WHAT YOU'LL FIND ON THIS BLOG

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Evidence that I don't always finish what I start

I've just come across this piece I entered for an 'Opening to a Novel' competition a few years ago. I wrote it, entered it, heard nothing, and years later I find it in my files.

I'm most intrigued to know what I intended to write next, should they have written back and said they liked it.


Untitled 


We lay calm in our beds that night. Even the baby, for once, slept soundly; even the dog, out in its kennel. And perhaps that was the odd thing, after all: how trustingly we slumbered.  As if fate had gifted us a few last wholly innocent hours, before innocence fell away for ever. For when I woke, in the early morning – what was it? A difference in the quality of the light? Some new texture to the silence? But I opened my eyes, and I knew it. Something had changed. 

Even Mother seemed subdued at breakfast and her eyes were dark and heavy.  I would say, heavy with an omen, but at that time, she didn’t have the knowledge.  None of us did, except for Marielle, whose tongue was in mutiny, and who just made tunes at the back of her throat while feeding her baby, and spoke no to us with her eyes when we tried to guilt the truth out of her with rebukes. 

Not having the knowledge was an ache, because since Marielle and I slid out of Mother’s womb six minutes apart, we had never withheld private, secret things. We had even shared breaths in the night, lying face to face so close, and exchanged darknesses that were not for the ears of Mother and which would have sent Father scrambling for his wide brown belt.

Now, my twin had a secret bigger than the whole earth, and it sat between the two of us, a solid thing behind which she played Peek-a-Boo, only not with joy.  

‘When is Father returning?’ I asked, while spooning brown sugar into my breakfast drinking chocolate.

‘Soon, I am sure,’ Mother said, but her words fell like stones, as though each one were dead before it left her mouth.  I even put an extra spoon of sugar into my china cup, and she didn’t see, or if she did, she let it go.

‘Will it be a long voyage?’ I said.  Father worked on ships as a circus performer, teetering on high wires until crowds went ‘Oooh!’  I had only watched him once when we were twelve and he performed in a local show put on by the Lord Mayor, and that was only because Marielle and I had tiptoed out into the dark evening when Mother thought us asleep in the big bed with the dip in the middle where our bodies lay like two halves of a whole.  We had pulled cloaks on over our nightgowns and slid our naked feet into boots which we didn’t stop to lace, and had edged into the back of the hall just as Father was placing one long, slim foot in front of the other long, slim foot as though in a ballet. 

Is that Father?’ Marielle had whispered.  ‘So – so gentle.’   

I stirred the sugar into my chocolate, clink-clinking the spoon against the cup, and baby Georgia tugged away from Marielle’s breast to cry.  Milk sprayed from my sister’s nipple and she covered her breast with the thin cotton of her dress as though with shame.

‘It’s a natural thing, Marielle,’ said Mother.  ‘Here, give me the baby.  I’ll rock her.’ 

But Marielle would not and had not, since the baby’s birth six weeks before, given Mother the baby.  ‘I am grieving for that little one,’ Mother had said to me when Marielle was in the garden, pegging white muslins and flannel squares on a line so that the breeze and they could play.  ‘I am grieving, and she is only just born, not dead.’


Mother did not know that I had seen how she would watch for when Marielle had turned her back, and then, walking close to the baby’s cradle, rest the back of her hand against Georgia’s hot, sleepful cheek, or twist a lock of baby-fine hair between two fingers.  I wouldn’t have known she was doing it, but her breaths would come faster, like they did when she ran away from Father or chased a chicken around the yard to break its neck. 

20 comments:

  1. This is an excellent beginning and you really need to finish it.pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so encouraging. I entered it for a 'novel starter' competition but as Barbara has suggested, it could be a short story. Much more do-able!

      Delete
  2. That's beautiful! I'd love to see you continue it.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Janie and fishducky! I may well do so now.

      Delete
  3. Oh dear - it's compelling but doesn't bode well for that family. We need some jokes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael McIntyre was going to be the character who arrives into the family home next, Pam, so all is well.

      Delete
  4. Something dark was brewing there. You should have won.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll try and brew it further! Thanks.

      Delete
  5. .. wow... I want to know more too.....
    It would be a shame not to finish it. It doesn't have to be a War and Peace epic.... just a short/medium story... I have questions....
    Enough of that.. seriously Fran, I enjoyed this 'beginning' very much.. hugs... Barb xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have questions, too!! Thanks, Barbara. I think I will definitely try a short story with it, when I find out the answers to the questions ...

      Delete
    2. .. that would be great ... xxxx

      Delete
  6. Did you write this before or after you became a grandmother ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well before! But I can see why you're asking!

      Delete
    2. it is granpa who sounds shifty?
      Someone should have warned them ...

      Next episode?

      Delete
  7. Who is the baby's father ? I need to know !

    ReplyDelete
  8. That Marielle sounds like a rum 'un. Most atmospheric. Lx

    ReplyDelete