Meeting Mirabelle

As promised yesterday, I’d like to introduce you to Mirabelle Milligan, the main protagonist in the series of novels I am currently working on. I have written the first one, half of the second, and am about to embark on writing the first draft of the third during the month of July at Camp NaNoWriMo.

But, let me take you back to the beginning…


The letter had finally come and Mirabelle suggested they should go out for a meal and to the cinema to celebrate.
She gave Summer a quick one-armed hug while shoving her bare feet into floppy sheepskin boots and preparing to rush out the door to work. “After all, not every day a girl gets accepted into Uni,” she said, giving her daughter a kiss. “But you know I’ve never been much for throwing a party. Love them! Think it’s the Jamaican in me. Always up for a bit of carnival.” Hands in the air, bracelets scurrying down plump brown arms into the folds of loose sleeves, she gyrated her large hips to an internal rhythm of the Caribbean. “Love, love, love a party!” The rows of beads trailing from her neck bobbed and swung, a colourful waterfall of sound. “Just no use at organising them.” One last shimmy in defiance of the look of disgust directed at her wobbling boobs, and she handed Summer her schoolbag and urged her towards the door. “But we absolutely have to celebrate somehow!”
“You’ll definitely be home from work in time?” Summer asked with a sigh.
“Of course I will!”
Summer stood her ground, blocking the doorway. “There’s no ‘Of course!’ about it, Mum. You’re never home before eight o’clock. The film starts at seven thirty. If we’re to get something to eat, you need to be home six at the latest.”
“Okay! Okay! I can do it! Don’t get your knickers in a twist!”
Summer gave her a scathing look. “Ugh! That’s so yesterday, Mum!”
“Well, I’m a ‘yesterday girl’. Could’ve been a great flower person in the sixties.” She held out her long, multi-coloured skirt and spun around on the spot. Her many rings and bangles sparkled in the light cast by the ornate, crystal-encrusted chandelier in the tiny, over-bright hallway. “Being a teenager in the nineties just didn’t have the same cachet.”
“You didn’t need the sixties.” Summer scowled.
“True! Ohhh,” she cooed, stroking her daughter’s cheek. “Look at your pretty wee freckled nose all scrunched up there.” She tapped it gently. “Do I embarrass you, my petal?”
“All the time, Mother.”
Mirabelle shrugged. “Well, get used to it, kiddo! I’m unlikely to change!”—words tossed behind her with the kiss she blew as she grabbed a shawl from the back of the door. Draping the material round her shoulders, she picked up her big floppy bag and danced past Summer, out the door and down the communal stairs. ‘Unlikely to change!’—words she’d later long to take back.
To rewind that day: push herself away from her desk, away from the stack of papers. Step crazily backwards, her shawl flying from the back of her chair into her hand, draping itself round her shoulders. Retreat through the office door, pulling it closed in front of her, her feet faultlessly finding the flight of stairs behind. She’d back down them, seeming to sink into each step, her knees straightening and flexing, straightening and flexing. Then walking backwards out into the street, her head bobbing as she took back morning greetings from colleagues and strangers.
Press rewind again to speed it up. The bus rushing in reverse, passengers embarking: flying effortlessly up the step, their backs to the open door, ignoring the ticket machine, ringing the bell as they sat in their seats. Passengers alighting, seeing only what they were leaving: strange knee-bent drops from the opened doors, taking their money from the ticket machine, catching it as it was spewed up from the top of columns of coins to jump into their palms. Mirabelle herself: taking the leap behind her, leaving go of the handrail as her feet found the pavement.
Back, back: a reverse salsa at the bus stop, taking back the sharing of her joy at the good news of her daughter’s acceptance to Edinburgh University, smiles disappearing into closed, reserved stranger’s faces.
Backwards: backwards dancing down the street and up the stairs, rushing, rushing, unusual lightness in the retroflexive ascent. Up the stairs and through the door and, there and then, standing beside her daughter, “I’ll change!” she’d say. “If you want me to, I’ll change.”
But, with no rewind facility available, no benefit of hindsight in play, Mirabelle neglected to change old habits. She came back from the office, late as usual, with the customary flustered apology ready on her lips and a placatory tub of ice cream in her hands as she laboriously climbed the stairs to their flat. She had got lost in the clutter that was her desk at work, writing reports about the safety or otherwise of other people’s children.
“Sorry, pal,” she said as she pushed through the door. “Not too late, are we?” She didn’t shrug out of her thick woollen shawl, though it was damp from the drizzle she’d hurried through. “Ready to go?” She pushed open the living-room door. “Summer? You there?” she said to the empty room.
Still holding the ice-cream, a possible cause of the shivering tinkle her bangles made, she stuck her head round the door of her daughter’s bedroom. “Summer?”
Expecting to find her lolling across the bed or sitting at her desk tapping away on her computer, Mirabelle walked in, the ice-cream held out before her as a peace offering. But the bed, duvet neatly pulled up as Summer left it every morning, was untouched, the computer unopened. Summer wasn’t home.



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle Stanley
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 00:15:08

    The suspense is already killing me. Mirabelle really took things for granted, including her daughter. Old habits rarely die. Terrific introduction to your book Christine. I like what I’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 03:59:20

    Good work, looking forward to reading the finished product 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Teagan Kearney
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 19:03:38

    A great character – larger than life – loved the reverse scene – beautifully done. Yes, an intriguing beginning. Good luck with camp nano – sounds like you’re on a roll with Mirabelle!

    Liked by 1 person


  4. Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life.
    Jul 18, 2014 @ 14:51:20

    Terrific piece with a character who will strike a chord with many of us juggling too many plates at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person


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