UPON occasion, I write short stories that I will give out as freebies. At other times, I write articles about the writing craft, as well as other whimsies. And, now and again, I will give you a peek of my WIPs. On this page you will find it all.
I am working on three (yes, three) WIPs at the moment. This one is an excerpt from my Cozy Mystery novella, Rhapsody in Black (part of my Rhapsody series), about a ballerina who finds a dead body. Shooting for a mid-2023 release, God willing (Copyright 2022 by Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra)
RHAPSODY IN BLACK
By Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra ©2022
With eyes closed, Elena del Carral sank and rose slowly into her warmup routine. She was alone in studio 4 of the National Terpsichore Ballet in New York City, taking advantage of the forty minutes of personal time before the rehearsal, which was to be followed by the audition.
The role of a lifetime, if chosen as principal.
Or so everyone said.
Elena wasn’t that enthused. She suspected there was more to this invitation to audition than met the eye. Add to that her own personal reluctance and fears about finally disclosing the secret her mother had held close to her vest for more than ten years, and she’d have a problem of major proportions. Well, not a problem, per se. But Elena knew her revelations about Black Rhapsody would not be welcomed or applauded. Uh-uh. After the initial shock, the brokering would be fierce, not to mention the jealousy and bickering that would ensue. Elena simply wasn’t ready for it. Ergo, her reason for dithering during the past five years after her mother’s death whether as to disclose the secret or not.
And yet, this time, they’d forced her hand. Things could not remain as they’d been. And all because of the stubborn arrogance and conceit of Broderick Newsom, Terpsichore’s in-house choreographer cum artistic director.
Warm up. Warm up. Warm up. Ignore everything for the moment.
Elena forced herself to tune out conflicting thoughts and the normal murmurs, piano undertones, thuds from jumps, and the occasional seven, eight, and a one filtering through the walls and closed doors. She needed to warm up to her own music, her own tempo—detach from the world. She must focus on her body and muscles, her form, even when, today, her routine wasn’t going smoothly. She was not at her best, by any measure. Her muscles groaned and protested. Her feet popped. She was stiff and tight. Then again, what the heck did she expect?
She was still jetlagged, pissed, and disturbed. In that order.
Well…no, that wasn’t the order, exactly. Elena sighed. Disturbed and pissed should be the sequence of priority. The lingering jetlag was not an issue. She could handle that at any given day.
FO-CUS, she chided.
Tendu front. Flex. Point. Close fifth. Demi-plié.
Leg movement sequenced into a grand port des bras, stretching her arm and lower back forward until her nose pressed against her knees. She crossed her arms behind her ankles and leaned further into the stretch, her upper body melding into her thighs in a seamless line. Her spine popped in two places. Now that felt good. She feline-stretched out and up, bent waist sideways into the barre, and continued the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree port de bras, assuring an overall lengthening of her deltoids and… Her sudden chuckle bounced around the empty room. Good grief. She was now sprouting jargon like the company’s physical therapist.
Elena studied her form on the wall-to-wall mirror opposite the barre. In the reflected image of the cavernous rehearsal room, she resembled a stick figure bisecting the wall. She squinted, corrected a few things and, a few neck pops later, sus-soused into fifth, lifted her left leg into a high passé, and held her balance for a few seconds. Ever so slowly, she closed on fifth.
She started humming a familiar Chopin piano piece and added more degages, followed with grand plies, and finished the sequence with rond de jambes par terre and en l’air. By the time she reached her développés and grande battements, her entire body was soaked in sweat, her ballet slippers leaving small imprints on the floor as she walked over to her overstuffed bag by the door.
Flopping on the floor, she drank long and hard from her favorite hydration drink mix and blotted her sweat. Scavenging through her ballet bag, she found pointe shoes and rehearsal skirt, and dropped both by her hips. She spread her legs in a final à la seconde split, shifted her split position right and left to maximize stretch, and, finally, lay supine, soaking up more sweat.
She hoped Fredrik Boelens, her colleague from Ballets Etudes and partner for the Gala, would arrive soon. She wanted busy. She wanted light fun. Fred’s cheerfulness was contagious, and his lack of guile was always refreshing. She really didn’t want to think about the audition and what the reveal would entail.
TO BE CONTINUED…
I am working on three (yes, three) WIPs at the moment. This one is an excerpt from my Sweet Romance novella, A Flower from Keanu. Shooting for a February release, God willing (Copyright 2022 by Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra)
A FLOWER FROM KEANU
By Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra ©2022
The town of Hidden Glen has many secrets, but none more mysterious than the Christmas flower, which blooms rarely.
Legend recounts that when the blossoms unfold to release their fragrance, fortune shifts for those whom the scent caresses.
Cassandra Finlay sat in the front pew, alone as usual.
The priest was late.
Poor man. Not his fault. In this small community of Hidden Glen, he was the only clergy within a seventy-eight-mile radius to bless and shoo souls on to a better place. He had explained and apologized to Cassie over the phone about the unexpected emergency, which had dragged him to the retirement home in the next town to give last rites. That took precedence to those who’d already departed.
Cassie had told the priest not to worry, despite the fact the delay would add about forty-five minutes or so to the funeral mass. After all, there was no hurry on her end. Her mother, Althea Finley, was already dead, the casket closed. Better to take care of the living first, or almost living.
She smoothed the only black dress she owned and walked to the funeral home attendants. She advised them to leave the casket near the altar and come back in half-an-hour or so. It shouldn’t be a problem for them, she knew.
It was a slow day for death at Hidden Glen.
She wrote and taped a short explanatory note on top of her mother’s blown-up photograph next to the casket, fussed over the flower arrangement she’d created, and acknowledged the two people praying quietly way back near the door.
Such a crowd.
Her lips moved in an attempt at humor, but what ended etched on her face was a slit of deprecation.
Her mother had been mostly liked when living, and occasionally disliked for her bitterness and ornery behavior. But after her illness took over, Althea had become monstrous, so much so, Cassie had taken full reign of the business seven years ago and had kept her mother at home. On those rare occasions when Cassie had to bring Althea along on errands for the business, her mother would embarrass or insult anyone around, particularly her. She remembered one memorable moment when she was buying stock for the flower shop. Cassie had brought her mother along because the latest woman who’d taken care of her at home had quit. She’d wheeled her mom around the beautiful flowers in the hothouse, an activity that used to soothe and delight her. But Althea would not be appeased, particularly because she’d been taken off her routine and by her daughter, her nemesis. She’d gotten so out of control, Cassie had been asked to leave, management not understanding that the disease, not the woman, was misbehaving. To top things off, at the car, when Cassie had taken out the water bottle and given her mom a drink, Althea had given her the look, something between malice aforethought, utter hatred, and revenge, and had dribbled all the water in her mouth on Cassie’s shoes, spit and all.
Onlookers had been horrified. Cassie’s heart had broken for the thousandth time. Dementia, not the Alzheimer’s everyone thought all dementia was, had been a merciless enemy. Brutal.
God, she didn’t want to remember her mother this way.
But her mother’s psychiatrist had warned her this would happen. He also said it would take time for her to heal and forgive.
Sitting there, alone, Cassie stared at the beautiful crucifix high above the altar. Unlike Her Savior on the cross, who’d at least had his family surrounding Him at the moment of death, she had no one. She would have loved to remind the town, like all other moments during the past seven years, how different Althea had been in health. Bitter, true, but she’d had ample reason. A philandering husband had abandoned her way back when. He’d simply packed his bags one day and left to parts unknown, latest mistress in tow. He’d never come back. He’d never called his daughter. Cassie had had a lifetime of fatherly no-shows. And that abandonment had scarred and branded her mother.
So had most in Hidden Glen.
The town…well, the townspeople had made sure Althea never forgot she was the third-wheel at parties, the woman married women needed to watch out for, just in case. It made for a very lonely life. The flower shop had been the only saving grace. The blossoms had replaced love and companionship, had made Althea’s life colorful and beautiful. The rest of the empty time was dedicated to Cassie.
Cassie had thought the doctors had been exaggerating when they’d warned her things would get worse, the disease acquiring all negative personality traits of her mother and magnifying them ten-fold. They’d also warned the brunt of Althea’s behavior would laser focus on the caregiver, which meant, regrettably, her. Well, the illness, indeed, had exponentially magnified Althea’s hidden bitterness. And while Cassie understood the change, the constant barrage of nastiness had taken a toll on her.
And if anyone had ever bothered to find out, Cassie would have shown the emotional scars she bore.
TO BE CONTINUED…
A while ago, I was challenged to write a horror short story in two sentences. Well, I took up the challenge. Here it is.
I was awake, frozen in time, my body lax, without will of movement, without stimulus, yet aware.
And when the spark emerged within the soft folds of my nightgown, I knew my death would be a spontaneous combustion death, my body consumed in a slow burn for many agonizing hours.