Saturday, 29 September 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass, part 24

The night of the ball arrived too fast for me. I spent the day in the sewing room with Mrs. Young, the seamstress. She was determined to make me the bell of the ball.

Fifteen minutes before the guests were to arrive I stood in front of the mirror in my room. I didn’t recognize the girl that smiled nervously at me. The dress was a strange combination of blue and green. Mrs. Young called it teal. I ran a hand down the fitted bodice and over the wide skirt. The hoop skirt and petticoat made the skirt float around me. My tanned neck and shoulders were set off by the wide neckline and off the shoulder sleeves. A ribbon, the same colour as my dress, held a single gold teardrop around my neck.

I careful touched the curls Elise had coaxed my hair into. She had pulled it all to one side and pinned the curls with sparkling tipped pins. I couldn’t believe it was me. My strand of angel hair was braided and wove through my curls.


I turned to Dante and smiled. “What do you think?”

Dante returned the smile and walked across the room. “I think you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

I laughed. “You biased.”

“And with good reason.” He opened his hand and nestled on his white glove was a gold ring.

“Dante?” I slowly looked up at him. “How did you get it so fast?”

He carefully pinched the ring between his fingers and held it up in the fading light. The sapphire was in the middle, a diamond on either side. The yellow of the gold gleamed softly. I touched it with one hand. It was warm and beautiful.

“A jeweler owed me. I ordered it last night and he just delivered it.” He reached for my left hand and slid the ring to my ring finger knuckle. “Crystal, will you marry me?”

Unlike last night, I felt no reluctance to give my answer. “Yes.”

He pushed the ring on the rest of the way. I smiled and lifted my face to his. I kissed him and then looked at my ring again. It fit perfectly. I didn’t know how he knew, but I didn’t care. It was the most precious thing I had ever received. I had held beautiful pieces of jewellery before but I always knew I couldn’t keep it. This ring was mine and I would never give it away.

“It’s beautiful. Thank you.” I pressed my lips to his cheek and held him close. “Thank you.”

Dante just smiled and took my hand. “Come, the guests are arriving. Let’s go greet them.”

“Wait, I don’t have gloves.” I spun around and searched the vanity table for them.

“You don’t need gloves,” Dante said. “Unmarried women never wear gloves.”

“What? Why?” I frowned at my reflection.

Dante shrugged. “I don’t know. To show that you’re not married.”

“What about the men? You’re wearing them.”

“Yes, because it isn’t polite not to.”

I rolled my eyes. “You have some strange rules.” I turned my left wrist up, revealing the scars there. “How am I going to hide these?”

Dante gently took my arm in his hand and stroked the white lumps. “What is this from?”

“I had to get away from someone once.” I wasn’t going to tell him the whole story. That would unleash a whole box of problems.

“I’ve thought of that.” Mrs. Young hurried into the room, a piece of silk in her hand. “That’s why I made this.”

Taking my arm in her hand she wrapped the piece around my wrist and wound a gold ribbon around it. “There. That will hid the scars and make you even more unique.”

I kissed her cheek and smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Young.”

“Yes, thank you,” Dante said. “Let’s go.”

I held my head high as we walked down the stairs together. I was on equal footing with these people now. I would not be ashamed of who I was.

At the top of the stairs we paused. The hall was empty. Somewhere we could hear Savannah giving last minute instructions and Dominique telling her to hurry up. As I scanned the grand entrance I realized that tonight would be the first of many. The ring on my finger sealed that. I had had my chance to turn away from all this, but something had stopped me. I don’t know if it was love or knowing that my destiny lay among the Elite.

“Do I have to wear this dress?” Robyn’s annoyed tones interrupted my thoughts.

I turned to her and smiled. Her dress of dark green and white trim suited her. And as much as she stated that it was a nuisance I had caught her spinning in front of a mirror like any little girl would.

“Yes, Robyn, you do,” I said. “Where are Macy and Elise?”

“They’re coming.” Robyn smoothed her skirt. “Dante, how many people are coming?”

“At the last count, one hundred.” Dante patted her shoulder. “Don’t worry. They’ll all love you. Just be the little lady I know is in there somewhere.”

Robyn smiled. “I’ll try. Will you dance with me?”

I laughed. “Robyn, you know how to dance.”

She hadn’t even stuck around for five minutes when Dante was teaching me.

“Yes, I do,” she said indignantly. “Elise showed.”

“That’s a miracle,” I muttered.

Dante sketched a bow. “Miss Robyn, I would be delighted to dance with you.”

Robyn curtsied back and I laughed. Maybe there was hope for Robyn. Elise joined us in the dark blue dress Dante had asked Mrs. Young to make for her.

“After all, we can’t have the nanny looking like one of the maids,” he had said smiling. “People need to recognize that you are in charge of the girls.”

Elise had done her hair up in a loose bun. Her dress had short, puffy sleeves and a scooped neck. The natural waist line dropped into a modest skirt.

Macy was wearing a white dress with a red sash. A red ribbon held back her curls and she grinned at me.

“Does she talk?” Dante asked.

“Yes, all the time.” I rubbed Macy’s cheek and gave her a kiss. “She talks my ear off.”

“I’ve never heard her say anything,” Dante frowned.

I wrinkled my brow and realized he was right. Macy never spoke in his presence. That was a blessing in disguise. At least she wouldn’t call me ‘Mama’ in front of him.

“Maybe she’s just not too sure of you yet,” I said, cheerfully. “I think your first guests are arriving.”

“Right.” Dante offered me his arm and we swept down the staircase.  




Saturday, 22 September 2012

Car Smashing, Hayrides and Mud Puddles

By defination 'hick' means 'a person who lives in the country, in a small town or in a backward community; unsophisticated person, a farmer, a countryman.'

A party is defined as 'a group of people gathered to have a good time together.'

Put the two words together and you get 'hick party.' A hick party is a party wherein people who like to play in mud, discuss or destroy cars and go to bonfires gather together in the middle of nowhere.

In previous years, the St. Thomas Hick Party has involvd carving pumpkins up with chainsaws and dropping pumpkins from the haymow. Last year was the first time the mud pit showed up and despite the rain some people had the guts to get into the mud. Old cars are also a must. Smashing them or driving them into ponds seems to be the thing. Why? Who knows. But it is fun in its own way.

When one of the girls described to her friends what happened at a hick party, the most common reply was "Don't die."

The Annual St. Thomas Hick Party, the fourth of its kind, kicked off Friday night with the destroying of an old car. First it got rolled down the hill a few times and then smashed some more with a sledge hammer. After that some brilliant boys had the idea of using a battering ram to remove the engine. Then those same boys, with some brainstorming from a girl, decided to hoist the car up to drop it from a great height.
Well, it only went up about two, maybe three feet, before the rope broke and seven boys stumbled backwards. They didn't land on the ground which would have made it so much more fun. The car, having been well smashed, was deserted for hotdogs and carrot sticks.

When everyone was full of hotdogs and carrot stick it was time for the hayride. Sixty odd boys and girls clambered aboard two wagons and headed down an old railroad track. Singing, talking and joking ensued as we bounced along.

When we finally arrived at our destination, about an hour later, we found a fire burning merrily. It was about, oh say, four or five feet high. In about ten minutes numerous bags of ships were consumed. Unfortunately, before we could get really excited about the bonfire, the rain started.

So back onto the wagons we went and rode to the shed. There we gathered around and sang some songs before closing with some words of encouragement. We were reminded that we should forgive as God forgives us.

Then the girls and guys seperated ways. The boys stayed behind at the shed to sleep on the straw, in the wagon of beans and a pile of corn. Sounds real comfortable. Of course at around three, a.m. that is, the traditional bacon cook off started. The boys fried bacon on the woodstove without a frying pan and then ate it. Most likely with their fingers.

The girls went to the Westervelds house. Close to thirty of us crammed into three bedrooms, the living room and the upstairs hall. Did someone say fire hazard? Try sharing one bathroom with that many girls. Thank goodness for kitchen sinks. Who needs a mirror to brush their teeth and wash their face? It is after all a hick party. We don't do things normally.

By eight o'clock Saturday morning the boys had arrived and started breakfast. Bacons and eggs were fried, filling the kitchen with their delecatable scents. Dutch pancakes, made the day before by Jake, were warmed up in the microwave and at nine o'clock the girls started filling their plates. After the girls were through the line, the boys began to wolf down.

Then it was time for the games. And in St. Thomas they are always interesting. The games began by dividing into four teams. Taking turns each team particapated in four different events.

One of the stations involved pulling an empty hay wagon through a course marked out with orange pylons and orange spray painted arrows.

Then there was the 'Plunger Plop.' The idea of the game was to toss a plunger into an old toilet. Depending on where you landed the plunger a certain amount of points was awarded.

Next was the tire change. Everyone knows how to change a tire, right? First the boys did it and then the girls. And we found out that some girls can actually change a tire faster then the guys. Hopefully the lug nuts were replaced tight enough or Kyle might just lose a tire somewhere along Iona Road.

Last but not least was lawn bowling. Only we used tires and logs. Not as easy as you think. Try tossing a tire at a bunch of logs. You can't roll it, it curves, tossing takes muscle. One thing that did work was the granny toss. That managed to knock quite a few logs down.

And then the real reason we were all running around. The Mud Pit. And it was muddy. What started out as a few fist fulls of mud being gently tossed turned into a full out brawl. After the first few minutes of timidity the mud began to fly in earnest. People were tackled to the ground and shoved into the mud, others were carried in whether they wanted to be or not. Fifteen or so people tossed mud, tackled friends and had a lot of fun. The on-lookers, or shall we call them wimps, sat on the sidelines and watched. They called encouragement and took pictures. And those pictures will most likely end up being posted before too long. What a sight they will be!

When everyone was muddy we climbed out and began the long process of hosing off. By the time everyone was cleaned it was lunch time.

For those who got changed fast there was the opportunity to shoot off a few rounds with some pellet guns and take pictures in the photo booth.

Mrs. Westerveld provided a  delicious soup and we all warmed up with that. After lunch the teams were directed to places to clean up and leave the place spotless.

The weather cooperated for us. It started out kinda seasawy, with the clouds hiding the sun, but after a bit the clouds left to bother other people and the sun stayed to warm us all.

So, a great big thank you to the St. Thomas Young People for putting on a wonderful, fun filled weekend. Nobody was hurt and God gave us good weather. Next year's should be just as epic.

A hint for all those bringing home your muddy clothes. Hose them all off before handed them to your mom to wash. Otherwise the mud pit might not happen next year.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

This Shattered World, Book 1: Glass. part 23

There was tension in the air for the rest of the week after Dante kicked his parents out. Savannah went crazy with decorating for her party. Everywhere a person turned they were met by swags of evergreen and holly. Mistletoe hung in almost every doorway on the main floor. So far I had managed not to get trapped under a bundle with Dante. Savannah and Dominique on the other hand seemed to enter the same doorway at the same time all the time. Not that it surprised me. Those two used every opportunity to kiss or brush up against each other.

“When are those two going to get married?” I asked Dante the day before the ball.

I was cracking walnuts in his office while he worked on something.

“Next spring,” Dante replied. “Crystal, why are you doing that? That’s the servants’ job.”

I rolled my eyes. “Because it was either this or following Savannah around. And she keeps getting ‘trapped’ under the mistletoe with Dominique. ‘Sides, I like cracking walnuts.”

I tossed a piece of walnut meat at him and he caught it. Tossing it into his mouth he stood up and came around the desk.

He knelt beside me and brushed my hair away from my face. “You are the strangest girl I have ever met. You’d rather run around shooting things or crack walnuts then shop and try on dresses.”

I laughed and pushed up the sleeve of the day dress I was wearing. “Dante, the only reason I wear this contraption is to please you. If I had my way, I’d be in jeans and a sweater. And I would not be cracking walnuts. I’d be out in the woods hunting for supper.”

Dante reached for a walnut and the extra nutcracker I had brought with me. “I used to love cracking nuts. Then I grew up and Father decided I should pursue a career. Suddenly I didn’t have time for the pleasures of this life. Crystal, since you have come into this house, I find myself searching for minutes to something that doesn’t involve work.”

“I’m glad,” I said simply. “What were you working on?”

Dante sighed and cracked another nut. “I was writing letters to the government trying to reverse their decision.” He popped the meat into my mouth and I bit down on it.

“Do you think they will?” I shifted so I could see Dante’s face.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. President Lucas Tyson likes me and Dominique. He always said he likes people with new ideas. But he doesn’t hold complete power. The Lords of the Government can make decisions without him. He can reverse them but that might make him look bad.”

I stroked his face, trying to wipe away the anguish I saw there. I hoped this President Tyson had a heart and let Dante back into the government. I may not have understood politics but I understood that to Dante politics where his life.

“I’m sure he will help you,” I said. “I could always put a bug in his ear.”

“A bug?” Dante laughed. “No, you’d hold him at knife point and demand he bring us back in and to a higher place.”

“Do have so little faith in me? I can be a lady.” I laughed with him. He was right and it felt good to laugh. Maybe this whole relationship was a good thing. Actually, now that things had settled down I was beginning to look forward to get to know him better.

“Dante, I don’t know if I can do this whole hostess thing with Savannah.”

“Crystal, you can do anything you put your mind to. Just talk to them. They aren’t going to bite.”

“They might,” I said in dead earnest. “These are your friends, the great people of this world. I’m a nobody.”

Dante shook his head. “Don’t say that. You are a somebody. You’re my somebody. And it would give me great pleasure to introduce you as my fiancĂ© tomorrow.”

I choked on walnut I had just popped in my mouth. “What?”

“Marry me,” he said softly, capturing my hands in his. “There is no use hiding the fact anymore. I love you. Do you love me?”

That was a good question. What was love? I knew I liked him a great deal. I could imagine spending the rest of my life with him. But was that love?

Then the laughter of Robyn and Macy floated into the room. Even if I didn’t love him, those two girls deserved a place where they could be safe. And if I was Dante’s wife no one could touch them.

Love might be a while in coming, but I would become his. One day I would love him, but for now I just needed someone to keep my girls safe.

I took a deep breath and looked into Dante’s eyes. “My answer is yes.”

“To both questions?” Dante asked, his breath hitching as he waited for me to answer.

I bit my life. Would one little white lie hurt? “Yes.”

The smile that spread across his face was enough to erase any guilt I felt. He pulled me to his chest and plastered my face with kisses before softly touching my lips. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled myself closer to him. If this was what love felt like, bring it on. I had never felt safer in my life.

Later that afternoon we walked in the garden with the girls. Macy clung to my hand while Robyn bounded ahead with the dogs.

“Do you have any preference to the stone in your ring?” Dante asked.

“I don’t know. I guess I like diamonds and sapphires. But aren’t you supposed to pick it out for me?”

I watched as Macy toddled to a snow drift and fell backwards into it. She struggled to get up and did it again. Dante laughed and I joined in. My Dante was learning to find joy in the simple things.

“Usually the man does pick out the ring but since this is so different I figured why not go all the way.”

“Different? How?” I looked into his face.

“We are different than most of the people our age. We are marrying for love not money or higher powers. We want each other for each other.”

I nodded. That twinge of guilt was back. I wasn’t exactly marrying for love, more like for convention. Well, that wasn’t exactly true either. Whenever I thought of another girl on Dante’s arm I got this jealous feeling inside of me. So maybe I was in love with him. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

“So, diamonds and sapphires. Can I ask why a girl like you knows that much about gems?”

“You could. But I don’t know if you would like the answer,” I said, grinning. “You know, you’re going to get a lot of shocks when you marry me. There are a lot of things that you would never guess people did.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, like finding things that have gone missing and then holding on to them until the reward went up pretty high.” I shrugged like it was nothing.

“You did that? What kind of things?’ Dante had stopped walked and was staring at me now.

“Jewelry mostly. Some of that stuff had rewards for thousands of dollars. It was the best way to make money.”

“You did this by yourself?” Dante took my hand and led me to a bench.

“No. I did it with three other men in the slums. One was a patrol. He was the one that called the detectives. That was the only way we got all the money. It kept us alive some winters so I won’t apologize for it.”

“I’m not asking you too,” Dante said.

He kissed my hand. I knew he wanted to say more but Robyn launched a snowball at us and a snowball fight began. Dante proved to have quite the arm.

Our shrieks and laughter attracted Dominique and Savannah and they joined in with us. It was a free for all and snowballs flew. The dogs joined in, jumping and snapping at the flying spheres. People tripped over them and were pummelled with snow.

It was almost dark when we called a truce and went into the house. As we stripped off our outerwear I looked around at the people who were now my family. Dominique lifted the snow covered cape from Savannah and she brushed snow from his hair. Dante tugged Macy’s boots off and helped her into her inside shoes. Robyn tossed melting snow around the back entrance and was scooped up by Dominique who threatened to toss her back outside.

I smiled at the scene. This was family. The laughter, the fun and later the tears. I could do this. I could become one of them without losing myself. And with God’s help I would love them all and never let go.