Red Writing Hood Prompt
Missing parts of Anna’s story? Find the rest of it here!
“…But, but, wait!” the mousy little housekeeper, friend… Anna wasn’t quite sure what he was, but she watched as he bounded off after Alain’s retreating coattails a second time. Anna did not bother to listen for the bickering. She did not care to be told that she was a disappointment. On the contrary, she was magnificent. It was his fault that he didn’t have two proper eyes to see her with.
Of course, it was Mister Hartford’s coach that brought her to this overgrown manor, and she was in no condition to walk home… so she had nowhere to go. Mama said a lady never walks by the roadside. No matter how offended she is, she gathers herself with grace and poise and doesn’t let anybody see her weakness. Even though fury was settling her, like a molten core to her very being, Anna did not cry out, and she did not run. She adopted a controlled walk and led herself into the garden.
What went unsaid was the dependance her parents put upon this marriage. Although the Hartfords kept to themselves, they could not begin to hide their money. This marriage, despite Anna’s feelings about it, would have to occur. The survival of her family’s name and livelihood depended on it. Ultimately, she would adopt any persona that would please her nonchalant gentleman caller – even if it killed her inside. At her core, she would still be Anna Lee… but if she needed to become another person to ensure her own survival, then so be it. It was what she was born to do.
Admittedly, she thought that her place in life was unfair and uncivilized, but her opinion didn’t seem to matter much. In the end, even Papa agreed that this was best, although his enthusiasm was slightly less overwhelming than Mama’s had been.
She found a swing in the garden and sat down on it. Dried leaves scattered the grass; it was obvious the place had only been slightly cared for as years passed. She wrapped her fingers around the frayed rope and resisted the urge to remove her shoes and stockings and feel the grass between her toes. Through the hedges, she could see the orange-streaked sky and wondered how long she would wait because Mister Hartford or his minion came to find her.
The prompt: For this week, I’m giving you the word “Core.” You have 450 words to explore any meaning of the word in a work of creative non-fiction/memoir or fiction. Link up your responses on Friday’s post, and have fun!
Author’s Note: This section was difficult. I find myself at a crossroads as to what to do with Anna. Will she make her own way in the world, letting her family fall into ruin? Or will Mister Hartford be more than meets the eye? I guess the prompts will tell! You can read the last installment of Anna’s story here.
The rolling gardens seemed to reach their thorny branches around the black carriage as the horses slowly pulled them towards the door. Her companion rolled out first and offered assistance, glancing nervously at his pocket watch for the twenty-third time since they left her house. She took his sweaty hand and descended. At best, the Manor was creepy, but that may just be an illusion cast by the unkempt gardens. While she stared in uncomfortable awe at the wide doors and towering columns, her companion tottled ahead and pulled the doors open to his master’s house.
“Come along, come along,” he urged, and so she rustled her way into the grand hall. Although better cared for than the gardens, the grand hall still carried the heaviness of the home. It would not have hurt to open the hall to a little sunshine, but Hartford Manor was not her home. Not yet, anyways. She was waved into an empty drawing room, and then the little man disappeared.
As soon as she was alone, Anna let her breath slip out of her. She leaned against one of the elegant couches in the room, and sneezed when a cloud of dust erupted from it. A part of her wished Mama was here, at least, the break and silence and reassure her that things were not as strange as they appeared.
“I don’t like her. Send her away.”
Anna straightened immediately and spun towards the door, but the only part of Alain Hartford she glimpsed was his retreating coattails. Her copmpanion bounded after him, but it was Anna’s voice that made him stop.
“You don’t like me? What, pray tell, do you mean by that?” As she planted her hands on her hips, she thought of how proud of her courage Papa would be… and how mortified Mama would be. Perhaps it was best that Mama had respected Mister Hartford’s wishes that she come alone.
When Alain turned and walked back to her, he did so with crossed arms. When Anna saw her face, she almost wished she hadn’t spoken – he had bags under his eyes and hollow cheeks, as though he rarely ate or slept. He was tall and thin like a scraggly sapling. “Very well, if I must lay it out,” he cleared his throat, “You’re too tall, you’re too robust, you’re too vocal, you’re too pretty -”
“Too pretty?” Anna interrupted with an unladylike snort.
Alain ignored her. “Too manly, too presumptuous, too tardy, and quite frankly, generally unpleasing.” He bowed deeply. “Good day, madam.”
The prompt: Show me an anti-hero. It can be a character sketch or a scene, but try to establish how and why this person is the obstacle to the protagonist’s goals.
You have 500 words.
Author’s Note: I love this prompt. It inspired me to make a much more interesting character out of Alain, and I am excited about the things that are to come! No secrets revealed here! You can read the last installment of Anna’s story here.
She stood in the doorway for a while and watched him, the sniveling idiot. He sat on one of Papa’s least favorite chairs; Papa said you could tell a man by the seat he chose. This chair was particularly uncomfortable and positioned in such a place that either he was completely stupid, or the young man could not see her in the doorway. Anna rolled her eyes, lifted her skirts, and waltzed into the room with the grace that her Mama would have insisted on. Heaven knows where her Mama was; probably looking for her, since Martha failed to retrieve her from the gardens. At the rustle of her skirts, the young man stood and bowed. He had a baby face and innocent eyes – practically a child! If it was ladylike to guffaw, Anna certainly would have. Her training as a Southern Belle remained intact, and she curtseyed.
“Mister Alain Hartford, I presume?” she said as sweetly as her Mama’s ice tea. The young man blushed bright red.
“I-I’m afraid not,” he stammered. Anna stood mid-curtsey, and was unable to mask the confusion. She had kept a man other than her despicable suitor waiting for her, for hours? That was just plain rude. This young man, disgusting as he may be, must be mortified by her poor manners. She straightened immediately.
“You must forgive my poor manners,” she insisted. “I was-”
“N-no matter,” the boy interrupted. She raised an eyebrow at him. “I am sent here to bring you to the Hartford Estate. Master Alain… wishes to see you there.”
“I cannot imagine that I would-”
“You will go, Anna.”
Her Mama was back, and suddenly Anna understood how the doorway could seem invisible to this room. She turned slowly, eyes cast down. “Yes, Mama,” she said with a curtsey.
The prompt: In honor of Davy Jones and the other artists who enhance our lives, this week’s Red Writing Hood prompt draws inspiration from music. Go to This Day In Music, and discover what was number 1 on the charts in the United States, England or Australia the day you or your character was born, or any other special day in your/their life, if you prefer. Listen to the song(s) and let it inspire you. In 300 words or less.
Author’s Note: 300 words is not a lot. Holy moly! This feels a little unfinished to me, but I imagine the next installment will be at the Harford Estate. Since Anna was born pre-1946, I simply used 1946 as the year: my song was “Rumors are Flying” by Frankie Carle, which actually fit with Anna’s story well and gave me some direction, however blunt the ending is. You can read the last installment of Anna’s story here.
It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf, but then again, Mary imagined it was raining everywhere in the world. Growing up in London had that affect on people. Even tucked in the corner of her favorite German bakery, she found herself ignoring the steaming cup of tea and staring at the raindrops as they trickled down the glass windows outside the shop, disappearing from her vision behind trays of crullers and the red-painted letters on the window itself. The electric lanterns on the street gave the from of the bakery an eerie glow,as though something could happen all at once, or maybe the night would go on, surrounded by smooth jazz and the barest hint of cinnamon.
How she longed for home….
Tea time wasn’t the same in Germany as it was in England; nothing was the same in Germany as it was in England. It had its own strudel-and-accordion sort of charm, but the in end, no matter how similar they looked on the outside, this place could never be home to her. The rain here was too cold. The tea was too strong. The language felt harsh and rough. Even the way the attendant looked at her from behind the counter made her feel unwelcome. His brown eyes glinted like stained steel under his thick eyebrows, and she blushed and ducked her head low, trying to focus on the empty notepad on the small table in front of her. Still, her eyes strayed away from the hopeless task at hand, through the strands of her dirty blonde hair, and back the blurry raindrop patterns on the windows.
How many people had sat in this seat before her, their hot-beverage-of-choice clasped between their cold hands, their brains scrying for an original way to say something people have been saying for generations? How many people sat here, their entire life’s story ahead of them, looking for the right first word? She imagined distinguished men in waistcoats, old ladies with wiry hair, maybe even a young boy with his dog drawing pictures on the dainty paper napkins.
And as though that was any sort of lousy inspiration, she picked up her tooth-marked pencil and scrawled in her own loopy handwriting:
“It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf….”
The prompt: I challenge you with this opening line:
“It was a rainy night in Dusseldorf…”
You have 500 words. Have fun with it.
Author’s Note: Whenever I think of rain, I am hopelessly drawn to London. I know it’s a ruthless (though occasionally true) stereotype, but somehow rain in London just seems more romantic than it could possibly be anywhere else (except Seattle). Thus London had to somehow come into this prompt. And writing and rain seem to go hand-in-hand for me. Anyone else feel that way?
“Why, there you are sugarplum! Have you been sitting here all this time?”
Anna looked over her shoulder at the maid waddling down to her in a homespun dress and her hair falling down in strings around her copper face. She smiled and fluttered her fan, enjoying the small breeze as a respite from the dry summer heat. “You can tell Mama I’ll be right up, Martha.”
Martha sat her aching bones down on the crooked wooden bench, which groaned considerably under her weight. “You know, chile, if I didn’t know you better, I’d say something was eating at you.”
She fluttered her lacy fan again, but stared off over the cotton fields. The slow, sticky day left a salty smell in the air. Martha wasn’t one to surrender, and Anna knew that, so she waited for the nosy maid to start poking her nose around. Anna didn’t mind that so much – seemed Martha cared more than her mother. The old woman stared at her with round coffee eyes, and Anna looked down and away, pretending, as she always did, to be uncomfortable and ashamed of her petty secrets. She traced circles on her soft brown dress and listened to the crinoline crinkle beneath it. Martha slapped her hands on her stained apron and stood up, shaking her head.
“Chile, if you want to keep Mister Hartford waiting all day, that be your business, but I don’t care much to listen to your mother go on about the lemonade that she and I both know that I got up with the dawn squeezing lemons for.”
“I’ll be along in a minute, Martha.”
The maid shook her head again, and waddled up the hill towards the house, grumbling something under her breath that Anna didn’t care to listen to. If Mister Hartford was willing to wait two more years to marry her after their engagement, he could wait another ten minutes.
A crow cried overhead, and Anna fluttered her fan and stared and the fluffy white clouds. A lady would take her time.
The prompt: Write a piece of creative non-fiction in which turns of phrase, dialect, slang, or colloquialisms feature prominently. Choose ONE moment and explode it. Please, no laundry lists of phrases. This is a memoir, not the urban dictionary. Let’s keep it to 400 words.
Author’s Note: I have always been struck by the prominence of the Southern accent, as in the Southern States of the United States of America. Growing it in New England, we grow accustomed to hearing people speak a certain way – we have your Hartfordians, the Boston (“Bahstin”) people, New Yorkers (“Yahkahs”), and so forth. In a very non-diverse setting as southern New Hampshire, a genuine southern accent is rare, but I have always enjoyed it. There is something about the sound of the voice that automatically links the mind to the idea of Southern hospitality. So inspired by that, as well as the image above, this short story is about a girl in the early 1900s whose family is somewhat stuck in the past, and is her mother’s hope of bringing the family to fame and fortune. This moment, in Anna’s mind, is before she meets her unsuspecting suitor. I’d like to try and make this a running story, so please let me know any nitpicky detail that is off, and could use improvement.