Friday, 23 September 2011

What's In A Name?

So folks, how do you like the new look of the blog? Someone finally piped up and told me that the colour scheme was hard on the eyes, so hopefully this one will be a bit more comfortable.
At some point I want to try and incorporate the photo of my desk and typewriter into my banner, I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Today I want to discuss names.

Choosing names for characters is a hugely important task, but as I'm currently finding out, sometimes the name you give a character won't be the right one for them once they've had a chance to grow into themselves.

Names inevitably give readers some clue's as to a characters personality, as well as background. How do these characters sound?
 - Jane/Nettle Johnson
 - Captain Barnaby Johnson
 - Jinx Sterling (given name Alice)
 - Captain Red Wallace (a woman, just to point out)
 - Feckless Dicken
 - Charlotte De Bousc
 - Alfred Palmer
 - Cormac (or maybe Lorcan, I can't decide) O'Connor
 - Isaac Nibbs/Nibble

I'd be intrigued to know your opinions on these, so I know I'm going down the right path with them.

Now, the names a writer selects can also be used as a nod of affection, respect or mockery to someone else.
Can't actually think of any mockeries in main stream fiction right now (badly researched, I know), but they certainly appear all over fanfiction.

Now on the other hand, you can name characters affectionately, almost like a famous actor taking a cameo role in a film.

Rather than do this with a character though, I've done it with the ships. Of course in a pirate story, ships are a very big deal, and I always imagined that Captain Johnson would have named his ship after his late wife. Originally it was called the Sweet Emily, but that just sounds too fluffy for a pirate ship. So I renamed it, and as a nod to my mum, who I credit for endowing me with the writing bug, I named it the Lady Caroline. Sounds a bit more piratical now doesn't it.

However, it hit me recently that I'd named the captain Johnson. John is my dad's name, and with all due respect dad, he was not one of my influences for the character. Captain Barnaby Johnson is a little bit of Barbosa from Pirates of The Caribbean, a little of Professor Robinson from Lost In Space, with perhaps a touch of Vetinari from Terry Pratchett's Discworld, although that element seems to be getting smaller and smaller.

The name was a nod to a fanfiction writer I'm a fan of, and I just liked the name Captain Johnson. It did make me wonder how careful we need to be as writers when taking outside names or influences for our characters. I've never written a character that is purely based on one person, but some certainly have more traits of one person than another. I suppose sometimes we even take influences without realising it.

Your thoughts? How careful do we need to be?

Over the last year, I've gotten to know my main cast of characters very well...except one. Eleanor Palmer, the second heroine. I just can't get a grip on her! All I know is that she's blonde, between the ages of 18-22, the daughter of the current governor of Port Pleasance, engaged to Sebastian Davies...and that's about it. I don't know who she is.

A friend suggested that maybe she has the wrong name, and I think she was right. As Eleanor, I'm sometimes concerned about her turning into Elizabeth Swan from Pirates of The Caribbean. Certainly she has an element of that, but she's gentler, a little more timid, perhaps like Kate Bonnett from the novel of the same name.

I tried giving her a nickname, allowing other characters to reduce it to Nell, and it helped a little but not much. I hope soon to find a name for her that will jump out at me.

Here's an interesting post from a baby names website who obviously cottoned onto how many writers browse their site for influence.

And to finish off, things are going well over at Milliver's Travels. My latest story went live this week, Cape Reinga and the Awesome Bus, and it seems to be going down well with our regular readers.

I was sat on the bus on the way home from work the other day and decided to write a list of all the articles I could write for Milli. The final count was 46, and that number will continue to rise. So now Milli is expecting an article a week so I'd better go and get started on the next one! Take a look at the list here and let me know if there's any articles you would like to see sooner rather than later.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The New Felicity!

****Just to clarify, this is an older post, for some reason it decided to republish when I was editing to sync the fonts with the rest of the new blog look!******

It's done! Actually, it's been done for a couple of days, but again I was being distracted so it's taken a while to do the edit.

Ok, this entry is getting very little waffle, instead, I'll just give you my link of the week, and the story.

This weeks link is about what really makes a great storyteller

And here, is The Future Holds Felicity. If you've read the original version, forget it, there is next to no relevance, it's a completely different story. Don't let anything in that encroach on what you read here!


  As the audience enter, their eye's are always drawn up into the shadows of the tent roof. From the outside you know it's big, but you don't realise just how big until you look up into the spiders web of support cables, lighting bars and suspended speakers. 
  In the auditorium the lights are low as the public are lead to their seats. The musicians mill amongst the crowd, playing a lazy little tune to start building the atmosphere.
  I stand behind my sound desk, watching the lights flickering green and orange on the meters. My palms are sweating and I can't keep still. My forehead is tingling and my knees are shaking. I've not felt like this since the first time I mixed this show nearly six months ago.
  In an attempt to calm  my nerves, I pick up my headphones and listen through each of the channels; violin, accordion, flute, bassoon and the drum microphones give me nothing new to focus on. 
  I plug into the backstage relay to listen to the soothing voice of the stage manager giving her calls to the performers. But my hands are still shaking so I start listening in to the microphones of the vocalists in the backstage tent.          
  There's Victor, the baritone with his sharp Russian tongue. He and Ramone, the tenor, are guiding the four children in the cast through a last minute vocal warm up.
  Then there's Robyn, the contralto, arguing with one of the trapeze artists. I still find listening to her amusing. With the plethora of international accents on this show her Irish brogue is the one that seems most out of place. 
  I skip the next channel, listening instead to the three clowns, gabbling away to each other in Portuguese. 
  When I can stand it no longer I flick back to the channel I jumped and hold my breath as I turn up the volume. But where I usually find peace in the lilting voice of the soprano, it's sends a wave of panic through me and I have to remove my headphones. This is the right thing to do, that’s what I keep repeating to myself. I’ve made my decision, I just have to see it through.

  I'll never forget the first time I heard that voice. I was working in a cocktail bar in London, just trying to bring in a bit of cash until I could get my next sound job. I was showing off for some customers, throwing a bottle of vodka around.
  “Good evening there, what can I get you?”
  The bottle smashed and my shoes were soaked with the Polish spirit.
  The owner of the voice turned to me, smirking.
  “Butter fingers eh?”
  But I was unable to make any sort of response. The voice matched the face perfectly. She was stood by the till, wearing exactly the same outfit as every other member of bar staff, but it was like the uniform had been designed for her and her alone.
  It wasn't until my manager sauntered over that I regained motor control.
  “Well done lass, that one's coming out of your wages,” he told me, before putting his arm around the woman by the till and giving her a squeeze.
  “By the way, this is my girlfriend, Felicity, I need you to show her the ropes tonight.”

  The last of the audience are making their way to their seats, and the musicians climb onto the stage and get comfortable on their platform. 
  I plant my feet, shoulder-width apart, weight centred, hands spread, hovering over the faders. 
  I know this show inside and out, I could mix it without once looking at the stage, but as the band strike up I can't help watching as she glides through the smoke and light, escorted by Victor, the other performers capering around them like a court around royalty.

  It's an effect she's always had on people. Men ordering drinks at the cocktail bar always refused to be served by me after they'd been served by her. She raked in the tips. So many of the other girls would take the cash and drinks from customers without a second thought, some even had the cheek to demand them, but Flik, as she quickly became known at work, always seemed genuinely surprised by their generosity.
  “Are you sure? Well then thank you very much.”
  She was so endearing you couldn't help but want to be around her. I tried to teach her to flare with the bottles, but after much broken glass and many fits of giggles, I was forced to admit defeat.
  Her laugh was one of those you could never tire of hearing. When men used to try flirting with me over the bar, she would really laugh. 
  One night she surprised the hell out of me by draping herself over my shoulder and hitching her knee up on my hip.
  “Sorry pal, but she's mine.”
  I was so stunned I couldn't move. And then I spotted my manager watching us and I moved so fast you'd think her touch was burning my skin, which in actual fact it was. But when the customer bought both of us a drink, my manager just grinned at me, nodding his approval.
  It became our little routine, night after night, she'd pretend for a few short minutes that I was hers. And it was intoxicating. To feel her so close, the smell of her skin and perfume, it was sweet torture to behave myself and not touch. This was her game, she was the one in control and as the weeks went by she got more and more daring, got closer, more intimate. If I was foolish enough to look into her eyes I could almost kid myself that this wasn't just a game, that maybe there was more to it.
  As we continued to play, the bar’s takings went up, but my manager’s temper also began to rise. I overheard them arguing in the store room more than once, and he'd stalk around the bar more often, just watching us. Even though I'd done nothing wrong I found myself waiting for him to turn around and break my nose. 
  I would have been so excited to be offered a West End sound job, but when I got the call to report for work at the Noel Coward Theatre the following week, I was as relieved to be leaving the bar as I was thrilled to get the gig.

There is some vague story-line to the show we work on. Without a story-line it would just be another circus show, but there is a love story that intertwines around the cloud swing, Icarian games, diablo spinners, hand-balancing contortionist and aerial straps acts. It’s a story of two lovers who are meant to be together but another gets in their way. So ten times a week, I watch Victor court Flik. It doesn’t bother me, it never has. Because when they share their characters first kiss, I know exactly the moment that is going through her mind.

I arrived early for my last shift at the bar, with the intention of clearing out my locker in advance of the drunken mess I knew would follow closing time. As I zipped up my bag, Flik burst through the door with a squeal and jumped on me. I mean literally jumped on me; arms flung around my neck and legs wrapped around my hips as I tried to keep my balance. It took a moment for her to compose herself.
“I got the show! I got first cover, I start rehearsals in two weeks!”
I had no choice but to hug her. She’d wanted this for so long and I was so excited for her. But before I could let her go, my manager walked in. The temperature in the room seemed to plummet and I quickly made my excuses and left.
When she eventually came down to the bar, all the excitement seemed to have been drained out of her and she was in a foul mood. Even when the others congratulated her, all the managed was a tight smile and a quiet “Thanks.”
She didn’t come near me all night. Every time I looked up I found my manager hovering near by. I think that was the worst night I ever spent behind that bar. The tension was unbearable. Every bump, every small accidental touch between me and Flik sent us both scrambling away from each other as though we were guilty of something.
When the lights went up at the end of the night, I was so relieved. It was almost over. There is always one customer at the end of the night that thinks they can flirt one last round of drinks out of us. Tonight I got him. I calmly explained to him, as I stacked the glasses under the bar, that no amount of dinner or drink offers would persuade me to make him another round. 
Then Flik’s arm was around my shoulder, her knee on my hip.
“Sorry pal, you’re not getting anymore drinks, and she’s mine.”
She took my chin between her fingers, turned my head and kissed me. I froze, but as her mouth moved against mine I couldn’t help kissing her back. She was gentle, but demanding at the same time. Then I knew it hadn’t just been a game.
The cough behind us scared the hell out of me. My manager was standing there with his arms crossed, his lips pressed so tight together they were white. When he spoke his voice was level and calm.
“Be grateful this was your last night lass. Now get out of my bar.”
I glanced at Flik. The last thing I wanted was to leave her at the mercy of his temper, but she just nodded at me. It was all I could do to stop myself from running out of the building.

The antagonist of the show is played by Ramone. His character believes that Flik should belong to him, not Victor. I love Ramone like a brother, but I really don’t like his character onstage.  
This is the only part of the show that’s ever bothered me. He grabs Flik and hauls her away from Victor before returning to confront him, but when Flik tries to stop him, he turns and strikes her. She falls to the floor with a cry, and even though I know her distress isn’t real, it doesn’t stop me wanting to run down to the stage and smack him back.

Maybe that’s because I never got to hit my manager.
The day after the kiss, I couldn’t sit still. I wanted to contact Flik, make sure she was ok, but at the same time I didn’t want to risk antagonising him any further. But the decision was taken out of my hands when the door bell rang. Stood on my doorstep was Flik, wearing sunglasses and carrying a large duffle bag.
“I didn’t know where else to go. I’m sorry, I won’t stay long, I just had to get away.”
When she took off her sunglasses and I saw the bruise he’d given her, I couldn’t speak, all I could do was hold her as she cried. When she was done releasing her fear, anguish and confusion, she glanced up at me.
“This isn’t the way I wanted this to happen.”
She reached up, pulled my face to hers, and kissed me again.
More than anything I wished that she hadn’t been hurt, but I didn’t care how this all happened, I just knew at that moment that this was where we were supposed to be.
We decided to take things carefully, so she rented a flat about fifteen minutes ride from mine. She started working on her show, and she was happier than I’d ever seen her while we were at the bar.
After work one night, we went to another bar in town for a friends birthday. Unfortunately, my ex-manager was in there drinking, and the minute I saw him I had this overwhelming desire to go over there and break his nose for hurting the woman I loved. Flik must have noticed me bristling, because she immediately sat in my lap.
“He’s not worth it. Don’t give him anything, we’ve got what we want.”
And she stayed sat in my lap for the whole night. I wasn’t exactly complaining.
Those eight months were pretty great. Though we spent most nights together, we kept our seperate flats, mostly to convince ourselves we weren’t rushing things.
Every night, after my show ended, I’d jump on my motorcycle, ride down the Strand and pick her up from stage door. Often we’d just go back to her place or mine, but some nights we’d just ride through the night. Once we ended up Leicester, we just followed the M1, enjoying the freedom.

The last of the cast sweep off the stage accompanied by a dramatic crescendo. The house lights go up and the audience applauds before they seek ice cream.
As I lean against the desk, breathing deep, I start to shake again. I keep telling myself everything is going to be fine, but my body simply won’t listen.
“You coming backstage or what?”
I glance up to see Vince, the follow-spot operator, standing in front of my desk.
“Dude, if you don’t go back and see her, she’ll know something’s up. You’re not chickening out are you? You can’t, you gotta go through with this man. Just think, in an hour it’ll all be over with.”
I know he’s right, on both counts, so I haul myself off the desk and proceed backstage.
It’s become a ritual. Performers are superstitious creatures. Once they latch onto a routine, it absolutely must not change or it upsets them for the rest of the show.
She’s used to me going backstage at the interval, to give her a kiss, to tell her the show’s looking fine from where I’m standing, then to kiss her hand before I go back out front. It reassures her, now that I’m finally with her on the show.

When the casting ads went up I told her to go for it. We’ve both been in love with this company for years, so how could I possibly let her pass it up.
And of course, she got the part. We were both relieved when the technician’s ads went up. We figured if we got on the same show that it was fated for us to be together.
She left to join rehearsals at the company’s headquarters in France at the end of February. It was torture. I’d just been promoted on my West End show so I couldn’t just drop everything and fly off to be with her. We had to settle for a single phone call every night, usually when she’d finished rehearsals and was trying not to fall asleep on me.
A month later I finally got my interview, along with 18 other candidates, at the company’s London headquarters. After that the first thing Flik asked me every night was,
“Have you heard anything yet?”
The call finally came as I was parking my bike at stage door one Wednesday afternoon. I held my breath as the offer was voiced.
“Congratulations, we’d like to offer you a position with our company.”
I dread what London’s pedestrians must have thought of me at that moment, jumping in circles and squeaking.
“We’d like you to join the show that’s about to head to Eastern Europe. You start in four weeks.”
A stillness descended on me as my ears started to buzz. I wasn’t joining Flik’s show. Of course I took the job, only a fool would pass up a job offer from this company. How was I going to tell Felicity?
But I didn’t have to. She called me in tears at midnight, told me that they’d posted the crew list in the common room and that my name wasn’t on it. 
“Does this mean we’re not meant to be together?”
I don’t know how long it took me to convince her she was talking nonsense, that we’d find away to cope.
In the coming days we found out that our tour schedules paralleled. Her show opened in France the day before mine opened in Russia, they closed on the same day six weeks later, meaning we would be able to spend the better part of a week together between each leg of our tours. It was the best we could make of a bad situation.
We were both too busy over the following weeks to really worry about it. I had a show to hand over and another to learn as well as a flat to put into storage. Her show was plagued by last minute concept and cast changes. Their dress rehearsal and preview were an absolute shambles, but the opening night was a runaway success. I’ll never forget being in a harness twenty feet in the air with her screaming down the phone at me on the biggest after-show high I’ve ever known. I just wished I could have been there for her big debut.
I fell in love with my show, the cast and crew were some of the most amazing people I’d ever met and I knew I’d never tire of mixing those big dramatic scores. But I always ached, and the ache never went away until I got to see Flik again at the end of each run.
One night, Flik called me about ready to boil over with excitement. Their sound op had been fired, something about a torrid affair with a stage manager and a dresser. It was all I needed to hear to start begging and pleading with my tour manager to put in a good word for me at headquarters. He said he’d be sorry to see me go but he would do everything he could to get me the job. I think Flik’s tour manager was ready to kill her she was hassling so much about the position.
We were just coming to the end of the show in Albania when Flik’s tour manager called me.
“You’ve got the German leg of the tour to prove that you and Flik can work together without any problems.”
I must have screamed for a good five minutes before I vowed to name our first child after her. I promised her a great deal of alcohol if she didn’t tell Flik I’d got the job.
It wasn’t easy keeping the secret from my girlfriend. The tears the day before I left were the hardest thing I’ve had to sit through, especially when I had the means to put a stop to them.
At 4.30 the next morning, I kicked my bike into gear and rode out of Tirana. I could have done the 1200 miles in about 30 hours, but the bike overheated just as I was coming in to Bratislava and I was forced to stop for a bit longer than planned.
When I reached Berlin in the evening it wasn’t difficult to find the show site. All I had to do was look for the gang of blue and green articulated lorries. The tour bus was sat at the edge of the site, waiting to take the cast and crew over to the hotel. Riding onto the site my thumb was wedged against the horn until I pulled up next to the bus. I barely managed to get the bike on its stand before Flik was flying at me and we landed in a heap on the tarmac.
“What the hell are you doing here, I thought you were flying in tomorrow night?” she asked as she tugged off my helmet.
A cough behind her made us both turn to her tour manager.
“Looks like you’ve already met our new sound op Flik. I hope you’re planning on getting some much needed rest after that trek, you’ve got a hell of a busy week ahead of you kid.”
I’ve never heard Flik scream the way she did at the moment. I had no hope of getting off the ground as she wrapped me up in a fierce hug.

The whole of the backstage tent is a flurry of activity with costume changes and warm-ups and prop setting, alongside the controlled chaos of starting to pack things away now we’ve almost finished the last show in this city.
The dressers are buzzing around Flik in her cubicle. Her costume’s are so elaborate it’s near impossible for her to change into them alone.
She smiles as she spots me loitering around the corner and beckons me over to kiss her.
“How’s it looking today?”
I tell her the show looks fine from out front. My hands are stuffed in my pockets to stop them from shaking. We normally have some sort of conversation while she’s being dressed but I can’t think of anything to say and I can see the smile on her face fading.
I make some awful excuse about needing to check a faulty piece of equipment at the desk and try not to bolt out of the tent. Halfway to the door I realise I’ve forgotten something. I run back and kiss her hand, but her smile no longer reaches her eyes. I’ve freaked her out, she knows there’s something going on, but I haven’t got the time or the nerve to sort it out now. It’ll just have to wait until the end of the second act.

I don’t think she’s quite forgiven me for the first month I was on the show. The company had taken a huge gamble putting me on this new production and I was determined to prove to them that they had made the right decision.
When both Flik and I were on-site, we knew we had to be professional. That meant no public displays of affection, and no lingering around each other. I was so scared the company would decide that putting me on the show with my girlfriend was a bad idea, so in short, I as good as ignored her.
Now Flik probably could have dealt with that, had I spent any time with her off-site. But I spent every waking hour in the performance tent, reprogramming the desk, performing unnecessary maintenance on the kit and practising the show cues, that she was lucky if I managed to say ten words to her before I passed out each night.
So one evening I crawled out from under the desk to find her standing in front of it.
“This isn’t going to work is it? You and me?”
That’s all she said before walking off.
When I got back to the hotel a short while later, she’d had my key disabled. I sat outside for at least an hour, talking at the door. I told her I was sorry, I told her that I loved her, I told her I was working to make sure we could stay together, but I got no response from her. I slept under my desk on-site that night. And for two nights after that. She avoided me the whole time, never spoke a word to me.
When I woke under my desk on the third morning, she was sat there watching me. There were tears in her eyes.
“I know you’ve been working hard so we can stay together, but what’s the point when you’re working so much we never get to be together?”
And she was right. She’d given me a taste of my own medicine and it had been a stark awakening to what I had done to her.
The company were more than happy that I could do my job. But I still had to prove to them, and to Flik, that our relationship wasn’t going to cause problems.
We formed a new tradition in that following month. We had a day off once a week, and on our next one, we just got on the bike and rode away. We spent the day exploring, getting lost, finding new places, and of course, getting reacquainted with each other. I had to learn that if I was to keep the woman I loved, I needed to leave the show behind more often. I’d fought so hard to get on the show to be with her, and come so close to throwing it all away. 

But the question still crops up. Can we make this work? I love the woman, that I don’t doubt, but can we really make this work? We’ve got two years left on our contracts for this show, can our relationship survive being on the road for that long? Or could we find that we’re fine while we work together, but as soon as we leave the show we fall apart? Is it worth taking that risk?
The lights go down and the band strikes up. She walks on and sits at the side of the stage. Yet again, she’s mesmerised me. I can’t help but watch her. It’s ridiculous this affect she has on me, even after this long.Her voice cracks on her top note. She never has trouble with that note. I really have freaked her out.
My decisions made, I just have to see it through. The tour manager has always been so good to us. She’s already sorted out leave and cover for me. I just have to make it to the end of this show. It’s the last show in town, then we’ve got time to come to terms with it all, sort out everything that needs to be sorted.

Now, with our company, on the last show in every city, the cast take the first two bows on their own, then for the third and the return bow, all the crew, dressers, runners and stage managers join them onstage.
The last phrase of music before the bows is approaching like a freight train and my whole body is shaking so much I can barely keep control of the faders. I’m light headed and I can barely catch my breath. I can’t do this, I can’t go through with it.
The crescendo hits and the lights snap out. As they rise again, the audience are on their feet, the applause ringing in my ears as the cast all make their way on stage. Each group and each main character gets their personal bow, then they all join hands around the edge of the stage and bow again. Now they start beckoning to those of us front of house. The dressers and runners and stage managers are flocking in from the back. The follow-spot operators are running down the stairs to the stage. But I’m frozen. I can’t move.
“Dude, you can’t bottle it now! Just hold it together a little longer!”
Vince grabs my shoulders and hauls me off the desk, propelling me down the stairs in front of him as my legs give and stumble beneath me. Next thing I know I’m onstage, and all I can see is her. There are tears in her eyes, and she looks as scared as I feel.
Grabbing her hand I pull her behind the others.
“What’s going on?” she demands, clutching my shaking hand as the first tear breaks free and rolls down her cheek.
I take a deep breath.
“Felicity…I need to ask you something…”
Robyn’s behind me with her foot in the back of my knee, forcing me to the floor.
“If you’re going to do this, you’re going to damn well do it properly!” she hisses in my ear.
That’s when I realise that all eyes are on us. No turning back now.
“Felicity Louise Duncan, will you marry me?”
The entire room holds its breath, as do I, as Flik stares at me wide-eyed and slack-jawed. I grope in my pocket for the item that’s been burning into my skin all night. She clamps her hands over her mouth when she sees the gold band mounted with three diamonds.
As I start to feel like passing out from oxygen deprivation, she slowly nods her head, becoming more frantic as I stand.
“Yes! Yes of course I will!” she cries as she throws herself into my arms. The roar of approval from around the room is deafening as I sweep her into the air before kissing her soundly. There are catcalls and applause from the auditorium, and shouts and cries of congratulations from our fellows onstage. I’m shocked to see tears streaming down Victor and Ramone’s faces as I place the ring on Flik’s finger. It fits perfectly.

Finally, I can breath. The thrumming of the bike beneath me soothes away the last of the nerves and the tension as I enjoy the feel of the wind in my face.
I pull up around the back of that enormous blue and green tent. There she stands with Robyn and Victor. She doesn’t even bother to say goodbye as she bounds twoards me. She leaps onto the bike behind me, one hand straight to the buckle of my belt as she presses into my back.
“Get me out of here.”
She flicks my ear with her tongue, and I don’t know if it’s her voice or her tongue that send the shiver down my spine, but I’m not one to hesitate at such a command.
I snap the bike into gear and speed away from the tents floodlights towards the orange glow of the city. She throws her arms up and yells to the stars as we dodge and weave around the traffic.
This is our tradition. After the last show in every city we escape back to one of the places we found, a little time to be together before the big after party and then two days of packing down the site.
I can feel the grin on her face as she kisses the back of my neck. We follow the river for twenty minutes out of town into the surrounding countryside.

  I pull up at our special spot. She climbs around me until she's straddling my legs, and I can't help but stare into her eyes.
  “You scared me tonight.”
  I whisper my apology but her fingers are getting twitchy. Her hands are under my jacket as she slowly presses her lips to mine. She tastes sweet. Distracted, I don’t notice her removing my jacket, before she climbs off me and saunters away. 
  I rock the bike back onto its stand before leaping off it and running after her. She lets out a shriek when I grab her and swing her into the air. As I put her back down she giggles and leads me to the edge of the bank, glancing at me over her shoulder and biting her bottom lip. She pulls me down with her as she lays on the grass. 
  Our lips caress each other as we make love. She shivers beneath me, before her body arches and she buries her face in my shoulder, whimpering. I roll over, pulling her with me as her heart beat calms and her breathing levels out. Pushing herself up, she kisses me once more before settling down against my side, her breath tickling my throat as she nuzzles my cheek.
  “I can't wait to be your wife,” she whispers.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Knot

And breath! Well this has been something of a whirlwind. This story started smacking against the back of my head as I was leaving work on Tuesday night. I thought "it'll be all  right, it'll still be there when I get home". But it was being insistent, so when I got on the bus at London Bridge, I got out my notebook and I didn't stop writing until I got to Wood Green! By that time I still hadn't finished so I popped into the pub I occasionally work at, ordered a small drink and managed to write the rest of it while trying to deflect conversation from my boss.
   When I got home I typed it up, gave it a quick edit and sent it off to a friend. She came back to me about it mid afternoon Wednesday. After work I raced through a second edit based on her comments, sent it back to her, she emailed back first thing this morning to tell me it was good, and so, it's about to be posted.
   I think I had to get this one out so badly to prove to myself that I can still write fiction. As I've mentioned before the articles are going really well, but the fiction has fallen by the wayside. This story just happened to be extremely insistent.

So here it is. My first piece of new fiction in bloody ages. Please comment below to let me know what you think. Feedback now means better fiction next time.

Many thanks to Alex for her quick and honest crits, I owe you copious alcohol or coffee :-)


As time passes the knot in my stomach loosens, the weight in my chest gets lighter, and the dark cloud that’s been over my head for months is starting to disperse.
Tonight has done me good. The comfort of old friends, a change of scenery, being surrounded by inane chatter and cheesy music. I’ve even managed to laugh.
I squirm and wriggle in the corner of the seat, trying to escape Alison’s insistent fingers as they dance across my ribs and belly. I refuse to give her the satisfaction of laughing out loud but squeaks keep escaping my throat.
“All right! All right you’re right! She’s hotter in Fifth Element than in Resident Evil!”
She relents and sits up, straightening her top. My arm snakes around her shoulders and Alison leans into me, one hand on my knee, the other clutching her plastic pint glass. I give her a squeeze, enjoying the solid weight of her body against mine. We’re comfortable friends. Goodness knows I wanted more once, but when I saw how good she and Monica were together I forgot all about it.
“One of these days she’s going to get bored of me and we all know who she’ll end up with.” Monica winks at me over her drink and I feel the corners of my mouth pull up. It’s been a while since smiling came easily.

A flash of auburn catches my eye and my heart skips a beat as I look up. This has happened three or four times tonight already. Only this time it’s her. Kira. She’s smiling. I’ve tried so hard to forget how beautiful she looks when she smiles. Now that smile isn’t meant for me. It’s for the short haired girl pulling her to another table.
I shrink into my seat, I want to be invisible. But when Kira kisses the short haired Michaela the knot in my stomach tightens savagely, the weight in my chest threatens to bear me through the floor as the black cloud over my head encroaches on my vision.
Pressure on my knee draws the rest of the world back into focus.
“Are you ok?”, a soft voice asks by my ear. Alison is the only one in the group to have met Kira.
“I can’t be here right now,” I inform her and stand up, muttering my apologies to the others, knowing Alison will explain everything. I hold my breath as I walk towards the exit, measured steps, keeping half an eye on Kira. Ronnie, the bouncer, steps into my path before I can make my escape.
“Leaving so soon Rach mate?”
“Saving you some unnecessary drama babe.” Kissing her on the cheek, I reach the door.
Gasping down the cool air I stride away down the street. I thought I’d cried all the tears I had, but the pressure is there behind my eyes and my throat tightens. With my hands buried deep into my pockets, fingernails digging into sweaty palms, teeth clenched, I refuse to cry in a public place.
“Rachel, wait.”
That voice freezes me to the spot, my heart stops, my blood chills. Her footsteps are getting closer. I want to flee, to run and to keep on running until I collapse but my body won’t obey.
Her hand on my arm is like an electric shock and I jump away as though burned. My heart is thumping so hard I think it’s going to break out of my chest.
“Sorry. Are you all right?”
I fix my eyes on a piece of gum on the pavement. I don’t dare to look at her. Just a glimpse of those eyes was always enough to make me cave. That’s how she got me to go out with her in the first place.
“Say something Rachel, please.”
“What do you want me to say?”
“I don’t know. Anything. I miss you.”
A laugh bubbles up my throat and I shake my head. “Don’t say that.”
“But it’s true.”
“Maybe, but I don’t need to hear it right now.” My whole body is beginning to shake, so I hug myself. “Things like that get my hopes up, even though you’ve made your choice and I need to forget you.”
“Why? I thought we could still be friends?”
“Because you still make me feel too much and I won’t let you or anyone else have that kind of hold over me again.” Turning, I stride off down the road.
“I might believe that if you’d stayed with your friends instead of running off in a sulk.”
I stop but refuse to turn around. “And ruin their night as well? Not to mention make yours awkward?”
“As if you care how my night goes.”
“Regardless what you think I do want you to be happy Kira. Only problem is I still want you to be happy with me, but that’s not going to happen. I can’t be witness to Michaela making you happy when I couldn’t manage it.”
“So what happens now?”
Her voice is small and tight. I turn to look at her at last. Those gorgeous eyes are swimming in tears and her brow is knitted.
“We go our separate ways.”
The tears spill over and one hand moves shaking to her mouth. She didn’t even look this stricken when she told me she was leaving me for someone else.
“But what about me? I still care about you a lot. I want you in my life.”
“Let me go Kira. It’s not enough for me. Alison told me something earlier.” A delivery truck rumbles passed. “She said, at some point you have to realise some people can stay in your heart, but not in your life.”
Her face crumples and I pull her into my arms. A sense of relief floods through me as our bodies fit together as perfectly as before, her fingers clutching my shoulders and her face pressed against my neck. Slowly, I release my breath.
“So is this it? For good?”
“I honestly don’t know. Maybe.”
She pulls away from me and wipes her face.
“Besides, you’ve got Michaela to distract you. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”
She holds my face and draws my mouth to hers. The familiar taste of her makes my chest swell with warmth. Her lips on mine are demanding, urgent, needy. I gently push her back.
“I won’t forget you,” she whispers.
“Go and live your life.” I kiss her forehead, turn and walk away.
The knot in my stomach is still there as the distance between us grows, but it’s not as tight, the weight in my chest not as heavy, the cloud over my head not as black.