Well, here it is- the first story I’m letting you read. This is a piece of fiction I put together for a writing course I’m taking. It’s a part of a novel I want to write about a girl who followed Joan of Ark, but I had to squeeze it together in less than 500 words. That was the hard part. Enjoy… please.
It was still in the air. That strange stench testifying to the fall of France. The hush carried on that air seemed to mock. As though the world hadn’t come to an end a few hours earlier. But Joan d’Arc was dead.
Annette startled at an abrupt movement to her left. Reflexes grasped for the sword no longer at her hip. Breath escaped in a burst. “Charles! I waited. I thought maybe…”
His gloved palm clasped her mouth as his body pushed her back against the stone wall. His pulse pounded in her ear as a squadron of English soldiers hurried past, only ten paces from where they stood, concealed in shadows. In another time and place they would have stood their ground and fought, Annette in her boyish garb and Joan at their head, two girls breaching a man’s world. One had been led by God, the other, by the need to belong to something- anything.
As the shuffle of boots faded, Annette became aware of Charles’ hand sliding from her mouth to her shoulder. His breath warmed her neck, but his eyes remained on the nearby street. A familiar ache sat heavy in her stomach.
“Every gate is also under guard,” he said, relaxing away from her.
“Don’t they know they have nothing to fear anymore? We’re broken.”
“Perhaps tonight we are, but tomorrow France will fight again.”
Annette’s head shook in short jerky motions. “Not without Joan.”
“Then her life was in vain?”
Annette took a step away from him, facing the familiar abyss of the alley, the streets. All she had left. “Is this again my fate?”
“I found a place we can get through if we go now.”
“If you go now,” Annette heard herself say.
“What do you mean by that?”
Annette turned to him, her spine straightening. He watched her, his eyes repeating his question. She felt the corner of her mouth pull up at the sight of this man of France, his clothes covered in a thick layer of dirt, a beard forming where his jaw had once been so smooth. His eyes…
“You’re returning to the army;” she fingered the course fabric of her skirt, “and I no longer belong there.”
Why did she feel gratified at the pain pinched between his brows? She waited while he found his voice.
“What will you do, then?”
“I’ll follow the English. I’ll watch their movements, mark their positions. I’ll find a way to send word.”
The echo of footsteps on the street returned them to the wall. “Then you do believe in France,” Charles said.
The motion of her head from side to side was hardly noticeable. She glanced past him as a figure passed from sight. “I believe in the Maid of Orléans.”
“And when the English have gone home?”
It was too dark to read his face, or the depth of his eyes, but she no longer needed to. His arm rested against hers.
“Just stay alive.”