Saving Face

I stared up at the billboard. Behind me a bus went past, no doubt with the same poster stretched across its side. The advert was all over the city. The same girl smiled out to the commoners below, beautiful and radiant. She smiled from billboards, buses, the underground, the TV. Looking up at her on that street in that part of town as I had done since the advert was first plastered there for all to see, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was  empty and hollow. A laugh at the irony of how different the two of us were. One beautiful and air brushed to perfection, smiling as though at that very moment, her life was flawless. The other was stood in her thinning hoodie, the hood over her eyes to hide the fatigue and her lank, greasy hair.

Someone stopped next to me and followed my gaze.

“She’s hot”, he stated matter of factly.

“She’s not real” I replied, my voice matching the hollow, empty laugh of before.

“Not round here she’s not. People don’t look like that ’round here. Nah, she’s at the heart of the city that girl. She’s gone somewhere. Folk round here don’t go anywhere but the local for a pint or ten before staggering home to throw up all over the peeling wallpaper.” With that, the man continued walking and it was just me and her again. It was true what he’d said. We were the forgotten outskirts of the city. Billboards were the closest we got to a glamorous life. People here really didn’t look like the girl on the billboard. Neither did I. Companies always smoothed you over before they released the final product they wanted the world to see.

I tried to remember what I’d been thinking whilst the picture was being taken. Did I even know which company I was shooting for or what they were promoting? I don’t think so. No, by that point the drugs had taken over. I didn’t care which commercial I was shooting so long as I got the money for my next fix. That’s why I’m still here, a nobody going nowhere but the co-op for milk and Three-Footed Jimmy’s for a bag of stuff.

I really thought I was going places. The offers started to pour in, more people wanted me in their next advert, I was a rising star. I quit my part-time job at the local Travelodge. I tried my first little white line. I was on top of the world, the girl on the billboard. But the rising star took a tumble and plummeted back down to Earth with a bang. And a constant headache. After turning up to photoshoots with little or no sleep and glazed over eyes, my pictures rarely made it past the editing desk. The offers ran dry.

When the depression of being a jobless girl in a hopeless urban city outskirt hit, I turned to the drugs for comfort. For days I mooched around my flat, completely numb and senseless. Then the bag ran out but I still had enough sense to know leaving the flat stoned was a bad idea. I had to wait to go and get my next fix.

There I was on the way to get a new stash, staring up at the girl I could have been. I could have broken the mould, change what that man had said to make it untrue. Not everybody around here had to stay put. Instead, I was now just a shade of grey, unrecognisable. A different person entirely to the one looking down at me from the billboard. She had chosen not to eat to look good, I rarely ate because I had no money left.

Three-Legged Jimmy was probably wondering where I was. I’d called to say I’d stop by and pick up a bag. He didn’t like to wait and standing here did me no good.

As I left, a van pulled up and a man got out. He started to paint over the billboard. There she was, disappearing. Like a distant memory or a fading star. Erased.


The Outstretched Hand

Another picture from Ermilia’s blog! This time the picture of an outstretched hand to get the creative ball rolling. Here’s my entry.

I raised my right hand tentatively, fingers flexed. I was breathing heavily, it was the only thing I could hear. Maybe he could hear it too. I hoped not. I wanted him to think I was strong. Slowly, my fingertips met his fingertips, already firmly in the air between us. Then our palms were touching. His hand was warm and steady against mine, cold and shaking. Partly from the autumn air but mostly from the fear of what we were about to do. He was pulling my hand down to my side, and my focus was dragged from our hands back into the woods. Back to his face. Those eyes. Mysterious eyes that I once mistook to be playful. Now I knew. It wasn’t cheeky frolic that lit up those blue stones. It was a pure, cold, ruthless hunger for power. And he had it right now, literally it was in his hand. I must have looked like a sad little rabbit, quivering as it was caught in its predator’s clutches.

“Ready to play?” he said in a low, taunting voice.

“Uh-huh” I stammered, amazed I hadn’t completely lost the ability to talk.

“Good” he replied, eyes narrowing and a small self-content smirk hinted across his lips. He never smiled anymore. “Now listen very careful to me Emily. You remember the rules I explained to you. Don’t you?” I nodded “You are going to run. You are going to hide. We are playing hide and seek Emily and I am going to find you.” He was going to find me. No matter where I ran, no matter which tree I hid behind. He had taken my mobile, blindfolded me on the car journey here. I had no clue where we were, no-one knew I was here. No-one would hear me cry out as he found me and killed me. Nobody knew we knew each other; he would walk around town unsuspected, unaccused. I was going to die and nobody was going to find out why.

He started to count down “3…2….1” He paused, my hand still locked in his vice-like grip. “Go. Run Emily. Hide.” My hand was set free. I ran. Faster than I’d ever run in my entire life. My life that was going to end right here in these woods. I considered the idea that he might not find me but I knew it was impossible. He was going to kill me as soon as he found me. Until then, I had to keep running…


__picture it & write


I urge people to join in, comment with your paragraph of fiction to accompany the image. It doesn’t have to follow my story or reflect the same themes. It can be a poem or in a different language (provide a translation please :)). Anyone who wants to join in, is welcome. This photograph has been reblogged under Ermisenda on tumblr. Ermisenda took this photograph in Tenerife (it’s El Teide, the volcano).

Tourists crowded the space like a herd of cattle. I set up my easel and exposed my paints to the scene before me. Together we would create a masterpiece landscape. I raised the quivering tip of my paintbrush to the blank canvas but a tremor threw me out of my chair. My easel fell to the ground like a wounded animal, bleeding paint. Another tremor disturbed the ground. I suddenly registered that people were screaming. The rush of footsteps…

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The Cove

A million raindrops dance on the sand every second, like drops of paint making a mark before settling into the smooth, yellow bed. Crazed, fiery waters tower like dragons for a mere millisecond before collapsing into the jagged, harsh rocks below. The few albatrosses hiding away in their small, intricate home on the bumpy cliff face wait for a gap in the rain to catch fish for their young. Water, the pure element, has stilled all nature here.

This cove, a quiet, rarely visited hideaway is the perfect place for a calm, solitary walk when its dry; the surrounding grass bankings like a child’s play pen, create a feeling of protection from the outside world. Today however, the elements are at their most fierce as they tussle up against each other. The waves of the water hurl towards the screaming wind which charges with the power of an angry army of soldiers. A strange war to take place on August 31st. A war that only the albatrosses will see.

3pm. No sun on the last summer’s day, but instead a grey, mushy blanket as if to personify the looming reminder that school starts again tomorrow. Summer is over.

Finally, the cove has a companion. A thin, dyed-black haired teenager emerges over the grass bankings, hands shoved firmly into her jacket pockets, hood down firmly covering her eyes. She walks without bounce as she makes her way along the sand, headphones blocking out the exterior world. Stopping directly at the centre of the cove, she stands for a minute, staring into the crazed sea before tucking her knees into her chest and hugging them. Now sat down, a single tear makes a thin, weaving path down the girl’s face.

For an hour, she sits there. Still at the centre of nature, the enraged elements still fighting a howling conflict and the albatrosses still waiting for the rain to halt. But the grassbankings are her safety net. She can cry all the tears of a teenage heartbreak because a million cars may zoom or slug past and still, the rarely visited cove would go unnoticed. A secret jewel of nature.

English: McWay Cove at Julia Pfeiffer Burns St...

Image via Wikipedia


Too growed up?

Honestly? No. I'm sixteen and when there's a day off college or my six year old cousin's over, I'm just as keen as her to watch Tarzan or A Bug's Life. Being six months away from applying for universities, I'm in a world constantly filled with questions about my future and where it's going. Where do I want to go? What do I want to be? While I've finally decided on writing novels and journalism, its taken me fairly long to make up my mind. All this focus on my future has made me wonder whether I really need to grow up and become a professional adult. When I'm working, sure. But when I'm relaxing, I'll still laugh at silly words like poo and bottom. I'll still curl up in front of Disney films with friends. I'll still be me. In our house, there's a calendar up in the kitchen. One month, it said: Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is optional.

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