The Paper Mill (Part 3)

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I went home, got my college stuff and caught the bus. Resting my head against the wet window, my thoughts drifted and before I knew it, the bus was stopping outside the college’s gates. Getting off, I headed straight for the library which was either going to be packed or….empty.

There was no one in the lobby, not even a librarian at the desk. I turned back, checked the open sign in the window then with a shrug walked though. The tables and sofas running down the left side were strangely empty. Tall bookcases set up like dominoes were on the other side. There was a staircase straight to my right which I went up.

Pushing through the double doors, I heard whispers of voices and saw two woman at a table with books scattered around them. Feeling better that I wasn’t alone, I went to the section of books I needed and starting gathering more research for my essay. It did take a little while but soon, I was totally focused on my studies.

By the time I left the library, due to the fact it was closing early, the sky was so dark it seemed to be the middle of the night. I huddled in the bus shelter with three other people- a girl and two guys- who held a mixture of conversions. My bag was heavy with books as I’d taken out so I had some more to get through the weekend with. I kept switching shoulders with it then finally give up and set it down my feet.

It was raining lightly now but the wind had really picked up and I could feel the cold through my winter coat. I looked at the bus time table again and noticed the bus was late. I hope they hadn’t cancelled. If the weather and the darkness had been better I would have walked again. The paper mill came back into my head and I hoped the girl was okay.

The bus emerged from the black road and came to a stop before us. I hurried on and took a seat close to the front. There were a few other people on the bus and they all looked as wet and cold as us students did. During the drive, I thought about getting off at the stop close to the mill, but I decided I was too tried and hungry to do that. Plus, I’d have to walk back too.

Arriving at home, I showered and got changed, so I was warmer, then I heated up a can of soup. Eating before the glow of the TV, I blocked out the loneliness of the house. My grandparents had gone for a month and wouldn’t be back for another week. Perhaps, that was why I was so desperate about the homeless girl? I was too tried to think any more.

Leaving the hall light on, I went up to bed. I read for bit before laying in the dimly lit room. The wind was still howling outside and the rain was hitting the window. I thought it would take me awhile to sleep but it came on my quickly. I didn’t have any dreams and I felt refreshed.

Getting up and ready, I saw it had stopped raining. I made breakfast and decided I had to go back to the abandoned mill. I packed up some more food- things that were going out of date from the fridge, some fruit and more tins. This time I also went into the attic and found an old but still good sleeping bag and a pillow.

Walking over, the sky threatened more rain and I past a few cars driving about. At the rows of houses there was more activity as children played outside and parents unloaded shopping. I got a look off an older man and it took me a few moments to realise he was wondering where I was going with a sleeping bag in one hand and a pillow poking out of a carry bag in the other. He’d did’t say anything though.

The paper mill looked the same though in the morning light I could see more of the decay and nature taking over. I crept in, across the courtyard and inside the main building. There was water dripping somewhere and the creaking of wood. I didn’t need my torch this time and I was able to got the right way too!

The girl was still in the room and as I entered the doorway, I saw her piling damp wood closer to the fire pit. She was wearing the coat, bobble hat and a pair of trousers that I had given her. My heart leaped and I felt better.

‘Hello,’ I called.

She stopped, give me a nod and set the wooden planks down.

‘Do the clothes fit?’ I asked walking in.

She give a shrug and said something that I missed.

‘I thought maybe you’d like this too,’ I said and held out the sleeping bag and pillow.

She came and took them from me and whilst she was looking at them, I took the rucksack off and began emptying it. I set all the food down then zipped up the rucksack and slipped it on again. I smiled at her.

‘Why…do you keep doing this?’ she said slowly.

‘I guess because….’ I frowned and really thought about why.

‘Are you sorry for me? Is that why?’ she demanded.

‘No!’ Well, maybe a little…’

‘I don’t need your pity,’ she snapped.

She crossed her arms over her chest and turned her head away.

I pressed my lips together and replied, ‘I’d have been throwing all this away anyway…’

She didn’t responded. I shifted around on my feet and decided it was time I admitted the truth to her and myself.

‘I’m lonely. I guess that’s why…’ I said.

Our eyes meet then she looked me up and down.

‘I don’t believe you,’ she answered.

Sighing, I spoke, ‘guess that is bit odd but it’s the truth.’

‘I don’t need friends. They only stab you in the back,’ she explained, ‘I’m happy alone.’

Nodding, there was nothing else to say. I began to leave.

‘Don’t come back again,’ she said quietly, ‘I won’t be here.’

I glanced over my shoulder at her. The dirt on her child-like face and her unkempt dark hair stuck in my mind. Going home, I reflected on our conversion and decided I need to make more effort in class to make some friends.

I managed to stay away from the old paper mill for a week but then I had to go back again. I went empty handed this time because I just needed to know if she had left or not.

When I arrived, there was a new metal fence around the mill and signs warning people not to trespass and beware dangerous building. I pressed myself to the gate, looking at the mill and I saw that the doors and lower windows had been boarded up.

‘I hope you found somewhere else to go,’ I whispered.

Turning away, I went to catch the bus to meet my new friends for lunch.

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The Paper Mill (Part 1)

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The worse thing about autumn was it got dark far too soon and I’d always been scared of the dark. I hadn’t meant for it to be so late when I left the college library but I’d been doing research for my last two essays of the year. I hadn’t notice the time until I’d left and gone to the bus stop. I’d missed the last bus home.

So either, I walked the half an hour into town and got another bus or I walked the forty minutes home. If it had been raining which made it darker, I might have gotten the bus but I decided that I could make walking home. Most of the way would be well lit by street lamps and I had gone this way lots of times in the last year.

Drawing up all my bravery, I set off at a hurried pace. My heavy rucksack almost dragging me back whilst making my shoulders ache, distracted me as I went. My college was on a limbo boarder of just being outside a village and on the edge of countryside. The fastest way home was to half walk through the village then go up some country lanes.

I was about halfway home and just about to walk over a small bridge. Behind me an abandoned 1800’s paper mill ruled over the little houses that had once been home to it’s workers. The village had sprung up around the mill but once they had cleared all the trees, it started to get expensive importing more, sales had dropped too and the mill had closed it’s doors.

I stopped and faced off with the darkness before me. A single street lamp on the bridge was the only barrier between us. Beyond that the quiet countryside seemed to stretch endlessly away. I could hear the faint flow of the low river going under the bridge and something else in the distance behind me.

I listened harder, half turning to the sound which was like a muffled crying. I looked back at a row of houses, most had dim lights in the windows and others were draped in black. The paper mill looked eerie, like a silent empty watchman. I tried to tell myself the noise was just a cat or a baby but this feeling of strangeness grew in my stomach.

What if someone was hurt and only I could help them?

Glancing at the bridge, my mind made a choice that I didn’t get a chance to think about. I turned away and walked back towards the houses. I followed the sound along those small well lit pavements, thinking at any moment I’d find the source. Arriving at the gates of the mill and peering though the towering bars, I spotted the flicker of a fire in a ground floor window.

A voice in my head told me to go and my feet began to move away but the rest of me stayed at the gate. The crying was coming from the mill. Thoughts ran though my head; it’s a trick of the darkness, it’s an echo from something else, it’s a ghost, a homeless person, an animal. Why am I here? Go home!

I couldn’t though…

Looking further along the metal fence, I found a hole large enough to fit through and I stepped into the cobbled courtyard of the mill. Trying to walk in a hurried but quiet way didn’t work, so instead I give up trying to hide my presence and just went over to the steps. Looking up, I could make out how run down the mill was now but there was too much darkness to see further.

I went to the window the fire was coming from. I couldn’t see in though as the wall was too tall. My hands touched the cold damp stone and quickly withdrew as if something had bitten me. Coming away, I crept around for a bit, trying not to let the deep darkness creep me out more. Every shadow was a good hiding place for someone and I was just waiting for something to happen. My throat got dry, my heartbeat was loud and fear was making me sweat despite the cold evening.

Taking out my phone and putting the torch app on, give me some more light and helped to keep the shadows at bay. I found a half open metal door and slipped into the building. There was a maze of rooms and a musty smell. Carefully walking, I spent a good few minutes figuring out where the fire was burning. Trying to convince myself it was just kids messing around and perhaps one had got left behind, helped make me feel better.

Standing in the doorway of the right room, I saw a small fire on the floor and next to it was a small humped over person shape.

‘Hello?’ I called out.

The shape moved, twisting around to look at me whilst gasping. I couldn’t make anything out as my phone light didn’t reach so far and there wasn’t enough light coming from the fire. I heard scrambling and the person getting up and moving.

‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ I spoke in a shaky voice, ‘I think I heard you crying. Do you need help?’

‘No,’ the voice of a girl sounded back.

I sighed, glad the person wasn’t a man nor hurt. I waved in the door, wanting to move closer but then not moving as there might be danger.

‘What do you want?’ the girl demanded.

‘Nothing,’ I replied, ‘what are you doing here?’

‘This is my home!’

‘Your…?’ I trailed and looked at what I could see.

Then I stepped inside the room. It was bare but for the fire and small pile of stuff on the floor. I got closer to the fire, drawn by the heat and I saw a girl in her late teens, just like me. She was wearing layers of ripped clothes, her hair and face were dirty but she was standing defensively, ready to fight.

‘I’m Darcy,’ I spoke to break up the tension.

She shook her head at me.

‘How did you end up here? Where are your parents?’

‘None of your business. Go away,’ she snapped.

I frowned and thought about saying more. I had the urge to help her but what could I do? Turning away, I walked back to the doorway. Then with a glance at her went through and tried to remember the way out.

 

To Be Continued…

Love Don’t Bother (Part 4)

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Trying not to over think as the train whizzed me away and rain pelted the windows, I set my thoughts on my work and the week ahead. For some reason, though I couldn’t get the image of Darcy, Amelia, Alex and Luke sat on the sofa eating Chinese food. My cruel mind put words in their mouth and I hear Alex say, ‘good job she’s not here or she would have eaten all the food already!’

Darcy chines in with, ‘You know she’s addicted to prawn crackers. I saw her eat two whole bags once!’

‘Hey, there’ll be left overs for lunch tomorrow!’ Amelia points out.

Then maybe, Luke might tell them to stop being mean to me. Alex will laugh and say, ‘it’s fine, she’s not here, she won’t care!’

I shake my head and swallow a lump in my throat. I try to convince myself that they would never have that kind of conversation about me, but as the train pulls into the station it’s too deeply planted in my head.

I get off the train and hurry through the ticket gate, which I almost get stuck in. Without looking back, I go to the automatic doors and step outside in the rain. I wipe my face and sweep my hair back, enjoying the cold air on my skin. The crowd is crazy, but everyone gives me a wide berth and though no one is staring at me, I know they all see me. How can they miss me? The giant wearing blanket size clothes.

‘Marcy? Marcy?’

I turn at my name and see Ben coming through the doors. He looks smart in black trousers and a pale blue shirt. He’s unbuttoned the first few buttons and I can see a v shape of his chest. His large stomach hangs low, strapped in by a black belt. He’s dark brown hair is neatly cut short and his face looks tried and concerned.

‘Hi,’ I say softly.

‘Are you okay? Did you have a panic attack on the train again?’ he asks.

I shake my head. He reaches out and takes my hand. His fingers are warm and soft.

‘Let’s go and eat. You’ll feel better.’

I nod and let him led me off into the city.

The bad weather hasn’t stopped people – mostly the students, from a night out. The bars, pubs and clubs already seem busy. We weave through everyone and the streets, passing a Superlambanana statue on the way. They are a new icon of Liverpool; with the body of a sheep and tail of a lamb covered in brightly coloured paint. I feel drawn to stop and look, but Ben tugs me on.

We reach my favourite restaurant and Ben opens the door. The smell of burgers and fried onions hangs in the air. We take the second window booth in the small sixties America themed room. The long counter is directly to my left and it stretches all the way to the back where the toilets are. On the other side of it is a row of plastic red chairs and matching tables as well as two more read leather booths at the end.

The walls are covered with all sorts of memorabilia and Americana. Most of its sixties rock ‘n’ roll, with framed records and photos. A red electric guitar hangs a meter or so above my head. The sign claiming it belonged to some rock singer I’ve never heard of. It always reminds me of Back To The Future.

Feeling soaked, I take off my jacket and grab a menu. It feels slightly sticky in my hands, but I turn the pages anyway. I scan the words, but don’t really take them in, my thoughts have switch to wondering why I’m here. Of course, to have a date with Ben, but was it actually worth it? Maybe my time would have been better spent studying some more and stuffing my face full of Chinese food.

‘You look nice,’ Ben says suddenly.

I glance over and thank him.

A waiter appears and politely takes our drinks order, a strawberry milkshake for me and a vanilla one for Ben.

Then Ben reaches over and takes my hands in his. He rubs my knuckles and watches the movement.

‘Thank God you text me when you did,’ I speak out, ‘I sort of forgot we were meeting tonight. I was busy studying.’

‘Glad I did then and you study too much!’ Ben responses.

I shrug, ‘a PhD is a lot of work.’

‘And what will you do when it’s done next year?’

‘Stay at the uni, hopefully.’

I trail off and look outside at the rain and the city lights. I can just about hear people laughing and talking. Ben is staring at me, I can feel it, waiting for me to go on, but I don’t want to talk. My mood feels like the weather; depressed and gloomy. Ben is still stroking my hands.

‘I really like you, Marcy,’ he says.

I snap back to him, ‘what? We’ve only met twice now…’

‘So?’ he presses and smiles at me.

I press my lips together and smile back, I can’t help it. He’s cute with his baby chubby cheeks and long black eye lashes. There’s something infections about his orange slice smile and laughing eyes.

The waiter returns and we are forced to break hands as the drinks are placed down.

‘Ready to order food?’ he asks.

‘I’ll have a chicken burger, please’ I say.

Ben ponders, glances at the menu then, ‘can I have the bbq chicken pizza?’

‘Of course, thank you,’ the waiter speaks and turns away.

I watch him go and place the order in even though the chef is right behind him. Looking further up, I notice the last booth next to the toilets is occupied. Two young teenage looking boys are staring at me and I can make out a third too, but all I can see is his sticking up hair. The boys look away and carry on with what they are doing.

A wave of nerves wiggles in my stomach and I turn back to the window. I just know they are talking about me…

‘Marcy? Are you feeling okay?’ Ben asks, he’s been sipping his milkshake.

‘Sure,’ I mutter and take a drink of mine, though I wish it was alcohol.

‘Look, I know that was a bit sudden, but you said we had to be honest about everything with each other. So I was just being,’ Ben explains.

I stir the straw in the thick shake, wrestling with myself over what to say.

Ben leans back, his hands pressing down the table top, ‘it’s fine if you don’t like me…I really thought you did though…’

‘I do! It’s just that…’ I take a deep breath, ‘I’m worried you only want one thing…’

His lips twitch and form an O as he makes that sound.

I shrug, ‘why else would you want to date me? I’m not pretty and I have all these issues.’

‘You’re completely wrong. You are very pretty and your issues are not all of you,’ Ben cries.

‘Really?’ I look up through my eye lashes, trying to judge his words.

‘Yes. And of course that’s the ultimate goal, but I’m happy to wait and right now I’m just enjoying your company,’ Ben adds.

I smile, feeling the nerves being overtaking with tingles of delight.

‘A chicken burger and a pizza?’

We both look up and let go of each other’s hands. The waiter places the food down, tells us to enjoy and leaves.

‘Do you really mean that?’ I ask.

Ben nods and unfolds his napkin, ‘wouldn’t say it if I didn’t.’

‘Good.’

I pick up my cutlery and spear a chip. Putting it in my mouth, I watch Ben chopping on a slice of pizza and I just feel things are going to work out between us.

Love Don’t Bother (Part 3)

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I watch the high street from the kitchen window whilst I eat toast and drink a cup of chi tea. It’s raining steadily now and making a nice sound falling off the roof tops and guttering. Market stalls are being set up in two rows either side of the main walk way. The clattering and banging noise they are making is so loud it could wake the dead. Plastic sheets of clear, white and other colours drape over the tops of the stalls, creating another surface for the rain to make music on.

Nothing stirs in the house expect for me and my small noises which the living room clock seems to echo with. I wonder what the girls and the boyfriends are up to? Maybe some soft snuggling and kisses? Perhaps morning sex? I think though they are all in a drunk coma of sleep right now. The idea of sex lingers in my mind and before I can recall the last time I had morning sex, I shove the thought away.

I unlatch and open the window. Chilly, wet autumn air drifts lazy into the stuffy kitchen. The wind plays with the netting and the curtains, before I fix it all back and out of the way. I look clearly outside. I can hear people calling to each other and the grumbling of van engines. The rain bounces of umbrellas and coats as the first buyers appear and begin shopping.

I watch an old woman, who must be about ninety years old picking over fruit and veg. Her cloth shopping trolley resting up beside her and rain drops dripping off the bright yellow rain coat she has on. She hands over tomatoes and bananas alongside some money, then tucking the brown paper bags into her trolley, hobbles away.

The stall holder shouts, ‘get your fresh fruit and veg here!’

I finish my toast then my tea and tidy up. Going back to the window after, I close it and decided that a walk around the market would make me feel better. I go back to my room and select some clothes; jeans and long sleeved top. I dig out my wellington boots and a red rain coat. Feeling ready to face the weather, I put my phone, keys and purse in my pockets before I leave. Lastly, I collect my umbrella from beside the wardrobe and check I have everything.

Going down all the stairs, I try to be as quiet as possible, but it’s so hard when the stairs are like hundred years old and I’m 26 stone or there abouts. I don’t really know, it’s been a few months since I last felt interested enough to find out how overweight I actually was. I make it to the front door and am just about to unlock it when I hear another door creak open.

‘That you, Marcy?’ Amelia’s bell of a voice calls softly.

‘Yes,’ I say, turning my head.

Her head is sticking out of her bedroom doorway. Her dark blonde hair with layers of black looks messy and her cheeks are really pink. Her fingers curl around the edge of the door, holding it in place. I suddenly wonder if she’s wearing any clothes.

‘Are you going out? Can you get some bacon, eggs and bread, please? I forgot yesterday,’ Amelia asks.

I nod, ‘sure.’

‘Also, can I send you the first draft of my essay to look over?’ she adds

‘I guess….’

‘Thanks. Give me a knock when you get back.’

She goes to close the door and I hear Luke’s muffled voice say something. She replies then turns back to me.

‘Anything else?’ I ask, just knowing there’s going to be more.

‘Sausages too,’ she answers.

I frown a little as I realise my walk has become a shopping trip.

‘I’ll give you some money later,’ Amelia says, ‘okay?’

‘Fine,’ I say and open the door.

Cold wind blows in, stronger than it did from the kitchen window before and splatters me with a few large water drops. Amelia’s door closes loudly. I head out, holding up my hood as I go down the cobblestone alleyway and out onto the street. Wandering around the stalls, I decided to get the food on the way back. Nothing peaks my interested though. It’s all the same stuff they sell every Saturday and due to the rain there’s a few stalls missing.

I get the food and go home. Dumping everything in the kitchen I knock on Amelia’s door. There’s no answer. Going back into the kitchen I take my wellies and coat off. I put away the food and make myself a lunch to take upstairs. Gathering everything, I go to my room and spend the rest of the day working.

At some point, I hear the shower going and people moving. The smell of cooking food creeps under my door and I hear happy sounding voices in the kitchen. I ignore it all and carry on reading my books, internet pages and making notes.

My phone pinging a message finally brings me out of my studying. Looking around, I get up and go to the bedside table. Picking my phone up, I see it is a text from Ben. We’d met for the first time last week and had tea together after talking on a dating website for most of summer. He’d been working in Scotland and so we hadn’t been able to meet up until then.  Opening the message, I read;

Hi, meant to talk to you earlier but work was mad! On my way to Liverpool now. Might be a bit late though, should get in for 5.30pm. See you at the train station.

We have a date tonight!

Looking at the clock I see it’s half past four, which means I have no time! I text back a quick line then rush over to my wardrobe. What am I going to wear? I pull out a black soft top with a dragon on it, realise I wore it last time and put it back again. After a few panicky minutes, I get a knee length blue skirt, a matching blue top with a butterflies on it and some black leggings.

Abandoning everything, I have a fast shower, throw the clothes on and sort out a shoulder bag to take with me. Is it still raining outside? I go to the darkening window and look out. The sky is a dull grey and though there are rain drops on the glass, it doesn’t look like its raining. I put my suede ankle boots on and grab a light hooded jacket.

Opening the bottom draw of the bedside table, I find my bag of makeup and go into the bathroom. Voices drift after me, but I don’t listen. Selecting blue eyeshade and liner, I put them on then a bit of strawberry lip balm. The mirror reflects my rushed face, I pause and wonder what I’m doing. How does Ben find me attractive? Maybe he’s just saying that to be nice? But then why a second date? Unless he just wants to sleep with me and was lying about that?

I growl, clutch the sink and will my over-thinking away. Pulling myself together, I brush my teeth and hair then go back into my bedroom. Collecting my bag and umbrella I turn off my computer and my light before going downstairs.

A voice from the living room calls out to me as soon as I reach the bottom. Darcy appears in the doorway wearing pjs which look like they’ve been shrunk in the wash. The shorts she has on barely cover her and the matching top only comes down to her waist. Her small high boobs can just be made out under her long straight blonde hair. I stare at her flat light brown stomach, wondering how she got that.

‘Marcy?’

‘Yes,’ I snap to.

‘We are getting Chinese takeout and watching movies. Want to join us?’ Darcy asks.

‘I can’t. I have a date,’ I gush.

‘What with? The library?’ Alex’s voice shouts from the sofa.

‘Alex!’ Darcy scolds as she glances over her shoulder at him.

‘No. A man,’ I reply coldly.

‘Oh okay….the same guy from last week?’ Darcy questions, dropping her voice.

I nod, ‘I should go. Bye.’

Turning, I go downstairs and to the door. I ignore Alex’s voice as he yells something, so he’s words are lost, whatever it was I don’t need to hear it. I open the door, step out into the drizzle and hurry to the train station.

 

To Be Continued…

Love Don’t Bother (Part 2)

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It was a bad dream, somehow I knew that, but I couldn’t wake myself up from it. I was at the bar we always go to at the end of our nights out and a handsome man was talking to me. I could hear Amelia, Darcy and their boyfriends in the background. The man was saying how pretty I am and how he couldn’t believe his luck meeting me in here.

I smile and sip my drink.  I try to say how lucky I feel back, but I can’t.  Loud music wraps around me, tugging me to the dance floor yet I don’t move. Bright lights are flashing and there are too many people. I want to leave and go somewhere else. I go to say this to the man, but he ignores me. I reach out for his hand, but my fingers seem to slip through his. The music and the shouting voices press painfully on my head so that I can only see blinding flashes of light.

I try to shake it away then I spot Darcy’s boyfriend, Alex, coming over. He starts whispering to the man. I can’t hear the words but I can see the effect as the man’s face falls. He gives me a look of disgust and leaves.

‘What did you say?’ my dream self-demands.

‘That you sleep with anyone who’ll have you. You’re old, fat and ugly, but always game for some action,’ Alex says with a laugh.

‘That’s not true!’

‘It so is. You’ve tried it on with me and everyone else in this bar.’

He waves his hand out and I look and see the fuzzy faces of men I half remember. Is that my high school history teacher? And the one against the wall looks like my old neighbour, who use to leer at me from behind his hedge.

I shake my head and back up into the bar stool.

‘It’s true!’ he says, ‘you’re a sex-crazed hippo, aren’t you? Here, you want some…’ he unzips his jeans, ‘I’ll give you some!’

Laughter fills my ears, I struggle to get away from him and then I awake up.

Breathing hard, I listen but hear nothing other than the old house settling, the wind rattling the window and the living room clock ticking. I push myself up and turn on the lamp. The light helps, even though I can now see the shadows fleeing to the corners of the room. Sweeping my hair back, I feel dampness against my skin. I get up and open the window. Cold air trials in, blowing the heat and sleep from my face. I can see a hint of light in the overcast grey sky. It’s going to rain soon.

I take deep breaths, which help clear the dream from my mind. However, it has once again disturbed the past memory that I’d put in lock down. Seeing Darcy’s room probably cracked the lid on it. Closing the window, I go into the bathroom and splash some water on my face. It helps a little, but I still feel my skin all sticking together.

I glance at the shower and deciding I’m awake now, take off my clothes and get in. I turn the temperature down and avoid trying to get my hair wet. Which is an impossible task, because the shower is dodgy and water just  goes everywhere. I wash and try hard to think of anything else other then the bits I’m scrubbing with the sponge.

Parts of the dream flash into mind, but I push them away, only they end up being replaced with the real events.

I get out, dry off and collect my clothes. Taking my towel wrapped body back into my bedroom, I find other PJs to wear. Going to the window, I open the curtains, but not enough light is coming in. I notice a few rain drops clinging to the glass. Making sure it’s locked, I leave the grey dawn and turn on the over head light.

My room comes into full clarity. To my left is my messed up bed with a bedding box placed at the end then my TV on it’s stand with the DVD player sticking out underneath. There’s a few small racks holding DVDs and CDS along the wall in between. The wall above my bed as my collection of framed postcards, which looks impression but all the places are actually here in England. Though I’ve a few from Wales. On the right are three floor to ceiling bookcases, which contain whole arrays of fiction and non-fiction books. Then there’s my desk and computer followed by my wardrobe.

Moving, I go over to my bed and kneel down. Flipping the duvet and other trailing blankets back, I feel around and pull out a large fabric covered cardboard box. Taking the lid off, I see it’s the one I want, for inside is a collection of diaries. Last’s years sits on top. I pull it out and climb on to the bed. Flipping the pages, I look for May and June. Once there, I peer at my small neat handwriting and scan the words.

I find the part I’m looking for in the middle of May. I turn on the lamp, curl up against the pillows and began reading.

I met Darcy’s boyfriend, Alex today. I don’t like him and I don’t really see what Darcy sees in him. He’s a big jerk. When we were introduced I saw him sneering at me and thinking…Well, I guess the normal things that people think about large girls. He was polite enough, but I knew it was forced.

Then I over heard him talking to Amelia’s boyfriend, Luke, in her bedroom about me. I was going out to the library and just passing there when I heard voices. I wasn’t going to stop but then I heard my name. Alex was saying, ‘Marcelen has huge boobs. I’d love to see them. Shame about the rest of her though…did you think someone in her family was a cow?’ He laughed.  

Thankfully, Luke didn’t laugh, but he did reply with, ‘she’s not so bad.’

I left, but as I walked to uni, I pictured myself opening Amelia’s door and giving him a piece of my mind. Don’t judge people! You don’t know me. Apologise and in future keep you nasty thoughts to yourself. But I know I’d never have been able to have said it. 

The library was empty – not surprising for a Saturday…..

I stopped as my past self changed topic. I turn the pages and looked for the next entry about Alex. It was there almost a week later; a Friday night and we were going to Liverpool. I skipped the beginning and found a bit the middle.

Everything was going great until the last club. I was at the bar, getting a glass of water and I felt a hand on my bum. I turned and it was Alex! He was totally drunk. I whacked his hand away and yelled, ‘Darcy’s nipped to the loos!’  He shouted down my ear, ‘it’s you I want!’ Then he squeezed my bum. 

I think I told him to get off and then I got my water and walked around the edge of the dance floor. He followed me and then he grabbed my hand, pulling me close to him. I think he said something about dancing, but I wasn’t sure. I tried to shake him off, but he wouldn’t let go and he kept saying how much he wanted me and how he’d seen me staring at him. I think then, though of course with the deafening, booming music, I could have been wrong, he said, ‘a fat bird like you must be gagging for it!’

I threw my water at him and ran away. Of course, then it took forever to find Amelia and Darcy. Luckily, we were going to head home anyway, so when we meet up outside the club, it wasn’t that bad. I was so sure that Alex would say something because he was still wet, but he didn’t. Perhaps, he told Darcy in private as soon as we said goodnight and went into our bedrooms. Though I think there’s only one thing on his mind right now!  

Even now thinking about it worries me. I know Alex was drunk and that was probably to blame, but still…And there’s no way I can tell anyone, because they won’t remember. I don’t get why people enjoy making themselves so drunk like that. You can have a nice night out without all that illness in the morning. 

I can hear them having sex. They must have done it a few times before now, but I’ve never heard them before. I guess being drunk makes them loud. It makes me think about my ex. I still miss him, but it was still the right thing to do. Things would never have worked out between us and I see that now. There’ll be someone else out there for me, I know. Maybe I need to join that dating website again? But my PhD must come first.

I got some prep to do for supporting teaching the first years Monday. Mustn’t forget about that….

I stop reading and let that sink in. I had forgotten that had happened, but it had been the start of everything really. I look up and and out of the window, the sunlight had given up trying to defeat the heavy clouds and it was now raining. Leaving last year’s diary open, I slotted it under a pillow and went to get breakfast.

 

To Be Continued…

 

Love Don’t Bother (Part 1)

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Dropping the towel from my still wet body, I peer nervously into the full length mirror. All my life I’ve hated reflective glass of any kind. Not even the mirror mazes of my childhood made me laugh. I avoid mirrors like people avoid food they’re allergic too. Now though, I’ve decided to stare the cold hard truth about myself down.

Pressing my lips together, I see my face; the flush chubby cheeks, up turned small nose, large olive eyes, the wrinkling forehead and my fair brown hair. Is that actually me? I know it is, but why did my consciousness ended up in this body? Why couldn’t I have been someone else? Then I might not have been Marcelen Potts, but…Taylor Swift or someone else rich, famous and pretty.

I’m not pretty. My face might just been passable but the rest of me…. I drop my eyes and see my huge boobs. They are round and soft, but hang down too much. I slot my hands under them, rising them up to where they stood be. Now, if they stayed like that, things would be okay, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference, I’d still be a threat to chest high people, just without the aid of a bra…In fact, I’d probably still need one to keep my boobs stable.

Just below them is my non-existent waist. It’s just a round doughnut like roll of pink flesh. It actually reminds me of one of those inflatable swimming rings you put around children to keep them afloat.

I squish the front of it together, trying to imagine myself being flat and able to see my ribs. It’s a pointless task really. I’ve no idea what slim me would look like and the images come from seeing all those zero size walking stick girls.

Isn’t it true that most of the women you see in photos have been made to look that way by editing software? So, what everyone is seeing is actually unachievable anyway? And you hardly ever see fat women! They are all shunned into a corner and society finger points and says no one can look like that. Fat can’t be beautiful, only bones can be!

Dropping my hands, they brush against the sides of my stomach. I stare at my overhanging belly in the mirror, I jiggle it. The warm, damp skin ripples and keeps going like it would never end. I pick it up, pinching the areas either side of my bellybutton and stretching the flesh. I could easily hide a small child underneath me. Or someone could use me as a parasol and stay in the shade.

I try squeezing my stomach all together and seeing if I can get it flat. However, it acts like Flubber and just wobbles away, bulging at the sides. I drop the whole thing and let my hands rest of top of stomach. I will myself to imagine what it might look like flat, but I can’t picture it.

Moving on I do the last part of the inspection; arms and legs. My fingers, hands, feet and toes look good, they are long and thin. My wrists too are slender and my low arms are okay, but then I get to my upper arms, which look like tiny wings. My legs are the same, but are more like chunky tree trunks. And that’s it, staring at my body is complete until I dare to look again.

I turn away, picking up the towel and wrapping myself in it. Though it barely fits around me and I poke out down one side. I leave the hallway and the mirror which is attached to the wall close to the front door. The mirror was there when I moved in and I don’t know who is responsible for it. I should ask my two flatmates if they know and maybe get it removed.

I go up the narrow stairs, which my stomach and upper arms almost touches and arrive at the first floor. To my right is Amelia’s room and to the left is the bathroom, though it’s not the one I use –unless it’s an emergency. Moving past them, I come to the foot of another staircase, which twists back on itself before it reaches the second floor. Two more door sit on the other side of the stairs, leading into the kitchen on the left and the living room on the right. They are joined in the middle by another door.

Clutching my towel, I hurry up the stairs. My footsteps cushioned by the thick pattern carpet. At the top is a small landing and three doors. The middle door- the second bathroom is half open and mist is still hugging the walls. I go in and open the window. Cold autumn air rushes in and the hair on my arms rise. I dry off again and stick the towel on to the rack. I shut the door behind me and go over to the right door, my bedroom.

Opening the door, I hear a creaking behind me and glance over. The opposite door which leads to Darcy’s room, is slowly moving. Ignoring it, I go into my room, put on the flannel Pjs I left on the bed and try not to think any more about my body. Grabbing my hairbrush, I start brushing, but a loud squeaking pauses my hand.

I go out and see Darcy’s door has opened more now. Sighing, I go over and look inside. I’ve been in her room before, ages ago now, but it so didn’t look like this. There are clothes, shoes, soft toys, books and other things scattered over the floor so that not an inch of the carpet can be seen. Her bed and desk look just the same and things are spilling from her wardrobe as if it’s just been sick. I close the door on the chaos and go back to organised.

Everything in my room has a place and it always gets put back there. Sinking on to the bed, I pick up my diary and flick the pages. I stop on today’s date, grab a fountain pen and begin writing. My mind wonders faster than I can write though and soon I’m reflecting on why I decided not to go out tonight. The excuse about working on the research for my PhD was all because I didn’t want to see Amelia and Darcy with their boyfriends. If it had been a girl’s only night I’d have been fine, but playing the third wheel has never been for me.

I stop writing and look up, hearing something outside. There’s a window in the wall next to the head of my bed. I get up, leaving off mid-sentence. Sweeping back the netted curtain, I open the window and stick my head out with my hands pressed hard to the sill.

The late evening sky is dotted with stars and a perfectly thin crescent moon. Below me is the cobblestoned alleyway that leads to my flat and also the flat opposite. Bins nestle against the walls and I think I see the flickering of a shadow. Then laughter rises from somewhere and I hear voices. They wouldn’t come back so soon, but still…

I close the window and the curtain falls back into place. I cross my room, open the door and go downstairs with heavy thuds echoing behind me. I fast walk into the living room, not turning on the light and go to the window. I pull the net curtain slightly back and look down upon a Victorian styled high street.

Lights shine from the few pubs, bars and takeaways onto the large flagstone pavement. Small groups of people are slowly walking around or standing in doorways. I see the thin trails of cig smoke rising from two people at the entrance to The King’s pub. Laughter and voices drift through the thin glass and I can just about smell pizza.

I drop my head, scolding myself for my stupid panicking and the lingering memories of last year. Letting the curtain fall, I go back stairs and climb into bed. I spot the time as being a little past nine, perhaps too early for sleep, but it’s the only thing I want to do. I finish up writing in my diary, avoiding the parts about looking in the mirror before and my depression over being single.

Then placing it back inside the top draw of my bedside table, I turn out the lamp and fall into the darkness.

To Be Continued…

Dear Diary #25

And September is here! I can’t believe how fast summer has gone, it was over like all that flash flooding we’ve been having. I only saw like 20 odd days of pure sunshine out of the 92 days. How bad is that? And so not enough to get a tan, but luckily no one else really has either.

I’m strangely not looking forward to going back to uni now. It’s final year and that’s going to be so much hard work and so little time for partying! I’m glad things have got sorted and we can all stay in the same house. It was very touch and go for awhile back there. Dev said that me and him would find our own place, but getting a one or two bedroom flat wasn’t as easy as it would actually seem. It’s all good though and the four of us will be fine again.

My parents have been bugging me with questions about afterwards. I don’t know what I’m going to do! Maybe take a different course and return? Do a masters or go into teaching? I just don’t know and a part of me is wondering what kind of job I believed I was going to get doing a history degree. I should have gone with business or computing or something that leads straight into work. Perhaps, something will come up and right now I just got to try and pass this year.

At least I can get a few more days of freedom in! I’m off to the Lake District tomorrow, for a few romantic days away with Dev. So looking forward to that. We’ve not had much alone time or dates with him working as many hours as he can get at the pub. So it’ll be nice to spend sometime together. The weather isn’t looking great though, so we might not risk any long walks, but I’d be happy to just lounge by the indoor pool.

I should actually go and start packing!

Family Secrets (Part 3)

Pedestrian, Walking, Shadow, Night, Evening, Street

He was gone when she woke. Em rolled over and looked at the dip he had left in the bed. Reaching her hand out, she felt the cold sheets. Sighing, she lay there and thought about why her husband would have an affair. He’d never seemed to look at any other woman but her.

Maybe I’m unattractive in my old age? She thought, I’m only thirty odd though! 

She then took a few moments to work out how old she actually was then how many years they had been married for; eight.

Perhaps, that was the problem? We married too young.

Pulling a face, she decided that tonight she’d find out the truth no matter what. Getting up, she noted the time and turned her thoughts to time tabling her day. She didn’t need to be in work till this afternoon, so she had time to tidy up and maybe do some more snooping.

She got herself sorted then went downstairs. Rick had left his breakfast things on the kitchen table. She paused in the doorway, realising he must have been late for giving a lecture or a workshop at the uni. She tidied up as she debated what to eat. Em had done most of the kitchen cleaning, when she decided on toast and a coffee.

After breakfast and feeling a bit better, she decided to go and clean the study. Rick would complain like hell, but she could face it, if I find a clue, she added. Grabbing everything she needed, she clambered up the stairs juggling the vacuum and the plastic tray of cleaning stuff. At the study door she stopped to get her breath.

Opening the door, it was clear he had been looking for something. The desk and floor were covered in papers, open books and files. It reminded her of freshly fallen snow. Leaving her cleaning stuff at the door, she tried to step around it all to get to the desk, but failed when she stepped on a book. The spine cracked loudly, the noise like a snapping twig in the quietness of the house.

Rolling her eyes, she picked up the book then begin plucking other books off the floor and stacking them in a pile. Next she did all the papers though she tried to divided them into subject matters. With that done, she started on his desk. Picking up a notebook, the side of her hand hit the computer mouse and the screen woke up.

Her husband’s diary was displayed. She looked and saw that he’d been due to give a lecture on ‘creating fictional characters’ at nine this morning. Then he had a follow up workshop after an early lunch. Biting her lip, she scrolled back and forth through the days, looking for any hints that he had put a meeting with the other woman in.

Soon though, she realised this was his only uni schedule. Growling, she looked through the other tabs he had open, but it was only his lecture notes, presentation and handouts. Abandoning that idea, she turned the computer off and looked through the notebook that was still in her hand. It was a mess of story ideas in her husband’s handwriting. None of them made much sense to her.

She placed the book back and started looking through everything on the desk, but nothing else stood out. She sank onto his well worn leather desk chair and wondered where else she could look. Though it would be hard in all this mess….

Em started tidying again. Luckily, she had cleaned her husband’s study enough times to know where most things went. The things she didn’t know, she placed piled up on the low, long coffee table which was against the right wall next to his great-granddad’s leather armchair. By the time she was done, Em had to leave for work.

Instead of driving directly to the office where she was a part-time admin, she took the route her husband had headed last night. Slowing down at the place she had lost him in, she looked at the houses and tried to see if there was one… that what?  she thought, had a sign post outside saying mistress’ house? Or maybe cheating husbands’ grotto? 

She smiled at her silliness and drove to work. The afternoon passed in a blur of phone calls,  paperwork and filing. Driving home afterwards, she felt too tried to do anything and when she got in, Em lay on the sofa trying to get rid if a small headache.

The ringing of a mobile brought her back. She fished the phone out of her bag and answered it without looking who was calling, ‘Hello?’

‘Em, I’m sorry but I forgot to tell you about this dinner I’m going tonight,’ Rick rushed.

‘Dinner?’ Em questioned as she noticed the breathlessness of his voice.

‘With some colleagues. I totally forgot about it! I’ll be home real late too. You’ll be okay though, right?’

She nodded then said, ‘of course.’

‘There’s no need to wait up. I’ll try not to disturb you. bye’.

‘Okay. Love-‘

The phone beeped in her ear and Em tutted. Placing it down, she decided she wasn’t feeling hungry and that if her husband wasn’t going to home anytime soon she’d go into the attic for a bit. Collecting her things, she went into the bedroom and let her stuff beside the bed. She got changed into jog pants and an old jumper. Realising how quiet it was, she turned on the TV which sat on her dressing table. The news channel came on and she left the steady voice of the news reporter talking to the empty room.

Out in the hallway, she pulled the attic hatch cord and watched the ladder descending. Climbing up slowly, she then felt for the light switch at the top and waited till the blinking light bulbs had settled to step inside. The attic felt hot and stuffy. She breathed in old air and dust as she made her way to the back left corner. The wooden boards creaked slightly under her feet and the voice of the news reporter followed her like a warning spirit.

She reached the back of the attic where behind a dining table and six stacked dinning chairs from her grandmother’s old house was a seemly abandoned steam trunk. Going around the table and chairs, Em reached up to wooden beam and felt along it. Her fingers brushed something small and metal. She brought the key down from it’s hiding place and knelt before the trunk.

She looked over her shoulder and listened, holding her breath like a child waiting to be caught. However, all she could hear was the now the faint sounds from the TV. Turning back, she put the key into the steam trunk’s lock and slowly opened the lid. She breathed in a very faded scent of lavender then looked down at the contents.

To Be Continued…

Distraction

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Cat With Books

Pushing open the door, Kanas walked into the quiet section of the library and found it empty. Around her the bookcases grew from the floor and into the ceiling, each stuffed full of volumes that seemed to watch and whisper to her. Closing the door, Kanas clutched the two books she had already picked up to tighter her chest and rested her chin on top of them. Her breath had caught and her eyes could not stop glancing around.

It felt wrong to be in here this late, but on the other hand she was relieved to have found a space to study. Abruptly, the next song on her IPod burst into her large headphones and she jumped. Catching herself on a nearby bookcase, which also caused a small scratch on her palm, she recovered quickly and slipped the headphones off. 12 Stones Open Your Eyes drifted softly into the room. Shaking her head, Kanas meandered around the bookcases and towards a centre isle, where a large table and fourteen chairs sat.

Kanas slipped her books and bag onto the table, which also held a number of green shaded lamps, a pile of abandoned books, a vase of dried flowers and another object which seemed out of place. Frowning, Kanas walked to the other end of the table to see what it was. The music from her headphones still floated out and in her curiosity, she seemed to have forgotten about it.

She stepped around the corner of the table and looked down. The object was a large painting in a wooden frame. It depicted a sleeping cat on a bookcase surrounded by birds, mice and books. The cat was a tabby and looked content with its body and paws wrapped around the books. Kanas smiled, it reminded her of herself and her bedroom. Slowly, she reached out and stroked the cat’s fur. There was no glass in the frame, so her fingers brushed against the dried paint.

Pulling herself away, she went back to the other end of the table and set herself up. She had an English essay to write on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Opening her laptop, she switched it on and left it loading whilst she sorted out her notes and the books. Just before she was about to start typing her eyes flickered to the painting once more, even though she now couldn’t see it from this angle. I’ll ask about it later, she thought as she slipped her headphones on and began typing.

She wrote solidly for an hour, finding it easy going and her essay taking shape nicely. She was so wrapped up in her work that she didn’t hear the door opening or the sharp coughing behind her. A figure appeared in the corner of her eye and Kanas jumped, her hands shot up to rip the headphones off and her mouth forming an O scream. With the music off though, the janitor’s voice came to her and her shocked faded.

‘It’s closing time. Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. I didn’t know you were here. Are you all right?’ he was speaking.

Kanas nodded and looked at the time on her laptop, it was two am.

‘I thought it was an all nighter?’ she asked, saving her work.

‘It is. Was I believe, but there’s no one else here now. Bit silly if you ask me, keeping the university library open all night on a Friday,’ the janitor chuckled, then stopped as his eyes fell on Kanas, ‘Deadline due?’

‘Overdue. I got an extension till Monday. My aunt died last week,’ Kanas explained.

‘I’m sorry about that.’

‘My hall was too noisy and there was a group of media student taking up the twenty-four hour computer room. So I came here. I’ll leave if you want me too,’ Kanas added.

‘You got much left to do?’

She nodded.

‘You can come back tomorrow though,’ the janitor smiled.

‘Yeah, thanks,’ Kanas replied and quickly began packing up.

The janitor carried on his sweeping off the floor then began cleaning the other side of the table. Kanas saw him touching the painting and suddenly remembered about it. Slipping on her bag and picking up her books, she called to him and asked, ‘where did that painting come from?’

‘This?’ he asked holding it up, ‘I found it the other day behind one of the bookcases in here. No one seems to know anything about it and the head librarian told me to throw it away today. I think it’s too nice though. I was going to keep.’

Kanas bite her lip and nodded. She turned to go.

‘Wait. Do you…want it?’

She turned back and walked over. Her eyes fell on the painting and a smile came to her face, ‘Can I? There’s just something about it. It reminds me of myself…somehow…’ she giggled.

‘Sure. My wife’s sick of me bring things home. Here,’ he prompt and handed her the painting, ‘I’ll show you out.’

‘Thanks,’ she said and slipped the painting under her arm, ‘it’ll brighten up my room.’

‘I hear they are good for inspiration too,’ the janitor added.

They walked through the library and to the main door. After saying goodbye, Kanas stepped into the cool November night and headed back to her room. Her hall was quiet and after juggling the painting and books, she made it through her front and room doors. Putting everything down on the bed, she turned on the light and took the old clock down from the wall above the desk.

She wasn’t sure that the hook would take the painting, but after a few tries, she got it up. Stepping back, she looked at the sleeping cat and felt a wave of peace and tiredness creep across her. Sorting out her things, she then got ready for bed, but she couldn’t help but noticed that the painting really brightened up the room.