Shopping on WIP Wednesday

Crowe, Eyre; Johnson (1709-1784), Doing Penance in the Market Place 

Do your characters shop? Go to the modiste, the tailor, or the milliner? Buy a horse or a carriage at Tattersalls? Buy flowers from a girl on the corner?

This week, I’m looking for shopping excerpts. Mine is from A Raging Madness, which is coming out on 9 May. (I hope to be adding buy links within the week.) In this scene, my hero and heroine have been forced into travelling disguised as husband and wife, which is causing some discomfort. The market is in the town of Stowe-on-Trent.

They wandered the market, stopping first to buy some meat turnovers, rich in gravy and with crisp, flaky pastry that clung to their fingers so that Alex stopped at another clothing stall to buy a rag for them to wipe their hands. They shared a jug of small beer, and Alex purchased a pear each to crunch on while they continued around the stalls.

Pat returned, and trailed them at a distance, keeping them in sight but leaving them to one another’s company. They bought some supplies to put into the housekeeping on the boat: leaf tea, a ham bone with plenty of meat still on it, some vegetables, a loaf of bread. Alex bought her a bunch of Michaelmas daisies from a flower girl, which she held in the hand not tucked comfortably into the crook of his elbow, warm against his body.

The proximity heightened the thrum of awareness that had been plaguing her for days. Years. For years, she had kept the gorgeous Major Redepenning at a distance with a cool reserve, ruthlessly suppressing any outward signs of her unfortunate reaction to his physical presence.

Under the circumstances, her defences were in ruins. He had rescued her, believed in her, put himself at risk to help her. The least she could do was to respond to his conversational overtures, laugh at his jokes, enter into his plans for the rest of the day. Besides, for at least the rest of the canal trip—weeks though it may be—they had to play the part of newlyweds, whatever that cost her in uncomfortable dreams, asleep and awake.

No other man had ever affected her so. Perhaps if she had lusted for Gervase the way she yearned for Alex, they might have made something of their marriage? But no. Gervase would still have been a bully and a cheat. And besides, by the time she met him, it was too late. She was, sadly, a one-man woman. And Alex—though he would never know—Alex was the man.

A stall selling herbs and elixirs attracted her like a bee to nectar, and she was soon in deep discussion with the stall owner over the bundles and packages and bottles, while Alex leaned against the side of the stall and looked on with a smile.

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8 thoughts on “Shopping on WIP Wednesday

  1. And a visit to Rancho de las Pulgas from the modiste…

    Maria’s French modiste came all the way from San Francisco to measure Aleksandra for her gown.
    The two older women thumbed through the book of sketches. Aleksandra was completely lost, sitting still and staring, trying to keep her jaw from dropping at the exquisite gowns displayed on the pages before her. One, though, caught her eye. She looked up as he dressmaker spoke.
    “For you,” the modiste pointed to the same design, “I have especially designed this gown in the Spanish style.”
    “It belongs on a princess,” Aleksandra breathed.
    “It is…magnífico,” Maria said.
    Aleksandra’s face heated and she lowered her eyes to the ground, as the modiste stood back and looked her up and down, as if she were assessing a horse.
    “No, no, mademoiselle,” she picked up Aleksandra’s chin with a forefinger, “do not look embarrassed, you are lovely. I simply must see how it would fit on you,” she admonished. “It would be a good design on you, with your tiny waist, and Madame says you have a wee baby? So we will have no need for any padding of the ‘boosies’?” She patted her own ample bosom, beaming.
    Aleksandra offered her a wan smile. “It is a beautiful design, but I couldn’t imagine myself in anything so grand,” she said softly.
    “I certainly could,” Maria said, and it was decided.
    For the better part of the next hour, Aleksandra was turned this way and that while the dressmaker wrapped her knotted string around her in every possible direction, barking dimensions to her young assistants in French. By the time the girls came to her, armed with fabrics, she’d forgotten to be embarrassed. They held swatch after beautiful swatch against her hair and face while the modiste sat with Maria. The two of them commented in a combination of English, French and Spanish.
    “Do you like this fabric, Querida?” Maria asked her, as she stroked the bolt of silky, smoky golden taffeta.
    “I…I…” Aleksandra gulped. She had worn muslin and buckskin most of her life, then wore her mother’s delaine for her first wedding. For teaching, she’d quickly cobbled together two more, one of linen and another of wool. She couldn’t begin to imagine what this fabric might cost, much less the making. She blinked and took a deep breath. “It is beautiful beyond my expectations, but isn’t it…”
    Maria shook her head. “Aleksandra, you are an Arguello now. We have a proud history and will spare nothing for the wedding of you and my firstborn. His father would be so…” she hesitated, then wiped a tear from her cheek and swallowed hard, “…proud. Most importantly, though, it looks magnificent on you.” She reached out and pulled some of Aleksandra’s long curls over the top of the fabric and smiled. “Especially with your beautiful hair and lovely complexion.”
    “Thank you, Maria. I’ve never even touched anything so lovely,” she said.
    The modiste tut-tutted and flashed her a grin.
    Maria turned to the other women. “And what shall we accent it with?”
    “I had in mind, Madame and Mademoiselle, this.” When she herself brought forth the roll of burgundy, gold and russet brocade, both Aleksandra and Maria blinked. “And this.” She held out a cocoa silk floss fringe and a few matching spherical buttons of crocheted cord and fine silk thread.
    Aleksandra could only stare.
    Maria glanced at her. “Sí, Querida?”
    “Sí, Mama. Están tan magnificos.”
    “Nothing is too magnificent for you, Aleksandra,” she smiled and reached for her hand, “and your Spanish is improving daily. You have made my Xavier happy, given him back his heart and brought him home. Nada es tan magnifico, recuerda,” she said. She stood and pulled Aleksandra into her arms for a hug. “I cannot take the place of your mama, but I hope you will let me spoil you a little for your big day, as she would have.”
    Aleksandra couldn’t hold back the tears, but it didn’t seem to matter to Maria, nor the modiste and her girls. Surely they saw a range of emotions in their brides-to-be, but she nearly giggled at the thought that flashed through her mind. She daren’t say it aloud.
    She couldn’t get closer to the color of her buckskins if she tried.

    Enjoy!

    © 2017 Lizzi Tremayne / Blue Mist Publishing
    From A Sea of Green Unfolding, to be released 14 May 2017

    https://lizzitremayne.com

  2. Thanks Jude!
    This is still in rough form, to be edited soon!

    San Francisco, 1863

    The Order…
    Aleksandra took a breath to compose herself before she entered the open door of the milliners.
    “Oh, and you should have seen the money he had in his pouch!” a blonde shop girl, with ringlets peeking coyly from beneath her bonnet, said to a woman standing before the counter. “And he said she could have whatever hat she wanted, but I suppose that’s because he’s practically bought her from a Pacific Avenue saloon owner, down on the Barbary Coast.” She jumped and spun around when she realized Aleksandra stood waiting near the shop counter.
    Aleksandra smiled at her.
    “Good afternoon, madam. How may I help you?” the blonde smiled, an overly large smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. She must have known she’d been caught gossiping about a customer.
    “Good afternoon, I’d like to look at your hardiest hats, both for myself and for my husband. You see, we’ll be emigrating to New Zealand.”
    She showed her the range and Aleksandra selected two felt work hats for Xavier, several work sunbonnets, two straw hats for gardening and a beautiful headpiece that made her feel like a real lady, all felt, feathers and veil. She finished her order with a fine charcoal silk top hat, which would accent Xavier’s dark coloring.
    “Good choices,” the shop girl nodded. Her smile was genuine now, and calculating. “The shop owner will be back soon, but I can measure you now,” she whipped out a knotted string and took several measurements of Aleksandra’s head, marking them down on a paper. “Do you have the measurements for your husband’s hats?”
    “No, I’m sorry, I don’t, but he has purchased here before, Xavier Arguello?”
    The girl gulped. “Um, Mrs. Arguello,” she managed, “from Ranch de las Pulgas? Ahem. Yes, we’ll have the whole family’s measurements. One moment please.” She scurried back with a black book and checked to ensure Xavier’s measurements were there. “Yes, all here, and Xavier’s measurements are current, thank you.”
    “When shall I call to pick them up?”
    “They should all be ready in four weeks.”
    “I’m afraid we will need them before that. Our ship leaves three weeks from today.”
    She swallowed noisily and thought for a moment. “They will be ready. Can you call to pick them up here?”
    “Yes, but we will be quite busy,” she said, counting out the necessary coin. “Perhaps you could deliver them to Captain Rach? We sail from San Francisco to New Zealand with him.”
    “They will be delivered,” the attendant said, as she glanced down at the counter and turned away, a secretive little smile on her face.

    And just before their ship is to leave….
    Aleksandra ran as fast as her feet could carry her, and soon gained the shop. She took a breath, to still her pounding heart, before she reached for the door handle.
    “Your lady’s hat will be ready in just a moment, Mr. Hardin,” the shop girl said, as Aleksandra stepped into the shop. It was the same girl who had taken her order.
    “Excuse me,” Aleksandra said, her brows narrowed, “but the felt hat with the veil doesn’t appear to be in the packet delivered to the ship.”
    “I’ll look for it after I finish with my other customer.” She looked away from Aleksandra.
    “I’m sorry, but our sailing is imminent, and I must be on board for the change in the tide. Would you please look now?”
    She heaved a great sigh and looked under the bench. “Here it is, don’t know how I missed it. My mistake,” she said, as she slapped it down on the bench. Nothing about her looked sorry at all.
    “Thank you.” Aleksandra raised her eyebrow at the girl and turned from the counter, heading for the door, then her heart stopped dead.
    To the side of the door on a chaise lounge sat a man with a bandaged right hand. Cole Younger’s “lady” was draped over him, her hands inside his shirt, but his eyes were on Aleksandra as she headed for the exit. His brows were drawn together, his lips tight, but in a flash, recognition dawned on his face and his expression changed. Not for the better.
    She fled for the ship, her heart in her mouth.

    Have a lovely day, all!

    © 2017 Lizzi Tremayne / Blue Mist Publishing

    From A Sea of Green Unfolding, book 3 in The Long Trails series https://lizzitremayne.com

  3. In The Blacksmith’s Wife Joanna and Hal marry for convenience, with Hal aware that Joanna is still in love with his brother. They’ve become closer but have not yet admitted their growing feelings.

    Pickering Fair was loud and bustling, a shock to the senses after the solitude of Ravenscrag. Joanna’s eyes lit up as Hal helped her down from Valiant.
    ‘Aren’t you coming with me?’ she asked as he directed her to the weavers’ row and took hold of Valiant’s bridle.
    ‘I have business to attend to that I need to complete today,’ he said.
    Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, but already the shrill music of pipes in the square and the calls of the hawkers with their wares were calling her away from him.
    He watched her weave her way through the crowds until she was swallowed up, a small figure with a skip in her step. Her money was well concealed, she was modestly dressed and she was a grown woman. Even though the thought of her coming to harm was enough to cause him to break out in sweat, Hal let her go.

    He had moved swiftly, completed his own errands and was waiting for her by the castle steps within the allotted hour when she returned bearing packages that would fill Valiant’s panniers to overflowing. Her cheeks were flushed and Hal’s face split into a grin.
    ‘Is there anything left for anyone else to buy?’ he asked.
    Joanna tossed her head amiably. ‘I doubt I’ll be somewhere this big for months. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.’
    Her voice was without resentment.
    ‘I have something to show you,’ Hal said. Taking her by the hand, he led her down the snicket beside the castle gate. The alley was silent and cool, a tempting place to stop and steal a kiss, but Hal didn’t delay. He grinned to himself. Even more appealing than bundling Joanna’s tempting curves into his arms was the prospect of her reaction to his surprise.
    They emerged by the stables. Valiant snickered in welcome as he heard their voices. In the stall beside him was a tawny-coloured palfrey. Hal stopped in front of her and waved his arm with a flourish.
    Joanna’s brow wrinkled in confusion.
    ‘She’s yours,’ Hal announced.
    The horse had been an extravagant gift he could little afford, but as Joanna’s hands flew to her mouth and her eyes widened Hal decided every coin had been well spent.

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