The following is an original prologue (that I just wrote) to promote my fantasy novel, “MUST LOVE DRAGONS,” on sale now! It’s an exclusive introduction to the main character Linus Weedwhacker, and describes the events preceding the Novel.
“We need to talk about something.”
Linus looked up from his newspaper–that is he pretended to be interrupted while reading the paper, rather than being interrupted while sleeping under it. His wife, wasn’t dressed to go to work, and this was unusual. Deirdre would have walked to work on a broken leg (and had once in fact). Instead she wore a loose-fitting morning dress of pumpkin-coloured muslin. It hugged her curves alluringly, tightening across her rounding belly, heavy with their sixth child. She’d been to see the midwife, Polly Dewhurst, yesterday and then come home and slept for an hour. Linus thought she was feeling unwell, and let her be. Now, the way she was dressed, and the expression on her face made him pause.
“Is everything alright? What did Dame Dewhurst say?” asked Linus, surreptitiously trying to tidy up as much of the sitting room as was in reach. He straightened a sheath of paper, wiped up a sticky spot on the end table with his sleeve, and tucked his cigarette butts more neatly into the ashtray.
Deirdre sat heavily on the sofa, her hand on the arm of Linus’s chair.
“Things are not going very well. I’ve been ordered to bed.”
“For how long?”
“Until the baby’s born.”
“Damn,” said Linus. He knew immediately it was the wrong thing to say. “I mean, we had only put aside enough money to get by for the last month and the few weeks after. Three months, though?”
“I know,” said Deirdre, tucking a strand of red hair behind her ear. She hadn’t looked at him yet. “And I’m sorry to let everyone down,” she began. There was an awkward pause.
Linus realized that he’d missed his “cue.”
“You’re not letting us down,” he blurted out. (She shot him an annoyed look). “I mean you’ve never had troubles before, but there’s no reason to…er… I mean you’ve taken on more than…uh,” Linus had to stop. He didn’t know what to say, and he knew that he was going to blow this.
“You’re disappointed, aren’t you?” prodded his wife.
“Of course I’m not,” lied Linus. He suddenly pretended to be interested in their youngest child, Fia, who was building towers out of bricks and then knocking them down. She squealed with delight as the bricks smashed onto the floor.
“Play more nicely, sweetheart,” admonished Linus. Fia looked at him quizzically. She had been doing this all morning with no such warning, but now it was bothering Linus.
He rose to his feet and began pacing the floor of the crowded flat. Without looking at his wife, he began tidying the mountain of shoes by the door and sorting them by owner. Deirdre watched him in concern. Her eyes, the colour of claret held up to a light, followed his anxious movements. Linus was currently holding up an errant pair of girls’ slippers and trying to decide if they belonged to Thisbe or Irene.
“For gods’ sake, say something!” said Deirdre in irritation.
Linus shrugged and considered the shoes in his hands again.
“What are you feeling, what’s going through your mind right now?”
“I’m not thinking of anything,” said Linus, which was more or less true. He was feeling so many shades of anger, frustration, shame, pity, and genuine fear that he wasn’t sure which to address first. It was like trying to pick out a single note in a symphony that kept changing the key.
“Can we live on what we saved for three months?” he asked.
“No,” said Deirdre plainly. “Not even on tightest budget. There’s too many things that could go wrong.” She didn’t mention the fact that she might not be on her feet again in three months. She didn’t have to.
“So what do you want me to do?” said Linus finally.
“I don’t know,” said Deirdre, but Linus knew she was avoiding something she didn’t want to bring up. “We could move in with my mother,”
“Never,” answered Linus. “I’m not living in that hell-hole with Betty telling me off every day.”
“No, I mean, I could live with my mother and the children… and you could go back to work.”
Linus’s head whipped around, his green eyes staring into hers.
Ah. Now we come to it, he thought. “I don’t know anything about the jewelry store, love.”
Deirdre’s gaze faltered and she lowered her eyes to stare at her expanding lap. “You could try to go back to the Ranger’s Union.”
Linus felt his stomach plunge into his carpet-slippered feet.
“Back out there?” he asked, his throat feeling suddenly dry.
“You’ve did it for twenty-five years before. You were good at it. Really good.”
“Yeah, but… I haven’t done it in over ten years, Deirdre. I wouldn’t know how… There’s no way in hell I could go back to where I was.”
“You don’t have to go back to being a tenth echelon. All we need is some extra money until after the baby’s born.”
Linus had to sit in his chair again. He leaned forward with his head clutched in his hands.
“Linus. What are you feeling right now?” asked Deirdre.
Linus didn’t want to admit that he was terrified. He was fifty-two years old, closer to fifty-three. The other Rangers out there were all in their twenties and thirties, he couldn’t compete with them. He wasn’t even sure if his membership was still good. Would he have to test in again? Go through new training? He didn’t dare say any of this aloud to Deirdre. She was going through enough right now. She’d been the bread-winner of the family for so long. He gotten used to jibes from his few friends, that he was the “woman” in the family, but now that he had to be the “man” again it seemed overwhelming.
“You’re upset,” said Deirdre, she was trying to be considerate, but there was no hiding her exasperation.
“A little,” he conceded. “What sort of work’s to be had for an old out-of-practice Ranger with bad knees?”
“We don't’ need much. The children have their coats for the winter already, and we have the baby’s layette. Rent and food are all we need with what we’ve saved. My mother may even help us out a little.”
“Right,” sniffed Linus. The day he took charity from Betty was the day they’d haul him away in a pine box. “So just some odd jobs then?”
“Look at it this way; we need a few hundred. After you make that much, we can all be together again.”
Linus rubbed his coarse chin, and stared into the fireplace for a few moments.
“When you put it that way… I think I could do the odd job here and there. I’ll head to where the money’s good and… well, we’ll see.”
“Just don’t go after any more dragons, love,” Deirdre joked. “You know how that ended up last time.”
Against his will, Linus found himself cracking a smile. He took Deirdre’s hand and held it tightly. Only a few months, he reasoned. He was worried for no good reason. What could feasibly happen in a few months?
Everyone knows that Heroes slay Dragons. Not everyone knows that Heroes also change diapers.
It's the oldest story in the world; boy meets girl, boy marries girl, they have a family. But what happens when the girl makes more money than the boy, and he stays at home to raise the kids? What happens when pregnancy is rough on her, and he has to go back to work? And what happens when she's a dragon, he's a ranger, and a day at the office involves trolls, elves, magic, and lower back pain?
Linus Weedwhacker (shut it, he's heard 'em all) knows first hand.
MUST LOVE DRAGONS by Monica Marier will be on sale this week!! Details to follow!!