Thursday 20 December 2018

A Story Inspired by a Song by M.J. Logue

guess the song
clue...ssh - dance
More than that, it was shameful: at almost forty Thankful Russell ought to know how to dance like a civilised being and he didn't. Everybody knew that he didn't, and were being nice about it and keeping out of his way. 

The problem was that Russell was twenty years older than his wife, and brought up unnaturally strict before he had gone off to be a soldier. He had lost half his beauty in the service of his country in the great wars between the King and his Parliament, and perhaps he was more aware of the scar on his poor face than was healthy, but his experience of humanity till now was that it was either trying to kill him or he was giving it orders. Thomazine had adored him almost since she was born, but he could be very, very odd in company. 
     He'd have been happy to prop himself comfortably out of sight and stuff himself on good cheese and roast meat, and watch everybody else enjoying themselves. She wouldn't have minded, either, if her sister hadn't been so annoyingly, and publicly, sympathetic about his senile decrepitude. That had vexed Thomazine, because he was forty-ish and she was twenty, but he wasn't an old man, and she'd been cross enough to tell him. You would have thought she'd asked him to lead a forlorn hope into battle instead of dance with her, but he'd set his shoulders, lifted his head like the proud old warhorse he was, and prepared to do his best. 
     "Two left feet," she breathed, " - any chance you could point them in the right direction, love?"
     "I'm trying!"
     "My poor toes agree - very trying..."
    And he was so horrified that he stopped in the middle of the dance and was promptly bounced into, and sworn at, by half a dozen joyful couples mid-measure.
     He was so blind with humiliation that he affected a conspicuous limp, murmuring about an old injury. Pushing his way onto the bench with all the other old men -
She came with him, and he whirled, "I can't do this, tibber!"
     "Hold my hands," she said. 
    He stared at her. "I can't dance," he said, low and fierce. "I - I don't know how to. I never learned the measures, and I'm too old -"
     "No one will notice, you silly man. Take my hands," she said, more firmly, and put her fingers into his. 

Somebody noticed. Somebody whistled, not unkindly. 
     "Stand up," she said. He was going to protest, he opened his mouth, and she just looked at him: wondering for the first time if this would be how it would be for the rest of their lives together, he would over-complicate things because he didn't know how to be around people that he wasn't ordering about and it scared him witless. And she would unpick his fretting as kindly as she might, and tell him to stop being so stupid. 
    And there would be a rest of their lives together that wasn't all bathed in the rosy glow of courtship. 
    There would be times when it was going to be hard work - exasperating and wearying and not at all romantic. And that was all right, because he might be an idiot at times, but he was a much-beloved idiot, and the one she had chosen to marry. 
    Looking slightly dazed, he got to his feet. "We are going to dance," she said. "Together. It may be the only time we ever do and you may be the most leaden-footed man alive..."
     "I suspect I probably am."
     "Well. Do what I do, and don't you dare look back."
     They edged carefully to the backwater of the great barn floor, where the eddies of dancing did not touch them. He did not take his eyes from her face, but she did not think he minded being there, so long as they were not in the thick of it all. (He couldn't bear to be looked at. For someone who was tall and blond and right-side beautiful, it was sad and funny all at once that he couldn't, for even with the scars he was lovely enough to turn your head.) 
     He was right, though, he truly couldn't dance, and he hopped and shuffled between the beats with a rather endearing concentration that had no enjoyment in it at all. Thomazine's feet didn't move. She could manage his, but didn't dare put her own into the equation, no matter how nimble. She let him sidle stiffly about her, and that was sad too, for when he wasn't thinking about what other people made of him he could be as graceful as water flowing downhill. 
     She put her hand up to his poor scars and covered his ruined cheek with her palm, and he stiffened for a heartbeat and then gave a shivery sigh, leaning into her touch. (She could hear the murmurs of disapproval - such public affection was not polite - but that was all right.)
     And then she began to move, and he began to move with her. "Don't look at your feet," she cautioned, and he smiled down into her eyes. "I can't, my tibber. Your skirts are in the way."
     "This is not how a man is meant to dance with his wife, you know. We are immodestly close."
     "As well you are my wife and not someone else's, then. That would be immodest."
     The fierce concentration was fading. (He hadn't fallen over and he hadn't died and no one was laughing at him. He could stop being anxious.) He took a sideways step quite independently, his gaze flew to her face - am I doing it properly? - she nodded encouragement. 
     "You're doing fine, my honey."
   His hand tightened on her waist as someone laughed, somewhere in the shadows - Thomazine shook her head, just once, and took a step of her own out of the dim light. Held his gaze. Pay them no mind. "Just keep moving your feet to the music and stop thinking about it!"
     "I'm not thinking about it," he said, and there was that twist about his mouth that passed for a wry smile. "I'm thinking about how your sister looks as if she's bitten into a sour apple, and I could play the fiddle with my teeth better than this ten-thumbed lout your mother's acquired."
     "Russell," she said again, for he had stopped while he talked and people were beginning to swirl around them again. He cocked his head, forgetting for a second to be self-conscious and looking at her as if their closeness were giving him wicked ideas. 

Which was a lovely thought, and entirely mutual, but not in the middle of harvest home. 
     "Oh, be quiet, you silly man, and dance!" she said.

© M J Logue

song: Shut Up And Dance With Me by Walk the Moon

About the author:

M J Logue
Twitter: @hollie_babbitt

MJ Logue (as in cataLOGUE and epiLOGUE and not, ever, loge, which is apparently a kind of private box in a theatre) wrote her first short novel on a manual typewriter aged seven. It wasn’t very good, being about talking horses, but she made her parents sit through endless readings of it anyway.

Thirty-something years later she is still writing, although horses only come into it occasionally these days. Born and brought up in Lancashire, she moved to Cornwall at the turn of the century (and has always wanted to write that) and now lives in a granite cottage with her husband, and son, five cats, and various itinerant wildlife.

After periods of employment as a tarot reader, complaints call handler, executive PA, copywriter and civil servant, she decided to start writing historical fiction about the period of British history that fascinates her – the 17th century.

Her first series, covering the less than stellar career of a disreputable troop of Parliamentarian cavalry during the civil wars, was acclaimed by reviewers as “historical fiction written with elegance, wit and black humour” – but so many readers wanted to know whether fierce young lieutenant Thankful Russell ever did get his Happy Ever After, that the upcoming series of romantic thrillers for Sapere Books began.

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to be reviewed 1st January
Note: There is copyright legislation for song lyrics but no copyright in names, titles or ideas
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M.J. Logue has an article on Helen Hollick's blog about the English Civil Wars - 

click HERE to read

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The Full List of Authors

 1st        Philip K. Allan     
 2nd      J J Toner         
 3rd       Catherine Kullman    
 4th       Helen Hollick              
 5th       Richard Tearle    
 6th       Barbara Gaskell Denvil
 7th       Nicky Galliers
 8th       Angela Macrae Shanks          
 9th       Katherine Pym  
10th      J G Harlond    
11th       Anna Belfrage
12th      Richard Dee
13th      Inge H. Borg
14th      Annie Whitehead
15th      Louise Adam
16th      Charlene Newcomb
17th      Alison Morton                         
18th      Kathryn Gauci
19th      Helen Hollick 
20th     M.J. Logue
21st       Helen Hollick 
22nd     Cryssa Bazos               
23rd      Jennifer Wilson                       
24th      Elizabeth St John  writing as Julia Darke                         
26th      Helen Hollick
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  1. Having at least two left feet myself, legs that turn to lead anywhere a dance floor and hips that seem to fuse at the very thought of dancing, I really do know how poor Thankful feels. and you have captured that feeling perfectly! Excellent story and I have never heard of the song!!

    1. I've had it in mind for those two since it was used in my son's end of term school production and a) it's got that sort of 80s vibe that old goths like yrs truly enjoy, and b) any sing where the "heroine" tells her feller to shut up and dance, is good with me....

  2. Some things never change. Very touching. And funny. Still dancing around the kitchen here.

  3. Love is not always romantic. Thomazine knows that. despite her youth, it is she who offers Russell the security he needs to believe in love. *sniffs* God, I love Russell!

  4. I recognise these characters from one of Mel's novels, but even if a reader doesn't know them, the situation they are in is soooo familiar! Reluctant party-goer at a family celebration, wishing he could just be left alone. Marvellous.

  5. Poor Russell! What an alien world he feels he is in now.
    Thank you for this personal glimpse into the warrior's life and for showing Thomazine's practical love (and compassion).

  6. I'm on book two of the Uncivil War series - loving it so far - but I've not yet met Thankful Russel. Already hooked on the other characters though (Hollie Babbit & Luce!)
    Really looking forward to the new series!

  7. As fabulous as ever. Well done, I loved it.

  8. Such a sweet story. Thanks for introducing me to Thomazine - love her!

  9. Lovely sweet story. You draw your characters so well, it's as if I know them and enjoy their company. Well done.


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