So, this is to say that I've rearranged quite a few things in my plot, and now that I seem to have a better grip on things I'm going to power through a first draft and hopefully produce a somewhat cohesive manuscript! Many thanks to anybody who has been reading my scattered writing so far, and I hope that you will bear with me in the future :)
Remember, this is a dirty little first/second draft (crumpled on the edges, smudged with tears of frustration, scrawled with incomprehensible scribbles), a raw look at my little novel-in-progress. I welcome critique, and hope to hear feedback as the story progresses. So without further ado, let's begin again. With a preface.
The tiny cottage had never looked so menacing. Slashing firelight made every shadow quiver; the blank walls seemed to mock the straining eyes that would catch a glimpse of strange figures in the corners; the hanging food baskets swung eerily to and fro above the heads of three or four neighbor women who watched with faces turned ghastly by fear and resignation. On one of the room’s low pallets lay two bodies, a man and woman, both pale and twisted into unnatural contortions. The woman still breathed, exhaling every few minutes with a convulsive scream which became delusional muttering. The man had not screamed in a long time. Their little girl sat on the ground beside the waiting women, eyes locked on the pallet, tiny fingers twisting and untwisting in her lap around the petals of a white rose.
One of the women silently stroked the top of the little girl’s head with one hand, marking time by the dying fire. When the other women had at last succumbed to sleep she stood up and felt the pulse of the prone woman’s wrist. After a few minutes she pressed the man’s wrist, and felt nothing but still flesh. Her composure broken, she grabbed up her apron and sobbed into it, great wracking sobs wept for this man and all the others who had died over the past few weeks. The girl did not move her eyes from the pale woman on the pallet who was still struggling for breath with her neck crooked at a sickening angle.
The girl slipped her fingers into the woman’s rigid hand, and pressed as hard as her fingers could press, as if she could stop the whole nightmare with only her fingers. The woman’s eyes slid open and two tears dripped out.
A month later the girl sat beside the woman on the pallet helping her sip some scalding tea and eat a few spoonfuls of porridge. They were not alone. The woman who had taken the pulse was there to cook and sweep and comb the little girl’s dark hair into a tidy plait, and another man, quite a bit older and sometimes covered in dirt from his work in the gardens, would visit every day, and more often than not bring a spring posy to brighten the little girl’s dress. The pale man was gone from the cottage, with nothing to mark his passing but the loose dirt of yet another grave behind the chapel, and the wife and daughter left behind, cold and quiet.
Spring was coming, and with it the hope of a new year free from the wild whims of fate, sickness and death. The girl’s eyes still looked to her mother. “Are we going to be all right now, Mummy?”
“God willing, Cecily. Oh, God willing!”