Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas -and a small treat for your stocking



Merry Christmas to all!

I've been telling you about various short pieces involving dragons and murder and what-not--but there's another short story you may want to hear about. This one is for (yet another) anthology, titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS, and the story itself is titled "A Leaf on the Wind." This is the story of What Happened to Roger's Father--those of you who've read AN ECHO IN THE BONE may be especially interested, [g] though I think most folks who've enjoyed the series--and Roger--will like this.

I've begun working on Book Eight, but really don't have anything resembling coherent (let alone suitable) scenes to show you from that as yet, so I thought I'd post a brief scene from this short story as a small token of love and esteem for Christmas--and I wish y'all many happinesses of the season!

"A Leaf on the Wind" (excerpt)
Copyright 2009 Diana Gabaldon
In STAR-CROSSED LOVERS (edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois)

Marjorie MacKenzie—Dolly to her husband—opened the blackout curtains. No more than an inch…well, two inches. It wouldn’t matter; the inside of the little flat was dark as the inside of a coal-scuttle. London outside was equally dark; she knew the curtains were open only because she felt the cold glass of the window through the narrow crack. She leaned close, breathing on the glass, and felt the moisture of her breath condense, cool near her face. Couldn’t see the mist, but felt the squeak of her fingertip on the glass as she quickly drew a small heart there, the letter J inside.

It faded at once, of course, but that didn’t matter; the charm would be there when the light came in, invisible but there, standing between her husband and the sky.

When the light came, it would fall just so, across his pillow. She’d see his sleeping face in the light: the jackstraw hair, the fading bruise on his temple, the deep-set eyes, closed in innocence. He looked so young, asleep. Almost as young as he really was. Only twenty-two [ck.]; too young to have such lines in his face. She touched the corner of her mouth, but couldn’t feel the crease the mirror showed her—her mouth was swollen, tender, and the ball of her thumb ran across her lower lip, lightly, to and fro.

What else, what else? What more could she do for him? He’d left her with something of himself. Perhaps there would be another baby—something he gave her, but something she gave him, as well. Another baby. Another child to raise alone?

“Even so,” she whispered, her mouth tightening, face raw from hours of stubbled kissing; neither of them had been able to wait for him to shave. “Even so.”

At least he’d got to see Roger. Hold his little boy—and have said little boy spit up milk all down the back of his shirt. Jerry’d yelped in surprise, but hadn’t let her take Roger back; he’d held his son and petted him until the wee mannie fell asleep, only then laying him down in his basket and stripping off the stained shirt before coming to her.

It was cold in the room, and she hugged herself. She was wearing nothing but Jerry’s string vest—he thought she looked erotic in it--"lewd," he said, approving, his Highland accent making the word sound really dirty--and the thought made her smile. The thin cotton clung to her breasts, true enough, and her nipples poked out something scandalous, if only from the chill.

She wanted to go crawl in next to him, longing for his warmth, longing to keep touching him for as long as they had. He’d need to go at eight, to catch the train back; it would barely be light then. Some puritanical impulse of denial kept her hovering there, though, cold and wakeful in the dark. She felt as though if she denied herself, offered that denial as sacrifice, it would strengthen the magic, help to keep him safe and bring him back. God knew what a minister would say to that bit of superstition, and her tingling mouth twisted in self-mockery. And doubt.

Still, she sat in the dark, waiting for the cold blue light of the dawn that would take him.

Baby Roger put an end to her dithering, though; babies did. He rustled in his basket, making the little waking-up grunts that presaged an outraged roar at the discovery of a wet nappy and an empty stomach, and she hurried across the tiny room to his basket, breasts swinging heavy, already letting down her milk. She wanted to keep him from waking Jerry, but stubbed her toe on the spindly chair, and sent it over with a bang.

There was an explosion of bedclothes as Jerry sprang up with a loud “FNCK!” that drowned her own muffled “damn!” and Roger topped them both with a shriek like an air-raid siren. Like clockwork, old Mrs. Munns in the next flat thumped indignantly on the thin wall.

Jerry’s naked shape crossed the room in a bound. He pounded furiously on the partition with his fist, making the wallboard quiver and boom like a drum. He paused, fist still raised, waiting. Roger had stopped screeching, impressed by the racket.

Dead silence from the other side of the wall, and Marjorie pressed her mouth against Roger’s round little head to muffle her giggling. He smelled of baby-scent and fresh pee, and she cuddled him like a large hot-water bottle, his immediate warmth and need making her notions of watching over her men in the lonely cold seem silly.

Jerry gave a satisfied grunt and came across to her.

“Ha,” he said, and kissed her.

“What d’ye think you are?” she whispered, leaning into him. “A gorilla?”

“Yeah,” he whispered back, taking her hand and pressing it against him. “Want to see my banana?”

^^^

43 comments:

  1. ROFL!!!!

    Thank you, Diana - Merry Christmas to you and the rest of the family. Cute picture!

    Judie

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  2. Lovely writing, thank you for sharing :)

    Hope you have a great Christmas.

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  3. Oh boy! Can't wait to read all of it! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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  4. I love this treat, looking forward to the rest.

    Have a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!!!!

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  5. Thank you very much for this wonderful treat. You and your loved ones have a Very Merry Christmas, full of laughter, love and good cheer.

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  6. Lovely! Thanks for the pressie! Gotta go find that book!

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  7. Thanks for sharing that.

    Merry Christmas.

    Julia

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  8. Thanks for sharing! I'm looking forward to the entire story! :)

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  9. Hi Diana!

    So-o-o looking forward to reading the entire story!

    Bridget

    P.S. Who is the good looking duo in the Christmas picture? :>

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  10. Diana,
    What a treat to read. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    ~Rhonddalyn

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  11. Now this is my kind of holiday treat! Thank you ... I'll be looking for it. Loved the picture, too - my family had a pug when I was young. A very merry Christmas to you and yours;-)

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  12. Diana, Many thanks for that wee titbit to keep me going thru the holidays. Cannot wait for the whole book. Merry Christmas to you and all your family from Invernesshire, Scotland

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  13. I see bananas in your future! Thanks so much for the gift of your words, especially when it's so funny! *g*

    Have a great Christmas with the family!

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  14. A very Merry Christmas to you and yours - and thank you for all the Christmas presents (books) through the years - you always leave us wanting more!

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  15. Is the title "A Leaf on the Wind" a Firefly/Serenity reference, by chance? :) Merry Christmas!!

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  16. That was amazing! Can't wait to read the rest! Thanks so much for the early Christmas present!
    Merry Christmas :)

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  17. Oh my goodness! Two of my favorite authors are going to be in the same anthology?! I'm so going to have to buy that immediately when it comes out.

    Yay for new writing from you and Jacqueline Carey. Wooohooo!
    And thank you for sharing that little bit. :-)

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  18. Hi, Diana!

    As they say in my country "Maligayang Pasko sa iyo at iyong pamilya"!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    God bless you always!

    PS Love your doggie. Too bad I can't show you pics of my cats. They can't sit still long enough to have their pictures taken.

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  19. Have a very Merry Christmas Diana! Thank you...your writing has brought me much joy in the last 7 years!

    Cute picture :-)

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  20. I have a feeling it's going to be a real tear-jerker, so I will remember the tissues!

    Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas

    MK

    PS Is Homer housebroken yet? My Dachshunds have always been notoriously stubborn about that point

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  21. Thank you for the Christmas gift! That was lovely. I look forward to reading the story in full.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family, and I wish you a much-deserved rest before you rush head-long into your next project!

    Rita

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  22. Oh, what a wonderful Christmas gift! I can hardly wait to "open" the rest. Thank you!

    Wishing you and yours a truly delightful holiday.

    Shadow

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  23. What a wonderful gift- thank you! I love the picture - tried to get my pug to take a look but she is very stuck up and thinks she is the only pug in the world.

    Laughed at the ending- and had my husband wondering what in the world was wrong with me.

    Thanks for the smiles and laughs!

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  24. Thank you Diana, Merry Christmas to you & yours! My Mom & I had an Outlander sort of Christmas - unbeknownst to each other, we had both chosen gifts related to the Books! So today we can sip Glenlivet while watching videos of Scotland & wearing tartan scarves. And have flowers in a vase with a dragonfly on it.
    Cheers!

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  25. Evidently the treat wasn't that small. For a banana. ;-)

    Merry Christmas!

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  26. That was wonderful. Thank you. You are a painter and your words are the brush. Merry Christmas!

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  27. banana! i scared the cats i laughed so hard!

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  28. Ah, that's Otis the Christmas pug (who is, in fact, yawning, rather than screaming [g]), and that's his master (my son) behind him.

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  29. ROFL!!! indeed! Thanks so much for the peek. I can't wait for the rest.

    Any news on the graphic novel?

    Christa

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  30. Thank-you for the wonderful Christmas present . . . I need to find Star Crossed Lovers!!!

    Merry Christmas!

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  31. Thanks for the snippet! I laughed out loud at the last line.

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  32. Thanks For sharing - I just love your writing and am eagerly waiting for your next books. This short story of Rogers, is intriguing and I look forward to reading the rest. May you and your family have heaps of happiness in the New Year. Have all your books on Audio and listening to them for the second time as I do my quilting.

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  33. Thanks Diana,

    Like food for the starving. Love the pic of the pup! Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with health and happiness.

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  34. Thank you so very much! I really needed that. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

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  35. What a wonderful little glimpse at Roger's parents. Thank you !

    Hope you had a nice Christmas, Happy New Year!

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  36. What a wonderful glimpse into the MacKenzies; and of course the title is a masterpiece of possibilities!

    They actually deserve a full book of their own, but a novella is finished sooner so that your other projects (i.e., the sequel to Echo) also can receive your attention LOL!

    May 2010 provide you with both family time and time to write ;-)

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  37. Thanks a ton for the glimpse into Roger's origins. Do you know yet whether there is another book after Echo's sequel? I'm very excited about the other writing, but for now...back to the series, for the 3rd(or is it 4th?)read thru. Hope you had a fabulous Christmas and many blessings to you and yours for 2010.

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  38. sweet - both the photo and the story ;o) thanks & all the best for you and yours in 2010 xo

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  39. Thank you for the wonderful present! I hope you and yours have a very special and happy New Year!

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  40. As usual your wonderful writing has left me with a lump in my throat from the feeling it engenders. Thank you for the wonderful gift & sharing your great talent. (((HUGS)))Verna

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  41. I've just installed iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.

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