Furious Fiction February 2021 – The Witching Hour

Three in the morning. Twelve hours earlier and the students were cluttered in classrooms, sitting on the edge of their seats, watching the ticking clock. Ten minutes later and their bodies spilled into these hallways, the noise level peaking as lockers flung open and clanged shut. Five minutes of frantic activity, then silence is restored. But when the students are gone, the energy shifts. In the evenings, early mornings, weekends and pupil free days. Those are the times when I feel I am being watched. When I spin myself around to catch the person whose presence I feel on the back of my neck, only to discover no one is there.

Now here I am, tightening the belt on my coat. It is all the fault of Jacob Taylor. He was sent to my office for the second time last week. I asked myself what would Shane do, if he wasn’t locked down on the other side of the world. The pandemic that propelled me into the principals chair. Shane would organise a meeting with Jacob’s parents. So I did. Peter Taylor sat across from me, full of magnetic charm. I was hooked. When he mentioned he dabbled in ghost hunting the words tumbled out of my mouth, bypassing the filter which would have stopped them. Now Peter, two other middle aged men and a younger woman with flowery perfume, are huddled together, fiddling with suspicious looking equipment.

“Ready?” Peter says, raising his head and locking his eyes onto mine. I nod. He raises his hand onto the light switch and flicks. Darkness descends. I reach for my throat and hold my hand across it. My pulse speeding up, thumping adrenaline through my veins.

“Is anyone here? We only want to talk.” Peter says, holding a box in his hand. 

The woman holds up her phone and one of the other men, holding what appears to be an aerial, turns around and jabs it into my cheek.

“Ouch.”

“Well, get out of the way.”

My jaw drops. If he was a student his uncouth manner would see him with detention.

“Hello, we know you are there. Is it just you?” Peter says.

“I’m getting a reading.” The other man says.

“We will not harm you, please, give us a sign that you can hear us.” Peter says.

I hold my breath. 

Crash.

I scream and can feel someone grab my hand. 

“It’s ok Nic, this is what we came for.” Peter says into my ear.

I spray my hand up and turn on the light.

“No, you’ll scare it.” Aerial man says.

I can see a pile of books lying in the hallway. The ghost hunters scramble around. I look up above the locker where they must have been perched. My eye shifts to the classroom door. I walk across, turn the handle, lean on the door and wrap my hand around to turn on the light.

Crouched under a desk is a smirking Jacob Taylor.

“Detention Monday Taylor.”

Furious Fiction January 2021 – Escape Plan

Venetian blinds are a rental standard and this morning the sun is particularly bright as it rises and peeks through each individual gap, wedging itself under my eyelids. My ears tune into the roaring snore of Michael beside me. I feel my teeth grind, I should have told him to go home after dinner. I stare at the ceiling. Today is the day. Am I going to go through with it? I’m still on the proverbial fence. 

Uh! Michael’s phone blares out the sound of the dizi. It’s meant to wake him up gently, so as not to, alarm him. The sound bugs me because it reminds me of the time my downstairs was aggressively waxed when I decided to duck into the day spa during my lunch break last year. I had no appointment and found the place adjacent to the food court. I should have processed that information instead of walking through the door. I was applying ice for almost a week afterwards.

Michael opens his bagless eyes, raises his arms above his head and stretches. He turns to me.

“Hey Beautiful.” His dragon breath is offending my nose.

“You set your alarm early today.”

He sits himself up and cracks his knuckles. “I have a patient coming at 7:30, moved things around so we could get to the real estate office early and swap our signatures for two sets of keys.” He rolls out of bed and into the bathroom.

He has clients, not patients. Patients are people who receive medical treatment, not deep tissue massage. The distinction is clear to me, but Michael feels strongly otherwise. We had been dating over a month when I suggested he was using the wrong terminology. This lead to an argument, or debate, as he referred to it the next day. It lasted three hours and stopped because I needed to go home. If he wanted to sound like a tosser that was his choice.

He emerges from the bathroom looking fresh and I feel a butterfly in my stomach as I remember that cheeky smile was the reason I fell for him. He throws the wet towel on the bed and the feeling dissipates.

He dresses and we head to the kitchen. I make coffee as he blends his collection of items from the fridge into a frothy green concoction which is tipped into a stainless steel bottle. I follow him to the garage where he opens the door and collects his bicycle. As he straps on his helmet he looks up and down the hallway.

“It will be much better in our place. That house has the correct feng shui.”

He leans over and kisses my cheek then climbs on the bike. I watch him vanish before I wipe his still wet kiss off. Nope, I can’t live with him. Decision made. I glace at my watch. Two hours to come up with an escape plan. Better get to work.

*This was entered into the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition for January 2021

I Love You, But We Need A Break

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(A letter to my protagonist)

In the words of every reality tv contestant and judge, what a journey. Two years ago was when your words went onto paper. Of course I realise you were with me much longer than that. You’ve been lingering around in my head for more years than I would like to acknowledge. It’s seems so silly now why I spent time with others before you. Stories and characters who never made it past a first draft. Most only had half first drafts. 

I don’t know what it was that called me that day. Another attempt. I didn’t have much of an expectation. Unsure where to even begin. I was feeling nostalgic for another time. A time before social media, when to speak to your friends as a teenager you had to dial the home phone and risk speaking to a parent. No wonder we were all so paralysed to call boys. And in that thought, you appeared.

I had no idea what your story was, I only knew you and I liked you, a lot. So I trusted you and strapped myself in to see where you would take me. I fell fast. I couldn’t get enough, I was bouncing out of bed to sneak in that precious time before the rest of my life began. Those moments when the world was still, yet you and I were on the computer creating a frenzy of activity. It was hard to stop. Someone asked me the other day, when I revealed the number of drafts we had taken, aren’t you over it? No, I responded like a love struck teenager and I’m sure my eyes glossed over with that response. 

There was something about you. Because you were the first character I took beyond the first draft. Oh, the apprenticeship began. You made me laugh and scream and filled me with so much creativity I felt I would explode. Then there were times I would stomp around the house shaking my hands to the ceiling wondering what was going on and what happens next. Because often you would stop, in dramatic fashion, to allow my subconscious to process and drip feed into my conscious. Then there was the time you made me cry. Physical tears ran down my cheeks and my heart ached for an event that didn’t happen in real life to people that don’t actually exist. 

I know your story now and I have done the best I possibly can with it. I have planted some seeds and we need to step back and see if they will grow. Of course if not, we can plant a few more. But germination takes time and there is nothing we can do to speed that up. It is out of our hands. But I hope. My dream is that I may have the joy of sharing you and your story with the world. 

For now I want to say thank you. For what you have given me. A belief in my abilities. I thought I knew writing, but I knew nothing. You taught me how to write, and how to edit and how to revise and how to cut out beautiful prose that has nothing at all to do with the story. Thank you for anointing me with the title of author. For reigniting a childhood passion that will not be extinguished. And that is really why we must take a break. Because there is so much more in the world of writing I want to explore. Perhaps I’ll get back into writing poems, with enough of them I could curate a couple of tomes. Of maybe I’ll try my hand at a children’s book, I’ve read enough of them lately it’s worth a look. Of course there are many more stories to tell and I feel I’ve cheated on you already with starting that process again. So thank you, for helping me find the joy in writing. For now it’s time to go and play with words and meet new characters. As they say on tv, it’s goodbye for now.

Having A Baby During A Global Pandemic

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The nappy bag sits in the car, untouched from when I put it together in the late stages of pregnancy. I remember sitting in the nursery surrounded by baby paraphernalia and envisioning what essential items had to be in the bag. What would I need for the numerous play dates, mothers group and other baby related activities? I had to be prepared for anything that could happen while away from the house. That time seems like a different life where I dreamt about introducing my new baby to family and friends. Where I assumed I would have leisurely coffee dates on preschool days, acquainting myself with another mum of a newborn and we would discuss all things feeding, sleeping and everything in between. Time spent away from the home was a freedom I took for granted.

There was an indication my grand social plans were not going to go as I assumed, when a few days from giving birth the hospital rang to inform me no visitors were allowed outside my husband. I understood, yet I was upset and grieved when I realised I was about to be forced apart from my first born for the longest period of our lives together. As it turns out, aside from my two boys not meeting each other shortly after giving birth, having no visitors while in maternity was lovely. I slept when baby slept and there were no distractions outside the needs of my baby and frankly I’d recommend it to all new mothers.

When we came home the world was quickly changing. Toilet paper had turned into gold and I sent Hubby on a mercy trip to the shops to purchase the raw ingredients needed for hand sanitiser. Suddenly there was no touching and we were instructed to keep our distance. I had a newborn that everyone wanted to meet and to cuddle and to brush their nostrils across the top of his head and inhale the intoxicating smell of youth. A gathering of friends at my baby sprinkle only a month before and now no one was allowed to visit. 

Staying home was frustrating at first, cabin fever quickly set in and I was mourning for what I was missing; mothers group, music, story time, getting out and about. But then a strange thing happened, a metaphorical corner was turned and it wasn’t so bad. The grieving was over and acceptance stepped in. I discovered a new freedom, the freedom that comes from not rushing out the door and having somewhere to go, the freedom to just be. My boys and I are operating at a pace of life I have never experienced before, and I like it. 

Sometimes you don’t realise what you need until it is handed to you. There are so many things outside my control and all I can control is my outlook to the world as it stands right now and my situation within in. I know I will never have time like this again. Time with my boys, where every moment is spent in the present. Where we take each day as it comes and simply see how the day naturally unfolds. Many are lamenting on what they are missing, yet I am appreciating all I am gaining. This situation is a gift, I can see that now. Of course it will not last, like everything it is temporary. The plans I had will come to fruition and when they do I will blow the layer of dust off the nappy bag, hop out of the car, pull out the pram and surround myself with people. And until then, I’m putting my feet back up on the lounge and holding my boys in my lap, we have nowhere else to be.