My family is living in Singapore this year, so we get to see big Chinese New Year celebrations firsthand. I don't have any New Year's traditions in my forthcoming novel,Taken by Storm (Penguin/Razorbill, March 2009), but when Yan asked me to share folklore I know about New Year's celebrations, I immediately thought of the many unique Scottish traditions I uncovered while researching my historical young adult novel, The Collier Lad's Lass.
At celebration’s end, young and old, men and maids form a grand circle for the kissing reel. The lassies blush as the fiddler plays the familiar jig. I’ve danced the kissing reel many a time, chased a giggling lass round the circle, touched her lips to mine. Like any lad with blood in his veins, I ache for a turn.
Miss Mallie gets her chance. She drops the hanky for Jacob, and he catches her easy, plants a smack on her mouth that God, Himself, could hear from the heavens. Then Mallie has to try again. At least she got Jacob to kiss her. She drops the hanky ahind a tall collier a couple of years older than me who has his own place at the face. He’s a proud one, that. Mallie kens he’ll not try to catch her. She sprints off and makes it safe to his empty spot.
The tall collier saunters round the ring with a bored look on his mug. The lassies squirm and giggle, try to catch his eye. He passes them all up—until he gets to Lucie. Almost all of her thick hair has fallen from its pins and hangs in a wild mass down her back. Her pixie face is rosy, and her green eyes spark in the night. The coof drops the hanky ahind her.
She turns and scoops up the bit of mangled linen and lace. She runs after him, and something in my gut twists. No. I do not want her kissing that arrogant mouth. I do not want his arms to go around her. She’s fast and agile. His legs are long, but he’s not trying to get away.
Dinna catch him, lassie. Dinna catch him. Lucie stumbles on a loose stone and loses ground. Ach, her lips are safe. I let go my breath.
The collier slows so suddenly Lucie runs against him. Good Lord in his Heaven, the coof is kissing her, devouring her. My guts wrench. Tis all I can do not to knock the man down. He finally releases her. Lucie’s pale face is flushed pink, her lips blood red. Lucie’s been kissed afore in the kissing reel. All the lassie’s have. I’ve watched it afore and never cared. But tonight tis different. That was no playful salute. Anger buzzes in my brain and collides with something hotter that surprises me.
Now tis Lucie’s turn to choose. I canna breathe as she sashays round the grand circle. She spies me gawking and holds my eyes fast.
“Here, Lucie. Pick me.” A grizzled collier calls out to her.
“Did she drop it?” A wee lassie asks her mither.
“I’ll kiss ye sound,” my pal, Charlie, taunts.
I do not call out. The anger and yearning burning in me is much too strong to trust to playful banter.
As she closes on where I stand tense to catch the hankie and spring after her, I tingle from my bonnet to my brogues.
“Me, Lucie, please,” the lad aside me hollers in my ear.
“Lucie.” My whisper is hoarse, pained, but she hears me, smiles. A sweetness I’ve not kent afore opens within me and breaks against my heart like a wave curling to the shore.
The she flips her sassy head around and casts her eyes towards that beastly lout who just kissed her.
Surely no, Lucie. Dinna be a fool.
She skips past me a step—does she ken how she’s torturing me?
She turns back, gives me a saucy look that sets the broiling brew in me to steaming, and drops the hanky.
I scoop up the mangled bit of linen and lace and race round the ring of jeering dancers, needing to catch Lucie and kiss her pink mouth more than breath.
“She’s away!” An old woman cries out. Lucie seems to be flying. Her black hair streams out ahind her.
“Run, Will.” Charlie capers up and down. “Smack her sound for me.”
I’ve worked in the mine all my life. I swing a pick from dawn to dusk without tiring. Surely, I can catch Lucie.
A lad shouts, “He’s gaining.”
I’ve rock hard muscles in my legs. I push them faster.
“Hurry, lass.” A matron swings her cap.
Lucie looks back at me and loses ground.
The factor slaps his thigh with his gloves and leers. “That saucy mouth’s made for kissing.”
Laughing, triumphant, wanting her lips in a way I’ve never kent, I surge forward and grab Lucie just afore she reaches safety. With a fine flair, I whip the dainty cloth round her neck—
I pull her to me so hard I smack her with my forehead.
We rebound away from each other. Blood trickles from both her nostrils.
“Lassie, Lucie—I’m so sorry. I just wanted—”
A mass of mithers and grannies fall on Lucie. Their shrill voices scold me.
“I’ve never in all my days.”
They hurry Lucie away afore I can do more damage. The commotion breaks off the reel. The celebration dwindles.
I try to get close to Lucie to see if she’s all right. I’ve a stone hard skull. She could be maimed for life. I pray to God High on His Throne that I did not break that perfect wee nose that turns up at the end. I always thought it made her face funny, like a sprite instead of a lass. What if I’ve ruined it?
I do not feel the same as I did at the beginning of the reel—eager to kiss any and every lass who would chase me down. No. I just want her lips, Lucie’s, kissing me like she kissed that collier.
I want her eyes. Her arms. Her hair. Her nose to be all right.
(c) 2010 Angela Morrison
So you've read my review for Taken by Storm, or at least I hope so, and now I'm giving away my ARC!
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4. +2 entries for ... (this is a secret...)
This is a US only giveaway (sorry guys, but this is from my very own pockets!) and will end on February 9th! Please leave a way for me to contact you as well!
P.S. The extra entry puzzles/riddles will not accepted for this celebration week. Also, if you blog about it, leave me a link to it~
EDIT: I'm going to change it to the 15th instead of the 9th.
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