II. Sovereign of One Peaceful Hour

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Five years later, I sat in the office of a literary agent. My feet tapped anxiously on the wooden floor and the daylight irritated my red skin; I always got rashes when I felt uneasy. This was the most uneasy I'd felt in quite some time.

I arose to the conclusion of writing my own book, as my husband did, as I had felt inspired to pen a story that would relieve my imagination. Not my story. No, I did not want anybody to know I was the widower of the late George Holloway. His novels sold better after his mysterious death, too. My job as a teacher became redundant, and with the rising income, I decided to dedicate my time to my first book.

Senseless, I assumed so. But much needed in an empty time of my life.

A woman approached me. She was very smart-looking, official-like, like the boastful, experienced teachers at the school I taught in. 'Mr. Green will see you now,' she said.

Now all anxieties climaxed against the bones of my chest. I could not bring to mind what I was expecting from this meeting. I did not want to seem incapable, so I grabbed my things and rose to the woman's height. She moved to one side for me, and I glided past her.

The door to Mr. Green's office was open, so I walked near it. I reduced my speed the closer I approached, and with one last glance to the woman, I entered. She closed the door behind me, just as my eyes met those of Mr. Green.

'Ah, Rowena Hale, have a seat,' he said with the most welcoming of voices. He rose and extended his arm, and as I shook it, he asked, 'would you care for some tea?'

My nerves subsided slowly, and for a second I forgot that I had changed my last name to Hale to hide behind. 'Oh, no thank you, I wouldn't want to trouble you.'

'It would be no trouble at all,' he insisted. Still, I had to decline, and my eyes wandered to the manuscript on his desk. My manuscript; he had read it.

'May I ask what you thought of my book?' I enquired, and while the gentleman appeared friendly enough, I had to discuss business.

'It was perfectly fine, bating the way it was written,' he said, rather definably.

I seemed to freeze. 'I beg your pardon, I'm confused. Does that mean you like it?'

He was trying to be kind; I could tell by his pained expressions. I continued, 'you can tell me if you did not like it.'

'Well, it is a little fond. I found the voice of the narrator to be rather weak and uninspired.'

It was hard to digest the criticism on a novel I had written for three years. I was unsure of how to reply at all – my mouth forgot how to function.

He continued, 'the words were dry. I could not make it past the first four chapters, I'm afraid. There were times when I felt as though I was reading a parched monologue of a woman who had nothing better to do than write.'

I swallowed back rising distress. The time, the effort, wasted. The sincerest belief I had in myself and my writing was shattered upon the words that rolled off his tongue, a tongue that poisoned any confidence I had left.

He noticed my silence after I swooned out of the conversation.

'Have you been through much in your life?'

I now had to speak to answer his personal question. 'Not an awful lot,' I lied. He seemed to agree.

'Yes, I can tell.'

One dagger to the chest after another.

'Do you seriously want to become a writer?' He queried.

'Why, yes, yes I do!' I replied, this time with utmost honesty. 'Surely I could re-write, edit my work to improve...'

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