Monday, 24 July 2017

unnamed -novel draft (first few paragraphs)

Five in the morning. The vacant hour of the day. Most were still nestled in a bed or blacked out on a floor. The cheap makeup from last night cemented on skin; glassy eyes, and mouths that still reeked of beer and maybe vomit. The wintry air cooled my reddened cheeks as I jogged by the voiceless houses, slow rock ringing in my ears. I focused on the brunt impact of the soles of my feet as they met the bitumen road, and the movements of my body as muscles contracted. Maybe, if I scrutinised my form, the pain I was feeling wouldn’t be all that bad. Right? Wrong. My calves ached as I worked up another hill, saliva building up in my mouth, damp blonde curls sticking to the sides of my face. Crows perched on aged fences, I wondered how their deafening screams didn’t serve to wake the entire suburb. A dark jeep slowed as it reached me, the driver hung his head full of choppy brown hair outside of the window, hollered something I didn’t here, sneered and sped off. I gave him the finger but his cowardly self was already gone.  
I turned a corner and rested my back on the old pub’s brick wall. My skin glimmered with sweat as I tucked the strands of wet hair behind my ears and tugged my earphones out. As soon as the music stopped playing the flood gate of thoughts was opened.
‘Fuck’. I panted with exhaustion, aimlessly staring at the lengthy chain of terrace houses. Their blinds were down and their little gates closed. Quiet. A little voice started in my mind. It’s him again. I peered around me to ensure that nobody was watching before I counted from ten backwards. Surprisingly enough, this worked for me. The voice died again. Shoving the earplugs back in, I pushed off the wall and continued up the street.
The lengthy jog against uneven ground began to take its toll on my knees as they seemed moments away from giving in. I tried to focus on the road before me, ignoring the sharp, undeniable burning in my chest as my heart throbbed against it unsteadily. Light began to appear, the morning heat pelted against my sweaty back. The sickly sweet trace of marijuana lingered in the air still. I imagined a group of people no older than I was, seemingly comatose as they lounged on plastic covered couches, sharing a single joint and soaking up the pleasure of each other’s idleness and collective lethargy.
‘Stop thinking so much’. The little voice whispered. But I didn’t want to stop thinking. I didn’t want to stop running. The discomfort kept me grounded here. And there was nowhere I’d rather be, than here. Sort of. I lifted my chin up in a futile, typical attempt to overlook the fact that this heart struggled for a reason other than that of the exhaustion of my body. Not even the soothing voice of John Lennon could allow me to shake the stifling truth, that I was, broken.

The sustained silence of my decrepit flat was broken as the shower head squealed to life. My tense muscles relaxed as the cold water spilled from my head and shoulders, running off of my eyelashes. I leaned against the cool tiled wall and rested my head on my right shoulder, watching as the condensation crept on the glass door. I closed my eyes and went numb. Every thought, every reflection, ripped at my brain with its calloused hands. My body and mind were unanimous in their weakness. I thought of school, and every insecurity that bred there. I thought of the technicality that was my mother, I thought of me, I thought of Jordan. My Jordan. Today, the floodgate was open. Today, was not a good day.
I wiped the condensation off of the bathroom mirror and took in my reflection. My eyes were grey and glazed from long nights of nothing. It was starting to show, I thought. Light freckles scattered across my hollowed cheeks and the least suspecting parts of my body.
‘Shut up they’re cute Rose, come to me when you have a legitimate insecurity’. He hated it when I complained about my freckles. I’d drop every single one of my ‘woes’ onto him like I couldn’t afford a diary.
‘Um, wow thanks for the support’. I’d jab my elbow into his gut. He’d snort and do the same.

I smiled as I recalled that memory. The only genuine smile in months. I meandered out of the bathroom. My bare toes sink into the soft, crumby carpet. Stained with god knows what. For all I knew, somebody could have been murdered here. Knowing this place, nobody would have ever known. I opened my bedroom’s blinds and watch familiar cars pass. Newtown had awoken. My room was small with creamy white walls, sheets and pillowcases. A few years ago I had taken it upon myself to visit the closest nursery and spend my mother’s change on four plants that would brighten up the blandness of my room, given that I’d remember to water them. I stroked the leaves of my Chinese evergreen as I water it with my spray bottle. What I’d do to stay in bed and assume the foetal position under the mattress. Unlikely. I ran a brush through my hair, wincing as it tugged at every knot. I put my glasses on and once-overed my reflection in the vanity mirror. I was wearing Jordan’s brown leather jacket. I closed my eyes and pulled the collar up to my nose. The faint smell of lynx gently washed a wave of memories into my mind and the corner of my mouth twitched. I left my room and locked my door, the stench of stale cigarettes immediately revolted me as I saw her sleeping on my grandmother’s chair, a fag held between two fingers, some game show on TV played in the background. Mother. I grabbed the spilt ash tray and considered breaking it over her head but something stopped me. Ah yes, It’d be even more of a burden having her awake. I quietly placed it on the coffee table, headed for the door and slammed it behind me. There was a time when I’d acknowledge her existence, there was a time when I’d kiss her goodbye. There was a time, when I had cared.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

Identical

Her hair was wavy and auburn, mine was straw like and ginger. Her eyes were emerald jewels, mine resembled the soaked grass of a football field.  
The hairs on my skin stood up as I cowered in her grand shadow. She always led, and I followed like the pathetic creature I was.
She was the poison that you would willingly drink.

‘Rose, over here!’ Jessica, her closest friend waved her over, ignoring the lamentable version standing beside her. The crippling reminder that I was the forlorn twin tore through my stomach like a dagger. The dagger grew sharper as my cuts deepened. Jessica was cunning and unstable, much like Rose. My sister however, was smart. She could make us believe she was normal, however far from the truth that was. Rose hurried me along as she sauntered to her friends. She wore a light blue sun dress and strappy sandals, accentuating her delicate curves and perfect creamy light skin. I grimaced at my own reflection through the tuck shop window. I was waifish and pale with bags under my eyes and clumpy freckles. I wondered over to the group of uncontrollably giggly and beautiful girls and quietly sat myself beside Rose.
‘Oh, hi Iris.’ Meg, a blonde bob haired girl smiled weakly and returned her attention to Rose. I wasn’t surprised, but my head throbbed nonetheless.  I slaved every waking moment to be interesting, to meet Rose’s standards. Only hers. I tried to mimic her stance, achieve her catty eyelashes and make my skin as flawless as hers. I practiced in front of the mirror, placing a hand on my hip, holding a cigarette in the other. I pouted until my facial muscles ached. It soon occurred to be that is was not enough to be like her. I tried to escape from the shadow that my sister had cast over me but it was much too extraordinary. I wanted to be Rose and I knew it from the beginning. Her dark red lipstick oozed sex appeal. A careless flick of her thick hair at a carefully planned moment would bring boys to their knees.  
As my sister excitedly recounted the intimate events which took place between herself and her outdated lover the night before, I found myself tugging at the grass beneath me and placing its thin blades on my pasty thigh. Rose eye balled me in an intense revulsion, shifting closer to Jess and further from me.
‘Christ Iris, your fingers are filthy what are you doing?’ I kept my eyes on the soil beneath my fingers, not daring to look up at her.
‘I’m going to the bathroom to wash them; I’ll be back in a minute.’
I spent exactly a minute sitting on the flimsy toilet seat, tears trickling down my cheeks and lips. I cupped a hand over my mouth as I began to sniffle. The thought of her thrived like mould on bread.   As I walked out, I stood in front of the mirror, stiffening with distaste to what I saw. I rinsed my eyes out and slid my fingers across the running mascara. I smoothened out my pasty yellow dress and returned to the group of girls. They hadn’t noticed the shaky fingers or the glass eyes. Or at least, they had pretended not to. Rose rambled on about Olive, the ‘too curvy’, ‘too vague’ raven haired girl who had allegedly glared at her earlier this morning. She tossed her head back and snickered, avoiding my sullen gaze.
Once the sky had darkened Rose and I made our way home in silence. I watched her from the corner of my eye as we walked through the empty streets. Her flawless frame, her refined stride. She noticed this but refused to look at me. She sighed quietly, rolled her eyes and looked on.

‘Hello my darlings!’ Mother held out her arms, embracing Rose and I. Her eyes were unfocused and every wrinkle seemed to have sunken deeper into her skin. Her light pink lipstick smudged at the right corner of her mouth, the stench of whiskey leaving her every breath.  Rose unsubtly shifted away from me, scowling before turning to kiss my mother’s cheek.
Jeans, tees and undergarments lay strewn across the carpet. Dishes from a dinner three nights ago remained uncleaned and piled in the sink. I hurried up the stairs and locked myself in our room. I stood, my back against the door, slowly sinking onto the ground. Rose’s side of the room was impeccably neat. Her sheets were creaseless, her books were uniformly stacked on the shelf and her expensive clothes perched on their hangers. My half however, was embarrassingly chaotic. Liquid liners and mascaras scattered across my dressing table, alongside a photo of Rose. All those wasted hours trying to look like her.
‘Open the bloody door Iris!’ Rose kicked the door, jolting me forward and onto my hands and knees. I sunk my nails into the fleecy carpet, biting my bottom until I could taste blood. I unlocked the door and watched as she stormed in, spitting out ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ as many times as seemed appropriate. My head began to throb violently and every pure thought left and I was stranded with the corrupt. I stared at her, not daring to look away. Everything blurred but her immaculate features. I stood up, sucking on my bottom lip.
‘Why are you Rose. Why am I Iris.’ She rolled her eyes and placed a hand on her hip.
‘What are you talking about?’ I shoved her as hard as my skinny arms could manage. A grin escaping me as she stumbled backwards. She clenched her fists but stayed back.
‘If I was Rose would I be pretty like you?’
‘Get out of my room now you psycho!’ Rose slapped me. A stinging sensation licked my cheek. I looked to my right, her pretty red lamp rested on her bedside table. I grabbed the lamp, ripping it from the power point.  
The remorse and instability that had been hidden by layers of makeup and years of wrongdoings finally found its way out.
‘Iris.’
 I gazed at her all-consuming fear before cracking the lamp over her head. Blood spilling into her soft, auburn hair. She wailed and clawed at the carpet.  I couldn’t stop. Not until her face was bloody and ruined.
I sat myself in front of her dressing mirror, my bare feet resting in the puddle of blood beneath me. I extended the end of her dark red lipstick, gliding it over my lips, puckering them slightly. I slipped into her light blue sundress, slowly tracing my curves.
‘Look at how beautiful I am.’ I turned to see Rose wincing as she regained consciousness. She placed a hand on the back of her head, sobbing in agony as she noticed the dried blood on her fingers and the carpet. She lay on her stomach and reached out for my ankle.
‘Ugh, Iris, what are you doing?’ I kicked her limp and bloody hand away.
‘IRIS, PLEASE!’ She reached for my ankle again, tugging, crying. I tutted as I picked up the lamp, all blood soaked in its glory.
‘Well.’ I giggled excitedly. ‘Look at where we are now.’ Who would’ve thought that I, would be her.
‘I’ve got a boy to meet, as you mentioned earlier today.’ I slung her hand bag over my shoulder, smoothening my dress.
She slowly closed her eyes releasing my ankle, as if she’d given up on the idea of mercy. One deep breath. I swung the lamp across her head, a sharp crack following as her body collapsed onto the crimson carpet.

‘I am Rose and you are Iris.’


The librarian who never read

The library was always empty in Oatlands. From 9 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon, I sat on the old leather chair, tapping my pen and watching the clock, perched on the back wall. Waiting.

A tall, chestnut haired woman entered slowly, peeking her head through the door.
‘Hello?’ I grinned, waving my arm from behind the large desk. Audrey Sprouse, a tall tulip amongst the cotton thistles that were Oatlands’ residents.
‘We’re closing up soon, but come in Audrey.’ She smiled and disappeared behind the tall shelves in the fiction aisle. She ran her fingers along every book spine in the C- D  section, repeating the name ‘Camus’.
‘Ahh here.’ She grinned as she pulled a black book from the shelf, opening it, smoothening its pages and inhaling its scent.  
I snorted in amusement and quickly covered my mouth.   Audrey looked up at me, smiling.
She approached the desk, placing the black book before me. ‘The Stranger’, the title read.
‘What’s it about then?’ I watched Audrey’s content smile as she continued to smooth her hands over its cover.
‘Why don’t you read it and find out, Nancy?’
‘Oh, well.’ I pushed my glasses up as they stubbornly slid down my nose. ‘I…don’t really read.’ She stopped fiddling with the pages, and looked up at me in polite confusion. Nobody really read in Oatlands, except Audrey of course. With its already meagre job offers, the local library, parched from its painful lack of customers, was the only decent place left.
Audrey slid the book under my fingers.
‘I’ll borrow this, after you have read it.’ And with that, she smiled and left.
I sat and stared at the book, thick and complicated in all its glory. She was expecting me to read this? I flicked through the book, its meaningful words yearning to be read and understood. I closed the store up and turned my little desk lamp on.

Over several hours, I had devoured pages of what I finally concluded to be, “a terrible sort of beauty”.  I re read the same phrase over, and over again. ‘There is not love of life without despair about life.’ The following morning, the book was still contently nestled in my hand. A night, a book, and the reasoning behind everything I’d ever done was doubted. The clock menacingly stared down at me, ticking impatiently unlike anything else in this slow town.  
I opened the blinds and unlocked the door, hissing quietly as the natural light seeped in. The cool morning air filled the library, and for a moment, it looked beautiful. I stepped outside and watched the mill begin to turn. The familiar smell of maple syrup and crepes wafted out of the café kitchen across the road.
 Everything seemed smaller today.
I wondered what went on behind the grey eyes of the little old lady that sat on the bench beside the library every morning, sipping the same strong scented black coffee. Was she happy? I looked at my chewed fingers, raw and unsightly.  Was I happy?

I searched through every aisle, looking for another book to read. After a half hour of skimming through blurbs I decided to settle with ‘Northern Lights’, a fantasy novel that had enticed me with its blue and vibrant colours, yearning to be read.

Audrey returned to the library that day, smiling as she eyed the new book in my hand.
‘Philip Pullman?’ she asked.  I nodded and held the book up.
‘Look who decided to come early today.’ I watched as she searched for another book, this time she had found herself in the F to G aisle.
‘Just wanted to make sure you’d read the book is all.’ She winked and continued running her fingers along the spines.
I’d read the book. Whether I was happy about this, I wasn’t sure just yet.

After I’d closed up, I sat on the old lady’s bench, staring into the dimmed sky. The only grocery store was a ten-minute walk away, the pizza shop was two stores down, the and my house was just down the road. The lights of the caravan park lit up from behind the information centre and I thought of Darcy and Belle, the twins who live with their parents in one of those dilapidated vans. I smiled as I remembered the boy who worked at the pizza shop, constantly needing to be reminded of how to spell pepperoni.  Not a car passed by, for the entire night, as I sat on my own, staring at the mill’s silhouette slowly disappear.
On Tuesday, I packed all my clothing and personal possessions into a single suitcase, and tossed it into the boot of my old Beetle. My life in one boot.

I sat on the spinning chair in the library, staring at the clock, Audrey was later than usual.
The little old woman sat herself on the bench again. She gazed into nothingness for at least half an hour. Her coffee grew cold. This town was caught in a time capsule that I just couldn’t squeeze out of.

Five minutes before close up time, she opened the door.

‘Audrey.’  I put on my coat and hurried to her. ‘I was worried you wouldn’t turn up.’
‘Everything okay?’ I cupped her hands in mine. It was difficult. Difficult to explain, that I had outgrown this little town.

‘I need to get away from this place.’ I said hurriedly.

Audrey struggled to find words. After all, I would never have thought to leave a day ago. I looked behind her, the mill slowly turning, the old lady still sitting on that retched bench, and the library. Still empty.
‘I’m wasting everything here Audrey. I realise that now.’ I lived in an undisturbed story without climax, hidden from change. I kissed her on the cheek and slid the first book I read into her tote bag. She squeezed my hands tightly and nodded.
‘Maybe I’ll see you again.’

I sat in my car, hands resting on the steering wheel. I looked ahead at the seemingly endless road.
I turned the ignition on and left the library, the old lady, the maple syrup and crepes, and Audrey.
As I drove away I could feel the town collapsing in on itself. And now, I was off to find a new book, and make myself a story worth telling. Nothing would allow me to forget the library, and how goddamn empty it was.