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Southern born, Southern reared. It's a quirky place and we are unique folk... These are my people and these are my stories.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Writing Contest for August 2013

Hush by James Tissot (1836-1902).

A little about the artist: James Jacques Joseph Tissot was a French painter who studied under such greats as Jules-Elie Delaunay, Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamoth. Tissot developed his reputation in art as a painter of elegantly dressed women shown in scenes of fashionable life, current to the times. Tissot spent much of his life in Britain.

The Contest: In the COMMENT box below, and in 150 words or less, write from the scene above. Be creative! Make it uniquely your own. I will read all entries and pick the winner based on content one week from today (so be sure to check back because I won't hunt you down! :)). Winner receives an Amazon.com gift certificate.


  1. Your warm, soft, deep black Indian eyes stare at me. Do you see me tremble? Do you know how silly I feel? It's my debut and my father invited everyone, from the slumped and bored English duchess to you, the rajah, a prince here in India. And you always look at me that way. How will I ever remember how to play this piece? Oh, now I remember, because it's in my blood, in my bones; the music will flow from the deepest part of me, the part that yearns to show my love for you. And one day I will tell you more about my King, the one who gave me the ability to play the strings of your heart with a violin, and who set me free from fear and sin to love without bounds.

  2. I stood in the back of the room transfixed. The blue of her eyes shown brightly, almost too brightly. Was she crying?

    As the middle Tremain sister, Elle had yet to prove herself either the most intelligent, that designation went to her older sister Anne. Or the most accomplished flirt, that title was bestowed upon her younger sister Claire after two broken engagements and a third rumored to be forthcoming. No Elle was the quite, demure middle daughter. Seemingly lost in the hustle and bustle of London's social season. Now here she bravely stood, willing the room to quiet so she could start but knowing once she did, she would lose herself in the music and her God-given gift for transforming notes on a page to a soul rendering experience. One that I was not yet prepared to experience as my soul was still black from my travel to the Continent.

  3. She couldn't believe just hours before, she'd been combing the tangles from her long brown hair. None of these elegant people could possibly know the hell her life had become. None knew this violin was all she had left of her former life. She cringed at the thought of her stooping to that woman, the one she despised, in order to borrow this dress.

    Her arms ached, could she even lift the instrument. But she had to. She needed the music to set her free. But being here, amongst this crowd, made her long for the past. Oh why did she ever believe him? Why didn’t she listen to her aunts warnings? If only her father hadn’t died. He was always the only one who could control her wild yearnings.

  4. It was the musical event of the season! Emily was elated that she had been chosen to perform and she had carefully chosen Ma'vlast from The Bartered Bride Opera she had attended, while on a trip to Czech Republic last year. Oh how she had dreamed of this day! Emily was well aware of the many dignitaries that would attend this most splendid event! She had heard that that Pierre Herme's was to be the guest of honor, she had met him while attending a musical in France, the year before and he had left quite an impression. Emily couldn't help but notice the empty chair where she knew he would be seated, Oh how she hoped he would not miss her debut. She had put in many hours of practice, convincing herself that she would play her best, and she had purchased her dress far in advance, this time she wanted to be the one to leave an impression on Pierre"

  5. Elizabeth stood frozen; the violin resting somewhat feebly under her delicate jaw. Her hand trembled slightly as she prepared to lift the bow that the Indian gentleman eagerly handed her moments ago. Aware of whispers in the back of the room, Elizabeth tried to forget how insolent her two cousins could be. Undoubtedly, they found great humor in this preposterous situation. Indeed, Elizabeth herself might laugh if she weren't the one about to become a laughing stock. The Indian gentleman and his friend had chosen the wrong Elizabeth. All her many accomplishments meant nothing right this very moment. Elizabeth could not play. Summoning her courage, she proceeded to explain everything.

  6. This is from Roger, who could not get his comments to post: Why did Papa have to make me show off my violin skills? Skills? Ha! Fifteen years of lessons wouldn’t have improved my playing.

    But who dared to say no to Papa? Not I.

    After I bowed a series of obviously wrong notes, some of our guests meandered from the parlor. Others started talking as loudly as if Papa had meant for my performance to be background music.

    Perhaps he should have announced his intentions more forthrightly: "My daughter Marie is single. Marry her and I promise to break her violin."

    But none of the “fine gentlemen” in the room appealed to me. Only “Jacques the peasant.” My beloved. A man Papa detested.

    He’d sneaked in earlier. Even from the dark corner where he’d hidden, his smile shone radiantly. That didn’t surprise me. I was playing the piece that signaled my acceptance of his proposal to elope later that night.

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  8. Paulette ventured to her first recital unsure of the rules. She did not wear the customary subtle tones; indeed, pink was her choice. She tried patiently to wait for the music to begin.

    And as the lady stood and prepared to play her instrument, the audience's murmurs became low. A test and a strum of the violin encouraged Paulette to immediately rise and do the cupid shuffle. In the silence, all that was heard was the "hush" from her petticoat.

  9. Okay, this was fun! Thanks for the prompt. Here's my take:

    Who was this man who couldn’t take his eyes off her?

    Juliet had been aware of him all evening as she caught him staring at her across the room. Twice it seemed he had almost asked her to dance, only to be upstaged by one of her father’s protégés. Juliet humored them—and her father—but not one of them made her feel the way the stranger had, just by his gaze.

    And now here they were.

    Juliet barely noticed the full room or Angelique about to begin her customary violin solo. As she’d followed the crowd to the music room, she’d felt the slightest touch at her elbow, guiding her to a seat at the side of the room. The stranger had found her, and his eyes were still on her.

    She couldn’t look away.

  10. "I cannot believe she had the nerve," Elise thought to herself as she opened her fan. She turned in her chair, for she could not even look at Catherine, standing so delicately as she prepared for her solo.

    It was Elise who loved music. It was Elise who felt the violin was meant for her. But it was Catherine who loved Gregory. Gregory, who loved music -- particularly the violin. So Catherine pestered her prosperous father for lessons, and now Catherine was performing, sure to catch Gregory's eye.

    Elise turned further in her chair, wondering if she should leave. However, she noticed the arm behind her resting on a gentleman's cane and looked up. There sat Gregory, his eyes not on Catherine, but instead smiling at Elise.

    Elise smiled back, and thought she could quite easily trade one love for another.

  11. It was the evening of Marie’s first public recital. She was born into a family of wealth of privilege, but considered it more a burden than a blessing. Her parents gave her the best of everything, but at every dinner party, she couldn’t help but stare out the window and imagine herself romping across the Provence countryside, sans shoes, to climb a tree or rendezvous with Richard, or swim in the Rhone.

    Which is not to say that she was without culture or sophistication. Marie was a virtuoso on that violin, and tonight she was on a mission: Ever the social climber, Father knew that he needed to curry favor with the high-society folk of the region; Marie helped him do exactly that, by delivering Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor.

    …And five minutes after the final note, she fled the parlor, shed her shoes, and retreated to the woods.

  12. The girl stood statuesque, frozen, eyes fixed on her father. He lifted his hand and gently motioned her to begin.
    “Eva Marie,” her father said. “Play.” He leaned toward the foreign dignitary to gloat over his daughter’s talent.
    Eva swallowed hard and dropped her bow to her side. Her gazed went to the floor and her voice cracked as she spoke. “Her suitor knelt at her feet. ‘Victoria,’ he said, ‘I wish to ask your hand in marriage. If, that is, you’d have me as your own.’”
    Murmurs filled the room. Eva Marie’s father came to his feet. “What was that?” He slid his hand into his pocket. “I asked you to play your instrument, not recite.”
    The girl curtsied then laid her violin on the piano. “Father,” she said. “I’m not a musician. I’m a writer.” She smiled. “I plan, sir, to make music with my words.”

  13. Why did I entitle this painting, “Hush,” you ask? In the same way that I put myself on the Cross of Christ in my later painting, “What Our Lord Saw from the Cross,” I wanted the title of this painting to describe what I saw from my position in this scene. I am speaking directly to the audience through this imaginary wall as if in a play, I am, "breaking the fourth wall." I have left my seat beside my two friends from the Middle East, noticing that they are the only ones “leaning in” to hear the violinist. I am, through the title of this painting, compelling the audience to “hush” so that we might focus upon and enjoy the beautiful music the violinist is waiting to play.

  14. Lilly flexed her fingers on the neck of the violin and licked her lips. The clink of champagne glasses stopped. The polite murmur of the crowd softened, then died. A hungry silence fell as the eyes of strangers settled on her. She reminded herself not to clear her throat, her worst nervous habit. She ignored the chafe of the new, ridiculously tight corset, raised the bow to the strings and took a deep breath.

    One perfect performance and she could choose her future. No one would ever know her past. She quickly scanned the crowd again, but Danny wasn’t here. Perhaps that was best. If she could look into his chocolate brown eyes, she might forget a note.

    She pulled the bow across the strings and allowed the sad, haunting melody to take her away into a world where nothing existed but her music.

    Please, God, one perfect performance …

    1. I like the part about clearing her throat ... character development in under 150 words!

  15. Wow, these entries are all so good, Eva-Marie. Don't envy you picking one!

  16. Vivenne noticed two oddly dressed fellows in the front row. She nodded. The pianist began a quiet intro. She recognized Moonlight Sonata immediately. Could her wrists carry the sweeping strokes? Were her fingers nimble after hours of practice? She took a deep breath and poised herself. She had never played Beethoven for an audience.
    She began to stroke the bow softly at first- but passion overtook in mere moments. Her desire poured out in fluid notes.
    Melody drifted into the silence of the room as a warm autumn afghan on a moonlit carriage ride. It enveloped the strangers. They listened intently.
    The strangers moved in closer, as if mesmerized. She felt her face flush.
    As she ended the sonata, she bowed humbly.
    The men approached.
    "Your music took us to places we have never been."
    Vivenne smiled at the strangers. Nobody had ever offered such kind words to her before.

  17. "Why, Mr. Wilkie, what a kind thing for you to say. Yes, my cousin Evelyn does play well, doesn’t she? I know Father is so glad you’re here. Tell me now, how is your son Alfred? It’s been so long since we’ve had the pleasure of his company."

    1. I wonder if I might have a do-over. I'd still be under 150 words.

      "Why, Mr. Wilkie, what a kind thing for you to say. Yes, my cousin Evelyn does play well, doesn’t she? I know Father is so glad you’re here. Tell me now, how is your son Alfred?"

      The old gentleman leaned forward as if to speak in confidence. “It’s been over a year, but he’s still grieving. He asked about you, you know. He asked if you are yet married.”

      Sonya felt her face flush and began to fan herself. "We were sorry to hear about his wife dying in childbirth. You must bring him with you next time you visit. It’s been so long since we’ve had the pleasure of his company."

  18. Locked away is how Isabella spent most of her life. Nora, Isabella’s new stepmother, had no interest in raising a child that was obviously not hers, so she often confined Isabella by putting her in the music room that had been her mother’s. In that room, Isabella found her gift…she was a prodigy. After she started school, the room became her refuge. She found hope in her mother’s Bible, left on a music stand.
    As a teen, at a family gathering in her home, she appeared with her mother’s violin. Standing there, the room split. Nora’s family, who over the years felt Nora’s dissension toward this beautiful child with her mother’s features, disinterestedly moved to one side of the room. Her father and the rest of Isabella’s family gathered opposite them, their eyes on Isabella. As she prepared to share her gift, she knew her life was about to change…

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  20. She was a scullery maid, not a violinist.

    Betsy gripped the bow with trembling fingers and hoped she was holding it correctly. This wasn't part of the wager. She’d successfully bluffed her way through the evening, even used the oyster knife correctly, but a musical performance was not part of her repertoire. If her ruse failed now, would Sir Rafe be able to protect her?

    He caught her eye, his confidence infusing her with warmth as he had so often during their six months of elocution and deportment lessons. He didn't really think she could fake musical talent, did he? Why would he risk it when they both had so much to lose?

    A brief conversation at the piano and Rafe replaced the white-haired musician. Betsy raised a recently refined eyebrow. He couldn’t play the piano, but he must have a plan. And at his nod she lifted the bow.

  21. Emaline let the final strains of Paganini’s Caprice No. 24 fade away, along with her hopes of a truly sensational presentation. How could she have chosen such a predictable repertoire? Only the leering Rajkumar Puneet seemed remotely interested.

    Scoundrel. Perhaps she should consider another use for her bow.

    Choosing to ignore him, Emaline glanced around the room, searching for a friendly face, an encouraging smile. No one even noticed she’d stopped playing. Clearly, it would take more than a few conventional compositions to win the acceptance of Adèle and her entourage. Not that they would notice anyone who wasn’t dressed in a black tail coat and top hat.

    What these people needed was a good old Virginia reel. But would that give too much away? Emaline sighed. Maybe it was time to shake things up a bit.

    Her mother would be appalled.

    Well. That’s as good a reason as any.

  22. Her fingertips brushed the strings lightly, testing the sound. Perfectly in tune.

    Unlike her life.

    She caught the slight dip of her father's head. He was ready.

    Her left hand twisted and rubbed the wood of the bow, avoiding the fine threads of horsehair. Was the bow tight enough? Had she run the block of rosin over it? She could not afford to disappoint her father again. Not tonight. Fortunately, there was one thing he valued more than marrying his daughter off to the highest bidder.

    The sale of that instrument.

    Her father’s future depended on how well her fingers navigated those four narrow strings. As she lifted the violin an inch higher, the first melancholy notes rose from the piano. The foreign gentleman and his companion leaned forward, as if already entranced. Just behind them, her father's dark gaze narrowed in a final warning.

    Play or pay.


    1. Oops. Should've been "Her right hand..."

      Haha oh well


  23. A flash of displeasure registered on Elizabeth’s face as she noticed not only had her love interest not returned, but Sarah too was missing. Though many chatted on oblivious to Elizabeth’s change in countenance, still others stared with anticipation of her performance. She cleared her throat awkwardly and curtsied slightly while trying to force a smile. Taking her nod as his cue, the pianist pored himself into the musical introduction startling Elizabeth. For a moment she was able to pull her attention to the cheerful dance of the sonata, but the attempt was vain. Her jealousy boiled to attention again causing her to miss her entrance. The piano went silent and Elizabeth felt the weight of everyone’s stares. Tears welled up. Her face flushed with embarrassment, with hurt. Able to endure no more, Elizabeth tore from the room, violin still clutched in her hand.

    -Gary Burch (garyaburch@gmail.com)

  24. Your skin feels soft sittings in my hands as they caress the shape of your face. The face of you, the girl I fell madly in love the moment my eyes saw your dark hair up nicely on your head that night. The black dress, dark in color it made your creamy skin shine brighter than the crystal chandler that hung above you. It was placed upon the ceiling to illuminate the room, yet your beauty radiated so vividly, it put the exquisite chandler to shame. When I look into those emerald green eyes, I am reminded of the night I first saw you. That night at the party, you sat in the front, entranced by the way the bow moved against the strings of the violin. If I could go back to when the music floated in the air, I would, just to see you in that moment again.

    -Paige Touse (paigetouse@gmail.com)

  25. Taffeta rustles and the chattering of my companions quiets into whispers around me. How innocently they await this performance. My love, as I stand here with trembling knees, my heart melts like wax within me. This is the hardest thing you have ever asked me to do for you. I breathe a steadying breath, deceptively full of flowers and perfume. Only I share in the heady secret that these sweet notes enable outside these walls. ‘Tis for our country, my love, our dear land. The traitors will never stop you. Godspeed to you my love. Godspeed. Can I possibly play these delicate notes of Swan without trembling? Yes, I will. I must. The knowledge of your wonderful plan will only strengthen me, not cause me to falter or burst into foolish tears. I will be strong. I will. For you. For this land.

  26. Anna gazed out at the crowd. She was ready, but ready wasn’t enough. She knew this by the look in Dawson’s face. But still she stood glued to the floor, violin in hand.
    This was the moment when she would meet with her future. She knew something was wrong about it all, and obviously so did Dawson, Andrew Dawson that is. Andrew would know better than anybody.
    Not only had Anna and Andrew grown up together, but Andrew knew more about the people that met with her than she did.
    She was waiting to enter into a dream she would never leave. What had she agreed to? She raised her bow to the violin slowly. No one paid any attention to her. Dawson stood slowly. His eyes drilled hers. They begged her not to play. She didn’t care, she closed her eyes. She played. She dropped.
    She would dream forever.

    -Micheala Burch (michealayburch@gmail.com)

  27. A hush fell over the guests as Sarah bent to pick up the violin. No one had touched it since last Christmas, when James gave his final performance. The instrument had remained on the credenza, a tribute to the virtuoso.

    Sarah tucked the instrument under her chin and pulled the bow across the strings.

    As the melody lilted into the hall and up the stairs, conversation stopped. It was Christmas again, and James was filling the house with music and magic.

    Only now it was Sarah, his daughter, who brought life to the block of wood. Sarah, who had kept her talent secret for so long, recreated the emotions her father had birthed with his talent. And it was Sarah who brought life back to a home where there had been none.

    James was content.

    Sarah smiled as a tear fell onto the violin.

  28. With empathy, I watch her being unnoticed. I want to yell out, "Hush!", and "let her play!", as my eyes scan the room. How did they come to be so indifferent? It's as if the artist does not even exist!

    I know the Creator of life, but in this colorful world I always get drawn in. Look closely into the mirror. Just beyond the musicians' missing reflection there's a fly on the wall. As one of the uninvited, I have a unique perspective.

    I see what's wrong with this picture because I'm not a significant part of it. If I were, wealth would not be taken for granted, and the music would never beg for silence.

    As it is now, however, I blend into the scenery and watch as these elegantly dressed women make up their own worthless sound...and rich men are played like cheap violins.

  29. Sorry, I didn't mean to post anonymously...I'm not that chicken. (:

  30. Hmm. I did one but it isn't here...

  31. I missed it for sure but oh what a great idea! Such fun and connection!