This book is a first for me.
No, it’s not my first novella (or novel, if it turns out longer than expected), but it is my first retelling.
“Fit for a Queen?” will be a modern-day retelling of the ancient account of Queen Esther. This type of story-telling has already presented to be challenging, to say the least, but it’s also been really fun to start writing the first draft, so I thought I’d share the first unedited chapter with you right now. So, without further ado…
Axel Kingston sloshed his head back and forth to survey his all-night pool party guests. Hundreds of tanned bodies splashed playfully in the three large swimming pools and lounged in the over-sized Jacuzzi. Happy voices punctuated the blare of dance music pumping through the crowd of young, muscular men and the could-be-models they flirted with. Axel tipped back another shot of vodka, then stumbled up the steps to his personal stage on the east edge of the courtyard. A jumbo movie screen projected his larger-than-life image within view of every party guest. He signaled for the DJ to stop the music, and when the steady beat ceased, everyone turned to watch their host.
Axel smiled a lazy smile, eyelids heavy, as he bobbed his head toward the microphone.
“Howz everyone doin’ tonight?”
Whoops, hollers, and cheers sounded and bounced off the tall rock walls, likely waking every neighbor outside the mile-long estate.
Axel’s grin widened as he raised both arms above his head, basking in the glory of his guest’s earsplitting approval.
“Thatz whadda thought.” His lips felt thick and swollen. He licked them slowly and took a step back to steady himself. “I jus’ had a spec– spec– specta-kooler idea. Howzabout we have…” he paused for effect and opened his eyes as wide as he could manage, crouching close to the microphone before he whispered, “a bikini contest?”
Deep voices roared their agreement while the girls in and around the pools giggled and sized up the competition, combing fingers through wet locks and dashing to find towels to dry themselves.
“Thizis howitz gonna go.” Axel blinked a couple times and regained his balance after a misstep. “Girls, line up here.” He made a sloppy motion with one arm, swinging it from left to right behind his back. “Girl with loudest applause gets to spend the rest of the night with yourz truly!”
The girls screeched and screamed as if they’d spotted the main performer at a rock concert. They scrambled over each other for a prominent place on the stage.
While the girls got themselves situated, Axel’s glassy eyes sought out a group of his personal friends nearby. He motioned the tallest one over to the edge of the stage and squatted down to talk to him.
“Jared. You and the guyz go over to the guest house and get Ash’ly. Tell’er to slip into that bikini I got for ‘er birfday las’ year.” He winked. “And hurry.”
Jared quickly obeyed, gathering his posse and heading out the back gate to the guest house where Axel’s girlfriend hosted her own all-nighter.
With his friends on their mission, Axel began the contest. He stood in front of each woman and counted to three. The audience cheered for each girl as she struck a pose. When he was halfway down the line, he watched his friends return.
He stopped mid-count and called Jared to the microphone. “I asked Jar to invite my gorgeous and stunnin-ly bee-YOU-tiful supermodel queen, Ash’ly Vasquez, to our li’l comp’ti-shun!”
The men in the audience went wild– whooping, chanting Ashley’s name– and the girls on the stage suddenly appeared shy. Axel bowed dramatically and almost fell over.
Once the crowd quieted, he noticed Jared’s frown. “Well, wha’d my babygirl say?” He slapped Jared on the back and laughed.
Jared shook his head meekly. Anger flashed in Axel’s stomach, and his cheeks started to burn. She wouldn’t dare defy me.
“Out with it, man. Wha’d she say?” His ears tingled and he could feel his face turning red.
Jared hung his head and spoke softly. “She refused your invitation.”
Head and heart pounding, Axel wiped the spit off his chin with his fist and clenched his teeth. “Enlight’n all’ov us, Jared.” His arm waved in a giant circle to include the silent crowd of onlookers. “What were Queen Ash’ly’s ‘zact words?”
Jared squeezed his eyes shut and hesitated, his lips parted as if he were going to speak, but he shut them again. He peeked over at Axel and whispered, but not softly enough, “She said she’d rather die.”
As the guests buzzed with murmurings and speculations, Axel whipped his head toward his irate image on the jumbo screen, then spun around to glare at his five story guest house. The sudden movements caused his brain to tilt and swirl. Unable to regain his balance, he fell off the stage and splashed head first into the nearby pool. When he resurfaced, shouting like a madman, he swam to the ladder, yanked himself onto dry ground, and rushed the stage.
“This party is over! Go home! Everyone, out!”
Wide-eyed, the guests froze in place.
Flesh, fabric, and feet flew around the courtyard as Axel continued his tirade.
“Security, this place’s empty’n five, or you’re’ll fired!” He kicked a potted plant into the pool and started chasing guests out the open iron gates, cursing at the top of his lungs. He ran to the dessert table and heaved it over with all his strength. Cupcakes, pies, and pastries slid into the now-vacant hot tub.
When the last guest had fled, Axel collapsed onto an outdoor chaise and stared down at the marble tiling on the ground.
This was supposed to be a fun evening– a celebration of a great milestone for their business. Three years and twenty billion dollars for Persian Empires, Inc. Now, all of that was tarnished by Ashley’s behavior and his temper.
Tears gathered in the corners of his eyes and escaped his lashes, dropping onto his six-thousand-dollar bathing suit. Before long, he was sobbing loud, drunken sobs that any passerby would notice, but he didn’t care. The love of his life and second-in-command of Persian Empires had humiliated him in front of hundreds of important party guests, and she’d broken his heart.
He didn’t know how yet, but come tomorrow, he’d make her pay.
(Retold from Esther 1:1-12)