Five years ago today, I received my first award as an author. It was for my short fiction collection, Through the Opera Glass. In honor of that anniversary, here is one of the tales therein. Enjoy!
Selling Dreams Away
Written January 20, 2012
Clever Fiction writing prompt: Neighbor/Fierce/Bankrupt
“Good news, cousin! I have found a buyer for the house and vineyard.” Francois Delacroix approached his cousin Claire, who was grooming her horse in the sunny side yard.
“I was unaware, cousin, that my home was for sale.” Her tone was icy as she continued her work, not even bothering to look at him.
“My dear Claire, your father gave me control of your assets in his will. Need I remind you that this is in accordance with the law?”
“My home,” she said, facing the man whom she still saw as an interloper, will or no, “is not for sale.”
“Oh, my dear cousin. You are bankrupt. Of course we must sell the house.”
“Impossible. I have an income.”
“Exhausted. I had to feed my friends and servants who came all the way from the Camargue with me to help you.”
“Help me? Is that what you call it? You house your friends in my home, give them my food to eat … and now you tell me you’ve spent my income?” Claire fought the urge to slap the smug smile from her cousin’s handsome face. “As for servants, I would hardly call one miserable valet ‘servants.’ You give yourself airs well beyond your station.”
“Consider yourself fortunate, cousin, that I have not sold your clothes, jewels and horse.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” Her blue eyes sparked with anger.
“Wouldn’t I? Don’t you think your neighbors in Baincthun would love to see Mademoiselle Claire Delacroix brought down? Your fine jewels and clothing gone, your horse sold to the knacker and you in the workhouse?” He laughed. “No, cousin. You will accompany me and my friends to Paris. I have found employment for us and our horses, including you and your precious Josephine, in the Opera Garnier. Do not doubt me, cousin. You are not the first family member to find themselves on my sufferance.”
Claire fought back tears as she watched Francois walk away. She had no idea what he meant with his parting remark, and was fairly sure that she didn’t want to know. What kind of a man would do this to a family member?
And yet, she had no choice. Papa was dead. Her fiancé, Philippe, was dead. She was on her own in a country that afforded her no rights without a male protector.
Claire led Josephine back to the barn and put her in the loose box. The big black mare nickered, as though she understood that all was not well.
“It seems that we are bound for Paris,” Claire remarked to the echoing barn.
She had never thought about living elsewhere, not even while studying abroad. All roads led back to Baincthun in her mind, with the exception of one tiny dream. Both of her parents had come from the south of France, and she imagined a beautiful mas – a farmhouse – with terra cotta walls and blue shutters to keep out the mistral wind. There would be colorful boutis quilts on the beds, laughter, music … but, again, that was a dream. That idea died with Philippe.
Francois’s valet watched from a distance. How he wished he could tell her his story. He took a halting step toward the barn and then stopped. Mademoiselle Delacroix had no reason to speak with her cousin’s ragged manservant, let alone believe what he might say. There was no point in trying.
So Gilbert Rochambeau turned his face toward the main house and limped away, a fierce determination to help Claire growing in his disgraced gentleman’s heart.
Want your own copy of Through the Opera Glass? Here are the back cover copy and purchasing links:
Author Sharon E. Cathcart took up a challenge in 2012: to write flash fiction and full length short stories based on various prompts. Each story features one or more characters from In The Eye of The Beholder: A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera or its sequel, In The Eye of The Storm.
Brimming with historical detail, the stories in this collection range in place and time from 19th Century Persia to post-World War II San Francisco.
Through the Opera Glass is the 2014 runner-up for “Best Short Story Collection” in the eFestival of Words Independent Book Awards.
Amazon (click on this link to be taken automatically to the site for your country)
Chapters Indigo (Canada)
Kobobooks (available for 2400 SuperPoints if you are part of the program)
Overdrive (via your local library)