Read an excerpt from my upcoming story, "The Songbird's Search" in the upcoming anthology ATHENA'S DAUGHTERS - now being funded on Kickstarter. ** You can still get in on amazing stretch goals!**
This is a beautifully illustrated anthology, with art by Autumn Frederickson. And Meet Marietta! Here's the gorgeous art for my story. Meet Marietta:
The Songbird's Search
No one could remember the last soul who came to Devil’s Gulch and made such an impression. When she stepped through the doors of the Black Fiddle Tavern that day, all conversation stopped and silence fell like a heavy winter snow.
Everyone took notice because the woman just didn’t seem to fit in either the brass-embellished tavern or the burgeoning town. Miss Marietta Parsons was as plain as could be.
Marietta knew that everyone considered her plain, homely. But she didn't care. Nor did she take insult at the look of regret that flashed across the painted face of the striking bar owner Luella, who had posted an opening for a songstress and thereby lured Marietta to the tavern.
Marietta nodded a simple greeting to Luella.
Conversations rose, glasses raised in toasts, and coins were tossed on the tables of the card players. From outside came the clatter of a wagon trundling by.
Marietta walked to the piano man, and pointed to the sheet of music he had in front of him. As his fingers danced over the keys, she loosed a stream of notes so beautiful the whole room quieted. Not a coin or glass clinked.
And when the last note faded and the din resumed, Marietta saw how eager Luella was to sign up the plain 'lil songstress before someone else did.
“Lookin’ for work, sugar?” Luella asked. "I surely could use a songbird like you, brighten the place up a little."
"Could be." The singer stepped to the bar and gave a small smile as she took a loud sip of the sarsaparilla Luella placed before her. "How about a whiskey instead while we discuss terms?"
Luella nodded. "What I like, a woman who knows her mind. A shot of my best whiskey. Here you go. Now come on back to my office and we'll sort it out."
A nibble of excitement stirred in Marietta's stomach as she followed the other woman to the small back room. Everything was going along as she'd hoped.
A half-hour later, a small advance on her salary in her faded tapestry valise, Marietta followed the tall barman Hank up the narrow rickety stairs to the second floor. He opened the door, and she noted his slight flicker of interest. That was a good sign since she suspected he thought her staying here was wasted space better used for paying customers. Still, he remained respectful. She liked that.
"Here you are, Miss." He set down her worn travel trunk and cleared his throat, his voice a bit gravelly from one too many cigars. "Let me know if you need anything. Any problems, you come to me. I'll set things right."
Marietta reached out and gave the old barman's gnarled hand a squeeze and offered a coy smile, watching the pleased expression on his face blossom.
"Thank you, Hank. I'll be sure to do that."
Her small room held simple furnishings—an iron bedstead, a bureau, its top dinged and dented with age, and a sturdy nightstand. The furniture sat against a faded bouquet of blue flowered paper on the walls. Nice, but not too frilly. She felt at home.
Humming, Marietta slipped out of the repressive, prim clothing, reveling in the feel of the cool air against her skin. She lowered herself into the tin tub already filled with warm water; it was just as she'd requested. She poured in the Epsom Salts and let down the strands of wavy hair that shone and glittered like heaven's stars. Leaning back, she let the bath plump and enrich her skin's thirsty cells. She could feel the water doing its work to her parched skin.
Ah, yes, this tavern, this room, this town, was just what she needed.
During the next few days Marietta noticed that when she went out the townswomen avoided her, giving her a wide berth when they passed on the worn, wooden sidewalks. She knew being employed and living at the bar made the righteous biddies uneasy, probably considered her a whore. She cared not a whit what they thought.
The men interested her far more.
Several nights a week she donned one of her fancier dresses, nothing as revealing or flouncy as what the showgirls wore, but decent just the same. Marietta didn’t give her wardrobe a second more consideration than necessary, but she also knew the importance of appearance. She chose the soft blue and peach silks for how they brightened her sallow complexion. A touch of rouge to pinken her lips and cheeks, a few curls to her hair, and a dab of perfume made her presentable.
But it was her smile and voice that made her so appealing.
Once in the saloon, she stood by the piano and sang her set, then sat down to a few whiskeys and polite conversation. She’d rise to finish her last tune, and an audible low sigh of disappointment followed the final note. The tavern patrons always wanted more.
Luella tsked-tsked and raised an eyebrow as she slid glasses of beer across the scarred bar. "Don't know how you do it, sugar. You got them eatin' out of your hand. You can have the pick of the crop, you know."
Marietta knew. It was her music.
** More coming in the anthology, ATHENA'S DAUGHTERS from Silence in the Library.
* Get to know the Athena’s Daughters awesome authors with our blog hop!
- See more at: http://disquietingvisions.com/2013/12/17/kicking-athenas-daughters-notch/#sthash.PEaPhYzN.dpuf