Here is the story I entered into a competition. Thought I'd share it because it didn't get short-listed.
The opening paragraph was written by author Rosmund Lupton, entries were to follow this with a first chapter of between 800 and 1000 words.
You have to buy the magazine to read the first prize entry, the two runner-up entries can be read here.
I wonder if my attempt is a little disjointed and cheesy, but i did enjoy writing it, and will keep practising...
The swaying of the train made her hands grip around her bag as if it was anchored and could support her. Outside the window, the trees were a blur of greens and it seemed to the woman as if it were the trees not the train which were moving, hurrying away from her, putting green distance between them. She’d started the journey with clearly defined logical reasons for it, which she’d neatly stacked up like a wall. But the rocking of the train, the judder as it had speeded up, had toppled them and the truth was now visible, poking out and ugly to her. Outside the window the moving haze of green trees was replaced by the still hard edges of a grey platform. She’d arrived.
The city, awash with dirty water. Fluorescent shop lighting and occasional flashes of flowing pillar-box red hair stopped it looking like a black and white film set.
Heavy rain forced people to bow their heads. Perfect funeral weather, a sad sky mourned the loss of its sun.
There was an hour to kill, easy in an identikit post-industrial city. Familiar cafes, familiar shops, unfamiliar faces.
Something about the narrow shopping arcade beckoned, perhaps she was lured by the unknown. Shops and cafes manned by owners, not staff, with handwritten signs - unique places.
Martha chose a cafe which screamed Shabby Chic, jars filled with marshmallows, sugared almonds and macaroons adorned the shelves. Myriad pastel hues and subtle lighting, sweet peas in old bottles on the table, very cosy.
Good coffee and robust home-baked cakes were usually a delight to the senses but
now, all she could stomach was a pot of delicately perfumed Earl Grey.
To distract herself from thoughts of the afternoon ahead, Martha looked out of the window. An elderly couple glanced at the chalkboard menu. His face looked as though it had been painted with a wishy-washy mix of purple, white and red. The lady shook her head - prices too high and coffee not milky enough, probably.
Time and aging, regret and longing - never righting the wrongs. Such thoughts enveloped Martha in despair.
"The wettest week I've known for years" said the cafe owner. Martha could tell she was the owner, there was so much pride in the way she wiped the distressed oak tables and organised everything. Welcoming the distraction of dialogue, she searched her mind for a rhetorical response.
"Good or bad for business? I mean, in some ways people will be drawn to shelter, but others will just opt to stay home".
"Business ticks over, you never know when you're in for a rush or a lull.
Martha ran her fingers over the scroll pattern on her teaspoon and wiped the pale amber drips of tea from outside the cup. As if sensing her need for distraction, the cafe owner asked if this was the first time she had visited.
"Only, we have a loyalty scheme, I can give you a card if you'll be coming back".
"I used to live here, but I'm only here for the day. I will take a card though, I may be back - you never know".
Though, Martha could never imagine coming back.
With the spoon lined up equidistant from the cup and saucer, chair placed squarely back in place, it was time to leave.
Martha caught her reflection in a large blacked-out window. There she was - a slightly padded version of the young lady who had spent many nights in that city. Dancing and drinking, every last penny wasted trying to create the perfect weekend, to blank out reality and forget.
Feeling anonymous among the sea of faces, she drew comfort from blending in with her surroundings, being part of the shuffling throng.
Occasionally, someone would catch her attention and come into sharp focus. One lady had been on the same train, she wore a cerise mac. The tie belt skirted dangerously close to the ground on one side. Martha longed to pull the belt, even it up.
There was a longing to straighten out so many things in her life.
Looking up at the sky as grey gulls floated and swooped, hungry for fast food, Martha took a very deep breath.
It was almost time to go to the chapel, no going back. Surely this journey still had a purpose? She refused to even consider using the word closure, all hope of that was gone.
The taxi rank was in the same place as years ago, only now there were double the number of cabs. Flashbacks to teetering on four inch heels across the cobbled paving, chips in hand, cold exposed arms covered in goosebumps. Of ending a night out feeling sad, wishing it could go on forever, music, laughter and bright lights instead of that thump of dark silence. These memories didn’t feel at all distant.
Martha’s heart and stomach became overwhelmed with spasms of pulsating anxiety, getting into a taxi was the final part of her journey and made the feelings she’d experienced on the train fade into insignificance.
Perhaps it was a good thing - encountering the world’s nosiest, chattiest taxi driver. If only he hadn’t decided to talk about the funeral.
“Union Chapel, eh? I’m guessing from the black outfit that you’re going to a funeral...clever me eh?”
It was hard to reply, despite it being obvious this was not a quirky date with a fellow wearer of sombre black attire, she wanted to keep the details to herself.
“Yes, the funeral is at 1.30, I’ve come down from up North”
“That's gonna be a busy one, good job you’ll be getting there early. Terrible when someone young dies, innit? Such a waste.”
The taxi driver had summed up her feelings. Such a waste. Twenty years of waiting, thinking, dreaming and hoping. A past brought to life and shattered so suddenly.
All that loneliness and heartache for this, a chance to say goodbye for the second and last time. Martha felt the physical pain of grief stab her coldly and deeply. Smoothing down her skirt, she paid the driver as he said “I’ll see you again love”.
They had been her final words to her son.