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"A Castle in the Sky" Preview!

*Things written in pink are not a part of the story; things written in black are a part of the story.*

Good morning, all! Hope your Monday is going well so far. If it's not, well, then I hope what I'm about to share with you cheers you up!

As I promised last week, I'm checking in with a preview of my upcoming novel, A Castle in the Sky! This snippet comes from chapter two as Abi Hensley's family and friends gather to witness her arranged engagement. Abi has only met Jonathan Smith one month prior to the soirée and his first impression was not the best, yet her mother and father are still pushing for the marriage. Abi knows this isn't right for her, and is feeling nervous as she stands before the crowd, a man she barely knows asking for her hand.

So without further ado, let's dive in! Enjoy!

Merriam helped Abi into the new gown Mrs. Hensley had handpicked for the party. A nice midnight blue velvet, which Abi was rather fond of, with sapphires about the neck. Her mother had surprisingly given into letting her wear her hair in a pompadour, rather than another atrocious chignon, claiming she had grown bored of the new styles. Once Abi was dressed and her hair was styled, Merriam left to attend to the kitchen. Before slipping on the dreaded kid gloves and heels, Abi placed a few more tops and skirts into one of three suitcases she had laid on her closet floor. The other two contained books, manuscripts, short stories and journals she had kept, the earliest dating back to 1902 when she was just learning to write; the urge to put words on paper already strong.

"Abigail, are you nearly ready?" she heard her mother say from the hallway as she laid a pair of shoes in her clothing suitcase. She could hear her mother turning the brass doorknob. Quickly, Abi shut the closet door and turned to face her mother.

"Almost. I just need to put my gloves and shoes on."

Her mother stared at her for a moment, her steely gaze as cold as the ocean breeze on a winter night. "What were you doing in the closet?"

Abi panicked; sweat beading on her powdered brow, heart pounding in her chest. "Just making sure Aunt Penelope's things are where they ought to be."

Abi could tell her mother was skeptical and she felt sorry for her lie, but she didn't know what else to do. Mother slowly walked over to the closet and looked inside. Thank goodness I shut the suitcases, thought Abi.

With a shake of her head and a clack of her tongue, Mrs. Hensley shut the closet door. "It's time for the party, dear. Put on your gloves and shoes and come outside."

Mrs. Hensley walked out into the hallway, shutting the door behind her. Abi almost fell to the floor in relief as the door clicked shut. Her body was still shaking with nerves as she stepped into her shoes and slipped on her gloves. She knew the time would come soon enough when she'd have to tell her mother and father about her plans, but she wanted to put it off as long as possible.

Drawing in a deep breath, Abi left her room and walked out into the family portrait lined hallway, down the grand stair case, through the house and into the back yard, greeting family and friends as she went, the way her mother and father had always instructed her to. The vibrant green lawn was trimmed and manicured in pristine fashion, almost too perfect to be real. Everyone seemed cheerful as they sat at tables set out for the occasion, laughing, talking and drinking. The air had that feeling it has when something great is about to happen. Like freedom and dread charged with electricity.

She looked about for her friend and former maid to the Hensley's, Lizzy, though with disappointment, did not see her. She would have liked to have believed it was because the invitation had gotten lost in the mail, or perhaps Lizzy's son was feeling unwell and she couldn't leave him to come to the party. Yet Abi had a feeling that this was not the reason her dear friend was absent.

As she walked through the crowd, she spotted Jonathan speaking to another young lady. The two looked quite cozy, as the girl Abi thought to be one of her distant cousins fluttered her lashes like butterflies at Jonathan. He laughed and smiled and touched her hand. One could tell that Jonathan Smith really did think quite a lot of himself by the way he spoke and held himself. Abi didn't mind in the least to see him flirting with the girl; it actually made her feel somewhat relieved. It somehow seemed like it would lessen the blow when she she'd reject his proposal.

After a few rounds of dancing were held, Mr. and Mrs. Hensley took their place in front of the crowd and called its attention.

"First and foremost, we'd like to thank all of you for coming here this evening," said Mr. Hensley; Mrs. Hensley smiling and nodding in agreement. "As you all know, our daughter Abigail has come to an age in which she is to leave the home and make a family of her own. We are blessed to say that she has found the man who is fit to accompany her in this new endeavor. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Jonathan Smith."

The crowd clapped politely as Jonathan took his place next to Abi, her mother and father stepping back.

As the crowd grew silent, Jonathan dropped to the ground on one knee, taking Abi's dainty hand in his. Gazing upward at her face he said, "Abigail Hensley, will you marry me?"

She stared down at him, her mouth agape. All she could think was, "He doesn't even know my middle name." Weren't men supposed to use women's middle names when they proposed? Her own mother and father wanted her to marry a man who didn't know her middle name.

And so there's a little taste of my new novel. I hope you've enjoyed the preview. Can't wait for you to find out what happens next in April!

-Miranda Atchley

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