One of my goals for 2020 was to share more of my writing. I've written stories since I was a child and, for 20 days, I challenged myself to share a piece of original prose daily. Below is the entirety of my #prose2020 challenge:
Violet removed the ready-meal from the carrier bag and scoured the food stained worktop for a salmonella-free area to set it down. ‘I’m just trying to make sure that you have something semi-nutritious.’ She decided to place the box between a tea-ring and half an inch of congealed Pot Noodle. ‘I really don’t need you mothering me – it’s really unattractive.' Danielle delivered this line with her typical flippancy. Violet was offended by the statement, she didn’t see it as mothering, more an investment in the future. By fortifying her girlfriend with the occasional vitamin she was hoping that she would avoid a coronary by the age of 22. She proudly placed a bag of Golden Delicious on top of the microwavable fish supper. ‘Look, I got you apples – you like apples don’t you?’ Danielle tutted and continued her search for the Indian takeaway menu. Fresh orange juice, lean chicken breasts, broccoli and multivitamins. Violet was trying in vain to vary the food group that currently existed in Danielle’s fridge. Her idea of a balanced meal was seeing how many eggs she could pile on top of a sausage and bacon sandwich without it collapsing. It wasn’t mothering, it was nurturing – a different thing entirely.
She removed the last, most important item from the carrier bag – a bumper pack of anti-bacterial sprays. Violet had been drawn to them because of the various colours they came in, their multipurpose nature and their promise to kill all known germs. All known germs. What about the unknown ones she pondered.
Violet sighed as she pulled on her pink rubber gloves. Was this the most interesting thought that she could occupy her mind with? She was quite ashamed but, in the same breath, if she didn’t fill it with the benile then something more sinister would take the opportunity to fill it.
I found it!’ Danielle marched back into the kitchen waving a crumpled menu in the air, she paused to pick off a grain of Pilau rice that was stuck to it and then proceeded to peruse the list of numbers and meat-products. ‘But I’ve bought you loads of food.’ Violet felt her efforts had gone completely unrecognised. ‘I know, but I can have that crap later – I fancy a Chicken Madras.’ ‘I thought you didn’t have any money.’ Violet punctuated each word with a violent spurt of anti-bacterial onto the handle of the fridge. ‘I don’t.’
She had disappeared from the room again, this time to locate her mobile phone. Violet wiped the front of the fridge with a jay-cloth and then opened it to continue her quest. It was bare apart from a slice of processed cheese and half a lemon. For the two weeks that the latter had been sat there she had been intrigued by its presence. Where had the other half gone? Danielle didn’t like pancakes and she had certainly never concocted any gourmet meals that required the juice of half a lemon. She didn’t drink tequila and was completely oblivious to the fantastic domestic fact that half lemon could keep a fridge smelling fresh. The fridge currently smelled of mouldy pizza. ‘Dan, what happened to the other half of this lemon?’ A muffled voice came from the living room. ‘I was bored so I cut it into slices and saw how many I could get to stick to the ceiling.' Violet dared herself to look up. Four shrivelled, yellow circles clung to the artex proudly.
So where’s this amazing piece of artwork then?’ Violet entered the room cautiously but forgot to look down, she heard a crunch beneath her feet. ‘You’re bloody standing on it!’ Danielle had spent the last twenty minutes talking up her final year project. 'Avant garde', 'Cutting edge' and other hyperbole had been used as descriptors. It would have only taken for Danielle to utter ‘In yer face’ and Violet would have hit her, quite hard. As a final year art student, Danielle had naturally invested tears and sweat into her creation – blood had been optional but she felt that its incorporation would be predictable and clichéd. Judging by the smell of her room Violet concluded that sweat was the predominant secretion involved. Danielle had stopped washing regularly after about three months into the relationship, when she had become suitably unenamoured and disillusioned. ‘Well, what’s it doing on the floor?!’ ‘You tend to find homeless people on the floor, Violet. Do you like treading on them as well?’ Danielle began gathering the pieces of egg box and condom wrapper that had been disjointed from the collage by Violet’s careless footing. ‘That’s hardly the same thing, you're being ridiculous.’ She retreated slightly in order to fully absorb the A1 sheet of stretched canvas. It looked like a domestic bin had been ravaged by overzealous Wombles.
'Where did you get all of this stuff?’ ‘Bins.’ Danielle located the spray mount and began blasting the vacant gaps of white with noxious chemicals. Violet used to like watching her ‘work’ but, as time had moved on, she found the experience to be similar to that of a patronising mother watching her child create something out of paste and dry macaroni. ‘What do you think?’ Danielle asked, attaching a piece of dry macaroni to a milk carton. ‘Um, it’s…it’s…good.’ ‘Art can’t be ‘good’, Violet. It’s supposed to evoke emotions…a reaction.’ ‘Oh.’ Violet had an overwhelming urge to recycle. ‘What are you gonna call it?’ ‘Urban decay.’ ‘Naturally – stupid question really.’
Danielle stood up to admire the litter and then produced a crumpled pink envelope from her back pocket. ‘I bought you a Valentine’s card…’ Only 2 weeks late this year, she was improving. ‘..but I’m crap at writing stuff so I’ve approached the situation with a New-Age frame of mind.’ Violet braced herself for a statement that would be far from New Age and almost definitely upsetting. ‘You write it yourself – exactly what you would like to hear from me and I’ll sign it, like a contract. I’ve got you a pen especially.' It wasn’t even a red pen.
Violet took the chewed blue ballpoint and card, silently. She wrote something – exactly what Danielle needed to say to her on this ‘special’ day. ‘I’m a twat.’
When the takeaway arrived, Danielle inevitably didn’t have enough money to cover the cost of her meal for four. Violet begrudgingly handed her a fifty pound note and failed to receive any change. As they sat in the living room surrounded by faded posters and potent mould spores, Violet began to reconsider what she had originally come around for. The idea had been to talk, to announce her desires and make sure that they were on the same page but, as she watched Danielle capriciously flit from one foil tray to another, she wondered if this was anywhere near what she wanted.
‘I don’t know if this is what I want.’ She blurted. ‘There’s like fifteen dishes to choose from – you can’t be that fussy!’ Danielle began piling copious amounts of meat in sauce onto his plate. Violet took the miscomprehension of her confession as an opportunity to back down from ‘serious’ territory. She reconsidered her approach. ‘Do you want an onion bhajii? You can have them all cos I don’t like them very much.’ Danielle was smug in her generosity. Violet didn’t even bother to fane consideration of this question. ‘No, thank you.’
'What’s the matter with you? You’ve usually got a pretty hefty appetite.’ Danielle's flippancy grated two years ago and been the fodder for many an argument since but now Violet had just become numb to it. She shifted her weight forward on the stained sofa to reduce the surface area making contact with her body. ‘Nothing. I’ve just been thinking a lot recently – about us and stuff.’ Danielle didn’t feel that this statement required response, the food mountain that she was creating became higher. ‘You're gonna spill it all if you’re not careful.’ Again she ignored her. Violet continued on her original track, desperate for affirmation that this was actually a ‘relationship’ and not the opportunity to be a temporary stand-in for a mother.
‘Look, are you happy? With us I mean, they way we are together?’ Refusing to direct attention away from her cuisine Danielle shrugged. ‘Yeah – ‘Spose.’ ‘Dan, this is really important….’ ‘Is this about the valentine’s card? I thought you’d like it, the whole thing’s a pissin’ gimmick anyway.' ‘Of course I didn’t like it. It was blank. Which some would say speaks volumes about the way you actually do feel towards me.’ Violet assumed the position on her high horse.
‘Look, I’m not into stating the obvious with feelings and stuff. You know that, you’ve always known that.’ ‘Do you ever think that you really don’t make it all that obvious to begin with?' ‘Are you expecting to transform me into some romantic wimp who bows at your every command?’ Each pause was filled with a mouthful of rice. Violet was becoming hurt, refusing to admit that she had entered into this relationship hoping for Danielle's malleability.
She had been far from non-descript when they had met and there must have been elements of her character that enchanted her. What were they? ‘You’re completely missing the point – I’m not trying to change you, I just want to feel like you actually acknowledge my existence sometimes.’ What were they?
Danielle assumed a mocking falsetto. ‘You want to feel appreciated.’ She knew how much this jarred Violet and always left her hunting for words in anger. ‘I wish you would…You are being so... I don’t know if we are right for each other…’ ‘You sound like someone out of a dodgy soap now. Is this the bit where you tell me that you want different things and that we need time to grow blah, blah, blah,.’ What were they?
'Please…just tell me how you feel…’ ‘You mother me to death… but I love you!’ The word ‘love’ allowed a piece of masticated tikka fall onto Danielle's chin. Its appearance forced the tenderness to flood Violet. Look at her, she thought as she brushed the poultry away from her face – she needs me. It didn’t matter how obnoxious she could be, there was still that vulnerability that required protecting. ‘I’m going to work.’ No matter how much she denied it, it was what their interaction thrived on – what she thrived on. This thought saddened Violet indescribably.
Danielle had made the mistake of attending a university that, although far away from her parents, was excruciatingly close to her insane Auntie. It was so close that few excuses could be made to avoid weekly tea and cakes. Danielle lacked the ability to generate conversation with her Father’s eldest sibling and so repeatedly dragged Violet along as support and a way of diverting Auntie’s attention away from her.
Each symmetrically placed tea cake had a fishing hook hanging out of it and Violet’s weakness for sugar constantly meant that she would become helplessly caught on the line each time that she visited. The bait would change weekly, battenburgs, bakewell tarts, donuts but each one would generate the same comments and feeling of overwhelming self awareness.
Initially, Violet had found Auntie to be quite endearing, she would often comment on Violet ‘looking well’ – it was only after she had heard Auntie use this term to describe the participants on ‘Celebrity Fit club’ that she realised that this was a euphemism for ‘overweight’. Each week Violet would convince herself that she would refuse all sugary foods and beverages offered to her in order to demonstrate that she had willpower. However, this pledge repeatedly failed as she had been brought up to never leave food on her plate and to respect her elders. As a result, Auntie’s habit of replenishing Violet's diminishing cake supply and insisting that she ‘...would be offended’ if refused, meant that Violet had put on a stone since the visits had begun.
Violet was convinced that Auntie was actually committable. Her musty bungalow had a mirror on every wall. Once, Violet had made the mistake of looking in her TV guide and found all dieting programmes circled with red felt-tip. Her fridge paid homage to low-fat yoghurts and skimmed milk, the fruit bowl was forever overflowing with pomegranates. However, Violet was never offered these healthy alternatives, Auntie had a cupboard dedicated to ‘entertaining’, each shelf crammed with buy-one-get-one-free cakes, pastries, biscuits and chocolate bars. ‘I never eat them myself, they’re so bad for you.’ Auntie’s less than spritely figure severely contradicted this declaration. ‘But I know you kids like ‘em’.
She felt like she was being fattened up – her paranoia said that it was Auntie’s way of making Danielle less attracted to her and consequently breaking them up. Her eyes never left Violet as she uncomfortably ate yet another chocolate chip brownie. Then, with the penultimate bite, when it was too late to turn back, the inevitable line would be uttered. ‘You eat well for a girl, don’t you?’ True, Violet had a tendency to overeat and an inability to feel full but she absolutely detested that this was viewed as some sort of circus act.
Auntie’s spare room still contained her dead husband’s clothes in the wardrobe and his imprint in the mattress – needless to say Auntie never had any lodgers or people stay over. She was a portly lady who insisted on buying her entire wardrobe from the free catalogues that you found in TV guides. Floral polyester dresses and zip-up fleece-lined moccasins were the key items in her collection. At one point she had been convinced that Violet’s size 14 figure was a perfect match for her ‘no longer needed cos they show off too much ankle’ size 22 summer dresses. Violet had politely declined and lied that she already had a number of garments very similar to those on offer and it would be simply greedy for her to ‘deprive’ the local Red Cross of such ‘swag’. Auntie had seemed content with this response at the time but when Violet returned home she had found a hideous green and pink tent that Auntie had managed to slip into her rucksack whilst she had been in the toilet.