Darla

Darla

She had been a wonderful friend, had Barbara. Dependable, loyal and most importantly, always happy to play for hours and hours on end. I’d been able to confide in her and rely upon her since the moment we met – something that I had never felt able to do with anyone else before. She really was my best – and at times my only – friend.

I remember the day we found each other so vividly in my mind like it was yesterday – although almost eight months have passed since. It was a Sunday, and Mr Fisher had just put out all of his new stock. On the shelves sat row upon row of dolls with wigs in blonde, chestnut, auburn and red, their piercing plastic eyes in acid green, ocean blue and chocolate brown.

As soon as the clock struck ten, a gaggle of children had piled through the door, a free-for-all of little boys and girls on the hunt for a toy – nay – the toy that held the value of weeks and weeks worth of pocket money. They, like me, were on a mission. Perhaps today would be the day I’d find the right one for me.

It was a fresh May morning and the sun reflected off the glass shop front, falling right where I stood, bathing me in a strobe of warming, yellow light. On the occasion when the door opened, there was a slight but noticeable chill that permeated the little shop, and I was thankful every time it shut again with a gentle click.

Our eyes had locked onto each other’s within what felt like minutes, perhaps even seconds. Barbara had the same coloured eyes as me –ice blue – and I was drawn to her as if there was no one else in the room. She was the friend for me – I knew it instantly. And turns out that I was right.

Ever since that Sunday morning, we had barely left each other’s side – we’d been to school together, played together, even slept side by side. It was a great comfort knowing that I had someone there for me, someone who enjoyed my company and who’d shown me more care and affection in eight months than I’d seen in all my time on Earth. The other girl’s had never appreciated me and I’d always struggled to fit in with the others – for reasons still unbeknown to me.

But none of that mattered anymore because at last, I had someone. I had Barbara. And Barbara had me, Darla.

Lost in my thoughts, I almost don’t hear the noise at first. Distant thumps that are growing closer and closer with each passing second. By the time I am fully focused on the present moment, it is almost too late. The thumps are louder now and rattling the bedroom that surrounds me, causing the photos that line wall to quiver with energy.

The brass door knob begins to twist. The door is moments from opening. 

In an instant, I snap up straight, smooth my polka dot dress and assume the position I had been in when Barbara had left the room twenty minutes prior. My dark, synthetic curls perfectly positioned about my porcelain face and my plastic eyes unblinking from their china socket.

Commentary:

I’ve always been a fan of horror and mystery – although I find myself watching more horror films rather than reading/writing horror stories.  Well, there is no better time than the present to start dipping my toes into a new genre, so here I go.

Unsurprisingly, I saw this image – the doll in particular – as rich fertile ground for a horror story. I was keen to avoid anything too gory or crazy, just something quite subtle that could leave the reader feeling a bit spooked. What also caught my attention was the obvious bond/closeness between the little girl and her doll – a theme that I have used in the narrative.

The way I went about spooking the reader was to keep the narrator ambiguous right through to the final sentence, with the hope that the reader would assume the story was being told from the point of view of the little girl – duh toys can’t think and talk, that would be ludicrous! I then used the final sentence to flip the story on it’s head and reveal the real story-teller, the doll. A subtle mind game, but I am hoping it is effective nonetheless! Let me know what you think.

 

 

Synchronicity

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Michelle

The scent of Patrick’s aftershave mixes with the cool summer’s air, caressing the back of my throat as I breathe, in rhythm with the rise and fall of his chest. With each of our joint breaths, the coarse hairs of his beard scratch my forehead, but I am too content to care. The low, sun casts long shadows that creep towards us, some stopping just short of our feet, others falling over us like we are a joint canvas and they are the artists medium. I close my eyes and the birds are singing, a chorus of song that feels like it is being performed solely for our pleasure. Coming from the house I can hear the distant buzz of the television that we both forgot to switch off on our hurry outside.

This dinky, quirky house share on the outskirts of Camden Town is, as the saying goes, our little slice of heaven. Close enough to the busy cafes and bars, yet far enough away to be able to enjoy evenings like this, whereby we can pretend as if we are far out in the rural countryside. Every night we have the choice between dancing until the early hours of the morning surrounded by friends and strangers or staying in enjoying the company of each other and the serenity of the nature that surrounds us. Tonight we chose the latter. My shift at the library all but wore me out and Patricks stint at the carpenters meant that when came through the door at 6:30pm his rugged face was contorted into a worried scowl. To cheer him up, I made him a cup of coffee and the two of us got busy cooking a quick but hearty dinner of beans, eggs and chips.

And here we are, tummies full, knots of stress unwound and brows unfurrowed – our arms interlocked and the sun falling down over our faces. Never have I felt happier and more in love than in this present moment. When Patrick came into my life last year, everything I felt was amplified – joy was taken to dizzyingly new heights and fear took on a whole new meaning with the stakes being infinitely higher. The ups of which there are many, and the downs of which there have been very few have resulted in the best year of my life. With Patrick, my future is something I look forward to, not something I dread like before. Whatever tomorrow may bring, I welcome it knowing Patrick will be at my side and I at his.

Patrick

Mrs Jones stands in the neighbouring garden, her presence known not because she is visible, but because the misty spray of the hosepipe penetrates my peripheral vision. It looks like fire as it reflects the orange sunlight.

Michelle’s head is on my shoulder, a delicate weight of soft skin and hair that tickles my jaw. She smells of soap and books and the sound of her gentle breaths have a calming effect on my own – breaths that were quick and full of stress at first and now slow and deep to match hers.

Below us sit the blankets that, only a few weeks ago, were necessary to stop one turning into an icicle. This evening however, they are redundant. The warmth of the sun acts as a blanket itself, alongside the close proximity resulting body-heat that Michelle and I are sharing.

It feels like it was only yesterday that we were huddled beneath said blankets, under the misty night sky with the wool a little itchy on our skin – same time, same place, her head unmoving from my shoulder. We laughed and kissed and cuddled and even though it was bloody freezing, it was one of the best nights of my life. But then summer came like an explosion of birdsong and long days, and against all logic, time ran past us at frightening speed. Things changed before I had a say in the matter and now, next week, I must leave. Leave her behind and never look back. I love her more than I have ever loved anyone else. I love her so much that it hurts – which is why I must go. I know she will never forgive me. But it’s something that I have to do. Not for me, but for her. She deserves more than I can give her and perhaps, one day, she will thank me.

Commentary:

I brought this picture because there is something about couples that just suck me in. I love Love – reading about it, looking at it, being a part of it. This picture to me screamed passion, contentment and happiness and I was drawn to it immediately.

In terms of research, I did my best to date the photo  and with the help of my mum (thanks mum!) we decided it was from the 60’s. I did not want to get to bogged down with back story but I did do a little reading into careers for men and women of that time but that is about as far as I went. I decided that I wanted the passage to be very much centered on the feelings between the two people, and most importantly, how they make each other feel.

At first, I had only planned to write from the females perspective, but, as I progressed I realised an opportunity to create some conflict and tension – allbeit unbeknown to ‘Michelle’. I thought it would be interesting to create a narrative in which there was a misunderstanding, and to present the different perspectives and feelings of two people in a relationship. By presenting Michelle’s story first, followed by Patricks, I hope to introduce a little shock-factor. Most importantly, I want to leave the reader with questions, and leave them wanting more. I have called the passage ‘Synchronicity’ – playing on the synchronicity of the couples’ breaths and physical bodies, but their lack of synchronicity in thoughts and visions for the future. 

One challenge I faced – being the sensitive soul that I am – was that I felt bad for Michelle as I was writing it. Guilty for putting her in this position, and very sad for her imminent tragedy. I think that this is something that I must work on throughout my writing journey – not everything works out for the best and being able to navigate tragedy and cruelty in ones writing is an essential skill to have as a writer.