This is a snippet from a piece of short fiction I've written. I like the character, and want to write more stories about her.
Her trunk loaded first. A longshoreman shouldered the modest trunk and carried it into the steamboat. Another tried to take the leather case her trug held. The trug, in its lumpish simplicity, held on. Mary Penney, alarmed, waved off the longshoreman and took the heavy leather case into her arms.
“Watch out for that. It’s precious cargo,” Mary told the stevedore.
The stevedore nodded, and himself accepted the leather case.
“Cabin, miss?” he inquired.
“Please,” Mary said.
She turned to her trug and pressed a molasses chew in its hand. “Go back to the shop now, Arnie. Do you understand? Back to the shop.”
Mary repeated her instructions emphatically and firmly until the trug turned and shuffled away in the right direction, pulling the wheeled flat cart she had harnessed to it to convey her trunk to the wharf. The cart bounced and clattered on the cobblestones. She watched for a moment, concerned that Arnie would follow her order, then turned back to the gangplank. A woman standing nearby had the beginnings of a sneer on her face when she caught Mary’s glacial expression and found somewhere else to look.
If I want to name my trug, what business is that of anyone else?
Irritated, Mary turned her attention to the steamboat Celeste tied at the Memphis wharf. The forty foot sternwheeler nudged the pilings, causing a gentle shudder through the wood under her feet. Clutching her precious carpetbag, she navigated the short distance from wharf to steamboat, steadied by a helpful hand. Mary turned to thank the owner of the helpful hand, a man not much older or taller than herself, dressed in trousers and a chambray shirt, and bearing the black and silver of a wizard’s mark on his right collarbone.
He grimaced when he saw her gaze linger on the mark.
“Follows me around wherever I go,” he quipped.
A smile tugged at her mouth. “Rather, it proceeds you, I should say.”
“Clever,” he said, and extended his hand. “Bartholomew Courtney. My friends, few though they be, call me Court. When they are feeling particularly light-hearted, they call me Conjuring Court.”
She shifted the carpetbag to her left and shook his hand. He had a firm grip, which she liked. “Mary Penney. I, too, know the eponymous danger surrounding one’s profession. I’m known as Mechanical Mary on the streets of Memphis.” She shifted the light scarf around her neck, exposing the engineer’s mark, vividly blue against her pale skin.
His gaze had sharpened on her face. “To which you’re not native, I’ll be bound.”
“No. I’m from Missouri,” she admitted.
“Since the Celeste is heading for St. Louis, might I conclude that you are going back to Missouri to visit family?”
“No,” she said shortly. He looked a little taken aback at her tone, and she forced a smile. “Strictly business, I’m afraid.”
Something in her face seemed to warn him, for he said in a light voice, “As a crewmember of this mighty steamboat, please do me the honor of allowing me to show you to your cabin.”
He extended his left arm, crooked at the elbow, and, after a moment’s hesitation, she placed her hand inside. No use blaming him for not knowing that I will never willingly see my family again.