Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Excerpt: Pumpkins And Proms


Blurb

Sent to Grimm Academy by her jealous step-mother, Ella is determined to make the most of the opportunity. 

With her friends by her side, and her dress-making lessons with Rapunzel progressing well, she's starting to think she can avoid her prophecy after all. But when her dress is ruined the night before a masked ball, she has to face the truth. 

Can she stop her prophecy by midnight? 


Please note: this excerpt is unedited and is subject to change. Copyright 2020, Laura Greenwood.

Excerpt: Pumpkins And Proms


 2 Years Ago...
I creep towards the door, hoping Father and his wife aren't paying enough attention and don't realise I'm coming to eavesdrop on them. Father won't mind, he doesn't keep secrets from me. But my step-mother is another story. She hates me, and I'm not sure why.
Somewhere in the depths of our manor home, my step-sisters are laughing. They're probably mocking one of the servants again. I wish they wouldn't do that. None of them deserve it, but nothing will convince Denise and Rebekkah it's wrong, no matter how hard I've tried.
"I think it's time to send her away," my step-mother says.
"No," Father answers instantly. "Sixteen is too young. She should be here with her family for longer."
"You're impossible, Richard. She's not a child any more. If you want to make her a good marriage, then she has to be educated."
"I don't want to send Ella away," he protests.
I press myself against the wall after checking over my shoulder to make sure no one is coming down the corridor. I'm not sure what will happen if I'm found lurking here.
"You don't have to be the one to tell her," my step-mother replies. "I can do that for you. She'll be better off with people her own age."
I purse my lips. Don't her charming daughters count as people my own age? Not that I particularly want to spend any time with them. In fact, if it didn't mean I'll have to leave Father, then I may have gone gladly simply to be away from them. They're cruel and spiteful, and will do anything to keep other people down. Just like their mother.
Father is silent for longer than I want him to be. Just like the other arguments they've had, I know she'll win. She knows exactly what buttons to press to get him to do what she wants, and there's nothing I can do about it.
He sighs. "Fine. But I'll be the one to tell her. Can you call for her? I'll do it now."
The rustle of skirts is the first indication she's coming this way.
My eyes widen, and I scamper off down the corridor. There's a reading room a couple of doors down, I can pretend to have been there the entire time. I turn into the room, grateful it's empty. Though I shouldn't be surprised, my step-sisters don't understand the joy of reading a good book. I wish they did. I'd love to spend more time with people my age.
A tug on my dress calls my attention. I untangle it from the jagged piece of door frame. I should tell Father about it. He'll have it seen to in a day.
I sit down and open the book I left on the table last time I was in here. I can't remember what it is, but it hardly matters. My step-mother will be here any moment, I won't even get a page read.
As if on cue, she sweeps through the door, her out-of-fashion bell skirt swinging around her hips. The smug expression on her face would tell me something is up, except that she always wears it when she's talking to me. I'm not sure what I ever did to her, other than exist, and that can't be it. I don't think.
"I've been looking for you all over," she says, as if it hasn't only been a couple of minutes since she was in Father's office. Of course, I'm not supposed to know that, but it isn't the point.
"I didn't realise you were looking for me," I reply in the most polite voice I can muster. As far as I know, she's never had reason to suspect I hate her as much as she hates me.
"Your Father wants to see you." She sneers at me.
"Thank you." I set my book down and rise to my feet. "I'll go see him now."
My heart pounds as I make my way past her. I don't know why I let her get to me, but it's hard not to be affected by her. She never says anything that could get back to Father, she's clever like that.
She sticks her arm out, stopping me from leaving the room. I look up at her with the most innocent eyes I can.
"I hear you'll be leaving home soon," she says, clear malintent in her eyes.
I raise an eyebrow. "This will always be my home," I remind her sweetly. "It's where my family live." She doesn't have to know that family only refers to my Father. It's a version of my own petty revenge on her. I know I shouldn't see it like that, but I can't help it.
"Does Father not want to see me now?" I ask, stressing the word.
She narrows her eyes. Probably because she thinks sixteen-year-old girls aren't worth her time. Her lips purse, but she lets me past.
I walk down the corridor, trying not to give in to the desire to glance over my shoulder and see if she's following me.
Once I get to Father's study again, I knock on the door.
"Come in," he calls.
I step inside, swishing my skirts to the side to avoid one of the many chairs strewn around the room. I'll never understand why he needs so many. I think he makes them. 
"You wanted to see me, Father?" I say as I go over to him.
He opens his arms to me and pulls me in for a hug. I kiss both his cheeks.
"You look well, Ella," he says once we've pulled apart.
I sit on one of the cushioned chairs next to his. "You say that every day," I point out.
"Because it's true."
Ah. I see what he's doing. He doesn't want to have the awkward conversation with me, so he's doing everything possible to flat out ignore it. I want this over with so I can start planning.
"You wanted to see me?" I remind him.
He sighs.
"I hate to do this to you, Ella..."
Then why are you? I don't voice my thought aloud, it isn't worth it. I love Father, but he's not a strong enough man to say no to her.
"But it's time you went to academy."
I nod, but don't say anything else.
"Grimm Academy offered you a place a couple of years ago..."
"Why am I only hearing about it now?" I blurt.
Father chuckles. "Because I couldn't stand the thought of sending you away."
What's changed? I don't ask that. I know the answer. A couple of years, she wasn't on the scene.
"When am I going?" It's the only question I can think of that I need to know the answer for. At least, the only one I can ask him.
"The end of the week."
I nod. That's enough time to get things together. I don't bother asking how long I'm going for, or when I could come home, I'll find those answers out soon enough.
"I have something for you, though," he says.
I perk up. Father isn't a man who gives a lot of gifts. He doesn't believe it shows true affection. Though that's probably a way of getting out of the demands of his wife. But for me, it makes any presents he gives me worth even more.
He pulls open a drawer and takes out a box. He pushes it towards me.
I frown, confused about what it could be.
"Open it," he insists.
Slowly, I lift the lid and gasp. A beautiful watch rests on the velvet cushion. Instead of a pocket chain, it's on a long necklace style loop. "Father..."
"It was mine when I was at my own academy. I had it reset so you can wear it around your neck instead of in your pocket," he mumbles.
"Thank you." I lean in and kiss him on the cheek again. "It's beautiful."
I take the watch out of the box and loop it around my neck. It used to be his. That's the most wonderful thing about this present.
"Thank you, Father. I promise I'll always treasure it."
He smiles dotingly at me. "I know you will, Ella. But promise me one thing?"
"Yes?"
"Be careful. You know your prophecy. Don't take any unnecessary risks."
"I promise, I will be." I'll be on the look out. But what are the chances of something like that coming true at an academy? I have no doubt I'll be perfectly safe there.

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