Friday 13 August 2021

Genre-Swap Short Story: Oh, Crumbs


My local writing group recently set a challenge, where we'd take a character from our books, plonk them into another genre and write a 500 word short story. So I took Ruth, my rom com heroine from the Beginner's Guide series (I was working on A Beginner's Guide To Family Life at the time) and popped her into a Downton Abbey-style historical setting. Ruth doesn't react too well to authority so it was a lot of fun to write and see how she'd handle being a maid in a manor house.

Oh, Crumbs

Oh, crumbs. Literally. I had little morsels scattered down my apron and Lady Shuttleworth was standing in the doorway of the library, her voice so crisp and icy it made the temperature in the room plummet.

    ‘What on earth are you doing in here?’
    I didn’t dare turn around. Not while my apron was littered with the evidence of the pilfered biscuit. It had seemed like a fun idea as I’d swiped the still-warm biscuit from the kitchen, relishing the little yelp of shock when Quinn spied the misdeed. Her hand covered her mouth, her eyes widening as I slipped the biscuit into my pocket. The new scullery maid was jumpy and fragile, as though a stern look could shatter her into a million pieces. She hadn’t yet learned to push the boundaries at Woodgate Manor, that these little acts of defiance were thrilling and gave a jolt of pleasure that counteracted – briefly – the drudgery of scrubbing pans and emptying chamber pots.
    But only as long as you didn’t get caught.
    I still didn’t dare turn around, but I could hear the tap of Lady Shuttleworth’s foot. I’d attempted to brush the crumbs away, with tiny, covert movements, but the room was dark, even with the door wide open, and I wasn’t convinced I’d managed to rid myself of the damning evidence.
    ‘I was looking for a bible, m’Lady.’ Leaning over to peer at the bookshelves, I furtively swiped at my apron. ‘But I cannot find one anywhere in the house.’
    My tone was innocent, but my words were shaming. Lady Shuttleworth stepped back, allowing more light to flood into the library. I had a quick peep down at my apron. I couldn’t see any crumbs, but the eagle-eyed lady of the house would pounce at the tiniest fragment.
    ‘Now isn’t the time. Lady Harper will be arriving soon for tea.’
    I almost snorted with derision but managed to catch myself in time. Lady Harper. The girl may have a husband now, but she’d always be Lindsay Shuttleworth to me. The girl whose hair I’d brushed every morning and helped to dress. The girl who’d hidden the little red marks at her throat with high necklines and scarves after a night at the funfair with her ‘respectable’ friends. The girl who’d begged me not to mention them. And I hadn’t said a word to anyone, not even to the other maids, even though the words were burning inside my mouth. Not that Lindsay – Lady Harper – was grateful. For any of it. The secrets I’d kept. The hair-brushing and the dressing. The chamber pots. Which is why nabbing one of those buttery, melt-in-the-mouth biscuits from the plate would be worth it, whatever the consequences.
    I turned, marching with my head held high from the library. Lady Shuttleworth watched me, eyes narrowed to mean little slits as I passed, but she didn’t utter a word. If there was a stray crumb, she hadn’t spotted it. I’d got away with it. Again.

If you'd like to read the Beginner's Guide series, you can find them on Amazon UK and Amazon US or you can buy signed copies here

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