Happy Friday Friends!! 🙂
In an effort to begin writing again, I thought it might be fun to share this very rough, first draft of a story I’d begun to pen last year. It takes place in the early 1900’s, in Raleigh, North Carolina, when the capital city was beginning to boom. I’m normally not a history fanatic, but I’m having a fun time of researching my beloved city, and filling this story with some fascinating intrigue. In fact, for someone who isn’t a plotter, I’ve got a whole storyboard going on with this one. I’m hopeful I can get back to writing this soon and flush some more of the ideas out.
In the meantime, here is a little glimpse into the life of my quirky characters.
One would think she knew the queen of England, the way my mother revered her beloved china, using it so sparingly and yet there it lay, placed on the table before my eyes. Only the rarest occasions called for the delicate pattern of cherry blossoms and from the looks of it, Mother had deemed tonight one of those grandiose moments. Which could only mean the gentleman sitting across from me had gained her approval. An approval I hadn’t yet determined myself.
Oh, he was handsome enough, standing so tall that those broad shoulders rose well above me, causing my head to tilt appreciatively upwards when risking a glance. Flawless were his manners, having made all the appropriate, if rather rote, inquires into the family’s well-being as he escorted both mother and I when dinner was called, and hedging around the improper talk of business. In fact, the conversation wasn’t lacking in seemly dull and rather pointless talk. But that was the problem, wasn’t it? Where was the enthusiasm? The twinkle of the eye? The banter of wit to liven the conversation? So stoic of a man was he that I had already begun to wish the time away, longing to get back to my latest novel hidden under my pillow. If only dinner hadn’t just begun.
Barely catching myself before a sigh escaped my lips, I glanced a smile at mom, sitting to my right, preening like a peacock on display. So cheshire was her smile, one would think the gentleman was here trying to court her, not I.
Her melodic voice lifted up, disturbing my thoughts and forced me to join the conversation, “Rowan, darling, Mr. Connolly has an exciting proposition for you. Don’t you, Mr. Connolly?”
Ah, so that was the gentleman’s name. Brayden Connoly if I remembered correctly. I had already forgotten, as did he, apparently, for Mr. Connolly kept his head down, continuing to shovel his meal into his mouth appearing none the wiser of mother’s attempt of conversation. If he chewed any faster, he would either choke on his meal or dinner would be over in five minutes, much to mother’s dismay. Either he suffered from terrible nerves or hadn’t eaten a home-cooked meal in years; I wasn’t quite sure which option held more truth. Perhaps both.
Mother turned her eyes to me, surprise reflecting in the depths of those chocolate brown irises. Although a petite five feet tall, she wasn’t accustomed to being overlooked or ignored. Deciding it would be best if I stepped in, I tried to help move the conversation along from the awkwardness slowing creeping in.
“Oh? Do tell, Mr. Connolly! I’ve a fascination for propositions, particularly ones of the marriage kind.” A grin beckoned on my lips, hoping to tease the man into conversation. Instead, I was rewarded with a rather alarming choking noise sounding from across the table. Stunned, I looked up into a decidedly red face and, assuming he was blushing from fluster, cried out, “Mr. Connolly, whatever is the matter? Is the meal not satisfactory to a man of your stature? Oh, Mother, I knew we should have asked Cook to prepare soup, not this delicious fish. Too many bones to choke on!”
Yet, the more I spoke, the more alarmingly red his face became and his hands began to flail about his chest and neck.
“Mr. Connolly, are you…choking?” alarming was my inquiry.
Oh dear, surely he wasn’t about to die at the dinner table! Mother would have a fit if that happened. Who in society would possibly want to come calling now, knowing we’d killed – even if accidentally – one of Raleigh’s most eligible bachelors? Certainly no one would ever grace our table again!
“I daresay I was only teasing you!” I stood up quickly and hurried round the table to his side. A hand began to pound on his back. Was that my hand? I wasn’t quite in the right mind to tell, but there he was, choking, presumably dying at the dinner table, and Mother had run from the dining room, screeching for help, eyes wide in terror. It would have made for an amusing scene in the pictures if it weren’t actually happening before my very eyes.
Suddenly, a piece of bone flew from Mr. Connolly’s full lips, landing in the center of the table. Gasping greatly, he took in as much air as a body possibly could before leaning his head forward and closed his eyes in relief. A moment passed before a deep sound murmured out of him, but I couldn’t tell what it was.
“What, Mr. Connolly? What did you say?” I was frantic, tension radiating from me.
His voice rumbled above mother’s continued screeches from the hallway, “You can stop pounding my back.” He raised his head and turned the most glorious hazel eyes in my direction. A small, wry smile tilted his lips, “I’m quite able to breathe now.”
“Ohh…oh!!” I stopped my hand, letting it rest there upon his back. As he was still catching his breath, breathing deeply, I could feel hard muscles rippling beneath the shirt where my hand lay.
On his back!
I tore the offending appendage from his figure, heat stealing across my face at what I had done.
A screech sounded in the doorway, causing us both to whip our heads up in fascination at the frantic behavior before us. There stood my mother, soaking wet, her ever present fan flinging water as she frantically waved it back and forth to calm her nerves. But the more the fan spattered, the more upset she became. In fact, it seemed mother was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And why was she suddenly soaked?
Sparing a glance at Mr. Connolly, I could tell he seemed quite dumbfounded at the sight as well. Assuring myself that he was breathing yet again, I rose and quickly made my way to mom around the overturned dining chairs, thrown back in urgency to get to Mr. Connolly’s aid.
“Mom?” I softly questioned, reaching out to still her waving arm, and removed the wilted fan from her grasp before she did any more damage to the air.
Leading her to one of the remaining upright chairs, I settled her back on the cushions.
“Oh dear, Mr. Connolly, I’m afraid I’ve done it now,” she muttered to the room, eyes turned upwards to the heavens as if the Lord would take her right then and there to escape the embarrassment surely headed our way.
I glanced at him, quite sure his darting eyes were trying to plan an escape route. Who could blame him, truly? It was bad enough to be conned into having dinner with a widow and her spinster daughter, even worse to have almost choked to death at the dinner table while the daughter hinted at marriage in what could only be assumed unbecoming in every way.
With a twitch of his eye – or was that a wink, I really couldn’t be sure – his deep voiced sounded across the room, “My dearest Mother always did tell me not to inhale my food.” And with that proclamation a smile stole across his face in such a becoming manner I could do no more than to answer with a grin of my own.
His long legs quickly brought him to our side, where he reached out and grasped Mother’s shoulder. “I assure you I am quite well, Mrs. MacKenna. No harm done.”
“Well, next time you come to dine – and there will be a next time, Mr. Connolloy – we’ll have something simple. Corned beef!” she exclaimed, nodding her head as if the matter had been settled so quickly.
“As delicious as that meal was, and absolutely delightful was your company, I’m afraid it’s come for me to take my leave,” he continued, a faint flush rising on his face. No doubt feeling this dinner every bit as awkward as I had imagined it would be.
I could hear mother mutter another “Oh dear!” under her breath before gracefully rising from her seat and walked Mr. Connolly to the door. “Thank you ever so much for coming, Sir. I hope tonight’s rather unbecoming events hasn’t spoiled your taste of our fair city.”
So many requests made in that simple sentence. A reserved plea to not spread tonight’s disastrous dinner event throughout Raleigh’s upper crust. A hope for future dinners and potential courting of her spinster daughter. A dream of not being on the verge of complete financial loss.
“You and your daughter have been extremely gracious to me,” his rote, well versed mannerisms were back. “I can’t thank you enough for having me dine with you this evening.”
With his focus on Mother, who was twittering at his salutations, I began to inch my way back from the front doorway in an effort to fade into the background of the dimly lit hallway as I fully never expected to see him again. It was at that moment that Mr. Connolly did something utterly and completely surprising.
He straightened his jacket, directed his hazel eyes at me and uttered a phrase I never expected to hear –
“Miss MacKenna, would you like to go with me to the opening ceremonies of Oak Park?”
I hope ya’ll enjoyed this quirky draft of Rowan, Brayden, and Mrs. MacKenna! Their story is still being flushed out, but I’m having a fun time with them as we explore all Raleigh has to offer in the 1900s.
If anyone has some fun 1900s history tidbits, I’d love to know them and incorporate them into my story 🙂
Thanks for reading!!