“Claire, the silver pieces need polished for the Christmas Eve dance.”
“Yes, Mrs. Fielding.” Claire straightened her apron and tucked a bronze curl behind her ear.
Mrs. Fielding nodded as Simms held out her coat. “We have much to accomplish in one weeks time, exciting though isn’t it?” When she smiled, lines crinkled around her dark eyes. The wrinkles were the only sign that Mrs. Fielding was aging. At sixty-one, her ebony hair remained as beautiful as ever.
“I’m so excited for my first Christmas dance at Fielding House.” [Who said this? Claire or Mrs. Fielding?] A spot of natural rouge [color] appeared on Claire’s cheeks as it always did when she was happy about something.
“It’ll be something like magic for you I’m sure.” She touched Claire’s cheek. “Such a buoyant spirit you have, it reminds me of my own Delia.” [Is Claire a servant? Or a friend/family member? You’ve started by describing her as a servant, but Mrs. Fielding treats her more intimately.]
Claire ducked her head, but her blue eyes shimmered under long lashes. “Thank you Mrs. Fielding. Have a good afternoon.”
Simms [who is Simms?] opened the door for Mrs. Fielding and an icy blast of New England wind tugged at Claire’s curls. She stepped toward the door and listened to the sound of horse hooves pattering across the cobblestones. [does she see anything? When do they close the door?] Then she gave Simms a dimpled smile and headed to the sitting room to pull the drapes. [Now she acts like a servant]
As she reached across the frosted window, she noticed a small carriage arriving. A young man jumped onto the street. He pulled out a valise and flipped a coin toward the driver. Then he waved and lifted his hat to reveal dark black curls. Claire’s heart jumped.
She watched the young man climb the steps and when she saw his profile, she knew that the high cheekbones and straight nose could only belong to a Fielding.
She frowned when his knuckles made contact with the hardwood. Claire had witnessed Mrs. Fielding shed many tears over her family. Years ago, her only daughter had fallen for a man who had taken her to hard country out West. When Delia’s son, Edmund, was five years old, she had succumbed to pneumonia. Mrs. Fielding had seen Edmund once and heard from him even less. [this doesn’t make sense; maybe she’d heard from him only a handful of times, and seen him even less.]
A joyous voice boomed throughout the entry way, “Where’s my Grams?” [Simms would not let him do that.]
Claire rounded the corner [of what? where? She was at the window.] and stopped short with a gasp when her eyes met the emerald gems beneath the darkest lashes she’d ever seen. He smiled and stepped forward with his hand outstretched. “I’m Edmund Beckett and you must be the beautiful Claire Walden.” [he’s pretty forward for this time period. You need to explain that.]
Claire paused and then put her hand in his. “Pleased to meet you. Mrs. Fielding will be back in time for supper.” [Again, is she a servant or a friend? If a servant, would she be shaking hands?]
“You’re wondering how I know who you are,” Edmund said.
“Yes sir, I am curious.”
Edmund stepped closer to Claire. “Grams told me all about you.” [Why would Grams tell him all about a servant?]
“But I thought you weren’t in contact.”
“Ah, no we weren’t until recently when my father passed away.”
“I’m very sorry.”
“Don’t be. If you’ve heard much about my father, you aren’t sorry anyway.”
Claire swallowed and touched her flaming red cheeks. Edmund chuckled and leaned closer. He took one hand from her face and squeezed gently. [Whose hands are at her face? We need to see them go there.] “I’m not like him, not at all.”
Claire was completely unnerved. “I’m sorry, but I must finish my duties.” She released her hand. “I’m sure Simms will help you.”
Claire hurried into the dining room to gather the tarnished silver. She headed to the kitchen with shaking hands. What was she to think of Edmund? He was all charm and glorious beauty and according to Mrs. Fielding, his father was exactly the same way toward Delia.
How had Mrs. Fielding come into contact with her grandson and not mentioned it once to her? [If Mrs. Fielding is telling her grandson all about Claire, it doesn’t make sense that she doesn’t even mention him.] Claire closed her eyes. Immediately, she visualized Edmund’s face with his green eyes smoldering. She snapped her eyes open and stood abruptly. She wouldn’t be charmed into the same fate Delia had suffered.
“Excuse me, Miss, but you have a visitor,” Simms announced.
“Who is it?”
Simms merely smiled and motioned to follow him. Claire’s face fell when she saw her visitor. Tucker Forsey stood with his hat in hand and a smile across his freckled face. The young man had worked at the stables for as long as she could remember. [The butler would not announce visitors for the servants. They would come in the back way.]
“Hello Tucker. What brings you here?”
“I want to ask you to the Fielding Christmas Dance.” [Again, servants would not be invited to the dance.]
“I know you’re eighteen now and can go and I’d like to take you.”
“Actually, she already has an escort.” Claire jumped when she felt Edmund’s hand on her waist. [This is really too fresh for the time period.]
Tucker scowled. “Who are you?”
“I am Mrs. Fielding’s grandson, Edmund Beckett.”
“Claire knows I’ve planned on taking her since last year. She should go to the dance with people of her own class,” Tucker said.
“I’m sure Claire has considered all of her options.”
Claire shook her head. “Tucker, I was actually planning on going alone.”
“Please come with me Claire,” Tucker pleaded.
“I’m honored, but I cannot attend with you. Have a Merry Christmas.” Claire escaped the room quickly.
She had barely resumed polishing the silver when Edmund entered the kitchen.
“I’m sorry about that Claire. I wanted to help, but—”
“I’m not going to the dance with you or anyone else. I don’t even know you!”
“But I know you, and I hoped to speak with you.”
“You don’t know me!”
Edmund’s fingertips brushed her sleeve as she rushed past. “Please Claire.”
Claire ran to her bedroom and tried to compose herself. How could Edmund claim to know her? Several minutes later she heard a soft knock.
“Claire, may I come in?” Mrs. Fielding’s voice accompanied the twisting of the knob.
“Oh, I haven’t finished the silver.”
“That’s not why I’m here. I want you to listen to me for just a moment.” Mrs. Fielding said. “I’m delighted my dear grandson has surprised us with a holiday visit.”
“Just hear me out,” Mrs. Fielding said and she patted Claire’s hand. “Edmund has been writing me these past six months. He feels he knows you because of the details I provided.” Mrs. Fielding smiled. “I must admit Edmund is more like his mother than I could have hoped. Please don’t be afraid to know him. He’s a good man. That’s all I will say now.” Claire blinked back tears as she left the room. She didn’t understand what was happening, but she must protect her heart.
Over the next week, Claire tried to keep her distance from Edmund. But he seemed to always know where she was, whether it was trimming the lamps or dusting furniture, he found a way to be near her. Claire felt her defenses weaken as Edmund’s smiles grew broader with each conversation they held.
On Christmas Eve, Fielding House was picturesque. Bright red bows hung on doorknobs and a garland with silver tinsel was draped across the mantle. The Fielding House Christmas tree had always been Claire’s favorite. The flickering candles cast lovely shadows on the glass balls hanging from every bough.
The dance would begin within the hour and Claire’s heart was tied in knots over Edmund. Although she had fervently vowed not to have anything to do with him, her heart fluttered when she heard footsteps behind her.
“Claire, I hoped you’d be here,” Edmund’s voice sent thrills down her spine. “I have something for you.”
“Edmund, it’s not Christmas yet.”
“I know, but I couldn’t wait.” Edmund handed Claire a silver box and then placed his hand over hers.
“Before you open it, I want to say something.” He looked into her crystal blue eyes. “Perhaps you don’t know me as well as you’d like in light of the feelings we have for each other.”
Claire started to shake her head, but Edmund placed one hand on her cheek and spoke softly, “Claire, I loved you before I even met you. I felt foolish to have such feelings without seeing you, only reading about your goodness. But having spent time with you, I know I cannot ever deny the feeling I have that we should be together. Please, open your gift and let love overcome your fears.” Edmund leaned in close to her and kissed her cheek.
Her eyes sparkled as the heat of his lips spread across her face. Claire opened the box and gasped. A dazzling glass ornament lay nestled in folds of blue velvet.
“Thank you Edmund, it’s beautiful. Let’s hang it on this branch.” Claire pointed toward the top of the tree.
“There’s something else.” Edmund held the box closer and smiled when he heard a sharp intake of breath. A sparkle radiated from a diamond ring tucked in the box. Edmund was kneeling before Claire realized what was happening. “Claire Walden will you marry me and make this the happiest Christmas of all time?”
Claire’s body stiffened with every emotion from fear to excitement as she took in the scene around her. Then she remembered Edmund’s words before she opened the box, to let love overcome her fears. She smiled and held out her left hand. “Merry Christmas Edmund.”
Watch for typos, spelling, grammar, punctuation. I’m a little confused—is Claire a servant or a friend of the family? I’m not sure of her place here. You need to pick one or the other and then make her actions and the way Mrs. Fielding treats her consistent.
You use some of the classic romance techniques well, but the relationship moves too quickly to be believable. Give them more time, let them develop a little more.
What I liked best: Edmund. I like his personality, even though he’s quite fresh for the time period.
Magazine ready? No. Too much is happening to fit it into a short story. Consider turning this into a novel.