This has been a thought running through my head for a while… Because my friend Annie gave me the push to go ahead with it, and gave me some reassurance that she would read it, I figured what the hell. This is a little bit of the beginning of my book. Originally the working title of it was Le Cirque Grand Magnifique, I was heading one way when I had started writing it then where I ended up at the end. I have been struggling for sometime to come up with a better title and while I was sitting in D’s parents car at the Manassas Regal Cinema I was struck with the obvious. During one part of the story a man describes Meridan as having the qualities of the Japanese word Shibui. I had not thrown it in there as haphazardly as one would believe, I actually had the word in mind as I was creating the aspects of her character. When I realized that it was the most appropriate name it kind of came to me that I had been over thinking it.
What I offer you below is the few pages in the first chapter explaining Meridan’s world. I hope that when you read it that it comes across to you the way that I had intended it to. Being as it was also written one way in the beginning and then later reworked it has me a little at loose ends as to whether the world is properly drawn out or if it only makes sense to me. I would really appreciate some feedback if you can spare a few minutes to leave your comments below.
Shibui (excerpt Chapter 1)
Meridan sat on the stage of le Cirque performing area. She had been here hundreds of times before. The gas lamps which lit the room left their signature scent and the hum and din of those males who were waiting for her group to begin lent to the atmosphere of excitement that filled the room.
Glancing around at the two girls who would be playing with her, Whitley and Jaiden, she saw them also awaiting the beginning of their performance. Whitley was only fourteen, she was a very well trained bouzouki player. Her voice was soft and soulful it blended well with Meridan’s contralto. Jaiden played the mandolin and she lent only to the chorus of the ballad that the girls would be playing. Meridan’s part was to sing the main parts and for this particular song she played no instrument, all though she was trained to play many string and woodwind instruments. She had learned her first instrument, a child’s size rebab, at the age of six.
A group of younger girls would be dancing. Meridan knew most of the girl’s who performed for le Cirque in her Central, even if it were in only a casual sort of way. The ones dancing today were quite talented and knew how best to move with one another to create a very fluid and complimentary assembly. Not one of them showed anything less than confidence for the arts that they had been training for all their lives.
Jaiden began the song with the strum of her mandolin and a few moments later Whitley joined. Meridan took a breath and began to sing. These next two days would contain her last few performances and then she would graduate to her life of service. While she sung she tried to hold on to each moment so they wouldn’t rush by so fast. Looking forward to the time of her ripening filled her with fear and some anger.
Le Cirque was a world made for the men that did nothing for the benefit of the girls in it neither did it lend to a rewarding future. As a small girl the men harvested them. Neither mother nor daughter ever knew what happened to one other. They were raised in preparation of their position in society; girls were entertainment, women were amusement.
By the age of two years Meridan was being trained for the world which all females of her society faced. She learned the arts of dancing, singing and performing. There were no days off and the girls only had breaks for food and lessons on comportment. Meridan knew from an early age that you either survived in this world or you became a discard. Even a child knew what it meant to be discarded. Meridan worked hard so as to not bring unwanted attention. That life was more bleak than what the Legion offered the performers of le Cirque.
No males performed. At their birth they were given to a protector and would be raised in a rank in la Légion du Pouvoir Extrême that would lead them to the most beneficial end. The lowest rank being Servant. Anyone raised in this rank had the ability to aspire to a higher rank beginning at their fourteenth birthday. For males there was a hierarchy in which the lowest was Servant and the highest was Grand Legion Hero. The levels between that were Legion, Legion Leader, Local Legion Leader, Protectorate, Local Legion Protectorate Leader, Legion Hero and Grand Legion Hero. Legion Hero was the highest rank that one could reach in a Central. Grand Legion Hero was the ruler of all Centrals. Ranks were often inherited although that wasn’t always the case. Demotion among ranks was possible as well. But to be born a man was an honor and those that lived within Centrals were taught that from a very young age.
As a female who was born and not harvested for le Cirque meant a life of a Discard. The unwanted were those who were rejected for whatever reason that the males who were in power would determine. Girls and women who failed to be performers or those who were no longer desired for service were relegated to the rank of Discard. To be born female was a dishonor and misfortune, but to be a Discard it was seen as far worse. The life of the unwanted was hard. It meant having to find a position that would provide housing and food. Menial labor, factory work and positions that were below that of Servant were filled by females. They lived in the wards which made up the stews. A life like this, without a male to guide and provide for basic needs meant that in the eyes of society you were less than human. You were less than female.
Le Demimonde was the society where performers graduated to at their ripening. At seventeen a girl would be taken from performing and given to member of the Legion to be of service. The positions were Mistress, Courtesan and Blue Lady. All these ranks were considered a great honor in Legion Society.
As a Mistress you belonged to a single male and were provided for and the role was that of mate, providing companionship and heirs. This rank was not assured once one was called to it. At any time in service a girl could be replaced. To be replaced it meant demotion to Discard class. There was no where to go from there. Service, provide heirs and lend beauty to a home or that life would be given to someone who would.
Courtesans were taken by no man in particular. They were meant to learn the art of service at an Temple Acadèmie du Plaisir and were at the whim of any man who would support them for any length of time determined by their supporter. This position meant that as long as a man, any man, was willing to be serviced by the woman she would not be discarded. However once beauty or skill waned than and they were no longer sought after, they would find themselves in the stews. Courtesan’s were never offered any homes or given anything that they would individually own. As they came to a service as a Courtesan, they left it to go on to their next male caretaker. The only thing that was their’s was their beauty, skill and name. Women only had first names; there were no family names to claim them.
The most common position for girls at their seventeenth birthday was that of a Blue Lady. That was a woman whose service took place in Maison Bleue. A home where men would come for their enjoyment. Many girls would be there for his choice and they would spend the night with any man who requested them.
It was the way of the Legion world and girls accepted this early on. Knowing what a girl would one day become was their motivation for performing well and looking their best. A well received and talented performer might acquire a man who would take her as a Mistress. It was what all girls aspired to. To be in the service of one man for the as long as they could please him.
Men, who wrote the laws and tenants of the Legion, could treat females however they cared to as they were little more than amusement. No laws existed to prevent a man from harming a woman in anyway. Many discarded girls were misused and they had no place to find protection. Whatever happened was unfortunate but as Society saw it… they should have aspired to be in service to have saved them from such a fate.
At the end of her performance Meridan stood and bowed low to the males who watched. It was the girl’s way of thanking the men for watching as they entertained them. When Legion Leader Martelle gave them a nod they were allowed to leave the stage to slip back behind the curtains which divided the performers from the girls who were waiting to go on next.
A group of small girls, no older than ten took the floor to perform exercises where they tumbled and danced for the men. Meridan watched the young girls as they moved with the knowledge that in a few years they would also await their ripening. She was painfully aware of the fact that in three days she would likely be a Blue Lady and this thought plagued her. The idea of being anything to a man who she didn’t choose left her heartbroken. And trying to guess why she felt this when this was the only way it could be was leaving her further distressed.
She watched one girl miss a tumble and she flinched knowing that would train long grueling hours so she never missed the movement again. Meridan was the consummate performer. She trained long enough to know that it was not acceptable to fail in any way. The attention you wanted was not the negative sort. That way only led to sadness. If it became a repeated offense and the young girl did not correct it she would find herself in the slums with the other unwanted.
Meridan shook her head as it truly didn’t take much to find one’s self there. Not that she knew from experience but her cousin, Tienda, lived as a Discard. She had been a performer until she was eight and then she was discarded because her face was too common. No amount of marks or make up could make up for her looks at that age. What was really heartbreaking was once she grew out of her awkward stage she became very pretty. Meridan went to visit her often. The male family that they shared never thought of her again after she was discarded. Meridan felt blessed by the relative who sponsored her as it meant she could be better decorated with tattooed marks and jewelry for her many piercings as well as being able to use higher quality garments and face and body paints.
Thoughts of the ripening skittered across her mind. Tienda would listen to her fears. It would be good to get it off her chest. Her palms were becoming moist at the thoughts she had about accepting that all that there was to look forward to were men she did not know. She didn’t know where she had the idea but she often dreamt about finding a man that she could love. It was only a dream though and she knew that. The Legion did not leave room for the concept of love between sexes. A woman’s feelings were never considered. What was sought after was obedience. Meridan didn’t even know if she could provide that. More and more these days she felt rebellious and contrary. Her future was unacceptable, yet she could do nothing but accept it.
“Do you remember when we were that young?” Meridan was brought back from her thoughts by the voice in her ear. She smiled her welcome and whispered, “I remember thinking that le Cirque was a scary dream. There was only that and nothing more. I had no idea if I would even make it to my ripening. It was making it from morning to night and then doing it again the next day.”
Verity nodded as she watched them. Verity was a pretty girl. She had a pixie face and the darkness of her marks on her pale skin were more striking than Meridan’s own olive tones. The girl’s bright blue eyes were rimmed with the longest eyelashes. Her heart shaped lips were a red that needed no help from paint pots. The blonde hair that haloed her head hung long down her back and shined in the gas lamps. Compared to Verity, Meridan looked dusky and dark. She had deep green eyes and they were exotic looking as they were wide and almond shaped. Her lips were wide, full and a soft pink. Lush dark hair laid in soft waves that made her hair appear shorter than it’s actual length. Hair was let to grow the last two years before ripening so that it could be artfully styled, cut or arranged as the man who procured wished.
Meridan glanced to the girl next to her looking down at her shorter stature. Meridan was a good five inches taller than Verity. Verity looked petite whereas Meridan appeared tall and willowy next to her.
“I am imagining that the small girl to the left in brown ringlets will be training hard before her next performance”, Meridan spoke quietly. Verity looked and made a sympathetic face. “It is so hard at that age. You are all arms and legs. Well I assume that is how it was for most everyone else. I was always was pretty close to perfect.” Meridan nodded watching still. Verity was a good friend, although she believed herself to be better than most everyone else.
They stood silently until the end of the performance. The young girls left the platform and Legion Leader Martelle who choreographed the dances stepped forward to announce the next performance. As he walked back to his place to observe, Meridan saw him receive a note and watched his face as he read it and his look as he raised his eyes to the young girl Verity and she had spoken about. Meridan felt more unrest in her heart because she knew that that missive held an audit from one of the Legion males regarding her performance. That note could be telling Leader Martelle to discard her and that made Meridan feel sick.
“She is being evaluated”, Verity said sadly, seeing the same thing as Meridan.
“It’s not good”, Meridan agreed with the weight of Verity’s tone.
“Have you seen her perform before?” Verity asked.
“I’m sure I have but to me she has been unremarkable before tonight.”
“It would be unfortunate if this is her first unsteady night and it still came down to discard her. Maybe I should have helped her train. I have always been so very good.” Verity stated. She continued, “No one gets a second chance with the Legion audits.”
Meridan shook her head… she needed to go see Tienda. No one gets a second chance anywhere within le Cirque. But maybe she could make Meridan feel better.
That is the first part of my novel. I hope the world that I have created is sufficiently explained. I apologize if some parts come across as awkward or the flow isn’t just right. I still am working on the second draft and still have to have it properly edited and proofread before I write the final draft. Thank you, truly, for having read this and I really appreciate everyones support and words of encouragement while I have been writing it.