ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Write...Edit...Publish - Chapter Three of 'Somewhere in Paris.'

Hi everyone!

Here is my entry for the Write...Edit...Publish permanent monthly blogfest. The prompt is 'Failure. Or is it?' I've picked up my Paris novella. I've previously posted the first two chapters for earlier WEP blogfests. 

The story is told from the POV of Willow, a teenager adrift in Paris, looking for her mother who has disappeared, fleeing from a domestic violence situation back home in Australia. Now here is the third installment...I have edited the original to 1,000 words.

For those who haven't read the previous two chapters, Jacques is the young Frenchman Willow has met after she arrived in Paris. 

If you want to read Chapter One, here it is.
If you want to read Chapter Two, here it is.


Somewhere in Paris

WILLOW

There is the world of
The flesh, and there is
The Spirit World.
When the flesh is gone,
The Spirit forever
Remains. Their voices
speak to those who
know how to listen.
Wisdom is born in the
Heart, and then spoken.

Wolf Clan Song.

I gather my courage in my warrior arms. I chant my mantra over and over. My mouth feels stiff, my teeth chatter.

My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead...

Jacques and I are in Cafe Paris again, but this time everything is veiled in a mysterious red mist. A noise startles me. I spin around in my chair to see two rough-looking men shove the door open, brushing snow from their shoulders. Both wear black overcoats and fedoras, dim figures escaping the cold. They pause and look back over their shoulders as if to check no one has followed them. The door screeches shut. The men remind me of ghosts as they maneuver their large bodies between tables towards the darkest corner of the room. 

‘Willow?’ Jacques, so dear to me already, leans closer, but his presence doesn’t help. Will I ever be warm again? I feel a soft shawl around my shoulders and briefly wonder where it came from.

‘Jacques, the f…fire…put some more w…wood on…fire.’ I tug the shawl tighter.

Alek comes running from his posse behind the cash register. He kneels before the flames, tossing sweet-smelling logs onto the huge open fire. I lean closer. My fingers look like stiff skinny icicles that will break off at the merest pressure. 

'Thanks Alex,' I whisper, thinking how much he resembles Jacques. I scoot my chair closer to the fire, hold my hands to its flames, but the heat doesn't touch me. I must be outside its radius. Or maybe I’ve suddenly become made of finer stuff, like a vibration, like light that has no substance. My hands feel nothing, my mind feels nothing, not even the warmth of my mother’s love. 

‘Willow!’ Jacques’ voice. The undertone of worry reaches me through the fog. I’m drifting, disembodied like some spirit that can’t find its way home. I’m bound to the earth, but I'm no longer of it. I’m a wisp of smoke drifting upwards from the logs on the fire. Does smoke die? Or does it just drift upwards from one place to another, becoming more and more incandescent?

I press my knuckles against my eyes, then look up. Alek holds out a mug of steaming cappuccino. The aroma brings me back to earth. Coffee, my drug of choice since I shared mugs with my mother in the early hours of the morning after Dad had left for work. Jacques takes the cappuccino from Alek, holds it to my frozen lips. I force a sip of the frothy, sweet milk down my parched throat. It tastes oh-so-delicious. 

Moisture oozes from my pores. The fire scorches me. I scoot backwards, tipping my chair into Jacques'.

I shake my head again and again. I’m alive. I exist. I’m not dead.

My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead.
My mother is not dead...

‘Your mother is not dead, Willow.’ Had I spoken aloud? ‘Old Paul wished her dead,’ Jacques continues, ‘but that does not mean she is dead. Paul would not hurt a fly. He told me he will be haunted by a redheaded thief the rest of his life. But he did not kill her.’

I raise my head and stare at Jacques. ‘So I did see my mother at the bookstores along the Seine.’

‘Yes, it must have been your maman.’

‘But that argument I saw between my mother and that bouquiniste* was fierce.’ I hug myself and rock the chair. I turn to Jacques. ‘He looked angry enough to toss her in the Seine.’

Jacques holds both my shaking hands in his. ‘We will go to see my papa. He will help us find your mother.’

‘Really? You’d do that?’ I try to stand, but fall back onto the hard chair. A vision of my mother’s stash of books on her bedside table flashes before my eyes. ‘This whole thing’s got something to do with her books.’

‘It may well have.’ He moves me away from the fire. ‘But you’re not going anywhere until you eat something.’ He snaps his fingers. ‘Two croque monsieurs, Alex, tout de suite.’

I cram the fatty, delicious, oozy sandwich down my throat. I wipe the crumbs from around my mouth and ball up the napkin, toss it onto my empty plate. ‘Thanks, Jacques.’ Great French cuisine it was not, but it was just what I’d needed, a warm hug to my stomach.

***

‘Shouldn’t we go to the police first?’ I ask Jacques as we dodge snowdrifts beside the Seine.

‘And tell them what? That you think your mother is in Paris. That you think you saw her in the distance this morning. That you think she was having an argument with a bouquiniste? They would think we are a hoax.’

When he put it that way, it didn’t sound a very convincing argument for scouting out the closest cop shop or whatever they called a police station here...gendarmarie

‘What about the river? River police? We could tell them that she might have fallen into the Seine.’

Might have are the operative words. If she did, it’d be a bit too late to save her now, don’t you—‘

I howl, clapping my hands over my ears. ‘My mother is not dead, Jacques!’

Alors, pardon. I am sorry. I cannot imagine your pain.’

The street lies under a blanket of white. Parked cars are slowly being obscured by inches of white powder. There is no blue in the steely-grey sky. The air is thick with wood smoke as Parisians keep themselves warm.

I have to find my mother. So far I’ve failed. But she’s here in Paris. I can feel her.

I look over my shoulder. The two men in black coats are following us.

***

bouquiniste - bookseller

WORD COUNT: 1007
FULL CRITIQUE PLEASE!

I hope you enjoyed this installment of my Paris story.  Please click on other names on the list in my right-hand sidebar, or visit Write...Edit...Publish here.






27 comments:

  1. I indulged. Re-read the first two posts and then came to this one. Love the details, the atmosphere you create, very authentic, and evocative. Mysterious strangers, a lost mother and her daughter in pursuit, and Paris, all the ingredients for a totally absorbing tale combined with a deft hand. This is turning out irresistible, Denise, I’m thoroughly hooked!

    I would have preferred the links to open out in separate windows, but that's just a triviality, nothing to do with the writing or my enjoyment of it. Thanks for a great read!

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    1. Hi Nila. Thanks for the compliment of reading the previous chapters again. If you right click on links it will open them in a new tab if that's what you mean??

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  2. Loved the atmosphere and sense of mystery and the intrigue of Paris.

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  3. Enjoyed it even though I haven't read the others. Alex or Alek?

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    1. Thought Alek sounded more exotic. He's not French, he's a white European.

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    2. Ha Jo. Just skimmed through after your comment. See i have transgressed twice. Whoops! Thanks for pointing it out.

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  4. A tale I can get into (especially in Paris). You know Denise, I have a WIP in progress with the same working title, but totally different premise. I like the tone of this story, I feel the suspense and the cold. At first I wondered why she was so cold, then you mentioned the snow. Love it.

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    1. From Chapter One, I've set it in a snowy winter in Paris, but it's easy to forget when it's so long between chapters.

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  5. Great description of Willow warming up by the fire. What is a 'posse' in this context please?

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    1. In this context 'posse' means a comfortable position from which to hold out or view the situation,

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  6. Oh, I do hope Willow finds her mother. Suspense follows your characters and your description is great. I enjoyed this very much.
    Nancy

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    1. I'm glad Nancy. I want to keep it edgy.

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  7. You've got a nice story rolling along here, Denise. Keep it up. Love the description and dialog.

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  8. Great job! I'm enjoying reading these.

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  9. Oooh, and I like the way it ended; a nice transition for the next segment. The story is flowing well. Great pacing, and the mix of French and English language makes this feel authentic. Well done Denise.

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    1. Thanks Donna. I'm enjoying writing it to fit WEP prompts.

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  10. Hi Denise ... certainly there's lots of intrigue here and the cold - that's too much .. thank goodness for the summer here. Those two heavy overcoated thugs give a menacing overtone ...

    France, Paris ... early -mid 20th century eras ... it is certainly drawing me in ... cheers Hilary

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  11. Your description takes me right in the atmosphere and I can feel it. Great story telling.

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  12. loved how you flow in the story, the setting, and the darkness that creeps in! great!

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  13. My Critique:

    ~~I would like to know more about this red mist. Do you describe it in Chapter 2? Why is there a red mist?

    ~~I think the large men come into the chapter too quickly. I would prefer more build-up. What is the mood at the moment? Is she happy? Sad?However, I am a novel writer not a short story writer so maybe the rules are different.

    ~~Why is she so cold?
    ~~I think I'm going to have to go and read chapter one and two to understand what's going on here...

    ~~"Coffee, my drug of choice since I shared mugs with my mother in the early hours of the morning after Dad had left for work." How long ago did this start?

    ~~"Moisture oozes from my pores. The fire scorches me." Why does this happen? Does she know why? I didn't really see it explained in chapter one. Is she dead?
    I have so many questions!!!

    ~~ They would think we are a hoax." Why would they think that?

    I like the premise of the story but I have so many questions. Why does Jacque agree to help her and why does she accept his help so easily. Let me know if I can help you further. I hope my critique didn't confuse you.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time Clarissa, but most of your questions look back to the previous chapters. But some are legitimate and make me anxious to look closer at what I've written.

      Thanks for nudging me to be clearer.

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  14. Story build up and setting is great!

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  15. Ooh, it's getting more mysterious! Love the fact that there's a connection to books.

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  16. I enjoyed this story Denise ~ Such mystery and intrigue and you left us hanging in the ending ~ I so admire the story form as I can't write them, smiles ~ I will check out the coming prompts so I can participate again ~

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Please take the time to share! I love hearing from you! Hit me with your wisdom!