Chapter 2.

Chapter 2.

A Chapter by robsmunn

By the time I'd gotten home that day, I was thoroughly exhausted. The array of emotions I’d felt all day suddenly caught up with me, sending my muscles into shut down and leaving me feeling groggy, slow and overwhelmed. I turned down invitations from both my mum and dad to be taken out to get dinner at my favourite restaurant Tony’s. Tony’s was a cute Italian bistro in town, that had ivy vines creeping around its little red front door, was always beautifully fragrant with herbs, melted cheese and pungent red wine, played soft Italian music and made the best carbonara ever to be consumed in this plane of existence. My reluctance to go anywhere was increased largely because they’d invited me separately, clearly without consulting each other. Obviously the good nature they’d displayed earlier had been an act for my sake, one that they couldn’t keep up any longer. I was absolutely dreading my shopping trip with them tomorrow.

Instead of celebrating I made my way upstairs on wobbly legs and ran myself a bath, making sure that I was fully submerged in the sweet-smelling bubbles. Back in my room I lit a few scented candles and turned my music up so that it would drown out any spontaneous arguments that were likely to sprout up from down stairs.
I pulled back the baby pink satin covered duvet that I’d finally given in and allowed my mum to drape across my bed, but changed my mind just before I was about to crawl in. Instead I kneeled down, the hard wooden floor digging into my knees. I felt around under my bed and dug out a small, childishly decorated cardboard box, covered in amateur hearts drawn in purple felt pens and little multi-coloured stick people. I wasn’t just a horrendous artist, I’d just been a child when I’d made it. I’d been keeping precious items in this little cardboard box since I was tiny, needing a place to save things, detesting throwing out things that some people wouldn’t even think twice about.

I sat back on my soft covers and lifted up the lid. Inside was a haven of forgotten treasures, mounds of yellowing paperwork, beautiful postcards from all over the globe, letters from forgotten pen pals. I ran my hand through the cherished memories, picking out an assortment of things. Empty perfume bottles that were too pretty to throw away, precious gem stones that I’d collected when I was little, that sparkled and gleamed as I examined them in the candlelight, pages upon pages of stories I’d attempted to write before haphazardly ripping them from notebooks. I read through a few of them, squirming at some of the more cringe worthy writing, tingling with a certain type of pride as I read stuff that I’d even forgotten I’d written, but was eloquent and thought provoking.

This stuff was hidden away so that it could be private, so that the transparent thoughts behind what I’d written would never be discovered or tainted by the opinion of anyone else. I’d never been very forthright with sharing my writing but I’d wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember, my first book narrated and illustrated by me and transcribed by my Nan at the age of four, a slightly nonsensical story about a cat and a slug. When I was little, I’d had frequent sleepovers with my Nan, back when my parents were still in love and had gone on fortnightly date nights. Me and Nan would eat toast and drink warm milk in the her glass panelled conservatory before bed, looking out at the stars, or the moon or the clouds or whatever could be seen in the nights sky. And Nan would tell me stories, telling me to give her two topics to create a tale from, normally receiving ridiculous suggestions like, ‘a bin and a frog’ or ‘a stick and a banana’, which would result in hours spent giggling. Then the next day, we’d wake up early and write down the stories, which we kept in a big scruffy leather-bound scrapbook, which was gloriously ragged and slapdash, but so earnest and heartfelt that I never saw it as anything but beautiful.

As I’d grown I’d flicked through those timeworn pages again and again. I loved the sound of the pages turning, the pure rustling of the paper. As I’d gotten older I’d added my own, slightly mundane stories to it for my Nan to read, leaving it on her bedside table whenever there was a new addition and the next day we’d discuss the new story, laugh and sometimes cry, the stories connecting to real goings on in our lives. She’d always loved my writing my Nan and had always made me promise I’d carry it on, do something worthwhile with it, on those lazy afternoons we spent reading my additions to our worn out book of stories. She’d taken that fat, worn book with her to the nursing home. She probably couldn’t remember who had written what was in there these days, let alone what the stories actually were about, but whenever we went to visit her she was always sat in a lone arm chair by the window, a tranquil smile on her face, the leather-bound scrapbook placed delicately on her lap.

My dear little Nan hadn’t been the only person who’d turned me onto writing however, strangely enough Cor’s dad Mr Jenkins feeding my soul with the beauty and value of the written word. He’d been a somewhat successful author himself, publishing a number of fairly well selling books, a popular series of thrillers to begin with, then more ambiguous one off novels towards the end of his writing career. As little girls Coralie and I had taken to hanging around her house more often than mine, it being bigger, with more little nooks and crannies to hide in or whisper or create little dens. And Mr Jenkins seemed to always be around. Probably because he wrote in his home study. But back then I didn’t even consider that, I just viewed Mr Jenkins as a permanent fixture of the big old house, a reliable face, a friendly voice asking whether we girls wanted a hot chocolate or a drive to the beach, whether we wanted him to pop a film on for us. But then later on, as my interest in writing grew, my interest in Mr Jenkins grew. I’d watch him writing sometimes, when I was supposed to be seeking during hide and seek or when Cor had to finish up a few chores before she could play with me. I’d watch the way he hunched over his desk, scribbling furiously away into one of his many fabric-bound notebooks, the concentration clear in the frown of his brow. He always knew I was there, watching silently, in a somewhat creepy way I now realised but I suppose I was just a little kid after all. And in the end he invited me into his study during these times and he would pass me extracts from his writing and send me to sit on a little beanbag he kept in the corner of the room to see if I could find any spelling mistakes, which I rarely could.

As I got older I started to have proper conversations about writing with him, about his writing, about books we both liked, about stuff I’d written. It became a common occurrence whenever I was at Cor’s that Mr Jenkins and I would sit at the dining room table, hot drinks clutched in our hands. Anyone other than Coralie might get a bit fed up with their friend spending so much time talking to their parents but as far as Coralie was concerned Mr Jenkins had hung the moon, so she equally enjoyed the little conversations we had around her kitchen table. I’d often had doubts that I was a good enough writer and had said so to Mr Jenkins, who’d assured me that I was wrong.
“Your mind is constantly whirring away Erin, people can tell that you’re constantly lost in your thoughts just by looking at you. With a head so full of ideas and voices and notions, even if you couldn’t write for s**t it would still make sense to at least get them down on a page.”

 Once again my mind had decided to do its own thing, taking a detour on the way to its intended destination. I placed the pages of writing aside, trying once again to focus my mind and not to linger on thoughts of my dear, sweet Nan or Mr Jenkins and to do what I’d set out to. I rummaged through the box again and finally found what I’d originally been looking for. It was a large pink envelope, filled with photographs, my favourites, which mum had let me take from her collection, upon the promise that I’d look after them. I took them out and started to flip through them. I could barely look at the ones of me, mum and dad. We all looked too happy, them too in love. I could hardly remember those days, my memories of them hazy and sort of fuzzy around the edges. It felt as though my childhood was a fairy tale, something I’d made up in my head.

There were other photos, me with people I could no longer recognise, others with people I hadn’t seen for years, some with people I’d rather forget.
I finally got to the photos I wanted to see, the ones of me and Coralie. We’d been friends for so long that it was hard to remember a time that we hadn’t been. The photos showed two girls with dirty blonde ringlets, blue green eyes and massive smiles. We’d looked so similar when we were younger that at one point I think we managed to convince everyone else and maybe even ourselves for some time, that we were sisters. For me especially, she was the sibling I’d always wanted, had begged for even, but that had never arrived. At the time I’d thought that my parents had done it to spite me. Now I knew their inability to give me a brother or sister had been as big a topic of contention for my parents as it had been for me.

Cor had burst into my life in an explosion of colour and noise, one quite September afternoon. It had been my first day back at school after the summer, year two, last year of infant school, almost in the big leagues. Coralie had been led into the classroom by the head teacher. I’d watched the new girl with the blonde plaits and as young as I’d been, something had drawn me to her. Unlike the other new children who were periodically led into the room by the head-teacher, who dragged their feet and looked shy and apologetic as they were introduced to everyone, Coralie skipped into the classroom, a grin already plastered on her face that merely grew as Mrs Penny told the class that Coralie Jenkins had just moved to Wales all the way from London, England. I suppose that it was pure, yet serendipitous chance that led Mrs Penny to sit Cor next to me and ask me to look after her for the rest of the day. Little had I known that ‘one day’ would turn into the rest of my life.

 And so Coralie and I had become inseparable from a young age. Coralie’s mum, a high flying, work crazed lawyer had been more than happy to leave Cor with my parents or force us both on her husband, Cor sometimes refusing to be without me, every day including weekends, our childhoods becoming an intertwined stretch of fun and laughter, hurt and tears, ups and downs. I flicked through a few more photos. The two of us, cuddled up on my bed together, a book between us, hot chocolates clutched in our little hands, us on a sandy beach, splashing around in the tide, our identical hairstyles making one barely distinguishable from the other.

 It was easy enough to tell us apart these days of course, our only remaining similar feature being our blue-green eyes, although hers were large and almond shaped, mine more catlike. Or at least that’s how she would describe them whenever I’d complain about having virtually non-existent eyes. The rest of our similarities had faded away, my golden hair darkening to such a deep brown colour that no one would ever guess that I used to be blonde. In all honesty I loved my hair colour, feeling as though it was my best feature, therefore feeling the need to leave it long and natural, despite my mum constantly reminding me that a pixie cut would suit my dainty elfin features. I couldn’t part with it and nothing and no one could make me. Cor’s hair on the other hand had gotten slightly lighter as she aged, naturally she claimed and I went along with her pretending not to see the bottles of hair lightener that she left in the shower. She’d recently cut it into a choppy shoulder length style that emphasised her large almond eyes and full oxbow lips, giving her an angelic air that couldn’t be further from the truth, this becoming apparent whenever she stuck a cigarette between those ridiculously full lips of hers. We weren’t so similar at all these days when I really thought about it. Which I tried not to do on a regular basis. But we’d grown up together, she was my family and I knew her and her strange ways inside out.

Which was why I was so worried about her, a worry that was starting to consume me. There was something so artificial and forced about how she was acting. And you could never be too careful when it came to Cor, there were too many reasons not to take anything she said lightly. She wasn’t taking this seriously at all and I couldn’t help but feel as though she was throwing her future away, for no good reason. She’d never been someone completely devoted to her education but she normally tried and did decently. I had a lingering fear that she was doing all this as some sort of messed up rebellion directed at her M.I.A mother, who’s working days had recently got longer and longer, her working week extending to the weekend. In fact I doubted that her mother would even know that she’d applied to universities, let alone know that she’d been rejected from them all. Or maybe on the other hand, I sort of hoped that a dig at her mother was all that was going on, in the place of something more sinister. Because going on past experiences it really could be something worse. But then surely she would have said something to me. Because Coralie was many things but quiet and retiring with her ideas and opinions wasn’t one of them.

In contrast I was the type of person who kept everything to myself. I let my problems pile up in my own mind, like little boxes stacked neatly on top of each other, filed away and dealt with when and only if they needed to be. If they could be ignored then they were shoved right towards the back and stayed there, gathering dust. Sometimes the boxes spilled over, spewing out their contents, making my head a jumble of thoughts and worries. Those were my bad days though, when everything got on top of me and after a few hours of total meltdown, I normally managed to get them back under control, safely tucked away again. This was probably unhealthy yeah, but the idea of trying to explain to anyone else what was going on in my mind was exhausting to me. Coralie never seemed to have that problem though.

All our lives, Coralie’s problems had been there, piled up in my brain along with my own. I got burdened with everything from the fact that her hair wasn’t growing fast enough to the fact that she had a suspicious looking mole on her bum.
In fact, the past few weeks had been a form of living hell for me in some ways. Coralie had finished with her on again off again boyfriend Jonny, a charismatic older guy who worked as a mechanic in town, who’d been a year above us in school and I had heard all about it. If I was her I wouldn’t have been all that cut up about it. I mean he was good looking yes, was somewhat funny and when they were together he treated her well. But when they were apart he ignored her, would sometimes go weeks without talking to her, and would be seen by multiple friends flirting with anyone with a pair of tits. And then he’d finally make an effort to see her and something about his charm, his infectious smile meant that she welcomed him back with open arms. If I was her I wouldn’t have put up with it for even half as long as she did, but that was me, not as easily swayed by a pretty smile and gentle whispers of promises, surely to be broken. What had been the actual kick in the teeth to her though had been that he’d finished with her, telling her he was bored. She’d been cut up, angry, distraught and at times relieved to be shot of him and I’d heard every detail of every thought that went through her head, often joining in with the anger, sharing a bottle of vodka to soften her sadness. All the past week we’d been on Coralie’s break up roller-coaster and if anything I’d thought that today’s bad news would be another dip that we’d ride out together.

That’s why when she’s pulled up to my house with a grin on her face and a peculiar calmness surrounding her, my heart had sunk into my stomach and stayed there for the rest of the day. Something just wasn’t right, something had me on edge, the feeling following me into my sleep that night, my dreams consisting of flashing images of Coralie’s face, crying, laughing, Jonny’s charming smile, transforming into a snarl. My parents holding hands but struggling to get apart. My results sheet, floating face down in the vast ocean, me and Cor as kids, splashing in the water, trying to reach it but getting in too deep, our heads disappearing beneath the crashing waves.

I woke up gasping for air and sat up in bed, a cold sweat covering my body. I turned on the lamp placed on my bedside table and took in my surroundings. The smooth cream walls, the soft violet rug on the floor, my beloved window seat, where a vanilla scented candle was still flickering away. I got out of bed and blew it out, drawing the curtains. I crawled back into bed, my head still heavy with sleep and was about to throw myself back down into the silky sheets when I noticed the photo I had been looking at when I must have fallen asleep, strewed upon a pale blue decorative pillow, one of the many piled up in one corner of my bed. It was me and Coralie when we were about ten, sitting on the wall outside my house, sharing earphones connected to a now ancient looking Walkman and laughing at something  one of us must have said , our heads thrown back, looking truly carefree and happy. I picked it up and placed it on my bedside table, propped against my jewellery box. I turned off the lamp, settled back into the cool sheets and stared at the outline of the photo in the darkness until I fell back asleep.

© 2017 robsmunn

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Added on January 2, 2017
Last Updated on January 8, 2017



United Kingdom

Education student procrastinating by writing nonsense instead more..

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