The Train Ride

I breathed a sigh of relief as I slid into my seat, which was thankfully unoccupied. Plonking my belongings on the plastic table with the typical Monday-morning monotony. The familiar feel of the ridge where the seat had worn with time was a strange comfort. As the train clunked into motion, groggy as the bodies inside, my hand pressed deeper into the cushiony filling with the curiosity of a child.

***

Just in time. I catch my breath as the train pulls up. Fumbling for my ticket, a jangle of keys and coins, and relieved sigh puffs from my lips. I straighten it out, smoothing my fingers over the creases.

***


After sliding my glasses back up for the hundredth time, I dumped them on the table, perhaps a little too carelessly. The fuzzy shapes merged together like I’d dunked a painting in water and the colours had seeped into a blurry brown, vaguely resembling the original shape. I loved playing this game at night, driving through the city, watching all of the lights twinkle against the blackness.

 ***

The air is tangy with the scent of stale coffee. I scoot into the nearest seat. Beside me, behind the pages of a newspaper, is a wrinkled forehead. I wonder whether the wrinkles are from concentration or age, and settle for a bit of both. Still, the guy is oblivious to me. I shift my gaze, scanning the carriage like a bored child in search of amusement. Immediately a pair of dark eyes lock on to mine, peeking from under a thick, black fringe. Before I wonder why, my eyes wander to her mouth. Lips slightly parted, the kind of mouth that speaks without words. Just a creeping smile or tentative twist of the lips movement will tell you everything;. Her eyes are still fixed on me. She’s too far away to tell, but there’s a lost look in her. Is she daydreaming? She looks too resolute for that. Do I stare back? A wave of embarrassment flushes my cheeks. I fiddle with the ticket, smoothing out the creases. When I return my gaze she has gone.

***

My glasses bobbed up and down slightly as I hurried down the stairs. Curly black tendrils flew wildly in the wind. I’d missed my stop. A taxi was my only hope to get to the meeting on time. Why did I let myself lose track of time again? Between heavy breaths I let out curses. I needed to pull myself together. And start running.

The taxi driver asked a second time where I wanted to go. As I stared at the stranger in the car, who waited for my answer, forehead creased, I didn’t tell him the office building. Quietly, the name fell from my lips as I remembered. Jake.

***

I am walking. My legs take me to the space she left. It’s only on reaching it that I realise what I am doing. I stare at the seat, torn and faded, with stuffing poking out of the corners. Scratched into the plastic table is a wonky flower. An empty coffee cup and a newspaper. Peeking in the corner of the first page is a yellow post-it note. “Don’t be late for meeting! Bread. Cheese.” Then underneath, crossed out twice, “Break up with–.” Beside it, crossed out once, “Tell Jake.” Poor guy, I mutter. I slide into the seat, examining the long, cursive letters. My foot meets an object on the floor. A glasses case. The same looping handwriting is inside the empty case. Dorothy Poole.

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All I Saw Was You


I walked.
In the distance
The moon hung
Lonely in the blackness…
Violent flashes of neon,
Pink and red and green;
An eruption of raucous laughter,
Clattering ‘clack clack’ of heels.
The hungry-eyed pack stumbled past,
Leaving their boozy breath to linger
Among the air thick with desire
And the drifting wafts of Kung Pao.
People everywhere;
A cacophony of words
That were fired into the dark,
Like the blistering blaze of the city lights-
Whispers, shouts, fiery chants,
Sparks fizzling
Out into the throng of endless noise.
My lips were closed.
I walked, soaking it all in.
“Hey, Nath!”
I turned,
Alcohol, warm and sweet,
Greeted me on his slack mouth
Twisting into a laugh.
But before my lips formed the words,
A friendly, heavy arm flopped around him
And he was tugged away,
Eyes twinkling…
I walked on.
I heard his hearty chuckle
Dwindling away
And a smile bubbled across my face,
Shuffling along in my worn old Converse,
Immersed in the buzz;
Charged on the wild, intoxicated air
Of the frenzied night

Then her hair swung in the breeze.
That flurry of feathery blonde-
Only they weren’t my fingers
Running through the tendrils.
It wasn’t my mouth pressed to hers,
My body tangled in hers.

Someone shoved past me,
Shoulders sharp against mine,
Except I didn’t feel it.
I didn’t hear the hyena laughter,
The thud of club music,
The rush of cars.
I was drowning…
Choking on her distant,
Honey laughter.
I didn’t taste booze-laden air
Only bile,
Creeping slowly.
My hands didn’t feel the swing;
Didn’t feel the crack of knuckle
Against cheekbone
My throat didn’t feel the sting
Of burning bitter words,

All I saw was you
When the Earth stopped turning.

The Necklace from Last Christmas

“Hi Mum, I can’t talk right now. Sorry, I—” he pushes the ‘loudspeaker’ button and drops his phone on to the armrest of the car seat.

“I know about what happened, Jamie. Your sister told me she bumped into Sam today.” She clutches the phone so tightly to her ear that her hands began to slip with sweat.

“She spoke to Sam?”

“Listen, Jamie, there’s something I need to tell you. I know I should have told you this before—”

“Told me what? When?” he turns to the phone, but doesn’t pick it up.

“I saw Sam with Stewart in a coffee shop a few weeks ago.”

Silence.

“Jamie. Listen, I’m really sorry.I understand if you don’t want to talk to me.”

“No, you don’t understand!” the words tear “How could you not tell me? You just let me carry on, thinking that she loved me. For weeks!”

“I know. It hurt me too much to tell you. But I should have found a way.”

“But you didn’t.” A muscle throbs in his jaw.

The words stifle the air between them; two mouths twisted with hurt in two different cities.

“You don’t love her still, do you?”

He hesitates, “Well how can I, mum? After what she did…”

“You know, I didn’t know if you’d even believe me if I had told you.”

He sighs.

Her voice is quiet but presses on with growing strength as her mouth spills words of attempted comfort:

“I was in the loft earlier and you’d never guess what I found,” she pauses her false cheeriness, hoping for his reply. When there is no sound but distant traffic coming through the receiver she continues, stepping p the cheeriness to the next notch. Only, as her her cheeriness accelerates, so does her obvious desperation.

“Your old notebooks. Do you remember all those stories you wrote? And all the cartoons!”

“Mum, I lied.”

Her whole body drops. In those three words she hears the way his face is screwed up to hold back tears. Her arms sag, useless, unable to wrap themselves around him. Unable to catch the tears on her fingertips until they’ve gone.

“I still love her.”

“Oh, Jamie” she whispers.

A small series of sounds, like the whimpering of an animal in pain, are released from Jamie’s lips. Her face is taut, this time to prevent her own tears.

“Does she know?”

“She wants to be with Stewart.”

“Where are you, honey?”

He isn’t listening. His eyes are fixed in a glazed stare.

“Jamie? Where are you?”

He holds the stare.

“I’m in my car. I can see her from here. She’s still wearing the necklace I bought her last Christmas.God, she’s so beautiful”

“No, Jamie, don’t! Don’t do this…please don’t do this to yourself.”

Silence.

“Wait. I’m on my way”

How to be (or try your best to be) a good friend

Being a friend is one of the most important roles we have in life. Without friends life wouldn’t just be boring-we wouldn’t have anyone to laugh about all the stupid mistakes we make, ring up when we feel worthless and pour out our hearts to and share our passion for XYZ.

We make friends with people for a number of reasons. Proximity: the first person we see on our first day at school at the sandtray can often turn out to be our best friend just for that reason. Then there’s a shared interest or passion. The main point is that we have a choice with friends, unlike family. Though, some people don’t seem to realise this-me being one of them for a long time.

At age sixteen experienced is one thing I am not. However, I’ve had enough of them to know a fair bit about friends. And I can honestly say that I am not a bad friend. So here are my five tips based on what I have learned about friendship.

  1. Honesty. This isn’t just important. This quality can tell you straight away whether or not you should be friends with someone in the first place. Liars aren’t friends. The issue is being able tell if someone is lying. It took me two years to realise that my ‘best friend’ when I was ten was manipulating me and I was allowing her to bully me because I believed her lies. I let her tell me that I wasn’t clever or good enough and that knock to my confidence still affects me today. I was in such a close friendship with her that even when I had recognised that I was unhappy, I took a long time to break off our friendship. But it was worth all the tears and upset because now I have a much better set of friends. My closest friends are the ones I can trust to be open with and we are just honest with each other. I mean, you don’t have to tell them everything. Some things you have the right to keep to yourself. Most of my friends don’t know that I had counselling a few months ago. My family doesn’t even know that either. That doesn’t mean I’m a liar, though. That is my personal information to share with the people that I want to tell and hide from those that I don’t. My point is that I believe the importance in honesty is not spilling your every last secret to the other person, but feeling comfortable and happy enough to share your thoughts, feelings and ideas freely.
  2. YOU. A friendship is a relationship between two people and, of course, one of them is you. So be you! I don’t have much confidence, but I am not afraid to be me. I’ll be honest, sometimes I get tired of being me and I wish that I could be someone else, but I can’t and I just have to embrace my personality. Then again, if you’re in a pretty bad mood it doesn’t mean you should feel like you have to act happy for your friends. Being yourself is also being human, meaning you are allowed to have days where you feel terrible. Friends are there to help you through those times.
  3. THEM. And of course, there is the friend. Don’t be so wrapped up in your own life, problems and drama that you forget about theirs. There must be a balance of support between both friends for the relationship to work. So let them be THEM. They are allowed to be upset, angry, cranky just like you are. And even if you don’t quite understand how they feel, they need you to be there.This is really important because it’s easy to disregard something just because it doesn’t make any sense to us. But just showing the support they need is sometimes enough to help you friend. Though, you must know them and want to know about them. Tiny things build up, so let them tell you about their grandma’s favourite type of tea or their secret ability to ride a unicycle. You don’t have to remember every detail, but how can you expect to be friends with someone if you aren’t interested in them? This is what I find key in making new friends. Trying to ask questions about them is so much more effective than waffling about yourself. Don’t turn into the person that stops listening until it’s their turn to talk! Like I said, it’s all about balance.
  4. Fun. Relationships can be complicated, difficult and just plain confusing; especially during the teenage years when there’s bitching, gossiping, immaturity, hormones, drama and all that jazz. However, we mustn’t forget that friendship IS about having fun as well as the mutual support. Often having fun comes from just being yourself and letting go. A lot of people seem to think that those who laugh loudest and act craziest have the most fun. Well, I don’t think that’s true at all. Most of the times I’ve had a load of fun have been simply hanging out, walking to and from school and on the odd occasion through a phone call. We didn’t need alcohol. We didn’t have to do anything particularly silly or stupid. We didn’t need to force it. We simply made jokes or chatted or played twister (yes, I know I’m sixteen years old. Yes, it’s still acceptable to play twister, I don’t care what anyone thinks. ) and had some fun.
  5. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. Don’t beat yourself up about it. People change, things change, life moves on. Some friends will stick with you and some won’t-just like you do or don’t for others. Seeing people around school that I was once very close to laughing and talking with people I don’t even know is hard, especially when I wonder how things might have been different if I  hadn’t let our friendship fizzle out. But then I have to remind myself of all the great things I could have missed if that had happened. So the most important thing I believe to remember is to make sure you hold on to the friends you really love, and the for the ones you lose, there will be more to make. And even if you fight and do things you regret, there are ways back if they were (are!) a true friend. I called up my friend who now goes to a different school today. I haven’t seen her in person since October and I couldn’t help feeling kind of sad that I don’t see her everyday like I used to. I don’t make silly doodles in the margins of her notebooks or flick through mine to find hers. She doesn’t sit with me at lunchtime and laugh at the way I eat a panini. We don’t look across the room at each other and laugh at something only we find funny. But that’s okay. I mean, there isn’t going to be someone to do all of those things and be the brilliant person and friend the way she had, but there will be new people that do other things. One day I will look back and there will be so many memories and little things people do that makes part of their personality and part of their friendship with me that I won’t remember them all. That cheers me up.

In the end,the key to friendship and being a good friend is not through a set of rules. There is no recipe (and even if it was, it would be a souffle or something pretty darn hard!).

When you’re little your parents and schoolteachers try to teach you to be kind and respectful and polite. But they don’t teach you how to deal with the huge number of assholes you come across in your life. You have to make your way past them and learn to let go of them when you realise that no, they are not friends, they are simply assholes.

Even when you find the best friend or the group of friends you love, no one tells you that puberty and parents deciding to move across the country and just change in general have chosen to shake everything up like a tacky snowglobe. You land on the ground and have to start rebuilding again, whether it’s your fault or not. And that’s before people start dating. No one warns you that you are going to end up being the fifth wheel on what should be a double date; or that you and your best friend would have a crush on the same person. Or even that you might have to face heartbreak alone.

Friendship is harder than it seems. Often harder than romantic relationships. But I know that it’s worth it. It’s worth all of the tears, all of the lonely years and all of the pain because one day you look around and every face you see you trust and love.

This was a (late, sorry!) response to the writing challenge for Writing 201

The Trail

I leave a trail.

The half-eaten sandwich;

Traces where mascara and tears splashed

As they rolled down flushed cheeks;

The stain of painted lips pressed against cold glass,

Or the white paper cup;

Fading scents of vanilla perfume

That linger where limbs have been;

Long hairs that fell from the sweeping chestnut locks

I left my trail,

Never to be followed by you.

Just Let Me Fly

Water trickles from the tap weakly, cold and numb on my hands. I slap my cheeks and stare at the puffy circles beneath each eye in the grimy mirror. Stale alcohol lingers on my breath. Distant voices blare from the hotel-room’s old TV. I can’t tell what the program is-I don’t care. It’s better than the silence.

I dry my face, dragging the rough cotton over my face. Falling on the linoleum with a small crack, the rail breaks from the wall as I throw the towel. I don’t think. I just kick it against the yellowing bath tub. I kick again and again, as the curses spill from my lips.

I am on the floor. My throat is raw with the taste of bile. Flexing my fingers, I feel jagged pieces of plastic dig into my skin. There’s a pile of them circling my aching body. I slide them into a line. None of the edges fit together anymore. I stare at the wall and the only signs of damage are the two metal hooks, which are still intact. Leaving the broken pieces, I drag myself out to the balcony, letting the noise from the TV drift from the open door. A stretch of blistering orange behind bleak buildings. The street below is empty, apart from two children who are chasing each other up and down. A boy of no more than twelve and a girl of eight. She screams as he darts towards her with a stick. I don’t understand what they are saying.

***

Two sets of eyes stare down at me. I can’t hear the words they whisper. Neither of them remove their gaze from my face. Knotty brown tendrils fall from the young face and tickle my cheek. Still not faltering the stare, as she lowers her face towards mine I feel her small hands curl round my shoulders. She bats away the older arms that try to pull hers away.  Attempting to shake me, her face contorts with the strain. I don’t move. Then, droplets splatter on my face and in my eyes. Some fall down my cheeks and into my mouth. I can taste her salty tears. She closes her eyes slowly, tears coating her long eyelashes. An arm embraces her and she is pulled away.

I stare up at the thinning strip of sun. I cannot move. All I feel is the hard concrete beneath me. Sticky pools of crimson glue my limbs to the ground. Why did I jump?

***

In the breeze, my t-shirt ripples across my back and chest. My knees shake slightly as I edge my feet forward slightly. My heart beats fast in my mouth, my head, and my ears.

I whisper to the air: Just take me, just let me fly, even if I fall. I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.

I want to turn up the volume of the TV, but I have gone too far to go back. I remember the bridge. Looking down at the grey concrete I wonder, would the river have been any better?

A strangled shriek shoots my eyes towards the little girl. She is yanking her brother’s arm, pointing at me, but it is too late He sees me, too. Shaking my head, I step down, off the edge. ‘I wasn’t going to-‘ I stop because they don’t understand. With all my strength I tug the corners of my mouth upwards. But I cannot smile. Even from this distance, I can see her lips trembling. My head is still shaking. I step away from them; I don’t want their innocent eyes on me. They can’t see me, not like this.

I perch on the bed again, staring at the TV, but not watching it. Just shapes moving around, just colours. I recognise the voices…Richard Gere. I try to focus on the shapes. Slowly, the figures on the screen become clearer. It is Richard Gere. And what’s-his-name. I know the film because it’s Jeanne’s favourite.

***

I can feel her laughing. Her golden hair falling in waves down her back. She shouts, imitating the accent, “Did you see that bodacious set of tatas?” Laughter bursts from my lips.

What is the name of that goddamned film? I turn the TV off.

***

Even if I had stayed, even if she were sitting beside me in this moment, she would still be a hundred miles away. A distance I will never get back.

(742 words)


This is a response to the Grammar Ghoul Press Writing Challenge #6

<a href=”http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-6-open”><img src=”http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/gg-wkbadge2.png”></a&gt;

This week’s prompts were:

Bodacious

homesickness

Homesickness by  René Magritte

Also, the film I was referring to was ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’, which was where I found the inspiration of how to use bodacious in my story.

Two Hearts

She opens the doors to the hundreds of hungry eyes. Once they have ran a calculating gaze over the ruffle of short blonde waves down to the thick black boots, they snap their heads back to their own packs of friends. She smacks her lips together, her nervous habit, scanning the faces. A few smiles. Her friends chattering away. One of them beckons her, and she trudges over. Her eyes still scan the remaining faces. Smoothing down her coat as she slumps into a chair, absent minded greetings slip from her lips. Her eyes aren’t on her friend, but they have stopped searching. Midst a sea of bodies, limbs motioning as they cram food into their mouths or cram knowledge into their brains; the great gesticulations of gossip and colliding snippets of conversation, he sits. His eyes lock on to her gaze across the room through the wisps of his dark fringe. The tiny quiver of her lips ushers a thousand words only he can read.

An exchange of flickering glances and telling smiles-a language only known to them- between their dips into conversation with surrounding friends. Buzzing in her mind, the thoughts rise and rise until she cannot hear the meaningless chattering around her. All she wants is to be with him, away from all these bodies-motioning limbs, colliding conversations…

Fingers interlaced, they stand in the cold air. Two warm hearts beating wildly; two bodies slipped out of the crowd. But now, as she stares into the crystal blue eyes, she smiles because she no longer has anything to say.


Today I was watching my friend looking across the room at her boyfriend (who is also my friend). The way they could have their own conversation through a crowd of people, made up of tiny mouth movements and gesture, was fascinating. I think I was the only one that had noticed, and I almost felt like I’d invaded their private moment. Luckily neither of them noticed me.

When I Could Finally Breathe

I watched the sheets of water crash down on to the pavement, which glinted in the pale moonlight. Once again, the thoughts rose in my belly and into my throat. He was choking me. The dark eyes, the familiar earthy scent wrapped around my skin, encasing my body in the memory of him. He’s not here anymore, he has gone, I tell myself. But my mind wanders on through every trace of him that is left to swallow. The blue T-shirt. The deep laugh, a contagious rumbling. I hadn’t laughed for months.

***

The hat still rested on the table, ‘Taylor Swift’ printed across it. Running my finger over the stitching, I could feel his smile.

‘Okay, okay,’ he waved his hands in the air in surrender. His arms were so long that they nearly hit the roof of the car.  ‘You’re right. I did like the concert. She actually can sing.’

‘Actually can sing!’ I scoffed, ‘You loved it!’ His smile burst into a chuckle. He mussed up my hair, grinning as I scowled at him and plonked the hat on top. Then, he leaned in to whisper, ‘She’s pretty hot,too.’ Laughing at my poor attempt to punch him, he grabbed my waist and the war began. Fits of giggles erupted, as we tickled each other, filling the air with our flood of happiness.

‘I love you,’ the words escaped his lips breathlessly. It was the first time he had ever spoken those words to me. My mouth dropped open. And slowly, it curved into the biggest smile. ‘I love you,too.’

He shifted the handbrake and we drove home.

***

Zipping up my coat, I cursed as it jammed. Screw it. I threw the layer of warmth and protection on the floor. The thud of the rain hitting the pavement like bullets entranced me, guiding me to the front door. With one swift motion I was under the fire of the blades of water.

Every strike pierced another memory. Carrying every trace of him, flowing over my skin and away, coursing along the shimmering ground. My skin was alight with the explosions of each tiny droplet as it fired against me. The grip around my throat had melted away, soaked into my sodden clothes. The buzz of numbness, the shock of the coldness against my skin made me alive. Electricity fired through my veins. No longer the heavy shroud of pain. My heartbeat raced faster than it ever had with him. That’s when I could finally breathe.

The Hub Challenge #2: Planting a Lyric Seed

The Prompt – Run (or walk) to the nearest music playing device (radio, iPod, record player, 8-track) and turn it on.  Select a lyric from the first, random song you hear.  Use that lyric in a piece of writing of your choosing (fiction, non-fiction, poem, letter, etc.).  The Twist – work the name of the artist into your writing as well.

I was inspired to write this by Taylor Swift’s “Clean” from her new album 1989.

1am thoughts

I don’t know who you are.
I don’t know your name,
But you make me turn my music up loud;
You make me want to throw my arms open to the moonlit sky,
And cherish the hidden beauty
In spider webs and tattered books…

Sometimes you feel so far away,
So impossible it makes me ache,
But some trace of hope lingers-
Tells me to just wait a little longer,
You might be lost!
You don’t know me.
You don’t know my name.

I wonder, do I make your heart beat faster,
At the thought of a thousand new possibilities?
Do I make you look into the depths of the sky and wonder?

I hope you like blink 182,
And poetry and rainy days.
I hope you want to travel the world,
And have a never ending bucket list.

But if you don’t that’s okay;
I’ll have time to make you listen to ‘I Miss you’
And go for longs walks in the rain.
Even if that doesn’t persuade you
It won’t matter because you’ll still love me,
And I’ll still love you.

A million miles away,
In a different world, it seems…
I wonder if you’re awake and
Flying through these 1am thoughts.
Do you ever wonder about me?
Do you have the same buzz of excitement combined with those pangs of doubt?

I’ll wait for you however long it takes, my dear
You just might have to find me in New York or Paris,
Barcelona!
Wherever life takes me in search
Of meaning beyond the borders of the little I know;
Until then I’ll try not to worry
About not being able to find you,
Or notice you among the crowds.
My heart might be cracked in places
By the time it reaches you,
But you can have it, imperfections and all,
And on that day I’ll have yours, too.

Endless Possibility

The idea that everything is connected becomes most interesting when applied to ourselves. For this week’s writing challenge, tell us about your own Butterfly Effect

It is the single tiny thing that caught my eye,

The little curving line below your lip,

That only adorned a true smile,

Or a hearty laugh.

That same little line now traps me

Behind bars of torment and pain,

Each time the memory flashes before me;

A tiny line is carved into me.

And every time I think of your beauty,

Of your magical imperfection

That the line taught me to find in you,

It pushes deeper into the wound

Knowing that I’ll never see the

Tiny part of you

Which started it all

And I can’t help but think

If that mark of happiness

Never accompanied your smile

Would I have ever known you?

Would we ever have been together?

Would I have ever fallen in love?

We are given so many opportunities, it is hard to know which ones we should take. The endless possibility of the world is both exciting and overwhelming.

Relationships are already tough. It only takes one tiny thing, the flap of a butterfly wing, to break. And once the bond that took so long to build has fallen, there’s no going back. It’s unlikely things will ever be the same between those two people. Often, couples wrapped up in love that they become oblivious to the fragile nature of love and relationships. Even the most happy couple could easily be split up within a matter of moments.

Then, there are the forces we cannot control; the forces that cause the death and destruction we can only watch powerlessly.

From the processes that brought us life on this planet, to the processes that brought you the clothes you are wearing, millions of tiny things have built up. So, if one, just one of those things were different, would the end product be the same?

Be it a comfort or a cause of hopelessness, we can’t escape the possibility. We can only try our best at being human and see what becomes of our lives.