Happy Sunday everyone! I apologize for my absence on the blog last week, I’ve been working on a short story that I titled Strangest Whimsy. It’s not finished yet, but I thought I’d share what I’ve written so far and see if I can get any feedback on it. I’m on a mission to improve my writing and do more of it by any means necessary, so any feedback or thoughts you have on this excerpt would be greatly appreciated!
Grace Archer woke up on a Wednesday morning in January feeling exactly like the color grey. The sky was a dull shade of colorless outside her window and she could smell a vague burning scent wafting up from the apartment below her. She forced herself to sit up in bed, blinking her eyes furiously in an effort to rid them of the last remnants of sleep.
Swinging her feet out from under the covers, she let them hit the soft rug beneath her bed and stretched, picking up her cell phone and scrolling through her appointments for the day. She tried not to wince from the slight pounding in her head as she sat up, and immediately longed to lay it back down on the pillow. Usually, Grace liked to start her days early and in a routine fashion. She always started with her morning coffee, and a breakfast of toast and berries. Usually around seven in the morning she would head to the gym for her favorite pilates class, then come back and spend almost an hour getting ready for the day before heading to work. She liked to select her outfit carefully to match the vibrations she wanted to give off. Grace Archer was a woman who understood the importance of being prepared.
But today, she wasn’t feeling it. Grace laid back down in bed, pulling the covers over her head. She had an appointment at eleven o’clock with Bethany Woods, the local socialite who owned the largest collection of formal dresses in the country, which was still several hours away. As a journalist and writer for The Local Buzz, a popular media company in Boston, Massachusetts, Grace took her career very seriously. She kept an impeccably organized calendar of her interviews and always made sure she was covering the most exciting and educational topics in the field of local gossip and culture. Recently, there had been quite a bit of enthusiasm surrounding the dress collection of Mrs. Woods, who had relocated to Boston from London, England with her mysterious and wealthy husband. Grace herself had to admit she was curious to see this vast assortment of gowns she had heard so much about. Apparently they had had a garage the size of a small warehouse attached to their luxury townhome in order to accommodate them.
Closing her eyes against her pounding headache, Grace tried to shut out any nagging feelings of guilt for not getting out of bed. It was an abominable morning and she fully intended to stay cuddled up in her blankets until the last possible second. It had been an exhaustingly long week thus far of writing days and fast paced deadlines, and she had had an awful date the night before. While Grace’s career was booming, her personal life wasn’t necessarily making headlines.
She found herself blinking out of a light doze, stretching and yawning up at the ceiling with sleepy eyes. She glanced over at her bedside clock to see that the time read 10:35. Grace flew out of bed in a panic, covers and sheets falling to the floor in an avalanche as she rocketed towards the closet and grabbed for the outfit she’d laid out the night before. The Woods townhouse was 30 minutes away from Grace’s humble westside apartment and she knew there was no way she would make it on time.
She flew about the apartment with a toothbrush in her mouth, hastily brushing her hair back into a ponytail and putting on a sock almost simultaneously. She rushed through the bare minimum of her makeup routine, dabbing on foundation and mascara as quickly as possible. She was out the door and heading towards the east side of Boston by 10:47.
Bethany Woods was, more or less, exactly what Grace had expected her to be. A spoiled, pretty blonde, who appeared to be spending her day alone in the large townhouse with no company but that of the small black and white spotted lapdog in her arms. She answered the door wearing a hot pink tracksuit with matching lipstick and smoking a cigarette.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” Grace panted, woefully out of breath. “I just have to say it’s very unlike me to be late.”
“No trouble at all dear,” Bethany smiled sweetly, exhaling a puff of smoke. “Barnaby and I are just having a leisurely morning in today aren’t we woofums?” at this she nuzzled the dog’s face with her nose and changed her voice to a higher pitch. Barnaby’s eyes bulged to an uncomfortable size, causing them to protrude from his head. “Do come in.” Bethany flashed a flawless white smile.
Grace followed the other woman through a long hallway that seemed to be teeming with small paintings, the largest of which couldn’t have been more than eight by ten inches. She examined them as best she could as she walked by, in awe of the rich colors that breathed within their frames. Golds, scarlets, and deep purples stood out starkly against a sea-green wall, and as her eyes ran over the miniature vases with flowers and the tiny squares of ocean, there was something vaguely familiar about the brushstrokes.
Bethany led Grace into a wide sitting room with a vast wall of French windows and plopped down on an ivory divan. “Sit down” she smiled again, invitingly. “Let’s get to know each other.”
Of course Grace knew that when Bethany said “Let’s get to know each other,” she really meant “Let me tell you all about my glamorous life so you can be jealous of it.” and she fully intended to listen to every word.
“Your artwork in the hallway is so unique. It’s absolutely beautiful.” Grace smoothed her hair self-consciously as she eyed Bethany’s shining straight locks.
“Oh, yes. My husband’s. He’s always painting those tiny little things out on the patio and I thought ‘Why should they go to waste?’ that hallway was much too long to do anything practical with and so that’s where we hang them.”
“Your husband is very talented.”
Bethany shrugged. “I suppose. Aren’t you here to interview me?”
Grace smiled beatifically. Bethany wasn’t the only one who could be fakely charming. “I am, and I’m absolutely thrilled to be invited into your home. Tell me Mrs. Woods, how are you enjoying Boston so far?”
“I adore Boston. There’s so much vintage charm in this part of the city. Mr. Woods grew up not too far from here you know. He told me I would love Boston. He said to me “Bethany, you would adore Boston, and every light in the city would twinkle ten times brighter once you’re in it.’ Wasn’t that romantic? Mr Woods is very romantic.”
It took Grace a moment to realize that Mr Woods was Bethany’s husband. “How nice. Can you tell me about the dresses? What inspired you to start collecting them?”
“Oh well I’ve always loved pretty things. I started my collection back in high school, when I was being invited to so many formal dances. It wouldn’t have done to show up to multiple dances in the same dress, so of course I had to source them. I bought dresses from China, Italy, Australia, Russia. Soon people started talking about my collection, and girls from school would ask to come over and see it, but I never thought about it much back then.”
“Was there a point in time where you got the idea to start the largest dress collection in the country? Or did it just kind of happen?”
“It didn’t really occur to me until much later. People started giving me dresses for birthdays, men would give them to me when I was going out with them. Eventually I met Mr. Woods, and he started buying me dresses simply all of the time. He bought me the traveling warehouse and all the fixings. That’s when I knew it was true love.”
Grace laughed along with her, inwardly rolling her eyes but outwardly smiling brightly. “Of course! I’m just dying to see the collection Bethany.”
“Oh, well let me show you then!” Bethany stood up and gestured to Grace to follow her out.