You may call me “Supreme Graciousness, Empress of…” oh, wait, not that title. I have a title for the NaNo WIP (that’s Work in Progress – see my grasp on all this writerly jargon?). Ok, so that title is: The Nine World Balance: Sword of Michael. As those in the know, know, the colon indicates a subtitle, hinting at the possibility of further volumes. Subtle, eh?
Anyway, at the moment, my fevered imagination pictures this creation going beyond the 50,000 words and in fact beyond a normal middle-grade novel length. That’s right, folks, I envision a trilogy. Of course, I remain undaunted by the fact that said trilogy may well never be read by anyone other than my long-suffering family and in bits by the long-suffering readers of this blog. Onward! Working subtitles for the as-yet-non-existent-in-this-universe-but-well-received-in-the-Christy-verse volumes two and three are, respectively: The Fall of Lucifer, and Ahriman Rising. (More on the origins of this wackiness in the next post.)
For now, enjoy a bit of Chapter 3.
“I have some puppets stored in the old Strings room, and there’s a puppet stage in there, too. I thought that it would be nice to do a puppet play next week when we learned about The Seven Swans. Can you help me move the things to our class room?”
“Sure!” Dylan grinned and wiped her cheeks. She liked fairy tales. She didn’t care what Richard and Sylvia said, fairy tales were cool – with their magic and witches and gnomes! Dylan really wanted to meet a gnome, but no matter how quiet she was, and how carefully she peeked around dark corners or behind bushes, she never even saw so much as the tip of a pointy hat. But puppet plays were pretty cool, too, and she loved the old Strings room. It was dark, and just a little spooky with a cool slanty floor that you could slide on if there weren’t any teachers around to catch you taking off your shoes, and there were neat shadows from the tree outside the window. Sometimes, in the Strings room, Dylan almost thought that she heard the whispering of gnomes, and she might have seen the triangular shadow of a hat.
“All right, let’s head back to the class room, shall we? Would you like to ring the bell?”
Ms. Joy was pretty cool, Dylan thought as she picked up the bell, feeling the smooth, cool weight of the metal against her palm. The clapper clanged, calling her classmates to the room. Dylan felt important as she watched them scramble into line. ‘Serves them right,’ she thought. Then she frowned again, wondering if the boys really did think she was too weird. But, then Gabriel poked her as he walked past.
“Lucky! How come you get to ring the bell? And where were you at recess? We got creamed by the second grade!”
“Tell you later.” Dylan kept her mouth closed as she forced the whisper past her grinning teeth.
The afternoon, in the manner of all good times, flew where the morning had dragged reluctant feet. Mr. Loupe came in to help them with art while Ms. Joy went to a meeting.
Dylan whistled softly, mimicking the red-winged blackbird on the trellis outside as she dipped her brush into the red paint. She swooped the brush upward on the paper, bringing the streak of scarlet to a point.
“Nice work, Dylan.” Mr. Loupe laid a hand on the corner of her desk. “Is that a gnome hat I see?”
“Yep.” Dylan nodded. “He’s hiding behind these bushes. But the watercolor’s all smeary, so you can’t really see it. It just looks like one big smudge.”
“I can tell that he’s a gnome. It’s hard to get a lot of detail in wet-on-wet watercoloring. You’re using your colors well, though. That’s good. It’s important to pay attention to balance.” His voice dropped. “Remember that, Dylan. Balance is the key.”
Dylan paused her hand and looked up at Mr. Loupe. His voice had sounded funny, and his eyes weren’t crinkled at the edges. But as she opened her mouth, he moved on to Lina’s desk. “Nice work, Lina,” she heard him say. A splodge of red dropped into the middle of the green mounds of shrubbery on her paper. She quickly turned it into a flower, and added a few more. Rosebushes were good. As long as you didn’t grab a thorn.
Dylan waited for Ms. Joy to finish shaking hands with the last kid in line, skinny little Armin Ring, before she walked over to the teacher.
“Oh, good, Dylan, I’m glad you could stay. Now, do you mind running over to the old Strings room and bringing back the swan puppets? Oh, and we’ll need a prince and princess, too. And a witch.” Ms. Joy looked at Dylan’s face. “You aren’t scared, are you? I know some kids think that room is a little spooky.” She lifted Dylan’s chin a little. “Are you brave, enough, Dylan?”
Dylan shook her face free and nodded. “The old Strings room doesn’t scare me. I like it!”
Shivers marched along Dylan’s spine as she pushed past the giant rosemary bush growing across the walkway to the old temporary building. Since the new wing had been built, the rooms were mostly used for storage and the gardeners seemed to forget that the old building was back here, huddling like an old man under a brown overcoat. A tiny spider dropped from the eves on an invisible thread and landed on her arm. Dylan lifted the spider gently and set it on the rosemary. “Let the creatures be,” her kindergarten teacher had always said, and Dylan couldn’t see why people smashed spiders. Spiders were good: they built cool webs, and ate the bad bugs. Sylvia said that spiderwebs displayed “geometric precision”. Dylan wasn’t sure what that meant, but it seemed to be a good thing, too.
The butterfly necklace felt cold under her shirt. She rubbed her palm across her chest. She never took off that necklace. Not ever. The door moaned as she pulled it open.