The Complications of Language and Breakfast

Author’s Note: I had a hard time getting this second piece of the challenge done. I suppose the simplest way of explaining it is that the other aspects of publishing sapped all my creativity and writing just wouldn’t happen. Not on this, not on anything. I didn’t write a word for over a week.

Today I looked at the lyrics again, and this part sparked something:

Now so much I know that things just don’t grow
If you don’t bless them with your patience
And I’ve been there before I held up the door
For every stranger with a promise

~First Aid Kit, “Emmylou”

And I was able to write more for the upcoming serial.

The Complications of Language and Breakfast

“Here,” Stratford said, holding out the fork to the boy. “Try this.”

Eyes wide, their terrified gaze held on the implement in front of him, the boy shrunk back against the headboard, trying to disappear into the bed. He let out a stream of unintelligible words, protesting as he tried to hide or escape, and Stratford frowned.

“I think he thinks I mean to hurt him when I am only trying to get him to eat,” he said, turning back to Whistler in frustration. “I wish I could make him understand, but even when he speaks more, I get no sense of the words that he uses. His speech is unlike any language I’m familiar with.”

“We do have no sense of his origin. He could be from anywhere,” Whistler reminded him, keeping his tone gentle. He went around to the other side of the bed. Taking the cup from the tray, he held it out to the child, waiting for the boy’s trembling to cease.

After a moment, the boy sat up and peered at the cup. His nose wrinkled, and he shook his head, rejecting the offer. He glanced toward the tray, hesitating before reaching for a small piece of fruit. He studied it with a frown.


“I’m not sure what that means,” Stratford said, taking a piece for himself, “but it is safe to eat.”

The boy watched him eat the bite and then coughed, rolling over in the pillows until his injuries reminded him of their presence. Grimacing, he straightened up and threw the fruit at Stratford.

“I can see he shares your table manners,” Whistler observed dryly, and Stratford glared at him.

The boy picked up a piece of bread and bite into it, chewing it down with an expression Stratford found difficult to decipher. He swallowed it with what seemed like difficulty, but when Whistler renewed his offer of tea, the boy shook his head again.

“He does not seem to like tea.”

“An unforgivable sin, according to your mother.”

Whistler smiled. “Yes, well, I happen to believe it is an acquired taste. Perhaps another flavour would suit him. He does not care for your favourite kind of fruit, either. I also would suggest that may have been the source of his reaction to the fork.”

Frowning, Stratford saw that the boy was actually playing with his fork now, using it to push around the food on the plate. “I take it you don’t want anything else that’s on there?”

The boy pointed his fork at Stratford.

He blinked. “I may just have been threatened.”

“Amusing.” Whistler did not sound amused, but under the circumstances, it almost was comical. The boy had suffered grave injuries and should have died, either from them or the fever that wanted to carry him off, but he would seem to be braver than his wounds. Or perhaps he believed a threat from a fork was a custom everyone here used, which would be Stratford’s fault, though far from his intention.

Stratford grunted. “How are we going to explain what happened? To ask him about his family or how he ended up on that shore? We cannot even communicate about food.”

“Patience,” Whistler advised. “We will learn. After all, we now what mish means, and that is a start, certainly more than you had before.”

Stratford nodded, sighing as he did. He pointed to the fruit again. “Mish?”

The boy’s face crinkled with distaste. “Mish.”

Stratford pointed to the utensil in the boy’s hand. “Fork.”

He had to duck when the boy threw it at him. Shaking his head, he watched the child, uncertain if he did have enough patience to learn the boy’s language or teach him theirs. Maybe it would have been easier if he had found some sign, someone else to give the child to, or even if the boy had died.

Writing Again

Despite the fact that the last two days have really wanted to put me into tears, there remains some… good has come out of them. One of those things was that I got myself writing again.

The whole indecision and insecurity set right in, unfortunately. I’d started out to write the opening scene and ended up with a flashback. I do like the flashback, though. I have a feeling my supporting characters (Stratford & Whistler) might just upstage Dare, who is the main.

Anyway, since I am writing again, here is a teaser from my new historical mystery possibly scifi thing.

The Playtime Habits of Boys

“He’s up there in the trees again, isn’t he?” Stratford Morren said, joining his steward on the balcony. This had become familiar to all of them, a routine that they only pretended to be irritated by these days. The boy he’d taken into his home and later his heart had a smile and a manner that let him escape punishment for nearly every wrong and endeared him to everyone in the house, especially the cook. She loved to spoil him, thinking his every antic was both adorable and worth a reward. Had the boy less energy and enthusiasm for outdoor activities, he would be too large too move from his bed.

As it was, though, his son was almost always to be found in the heights of one of the estate’s many trees or even on the roof. Soon enough he would be old enough to scale the cliff, and that day was one Stratford was not yet ready to see. “I swear that boy should have been born with wings. Though if he was, that would only make things more difficult with Mrs. Frye, who is determined to see him as an angel.”

“Devils have wings as well,” Whistler said, and Stratford frowned. While some of their neighbours still disapproved of Dare’s presence among them, unusual foundling that he was, Whistler had been the one to watch over him in those early days, hardly leaving the child’s side until he had recovered from his fever. Stratford had always assumed that Whistler was as fond of the boy as he was.

“You would condemn the lad that way? I thought it was only that self-righteous hypocrite Lord Underwood that did that.”

Had Whistler’s mother not been a right terror who was prone to whack anyone—noble or servant alike—if she heard them using any kind of foul language, the steward might have had a few choice words for the earl, but even a full decade after that woman’s demise, he still restrained himself as she would have demanded.

“Lord Underwood is an ignorant man who knows nothing of anything beyond his own nose,” Whistler observed instead, folding his arms behind his back. “As for the matter of wings…”


“They would, perhaps, lessen the risk of him injuring himself when he falls,” Whistler said dryly, looking up at the tree with a shudder. In all the years Stratford had known him—they had been raised almost as brothers—he had never cared for any kind of height. Dare was the opposite—that boy seemed to have an aversion to being on the ground.

“He has yet to fall in all the time he’s lived here,” Stratford said. “I find it unlikely that he will do so now. Such a thing would almost be a sin against nature itself.”

Whistler snorted. “Mother would have you for blasphemy.”

“Your mother thought every word out of my mouth was blasphemy,” Stratford reminded him, and Whistler fought against a smile. Amusing as the words were, they were very near truth. He was forever considered a poor influence, one that seemed to overcome Whistler’s natural practicality and good sense.

“I think, perhaps, it is time you get him down from there.”

“I suppose,” Stratford said. He frowned, looking for the slight shift in the leaves that might betray his son’s presence.

“Is there a reason that you do not want him to get out of the tree?”

Stratford considered that. He did not know that he objected to Dare climbing trees, not like others would, nor did he fear that his son would fall and injure himself. Something else about the boy’s behaviour had him troubled, and yet he had not felt it until now. “When was the last time he went down to the lake?”

Whistler frowned, his brow wrinkling in a way that made him seem much older than a man of eight and twenty, a condition that Stratford feared was permanent. “Now that you mention it, I do not think that he has been there in well over a month. At least—I am used to him returning in a state of filthiness that befits his time in the trees and not the cleansing he used to get at the lake.”

“These are the warmest days of the summer,” Stratford said, shaking his head. “What boy with unrestricted access to water would not be there to spite this damned heat?”

“You say that because you were always there yourself in the summer, but you know he is not like you. His interests lie elsewhere.”

Stratford grimaced. “I do not think he will ever understand the complexities of why he cannot be the same friend he was before with Cadence. I swear he doesn’t realize she’s female half the time and he doesn’t see why she has a governess and lessons on ladylike behaviour when he is still free.”

“He is rather spoiled—and yet rather unspoiled.”

“Yet that is not enough to explain his sudden avoidance of the lake. He enjoyed being there before, so why won’t he go there now, when the heat’s at its worst?”

Whistler sighed. “Must everything make you suspicious?”

“It is my duty. I am responsible for the law around here.”

Whistler snorted. “Try telling that to Lord Underwood.”