A Writer's Journey

Excerpt from Chapter 9: Growing Tensions

Gerard took her hand again. “There won’t be much cause for dancing, though,” he said, pulling her close. “May I have this one then?”

Christian tilted her head. “I do not hear any music.”

“We’ll make our own.” Gerard grabbed her other hand as he began humming a lively tune. He began spinning her down the empty hallway. She laughed heartily with each turn.

The two reached the end of the hallway and Christian pulled Gerard down another one. Gerard continued his humming. “Are you humming the same song?” she asked him.

“Most likely not,” he responded with a laugh. “Does it matter?”

“I guess not.”

Gerard swung her around again, entering the next corridor backwards. He hit into a table set up with a vase that had been a gift from some noble. The flowers inside kept it from falling over. The dancing couple was not as lucky. It threw Gerard’s footing off and he crashed to the floor. He held on tightly to Christian’s hands, pulling her with him. She landed on top of him, faces inches apart. The two stared at each other.

For those moments, Christian believed they were the only two who existed. She fixated on his lips, which were still slightly parted in surprise. She thought back a few years ago, another Christmas party. Sally told several maids about mistletoe and the tradition of kissing under it. Giddy, the girls had found sprigs of the plant and began chasing after the stableboys and soldiers. Christian found one sprig, abandoned in a hallway.

A soldier, only a few years older than she, emerged from an alcove. He smiled as he spied her with the mistletoe. He strolled up, leaning close to her. Without a word, he took the sprig from her fingers. “You know the tradition, I am certain,” he said, voice low. “Wouldn’t want any bad luck, correct?”

“No, not at all.” Christian giggled.

The soldier leaned closer. She had yet to kiss a man and was nervous. His lips covered hers as she closed her eyes. It was soft, wet and quick. It wasn’t anything like she heard others talk about—her mind didn’t go blank, time didn’t stop and her heart kept beating regularly. The two parted silently and he watched her intently. When she did nothing, he leaned forward for another kiss. Christian leaned back. “Is something wrong?” he asked her.

She tried to find the right words but was overwhelmed by itchy hands. She looked down, noticing a growing rash spreading over them. Fingers began to swell. Christian gasped, turning on her heels quickly. She raced back to the main dining room, frantically searching for Theodora.

She found Bones instead. The man escorted the girl to a private corner of the room. He sat her down, gently examining her hands. Lady Lane appeared behind him, looking over his shoulder. Anxiously, she questioned Bones about her daughter’s condition. “A simple irritation of the skin,” he explained. “I believe it was the mistletoe.”

Bones spun around to face the Lady of Birch. “I trust you grow chamomile in your gardens, my lady?”

“Yes, we do.”

“I shall speak to Sally, then. She should know how to make ointment from it.”

“It is the middle of winter! You shall not find fresh chamomile now.” Christian scratched her hands against the grainy surface of the stone wall.

“Stop that, my lady. And it doesn’t have to be fresh chamomile,” Bones explained.

Christian felt someone pull her up from the chair. “Come, child. Let us return to your chambers. I shall send for the ointment,” Theodora said.

The rash went away within a day. To avoid a repeat of the incident, Lady Augusta banned mistletoe from Birch Castle. While the rash never returned, Christian shied away from kissing other men. She honestly had never felt the urge until now, until she was so close to Gerard.

A strange force drew her closer to him. Their noses brushed together as they regarded each other with half-lidded eyes. His arms wrapped around her waist, urging her closer. She felt his breath, warm against her skin. Closing her eyes, she began to close the space between them.

Copyright 2012 Alexandria Brim/Grace Mackenzie Ness. All rights reserved.
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