Monday, 21 May 2012

Right. I feel bad but...

I think I'm going to take a break. Not a big one, but a break nonetheless. The reason being that I have ran out of stories to give you, and in all honesty, I really want to work on my novel, rather than on short stories. I've also got a lot of studying to do for exams so...yeah...Sorry. I'll be back. I promise.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Feral Boy 7

Hello! How are you all? Me, I'm splendid. Lost my faith in humanity temporarily on Friday, but on the upside, I'm editing my novel! Yey! I still need to get the 220 page manuscript printed though...Joy.
I thought I had posted this, but obviously not. So, here it is, Feral Boy 7. This might be the last in the series, for the simple reason that writing this was a chore rather than a fun activity. Typing the words out was like pulling teeth, and making it sound right was torture. I'm taking that as a sign that Feral Boy had exhausted itself. Thanks for supporting it though! Remember - you can find all the Feral Boy stories under the Library tab.

The Feral Boy 7

The blade went into his jacket, and for a moment he looked startled. Everything slowed down - her breathing, the other guard’s moment of realisation, his eyes flicking to Javen. The guard’s eyes widened and he staggered backwards, pulling the knife out of his body. Amelia glanced at it. It was dry and she looked back at the guard. He was smiling and grabbing his gun off the floor. A bulletproof vest. She was an idiot. Of course they would wear protection. Amelia took a step backwards, her legs bent into a fighting stance. The guard picked up his gun. Around him, the others were turning on her, priming their guns, and on the floor, Javen was staring up at her, his mouth open and his forehead lined with sweat and dirt. He was mouthing something. “Run...”

Amelia paused. No. She wouldn’t. She had been running for too long. From her father, from the police, god, even from her own emotions. She had to fight her corner. Amelia narrowed her eyes and turned to face Javen. “No.”

Javen look shocked and started to say something, but his comment was interrupted by the click of  bullet sliding into the barrel of a gun. Amelia jerked forward, the knife in her hand. The face. It wasn’t protected. If she could hit that, then she might have a chance of winning. Amelia concentrated her sights on the guard nearest to her. He was cocking his gun in place and raising up to meet his narrowed, steely grey eyes. She only had one chance. It was time to take it.

Amelia darted forward and struck the man square between the eyes with the butt of the knife. She sprawled backwards and dropped his gun. Amelia reached down and kicked it towards Javen. “Use it!” She faced the guard again and primed herself. She was ready to fight.

The guards around her were either tending to the one she had just hit or standing around uneasily, their guns pointed at her, but their fingers hovering over the trigger. They were scared, nervous. Amelia could see the thought running through their startled, confused minds - Could they kill a little girl? Could they do that? Amelia heard Javen stand up behind her. He walked up to her and pressed the gun into her shoulder blade. He leaned in close to her ear. “Run on three.” Amelia opened her mouth to protest, but Javen’s hands were tightening round his gun and she could feel his anger towards these men. He was inexperienced with a gun...maybe it would be better if she ran. “Three,!”

Amelia ran, her legs whipping out behind her. She could hear Javen firing a few shots behind her, and as she ran past the guard that had been kicking Javen she thrust the knife into his thigh. There was a dull thud as he collapsed, and the guards started shouting and firing. They seemed less nervous to shoot at Javen. Figured. Amelia ran faster. She could hear the lasered bullets passing behind her, whistling through the air, and the guards shouting abuse, and yelling at their comrades. There was a scream as one of the bullets hit their target, but it wasn’t the low pitched yelp of Javen. Amelia almost smiled as she whipped round a corner. Yes! Three down, two to go. Through the din, she heard Javen’s footsteps join her own. A few seconds later, and he was running alongside her, the gun gone from his hands.

“Well...that,” he panted. His flicked his long hair to the side and turned down a corridor to the right. The remaining guards had started running behind them, their footsteps slowed, heavy and laboured behind them. 

Amelia smiled. “Yup. Take a...left here. It’s where I came in.” Javen nodded and turned down the corridor. The doors. They burst through them and Amelia felt relief wash over her. It was good to finally see something she recognized. She glanced around the corridor. They had come out at a different door. “There. The vent. We have to go through that!”  Javen looked at her in disbelief.

“How are we meant to get up there?”

“Foot holds.” Amelia ran up to the wall and ran her fingers over the bricks. There were no foot holds, no cracks that she could use. She glanced at Javen beside her, who was staring at her, his eyes wide, echoing that of his father’s - full of determination and fear. “Push me up, and then I’ll pull you up.”

Javen looked pained for a moment, but Amelia knew there was no way he could be chivalrous here. The guard’s footsteps were getting louder and louder - despite the fact they were weighed down by heavy batons and guns, they could still run fast. “Fine.” Javen folded his hands into a cup and let Amelia stand on them. He thrust her upwards and her skinny fingers latched onto the edge of the vent. She clambered up the wall and into the vent. It seemed tighter than it was earlier, but she could still wriggle around in it. She passed a hand down to Javen, who was glancing backwards every couple of seconds. “Take my hand!”

Javen blinked and grabbed Amelia’s hand. She yanked him upwards and then froze. The guards had suddenly turned round the corner and they were staring at them, their eyes narrow and hard. The two of them smirked and with a wink, they pointed their guns and fired.

A bullet shot past Amelia’s head and buried its way into the concrete, melting it into a gloop. That was what the bullets did. Super heated in the gun chamber, they could go through anything, melt anything. Get shot by one and it turned your skin and bone to a crisp. Another bullet whizzed past Javen, moving his hair, and 
Amelia unfroze from her trance. She pulled with all her might, and Javen scrambled put he wall and into the tunnel.

Javen twisted round and pushed Amelia forward as soon as he got into the vent. “Move!”  His eyes were wide and angry, and the side of his face was coated with a thick layer of sticky, congealed blood. “The guards! Move, Amelia!”

Amelia crawled forward and wriggled up the long thin tube. She could feel the heat of the bullets over and above her, zooming into the concrete and turning it to soup. She crawled faster. They would get their aim right at some point, and when they did, Javen would have to bear the brunt of it. She moved faster, keeping one foot pointed behind her, touching Javen’s arm gently. She tilted her head up, and looked down the tunnel. She could just see a pinprick of light. Yes! The exit. She hurried towards it, every muscle in her body straining towards that tiny line, that tiny mark of hope. “Javen! I can see it! The exit! I can see it!”

Javen let out a muffled reply and Amelia smiled. They were going to make it. They were going to escape! After all that, they were going to live, to survive, to prosper! Amelia crawled faster in the tunnel, her head bouncing off the metal . The bullets had stopped flying and the sizzling sound of them hitting the concrete had ceased. The guards were still audible though - shouting and swearing, talking into their walkie talkies. The stopped talking for a moment and then Amelia heard the sound of footsteps hitting off the floor. They were running away! To help their injured friends maybe, or to receive back up, but still - it was one less thing to worry about. Amelia glanced up and saw that the pinprick of light had gotten larger, showing the rectangular hole of the vent, where she had kicked the grate away. She squinted. It had been dark when they arrived - just after midnight. Surely they weren’t in the compound for that long. 

Amelia wriggled forward a bit more and then stopped. The light was blinding, shining through the entire rectangle with astonishing brightness. There was a buzzing noise and suddenly the sound of a dog barking. 

Amelia’s eyes widened as Fluffy’s muzzle pushed into the grate. Her throat went dry. No, no, no, they had got too far for it all to be broken and destroyed now. The German Sheppard’s  teeth were bared and it’s eyes glinted in the harsh light. It swayed to the side, and Amelia caught a glimpse of metal shining from under the light. It was a floodlight - the one they used to light the stadiums after the weekly football games. The dog barked and a man’s voice shouted to his mates. Guards. This was it. They had been found. They had been caught.

Amelia felt all the colour drain from her face. All of that work, all of that effort. All for nothing. She heard Javen’s voice, faint and dim in her narrowed view of despair asking her what was wrong. She ignored him and stared dumbly ahead. This was it. It was all over. Javen’s dad would be killed and she would be put in jail for aiding a Unregistered. Her parents would disown her - she would be nothing. But Javen, Javen would be sentenced to death. Amelia’s heart sank into her stomach, filled with blackness and grey shadows. He was as good as dead. She couldn’t let that happen. But what could she do? She and gotten him out, but now they were trapped. There was nowhere they could go, nothing she could do. She turned to face him, her face gaunt and pale, ghostly in the light. “Javen. They know we’re here.”

Javen gulped, but he seemed rather calm. “Are there any other side vents?”

Amelia shook her head. “No.” She could hear Fluffy straining at his collar, yelping and barking over the guards’ hurried speech. They were deliberating - wait until they come out, or send Fluffy in to get them. 

Amelia felt a lump rise in her throat. “We’re trapped.” Amelia wished she could cry, anything but the hopeless despair, that bottomless fear filling up inside her. “Javen, they’re going to get us.”

Javen’s face paled and he started shaking. He tried to stop the tremors, to hide the terror in his eyes, but it welled up inside them, turning the brown into a hallowed, dull wood. His hand snaked out and grabbed Amelia’s. “It’s fine. We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” Amelia nodded and looked back towards the grate. The light had dimmed a bit, and the dog was now clearly visible. The guards behind it had reached an agreement, and they were now gathering around the outside of the vent, their guns pointed at the whole. The one that was holding Fluffy loosened his grip. This was it. This was the end. Amelia squeezed Javen’s hand and closed her eyes. She could hear the dogs heavy breathing coupled with Javen’s short, sharp breaths of hidden fear. She relaxed her shoulders, and as Fluffy bolted out of his handler’s hands, she whispered, “I love you.”

The pain was sharp and instantaneous. The dog bit her arm and pulled her out of the tunnel. It’s teeth were like daggers, and Amelia wished she hadn’t thrown the knife away as the searing hot pain raced down her leg. She could feel blood fall down her leg and onto the floor, only to be smeared on her clothes. She clenched her fists and bit her tongue to stop her from screaming. These men weren’t going to get any sign of weakness. They had done enough to her already - she wasn’t going to be humiliated.

Fluffy threw her on the ground and ran back into the tunnel to get Javen. Amelia just lay on her back, the sharp stones scattered over the concrete digging into her back. Her leg felt like it was on fire, and every breath she took intensified the pain. She heard Javen scream as the dog bit down on his leg. She winced at the noise and kept her eyes closed. She was vaguely aware of a man pushing her forward, kicking her side, but she could barely feel it. Flashes of pink and purple splashed on her eyelids, a myriad of colours and shapes spilling out in front of her. She heard a thump beside her and a hand wrap around her. “Amelia?” Javen’s voice was croaky and hushed. “Amelia? It’s going to be ok...” He let out a sigh and he stopped talking. Another voice filled the air.

“Amelia? Amelia!”

Amelia tired to sit up, but she felt as though a weight was on her chest, pushing her down. She felt her hand loosen as something shot into her arm. It wasn’t a bullet - it was lighter and sharper, a prick rather than a stab. All her muscles went lax and she felt the world spiralling away from her. Everything was going black, and the sound of the voices around her drifted away, pebbles washed out to sea.

“Get away, she’s my daughter! Amelia, Amelia! What the hell did you do to her? She’s my daughter! Help me get her in my car...yes, I’ll take the boy too. Just hurry! Oh, my baby....It’s ok, it’s ok...”

Amelia felt someone lift her up, and a tear drop onto her cheek. “D-Da-a...” She opened her mouth and then everything went silent, and a sheet of black fell over her eyes.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Contract

Hello! This is my 100th blog post! Woo! :D I can't believe it - it seems like only yesterday that I was fretting over what to call this blog!
Anyway, this is a story I wrote to be part of a larger project, but it didn't work out. I still like the idea though, and hopefully you'll appreciate it as well. Enjoy!

The Contract

Catching the signal from one of her ‘friends’, Angela smoothed down her skirt and walked over the where the man was sitting. Her black sunglasses kept slipping down her nose, and she could feel her blouse riding up, slowly coming loose from her skirt. She tried to ignore it. She had to do this well, else she’d never be accepted. She had to do this. She had been lucky to be given the offer in the first place.

The man was sitting on a bar stool by the counter, his hands filled with a large burger. He was lanky and thin, but hidden muscles rippled under his shirt. He was wearing a suit - he was a businessman. His short black hair was cropped and trimmed round the sides. Even in a diner, he sat up straight, his hard, murky eyes alert and waiting. Angela saw him glance at her and then look down, turning his attention back to the bun in his hands.  He didn’t know who she was. Good. That would make things easier.

Just as the man raised the burger to his lips, Angela pushed it back down into his lap. “Sir? I need you to come with me.”

The man frowned and looked her up and down. She could feel him examining her, measuring her. His eyes skimmed over her black top, her black skirt, her black high heels.  He paused for a minute on her curly brown hair before looking at her in the eyes. “And you are?”

Angela smiled. “I’ll explain that outside, Sir. This is...slightly too public for the information we’ll be discussing.”

The man’s eyes widened and he gave a curt nod. “Ok, then.” He glanced around at the diner. It was busy, with only a few empty seats scattered here and there. Waitresses in their red aprons scurried around, holding fries and burgers, chicken wings and drinks. It all looked disgusting, but then again, Angela never had been into fast food. There weren’t any diners or fast food bars where she came from. Not in the posh area of London.

“Can I bring my burger with me?” Angela nodded and the man stood up, grabbing his briefcase with his spare hand.

“I’ll get that.”

Angela took the bag from the man and led him to the door. Her ‘friend’ at the other table didn’t look round, but she could see him smile. So far, so good. The man still didn’t know who she was, or he did and didn’t want any trouble. Either way, it was looking up for her.

Angela opened the door and stepped out into the warm Florida air. It never cooled down here - not even when it rained, or when it was windy. It was either warm or very warm. Angela never thought she’d say it, but she missed the freezing winds and rains of Britain. It made life so much more interesting, instead of this heat, this pressing, constant, humid heat.

She walked towards a Rolls-Royce and opened the door for the man. He stepped inside and Angela followed him in.

The car was dark, with tinted windows and leather seats. It was an English car, classy, stylish, with an air of 
business hovering around it. It was beautiful in Angela’s opinion, but then she had never been a car expert, had she?

Angela perched herself on one of the leather seats and turned to face the man. He was tucking into his burger, lettuce smothered in mayonnaise threatening to ruin the upholstery. Angela plucked the lettuce from under the burger and put it in her mouth. It tasted good, rich and greasy. She glanced back at the man. “Do you know who I am?”

"The man stopped eating, and lowered his burger. “Not personally, no. But I take it you work for Rapio?”
Angela smiled and nodded. “Yes, Sir. My name is Angela.”

“That isn’t very imaginative for a fake name, is it now?”

Angela laughed. You never usually got ones with a humour. Not when they knew what was coming. “I guess not, Sir. Anyway, I take it you understand why I’m here?”

“Unfortunately, yes.” The man took a bit of his burger and swallowed. “Are we going to talk first? About the deal?”

“Yes. Now...” Angela thought back to the file she had been given before the mission started, “ten years ago you signed the contract. You had three days to think it over, yes?”

The man nodded. “Yes.” He sighed. “It seemed so easy, you know?”

“Many of our clients feel that way. And it is easy...we’ve held up our part of the bargain, and now it’s time to hold up yours.”

The man nodded again, and Angela saw his lip start to quiver. Her supervisor had warned her about this. She had to be comforting. She had to understand what the man was going through. She had to be...what was the word...empathetic.

“It was just so easy. Unlimited resources, backing for my business, contacts in the highest places...and all I had to do was sign a bit of paper, and I would succeed.” He stole a glance at Angela. There were tears pricking in his eyes. “You know how easy it is to do, don’t you?”

“I understand, Sir.”

“It was a quick fix, a quick way to get out of something...I thought that if I held off having one for a while, I wouldn’t have to give it up...” He gulped. “When do you want him?”

“We’ll pick him up tomorrow morning, before sunrise. Don’t worry, Sir. He’s going to a good home. Your wife won’t even remember she had a child.”

The man started whimpering and Angela reached over and settled her hand on his arm. She gave him a quick pat and then dug deep into the man’s briefcase for a pad. She found one immediately, and picking a pen from her pocket, set it to paper. “It’s ok. He’s going to a good place. We’ll take care of him”

The man sniffed. “You’re sure my wife won’t remember him?”

“Positive,” Angela said, trying desperately to inject some calmness into her voice. Soothing people was never her strong point. “We’ll erase her memory, targeting the areas of the brain that deal with family. Now, what age is your son?”

"Three. He’s a beautiful baby. Blond hair, you know. Curly. It was brown when he came out, but then, it changes when they grow up, doesn’t it? Do you have children?”

“No, Sir. I see them enough in my line of work. Now, any allergies?”

“Peanuts. And lobster.”

Angela couldn’t help but peek over her sunglasses. “You fed your three year old lobster?”

“It was by accident.”

Angela nodded and scribbled the information on the pad. Tears were streaming down the man’s face, leaving his eyes puffy and red and his cheeks blotchy. He looked much nicer when he wasn’t crying. “Ok. I’ll pull up some documents, including the contract you signed, and bring them to your house tomorrow. I’ll pick him up personally. Don’t worry, Sir. Your son is in good hands.”

The man gulped back a sob and nodded. “Ok. Ok.”  He took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. “Should I go now?”

“If you could, Sir. Enjoy your day. And your burger.”

The man nodded and picked up his briefcase, snapping it shut as he did so. He seemed unaware she had stolen his pad, and she didn’t think he would notice until she was long gone. He sniffed and picked the burger from his lap. “Thank you. I’m glad it was you instead of someone else. You seem...nice.”

“First impressions are often deceiving, Sir.” She smiled and opened the car door for him. “Have a good day. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The man mumbled something, goodbye probably, as he stumbled out the car. Angela closed the door and stepped into the driver’s compartment, sliding into the passenger seat. Her ‘friend’ was in the driver’s seat, his sunglasses up on his head, displaying a pair of crystal eyes. He had slipped in halfway through her discussion with the man, silent as always. He glanced at her and grinned. “Good one, kiddo. Pulled it off nicely. You are officially part of Rapio Inc.”

“Thanks. Did you hear everything?”

“Yup. Nice way to seem more casual, by the way, with the lobster. You need to work on your comforting, but I can teach you that, no problem.”

“What’s your name?”

He glanced up. “Just call me Blade for now.”

“Angela. But then you know that.”

“Yup. I must say, you look beautiful in that skirt, Angela.”

Angela felt herself blush. “Where to now?”

“Hmmm...We have a guy to talk to in San Francisco, and a pickup in L.A. L.A first? We can get lunch on the way.”

“Sounds good.”

Blade pulled away from the parking lot and drove out onto the highway. They drove in silence for a few minutes.

Angela played with a loose nail. Her heart was thudding in her chest and she was buzzing with adrenaline. She had done it! The joy flooded in body in seeping waves, but there was a hint of guilt in her heart. She swallowed. “I wonder what the kid will be like.”

“Why do you care?” Blade turned round the car, merging into another lane. He was smiling. “He’s just another bit of meat. Isn’t he?”

Monday, 7 May 2012

How I Write - Using Imagery

Hello! Before I start this post properly, I just want to let you know of an amazing giveaway on at Perfectly Sensible Nonsense. You can get an fantastic book on writing! I've entered, and I hope you do to. This is seriously to good to miss!

Anyway, now that that's over and done with, let's talk about imagery. You know...the stuff that makes writing pop.

Imagery. I'm sure at some point in our lives we've heard of this, be it at school, or on another blog, or at school (schools go crazy for this stuff, I swear, I've been taught it about twenty times already) Imagery is what it sounds like - it is a series of words tat put an image in out heads. Examples of imagery can be -

Metaphor -  Her eyes were pools of silver and gold, beauty in the highest form (comparing something without using 'like' or 'as')
Simile - Her hair was like a waterfall (comparing something using 'like' or 'as')
Personification - The wind roared (giving human qualities to non-human things)

There are quite a few others, but these are the most basic and they are generally the most used. Using imagery makes your writing stand out, but like all good things, you must take it in small doses. For example, this would not be a very good descriptive paragraph -

The sand was like gold and the waves lapping up against it were as powerful as a cannon. They rose and fell like huge horses and the wind roared and screeched behind them, an angry man. The girl stood and watched them. Her eyes were fluid pools of light and her hair was a golden waterfall, cascading down her shoulders. Her arms were skinny as twigs and her legs were covered with scratches, like a cat scratching post. The trees whispered behind her, their green leaves like emeralds in the orange sun...

Too much? Yeah. I think so. The secret is not to put to much imagery in one paragraph, in one story. Too many and it seems overboard, and there are too many comparisons for the reader to make. Their heads are filled with images of cannons and gold and horses and waterfalls, and they can't concentrate on the actual story. 

You also don't want to complicate matters when using imagery. The two things your comparing have to make sense -

The boy's hair was like a kettle's whistle.

Now, I'm not suggesting in any way that anyone would ever make such a comparison, but you have to make sure when you're writing that you are making good comparisons, ones that make sense. For the one above, you could change hair to laugh and the sentence would make much more sense. The reader is getting the sound of screeching whistle and comparing it to the boy's laugh. So, we are getting the idea that the boy had a loud, high pitched, rather unpleasant laugh. 

Finally, when using imagery, don't be too long winded. I do this sometimes, and I often have to go and change it in the second draft -

The waves were huge, powerful horses, their hooves hitting the sand, sending showers of golden flecks upwards into the skies, their manes the white foam, their nostrils flared, tiny water droplets forming their eyelashes and the minuscule algae and sea creatures making up the golden irises...

Firstly, that is a run on sentence - a big no no unless you are using to illustrate a long journey or something like that. Secondly, most of that sentence could go, leaving just the first part eg. the actual metaphor. The reader stills see the waves as horses, and you don't have to put in all that pointless detail!

There you go - an introduction to using imagery. I hope you liked my terrible examples :D It took me forever to make them up!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Cafe Eros - Part 2

Heya! Not much to say today, so I'll just get on with the story, I guess..

Cafe Eros

The effect was instantaneous. The girl yelped and stumbled backwards, cartwheeling into a bowl of soup and landing on an old woman a few tables away. She had tears in her eyes and her hand was pink. You could almost feel the heat radiating from it, see the blood pumping through those purple veins. Jason leapt to his feet and pulled the pad off of his hand. Damn. He had forgotten he had that on. He threw the pad in the bag and pushed his chair back onto the floor. “Oh god, are you ok?”

The girl pushed herself upwards and shrugged off the hands of several waiters trying to help her up. “I-I’m fine.” She sniffed and walked back to the table. She wobbled a bit on her feet and her hands were trembling. 

“What was that?”

Jason shrugged and sat back down in his chair. His heart was hammering an erratic beat in his chest. “I don’t know,” he lied. The girl nodded and smiled, before sitting down in the seat opposite. Jason cursed inwardly. There was no getting out of this now. Oh god...he could just imagine his friend’s faces if they saw this. He would be ridiculed for the rest of his life. No girl would ever go out with him, and he would be kicked off the football team. This was a disaster. Maybe he could just stand up and leave? Would she notice? Jason gave himself a virtual slap on the face. Course she would notice - she was sitting across from him! Could this be any worse? Wait...he might be able to rescue this....

“What’s your name?”

Jason hurtled back into reality and blinked. The girl was sitting across from his. She was definitely in her twenties. Her face was coated in make-up, but even through all of the chemicals and gunk, Jason could see the first whispered lines of aging peeking through her soft and pale skin. Her hair was dull and brown, ordinary, and she was wearing contacts. Great. A glasses girl.

Jason took a deep breath. He could still have some fun with this, yeah, give Drew something to laugh about... “I’m Oliver Klozoff. And you are?”

The girl’s eyebrows folded inwards and she laughed hysterically. “Oliver Klozoff? All of your clothes off?” She laughed again, tears pricking her eyes and her nails scrabbling over the pale arch of her knuckles. 

“Really?” She sniffed and put her head in her hands. “Oh god, I’m going insane.” She wiped her eyes and straightened up. “I’m Tess. Tess Marie. ”

 Jason felt a spike of guilt in his heart. This was not going well. He tried to smile. “Jason Chase.”

“Oh.” Tess paused and sniffed again. Her face was flushed red and her bottom lip was wobbling. “This is a-awkward, isn’t it?”

Jason nodded. “I guess. If you don’t mind me asking, eh...why were you pretending to be a teenage girl? I mean, I was expecting...” Jason bit his lip. He could see Tess’s lip quavering, her eyes brimming with tears. God, why was he so insensitive? “Look, no, I’m sorry, it doesn’t matter...”

Tess shook her head. “No. I always knew this was going to be bad.” She sniffed and buried her head in her hands. “God, I always knew this was a bad idea!” She took a deep breath and dropped her hands to the table. “You know how you’re always hearing stories about men on these sites, talking to girls? Well, I...I... I was hoping...I thought...” Tess let out a lupine howl and thrust her head into her hands. Her nose was blooming red and funny red patches were pricking under her eyes. Tears streamed down her face in a torrent - she had obviously been holding them in for a few weeks.

Jason sat awkwardly on the other side of the table. He could feel everyone’s eyes on his back, staring at him, tutting as he did nothing to comfort the crying woman across from him. But what could he do?! He had no idea what to do - it wasn’t as though this happened every day. Jason sighed under his breath and scooted forward in his chair. “Eh, it’s ok?” He tapped Tess on the arm. “It’s ok, just calm down...stop crying...stop crying, shut up...” Tess howled again and Jason jerked backwards. How do you comfort women? If it was one of his mates he’d...he’d...well, none of his mates would burst out crying over a simple question. Laughter? Maybe he could make her laugh? Yeah, maybe that would work...

Jason reached under the table and grabbed the plastic bag. He plunged his hand into its depths and grabbed the first thing he could find. The rubber chicken. He looked at it for a moment, incredulous. Oh, brilliant. He glanced at Tess. She was crying harder than ever, her tears dotting the red table cloth in a lopsided circle. Jason bit his lip. He had no time to choose something else.

“Here, Tess. Look, it’s ok.” Hr put the rubber chicken on the table and pulled his face into a smile. “There look - it’s a chicken. A funny, happy, chicken.” He smiled again and picked up the chicken. It’s naked, plastic body was rough and ugly under his fingers, its scrawny red neck flopping down over his arm. “Look, Tess. Come on, smile? Please smile? Oh god, please smile...people are staring...”

Tess looked up. Her face was red and blotchy and her eyes were round and watery. The tears had stopped flowing. Her eyes were trained on the rubber chicken. “What’s that?” Her voice wobbled as she spoke.
Jason put the chicken down on the table and grinned. “It’s a rubber chicken. Why?”

“Why do you have it with you?” Tess voice became stronger, and Jason could feel something bubbling under her tearful exterior.

“I, eh...”

“In fact, I don’t even want to know.” She sniffed and straightened up. Her back was still bent over slightly and she was looking at the table cloth. “I-I was hoping you would be one of those men, ok? It never occurred to me that a teenage boy m-might actually be a teenage boy...”She hiccupped. “It was stupid of me. I’m such an idiot!” She groaned and Jason noticed a tear sliding down her face. “My boyfriend dumped me, and I-”

“Wait, your boyfriend dumped you? Why?”

Tess blinked. “He s-said I was too smart for him. Too c-clever...” Her lip wobbled again and Jason held his breath.  No tears. It was fine. He could continue.

“Too clever? That’s not right, is it? He’s just too stupid, isn’t he?” Jason crossed his arms and leaned forward. “I don’t think you’re too clever.”

“You think so?”

Jason paused and then nodded. “You saw through my fake name quick enough. And you don’t seem pretentious or anything. You said when we were chatting online that you liked books?”

Tess nodded and sniffed back another tear. “Yeah. Th-the classics are my favourite. Pride and Prejudice, The Picture of Dorian Gray, War of the Worlds...”

“War of the Worlds? That’s a great book! I read it a few years ago.” Jason ducked his head and blushed bright pink. “I mean, my teacher made me read it.” He could imagine his friend’s looks, their sniggers and jeers. He didn’t read. He was proud of the fact he didn’t read...except from that book. And a few others.

“You’ve read it? It’s good, isn’t it? I was biting my nails when the Martians came out of their shell. It was enthralling - a great example of literature.” Tess was smiling and her voice was stronger, firmer. “I’m an English major at university. War of the Worlds was one of the books I was going to do my English exam on, but I chose To Kill a Mockingbird instead. Have you read that?”

Jason shook his head. A genuine smile came across his face and he leaned back into the chair. “No. I’m not a big reader, if I’m honest. Do you, eh, want to get some grub? Talk about this over some pasta?”
Tess laughed and rubbed her puffy red eyes. The blotches had vanished from under her nose and the tear streaks had faded backwards into her pale skin. “Yeah, why not?” She smiled warmly. “It’s been a while since I’ve just talked to someone. You don’t mind do you?”

Jason winked. This was fun, better than what he had expected - even without the added hilarity of fake flies. 

“No, it’s fine. I don’t really talk to people that much either. My friends are too occupied with practical jokes to pay attention to me most of the time.”

Tess nodded. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to. I never really talked to Rob, he was always...”

Jason felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Tess’s mouth was still moving. He glanced up. “Will you excuse me for a moment?”

Tess nodded and Jason murmured a thank you, before slipping the phone out of his pocket. The screen lit up with a text message from Drew.


Jason paused, his fingers hovering over the keypad. It would be so easy to type yes, to live up to Drew’s meagre expectations. Jason smiled, and looking over at Tess, pressed a button on a keypad. There was a ding as the message sent, and he slid the phone in his pocket. Tess was flicking through the menu, her hair falling over her eyes. She looked so happy, a different person to the nervous, awkward girl who had walked in less than fifteen minutes before. Her eyes sparkled in the light of the flickering candle. “Who were you texting?”

Jason shrugged. “One of my friends. Now, what’s good in this place? I’m starving.” In his pocket, he felt his phone vibrate. There was no need to answer it - he already knew what it would say: