I've never finished a short story before now. I hope it's not shit. It doesn't have a title because yesterday I called my interview with Jet's Nic C 'Can You Guess What It Is? Jet!' and so I don't trust myself to call anything anything anymore. There are no hidden meanings. Give advice please.
Richard had delusions of grandeur. Admittedly, he liked the way that sentence sounded rather than actually understanding what it meant, but since the only person who’d know was himself, that never posed much of a problem. He liked rolling the words around in his head, thinking it made him sound philosophical. Arch even.
He also liked living with Liz. He liked that a lot. She wasn’t exactly pretty, but she had a good figure and his mates were impressed. “God no, we’re just friends,” he’d say, mock-disgusted with them for even suggesting such a thing. But he was pleased that they did. It all went with this new lady-killer writer image he’d been slowly cultivating over the last year. No more clerking for him once the book deal was sealed.
Cradling whisky which Sally had given him for his birthday, he leant back in the chair, swirling the glass around so the liquid glinted in the lamplight. He didn’t much like whisky, but if he was going to be a writer he figured he’d better cultivate some kind of eccentricity, and he loathed getting fag ash on his laptop. He smiled across at her now, curled up in the armchair: good old Sally, tiny and frowning with concentration, engrossed in his book. With her blonde fringe falling into her eyes she looked like some kind of urchin Dickens might have dumped on his doorstep. Richard frowned again. Ooh, good that. Might use it for something.
He closed his eyes, luxuriating in the warmth of the flat and thoughts of reviews in the TLS and prominent shop floor displays. Pyramids of his book there’d be, surrounded by female English students in awkward skirts. Oh yes, they’d be hunched over copies which, being £18.99, they couldn’t afford to buy, so they’d keep coming in each afternoon for the next fix. Yes, that would be good. Richard smiled, and took an invisible sip of whisky, grimacing in what he hoped might pass for a manly fashion, then settled back to his book.
Instantly, the pyramids disappeared.
“You twatty shit, don’t you DARE fall asleep.”
An A4 folder splayed through the air and hit him sharply on the temple.
“Ow,” Richard winced, rubbing his head and reaching out to pick up the paper that had fallen out, “that hurt.”
Sally glared at him, and rescued her melting gin and tonic from the table.
“I should bloody think so. Managed five pages before I realised there wasn’t enough gin. What were you thinking, inflicting that self-indulgent crap on anyone without proper warning.”
Richard’s eyebrows slid down towards his nose in martyred disappointment.
“I worked really hard on that,” he protested hotly, “I was going to send it off to people tomorrow.”
Sally snorted, uncurled her legs and leant towards him, waving her glass around for emphasis. The ice cubes had caused the gin to overflow. That’d teach her to be a greedy dipso, Richard thought distantly.
Slosh. (Ha! thought Richard.) “If there was any way I could get out of this without causing you mental distress, I would,” said Sally. She took a large swig and exhaled violently. “Probably. But there isn’t. You can’t write for shit.” Slosh. She glared at him again, the gin now aimed at Richard like a bayonet. “You remember when I went through that Danielle Steel phase when I was seeing Jo?”
“Worse than that.”
Richard recoiled. “Fuck off!”
“Seriously. Your metaphors are pure teen poetry and I like adjectives too much for you to abuse them in such a cack handed manner.” She sank back in her chair, flourishing her glass in exasperation. “Do you actually have any idea what happened in medieval France? Because it doesn’t seem like it from this.”
Stung, Richard took a larger mouthful of whisky than he’d intended and spluttered violently.
“Loads! I spent bloody months on that book and you don’t even bother to read beyond the first five pages. Seriously, what the fuck?”
Keys jangled faintly through the hall and heels clacked inside.
Richard got out of his chair and stalked off into the hall
“We’ll talk about this later.”
She rolled her eyes and groaned limply. “I can’t wait.” Then, leaning out of her chair she called, “Just don’t make me wait in ‘hours garnished with aching silences’, is all.”
Richard fumed to himself. Bloody Sally, of course she’d laugh, he should never have shown it to her.
“Is everything OK?” Liz poked her dark head around the kitchen door, over-balancing slightly as she kicked off her boots. Richard relaxed. He’d always liked Liz, she always seemed to know how to make him feel better. One day he’d ask her out. Maybe. He had a sneaking feeling that she might say yes.
“Ah. Did Sally not like the book?”
Richard’s lip curled. “She only read the first bit, then she threw it at me and said it was crap.”
“Ah. Oh well, never mind eh?” She hugged him affectionately and turned to hang up her coat on the coat rack in the kitchen. Richard paused.
“Liz, do you think my book’s crap?”
“God noooooo!” floated back to him. “I just had no idea you were so into the whole Cadfael in France thing. Shit!” Sound of tripping over abandoned shoes. “We really need to move those. No, really Richard, it’s really impressive.”
Richard leant against the wall awkwardly, feeling slightly less wounded. Liz came out of the kitchen beaming.
“There! Now come on you, let’s go and patch things up with Sally. You’ve known each other too long for this shit to hang around.”
Richard let her take his hand and pull him back into the living room where Sally was staring into the bottom of her now empty glass. She looked up at him innocently: tiny, blonde, butter wouldn’t melt.
“Sorry I said your book was shit Richard. It is, but I’m still sorry.”
Still basking in Liz’s compliments, Richard ignored her and turned to pick up his whisky. Liz mouthed something furious at Sally, who was now refilling her glass, and bustled up to Richard sweetly.
“Look, go and get that nice bottle of red Dave dropped round the other week and we’ll get some Thai from Ari’s. Oh hang on, we drank that. Why don’t you pick up some of that Rioja from next door?”
“Ok.” Richard obediently grabbed his keys from the table and went out through the hall. The front door clicked.
Liz dropped her frown, and went over to the armchair. She slipped her hand into Sally’s, massaging the knuckles with her thumb.
“You could have been a bit kinder you know. He really values your opinion.”
Sally pouted, leaning her head on Liz’s shoulder.
“Nah, I’ve known him too long. And it really was awful.”
She took another slug of gin. Liz felt the gulp and smiled inwardly.
“It’s more than that now anyway,” Sally said irritably. “I know he thinks you’re a-maz-ing and stuff, but I’m getting fed up of him thinking he’s going to end up with you.” She poked her fondly to punctuate. “This is all your fault for not dating anyone since you moved in. He probably thinks you’re pining for him.”
Liz laughed, pulled Sally to her and kissed her.
“Well. We’ll have to tell him then.”
The door slammed.
“They didn’t have the Rioja so I got some of that other stuff we had!”
In the living room, Liz leant her forehead against Sally’s and kissed her again, twisting her lips into a smile. “You know, it might take his mind off the fact his book’s so shit.”