An exercise from Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guinn that looks at the same scene from a bunch of different points of view…
Rose bent for one final check in the dressing table mirror, adjusted an earring that had somehow twisted, then joined her godmother, Mariana, at the door.
Mariana gave her a fond smile as she linked their arms together and strolled down the wide, cool passage to the terrace doors. The sounds of the crowd outside drifted through; conversation, laughter, the chink of glasses. It stilled when the two of them stepped through the doorway, then resumed as Mariana’s guests drifted towards her, congratulations and warm regards on their lips.
Rose’s gaze drifted over the groups, their light, bright clothing dotting the lawn with bouquets. He’d promised to be here, but he hadn’t said when. She scanned past Marco’s sullen stare, then relaxed and smiled as Alej stepped onto the lawn through the break in the hedge.
Her smile faltered as he took the arm of the young woman following him through the entrance. She was lovely, the late afternoon sun turning her hair to a cascade of gold as her white dress floated around a tall, slender frame.
Rose fought to control her expression as the pair made their way across the grass towards her and Mariana. Ironically, it was the glimpse of Marco’s smirk from the corner of her eye that firmed her spine. Just because they’d arrived together didn’t mean they were together together and Alej had never lied to her.
Mariana looked across the room at her god-daughter, frowning at some little aspect of her outfit. The frown cleared and Rose straightened, moving across the room to join her.
The daughter she’d never had. Mariana had been ecstatic and terrified in turns when her old school-friend had asked her to be godmother to her baby girl. She’d been a sweet child, an engaging teen and was now a poised and elegant young woman Mariana couldn’t wait to show off to her friends. She smiled as she linked their arms together and they strolled down the wide, cool passage to the terrace, and her birthday party guests mingling on the lawn beyond.
The catering staff were clearly already well into their work for the night, she could hear the chink of glasses amidst the general buzz of conversation. The crowd turned as one as she stepped through the door, Rose by her side and moved towards her like a floral tide, ready to wish her ‘many happy returns’.
She accepted a glass of champagne from an attentive waiter and exchanged greetings with a number of guests as they flowed around her. Rose remained by her side but seemed distracted, looking across the crowd as if searching for someone or something. Well, it clearly wasn’t Marco, he’d positioned himself directly in line with her gaze and she’d scanned past him as if he wasn’t there. Interesting.
A few more guests were approaching and she’d need to pull Rose away from her search for introductions when she felt the body beside her relax, then go rigid.
She followed the direction of Rose’s gaze. Oh dear. Alej, and that little troublemaker Sophia.
Rose adjusted her earring in the mirror as Mariana watched from the doorway. Walking to join the older woman, Rose smiled as they linked arms and proceeded down the wide, cool hall to the terrace beyond the open French doors and the party currently underway.
As they emerged, Mariana’s guests moved forward to wish her a happy birthday. Rose remained by her godmother’s side but looked out across the colourful group spilling across the lawn. Her gaze skimmed across Marco, where he leaned against a pillar, leaving him glowering in the wake of her apparent indifference.
Mariana glanced at Rose as the younger woman ignored the young man near her and instead focused on the other young man now stepping through the gap in the hedge. Rose’s smile faded as she caught sight of the woman accompanying him. She was a tall, elegant blonde who managed to make the floating white sundress she wore look fresh and chic, rather than childish. Mariana looked between them, expression thoughtful, then turned to discuss the latest gossip from Milan with her nearest guest.
Mateo returned to the bar table with his empty tray, swapping it for another loaded with flutes of champagne. This crowd were definitely here to party. He kept an eye on the terrace doors. It would be terrible for the hostess to appear and not have her favourite drink immediately to hand.
The sheer curtains on each side fluttered and Senora Amante stepped through, arm in arm with the young English lady he’d heard was some sort of niece or something.
They made quite a picture together, one mature, colourful, chic; the younger understated elegance. He smiled a little cynically, a perfect portrait of money. But the senora was a delight to work for and he moved to present her with a glass of champagne.
He went to offer one to the senorita also, but she appeared busy and unfocused, more likely to accidentally knock it than take it.
What had her so distracted? Not Senor Marco, for all he was watching her like a hawk. Then her attention caught.
Of course. Senor Alej, a strange mix of polite and aloof that one; and the woman with him. Well, Mateo had encountered her before. She was all surface, no class, for all of her ‘high bred’ family background.
He glanced back at the English one. An expression crossed her face, like a kicked puppy, then smoothed into indifference as she turned into the Senora’s discussion with another guest.
Now might be a good time for that drink.
Rose bent to adjust her earring in the mirror. She knew it was silly, but she wanted to look perfect. Mariana watched from the door to the bedroom, smiling a little at her god-daughter’s care and attention to detail. When Rose joined her at the door, she linked their arms and they slowly walked down the passageway together.
The hum of conversation, and the chink of glasses reached them through the open doors, Mariana’s guests were already celebrating as they awaited her entrance.
The pair stepped through the fluttering curtains framing the doorway and onto the flagged stones of the terrace running the full length of Mariana’s villa. As the guests turned to see, to admire, the hostess and her companion, an attentive waiter, one who’d served here many times before, presented Mariana with a glass of champagne.
As she took the glass from him, he took a moment to appreciate the perfect picture of complementary contrasts they presented. Mariana wore her life well, celebrating in bright colours and a bold style that only the truly sophisticated could carry. Rose was a paean to understated elegance. The soft, flowing lines of her pale green dress should have faded beside Mariana’s vivid palette. Instead it balanced the picture and set off the whole.
The waiter turned to hand a flute of champagne to Rose as well, but paused at her distraction. She was looking for someone or something, and was unlikely to pay attention to fragile glass until she’d found it.
A number of other guests noticed her abstraction and commented, then flitted on to other, more important matters; such as flagging down the nearest server for more champagne. Marco noticed, but his attention didn’t flit on. He had an idea as to the cause and didn’t like it. Didn’t like to see someone heading for heartache, especially in public, especially when anything he tried to do help would only make matters worse.
He saw when her attention caught, when the pain hit, and shifted uncomfortably. Nothing he could do.
Rose had spotted Alej as soon as he stepped through the gap in the tall hedge bordering the lawn. He looked like a hero from a romance novel. And the girl with him looked like his heroine. All white drapery and golden locks, she just knew the woman would be stunning up close. And that she was going to have to endure that vision within minutes.
She took a deep breath and blindly turned to her godmother, reaching for the normalcy of her conversation with a guest and gratefully accepting a glass of champagne from the attentive, but discreet waiter.
As Alej and his companion made their way across the lawn, more of the guests noticed their progress and began to murmur again. This time they did not move on to other topics and, if Rose could have heard them, she may have been bolstered by the nature of them. The comments on the woman were not complimentary, and a number of comparisons were made between her and Rose, in which Rose came out the victor. But she couldn’t hear them, so could only hold onto her composure through sheer force of will, and smile meaninglessly at the people parading before her.