Hiya folks! Late on this month’s writing project and, I admit, I took advantage and wrote a little into May. Here is another Mia excerpt. If you haven’t read the first two, here you go:
I am sixteen. I have not yet secured my position at the Academy yet, but I will this year. I am in the smoky basement of a pub called The Underground. We are new enough to town that few know what our family looks like. It’s still easy to go out without getting harassed. Electric lights of green, gold, and amber flash on and off, lining what appears to be a stage made of crates. A lone microphone stands crooked in front. The place is packed and noisy, young people, my peers, I guess, milling around drinking bright-colored alcohol out of beakers. Some of the beverages are smoking. My older brother does not know I am here.
I try to dress like young women my age, but I never seem to have all the elements together. I’m always missing a key jewelry or the right boots or a debonair hair treatment. Bustles are still in, but long underskirts are out, showing off stockings of all colors and patterns. Corsets are visible and sexy after hours. I am dressed in a black blouse with a high collar, black leggings and my lightweight sparring boots. In an attempt to be fashionable, I stole one of Saga’s black silk cinches, which I will pay dearly for later, and secured it around my waist. I have no skirts in my closet.
I do not say this to be ironic, but I wore all black before it was a statement.
The emcee, wearing a hat made of a variety of colored foxtails, approaches the mic carefully, leaning forward to speak into it without touching. It must be one of the old microphones — my brother told me about them. Apparently some of the more cantankerous models would electrocute people.
“Crazies and powdermen, continue to marinate! Tonight’s eccentricities will begin in a few ticks so drink up, slobs!”
The crowd responds with a mix of dull acknowledgement and unnecessary cursing. I remain in the dead space between the alcohol corral, piled high with kegs and stills, and the dance area. People mill around me in colorful swaths, not noticing.
“Mia, my favorite niece!”
Aunt Elin never ceases to amaze me. Although she is more than twice the age of most of the people in the room, she is dressed to kill. Her hair, currently blonde with blue streaks, is piled high on top of her head. She wears a cerulean silk corset ratcheted tight with what looks like silver gears and teethy wheels. She has no undershirt or chemise, showing off her bare muscular arms and shoulders. She wears a silver bustle with dark patterned hose and boots with a heel sharp enough to poke someone’s eye out (and probably has). There is nothing subtle about Aunt Elin.
“You here to see Artie?” She leans over to shout in my ear, her breath thick and sweet with liquor.
“Yes, Aunt Elin.”
“Good girl! Stupid of him to try and keep the family away. ‘Slike he don’t know who he’s dealing with, right?”
“Yes, Aunt Elin.”
“I was gonna tell your father, but I wanted to see if this kid was even talented. Fucking up on stage would be punishment ‘nuff.”
My brother, Art, is a musician and a singer, like my mother. It has been hard for him to “book gigs” because many establishments still do not like the idea of having our family as patrons. If they find out who Art is, they sometimes book him only under the condition that we stay away. One relative of a genocidal maniac singing songs will sell tickets. A passel of them cheering him on might start a riot.
So I admit that I am not supposed to be here. But I am not one of the family members that Art should be concerned about. Aunt Elin has found a young man enamoured by her statuesque beauty and is convincing him to buy her more whiskey.
Art is the first musician on. He looks like my mother’s side of the family — tall and lithe, olive complexion, a long straight nose, brown eyes and hair. I am the only one of my siblings with the traditional Fox Family green eyes. Art carries on his guitar. A girl with a bright red bob follows him on, holding a typewriter and with various bells around her neck. She sits on a stool next to a large leather suitcase. Finally a very handsome blonde man enters, a dark green bowler perched on his curls, an overly large purple bowtie secured about his throat. I swear I can see his blue eyes from where I stand. He’s wheeling on a beat-up bass.
Without introduction, Art and the blonde approach the microphone, temples touching, eyes closed as they softly sing in harmony with each other. The room quiets. It is hard to tell whose voice is whose, the audience is captivated by every breath the men take together. The singers are joined by the percussive pecking of the typewriter. Then the girl begins to kick the suitcase in rhythm. The blonde takes a harmonica from his breast pocket and wails into it, his breath heavy into the speakers. Then Artie begins to play.
I hope you do not think it hubris, but my brother is a genius guitar player. I smile. Mama would be very proud if she could hear him.
The blonde attacks the strings of his bass and the floorboards pulse beneath my feet. Everywhere I look, I am meeting the eyes of someone my own age who is happy because of my brother’s music. I feel young. I hear Aunt Elin whooping and see a flash of blue as she is twirled by a young man in tails.
The chorus and bridge hit and no one is still, not even me. Unknown hands take mine and I’m dancing, I’m dancing, and I’m being passed around between other girls and boys like I’m one of them, like I belong here.