Winter Writing Project: Act 1

Well, here I am reworking an older story that needs some serious love–and lots of rewriting–as part of Ishana’s Winter Writing Project (along with Thaumaturgist and Shard). It’s the introduction and, since this is a short story, this is most of the first act…. I think. Usually, I write more fantasy-type works, but short stories generally end up being about the unusual people I observe in life, so here is just one of those observations, heavily embellished. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Eleanor Pinkerton….

I sat by the window in the tearoom, dabbing clotted cream on my halved blueberry scone and pondering the compatibility of tearooms and electric guitars. Some things never go well together, like watching The Birds and spending an afternoon in an aviary, but a cup of Earl Gray and my Gibson united my two first loves. Perhaps it was a bit absurd for a woman on the eve of her seventieth birthday to consider such things, but I wanted to entertain new ideas.

In the midst of my first bite into the soft, crumbly scone, my friends arrived. It was 12:10 exactly. They have never arrived a moment earlier, lest they miss a second of their favorite soap opera, The Tangled Web We Weave. I took another, larger bite as the three of them gathered around our usual table.

They were in the midst of discussing the latest episode as they made themselves comfortable. Nancy silently went to her usual place to my right. She smiled at me and adjusted her flower-laden hat. Dorothy sat to my left and pulled her shawl more firmly around herself—despite the warm sunlight streaming through the window. Alice took her place across from me and sent the waitress for the rest of the usual orders.

“You are here early, Eleanor,” Alice said as she unfolded her linen napkin.

I hesitated. “I live closer than the rest of you, remember?”

She nodded and the conversation continued. Apparently a great deal had happened since last week—the last time I had watched The Tangled Web We Weave. Keeping up with the episodes was impossible since my guitar lessons were at the same time. As they chattered, I felt the tender tips of my fingers. Mr. Lesko, my teacher, told me that calluses would make pressing on the nylon strings less painful in the future. Of course, it would make it easier for my friends to notice that something was amiss as well.

As the tea and finger sandwiches arrived, Alice smiled at me. “So, Eleanor, who do you think fathered Susan’s baby?”

I took another strategically large bite of my scone and sorted through the characters. It couldn’t be Estefan because he hated Susan. Dave was with Carlotta. Andrew was killed off at least a month ago.

“George,” I finally said.

All three of them were thoroughly indignant.

“George?” Dorothy repeated. “Why would you ever think that? I was certain it was Estefan. Everything points to Estefan.”

Another mouthful of scone bought me more time. With how quickly things change in The Tangled Web We Weave, it could have been anyone. I had to find some justification for my guess before I was found out.

As I sipped some Earl Grey, I noticed Alice was glaring at me. She set her tea cup onto the saucer with a clink loud enough to draw the attention of everyone in the tearoom.

“If I didn’t know you better, I would think you haven’t watched today’s episode.”

That was it. I was caught. Alice and I have been friends for over fifty years. I have never managed to conceal anything from her, not even a birthday present.

She glared at me. To avoid the scrutiny, I blurted out, “I was busy.”

Of course, she wished to know with what, and I couldn’t tell her. The only person who knew I was taking guitar lessons was Mr. Lesko. Anyone else would think it was ridiculous. I even thought it was ridiculous.

“I had a doctor’s appointment,” I lied.

Nancy nodded and tried to pacify Alice—to explain that it was a satisfactory excuse. However, Alice was not convinced.

“Next Tuesday, I expect you will have more to add to our conversation.”

I agreed, though I knew I would still have nothing to add. I had scheduled my guitar lessons during the same time as The Tangled Web on purpose. It was time to entertain new ideas and try new things.

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