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A Week in the Life of Jenny K

by Lottiey 

Posted: 05 June 2008
Word Count: 1589
Summary: This is the preface chapter to the novel. The novel is divided in time between a week in 1997 in which two young children are murdered and a contemporary week in which their killer is due for release. The novel is focuses on the 'Jenny K' of the title, who was - we later learn - the children's mother. It might be a story on forgiveness - or perhaps, as it is beginning to be - revenge.

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He was on the sofa again. The pattern had repeated itself and I had won; I always win. This is not to say that I take pleasure in the winning you understand - and you must understand for this is only the start and we have never met before. Listen reader, listen carefully and mark me well (or so Ms. Austen would have said): There can be no pleasure in the winning when there is no pleasure in the game.

So my husband is on the sofa and I am in our bed upstairs and it is the morning, Monday morning. I can hear him breathing deeply. He is not snoring because he is awake; but he is breathing heavily because he wants me to know that he is awake. I, on the other hand, hardly breathe at all; I use my fingers to filter my breath. Perhaps I think, I might shut those fingers; perhaps I could smother myself with my hands? I see the flaw in the plan; I consider a pillow.

He turns and sighs and I hear his feet touch the floor. His name is James; I suppose you should know that. It is a name you would forget soon enough if you did not have to know him well, or if I did not clarify my information with a few facts: James likes uncorking champagne for no real reason (a sunny Wednesday; a rescued cat on the news; a royal wedding); James hates the way cereal crackles with milk; James loathes grandfather clocks – especially those that are taller than him; James was named for the disciple (in my opinion the least interesting disciple) by his Catholic mother; James has no faith of his own anymore.

As the kettle reaches boiling point downstairs, I exhale. I exhale so deeply that I almost move: almost. He will be upstairs in a minute bearing two cups of coffee. He will kiss my forehead and put one cup on the bedside table to my left. My husband will then shower and dress and tell me to drink my coffee before it gets cold. He does this every morning. Every evening, when he gets home, he finds the untouched cup: cold. I do not like coffee. I do, on the other hand, like putting my finger into the scorching liquid whilst he is in the shower. I do this until it doesn’t hurt anymore. That takes twenty seconds. I enjoy the pain.

The door squeaks. “I’ve brought you some coffee”. Told you. He kisses me. The shower runs and I dip my finger into the mug. I bring my wet finger under the covers and run it across the sheets on his side of the bed. It leaves a stain; yesterday’s stain is still there. These are the only stains our sheets have seen in weeks. I do not care about that; sex does not interest me anymore.

James emerges damp from the shower and dropping his towel to the floor he crawls under the covers of our bed. He rest his head on my shoulder and I can almost count the droplets of now cold water that fall from his hair onto my skin. I feel like an exhausted mother who, upon having her bloody newborn child placed upon her breast, is supposed to call it beautiful. At his hand overlaps and interlaces with mine, I can feel that the pads of his fingers are wrinkled. I cannot call it beautiful. “I love you,” he tells me. I feel his breath warm on my nipple; it hardens. I desperately will it not to. I do not want sex. It is too late however: my body has betrayed me, and my husband has noticed.

James turns me over so I am lying on my front. I should bring my knees under my chest to help him: I don’t. He puts his hands on the inside of my legs and for a second he runs his wrinkled fingers against the smooth white skin of my inner thighs. He traces the divide between my buttocks with his nail. It scratches. He kisses the back of my neck and runs his lips down my spine. I want to want this but I still can’t; I feel like my mind is splattered on the ceiling. It is watching me. He can satisfy himself with this husk of me I think as his wrinkled fingers gently pull my jelly legs apart: I bury my face in the pillow and as I do so, my husband buries his body in mine.

“I’m going,” James says only minutes later. He is wearing a suit and would look quite handsome if only I cared to notice. It strikes me how wonderful clothes are; they are our ultimate hiding place. I resolve to put on a large hooded jumper later, of the type that teenagers wear. If I don’t own one, I’ll buy one; I imagine myself walking into a shop. What shop? I’ll have to ask one of the neighbours children where they buy their clothes. I feel angry with myself for not knowing; I resolve to learn more about youth culture. [i[Where from? What do teenagers read these days? “Drink your coffee before it gets cold,” James says as he leaves. In response I press my face further into my pillow. It feels cold and slightly damp from our sweat, like fresh clay. If it were made from clay, I think, then I would be making a mould – possibly for my own death mask; the thought does not bother me. Only queens had death masks.

The front door closes and I hear the car start. A cat meows loudly as the engine revs into first gear; I doubt the incidents are related although I hope that they are. I never liked the cat.

I peel back the covers from my body. My flesh is like the pith after the orange skin has been torn off; it resents being exposed to the light. It is unnaturally pale. I think if anyone was brave enough to taste it, it would be bitter too. Longpig is what they call it – human flesh that is. I chew the name over forgetting where I first heard it: Longpig. Longpig. Longpig. The name surely makes for a tastier mouthful than the morsel would be; although I did once read that experts (what experts!) claim that it tastes like chicken. Doesn’t everything? I suddenly notice I am hungry.

I pull back the curtain. I am still naked; the neighbours don’t notice. Look this way. It is raining and the teenagers walking to school have forgotten their umbrellas. The girls will later gather in the school toilets with their hair-straighteners and make-up. Don’t they ban make-up in schools these days? They will blame the rain for the fact that the boys don’t find them attractive. They will blame their natural curls. They will hate the one girl whose hair is naturally straight. They will tell her she is ugly. That girl used to be me. When she has her own money she will invest in tongs or have a perm; an unwitting, sweet boy will then fall in love with the only girl brave enough to have curly hair. Nature hates being defied though: She will have her revenge. She will curse their love.

I check my closet; I do not own a hoodie. I have to be satisfied with a large jumper. It might be James’, it must be James’ I think; I do not, after all, ever remember liking khaki green. I won’t have a shower today I tell myself; I had one on Monday. It suddenly strikes me that it is Monday and that my shower was, in fact, a week ago. Still, after three weeks, hair starts cleaning itself; I remember reading that fascinating fact once – probably in the same book as the information on Longpig. I am resolved not to wash; I want to test nature’s cleansing power. I can feel a sticky dampness between my thighs.

I walk down the stairs; I pour milk onto my cereal and enjoy hearing it crackle; I am about to turn on the television when the phone rings. I freeze. The answering machine clicks into action: “Leave a message.” Beep.

“Jenny…” A woman’s voice: “Jenny, are you there?” It is my sister-in-law, Claire. “Jenny?” she says again; she knows I am home. These are trick questions. She will have rung James already. “Jenny, we need to speak”. We do not. “Jenny…” says Claire: her voice is quiet, I can hardly hear it over the hum of the refrigerator. “Jenny, its about Mum”. Her mother, not mine. I hold my breath, my chest tightens and I freeze. I know what she is about to tell me: “She’s getting out.” The receiver clicks on the other end. She has hung up; she will be on her way over. She needs to know I know the news.

I slump to the sofa. I will be here when Claire arrives in twenty minutes. She has a key to our house; I will not move to answer the door. Stay away. The press will be here too. Stay away. James will come home early. Stay away. They will all come. They all want to play a part in my tragedy. Stay away. Stay away. Stay away.

So begins the two thousand, two hundred and sixth week in the life of me: Jenny K.

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 21:46 on 15 July 2008  Report this post
I' ve read this quickly a couple of times, and keep meaning to come back, read it properly and think about it. But, in the meantime (and in case that never happens) I just need to say that i thought this was really very good. Very powerful, and very believable - the state of mind of the narrator, the tiny details and observations, her detachment and the coldness of the sex. Really excellent.

As i say, will try and read again in more detail,

Lottiey at 11:41 on 16 July 2008  Report this post
Thanks Poppy I appreciate you reading it - It is being written alongside the Apicius novel and a children' s story...I should have more for you soon and if you do have time for some specifics, I would be very grateful.


SteveB at 15:21 on 24 July 2008  Report this post

I enjoyed this - it is powerful and edgy - it has a jarring style to it - a bit like the mind of the main character.

Whether I would find the style too jarring over the course of a whole novel is something I would worry about. Will you stay first person the whole way?

The main character is well drawn - you certainly pick up her flakiness - from what has happened in her life - the tense ending of the piece is very well put together.

One minor comment that confused me - is James the husband? I assume he is, but...

She says her husband is downstairs on the sofa - she is upstairs in the bed - I am confused that she can hear him breathing heavily - that doesn't work for me unless her hearing is a damn sight better than mine... (which it could well be...)

The sex is interesting - it is cold and mechanical - I'm uncertain whether she would get aroused if she was so anti-sex at present - but I'll leave that to you - as a woman, you would undoubtedly know far better than I - the small fact that she hasn't showered for a week jars a little - her hubbie must really want sex with her - I would guess she must be a tad odorous by now...

As I said at the start - it was a really interesting read - I'd love to read the next bit - see where it goes - how it develops.

Good stuff


Jodie007 at 16:44 on 10 November 2008  Report this post
Hi Charlotte,

I wasn't sure to begin with but now I want to read more....and that's what it's all about.

Well done so far.

Jodie x

portobelloprincess at 20:35 on 12 November 2008  Report this post
very powerful writing and I was drawn into the scenario by your words at the beginning - very good idea and well written.
I thought that the sex scene was superbly managed and many will relate to it - the story is emerging and you have created a charecter that is very interesting and you have drawn her well up to the details and the feeling that I have of her unhappiness and inner discontent.
a very good write,
good luck with it!

Linda B

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