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by Richard Brown 

Posted: 23 January 2003
Word Count: 931
Summary: First chapter of a true life story in novelised format.
Related Works: Carol 10 • Carol 2 • Carol 4 • Carol 5 • Carol 6 • Carol 7 • Carol 8 • Carol 9 • Carol3 • 

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This is the first chapter of a true account of the life of a woman called Carol who, though highly intelligent, loving, funny, generous and beautiful, slipped into a chaotic way of life full of dark adventure and excesses. The book tells of her journey to the depths, thence towards self-understanding and fulfiment, though the ending is far from what she would have wanted……

Chapter One

She was a princess. This was the first significant fact about her life that Carol remembered. Within the boisterous, colourful community of her particular corner of 1950s Kingston, Jamaica, she was royally famous.

Kept out of the sunshine to preserve the copperiness of her skin, the lustrous black hair cleansed, conditioned, combed and frequently stroked, she was a totem, a predictor of improving fortunes. People visited just to cuddle Carol and to stare at the wondrously expressive face. Every iota of her development was noted, analysed and praised. She crawled! she stood! she staggered! she spoke! achievements apparently unheard of in other children. It was universally agreed; she was cute, this Carol, she understood far more than she could say. And when she started to say, what wonder! what a winsome lisp! what innocent wisdom! She had strength already and shining eyes and a smile which caused old men to weep. Even the most cynical citizens competed for her favours and everyone thought themselves to be her favourite.

She came to believe, in her early childhood dreamings, that she actually was a princess who, through turmoil in her kingdom, had been abducted and hidden amongst the poor people to protect her from assassins. It was the only way she could explain the uncomfortable notion that she did not quite belong.

The eldest of the boys who called themselves her brothers was the most besotted. He was the proud owner of a camera which was perpetually pointed in the direction of the princess. He provided pretty grips for her tumbling hair, ribbons with silk bows and even, once, a delightful dress quite suitable for royalty. Carol was snapped in every conceivable light, enhancing circumstance and dignified posture. The resulting portraits were prized locally because they were beautiful and because they offered evidence of favour.

Under all this approbation, the royal exile was for the most part happy. She was, perhaps, a trifle careless of the feelings of others because if one courtier displeased her there were always others who would do her bidding. If comfort were her requirement, all she had to do was raise her plump, golden arms.

Yet there was anxiety. She loved her sheltering family and all the courtiers but there was a mysterious weekend visitor who brought gifts. These never amounted to much but they were evidence of that surmised other life. The thin, morose individual was, Carol assumed, the representative of a foreign court. because the odious woman evidently felt that she had some special title to royal favours; a ludicrous notion. Her possessiveness was disturbing.

One Sunday, when the unwanted visitor had departed, Carol skipped gleefully to her bedroom and put on the prettiest shoes, the ones which were adorned with bells which jingled when she walked. Muttering ‘Horrid, horrid, horrid!’ she stamped her feet on the polished floor in time with her chant and then gurgled with mischievous delight. Stamping, stamping, tinkling merrily, singing now, she made her way towards another room and there she saw an unfamiliar old woman with long, grey, wavy hair who was in the act of dressing. The wrinkled face, turning sharply in irritation towards the noisy child, cracked further into anger. Carol stilled her feet and stared, open-mouthed, at the long, slack, swinging breasts. All joy occasioned by the footwear vanished and she was suddenly afraid.

The dolls, the true courtiers, would reliably restore her equilibrium. She took them to the veranda, sat them on the rail and retreated into the private world where she issued commands and accepted copious compliments. All of her people, save the harlequin, were unswerving devotees but he who had colours brilliant enough to dazzle, and a face which showed sadness beneath the mocking mirth, sometimes defied her. She feared him but was fascinated by his power and mystery.

She was lecturing the harlequin about his duties, telling him to be still and to obey, when a sharp tropical rainstorm burst. A whooshing gust of wind stirred the stillness. Alone of all Carol’s subjects, the harlequin rolled backwards, mockingly somersaulting and landing face upwards in the dirt. The princess stamped a tinkling foot and screamed a furious reprimand. This time he had gone too far. She stared at him and found that an idea was coming, a delicious idea which she gladly embraced. The fury dissipated to be replaced by a warmth which she had never felt before.

Smirking with a secret contentment, Carol curled over the hand-smoothed rail so recently vacated by the traitor and watched the fat, fierce drops dashing violently onto the enigmatic face. Cheap colours ran and combined towards a military grey. For a moment the leer was magnified but then misery predominated. The stuffed body sagged, wilting under the bombardment. Rivers ran about the twisted limbs until, weakened by the torrents, one seam split.

The woman Carol called ‘Mummy’ came to check that the precious jewel was not risking her health by playing in the rain. She followed the child’s gaze.

‘Eh, girl, that's your favourite doll. It's ruined.’

Carol dismounted from the veranda rail, turned her back on the vanquished harlequin and took the woman's hand companionably.

‘I don't care,’ she said.

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Comments by other Members

Anna Reynolds at 15:28 on 02 February 2003  Report this post
This is beautiful. The end of this mini chapter is very intriguing-- the girl's self-composure in the face of enormous changes to her world. Can we see more?

Jibunnessa at 11:48 on 03 February 2003  Report this post
Beautiful and impressive. A gentle treatment by a writer who so tenderly manages to get inside the mind of a young child. I definitely want to read more!

Fieth at 17:06 on 18 February 2003  Report this post
Delightful and seductive. Imaginative and diverting. Intuitive and perceptive. Thank you. Please write more. Val

LONGJON at 23:07 on 09 June 2003  Report this post
As Anna said, the end is intriguing-so, I suggest, are the possibilities for the story from now on. A man writing about the intellect,attitudes and outlook of a woman, perhaps particularly about a young woman from another culture, is a courageous course to follow. This extract suggests the author has managed it well. Lets see some more.

Richard Brown at 09:26 on 10 June 2003  Report this post
Longjon, Very many thanks for your positive comments. They are particularly timely as I'm girding my loins (odd expression!) to start further editing work on the draft of my book about Carol. Your encouragement really spurred me! I'm not sure when the next section will be ready to reveal but you may be interested to know that there is, in fact, another short extract (Carol 2) already on the site. More anon! and thanks again.

Sarah at 12:54 on 09 July 2003  Report this post
Hi Richard,

I like how you bring us into her kingdom and spit us out at the end with Mummy's statement. Excellent...

Hilary Custance at 21:43 on 03 August 2003  Report this post
Just found and started Carol. I was enchanted by this. I was also very impressed that you could take me right inside this child's vision, without confusing or losing me. You made her logic, our logic. I will progress now to Carol 2. Cheers, Hilary

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