New markers

Another one in the series of free write exercises I did a while back. As usual, the prompt was given, and the instruction was to write for 15 minutes without worrying about where you were going. Because I do this longhand, it never produces much, but it’s always interesting to see who turns up.

This time it was once again Stella and Mr Wonderful with another scene in their story (you can find previous scenes here and here, and I have one more already written which I’ll post at some point). One day I really must write more about these two, because they’re always such fun to do.


“New markers, please”, says Mr Wonderful in a low voice to the lackey.

“Certainly, Your Lordship”, says the man with a half bow. “For what amount?”

“Two hundred thousand, please.”

I nearly screech like that blasted parrot. 200,000? This isn’t what we agreed. I try to catch his eye while maintaining my blonde bimbo attitude of bored familiarity with the whole situation. Unfortunately, Lord Allington’s previously constant, knicker-wettingly sexy eye contact is now mysteriously absent.

I shift uneasily on my chair and wonder what the fuck he’s thinking. He’s not stupid. He knows how little cash we have to back those markers. So why has he suddenly decided to go all out for that kind of amount?

And then the crowd behind the players on the other side of the table shifts and I see what – or rather who – he must have seen a minute earlier.

A wing of black, glossy hair, shot through with spangles of grey so perfectly judged they couldn’t possibly be natural. A pale shoulder partly enfolded in a white fox fur wrap, exposing a bandeau neckline in white crêpe with diamonds above it. And as she turns, laughing, from the people who’ve slowed her royal progress through the room, a flash of her signature crimson lipstick. Carlotta Mureno. Here. Tonight. My mouth is suddenly dry. Mr W has seen her arriving, and taken out an extra 200,000 in markers. And just like that, I know what he’s planning. He’s going to try to take out Carlotta Mureno and Anders de Jong at the same time, in a single game. With 200,000 euros’ worth of money we don’t have.

I take a big swig of my champagne, and as I put my glass down he reaches out and takes my hand. Leaning forward until his lips are almost touching my ear, he whispers, “Nervous, darling?”

I shoot an angry look at him. He’s giving me that grin again. I feel warmth flood through me and try – not very successfully – not to grin back. Fuck it. We can try, can’t we? If we fail, we’ll be no worse off. Dead, possibly – but no worse off. And it would be a fantastic coup if we managed it. Can we, though?

I sit back in my chair and adjust the neckline of my dress downwards just a little. His Lordship’s eyes follow the movement of my fingers, but Mr W is just as conscious of their magnetic effect on every other man around the table, Anders de Jong included.

“Nervous? Me?” I say, with a smile. “Absolutely not!”

Writing exercise #11 – He knows what he’s doing

This one is the next part of “How I met Mr Wonderful“, which I produced a couple of years ago as part of a different writing challenge and is probably the least ‘me’ and the most fun writing I’ve ever done. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to sustain Stella’s lifestyle for long enough to finish her story, but I’d love to try. And of course, meeting up with Mr Wonderful again is always nice.


He knows what he’s doing. Of course he does. If you ever feel the urge to jump off the Orient Express in the night as it hurtles across France, he’s definitely the guy for the job.

First he drags me back down the length of the train – Mr De Jong apparently being occupied somewhere near the front – allowing me a brief incursion into my cabin to retrieve my handbag. Fortunately I make it a habit never to travel with anything personal in my overnight bag; one too many lost pieces of aeroplane hold luggage cured me of that. So I abandon it and allow myself to be pulled through the rest of the train. We slow each time we encounter a fellow passenger, and Mr Wonderful tries to look less like he’s a caveman in an Alexander McQueen suit and more like a bashful lover taking his sweetheart for a nice walk along the train. Prior to a “North by North West” style night of passion in a railway bunk, presumably.

I keep trying to ask him why exactly he’s so worried about Anders de Jong, but he hushes me with a sound like a pre-whistling kettle, so in the end I give up.

And then we enter the viewing coach, which is fortunately empty, and he puts his hand on the handle to open the last door… and it’s locked. I’m bitterly disappointed. I’d pictured the back of the train being an open platform where you went after dinner to smoke. Or, in this case, to jump off. Instead there was just a normal door, with just a tiny pane of glass in it. Is nothing sacred?

I start looking around for a window to open, which is pretty futile as the whole train is sealed tight so that the nasty plebs we’re rolling past don’t get a whiff of the sweet smell of wealth within.

But as it happens, windows are not required, not with Mr W about. He reaches into his jacket and brings out a weirdly shaped piece of metal, which he proceeds to insert into the hole in the door beneath the handle. Because of course one always carries a guard’s key with one on train journeys.

He grins at me, and my knees do that melting thing again. Then he opens the door, and the tracks are suddenly blurring away from us just a couple of metres distant.

“Come on”, he says, and pulls me through the door. For one horrible moment I think he’s going to jump onto the tracks zipping past at some hideous speed, but actually we squeeze into the oval rubbery bit just beyond the door, which he then shuts again and locks. Leaving us squished together in an area of rather less than a square metre, and with absolutely nowhere to go.

I can see him faintly in the (red) light from the lamps on the back of the train, and he’s grinning again. He moves his mouth down to my ear and speaks loudly enough for me to hear over the noise of the train.

“We’ll have to stay here for a while. At least this way we’re hidden.”

I can feel his warm breath on my neck, and his body is pressed close to mine from head to toe. He smells… well, wonderful. I try to think of something sensible to say but my brain seems to have gone for a coffee break.

“Stella?” he says, putting both hands on my shoulders.

I look at him in the red glow and smile up at him.

“Is that an attaché case full of secrets clamped awkwardly between your legs, or are you just happy to see me?” I ask.

He smirks, a dimple coming and going in his chin. “Both”, he says. And kisses me.