I’m not doing NaNo, I can’t. I am enjoying watching my friend Amanda Green work on her challenge, though, and you might be entertained by her character as well. I am, however, trying to keep on with the writing, in the spare moments I have around homework and everything else. Yesterday, for instance, I had an hour of quiet sitting in the study room at the school library, with no pressing homework (they are nice enough not to give us homework right after an exam, usually) so I managed about 800 words, and then doubled that in the evening when I was home.
This morning I’ve been staring at the blank post box for the blog for longer than I care to admit, with side-trips to read my usual morning funnies and blogs. I finally read Amanda’s post, and chatted with her a little. She suggested I try posting what I’m working on, telling me it’s making her feel more accountable. So here you are, the as-yet untitled sequel to Farmhand. I’m hoping to have this done by the end of the month (no, not 50K words worth. This is firmly a novella, it hasn’t got enough plot to support more than 20-25K words) and published in time for Christmas. Because it is a Christmas romance story, for my sins.
Oh, and if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link to Farmhand, my Western love-story, both between two people, and my own love for the part of the country I most identify with.
Star Bright, Star Light…
The young woman sitting at the counter in the Bluehills Diner finished writing a short note on the back of a postcard she’d picked up at Lupe’s Everything Shop, and signed it with a simple “C.” She flipped it over to look at the picture on the other side, and picked up her coffee cup with a smile. Her Dad was going to like this one.
The older waitress, whose nametag was stitched onto her apron, looked down at it and chuckled. “You don’t see those ‘round here much anymore.”
“A jackalope? Or the postcard?” The young woman looked up with an impish smile.
“Either. Need more coffee honey?”
“No, thank you. I really need to make up my mind, and more coffee is just delaying the inevitable. The pie was delicious, by the way.”
Drema beamed. “I will let the cook know, we bake them here every mornin’ and never the same flavor in a week or more. Dependin’ on his mood.”
“I wonder if you might know of a place I can rent a room for a week or two? Clean and quiet… I just want to spend some time up here where the air is clear and I can use my telescope to make some observations. School is in the city light-pollution zone.”
“You’re a college student?” Drema tilted her head a little, looking like she was thinking.
“I’m a grad student. No money, so I really shouldn’t try a hotel for that long and blow my budget.”
Drema looked at her closely for a minute, and then nodded a little. “I think I know a place. Give me a minute or two, ok?”
Left alone at the counter, the woman turned on the stool and looked out the big plate-glass windows, over the red leatherette booths. This was a real old piece of Americana, and she had been delighted to find it when the snow started an hour or more ago. She hadn’t really had a destination in mind, other than out beyond the city where she would be able to photograph the comet without the lights interfering. If all went well, the comet would swing close enough to the earth to trigger an aurora, which would be a great bonus for her photos.
The snow was at the picture-perfect stage, speaking of photos. Fat, fluffy flakes drifted lazily down from the sky, covering the world outside in a blanket of white. Perfect. Not. She needed to drive in this, still, and that was looking like a tricky proposition. She heard Drema coming through the swinging door, and turned back to face her. From the smile on the older woman’s face, the conversation about a place to stay had gone well.
“I’m sending you up to the Macquire place.” Drema announced. She looked over the girl’s shoulder at the snow and frowned. “You’ll be all right if you drive careful, it’s about ten miles out of town.”
Using a take-out menu, Drema sketched directions roughly. “Gray Macquire is the man you’re talking to, he’s a real old-fashioned gentleman. His son Dev just married the prettiest lady you’ll ever meet, and they are good folks.”
Feeling as though she’d stepped into a whirlwind, the woman at the counter wordlessly took the map, wondering what she’d gotten herself into.
“Oh!” Drema exclaimed. “Hold on a sec.”
As she was getting her coat on and a scarf wrapped up to her nose, the waitress reappeared with a covered pie dish. “Gray asked for me to send this, sinc’t you were coming. Luck, honey.”
Pie in hand, the newcomer stepped out onto the small porch, and took a deep breath of frosty air. At least it wasn’t dark.
The drive wasn’t too bad. The roads, like most in this area of the state, were straight. She only had one turn before she got to the very long driveway that led her toward the Macquire place… at least, she hoped that’s what it was, and not some stranger who’d meet her at the door with a shotgun. People around here weren’t unfriendly, they were just cautious.
The snow had fallen off, a lull in the storm, she guessed, as the clouds had gotten, if anything, lower and darker. She parked next to the old woody station wagon with a sigh of relief. In the growing darkness, she could see a big house to her left, windows warm with light, a barn in front of her, and a smaller, dark building in between them. Someone opened the farmhouse door, throwing a long rectangle of yellow light out onto the snow, and she got out of the car.
Balancing the pie, she made her way to the porch.
“Howdy!” The tall man with short-cropped gray hair met her with a big smile and took the pie from her with one hand. She accepted the handshake from the other, feeling the calluses and warmth of it. “Come on it, it’s cold out.”
She followed him into the kitchen, looking around and feeling unexpectedly shy. “You must be Gray Macquire?”
“Sure am. Have a seat. Coffee?”
She sat at the kitchen table, which was a lovely piece, thick slabs of wood oiled and polished to a glowing finish. There were six chairs around it, and she wondered how big the family was. “Thank you.” She murmured as he set a mug down in front of her.
“Cream, sugar?” He pulled open the refrigerator. “It’s in here somewhere…”
“Um. Yes please?”
He set a cute little cow creamer on the table, and a restaurant-style sugar dispenser. Followed quickly by a spoon. “Kids are out bedding down the horses, they’ll want some when they come in, too.”
“How many kids do you have?” She asked, sipping at the coffee. It wasn’t as strong as she’d been afraid it would be.
“Well, I suppose they aren’t kids, really. Might be older than you, but they’re kids to me.” His eyes twinkled. “I didn’t catch your name, young lady?”
“Oh! I’m sorry. My name is Cande.”
“Candy?” His forehead wrinkled a little, and she felt herself wince.
“With an e on the end. And yes. I keep thinking I could change it – my full name is Candela – but I’m used to it, so it comes out when I’m not thinking enough.”
He laughed, then. “Well, it’s up to you. We can call you whatever you’d like.”
Cande sighed. “It gets worse, sir.”
He interrupted, “call me Gray.”
She nodded. “My last name is Cain. C-A-I-N.”
“Ah, child,” he shook his head, smiling. At least he hadn’t burst into laughter. “’Tis a burden you go through life with. I’ll not insult your parents by asking what they were thinking. And you must respect them, as you haven’t changed it.”
She nodded. “My mother named me with her last breaths. A candle to Mary, you see.”
“So, Candela, which is a lovely name, knowing that, would you prefer to be Della while you’re here?”
Cande smiled. “I’d forget, and you’d call me and I’d wonder who you were talking to! No, I’ve lived with this one for twenty-four years, might as well keep it a bit longer.”
They both heard boots on the porch, and he looked toward the door with a smile. “There’s Dev and Irina.”