23 Mar

Runaway Match

Here’s a short story I wrote for the Eight Ladies Writing Christmas Challenge: write a short story of no more than 500 words including ‘Derbyshire’ and at least three of the following: Darcy, Rhinoceros, Woolly, Admire, Love, Mine, Villain, Volcano, Ghost. Extra kudos for including more than three, and kudos with sparkles for Christmas references.

“Goddamn it, Darcy, this is no time to behave like a gentleman!” Rhett Favre snarled. Barely a handful of grains left in the game timer, one score behind, and still his best friend hesitated.

“I admire your ingenuity, Rhett.” Darcy Moncrieff looked over to the far corner of snow-covered Chatsworth Field, where Lady Elizabeth stood, desperately waving her woolly white pom-poms. “I love her more than my honor.” He stood tall and squared his broad shoulders. “Very well. Let us do it.”

What the hell had the Duke of Derbyshire been smoking when he decided to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage to the winning captain of the Christmas football game? He’d surely never expected that villain, the Sheriff of Nottingham, to bring his team of ruffians north to spoil the party.

Rhett drew his ramshackle army into a huddle. He looked into every man’s eyes, shook every man’s hand, and called the play. “Rhinoceros.

They lined up against Nottingham’s thugs and he paced, pointing and taunting. At the last second he called for the ball. “Romeo, Romeo, go, go, go!

Brady the butler snapped the ball perfectly, and the world erupted like a volcano.

“Mine!” yelled young Beckham the footman, legging it up the left sideline for all he was worth as Rhett faked a throw in his direction.

“No, mine,” growled Rochester the blacksmith.

Rhett mimed handing off the ball to Rochester, who tucked up his arms and set off as fast as his muscular thighs would carry him. What he lacked in speed he made up in power, and he collected half-a-dozen blackguards before he disappeared in a pile of arms, legs and unlicensed violence.

“Come and get it!” Grinning, Rhett waved the ball at that evil bastard Nottingham, side-stepped him and set off on a swerving run with his enemy in hot pursuit. Nottingham was fast, but Rhett put his head down and charged, blood pounding, lungs screaming. He cut across the field instead of making for the end zone, and the crowds on the riverbank howled in disappointment as Nottingham’s body crashed in to the back of his knees and he landed face-down in the snow. He stayed there as long as he dared, hunched over the ball, hiding his smile against the frozen turf.

A hand grabbed the back of his tunic and another his belt, and he was unceremoniously dragged to his feet. The town crier rang the bell to signal the end of the game and Nottingham raised his fists to the sky.

“You should have run straight, you fool.” Nottingham thrust his pock-marked face close to Rhett’s. “The girl is mine.”

For the first time since he’d called the play, Rhett looked across to where Darcy had floated up the right sideline like a ghost. At the far end of the field, a pair of pom-poms lay abandoned in the snow. One set of footprints became two, and beyond them a set of carriage tracks disappeared over the horizon.

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