And so, after much planning and plotting, note-taking and scribbling on things, The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales has begun.
Here is the first draft of the opening page:
by Angela Slatter
Cordelia does not think about the things she has lost.
She does not think on the children, or her husband, or the fine house in Lodellan. She does not think on the jewellery, or the dresses, or the shoes. She does not think on her former status, on the Sunday afternoon teas, the Saturday morning bruncheons, or the Friday night balls and dances. She does not think of her sister, or her friends, or the shades of her dead parents who surely grow even paler with shame.
No, Cordelia thinks only of the lengths she must cut with the dull knife. Of the quantities she must measure so carefully to ensure neither wastage, nor excess, for the Turnkeys only ever hand out the precise amounts needed to create three dozen candles at a time.
Any less and there will be trouble. Any more and there will be an equal calamity, for it means she’s skimped on the quality and girth, that the women who want these things will know they are lesser … women like she once was … and they will not buy them. Or, worse still, they will buy them, find them wanting, and return them, demanding their good gold back.
And either way Cordelia will be punished.
But at night, when she closes her eyes, when sleep will no longer be denied, then she dreams. When she fingers the raised edges of the scar on her shoulder, traces the rough petals, the scabby stem. She dreams of all that she has lost. She dreams and it feels so real that she prays not to wake up. She prays that sleep will take her and keep her and hold her. She prays death will come while she slumbers so the memories she carries with her into darkness are those of life before.