Free Short Story: Look, Don’t Touch! by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

She was cute. I’ll agree to that. Three years, perhaps. Hard to tell. She wandered amongst the vendors at the craft market. Alone. At least, that’s how it appeared. There was a woman pushing a stroller several vendors behind. Perhaps she was the mother. She certainly didn’t seem as attentive as I would have been when my family was younger. However. Sign of the times, I guess.

The girl wandered to my booth and stood looking at my art cards and books. She glanced quickly at me, said a cheery “Hi”, as she made eye contact. She definitely wasn’t shy. I returned her greeting. Satisfied that she had my attention, which perhaps she interpreted as a sign to grant permission, she reached one hand up to the table, presumably to touch one of the books. She was of the age where touching things was a part of learning. However, with a sucker in the other hand, I could only surmise that her hands were sticky.

I flashed a quick look at the woman I assumed to be the mother. The woman was too busy talking to the other vendor to show any care or concern for her daughter’s whereabouts or for her safety, for that matter. I was being forced into an awkward position, protecting my display or being ‘nice’ to a little girl who was unsupervised. I chose the former.

In my best, gentle teacher’s voice, I said, “Look. Don’t touch!”

She quickly pulled back her hands and smiled at me. There was a reflection of guilt in her eyes. She started chattering, incoherently. I glanced at the mother again and received a glare in return.

The little girl moved on to the next table. Cosmetics. I watched. The vendor was busy with a potential customer. I knew that cosmetics could be toxic if used incorrectly. The girl reached for one of the cute little jars. “Remember,” I quickly cautioned, using my gentle, but firm, teacher’s voice. “Look. Don’t touch.”

There was nothing threatening about my voice. The girl was at that age where manners and proper etiquette could easily be taught. I knew it was the parents’ job to do this, but, in the absence of even the mother’s attention, I made use of my teaching skills. Sweetly, she pulled back her hands again and smiled at me. The mother glared at me. Again. And marched right past my table.
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Two tables along, the mother started handling sewn creations. The girl was with her mother, now. Still ignored. But that didn’t stop her. “Mommy,” she said in her sweet voice. “Look. Don’t touch.”

I bit back a smile as the woman glanced my way, a glare creasing across her brow. She moved along again. And handled a few more items on display. Each time the mother touched something, the girl repeated her newly learned knowledge, “Look. Don’t touch.”

About the Author:
An avid gardener, artist, musician and writer, Emily-Jane Hills Orford has fond memories and lots of stories that evolved from a childhood growing up in a haunted Victorian mansion. Told she had a ‘vivid imagination’, the author used this talent to create stories in her head, allowing her imagination to lead her into a different world, one of her own making. As the author grew up, these stories, imaginings and fantasies took to the written form and, over the years, she developed a reputation for telling a good story.

Emily-Jane can now boast that she is an award-winning author of several books, including Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 1 (Telltale Publishing 2018) which was named finalist in the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 2 (Telltale Publishing 2019), Mrs. Murray’s Home: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 3 (Telltale Publishing 2020), Queen Mary’s Daughter (Clean Reads 2018) which won the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, King Henry’s Choice (Clean Reads 2019), and several other books. A retired teacher of music and creative writing, she writes about the extra-ordinary in life and the fantasies of dreams combined with memories. For more information on the author, check out her website.

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Background to Queen Mary’s Daughter by Emily-Jane Hills Orford – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Emily-Jane Hills Orford will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Background to Queen Mary’s Daughter

I have a passion for Scotland and everything Scottish. Its people exude an intense aura of mystique and romance. I mean, men in kilts, rugged, tough, strong. Scottish women in long robes with plaids wrapped around them or draped elegantly over their shoulders. And the landscape: lush fields and forests, rocky edifices and grand lochs. Mystery everywhere you go: Loch Ness monster, haunted castles.

For me, Scotland is part of my heritage. My grandmother (Gran) instilled in me a powerful love of the country where she was born. We read together, mostly about Scotland: Mary Queen of Scots, Rob Roy MacGregor (the Robin Hood of the north). She insisted we were descended from both, but then all Scots claim a link to the Stuarts (Stewarts) and the MacGregors.

When I was old enough, Gran and I traveled together. A lot. One special trip took us to Scotland where we traced Gran’s childhood memories. We also followed the trail of Mary Queen of Scots. We had been enjoying a number of novels and biographies about the ill-fated queen and Gran ignited my interest by telling me about ancestors who helped in the queen’s escape from her prison at Loch Leven Castle. There is so much mystery and romance surrounding Queen Mary; so many unsolved myths and legends. I always wanted to write about Queen Mary, but I didn’t want to write a biography, which has been done many times over, and I didn’t want to write a pure historical fiction novel, because I felt Jean Plaidy and others had already done a wonderful job portraying the romantic lore that surrounded this queen and her country. I kept reading new stories about Queen Mary, but it wasn’t until the Brexit debacle and the ongoing desire of the Scottish people to separate from England, that I started looking more closely at the stories around Queen Mary. I knew she had given birth, prematurely, to twins while imprisoned at Loch Leven. History records that the babies died at birth and were buried on the island where the castle sat. An interesting footnote states that the location of the burial and the babies’ remains have never been found. Another myth, unsolved legend? I started thinking, ‘what if?’ What if there had been another heir to the Scottish throne and Scotland never did amalgamate with England and Ireland? And my story unfolded.

There is a sequel in the works. “King Henry’s Choice”. King Henry from the future appears at the very end of “Queen Mary’s Daughter”. He has something to share, but never really gets the opportunity. Another Scottish time travel alternate reality.

I can’t shake this passionate love affair I have with Scotland. I’m sure there are many others who feel the same. Even though I’m only one-quarter Scottish, I am very proud of that one-quarter. As the saying goes, “there’s those who are Scottish and those who want to be Scottish.” I’m a bit of both, I guess.

There are so many possibilities that affect the course of history. One change, one small item overlooked, can make a world of difference, not only in a person’s life, but in the history and well-being of an entire nation. And then there are those multiple scenarios of what if? What if King James VI of Scotland didn’t succeed in amalgamating Scotland with England? What if there had been another heir to the throne of Scotland? One who would secure its independence? Would Scotland have remained free and independent and a nation of its own well into the twenty-first century? And would Scotland, this independent version, make its own decision to join the European Union when its southern neighbor was choosing to pull away?

Queen Mary’s Daughter presents another plausible timeline, one that incorporates both historical fact and fiction with the endless possibilities of time travel.

Enjoy an Excerpt

As the wind picked up, blowing her deep red, unruly curls helter-skelter over her face, Mary Elizabeth’s eyes focused on her hands. She stretched out the left hand, revealing the old ring that sat on her baby finger. It was a tiny ring and it only fit on the one finger. At the same time Gran bestowed the heirloom gift on her granddaughter, she had shared her story of the ring, at least as much as she was willing to share. The ring had been in the family for generations and only the firstborn daughter of the firstborn daughter (and so on and so on) could wear it. The ring was her connection to a past she wasn’t sure she believed in, a past that had been shared from one generation to the next. Or was there more? Was there a story her grandmother never managed to share?

What would she find at Loch Leven Castle? The clues had to be there. But the boy said it was mostly ruins, crumbled walls and tumbled stones, except for the tower. Queen Mary’s tower. What could she possibly unearth to collaborate Gran’s story? And she only had two weeks to do it. She couldn’t afford more time away from work. Even though it was a poorly paid entry level job, she didn’t want to risk losing it.

A glow emanated from the ring on her outstretched hand. She felt a warmth spread up her arms. The wind picked up, violently tossing her hair in every direction, swishing her coat ends like laundry hanging loosely on a clothesline. She faced into the wind, allowing its vicious impact to draw her forward. She took a step, then another, until she felt the cold wet of the lapping waves of the loch splash over her feet. The water was cold; it jolted her back to reality. What was she doing walking into the loch? What was the strong pulse pulling her forward? She allowed her eyes to glance out across the loch, now almost obliterated by the darkened storm that raged all around her.

“Miss.” She heard a voice from behind her as the power continued to drag her into the loch.

“Miss!” A hand gripped her arm, yanking her back toward the dry shore. “Miss!” The hands tightened their hold as she tried to pull away, tried to return to the loch. A scream pierced the air. She didn’t know where the scream originated. It sounded like it came from across the water.

It also sounded like it came from deep within herself.

Another scream and everything went black.

About the Author: Emily-Jane Hills Orford is an award-winning author of several books, including Gerlinda (CFA 2016) which received an Honorable Mention in the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, To Be a Duke (CFA 2014) which was named Finalist and Silver Medalist in the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. She writes about the extra-ordinary in life and her books, short stories, and articles are receiving considerable attention.

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