For WiP Wednesday, a bit from The Price of Glory. While sketching damage to ancient ruins in order to document it, an rather intimate conversation on marriage ensues. I thought I’d share my inspiration/image of the characters too.
“Your parents’ marriage must have been unhappy,” he said, surprising her with his perceptive insight.
She bit her lower lip and nodded. “My mother became a faded ghost of a person, only brightening when my father bothered to notice her in some positive way. More often…” She let her words trail away. She had no business confiding in a stranger. Next she would tell him her mother took her life. Instead she said, “I need more. I need an identity of my own.”
“I can understand that kind of motivation. My research is my life as well; it is who I am. Shall we cry pax?” he proposed, putting down his pencil.
She ignored his extended hand. “You don’t find it unusual in a woman to seek her identity in her work?” she asked.
His chuckle astounded her. “You should meet my mother or my Aunt Lily. I am afraid I come from a tribe of rather ferocious women.” He went back to his sketchpad.
“Your mother works?” She gasped as she followed his example, looking down at the drawing on her lap desk.
“Always. She is a gifted classist, adept at seeking out neglected literature in Greek and Latin and teasing it into comprehensible English for common readers. Her first published work was of the neglected poems of ancient Greek women.”
“Your father permits this?”
“He aids and abets it. He’s her partner.”
The two of them recorded damaged artifacts in companionable silence while his remarkable view of marriage sank in. Partners—what an unusual concept.
He spoke abruptly, interrupting her reverie. His question startled her as much as the interruption. “When you marry, will you remain a hakima?”
Outrage at the audacious question brought her upright, momentarily rigid, but it passed as quickly as it came. She knew the query was a fair enough, but he wouldn’t like the answer. “Hakimas are not permitted to marry. Besides, I am already well past the age where people expect me to marry, thank God. No man would permit his wife to associate with the sick poor of Cairo—or Paris.”
He gaped like a landed fish, as if the poor man didn’t know which intrusive question to ask first. He chose to focus on his own work and keep his silence.
It was Ana who couldn’t let it go in the end. “My father wishes me to return to Paris where my Aunt Sophia can find me a husband worthy of Cloutier Bey’s daughter. He thinks perhaps a doctor would do, one who would like to sit in the reflected glory of the great medical director, while I serve as a decoration on their lives and provide adoring grandsons. Barring that— Well, any marriage would do. Do I shock you?”
“Do you really believe you are so far past an age to marry?”
The wretch would seize on my age! “How old are you? Twenty? A year more?” she demanded reciprocating for his intrusive questions with one of her own.
“Twenty-two, thank you very much,” he responded. “Well old enough to manage an expedition!”
“I am much older. Girls contract comfortable marriages at seventeen and go on to be dutiful wives,” she spat bitterly. “I am far past that and no man’s idea of a biddable wife.”
“Much older than me?” he sputtered.
“Six years at least. Enough to know men want little from women aside from the use of their bodies. Enough to know that a woman with mind of her own must be either discarded, avoided, or subdued. No, Mr. Mallet. I will not marry.”
“Is doomed to disappointment in his daughter.”
Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!