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Monday, 7 May 2012

Orange prize for fiction competition entry

Last year my entry for the Orange prize of fiction made it down to the top five out of thousands. This year I am entering again in the quest to win the award for best newcomer. Please share your views by posting your comments below..

The Journey

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. 

She stepped onto the platform and made her way across the bridge, weaving in and out of the crowds, unknown faces seemingly strange in their obscurity. Nothing here was familiar - life as she had once known it, seemed a million miles away. She walked on through the barrier, out of the exit tunnel and onto the paved street. With its hard-edged corners and voluminous concrete tower blocks lining the pavements, it seemed incongruous to the willow tree lined park opposite. She walked on, her mind blurring her thoughts into a montage. The reasons, toppled by the journey, once again whirred in her mind, like a humming bird. Surely it is in human nature to always have hope? But to take a risk such as this? She was unsure.  

Rounding the small green, she saw the signpost for Bathgate Street, it must be the one. She paused, took a deep breath before pressing on, determined. Answers would await her and now that the journey was almost over, they couldn't arrive soon enough. Still, thoughts of the past churned over in her mind; The day she received the letter from Joe was a day she could never have imagined. Since unfolding the pages, she had become like a train derailed, no control over her mind, the words she had read perplexed her every second of existence. She could no longer think with clarity, but only run, like the train, without a planned route or destination, but this was her destination wasn’t it? Today was the 12th of April and the time was nearing 7pm, the time he had told her to arrive or he would be gone - this time for good. Mary’s steps slowed as she looked up at the dark and brooding buildings looming above her, No 8 - she had arrived. She stood looking up at the house, it seemed uninviting, its presence imposing. Her breath was cold, it caught momentarily in a spiders web that had woven its way around the iron railings at the doors entrance. She shivered, wondering if she was being watched. Was he there? Just the other side of the stone wall? Those eyes she would never forget - they seemed to turn green and then grey before returning to a deep blue, like a fresh water pool she could dive into, swimming and circling the iris. She could barely fathom that if she rang the rusty old doorbell, the door would open and he would be standing in front of her. It had been two long years since his disappearance off the coast of Jura where he had been staying with Rob, his trusted friend. A fishing boat, found off the shore of the island, caught in the current they said. Probably swept away. Not many survive these waters at the point where the two currents meet. Nobody was ever found. Joe presumed dead. Even if grief were your best friend, you wouldn’t want it around.
Mary bit her lip, remembering the pain she had felt at hearing the news. Her heart shattered, could time really heal? Two years on and still she felt the pain. It swam up from the pit of her stomach to the back of her throat. Tears pricked the backs of her eyes. On opening the letter anger had raged from her entire being. How could he have set this up? Lead her, the woman he claimed to love, to believe he was dead. Swallowed by the merciless waters. He was in danger. He had no choice. He was protecting her. He was protecting himself, he wrote. Not an hour had passed where he didn’t think of her and he would come back for her.  He would be in Glasgow for two weeks, he would wait, give her time to think things through. He had two weeks only then he had to be gone. He wanted her to leave with him. He still loved her. He always had. He would explain - tell her why he had to do what he did but Mary mustn’t tell anyone about this..It would be too dangerous.

She stood still, tilting her head up towards the window ledge, looking for movement, for life within the walls. Joe’s life. A life she thought had left her. She had always thought the situation odd. Nothing added up. Why would he up and leave for Rob’s remote home in Scotland so suddenly? Why had he never told her about his apartment being trashed or the papers he had supposedly found? She recalled the way the police had interrogated her and sniffed around the island like blood hounds. And then there were the threatening phone calls she’d received after his disappearance. None of it made sense. Who would hurt him? This was a question that Mary had asked herself time and time again. Joe was a good man, genuine, creative, hard working - a boat builder - he built classic wooden boats. Objects of beauty.

Now he was close by, she imagined his face and how it may have changed over time. Mary paused to move a stray strand of hair beneath her hat and looked up at the battered window panes. Some of the rendering to the side of the slated window ledge was coming away. She noticed violas were springing into life in one of the boxes she had assumed empty - how long, she mused, had they gone untended. A swallow landed on the edge of the box, it lingered, looking for life within the tangled greens of the delicate leaves. Did it sense her anxiety? After noticing Mary stood at the door way, it startled, circling the chimney in its flight. Mary wished she too could fly from this scene but her heart was willing her to stay. The bell seemed to glare down at her, taunting her almost. She reached up, pausing briefly, before pressing it. Its loud echo billowing throughout the building. How many seconds or minutes passed she could not say. Footsteps approached - walking across a wooden floor perhaps? The heavy door swung open. In this ethereal moment where time meant nothing yet everything, she raised her head to look into his eyes..but the the man standing in front of her wasn’t Joe - it was someone else.. far removed from Mary’s world.


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