Scene 6 - Rose and Willow
Chapter: 26 (1st and 2nd Draft)
Characters: Stanley Brigham, Willow, Rosalind Cammish, Vincent.
Editing Notes: This was one of the most tragic loses I had to deal to the manuscript, and not because anything was particularly wrong with the scene at hand. Before the final draft was completed, there was a conceptual form of Point A (the invitation from Cecilia for high tea) and Point B (Stanley and Willow are separated), and this was one of the earlier attempts at this transition. I always wanted Rose to have a few more scenes in Chimehour: she's a fun character to write and often more important to the plot than I realized. Her scenes early and late in the book were largely left untouched, but I always wanted to have her cross paths with Willow in the first book, so I held onto this scene for a great length of time, simply because I liked what it offered in the way of character development. But when final revisions came to call and I began to submit to agents, these scenes became harder and hard to justify outside of "fluff" and especially after I rewrote the confrontation that drove Stanley and Willow apart.
Still, I enjoy this scene very much. I hope to one day rework it into the sequels. And as always, SPOILERS for the first novel.
The bustle of his street faded into Piccadilly Circus and Coventry. Willow sat next to him, looking outside the window eagerly. She said little aside from the occasional landmark question, but soon took notice of Stanley quiet behavior. His fingers ground at the edges of his exposed curls. She smiled at him, hoping to ease his nerves.
The Hippodrome soon appeared out from the city like a gem. Its grand, gold and red exterior towered over the street traffic. Rings of electric light circled the top in a dull twinkle. Willow's eyes widened as she took the rich building in.
“Vincent lives here?” she said, pressing her nose against the cab glass.
“He has the nicest house between us,” Stanley said, humor taking him. “He should be in tonight. Fridays are the busiest.”
“And you know where he'll be in this... castle?” she asked.
“No,” he admitted. “But I know someone who will.”
They soon pulled to a curb, Stanley scrambled out and hurried Willow to the steps of the theatre. They made quick work of the lobby and all its grandeur. Willow's fingers curled around the crook of Stanley's arm. She took in every glinting detail and brightly-dressed worker as they passed from the entrance into the dim backstage passages.
It wasn’t long before Stanley stopped them in front of an old dressing room door. The name, ‘Rose Cammish’, was etched into the wood.
He breathed out, knocking without a thought. “Miss Cammish?”
“Coming, coming...” a voice chimed from inside.
The door creaked open, revealing a short woman dressed in a silk robe. Her blonde hair was bound in curlers. Only half of her face was painted in makeup, revealing a spray of freckles along her button nose. She grinned wide as soon as saw them.
“Stanley! It's been some weeks!” she said. “Almost thought you'd abandoned us for better company, luv.”
“Perish the thought,” Stanley said, pulling off his hat. He turned to Willow. Miss Cammish glanced over the Stanley's shoulder, locating the girl in turn. “Willow, this is Vincent's mother. She works here.”
“It's a pleasure, ma'am,” Willow said, nodding.
“I'm very sure, dear. My, so, you're the Irish fiancée I keep hearing about?” Miss Cammish asked.
Stanley and Willow both systematically flushed.
“Ah- no, no,” he said, fumbling for the right words as he bent the edges of his cap back. “Willow was displaced by the Outbreak; we met her in Brussels. She is a resident of my household until she can reunite with her family. Vincent may have mentioned it...”
“Ooooh,” Miss Cammish replied, her tone not unlike her son's. “No, Vincey’s told me nothing of what happened in Brussels. I've been so busy, what-with the new recruits in. I'm trying to train this boy right now. Theatre family type, bless him- from the Chaplins? And it's-”
“Miss Cammish, I actually came to see if Vincent was in,” Stanley said, trying to keep the subject focused.
“…Vincey?” Willow muttered low.
“Oh! Oh, yes... He's around here somewhere. Goodness knows he needed to work. That boy has cooped himself up in his room all week,” she groaned, grabbing her forehead and disturbing her curlers. “Perhaps a visit will do him good.”
Stanley nodded. “I'd imagine... I am afraid I can't stay long though, Miss Cammish- I have a previous engagement. But Miss Willow here intends to talk with him, if you could just point her in the right direction.”
“Oh, really?” Miss Cammish's eyes widened slightly. Her mouth turned to a half-smile. “Well, I'm sure I can help out. He's never terribly far off-” She turned to Willow, stepping closer. “And you can wait with me until he comes 'round. Talk lady to lady, eh?”
“I suppose...” Willow said, looking from the woman to Stanley.
He flashed a reassuring smile at her. “Wonderful. I'll be around later then. Good luck, Willow.”
Willow nodded back at him, silent as she crossed her arms.
“You do that, dear,” Miss Cammish said cheerfully, clipping a hand around Willow's shoulder. “And don't’ forget to come back. Elsewise I might end up taking in the poor thing in myself.”
Willow gulped on impulse. But Stanley had already vanished back into the darkness of the theatre.
Willow had never been more awkward than she was then, curled up on the sofa in Miss Cammish’s dressing room. She tangled her fingers together as she watched the woman settle in before a once-lavish yellow vanity.
“So rare to have someone else with them boys,” Miss Cammish said, pulling her curlers loose. Each piece of hair came down in a corkscrew. “Never mind a young lady- though I suppose it isn't terribly strange. There was that Abbey Charlotte girl once. Fickle little creature- a bit frumpy too, if I were being frank...”
She trailed off. Willow could only wonder what she was talking about.
“...Well, they've been nothing but kind since we met, ma'am,” Willow started, drumming her fingers into her lap and soothing her dress. “We get along wonderfully.”
“Please call me Rose, dear. I'm no one's 'ma'am'...” Miss Cammish said, absent-minded as she primped her hair into place. “And I would expect nothing less from them. Those boys are such treasures. Growin' up to be right, proper gentlemen, I think. Don't you?”
Willow wasn't quite sure how to answer the strange question.
“Ah, Vincey though,” Rose said. “I worry he's a bit too like his father. He doesn't seem to settle. But you never know- could change.”
“...Where is Vincent’s da?” Willow bit her lip at once, wishing she could summon her words back.
A strange expression came about Miss Cammish's face, but her smile never faltered in her reflection. “Not here, thank goodness. Otherwise he might be just like the barmy bastard- Oh, and pardon my French.”
Willow just nodded.
“But...” Miss Cammish held the last letter as she stood, her grin cracking the caked makeup around her lips. She strode over to her guest with passionless calm, seating herself next to the girl. “Given your interest in my son, I suppose it makes sense for you to be a bit curious about family.”
“I'm... sorry?” Willow asked.
“Oh, but come to think of it, you are from Ireland. Courtship might be difficult, considering the distance...” Miss Cammish sighed, not bothering to clarify. “Will you be going back soon?”
The dressing room door creaked open again. In stepped Vincent, his face smudged in soot and a book tucked under his arm.
“Alright, Mum,” he muttered, wiping his face down with a sleeve. “The lift to working. Again. I'll be taking a break until-”
He stopped as he locked gazes with Willow. She waved. His jaw dropped.
“And why are you here?” Vincent asked, stepping inside slowly.
Willow opened her mouth to respond, but Miss Cammish overtook the conversation as she hurried to her son.
“Vincey, you should've told me!” she said, a bounce in her words. “Cooping yourself up all week after the trip- why didn't you say you met such a nice girl? You're not ignoring her, are you?”
“What?” Vincent laughed, stepping back. “No, Mum. She’s not-”
“Now, luv,” Miss Cammish said, grabbing his face. “You shouldn’t be wanton. This girl came all the way here just to see you.”
Vincent glanced over his mother's shoulder, meeting Willow's awkward gaze once again.
“Stanley sent me to check in on you,” she said as she stood. “We found out more about Halward. We've been looking for him all this time...”
Vincent gasped and shushed her, waving the book out. Willow watched it flutter, something striking her about it. That looks familiar...
“Oh, who's Halward?” Rose asked, perking up. “One of those family members you're looking for, dearie?”
Vincent simply huffed a sigh, clamping the book against his chest.
“I suppose you could say that...” Willow muttered. She leaned in, observing every old line and weathered wrinkle in the book's cover.
Very familiar. Almost like- Her memory flashed then. Her eyes widened violently.
“...Vincent, isn't that-”
“The- the book I borrowed from the school library and showed you?” he finished, attempting a laugh as he hid the book back under his arm. “Why, yes!”
Willow wrinkled her nose and looked up. “No it's not. I swear that's from-”
“Ah, but Willow-” He scrambled over to her, gripping her by the shoulder. “I know what you want to say, really. Might we- might we... continue this elsewhere, in private perhaps?”
“Huh?” she raised both eyebrows at him.
“The answer is yes,” he said, guiding her toward the door. “Yes, we should. If you'll excuse us, Mum-” he looked back at his mother, smiling sweet. “We won't bother you from work any longer.”
“That's fine, luv,” Miss Cammish said, grinning far too wide as she waved them off. “Take your time! I'll call for you if something comes up!”
Vincent gave her a nod as he pulled Willow into the hall, shutting the door behind them. He let go of her quick, falling back against the wall.
“Wonderful, I won’t hear the end of this now…” Vincent grumbled, massaging the bridge of his nose. More smears appeared from his fingertips.
“You have Awen's book,” she said plainly.
He blinked at her before giving way to a sigh. “I do.”
“...Does Awen know?” she asked, folding her hands behind her back.
“I don't think I'd be out here if they did,” he replied.
She paused, digging her thumb into her chin. “...Does Stanley know?”
“It'd be even less of a secret then.”
“'It'?” she asked, tilting her head.
Vincent met her gaze, his expression faltering into a warmer smile. “…I’ve started a project. To help- I could show you, actually!”
He placed a finger to his nose then. “But you can't tell Stanley yet, am I clear?”
They exchanged a long, silent stare. Vincent's face grew more wary with each second.
“...You're going to tell him regardless of what I say,” he said.
Willow shrugged, flashing him an honest smile.
“Bloody hell, you two...” he sighed, a smirk taking him as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, come on then!”
Vincent waved for her to follow as he took off into the theatre. Willow grinned as she bounded after him.
Caitlin Jones is an author, film editor, and lover of all things Victorian and fantastic. Please check in for information on her upcoming series.