Friday Flash: Pearls of Wisdom

Georgina wrapped the antique string of pearls around her finger. Coiling and constricting, as the chandelier dripped delicate crystalline rain and soft arias floated down from hidden speakers. She stared at the milky baubles strangling her finger, willing them to impart their years of wisdom.

What do I do?

Across the table the empty chair and abandoned jacket mocked her

If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.

You have a tendency to self sabotage. You believe you don’t deserve to be happy or to be loved.

Gerald is just the man for you Georgie. No more of these online tossers.

She had sworn she’d been on her Last Blind Date Ever, but Tom was persuasive. That’s how her neighbour topped the sales every month at his work and how she came to be dining with his friend Gerald.

Initially Gerald’s reluctance to speak about himself put her at ease. It was relief to find he wasn’t an egomanic who could talk under wet concrete. But something, she wasn’t even sure what, hit her radar as they cleared away the main course. Something beyond first date nerves, shyness or someone who genuinely found other people more interesting.

As she savoured the decadent crème brulee, tapping through the fragile sugar crust to the vanilla-bean custard below, she’d asked the question. He deflected and then excused himself to the men’s room.

Georgina knew one thing – married men avoided talking about their lives engineering conversation detours to avoid being caught out in a lie.

Georgina also knew married men preyed on desperate women. Tom had explained it was palpable the vibes which came off a woman who was desperate. She wasn’t like that any more, filling her time with life drawing classes, indoor cricket and French cooking. Filling her well, learning to love herself and longing for only what she could provide for her own happiness.

The tip of her finger began to throb, turning plum-coloured as the blood banked up on the wrong side.

Just one peep in his wallet.

She’d never done it before, though she should have. Invading a man’s privacy in such an underhanded and premeditated fashion always seemed wrong, even when her gut feeling assured her she should. This time, she’d save herself the time and the heartache, fed up with being lied to and strung along by double-life cretins. If Gerald was married she was going to find out – post haste.

Georgina scrutinised his jacket, looking at the symmetry of the cut and the way it fell. One side seemed heavier. She bet his wallet was in that pocket. Pulling his chair around to her left side gave her the opportunity to take it. Her fingers brushed the silkiness of worn leather. She hesitated. Rather than get stuck in a circular mental argument she wrapped her fingers around it, sliding it from his pocket, into her lap. Looking down, she pretended to be scrutinising the linen napkin she’d been careful not to soil.

Biting her bottom lip she opened it. Her stomach lurched. His wife and three kids smiled up at her. What the hell was Tom doing setting her up with a married man?

Why?

“Pardon?” Gerald said, as he eased himself into the seat beside her. Georgina looked up at him, uncomfortably close now. One hand folded over the other in her lap, hiding her crime. His lie sat between them like an uninvited dinner guest.

“Oh nothing.”

“I was thinking,” he said, leaning in. “If you don’t have to be up early in the morning…” He punctuated the sentence with a dry cough and then scratched the side of his eye brow. “Well Georgina, I was wondering if… perhaps, if you wanted to that is… we might see a late movie. I know this place down on King which shows all night classic flicks. Maybe they’ve got a Carey Grant?”

Georgina knew the place. A date last year had taken her there and expected her to go down on him in return for the cheap, nasty Chinese feed and ticket he’d paid for. Her nails dug into the worn flesh of the wallet as she fought to keep her composure. This was no cheap Chinese dive where you could make a scene. She was going to walk out alone, and with her dignity intact.

He looked at her with a mix of teenage anticipation and middle aged dread. “If I’m being too forward….”

“Monsieur,” the maitre de said, arriving at their table, placing a slim leather folder beside Gerald.

Georgina held her breath as she saw his hand sink into the jacket pocket a look of temporary relief softening his face.

Drop the wallet.

But her fingers refused to yield.

“Oh… no!” He looked perplexed.

“You’re looking for this,” Georgina said, placing the open wallet in front of him. “My gut feeling was spot on. You are married.”

Gerald’s face froze in the high beam smiles of his family, his adam apple pumping. Next would come the ‘woe-is-me’ monologue to justify this date.

But he said nothing, stood and slipped his jacket on. He took five $50 notes from his wallet and put them inside the bill folder, then took a few faltering steps from the table, stopped as if to turn, but continued on in the direction of the men’s room.

Georgina sat stunned.

If you go looking for trouble…

Shut up!

“Have you enjoyed your evening mademoiselle?” The maitre de filled the space recently vacated by Gerald’s chair. “It was delightful to see Monsieur Levitt again and in the company of another beautiful woman. It has been-”

“He brings Mrs Levitt here?” Georgina felt the blood rising in her cheeks at both the audacity and the complicity.

“Brought,” the maitre de corrected. “She passed away from breast cancer two years ago.”

“Oh Christ!” Georgina pushed her chair out and stood, grabbing for her handbag. “Do you have a rear exit?”

This was inspired by the the [Fiction] Friday #138 prompt from a fortnight ago.

My Christmas Story Published

Last month, my wonderful friend and mentor, Edwina Shaw, had a short post on her blog about waiting. For me the wait is over – my Christmas story Bondi live on the 12 Days of Christmas site.

The 12 Days of Christmas is a collaborative project based on the lines from the Christmas carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas. It is the creative brain child, of the amazingly talented Jim Wisneski (you can read a great interview with Jim on Jon Strother’s website to do with the creation of the project). Not only can you read the stories (for free) on the blog, the final collection of 24 stories will be available in paperback and you’ll also be able to buy a t-shirt!

The call to action came during NaNo via a RT from the beautiful Emma Newman (whose ten lords a-leaping goes live later this week) and I should have said no. There were only two spaces left when I looked and neither really jumped out at me. On top of NaNo, there was a 1st Dec finish date for Chinese Whisperings and 4th Dec finale for Fourth Fiction. More writing and projects than one woman alone should be able to sustain.

But I said yes, jumping into the dark abyss of  ‘no idea’ with the prompt Seven swans a-swimming under my arm. The end product, is possibly my best work to date and I am immensely proud of it.

I’m also very humbled to have had the opportunity to have shared this work in it’s early drafts with five really special people who looked into my story and my characters and saw things I just couldn’t see myself. As a consequence Bondi is a much better story for having had their eyes and insights over my work (which again goes to show the absolute importance of sharing your work with others you trust!)

It was a difficult thing to do, being the end of November when I had the first whopping great draft of 6,000 words and I had to do something I NEVER do. I put a shout out through Twitter and Facebook for beta readers, given Paul was busy with work,  Annie wasn’t in the country and Ben, along with many of my other writing friends, was flat out nailing the last bits of NaNo and then recovering from it.

Thank you Edwina, Jen, Rob, Diane and Rebecca. Also thanks to Scott for the idea of the Sydney Swans as the swans in the story (it’s OK – that’s not actually a spoiler) and to Claire Halliday for sharing her rant about busking on Twitter – the list of paper work is the actual list given by Claire (as yes she gave me her permission to use it!). I gave the daughter Claire’s name in honour of the gift of this life insight and the rest of the story grew around it.

So, I unveil the first few paragraphs of my story – but for the rest, you will have to hit the  Read On link and whiz across to blog specially set up by Jim for this project.  And if you do, please leave a comment, however small, to let me know you’ve dropped by.

I look down at the pile of paper sitting on the kitchen table and the list Claire has prepared. My shoulder starts aching.

“You need all of this?” I’m in utter disbelief at what she’s presented. Claire’s face is earnest and eager. Mine twists into a frown and I try to rotate my shoulder.

I admire my ten year old daughter’s thoroughness and organisation. Claire is her Matthew’s daughter, despite the dark curls and amber eyes inherited from me. In the past year I’ve barely been able to scribble a simple shopping list, much less ensure I get everything on it. He should be helping her through this, not me.

I don’t want to rain on her parade, but I’m appalled by the fact she needs a council permit, written proof of ten million dollar public liability coverage, written approval from the local traders association, shops and residents just to play some bloody Christmas carols on her flute to raise money for UNICEF.

But I owe this to Claire–to jump through these paper-trail hoops, so on behalf of ‘All Ye Faithful’ she can bring some ‘Joy to the World’.

“The problem is the public liability cover.” She points to it, highlighted in bright yellow on the list.

“Are you intending on wrecking a yuletide swath of death and destruction through Bondi?” The words are out and hanging between us before I realise what I’ve said. The utter absurdity of the local council bureaucracy has brought part of the old me back. “Honestly Claire,” I say quietly, “why don’t you just wander downstairs and play.”

“And break the law Mum?” There is a dramatic gasp, which would sound melodramatic from any child other than Claire, who was already too serious about life before last Christmas. “Are you really encouraging me to do something illegal?”

“All I’m suggesting, is this,” I motion to the printed piles of paper, “is lacking in common sense.” I throw my hands in the air and stand up. “Last year…” I catch myself this time and rather than finish the sentence I get up and walk out. Claire deserves better from me, they all do but I just don’t know how. Read On

Taping Lydia #fridayflash

This story is dedicated to my son Dylan and his friend from kindy Flynn. Without their banter over the last week about the movie The Ring, big sister issues, marriage and my own recollection of nefariously hacking into the radio waves in my friend’s rumpus room using their old upright black tape recorder with the orange record button, this story may have been about a mischevious coffee cup.

– – –

I imagine what Lydia would look like on the back of a milk cartoon

“Don’t diss it!”

“Don’t diss it,” she mimics in the high pitched voice she saves especially for me when Mum can’t hear.

Jake promised me it would be simple, but this seems far too easy.

Lydia puts one hand on her hip and pushes a massive purple bubble out from between her lips. It pops with a loud thwack and she sucks the bits back in, chewing like a cow again. Gross .

“What is it anyway?” Like she cares what it actually is.

“A technological artefact,” I say, proud of the fact after two days of practising, the words come out in the right order and sounding proper.

“Looks like junk.” But I can tell from the way she’s looking she’s just a little bit interested in the thing Jake found buried in his Pop’s garage.

“It’s not junk.”

“Boor-ring!”

“Is not boring Lydia.”

“Is!”

“Isn’t!”

My fingers hover over the PLAY and RECORD buttons, just as Jake showed me. They’re big and clunky. Nothing like an iPod.

“It’s not even plugged in you moron.” Jake assured me we didn’t need a cord or batteries, even though I didn’t really believe it would work without power.

I’d watched fascinated as he’d popped open the lid in the middle of the machine with the EJECT button and slid the plastic thing his Pop told him was called “a tape” or “casette”  into the slot. Jake told me the one he put in had Leo Sayer written on it.

Jake said Leo sounded like a man who was intelligent and talked alot  or perhaps a misunderstood genius – but Jake thinks everyone is a misunderstood genius, even Myle Cyrus. I thought he sounded like something from Disney but kept it to myself. The one I chose had AC/DC on it. Thought it sounded like a code.

We’d both been careful not to have a tape in or to press the PLAY and RECORD buttons when Jake talked me through how it happened with him. How I hoped it would happen for me. But I wanted to give Lydia a second chance.

Mum always said everyone deserved a second chance, even the baddest people. And Lydia definitely falls into that category, so I try especially hard.

“Say something nice Lydia. Like, say you love me or you’re glad that I’m your little brother.”

“You’re gay.” And another bubble squeezes out.

I glare at her, remembering when Mum explained glaring meant staring meanly. I do it a lot at Lydia behind Mum’s back but it doesn’t seem to scare her. Just makes her sneer, which means to meanly laugh. The bubble explodes.

“I am not a homo-sex-ual. And Mum says you’re not allowed to call me gay.”

“So go dob then. Gay-bo. You so love Jake.”

“I do not love Jake.”

“Do so – you said you wanted to marry him.”

My cheeks get hot.

“ I was at kindy and upset because you had just told me I couldn’t marry Mum. I thought getting married was like being friends with someone.”

“Whatever.”

“Why are you so mean to me?”

“Because I can.”

Those were Lydia’s last words.

Later when I walked back to Jake’s house with the casette in my pocket and the recorder in my back pack I played it over and over again in my head, unable to believe it had happened – just like Jake promised it would. My stomach churned and I tried hard not to run.

It was a reflex to press the buttons down – just like when they hit your knee with a hammer and your leg kicks out. One minute she was standing chomping gum being mean and the next she was gone, recorded onto the tape. First her voice and then all of her, as the tiny wheels went round and round. I stood there watching until the wheels stopped and the RECORD and PLAY buttons jumped back up. I pressed EJECT.

Jake passes me the black texta he stole from the bottom drawer of his Pop’s kitchen and with my hand shaking I scribble out AC/DC and write LYDIA below it, so we won’t get them mised up. We climb up onto the workbench to the shelves high up. Jake pushes aside a tin covered in orange contact, full of old door handles and I put my tape up there in the corner. In its own cover, beside Lydia is Jake’s siser Michelle, and another Jake isn’t sure about. I don’t touch it. Jake says it looks really old and was covered in dust. The name on the tape is MARGARET.

After we push the tin back into place we spit in our palm, shake and make a pledge to never speak of it again.

Taping Lydia was written from the [Fiction] Friday prompt: Pick an ordinary object, and give it an extraordinary use and for inclusion in the  #FridayFlash Twitter flash fiction round up compliments of @jmstro.

If you are here via FridayFlash or Fiction Friday please leave a link to your entry in your comment and I will ensure I get to your piece to read and comment ASAP.

[Fiction] Friday: Gargoyles Revenge

fiction friday

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for August 21st, 2009:

Start your story with a game of hide and seek.

“Like a moth to a flame burnt by the fire. My love it blind can’t you see my desire.” ~ Janet Jackson

“Josh I’m not playing hide and seek.” There was no answer.

I shuddered and tried not to look up at the gargoyles, their jowls ravenous and unforgiving. I knew they were leering down at me. From where I sheltered I could hear the base bleeding up the hill through the bitter midnight air and I wished I’d made a better decision. Stayed down there in the night club and lost myself on the dance floor to Shaggy or Janet Jackson rather than up here.

“Josh c’mon,” I yelled, rubbing my freezing arms and pressing myself further into the alcove created by the wall and a stone column of some description to avoid the wind. “How long does it take to piss? ”

I had been comfortable down the hill in Hot Gossip, which had once been Chapter House – owned by the Catholic Church. Up here among the other Church buildings still owned by the Dioceses the good will trip to the autoteller with my best friend’s boyfriend seemed a bad idea. She was imagining two plus one was something it could never be. Not in this circumstance

“I’m not coming looking for you. Josh?”

It was cold – probably edging somewhere towards zero and I gave a fuck about it. There wasn’t enough alcohol in me to voluntarily wander up the street scantily clad with him. There had been no mention of a pitstop when we left, despite the fact the deal was brokered outside the toilet in the foyer.

I didn’t want to be up here with Josh. But I couldn’t leave. I was scared of the dark but at 18 it was no longer acceptable to admit to fearing dark places. I didn’t want to admit I was terrified. Thoughts of dares to go down into the convent from the music room at high school were darting through my head now. All the nefarious things which lurk in the places we don’t want to go. Next thing Freddie Kruger would step out of the shadows – to slice and dice me. He’d already made short work of Josh and that’s why he wouldn’t call back.

Heart thundering I stepped out of the alcove, staring hard into the darkness and wishing the street lighting penetrated further than the foot path. I kept a hand on the stone wall.

“Josh? If you don’t come out I’m going back down to the hill. I don’t care if I don’t have any more money.” There was a definite hysterical pitch to my voice now.

The wind howled and I felt the needle prick of goosebumps break out over my bare arms. The base transitioned into faster rhythm like the DJ had pressed the throttle forward. I knew the base line – it was Lenny Kravitz, are you gonna go my way?

I inched forward into the nothingness between the two buildings in the direction Josh had gone to relieve himself. A moment of bravery, inspired by the beat.

“Josh?”

I stumbled back a few steps when his body knocked into me. He came from nowhere and his lips were crushing mine as my back hit the wall my hand had been tracing seconds earlier. His hands were on either side of my head, sandwiching me bewteen the heat of his body and the frigidness of the stone.

My first thought was to push him away and slap him. Remind him he was my best friend’s boyfriend. Remind myself. But he had been mine before he had been hers. And it was all to familiar. His aftershave. The shape of his body. The way he kissed. My mouth melded and moved with his.

“I thought you hated me,” I gasped when he finally pulled away from me.

“You think too much,” he said, moving back in close.

“No. Not here.” I gathered myself. The chasm between the right thing and the right thing for me was rapidly closing.  “Come back to my place.”

He considered it for a moment and agreed.

And between the confessions was we walked and the two hours shared between the front of the gas heater and beneath my doona I unknowingly descended to a place I could never escape intact from. I was forever playing hide and seek with the truth. No one would win.

The rumours of Josh’s infidelity had inevitably found their way back to my best friend well before that evening.  She’d pressed me to sure up his position. Josh loved her didn’t he? He wouldn’t do that to her? It was easy to hide the truth from her but much harder for me to seek peace with the revenge which had played me straight into his well laid web of lies.