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fic: A Book Once Begun

Title: A Book Once Begun
Fandom: The Marlows - Antonia Forest
Characters: Nicola Marlow, mentions of others
Rating: G
Length: 500 words
Content notes: no warnings apply; spoilers for The Ready-Made Family and The Cricket Term
Author notes: Written for the Contraband challenge at [community profile] fan_flashworks; this one is for [personal profile] lilliburlero, with thanks for all the readthroughs at trennels.
Summary: The consequences of Nicola's book-smuggling don't end with Miss Cromwell's reading-list.

Nicola couldn’t be sorry she’d copped it for smuggling back an extra book from home. And a Limited book at that (Upper Fifths and Sixths only, her sister Ann had said, priggishly refusing to take it on Nicola’s behalf). The conversation with Miss Cromwell when Nicola’s crime came to light had been pretty awkward, especially her question about why Nicola thought the book was Limited – her form mistress was the last person she’d expect to talk to about that (“Because Nico liked men better than he liked women, d’you mean?”). But The Mask of Apollo was worth all that and the reading-list Miss Cromwell had set her as a penance for rule-breaking, even worth having to read Dickens, which Nicola still hated.

And now she’d finally stodged her way through Crommie’s list and could choose for herself again, it had seemed almost too good to be true, finding another book about Ancient Greece by the same author in Colebridge Public Library. Nicola glared at the cover of her library book, with its striking design of two horses, one black and one white, tossing their heads and pulling at the reins of a chariot, its driver a dark silhouette against the deep blue background. She’d been so excited to find it that she hadn’t even glanced inside before taking it to the desk to be stamped; she could hardly wait to get home and start reading.

As she’d discovered to her dismay, the book wasn’t anything like its cover. These people weren’t Ancient Greeks at all, but a modern family in the middle of breaking apart. Like Edwin and the Doddy lot, Nicola thought, though she couldn’t imagine Chas carrying on the way this boy was doing; it was more like Rose at the station, clinging desperately to her grandmother. If the rest of the book was going to be like this, it’d be even worse than Dombey and Son.

It was too late to turn back now, though. Nicola’s private Laws of Reading were very clear on this point: a book once begun must be read to the end without skipping. She’d said as much to Karen about Persuasion, the day Karen had come home to announce that she was leaving Oxford to marry Edwin Dodd. How Kay could accuse Nicola of making life complicated for herself, when she was getting hitched to a man more than twice her age, with three children by his first marriage, and who was only free to marry her because his first wife had just died in a plane crash, Nicola really didn’t know.

Thinking of that conversation with Karen, Nicola remembered how deathly boring she’d found Persuasion at first, and how differently she’d come to think of it in the end. Maybe The Charioteer would surprise her too, unlikely as it seemed at the moment. Oh, well. There was nothing for it but to push on. It must be nearly teatime; she’d make herself read until then and then stop for the day.

Also posted at http://fengirl88.dreamwidth.org/169028.html with comment count unavailable comments.


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