Copyright 2009 by Julianne Douglas
She heard his tentative steps on the stairs, the stifled curse when he tripped on the landing. He eased open the chamber door, blinking like a startled mole when the light from her lamp fell upon his face. “Wife. You don’t sleep.” His cheek twitched, a telltale sign of his discomfort.
“Hush. Come in and shut the door.” He shuffled into the room, mouth slack and eyes bleary. “What happened? Did that fool of a farrier lighten your purse again?”
The hand he ran through his hair left a trail of haphazard spikes in its wake. “Had a bit of bad luck, is all. I’ll make it up tomorrow.” He loosened the thong of his smock and pulled the garment over his head, lingering long within its folds. His ribs strained against the pale skin of his chest.
Jollande turned back to the table and wiped her pen. “Remember the poem I’ve been working on? The one about Diana and her bow? I just finished it.” She hated the false brightness in her voice.
The bed creaked as he sat down. “Diana?” The unfamiliar name foundered on a ragged belch.
“The goddess of the moon. The virginal huntress.” She hesitated, then turned and held a sheet out towards him. “You may read it if you’d like.”
“Goddess? Could she help me win tomorrow?” Arnault chuckled, pleased at his own cleverness. He waved the paper away. “Show it to your friends in town. It’s wasted on me.” He yanked off a shoe and tossed it to the floor. The caged finches erupted in a paroxysm of frightened twitters when the wooden heel smacked the boards. Arnault groaned and covered his ears with his hands.
Jollande released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. As she swung around to return the paper to the desk, her elbow bumped the ink pot, overturning it. Channeled into grooves scored by her pen, the dark ink sketched a feathery web of half-formed letters and superimposed words as it spread across the tabletop.
Arnault’s voice rose to a pitiful wheedle. “Come to bed, wife. Perchance my luck will take a turn for the better.” He slumped back on the bolster, cheeks flushed, eyes watery slits. By the time Jollande wiped up the mess, Arnault had fallen asleep.
I'll post about the conference as soon as I return. Say a prayer my work gets a better reception than poor Jollande's poem did!