Back in October 2018 I entered the first three pages of 'Mary: Pride & Prejudice continued... Book Four' into the RWA Hudson River Hook, Line, and Sinker contest. I'm happy to report that I made it to the finals (with a score of 149/150) and just yesterday I found out that I placed fifth over all. Not the win I'd like to crow about, but holy cow, fifth. AND if I scored almost perfect - what were the other contestants scores??? I think we're going to see a batch of excellent stories out this year. Can't wait.
I thought I'd share with you my almost winning entry and hope you enjoy it as much as the judges did.
At one and twenty, Miss Mary Bennet knew she was already considered a spinster by the village of Meryton. Her youngest sister Lydia married at the tender age of fifteen, followed quickly by Jane and Lizzy respectively. Then Kitty followed suit a scant two years later and Mary had watched from the sidelines as her sisters fell in love and married.
She was well aware that she was not traditionally ladylike like her siblings. Too forthright in her speech, she’d rather spend an evening playing the pianoforte to an evening in the company of friends, or heaven forfend, attend a ball. She had a pleasing figure, all her own teeth and, if she had one lick of vanity, it was her thick, beautifully curly, mahogany locks of hair.
Papa had finally settled on her a substantial dowry. With all her siblings out from under the eaves of Longbourn, he had the resources to add to the family coffers and she now had a nice tidy sum of four thousand pounds for any man willing to make an offer. And there was the rub. Someone needed to make an offer.
If anyone were to catalog all her attributes, they’d wonder how she’d gone so long without one single proposal. Without one single kiss. She didn’t count the quick peck the cobbler’s son gave her behind the church when she was fourteen. He’d pressed his lips against hers and tried to push his tongue into her mouth, which she promptly bit.
He barely spoke to her after that and frankly, she hadn’t cared. If kissing involved groping hands and tongues being shoved into one’s mouth, she didn’t wish to be kissed again. However, all her sisters seemed to like the fact their husbands kissed them, so maybe he’d got it all wrong.
She hastened her pace upon entering the village of Meryton. No one was even mildly bothered that she’d walked the mile and a half from Longbourn alone. She enjoyed the freedom of movement normally attributed to doddering old spinsters and widow’s long past looking for another husband. She was, to put it succinctly, unmarriageable.
“Good afternoon, Miss Bennet. Lovely day, ain’t it?” Mrs. Sheffield greeted her while sweeping the wooden boardwalk outside her shop.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Sheffield. It is a lovely day.”
“Have you read the newspaper today?”
“Papa keeps the paper to himself. Was there something of importance?”
“Oh, I’d say there were sumpthin’ important. Wait right ‘ere.”
Mrs. Sheffield leaned her broom against the outer wall and disappeared into the store, returning with The Gazette, which she handed to Mary and said, “Page Three”.
Mary took the paper and opened it to the suggested page. Emblazoned across the top was a bold headline, proclaiming: HRH, the Prince Regent Celebrates End of War. The article started by saying that to celebrate the end of the Peninsular War, the Prince Regent wished to stage an elaborate garden party for every person to whom titles were bestowed in the past fifteen years. Following a quick blurb of where and when the party was to be held, a list of all invitees was listed, marching down the page in five straight lines.
“I fail to see how a party the Prince Regent is holding affects me, Mrs. Sheffield.”
“I suggest y’take a look at the guest list. The names are in alphabetical order.”
To humor the kind woman, Mary began reading the names, gasping out loud when she came to the letter ‘B’. Mrs. Sheffield began to cackle at the look on her face.
“I told you it were important.”
“Excuse me.” Mary handed the paper back to Mrs. Sheffield. “I must go home.”
With that she spun on her heel and once out of sight of the village, nearly ran all the way back to Longbourn. When she arrived home, panting, the house was in a state of uproar.
“Mr. Bennet. What are we to do?” Her mother’s voice carried through the window to Papa’s book room. The quiet reply of her father could not be heard and it wasn’t until Mary actually entered the home that more of the conversation filtered out into the front hall.
“But I am forty-two years of age. How can I go through this now?” Mama’s voice had taken on near hysterical proportions.
“I am but fifty-three!”
The door to Papa’s book room opened and upon seeing Mary, he beckoned her inside. With a fair bit of apprehension, she did as he bade and joined them. Mama paced in front of the window while Papa settled at his desk.
“Your mother and I have some news and would appreciate if you kept this knowledge to yourself for a small amount of time.”
“Everyone will know about it soon enough,” Mama cried out and threw herself into the closest chair.
Mary suffered a quick internal debate on the merits of whether to share that the villagers of Meryton were well apprised of their good fortune or not. Deciding to cross that bridge when it arose, she pretended she had no foreknowledge and said, “I shall be the soul of discretion.”
“Thank you, although you won’t have to carry this secret for too long because, as your mother stated, the news will become evident in fairly short order.”
At that her mother wailed again and bolted for the door, flinging it open before rushing up the stairs. Startled, Mary watched, her mouth open. Was her mother not pleased that Papa had been elevated to the rank of Baron and she was now Lady Bennet?
“Don’t worry, Mary,” Papa said. “Your mother is only casting up her accounts because of the babe.”How fun is that? Mary won't be published until later in the year. Given my current health status (surgery coming up in ten days) I'm struggling to get Georgiana done. I'm so close, only another twenty thousand words and I can begin edits and push my latest baby out into the world. Thanks for sticking with me through all of this.