Daniel Williams

Posts Tagged ‘prose’

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Nine

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 15/08/2013 at 17:45

The final chapter. Beatrice is captured by Varney’s men as pirates raid Seastone.

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Nine

The carriage drove slowly through the streets. The sounds of screams and shouts came from the harbour. Though my hands were tied and bound, I reached them up to push the curtain of the carriage window aside. There was a fire in the harbour.

‘Has to be Blackgraces,’ one of Varney’s men said. There were four of them in the carriage with me.

‘Looks like The Black Prince.’

The captain of The Black Prince was Byron Blackgrace, my uncle. They’d come for me. But I was kidnapped and being taken to a man who was probably going to kill me. I reached for the handle of the carriage door, but a fist stuck me in my face.

‘Enough of that, girl,’ the man who’d hit me said. ‘Or I’ll break those mitts of yours.’

The ropes cut into my wrist, stinging and painful. It almost made me laugh at how hands bound together looked like praying. My only prays were that my family found me before Varney killed me.

The carriage came to a halt.

‘Here, why are we stopping?’

‘We can’t be there yet…’

One of the men opened the door and got outside. I dived towards the open door, but I was grabbed around the waist.

‘What did I tell you? Enough of that.’

The one who’d left, a stout man with sandy hair, came back. ‘Governor’s boys,’ he said, ‘blocking up the road. There’s no way round.’

The man holding me swore. The young one said, ‘What are going to do then?’

I felt the grip on my waist tighten. He said, ‘We walk. Governor’s men aren’t going to care one lick about us, not if they’ve got pirates to deal with.’

A small argument broke out, but it was soon decided they would march me to Varney’s. I was dragged outside. At the end of the street I could see some of the Governor’s men blocking it off. They were all armed with rifles and swords. More marched down that street.

‘Come on.’

I was dragged away from the sight. Other people stood in the streets watching. No one paid attention to the bound and gagged girl being marched along. Some people were staying in their homes and locking their doors and windows, but peeping outside. Other people came into the streets to see what was going on in the harbour, maybe to catch a glimpse of The Black Prince.

I was marched to the very top of the hill, where the bigger and larger houses were. It was almost impressive that Varney owned two houses like this. They took me inside. There were only two small candles lit to illuminate the hallway.

‘He’ll be down there, take her to him.’

I was passed over to the young one and he pulled me down the corridor by the rope around my wrist. He pushed open a door and then pushed me into a small study.

There were bookshelves filled with red and black ledgers. At other end was an armchair with a very high back. Sitting in it was Varney. He looked like he was dressed for the opera. He had his cane next to him. He pulled the handle top of it up and it revealed a sword concealed within. He dropped it back down and picked it up and dropped down it again. Varney scarcely looked at me when I came in. He was a terrible host.

‘Take the gag off her.’

The young one did as he was told and I could breath properly again.

I said, ‘How about my wrist too? I talk a lot better when I can move my hands.’

‘Leave us,’ Varney said. The young man left us alone in the room. Varney made no motion other than to play with his cane. He looked entirely despondent.

‘Well,’ I said, ‘here I am.’

‘It does not matter,’ he said sullenly. ‘It’s The Black Prince in the harbour. Byron Blackgrace is here.’

I grinned.

‘It was not supposed to be this way,’ he said.

‘You shouldn’t have tried to kidnap me. If you’d played nicely you could’ve have a happy ending.’

He sneered at me. He turned to face me and the lamp by his side shone on half of his face. ‘Having the Blackgraces here means only destruction and death.’

He stood up and went to the window.

‘I was there,’ he said. ‘All those years ago, when Grayson kidnapped William Blackgrace’s family. I was part of the gang.’ He said, ‘I saw the sheer destruction, the death and the violence the Blackgraces caused and I swore…there was a better way of doing things, without violence without…’

He shook his head.

‘Our dear Governor was there that day as well, on the other side of it. We both agreed- no violence. It solved nothing.’

I said, ‘You turned to kidnapped and selling people to slavery instead. That’s much nicer, how’s it working out for you?’

He turned to face me, ‘We were going to take you to them, it was to avoid this.’

I lifted my bound hands and pointed it at him. ‘You tried to kidnap me, remember? You sent those men to-’

‘A mistake, yes, one I tried to correct.’

‘Didn’t work, though. And now my family-’

‘Your family?’ He laughed. It was a loud, booming laugh. ‘You have no family.’

‘I am Arwen Blackgrace.’

‘Poor girl,’ he said, sitting down again. ‘I almost feel sympathy for you.’

‘I am Arwen Blackgrace. I have the scar-’

He shook his head. ‘I deal in trinkets that pass through this island and one day what did I find but the Blackgrace locket that belonged to infant Arwen. Of course, the merchant had no idea what he had hold of, few people do. So I purchased it from him and came up with a plan.’

He looked up at me. He smiled but his eyes were cold and hard.

‘The Blackgraces would still pay a good price to get her back. I had the locket, how easy would it be to find-’

‘No,’ I said, ‘no…’

‘I asked Giles Corrigan. He dealt in selling women on, selling girls, finding orphans. I told him of my plan for Arwen Blackgrace-’

‘No…’

‘I needed a girl of a certain age with red hair and blue eyes, an orphan with no family.’

‘I have the scar,’ I said desperately, ‘I have the same scar!’

He laughed, ‘Giles told you Arwen had a scar because you had a scar!’ He stood up, gripping his cane in his hand. ‘We were so lucky to find you because you were so willing to be convinced that you were Arwen Blackgrace.’

‘I am…’

‘No.’ He was very close to me. ‘I was going to kill you and try to find another orphan in time. It wouldn’t be hard. This is Seastone- the isle of the orphans. You, Beatrice Seastone, are not the daughter of a pirate captain, you are a damned orphan, and you are absolutely nothing special.’

He spat those last words at me and something inside me collapsed.

I launched myself at him, striking him with my bound hands. Varney was caught off guard and I knocked him to the floor. My hands went around his throat and squeezed.

The cane struck me on the side of my face and it knocked me to my side. I heard metal on wood as he drew the sword from his cane. I rolled again and saw a flash of metal as the sword stabbed into the spot where I had been. I kicked at Varney and he yelped, letting go of the sword.

I quickly got to my feet and put my hands around the hilt of the sword. Varney ran at me. I tugged the sword out and flicked it up. It caught Varney across the stomach.

Dark red poured out on his white shirt and neat waistcoat.

He looked surprised.  Without thinking I drove the sword into him.

Blood gurgled out of his mouth. He dropped to the floor, the sword sticking out of his chest. A breath rattled out of him and then nothing.

I breathed heavily. I could hear loud noises from outside. No doubt Varney’s men were rushing in to kill me. I didn’t care. I’d been lied to, set-up. I was just some orphan with no past that’d been tricked to make money.

I was a fool. A poor, stupid fool.

The door opened and a man I didn’t recognise stood looking at me. He was tall and had long, iron-grey hair. He wore all black, even had a flowing black cape. The man’s face was so stern and still it looked like it had been chiselled out of stone.

He stepped into the room, not taking his eyes from me. Behind him were people who were not Varney’s men. One of them was a young man with dark-skin who actually smiled at me.

I stood up to face the unsmiling man, ready to face whatever fate had in store for me. With a black-gloved hand he quickly reached out and took hold of my chin. He tilted my head up and moved it to the left and then right.

‘It has been seventeen years,’ he said, ‘since I last saw my niece. I wouldn’t know what she looked like now.’

It was Byron Blackgrace, captain of The Black Prince. He let go of my head and looked about the room. He nodded and the smiling man came over to me. Again he gave me a cheerful look. He took out his sword.

‘Put your hands out, love.’

Though confused, I did as he said. He used his sword to cut through the ropes trying my hands together.

Byron Blackgrace kneeled next to Varney’s corpse.

The smiling man said to me in a quiet voice, ‘We heard about what you did. You friend, Devon, found us, told us, and about his place.’

I was about to ask how he was, but he said, ‘But he passed from his wounds. Sorry.’

Byron Blackgrace said in a loud voice, ‘This is Varney?’ He looked up at me. ‘You did this?’

I nodded and he grunted.

The smiling man tittered and said, ‘Believe it or not, but this is the most impressed I’ve ever seen him. You’ve done a good job here. You really are one of us.’

Byron Blackgrace stood up and stared at me. I rubbed my wrists. They were red from where the ropes had cut into them.

Byron said, ‘What have you got to say for yourself, girl?’

I looked at him. His gaze didn’t waver. Everybody in the room, the pirates with their swords drawn were looking at me, waiting to hear what I was going to say.

I thought about what Varney had told me. I considered what I had done and in that moment I knew who I was.

I smiled at Byron Blackgrace. ‘Let’s go home,’ I said, ‘Uncle.’

His lip twitched a little. I think he was trying to smile.

******

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Eight

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 12/08/2013 at 17:45

Having escaped from Varney, Beatrice is reunited with Devon and awaits the arrival fo the Blackgraces to Seastone…

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Eight

Devon’s family were happy to have me stay with them, even though they were curious as to why. Devon’s mother kept suitably trying to ask if I were pregnant.

In the day Devon would go out and learn what he could, and at night we would plan. We learnt the Governor had raided Varney’s home and tensions were high.

I had Devon find me some paper and something to write with. I wrote down the location of Varney’s other house. Once I had finished, Devon took it away. When he came back in the next morning he just said, ‘It’s done.’

In the daytime I stayed inside and played with the children. Devon’s parents began to notice that I would duck away whenever the Governor’s Officers came down the street.

‘Beatrice,’ Devon’s mother asked me that night, ‘are you in trouble with the law?’

We were sat around their little table. Devon’s father wouldn’t make eye contact with me. He just wiped his big hands on his scruffy green jacket.

‘She killed a man,’ Devon said.

I said, ‘He was trying to attack me, I retaliated, and the Governor wants to hang me.’

‘Are you the one they’re after?’ Devon’s father asked, ‘The girl who escaped?’

I nodded.

‘She did nothing wrong, Dad,’ Devon said, his face red, ‘and she’s going away soon, I’m keeping her safe until then.’

His father looked up and about. ‘Devon would you take Beatrice outside so we can talk.’

We went outside and stood in the alley. A cat meowed at us. I apologised to Devon.

‘There’s nothing to be sorry for, Go Away,’ he said. We stood next to each other, leaning against the back wall of the butchers. ‘You’ll be gone soon, I heard that The Black Prince has been spotted.’

Above our heads came the sound of Devon’s parents arguing.

‘They’ll let you stay,’ Devon said. ‘They like having you about. They’ll miss us when we’re gone.’

‘Us?’

‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘Coming with you, aren’t I?’

‘Oh, are you?’

He turned to me. ‘Of course I am. I’m practically your first mate.’

I laughed.

He said, ‘I heard Governor’s men went to that house you wrote to them about, Varney’s other house.’

‘And what happened?’

‘A few of Varney’s men got arrested.’

I wondered if the small dark-haired one who’d tried to kidnap me was among them.

‘Are they in the jail now?’

‘Oh yes.’

I nodded. ‘Devon, do you remember you told me about a man who could get us guns?’

‘Well…I suppose I did. Why?’

‘Don’t worry, I don’t want guns.’

He breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Good, I’ve never shot anyone.’

‘Could he get us some gunpowder?

‘Gunpowder?’ Devon gasped.

‘Shush.’

Devon looked about. ‘What the bloody hell do you want gunpowder for, Go Away?’

‘We’re going to break out Varney’s men,’ I said.

******

Later in the afternoon, Devon came down the alleyway. He carried something covered over in a dirty old cloth. His face was pale. I saw him through the window and raced downstairs to greet him.

‘You got it!’

He nodded and slowly put the small covered barrel of gunpowder on the ground.

‘Don’t touch it,’ he said. ‘It’s very…I don’t know. Scary.’

‘Coward. We have to do it tonight, before Varney gets a chance to get his men out.’

‘And blowing a bloody great hole in the wall of the jail is the way to do?’

‘The Governor can’t ignore a bloody great hole in his wall,’ I said. ‘We’ll do it tonight.’

******

After eating a meal with his family, Devon announced we were going out for the night. His mother and father shared a look, and all his father said was, ‘You best not wake us when you come in.’

Devon took the gunpowder, keeping the barrel wrapped in the cloth, and we made our way to the jail.

It had been so long since I had been aboard in Seastone at night, I had forgotten about the sights and sounds. But I didn’t miss them. And I wouldn’t miss them when I left. I was a Blackgrace and belonged with them, my family. My life in Seastone had been pretending, a fantasy. And soon, so soon I would be with them.

There were only two gates in wall around the jail. We waited by the small gate at the back of the jail. Nobody came in or out. After hours I passed I said to Devon, ‘There’s only one thing for it. We’re going to have to knock.’

I walked towards the gate. Behind me Devon muttered, ‘Yes, and they’ll just let us in with a barrel of gunpowder…’

I banged my fist on the gate. There was a small hatch in door. A lock clicked and the hatch opened. There was an Officer looked out at us.

‘What?’

‘We’ve bringing wine,’ I said. ‘For the Governor.’ And I indicated towards the barrel.

The old Officer closed the hatch on us. The gate opened.

‘Come on, then…’

We went through. Devon said thank you to the Officer.

‘Let me give you something for your trouble,’ I said to him, making it look as if I were seeing how much money I had. Instead I pulled out a club Devon had procured for me. I hit the old Officer on the head and he collapsed to the floor. I had rope on me, which I used to tie his hand and legs together.

Once we’d done that, we made our way across to the jail. There was a row of barred windows. A few weeks ago, one of them had been my cell. Devon gave me the barrel of gunpowder and I pulled the top off. I poured out the black powder along the wall just away from where the cells were. Whether or not Varney’s men escaped didn’t matter. It just had to look like an escape attempt, even if it were one that hadn’t worked.

We stood back and Devon handed me a box of matches.

‘You ready to run, Go Away?’

I nodded and struck the match. I tossed it onto the tip of the trail of gunpowder.

It sparked alight.

‘Run, run, run’ Devon said and took my arm. And we ran back to the gate. We got it open and heard the explosion behind us.

Rubble flew into the air. The noise was deafening. We fled into the night.

******

In the pubs and the inns and the taverns, everybody was talking about what had happened at the jail. Nobody had ever defied the Governor like that. Devon said to me, ‘The way people are talking makes it sound like we’re in the middle of a war. Varney’s claiming he’s got nothing to do with it, it was somebody else. There’s a price on your head, Go Away.’

‘What’s the Governor doing?’

‘Breaking apart Varney’s businesses. There’s been raids, lots of Officers killed, Varney’s men too. It’s not safe to be out at night anymore. Seastone’s tearing itself apart.’

It was cold in the alley behind the butcher’s shop. Devon shivered and hopped on the spot. ‘And I bumped into Lydia Pryce,’ he said. ‘she wants to see you.’

‘What did you tell her?’

‘Told her to come here tomorrow.’

I clipped him around the head.

‘What was that for?’

‘You can’t tell anybody I’m here!’

‘But she’s harmless!’

‘Will you two keep in down!’ Came a voice from a window above us.

‘Sorry, Mrs. Weiss,’ Devon shouted up.

In a hushed voice I said, ‘What’s Lydia Pryce coming here for?’

‘I don’t know, to talk,’ he said. ‘She’s all right, I wouldn’t worry about it.’

‘I’m not letting her know I’m here. When she turns up, take her somewhere else.’

Devon knew of an abandoned house a few streets away. I told him to bring her to me there.

******

The abandoned house was dusty and grey. My guests arrived when it was nighttime. I heard them enter the house and Devon called ‘Go Away?’

I didn’t answer. I let them find their way through the house to where I waited for them, sat at a table.

‘Beatrice?’ Lydia said.

Devon said, ‘Can’t I put a candle on?’

‘No,’ I said. ‘We can’t let anybody know we’re here.’

‘Beatrice…’ Lydia said and she came over to me. Some moonlight shone with the window. She stood in the patch of it. She wore that old red dress with the red scarf around her neck.

‘Beatrice, please, I know what it’s like,’ Lydia said, ‘to be an orphan and feel like you haven’t got any hope-’

‘I have hope, Lydia and I’m sorry I can’t help you.’

‘You don’t understand, I’ve been in your position,’ she came close to me, kneeling down on the floor next to me. ‘When I left the orphanage I was taken by a man…on the promise that he’d give me a job…’

Devon was at the other end of the room. He looked about as if he’d heard a noise.

Lydia continued, ‘But that’s what he did, taken orphans under the pretence of…helping them. But he sold them, Beatrice. And he had not right to do that.’

Tears rolled down her face.

‘He sold me to a ship, for the men to use,’ she spat. ‘Look what they did to me.’ She took the scarf from her neck. I saw rope burns and scars. ‘They tortured me for…their pleasure. I was just something to be sold.’ She put her hands on my arm, ‘Don’t you see, Beatrice, I’m offering you a chance you’d never get…’

I said, ‘The man who sold you was Giles Corrigan?’

She nodded. ‘I got away from that ship, made money for myself and started the orphanage in Pentia so nobody would have to suffer that.’

‘Giles was kind to me-’

‘Of course he was. He was going to sell you, like an item,’ she gripped my arm tighter. ‘He couldn’t be allowed to do that.’

‘Why were you in Seastone?’

‘Why?’

I said, ‘Your orphanage is in Pentia, why come to Seastone at all?’

‘I…business…’

Quietly, I said, ‘You killed him. You were the one who snuck in his room and shot him. For revenge.’

‘I didn’t know about you at the time,’ she said, ‘but when I did, I knew, knew it was a sign from God that I was take you and protect you.’

I pulled my arm away from her.

‘Beatrice, please, we only want to help you…’

‘We?’

Lydia stood up, ‘He’s a rich man, he came to me because of my work with orphans, he wants to help get you away, his name is Varney-’

I stood up quickly, knocking the chair over. ‘Devon, we have to get out of here!’

The door of the house burst open and men came through the dark.

Devon stood to face them, one tackled into him.

‘Beatrice, run!’ Devon shouted at me.

In the darkness the men seemed like shadows. Lydia was hurled out of the way and two of them grabbed at me. I kicked and fought and called Devon’s name.

‘Don’t hurt her!’ Lydia was shouting.

‘Shut up,’ said a voice. I only caught a glimpse of him taking out a sword and slashing at Lydia. Her body fell to the floor. My mouth was gagged. They tied my hands together.

‘Where’s the lad gone?’ A voice called. ‘Where is he?’

I hoped that Devon was safe.

They pulled me to my feet and dragged me out of the house. There was a carriage waiting for me. A man pushed me at the carriage and I hit the side.

‘Varney sends his regards,’ he hissed in my ear.

There was a bright light and a rumble.

‘What was that?’ one of them said.

In the harbour, lights flashed.

‘It’s a ship,’ somebody said.

Cannon’s roared. Screams and shouts echoed.

‘Pirates,’ said one of Varney’s men.

******

Part Nine: 15/8/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Seven

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 08/08/2013 at 18:00

After being freed from the jail by Varney, Beatrice learns that her savior had been the order who ordered her kidnapping after the death of Giles Corrigan. A prisoner in Varney’s house, Beatrice looks for a way out.

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Seven

The wall was made out of slates and rock. Climbing it wouldn’t be too hard. Climbing it quickly would be difficult, though.

The slates were rough against my hands. But it wouldn’t be as bad as what would happen to me if I stayed behind. I wasn’t going to be anybody’s prisoner.

I was halfway up the wall when I heard shouting from the house. I had to hurry. I reached my hands out, not worrying about getting a safe holding.

At the end of it, I reached over the top and could feel the other side. All I had to do was pull myself up.

A hand grabbed my foot and I squealed. I kicked out but the hand held firm. I began to pull despite the hand trying to drag me back.

‘Get around the other side!’ Varney’s man shouted. ‘Get around the other side!’

I lashed out with my leg and managed to crush his hand into the wall. He yelped in pain and released his grip. Taking the chance I pulled myself up and was on the top of the wall.

Anders was unlocking the gate to come around. By the time I’d climbed down they’d both be waiting for me.

The only was I could get away was to jump.

I took a deep breath.

I turned to my side.

And jumped down.

My right side hit the ground and the pain went through me. But I had no time for pain. I pulled myself up and ran. Footsteps padded behind me.

I fled through alleyways, constantly changing directions, and soon I couldn’t hear their feet, but I knew they’d still be after me.

I was in the Seastone market. It was packed with people, so I could blend into the crowd. But I had to avoid the Governor’s men.

One stall had a selection of shawls for sale. I borrowed a dark red one. I promised to myself I would return it eventually. I put the shawl over me to cover my hair and give to chance to hide my face if the Governor’s men got too close.

Carefully I made my way through the market and into another part of the town. I avoided the main street and the busier streets and kept my head down. At the top of the street was The Hollow Crown. I took a look around me to see if there were any Governor’s men about. Seeing there were none I quickly made my way to the inn and went inside.

The old woman behind the desk glanced up at me, but I kept my face turned away as I quickly went up the stairs.

At the top there were the rows of doors and I struggled to recall which one had been Lydia Pryce’s. Last time I was here it had been Devon who had known where to go.

I reached a door that I thought might be the right one. I reached my hand out, balled it into a fist and knocked on the door.

No response.

Then I heard some movement from within the room. I stepped back, ready to run if it were wrong.

The door slowly opened.

‘Beatrice? Oh my word…’

Lydia took my arm and pulled me into the room.

‘I was convinced you were dead!’

She shut the door behind us. Lydia dashed from me and over to the window, holding on to that scarf that was around her neck. ‘Officers have been watching me since you escaped…’

‘I didn’t see any-’

‘They questioned me,’ she said, turning from the window to me, ‘because I’d gone to the jail and tried to get you released. I told them you were an orphan in my care but they wouldn’t release you…Did they take you when you went to get your things?’

I took the shawl from around my head. I said, ‘I need your help.’

‘Of course, yes, there’s a shop that sails to Penita tomorrow afternoon-’

‘No,’ I told her, ‘I need help to be hidden for a little while. Lydia, I thank you for what you’ve done, but I’ve found out that I have a family and I want to do all I can to get back to them.’

Her eyes darted as she looked at me, as though there was something growing out of either side of my head. ‘But…you’re an orphan,’ she said, ‘you don’t have a family, like me.’

‘I found out…I do.’

‘No, you’re like me, we’re orphans, we only have each other and all the other orphans to take care of…’

I shook my head. ‘I’m sorry, Lydia. I have to find my family.’

‘No…’ she said, ‘you were supposed to help.’

She turned away and paced the room. I apologised again but she didn’t seem to hear. ‘But you were supposed to help and make things right…’

‘I need to get to my family, you understand?’

‘No,’ she snapped. ‘No, I don’t. I’m trying to help you. We can run the orphanage and save-’

‘I don’t want to run an orphanage. My family is alive and they’re looking for me and I want to be with them, need to be with them.’

‘Go then.’ Lydia pulled her scarf up to cover her neck. ‘Find your family, I can’t help you with that.’

Quietly, I told her I was sorry and left her alone. As I walked down the stairs putting the shawl around my head and I wondered if it had been a bad idea to tell the truth.

I stepped out onto the street. I could either sneak onto a ship and try to get back, or I could let my family know I where I was.

Then I remembered who said he had connections with the Blackgraces.

******

Most of my day was spent avoiding them and waiting for the night. I had found the house I wanted and knew who I wanted was inside.

The window at the back of the house was partly open. I just pulled it towards me. It creaked as it opened and then I climbed through.

I lit a candle so I could see where I was. I was in the kitchen. Which is just what I waited. I soon found what I needed- a cutting knife. I blew out the candle and let my eyes become accustomed to the dark.

I found the stairs and went all the way up. I found the door at the top that led into the bedroom. I slowly pushed it open. There were no curtains. Some moonlight came through the window. Lying in the bed was Underwood.

I crept over, holding the knife out. I stood next to him, and then put the knife against his sensitive areas. I tapped the tip of the knife against his thigh.

Underwood’s eyes fluttered upon.

‘Wh-huh.’

Fear flared up in his eyes when he saw me.

‘Stay still,’ I said, ‘and be quiet.’

‘You, I-’

‘You sold me out to the Governor for the reward.’

‘I, I’m so sorry, I-’

‘I’m sure you are.’

‘Please, don’t…’

I moved the knife a little closer.

‘Don’t!’

‘Why shouldn’t I?’

He whimpered. ‘I can give you the money…’

‘What I want,’ I said, kneeling down so I was closer to him,’ is to know how good your connections with the Blackgraces are?’

‘I, I know somebody-’

‘How well?’

‘We…I…’

‘Could you get a message to him?’

Underwood nodded.

‘And could he get a message to the Blackgraces?’

‘I don’t-’

The tip of the knife pressed against his skin and I twisted it.

‘Yes!’ He shouted. ‘Yes!’

‘No so loud,’ I smiled. I told him what message I wanted sent. Arwen Blackgrace had been found and was in danger. She was at Seastone. ‘Can you tell him that?’

He nodded.

‘If you don’t sent the message I will know and I will find you. There’s going to be trouble coming. Make sure you’re on the right side.’

I stood up, ‘Oh, and Underwood? When you’ve done that find Devon. Tell him I’ll be at his parent’s.’

******

Early in the morning the butcher’s shop opened. The butcher stepped outside, wearing the same apron I had seen him wearing last time. It was covered in spots of dirt and blood. I approached him.

‘Hello.’

‘Morning,’ he said. ‘You want something?’

‘I’m looking for Devon.’

‘You were with him the other day, weren’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘He ain’t here, haven’t seen him since then.’

‘He should be meeting me here,’ I said. ‘Mind if I wait?’

‘Oh Jesus,’ he groaned, ‘he hasn’t got you pregnant, has he? Jesus…’

‘No, no,’ I said, ‘nothing like that.’

‘What is it you want then?’

‘A favour from a friend.’

The large butcher shrugged and invited me inside. I went thought the shop and lead up upstairs to where the family lived. There were five or six other children in the room. Mattresses and rags lay on the floor. Devon’s mother was sitting in a rocking chair by the window. She had the same dark curly hair as Devon.

I told her I didn’t know how long I was staying.

‘Well…if you’re friends with Devon…’ She found little jobs for me to do, sewing and mending, or looking after the children. It felt like been back at the orphanage.

******

‘Hello, Go Away.’

Devon stood in the doorway, smirking at me. Before I could speak to him, his mother had him and told him how worried they’d been. He took out a small purse of coins and handed it to her. His mother looked down at it in wonder then back at Devon. ‘And who did you steal this from?’

Devon rolled his eyes and walked away. ‘Come along, Go Away.’

We went into the back alley behind the shops. There was nobody about but us and a cat.

Devon leaned against the wall. ‘What is it you want with me, Go Away, if that is your real name.’

I smiled. ‘Underwood found you?’

‘He did. Half-scarred to death. What did you do to him?’

‘Did he have a message for me?’

‘He did,’ Devon said. ‘He said he spoke to the bloke who spoke to the bloke who told him to tell me to tell you that they’re on their way.’

‘That’s good news.’

‘I take it ‘they’ means the Blackgraces?’

I shrugged.

‘Don’t take me to be thick,’ he said, ‘all you were asking about were the Blackgrace family. You’re the lost one, aren’t you?’

I nodded and told him everything that had happened to me. I told about Varney and how he must have had Giles Corrigan murdered to get a hold of me.

I said I had escaped and he replied, ‘Full of surprises aren’t you, Go Away?’

‘You can call me my name, you know.’

‘Oh, I know,’ he grinned. ‘So you want me to hide you out until your family comes to get you. Putting not just me at risk, but my beloved family too.’

‘You’ll do it,’ I said, ‘because you know there’ll be something in it for you.’

‘I should hope so, very dangerous, this, very dangerous.’

‘And I’m afraid it won’t just be hiding me.’

‘Oh?’

I looked about to check for open windows and stepped closer to Devon. ‘The Governor and Varney’s men will be after me.’

‘Yeah?’

‘I want to distract them enough so that when my ship comes they’ll be too busy to notice I’m gone.’

Devon said, ‘And how do you suppose to distract them?’

‘We’re going to turn the Governor and Varney against each other. Their truce is failing, we’re going to break it. They’re going to destroy each other. And while they’re doing it I’m going to sail away in peace.

Devon swallowed. His Adam’s apple bobbed.

He said, ‘We?’

*******

Part 8: 12/8/13

Arwen Blackgrace: Part Six

In Arwen Blackgrace, Stories, Writing on 05/08/2013 at 17:55

Beatrice Seastone is still in jail, waiting to be hanged. Her only ally is Varney, the supposed master-criminal of the island, who may know the truth about whether she is or is not Arwen Blackgrace.

Arwen Blackgrace

Part Six

The cell next to mine was empty. I didn’t know where Sonya had been taken. I hoped she was free.

I waited for guards to take me to the gallows. I couldn’t keep still. I paced, or paced as well as I could in such a tiny cell.

In my head, over and over, I could hear Varney whispering, calling me Arwen Blackgrace. This man who controlled Seastone had called me Arwen Blackgrace. And he had told me not to lose hope. I clung as tightly to that as a drowning sailor to a piece of his ship.

******

 The men came to my cell late at the night. Without speaking a word they unlocked the cell door. Keys jangled against one officer’s belt as he stepped into my cell.

I stepped back and shook my head.

‘We’re not here to hurt you,’ the one outside the cell whispered.

‘We’re from a friend,’ said the other near me.

I whispered, ‘Varney?’

The one closest to me nodded.

‘Come with us.’

For a moment I was reluctant. But it was either them or hanging.

I was gently led out of my cell and into the corridor. At the very end a lamp was burning. The light flicked and illuminated a table when two of the Governor’s finest lay with their heads across the table.

‘Dead?’ I whispered.

‘Sleeping.’

This was the big escape. No shots were fired, no voices were raised. Some guards were drugged, others had accepted bribes and even held doors open for me.

Outside the jail was a horse and carriage. The door of it was held open for me. I climbed in and one of the men followed and sat alongside me. Thick black curtains covered the windows of the carriage so I couldn’t see outside.

The carriage set off and I was rocked from side to side. I leaned over and pulled the curtain a little so I could see outside.

‘I wouldn’t do that,’ said the man. ‘Just in case anybody sees you.’

I put the curtain back in its place.

******

The carriage came to a stop. The man opened the door and stepped out. He offered a hand to help me out. I got out of the carriage slowly so I could take a good look at where I was. The house I was standing outside was towards the middle of Seastone, at the top of the hill in the district for the rich and more corrupt islanders.

The man led me up to a house with a high walled garden. He opened the gate. We went through the garden and up a path to the back of the house.

A door opened and I was shown inside. A few candles flickered, offering a little light. The ceilings in this house were so high, much taller than I was. It made me feel like I was in a child’s dollhouse.

Varney was waiting for me in a study. He stood up and said, ‘Hello.  I trust you made it safely?’ He spoke as if he were expecting for me tea and cakes.

He invited me to sit, and had his man pour me a glass of wine. I sipped at the wine. It tasted expensive.

Varney watched me in silence. Then simply said, ‘So.’

‘So,’ I said. ‘I suppose thank you for breaking me out of jail.’

‘You’re welcome. That place is no place for a lady.’

‘Won’t the Governor be unhappy?’

Varney picked up his silver-handled cane and rested it upon his lap. ‘The Governor and I have an understanding. I’m afraid that he has forgotten his understanding of our understanding, if you follow.’

‘Not at all.’

He laughed and showed white teeth. He said, ‘The Governor, like myself, abhors violence. Violence is for the unimaginative. The Governor lets me do what I do as long as I steer clear of violent means and occasionally turn in the more violent element in Seastone to him.’

There was something very casual about Varney. He spoke to me like we were making small talk before a dance. I could not imagine people being afraid of this slim man.

‘When I was a younger man,’ he said, his face growing serious, ‘I saw…a very horrific act of butchery. Men, women, children, all killed.’ Varney leaned back in his chair and rested a hand on his cheek. ‘I swore from that day that I would not indulge in violence. There had to be a better way of doing things.’

Maybe it was the wine making me brave but I suddenly said, ‘You called me Arwen Blackgrace.’

A smile broke out on his face.  ‘I did.’

‘Why?’

‘Why?’ He leaned forward. ‘I knew Giles Corrigan. He told me about you. I knew the story.’

‘Is that why…;

‘I broke you out of jail?’ He asked.

I nodded.

Varney said, ‘Imagine what your family would do to me if I’d let you hang?’

It seemed so strange to hear the Blackgrace’s called ‘family’. It made me stomach feel tied in happy knots.

‘I don’t know your family well,’ he said, ‘but I know they would still welcome your return.’

‘How…how can you be sure that I’m…I mean, might be this Arwen Blackgrace?’

He leaned forward. ‘How do you feel about it?’

‘I…well…I’m an orphan, so I never…it could…’ Maybe it was the wine but I said, ‘Yes. I feel like I am.’

He smiled and leaned back. ‘You have the right hair colour, eye colour and…’

‘The scar?’

‘Yes,’ he smiled.

‘But what about the Blackgrace locket?’

Varney looked surprised. ‘How do you know about that?’

‘I asked somebody.’

‘Well…’ he said, ‘if truth be told I have the locket.’

‘How did you get it?’

‘I found it. Or found a man who had no idea what he had and I had a man purchase it from him. And I knew it meant Arwen Blackgrace was somewhere on this island.’

‘And Giles told you?’

‘Yes,’ Varney said, ‘before he was killed he passed on the word to me that he had found her. After I found the locket I knew she had to be somewhere.’

I asked, ‘Can I see it?’

‘I sent it back to your family with the promise that I’d deliver you.’ He pointed at me as he said this. ‘Of course it’s so I can take a fee for looking after you, just so you know and aren’t disillusioned.’

Varney smiled and reached forward to take my hand. He said, ‘I am going to organise a ship to get to the Blackgrace’s island. The Blackgraces have a habit of firing cannons on any ship that gets too close to them, so I need time to send further word to them and arrange our safe journey. Until then you’ll stay here.’

I said ‘When the Governor notices I’m gone won’t you be the first person he comes to see?’

Varney leaned back and grinned at me.

‘And won’t he raid your house to look for me?’

‘That he will.’

I said, ‘But this isn’t your house…’

‘Smart girl,’ he said, ‘nobody knows about his place except for the few men I trust. You’ll be very safe here, Arwen, I promise.’

I let out an involuntary yawn.

‘You must forgive me,’ he said, ‘I forget you’ve probably not had any sleep during your incarceration.’

I protested, but he stood up and said, ‘I forget myself. I so seldom get a lick of sleep at nights I forget other people need it.’

He was right, I was feeling very tired. He called for Anders and a blonde haired man came into the room.

‘Please show Miss. Blackgrace to her room.’

‘Thank you,’ I said to him.

‘It would say it’s my pleasure, but I’ll have to deal with our Governor tomorrow and that will be as far from a pleasure as a man can get.’ He took my hand and kissed it. ‘Goodnight, Miss. Blackgrace.’

He left the room through a small door and took his silver handled cane with him. Anders led me up a staircase to a room at the top of the house. He carried a candle to light our way. He held the bedroom door open for me.

I went inside the room. There was a candle on the sill, lighting the room. Within a moment I liked it a lot more than my cell.

The door clicked. I stood up, went over to it and tried the handle. Locked from the outside.

Part of me, maybe the Beatrice part of me, told me it’d been locked for a good reason, probably my own safety. But hearing the key been turned and the door being locked got my back up. I didn’t like feeling like I’d just exchanged one cell for another more comfortable one.

 

******

In the morning the door was unlocked and Anders took me down to breakfast. As we went down the stairs I said, ‘Why was my door locked? Worried about me getting away?’

‘No,’ he said, ‘worried about anybody getting in.’

At the breakfast table, I kept glancing around, trying to get an idea of the layout of the house. I listened for footsteps and movement and noise as I ate. There was at least two other people in the house.

Anders stood guard as I ate breakfast. When I finished I leaned back in my chair and Anders said, ‘Anything else, m’lady.’

I grinned. ‘Did you just call me “m’lady”’?

His cheeks glowed red.

‘Can I go outside?’ I said, ‘Sir?’

He couldn’t look me in the eye. ‘I can’t take you outside of the house. But the garden’s big.’

I told him that would do fine. He shuffled awkwardly next to me as he left the house and went to the garden. Anders seemed petrified by me. I wondered if it was because I was a Blackgrace or because I was a girl.

The garden of the house was large, and surrounded by a wall made out of slate and rocks. The walls were high, maybe three times the size of me. We walked all the way around. There was only one exit- the gate I came through the other night. I went up to it but there was a lock across it.

‘Who has the key?’ I asked.

‘Somebody else,’ he muttered.

Nearby was a little area with an iron table and chairs. I decided to sit down.

One of Varney’s underlings came out of the house and headed towards the gate.

My heart felt like it had stopped.

I knew that man.

That day back in The Hope and Anchor, two men had tried to grab me. One was dead, the other was walking right past me. He was a short squat man.

‘Anders, who is that?’

Anders turned round and said, ‘That’s Markus.’

‘He works for Varney?’

Anders nodded. ‘Why? You know him?’

‘I think so,’ I said.

Markus and the big bald man had tried to kidnap me and take me away. And he was working for Varney. They had known that I was Arwen Blackgrace. It suddenly became clear. Varney was making the Blackgrace’s pay to have me back. He’d had Giles find me. He’d killed Giles and tried to kidnap me so could have all the money to himself.

I swallowed hard.

I said, ‘Anders, could you fetch me some water?’

‘Can’t leave you alone.’

‘Why would I want to go?’ I said, ‘I’m in a nice patch of sunshine here.’

I urged him to get me something to drink. He eventually conceded.

‘All right,’ he said, standing up.

‘And shouldn’t that be, “All right, m’lady”?’

His cheeks flushed red and he hurried away. As soon as he was back inside the house I took a good look at the wall around the garden. It was tall. But the only way out was to climb it.

******

Part Seven: 8/8/13

A Year of ‘Tea, A Tie, and A Red Pen’

In Miscellaneous on 03/09/2012 at 17:24

This blog had been going for a year. This is longest I’ve managed to keep a blog. I think the sporadic nature of the posts make it easier for me, writing posts when I want to rather than feeling I have to every week, or something. I don’t know if this is good for the reader, but it keeps me happy.

Anyway, for the first year anniversary of the blog (which, admittedly, I missed by a couple of weeks), I’d link back to the 5 most popular (by view) posts on here.

5- Summer Reading Challenge

4- Two Poems

3- Valentine’s Haiku

2- ‘The Energy of Slaves’ (1972)- Leonard Cohen

1- ‘Men Without Women’ (1927)- Ernest Hemingway

Despite the nostalgic tone, I’m not one for looking back. I’ve got to look forward. That’s the kind of person I am. I’m hoping I can keep this going for another year. Hopefully with more success in terms of writing. If I get something published between now and August 2013, I’d be pretty damn happy.

Like all creative folk, especially those in my generation, I am constantly torn between creative work, and having to act like a real person and get a job and make money and try to look happy doing it. All the worrying about important things like money, jobs, relationships really doesn’t matter to me as longing as I’m writing. And all I hope is that I never run out of stories to tell.

http://youtu.be/r2pt2-F2j2g

Short Story- ‘A People House’

In Short Stories, Writing on 01/08/2012 at 17:46

A story of mine has been published on the website www.burrst.com . The story is a piece of flash fiction called ‘A People House’

http://burrst.com/bursts/122/?offset=1

‘The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea’ (1963) Yukio Mishima

In Book Review, Japanese, Literature, Review, Writing on 27/08/2011 at 12:36

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea (1963) is an odd book. It starts off with a 13 year-old boy spying on his mother undressing and it only gets stranger from there. The boy’s mother, Fusako, begins an affair with a sailor on shore leave. The sailor, Ryuji, has a love-hate relationship with the sea and dreams of a glorious destiny. The 13 year-old boy hangs around with a group of teenagers who call each other by numbers and believe they are geniuses in an overly sentimental world. This doesn’t sound too bad, but as the story progress the boy continues spying on his mother and the sailor, and his group of friends begin to put their theory that they are above others and are permitted to do anything into practice. Half way through the novel you can guess how it will all turn out, but, like a Greek tragedy, waiting for the moment of violence is part of the perverse pleasure of reading The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea. The ending of The Sailor Who… is a grim one, but anticipating the expected outcome had my heart racing while reading the last chapter.

The book is quite poetic in places. Unsurprisingly the imagery of the sea, ships and sailing occur throughout, but it never feels forced. In one moment a character wishes to have a hard heart like an anchor. That really worked for me.

Yukio Mishima covers some of the same philosophical ground as Fyodor Dostoyevsky in the group of boys who believe they are above others. But whereas Dostoyevsky’s characters have religion and his novels often end with redemption through suffering, Mishima’s only redemption seems to be through death. Maybe my judgement is clouded by the knowledge that Yukio Mishima ended his own life. There is a moment in the book when one character looks down on another for having failed a suicide attempt.

The Sailor Who… is a dark, violent and strange story, but none the less its made me curious about the author’s other works.

‘Perfect Lives’ (2010) Polly Samson

In Book Review, English, Literature, Review, Writing on 21/08/2011 at 12:05

Despite the glowing words of praise that cover the copy of Perfect Lives (2010) I can’t say I was impressed with it. The quotes call it funny, compelling and moving, but I thought it never gets beyond its middle-class trappings. Polly Samson seems to be lampooning the middle-classes while remaining very much a part of it, and celebrating it in the final story. The book begins with an epigram from Leonard Cohen, and on finishing Perfect Lives, I found that one quote had something more interesting to say than the stories in the book.

The prose had a tendency towards a knowing lyricism; you can almost hear the author saying ‘I am going to be poetic now’. I’m not a fan of that kind of prose. She makes some melodramatic descriptions, the worst offender been this, which I had to read three times before I realised she was been serious: “Leszeck’s eyelashes would always make every woman he met think about having his baby.” I’m sure some people think it’s marvellously poetic but it’s very silly to me.

The stories are all set in a seaside town. Not much is made of the setting, other than it’s a middle-class seaside town. Characters crossover, much like in Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad (2010) by Jennifer Egan. In A Visit From… the connections between characters are never presented with a flourish, but appear casually and without comment, as connections between people do in real-life. In Perfect Lives when a character from another story turns up in another, there often is a melodramatic flourish in the reveal. The character that appears most (an unnamed amateur photographer) is sadly the least interesting and goes on no real journey other than a happy acceptance of a bourgeois life.

Unlike A Visit From… none the stories in Perfect Lives moved me. Polly Samson finds nothing insightful about the characters she presents. I think part of my trouble with reading this book was I took a dislike to it pretty early on. Taking a dislike to a book early on is like when you take a dislike to a person you just meet- no matter what they say you’ll always find it a bit irritating.

I imagine that if I spoke to Polly Samson (after she hits me for disparaging her book) I’d find little crossover between the authors we like. There seems to be a hint of the British Victorians to her prose and I really dislike British Victorian literature. I can see why people would give this book glowing quotes, but it is not things I enjoy in a book. I don’t imagine she’d think much of my stories, either.

Dylan Morgan Saves The Tigers- Short Story

In Short Stories, Writing on 17/08/2011 at 12:19
Dylan Morgan Saves The Tigers

Innsborough high street was not particularly busy on a Tuesday morning. There were a few shoppers and a handful of charity workers stopping them. Dylan walked through the high street with a clutch of library books. He had successfully avoided eye contact with two charity workers. There was no way of breaking out of an eye contact contract with a charity worker.

A third charity worker ahead of him was busy was talking with somebody. Dylan considered himself safe. As he neared the third charity worker, the man they had been talking to walked away. Dylan diverted his gaze. A moment later and the charity worker creeped his field of vision. Then- eye contact.

Dylan’s pace slowed. The charity worker wore the standard issue green kagool, with a peace badge attached. Dylan noticed his charity worker was a she. And she was blonde. A small, pale blonde, a year or two older than himself and she was smiling at him.

She said, ‘Hi.’

Dylan stopped.

‘I was wondering if you spare five minutes of your time today?’

‘Of course,’ Dylan said. He tried to hold his library books in such a way that she would be able to see he had a book by Chekhov. As she began to explain what her charity was about Dylan raised the book a little higher.

She told Dylan she was here to help save the tigers. Tigers were endangered, she said. They were hunted, killed and murdered without purpose, she said.

‘Beautiful creatures’, Dylan said. ‘Tigers.’

‘Yeah,’ she said and continued her speech.

She asked, ‘What is it you do? Are you a student?’

‘Yeah,’ Dylan said.

He cleared his throat.

‘But I’m a… writer, really.’

‘A writer? Wow.’

‘Oh, yes,’ he said.

‘Have you been published?’

‘Oh, just a few things,’ he said, ‘just a few things, poems, a short story.’

‘That’s cool. It must be a hard life.’

‘Well it can be tough, yes,’ Dylan said. ‘But it’s not as… you know, important as what you’re doing. You know, being here and… people been miserbale… and, you know, rain or shine…’

‘Words can be just as important as actions, sometimes even more so.’ She smiled at him. ‘But what I’d really like today is for you to set up a donation with our charity.’

‘I, I am a student,’ Dylan said, ‘and I… with money-’

‘I know,’ she said, ‘I’m a student too, but for a cause like this… You’d be doing me a really big favour. I’d really like to get you signed up today.’

Dylan’s foot began to tap a little. He looked down. He said, ‘I could always give you… my number…’

She said, ‘Great.’

Dylan looked up.

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘If you could just jot it down on the form. And your name, address and bank details so we can get a donation set up.’

She held out her clipboard to Dylan. He took the clipboard with his free hand. He said, ‘You want me to write my number down on here?’

‘With your name, address and bank details so we can get a donation set up. Would you like a pen?’

Dylan laughed. ‘What kind of writer would I be if I hadn’t got a pen?’

He checked his pockets.

‘Err, actually…’

She held out a pen to him. Dylan took it. The charity worker was still smiling at him.

‘So,’ he said, ‘you’ll have my details?’

‘Then somebody can be in touch with you in the next week.’

The pen scratched on the paper. Dylan said, ‘Are you a student here?’

‘No,’ she said. ‘Somewhere else.’

Dylan finished the form and handed the clipboard back to the charity worker. ‘All done,’ he said, ‘all my details, my mobile number is there.’

‘Great.’

‘And my email address.’

‘Great, somebody will be in touch with you in the next week.’ She said, ‘Okay?’

‘Yeah,’ Dylan said. ‘Well-’

‘Bye!’ she said.

‘Yes…’

He shuffled his feet

‘Well,’ he said, ‘bye.’

He began to move away. He looked back. The charity worker was looking in another direction. She’d already found somebody else.

 

Why Can’t I Be Rimbaud?- Short Story

In Short Stories, Writing on 13/08/2011 at 16:36

Short story originally written for an assignment back in late 08 (or possibly 09) but recently heavily revised, edited and rewritten.

Why Can’t I Be Rimbaud?

It said on Wikipedia that Arthur Rimbaud had given up writing by the age of twenty-one. Charlie read that sentence again. Arthur Rimbaud had given up writing by the age of twenty-one. Charlie worked out that he was one year and two months younger than Arthur Rimbaud when he had given up writing. Charlie did not feel happy. Rimbaud had written poetry that was ahead of his time, but he had been ignored. Charlie’s poetry was not ignored. His poetry tumblr received views, several of his poems had been reblogged and he’d received solid 2:2’s for his Creative Writing assignments. But he had not yet written a ‘Drunken Boat’ or a ‘Season in Hell’ or said anything as deep or as profound as ‘I is someone else’. Though, Charlie thought, his own description of himself as a ‘cynical idealist’ had been something.

But now was the time, Charlie decided, that he would write his ‘Drunken Boat’. Now was the time, Charlie thought, that would be discussed by scholars for decades to come and it would all begin when he opened up a new Word document.

The laptop screen was white and blank. Charlie had his fingers poised above the keys.

He waited.

He wondered where his Muse was tonight. He wondered if she’d taken the night off? Maybe she went out drinking with other writer’s Muses? Maybe they discussed their writer’s works? Charlie imagined what his Muse would look like. He thought she’d be a brunette Scarlett Johansson with bluer eyes.

He started to type a line about a blue-eyed girl. He deleted it. He knew he couldn’t write honestly about a blue-eyed girl because he wasn’t in love with a blue-eyed girl. He thought he’d have to wait until he was in love with a blue-eyed girl. Which was a shame, he was sure that poem would make his future blue-eyed girl fall even deeper in love with him as well as well written.

Charlie could hear a noise. It sounded like people muttering. He put his ear against the wall. He could hear his housemate Paul’s TV. Charlie huffed and left his room. Charlie knocked on Paul’s door.

‘S’open.’

Paul was lying on his bed, remote control across his stomach. Charlie said, ‘Paul? Would you mind turning your TV down. It’s just… I’m trying to write.’

Paul lifted the remote control and jabbed a button. He said, ‘Actually you might like this, it’s a documentary all about how peop-’

‘I can’t,’ Charlie said, ‘I’m very busy writing.’

‘Well, alright, then.’

Charlie went back to his room. He sat down at his desk and wondered how he was supposed to work when other people kept distracting him. He thought in years to come Paul would tell people things like ‘You know I lived with Charles Simons. I thought he was a git because he kept telling me to turn my TV down. I didn’t know that he was working on-’ Charlie hadn’t decided what to call his first poetry collection, but Paul would say ‘If I had known he was writing that, I wouldn’t have had my TV on at all!’

Charlie had a Creative Writing handbook on his desk. It contained several exercises to help practice writing. Charlie decided to pick an exercise at random and do it. He flicked to a random page. He read the exercise description. He decided to pick another. The second one he found didn’t inspire him either. Neither did the third or fourth. Or fifth. Half an hour later Charlie had not found one that suited him.

Charlie went downstairs to the kitchen and made himself a drink. His housemates came in and said they’d been talking about going out.

‘I can’t. Very busy writing.’

‘Okay.’

‘I’m in a very creative mood.’

‘Okay.’

Charlie went back to his room and listened until his housemates had gone. He decided in the peace and quiet he would abandon Rimbaud and poetry and start work on his novel. He had an idea for a story set in prohibition era Chicago where a beautiful jazz singer falls in love with a writer mistakenly believed to be a bootlegger. If the poetry wasn’t flowing, Charlie thought, it’d be the novel that made his name.

Enjoying the quiet, Charlie lay on his bed and thought it best to try to work out the finer details of his novel before he started. He imagined the writer and the jazz singer, who looked like a brunette Scarlett Johansson with bluer eyes.

He imagined and dreamed them until he was woken up the sound of his housemates coming back home.

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