasm, Lady Anne…” Mr. Greenwood’s voice trailed off rather alarmingly. Anne, despite appearances, was no green girl when it came to the attentions of a man – and a man with that look was certainly just moments away from attempting a kiss. She had been kissed more often than Mr. Greenwood or his ilk would supposed and she was wondering how she would extricate herself from the scene without tearing her skirts – owning to the corner Mr. Greenwood had intentionally backed her into – when he kissed her.
On the whole, it was a remarkably unremarkable kiss as kisses go. Anne stood as still as stone, casually waiting for it to end, making no move on her part to signify collusion in the event itself. Stillness was a time honored acknowledgment of disinterest – or at least it had always been before. Mr. Greenwood, however, appeared to be quite enflamed by her less than sporting demeanor, clasping her face in his two hands (rather roughly, actually) and whispering against her mouth, “Kiss me back, dammit.” Having never been sworn at before – except once by Cassandra who had referred to her as a jade before Anne suggested that it wasn’t applicable as she wasn’t yet married – Anne was somewhat at a loss. While her instinct was to give Mr. Greenwood the what-for, that would require the opening of her mouth, which in the circumstance did not appear to be the best of all possible options.
Thankfully, the crisp scent of sandalwood – and a casual arpeggio in the music room calling to the guests – signaled her timely salvation. With a carefully enunciated Pardon, her savior easily tore Greenwood away from her by means of his circumspect cravat. There was an audible sound of rending fabric – thankfully none of it belonging to Anne herself – before she was facing a very nonchalant Captain Asing. Anne bestowed upon him one of her best smiles, this one very real, and took his offered arm. “As always, it is a pleasure,” she said rather louder than directly necessary, before whispering, “Your timing is impeccable, Captain Asing.”
“A good thing, too, Miss Edwardes,” Anne was inordinately pleased that Captain Asing – who was the best placed to know her elevation of status – was either unaware or disinterested. “As your technique for dispersing unwanted bussing seems to require the involvement of a second gentleman. A technique, I must admit, that does have significant flaws in execution.”
“Most gentlemen would have realized I was not an active participant,” Anne was quite sure Captain Asing actually swore under his breath – although she didn’t catch the word.
“Well, most gentlemen are idiots, which I can personally vouch for. If you don’t mind my suggesting,” Anne shook her head so that he could continue, “it would probably be advantageous for you to learn how to defend yourself in the singular. Owning to the occasional lack of a suitable second in a pinch.”
“Do you mean actual fisticuffs?” Anne’s voice was bright with excitement. She had read about just such a thing – although had never witnessed anything more than the occasional dirty scuffle in the streets outside Chrysanthemum House.
“Not… exactly,” Asing responded, bringing her into the music room – and steering towards a very grateful Mr. Healey who was looking, on the whole, rather agitated. “But despite the handicap of your sex, Miss Edwardes, gentlemen do have their Achilles heels.”