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For Those Who Came In Of Late:
This is the latest installment in what began as my entry in the Young Adult Vampire Novel Challenge.

If you don't read fanfic, this ain't. If you don't read Twilight, there's nobody here who sparkles.

There is, however, an alternate, quasi-steampunkish USA, where cricket is one of the most popular sports, fast food consists mostly of sausages and pies, and the dollar is divided into ten shillings of ten pence each. In this world, one finds Shawnee State very approximately where, in our world, one finds the State of Ohio. And in Ludington City, Shawnee State, one finds Dermot O'Donovan, Stanislava Morrison, and their newfound friend and high school classmate, the mysterious and occasionally anachronistic Ashley Mundy.

Chapter One.
Chapter Two.
Chapter Three.
Chapter Four.
Chapter Five.
Chapter Six.
Chapter Seven.
Chapter Eight.
Chapter Nine.
Chapter Ten.
Chapter Eleven.
Chapter Twelve.
Chapter Thirteen.
Chapter Fourteen.

1290 words for this bit; 14,300 words total. Terrifying.
The sun was beginning to set when they rode home at last. As they neared Ashley's house, she ceased chattering and grew quiet. It's as if she's planning on asking us something, Stanislava thought. I wonder what? To stay the night and sleep in her bed? I can imagine her saying that we'd chaperone each other well enough... No, of course not. She hoped they'd not gone too far by hugging Ashley, both of them at once. I'd hate to frighten her away from Dermot. They'd make such a lovely pair.

"Would you like to meet my mother?" Ashley said at last. "She'll be up and about now, I should think."

"I'd love to," Stanislava said. "Dermot?"

"I'd be delighted."

They rode along in companionable silence. The stables at Ashley's house had been built to house carriage horses and hunters and rough hacks for the grooms, thirty animals or more. There were plenty of empty stalls to hold Rosemont and Garvey. They went in through the kitchen, to wash their hands.

Mistress Hopkins was there, stirring a large copper pot of something savoury-smelling. "Miss Stanislava, Mister Dermot, I'm delighted to see you. Will you please pardon Miss Ashley for bringing you in through the servants' entrance? She's not ashamed of you, I'm sure, simply thoughtless. And hoping to spoil her supper with one of my honeycakes, I expect."

"I hate to contradict you, Mistress," Dermot said, "but I'm sure she simply thought we'd do better to wash up before we attend on her lady mother."

"The guests of the House of Mundy are always welcome to come through the front entrance. Even the dirt on their bootsoles is honourable, as Miss Ashley should recall."

"There is nothing to be pardoned," Stanislava said, "but I pardon her all the same."

"As do I," Dermot said. Mistress Hopkins winked at them before turning her attention back to the pot.

They washed up in a big zinc sink in the laundry room next door to the kitchen. "Cousin Lucretia had a washing machine put in, of course," Ashley said. "I'm glad she didn't take the sink out while she was at it. It's so very useful."

"You could practically take a bath in it," Dermot said.

"But that wouldn't be polite," Ashley said, "when it's not big enough to hold all of us at once."

"I didn't mean it that way," Dermot sputtered.

"Perhaps when we know each other a little better," Stanislava said.

Ashley smiled. "Come along, my dears? Mother should be in the parlour right now, I should think."

Faces and hands scrubbed, they climbed the stairs. "We'll just turn left," Ashley said, "and we'll be there directly." They walked through a corridor, panelled to waist height and the rest covered in faded blue flock wallpaper. "Through here," Ashley said, "and--oh. I'm sorry, Mother."

Stanislava had tried several times to visualise what Ashley's mother might be like. She'd imagined a small quick woman, like a grown-up Griselda, wearing breast and back and gorget as casually as a letter-writing lieutenant in a Dutch genre painting, with her sword always within reach, leant up against the wall or laid across an end-table. Or perhaps a graceful, serene lady in the casual dress of a Victorian gentlewoman, sitting politely on a sofa, drinking tea. She'd even thought of a frail, surprisingly aged grande dame in Elizabethan garb.

But she had never expected to see Ashley's mother for the first time on her hands and knees on the floor in the doorway of a formal parlour, with the rugs rolled up, the furniture pushed to the walls, and huge sheets of butcher paper tacked down on the floor. Especially when she had little models of buildings laid out on the butcher paper, and was drawing on it with chalk and a ruler.

"Oh, Ashley, don't be sorry. You didn't step on anything, my dear. And are these your friends?"

Ashley's mother wore jeans and an old concert t-shirt for The Amazing Blondel. She was barefoot, and her reddish-brown hair was tied up in a messy bun, with a wooden pencil stuck in. Her only visible equivalent to her daughters' sartorial archaism and eccentricity was the old tweed waistcoat she wore, unbuttoned, over her t-shirt. She rose to her feet.

"Yes, Mother," Ashley said. "May I introduce Stanislava Morrison and Dermot O'Donovan? Stani, Dermot, this is my mother, Honora Mundy."

"I'm very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Mundy," Stanislava said, holding out her hand.

"Oh, please, call me Honora, both of you. I'm very pleased to meet you," she said, shaking Stanislava's hand.

"I'm honoured, ma'am," Dermot said. They shook hands.

"I was just plotting out the landscape of the Isle of Eigg," Honora said. "I'm writing a chapter about it, for an introduction to archaeology textbook. I find it so much easier to work if I can actually lay out a model of what I'm writing about, you see. I have a sand-table, somewhere in all our boxes and cases, but I've not had the chance to unpack it yet and I'd wish to be done with this chapter soonest."

"Dermot's father likes to lay out his maps the same way, and my dad does something like with his charts of chemical formulae and things," Stanislava said. "When we were thirteen or so we spent an entire month eating in the sitting rooms, because both our fathers had taken over both the kitchen and dining room tables in both houses."

"To be fair," Dermot said, "I think my mam had taken over the dining room table at our house with that anthology she was editing. Dad only had the kitchen table. And the sideboard, maybe?"

"Well," Stanislava said, "I suppose it's possible that my mam had half of our dining room table covered in scores. If we're being fair, and all of that." Ashley giggled.

"So, you've known each other a long time," Honora said. "That's lovely. I'm glad Ashley has such good and steadfast people for her friends."

Dermot blushed. He looks so lovely when his face goes red, Stanislava thought. It's amazing that I could know him from when we were kids, and not think of him as a brother. Oh well, I'm sure I'll learn. I suppose it's a good sign that I'm not in the slightest bit jealous of Ashley. "You're too kind, ma'am," he said.

"My mother," Ashley said, "is an excellent judge of character. It's nothing less than the truth."

They made idle chit-chat for a while longer, until Dermot's mobile rang. It was his mother, wanting to know when he and Stanislava would be home. "You'd be welcome to stay for supper," Honora said.

"We'd love to," Dermot said, "but the sun's setting, and it will be too dark to ride safely if we wait much longer. Perhaps sometime soon, when we have a car instead of horses to home on?"

"Indeed," Honora said. "I forget how it is today, with motorcars all over the roads. It used to be safe enough to ride at night, at least when there was a bit of moon. But I hope you'll stay to sup with us sometime soon."

"As do I," Stanislava said.

Ashley walked them back to the stables. Before they mounted up, she caught Stanislava in one of her signature bone-crushing hugs and whispered in her ear "I'm sorry if Mother embarrassed you, but do I have to say that you both look perfectly lovely when you blush."

Stanislava didn't know what to say, but she thought Ashley had probably said something much the same when she hugged Dermot farewell, judging by the colour of his face as they rode away. Thank you, dear Ashley.

Date: 2009-07-13 04:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wsr.livejournal.com

This is still quite adorable.

Is the sink zinc or galvanized steel? I've not seen one actually made of zinc, but it would be much easier to cast . . .


Date: 2009-07-14 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ap-aelfwine.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Truth to tell, I'm not sure about the sink. I've seen "zinc bath" used in books to describe old bath tubs, and "zinc sink" (I almost wrote "zink sinc" just now.:-) sounded about right for what I'm visualising so I used it.

I suppose it probably would be galvanised steel, wouldn't it?


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