Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: No Time for Goodbyes

Hello, all! It snowed in London today (while I hear it was 56 degrees in Ithaca - oh the irony) which was rather lovely, actually - my flatmate made delicious chicken soup and I made delicious crepes, and it was a good day.

Now, before I go off to write a comparison paper on Les Liasons Dangereuses (excellent) and Valmont (terrible), I give you a teaser! In this, Maire is off to meet her mysterious benefactor (I still need something to call him... any suggestions?), which means leaving her family behind forever.



She crept down the ladder, careful not to make a sound as she moved. The dirt floor silenced her footsteps well, but she could not force herself to simply creep outside without another glance. Everything seemed to be thrown into sharp relief in the moonlight – the dying fire with their cracked plates stacked beside it, her plate still sitting alone on the shelf. The socks still sat where she had abandoned them the day before, still hopelessly unmended, half-hidden in the corner. Her family slept huddled together under their two miserable, threadbare blankets, and Maire forced herself to look at them one last time. She tugged the blanket more securely up over her siblings’ shoulders – it was just big enough for all three of them, now that she was not there. And then – boldly, half-hoping he would wake and make her explain and refuse to let her go – she leaned down and kissed her father on the cheek.

But he did not wake, and the sky was slowly shifting towards grey instead of black. Dawn was coming, and it was time for her to go. And so she did, pushing open the door, hearing the creak of the hinges for the last time, and stepping out into the cold morning air. She thought she felt the breath punched from her lungs, but she ignored it and walked on. That is all that this would take – not thinking, simply putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again.

It was an art that Maire had mastered over the last two years of desperation. Just keep going. Don’t think. Just take one step, and then the next.

And so she walked, one foot at a time, into the morning.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughts from Places: How to Commute

So I woke up yesterday morning at 7:45 and grumbled about the dark and the early because I am a college student and that's what college students do. (Also, England is farther north than you would think it is, since it's so warm here, and so the sun rises around 8 and sets around 4:30.) I was the only one up in the flat, because I had to eat and get dressed and catch a bus to Fulham to start my first actually full day of work.

There is a thing about buses in London, other than the fact that sitting on the top of a double-decker bus is outrageously cool. If you look up the time that a journey will take you on the Transport for London website, they are lying to you. Granted, I like to err on the side of caution, but still. It does not take thirty minutes to get from my flat to my internship. It takes fifteen. Tops. Another thing about double-decker buses is that if you sit on the top in the front, there's a windshield in front of you, just like there would be in the front of a regular bus or car. And from a good six feet in the air, looking down onto the street feels a bit like you are going to crash into absolutely everything in front of you. There have been many occasions - and I've only ridden the bus six times now - when I have thought OH GOD WE ARE GOING TO HIT THAT CAR or OH GOODNESS THERE'S A PERSON RIDING A BIKE DOWN THERE THEY'RE GOING TO BE FLATTENED. This is especially true when the bus you are on is going way too fast, honking at pedestrians and cars trying to pass when the bus is trying to turn, and generally lurching about (ie my Wednesday morning commute).

So after a harrowing ten minutes that left me at my stop fully half an hour before I needed to be there, I decided to take a walk. There really isn't much of anything besides houses in this area of London - they're really lovely houses, it makes me feel like I'm walking through the set of Mary Poppins (and I did, in fact, sing a bit of Chim Chim Cher-ee to myself because I'm cool like that), with all the neat roofs and chimneys and the pretty little front gardens.

Speaking of front gardens:

Yes, that is in fact a blooming rose bush. In JANUARY.

Have I mentioned how much I love London?

I spent my extra half an hour wandering around, looking at the roses in the gardens and the neat little houses, and I ended my wander by walking across the street from my internship's building to the Thames walk.

It was one of those moments - and I still have them now and again, even though I'm getting used to the idea - when it hit me that I live here. For four months, at least, I live in London, a beautiful city that barely feels like a city, a place that's full of history and culture and people speaking so many different languages I can't even identify them all. A city where I can see mockingbirds in the trees and and ducks on the Thames, where I can see roses in front gardens when in Ithaca, it's snowing away. A city that isn't a miracle or a dream or perfection, but a very real place, and it's the place that I'm lucky enough to explore for now.

And, at the end of a long day of searching Shutterstock for the least ridiculous images so I can put them into books, it's the place where I get to get onto a double-decker bus and lurch through the traffic, nearly hitting pedestrians and bikers, until I get to walk the last few blocks in the dark, back to the place I am, for now, calling home.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Consequences

So... I have another teaser for you today! I do hope you guys are enjoying these. This story is kind of tricky for me to write, but I'm liking it all the same, and I hope you are too.

This is from right after Maire's accepted the stranger's job offer, and after she's been told that her acceptance of it means that she must leave her old life, including her family, behind her forever.


Maire sat beside the road for what seemed an eternity. Once she had shaken the strange man’s hand, he had told her to run along. She had not needed to be told twice, but when she turned only a moment later to look back at him, he was simply gone, with no sign of him on the road in either direction or in the fields beyond. He had vanished, a puff of smoke on the breeze, leaving nothing but his strange mix of promises and threats.

She had to meet him there tomorrow at dawn. And when she did, she would never see her family again.

Staring straight ahead, she sat and watched the empty road and the few people who traversed it now and again without really seeing anything. Her swirling thoughts could not be contained, and she felt as if her head would burst from the confusion of it all. How was she to think of this? Was it a miracle or a curse? It seemed to be both at once – a strange man had appeared from nowhere and had offered her the chance to escape, the guarantee she had been lacking to make her leave home in search of a better life, but it came at the cost of her family. Here was exactly the opportunity that they needed to save them, but it would not help them, not in any way. Maire was not certain why she believed what the strange man said, but something about him made her quite certain that he would have a way of enforcing his cruel restrictions. She had no way of knowing how he might go about doing that. She had no way of knowing what sort of work he had in mind for her.

She had accepted a job from him and had not even thought to ask his name.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some Things About London

I have been in London for a whole week now (!!!), and so I guess I am qualified to tell you guys a few things that I have learned so far.

Thing 1: London is gorgeous. I'm a complete history nerd, so I am so excited to simply walk down the street and see all the ornate old buildings.

THIS is the street that I go to school on:

And THIS is the Natural History Museum:


Look at all the pretty! :D

I just love walking around in London; I'm used to NYC, which has a completely different feel to it. London feels much more open and airy (and clean), like it spreads outwards forever instead of upwards forever.

Thing 2: I still do not fully understand English traffic. There are NO STOP SIGNS here. And yes, everyone knows that they drive on the wrong side of the road, but that didn't really hit me until I was trying to cross the street for the first time. I'm being super super super careful about that.

Thing 3: All the outlets have switches on them. I discovered this initially at the hotel, when my laptop wouldn't register that it was plugged in even though I had plugged it in, and I realized that the second switch by the outlet wasn't for a lamp that wasn't working, but for the outlet itself. Unfortunately, when we got to our flat, we did not realize that the refrigerator was plugged in but not, in fact, switched on. So we accidentally froze some apples and tomatoes and things. Whoops. Made for some pretty good tomato sauce, though.

I feel like I had more to say, but my brain seems to be shutting down for the night. I've gotten over the jet lag, of course (jet lag is eeeeeeeeeeeevil) but still, the time change does seem to have set me into a wake-up-in-the-mornings and go-to-bed-really-early schedule. Not sure how much I like that just yet; we'll see.

There'll be more London stuff ahead, I assure you!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: A Mysterious Stranger


It is so beautiful and wonderful here. I love it. I love my flat and the walk to class and the delicious hot chocolate and all the old buildings that surround me everywhere...

But I'm still in the process of formulating a coherent first-London-blog, so in the meantime, and because it is Tuesday, have a teaser!

Background: Maire has had a really rough day. The night before, her family was threatened with eviction, and now, she's just been thrown out of the pub where she was asking for work. And then she stumbles across this guy...



“Having some ill luck today, I see.”

Maire jumped at the sound of a voice. She was just outside the town now, surrounded only by fallow fields and a few sheep, and she had not expected to see a man leaning calmly against a stone mile marker, watching her with dark eyes. He smiled, nodding his head towards her.

Cén chaoi a bhfuil tú?” he asked.

“What’s it to you?” she snapped, ignoring his salutation. She sensed a sharp edge to his polite words.

Maire looked at him suspiciously, unable to think why a man would be standing so nonchalantly in the road when he ought to be doing something more useful. He seemed cleaner than most people Maire knew, with a face free of grime and dark red hair like hers, but while hers was swept back in a haphazard and hay-like braid, his was combed and neat. His clothes were not fine, but they were clean, like his face, and they were not threadbare and tattered as hers were. Why was a man like this standing in a road watching her? He looked far too neat to be there; he did not belong in this place, for he was not desperate like the people or empty like the fields – he seemed far too hard, far too solid, and Maire did not trust him.

“I’ve taken an interest, is all. I’ve seen you here before, you know. You are not a hard thing to miss – all the fighting for scraps, all the pounding on doors. You aren’t one to give in easily, are you?”

“No,” she said. “I’m not. What do you want?”

The man grinned at her, a sly gesture that snaked sideways along his mouth. Maire did not like that smile; it sent a chill down her spine, although she had no idea why. She watched him, tense and ready to run, waiting for him to answer, but he took his time. He paused a moment, pulling something out of his pocket. Maire’s eyes widened as she saw him spin it in his fingers – it was a gold coin, glinting bright and magical in the sunlight. She was mesmerized watching it move through his hands, spinning a web around his fingers, glowing bright like a promise. Finally, the man stopped, hiding the miraculous coin in his pocket again. When he saw Maire gawking at him, he chuckled softly, the sly smile growing just a bit wider.

“I’ve a proposition for you, Maire Finn.”

Everything snapped back into place then; the golden magic was forgotten, and Maire felt as though someone had just pulled the earth out from beneath her feet.

“I never said that was my name.”

“No, but there’s no use in denying it. I know quite well who you are.”

“You don’t. You don’t know me at all.”

She took a step backwards, away from the strange man, glancing momentarily towards the town she had left behind. She could still run away, she would be safe from this stranger at the docks, with other people nearby – wouldn’t she?

“Oh, but I do,” the man said, waving his hand as thought it were nothing at all. “I know a great deal about you, Maire. You aren’t one to give in without a fight. And this winter, when the snow was as high as your head and so many of those you knew were slowly dying around you, you swore that you would survive, no matter what it took.”

Maire could only stare at him. There was no way he could know that. There was no way he could know the dark promises she had made to herself in the most desperate blizzards of the winter. She had told no one – he could not possibly know that she had determined, then and there, that no one was going to watch her die. That she would do whatever it took, whether that was fighting or thieving or working, to put just one more step between her and the grasping, greedy fingers of death.

“You did say that, aren’t I right?”

She nodded, completely dumbfounded. She wanted to run, but her feet would not unstick from the road and her legs refused to move. Whatever golden web this man had woven, he had caught her in it, sure as anything.

“Aren’t you interested in my proposition, then?”

“What is it?”

“I have a job in mind for you. There are conditions, of course-”

“I’ll take it,” she said, the words tumbling instantaneously from her mouth.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Happy New Year, Blogosphere! And so, new year, new blog stuff - because come Monday, I will be here:

And I will be going to look at THIS in person:

I will not, however, be getting on this:

That's right, I will be spending all of next semester in the magical land of England, in the magical city of London! AAAH SO EXCITED AAAH. (Also a little bit terrified. Mostly about being on a plane for seven and a half hours above an ocean and not screwing things up regarding plane tickets and immigration and finding a place to live. Eeeeee. But mostly REALLY EXCITED.)

What I thought I'd do with the blog while I'm there is to have normal writing posts on Tuesdays - so, teasers, advice, general ramblings, et cetera - and then London-centric or travel-centric posts on Thursdays, with lots of pictures and tips and other random things I come across in my adventures. What do you think?

Now, I know I've been a bad blogger so no one will probably even notice this, but this will probably be my last post until I get my internet set up in my flat, which might take a week or two. But after that, I promise to actually update things! Last semester involved 18 credits of hell, but next semester involves only three classes and an internship (!!!) and also London. So I will have lots to talk about!

If anyone has anything that they'd like me to talk about later, please leave suggestions in the comments! And I will see you all from the other side of the pond!