Love Letters #41

Dear Hana,

Do you know what a wastrel is? I didn’t either, until Master Jeffman called me one today. A wastrel of a boy, he said, shaking his meaty fist at me. What is a boy to do, when called a wastrel? What did I do? I fed the pigeons with his share of the corn, that’s what I did. I fed the pigeons and thought of new ways to become a worse wastrel than I already am. He missed his corn, at supper, and blamed the cook, who was beside herself. I felt truly a wastrel, then, and owned up to it. Suffice it to say that my revenge was short-lived, and I must be more resourceful in future when I decide to carry out acts of subtle retaliation.

On Saturday Twig and I stole some bread from the kitchen. It was for the ducks by Het’s Pond – they seem a little on the waify side lately. Twig reckons it might be because the pond has frozen over, and they have nowhere to fly to. If you’re really quiet of a frosty dawn, you can hear all the manner of bird calls. Jenny wrens, jack daws, tom tits and robin redbreasts. The ducks are quiet, then. You can see them just about waking up, stretching their wings and giving their feathers a sleepy shake. The world is beautiful at dawn; we swing our legs over the side of the bridge and yearn to fish – only we can’t break that stubborn, thick surface of the water.

Twig reckons they should have called it ‘Het’s Lake’, on account of the pond being 40 acres wide. I told him quite dismissively that the idea had already been put to the Council, but to no avail. Twig reckons he is a visionary. He has started wearing those glasses he’d squirrelled away last year, and introduces himself now to the others, the new ones, as ‘Dr Blackadder’. Never to the Masters, of course, they would whip him to a pulp. A prime fellow is my brother, I say, in utmost sarcasm.

In the morning, sometimes, the folk at the House bring their skates down and have a capital time of it. We watch from the bridge, they shout eloquently at each other and have snowball fights on the ice, twirling about and making quite a show of it, their valets and servants bringing them hot cocoa on silver trays, traipsing down the side of the slope as though summoned by magic, floating over the snow like angels of warmth and luxury.

The dawn is our time, though. Our own time, away from the Masters, away from the drudgery, away from the relentless hours of physical exertion. We fall asleep at night as soon as our heads hit the pillows, but we always wake up just before the first light of dawn, when the stars, bright and twinkling in the winter sky, are just starting to fade. We wake up and drag ourselves down to the side of the lake, we listen to the birdsong and saturate our souls in the still atmosphere of a waking world.

And I think of you, Hana, and how I am not truly a wastrel, unless I have wronged you in some way. I am not a wastrel, if the world welcomes me at dawn, and allows me to live in the miraculous time when the skin kisses our part of the globe, and turns night into day. The air shifts, the songs start, and the day stretches, yawns, and slowly embraces the earth.

Yours, always,

Seb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reaper

My attempt at a 100 word story.

Merrin Reaper was a charmer.

He belonged to the Hill people, renowned for their electric blue hair and waif figures. Five foot tall, and a brilliant smile. Everybody loved Merrin, even the big people down by the river. Too bulky to venture near the Hills for fear of trampling on those mines, they only ever dwelled on the banks.

Merrin tripped there daily. An ear for everyone, and a comforting shoulder for those in mourning. It was hinted at darkly that there was a dark shadow behind the small fellow.

Merrin knew better, of course. It was his brother, Grim.

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Longing

What is so divine about them? She didn’t know how to pinpoint it exactly.

Oh it was everything. Everything!

The effortless way their hair cascaded down past their shoulders. Their skin so soft and smooth and blemish free. The way their eyes were so clear and their eyelashes so full.

The way their bodies carried their garments. So elegant. Slender. Graceful.

No effort in the pristine way they put one booted foot before another.

Their smiles lit up their whole faces.

Their fingers, so ladylike in the way they curled around a gleaming glass or held a pendant up to their throats. Stockings. Gloves. Scarves wafting sweet scents on the night breeze. Red lips, glittering earrings swinging gently from their ears, tear drops of gold.

She caught glimpses of their fabulous lives before the curtains were drawn in the twilight, as the street lamps were lit one by one. She saw flashes of their finery beneath cloaks as they were helped aboard coaches. She was amongst their feet, crawling in the squelchy mud and manure of the streets.

She knew all too well how she blended in with the dark grey cobbles and the brown mud. Her apron was always soaked and dirty and her hair, like spun gold when she managed to wash it, was always a dusty hue that faded into the perpetual cloud that hung over the city.

Oh, how she longed to be like them. To be courted and smiled at. To have all eyes on her as she stepped onto a gleaming marble floor in the prettiest shoes imaginable. To have her small, rough, brown paws covered in a sleek satin glove. To carry a frilly white parasol, and have some dashing gentleman’s arm to lean on.

How she longed.

mulready

Love Letters #23

Amelia was so quiet that she barely had a personality. She was all pale face and ashy hair, her mouth a tiny button and her eyes expressionless.

‘Excuse me,’ she would say, in a whisper, ‘excuse me, are you waiting in this line?’

‘excuse me, are you having this last cupcake?’

‘excuse me, where am I supposed to be sitting?’

And that one time she spoke to Gideon, her voice like the wispy dryads of the willows, ‘Gideon,’ and she said his name this time, ‘Could I please borrow your blue ink pen?’

That was in the Creative Writing class.

And when Gideon handed it to her, the faintest glimmer of a smile flashed across her face as she took it.

She didn’t return it to him later. She just left it on his desk on her departure from the class, her eyes, a deep chocolate brown, focused directly ahead.

Amelia was the sort of girl people speculated about, but then after months of staying in her shell she became known as the quiet girl. The girl who doesn’t speak. The girl who doesn’t say anything.

Amelia, it was thought, was nothing special.

Gideon did not think she was anything special either. She faded into the wall behind her and her frail voice was lost in the excitable babble of hormonal teenagers. In fact, if it were not for her extraordinary powers, Gideon would not have noticed her at all.

She was a charmer, was Amelia. He realised this the day she borrowed his pen. When his eyes met hers, he could not look away. They captivated him, ensnared him in a net from which he could not escape. He tossed and turned at night because he felt drowned in those dark pools, but at the same time he was thirsty for more. He wanted to look into her eyes again and hear that voice.

That voice that others might find irritatingly low or maddeningly faint.

If he were to describe her on those nights he was haunted by her, he would have said he was haunted by a particularly mischievous dryad.

She was not silent in his dreams. She laughed, as dryads would laugh. The wind and the roar of the trees in her trilling notes, always taunting, always mocking.

When he saw her at college her craned his neck for a glimpse of those intoxicating eyes. They never looked at him again. And each time he failed, he was left with a crushing feeling of miserable despair. Yet he would always try again, his hope forever rising, hot and furious, more determined than before.

How could anybody feel that way about a person who didn’t have a personality, unless that person was a powerful bewitcher?

Love Letters #15

Damon Ludwig was the love of Alex’s life.

Of course, she did not tell him that. She barely looked at him, barely glanced in his direction when he greeted her. Covertly she admired him, though.

Damon Ludwig was the boy next door. Of course he had to be; Alex snorted at the ironic cliche of it all.

She couldn’t help herself, though. Damon was a very handsome lad, but it wasn’t that, really. She knew as well as the next person that just because somebody was handsome doesn’t mean they were very nice.

He was full of energy, is how she would describe it. He was constantly on the move. Lifting and carrying and bringing in mysterious logs through the front of his house. She would hear his mother berating him for getting mud and splinters all along her newly washed floors. She knew he made things out in the back garden shed, which had been converted to a personalised workshop. He made chairs and carved ornaments, most of which his mother lovingly displayed around her house.

He was funny. And laughed a lot. His laugh was swelling, coming from deep within him, so you knew it was genuine.

When he wasn’t carving, Damon was reading. He read everywhere. In trees, behind bushes, on the garden wall, lying precariously with his solid edges spilling over the sides, in his carpentry shed, on the gentle slope of the roof of his house.

And when he wasn’t reading, he was mowing old Lady Redmond’s lawn down the road or clipping the hedge for Mr Mason whose fingers were riddled with arthritis. He always had time for everybody, and with a cheerful smile he would help them. Sure, sturdy and confident.

She watched their faces when he left them; always smiling. It was like he was the sun and he left his glowing rays wherever he went.

She loved him. But of course, she would never tell him that.

She would carry on in her silent Alex way. Watching when he wasn’t looking, burying herself in her studies, taking care of things as best she could. Her little sister Lem was always in and out of the house next door. She envied her her childish confidence. She would come back with tales about Damon and even though Alex pretended to be nonchalant and dismissive she wanted to hear every detail.

 

Carrot Cake

For breakfast, he ordered a slab of carrot cake, coated in thick, creamy icing, and a small mug filled to the brim with a fresh, well made latte. He ate it with a plastic fork, off a ceramic plate, and glanced around at the slowly filling cafe.

‘Hello.’

‘Hi, hi. Yes, hi, Arianna.’

‘Peter?’

‘Pete, but yes, hi.’

‘Pete. You look different.’

His hair was bleached in places from the sun, and the tops of his cheeks and his nose were red, browning. He seemed thinner. His face was sharper, his arms almost scrawny. He wore a bright green polo shirt, and on his wrist was a ring of pasty white against the browny red of his forearms, where he must have worn a watch. Why did he take it off, then?

She sat down in front of him, her clothes pristine, sharp edged, and her hair cut short and straight, not a wisp out of place, despite it being loose around her face.

Her face was clear, symmetrical. She was neither pretty nor ugly, nor was she plain. She just was.

‘Arianna. You don’t.’

Neither of them smiled.

‘Right.’ Arianna pulled a small black folder from her neat bag. It looked as though it fit inside perfectly, neither too big nor too small. He eyed the folder and the bag, then scratched his neck irritably.

‘Let’s get cracking.’ Pete said, and he shoved the last mouthful of oozing carrot cake into his wide mouth, his cold, blue eyes on the folder that Arianna was now sifting through. He swigged at his latte, and then pushed his plate and cup away, folding his arms on the table and leaning forward as though he were at a social gathering, and about to enjoy himself.

Arianna glanced up at him, then quickly down when she realised he was looking at her.

‘Right,’ she said again, ‘right.’

‘Right.’

Arianna pulled out some documents. She leant over, her straight brown hair falling over her face, and pulled a pen out of her bag, which nestled by her gleaming high heels.

‘You will need to sign here,’ she pointed with the end of the pen, ‘and here.’

‘Right, yep.’ Pete pulled the papers towards him, and as he did the bottom part of the paper rubbed against a glop of carrot cake icing on the table, smearing the underside of the crisp paper.

‘Right.’ Arianna said, noticing, and she made the slightest of grimaces. Pete did not notice, as he signed his life away.

‘Right,’ and he slid the papers over to Arianna again, leaving a trail of smeared cream across the table as he did so.

‘Ok.’

‘You okay?’ Pete took another swig of his latte, eyebrows raised in question over the rim of his mug.

‘Yes, I’m fine.’

‘Going to Spain?’

‘No.’

‘Oh.’ he paused, then raised his eyebrows again at her, when she didn’t fill the silence between them.

‘It fell through.’

‘Why?’

‘Company decided to send someone else.’

‘Well. Too bad. I’m great. Had a court hearing last week, for punching a man in the face.’

‘Oh.’

‘Yeah. Punched him because he was abusing his girlfriend.’

‘Okay.’

‘He deserved it. Right twit. I don’t regret it. And I was feeling terrible because I’d lost mine.  And there he was shouting at his, while he still had her. Fuckin’ prick. Mind you, I wasn’t that great to you myself, was I… so.. What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing.’

‘You’re peaky as fuck.’

‘I fainted. At work.’

Pete sat back, and swallowed.

‘Good.’

‘That’s not nice.’

‘You deserve it.’

‘Okay.’

‘Yeah, you deserve it.’ Pete pursed his thin lips, nodding a little, and his eyes were full of anger when he looked at her.

Arianna stood up.

‘Okay, then.’

‘Call me soon.’ Pete looked up at her, and despite his cold, cold face full of hostility, she could see the desperation in his ocean blue eyes.

‘Yup.’ Arianna walked away quickly, her sharp, pointy heels clicking on the wooden floors of the cafe, the sound swallowed into the loud babble of voices that took over the cafe as she got further away from him.

Pete watched her go, picking absently at the crumbs on his plate. She exited the cafe, then stood outside for a second. He frowned as she put her face up to the sky, her shoulders rising deeply then falling, before walking across the road. She didn’t glance back once.

His shaky fingers, the nail beds black and grimy, pulled a cigarette and a lighter from his pockets, and he stood up to walk jerkily outside the cafe, where he lit up and took a deep drag, closing his eyes against the bright sun of summer on his face.

 

 

Love Letters #6

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October was cold. Stating the obvious, of course. Why shouldn’t October be cold? It has every right to, being the pathway to winter and all that. It leads us straight into misty November, it’s when all the leaves wither away in a cascade of vibrant colour.

Yellows and reds and browns were the colours of our days together. I met him on October the first. He was my October boy.

Our boots crunching on the dry leaves scattered around the grass in the park, or squelching on the soggy piles on the shiny wet pavements of the early twilights. Our cold hands intertwined, and we squelched on through the nights. Memories of sweet little conversations over the crunch-squelch-swish through the wet, dripping streets of October.

He would wait everyday outside the university gates, and I would rush out in my tights and red lipstick that I smacked on as I hurried down the stairs after my late lectures. I had to be glamorous for him, even after a long day of work and running my fingers through my hair. His deep brown eyes always lit up when he saw me, and he would hold his elbow out to me so I could slip my hand through, just like a gentleman.

We walked down the avenue of trees, through the park, down another avenue of trees and into the side streets where my flat sat hunched in the furthest corner of a rickety yellow block. There ivy crawling up the side of the outside walls and peeping into my windows.

That October was particularly cold. He brought me a lizard home once. Not alive. Skinned and roasted. In newspaper. Like it was fish and chips. It was tough, like overcooked chicken. But tasty. He brought me a pair of thick, woolly socks which I would wear in bed because our heating conked out. Our noses, protruding from the covers, were icy.

On October the 31st, he vanished.

He wasn’t outside the gates. I thought maybe he was kept in later at work. Sometimes that happened, but he always left me a message beforehand. I went home and made some butternut squash soup, put my socks on and wrote a bit of my dissertation. Lucy dropped by, black lipstick smudged, and begged me to come out.

We had some soup and bread, and she left.

Eleven o’clock. I got into my PJs and brushed my teeth. Turning off the lights, I walked over to the window and peered out between the ivy. Street lamps threw pale glowing circles onto the cobbles outside the block. Black railings opposite me glinted on one side with moonlight. I heard the loud clack of heels on the cobbles, and heard them fade away, a peal of laughter echoing around the silent walls.

I stood there for so long that I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, so I meandered back to bed. I could smell him on my pillow. I buried my head into his scent.

That October was the coldest we’d ever had.

The next day was the first of November, and I woke up to mist clinging, clammy, to my windows. I wore my woolly socks under my boots to university, and walked all funny. Every French accent had my head turning sharply. A shock of black hair on a tall boy, and I stared intently until they turned their head to reveal a face so different from his that a lump rose in my throat.

Maria,

You were the sweetest. Always thinking of you.

Tristan

 

 

Why do you Write?

Hello.

I love to write. I don’t know why. Usually I fall asleep telling myself a story. It has crackling characters, spitting with energy. They get up to an awful lot. It’s a bit like a soap opera that has been going on since I was about eleven.

It’s not really a soap opera, though.

Ugh. Who am I kidding. It is exactly that. How embarrassing to admit it. I despise soap operas.

Not that I judge soap operas or their people.

Who am I KIDDING. I do judge them. Terribly so.

I like to write because I feel like I can explore aspects of my personality through other people that I have created. I could also make them do things I could only dream of doing – although, if I really wanted to do those things I would jolly well get up and do them, but I’m too lazy, that’s what – so I just write about them doing those things instead.

I write because I could make my characters do things I couldn’t morally do, unless I am having an intrusive and unsociable thought.

I write because sometimes I have a lot of feelings and they want to manifest themselves into words. I sit back and survey these words and I think, ‘gosh, Lenora, that is exactly how I was feeling, you got it so right.’

Of course, that is only true for me. For somebody else reading my words, well, it might just be a clutter of irritation, or inconvenient confusion. Take your pick.

Then I generally have a cup of tea because tea and words get along like peanut butter and jam. (Very freaking well is how they get along)

I love words. I love how some people can twist and shape them into intricate chains that inspire fireworks of thought in my brain. Wow. That string was so amazing, how did he do that? Or, my gosh, that phrase was arresting, was she descended from the angels, to speak to my soul so?

Wordsmiths are kindred spirits. I think people who write so well must be earnestly passionate. Not sexually (although, maybe, right?), but their minds must be enigmatic. Electricity. Like a Mr Rochester (oh, I didn’t like him though.). Or.. or… well, a Mr Bhaer! Or a Ned Worthington (from What Katy Did Next). I fell in love with Ned Worthington and I still secretly harbour a literary affection for him. If I were fictional I might be awfully horrid and try to steal him from Katy. If he looked at me I would probably faint. Don’t tell my husband.

 

So, dear reader, why do YOU like to write? I am sure everybody has different reasons. Please feel free to share, I am so curious.

The Girl Who Stopped Growing

The moment when Lem Pringle realised that she was no longer growing took it’s fine old time to reach her, clambering like a rheumatic old man to lodge itself in a firm nook in Lem’s vivacious brain.  By then she had not been growing for a fair amount of time. Months, even. Her hair hung silky and chestnutty as ever, in limp ringlets just below her shoulder blades, stark against her brown, bony back. She measured it with a ruler. It hadn’t grown an inch! She was particular about her hair. She washed it in honey every other week, as her mama taught her, and she liked to lie on the grass sometimes, her hair cool as it fell over her face, breathing in the soft, sweet scent of honey and grass, a faint lemony fragrance that hung about her wherever she went.

Lem, Alex certified, was a very lemony child. Alex was Lem’s older, oldest and only sister.

But Lem really was not growing. Her nails had been trimmed four months ago, and they remained neatly trimmed. This, Lem mused, was not a terrible thing. At least she didn’t have to go through the hassle of cutting her nails every week. She looked at them often, under the table at school, when her hands twisted forwards and backwards over the handlebars of her bike as she whizzed through streets and up hills, thighs burning. She watched her nails very carefully when she ironed the family’s clothes on Sunday mornings. She glanced at them when she wrote her compositions for school, when she buttoned up her dress, when her small brown paws caressed her bows as she mused over which one she would choose that day.

They stayed the same.

Once she showed them to Finn.

“Look at my nails,” she said, walking into his shed one rainy day. Finn glanced, not really looking. He was carving something pretty. Later Lem saw the pretty thing on Alex’s chest of drawers. Alex never put anything on her chest of drawers.

Lem wondered if Finn thought they looked the same as four months ago. “Have my nails changed, Finn?”

He didn’t notice how big and brown her eyes were, how they were brimming with invisible tears.

“They’re very pretty,” he said. He smiled at her. Lem liked Finn’s smile. It rarely showed itself in full glory. It was a slow smile, and took it’s time to appear. Lem thought that you had to really like Finn to be patient enough to wait for his smile to get ready to present itself. It began as a small twitch of the corners of his mouth, and then small dimples appeared in his cheeks, they took their time to deepen as his mouth stretched from side to side, his teeth peeking out, the joy spreading from his lips to his eyes, dancing, merry, like the stars glittering in jubilant festivity.

She liked waiting for smiles. Too many people gave up too quickly. They didn’t look at other people, really look, long enough. They retreated quickly into themselves. They were afraid. Of what, though? Lem decided that they were missing out. She was glad she waited for Finn’s smile. She decided to always wait for people’s smiles. If they didn’t arrive. she hurried them on by giving them some of her own. That always made smiles travel faster. Smiles are attracted to smiles.

Lem didn’t care if her nails were pretty, of course. Lem wasn’t worried about such things. She just wanted them to grow. She wanted them to scratch her involuntarily when she clambered up a tree, or pulled on a pair of comfy woolly socks. She wanted to say, “Oh. Hallo. I need a nail cutter.” or “ouch. My nails are getting quite long now. I must give them a small chop”

She even wanted to trawl all over the house hunting for a nail cutter, eventually finding it somewhere ridiculous like under George’s bed, or in the fridge. Or in the sugar bowl. That was a grimy state of affairs, Lem remembered fondly.

Alas, she wasn’t growing at all. The height chart on George’s doorframe grew faded. Nobody raced to be taller anymore. Nobody glugged their milk down with ferocious determination.

When Lem Pringle looked down at her feet, they were the exact same distance that they were the last time she looked. They certainly weren’t getting nearer. But they weren’t getting further either.

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If you have managed to make it this far, dear reader, could you let me know what you think? Only if you are inclined to, of course. This is an excerpt from a longer novel that I am currently writing. I have been working on this particular story for about three years now. My heroine is mentioned in this blog post.