Login   Sign Up 


The Unlikely Souvenir Ch. 3&4

by Loopygoose 

Posted: 07 June 2017
Word Count: 5707
Summary: Success is all about knowing the rules, keeping your emotions under control and bespoke suits; well that's how Chloe Jessop sees it anyway. But somehow none of those things help her when she decides to confront her bullying alcoholic father. In fact, discovering he's actually a rule-breaker of the most unexpected kind leaves Chloe with a very unlikely souvenir indeed.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

The shivering wakes me, or was it a noise? I can hear the sound of shoes moving around above me. Rolling up on my elbows and squinting away from the light I focus on my watch. It’s nearly half past nine. Jesus, what the hell am I doing? I rub my eyes and breathe deeply. My throat feels dry and sore. There’s another thud, this time the sound has a different texture. It must be Dad. Just the thought of him makes me fizz with adrenaline. “Damn you!” I spit, rolling my legs off the sofa ready to push myself up. Wait. Chloe, you’re feeling really emotional, and a bit giddy, and nothing good ever happens when you’re emotional; you make all the wrong decisions, say things and do things that you can’t take back. Come on, control that emotion, get a grip. Think this through properly. Follow the rules. He doesn’t know you’re here so you have time. I flex and shake my hands then stand up and pace the room, breathing deeply. Finally, once I can feel the wave of anger has subsided, I tiptoe up the stairs.
Outside his office I lean forward carefully and cup my ear to the door. From the noises inside I reckon he must be drunk. Of course he is. Still, I can’t afford to be complacent. He’s so used to being drunk that he could easily catch me out, and fire up my emotions. I step back far enough from the handle to avoid temptation, rub my hands together and blow into them trying to focus on this as if it’s a business deal. Come on Chloe, how do we deal with the bullying, overbearing type? There is a risk he could intimidate me if I give him the chance so I need to start with some drama; shock him so he’s on the back foot and I’m in control, then hit him with my agenda. Questions: Where’s your wife? Do you know where she is? No, of course you don’t. She’s in hospital and she could have died tonight. How can you be so self-absorbed that you let her get into that state? Do you ever think of anyone but yourself? Yes. What else? What kind of man are you? That’s it! Perfect, back to that business of being a man.
            I grip the handle, the stiff metal cold beneath my fingers, take a deep breath, then wrench it down and fling the door open so hard it slams against the plaster, yelling “Call yourself a man! Real men don’t…!” But nothing has prepared me for this. Nothing.
In the chair straight in front of me is the man who’s my father, but he’s not. His head is turned away, his back straining against the silky fabric of a ruby red dress, while his hairy right arm is frantically trying to yank a stocking off his foot. “Oh my God. Dad!” On the floor in front of him lie a couple of pairs of cripple-high-heels, one silver glitter and the other white and strappy. Beyond them is a suitcase; its mouth wide open and a vomit of women swear spilling from it. Then I notice three bottles on his desk, one red wine, the others whisky, and a tumbler with a splash of amber still in the bottom. As the stocking finally pulls free he lurches backwards then turns to look at me. “Oh my God!” I hear myself cry again. He’s doing something weird with his mouth. He looks like Lips does when she’s chewing gum. It’s so odd that – I can’t help it - I laugh. A crazy-out-loud laugh. I know it’s not the right thing to do but I’m shivering and my thoughts are writhing like snakes and I want to cry. “I…” my voice is a squeak. He starts doing something really peculiar with his face, scrunching up his eyes then opening them and groaning, his hand reaches over to his shoulder, gripping the dress strap. I’m shaking so much I can’t move. Get a control Chloe. You need to get a control of your emotions, but I don’t know how. So I do what I do best in these situations; get out. Step back and slam the door shut. Just shut it all out so I have time to think.
When you’re a child, adults give you the impression that life is just like a long road, complete with signposts. All you have to do is follow their directions and rules until you grow up. But it’s not like that. They lie to you; the songs, the stupid books, school, Dad. They make you think everything will be fine if you just follow the road and the rules. They make you think they have a clue about what’s down that fictional bit of tarmac, but they don’t. There’s nothing linear about life. It’s more like driving a car down a quiet street, minding your own business, when a great juggernaut comes smacking into the side of you without any warning. Not only is your ride mangled, you’ve been shunted out of the neighbourhood and you’re in a completely different place from the one you thought you were in; bloody Narnia, or somewhere.
I turn back towards the door and stare at the handle, then lean forward and listen; silence. I slow my breath to listen again and there’s a loud thud, which makes me to step back and hold the wall to stop the dizzy, sick swaying. Concentrate Chloe. You can do this. I push the handle down and open it very slowly, squinting through the gap. He’s not in the chair. I push the door further and peer round it. He’s on the floor, face down, naked but for his pants, the red dress spreading out beneath him like blood. I step through the door. Then take another step closer, trying not to focus on his nakedness. “Dad.” Did his chest move? Oh, God, I don’t think so. I crouch down and lean in close to place my hand on his back. Nothing. I don’t think he’s breathing. I need to do something.
“Err, yes,” the blood is rushing in my ears making it hard to hear. 
“Was that the correct address?” the man says.
“Is he breathing?”
“I don’t think so but I’ll check”. I put the phone down on the oak dresser and leave the room, sprinting up the stairs. Standing at the top, panting, I peer round the door. I can see his foot. It’s a sort of grey. What am I doing? I run down the stairs again and snatch at the handset, breathless. “No”.
“Chloe.” the woman’s taut voice has slowed down and become very deliberate. “Can’t you take the phone into the room where he is?”
“No this is a landline. My mobile’s nearly out of battery.” I add, as I jab my finger into the tangled, dirty-white cord that connects the receiver to its plastic base.
“OK. Tell me exactly what happened”
“Well. I just got up and went in to tell my dad that my mum is in hospital and found him lying on the floor.”
“How old is your father?”
“Oh. Um. About 60 ish.”
“OK. You need to open the front door then go back to him and begin CPR. Do you know how to do it?”
“I think so.”
“Get the patient onto a hard surface, flat on his back, place the heel of your hand in the centre of his chest, place your other hand on top of that hand and push down the heel of your hand two inches. Allow the chest to come back up between each compression. Have you got that?”
“You need a regular speed. Do you know the Bee Gees’ ‘Staying Alive?”
“The song.”
“Err, yes”.
“Great. Use that as your base beat.” My head is now full of Bee Gees and I’m finding it hard to concentrate. 
“Continue that until help arrives or he starts breathing. If he starts breathing, turn him onto his side."
My breathing comes in little gasps, making it hard to speak “What if he’s already dead?”
“You need to let the paramedics establish that, keep going until they get there. Many, many people’s lives have been saved this way.”
"Now leave your phone line open". 
“How long will they be?”
“There’s an ambulance on its way.”
“Thank you… yes… thank you… that’s very helpful. I’ll try that”. I put the phone back in its cradle with a crump of hard plastic and then realise I wasn’t supposed to. I stare at it but there’s just the gentle mumble of the world asleep, a dog bark, a light wind, a clock somewhere. Other than that, silence. I turn round to leave but notice the Rumtopf and, feeling disgusted, I pick it up, open the cupboard and put it back where it came from. Standing up I catch sight of myself in the mirror of the oak dresser and a sense of urgency takes hold. I swing out to the hall, gripping the banister tightly to speed my way, and then mount the stairs taking them two at a time.
Everything in the room is just as I left it. Dad is lying on the floor, his boxers sagging around his bottom. The broad expanse of puffy skin on his back is dotted with clusters of hair and a solitary hold-up stocking is still caught in wrinkles on the end of one foot. Stay in control, Chloe. I kneel down and touch his arm. His flesh feels a bit colder than mine, but the house is cold too. I get on my knees to brace myself against his shoulder, my fingers sinking in to the flabby flesh, and pull hard so he flops over on to his back, a limp hand lying across his chest. The painted lips flare an unnatural red against his pallid skin. I can’t cope with him looking like that; it’s not him. Glancing up I see a box of tissues on the desk and tug a couple out. The box tumbles to the floor. I rub at his mouth then realize I have to spit on the tissue for it to work, which makes me gag because it reminds me of the disgusting smell of spit on Mum’s tissues when she did it to me. The phone starts ringing, I exhale sharply then I’m convulsed with deep gulps, trying to fight a rising sense of panic. I can’t answer I need to help Dad. None of this makes sense. The lips still look a bit red but that could be the wine. I glance at the dirty tissues and, not knowing what to do with them, tuck them into my bra. I put one hand on top of the other, elbows locked, and lean on his chest, using all my body weight to begin an attempt at CPR. Pump, pump, pump. The Bee Gees strut into view in all their falsetto crazy Lurex, and that lead singer’s wild beard. Did he wear dresses too? What would it look like if Dad wore a dress with a beard? Don’t be stupid, Chloe, he never had a beard. I stop to open Dad’s mouth but the sight of all the dental work and his purple tongue lolling to one side makes me retch again. Actually, now I think of it she didn’t say I had to do mouth to mouth. I feel for his pulse. Is that a faint throb? I keep pumping, focusing on the hair on his chest. I don’t remember ever touching the hair on his chest, the solid ribs beneath. Am I pushing hard enough? I’m closer to Dad now than I’ve ever been but I’m sweating and it’s making me feel clammy and dirty. I really want a shower and I just wish that phone would stop.
 I glance up and it hits me like a wet facecloth that there are people, possibly men, on their way. Dad wouldn’t want to be found like this. I don’t want Dad found like this. This isn’t him! What would people say? What about Dom? How would he cope? Does Mum even know? I survey the scene, pull the stocking off his foot and toss it in the suitcase, then try to tug at the dress he’s lying on but his weight has it pinned to the floor. I kneel down again, prize my shoes off, and sit back on my heels, trying to lift his flaccid body with one hand while yanking the fabric with the other. “NNnnnnggggg” I’m breathing hard but it’s barely moved. I lean across his body, grab the far arm then fold both arms onto his chest, clutch the fabric on my side in both hands and try to pull it up vertically; hoping I can make his body roll off it. He rolls away from me but his far arm flops down blocking him from moving any further. Panting now, I clamber over him to his desk and start pulling open draws. I find a small pair of paper scissors and dash back to start cutting the dress on my side, lifting his skin and hacking at the fabric as close as possible to his body, without cutting him. Then I have to climb over him and yank hard, tugging the fabric back and forth, trying to release it. It comes free in a jolt. I cry out with relief then toss the bits of fabric into the suitcase and start snatching at clothes and shoes and cramming them in too. The phone stops. Thank God. When I try to close it, the zip on the right side catches on some fabric. My hands are shaking. The phone starts ringing making me jump. Fingers fumbling, I tug hard and, finally, it gives. I pull the case upright, it’s heavy and the wheels catch on the rug as I tug it to the cupboard. I yank the door open and peer into the gloom. I can see the space it’s come from but I have to shift it onto its side and use my entire body weight to cram it into place.
Dumping the scissors in the drawer I scan the rest of the room quickly. The blank screen of his computer, pens dropped haphazardly into a bowl, the closed blinds and bare walls. The full-length mirror glaring at me from the corner, like a rude stranger who refuses to look away. “Oh my God!” I start the chest compressions in earnest. “Come on, Dad, come on,” I whisper. His flaccid face is slumped to one side and his once ruddy cheeks, flecked with red veins, are now taking on a blue-ash hue. For a second I think the ding-dong sound is coming from a TV in another room, but it isn’t. “The doorbell? Oh, I forgot to leave the door open.” I hammer down the stairs to answer.
“Yes.” There are two of them, a woman and a man, both carrying big medical bags.
“You called emergency services?”
“Yes” A flashing light silently whirling on the top of the ambulance paints the puddle in the driveway blue.
“Can you show us where he is?”
“Yes, of course.” I turn and run up the stairs their shoes thudding on the carpet behind me.
Now it’s all action. They stretch him out in the middle of the floor. The man leans over him pumping his chest. The woman is pulling tons of things out of her bag. She straps an oxygen mask over his mouth. She’s opened up some sort of machine and starts jabbing in needles, tearing open wrappers and tossing them; my God, these people make a mess. A metronome is set up on the floor and the male paramedic starts pumping in time to it. Tick tock tick tock, now ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ fills my head. The woman rises up from the floor, elbowing past the man, holding her paddles out like oven gloves.
“Clear!” I can do nothing but stand in the doorway looking at Dad’s bare feet as they flop with the shock of the defibrillator. My toes feel numb with cold. I twist them to get the blood back. I need to move so I back out of the door, frightened by the reality of what is unfolding, then find myself in my old room staring out of the window thinking I should call someone. Who would I call? Not Jenny, I can’t deal with her. I definitely can’t call Mum. It’s the last thing she needs. I don’t want to go back past that room to get downstairs to the phone anyway. I fish in my pocket and switch on my mobile. There’s still the tiniest amount of battery. No voice mail messages. I dial Dom and, surprise, surprise; it goes straight through to voicemail.
“Dom, it’s Chloe, you need to call me. It’s about Dad. Oh, and Mum. Soon, OK?” My phone goes blank. Now I’m annoyed. Why the hell is he never around. Jenny must have told him by now so why hasn’t he called me? I stare at my phone, dizzy as if I’ve left my body and this is all happening to someone else. I start shivering again and hug my jacket tight for warmth then notice it’s gone strangely silent next door. Filled with dread, and fearful about what’s happening, I tiptoe back along the landing to Dad’s office. They’ve stopped using the defibrillator but he still has the oxygen mask on. The woman is crouched forward, her green trousers pulled tight across her bottom and her big black boots still glistening wet from the rain. Her face is masking what’s beyond, but as she moves I see the monitor and. Wait. There’s a blip, blip on it. He has a pulse? I’m elated then instantly want to throw up. Feeling dizzy I lean against the wall and slide down to the floor. The man glances back at me.
            “You alright, love?”
            “Yes,” I mumble rubber-mouthed, but all I can think is oh God, I am in BIG trouble. What will Dad remember? How the hell do I explain the laugh and everything I didn’t do? The man is talking into his phone. I want to cry. Surely he’ll understand? It was weird finding him like that. Can I put it down to shock? Feeling emotional? The man unfolds a large yellow plastic thing that looks like a disassembled sled. They start trying to slide it under Dad but the monitor lets out a plaintiff, long beep. Another flurry and she shouts “Clear”.
Icy fingers touch my lips. “Urgh!” I blurt out, shaking my head, and then realize they’re my own. I look up but it’s all fuzzy. I blink and there’s a policeman in black uniform walking out of the office. Oh my God. Has he come to arrest me? How does he know? Perhaps the stuff in my head is leaking out and people can hear what I’m thinking. I try to pull myself up against the bannister but I can’t move my mouth to acknowledge him. Behind him, in the study I can see the paramedics packing their bags and they’ve put a blanket over Dad to keep him warm. Then I focus harder and realize it’s covering his head. I vomit. The policeman grabs my hair to keep it out of the pile of sick.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” is all I can say.
            “Miss are you ill? Do you need assistance?” says the policeman.
            “No.” I try to stagger to my feet so I don’t have to look at the sick. It’s going to make me retch again. “Sorry.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“No! It’s the shock.”
He helps me to the bathroom where I rinse my mouth and pull the loo roll off its holder to go back and clear up the mess. “Sorry, I’m so sorry,” I keep saying in faltering sobs as I try to scoop up the pile of vomit from the carpet; all the time wondering if he can smell alcohol in it. I look up and the paramedics are poised on the threshold of the door, bags slung over their shoulders.
“We’re so sorry.” She says, glancing down at me then addressing the policeman, “We’ll leave you with it. I’m sure the doctor won’t be long.” I don’t want to look. I shift round then manage to stand up and lean against the wall as they shunt past me. As the one at the rear kicks through the rubbish they’ve left his foot hits something that spins and clunks against the door. The policeman turns to watch them pounding down the stairs then steps in to the room, leans down and picks it up. He rolls it in his hand.
“Did you drop this?” He passes it to me. It’s a pleated gold barrel of lipstick. Not mine.
“Yes, thank you,” I lie, and drop it into my jacket pocket, having no idea why I’m doing it. I close my eyes and lean back against the wall, reassured by the solidity of my anchor, taking long slow deep breaths. I hear the policeman moving about and roll my head to the side then open my eyes. He’s in the office, his copper hair flaring beneath the light making him look like a Duracell battery from behind. I watch with rising dread as he steps around the room, his hands behind his back, peering at everything but touching nothing. That’s when I notice the red lipstick mark on the glass. Fear splashes through my veins and I start to dry heave like a cat with a fur ball.
“Ma’am, may I be of any assistance.” Comes the voice next to me. Relieved that he’s left the room, I shake my head at him. “No, no. I’m absolutely fine. Thank you.”
“Ma’am” he says again, softly in a way that sounds strangely formal for a young man. “Would you like a cup of tea?” I glance up at him “Shock; it’s the best thing for it.”
“Yes, I think that would be good,” I answer looking at him properly for the first time. Even his eyebrows are copper. He glances back at the study then steps away to close the door.
“I just have to make sure the…it’s secure.” He says. I feel like crying. He’s must be keeping the scene as it is so he can investigate properly. How can this be happening?
In the kitchen he shifts the bin bag into a corner and pretends not to notice the chaos, as he puts the kettle on and opens a cupboard in search of cups. While I direct him from the chair he works methodically, telling me his name is PC Kennedy, asking me what I like to be called and checking how I like my tea made. He places a steaming cup in front of me and sits down opposite, fishing in his breast pocket. I brace myself for the interrogation but instead, he pulls out a small Mars bar, tearing it open and placing it in front of me. “Here, you’ll need some sugar right now.”
“Thank you, but I think I’ll be sick if I eat anything.“ I say.
He shrugs and studies me with eyes that are almost amber. “Now I don’t want you to worry at all but there are just a few things we need to go over, OK?” he says, pulling out a notepad. But it doesn’t feel OK. The doorbell rings.
“Ah, if you don’t mind I’ll just leave you here while I deal with the doctor” he says, and then he’s gone. I stare into space listening to their footsteps plodding up the stairs and the creaking as they slowly move around the room above. Just after the doorbell goes again, PC Kennedy’s head reappears round the doorframe and says, softly, “Chloe, the undertaker is here. Would you like to see your father again before…” I shake my head. “O.K.” He says, and disappears again. I haven’t drunk any of my tea. I give it a vigorous stir and a tiny bubble forms in the milk. I watch as it swirls around trapped in a vortex.
PC Kennedy’s hand hesitates and hovers over his pad, when I explain that I don’t actually live here. His eyebrows flicker. I fight the urge to bite my lip, then manage to explain that I came to tell him my Mum’s been taken to hospital. His eyes linger on mine, his head slightly cocked like he’s going to ask me a question but then he looks down at his pad again. I shift my hands slightly further under my thighs wishing this nightmare would end.
“This has been a pretty tough night for you.” He says, I’m sorry about that. He explains my position as next of kin then puts his pad down, leans towards me, his hands on his knees, and asks gently, “Are you going to be alright?” I look at the ground and nod. “Would you like me to take you somewhere? Back to your flat?”
“No, thank you, I’ll just sit here for a bit, if that’s OK?” He lingers then takes the cups to the sink and rinses them, turns and looks at me again then steps towards me and picks up the Mars bar. “Here, you really should eat this.”
“No. I can’t. Thank you.” I hear my voice like a tiny whisper from across the garden.
“Miss…Jessop,” his voice is close now, “I’m really not happy about leaving you hear like this, please let me give you a lift home.” I picture the cupboard with the suitcase in it. My breath falters so I reach in my pocket, rolling the lipstick case and pushing the lid off then clicking it back on again. There’s no way I can face all of that tonight. I’ll come back and deal with it after the negotiation tomorrow. He’s seen everything already.
O.K.” I say. “Thank you.” But I don’t feel very thankful. Riding home in the police car makes me feel sick with criminality. As I open the door he says,
“Just to remind you, my name is PC Kennedy, Chris Kennedy. I’ll call you in a couple of days OK?”
Thursday morning
An artless advert for a timepiece has been plastered on the tube wall opposite. It’s just the face of a watch floating in the middle of a massive poster. It’s not attached to a wrist or a picture of a jet plane, or a beautiful woman. Just a white watch basically saying ‘do you want a watch? Here’s a watch’. I shake my head. That’s the sort of blunt advert that should be in a classified ad with a price and phone number next to it, not being used for branding. The Fossil logo above it proudly states 1984. How can something created in 1984 be a fossil? None of it makes sense. Nothing makes sense this morning. Across a sea of heads the neon board says it’s 1 minute to the next tube train. I inch back behind the line, scared of being right on the edge of the platform. Something catches my eye, scuttling in the brown dirt beneath the live rail. I shudder. How do those things manage to scratch a living down there when it seems such a struggle up here? I switch my focus back to the senseless advert. The hands on the watch face say ten past eleven. How do they decide what time to put on it when they’re taking the photo? Perhaps that time has a special meaning that I don’t know about; the time the photographer’s child was born? The time they have elevenses? Maybe it’s meaningless, just the time they got round to taking the photo. I guess, when you think about it, all time is meaningless. We just made it up to form punctuation marks like it’s the grammar of our lives; the capital when we’re born, all the comas that give our lives meaning, then that full stop at the end of our life sentence. I just can’t understand why Jenny was so obsessed with knowing the time Dad actually died? Of all the questions she could have asked when I called. What difference does it make anyway? The brakes of the tube screech and the doors shunt open four people down from me so I have to shuffle along like a penguin, knowing I should go to the hospital and see Mum right now but I can’t, not yet. Somehow seeing her will make it all real and I’m not ready.
It’s only once I’m walking into Soho that I realise I need to buy cappuccinos for the team; anyone late always buys a round. I’ve always been the beneficiary so I’m not going to complain.
“You’re looking a bit ropey, Chloe. Scored last night did you?” laughs Bones as I place the tray of drinks on the table and lift one out to read the scrawl on the side of it.
“Mind your own business.” I put Carpet’s coffee in front of him, leaving Bones and Lips to sort theirs then head for the loos. The person staring back at me in the mirror looks sick. My eyes are red-rimmed and my skin’s all blotchy. Thank God for make-up.
As I walk past Tony’s glass office he glances up, cradling the phone under his chin. I should probably go right in and tell him what happened but I don’t want to. I don’t know when’s the right time and I’m not comfortable sharing my business with these people. Besides, what’s worse is that he’ll take away my clients. The deal with Posh is all mine and I’m not going to let anyone else screw it up or take the credit or the money. Still, attempting to go back to work after everything that’s happened proves much harder than I’d thought. I flick through my database of contacts, trying to get some focus, but none of them gives me that usual tingling excitement of the chase. It all seems meaningless today. I glance behind me. Can I risk typing transvestite in to Google? You can never be too careful. Sonya must have been writing something very rude in that email when the system froze, last year. She started banging repeatedly on her keyboard and when management came out to sort out the problems she reacted like a wild cat, jumped up and literally clung to the computer screen to block everyone from reading it. She was prized off finger by finger then spent an hour in a heated meeting with Tony. My mobile vibrates. I pull it out; holding it just beneath the table, then peer at the screen. It’s Dom; finally! I send it straight to voicemail. No way am I having this conversation in the office.
“Right you lot, I’m getting another coffee, any orders?” Bones is cradling the receiver against his shoulder, swinging his chair using his raised knee pressing against the desk. He knits his brow and shakes his head, pointing at the coffee already on his desk. As I push my chair in I notice Shorty staring at me.
“Had a late night did you?” His usual playfulness has gone. He just sounds sullen. Ignoring him I head out on to the streets of Soho, walking past Nero’s just in case someone from the office is already in there. Ducking into an alley I call Dom. “Hi, Dom, it’s me. I missed your call. So did Jenny tell you?”
“Yeah.” He says blankly. There’s silence then “What time did it happen?” I suck in a deep breath.
“Is that it, all you can ask? What about, are you OK Chloe?”
“OK,” he says, “How the hell did it happen?” I wasn’t expecting him to be so aggressive and it throws me.
“I went over there so I could talk to him about Mum and her chest infection. I wanted him to take some responsibility, and found him lying there.” The memory of seeing him in that dress makes my head spin. I lean against a post and stare at the layered clouds, blinking to keep focused.
“Have you listened to a single word I’ve just said?” he growls.
“Where is he?”
“I’m not sure. The mortuary I think, yes, that’s it. They say that, because it was unexpected, they’ll have to do an autopsy…”
“I know I can’t believe it. Look Dom, I’m exhausted and I feel like I’m at the end of what I can deal with. I’ve still got an important meeting to get through this afternoon. Can you do something?”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know, think about the funeral, tell Mum what’s happened. Have you actually been in to see Mum? Actually, where the hell have you been?”
“Busy, Chloe.”
“Busy isn’t a very good answer Dom. We’re all busy! Anyway, are you going in to see Mum?”
“I think she’d rather see you, Chloe.”
“No, Dom, I’ve already been. YOU go! Come on. Man up, these are your parents too!” I hit the red button to cancel the call. Damn him, I was feeling OK but now I’m shaking again. I step back out into the weak sunlight that’s broken through the blanket above. Wandering through the market in a fug a large shiny orange catches my eye like a buoy of optimism bobbing in a sea of gloom. It reminds me of Jenny. I should be kinder to her, she’s only trying to help our fucked up family and she does have a point; orange really does pick you up. I head over and take it off the top of the pile then reach in my bag for some change, but the stallholder yells,
“No darlin’, not that one, put it back. That’s my display orange!” Seriously. I mean, what’s wrong with people?

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Jennifer1976 at 09:38 on 12 June 2017  Report this post
Hi Rachel,

I thought these chapters were really well written. From the start, I felt like I was in the hands of the main character and I also really liked her 'voice'. I thought there was a good balance of 'showing versus telling' which you used effectively to bring about a tension to the piece that made me want to read on.

The only advice I can give you to go forward with is that there were a handful of times where you'd missed out punctuation in the dialogue - and I only mention that because I can't think of anything else I'd advise you to change. I'm sure you'd pick up on it when you go through to edit this anyway though.

All in all, these were good chapters that flowed really well and I look forward to reading more.

Loopygoose at 11:23 on 12 June 2017  Report this post
Dear Jennifer, 

thank you so much for such a positive response. I really appreciate it! I have just started using an editing programme to go through my script and fix all the blunders because I am sure they are distracting. I'll take a look at your work as soon as I have the time to login properly. 
Mall the best 

Chestersmummy at 19:51 on 22 June 2017  Report this post
Hi Rachel

Wow!  Dramatic stuff.  You did a good misdirection in the first section - well and truly leading us down the wrong alley.  I especially liked the sentence 'Seated in front of me was the man who is my father but he's not.'  That made me sit up and take notice!

I also liked the way you 'showed' how petrified, disbelieving and altogether panic-stricken you character was.  The only thing is, in real life 'you' would be so totally panic stricken that you probably wouldn't notice how you were feeling - it would probably all be a complete blur - so maybe there is a case for toning down some of your descriptions, ie - the policman 'pretending not to notice the chaos in the kitchen' etc. But perhaps others have a different view on this.

There were a couple of spelling mistakes but I expect you will pick up on those and they did not spoil my enjoyment.  I look forward to what happens next!

Best wishes


Browntrout at 19:31 on 27 June 2017  Report this post
Even though this type of story isn't my favourite, I prefer historical novels or adventure type works, I found that instead of it being heavy going it was in fact the opposite. Chloe obviously faces a few problems with her family and the style in which it is written made me feel I wanted to know a lot more about her!. The style of writing brought across her wound up emotional state very well, a real person rather than a cardboard character, and again the style is very much a blow by blow account of everything that happened and the thoughts that went through her mind so you almost feel as if you are standing beside her through the scene.

NGwriter at 17:20 on 28 June 2017  Report this post
I really enjoyed this dramatic piece and certainly made me what to learn more about Chloe and her family issues. I felt like it was like entering her mind – however, because of that I was also very aware when she was over-describing certain things. Example: “I stare at it but there’s just the gentle mumble of the world asleep, a dog bark, a light wind, a clock somewhere.” While I like the sentence, it doesn’t seem likely she would notice these things given her mental state. Also, be careful of repetition (you use the word ‘emotions’ a lot of times in the first few paragraphs). Overall, I thought it was an intriguing, well-written piece.

Catkin at 01:15 on 06 July 2017  Report this post
Hello Rachel. I'm doing an update. Are you still with us, and would you welcome more comments on these chapters?

judie at 03:46 on 08 July 2017  Report this post

Hi Rachel,
I agree with previous comments that you have certainly ramped up the tension and thrown the reader some nice curveballs. The shock of finding your cross-dressing father comes out well. I wonder if the occasional bit of backstory might flesh out the characters even more. Were there ever any hints of this in the past? What was your parents' marriage really like, just a few flashbacks perhaps. Such as when you said that you bet Jenny didn't know something Dom did to the cat?  This works to intrigue the reader about the character and kind of invite them into family secrets, which is where we want to be. Just hints,
I like some of your philosophising, such as the section describing the watch ad and the idea of time.
Your use of the present tense works really well, giving that sense of immediacy.
I tend to agree that you are over describing and think you could tighten up the narrative a little. There are some unnecessary details, and an overtelling of actions.  Just as a suggestion, I think deleting the following would not affect the flow, and might even improve it.

Standing up I catch sight of myself in the mirror of the oak dresser and a sense of urgency takes hold. I swing out to the hall, gripping the banister tightly to speed my way, and then mount the stairs taking them two at a time.

The woman is crouched forward, her green trousers pulled tight across her bottom and her big black boots still glistening wet from the rain. Her face is masking what’s beyond, but as she moves

 when I explain that I don’t actually live here. His eyebrows flicker. I fight the urge to bite my lip, then manage to explain that I came to tell him my Mum’s been taken to hospital. His eyes linger on mine, his head slightly cocked like he’s going to ask me a question but then he looks down at his pad again. I shift my hands slightly further under my thighs wishing this nightmare would end.

The brakes of the tube screech and the doors shunt open four people down from me so I have to shuffle along like a penguin, knowing

Hope this helps. I look forward to reading more!
Chewers Judie

Catkin at 21:48 on 08 July 2017  Report this post
Thank you so much for doing this, Judie. I just hope Rachel is still with us ... because I"m not yet sure if she is or isn't, I didn't add this chapter to the Update list this time.

::calling Rachel. Come in, Rachel ... ::

JacquiM at 15:52 on 09 July 2017  Report this post
Awesome work! I loved the detail and the 'stream of consciousness' style which really made me feel present. In fact it was quite stressful reading it! My only comments are that I agree with the reviews above which said she probably wouldn't notice all the detail when she's so emotionally worked up. The 'cold toes' particularly got me. There's some great description too although again be careful the description doesn't get in the way of the flow of the story. I loved the 'vomiting suitcase' but that did make me laugh when I'm thinking I probably shouldn't. I also wasn't sure where the scene was set. Perhaps this was made clearer in the previous chapter?

Hope that helpls and that you're still here!

Catkin at 10:14 on 11 July 2017  Report this post
I've heard from Rachel. She is still here, and I'm about to print this out to read it on a train (not that I only ever read CC work on trains, but I'm going to use that journey to catch up on things here that I haven't read so far ... )

Catkin at 23:58 on 12 July 2017  Report this post
I’ve read all of this now, from the first chapter.
    Things I thought were particularly good were: the white board; the loos like a magazine; the backs/knife comment; the squeaky corridors and the choice of paintings; Jenny’s ‘so glad you could make it’ remark (yes, she really is a cuckoo - that remark tells the reader all he or she needs to know); the bit about life not being linear; the description of C’s father face-down on the floor; the paramedic’s green bum and big boots; the rats/mice scratching a living; the mystery of Jenny and Dom’s wanting to know the exact time of death, and the display orange ... and I have to know what Dom used to do to the cat. I will be waiting for the answer to appear.
    The main criticisms I have are first, that I didn’t understand what had happened when Chloe went to her father’s house. She wakes up on his sofa, but says that he doesn’t know she is there. Later on, she worries that the PC may be able to smell alcohol after she has vomited. So ... all I can think of is that she let herself into his house but he wasn’t there, and then she got drunk and passed out on his sofa. Is that what happened? If that’s it, then how can she be so sure that he doesn’t know she’s there? He may have seen her when she was asleep.
    Secondly, her father is a transvestite, and he’s the glamorous kind, who wears make-up and satin dresses. But he’s also wearing boxer shorts. If he’s having a big dress-up evening, surely he’d be wearing pretty silky knickers and a nice bra? I thought the correct underwear was always part of it all.
    Thirdly, I’m not at all convinced by her breaking off CPR in order to scrub make-up off her father, and hide the dress. In a situation like that, there just isn’t time to do other things. She must realise that by doing that, she is reducing the likelihood of saving his life. This would be fine - she has no great love for him - but I think you should make it clear that she is deliberately choosing hiding the evidence over saving his life. Or, at the very least, she should realise that by acting in that way, she possibly condemned him to death - not that she necessarily needs to be sorry about that, but I do think she needs to acknowledge it. I did wonder if the reason she behaved in that way was because she was still drunk, and thus not thinking clearly.
    I’d like to go on and do some in-detail nitpicking now, but there are some other pieces I want to comment on, so I hope to return for the nitpicking later.
    It’s impressive work, Rachel, and I would definitely like to read more, so I do hope you stick with us and post some further chapters.

Loopygoose at 08:37 on 13 July 2017  Report this post
Thank you everyone for such helpful, thought-provoking comments. What really makes me think is the comments on over-description. My novel has been read by 5 people now, one of them a professional critique. They all loved the narrative voice of the MC and the entire story. The key criticism was that it was too pacy! It seems that my book is most suited to the Book Club category (if that actually exists) who prefer more detailed descriptions. The two professionals who've read it say they want me to slow down and add more about the environments and the clothes being worn by the characters etc. 

Catkin, thank you so much for taking the time to chase me down and read all the work I've posted so far. The key concern in terms of your critique, is the boxer shorts. I was aware of the issue and started out thinking that I'd have him in the full underwear option but it would not work with the way the story pans out. You are the only person, so far, who has been particularly troubled by those details so I'm inclined to keep it as is. She had eaten half a jar of spirit-soaked fruit not that long ago so she would still be quite confused and her decision-making impaired. She is also obsessed with control, rules, and appearances. So finding her father in that state of dress is not only shocking for her own view of him but she worries about how her brother will be affected. She is tired, drunk, and compromised in addition to the fact that she feels half hearted about this man who has made her life so difficult. I'll return the favour to all you kind people who have taken the time to help me. Thank you again!

Catkin at 01:13 on 18 July 2017  Report this post
Thank you, Rachel - and sorry I didn't notice your reply before now.

I do hope you will post some further chapters.

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .