Arabesque,

Arabesque Chapter 1

2/27/2016 Laura Watkins 0 Comments


I will be sharing parts of my writing every week (alternating between Arabesque and Persephone) as I write them (with the exception of some parts of Arabesque, which were written previously), so please be patient with any errors you may find, as these are a first drafts.

Arabesque will always be special to me. Not only because it's what first got me into writing and publishing, but because I started writing it in the middle of my darkest days—when I was just learning to cope with my health's decline, depression, anxiety, and my world seemed bleakest. I was still a new mom, and any time at all that I could steal away for myself was sacred. When the kids finally settled into their beds and my body sore and exhausted, I'd snuggle into my chair with my notebook and iPod, and escape to the land of Acacia.

I hope your visit there is as magical as mine.

About the book

Tatania is tired of living in her sister's shadow but doesn't know about Princess Anna's dark secret. 

Bound by a sacred oath, Anna's struggles to live a double life that can never be her own. 

Described as "Sense and Sensibility meets Ever After with ninjas," Arabesque is full of action, romance, intrigue, and betrayal.

Since I've always been super paranoid, Arabesque was officially copyrighted in 2009. Duplication or use of this work in any other form is prohibited by law.
Chapter 1

Tatania

Father’s arms wrapped tightly around my sister and I. He spoke of clouds that rumbled tumultuously as lightning screamed its rage, and how the sky had wept in agony the night our mother died.

“She was the most brilliant star, sent to live on earth.  Her sparkling glory rivaled the sun.  The sky became jealous, wanting her radiance to banish darkness itself.  And so, it guided her up into it.  The brightness of her star became the silver moon.  She, now, brings light to all on the very blackest of nights.  Hope and love reign down on us as moon beams—the light of your mother, Seleine.  She smiles to you always, just as she smiled with weeping joy the first time she held you in her arms.

“That very first night you left the heavens and came to us, the heavens reclaimed their most precious and vibrant jewel.  As I saw her rising to the heavens, I knew—the earth could not behold the splendor of three so beloved of the sky, nor could the heavens bear to be parted with all their beauty together.”

These were the last words he’d left us with every night for longer than my memory knows.  Before we settled into our beds, I would gaze out the window, searching for the blessing of my mother’s love, not being able to sleep until the moon’s beams fell softly upon me.

Countless nights, I slept upon the windowsill, and my body bathed in the light of my mother, Seleine.

“Tat, wake up,” Anna said in her gentle voice as she nudged my shoulder.

I stiffly raised my head.  Anna was standing over me protectively.  “Uh? Ugh!  You’re already dressed,” I groaned.

Of course she was already dressed.  That was my twin sister, up and ready to greet everyday dutifully with a cheery smile.  Although, to my knowledge, twins had never been less alike.  Her braided honey-blonde hair was swept up elegantly into a twisted knot at the base of her head, barely gracing her neck.  Her lavender dress fell softly across the smooth curves of her body, perfectly complimenting the dark ivy of her eyes set in their long lashed frames.
And then, there was me, sitting in my nightdress, my brown hair in tangled knots, and just grateful not to be bathed in a puddle of drool.

“What time is it?  How late am I this time?” I muttered, squinting through bloodshot eyes.

“You’re not late yet.  You seemed lonely last night, and I thought you might have fallen asleep here again.”

“It’s hard being away.  I wish spring would come sooner, so we could be home with Father.”

A sad look briefly crossed Anna’s face before she blinked it away.  “Thankfully, we’ll return in a few weeks for the holiday.  In the mean time, we had better get you ready before Lady Elena decides to make an example of you again.”

“Oh yes, that would be just perfect.  Geniveve gloating is just what I need to start the day off right.”

“Well, that and a clean dress may work.  This one?”  Anna held up a dress she swore looked good on me and ushered me over to the vanity to tame my wild hair.

“Boy, do you have your work cut out for you. Nothing you’re not used to though, I guess.”  Oh, why can’t I just shut up, I thought to myself.  Here it comes, now.  Anna was always trying to make me feel better about myself.  In her eyes, I was perfect, but I knew she only saw things through love, and that’s never clear, especially in my case.

“I don’t know why you always say things like that, you have incredible beauty.” Anna said, shaking her head as her fingers weaved my hair into something less frightening.

Conversations like this were pointless with Anna.  She may have been the sweetest, kind-hearted person in the world, but she also refused to see anything in people but the very best.  I bit my lip and kept quiet until she was done.  No point in trying to argue with her, I thought.

I sighed as I looked into the mirror.  Anna had brushed my hair up into by curls and speckled with blue forget-me-nots (to compliment my eyes, she said.)   My deep sapphire eyes were my only good feature, and, of course, this morning, they were overshadowed by a humungous pimple.  Yep, right between the eyes.  Oh well, not like I really needed to impress anyone here anyway.

The past few winters, we’d been forced to stay with Sir Rupert and Lady Elena.  Aunt Eloise insisted that Anna and I needed to winter here along with the other young ladies of the court.  She claimed it was for social education and experience, but I was sure it was a sly form of torture.  There really wasn’t much point in me being here.  My official status was “daughter of the king, sister of the princess.”  I really didn’t need to worry about much socially—not that much would ever be expected of me.

Anna, on the other hand. . .  I’m so glad I decided to stick around inside the womb for a few minutes longer than she did!  The amount of junk she has to memorize and put up with. . .  There was no mistaking it, Anna was a natural princess.  She always patiently accepted whatever lot was dumped on her with grace and elegance.

We hurried to the sitting room to meet (what was for all intents and purposes) our class.  Six other girls from prominent families were already assembled when we walked in.  Sofia, Isabel, and Dinah sat on one couch; Sylvia and Olivia (the zombie twins) sat on each side of their ever so magnanimous leader—Geniveve.

Ah, Geniveve. . . our evil cousin.  No, really, she was our evil cousin.  I never would have believed that such a creature could spawn from someone as nice as Aunt Eloise if I hadn’t know that Rupert was her father.  I won’t get into that now but. . .eww!  Makes my skin crawl just thinking about that slimy, arrogant pretentious. . . Oh yeah, I wasn’t going to get into it was I?

I followed Anna, sitting on the sofa opposite Geniveve.  The three sets of couches formed a half circle, making the large wingback chair our focus.  My evil cousin had Sylvia and Olivia giggling as she held her hand in the air and pretended to pop my zit.

Anna held me back from jumping up and smacking her, and not a moment too soon.  A voice from the doorway made my hair stand on end.

“Late as usual, I see,” said Lady Elena.  Dressed prim and perfect, not a single curl of her flaming auburn hair misplaced.  She was ever the model of a perfect lady—a perfection that she insisted we all obtain.  Her plump, ruby-dyed lips pursed into a hard line as she continued, “Lady Tatania, if you insist on being late, I must insist that you remain after we dismiss.”

A wicked grin flashed across Geniveve’s face, her dark eyes glinted like two smoldering coals awaiting flesh to consume.  Of course, I was the only one who saw it, no adult suspected, or cared, what her true nature was.  So, I usually got in trouble while she was praised—like the time we were kids, and I was blamed for spilling ink on Elena’s rug while Geniveve got complimented on her new dress.

Life was just not fair.  In my ideal world, there would be no social politics.  No one would fight over who was leader.  Leaders would be selected based on who was best for the job.  Popularity wouldn’t matter.  Everyone would treat each other with decency and respect, even love, all sharing our common human bond.  People like Geniveve, wouldn’t exist—well they would, but they would’ve been taught respect and humility instead of exclusiveness and cruelty.

Too bad my world was a fantasy.  I sat in my stiff frock, shifting restlessly as Lady Elena spoke.  I’ve never been good at sitting still, I just can’t do it.  My hands laid on my lap as I methodically pushed back each cuticle to its proper shape and cleaned under every nail.  This habit was so familiar to me that I didn’t notice my actions, even when I’d begun softly clicking my nails together.

Elena stopped her sentence short.  I could have sworn her bright blue eyes flashed red as they narrowed and focused on me.  My muscles tightened as I froze in place.

“Are we boring you, Lady Tatania?” She asked in an unnaturally sweet voice.  My body screamed out, DANGER! and my stiff muscles ached to resume their irritated, yet comforting, squirm.

“Of course not, Lady Elena,” I replied as calmly as my shaky voice could manage.  I folded my hands neatly, mimicking the girls around me.

“Splendid,” she said dryly.  “Then, let us continue.  Lady Tatania, since you appear to have no need for our lesson today, I assume you have already absorbed the information.  Perhaps you would enlighten those of your peers who are not, as yet, so informed.”

I mentally tried to brace myself.  I had zoned out long ago, and I had no idea what we were supposed to already know.  My brain tried desperately to remember what the heck we were talking about, but I couldn’t stop imagining spiked horns beginning to appear on Elena’s head, and while I wasn’t looking directly at Geniveve, I was sure she had sprouted fangs and was drooling hungrily.

 Although barely a moment had passed, Elena continued, “What are the proper procedures when receiving an Andalusian diplomatic party?”

Andalusia was not a nearby country. I had never even heard of a single Andalusian entering the country during my lifetime, let alone a whole diplomatic party. I paused and looked just clueless enough that she was satisfied with my embarrassment.  “Lady Geniveve?” she cooed.

Her favorite pet then went on for a good five minutes, describing each painfully insignificant detail.  “…And, of course one, must remember to serve no meats within sight or smelling distance, as they hold firmly that all flesh is sacred and consumption of such is sacrilegious—a direct insult which could easily result in war…”

Elena praised her and Genevieve smirked.

I was furious.  Who the heck cares if Andalusians don’t like the smell of steak!  That’s something for the politicians to worry about.  Even if there was a small chance they decided to pop in for a freak visit, why did I have to know any of this?

Anna silently encouraged me to calm down and let it go. She was right, I was going to look like an idiot whether I punched Geniveve or not.  Better to forget it before I embarrassed our father…again.  It had been a while though.  It had been more than a year since Samuel and I had gotten into it and been pulled out of our fight with split knuckles.  Eloise was so ticked!  She made me wear bandages and use a special salve and soak them almost hourly, so they wouldn’t scar.  I was banned from fraternizing with the boys who kept the stables after that.

I was definitely making progress, I thought grudgingly.  It wasn’t enough to make me forget that my fist wanted to wipe the smile off Geniveve’s painted face, but I’d live with it.

Our lessons that day continued without too many incidents. We studied various languages, mathematics, diction, politics, and science, followed by another heavy round of etiquette and protocol.

Sure enough, Genevieve tried to make me look bad all day, especially in our English discussion.  Although I loved to read any book I could get my hands on, the mechanics and composition of language were not for me.  We got a break for luncheon at midday, and again for dinner in the dinning room.  Occasionally we were afforded the luxury and freedom of ordering lunch or dinner in our rooms, but today we had no such luck.

We sat around the large table with Sir Rupert, Lady Elena, and their two young children (Harrietta and Harold).  I’d always felt bad for these kids, mostly because they were both destined to be nicknamed “Harry.”  They sat there with bored looks on their angelic faces, sitting straight as posts, delicately picking at their food in unison.

I’ve never been known for my propriety, or for my positive decision making.  I was bored, the kids were bored, and the others were ever so yawningly discussing politics…  I winked at Harry.  Yes, much to my shame, I’d come to think of them together, collectively as one entity—Harry.  I winked at Harry to get their attention.  Raising my hand to hide it from Elena, I licked my spoon and let it stick to my nose.  Harry was such a good sport!  They suppressed giggles like pros and copied my actions.  We kept this up for a few minutes, rewetting and resticking each time a spoon slipped.  Jhaydah and Isabel soon started in on it too.

We were having a great time of it.  Every time Sir Rupert or his wife looked up, we acted like we were eating our soup.  Sofia saw us and stifled a laugh and Anna stared in horror before smiling and pretending to not notice.  But I’d forgotten about the mirror that hung on the lavishly papered wall.  Geniveve and Elena had been engrossed in their conversation until Sylvia ratted me out, whispering to her leader.  I didn’t see the lady of the house glaring at me until it was too late.

“It appears that the Lady Tatania and my children are finished with their supper,” she gestured to the servant to take our food away.  You’d think that being royalty and all we could just snap our fingers and throw her in a dungeon or something, but our father had made it very clear that Sir Rupert and Lady Elena made the rules in their home and, as guests, we were to follow them explicitly, or else.

Harry frowned.  The kids hadn’t really eaten much.  Nora, our maid that accompanied us, stood in line along the wall with the other servants.  She shot me a conspiratorial look.  Thank goodness for Nora!  I knew that she’d sneak food to us later.  It was good to have someone on the inside when I got myself in trouble like this.  I was really glad Harry wouldn’t go hungry because of me.  Those kids suffered enough torture living here and being schooled year-round by their mother.

Geniveve kept complimenting Lady Elena on the cuisine so I’d be sure to know every detail of each dish I was missing, especially when dessert was served.  I tried not to fidget too much while everyone ate around me.  I didn’t want to give Geniveve the satisfaction.

It was over eventually.  Anna and I walked together out of the dinning room and into the hallway.  Genevieve and her lackeys weren’t far behind.

“Have fun tonight, Tatania.  Lady Elena was just mentioning how much she’s going to enjoy your time together.”  She sneered as she passed us.  “By the way, you may consider wearing a veil tomorrow.  It’s bad enough that we have to see your face everyday, but that thing is grotesque!”

Stupid pimple!  Just one more thing for her to pick at!

“I’d take having my looks over having your future any day!  I may be stuck with a huge zit today, but your father will force you to marry the first old guy who’s rich enough.  You will be stuck with something a lot more hideous.”

Genevieve froze.  She slowly turned to face me.  Her glare could have melted iron.  “At least I have a future.  I will be Queen of my own household.  You will always be one step away from the throne, one step from power, always overshadowed and unnoticed. How sad your life will be, poor little Tat, as sad and imperfect as the blemish on your face."

My mind grasped desperately for a decent comeback.  Before I could think clearly enough to come up with one, Elena appeared.  She ignored us as she barked instructions to her maid.  Genevieve took up the most angelic smile she could muster as Elena walked by.  She would never act unladylike in front of her mentor.  Anna took my hand and we slipped away in the silence.

Read Chapter 2.1 here or more about my projects here.
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