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04 November 2013

NaNoWriMo: Day 4

Day 4 stats: 1129 words written, $50 of $600 raised for my trip to the Night of Writing Dangerously.

Today's excerpt might be familiar to some of you. I've posted this bit previously, but it's gone through a moderate overhaul since then (I didn't really have an actual plot in mind when I first wrote this; now I do). I hope you like the changes.

The Excerpt you've all been waiting for:

Apple pie and coffee: breakfast of champions.
When they were kids, her Ma had let them have leftover fruit pie for breakfast, when they had it. That didn't happen very often. Ma said it was healthy because it had fruit in it. That was one of Jacq's fonder memories.
She took a bite and set the fork down. Then she reached into her satchel. Her fingers met her tarot cards and she pulled the deck out. Shuffle, flip: Ace of Cups, an opportunity for emotional growth.
That seemed ominous.
She put the cards away and took another bite. The coffee was still too hot. She’d be long done with this pie before she could take a sip. No matter.
Jacq was kicked back in her chair, watching the crowd pass by on the other side of the windows when Alice Signay spotted her.
“I knew you’d be here,” she told Jacq, triumph in her voice.
Jacq sat up, startled by the intrusion and more than a little flustered by Alice’s trim appearance.
“Glad I could be of service,” she muttered, uncertain she needed the company of her trendy friend.
Alice was, as always, the picture of high feminine fashion. The bold turquoise of her silk dress emphasized the spectral paleness of her skin and darkened her green eyes. The elegant styling and copper inlays of the dress reminded those who saw her that she could afford their lives. Only her white blonde braid, trailing well below the bottom hem of her bodice, was spared the whims of the times. That would always be spared – it was the mark of a Sister. When Alice sat, she had to tilt her head just so to swing the braid out from under her or she’d risk sitting on the tip.
Alice’s eyes always seemed to disapprove of Jacq’s attire.
“Jacq, you’re so predictable.”
“And you, Alice, are... lovely as ever. Good to see you too.”
“Well, I was just – is that pie?”
“Yes. What’s left of it.”
“You’re having pie for breakfast?”
“No, supper, but very early. Why?”
“Oh Jacq, you’ll never find a man if you don’t act like a lady.”
“You’re killin’ me Jacq.”
“No, that corset is killing you. But this isn’t what you wanted to talk to me about.”
Alice sat down and crossed her arms. "Well... I was just thinking about love, and I wanted your advice.”
Jacq sputtered; good thing that coffee was still too hot to drink. “What?”
“It’s just that, well, love is such a fickle little critter."
"I said, love is fickle."
"Oh." Jacq paused, suddenly uncertain. She lifted her mug to her lips, but the steam was enough to warn her. She held it there, letting the steam massage her face.
Alice cleared her throat.
Jacq set down her mug. "Ok, I'll play. What brought this on?"
"Well, I was just thinking about some of the silly things people do 'for love' and how it seems they always end up hurtin' for their efforts."
"Such as?"
"Oh, I don't know. Like with Sasha. I mean, think about it. She went all the way to San Antonio for some guy, and now she's back in Bisbee, all alone, and won't say a word about anything." Alice pouted.
Jacq sighed. "Well, maybe something happened to the guy, and she's too grieved to gossip."
Alice tucked her lip back in and leaned forward, “Jacq, she went to Texas. This wasn’t just a little trip around the block. She crossed the border!”
“She’s not poor, Alice.”
Alice leveled a shrewd gaze at Jacq. “She’s not ugly, either, Jacq. I just want to know if she’s ok.”
Jacq hesitated. “Just ask her. She has her own defenses.”
Alice’s pout returned, but only for a moment.
“I never see her – but you do.”
Jacq hesitated.
Suspicion bloomed in Alice’s eyes. “You do see her, don’t you?”
“You know where to find her Alice.”
“I suppose.” Alice was not convinced. “But still, I think we – who is that?"
Jacq blinked. "Who?"
"Behind you. Don't look!"
"How d’you expect me to answer you if I don't? I swear Alice."
Turning, Jacq saw who Alice was talking about. Tall guy, or maybe just slender. Looked like a traveler. He was facing away from them, ordering a coffee at the bar. Bad idea, Jacq thought. Unless you’re getting some ice with it.
"Dunno, Alice. He's not a local."
"Well I know that. Obviously, if he were from here, I'd recognize him."
"Then why you askin' me? Not like I get out any more than you do."
Alice humphed. "You're infuriating, Jacq."
"Love you too, Alice."
They smiled.
After a moment of silence, Alice whispered, "He's awfully handsome."
"What's that you were just saying about fools in love?"
"Your cynicism has been noted and rejected, Miss Jacq."
Jacq shrugged, then grinned. "So be a fool. Don't worry, I'll still be your friend - aren't I now?"
Laughing, Alice said, "And I, you, Jacqueline Avery."
"Heh, one for me, one for you. I have to go walk my dogs. You stopping by later?"
"Maybe. I've errands and such, you know. Some of us have real jobs."
"Which is exactly why I’m leaving. Wouldn’t do for me to get recruited into that shop of yours.” She picked up her satchel. “Alright, I'll see you soon. Stop by whenever.”
As Alice stood to leave, Jacq carried her mug to the bar. “Hank! Can I get some ice in this?”
“Sure thing Jacq, jus’ gimme a sec.” Hank’s face was a ruddy mix of angles and jowls. He lumbered around to the icebox, pick in hand, and chipped her off a couple pieces. She held out her mug and he dropped them in.
“Thank you sir!”
Hank smiled, “Any time Jacq, can’t have you takin’ my mugs home again.”
She blushed. The old coot had a memory as long as a python’s tail.
Jacq turned her back to the bar and leaned against it, watching the diminishing ice chips swirl around in her mug. When they were gone, she tipped the mug back and drained it.
Ahhh, that’s more like – her thoughts stopped short as her head came down and she caught a glimpse of Alice’s stranger. He was sitting down now, at a table by the window. She knew that face. Once upon a time, she’d known that man. Or rather, she’d known as much as anyone had back then, which wasn’t much. Lieutenant Colonel Archer, expert rifleman, never turned a dirty weapon over for repair, and probably never took a whore in his entire career. He wasn’t likely to remember her. She’d just been the brigade’s armorer, and his weapon rarely broke. He didn’t have a rifle on him now. What is he doing here?
Jacq left the mug on the counter for Hank, and eased out the door. She’d wondered about him at the time, as they all did, but it had been years since he’d crossed her mind, as many years as since she’d left the Army. Back then, she hadn’t been able to avoid the rumors, not living in a tent with fifty other troops. The women had all wanted a bit of Archer, with his lean muscles and gentlemanly ways. Even some of the men had shared that interest. But he had seemed cold to Jacq, as though his courtesy and careful ways were somehow meant to remind them that he was better than his surroundings. She wondered whether he was here on an assignment. Without his rifle? No. But surely he hadn’t left the Army. He had always struck her as a lifer, and Bisbee wasn’t far from the border.
Pfft, not like I never been wrong before.
His being there probably had not a damn thing to do with her, but she was pestered by the questions it presented all the way back up the hill to her house. She hoped he’d leave quickly so she could stop wondering. 

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