A Chapter by Alice

So why did I start this? Well, I'm getting there. I haven't thought over this in quite a while, so it will take time.

I was working in the shop that sold cards, and I had been for quite a while by then. The woman who was my manager was chronically overweight, and it was my job to arrange the cards. It wasn't a very big shop and the cards it sold were, for the most part, sugary and unappealing, but I liked my job, apart from the fact that it meant that I was living at home still with my parents.


Since I had started to earn money they had begun to think that it was their job to tell me how to spend it. They wanted me to learn to drive when I had enough money, and to buy a car. I did not want to learn how to drive; the cost of it and the car would have eaten up my wages entirely, and I was still under the impression that I was saving for university, though by then I had started to have my doubts. My parents were bad liars and always had been, though I tried to believe them because I felt that it was my obligation. Every single expenditure would illicit a lecture on irresponsibility, and my father - who was the only one out of the two who actually could drive - began to be difficult about driving me anywhere if my mother was not going as well, just as he had been difficult about giving me money, even for necessities, when I did not have a job. My only way of escaping the town that I lived in was to take the bus, which I would not have minded had it not cost so much to travel on it; the council had peculiar ways of collecting money. I had a bicycle, and occasionally I enjoyed cycling my way to a different town. However, when this was an obligation this was tiring. I was caught in a trap with my parents where any form of travel that was not me driving in my own car was frowned upon, and so I did not leave my town very often, and found myself stuck in a endless circle of working and going home and working and going home for days and days on end. When I did have free days I shut myself in my room and hoped to be left in peace, and sometimes I was. When I did visit my local town I would glean every charity shop for books, and return home with a whole horde of them. My parents could not complain because they had come from charity. I would spend every free moment reading, and was entirely devoted to it on my days off. And so this was how my life went when I had left school. If I had thought about it much I would have seen that I was wasting an entire year and to little consequence, but I tried not to think about things that - in my mind - I couldn't change. Next year when I would be away seemed like an improbability; I felt that I would never escape the town near the bypass where I had somehow come to live, that I would live there for my entire life and when I died I would be buried in the cemetery near the roundabout in the road that lead away.

Occasionally, throughout my summer employment, I had seen people from my old school, and we had spoken pleasantly even though we had never really been friends. And then they were all gone, and I was still there, as autumn slowly turned to winter, and Christmas was on the way.


At the start of November I was asked to put out the Christmas cards and clean up the shop, and put up a new window display to attract customers. I was told that Christmas was the busiest time of the year for the shop. Valentines day was good as well, and sometimes Easter, but Christmas was the best. I was excited, in a way, at the thought of the shop being busy. The card shop was a strange place to work; you seldom had regular customers, and truthfully I did not see the point of our one as our town was tiny and had only a handful of shops. For the most part ours was entirely empty, and because of the bad economy my manager, who was also the owner, was afraid that it would have to close down. Christmas was her only hope for staying afloat for the rest of the year. She was not a young woman, and I did not know what else she could do if she lost her shop. She often talked to me, when the shop was empty, of money problems and family problems and problems with her health, which was deteriorating. She said that I was a good listener, but I think my only qualification was that I listened in the first place and only said a few words of encouragement in return.


I wanted Christmas to be good for her, but personally I had come to dread Christmas, try as I might to be unfeeling about it. Since I had been a small child I had disliked Christmas, since Michelle had gone anyway. The first few after were ok, because we lived in a place where we had family. After that it was terrible, and here we had no family and no friends. Father Christmas still visited, because I didn't have the heart to tell my mum and dad that he shouldn't. I remembered, vaguely, opening my Christmas stocking with Michelle, though I was very young at the time. My mother now recalled over and over how, on our first Christmas without Michelle she had left the room to cry at the sight of me opening my stocking on my own. She had thousands of stories like this, and she always drank too much over the Christmas period, and all of them would be retold in a slurred and tearful voice. In our house, Christmas was generally a time for remembering Michelle. 


I told my manager: 'I'll work overtime on Christmas Day if you like. And Christmas Eve and Boxing Day if you like. You never know what people might forget, and what they'll want at the last minute.'


And my manager, who by now I called Dianne instead of Mrs Philips, told me that I was a good, helpful girl, but she'd have to think about it.


When I had the shop looking nice she started to talk about Valentines Day, and Christmas, and how they compare.


'Christmas is lovely,' she told me, 'but I always worry if I'm going to make the money for next year. Valentines Day, on the other hand, is just as lovely, but without the stress, see, because I've got the money and it's only a case of getting a little bit more in case. We can do the shop up all nice. If you like you can choose the decorations.'


Dianne had told me on a previous occasion that she would have let me choose new Christmas things, only she felt that there was some sort of luck connected to the ones she already had, even though by now they were very old and slightly bleached by years of winter sun.


'And Valentines Day is so nice as well,' she continued. 'You see so many people out buying for that special someone. When I was a girl I used to get one card every year, and it would make me so happy. I got to about your age I found out that it was the same boy - his name was William - and that was who I married. He's dead now, of course. We were childhood sweethearts. I'll never forget. This shop used to be his - it was a family business.'


The sign above the shop - a brittle pink plastic ordeal that might have been red at some point in its life - still said Philips. I thought that it sounded more like a DIY shop, but it had been around in the town for so long that everybody knew what it was; there was no need to change from Dianne's point of view. She sighed and turned her attention to me. I was straightening up the card racks. I had just finished one isle, and when I turned to do the next one, which was on the opposite side to the counter and Dianne, I saw that she had a strange little smile on her face.


'Will you be buying for somebody special on Valentines Day?' she asked. I looked down to straighten the cards in front of me, hoping that she would change the subject.


'Not really,' I replied. I knelt down to arrange the lower rows, wanting to keep out of her line of sight, but truthfully knowing that this would not work, as I had dealt with prying before, and I knew from experience that that a two word reply was never adequate.


'No?' said Dianne. 'A nice young girl like you? Well, you must have lots of cards from other people then - dozens I bet.'


I shook my head, even though she couldn't see me. I didn't want to speak because I knew that I would be unable to speak calmly, and then she would ask more and more questions, and then I would become silent, and then the subject would be brought up time and time again until I came up with an answer that she wanted. I hated this sort of conversation - it seemed to creep out of so many different mouths, as though it were an entity in itself, and entity that delighted in taking on many different human forms. Instances like this reminded me that we were all quite similar, even though we were so very different, and it upset me, as it seemed as though our whole race ran in circles, and although time moved forward we did not. I hated the idea that I could not choose how I behaved, and so I did not think about it. I disliked being reminded of it unexpectedly, especially when I had no means of escaping.


'No - I don't,' I said, in the most pleasant voice as I could muster.


'Well,' she tutted, 'Young men these days obviously have no appreciation for what makes a nice girl. I'm sure one day you'll make someone very happy.'


'Yes,' I replied, flatly. I didn't want to tell her that, honestly, if I could manage to make myself happy I didn't really care about anybody else.


I left work and walked home in a dark mood, tired out from the strain of trying to be nice to Dianne even though I felt like snapping, or not talking at all. I disliked being talked to in such a way, and it hurt even more that it was somebody who I liked so much. It hurt because I knew that she meant well; perhaps I was wrong to feel that she was interfering. Perhaps I was wrong not to want anyone. I tried to put it out of my mind, but the issue refused to be dropped. I got home and went straight to my room. I was in no mood for either of my parents, but that was fine: they were seldom in the mood for me, and I wasn't sure whether they were in or not anyway. I was left alone with my thoughts.


It wasn't love particularly; if I was honest I wasn't bothered with love, and hadn't been since I had been about twelve years old. It was the feeling of being entirely isolated that I had a problem with: I was surrounded by other people, but I felt that I had nothing in common with any of them. Dianne was lovely, but in some way she didn't count. I could never go to her if I had any sort of real problem, and I wasn't even going to think about my parents. I wanted someone that I could share myself with. What I really wanted was a friend.


I liked to think that I was cold and numb, but I am ashamed to say that that night I cried myself to sleep.



© 2010 Alice

Author's Note

What do you think about the ammount of dialogue? I know I don't use very much.....

My Review

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The dialogue is great, and I like how she tries to maintain a pleasant conversation even though Diane's clearly stumbling through a subject that she doesn't want to talk to. I also like at the end how she talks about being lonely, even though she's surrounded by people. If I had any criticism to make I guess it would be in the paragraph towards the beginning about her parents and how they get about money - I think some of the points are in danger of becoming repetitive and that there might be a more succinct way to demonstrate to the reader what her parents are like? If that makes sense. :S

Posted 14 Years Ago

I agree, I think you had just the right amount of dialogue. This is so good... haha I'm really enjoying this. You have a way of making it feel real, what actaully happens.

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I think the minimal dialogue really suits the style and the mood. The character of Lucie seems pretty uncommunicative anyway. The pace is just perfect. Again, reminds me of all the great classics.

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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3 Reviews
Added on February 7, 2010
Last Updated on February 9, 2010
Tags: vampires, vampire, gay, lesbian, LGBT, economics, romance, valentines day



United Kingdom

I’m a prose writer, mainly one that works on novels and doesn’t finish them. I want to use this place like an online notebook. I’ll be posting as I write, which means a lot of this .. more..

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