Tuesday, April 1, 2014

At Oxford Meeting A First Lover

In my historical novel Birthright or Birthright (Kindle), I wanted to show how in Deborah's early days at Oxford she comes back into contact with Rob Rowell, the son of the man she knew to be her mother's lover. 

Here’s an excerpt: 

Deborah de Kronengold walked grimly along the High Street, barely exchanging a word with the shorter young woman beside her. They shared Miss Davis’s tutorial on the history of economics and had not found a single matter on which they agreed since the term had started. Deborah had grown to her full five feet seven inches in height. Her red hair had lost none of its sunrise brightness and was still worn long and straight. She had finely fashioned features, a classic beauty that would have aroused admiration in any age, but today her chin thrust forward belligerently and her blue eyes glared in anger. The young woman who strode just as angrily beside her was Gladys Wood. Brown hair cut to utilitarian shortness, small, pretty face aggressively makeup-free, brow perpetually furrowed to match the disapproving line into which her mouth was drawn, Gladys Wood was a firmly committed Marxist. Deborah, of course, by both birth and inclination, was just as firmly committed a capitalist. Today Miss Davis had surprised them both by telling them they were very much alike; she had enjoyed their wrangles, but the debate was now tending to slip from the academic to the personal. She requested they follow the ancient tradition of no work in the afternoon and do something frivolous together for a change. "Like join the Bell Ringers Society?" Deborah had asked with some asperity, displeased at the prospect of having to socialize with the doctrinaire fanatic with whom she shared the tutorial.

Upon learning that neither of these overly serious young women had so much as taken a meal out of hall since arriving at Prinsworth, Miss Davis had ordered them to spend the next week pursuing a social life—together. As a start they were to go out to lunch at a restaurant that very day.

Looking into the window of the restaurant, which had stood on that spot for hundreds of years, they both hesitated. Nearly all the tables were surrounded by male students.

"Looks intimidating," Gladys breathed quietly.


The women glanced at each other for support, then grinned at their common anxiety.

"Back-to-back, my dad always says," Gladys offered.

"What does that mean?"

"If we fight with our backs to each other, they can’t get behind us."

Deborah nodded. "Back-to-back it is, then."

Gladys squared her shoulders determinedly and walked into the restaurant. Deborah followed.

"Zuleika Dobson, as I live and breathe!" a boisterous voice called out above the buzz of voices.

Other people looked up at them.

"Zuleika! Here! Here!" another agreed, staring at Deborah. Eating utensils began rhythmically tapping glassware.

"Who’s Zuleika Dobson?" Deborah whispered to Gladys.

"You. I’ll explain later."

A figure leaped up and strode toward them. "Dee?"

The face looked vaguely familiar, as if an impressionistic portrait of someone she couldn’t quite place.

"Why—it’s Bash Rowell, isn’t it?" She smiled warmly. She had not seen him in years, since before her first term at Branton. He was tall, and he carried himself with the same casual grace she remembered from his boyhood. His hair was wavy blond, and a lock of it fell Byronically across his brow. His blue eyes were disquieting. She tried not to look into them, which was difficult, because they stared deeply into hers.

"I had no idea you had come up to Oxford, Dee. Please join us. There’s rarely a table to be had in this bloody awful place. The food’s ghastly, the prices are outrageous, but it’s the place to go."

Without waiting for an answer, he led the way back to a table in a corner of the room. Deborah shrugged apologetically to Gladys. "There doesn’t seem anything else available."

"Your social life doesn’t seem a problem to me," Gladys replied with admiration.

"Childhood friend. Another exploiter of the masses, I’m afraid."

"I’ll look the other way in his case. He’s gorgeous."

Yes, he is, Deborah thought. Absolutely gorgeous. And then she knew why his eyes had bothered her so: they recalled his father’s exactly when she had spied Rob Rowell kneeling over her mother in the cottage. For an instant she was tempted to flee, but decided it was unfair to hang the son for the sin of the father.

Read more: Birthright or Birthright (Kindle). Stalking the Sky or Stalking the Sky (Kindle). A Question of Proof or A Question of Proof (Kindle); Star Time: New Version & New Introduction or Star Time(Kindle); and Deeds or Deeds (Kindle).

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