Login   Sign Up 


No fire

by phleggers 

Posted: 07 August 2009
Word Count: 5134
Summary: False accusations lead to love and loss. Adult content.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

“I’ll be home early tonight,” said Rob.

“How come?” replied Izzy, her voice broken by the poor signal on Rob’s mobile phone.

“The weather’s terrible. The kids are bored…the teachers are bored.” He smiled at Elsa. They sat close together next to an outcrop of rocks watching the pupils – able to see without being seen. Elsa shivered in the cold and rolled her eyes in return. Rob turned away and held the phone to his other ear. “I’ve bought you a stick of rock.”

“You’re an idiot, Robert Ford.” Rob could tell from her tone that she was smiling. “Will you be back in time to see Frankie before bed-time?”

“Probably not. By the time we’ve dropped the kids off at the school and…”

Elsa looked away and out towards the crashing waves. The sky was overcast and the first drops of rain fell with the fresh breeze. The children, loosened from their classroom shackles, charged around the sand-dunes with wild abandon. She closed her eyes and listened to the sound of Rob’s voice. She loved the way he spoke. The depth of his tone; the rasp of his laugh. He smelled of wood and smoke – even out here on a windy day at the beach. His smell made her secure and passionate.

“Elsa. Did you hear what I said?”

“Sorry,” she said, shaking herself back to the present. “I thought you were still talking to…you know. I was watching the children.”

Rob smiled and put the phone back into jacket pocket. They sat close together as the breeze washed over them and the tide advanced. Soon it would be time to leave.

Rob picked up a piece of driftwood from the sand.

“How long have you been working as a carpenter?” asked Elsa.

“All my life,” he said, twirling the driftwood in his scarred, calloused fingers. “My grand-dad was always chipping and sawing in his workshop when I was a kid. I would stand and watch him all day, if I could. He taught me all about the tools, what they were called, what they did. Once he let me help him make this box– he showed me how to make the joins and plane the wood. It turned out to be my 10th birthday present. I still have it at home. I keep my older tools in it.”

Elsa turned away, her long, dark hair blowing over her blushing face. His calm dignity made her feel timid, somehow. Alive. Rob reached into his pocket and took out a pen-knife. Unknown to him his car key fell out onto the sandstone. He started chipping at the driftwood.

“I always loved books at school,” said Elsa. “The way people can invent a story and words to explain how we all feel. It’s extraordinary how Shakespeare can talk to us about our feelings, even though he lived hundreds of years before …”

She trailed off. Rob wasn’t listening. He was deep in concentration – carving his driftwood.

“What are you making?” She asked.

“It’s finished. What do you think?” He held up the small object - a young woman, sat on a rock, with long, flowing hair.

“I…” Elsa’s blushed deep red once more. “It’s…”

“The little mermaid, Arial. My daughter’s favourite…”

Elsa leant over and kissed Rob on the lips. For a moment he responded, their tongues touching briefly. A thrill raced through Elsa’s body. She stroked his neck and groaned with pleasure.

“No,” he said, pulling away. “No. Sorry. This is…sorry.”

He jumped up from the rock and looked back at Elsa. He looked to be on the point of saying something but changed his mind. He turned and marched towards the children. Elsa, tears in her eyes, looked down at the rock with her head in her hands. She sat alone for several minutes, replaying the kiss in the mind. She had been dreaming of that moment since he’d first arrived at the school. He was quiet and got on with his work. He had no problems with the children. Nobody else took much notice of him – except Elsa.

She drew all her strength and pushed down on the rock to stand. She saw Rob’s car key lying on the sandstone.


Rob stood with his back against the front door and breathed deeply. He savoured the familiarity of his surroundings – the Wellington boots in a box by the door; the smells of crayon and biscuits. He stared at the montage of photographs on the wall illuminated by the streetlights. All were of days in the woods with Izzy and Frankie, or Christmas parties with Izzy’s family. Rob sniffed and pushed his greasy hair out of his eyes. Smiles, he thought, appear more outstanding, especially after the last couple of days. He had not seen a smile since Elsa on the beach.

He walked into the living room and stood, the darkness draped over him like a burden. He could make out the shapes of coffee cups on the table and a large duvet rucked-up on the sofa. He backed out of the room and continued up the hallway and into the kitchen.

Izzy sat at the kitchen table with her back to the door. She wore red and green pyjamas with her hair bunched on top her head. Endearing and scruffy, even at three in the morning. Rob smiled at Izzy’s back, stretching the moment. Just a few more seconds, he thought, to separate the end of one period of horror and the start of another. He held his hand out and moved his hand as if stroking her hair.

“Izzy,” he said.

She jumped from her seat, the chair scraping on the ceramic tiles, and turned round to face Rob. Her face was raw with tears and fatigue.

“What do you want? What are you doing here?” she screamed, her voice fractured and alien.

“I’ve been, you know…released. I…”

She picked up her cup and threw it at Rob. He ducked to his left and the cup smashed against the door frame showering his leather coat in coffee. She screamed again and scratched herself, gouging a bloody track down her cheek.

“Izzy, please.”

“Get out. Get out.” She knocked over one of the chairs as she stumbled around the table and kicked it at him, gulping as pain shot through her foot and up her leg.

“Izzy,” said Rob. He stepped forward to help.

“Stay back. Don’t come near me.” She screwed-up her eyes in pain and lunged towards a pile of washing up.

“Please,” said Rob, “just listen.”

She picked up a kitchen knife. She faced him, breathing fast, wielding the knife at Rob.

“I don’t want to hear it. Get out. Get out.”

Rob took another step towards Izzy, his hands held payer-like in front of him.

“I’m innocent, Izzy. She dropped the charges, I…”

She screamed again and lunged forward. She tripped over the chair and fell onto her knees just in front of Rob’s outstretched hand. The knife fell from her grasp. Rob kicked it to one side.

“Izzy, you have to believe me.”

Izzy screamed again and went to punch Rob in the groin, but he was able to turn his body in time and she caught him on the thigh.

“I don’t want you here. Get out. Get out.”

Rob backed away into the hallway, his eyes fixed on Izzy. She scrambled to her feet, waves of grief erupting from her throat. What had he done to her? he wondered. What was wrong with her? He wanted her to believe in his innocence. He wanted her to sit down and listen – the charges against him had been dropped. Elsa had withdrawn her accusation – not because of any threat he may have posed, or doubt over any evidence against him. She’d dropped the charges because he was not a rapist. Of course he wasn’t. Surely Izzy knew him well enough to understand that.

She pounded her fists into Rob’s chest. He backed further down the hallway until his back was against the front door. There was nowhere further to go. Rob grabbed Izzy’s wrists and gripped them hard. He wanted to say something simple and direct that would make her stop. He wanted her listen…but nothing came. He stared into her eyes – so full of hate and bitterness.

“Get off me,” she whispered and spat in his face.

“Izzy,” he said. His stomach churned and his head pounded. He caught a glimpse of a small head poking around the corner of the banisters at the top of his stairs. Frankie.

“Frankie’s up there – watching us.” Rob let go of Izzy’s wrists. “She’s there,” shouted Rob. He had not meant to beef his words with such power, or move his face into Izzy’s with such aggression, but raw emotion hit him in that moment. Whether it was the bleeding tram-lines on Izzy’s face, or the reddening finger marks on her wrists, or the sight of his daughter, now a witness to violence and hate, that caused him to bark, he did not know. At that moment he wanted to free his voice.

“She’s there,” he screeched.

Izzy fixed Rob with a final tear-stained glare. “Then leave.” Rob was not in control anymore. His hand felt for the door-handle. He had to leave the house before something happened – something beyond his control. He pulled the handle, looked up at Frankie’s frightened face, and slipped through the door and back into the chilly night.

He stood on the doorstep and wept at the darkness. The light shining through door went off and he heard Izzy’s faint voice speaking to Frankie. Rob put his hand in his jacket pocket and touched something hard. He pulled it out. The little mermaid he had carved from the driftwood on the beach. He shivered in the cold. For Frankie, he thought. Elsa believed it had been for her.

Rob stared at the little mermaid figure – not his best work, but decent nonetheless. He set it down on the doorstep and walked away.



Rob looked up from his newspaper. The bustle of the train station dimmed. The aroma of burning toast and cheap coffee dissipated. Darkness descended around Rob and all that was left was him – and Elsa, standing over him.

For a moment he gaped, his mind torn and confused. The last six months of his life stood before him – tired, gaunt and beautiful. Her smile was twisted and false – tears pooled in her eyes. She looked like she had never slept. Her hair, usually long and unruly, looked like it had been bunched by a child. A wave of nausea passed through him.

He thought about all the things he wished he’d said to her since that afternoon on the beach. In his dreams he held her down and screamed in her face. Lying awake in his bed-sit he imagined her sitting in a prison cell, head in her hands, mouths hurling abuse at her, fists pounding her. Now she stood in front of him – smiling; trying to be normal.

“Get away from me,” he said. He picked up his newspaper and stood, knocking the table with his thigh. The noise of the cup rattling in the saucer caused people to look up from their gloom.

“Rob, please,” Elsa said. Her body deflated as whatever fragile strength she’d mustered was swept away.

“I said…” Rob thrust his face close to her so their noses nearly touched. He could smell her breath as he searched for an insult, a cuss that would mow her down. For a moment, as he looked deep into her dark-rimmed eyes, a feeling of faint remorse swept through him. How? he thought. Why?

Her breath stank of coffee and cigarettes. In and out. Shallow but fast. He wondered…

He had to say something.


Rob pushed past her and stormed out of the café. A crowd of lunch-time commuters came towards him. He pushed through them like a bull through a cornfield and out into the bright sunshine and flashing traffic. He stood, alone, and stared at his feet. What now? He had nothing. His life had been stolen from him. The thief had just looked him in the eye and he felt, what? Pity? Why? She deserved nothing from him. She’d taken everything. His wife. His child. His job. All he held dear – the habits and daily life, gone.

“Rob, please. Listen to me.” Elsa stood at his side.

In the light of the day she looked smaller. The sun reflected off the glass-fronted station and highlighted her pale lips and red cheeks. She wore a thick, brown winter jacket, a long, striped scarf and tight jeans. Despite the horror and revulsion he felt, Rob couldn’t help but think how attractive she looked. As he stared into her weeping eyes, knowing he should be shouting at her, lambasting her, he recalled her taste in the moment they’d kissed on the beach – how her tongue had caused his body to tingle…

He caught himself and shook reason back into his bones. “Get away from me,” he said. “You probably shouldn’t even be within a mile of me, or something. Aren’t you going to prison? That’s what I heard.”

She looked away and mumbled, “The CPS dropped the case.”

“Whatever, I don’t care. Just…get away.”

Rob stormed into the busy traffic and across the road. As he jumped onto the pavement he heard traffic scream to a halt behind him. He didn’t look up. He strode along the road with no idea of where he was going. He wanted distance.

“Rob,” Elsa shouted, pulling him back with her hand.

Rob turned and wrapped his hand around her neck. He pinned her against the wall of a pub and gritted his teeth.

“You don’t touch me,” he said. “You don’t talk to me. You don’t look at me. You don’t…”

Elsa gasped for breath under his grip. “Please, Rob. Please. This isn’t you. This isn’t how you treat people.”

Rob felt his grip loosen. Tears streamed down Elsa’s cold, chapped face. Her scarf fell to the pavement. She was right, he thought. Sweep away the red dust and this wouldn’t be him. He wasn’t violent. He wasn’t insane. He was desperate. He let go and turned away from her. A young couple who were staring at the commotion hurried their steps.

“Piss off,” Rob said to the couple. He shocked himself. His actions were beyond anything he would have done six months before. He’d become someone new, someone distorted. An angry caricature of his former self.

He turned slowly back to Elsa. She held her throat and sobbed. Rob stared at her, angry at himself for pitying her once again.

“Why?” he said. “Why did you…why?”

Elsa coughed and looked into Rob’s eyes. “I don’t know. I’m not crazy. I promise. I’m normal. Honestly. I just…I don’t know. Something took hold of me, and…”

“You ran to the police and lied to them. You told them I…”

He couldn’t say the word. The meaning of it coated everything he said in doubt. He couldn’t even think it. She’d stolen even that from him – the right to say or think a word.

“I know what I did.” Elsa picked up her scarf and straightened herself, aware of disapproving eyes from a passer-by. “It’s beyond belief. As soon as I phoned them I knew it was wrong.”

Rob stamped his foot. “Wrong? Not standing your round is wrong. Putting diesel in a petrol engine is wrong. Accusing someone of…you know…is just evil. The consequences…have you any idea?”

“I know.” Elsa fixed Rob with a glare. “Come to my place for dinner. Please. I want to talk it through. I want you to see…”

Rob threw his head back and laughed. “What? Go to your place? Go through it all again… get accused of murder this time? I don’t think so. What world do you live in? To think I’m even standing here, talking to you.”

“But you are though, Rob. You’re still here. You’re still talking to me. You could walk away at any moment. I’m not keeping you here. But something happened between us. Something awful. And it was all down to me. I committed a vile act. But I want to explain. I want you to understand why I did it. Maybe then we can both get on with what’s left of our lives.”

Rob stamped his foot again and ran his hand through his hair. He wanted to be clear in his anger – a straight line of righteous fury. But he felt indebted to her, somehow. How could I? he thought. I’ve only just started seeing Frankie again. Izzy wants a divorce. I can’t get a job. And it’s all down to Elsa.

“Why should I do anything for you?” he asked.

“It’s not for me. I’m not important in this. I made mistakes and you’re living with them. All I want to do is put it all to bed. I want you to feel there is an end to it all. If we could just sit down, talk, and be amicable, then…”

“Amicable. How? Explain.”

Elsa sighed and wiped a tear from her eye.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

“What, harder than lying to the police? Telling them I raped you in broad daylight?”

Elsa said nothing. She looked up the street and wiped another tear from her cheek.

“For one second I let you kiss me,” Rob said. “One second. And you think that gave you the right to be with me? Is that it? You were angry with me and wanted to punish me?”

Elsa sighed. Another passer-by hurried on. “This isn’t the place Rob. Come to mine. For dinner. Tonight. We’ll talk it out. You can say all those things to me you’ve been dreaming of saying. You can hit me, if you want. I deserve it. I…”

“I wouldn’t hit you. I couldn’t hurt you.” Rob stared at the pavement.

Elsa stepped forward and put her hand on Rob’s shoulder. For a moment Rob allowed the intimacy. He hadn’t been touched by another soul since the day on the beach. Even though Elsa was the one touching him, he allowed it …glad of the contact with another human. A tear splattered on the pavement.

“10 Chester Street. Top flat. Any time after six. Please Rob. It will help you. I want to help you. You’ll feel better. I promise.”


Rob opened his eyes and squinted at the sunlight shining into Elsa’s bedroom. He turned. Elsa breathed deeply as she slept next to him. Behind her sat a bottle of wine with the corkscrew still in the stopper. Three-quarters drunk – a lubricant for their actions. She looked more content than she had done outside the train station – as if a burden had been lifted. She slept with ease, maybe even hunger. She’d told Rob she had only just started sleeping properly again. Last night was the first time Rob had slept for more than an hour in months.

What now? He thought. He felt content as he watched Elsa sleep. How could that be? What had happened to all that bitterness, all that hatred? Outside the station she had looked strong and in control despite Rob’s shouts and protests. In her bed, the morning after, she appeared untroubled.

He’d wandered the streets for three hours after their meeting trying to decide what the best thing to do would be. He’d ended up outside her flat almost by chance. She’d opened the door and, despite everything, caused a stir in Rob he had not felt in months. She’d been effortlessly beautiful. She’d worn a thin, white top and the same jeans from earlier. When they had worked together at school he had grown, over many months, to realise just how striking she was – the kind of woman whose looks evolve in the beholder’s eye, day by day. As he lay in her bed, her exposed chest rising and falling, he realised, for the first time, how something would stir in him whenever she walked into a room. Had he ignored it? He wasn’t sure. The more he thought about her the more he realised that his feelings for her had been building up over many months.

He needed to get back to Izzy and Frankie. His life, the one he had built over years and seen destroyed in hours, was now open to him again. The chance to salvage what he had lost was within his grasp. He had proof – a smoking gun – of his innocence.

Rob got out of bed and started to put his clothes on. He peered through the blinds at the splendid day and knew, in his bones, that everything was beginning to go his way. There was brightness at the end of his dark day – the first glimmer of dawn after his long night. He turned and looked at Elsa. She was awake – staring at him.

“I’ll be here waiting for you,” she said.

Rob smirked. “I’m going home.” He picked up his keys from the floor and sat on the bed to put his shoes on. “Thanks, Elsa. You were right – you did help me. You’ve made me see everything clearly. You’ve given me the perfect alibi.”

He stood up and faced Elsa again. “Izzy will see everything the way it is.”

Elsa sat up in bed and leaned on her elbow. Her breasts and her belly were completely exposed. She looked nervous, unsure. Wonderful. Rob stopped his hasty dressing, unable to take his eyes off her body.

“Kiss me, Rob. Kiss me one more time before you go. Take it with you when you go to Izzy. See how you feel…”

Rob couldn’t stop himself. He fell onto the bed and kissed Elsa, his hands feeling for her chest. She groaned with pleasure as his hands worked their way up and down her front. He felt himself becoming lost in the moment…

He pulled back and stood up once more. Elsa’s eyes were closed – locked in delight – breathing fast. He stared at her, confused, and walked around the bed and to the door.

“I love you Rob. And I can’t do anything about it. I haven’t got a dial or lever to dim my feelings. They’re locked. Unmovable.”

Rob stood with his hand on the door handle. The smell of her room made him feel sleepy. Her presence stung his eyes. He knew what he had to do.

“I have to try, Elsa. You understand that, don’t you?”

There was no reply. He walked through Elsa’s bedroom door and out into the bright day.


Rob opened his old toy-box. He looked at his favourite tools, collected over many years, most of them now broken or obsolete. His block plane, missing its handle, stolen from his O-level woodwork classroom. His chisel, blunt and useless, given to him by his granddad the day before the stroke. His marking gauge, its thumbscrew long-lost, taken from his granddad’s workshop the day after the funeral. The warmth of childhood revisited him when he looked at and used these tools. They seemed such simple days.

“Cup of tea,” said Izzy. She handed him his cup.


They stood in silence and stared in opposite directions. Rob wanted to put his cup down but the worktop was cluttered with tools and half-finished projects. The smell of wood tickled his nose. He loved the feeling – more than he loved playing with the wood. Izzy looked out of the window onto the garden.

“Why are you here, Rob? Frankie’s at pre-school.”

Why am I here? He thought. His first instinct after leaving Elsa’s bed was to see Izzy. He’d left Elsa’s flat and walked across town to his and Izzy’s home. Now he was there and he didn’t know why he’d come – he didn’t know what he was going to say.

“I’ve got a lot to do today,” she said. “I’m not getting into an argument.”

“I don’t want to argue,” said Rob. “I need to tell you something. I need to talk about things.”

Izzy sighed and rubbed her tired eyes. “I don’t want to talk about it again, Rob. There’s nothing more to say. You can see Frankie whenever you like but…I don’t know what will happen with us.”

“What if there is a way of proving beyond doubt that what she accused me of…”

“Rob, please.”

“…that what she accused me of was a lie. Truly. Take away doubt and we’re back to where we started, aren’t we?”

“Rob, it’s not that simple.”

She looked into Rob’s face. He looked tired and old. His hair was long and his clothes smelt of cigarettes. She hated herself for what she was doing to him. She had run out of ways of explaining to Frankie why he wasn’t around anymore. But every time she looked into his eyes she saw Elsa’s face looking back – twisted and gloating. Once that stopped then maybe…

“We slept together. Me and Elsa. Last night. It was completely…you know…what’s the word?”

He looked at the floor pretending he was looking for his words. In truth his head had filled with fizzing hot lead. As the confession escaped a thrill of relief and exasperation overcame him. He was dizzy. He felt sick.

“Consensual,” he said.

Izzy dropped her cup and ran her hands through her untidy hair. Tears streamed down her face. She turned to stomp out of the room but changed her mind mid-step. She looked back at Rob.

For a moment she pitied him. Here was the man she fell in love with, the man who put their child to bed. Here was the man who made her a lovespoon for their first date. Here was the man…who was arrested for rape. She lunged forward and pounded him in the chest with her fists.

“How could you?” she screamed. Rob smiled to himself. He knew it had been a risk, but he had run out of ideas. Whenever he spoke to Izzy these days he whined and begged. He could see her becoming more and more detached from him. Alienated. This felt like his last chance to make her understand.

“How?” Her voice cracked.

“Don’t you see? She would never…you know. We’re back to the beginning, aren’t we? We can…”

“I sat there,” she cried, “for a day and night thinking you were a rapist. I had to make breakfast for my child knowing that you were in a prison cell. I had to put her to bed, on my own, not knowing anything.”


“I haven’t slept for months. I’ve been angry at you, angry at me. I wanted to kill her. All I wanted was you…”

She stopped punching him and nestled her head into his shoulder. Rob didn’t move. He wanted to stroke her hair. He wanted to put his arms around her – hold her tight. He wanted to watch Frankie sleeping. But he could do none of these things – not yet. He let his arms hang by his side – flaccid.

“I didn’t do anything wrong.” The words sounded empty. Pointless. They had no meaning. So many times since being arrested at the beach he’d spoken them in various emotions – anger, frustration, exasperation. Now, in his home, his wife touching him, the words were without form; without tone; without meaning.

Izzy stepped back and folded her arms against the cold. She looked pale against the dull sunlight that seeped into the workshop.

“You must leave. You know that, don’t you? You understand?”

“Of course.” Rob smiled. He felt relieved knowing that, in time, Izzy would see amongst the settling dust the man she fell in love with. He’d set a new ball rolling. That would do for now.


“I’m sure I know you from somewhere,” said Agnes.

Rob placed the spirit level on the shelf and looked over his shoulder at Agnes.

“I do a lot of odd jobs around the town. You’ve probably seen me out and about.”

Agnes frowned at Rob and shuffled out of the room. She’d spent the last of her savings on the shelves and Rob had been recommended by a friend from the Women’s Institute. She wanted to be sure he would do a good job.

Rob hammered, sawed and kept himself quiet and efficient. The job was about half-finished when Agnes swung the door open, her face red and tears in her eyes.

“I knew it,” she screamed, waving a tatty newspaper. “I knew I’d seen your face before. You’re the man who raped that poor girl at the beach. The teacher. Autumn before last.”

Rob stared at Agnes with a blank expression. His body drooped imperceptibly. He knew how to deal with this situation. There was no need to fight.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“Leave. Get out of my house. I don’t want someone like you anywhere near me. Go. Now.”

Rob packed his tools in his bag and started to stack the half finished shelves in the corner of the room.

“Leave them,” Agnes said. “I’ll get my grandson to come and finish it off. I just want you out of my home.”

“Would it help if I told you that all charges were dropped,” Rob said. “That she withdrew her claims and that, in fact…”

“Whatever you say it doesn’t matter. No fire without smoke…no smoke…”

Agnes scratched her head and looked at the wood-dust covering her floor.

“Please. You’re upsetting me. I’m all confused. Just go.”

Rob picked up his tools and walked out of the house. He walked to the corner of the street and took out his mobile phone.

“Hello,” said the voice on the end of Rob’s phone.

“It’s me,” said Rob. “I’ll be home early again tonight.”

Elsa paused. “Ok. Did you get paid?”

“Not this time. I’ll see you in about half an hour.”

“OK,” said Elsa. “Love you.”

Elsa hung-up the phone. She sighed and looked at the pile of clothes next to her on the bed. She was used to Rob coming home early. She looked over at her suitcase and thought to herself, one day, she would have the courage to leave. But not today. She still loved him too much. But there would come a time when she would have to put herself first.

She started to unpack her suitcase, tears in her eyes. She knew the time was near – and, for that, she hated herself.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Becca at 15:50 on 08 August 2009  Report this post
Hi Matt,
I have to say that I found it very confusing. I didn't understand Rob's motives - he's like a ping-pong ball, so there doesn't seem to be any resolution or moving on in the story. Equally, the Elsa character is contradictory.

There are a couple of POV changes, one at '...listened to the sound of Rob's voice.' Another at 'He looked tired and old.' I think it would help if you could stay with one POV in a given section. You could change POVs for different sections of the story though, if you thought it served a purpose.

The dialogue was very limited, and I'd have thought in a radio story the dialogue is all important, because other elements of the story such as setting, atmosphere and storyline have to be have to be introduced by sound etc, rather than in words - that is unless you envisaged this story being read out exactly as you have it here?
I listen to a lot of radio plays and radio stories, and your dialogue in this draft of the story is versions of the same thing, like get away from me, or get out, or please listen. I think original dialogue would improve the story.

P.J. at 13:10 on 13 August 2009  Report this post
Hello Matt, sorry this is so late.
At the beginning I liked the main character. At first it sounded as if he was having 'a thing' with Elsa - until the kiss provoked his reaction. (I was amazed he could actually carve a mermaid from a bit of driftwood in what amounted to seconds.)
Then the car key dropped from his pocket. This, I thought, was going to play a big part - but it didn't. It didn't appear again. So why was it there?
Like Becca, I started to get confused after that.
Rob smirked. “I’m going home.” He picked up his keys from the floor and sat on the bed to put his shoes on. “Thanks, Elsa. You were right – you did help me. You’ve made me see everything clearly. You’ve given me the perfect alibi.”

What was that perfect alibi and why did he need one - or am I being more dense than usual?

But not today. She still loved him too much. But there would come a time when she would have to put herself first.

I thought she'd been doing that all along, which was why he was in that mess.
Sorry to be so negative, but after such a promising start, I felt let down by what followed.

phleggers at 05:52 on 16 August 2009  Report this post
Hi there. Thanks for feedback. Some stuff to think about. I must say I wasn't expecting some of the comments. I've had fairly good reviews for this story in the past - it was picked as 'story of the month' on one website and included in their monthly magazine. Just shows what you miss if you don't pay attention.

The Elsa character is supposed to be contracdictory. She's been swept away by hew own actions and simply 'wings it' through the story. She genuinely loves Rob and uses the fake 'attack' to provoke a reaction from him as much as anything. Negative attention seeking. She is damaged even prior to meeting Rob, and in a strange sort of way the repercussions help her to sort herself out a bit ... hence the final line. She's kind of resolved her 'issues' by being with Rob, resulting in a newer, more balanced Elsa. The only way for her to move on in life is to leave Rob and go it alone. The word choice in this final line is designed to lay bare these changes in Elsa, but also to show she suffers from a degree of narcism, which ultimately, was the problem from the very start.

The keys thing ... that intresring. Originally this story was based ona series of photos my mate took at a beach and in a workshop, hence the key, the sand and the wood theme. The key was supposed to crop up later as evidence against Rob, but I changed tack mid-story so Elsa could withdraw the claim. I thought i'd cut the key. Hmm. I'm starting to wonder if i've uploaded an old draft by mistake. Hmm...

The perfect alibi is explained by Rob to his wife in the next scene - how could a woman sleep with her rapist? He thinks that this proves beyond doubt that he is innocent. Which in Izzy's eye isn't the point! She is tainted by the whole saga. Her love for Rob, probably teetering prior to all this (I should probably make this clearer at the start of the story) went under the hammer for the few hours after he was arrested and released. During this time she was hurt and horrified. After he was released she was merely confused ... and the stain of the allegation tainted her feelings for him. He was different after all this and, despite his innocence, it would take her time to get back to where she was with him. If only he hadn't slept with Elsa etc etc

So the story is trying to get across the negative shockwaves of bad choices. Elsa made bad choices, Izzy made bad choices and Rob certainly made bad choices. They were all guided by their instincts when what they should've done is just sit down and think about their next step. If they'd done this then none of them would've ended up in their own personal soups.

So thanks for your comments. As I say i've only ever had good reviews in the past so it's helpful to get a couple of bad ones ... maybe i'm halfway to getting across what I wanted to get across. I will, at some point, re-draft it into a radio drama. And I would look at the dialogue and tighten that up a bit! I doubt i'd use much of the dialgue from her, to be honest. There isn't a huge amount of contrived realism to be going with.

Oh ... the mermaid. Two points. With a sharp knife and the right bit of driftwood, you could probably carve a detailed human figure in five minutes. Plus, i'm deliberately using the magic of poetic license here! I'm hoping the reader would be complicit and concentrate on other parts of the story!

Thanks for you feedback. Very useful.

sheffrey at 00:42 on 16 October 2009  Report this post
Hi phleggers,
A interesting subject matter to choose! False rape claims, goodness me!

There's a lot going on here and we experience most of it through Rob. The trouble is, I didn't really understand Rob and I couldn't work out why he does some of the things he does:

He is accused of rape by a colleague. He splits with his wife. He later meets his accusor and sleeps with her - apparently enjoying the experience. Then, this is the confusing bit, he thinks that if he tells his wife he has slept with her she will understand that he has done nothing wrong and will be able to welcome him back with open arms!!
Does anyone really think like that?

Perhaps, given all the awful things that have happened to him, Rob's mind could become so confused that this kind of behaviour does seem rational to him. But I don't think we experience enough of Rob's emotions and thought processes to be able to make sense of it.

The characters' behaviour certainly makes for a very interesting plot. I was eager to read on and see what happened. The trouble was that I didn't really believe the plot. And I think that is because I didn't properly understand the characters. Perhaps if the characters were developed a bit more then such a complex plot could be made to work?...

Hope this is helpful

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


Other work by phleggers:      ...view all work by phleggers