09 November 2016

AS WE ARE | Chapter I

All right, folks! Now that you have the basic storyline of As We Are, I'm going to dump the first chapter on you.  (Haven't read the prologue yet?)  I really hope you enjoy reading it! Suggestions/"beta reading" would be greatly appreciated. Just shoot me over a comment. :)  And please excuse the messed-up formatting -- Blogger is notorious for that lol.
Thanks so much for following this crazy blog!  You guys rock. <3
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CHAPTER I
Wherein Philippe Gets a Job


PHILIPPE STEPPED LIGHTLY down the dilapidated wooden steps leading out of a second floor shop into the bustling streets of New York City, a hand-embroidered reticule swinging from her wrist by her side, and a smug look contorting her facial features.  Not many these days could boast of just acquiring a job at a wealthy dressmaker’s shop.  She stopped at the bottom of the stairs which had deposited her abruptly at the edge of a thick, moving crowd of pedestrians, presumably coming home from work.  Once the majority of them had passed leaving a narrow opening for her to slip through, she took the opportunity and grasped her skirt firmly in both hands to prevent it from dragging in the grime of the street, and quickly scampered across, deftly dodging heavily laden carriages and carts.  On the other side side of the street, she almost immediately propelled herself into a cluster of three old ladies in brightly colored wraps and shawls.  In an instant, the corners of their doll-like mouths were turned down in disapproving frowns and their faces bore identical looks of distaste.  Philippe nervously sucked in breath and moved away from them, down the sidewalk and up the street.  She could feel their three pairs of eyes still fixed intently on her form as she sidled away in the opposite direction, endeavouring to lengthen the distance between herself and them as quickly as possible.
The walk back to the city boarding house where she and her sisters were currently living was not the easiest of walks for it was uphill most of the way and the time she had been inclined to make her way home was the busiest she could have chosen.  Avoiding suspicious looking persons and staying on the curb of the sidewalk to make way for large groups of people going in the opposite direction, it was almost dusk by the time she reached the familiar boarding house.  She paused at the top of the steps in front of the door before entering finding it hard to believe that this was actually her and her sisters’ home.  Though not especially large, it was a formidable-looking place with a steep, sloping roof, scant windows, and crumbling brick walls. The dank, shadowy alleyway leading to its closed front door stank of rotten vegetables and fish, along with other unmentionable articles. The overpowering smell flooded Philippe’s delicate senses. She squared her shoulders and pushed open the door. Where had her old life gone? Why did everything always have to change just when you were so content with it? She thought of the house she had lived in with her family eight years ago before her parents and eldest sister had been killed in a house fire. Then she thought of her mother’s kindly face. How incongruous it was compared to the dirty impropriety of her surroundings.
As she wound her way up the many well-worn staircases to the fifth floor of the boarding house, she listened distractedly to the sounds coming from behind the doors lining the halls.  She had learned in her time living in the boarding house that the thin plaster of the walls was but a weak excuse for a sound barrier, and that all sounds inside the rooms were constantly being projected into the hallways, neighboring rooms, and even the corridors below.  
When she reached the door of the small apartment she and her sisters were renting, she paused with her hand on the knob to furtively arrange her features into calmer lines.  Opening the door, she took in the familiar surroundings.  The sun shining through the windows was beginning to grow dim as it sank below the horizon making the room look strangely surreal.  The two cots -- one at the further end of the room and another beside the door; the tiny dimly-lit passageway leading to the broom closet-sized kitchen; the frail rocking chair from which up jumped twelve-year-old Anna, mending stockings, the moment Philippe opened the door.
“Philippe, you’re home! Beth, Cordelia -- Philippe’s home!” exclaimed Anna.  She ran across the room to Philippe and grasped her waist in a tight hug. Philippe stroked her sister’s silky hair, then, short of breath in the confinement of her corset and Anna’s uncomfortably secure arms, prompted Anna to let go of her, who then immediately started untying Philippe’s hat ribbons with deft fingers. “Did you get work?”
Philippe smiled at her sister’s enthusiasm just as Beth and Cordelia hurriedly entered the room, their faces aglow with hope. Anna’s dark blue eyes scrutinized Philippe’s face as Philippe looked down at her younger sister with something like pity and lifted a hand to caress her face.
“I’ll tell you over supper,” she said, raising her face to look at Beth and Cordelia. Then, smiling brightly, she continued, “Now help me get these confounded boots off.”
She plopped down into the single chair that stood in the room, a rocking chair, and held out her booted feet for assistance. Cordelia and Anna went to Philippe, each girl applying herself diligently to the task of removing of Philippe’s boots.
“I’ll go set the table for supper since you’re home now, Philippe.” Philippe smiled up at Beth kindly, the corners of her eyes crinkling appealingly, knowing that Beth was only trying to cheer herself up as the sisters did not own even one table.  Ever since they had moved into the boarding house, they had been forced to eat sitting crosslegged on their cots.  


The sisters sat split into two groups upon their cots, silent with their eyes fixed attentively on Philippe’s face waiting for her to begin telling about her job.  There was a pause, and then Philippe parted her lips to begin.
“Well, when I left of the boarding house this morning, I went first to one of the sewing factories because the co-manager there had told me to come back today when the factory was less busy.  When I asked to speak to him, the carrier whom I had told to tell him that I had arrived, came back with the message that he was unwilling to see me.  I hence gathered that there was no point in me coming again.  I then went to the dressmaker’s to see Madame Trowbridge.  Yesterday, she had said that she would consider my application and see if these was an open spot for me--,”
“--And she gave you the job?” interrupted Cordelia abruptly, a spoonful of peas paused before of her open mouth.  Philippe took a slow sip of water from her glass, delaying her answer and keeping her sisters in suspense.  Their eyes were wide with surprise when a moment later, she announced, “That she did, girls.”
Immediately, the room was thrown into uproar; Beth, Anna, and Cordelia exclaiming in wild ecstasies of elation as they jumped from their respective cots and danced around the room. When they had finally quieted down and regained their seats, Philippe continued.
“I start work tomorrow.” There were more cries of delight and thankfulness as the girls took in the good news.


“. . . and, Lord, Heavenly Father, we praise and exalt your name; you have been so good to us.  You have granted us a home and money, and most of all, each other.  We also thank you for the kind Mr. Winsor and Ms. Camille Penny, both of whom we have not heard from in weeks.  We pray, Lord, that you will bless them and be gracious to them, for the kindness and generosity which they formerly bestowed on us is unrepayable.
“Please guide us closer to you and help us to trust you even more in these trying times.  We pray this in your name, Amen.”
The four girls unclasped their hands and lifted their heads in unison.  Beth, who had said the prayer, threw a glossy golden braid over her shoulder and looked around the circle of sisters sitting crosslegged on her and Philippe’s cot.
“Off to bed now, you two.  It’s past ten already and you’ve had a long day,” said Beth softly, hustling Anna and Cordelia off the bed and over to their own at the other end of the room beside the door.
“That was an awfully long prayer, Beth,” said Anna with a childishly serious look on her face.
“And why’d you pray for Frederic when we haven’t even seen him in years?” added Cordelia.
“I’m sorry, darling.  I shouldn’t have kept you up so late.  And, Cordelia dear, we saw him last month.  As to why I prayed for him, we have countless reasons to be thankful for his assistance.  We want God to keep our good friend safe, don’t we?”
Cordelia inconsiderately raised an eyebrow and shrugged her shoulders.  Beth pulled back the girls’ thin bedcovers and tucked them in snugly when they had laid down.  She kissed them each on the forehead and made her way back to the other side of the room to Philippe.  Philippe stood looking out of the single window in the apartment, her forehead resting on the dirty, mud-splattered pane.  
“What a lovely night it is,” she said once Beth stood by her side and commenced staring out into the night alongside her older sister.
“It is a dear one.” Philippe smiled sweetly down at Beth who took Philippe’s chilled hand in her own and led her to the cot they shared.
“You’d better get some rest before your big day tomorrow.” The girls laid down beside each other, their faces turned in opposite directions.  Under the bedsheets, Beth’s hand again found Philippe’s, and squeezed it gently.  Philippe half sat up to blow out the candle beside the cot, then, laying back down, she turned to Beth and softly kissed her cheek.
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2 comments:

  1. Well, I loved reading your chapters and I felt extremely honored! I believe you are an amazing writer and I hope you always have good books to surround you in order to pick you up when you feel down. <3

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    1. Thank you!! That means a lot <3 <3

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