I’m both nervous and excited to start sharing Sisters of String and Glass. Like Queen of the Garden of Girls, this is a first draft I’m actively writing. I’m excited because this story has been slowly brewing in my head for months. But I’m nervous because it’s written a bit differently and takes place years before the events of Queen of the Garden of Girls.
Sisters of String and Glass is mostly a Cinderella inspired story. The sisters in question are Camille (yes, the same Camille from Queen of the Garden of Girls) and her younger sister Abigail. I’m imagining this as mostly Abigail’s story, but Camille also has a strong presence. The sisters are quite different and Abigail is very much like me. Which makes writing her both interesting and difficult because she’s as much in her head as I am so it’s sometimes hard to tell where I end and she starts. It’s also impacting the writing, but it’s kind of growing on me.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy Part 1 of Sisters of String and Glass!
Once upon a future time, I learned I didn’t exist. I was not the beloved little sister, the one with the heart of gold. My spunky, sassy sister with the sharp mind and spine of steel took my place. But perhaps it’s for the best. One day she’ll get her fairy tale ending, just not the one the stories gave her. That’s all mine, though I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for my sister.
The sky was clear and the sea calm. The golden sun was almost ready to rise, but seemed to be as sleepy as Abigail felt as the weak winter rays struggled over the horizon. It made the sand beneath the soles of her thin slippers freezing cold, and her feet longed for a warm fire. But that would have to wait until after she, her sister, her stepmother, and her stepsister had seen her father, the Count Olidan, off to the Pearl Kingdom.
A distant relative of the king, but the only one who made his permanent home near enough, Lawrence had served as the ambassador to the nearby sea kingdom since before Abigail’s older sister had been born. Her father counted it as a great honor, but Abigail hated it because it meant he spent long stretches of time away from home.
Abigail stifled another yawn as her older sister draped a spare shawl over her shoulders.
“I’m fine, Camille,” Abigail said softly, though she did shift closer to her sister.
“Don’t worry so much,” Camille said, wrapping an arm around Abigail and holding her close. “Father will be back in the spring.”
“I’m not worried,” Abigail said on another yawn. “I’m tired. Why did Father have to leave at dawn?”
She felt Camille shrug as her eyelids drooped yet again. She was sad to see her father leave yet again, but he hadn’t ever really been present in their lives anyways. She barely knew him and he barely knew his two daughters. If his wife hadn’t died during the summer last year, he wouldn’t have been home at all during the fall and early winter. But Lawrence, the Count Olidan, couldn’t leave Camille and Abigail without a female influence, so had returned from the Pearl Kingdom to lay his wife to rest and remarry.
Camille’s squeeze woke her up again, and she sighed. “I’m awake, Camille,” she murmured. She smothered another yawn. “It’s not like he’ll miss us any more than we’ll miss him.”
“He’s our father, Abigail,” Camille gently admonished, though Abigail knew her sister felt the same as her. “Look, the sun’s almost over the horizon. We’d better join Father, Muriel, and Madeline.”
Abigail sighed heavily as her sister’s arms dropped away.
The sun was, indeed, much higher and brighter than it had been only minutes ago. It was casting a wavering golden light on the sapphire sea spread out before them. In the distance was an island with a lagoon that was home to a bustling mer society. The Pearl Kingdom itself lay spread out between the shore and the island, but, in recent years, most of the merfolk tended to stay closer to the island.
Lawrence was a tall, imposing man who rivaled the king in height. His hair was so short it barely covered his scalp. As he told his daughters when they asked why their father was the only man in the kingdom to be nearly bald, hair had a bad habit of getting in the way when he was in the depths of the Pearl Kingdom. Now he stood, the sea gently lapping at his ankles, dressed in simple trousers and shirt. Beside him, clinging to his arm, was a woman twice Abigail’s age, her graying dark hair powdered white so no one knew she was losing her lustrous raven color. Hovering behind them was a young woman just a year older than Abigail, her age resting comfortably between Camille’s and Abigail’s. A gray cloak was wrapped around her slender, solemn figure.
“Dear Lawrence,” the older woman simpered, “I’m going to miss you dreadfully.”
“Nonsense, dear,” Lawrence said distractedly, his free hand lifted to shade against the sun, his eyes squinted so he could keep a look out for the sea sorceress who would give him his tail. “You have three young women to finish educating and seeing to. I expect I won’t be back until one of them is about to be wed or when the betrothal is confirmed.”
Abigail could imagine the sharp nails digging into her father’s arm when he yelped with alarm and pulled himself from his new wife’s hands. She didn’t blame Muriel. Imagine marrying a man just two months before and then being told she’s on her own for who knew how long!
“Mother,” the slim woman behind Muriel, the new Countess Olidan, said quietly. She quickly sidestepped around her mother and stood on her toes to quickly peck her new father’s check. “Good luck. And, with any luck, we will be seeing you soon. I expect Prince James won’t find anything lacking in the mermaid princess.”
Lawrence smiled grimly as he turned from his new step-daughter. A figure had just emerged from the sea, just a head and half of a torso with a tail flicking a short distance behind. “The princess is a difficult woman, but I hope the rest of the negotiations go without a hitch. Thank you, Madeline.”
Madeline nodded and turned to draw her indignant mother away from Lawrence, allowing Camille and Abigail to make their way to their father. It wasn’t like their farewell would be any less chilly, but, being his blood daughters, they had a natural place of honor in Lawrence’s life.
Abigail clutched at the shawl around her shoulders as she and her sister stood before their father. His dark eyes had turned on them and he studied them from head to toe, as he always did. Abigail wasn’t sure if he was memorizing what they looked like so he could have an image to compare them to when he returned or if he was looking for something to scold them about.
Before he could say anything, Camille leaned forward and gave him his customary peck on his other cheek, murmuring, “Good luck, Father. We hope to see you soon.”
Abigail never really knew how to say farewell to her father. His first trip under the sea had been mere months after she’d been born. She hadn’t seen him again until she was nearly four, when her mother had screeched at him for leaving them for so long.
With her lashes demurely and shyly lowered, she lurched forward and deposited her own peck on his cheek. Without a word, she scampered backwards towards her sister, taking comfort as Camille wrapped an arm around her shoulders. She couldn’t see her father’s glare, but she could feel it. Abigail was his shy daughter, the one he always worried would never find a husband, would always have to take care of. She tried to not let the blush touch her cheeks, already pale enough with the cold.
“Good luck, Father,” she murmured, still not meeting his eyes, when Camille gently nudged her.
“Until I return,” Lawrence said curtly.
Light splashing accompanied his movements deeper into the water, finally drawing Abigail’s eyes up from the cold sand beneath her slippered feet. She watched as the sorceress fluttered her hands just above the water, and her father slipped from view, pulled under the sea. When she had been a young girl, she remembered she’d gasped and clung to her mother, but her mother had only murmured softly and urged her to look up. A moment later, her father had popped up and flipped a tail at them, just as he was doing now. Abigail wasn’t sure if the tail flip was a wave or a natural part of gaining a fish tail, but her mother always thought of it as a wave.
Once upon a time, Lawrence had been in love. Genevieve had been young and beautiful and kind. She, the daughter of a lord from the snowy Great North, had been new to the king’s court and had instantly won Lawrence’s young heart. She had been shy, but Lawrence had been persistent. He always said Abigail reminded him best of her, and always, in wistful tones, hoped she would find a husband just as Genevieve had. If only Abigail would leave the manor now and then.
Abigail couldn’t understand how her mother, such a sweet woman, could be so happily married to a man who left her for long periods of time, but Camille had said they would have awful arguments when Abigail had been young. Over the years, things seemed to have smoothed out between them and it had worked. Twenty-four years of marriage later, though, it was over when Genevieve had been thrown from her horse and killed instantly.
A loud sniff broke through her reverie, making her turn back towards her new stepmother and stepsister. Her heart broke a little for them. They’d just joined the family and had now been abandoned by the patriarch. Madeline, as always, looked serious and stoic, but her mother was clearly unhappy and, maybe, a little angry.
Camille gently squeezed Abigail’s shoulders before moving away. Abigail didn’t mind; Camille was better with people than her. Other than some of the servants and their mother, Abigail tended to shy away from everyone. How she was going to live with a new mother and sister was beyond her.
“Don’t worry, Muriel,” Camille said in her most calming voice. “Father will be back soon enough. The betrothal is all but guaranteed. All that’s left is to determine the best time for the wedding.”
As she slowly approached, Abigail could see Muriel’s lips tighten. Camille reached out and placed a hand on Muriel’s shoulder, and a shudder went through the older woman’s body.
“The nerve of your father,” Muriel said softly, her voice husky and melodious at the same time.
“But you knew he was one of the king’s ambassadors,” Madeline put in.
Muriel turned on her daughter, making Madeline shrink into herself a little, as Camille’s hand fell away. “A husband does not leave his new wife so early on in marriage, Madeline. I raised you better than to think that way.” Her cold eyes cut over to where Abigail and Camille stood together. “Lawrence may have his heirs, but I’ll not stand for this. He put the two of you under my thumb. We’ll see how long it takes him to come to his senses.”
Muriel turned away in a swirl of pastel skirts, sweeping her daughter along with her. Abigail watched her stalk across the shimmery pink sand as the sun rose behind them. The city was starting to come alive and a few curious looks were being thrown their way, but the streets were still quiet.
Camille wrapped her arm around Abigail and gently pulled her sister along after their new mother and sister. “Come along, Gail. Everything will be fine.”
Abigail shuddered and pulled her shawl closer, the skirt of her pale green gown just barely skimming the surface of the sand. “What do you think she’ll do?”
“Who knows?” Camille said grimly. “But I’ll watch out for you.”
“You’ve always done that,” Abigail protested. “I’m twenty-two now and you’re well over marriageable age. You don’t need to protect me anymore, Camille.”
But her sister only set her jaw more firmly. “I’ll not let that woman lay a hand on you,” Camille said softly, fiercely. “Whatever you do, Gail, stay out of her way.”
“No, Abigail. I don’t trust Muriel and she’ll only get to you over my dead body.”
“Camille, I’m a grown woman, too. You don’t need to protect me.”
“Need and will are two different things.”
Abigail sighed and trudged after her sister. Camille was stubborn, which was also why she had yet to marry, and there was simply no arguing with her. Abigail knew; it never worked. Then again, Abigail tried to skirt around confrontation.
Check out Queen of the Garden of Girls