Tuesday, November 02, 2004

2ND DAY - 1846 WORDS, 2.5 HOURS

***

We’d been there for almost a week, the three of us and Miss Mary, when Jack asked if I wanted to go and get a coffee after our morning lecture – we were in English Literature together. I said yes, of course, and so that afternoon we went into some tacky café round the back of the lecture hall. It was nice to be spending time with him again, but I felt strange. Almost like I was betraying Amy.

“How are you finding the course?” Jack smiled uneasily at me. He had cream on his top lip, but I didn’t say anything.

“Yeah, it’s good… I like reading.”

“I know you do.” He said, staring out of the window. It was raining.

“Jack, I like you.”

“I should hope so. We are friends after all, right?”

“Right” I said indecisively… to be honest I really didn’t know any more. I was so jealous about him and Amy. “Can we go back to your apartment?”

When we got there, it was pretty cold so Jack turned the heating on full blast. We sat on the bed, since it was warmer in the bedroom. Plus, that’s where the TV was. Amy was at a lecture so I got myself comfortable for my first university mistake.

“Jack, I like you.”

“Didn’t we already go over this?” he smiled.

“Yes, but you don’t understand. I like like you.” I was lying, although once upon a time it had been true.

“Rebecca –” he hesitated.

“Please, Jack. It’s what I want! And I know it’s what you want to. I can see it in you. I see it when you’re with Amy. I know you want to be with me.”

“Stop this! This is insane, this isn’t you. We’re friends aren’t we? Friends don’t do this sort of thing.”

He was looking me in the eye and I knew I had to convince him that this was the right thing to do. I couldn’t leave it as it was, or it wouldn’t be enough to break him and Amy up. I needed to do this to get Amy back, and I knew it. I smiled at him, and took off my shirt. He looked scared, but he was too easily persuaded that this was what he wanted.

“We both know it, don’t fight it.” I said, trying to sound cheeky though failing miserably. It worked though.

***

It was sad, and I felt guilty. I had intended to leave before Amy came home, but Jack had fallen asleep and I couldn’t really be bothered to leave. The key turned in the lock just as Jack opened his eyes and smiled at me. The front door opened just as he leaned over to kiss me, his eyes shining. Amy glared at me on her fresh white linen, through the crack in the bedroom door left ajar, just as Jack – who was yet to notice the love of his life at the door – put his hands round my waist and spoke.

“I feel like I know you better than I ever did before. And I want to get to know you even more.”

What happened next was unpleasant to say the least. Amy opened the bedroom door wide and looked at me, tears welling up in her eyes. It wasn’t until that moment that I realised I’d achieved the complete opposite of my goal. I’d broken Amy’s heart in my attempts to make her mine. She had a life, she had other friends, and she had been happy. I should have been happy for her. That was the way she wanted it, and it wasn’t until I’d shattered her world that I realised I was the one with the problem.

I a step back at that point, a step back from life. I’d lost my best friend, I’d lost the two people who I felt “understood” me, and I felt isolated and scared. The afternoon I left Amy’s apartment for the last time, she threw The Beatles’ “1” album down the stairs at me.

“Keep it, it’s from Jack.” She cried down at me. A single tear dropped from her cheek down the well between the two flights of stairs between us. The silence echoed around me as I turned to leave. All I could think was how I’d left my bra on top of the TV set, and what would happen when Amy found it.
CHAPTER 3 – GETTING TO KNOW YOU

I remember thinking when I was just fifteen how cool it would be to get to know so many new people, so many new friends to make. I still thought the day before I came to Edinburgh that this would be true. I expected to be Little Miss Popular, but I hadn’t exactly got off to a brilliant start. In three weeks I’d made no new friends, and lost the two I started off with. Jack had dropped out already, and he ceased to exist in my mind. But Amy was still there, I saw her sometimes but she refused to see me. I didn’t blame her, I felt guilty.

Miss Mary was growing on me. We had dinner together a few times, and I soon removed the masking tape divider from our room. She was quiet, and didn’t have too many friends. I liked that. She never hogged the bedroom with her annoying friends because they were sharing a flat, so they always congregated there. I was free to spend a lot of time by myself in the bedroom, sipping instant coffee while staring out onto a moonlit brick wall. How romantic.

One night the two of us were in our room. Mary studied chemistry though she really didn’t look the type. She was staring at her books filled with colourful charts and confusing numbers. I was never one for mathematics and that sort of thing.

“So… how was your day?” I asked. I guess I was looking for some sort of social stimulation. In Aberdeen I wasn’t exactly Miss Popular, but here I had nobody and it was beginning to take its toll on me.

“Not so bad. Our lecturer was sick apparently but my friend Susie says he’s got a hangover – she saw him in the SU bar last night, downing shots of tequila!”

Mary didn’t approve of drinking, so I wondered what she was doing with a friend who hung out with teachers in bars. I smiled and tried out a new fake laugh I’d been practicing the night before. She bought it, so I figured I might use it more, for the lame jokes the losers cracked at the dinner table.

***

I had an appointment with the doctor the next day. My first here in Edinburgh. A new doctor, same problems. The surgery was student-y with STI posters plastered all over the walls. I saw a girl I knew from my English Study class. She smiled. I wondered what she was in for, until I saw a small cut above her left eye. It looked sore. I bet she got it from her abusive other half.



The Girl with the Cut above Her Eye

She’s in love with this guy, but he doesn’t know how to treat her right. He smacks her about when he comes in late, wasted. He’s got a job, while she goes out to study. But one night he comes home from work an hour late. His dinner’s cold and he’s angry.

“Who do you think you are, bitch? I pay for your food, your education and your home. And what do you do for me? You can’t even give me a bit of dinner when I come in from work, you useless bitch!”

He’s feeling violent and she knows it. She takes a step back towards the door and cries out as he grabs her by the arm.

He strikes out, and she falls down. Blood trickles from a small cut above her left eye.

***

“Rebecca Harris?”

I came out of my daydream suddenly. The calling of my name from an unfamiliar voice startled me, but I soon realised it was just the receptionist calling me to say the doctor was ready to see me now. I had butterflies in my stomach. Had I still been friends with Amy she would have been right here at my side, and perhaps things would have been better. I stood up and was shown into the hallway and pointed towards the brown door at the end. As I walked to the end of the corridor I couldn’t help feeling like I was walking to the gallows, on death row. What would the doctor say? Would he have my notes? Was he old, or was he young? Did he have experience with cases such as mine? I opened the door.

I was expecting something a little more formal than what I encountered. The walls were decorated not with high and mighty diplomas, but with colourful artworks and what looked from a distance like poetry. I was surprised by how laid back I felt, even though I didn’t even know the guy. When I’d had a chance to get over the shock of how strange the room looked and felt, I noticed that my doctor wasn’t even there. This was unusual. I sat down in the chair nearest the door and waited. I was expecting it to be one of those moments like you see in the movies where they wait for “what seemed” to be hours and hours, but actually it wasn’t at all. I could have occupied myself for hours, gazing at those paintings on his walls. They meant something, something much more than what I could see them as. There was death, and sadness all about this room yet it sat comfortably with me. I wanted to see who this new doctor of mine was. Could he make me feel comfortable with myself? I hoped so.

The door opened and I turned my head to see who was coming in. A young man – I could swear he looked no older than twenty-five – came into the room, smiling a warm and welcoming smile. I felt comfortable here.

“You must be Rebecca, yes?” he came in and shook my hand. “Wonderful. Sorry I took so long, I was just on the phone to your last psychologist – Sandra? She was just reminding me to ask about how your move went.”

“It went fine, thanks.” I was lying, but although I felt comfortable I didn’t feel that comfortable! He didn’t know me yet, and I wanted us to get along. With Sandra it had always been very business-like and I was determined not to let it get this way again. He sifted through my hefty file while I sat, my palms becoming clammy.

“How’s university life, then? Made lots of new friends?”
“A few. Not as many as I’d hoped but I’m working on it.”

“Good. Now, if you don’t mind I’d like to get to know a little more about you and your background.”

DAY ONE - 1819 WORDS, 2 HRS

PART ONE – ARRIVALS

CHAPTER 1 – MISS MARY

“Is it dead?” I asked sheepishly, prodding at its undeniably flabby arm.

“No! Don’t talk such crap… she’s just asleep.” scowled Amy.

The massive lump turned over in its bed before my eyes, making a disgusting grunting noise. I could have easily mistaken it for a hairy swine had I not had my contacts in. She sure looked like a swine. Mary, that is. She was my roommate and if first impressions were anything to go by, it wasn’t going to be much fun sharing a room with her for the year. I was a bitch, no doubt about it but this Mary girl really took the biscuit. And she disgusted me! Apparently she was 20, but I didn’t believe that. She had more spots than an adolescent with acne, and was heavier than a herd of cows.

This first meeting wasn’t exactly great. To finally find my room after an hour of searching and to unlock the door to find this thing curled up in the bed opposite mine. They’d promised me a single room for a start. That really pissed me off. I was a half hour walk away from the clinic, which I’d clearly pointed out was a problem. “This year is going to be great...” I thought to myself as Mary opened her too-close-together-eyes to stare at me with a look of contempt. This was worse than the time I stole Amy’s hair curlers and made her Alsatian curly.

“Who are you and what are you doing in my room?” she said to me with an air of authority which sickened me almost as much as her face. I chose not to answer to snooty Miss Mary and dumped my coat, scarf and bag on my bed. I could see she’d chosen the better bed. The one closer to the closets, to the window-with-a-view (mine showed the elegant landscape of the brick wall from next doors’ apartments), the one farthest from the door – the one I wanted.

“Amy, dear! Are my suitcases still outside?”

“Yeah… want me to help bring them in?” she asked. I could tell she was still in a mood from me shouting at her about wanting to share a room with Jack and not me. Jack was Amy’s boyfriend. She called it long term, said they were in love… but I knew that secretly he was in love with me. After all, I was the one with the looks, with the intelligence, with the finesse!

Once I’d filled the room with my things - my clothes, my music, my PC, my shoes etc – I turned to Miss Mary who’d been eyeing me over a copy of Vogue magazine, and said:

“So… roomie! Nice to meet you, I guess. I’m Rebecca. Keep your things out of my half”. I then proceeded to stick a line of masking tape across the room, dividing it roughly in two… the swine watching me relentlessly. She sniffed once I’d finished. The sort of sniff that says “have it your way! I know I’m better than you”. I hated her.

***

Amy and I went shopping that afternoon. I didn’t have any money, but it was good to get away from Miss Mary. We strolled down Princes Street, taking in the views. That was how I liked it. Just me and Amy, my oldest and closest friend. She was brilliant, funny and kind. She understood me and didn’t judge me on my often erratic and irresponsible behaviour. She took care of me when I was down and upset and often used to accompany me on my visits to the doctor, which at one point had been very frequent. That was the last time me and Amy took a walk together. I guess it was my fault but I’ll explain it later.

Anyway, we were shopping. Neither of us bought anything, but it was good to be in Edinburgh and free. Aberdeen was harsh, living with our parents with very little freedom. It felt good to be out there in the city, and I was happy.

“You see that lady over there, the one in the red coat?” I whispered to Amy.

“Yeah… what about her?”

“I bet she murdered her husband to be with that guy.” I pointed to the significantly younger man she had attached to her arm like a handbag. “She axed him…”



The Woman in the Red Coat

She’s in love with a younger man, and her geriatric old husband just can’t perform. She doesn’t know whether to let him – her husband – down gently or just allow the affair to continue as it is.

A week later she decides it would be easier just to kill the old fool, but she doesn’t know how to do it. Drugs? No, they’ll suspect. How about pushing him off a cliff when on a leisurely stroll on a sunny afternoon? Too cliché. She wants to do it in style, a bloody death for her husband-who-can’t-get-it-up. She picks for her weapon, a sturdy axe. The sort wood cutters use.

She chooses a Saturday night to do it, nobody will be looking for him, and she can say he went away for the weekend. He’s drinking a brandy, perhaps a little tipsy as she comes up behind him in her favourite white coat, axe in hand. He turns to her, smiling. She looks at him, smiling. She raising the axe and down it comes!

“Oh, shit! My coat!” she screams as she looks down at the red spatters all over it. These will never come out. She dyes it red, to mask the stains.

***
“Yeah… right.” stared Amy blankly. She hated it when I did that. Even I hated it when I did that! I just couldn’t help myself. We took a taxi back to the halls and I invited Amy to join me for a drink. She said yes, and it was at times like this I knew I was glad I had come here, and not let my past troubles mess things up for me. Amy was there for me, and that was all I needed then.

I didn’t know then that my possessive attitude towards my best friend would lead to trouble. I loved her, and I didn’t want her to be friends with anyone else. She was my friend, so why should I share her? I never told her this, I was scared of what she might say to me. Maybe she wouldn’t talk to me again? Maybe she thought it was unsafe to be with me. I don’t know, but it led to trouble when Jack arrived the next week.



CHAPTER 2 – BROKEN HEARTED

Jack was stunning. He came from Stonehaven, but worked in a music shop in Aberdeen. That’s where I met him – yes, that’s right; it was me that introduced him to Amy! I would never have talked to him had it not been that he asked how I was. Nobody asked me how I was, and I was touched when he did! I was pretty stupid though, instead of the usual answer which might be something like “I’m good thanks, how about you?” I said “utter crap, how do I look?” and burst into tears right there at the counter. From there, we exchanged numbers and started hanging out. At the time I was only seventeen, and he was twenty. He was cool though, chilled out and laid back. I liked him because when I got worked up he used to calm me down. He was a substitute for Amy who, at the time, was spending much of her spare time with her current obsession Trent. God knows what his real name was, or where he came from… he was moody and deep. He was fake, and I didn’t like him. Jack was genuine and when Amy broke up with Mr Fake, she started hanging out with me and Jack. They soon hit it off, and I became jealous. Amy was always the one flaunting her breasts, making love to every guy to look at her in that way. She stole Jack from me, but I knew he liked me best, I just never said it.

When Amy and I decided to head off to Edinburgh University, Jack said he’d like to apply too. After all, he had the grades. I was thinking of telling him no, telling him he couldn’t, but two things stopped me. Firstly, what did my word mean? He wouldn’t not bother just because I said not to. And secondly, I liked him. I didn’t want him to hate me, just because I was jealous of his and Amy’s relationship. I let it drop, and he was accepted along with me and Amy. By that point, the two of them were going strong, but I always knew in the back of my mind that he liked me best. How could he possibly not?

***

Amy and I waited outside the University apartment the two of them were going to share. He was late, and I was teasing Amy.

“He doesn’t love you, he won’t show up!” I said, seriously.

“Don’t say things like that. You know it’s not true, and it hurts my feelings. We’re supposed to be best friends, and it doesn’t feel like it when you say things like that.”

“Sorry, but it’s beginning to look that way – he’s an hour late already and he hasn’t called you, has he?” I stared at her, puppy eyes. She wasn’t buying it. “I care about you Amy! I don’t want you to get hurt.”

She turned to me and I felt guilty. I really loved her, and truly didn’t want her to get hurt by Jack. What if they broke up and still had to live together? What if he cheated on her?

Amy was right though, he did show up.

“The traffic was awful.” He moaned. “I stopped to buy you flowers though, and a Beatles CD!”

He was looking at me, I swear. Though he handed the gifts to Amy and she smiled. She looked happy. I felt bad, lonely. Amy turned to me, and gave me the CD and flowers. Take these upstairs will you? I didn’t want to leave the two of them together; I thought they might forget I was here and ignore me the whole afternoon.

When I let myself into the apartment, the sun shone sadly through the little window in the kitchenette. I broke a glass, trying to fill it with water for the flowers. I cut my finger picking up the shards. I dropped the CD, broke the case. I didn’t care.

It was true; I was torn up about Amy and Jack’s relationship. I didn’t want Jack, I wanted Amy. I wanted her to be my friend and I felt like this wasn’t possible when she was with Jack.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Two Days To Go

On Monday I'll begin my novel. I was going to give it up before I'd even started after the death of my best friend last week. But I remember speaking to her the day before she died and she was really excited about me doing this. I've already given up on school for the time being because I can't bear the thought of going every day and her not being there - I wouldn't be able to do it.
She'd want me to do this, and so I will... It's dedicated to my best friend, Shomi.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Plot!

Here is my proposed plot... or it'll go something like this anyway!

My main character and narrator is called Rebecca. She’s in her first year at university and finding life quite difficult. She often loses herself, forgetting what she’s here for and why she’s chosen her path. Throughout the novel I intend to have her showing us small details of her difficult upbringing and battles with mental illness and social problems in secondary school. When she goes to University she thinks this will be an opportunity for her to change but things just get worse.

She’s going to meet a man - as yet unidentified - who’ll help her to clarify what is going on in her life, what matters and what doesn’t. However, her overactive imagination gets the better of her as she begins fantasising about the perfect life, about the lives of those around her. She loses this unidentified man and it is at this point that she decides she has to take action. She searches through all the things she’s done wrong in her life, all the mistakes she’s made, and decides to resolve each and every one.

In a desperate attempt to make life better, Rebecca loses all self control and ends up in a world that isn’t even hers. The only person who can pull her back down into reality is that man who made it bearable last time.

The big question is, will she find this man again or not?? And who is this man??

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Introduction

OK. So here we go. I've never written a novel before and I'm pretty nervous. Being only 17 and still at school who knows where this could take me? I'm determined to stick to it though, and if I come anywhere near that 50,000 word target I'll have something to show for my efforts. I'm studying Advanced Higher English this year and although that will mean nothing to most of you it basically means that I'm studying the highest level of English you can do in Scotland, while still at school. It is comparable with 1st year University English, I hear... though don't hold me to that!

I haven't got much of an idea as to where this novel is going to go, and I thought it a little unfair they prompted us for a title right at the beginning! But I suppose it might do some good... At the moment I'm playing with the idea of this novel being a first person look at the world from the eyes of someone with a hellishly overactive imagination. I like those books where you feel so drawn in because the narrator wanders off into how they see their own little world around them. Know what I mean? Maybe you don't, but that's what I'm going for anyway. Wish me luck!