As I have said, I am an avid writer of historical fiction, and I really would love to share with you all a bit of the story which is set in 1924 in India. You should get the idea, but I’ll just post one chapter to start. Please comment what you think! Thank you!
The girl lounged on the wicker chair and soaked in the evening heat. The fiery orange sun was slowly setting on the city of Delhi, and there was a pleasant buzz of insects in the air. If you really strained your ears you could just make out the noise of the big city in the distance. That was what the girl loved about her house. It was far enough away from the city to be quiet, but close enough for her father to commute to work, and for Akane to buy necessities and for cook to buy food. The garden
fountains and herb gardens with their exotic smells. She just wanted to sit on the veranda and read her book. Unfortunately, there was a droning noise in the background which was preventing her from concentrating fully on her novel.
“Evelyn Maystone! Have you heard a single word I’ve said? I didn’t think so. You are the most irritating child I’ve ever had the misfortune to teach!” The droning noise turned into a screech as Miss White noticed the girl’s absent look on her face.
“Did you hear a single word? Did you?” She asked angrily.
Evelyn widened her eyes at Miss White and asked innocently:
“Was that you, Miss White?”
“Yes, that was me. I was telling you the final preparations for the governor’s assembly tomorrow.”
Evelyn groaned and slapped her book down.
“Do I have to?” She whined.
“Yes. You must attend. So, as I was saying, the assembly shall be held here in the formal gardens on the front lawns. It will start at about twelve o’clock, but you can turn up for lunch, at one o’clock. It will be simple – sandwiches and cakes. At two o’clock the governor and ambassador will make a speech. You will be required to sit in the audience and listen politely. Then, at half past two your father will make his speech. Then there will be time for you to mingle with the guests socially, or hide away as you usually do – anti-socially. At a quarter to four there will be tea in the marquee, and at five o’clock there will be music. The guests should all be gone by half past five.” Miss White recited.
“Why do I have to even be there?” Evelyn asked.
“Because you do. Don’t ask such silly questions.” Miss White snapped.
Evelyn sighed, and looked back mournfully at her book, The Age of Innocence. It didn’t look like she was going to finish the chapter any time soon.
“Go up and choose your dress and shoes for tomorrow. They should be smarter than your everyday wear please.” Miss White barked.
Evelyn got up from the wicker lounger and stalked inside. She pushed past Akane, her nurse (or her ayah, as Indians said), and ran through the room, through the foyer and up the stairs to her bedroom. She walked into the closet and looked around. Part of her wanted to pick out something unflattering and baggy, just to annoy her governess. But instead she picked out a lightweight purple dress and tunic, embroidered with silver beads in floral and bows patterns. Miss White couldn’t fault her for that, surely – it was one of her smartest dresses. Evelyn laid it on a chair and then walked out of her bedroom and into the upstairs living room. It had views over the front gardens and she made her way over to the open French doors which looked over the entrance, fountain, and formal gardens. She walked onto the balcony and leant on the wrought iron railings, which were welded in geometric patterns and complex shapes. The metal was cool against Evelyn’s bare arms and it took a moment for her skin to warm the iron which she was leaning on. In the gardens, servants were putting up marquees and tables with chairs. Stands of flowers and pots of bushes were being arranged and the gardeners were doing some last minute lawn mowing and hedge trimming. The noise was oddly comforting to Evelyn – the sharp snipping of the hedge cutters and the rough, coughing noise of the lawn mowers was a stark contrast to the gentle chattering of the servants and the clinking of china teacups as they were set out on the antique tablecloth in the shade of the marquee. The sun was casting a shadow over all the preparations and there was a slight nippiness in the air. Sure enough, Akane found Evelyn there a few minutes later and scolded her for not throwing a shawl around her shoulders to keep off the chill.
“Supper in ten minutes” Akane told Evelyn. “Wear your silk shawl to keep off cold.” Evelyn rolled her eyes, nodded and waited for Akane to leave. As the nurse retreated, she heard her muttering about how much easier the girl would be if the memsahib were still here. Evelyn exhaled. It was probably true. The memsahib (who was only ever called that, and never Evelyn’s mother) had met Evelyn’s father in Delhi, as the daughter of a rich British merchant. The memsahib and Evelyn’s father married and soon the memsahib was with child. But about two years after Evelyn was born, the memsahib visited a friend, and never returned. She probably went back to England and remarried there, or so the rumours said. Evelyn had never known her mother and as a consequence had only ever been brought up by her ayahs. Having never really known her mother, Evelyn had not mourned the loss of the one she should have loved. In fact, she hardly noticed a difference in day-to-day life. Only when guests came and asked her the ever-awkward question of:
“And where is your mother today?” did Evelyn realise that the memsahib was meant to be there, that she was meant to be part of life.