So, it's been unforgivably long since I posted here. I'm still trying to survive the awfulness by re-writing. I can't say it's any good, but even in the first draft state that I'm posting here I think I can argue that it's better than what I'm reading. Don't get me wrong, that's not me blowing my own trumpet (what I have is very unpolished and verbose), it's just a reflection.
In this entry we meet, and I use the term loosely, our protagonist for the tale: Anastasia Cable (or, in Finnish, Kaisla Kuura apparently) and, hopefully, get some tension. However, it's too damn' long and the sentences are a bit rambley. It's a first draft, yes, but that's no real excuse.
On to the stats! Good old 750words.com!
Rating: PG-13 (Swearing [bloody], sexual content[?] and violence [possibly due to a cornish pasty])
Feeling mostly Upset, and concerned mostly about Religion[?].
Mindset: Extrovert - Negative - Uncertain - Feeling
Time: The Past; Primary Sense: Touch; Us and Them: You
50 minutes at 36 words per minute.
"Didn't you hear?"
A faint smell of sausage roll hung on the air, blowing through the door, "Hmm?"
"They're closing down the toy shop now, I tell you, the whole place is going to the dogs."
"Hmm." Ronnie had one of her rants on and the day was getting old, a dusky quality of sunlight settled on the cobbles of the pedestrian area outside.
"Just last month the butcher's folded and I heard they've got plans for another of those out-of-town places being built. It'll murder the high street, you mark my words, and places like this won't last. I thought the whole point of electing them bloody Socilaists was to protect the small-business owner."
Ronnie's Rants, it had been a while. Stifling a snigger, Anastasia turned the sign round in the door and put on the latch, with any luck she would be dismissed in time to get the earlier bus, there was a definite hint of rain on the air. "I don't think that's how it works."
"Well, what else would be the point? They say they're on the side of the working man and you don't get much more working men than those that operate their own businesses, that's what I always say."
"But," it was a bad idea, she knew it was a bad idea, but she couldn't stop herself, "You aren't a working man, are you? And I have a sneaking suspicion that Socialists wouldn't exactly support small busin-"
"Oh, come off it, there's equality now, in't there? You ask me," said with an air of grandness as she let the till open, "They ought to be doing something more to support the hard-pressed middle in this country. Look at what Thatcher did, God rest her soul, she did right by small business and look where that got her."
"She's not dead."
"You said: 'God rest her'. Means she's in Heaven. But she's not dead." Moving the discarded books on the CD table by the listening post, Anastasia breezed past the counter as nonchalantly as she could. It wasn't going to end well. "And she was forced to resign."
"What do you know about it?" Sharp-eyed, but with a dress-sense that seemed to be put together in the dark, Ronnie was not as old as she liked to make out. "You were barely born when Thatcher was doing her bit. No, you've grown up with these soft gadgies running the show." Nor was it always clear when she was having a laugh at Anastasia's expense. "You watch, this lot of bloody Socialists will watch us all plunge over the edge of the Abyss."
At least the 'top sellers' shelves were in good order, hardly anyone had decided to peer at them. By contrast, the CD racks were a mess and someone had made short work of the carefully piled display that she'd put together that morning. "Do you want me to tidy this up?"
"And don't get me started on the smiling gonk that runs the whole thing," Ronnie had crossed her arms, frowning at the notes stuffed into the top of the till tray, "Ah, no marra, leave them be and get yourself off. Nights are drawing in now and I fancy there's rain on the way." A sniff was followed by a loud cough. "Been busy on the card machine then, Annie?"
"Yeah, I guess so," she stepped toward the stairs and looked back to the CD rack, "It hasn't been that busy at all really." Too cold for people to venture out after the warm summer and too bright to entice those who were abroad into the shop itself.
The card machine bleeped in protest at a sudden barrage of pokes and presses from Ronnie's deceptively strong fingers. Before she'd finished there was the sound of the paper report being produced. Anastasia didn't really know what to say; the rant had been mercifully cut short and she had been given leave to go. She half-ran, half-walked, past the main reference book floor and on up into the staff room. Carl was just packing away the biscuits from the late afternoon tea break and smiled weakly as she burst through the door.
"In a hurry?"
"Not really," her bag was heavier than she remembered, so she slung it over her shoulder and swept the room for anything she'd left behind, "Thought I'd try to make the earlier bus."
"Aye, you do right, looks like rain."
A breeze blew through the open window and they both shivered for a moment. "Well, if I'm going to make it I'd best be on my way. See you on Thursday?"
"Oooh, no, I'll be on my off-day, child." Carl turned on the 'old person' charm and twinkled his eyes like a proud grandfather. "You have fun now and let me know if Missus White pops over, won't you, she gets all her notes from here now." It was the same tone that Anastasia imagined he used to talk to his children about sex and the grandchildren about the latest toy craze - innocuous and yet filled with intelligence. He'd be as much at home discussing philosophy or the latest football results.
"Enjoy your time off, don't do anything I wouldn't do!"
A genuine laugh at this, "Oh, I'll do plenty you wouldn't even know not to! Now, be off with you!"
She blew him a mock kiss and left at the same pace as she had arrived.
Ronnie was sat behind the counter as she reached the bottom floor and offered a perfunctory wave of the hand without looking up. "See you Thursday."
"Will do, bye now!"
And she stepped into the wind of a storm coming, cold but not biting, blowing her hair across her face and making her wish she'd opted for tights and a skirt rather than tight jeans and no socks. Brushing a lock behind one ear, Anastasia put her head down and walked as quickly as she could over the road and through the alleyway to the main bus route. By this time there were few people about, too late to catch the last shops but too early for picking up take-outs from the chippie or a cheeky after-work drink in a local, and the weather was definitely turning.
At first she barely noticed the man in the hooded sweatshirt lurking near the bollards at the bottom of the road, but as she made her way onto the pavement opposite the river she was uncomfortably aware of his presence walking behind her. A quick glance confirmed that this was not just some phantom feeling and she caught herself believing that she could smell his sweat on the air around. Goose pimples flushed for a moment and she felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. At once she felt stupid; as if the fact that one of the local layabouts had chosen to catch a bus at the same time was something to worry about!
Wetness in the air intensified and the first drops began to fall as she reached the correct bus shelter. Exchanging the usual mumbled 'alright' as a greeting with another traveller, hair combed over a shiny head with a belly that threatened to break free of the delicate covering of an ill-fitting t-shirt, she peered closely at the timetable. It was a force of habit more than anything else, she knew that the bus hadn't been yet and that there would be another few minutes. Last night's vomit stain was still visible on the tarmac, a stale stench hanging above it, and even the falling rain could do little to hide the sweat of the day beneath the cover. The noise increased from an isolated patter to a rhythmic hiss as she tried not to lean on the seat despite the feeling in her calves protesting at having been on her feet for most of the day. If she got back quickly enough there was an essay she could do to finish and then she might watch a film later.
Of course the hooded man had stopped in a different bus shelter, there were three, and seemed to be waiting for a bus of his own. He wasn't the only other passenger beyond the pot-bellied refugee from the 1970s: a business-type was mashing a cornish pasty into a face that was too thin; another man wearing a football t-shirt and old shorts stood slowly melting into the perspex with a dog pulling at a frayed lead and a typically local woman, short and stocky, irritably checked her watch and clucked to herself. Nevertheless, there was something off-putting about him. Almost as though she could feel his eyes boring into her, though the hood's shadow made confirming that impossible, and the tracksuit bottoms ended with white trainers of the type she'd seen around on all the young men, ha, she'd seen smoking in the street.
There was something else to, on the edge of her senses, causing her to feel vulnerable and to keep glancing in his direction. As surreptitiously as was possible she re-balanced her weight so that she could redirect momentum in case of a physical attack, and shuffled to where she could push off from the metal frame of the bus-shelter if the situation demanded it. Part of her rejoiced that she could remember the self-defence seminar from Fresher's Week whilst a much larger part looked on in disapproval at the concept of readying herself for an assault based on nothing more than early evening paranoia. Shaking her head, Anastasia forced herself back to the essay: just how important was the role of the Danelaw in the creation of an independent landed gentry in the Eastern fens before the Norman invasion? Did anybody really care that much?
As the bus arrived, and she switched to auto-pilot, she felt a pang of regret that she hadn't returned her mother's phone call. It was only to check that she was alright, that much was obvious, but it wasn't her real mother. A blissful summer's day over a year in the past, the smell of freshly mown grass mingling with the greasy smell of badly cooked eggs and bacon. In the distance an aeroplane made its final descent to Leeds-Bradford and her mother's voice had gone low and attempting to be dangerous.