Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Hello June

We had an amazing wave of heat in the UK and for a while, it was beautiful.

And then, back to the rain.   I've mostly just been reading novels, looking online for writing competitions and trying to apply myself, and working that job in the attempt to get some much needed money together.

I thought that I should actually post some written work for a change.  This is the piece I submitted for the Grazia Orange Prize writing competition, entrants were provided with an introductory paragraph and asked to continue up to 1000 words.  Happy reading.  

The Journey
The swaying of the train made her hands grip around her bag as if it was anchored and could support her. Outside the window, the trees were a blur of greens and it seemed to the woman as if it were the trees not the train which were moving, hurrying away from her, putting green distance between them. She’d started the journey with clearly defined logical reasons for it, which she’d neatly stacked up like a wall. But the rocking of the train, the judder as it had speeded up, had toppled them and the truth was now visible, poking out and ugly to her. Outside the window the moving haze of green trees was replaced by the still hard edges of a grey platform. She’d arrived.

Alice remained frozen in her seat and considered turning back.  Making no move to rise, she shrank away from the early-morning commuters as they discarded their newspapers. She suffered their furtive glances; her scarecrow shadow and mismatched attire drew their attention.  Leaving the house in a hurry had clearly been a mistake and she- like the rest of the train carriage- had slowly come to the realization that she wore an odd pair of trainers.
Alice shrugged her shoulders and dipped her head, avoiding their enquiring stares.  As she raked a hand through her brown curls, she reasoned that she was the only real Londoner here.  Three years out in the country, and she was being mistaken for some misplaced outsider. 
This isn’t for you darling a voice uttered.  Head back. 
Instead, she sank further into her seat.   
Her husband had convinced her to move out of London, out to where it was ‘safe’.  Jack thought that it would be the best place for a ‘fresh start’.  All that open space and fresh air.  He hadn’t predicted that she’d struggle to secure a new job in the countryside without having a drivers’ licence or her own car.  Each morning he left for work with a smile on his face, Alice found herself at the window simmering with a fury she couldn’t bring herself to voice. 
“King’s Cross is the last stop love,” a worker in a fluorescent overcoat said, and Alice found her hands tightening around her bag.  She nodded her head, shuffling her feet like a dazed sparrow testing its wings for flight. 
“Ok,” she whispered to the empty carriage.  “Let’s go.”
As she hauled her wire like frame to a standing position, the bag shifted in her arms.  The entire train ride Alice had done everything to prevent her thin fingers from dropping it.  It was heavy, but she wouldn’t put it down.
It was only when Alice had collapsed on the five a.m. train that she’d noticed the bag had left a rough woven indentation on her hands. 
She had known something was off after living in that empty house for a month.  Each uneventful day rolled out with an aching regularity she grew to detest.  She didn’t know anyone.  Within months she ceased to leave the house except to visit the local supermarket.  Once a week, on a Wednesday, at a quarter to eleven she would wander the aisles, throwing items into the trolley before soundlessly heading to the till, head bowed.
Then back to that house.
Sit back down,that voice commanded.  Sit back down and take the edge off.
The house made her edgy.  Straight after her supermarket trip, she would sit in the kitchen from quarter past one staring at the yellow clock above the larder.  Slowly drumming her nails in time to the clock’s ticking. 
Ticking your days away darling, that voice had whispered. 
Alice wasn’t sure if it belonged to the clock, or the house, but that voice always seemed to find her. 
She wouldn’t move until she heard her husband’s car in the driveway. 
Jack thought a child would change things.  And for the first year Alice had believed him.  Family had visited, and there was life in the house. But eventually the visits became less frequent, Jack returned to work, and that edginess returned in full force. 
Only now there was a baby to care for.
The first time she had dropped Brandon, her two-year-old son had cried incessantly.  She had felt him slipping from her arms, but she had been unable to prevent the fall.  There was nothing, no amount of shushing, no amount of kisses, or pleading that would abate Brandon’s dismay.  She’d convinced herself to stay, that somehow she could stay in control, at least until Brandon joined a nursery.
But last Wednesday she fell.
She’d told Jack that she’d fainted on her way down the stairs.  Alice shook her head, despondent as she remembered her husband inspecting the bruises that had flowered like indigo blossoms across her delicate arms.  He’d tried to take her to the hospital then, and she’d fought him, knowing she would leave.
            Alice stepped onto the grey platform. 
The cloying air affected her instantly, and for a moment the heat, the aroma of strong coffee merging with hot metal overcame her.  That familiar feeling was back.  She was losing control.
             Disorientated she twisted in the river of suits and briefcases, shielding her bag in a fierce embrace.  She was either going to fall, or be sick. 
            Alice could feel the blood drumming in her temples, and one word resounded:
            Edgy edgy edgy. 
            Wildly she spun around on the platform, desperate for an exit.  Catching sight of a public restroom she stumbled down a flight of stairs, hopping over the turnstile. 
She ran into a cubicle, and just as she’d dropped her own son, the bag found itself on the floor.  Her narrow shoulders trembled as she heaved, powerless, into the toilet bowl.  Alice found herself crying as she vomited, and she prayed that she was alone. 
When her frail body’s convulsions finally ceased she reached for the bag.  For a reverberating moment, her eyes focused on its shape.  The curious protrusions made Alice force the bag open.  There were a few papers, and her purse.  And three bottles.  Heavy glass, they seemed to chortle crazily as they wrestled back and forth in the bag’s woven confinement.  Two were half full.
Alice regarded their labels, as her thoughts ricocheted back to those repeated afternoons of the yellow clock’s ticking, the one sided conversations and that drumming. 
She could hear it now, but her hands were wrestling with the bag, and even as its contents rolled out on to the stained floor, Alice couldn’t register what was happening.  She tried to recall packing the bag earlier in the morning, but there were just memories of a sleeping husband, a fretful son and panic.
The bottles, with their fluid malice, spoke again.
Feeling edgy?

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