LOCATION/HOMETOWN: La Grange, Kentucky
CHOICE OF MUSIC; STYLES AND/OR BANDS YOU LIKE: Pop/Rock; Matchbox Twenty, Angie Aparo, Fleetwood Mac, Madonna, U2, Aimee Mann, Dave Matthews, etc.
FAVORITE AUTHORS: Virginia Woolf, Patricia Cornwell, Stephen King, Philippa Gregory, Henry James, James Joyce, Margaret Mitchell, Anne Rice, Michael Cunningham, etc.
WRITING INFLUENCES: Primarily the poetry and grace of Virginia Woolf, combined with the historical accuracy of Philippa Gregory and the sensuality of Anne Rice.
GENRE(S) YOU WRITE IN: Short fiction, short non-fiction, and poetry.
SPECIALTY AREA: Short fiction.
TITLE OF PIECE: "Death and the Maiden"
This story is inspired by a photo I found in vintage_sex, and is included to help illustrate the story.
She disliked using the modern speak columnists devised to sell papers, yet she was the "soup du jour," as the society papers called her. As the photographer arranged her bright organza evening gown with the French crinolines around her, she tried her best to make light of the title the newspapers casually slapped on her. She preferred to think she would be the diamond of society for decades to come, with her legend to live forever, instead of being another one of the "new money honeys" that emerged after the turn of the century.
She was, after all, not just the beneficiary of a trust fund. She was beautiful, she was bright, she was talented, she was young and unmarried with the world laid out before her, ready for her taking. Like one of James's heroines, she was the painfully stereotypical American heiress. That last thought made her spirits fall, and confirmed her belief that she would be forgotten the moment the next debutante appeared in San Francisco society. She frowned, let her normally aloof expression fall, and stared at the middle-aged man delicately twisting her skirts in the name of photographic fashion below her. (Why did such a simple task take so long?) The dyed panels of the organza created a unique effect of stripes down her svelte figure, resembling one of the seaside sentinels that lined the California coast. She enjoyed feeling her whale bone corset beneath the soft fabric as her hands were positioned on her hips, feeling as if even though she may be one of the many rotating Gibson girls everyone admired, appearing flawless and fragile, she was in fact a pillar of strength inside, leading her nation from eminent disaster.
What that particular disaster was, she of course did not know, nor really cared, but the image was important, of course. For her society, the perfect photograph was paramount before even thinking of setting out to conquer the world, let alone common company. Women like her had to advertise their all in one frame of time if they ever expected to find the means to leave lasting legacies. She could see it now—tomorrow a dashing young man would see her photo in a paper on somebody's parlor table, know only from first sight that she would be his everything, and propose marriage to her that very night after a dinner party. She would accept, they would have beautiful children, and one day she would show the very photo to her grandchildren as they lounged in luxury somewhere on the coast of some foreign land. Argentina, perhaps.
She pursed her lips, suddenly upset that she felt so easily categorized, so simple as an ordinary shoe. Like a million women before her, she didn't desire that which society felt she should have and be, but the calling of a life one only read about in radical books. Just...as long as she didn't have to do it alone.
The lady who previously arranged her hair entered the musky studio once again, finally having found the collection of accessories painstakingly arranged to compliment the colors of her gown. Not that it truly mattered in the monochrome photograph, but the same ensemble would be worn the next night at the dinner party, to which she must appear the epitome of fashion. Only the last thing to do would be to choose which accessory would adorn her hair. The lady, who was as fussy and annoying as the photographer (they would be a perfect match in marriage, for sure), carefully stepped onto the seamless backdrop to present the case of accessories to her. Lifting the heavy oak lid, as if the lady was opening Pandora's Box, a magnificent display of trinkets was revealed. She could choose from a pretentious trio of ostrich feathers dyed peach, pink, and plum secured to the hair by an ivory comb; a prim rope of freshwater pearls; an opulent ruby and emerald tiara; a simple set of tortoise shell combs with mother-of-pearl inlay; a virginal splay of tiny, white silk roses; a modest royal blue velvet ribbon with gold embroidered flowers; an exotic set of oriental hair sticks made of jade and mahogany with topaz and onyx charms; or a modernistic black silk headband adorned with silver threading and sapphires.
She peered into the box of color, mentally judging the impact of each delicate piece, surely fit for royalty. Her eye often settled on the radiant sapphire headband or the ostrich feather comb, both radiantly divine, but each piece in the collection seemed to express a part of womanly personality, ones which she did not want to claim as being a part of herself. She was not pretentious, prim, or opulent, nor simple, virginal, or modest, and surely she couldn't be summed up as exotic or modernistic compared to her contemporaries. True, she might posses a limited amount of each, but to claim the whole was not what wanted to choose. Where was the defiant piece? Where was the splendid accessory that would express not only the magnificent lady that she was, but her hopes, dreams, and desires? Constricting herself would certainly limit her possibilities. At the same time, she felt her frustration over a decision so trivial only made her out to be even more unlike the woman she desired to be.
Perhaps she was not the crown of Edwardian graces, but merely a slave to her duties. (But what lovely toil that would entail, for sure, she thought, suddenly desiring a petit fore.) She could almost see her life now, depicted in one of the cinemas to Schubert's "Death and the Maiden." The heroine raising her arm to her cheek with a melodramatic expression, fretting over her lover's return, then suddenly interrupted by the maid to choose the sauce for that night's lamb or veal, followed by a fainting spell at the climax of the strings in D Minor. Sadly, the leading lady would perish from this earth, not only unable to choose a sauce, but unable to live without her beloved. Oh what elegant tragedy.
Then, inspired by these thoughts, she abruptly shut the lid of the oak box, waved the owner away, and commanded the photographer take his place behind his instrument. Much to his protest he hid underneath his photographer's cloth, and much to the dismay of her lady attendant, she struck the pose of the actress, and demanded the photo be taken at that moment. With a coy and bold expression she held her pose, heart racing and determined to fit only into society where it pleased her, where it suited her dreams best. If a dashing young suitor could not be found to love this brazen beauty, then love be damned, she thought. She wore her hair unadorned. Tomorrow night, she would wear only herself to the dinner party.
Be gentle. :)