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rawrritsmanda
May 15th, 2012, 06:11 PM
Shocked- Chapter 1


My boots crunched into the frozen snow as I stepped off the warm bus into the uninviting cold. I immediately felt the icy air bite at the warmth of my fingers and began following my tour group up the cobblestone path towards the Palace entrance. The fortress was a massive structure that made the White House appear modest in comparison. I had never stood in the company of such a colossal structure and it was hard to fathom someone calling this home. It was colored a pale shade of yellow that was easy on the eyes, accented with beige undertones. We entered through the east entrance that led us to a lobby full of students and families from all over the world. Our chaperone, Mr. Fitz, began to count heads before he handed over our tickets to a short gray-haired man who wore a headset over his left ear.


“Hello, can everyone hear me okay?” crackled the man through a speaker hanging on his belt. “My name is Bruno, I will be your tour guide this morning. Feel free to ask me any questions along the way. Now follow me to the first room on the Sh÷unbrunn Palace tour.”


We began following him as his thick Austrian accent rattled off historical facts about the Palace. My senior class had been allowed to travel to Europe as an educational adventure before heading into the world of adulthood. There were only five of us that signed up for this voyage across the Atlantic so we had tagged along with random tourists. In our group, there were around twenty people, all older than us by at least fifteen years.


We made our way up stone steps to reach the start of a red carpeted path that led us into the first room of the tour. “In this room we have all the portraits of Maria Theresa’s children. Including Maria Elisabeth, who was considered to be Maria Theresa's most beautiful daughter and thus a splendid match. However, she contracted smallpox and while she eventually recovered, her face was so disfigured by scarring that there was no hope of finding her a husband. The only alternative for the archduchess was to enter a convent,” explained the tour guide with enthusiastic poise.


I peeked over at Thea, my best friend, wondering how she was coping with the dismal fate of Maria Elisabeth. With her shoulder length blonde hair and sparkling green eyes, I examined her pale face. She’s a more sympathetic creature than I am, and I could tell by her thoughtful expression she was already feeling sorry for the unfortunate Sister Maria.


My eyes wandered to the massive walls of the room as I thought about how incredible it would have been to roam the Sh÷unbrunn Palace of over one thousand and four hundred rooms, as if it were my own. The majestic walls were covered by wood panels painted with a pearl, off-white paint. Each of the grand surfaces was sectioned by crown molded trim, painted a luminous gold. Hanging on the center wall was a painted portrait of three boys. On the two neighboring walls there were individual portraits of twelve other children, six frames on each. As I looked towards the ceiling of the room I noticed the same gold trim framing the edge of each side. Dangling in the center was a majestic chandelier layered with glass crystals hanging in rows around each level of white candle sticks that have been appropriately replaced with mocking light bulbs. There was not much to look at in the room besides four gold trimmed chairs with olive green upholstery and a wooden table painted to match the walls of the room. I looked to my right to peer out the windows of the faded French doors, at what I assumed could only be an impressive view of the immense courtyard, but the time worn shutters were fastened shut.


As we crossed the threshold into the next room, I detected the same gold trimmed walls and windowed French doors as the room before. The room was larger; instead of just one French doorway it contained three, each opened to a balcony that overlooked the courtyard. The doors were wide open letting in the refreshing, cool air of the wintry breeze flow past me. Until then, I hadn’t realized how overheated I was and how flush my face must be. I was wearing a thick, down feather coat with a purple and black plaid scarf, along with dark blue jeans and knock-off Ugg boots. I slipped off my hefty, silver coat revealing my bright yellow t-shirt printed with electric blue letters. I have always been a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl, even when it was snowing outside. I hung my jacket on my arm and looked out over the gigantic courtyard. It had three pavement driveways spread apart evenly across the field. They were wide enough for at least three lanes of traffic.


I turned back into the room and noticed a tall, lean guy was standing in front of one of the large mirrors. He was wearing a black and gray, hooded zip up jacket and a black beanie over his head. He was loitering on the other side of the velvet rope and no longer on the red carpeted path the tour guide had taken us on. I didn’t remember seeing him on my first few sweeps of our group. I thought maybe he worked for the palace security or something but I hadn’t noticed any type of radio or badge. He was facing towards the mirror and I assumed he was checking out the recurring gold trim. My eyes raked over him trying to uncover the mystery of why he thought he was important enough to be on the forbidden side of the velvet rope. Through the reflection of the mirror, I realized that his eyes were gazing in my direction. I immediately looked down feeling embarrassed and a little bit awkward knowing that I was blatantly staring and he may have been watching the whole time.


I should not have felt awkward though. He was the one suspiciously standing off course. I looked up listening to the tour guide as he rambled about a six year old Mozart playing for his first audience in this room. The tour guide didn’t say anything or even take a break from his memorized list of facts. I looked at Thea who was intently listening, then at my other classmates. They were all either watching the tour guide or blankly staring off into space. No one seemed to notice the mystery guy.


I glanced back over towards the mirror, no one was there. I searched all through the crowd and out on the balcony. I went up slightly on my tippy toes and stared ahead into the next room. There was nothing that I could see out of the ordinary from the angle I was at. I peered over my shoulder at the other half of the room but there was nothing except a gold and red upholstered chair in the far corner. I contemplated asking Thea or one of the others if they had noticed someone walking out but I knew that it was probably unlikely. I replayed the whole thing in my head about twenty times.


The only conclusion I could come up with was that he had slipped past the tour guide into the next room as I was looking at everyone else. I could only wish there was a possibility that our group would run into him skulking beyond the marked boundaries in another room. I hadn’t planned to confront him, but I wanted to see him one more time in hopes of unraveling his secrecy.


The group surged forward and we walked through the doorway into the next white and gold room; it had the same gold trim and red upholstered chairs. I wasn’t impressed. Of course the palace was beautiful, majestic, and royally decorated; I had felt like I was in the movie “Marie Antoinette”. But the rooms were a tad repetitive and after the first two, my curiosity to personally see the palace had been satisfied.


I immediately scanned the room eagerly for my mystery guy. I searched all the four chairs facing towards the windows in the first corner of the room. Next I checked the middle section with an enormous portrait, of what looked like some grass and trees, hanging above four chairs and a small table. Last, I scanned the farthest corner from where I was standing. There were three seats, one being a couch and the couch’s counterparts, two gold trimmed chairs. Placed evenly in between was a small painted table that matched the elegant walls perfectly. There was nothing out of the ordinary. I was flooded with disappointment. I’m not even sure why I was so disappointed by not seeing him. The thought of some rebellious rule-breaker to spice up the tour had gotten me so excited, that I had forgotten to stop and think about what had happened in the other room. He had just been taking a sneak peek at the mirror’s edges. He probably belonged to some historical society VIP club.


“Hey you,” said a deep smooth voice from my left.


I turned my head and shifted a little to see who had spoken. I was shocked for a moment; it was strange seeing him at a normal distance and not from across the room. He was a young guy probably a few years older than me and about six feet and four inches tall with broad shoulders. The mystery guy had dark brown hair that peeked out of his beanie just barely, and brooding green eyes with hazel emerging from the darkness of his pupils. His brow bones were sharp but soft at the same time and his jaw was slightly chiseled. His nose wasn’t quite big but it was different than any nose I had ever witnessed. He had a look about him that seemed foreign. Just as I came to a decision that he was rather good looking, I saw that he was looking at me with a satisfied glance.


I swiftly responded, “Were you talking to me?”


“Yes, I was,” he laughed lightly. I recognized he had an accent; he sounded British. He was smiling and I could see dimples on both of his cheeks.


“Oh,” I trailed off. I would have kicked myself if I had the chance. But he didn’t seem to notice my lame response.


“So you’re American?” he asked curiously.


“Yeah, I’m on a class trip. We came all the way from Texas.”


“Texas? That’s a bit far. And who is we?” he questioned.


He glanced around me searchingly, as though he hadn’t noticed Thea standing next to me. She was looking between the two of us curiously. I caught eye contact with her and a huge grin spread across her face. I already knew she wanted me to get his contact information and make fast friends with this overseas wonder.


“Well, this is Thea,” I gestured towards her. “The others are around here somewhere.”


“Pleasure to meet you Thea,” he reached out and shook her hand smoothly.


Thea beamed up at him. “Hi,” she said.


He smiled back at her then looked at me holding out his hand and asked, “What about you, girly, what’s your name?”


The alluring behavior of his voice, lavishly fused with his accent and charm, had my name momentarily frozen at the tip of my tongue.


“My name’s Jayden,” I finally said as I reached to take his outstretched hand.


When our hands touched, he quickly jerked back staring at his hand dumbfounded.


“Are you okay?” I asked a little concerned.


I felt my hands checking for anything that may have given him discomfort. My fingers ran over the sharp edges of my ring, and I thought of how many times I had cut myself on it before. It had been the only thing I had of my parents after the fire that left our house in ashes.


“Yeah, I’ll be alright,” he assured me and distractedly added, “You shocked me.”


“Sorry, I guess it’s because the air is so dry.” I said and sheepishly turned my gaze to the floor.


I found it strange that I hadn’t felt the electricity pass between us, my nerves must have numbed my body.


“Yeah, I reckon,” he agreed. Then swiftly continued, “But what hurts more is that you didn’t ask my name.” He teasingly put on a sad puppy dog face and pouted his lip.


Thea chimed in, “Yeah Jayden…,” drawing out my name, “Ask him his name.”


She hit my arm expectantly while giving me a look that was meant to say, “Don’t be rude! Hurry up and ask him!” I rolled my eyes then looked at him giving me a pitiful look. I couldn’t ignore him even if I wanted to.


“Well what’s your name then, mystery guy?” I asked sarcastically, but playful at the same time.


“I’m Ashton,” he said as he gracefully motioned towards himself.


Thinking back to the first time I saw him, I remembered him standing in front of the mirror and wondering what he was up to. Now that I’ve had a chance to hear a little bit of his personality, he was probably just doing it because he was bored or just to prove to himself that he could. He was charming though, I couldn’t deny it.


“So, Ashton, why are you here?” I asked trying not to sound overly interested.


He hesitated for a moment then said, “I’m here waiting for my uncle. He was meant to be here earlier, but he got caught up in business meetings. We flew in from Brisbane last night. I couldn’t stand the thought of staying in the hotel all day and asked him to meet me here.”


“Oh, you’re from Brisbane…?” I trailed off.


I wasn’t sure where Brisbane was, and I wasn’t going to guess and make a fool of myself.


“Australia,” he chuckled. “I guess geography isn’t your strong point.”


“I guess not.”


I rolled my eyes while an amused smile spread across my face and blood rushed to my cheeks.


“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.” He winked and smiled at me sweetly.


I looked away trying not to blush even more, only to find Mr. Fitz staring at me with an interested look; he held up his finger motioning for us to be quiet. Ashton followed my gaze and saw our warning.


He looked back at me and whispered, “I hope I didn’t get you in too much trouble.”


“Trouble isn’t always a bad thing,” I whispered back with a huge grin on my face.


He smiled back and looked as though he had a clever remark, then his expression turned blank and he reached into his pocket pulling out a vibrating phone.


As he stared concentrating on the screen he said, “My uncle just texted me, he’s not going to be able to meet me here. But he sent a car to pick me up, and he wants me to join him for lunch at Stephansplatz Square.”


Before I could wrap my head around what to say, Thea jumped in and said, “Isn’t that where we are going after the tour for free time and lunch?”


She had been quiet almost the whole time; I had forgotten she was standing there. But at that moment I was glad she said something, because I had no idea what to say and I wasn’t ready to dismiss him to go our separate ways. He looked up at her, and then at me with a mischievous look.


“I’ll meet you both at the St. Stephens Cathedral at three,” he insisted with a devilish grin.


Taken aback by the last half of the conversation, I gaped at him speechlessly. He chuckled softly, then turned and started walking down the carpeted path. Right before he stepped through the foyer of the previous room, he looked over his shoulder midstride and said, “Don’t be late.”


I turned to Thea, “Did that really just happen?”





** Would love to have feed back. I think some parts may have too much description. For example, all the gold trimmed walls. :P I'm not really sure. Let me know what you think. (I'm thinking about scrapping this story completely. I have two other chapters but I'm not sure if its interesting enough yet.)

MrGodlock
May 17th, 2012, 11:43 AM
I remember this. It's been awhile since I read this little story. I still like it, and as I've said before, it looks a little over adjectivey.

xlwoo
May 18th, 2012, 03:02 PM
[I immediately felt the icy air bite at the warmth of my fingers]
In my opinion, we must have a logical thinking in writiing, in expressing ideas. So BITE cannot reach the WARMTH, I mean you can say "bite at my warm fingers". It's logical to bite the fingers, not logical to bite the warmth.

Jeko
May 18th, 2012, 03:06 PM
I immediately felt the icy air bite at the warmth of my fingers

I actually love this phrase. It personifies the cold as a vicious animal of sorts, and presents a metaphorical edge to your writing.

'Bite' is also sharp, and makes me think of icicls, which makes me think of teeth, which makes the whole idea connect very well. I may just have to steal it...

Ohgodaspider
June 10th, 2012, 04:22 AM
I couldn't get enough of this. I was very much captivated by it, up until now I've never enjoyed a book or piece of work with a female main character. That has now changed. That being said, I have absolutely no clue about your main character aside from the fact she's a woman, and is being sized up by what I perceive as a potential murderer.

courtneyanne9
June 15th, 2012, 05:44 PM
Paragraphs 3-7 were boring and I actually skipped over them. If I hadn't seen dialogue lower down, I probably would have stopped reading. I think that part is less important to the overall plot so I'd skip most of it. Or, you could even go back to some of it after meeting the boy. Something like "The last 30 minutes of the tour seemed to drag on forever. I thought I'd die if I had to look at one more ornate gold mirror or piece of classic artwork by some famous artist whose name I can't even pronounce." Something like that where you can still get the descriptive info in without losing the reader's attention.

Also in the pre-dialogue part, almost every paragraph starts with "I" which I find incredibly monotonous and annoying as a reader. Try to vary up the sentence structure - that also might help with the boring over-describing in the beginning.

When I did make it through, I really enjoyed the interaction of the characters. you did a GREAT job on the dialogue part. I am very intrigued by the "shocking" incident because the title is "shocked" so I know it'll be important. That was a great way to hook readers from the beginning. Good job.

My final critique is that I hate the names of the two main characters (although I love Thea!). "Jayden" and "Ashton" are much too trendy. It'll date the story really quickly and make older readers (even me and I just turned 23 last week) roll their eyes and write it off as a kiddie book. I know it's targeted at that audience, but you don't want to exclude readers either. Plus, most "Jayden"s and "Ashton"s aren't 17-20 yet so it makes it seem really unlikely. Thea works because it's interesting and modern, but has a classic feel. Have you looked into common names in Australia? I would avoid super trendy names.