Land Lover

England Lake districts.JPG

Coniston Water, Lake District, England © Google Maps



On his tour, her steps thudded on hard dirt.  His smile warmed even as hers wavered.

He’d seemed so exotic, with his pale skin and ornate costume and foreign ways.  Now she saw.  A noble-son, living in a stone edifice.

The sheep resembled whitecaps, rolling across green hills.  She felt the boards sway, heard sails snap, smelled salt.

“This will all be mine.  Ours.”

Owning land.  Odd.

“For dowry…  You could sell your ship.”

Sell her—?  “I cannot.”

“But—”

Other no’s followed, in varied shapes, each piled softly onto the last.

He steered into the wind.  “I would follow you.”

“It’s forbidden.”

More words, then—angry, hurt, pleading—stomping over well-trodden ground, refusing to lead out of the conversation.

Finally, she led herself out, toward the water.

Closer, the sheep looked too solid: hot, furred.  Attached to land by mouth and hoof.  Never to ride the ocean alive.



Word count: 150.  Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw challenge.  This week Pegman takes us to a lovely corner of England, which wasn’t nearly dark enough for the other stories I had in mind.  Luckily I was still able to sneak some heartbreak in there.  Click the link to read the other stories written for this location, and to write your own.

I had originally written this at about 240 words, and that was already skipping the parts I’d wanted to include about how they’d met and where she’s from and how she recoiled at his offer of putting her in beautiful gowns.   I got it down to 200 and almost posted it before I remembered that this challenge is 150 words, not 200.  D’oh!  So I went back to the cutting board.  As an extra this week, I’m including Appendix A, which is the original 200-word version.  It’s partially to show why I’m so surprised when someone goes two or three words over. If I can cut 50 words (after already cutting 40), surely anyone can whittle off two or three.

Land Lover (longer version)

He toured her around, their steps dull on hardened dirt.  His smile warmed even as hers wavered.

He’d seemed so exotic onboard, with his pale skin and ornate costume and foreign ways.  Now she saw.  A noble-son, living with his parents, in a stone edifice.

Her sight, choked by endless forest, opened to a field. The sheep looked like whitecapped waves. She imagined them rolling across the green hills, cresting.  For a moment she felt the boards sway beneath her, heard the sail snap, smelled the salt.

“I’ll inherit this all.  For us.”

To own land.  Trees.  Grass.  So odd.

“As for the dowry…  You could sell your ship.”

Sell her—?  Last drop. “I cannot.”

“But you—”

Other no’s followed, in varied shapes, each piled softly onto the one before.

He steered into the wind.  “I could go with you. I would.”

No.  Her people’s secrets were sacred.  “It is forbidden.”

More words, then—angry, hurt, pleading—stomping over well-trodden ground, refusing to lead out of the conversation.

Finally, she led herself out, toward the water.

Closer, the sheep seemed too solid: hot, furred.  Attached to the land by mouth and hoof.  Never to ride the ocean alive.



 

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28 thoughts on “Land Lover

  1. I love this, Joy. Mostly that SHE is the captain of her ship…
    And that no way in hell can you get a sea-gal to live on land… no love could ever be strong enough.

    And, like you, I am always amazed when people just CAN’T cut 2-3-10 words… Really? Coz in each and every case, I see where it would be so easy…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, she’s a rambling woman, and she’s got to be rambling on! And what a cross-cultural gulf they have, too. He thinks a woman needs a dowry – to pay for the husband’s family acquiring this mostly useless new family member (and he would dress in her pretties & keep her home so she didn’t “have” to work). Whereas her people think women naturally make better leaders because they understand the ocean better, so of *course* they would more often be captains of their own ships!

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  2. I particularly like of the sheep attached to the land. Interesting to compare the two versions. I think I might like best something that falls between the two. And of course, the story. Oh, and how often is that repeated, in essence? Or maybe not. Maybe if it was there wouldn’t be so many broken marriages. Opposites attract, yet opposites aren’t a good recipe for harmony.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The version I would like best — the one I pictured initially — would be as long as the two put together! I am always imagining more details than can ever be included.

      And yes, opposites do attract sometimes, but it certainly does make it harder to keep a relationship going. One of the aspects that didn’t even make it into the initial draft was that he was imagining himself doing the “honorable” thing, and was aghast that she had “let him” lay with her if marriage wasn’t her intention. She laughs to herself about who “let” whom do what, given that she was mostly trying to distract the poor, sweet man from his embarrassing fear of the sea, not realizing she’d fall for him a bit in the process. Then she says, “And I’d lay with you again, if you’d have me. But I sail tomorrow, either way.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • Now that definitely exceeds the word count. Though it does make for a good story. And I like the way the tables are turned on the ‘traditional’ (might we say patriarchal) values of man and woman.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Layorans in the south part of the main continent are the closest to the Medieval European patriarchal culture; the others all vary more in one direction or another. In part, the more egalitarian behaviors stem from the ability of magical healers (of some, but not all, deities) to provide reliable birth control — suddenly women aren’t risking so much more from nonmarital sex than men are, and it really changes the gender dynamics. This woman’s culture, the Ossarac, are definitely very different, not least of which is that “secret” that she mentions in the longer version that outsiders cannot know… 😉

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    • Thanks Kelvin, glad to hear you enjoyed it! I was turning various story ideas over in my head and it wasn’t until I got to the idea of her seeing the sheep like white-capped waves that I knew this was what I’d write.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Other no’s followed, in varied shapes, each piled softly onto the last. Lovely line.
    The title is perfect. The first thing I thought when I saw Land Lover was Landlubber. I’ve always loved that word for some reason. And the vision of the sheep transferring from whitecaps to hooved creatures that would never experience the sea ~ alive. Rather grim but so true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for that nice comment, Alicia! I especially love it when someone else points out a favorite line that is also my favorite, so that I know it connected. I had fun with the title. Landlubber, yes, but also that he loves the land, whereas he is also her lover who is of the land.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love how you’ve written this, Joy, the phrases – their varied noes and those sheep like floating caps, changing to tethered lumps as the mood changes. You’ve shown so well how two people from such different backgrounds are so incompatible – a bird may fall in love with a fish but where will they build their nest? You write such terrific women, Joy – assertive, powerful, occasionally monstrous but rarely weak and never dull

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Lynn, I love this comment! And I’m so pleased that you appreciate my female characters; I do try to explore how we can have “strong women” (and strong men) who aren’t merely physical brutes. The varied flavors of no’s piled up and the sheep as waves were my favorite parts, so it’s great to hear they resonated with you.

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  5. Kudos to you on your judicious pruning, Joy. It was interesting to compare the two and I liked your approach. The sheep/whitecap was a great image and the last line absolutely slayed me. What’s not to love about a woman who’s captain of her own ship?

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    • Thanks for the great comment, Karen! I always love to hear which lines people especially noticed. And yes, she’s an independent woman from a culture where that’s normal, whereas he’s from a patriarchal culture and wants to offer to save her from having to work; she and he would both have a hard time adapting to each other!

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