365 Day Writing Challenge 47: Light Switch

365 Day Writing Challenge

47. Light Switch: Write about coming out of the dark and seeing the light.

He sat up in bed and watched her sleep below him. He looked at the face he had known so long, the face he knew better than any other. He remembered the first time he met her, the smooth skin, the flawless smile. Now it was as if someone had taken the youthful oval he knew so well and traced over it – skilfully sketching wrinkles and lines until it had changed in its entirety. The woman lying next to him now was someone completely different.
As he watched he remembered the first time he had seen her face contort in anger. How her plump lips, that he had stolen kisses from so many times, had curled round her teeth. He hadn’t been quite able to believe at the time how he hadn’t noticed how sharp those little teeth were. For days afterwards he had watched them slyly, while she was eating, while she was talking, while she was eating, watching the little incisors cut through meat. Eventually she had dropped her knife and fork with a clatter and asked him if he could please tell her exactly WHAT was so interesting about the way she ate. He had stopped watching after that.
Now his gaze fell over her eyebrows, neatly plucked as ever. He noticed there was a stray hair in the middle, above her nose. She wouldn’t like that. She always maintained her eyebrows herself, (that was her word – “maintained” – as if they were hedges she was pruning) ever since the girl who normally did her brows at the salon had called in sick, and her brows had been done by someone else. The way this mew girl had done it, apparently, was not up to scratch. This was exactly why, she had told him in the car as he drove her home, she didn’t trust people. They let you down, and they messed up even the simplest of things. Her eyebrows had looked fine to him, and he had told her so. She had fallen silent at this, and stared out the window, her face unreadable behind her large sunglasses. He watched his knuckles go white as he gripped the steering wheel. He knew what was coming next, it was just a matter of waiting… It came, as it always did. The long, drawn out sigh, the one that let him know just how infinitely disappointed she was with him, with their marriage, with their life together. It was the same sigh after they slept together, the same tight, painful little smile. And he would ask her what was wrong, so many times, try so many different things, and yet always the same result: nothing was wrong, she was fine, and then that sigh, saying the complete opposite.
He sighed himself now, as he watched her. She never moved in her sleep. No snores, no twitching. Like those statues you lying on top of crypts in churches. Perfect repose. It had seriously made him panic the first couple of times they had slept together. He had fallen asleep with his hand on her heart, the steady heartbeat the only thing reassuring him that she was alive. She had woken up once with his hand still on her breast, her eyebrows raised, not, he thought, in an entirely annoyed way. He grew to hate the way she raised her eyebrows at him, more than anything else. As well as the little sardonic smile that always accompanied them. When he showed her the ship in the bottle he had made, painstakingly, over months. When he finally introduced her, after months of her pointed suggestions, to his small, talkative, overly eager friend Bert from the office. Whenever he came up with a stupid idea – no, whenever he came up with an idea that she found stupid. Because he was stupid, in her eyes. Stupid, useless, disappointing. Ineffectual. An afterthought. He was always there, bumbling after her, getting in the way. He looked down at his hands. Big, lumbering, clumsy hands. He looked them over, flexing his fingers. No. These were strong, skillful hands. Ones that could create things. Kind ones, ones that could stroke and caress. Ones that could love. Ones that could love the right woman.
He sat up, suddenly, like a bolt. He glanced at her quickly, fearfully. Still she was silent. He lifted himself from the bed, carefully and quickly. He eased his suitcase, the one that hadn’t been used since that disastrous holiday to Majorca. He shuddered at the memory even now. He piled his clothes into the suitcase, marvelling at how many he actually had. For some reason he had always thought he had hardly any. His brain was rushing now. Did he have his passport? Driving licence? Car keys? Thank God the car was in his name. Legal papers. Bank statements. There was a bonfire roaring in his head, all of his important documents blackening and curling. He made a mental checklist. Did he have everything? He thought so. He double, triple checked, because he knew that once he left anything he would never see it again.

The sun shone over the quiet suburban street. No one was awake yet. It was a Sunday, even the maniacal car polishers and busy housewives weren’t up yet. The only person awake was a man in a suit and hat, overly formal, as if he were on his way to church. He lifted a heavy suitcase into the boot of his car. He looked, for all intents and purposes, like he was going on a business trip. Except for a small, subtle smile that was slowly dawning across his face. Like the red fingers of sunlight at the start of a glorious day.

365 Day Writing Challenge 42: Warehouse

365 Day Writing Challenge

42. Warehouse: Write about being inside an old abandoned warehouse.

She stole through the black dust and the silver moonlight. She knew her lover would meet her here soon. She knew he would find her, knew his dark arms would reach out and pull her to him, and she would feel his heartbeat underneath the firmness of his torso. She would run her hands through his black, black hair, and he would tell his love to her in whispers as she unbuttoned his shirt and her hands ran, pale and slender, all over his bare chest.

Her breath caught and she stopped, reminding herself that soon this would really be happening, she would be his and he would be hers once again. She found a black, dusty corner to wait in. Only her eyes glittered palely in the darkness.

365 Day Writing Challenge 33: Jewellery

365 Day Writing Challenge

33. Jewellery: Write about a piece of jewellery. Who does it belong to?

Do you ever notice how your perception of something may change over time it still holds the same emotional value? Like your favourite band when you were a kid. You realise if you heard one of their cheesy songs now for the first time you wouldn’t like it, and yet you still love to hear it. This is how I feel about my mum’s necklace.

When I was a child it was the most beautiful thing in the world. Two delicate golden birds sat on a filigree branch, their emerald eyes gazing at each other while their beaks softly touched. I used to gaze at it in my mum’s jewellery box, too awed to touch it. She never seemed to wear it. It seemed to just live in that box, the delicate birds forever touching their beaks, encased in gold.

Now I look it and the first thing that strikes me is how cheap the gold is. Well, it isn’t gold at all – but some other metal sprayed gold. The birds are cute, but they are by no means delicate. And the emeralds? Plastic.

I can’t help but wonder why she would have kept a necklace like this. She never wore it so it must have some sentimental value because otherwise why would she keep it? I asked my dad if he knew where she got it from, but no. And I don’t even bother asking my brothers.

I take the necklace on the train home with me, clenched tightly in my fist, feeling like a child again, waiting for someone to tell me off for taking it. I play with it absent-mindedly, wondering why on earth she had it. I imagined a boyfriend, when she was young, long before my dad. He was sweet and sexy and she was absolutely madly in love with him. For what felt like forever, but what was actually a matter of months, he was her whole world. She couldn’t get enough of him, he was her addiction. He gave her this necklace and she adored it, she knew what little money he had. It was inperfect but it was perfect to her.

But my mum was a sensible woman. She began to notice things about him that weren’t as perfect. His temper, for example. He could fly off the handle at the smallest thing. Or his complete lack of interest in the future. She was at college, wanting to start building a career for herself, and he didn’t even have a job, just scrounging off his parents and crashing on friends’ sofas whenever his parents protested. She began to lose patience with him. They argued. She left. She didn’t look back.

But she let herself keep the necklace. She let herself keep a tiny memento of when she was young and of a time when she could lose her head over a boy with too long hair and skinny legs.

Of course I have no idea if this is a actually what happened. She probably bought it, realised she didn’t like it and couldn’t be bothered to throw it away. But I like thinking of her that way, young and free and of a time when she was something other than my mum.

365 Day Writing Challenge 32: Rewrite a Poem

365 Day Writing Challenge

32. Rewrite a Poem: Take any poem or short story you find anywhere. Rewrite it in your own words.

The poem I’ve rewritten is She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron

He lives in gold, like the sun –

In Eden days of blue and white,

And all that’s freedom,

All that’s light,

Meet in his aspect and his eyes,

A beauty never matched by even

The brightest star of the night.

 

One ray the more, one shade the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which lives in every chestnut strand,

Or softly brightens on his face;

Where thoughts so happily express

Themselves in such a loved resting place.

 

And on that cheek, and in his eyes,

So soft, so warm, so joyous,

The smiles that win, the eyes that see

 

All the good in everyone,

A mind at peace with all he sees,

A heart whose love is strong yet innocent.


Of all the challenges this was by far the hardest. Byron rhymes (and mine in this poem have been patchy at best) and uses meter, both of which I never use in any of my poems. All I can say is thank God for my English degree because a lot of things I learnt there became useful when I was writing this – deciphering what Byron is actually saying line per line especially.

 

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 29: Good Vibes

365 Day Writing Challenge

29. Good Vibes: What makes you smile? What makes you happy?

In no particular order:

1. FOOD
2. My boyfriend
3. My little sister
4. Hanging out with my boyfriend and my little sister just the three of us and I know that these are the people who I am truly myself with.
5. Babies
6. My new job
7. Lying in my bed which is all white and clean with my fairy lights on and feeling warm and safe
8. Spending hours in Waterstone’s deciding which books to buy
9. Reading
10. Finding my own style and wearing what I want
11. My hair
12. Cats
13. Weddings
14. Not having to work at H&M any more
15. Thinking about spending the rest of my life with Max
16. This video:

17. Music
18. Glastonbury
19. Spending time with my cousins, feeling accepted and part of something bigger than me
20. Sex

I wish I could add writing to this list, but at the moment writing is more like a therapy for me. I’m not sure I could say I enjoy it because I’m too critical. There is light showing through the cracks though.

365 Day Writing Challenge 28: Shadow

365 Day Writing Challenge

28. Shadow: Imagine you are someone’s shadow for a day.

I watch him sleep, and I feel peaceful and content. I stroke his hair and wish that we could stay like this forever, warm and safe. But then his alarm goes off, bursting my perfect bubble. He staggers out of bed and into the shower. I creep behind him into the bathroom.

We are on the tram when he gets a text from her. Asking him if he wants her to get him a coffee. With a kiss on the end. I want to take his phone and smash it against the window.

Finally, his office. I’ve imagined this place so many times,now I finally get to see it. And the people. I play a game in my head, trying to match faces to the names he has mentioned so many times to me. And then I see her. I know what she looks like, of course. What is Facebook for? Again, I ask myself, why. Why am I jealous. Why would anyone be jealous of that bland, passive face? But, I realise, it’s not her I’m jealous of. It never has been. It’s the attention he gives her, the way he talks about her. How invested he is in her. I watch him now. He thanks her for the coffee. He laughs. He smiles. I feel sick.

I know I said it’s not her, but nevertheless I still detest her. Big fish eyes and weirdly perfectly grey skin and that placid smile…that smile is the worst. She needs some colour injected into her. In fact, no, what she really needs is…

I stop myself. I don’t want to be that bitter, that cruel. But I am that bitter and that cruel, I think. That’s why I’m here.

 

365 Day Writing Challenge 27: Closed Doors

365 Day Writing Challenge

27. Closed Doors: What’s behind the door? Why is it closed?

Age 5

The door is huge. And I am small. It has a bright, warm outline from the light in the corridor outside. All I have to do is reach up, twist the door handle and I will be back in the real world. Where the adults are, and the light is. But I can’t. Because they’ll shout at me. They’ll shout at me because it’s my fault she’s dead.

I don’t know what happened. She was fine, she was talking, and then the next minute she just stopped, her sentence hacked in half, and she just stopped speaking, and at first I laughed because I thought she was joking, but she still didn’t wake up, and now I’m crying and crying and I can’t breathe and I’m begging her to wake up and I think I might be too loud and that they might hear me and I half want them to so they can take me out of this nightmare and I half don’t because it’s my fault. It has to be. I’m the only person in here with her so of course they’re going to blame me.


 

Age 23

I really want to know what you were thinking when you did that. When I was sitting next to you on the floor, crying and crying and bawling because I was a kid, and because I thought you were dead and I was shaking you over and over and you knew how terrified I was and you just lay there enjoying it. I really want to know what was going through your head at that time. The thing is I know you were a kid and I know you’re sorry now but how can someone be that sadistic and revel in someone else’s pain that much. Someone small who you knew was afraid of you and who you knew you had power over. And how could you then plan, and go over in your head, to get up, and say calmly, “Why are you crying?” and look at me slightly puzzled, and when I say, “You stopped in the middle of talking and you weren’t moving” say, “No I wasn’t. I don’t know what you’re talking about”. How can a child be that calculating? You made me doubt myself, you made me feel that maybe I had imagined it all, and you knew I would never tell anyone because you would deny it. Either I wouldn’t tell anyone because I felt stupid for believing you or I wouldn’t tell anyone because I didn’t trust my own memory enough, because you made me feel like I made it up. So either way you won.


 

Age 21

The more she reaches out to me the more it makes me want to pull back. It’s making me cringe because she’s drunk and she’s spouting cliches that she thinks make her sound damaged and dramatic but really just make her sound ridiculous. She shouldn’t be with anyone because how could anyone love her. She just hurts people. She just pushes people away. Her voice is slurring and she’s saying these things so that I will deny them so that she can argue and impress upon me just how fucked up she is. I retreat further and further back into the sofa and my words sound so false to me that I keep waiting for her to hear it herself, even as drunk as she is.

And then, somehow, she drags the conversation onto us. What a bad sister she was. How can I love her. She was so horrible to me. My life would have been better if she wasn’t in it. It still would be now. And of course I rebut the things she’s saying. She is a better person and sister now, it’s not a lie, and of course my life is better with her in it. But I know what she really wants me to say. And I can’t. I told myself I’d only say it if and when I meant it. And I don’t. I love who she is now. I’m glad she is in my life and that we have a relationship. But when I think of her as a child, and I see her with her dark eyes and her knowing, false smile, I can’t. I can forgive my adult sister for being a self-absorbed, sometimes cruel (she’s still got that nasty streak), melodramatic, embarrassing person. But I can’t forgive her child self. For anything. There’s a home video where she doesn’t realise she’s being filmed and she thinks a photo is being taken. She’s staring into the camera, and the quality is so bad that her eyes are black. She’s smiling and her smile looks way too calculating, way too knowing, for a child. And it’s very clear she’s doing it for the camera. It’s very clear that she’s used to performing. And that is the face of evil to me. And I can’t forgive her for anything, because to me she wasn’t a person, she was just this malevolent force that ruled my life. So I don’t say it. I won’t say it until I mean it.


 

Age 23

Just in case any of you were wondering, no, I haven’t forgiven her yet.

Afterthought

But I might be thawing slightly.

365 Day Writing Challenge 23: Sugar

365 Day Writing Challenge

23. Sugar: Write something so sweet, it makes your teeth hurt.

She always sat alone, and he always wondered why. She hid behind her hair, trying to fold in upon herself, sliding past people in the corridor, pushing herself into the corners. Her head was always down, her shoulders hunched. He couldn’t understand it.

He couldn’t understand it because, to him, she was the most beautiful girl in the world.

Once, when she thought no one had been looking, he had seen her smile. He was determined to see that smile again.

It had been on the first day of school. They had both gotten lost together on the way to a class, and had fallen in together in a silent alliance. They had been rushing through the halls, their bags attacking their backs, when, suddenly, he had gone flying. It was a comedy gold sort of fall. Every part of his body flew out in ridiculous ways. He couldn’t have looked more funny if he’d tried. Anyone would have laughed. He would have laughed. And not just a hastily concealed chuckle, but a full-on, uncontrollable belly laugh.

But not her. Instead all he got was just one glorious smile. There was no malice in it. It was just sheer joy and surprise. But what fascinated him most was how it changed her entire face, lifted it, transformed it.

And then, as soon as it had come, it was gone. The sun was back behind the clouds. She had never spoken to him, all that time they had been running to their class, and the fall didn’t change that.

But it had changed him. Changed him irrevocably. He had fallen in love in a second and where this would have made others impatient it made him the opposite. He was ready to wait. Because he knew that one day his patience would pay off, and he would see that smile again.