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Title: The Carnival is Over
Rating: PG
Original/Fandom: Original
Word Count: 1678
Pairings (if any): none
Warnings (Non-Con/Dub-Con/etc): none
Summary: Nell finds a book of folk ballads that sparks off her creativity.


For the rest of that day and the next Nell found herself alternating fairly evenly between listening to records, going for walks around either parks or shops and reading. It was reading week after all, so she felt as though she may as though get some reading done, even if it was not necessarily related to her university course.

She found an ancient looking book of folk ballads on a long neglected shelf tucked into a back corner of her nearest library. The dust billowed up around her as she tugged the book from the surprisingly tightly packed shelf. With it finally safely in her hands, Nell turned it over a few times to get a feel for it before opening it. It was fairly slim so she could tell, even without the help of the spine that it was only a selection from a huge canon of ballads that could be found out there. And yet it was an endearingly pretty volume, bound in red cloth and with yellowed pages, several of which had been dog eared by whoever had borrowed this book before. What Nell absolutely adored about the book though was the colour illustrations that accompanied each ballad. There was also sheet music at the top of each song page for the first verse but Nell found herself much less interested in that for the time being.

There were pictures of couples both loving and spiteful, women both hopeful and forlorn, men as knights and vagabonds and even a female highwayman who dangled her true love's watch before his face to prove she had been the one who robbed him the night before. From the illustration it looked a little to Nell as though she might be trying to hypnotise him. Reading through the words showed it to be one she had heard before, perhaps on one of her dreamier or at least more drunken folk nights.

She flicked through to see if she could find a representation of the adulterous trio of Matty Groves or Little Musgrave fame. She imagined the wife kissing her slain lover while her husband raised his sword above her, preparing to deal her the fatal blow. Or else the picture may be from moments later with the cuckolded husband holding his wife's severed head as it dripped blood onto the stone floor.

Unable to find any form of that ballad she looked through instead for two others she knew. She could not find Geordie, for which she could clearly picture the wife of Geordie standing in court pleading fruitlessly for her husband's life. With no luck there either, she searched for Polly Von or Vaughan with the young hunter weeping over his love, all in white save for a blossoming of blood across her breast, slain by his own hand. She did find that one but its accopanying illustration was of a ghostly swan gliding across a lake at sunset.

Nell was disappointed. She was however holding volume three of however many in her hands so she knew that at the very least volumes one and two were out there to be found, even if she could not track them down in this particular library. She could see the pictures for those ballads some day soon but she was confident now that none would match the bloody, colourful passion of the images she pictured in her mind.

An idea struck her with such force that she had to sit down in that forgotton and dusty corner of the library with that tiny red book of ballads hugged tightly to her chest. She would paint those images that flooded her mind.

This was a complete change of gear from the way she had felt a mere week before. Nell had all but given up on her fine art course. She had fallen far behind on her work and it had only the first two months of the academic year. She had been prepared to talk to her personal tutor about dropping out, giving either the band or her pregnancy as the main reason for her decision depending on how long it took her to gather up the courage. It would have crushed her to leave that course and it would have marked the third degree she had dropped out of. However she could not see how her current circumstances and present lack of passion for her subject could have led to anything other than failure.

Now she had an idea that could carry her for the next few months at least. She wanted to be able to submit her work to her tutors and show them she had not entirely given up and that they were right to give her this chance to prove herself in the area she should have taken her very first attempt at a degree in.

After a few minutes sat frozen in that position, Nell took a deep breath and hauled herself up to her feet. When she emerged from behind that long shelf, the library turned around from the shelf he had been busy putting books away on and started at the sight of her.

"Oh, my dear girl!" he exclaimed. "I had quite forgotten you were there. Did you find what you were looking for back there?"

Nell held up the slim volume of ballads to show him. She could not find her voice in that moment. Her mind was still alive with all the images she knew she must paint before the art school discovered her pregnancy and her newly rediscovered world came crashing down about her ears.

"Folk music, eh?" the librarian asked her with an enigmatic smile as he shuffled towards the front desk.

All Nell could say was, "Yes. Folk music."

"Are you a folk singer, my dear?"

"In a manner of speaking." Nell passed him the book for him to write the date it was due back.

The librarian nodded, examining the book by flicking through it much as Nell had done. "I know a lot of young people are singing this sort of thing these days."

"Well, I've been singing it for a while now but I might have found myself a guitar player."

"You don't play an instrument yourself? I'm surprised at that. You look as though you have the fingers for it."

"Oh, well, I took piano and violin lessons when I was younger but they've both fallen by the wayside over the past couple of years."

"In that case you need to pick them back up as soon as possible, my dear," the librarian said as he handed the book back to her. "Don't you rely on other people to play your music for you."

"Yes, sir," Nell said respectfully, giving him a smile.

"Good girl." He then shuffled back out from behind the desk and went back to tidying the shelves and putting stray books away in their proper place.


Back at home, Nell took the red book of ballads out of her bag and left it on the kitchen table with a promise to herself that she would look at it later. How much later, she could not say. She then ran all the way down the long hallway leading from the kitchen to the foot of the stairs, turning sharply without slowing down, and ran all the way up the first flight of stairs to her room, which was not currently actually her room because it was Mary Anne's room, as she had to keep reminding herself. It still had most of her possessions in, though, so she would need to go inside. She was going so fast that she forgot to remember to knock. Luckily she found the room quite deserted so she was able to raid her art supplies without having to apologise or feel guilty about not knocking, or worse, to have seen more of Steven or Mary Anne than she ever wanted to see.

Nell was torn between setting her easel up in the living room or the kitchen. After much deliberation, she settled on the kitchen due to a combination of her favourite view, the fact the kettle was much closer and that she could retreat to the living room whenever she got frustrated with herself and her doubted her abilities to produce art of any worth either to herself or anyone else out there in the world. This was something that usually happened when she had been staring at her work so long that she could no longer really see it. On the whole the living room would definitely be the preferable place to ride out these periods of angst and self pity. The chairs would a good deal more comfortable in there for one thing.

For another, the acoustics were a great deal better in the living room so that was where she wanted to practice singing with Michael. Nell also wasn't sure if she wanted him to see her gory ballad paintings while they were still only half finished. Although, in all likelihood, he would appreciate them when they were done, so she might let him have a quick peek if she thought they were going well.

She wanted to start with Polly Vaughan. She had that song in the book waiting for her on the kitchen table and she knew she had it on a Peter, Paul and Mary album somewhere upstairs in her room. She would have to listen to it a few times first and also set up her record player down here so she could have the rest of the album playing while she worked.

Nell breathed in and out very deeply several times. She tried to work out what might be wrong with her, why her brain was whirring away at about a thousand miles an hour. Then it clicked. She realised why. She was feeling excited, about painting, about Michael and about the band. She felt creative and, for the first time in what seemed a monumentally long time, she felt like it was all going somewhere.


This entry was originally posted at http://alicia-h.dreamwidth.org/43227.html
Child of the nineties
Harks back to earlier times
Sounds of the sixties

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