Sunday, May 3, 2015
First 5 Pages May Workshop - Jauffret
Name: Elle Jauffret
Genre: New Adult Mystery
Her father had named her Génépy after the liquor men drink to forget their struggles, and the medicinal, yet deadly, herb that grows free in the heights of Provence.
The thin layers of the millefeuille’s light and crispy pastry disintegrate like a thousand leaves between my tongue and palate, leaving place to the soothing silkiness of crème patissière. A vanilla caress after a flaky explosion, concluded by the sugary taste of raspberry icing.
I feel a flush heat my face and shivers spread through my body. When I open my eyes, the sun is rising and the copper pots reflect the birthing daylight, splashing an orange glow on the ash grey walls.
The birds’ chirps and tweets fill the air, uninterrupted by the screams of revolting peasants whose uprisings have been temporarily halted thanks to concessions from the King which my father has obtained as Provence’s representative.
I unlock the back door and, on the tips of my toes, return the clean bowls high up in the cupboard when a voice calls my name. I turn around, feeling something hard and sharp hit me below the neck. I wince and look down to see. A cleaver is sticking out of my leather apron and a thick crimson stream is running down my feet.
Then, all I can see is black.
I start to run as soon as my feet touch the ground. I run past the line of cypresses, through the orchard and the lavender fields, the gravel and the rocky ground deliciously piercing the skin of my soles. Breathless, I disappear into the familiar abyss of the forest. I run as fast as I possibly can, blinded by the night, but guided by the scent of the shore that seeps into the woods. Each stride takes me closer to the sea. My scalp breathes, liberated from the constraint of a painful hairstyle. My legs move unrestrained by the fabric of any floor length gown. I am savoring freedom, as temporary as it may be.
The thick black canopy of trees thins out, revealing a bright half-moon. The soft texture of sand replaces the coarse dirt on which I've been running since I left home, welcoming my feet as it does every night. My sprint comes to a halt and my breathing slows down.
I inhale the salty aroma of Méditerranée, my sea. The air is dry and cool, sticking roughly to my throat, but my skin doesn’t feel it. Except for my face, hands and feet, my body is numb. Completely insensitive to touch since the attack that almost killed me four years ago.
I throw my nightgown on the side and dive, mouth open, into the black liquid in front of me, welcoming the sea's probing suffocating embrace. Ce baiser salé... that enlivening salty kiss that I desperately try to capture and recreate in the meals I fashion in secret.
A pine-scented breeze and the faint hooting of an owl greet me back to the surface along with something else. A familiar scent that I cannot identify lingers in the air. I squint in the darkness until my eyes find its source.
The beast is unusually large, about twice the size of the shepherd’s watchdogs, and is at least two-hundred pounds. Except for a warm auburn shade circling its neck, its fur is of a perfect black unlike the now extinct Provençal wolves whose coats were in the browns or grays. It is standing straight on its four legs, at the edge of the woods, wagging a fluid pendulum-like tail, resembling a good domestic dog. Its presence doesn’t upset me. Unlike humans whose greed has tormented their own race, animals only kill to satisfy their basic needs and the wild life in our woods is plentiful.
A faint breeze carries its scent, a mélange of tree sap, young moss and lavender fields with a touch of je-ne-sais-quoito my nostrils. The fragrance of Provence mixed with the animal musk is invigorating, inducing a shiver to form at the small of my back, crawl along my spine, and spread to my belly. The first shiver I've felt in four years.
Overhead, the Ursa Minor constellation tells me that dawn is upon me. I've to hurry home. When I look back down, the wolf is gone.
I grab my nightgown and dash back into the woods, retracing my path through the morning fog, leading back to my jail-like home. My wet hair flows, capturing the scent of the forest. My heartbeat echoes in my temples as fast as my strides, its drums rippling under my skin. Pictures of the wolf linger in my mind. The bouquet of its fur still in my nostrils injects life into me, as would strong smelling salts, awakening the start of another shiver, refueling my hope to see my skin retrieve its lost sensitivity.
I am about to exit the woods when I trip. I retrieve my balance, barely missing a tree. I inhale deeply, catching my breath, when a metallic scent hits me. It permeates the air with a mix of alcohol, fear, and a hint of death. The smell monarchist soldiers carried with them when they were brought to the operating table, wounded by the revolting peasants’ pitchforks and hoes.
My muscles tense up. I am usually alone in the woods at this time, but today feels different.
Straight ahead, the shadow of our villa detaching from the uprising sun shoots adrenaline through every vein of my body, calling my name to safety. But my curiosity wins. I turn around to see what caused my fall and approach slowly. The muted light bounces off a white cloth and pale face.
I tripped on a girl.
I rush by her side, wondering why she's lying on the ground, hoping to provide her with help if needed, but to no avail. She has no breath and no warmth. She lies on the soil and decaying leaves as if still in motion, her hair flowing back toward the woods, but a worried grimace marks her face and large gashes her neck.
I 'm thinking about calling for help, but resist from doing so. Blood's drenching her gown and she has no pulse. It's too late for her to be saved, and I'll be as good as dead if someone realizes that I've violated curfew.
I can see my heart pulsating underneath my skin, raising the thick scar that marks the middle of my chest. I feel nauseous. I close my eyes and inhale, trying to rid my mind of the morbid scene's eerie familiarity. But I fail, because an instant later, I am drenched by a downpour of four year-old flashbacks.
Two silhouettes detach from a background of haze. I blink against the harsh light of the room to make out who they are, but my ears identify them first. My parents are fighting again amidst the protestation of the rioting populace that have demonstrated regularly against the rising price of bread and the gabelle - the tax on salt that only afflicts the poor.
“That would have never happened if you hadn’t left. She’s obsessed with becoming a chef, because of you!” My mother’s high-pitched voice and usual sharpness slice through my return to consciousness.
“I am just nourishing her talent. At least she knows what she wants, not like your other daughter who is diseased with superficiality,” my father says in a coarse voice.