I’ve been working on something for a while now, a full length novel about a young woman who gets abducted by the Faerie Court on the eve of her elopement. First chapter below:
Kilmichael, West Cork, Ireland, June 21st 1882
Zylphia Flowers, the shipping agent’s daughter, was possessed of enough awareness to know the village of Kilmichael regarded her as little more than a guileless, plump flibbertigibbet. Some young ladies of a more sensitive disposition might have taken that as a slight, but never had Zylphia been more grateful for the village’s general indifference. Especially not now, nestled as she was in Jack Lawton’s arms, enjoying a rare, forbidden embrace.
‘Oh Jack,’ Zylphia murmured, ‘we don’t have long, I have to go, Father will be expecting me.’
Jack Lawton kissed her again, his mouth pressing against hers with insistent passion. He cradled her head, burying his fingers in her soft black curls as he embraced her.
‘I’ll let you go if I must for now, but by this time tomorrow,’ he breathed, ‘you’ll be mine, Zylphia Flowers, and I’ll be yours.’
A thrill of passion shot through her body at his words. Jack trailed soft kisses down her neck and Zylphia sighed with happiness, even as a tinge of worry wormed its way through her heart.
‘Tell me one more time, Jack,’ she said, ‘tell me it will all unfold as we’ve planned.’
Jack smiled, exuding confidence as he placed a sheaf of folded papers into Zylphia’s hands. They unfurled to reveal two steerage tickets for the steamship Adriatic, sailing the following morning from Queenstown to New York.
‘I got them this morning,’ said Jack, his eyes dancing with triumph.
The fare was stamped on the ticket, each one cost the princely sum of £4, about half a year’s wages for Jack.
‘The jewellery fetched a good price then?’ Zylphia asked.
‘Yes love,’ he confirmed, ‘more than we need, we’ll have enough for lodgings when we make port. Look, I got you your rail ticket to Queenstown as well. I’ll arrive before you, love, I’ll be there waiting for you on the quayside.’
Zylphia’s hands shook as she read and re-read the tickets in her hands. It was all really happening, she was going to New York with Jack tomorrow. Her heart felt fit to burst with excitement and no small amount of trepidation.
‘And we’ll get married on board, we’ll arrive there as Mr and Mrs Lawton,’ she breathed.
Jack cupped her face in his hands and looked deep into her eyes.
‘We will, love,’ he said, his voice strong and true, ‘we’ll do it all, a stóir, just as we’ve planned. I love you Zylphia, you mean the world to me.’
A soft rap on the door sounded and they broke their embrace with reluctance. Mrs Collins put her head around the door and gave then both a sympathetic smile. Lily, the post office cat, a sleek creature with fur of purest white, took the opportunity to slide into the forbidden sitting room and meowed at Zylphia.
‘It’s getting on,’ said Mary, picking up the errant cat, ‘Zylphia has to be setting off for home soon.’
Jack gave her a grateful smile.
‘Thanks Mary,’ he said, ‘we wouldn’t be where we are without your kindness.’
‘Yes,’ added Zylphia, ‘we cannot thank you enough for offering us the sanctuary of your home.’
Mary Collins smiled in answer and closed the door on them, giving them a last moment of privacy together. They kissed once more and Jack held her tight, crushing her to him. Zylphia’s heart pounded like a drum as she revelled in his embrace.
‘Until tomorrow, love,’ he whispered, releasing her from his arms.
‘Tomorrow,’ Zylphia said, her heart still leaping in her chest, ‘I just wish…’
‘I just wish I could let Father know. I wish I could tell him how happy we are together and have his blessing,’ she said, giving voice to her heart’s deepest longings, ‘I wish we could stay here with our friends and not have to run away like criminals. In short, my love, I wish everything could be different.’
Jack gave her a sad smile that mirrored her own.
‘I wish that too, a stóir, God knows I do,’ he said, ‘before I set eyes on you, I’d never have dreamed I‘d be marrying a girl without her father’s permission and taking her so far away from her home. But you saw how he was when he only suspected a connection between us. If he were to discover our plans now…now that we’re so close to freedom…’
Jack’s voice trailed off and he stared helplessly at her. Zylphia could only nod agreement. He was right. Her father’s wrath when he’d caught them speaking outside the church after Mass had been a sight not soon forgotten. Only some very adroit interference by her best friend Bróna had prevented a most unseemly scene. She had stepped in and dropped several heavy hints that it was she in whom Jack was interested, thus allowing Zylphia to escape suspicion.
‘Alright,’ she whispered, ‘I’ll try not to waste any more time on wishing.’
Jack gave her a smile.
‘Despite everything against us, I wouldn’t change loving you, Zylphia,’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t change a single thing.’
The melancholy about her father lifted somewhat as Zylphia thrilled to Jack’s words. He always knew how to soothe her worries.
He handed her the light cotton shawl, helping her wrap it around her shoulders. Then with one lithe, well-practiced move, Jack exited the room via the window. Zylphia watched him as he made his way to the end of Mary’s back garden before hopping over the low stone wall and into the fields. When she was sure he’d made his escape unobserved, Zylphia shut the window and tucked her rail ticket into her bag before entering the narrow hall of the post office, her heart aflutter with excitement.
Mrs Collins and her daughter, Bróna, were awaiting her there and Zylphia’s joy turned to sorrow with rude abruptness.
Mary Collins and her daughter made a pretty picture. Mary was a well preserved woman for her age. Her hair still retained its deep reddish brown hue without a single strand of silver to mar it. Her face was pale and smooth with only a faint tracery of lines around her hazel eyes betraying her age.
Bróna was Zylphia’s age, almost twenty-one, and she was a beauty if ever there was one. Even now, the grief writ clear upon her face served only to emphasise her delicate blonde loveliness. Bróna took after her father, he too had blonde colouring and striking blue eyes. She was like a porcelain doll, so perfect in face and form was she. Her eyes glittered now with unshed tears and she clapped a hand to her mouth in a futile attempt to stifle a sob.
Zylphia bit back a sob of her own and hugged Bróna to her in a tight embrace. As they clung together for comfort, the true implications of what she and Jack were planning dawned on Zylphia. This could very well be the last time she would see her closest friend for many a long year. Then the horrible thought struck her that maybe she and Bróna would never see each other again. Tomorrow, Zylphia and Jack would be gone from the village. They’d have started their lengthy journey to America, a trip that most emigrants did not make twice. Bróna returned her embrace with one just as fervent, tears rolling down her cheeks.
‘Goodbye, Zylphia,’ she said, ‘I’ll miss you, promise me you’ll write to me, once you’re in New York.’
‘I will,’ she replied, ‘I promise.’
‘Come, Zylphia,’ said Mary, ‘we mustn’t delay, the hour grows late.’
‘Oh Mother, please may I go with ye?’ asked Bróna, turning to her mother, ‘please? I’m feeling so much better. Must we part here? ’
A strange look of regret mingled with something else crossed Mary’s face and she shook her head.
‘No love, I’m sorry, you’ve been ill and you need your rest,’ she said, ‘best ye say your goodbyes now.’
Reluctantly Zylphia and Bróna broke apart, tears flowing down their cheeks.
‘I’m so sorry I won’t be your bridesmaid next month,’ said Zylphia, ‘you’ll be a beautiful bride.’
Bróna sighed and wiped her eyes.
‘Just as you will be,’ she said, ‘Jack’s a lucky man, don’t let him forget it.’
‘I won’t,’ said Zylphia.
‘Hmm, well it’s one in the eye for that stuck up Fiona at any rate,’ said Bróna with a mischievous glint in her eyes, ‘she’ll be fair spittin’ that you landed Jack and not her!’
Zylphia tried to smile at her friend’s attempt at banter and turned away, but Bróna caught her arm.
‘Wait,’ she called to them as she ran up the stairs, ‘I’ll be back down before you know it, just wait, I have something for you.’
Mary blew a breath out in an impatient sigh and Zylphia cast her a pleading look.
‘Just a moment, Mary,’ she asked, ‘please.’
Bróna was true to her word and clattered back down the stairs holding an envelope which she thrust into Zylphia’s hands.
‘Open it,’ she said.
Zylphia did as she was bid and was rewarded when the envelope revealed a photograph of her, Bróna and Mary. They’d had the portrait done on a rare shopping trip to Cork a few months ago.
‘I’d forgotten all about this,’ she said, holding it with reverence.
‘Something to remember us by,’ said Bróna, her voice tremulous with feeling, ‘when you’re far away from home in America.’
‘Oh Bróna, I could never forget you, not even if I tried,’ said Zylphia, fighting back a fresh bout of tears, ‘thank you.’
They hugged again, Zylphia feeling the weight of their parting heavy on her heart.
‘We must leave, my dear Zylphia,’ said Mary, ‘we don’t want your father getting suspicious and ruining things, do we?’
Mary held out her hand and Zylphia clasped it just as Lily looked up at her and meowed. Zylphia reached down to give the little cat a final pat on her smooth silky head. As soon as she withdrew her hand, Lily trotted over to Bróna and sat by her feet looking up at her. Taking her cue, Bróna picked the little cat up and held her in her arms, tears dripping down her face and landing in the soft white fur. Zylphia waved at the pair of them and took Mary’s hand again. With a backward glance at Bróna, standing forlorn in the hall, they left the post office.
‘Compose yourself, Zylphia, my dear’ said Mary, pressing her hand in an attempt to comfort her, ‘we must appear as though nothing’s amiss.’
Zylphia brushed her tears away and tried to smile. They walked along the small village street heading for the forest path that led to Zylphia’s father’s house. With Mary’s help, Zylphia chatted and laughed as they left the village of Kilmichael and acted as though she hadn’t a care in the world. Jack would have made his own way home to his father’s farm by now. He and Zylphia would never be seen together in public and no suspicion would fall on his family after the morrow.
They travelled together on the forest way until they reached the crossroads where the path to Zylphia’s house branched off deeper into the oak trees. Here was where Zylphia and Mary Collins had to part for the last time.
‘Dear Mary,’ began Zylphia, ‘I don’t quite know what to say, you’ve been more a mother to me than a mere friend…’
‘Say nothing, my dear,’ said Mary with a shaky voice, ‘just write to me when you can. Let me know how you and Jack are getting on.’
‘I will Mary, I promise.’
‘Get home before dark, Zylphia, my dear one,’ said Mrs Collins, pressing her hands over Zylphia’s, ‘and remember, if you should see them, do not linger with the faerie folk.’
‘You always say that,’ replied Zylphia, with a light laugh, ‘and I have yet to see one, but I shall heed your advice if I ever do.’
‘Be on your way then, Zylphia,’ said Mary, ‘good luck and safe home!’
‘Good bye to you, Mary, and thank you for being my friend, thank you for everything!’
‘You’ll always have a friend in me, dear girl,’ Mary replied, ‘mind yourself!’