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The Darker Half

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 25 November 2017
Word Count: 1698
Summary: This is Chap 4 of my novel about warring twins. This excerpt is from the POV of Anna, the female twin and the heroine. It starts in present time then reverts to another flashback in Anna's life.

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In another house, in another part of town, Anna is also awake.  Stiff with tension she lies on her back while her tired brain struggles to shut down.  The room is so quiet its silence presses down on her like the lid of a coffin and the muscles of her eyelids ache as she holds them tightly closed.   Trying to ignore the hollow emptiness of the house, she thinks about Romeo in the early days when they were so happy she thought she’d die of it.
It hadn’t been love at first sight.    She’d thought he was an odd little man when they first met and that hadn’t been planned either.  She’d never have attended his evening class if it hadn’t been for Lucinda caught in the grip of another of her fantasies.  
‘Anna, I’ve discovered my destiny!’   She’d come home from work one evening and found Lucy posed at the foot of the stairs.   For the first time in months there was life in her eyes and she was smiling, a huge delighted grin that brought a feverish beauty to her thin face.
Anna felt her heart sink.  Not again, she prayed.  She opened her mouth to ask if she’d had been taking her tablets but thought better of it.
‘Really?  That’s good.’   She bit her lip, her soothing nursey voice even irritated herself.
‘Yes.  Isn’t it?  Quick.  Please read it.  I’m dying to know what you think. I’ve been waiting all day.’  Lucinda thrust a sheaf of foolscap paper towards her.
‘Can I get in first?  And I’d love a cup of tea.’
Afterwards, she’d sat beside the cooling tea, staring at what Lucinda had written.   She had no idea what to say.   So this was what Lucinda had been up to for the past couple of months.   She’d known it was something but had dreaded asking.   Instead, when Lucinda had disappeared into her bedroom for hours on end, she’d stayed downstairs, her head in the sand, relishing the peace of the long slow evenings.  

Ever since they’d first met at College, she’d loved Lucinda like a sister and after graduating they’d rented a house together.   But things changed and not for the better.   She’d always known that Lucy was prone to mood swings but gradually her behaviour became even more erratic.  She’d blow her wages on extravagant presents for Anna; totally unsuitable clothes in lurid colours, expensive perfume and designer handbags.   When Anna gently reminded her that, although they were nice, perhaps she should help pay the rent first, Lucy had fired up and stormed out of the house.
‘You ungrateful bitch’, she’d screamed and the sound of the slammed door had sent a flock of sparrows winging into the sky.
Complaints from neighbours followed when she ran the vacuum in the middle of the night or played her music so loud the walls throbbed.   One evening Anna arrived home to find her standing in front of her bedroom window, dressed only in a nightie declaring that she was an angel and could fly.   Whenever she thought about it, Anna’s blood ran cold.   Why had she been so slow in realising something was very wrong with her friend?
The medication helped.   Lucinda took it willingly when depressed, ‘anything to take the mental pain away’ she’d say but when she was on a high it was different.   With sparkling eyes and glowing face, she’d laugh at Anna’s fussing.  
‘Oh, do stop worrying Anna.   I don’t need to take these bloody pills – there’s nothing wrong with me!’ 
Almost visibly throbbing with vitality she’d whirl around the house like a dervish, polishing, mopping, clearing cupboards, working from dusk till dawn until inevitably her energy ran out.   Then, Anna was left to sort out the mess and it was time for another visit to the clinic.
Now she sat, with her head bowed, hunched over a manuscript she couldn’t make head or tail of.  What could she say?  Then she had an idea.  One that might even work.  Lucy’s excess energy needed to be channelled, perhaps in a creative way.   She looked up.    Lucinda was crouched in front of her, hands clasped in a tight knot like a monkey’s paw.
‘You like it don’t you?   It’s good.   I knew it was all the time I was writing it.’
She jumped up and twirled around the room. ‘Isn’t it wonderful Anna?  I’m going to be famous!’
‘It’s a good story…’ Anna remembers saying slowly.  ‘But it seems a bit muddled in places’.   Her voice faltered as she saw Lucinda’s expression change.   ‘But of course that’s only my opinion and I’m no expert.  Let’s face it, who am I to say?  Tell you what, why don’t you think about some professional advice?.’
‘Professional advice?’
‘Yes.   From someone who knows what they’re talking about.   I know, why not take a creative writing course.   I’m sure there must be some running at the local Tech.  Learn the tricks of the trade, meet other writers and so on.  Find out what works and what doesn’t.’
‘Oh no!   I couldn‘t.  Not on my own.’   Lucinda’s face drained of all colour and Anna had felt stricken.   She always forgot how vulnerable Lucy was. She looked away, dreading the onset of the telltale signs - the silence that stretched interminably, the sudden twitch of Lucinda’s head, again and again as if she was flinching away from weapons wielded by demons invading her mind.  They usually heralded a spell in the hospital and she couldn’t bear to be responsible for that.   Desperately, she groped for a way to ward off another of Lucy’s plunges into depression.      
‘Tell you what,’ she said with a forced smile.   ‘Promise me you’ll start taking you pills again and I’ll come with you.   It’ll be fun.’
And, that was how she’d first met Romeo.  Despite herself, she smiles into the darkness as she remembered how he’d bounded into her life.    She and Lucy had got lost and despite giving themselves plenty of time, they were now very late.   Scurrying down one long corridor after another, they peered into every classroom but each one looked very much the same except none of the numbers on the doors matched the one they were looking for. 
‘Perhaps it’s up here…’ she’d said uncertainly and they’d started to haul themselves up a narrow, twisting flight of stairs only to meet a group of people coming down.   Anna had recognised their puzzled looks.
‘Creative writing?’  she’d asked.  They nodded, ‘Not up there….’  
Shrugging their shoulders helplessly, the group trooped back down the stairs and stood huddled together like a group of stray waifs.
There was the slam of a door and a blast of cold air blew in the dishevelled figure of a small, skinny man with lank gingery hair that a slight drizzle had plastered to his head. His face, already finely wrinkled, lit up when he saw them.
‘Creative writing?’  Thank God.  I thought no-one was coming.  They’ve put us in the basement.  Had difficulty in finding it myself.’
Remembering, Anna feels some of the tension leave her.   She’d always thought she’d fall in love with someone tall, dark and handsome.  Whoever could have imagined that such a comical little scruff-pot could have burrowed quite so deeply into her heart?   She supposed it was because of Lucinda; difficult and demanding as she was, he was so patient with her.   When it looked as though Lucy was trying to hi-jack the class by quibbling endlessly over some disputed point, gently but firmly, he’d disengage himself.  
 ‘Lucinda.  I think, at the moment, we’d better agree to disagree.  Come and see me after class and I’ll try and explain.’
This, he never failed to do, using patience, charm and a large dose of flattery.   Sitting, watching from the sidelines Anna began to see him with fresh eyes.  Her admiration for him grew, he was a sweet man, she’d decided and, looking back, realised by that time, she was already half in love with him.
Months later, she’d asked him why he’d taken so much trouble over Lucy.   He’d tilted his chair back and grinned at her.
‘Because of you, of course,’ he’d righted his chair, reached over and cupped her face in his hands as if it was as precious as a Faberge egg.   Gently, he kissed the tip of her nose.   Then, he’d let go of her and his voice had changed. 
‘Mind you, that’s not the whole story.   She’s got talent….people like her often have, but it’s undisciplined.’
‘What do you mean?   People like her…’
There was a moment’s silence.
‘You know, Anna.  As well as I did from the moment I first met her.   Mind you, I’ve got previous.’
‘What do you mean?’
His face crinkled and he brushed away a wisp of red hair dribbling down his forehead.   ‘Ever wondered why my name is Romeo?   Let’s face it no one could look less like a Romeo than me!    But, that was my mother in one of her ‘florid’ moods.   She thought it sounded romantic   To be honest, after years living with her, managing Lucy is a doddle.’
She’d stared at him.
‘It must have been difficult for you.’
He shrugged.   ‘Didn’t think much about it at the time.   To me, it seemed normal but Dad pushed off when I was seven.   Luckily, I had an older sister.   Poor old Dee, she bore the brunt of it.  Mind you it stood her in good stead, she’s a mental health professional now.   Loves it, apparently.’
She’d followed his example and attempted a flippancy.
‘Well, I suppose it could have been worse.  You could have been called Lancelot, or Heathcliffe, or Rhett…’
He grinned.   ‘Or  Apollo or Caesar  or Orion…’
‘Then, there’s Mario, Valentino or Florio…’
He reached for her again and his hand closed over hers.
They looked at each other and she felt a delicious tingle.  
‘Come on’, she’d said, ‘Let’s go to bed.’
Remembering, her muscles gradually relax and slowly she drifts into sleep but  the moment her eyes close, she is transported from a living nightmare into one that is past and long-dead but still very much alive in her mind.

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Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 15:07 on 26 November 2017  Report this post
Hi Janet,
There is a great deal of vivid description here. I found myself engulfed in the story line and characters very quickly and found Romeo's back story revoving around his own family to be very plausable as a way to engage with Lucy and eventually with the MC. The aside about the lost room was unusual enough initself to make the story come alive. The only part that jarred was this line. 

she’d stayed downstairs, her head in the sand, relishing the peace of the long slow evenings.  

Initially i wondered if this was literal about the sand but decided not. I did feel that mixing reality with a metaphorical statement here, didn't quite work. Perhaps her head in the proverbial sand? or something more literal?.
Nevertheless you packed a great deal into this interlude. To be asked for your opinion and trying to get your answer diplomatically correct is so accurate as a life lesson.

Chestersmummy at 17:49 on 26 November 2017  Report this post
Hi Tassie Devil,  thanks so much for reading and commenting.  Glad you felt it worked.  This story jumps about a bit (a lot, actually) and I was afraid that folk would find it confusing.  There is more about how Anna meets Lucy and how they become friends later on.   

As regards your comment - I suppose I was trying to convey the fact that Anna is put under a great deal of strain dealing with Lucy when she is manic and so was so grateful when Lucy didn't bother her that she deliberately didn't question the reason why.   However, I agree that 'head in the sand' is a threadbare cliche so will try and re-write that section.

Again, thanks for your comments although, to be honest, was not sure what you meant by your last sentence.

Best wishes,  Janet


TassieDevil at 18:07 on 26 November 2017  Report this post
It was an observation about the delicate way you deal with a question most of us experience - being diplomatic when some one asks our opinion about something that is badly done - a painting, a poem, a story? It's that moment when we might lie to spare the feelings of a friend. I simply was very impressed how you wove this into your story.

Deewrites at 17:29 on 28 November 2017  Report this post
Hi Janet.  I agree.  I found myself getting pulled along at a good pace and things being laid out before me in a good way. Only a few lines didn't seem quite right- the head in the sand one, "cupped her face in his hands"  (I think of the hands being cupped) and near the beginning; "she bit her lip, her soothing..."  At that point I thought it was in danger of beings slowed down by too much description and could have ended with "bit her lip" but it did settle into the right pace about then so maybe that line was no problem. 

I particularly liked the description of the lost group trying to find a class, the way you use that familiar event at meetings  when someone goes off at a tangent.  I like the early shift from present to past, in story as well as linguistically.  Dee  

michwo at 18:57 on 28 November 2017  Report this post
I can't even find anything grammatically wrong in this.  Perhaps the 'head in the sand' would be better as 'her head in the proverbial sand' as TassieDevil suggested, but the story impresses me and flows really well.  I'm currently translating a long short story/ novella from the German and that flows well too, but what you have to say is of equal value and may prove, in the long run, to be more realistic.  I doubt I have your experience of life for one thing.

Chestersmummy at 19:28 on 30 November 2017  Report this post
Hi Dee and Michwo,

Many thanks for commenting on my piece.  Your postitivity means so much to me.  Really.   And even if your comments are not quite so positive, individual points of view are very important.  I think all of us agree that we never stop learning.

Best wishes,


Krendalin at 10:07 on 07 December 2017  Report this post
Hi Janet,

I enjoyed reading this. I thought the opening was good – I got a real sense of Anna’s physical discomfort (e.g. ‘stiff with tension’, ‘eyelids ache’). I thought the character of Anna was drawn really well throughout. I liked how you gave an insight into Anna’s thoughts that contrasted with her outward behaviour/dialogue, (e.g. ‘her soothing nursey voice irritated even herself’).

I thought your descriptive writing in general was excellent too – I loved phrases such as ‘hands clasped in a tight knot like a monkey’s paw’. The flashback story was very engaging and quickly drew me in. I got a great sense of Anna’s difficulties with dealing with Lucy, and thought their complex relationship, and Lucy’s character and behaviour, were presented with great subtlety.  

There were a couple of things in the first few paragraphs that jarred with me a little:

Hollow emptiness


Delighted grin

I wondered if you needed the adjectives here? Just ‘emptiness’ and ‘grin’ might be fine.

Great work, anyway. I’d be interested to read more of this story. 

Chestersmummy at 13:51 on 07 December 2017  Report this post
Hi Krendalin

Many thanks for your comments and am glad you enjoyed it.  As for hollow emptiness and delighted grin, I totally agree.  On the whole, I dislike unnecessary adectives and adverbs but sometimes they slip through!  Many thanks for bringing these pesky time wasters to my attention.

Best wishes


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