It is time for HCS Publishing’s next anthology! This one is open to the public. It begins with “It was a dark and stormy night” and you still have time to submit your piece!!
My oldest sister gave me a challenge one day: “Make Little Bo Peep a villain.” What better way to start a villainous story than with a storm?
It was a dark and stormy night as the lone carriage splashed down the empty London streets. The sleepy footmen bolted to action as they heard the rumble of the wheels and the clatter of the hooves. One man attempted to spring the clockwork umbrella open, only to have the wind snap the rod. While he desperately flailed about for a second umbrella, another footman opened the door to the carriage.
A dainty, gloved hand reached out and grasped the man’s outstretched arm, light as a sparrow. He could hardly feel her weight on him as she used him to step into the torrential downpour. She seemed so tiny she would blow away too, if he did not shield her as best as he could.
Her guide glared daggers at the man struggling with another failed umbrella, though he knew it was too dark and the man was too distracted to notice the lady being escorted. Another servant struggled out of his double-breasted coat as he ran down to meet them on the stairs. He held it over the trembling creature as she climbed the slick stone steps.
“Mon Dieu!” she cried as lightning flared so close it sounded like a large match was struck. The answering thunder bellowed down in a voice that made man and buildings tremble.
As they ushered their small charge into the lobby, the chief concierge barked orders and those waiting inside flew into action. He took a few quick steps to reach the sodden creature and bowed deeply.
“Madam Beau, I am Chief Concierge Hawkins, at your service. Please come warm yourself by the fire.”
A maid appeared and took Madame Beau’s soaked coat.
“Oh, it’s ruined!” Madame cried in a rich French accent.
“No, Madame, I can repair,” the little maid said with a curtsy. “You will see.” She curtsied again, then bustled away.
“Oh la vache! I look like a drowned papillon!”
Hawkins escorted her to the chair by the fire. “No,” he thought to himself, “something much smaller than a dog. A hummingbird.”
She sat gracefully in the chair and accepted the offered blanket.
“We will have your things brought to your rooms immediately. As soon as it is ready, we will escort you there for your rest. Would Madame like anything to eat?”
As Hawkins asked this, another maid appeared with a tray ladened with tea and cakes.
“Oh, sweets will do just the thing!” she cried with a happy little clap. “I do not require more than this. Merci.”
By the time Madame Beau was brought to her rooms, she seemed more lively. This pleased Hawkins as he did not wish the storm’s appearance on the night of her arrival to dampen her opinion of his hotel. As he bowed his way out of her rooms and the maids and servants began to disappear, she stepped to her window and looked out at the raging storm.
“It is beautiful, is it not?” she asked the final servant who was leaving.
He turned and bowed. “I suppose so, ma’am.”
She cocked her head. “You do not like storms?”
A blush colored his young face as he shook his head. “Not particularly, ma’am.”
She turned back to the window and placed her hand on the glass. “Ah, but they are so powerful. So elegant in their own way. So full of mystery.”
She turned back to him. He looked uneasily about, no doubt realizing he was lone in her room with her. She gave him a reassuring smile. “Please bring me another blanket, and that will be all I require for the night.”