I came across this Daily Prompt in the middle of my exam study. I saw it and immediately bookmarked it for the second that I had some free time. Well, that time is now upon me. Thank God. My exam today was hell on yellow paper. I bombed. And it was the one thing I needed to pass with flying colours. Where’s the Doctor when I need him? If I could go back in time and hand in my assignment by the due date I wouldn’t be so freaked out right now. But what are you gonna do? So I’m delving into the thing I think I can do reasonably well: writing.
I started writing a story a little while ago and I’m trying to subvert the romance genre by the girl not getting the guy. Of course, I don’t want it to be JUST romance. Maybe something like Infernal Devices, where the romance is key, but not the only important thing happening at any given time. I’m trying to pull off something that may be a little out of my league. An “if he left her for me he wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with” kinda thing. But it is damn hard! Everyone wants the girl to get the guy. Have you seen Something Borrowed? I watched it for inspiration and it led me no where. One of the reasons you don’t care that Dex is cheating on Darcy with Rachel is that Darcy is a self-centred bitch and Rachel is lovely. But I didn’t want to do that. I want the guy’s girlfriend to be likeable. But subverting genre tropes is a very trying experience. I mean, I’m no Neil Gaiman.
Anyway, I wanted to take a break from the whole “let’s try something different” thing and just get inside the characters’ heads and explore the relationship a bit more. And this Daily Prompt is for four characters. So as well as Nora and Connor from my work-in-progress I thought I would bring in two of my more well-developed characters from a novel idea I’ve been playing with for the past few years: Mitchell and Élodie. And let’s thrown in a game of UP Words just for the hell of it.
This is a first draft. A very first draft. So be gentle with me, please.
Nora stalked past the mirror for very nearly the fiftieth time in the space of twenty minutes. Her hair was still curling, and not in a good way. Her shirt had a tiny salsa stain remnant of the surprise attack the jar had launched as she tried to make her favourite dip. Plus, her make-up had acquired the sheen of sweat that comes free with all Australian summers. She was nervous. In a way that she hadn’t been since high school and was trying to work up the courage to ask Skye Peyton if he’d wanted to go to the formal with her. That hadn’t ended so well. She shook herself free of the memory and walked back into the dining room. The dark green game board was all set up, barricaded by fizzy drinks, chips, her dip, and caramel covered popcorn – Connor’s favourite. She leant over the table and moved the popcorn half a centimetre, straightening the table cloth, and walked past the mirror yet again.
In the middle of a silent argument during which Nora debated the pros and cons of redoing her makeup, there came a jaunty knock at the door. With one final disappointing appraisal of her reflection, Nora walked to her front door, took a deep breath, and pulled the door open. The familiar purple of a Cadbury block of chocolate was thrust under her nose.
“I come bearing gifts.”
“You’re here early.” Nora exclaimed, taking the chocolate as she stepped aside and let her younger brother, Mitchell, slouch inside.
“That’s ’cause Miss Melody here insists on being twenty minutes early for everything.”
He jerked his head behind him and Nora was surprised to see a quiet, brunette girl follow Mitchell over the threshold.
“That is untrue, Mitchell, and completely unfair. We are only five minutes early. Bonjour, I’m Élodie Benoit. So pleased to meet you.”
Nora shook the proffered hand of the serious young woman standing in front of her and smiled.
“You too. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Nora led Mitchell and Élodie through her narrow hallway and into the dining room. Mitchell let out a low whistle and walked up to the table, surveyed the foodstuffs for a moment before falling onto the chips and dip. He had three dip-laden chips in each hand and two in his mouth before Nora had had a chance to place the chocolate next to the game board.
“Mitch, you pig. Yeah, he told me you’re from France.”
Nora took a seat at the table and gestured for Élodie to do the same. Élodie gathered her long skirt in one hand and sank into the chair with the grace of a noblewoman from centuries past.
“Oui. Oh, sorry,” Élodie flushed a delicate pink, “I mean yes.”
“That’s alright, I vaguely remember my high school French. So why come all the way from beautiful country France to this hole?”
“She heard about the studs at Riverhills and decided to check things out for herself.” Mitch interjected, somehow making himself heard from around a bulging mouthful.
“Then what’s she doing with you?”
Élodie laughed as Mitch slapped a hand over his heart and pretended to swoon.
“You cut me to the quick, dear sister.”
Nora tapped Mitch on the shoulder with her fist before turning back to Élodie, who was nibbling at a piece of Connor’s popcorn.
“I gotta say, Bonnu sounds a lot more interesting than Australia.”
Élodie nodded. “It was lovely, but Papa was given a career opportunity and Maman had always wanted to see Australia so we decided to move.”
Something dark flashed behind Élodie’s tawny eyes, but was gone before Nora could figure out what it was.
“Mitchell told me that we’re playing a game called UP Words? I have never heard of it.”
“It’s kinda like Scrabble, only a lot easier.”
“For some of us. Not everyone’s a writer, Nors.” Mitch piped up, finally coming to rest in the seat next to Élodie. “I might actually have a chance tonight! Élodie spends most of her time speaking French—”
“Hey! I speak English.” Élodie interjected.
“—and Connor’s not here. Second place is all mine.” Mitchell continued as though Élodie hadn’t spoken, before literally rubbing his hands together in glee, like an old-timey crook looking at all the diamonds he’d stolen from the ol’ mine.
“Don’t get too cocky there, mate, Connor’s just running late.”
As if on cue, there came another knock on the door. Nora slapped at Mitch’s hand as he reached for a giant handful of the caramel popcorn before answering the door. She took a moment before opening the door to try one last time to straighten her hair. When the curl sprang back to its original place, she gave up and flung the door open wide, remembering at the last moment to smile.
If Nora was nervous, it was nothing to how Connor looked. He’d actually brushed his hair for what had to be the first time in five years. His shirt was tucked into his jeans and he was wearing those shiny black shoes that men only ever wear to impress women. Nora’s heart flipped and then settled about half a metre too low. So he still remembered.
He looked uncertain. Usually Connor stormed into her house, kicking off his thongs or shucking off his jumper and leaving them in a pile wherever he felt like before collapsing on her lounge and putting his feet on her coffee table, flicking through the TV channels. She closed the door behind them and stood, hands in her pockets, just waiting.
“I don’t know what to say.”
Nora said nothing. Her hearted was now hammering away somewhere near her jugular. Connor ran a hand through his hair, gripping the ends slightly before letting his hands fall to his sides. He turned towards the end table, rested his hands next to the picture of Nora and her mum, and turned back around, mouth open to say something. Only no words came out.
“How’s Izzy?” Nora asked.
“She’s fine. She apologised. She doesn’t know.”
Nora shrugged and looked to her feet.
“Why should she? It was just a drunken mistake. Didn’t mean anything.”
Nora looked up sharply, and her nose brushed Connor’s chest. He’d closed the distance between them and was resting his fingers in the crook of her elbow. She continued to raise her gaze until she met Connor’s eyes. He seemed to waver for a moment. Like he was balancing on the edge of a cliff, deciding whether to trust the rope around his waist and jump. His eyes were shining. He swayed for a second, before he spoke the three words that they’d told each other for years. Words that used to make Nora feel safe and secure and just a little wistful. Now they lit fireworks and sparklers and candles and other incendiary devices inside of her as he whispered the words again, this time into the soft skin under her ear.
“I love you.”
For a few heartbeats Nora stood there, sure she was dreaming. Before her younger brother’s voice cut through the moment, followed by the rattle of plastic tiles in a cardboard box.
“Would you two hurry up? I have a game of UP Words to win.”
See? A very, very rough draft.
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