Shorty short: Last Cab to Nowhere


Dana scurried around in the hubbub of the party still in full swing, her head dashing in and out of rooms, under flung cushions and dresses of unknown victims who simply glared at her.

“Excuse me?”

“What is she doing?”

“Too much to drink,” someone laughed as she rushed past them, back out onto the balcony one last time. She stole a look over the rails while she was at it to see if the cab she’d called had arrived. The street revealed no such phenomenon, for it was a phenomena for a cab that arrives on time on a busy Saturday night.

“Dana? Why are you scaring people? You promised to behave” Her best friend, Kaiser smiled at her from his great height, walking out onto the balcony with multiple beer bottle necks secured in his hands. He passed them around and turned his focus back on her. “Your taxi here yet?”

She shook her head and grabbed the beer from his hand, took a thirsty swig and slid the bottle back in his open hand. “You seen my bag?”

“You lost your bag?” His brows rose high.

“My clutch thing.”

“The things without any handles?” he asked.

Dana smiled and nodded.

“Nope, haven’t seen it.”

“I’ve looked everywhere!” She squeaked in panic, stepping away from people looking at her strangely. Guess lifting skirts off seats and sofas, and looking under beds while people were trying to find privacy wasn’t really good etiquette. Then again, in Dana’s opinion, it was highly rude to be trying to do anything indecent in someone else’s apartment. “I’m gonna miss my flight.”

Kaiser held out 50 dollar note. “I don’t even know why you are taking such a late flight. May as well have gone tomorrow morning if all it is, is you trying to escape your family. I’d gladly drop you off myself.”

Dana took the note and shoved it in her jeans. “I have no desire to sit there and listen to people yabber about a woman I could barely stand. I’d rather be on a sunny beachside sipping mojitos than be there for the whole thing.”

“You’re going south, where beaches are few and colder. And you hate mojitos.” He held her back as she went to go past. “You’re one of the beneficiaries.”

“Exactly! Which means it gives my family reason to glue all eyes on me the whole week. No, thank you. Now get out of my way. I have a taxi to catch.”

Kaiser pulled her in a quick hug. “Should I go in your place?”

“If you want.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t sleep with that one, that one or that one.” She laughingly pointed out random guests.

“What about that one?” Kaiser pointed to a woman striding their way with a charming little cherub on her hip.

“That one will have to do.” Dana laughed. Gave a quick hug to Kaiser’s beautiful wife and child and rushed towards the door. “Keep my bag safe for me!”

As Dana got into the lift, she could hear the faint rumble of thunder. ‘Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain.’ She rushed out onto the street, empty as the first giant drops of rain slapped her cheek. She checked her phone as a messaged buzzed: You taxi is 30 seconds away. 30 seconds wasn’t that long, and Dana stared down the street to see if she could spot the headlights. Nothing.

Laughter rolled down with the rain from the balcony and Dana looked up to see Kaiser’s head, a tiny pin in the grey night sky. “You should just cancel!”

Suddenly, a taxi appeared far too quickly beside her on the kerb. She hadn’t even heard it pull up. A window rolled down. “Ms Dana Beecham?” An elderly man with a well kept grey beard bent down to see her on the sidewalk. “You ordered a taxi?”

The rain began with more gusto and she clambered into the back seat. “How did you know my name?”

The man laughed. “I pay attention.”

The glint in his eyes threw her off. It was as if he knew things. Really knew things. Like for example, she felt almost as if he could tell why she was in a hurry to get away.

A lash of lightening ripped across the sky and the power grid failed instantly. The whole street blacked out, and thunder that followed cut Dana off at, ‘Please take me to…’

“I know where to take you, Miss.” He interrupted, a smile on his face. Somehow he reminded her of her late grandfather. She hadn’t seen the man in over two decades, but it was almost as if the eyes were his. “Buckle up.”

With the rumble of the engine, lights came on one by one on all the buildings as they shot by. In disbelief, Dana kept staring out the window till they were well away from the street.

“How did you know where I want to go?” The thought suddenly disturbed her. “I didn’t tell you.”

The cabbie laughed. “As I said, I pay attention.” He pointed recklessly at a navigation system as if to say that was his source of information.

Maybe, thought Dana. Maybe she’d already told the dispatcher when she’d placed the call.

“Please hurry. I’m running a little late.”

He nodded, turning on the radio station to some mellow music. “Not to worry dear. Sit back and relax. I’ll get you there at the right time.”

The street lights flashed by one by one. The last of her drinks finally catching up with her. She hadn’t closed her eyes in ages, and when she did, it was not with the intention to fall asleep.

“Here we are, Miss. Your destination.”

When Dana woke, it was almost dawn and she was no where near the airport. She was exactly where she didn’t want to be. The whole reason why she was meant to be in a flight over Alice Springs. Not sitting outside her Grandma’s home, exactly how she remembered it. Perfect.

Dana turned to the man in shock. “You said you knew where I needed to be?” Her tone highly accusing. The man nodded, got out, pulled out her luggage from the back seat next to her and came around to open her door.

“Yes. And this is where you needed to be. I got lost there for a bit, but no, in the end, I got you here, safe and sound!” He beamed. Her grandfather’s eyes smiled down at her and she couldn’t really get angry at him. Instead, she crossed her arms and refused to get out.

“Don’t you think you are being a little childish?” he asked.

Offended, she was about to protest when the front door opened and her mother in pyjamas walked out, looking at her directly. “Dana! You came.”

The man stepped aside and allowed her to exit the cab. He handed her her bag and walked away.

“How much do I owe you?”

The man smiled. “We can decide that later.” He doffed his hat and slipped into his cab. Before long pulling out as Dana pulled her bag along reluctant. What did he mean by that?

“Hey, Mum.”

“Hey, yourself. Look at you? So skinny.”

Dana couldn’t help but feel the lump in her throat as she eyed the facade. It wasn’t where she needed to be. Was it? All those memories pressed against her mind. All those desperate attempts to get away. And there she was, miraculously about to walk into a home she hadn’t stepped foot in over 5 years for a woman she had loved as much as possible, but hated just the same.

Home sweet home.

Writing: Finding Motivation when all you want to do is the ‘P’ word. 

Procrastinate, that is. Mind you, we don’t normally wake up in the morning saying ‘Hey, I know what I’m gonna do today. And that is do everything else but the thing I should do.’ No, unfortunately it’s the opposite. With the dawning of our day, be it 5AM in the morning (if you are an early bird), or closer to midday, we all wake up thinking, ‘Today is the day. Today is it. I’m gonna do it!’ And about halfway out of bed, you forget your pledge and slip into slippery slopes of getting distracted by this and that, a stray thought that leads you to do one thing after the other till you realize the whole day has been spent and you have slithered back into bed feeling disappointed. Of course, in that last heroic stance you think maybe you should just start that piece now. Just a matter of stretching over and grabbing your tools. But then again, who is going to sleep for you? Right?

I have been fighting and failing to write. Procrastination always gets in the bloody way! And that got me thinking, what is it about this year that has proven to be such a challenge? (Of which there have been a few valid distractions.) Most years I pump out at least a book, and a few scripts, not to mention the many odd things I post here. But 2016 has been that whimsical year. September. Well hello there, how do you do? It’s almost gone too. Meaning only a quarter of the year is left and so much more to write.
Nowadays, I troll social media for inspiration, something to drive me to write. When once I used to be able to write any random thing, this year, despite the many quotes and prompts pinned on Pinterest, my interest in writing as much as I used has dwindled. I’m a sporadic writer. So sporadic indeed that it’s actually started to really bug me. And bug me it does, hence this article.

Every writer has to get in the right headspace to write. Everyone. I know as writers we evolve over time, develop our styles, our voices, our routine. However, what most people won’t admit to is, we evolve into creatures of habit, we seek out comfort zones that will put us in the mood for writing straight away. And these spaces, these sanctuary hold great power over us. It becomes sacred, and the thought of writing else become less and less welcomed.

My space used to be cafes, but mostly I could write anywhere once a sentence or two were spelt. Nowadays, it feels as if something inside is calling for a dedicated writing space. Too long have I gone without that corner sofa in a humming cafe, that isolated-yet-I’m-still-in-public feeling that allowed me to people watch at a safe distance. Writing space. Think about that. It could be your room. It could be that park across the road from work, or the cafe down a couple go blocks. Or it could just be a piece of music that sets your mood.

The point is, find motivation. Do whatever it takes to kick start that brain of yours. Once you start it, it will do its thing. Sometimes, I write a simple micro poetry and post it on Twitter to the same satisfaction I get if I had written a whole chapter for my current work-in-progress (which of course I have quite a few).

Procrastination is a habit my dears. A terrible habit. One that should come with a warning label; ‘Beware! Distractions may cause delay in achievement of ones happiness and desires!’

Or something to that effect. Today’s motivation has been this effort to psyche myself up. From tomorrow, or there off, here is hoping that I can kick some ‘P’ butt and get on with what I need to do. No buts, no ifs. Think of the future. Think of your goal. And keep that gaol in mind. What’s mine for the rest of the year? Finish the book, and a rewrite a script.

There. I said it. 3 months, plenty of distractions. Can I do it? I sure hope so. At least, I’d like to think I’ll try.

Fingers are crossed. So crossed.

Writing: Never ending edits

I absolutely get terrified when editing my own works. Absolutely terrified. Not excited as I am when I write. The terror comes from the fact that I know I will be slicing and dicing, in true ‘kill your darlings’ style, and yet, yet, it will still not be perfect enough, flawless. Why? Why must this be such a hard task?!

I know that most writers, myself included love writing. We do. Other people find solace in shopping, in getting pampered, in sitting around by the beach and lounging, etc. the normal stuff you know. Writers find joy in writing. We do it because we love the rush of a new world that captures our imagination: the characters, their flaws, their stories.

We feel elated when we finish our first draft. I still remember the first time I finished my first novel. I think I may have literally done a jumping-giddy-run-on-the-same-spot dance before realizing I was standing in front of med building waiting for my friends to escape their microbiology lab.


But the thing is first draft of anything is always crap. We wouldn’t give it to anyone to read before we have had a chance to run through it and smooth it out somewhat. The real writing happens on the editing table. Which becomes excruciatingly painful to writers starting out, and still quite hard for others who have been through the grill before.

I’m doing a final comb through of ‘Charming Mr Stewart’ before sending it for final edit. Mind you, it has already gone through two rounds of editors. Editing is a job that never finishes, truly. And it’s not just a grammar here and punctuation there. Editing sometimes completely changes the landscape of a story from its first draft. I’m learning to kill my darlings and it’s not easy. If you are writing a piece you want to publish, I guess you have to make sure it’s as good as it can be. So my advice, don’t be in an impatient rush. And the other, DONT BE AFRAID TO DELETE WHAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE, or what is redundant. Cull, cull, cull.

I must do these myself:

– remove adverbs and replace with verbs (i.e. Words ending in  -ly)

– remove the words ‘very’ and ‘that’ and so many filler words,

And many more. I’m learning the art of editing my own work through examples on pinterest. Hey, it’s been helpful!

Two weeks ago I swept through the whole MS (manuscript) and it shed some weight from 100,000 words plus to under 86,000 words.

Today, I’m starting another sweep based on feedback from beta-readers and have a feeling the story will loose some more weight. I’m not worried about the story becoming skinny, I’m just worried I may loose some aspects of the story if I’m not careful. I mustn’t leave a tale full of holes!

Bit of a nail-biting moment. Yikes.

Writing: What you NEED to be a writer.

You want to be a writer do you? You want to enjoy knowing that people are reading your words, imagining the world in their head that you have crafted? You want to know that people love them? You have tons of story ideas floating around in your head that you could write? Good. Very good. 

But. And yes, there is a but. You need to stop coming up with stories. Stop. There’s is no point in coming up with 1 story, 10 stories, or hundreds. No point if you don’t actually sit down and start writing them. In fact, not good enough if you don’t sit down and finish writing them. Key word there – finish. 

What lies ahead once you have finished writing the first draft can only be described as a bed of needles you have to walk over to reach the other side. I’m being blunt. Why? Well, it’s one thing to dream of being a writer, it’s another to actually attempt it. It’s a difficult journey marred with many disappointments, struggles, doubts, anger and frustration. You will want to give up many times along the way. You will continue to doubt your work. Is it good enough? 

Unfortunately, someone else needs to tell us this.
How do you make sure your writing is of industry standard? How do you know it can hook a reader and keep them till the very ‘end’? Before you decide to even attempt to knock on publishers doors, make sure you do this: read the story from start to finish yourself. I don’t mean this as in you edit as you go. Just read it, as if it’s another book and you are an audience. If you can hold your own interest then be sure you may hold other people’s interest too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you are a God-gifted writer and someone should offer you a deal already. We all make mistakes. Even the polished writers who have been published multiple times. Here is what you need to do.

Get your story assessed by a professional. Find out if the plot is weak, if your characters are convincing, if there are any logical problems in your MS, if you need to go back and write an entire section, or cut out a whole chunk. You need to FIX these before you can think about polishing/editing your work. Grammar, punctuation and spacing are not your first priority. Your priority first of all is to make sure your story translates as best it can on paper. It’s events, it’s interweaving plots, it’s characters and emotions etc. After that, go over your work a few time yourself. You’d be surprised at the number of mistakes you can correct yourself as a writer. Then, I strongly recommend getting an editor onboard. They will help you iron out your MS and make it look presentable. 

And this is just the one quarter of your job! 

What’s left are some of the most daunting tasks: query agents/publishers, submit your work, wait biting your nails, then if you find representation or a book deal, it’s a whole other part you have to work with others on – planning, layout, cover page, edits, and marketing.
I don’t mean to discourage anyone who wants to write from actually doing it. I just wanted to tell you, stop talking about writing and write. It’s a whole lot of fun whether you intend to get published or just get your family and friends to read them. 

I leave you with these words…

  

Shorty short: So it comes knocking

Well, well, well. What do I have here? Lol. I was just going through my many notes on my phone just now and found this quirky odd piece I had written a few months ago using a prompt. I was trying to think why I had written such a weird piece only to remember that I was challenging myself to use a prompt. It was ‘demon’ and I obviously didn’t want to write the more obvious demon featuring stories, so here is my entry. It’s not finished yet I feel. I might attempt to round off the story in the next few days. Enjoy!

So it comes knocking

It was after dark. Heath stood staring through the glass of the cafe. He wanted what Byron had. Money, title, and the gorgeous Kiya as his lover. More than anything, he wanted Kiya. It’s what the boy wanted too. He could sense it, squirming inside, begging in a tiny high pitched voice ‘Leave her alone!’ Heath wanted to laugh as he glimpses the dream the boy harboured. Love, ugh, it almost made Heath retch if he were so capable of retching. ‘Shut up and play dead!’ he grumbled, walking through the glass as if it were nothing.

Kiya only noticed him as the mop head slapped across the front of boy’s shoes. She looked up, startled. ‘Oh, it’s only you, Peter. You almost gave me a heart attack.’ She tried laughing.

Heath didn’t say a word. The boy kept screaming, ‘Run, Kiya, run.’ Which was rather amusing seeing as Heath could do whatever he wanted to Kiya and boy wouldn’t be able to budge. Heath had ideas alright. Naughty, nasty ideas, right there on the floor.

‘How’d did you get in?’ She eyed the still locked door of the cafe. Heath shrugged and moved forward.

‘I want you.’

‘What?’

Heath grinned a crooked grin. Boy was flaying inside. He liked the struggle, the power. Heath played a little scenario in boys head, of all the things he was going to do to her.

‘Peter?!’ She called out, holding an arm out. Heath reached for it. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Yes,’ Heath finally spoke, his voice gritty and distant than he had expected.
Kiya hooked her hand through his. Something suddenly burned Heath and he yelled. Kiya’s smile widened.

‘Heath, Heath, Heath.’ She tutted. ‘Let the human go and we can play. Isn’t that what you wanted?’

Kiya suddenly dropped away, and in her place sud, Sunny, Heath’s ex from Hell. The iron from her ring still stung him hard.

‘I’ll get you for this!’ He breathed before her muttered enchantment expelled him from the boy’s body.

‘The boy is mine,’ was the last Heath heard. ‘You can’t do anything right.’

Writing: Fear/Regret stopping you from calling yourself a writer?

  

I loved this quote when I came across it on Pinterest trying to find pins to put on my ‘Rule of Thirds’ ChickLit concept board. Yes, I’m attempting to Pinterest. Can’t say I have tried it before, though I was signed up with it more than a year ago. Never really saw how I could use it to drum up interest for my book(s). But, ever since I came away from a day seminar at the Sydney Writer’s Festival last month, I may have been inspired to try it in a way I never thought about. Use it to create a page/board (still learning it’s lingo here) for the book/story in mind, helping create the look/feel of the novel. So, for the last week, I’ve been searching pins for weddings, love, romance, mother-daughter etc. and still going. Don’t know if it’s been at all successful but can’t hurt to try. 
What was the point of telling you all that? Well, as writers, and truly anyone who has a job that gets them or their product in front of strangers, go through this regardless of the career path you choose. We are held back by fear. Our potential squashed ruthlessly by the little devil that sits on our shoulders, and whispers ‘it’s not good enough’. Let’s give it a flick off our shoulders. Time to free them shoulders!
I believe regret is a painful thing to go through in life, but I’ve also realized personally that fear is the only thing that usually causes one to have regrets in the first place. 
If you fear about what people will think, then try and divert that fear to but what if they like it. You can’t please every one. This is not Pleasantville. 
I’m going to try and not fear too much about too much from now on, or at least attempt. After all, I’ve come so far from being that tiny girl who questioned whether I could even wield enough command to handle directing film cast and crew as short as 12 months ago. And now, I have made at least 4 short films, have 3 others in the works and a major feature in the planning. And most of all, those lovely folks who gave me and my tiny stories a go are eager to work with me again as I am eager to work with them too. What was holding me back all those years after finishing my study? Fear. What was I doing every single day till that fateful day after Valentine’s Day last year? Regret. Regret not having enough guts to go ‘hell, I’m gonna try before I die’. That was pretty much what gave me a final push, whether I was willing to let go of a dream and regret it all my life, or whether I was gonna give it a try. I voted for try, and try I did. Firstly, I released my debut novel despite fear of criticism. Then, wrote my first short film and took it by its horns. 
It is my deepest belief that one is not a writer until someone else gives you that title. Before this, I used to say I want to be a writer. Nowadays, I say I am a freelance writer and filmmaker. It feels bloody good to be able to say that. 
I may not be known yet, I may not have the whole skill set yet, but I am learning, I am trying, and most of all, I am happy. So, do yourself a favor. If I can give you one advice then it is this: truly try before you give up on a dream, you never know the strength that lies in you till you hit that fork in the road and you must choose. Choose wisely and give it all you got. 

All my best to you. 

Shorty short: The Night Thief

Black D. That’s what she had chosen as her call name. With a name like that, she was sure she’d be someone people would be scared of. And so they should. She had had enough of this bullshit in life. She wanted more, and if she had to turn to tricks to get what she wanted then so be it.
With this particular thought, Black D rolled down her black balaclava over her face, pulled on her woolen mitts over her hand as she didn’t want to leave fingerprints of course, then she zipped up her windshield jacket and snuck out of the front door into the quite night of the village fast asleep in their warm beds. Their warm comfy beds, with their warm comfy partners and pretty things like their mothers valued China tea pot! Ugh.

Black D shook the doubts from her mind and snuck over to the small cottage across the road. Her first target. She knew the lady of the house was away tonight for her recon works previously. She knew where the old bat stores her spare key too for good measure. A dumb gnome in her front porch missing the tip of its ceramic cap.

Black D looked around to make sure she wasn’t being watched. Then she reached for the gnome, fished out the key and let herself into the house. It was tiny. Ended before it even began. Would make things easy for her she supposed. Tiny lounge, attached tiny kitchen cum dining, then a bedroom door and a bathroom door.

She headed for the bedroom, pulling out her small pen torch and set about searching for valuables. She rummaged through the wardrobe, under the mattress, in old shoes and tiny jewelry boxes. Nothing stood out, u tip it was that an old gold pocket watch in mint condition glinted from the folds of overly large granny panties. She fished it out and admired it. Gorgeous thing it was. She slipped it into her pocket and made haste out of the house before anyone caught on. These old folks were tardy that way, waking at ugly hours of the morning.

She wasn’t entirely happy when she closed the front door quietly behind her. Where were the other valuables? In anger, she pushed the gnome over and heard a faint crack. Good. She stuffed the key back and stole across the road once more.

It was a good day later before the home owner arrived and soon the ruckus of alarming ‘I’ve been robbed’ sounded. Black D, still innocently casing her next victim smiled a small smile as she heard the cries of help. ‘I’ve lost my father’s old watch! Someone stole it!’

Black D walked up to the house and joined the huddle. ‘Was anything else stolen?’

‘No.’

‘Then how do you know you’ve been robbed?’

The lady stood straight and tried to peer at the crowd. Obviously trying to see what the query was from. ‘Because gnomey here is broken…. And, and I can’t find the watch.’

‘Perhaps you misplaced it.’

‘No. No. Who said that?’

By the time people were looking around, Black D had slipped out of the throng and was just another passed by. A passerby with a sinister smirk.
That night she was going to do it all over again. A new target had been found.

[Today’s prompt: a thief, and they lose something of value.]

Shorty short: Dinner at 6 

Eric looked at the grey sky. Then his watch. Then back at the sky. It was a miserable day whichever way you looked at it, and the worst part was, there was well over 12 hours of it he had to endure. For God’s sake, how was he going to avoid the commotion?

As he stood there on top on his narrow steps down leading to the footpath, he wondered. Couldn’t he just slip back inside the house, change back into his comfy trousers and hoodie, call his work and feign contagious flu, then brew a cup of milk tea, slump on the couch, watch old episodes of Friends and pretend the world outside his door didn’t exist?

Instead, he was dragging his feet on the ground, eyes barely looking up for fear of seeing the flood of pink, or huddles of couples giddy as teens hooking up for the first time. Ugh! He thought. Stupid, silly people. Didn’t they know what was waiting for them at the end of it all? And yes, there was going to be an end. Either the relationship would die, or one of the two will go first. Either way, doomed! Just to be left with an ache in your chest no amount of binge drinking foul tasting beer, or hitting the scene will fix.

The whole 15 minutes to his work, Eric kept his head down, the music loud and angry in his ears, and a chant in his head, ‘She is dead to me. She is dead to me.’ He forgot the number of people he bumped into thus. But it must have been the effects of the day, but no one seemed to mind that he walked into them, sliced past them, or plain out spun them around. They just smiled, wished him a wonderful day and continued, bewitched.

By the time Eric got to work, the place was maxed with customers, laughing, giggling, whispering, making goo goo eyes or making out. Ugh! ‘She is dead to me,’ he muttered, causing a lady waiting in line to order coffee frown at him.

‘Hey Eric, got any plans for tonight?’ Mickie asked, rattling around the coffee bar as he spotted Eric. Eric shrugged, got behind the counter, chucked on an apron and said, ‘I think I’ll go out the back today.’

Mickie grabbed him by the shoulder. ‘Not gonna work man. I want that handsome face out here where customers can see you, today of all days. Now get on the register.’

Eric forced a smile and approached the register. ‘What can I get for you?’

‘Where can I get me I one of you?’ The old lady winked her wrinkled eye, giggling like a school girl when Eric gave her half a smile. ‘I’m only kidding. How about a cup of flat white and you for dinner tonight?’

Mickie laughed, pouring a shot into a cup. ‘Don’t do it lady, not unless you want to be a rebound.’

The lady giggled and oohed. ‘I don’t mind,’ winking once more at Eric.

‘One flat white coming up,’ Eric gave her a hard stare and her change back. Then he turned to Mickie. ‘What the hell you doing man, embarrassing me like that?’

‘Oh come on. I’m just trying to fix you up. No one should be alone tonight man.’ Mickie’s cheerfulness dropped several degrees. He handed a couple of takeaways over the counter and dropped his voice to a whisper. ‘Mrs Mackerel,’ nodding towards the old lady sitting in the corner table still smiling at them. Mickie smiled back. ‘She lost her husband of 50 years this year. This is the first time she’ll be spending today alone. Where’s the harm in trying to make her smile?’

Eric felt low. So low. Here he was wallowing in self pity over a one year old relationship. He grabbed Mrs Mackerel’s coffee and walked off.

‘Here you are, your coffee,’ he placed the cup in front of her and returned her smile, ‘and your date for tonight. What time shall I pick you up and where?’

The smile that lit her face, it was all he could see for the rest of the day. It was what made the day fly by, and before he knew it, he was knocking on the door of her granny flat. He held out the bouquet as she opened the door, wearing her Sunday best.

‘How do I look?’ She asked. ‘Wonderful.’ He replied, taking her hand in his. ‘You look wonderful tonight.’

[Today’s prompt : it’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t mention love, Cupid, roses, February, Valentine or heaven.]

Shorty short: Invite her in

(The following story is prompted by the date, and the theme that only a thief can catch a thief.) 

It was August 15, 1925 when I first stepped into the sprawling, Gregor mansion. I was a young thing, sexy, suave, and reckless. I thought I could outsmart everyone. After all, who would ever suspect sweet, small and innocent Marie of anything sinister. Well, they didn’t really know me then, did they? 

It was late afternoon when I arrived in my finest, hat, dress, gloves, the whole package. I rang the door bell, wishing and hoping that Bill, or William Gregor, the eldest of the Gregor heirs would open the door. After all, he was the one nearing marriage age, and I, was the perfect bride material, ready to marry at a word. And I planned to marry Bill. That was the whole reason Julia Pratt had taken to being Marie Clementine Avery and adopt a demur personality. If my mamma could see me now, she would be spinning in her grave. ‘Demur? Ha!’ That’s what she’d say.

The keeper of the house opened the heavy doors inwards and barely cracked a smile upon seeing me. I flashed my pearlies as sweetly as I could manage. ‘Am I wrong? Or is Billy home, Thea?’

I slithered past her rigid form, into the grand round marble alcove before the foyer. 

‘Master Gregor is busy having tea with the family.’

I smiled ever so sickly. ‘They wouldn’t mind me joining them, I’m sure.’

Thea almost growled, her lips rolling up in irritation. Heavens only knew why she hated me so. ‘The party isn’t till the evening, Ms Avery.’

I was beginning to lose patience. ‘Oh, is it? I truly thought it was an afternoon affair. Would you mind fetching Bill for me? I’m sure he’d love to know I’m early for private seating with the future family.’

Thea left without a word. And in the grand alcove, I couldn’t help but imagine myself as the lady of the house. Eventually. 

I checked myself in the mirror, retouched the rouge on my cheek and the red of my lips. Who could resist? I smiled as I caught a glimpse of Bill staring at me from the corner as he appeared. Yes. He was definitely mine. All I needed was to keep the family on my side. Just until the wedding. And I was pretty sure there was going to be a wedding.

I turned, feigning innocent. ‘Billy, darling. I’m so sorry. I must have heard you say 3pm instead, so here I am.’ I kissed his cheeks lightly, like all society women do, and lingered a little longer near his cheek. ‘I hope I’m not intruding. Your Gregor parties are so famed, I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun by turning up late.’

‘You’re welcome anytime, Marie,’ Bill extended his arm and escorted me through the maze of the mansion, and out into the manicured gardens. ‘Come, I shall introduce you to the family.’

Wonderful! Just wonderful. I plastered a smile on my face as the family came into view. This was going to be easy compared to the last family.

Marie stood alone in the bridal room, dressed in an elegant ivory gown. She almost looked divine, properly excited by the prospect of what lay ahead. A wedding. Her wedding. She smoothed out her veil and picked up her small flower arrangements of white roses. The knock came then on the door. ‘Yes.’

A choir lady peered her head around the door. ‘We are all ready for you.’

Marie smiled. ‘I’ll be right out.’

She checked herself in the mirror once and corrected her posture. Standing tall like a Gisele. ‘Here it goes.’

The organ stayed with her as she walked lonesome down the aisle. A vision on defiance. An omen of something magnificently tough. She nodded at few guests as she walked past them towards the alter. She didn’t know many people at the wedding, in fact, the only person she knew was Bill Gregor. Bill Gregor who sat in amongst the crowd in the front rows. 

She withheld a sigh. She was supposed to have been walking towards him waiting for her at the alter, not his younger, irritatingly elitist brother, Drew. Marie took it in her stride. By the time she reached the front of the church, she had a smile on her face, and a determination in her heart. Drew was also a Gregor heir, so she hadn’t really done so bad for herself. Just a few peachy months. Then a slow emotional leeching of Drew, a distraught wife who is at her wits end, and a bigger brother who cared enough to try and keep the family together. 

Marie smiled at Bill before she turned her attention to the priest, and then the lesser handsome of the Gregor brothers. Her plans hadn’t really gone as planned, but walking down the aisle towards a rich future husband in less than six months, wasn’t a bad turn around. 

‘Do you take Drew Maxwell Gregor as your lawfully wedded husband?’

‘I do.’

Marie didn’t know where to turn. She needed a moment. A moment to console herself. The guests kept coming over, laying a gentle hand here, few kind words there. But it was all fodder to her. So what she was wearing black? So what she looked completely devastated? So what she was a widow at 51 and completely alone? She eyed the house for an exit. Any more words of condolences and she was going to burst into tears, and they weren’t exactly going to be for Drew, were they? She hadn’t ever learnt to love Drew. Not before the wedding, nor afterwards. Nor any of the thousand times he tried to woo her. And her interest in him had completely fizzled once the doctor told them the reason they were having difficulty conceiving was because drab old Drew was also sterile. 

‘Excuse me.’ She managed to sound distraught enough so that she could walk away from the huddle of ladies. 

Out in the open garden she could finally breath. A sigh of relief really. She didn’t have to pretend with the Gregors that she even cared for Drew. The whole family knew their marriage had died a long long time ago. Drew had even been ready for divorce but Marie wouldn’t have it. After all, years of her youth sacrificed wasn’t just so she could get divorced at 35 and go back to being dependent on herself for income. No, she deserved better. A good chunk of the Gregor fortune in fact.

‘Are you okay, Marie?’

She startled somewhat and turned around to face Bill. ‘And you?’

Bill shrugged. ‘No body really expected him to live as long as he did.’

Marie nodded. One thing every Gregor family member knew about her late husband, Drew, but the public hadn’t the slightest idea was that Drew was an alcoholic. His liver had died way before he did.

‘You’re going to be okay going back home alone?’

Marie debated whether to tell the truth, yes, or reply no. Perhaps what she hadn’t been able to do all those years ago, she’d be able to do now. After all, she was still in her finest shape, whereas Bill’s wife had let things slide enormously. ‘I don’t know… The house gets so quite, I almost feel like I’m the last one left on Earth.’

‘Why don’t you stay with Erika and myself for a couple of days? It’ll be a change for you, and you’ll have company?’

Marie smiled, a smile she hoped conveyed how grateful she was for his offer. ‘That would be a God send.’

Bill nodded and extended his arm towards her. Marie gladly took it, weaving her arm through his. ‘What would I do without you, Bill?’

‘Probably run away from this whole lot and wonder whatever happened to that vivacious young woman who bounced through our house way early for a party.’

Marie laughed. ‘Ah yes. Perhaps my mistake.’

Bill escorted her into the huddle of mourners and sympathizes. ‘I would have introduced you to Drew either way. In fact, it was the very reason I’d asked you to one of our drab parties.’

Marie felt her checks flush with heat. ‘What do you mean?’

Bill smiled down at her. ‘Drew saw you with me once and asked who you were, so I had promised I’d introduce you to him.’ He waved at a passerby who clasped his hand in a show of condolence. ‘And the rest is history.’

Marie could feel the anger boil inside her. How dare he? How dare he?

Writing: In spare moments 

You sit by the window staring out into nature. It’s night. The rain is battering musically on the roof of the house. It’s your down time. You’ve done everything needed doing for the day. You’ve even done all the dishes, and now, you sit by that window, your favorite relaxing spot. Perhaps you have a glass of wine to help you wind down. Perhaps you have music on, a roaring fireplace (or heater, or a snuggling blanket). It’s not even 9 on the clock. Maybe you have an hour to yourself before turning in for the night, because, let’s face it, you have a job to get to in the morning. What do you do for that hour to yourself? Perhaps you watch TV, maybe you read, maybe you do absolutely nothing, or, just maybe you write.

Now back up for a moment. Did I just describe what thoughts go through people’s mind when a writer tells them what they do, or aspire to do in life? I think I did. This is the misconception about writing that’s quite prevalent. Writing isn’t an easy thing to ‘do’.

Let me put it this way: if writing were easy to do, and something one can do simply in their down time, then wouldn’t you see a lot more people do it as a ‘hobby’? After all, how common is it to come across a person who says ‘Oh, I’ve been meaning to write for years,’ or ‘I have a story that would be fantastic as a book/film/tv series’. Plenty of people. 

So here is the thing. Writing isn’t really easy. In fact, it’s very hard to do, in fact, it can take anywhere up to years to write one story. Not to mention the fact that once you write it, it’s still not done. It’s got to be edited a million times before it gets published. Sadly, some never see light of day.

Writing drives you crazy! It’s not easy dealing with day to day life in reality. Now imagine having to deal with all that plus an extra set in your imagination. You have to build a world from scratch and make them believable. It’s not easy to draw in an audience and keep them till the end these days. Seems attention span is starting to shorten with people in modern time, not to mention they are time poor. Otherwise, why else do we need a 140character tweeter word count? 

Writing isn’t what we do in our down time. So please don’t devalue the work and effort that goes into it. If you want to know the truth, most writers who haven’t already hit ‘big time’ as it were are probably holding day job, keeping a house, looking after family and being present in every moment that calls for it, and trying to squeeze in a ‘moment’ however small to write those precious words.

This is how I mostly write: on the train (if I’m going anywhere). Why? Because it’s dead time, and it’s mine, so I try and make the most of it during commute. That’s essentially how I finished the second half of my first novel. I used to head to work early, or stay back after work an hour or two, find myself a cafe and order a coffee, and sit there and write till that hour was up. That’s how I wrote my second novel. Or, write between ads, or chores. And these days, I write in bed, before I sleep. Why? Because it’s the only time the house is quiet and there isn’t anything else that needs to be done for the day. Then I write. That’s how I’ve now written 6 short films, a feature, couple of outlines for both features and future book ideas, and that’s how I’m writing my third novel. I manage do these by sneaking writing into my life. Not when I’m relaxing. Not by a long shot. A 5 minute here, 15 there, sometimes if I’m lucky, an hour before bed, despite how sleepy I am. And if I’m extremely lucky, I can turn it on whenever I want. It’s not easy to write. It takes a psychological strain, and it’s not something that works on a switch. Some days, I could be desperately trying to continue a piece when I’ve managed to find myself a ‘spare’ moment as most call it, and nothing comes. The flow isn’t in you because your mind is divided between a thousand other things.

My wish for today? I wish just for a moment, people wouldn’t assume anything about what a writer does to get that story on paper. Instead, ask them how do they do it? You don’t even need to listen to the answer. The question itself is enough to signal that you at least know it’s not an easy ‘job’.

If we are lucky, we will have family members and friends humor us by reading our work. If we are extremely lucky, then our stories reach a wider community. And if we are beyond lucky, we get that book deal with a publisher. And yet, most would have been writing for years and years without anyone knowing. 

Having spare time as it were, 24/7 to do what you love doing and get paid for it would be absolutely a dream come true for all those who dream it, but life’s not that easy nor simple, at least getting rid of the misconception, now that’s something we can try and do.