Do you hear what I hear?
It’s not just the very repeated line of one of the few Christmas songs I actually dislike, it’s the bells of victory. I didn’t make it to 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month but I think by about half way through the month I realized that goal wasn’t going to happen. I still kept pressing on. I usually write or edit on my husband’s days off, but in the month of November all of them were taken up with errands. I can have a pretty big fight or flight instinct. I will either completely run off from a confrontation or fight to the
death end over it. The fighting instinct can come in handy when I am trying to meet a goal but too many times it is on optional things and then if I fail I’m too hard on myself and in the effort to meet the goal. In this case I decided to just do what I could do for the month. In the last week of November it became clear I could easily reach 35,000 and I made 40,000 my “super proud of myself” goal and I reached it!! My NaNo total was 42,077 words. I didn’t write at all on the final day and I could have reached 50,000. I wrote nearly 9,000 words one day but it was time to let that end for all of us. I’m surprised at how fast I’ve “detoxed” from the manic writing and thinking of writing 24/7.
So what did I spend that 42,077 words on? The official rules of NaNo says it has to be just one story but when I decided to participate I had planned on just counting the words from all the stories I was working on. Fortunately Strife and Reconciliation really captured my attention and I already had over 20,000 words on it. The muse carried me through on that one to a total of 52,237 words. Around chapter 8 or 9 I realized this was an original work, not a Fan Fic story so that slowed me down some and will require a good deal of editing. I was hoping to keep slugging at it and then something surprising happened. In the shower I got a scene inspiration for a different story, Undone Business, I had started in October and only had about 2,000 words on. I stayed up until after 3 am to type it all out and hammered out nearly 9,000 words 24 hours. That story total is now 14,523 words and will likely post before Strife and Reconciliation.
Blurb for Strife and Reconciliation: David Fairfax is a country parson, denied a valuable living by his elder brother. When his aunt’s husband makes him his heir, David discovers he is also heir to an estate he can claim no kinship to. Desiring to fulfil a vow to his uncle, and out of Christian charity, David seeks out the Cole family to make amends and marry one of three eligible daughters. Rachel Cole accepts marriage to this stranger and heir to her family’s home in an attempt to heal a several generation dispute and secure her family’s fate. Marrying with only friendship this couple endeavors to find happiness and to reconcile their families in an era filled with class and economic prejudices, a devastating war and dividing politics.
Excerpt from Chapter 6 (or proof of life): I still need to take out some Austenesque things in here. And I just threw in the name of John Thorpe because he’s the epitome of annoying in my mind, so that was going to change anyway.
Rachel’s breathing had just returned to normal when she heard a familiar snore. She sighed. They had been married for a week and she could only have one small complaint about her life. She was simply exhausted.
As the time lapsed on she was more uncertain how to broach the topic. It was less a matter of their conjugal acts than how quickly her husband fell asleep afterwards. She blushed to admit she enjoyed the actions which caused him to sleep so deeply. Her mother’s instructions bordered on telling Rachel to become an actress but the truth was, Rachel had quite a bit of natural wantonness. Her husband was obviously well pleased so Rachel never bothered to reproach herself. She was far from a maiden now, but she could not determine how to tell her husband she was dissatisfied with their sleeping arrangements.
This week had begun what she believed would be their usual habit. They arose early and separated. David to attend his duties and make notes for his sermons, Rachel to write letters or meet with the housekeeper. They broke their fast at the usual time and frequently enjoyed a walk together. In the afternoon David occasionally met with his aunt or they called on those in the neighbourhood. Next week they had planned to call on some of the notable families in the larger area. Rachel had met all the parishoners and there were a few ladies who it would be no chore to befriend. They ate dinner together then read in the drawing room or Rachel would play and sing for a bit. After a light supper they would retire for the night. Tonight they dined with Lady Clara, she had invited a few of the local landowners to meet the new Mrs. Fairfax.
None of this helped her determine how to approach David. Before they married they had established a genuine friendship and had several disagreements. She had felt confident in knowing how to speak with him, but there had always been a feeling of equality between them.
They were far from equals on this. Not only in their desires- for she thought it obvious he did not desire to leave her bed- but in their abilities. She had been curious but he had been self-assured. She could not sleep with a man in her bed and he had no difficulty with her presence at all.
It did pain her to think it of him, but she rationalized he was a man and he confessed to not having held the Bible in high esteem as youth. Who knew how far his liberal thoughts truly took him? Additionally, in essence she had no right to demand sole claim on his affections. Surely they were in the past and he married her to fulfill a duty. Jealousy implied far too much emotion on either side and would do her no good. She considered writing her Aunt Neville on the matter but her pride revolted at the idea of exposing a weakness in her marriage, nor did she desire to give a bad impression of David. He rolled over, pulling her to him and Rachel suppressed the urge to scream as she knew she would get little sleep with how his breath tickled on the back of her neck.
After too few hours of sleep, David woke her for breakfast. She groaned in miserable acceptance.
“Are you well?”
“Yes.” He smiled at her and for some reason she found it intolerable. Of course he could smile! He was not the one wasting away from lack of sleep! “No.” She declared with too much vehemence.
“What is it? Do you require Mrs. Ryan or the apothecary? A doctor? You need only tell me, Rachel.”
“I require my own bed!”
“What?” He looked at her in shock and confusion.
She deflated. She had not wanted to make him feel unwanted. “I…I enjoy your visits but no matter how accustomed you are to another in your bed, I do not think I shall ever adjust.”
David turned white then red before Rachel realize what she had said.
“You believe that I am a rake! What have I ever done to make you think so?”
Rachel blushed deeply. She never meant to tell him her suspicions but she certainly could not voice that he seemed too adept at drawing a response from her.
When she did not reply, he spoke with cold indifference. “You might have told me, madam, you wished me to leave you alone you alone without accusing me so harshly. I perfectly understand your feelings and now am ashamed of my own.”
He left for his room and she burst into tears. An hour later she had finally succumbed to sleep, alone in her bed. As she felt the waves of exhaustion wash over her she acknowledged how cold and empty the bed now felt.
She next awoke to Mrs. Ryan knocking on her chamber door. She brought tea and some biscuits. “Mr. Fairfax wanted to know if you felt well enough to dine with Lady Clara or if he should send regrets.”
Rising slightly, Rachel replied, “No, I am well enough. What is the time?”
“It is four o’clock, ma’am.”
“Thank you for the tea. You may go for the day.”
“Do you require assistance in dressing?”
“No, I shall be entirely well soon.”
“Good evening, then, ma’am.” Rachel gave the lady a small smile as she left the room and soon she heard her and the other servants leave for the evening. The Parsonage had no room to board them and they hired locals who dwelt with their families.
Half an hour later as she struggled with her gown, and Rachel wished she had accepted the lady’s assistance. Knowing she would have no lady’s maid, Rachel had thought she bought her wardrobe accordingly. All the sleeping on one side left her shoulder feeling quite sore and she could not reach one hook in the middle of her gown. After several more minutes she heard a knock on her door.
“Come in, please.”
David opened the door slowly and seemed just as embarrassed as she after their argument.
“Are you certain you wish to attend tonight?”
“She invited them to meet me, I can hardly be absent.”
“As you wish. We should wait in the drawing room then.”
“I…I require your assistance, I am afraid.”
He looked at her quizzically and she recalled a memory from their wedding night and how they laughed over her caught dressing gown. Why could they not be so easy with each other again?
“I cannot reach the hook in the middle of my gown. Might you help?”
He had an odd expression in his eyes but agreed to try. Several minutes passed with him fumbling at her back before finishing.
Trying to lighten the mood, she attempted to tease. “I am aware you have large hands, but I never thought it would be so difficult for you to match one hook and eye.”
“I think it is because I would rather undo them,” he murmured huskily and Rachel felt a tremor pass through her. He still stood behind her and bent to kiss her neck before turning her to face him. “Do you have any idea how terrifying this is for me? How easily I would lay aside everything I am to be with you each night? I cannot fathom it, Rachel, it must be something awful in me to turn my virtuous wife into my harlot. I, who never touched a woman before, become nothing more than as Samson: forgetting his God-called duty to slake his lust on Delilah. I know now my passions have troubled you but please believe me, I have never been with another and have never been so tempted before meeting you.”
He stood before her, anguish and despair in his eyes and breathing heavily. How could she think it of him? “Perhaps…perhaps I am not a Delilah to you. Perhaps I am your Rachel- your reward for serving the Lord. Or as Rebecca- your kinswoman and selected for you by another.”
He began to look hopeful, but still guarded. “If you do not feel your favours paid for with the settlement of your family, then why expel me from your bed?”
Rachel began to cry. “No! You misunderstand me! I…I do not wish you gone but you sleep so soundly I cannot! You hold me and pin me down with your heavy arm and I am used to moving around in the night. I slept too long on one side and injured my shoulder and so I needed your help getting dressed.”
“Oh, Rachel.” His voice sounded full of contrition. “Why did you not say something?”
“What could I say? What can be done? You fall asleep rather instantly. You get too hot and kick off the counterpane and I freeze. You snore loudly.”
“I do not snore!”
“You do. Loudly. But only when I push you so hard you roll on to your back.”
“You push me to make me move and I do not awake?”
“No, you sleep very soundly but then I cannot nudge you enough to get you to roll to your other side. Although you frequently roll and grab me in the night.”
David blushed. “I had no idea I was such a poor bedmate.” He was silent for a moment and began to laugh. “Of all the other things I worried about when taking a wife I never considered that I might deprive her of sleep because I snored and desired to touch her all night.” He paused and smiled wickedly. “I had rather thought I would deprive her of sleep another way.”
Rachel returned the smile. “You will notice I did not complain about that method, sir.”
He still was not easy and Rachel let out a sigh. “David, can you forgive me for thinking that of you? You seem so confident with me and so used to sleeping with another.”
David laughed. “Confident? I am only guessing what may please you. Do you not recall our wedding night? I exerted myself too far and finished too early.”
“I do not recall…”
He scoffed in disbelief. “I had turned away from you.”
“Oh! Oh, I had thought you wanted me to reciprocate your touches. My mother told me you would.”
David swallowed and came closer to her. “Did she offer any other advice?”
“She suggested I enjoy myself.”
“And do you?”
“Yes,” she whispered and David pulled her in his arms but then they heard the carriage Lady Clara sent for them arriving below and reluctantly parted.
Before exiting the room, David turned to Rachel. “I have no solutions for our problems other than to sleep in my own bed but you tell me I would likely not make it there. I suppose I can only say you are welcome to use my room instead but in the meantime I very much regret having to go to this dinner.”
“Why is that? I thought you were acquainted with all of the guests.”
“Yes, but now the image of taking this dress off you is burned in my mind.”
Rachel blushed deeply, for other than removing her robe the first night she had always been in her night gown when he came to her. The idea of him removing her clothing was strangely thrilling.
Blurb for Undone Business: When Sir William Lucas does not interrupt Darcy and Elizabeth’s dance during the Netherfield Ball, Darcy remains focused on his own concerns rather than his friend’s. Bingley leaves for London the next day as planned but is detained. Elizabeth repeatedly attempts to garner Jane a second chance with Mr. Bingley before the rest of the Netherfield party leaves the area while Darcy attempts to address some business of his own in the area. When Darcy and Elizabeth meet again several months later in Kent, it may be their chance to conclude the undone business from months before.
November 26, 1811
The couples around them were laughing and conversing but Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were silent as they went down the dance. At long last Mr. Darcy asked his partner: “Do you and your sisters often walk to Meryton?”
“Yes, nearly daily.” She paused and raised her eyebrows. “When you met us there the other day, we had just been forming a new acquaintance.”
Immediately Darcy felt his body tense as he fought to keep his face from turning red in anger. He glared at Elizabeth. “Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends—whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain.”
“He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship,” replied Elizabeth with emphasis, “and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life.”
Fury filled Darcy as he considered George Wickham had spoken with his Elizabeth. He must have sat beside her and smiled charmingly while putting her at ease. He would have told his lies of woe and played on Elizabeth’s tender heart. She would certainly not allow any liberties but Darcy knew Wickham’s ways. To think that he looked upon Elizabeth and had thoughts of dishonour enraged Darcy.
And just as quickly it dissipated. There was nothing he could say or do without possibly exposing his sister. He tried to change the subject.
“What think you of books?”
Elizabeth refused to consider the topic and instead returned to Wickham. “You are careful in the creation of your implacable resentment, are you not?”
“I am,” he said in a firm voice. How could she believe Wickham?
“And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?”
“I hope not.”
“It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first.”
“May I ask to what these questions tend?”
“Merely to the illustration of your character. I am trying to make it out.”
“And what is your success?”
She shook her head. “I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.”
“I can readily believe,” answered he gravely, “that reports may vary greatly with respect to me; and I could wish, Miss Bennet, that you were not to sketch my character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either.”
“But if I do not take your likeness now, I may never have another opportunity.”
“I would by no means suspend any pleasure of yours,” he coldly replied.
She said no more, and they went down the other dance and parted in silence. He wished to be angry at Elizabeth but found all of it centered on Wickham. How had he targeted her? She was the one person who could tempt him to explain his history with Wickham. He resolved he must find a way to warn her without exposing Georgiana. Whether it was to protect her or to improve her opinion of him, he was uncertain.