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The Darker Half

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 10 September 2018
Word Count: 1660
Summary: I am hoping to kickstart this site again by posting another chapter of my dysfunctional family saga in which Anna meets her future flatmate and friend, Lucy. A friendship which eventually lead to tragedy. All comments welcome please (it may help to read my other chapters). Thanks a lot.


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CHAPTER ELEVEN

  ‘Oh for heaven’s sake!   Anna groaned and covered her ears, staring down at her desk.   It was no good, she could still hear the overwhelmingCounty bray filling the room.  Upper class confidence exerting its right to disrupt.   It didn’t matter one jot to Celia Hartop that maybe, at least some of her classmates actually wanted to learn Spanish, a language she obviously had zero interest in, along with most of the other subjects in the curriculum.   From the very start, she’d made it no secret that she was interested in just one thing, killing time until she was old enough to become a nurse.   A nurse!  Anna’s eyes had bulged.  Weren’t nurses supposed to be caring?  She shuddered at the thought of Celia with a syringe.  She was the last person that should be allowed anywhere near the sick.  Anna wondered where she’s got the idea from, maybe days out with the local Hunt had taught her that she enjoyed the sight of suffering?   Meanwhile, she was alleviating her boredom by taunting the tutor she’d labelled a Commie, partly because of his views on the Spanish Civil War but also because he wore sandals and a Fair Isle cardigan.  For the life of her, Anna couldn’t see the connection, other than Celia and her ilk were so prejudiced that any break with tradition was a personal assault.  Surely, that was stereotyping to the nth degree.
‘Okay then, Mr Colledge, what do you think about the Hungarian uprising?  Do you think Khrushchev was right to send in the tanks and kill all those people?’
Sensing blood, Celia’s needle-sharp eyes glittered.
Anna raised her head and looked at her tutor who brushed his floppy hair away from his eyes as he opened his mouth to reply.  To her surprise, he seemed to be enjoying the debate - maybe his boredom matched Celia’s.   In any event, he was parrying her charges, obviously taking delight in exposing ignorance that would have shamed anyone with a thinner hide.   He was wasting his time, Anna thought. Celia’s resembled a rhino’s.  He’d never puncture her innate conviction that she’d been bred to be right.
            Anna couldn’t bear it any longer.  She loathed the mouthy Celia and her fawning coterie.  Most of all she loathed herself for not having the courage to stand up to her.  Her chair screeched as she stood up and began to stuff her books into her bag, making no attempt to hide her exasperation.  She glanced around the room but everyone’s eyes were fixed on the battle being played out before them.  All except one - a girl was looking at her and as their eyes collided, the girl winked and jerked her head towards the door.
            As they left the room, Celia’s voice followed them like a bad smell and the girl grinned.
            ‘Tally-ho,’ she said.
            Anna, flicked her a glance.  She didn’t know what to say. She’d never had any communication with the girl before although she had noticed her.  It was difficult not to.  Always dressed in black, the girl stood out against the froth of pastels and her shapeless tent dress didn’t succeed in hiding her looks, which were spectacular.   At close range they were no less so and Anna felt a twinge of envy as she glanced at the girl’s perfect profile, trying to find even the slightest flaw.  Abruptly, the girl turned to face her, a swirl of auburn hair following the sudden movement.
            ‘Don’t tell me you’ve only just noticed my second head!’
            To her horror, Anna felt her cheeks burn.  ‘Sorry.’ She muttered.  ‘It’s just that I was trying to remember your name. Don’t remember names very well.’  
            ‘Neither do I, but I know yours – it’s Anna isn’t it?’
‘That’s right.  How clever.’
            ‘Not really, I have a system.  Anna is ‘A’ for angelic – it’s because you’re nice,’ she explained.   ‘Celia is ‘C’ for codswallop – which is what she talks most of the time.  I’m Lucinda, by the way, although I prefer to be called Lucy.’
            If that was the case, Anna thought she must be ‘L’ for lovely.   At home, her Mum and Dad sometimes had a glass of sherry on special occasions and every time they did, her Dad would hold up his glass. ‘Just look at that,’ he’d say.  ‘Pure amber!’   Anna had the feeling he’d say the same thing about Lucy’s hair, although, in her opinion, her most striking asset was her eyes, deep blue, almost purple, the colour of bluebells in the shade.  It seemed grossly unfair that she also had delicate features and perfect skin.
            ‘Come on.’  Tucking her arm underneath Anna’s, Lucinda hurried her along.
            ‘Where are we going?’
            ‘Don’t know but we’re out of that class room with time to kill, so let’s make the most of it.’
            Anna allowed herself to be pulled along but she was puzzled.   Up until today, the girl hadn’t shown the slightest interest in her and Anna had put her down as being a cold fish but today she seemed completely different.  It could be that mutual dislike of Celia had united them but it still seemed slightly odd.
‘I know, what about a coffee?’
‘Never drink the stuff, but yeah that’s fine by me.’
It was too early for lunch but the cafeteria was open so Anna bought herself a milky coffee while Lucy fluttered her eyelashes at the youth behind the counter and wheedled a tap water.   Anna couldn’t help noticing that, as the boy looked into Lucy’s black-lashed eyes, he turned a muddy beetroot colour.  As they turned away, she glanced back and sure enough, he was standing staring as if mesmerised, a goofy look on his face.
She nudged Lucy’s arm.
‘He’s going to dream of you tonight,’ she said.
Lucinda uttered a shrill yelp of laughter and slightly startled, Anna swivelled her head and saw that the boy’s flush had deepened.
‘Ssssh’ she said. ‘I think he heard you.’
Lucy giggled.  ‘Sorry.  He’s sweet but not my type.  I prefer my men more dangerous.’
Anna grinned but later, when she recalled their conversation, icy water flowed the whole length of her spine, Lucy hadn’t known then what really dangerous men could do.
‘Shame we can’t get an early lunch,’ Anna said as they seated themselves at an empty booth.  
‘That’s OK by me.   I never eat it anyway.’
‘Never?'
‘Never.  The food here is rubbish.’
‘But what do you do with your lunch tickets?’
Each student was allowed one free lunch ticket daily which covered the cost of soup and a sweet. It could also be put towards the cost of the main meal but few bothered to pay the extra, preferring to spend their money on something other than food.
‘Sell them.  Our beloved Celia is a good customer.  She’s got to be good for something and she does love her stomach.’
For the first time Anna noticed how thin the girl was.  If she’d wanted, she could have easily circled her wrists between her thumb and middle fingers and her jutting collarbones were clearly visible beneath the flimsy material of her dress.   
‘But, don’t you get hungry?   Even if I have breakfast, I’m starving by lunch time.’
‘Breakfast – what’s that?  Couldn’t possibly eat that early.’
‘So, no breakfast, no lunch – how do you last until supper?  Please tell me you have supper.’
‘Sure.  I really pig out.’
‘Somehow, I doubt that.  Come on, what do you have?’
Lucy slumped in her seat while her fingers played with her waterglass.  ‘What’s it to you what I eat.  I exist, don’t I?  But if you must know, sometimes I have soup, sometimes a jam sandwich.  I love jam, especially strawberry.’
‘Hardly a balanced diet, is it?’
‘Who are you, my mother?’
‘Now you mention it – doesn’t your Mum worry about you not eating properly?’
Lucy’s eyelids closed and when she opened them, her eyes had a queer, metallic glitter.
‘She might, I suppose, if she cared a hoot.  But as she doesn’t and as I can’t remember when I last saw her, she doesn’t figure in the equation.’
‘So, you don’t live with her?’
‘Nope.  The YWCA is the place I call home.’
Anna stared, not knowing what to say.   Her own relationship with her mother wasn’t easy but even so, she couldn’t imagine not living with her.  She opened her mouth to probe further but then closed it.  Lucy was right.  It really was none of her business and obviously Lucy was resenting what she saw as ‘nosiness’.   All the same she was worried about her although she didn’t quite know why, after all, they’d only just met.  Anna  wondered if it was possible that they might become friends.  She looked down at the table, she’d never really had a close friend.  Alec’s behaviour was enough to scare them off.   Although there had been Greta.  She’d been the exception – their friendship had lasted a few years but eventually her brother had even managed to ruin that.  Although it had been a long time ago, she still felt a hot flush of shame whenever she thought about the way it had ended and even now her nights were disturbed by small slips of folded over paper fluttering around her like a cloud of cabbage white butterflies.  Not so innocent as butterflies though.  She felt sick as she remembered the words –  nasty words, venomous words.  Not hers, although everybody had thought they were.   She came to and looked up as Lucy’s chair creaked.
‘Right, I’m off.   Things to do, people to see and all that jazz.  Are you coming?’
‘Yeah, sure.  Hang on a minute.’
Hastily, Anna swallowed the dregs of her coffee.  As she followed Lucy out of the canteen she made a solemn vow never to mention her in front of Alex.  If they did become close, Lucy would have to remain her secret.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
           
 
 
 
 






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Comments by other Members



Carlyagain at 20:37 on 11 September 2018  Report this post
Hi

I read this through and enjoyed it too. It's an interesting read. 

I have a few nit-picks but I'll post them in a day or so but I am intrigued about where this friendship is heading and how Alex will wreck it.

Carly

Catkin at 01:22 on 12 September 2018  Report this post
I hope the kickstarting works, Janet. I will do my bit too.

I'm with Carly on this chapter. It is interesting, it moves fast, and it made me want to know how the friendship develops. Lucy is a disturbing character - it's obvious that she has problems, and they appear to be quite serious, so one fears for her. It's quite a dark chapter, in a quiet way, and of course that fits with the early chapters.

I too have only nitpicks. I'm going away for a couple of days now, for a trip to the seaside, but I will be back with those later.

Jellybean at 12:37 on 12 September 2018  Report this post
Oh, I can comment. I thought my trail membership had run out!
What I love about this chapter, is your use of dialogue. It's really very good and makes for a pacy, believable piece.
It's always a bit difficult  guessing about the plot etc when you don't have a quick synopsis - or a bit of blurb to go by but I can see trouble ahead with Lucy. Btw, you seem to be in Lucy's POV when you talk about 'dangerous men.' Is it supposed to be Anna's or omnipresent? It's very easly to slip out of POV - well it is for me!

When you revise, you might want to take a look at a couple of cliches. 'Needle sharp' is one and, I feel, unnecessay as you have 'glittering eyes,' which works great on its own. Mine you if the cliches belong to a character's POV then no worries. I do like, 'the colour of bluebells in the shade.'

You finish the chapter with a fantastic hook to the next one. Yay! Perfect. Well done.

 

Chestersmummy at 10:30 on 13 September 2018  Report this post
Thanks Jellybean for your kind comments.

I'll have another look at the POV - I may have missed something there.  Also, like you, I dislike cliches and the only time I use them normally is in dialogue.  I'll see if I can come up with some originallity!

Hope you continue your membership.  Although it has been very slow here recently, I am hoping it will pick up.

Best wishes

Catkin at 14:45 on 15 September 2018  Report this post

‘Oh for heaven’s sake!   Anna groaned and covered her ears, staring down at her desk.


I’m going to be very, very picky about the opening, as openings are so important. I would re-work these sentences. I’d either cut what Anna says, or change the word ‘groaned’. It reads to me as if she speaks aloud and then, after speaking, she groans - but I think you mean ‘groaned’ to describe her actual words. Then I think I’d change the second sentence to “Anna groaned, covered her ears, and stared down at her desk” - but then, is staring at the desk really adding anything? Personally, my re-write of this would be:

‘Anna groaned and covered her ears. It was no good; she could still hear the County bray - upper-class confidence exerting its right to disrupt.’

But then, this -

Upper class confidence exerting its right to disrupt


- may need a little tweaking. I don’t think it’s really the confidence that is asserting (rather than exerting) its right to disrupt; it’s her confidence that makes Celia comfortable about causing disruption. Her confidence is the reason that she’s disruptive, but it is not actually causing disruption itself.
 

From the very start, she’d made it no secret that she was interested in just one thing, killing time until she was old enough to become a nurse.

- I think a colon would work better than the second comma.
 

Anna’s eyes had bulged


- perhaps add something like ‘the first time she said this’, as the bulging eyes happened once, but the earlier reference is to all the many times Celia has talked about nursing, so you are moving from the general to the particular.

where she’s got the idea


- she’d. I’ve also noticed a missing quotation mark and a missing space between words.

I’m horribly pushed for time at the moment, but I will look at the rest in detail later, promise.

Chestersmummy at 16:40 on 15 September 2018  Report this post
Thanks so much for taking the time to go through this chapter.  Really very much appreciated.  As usual, I think your comments are spot on.  Hope you are enjoying your break at the seaside.

Best wishes
Janet
 

Catkin at 21:42 on 15 September 2018  Report this post
You're welcome. I'll look at the rest when we get back to Cambridge. I'm in Yorkshire now, doing caring duties for my father. The seaside break was great, thanks, but it was only for a night.

michwo at 22:05 on 16 September 2018  Report this post
Janet,
I liked this, but couldn't help but be somewhat mystified by the butterfly-like slips of paper that put the kibosh on Anna's relationship with Greta.  What exactly happened there?  Am I just being thick?  Is this something you're going to elaborate on eventually?

Chestersmummy at 10:43 on 17 September 2018  Report this post
Hi Michwo

Thanks for your post.  Yes, I will be elaborating on the slips of paper later on.  It refers to yet another malicious act by her brother which succeeds in wrecking a longstanding friendship.

Hlope you are well.  You have been very quiet recently, are you busy working on your novel?  I hope so and look forward to reading it later.  Did you get the message I sent recently.

Best wishes
Janet
 

michwo at 16:33 on 17 September 2018  Report this post
Hi Janet.
Yes, I did get your message and I'm now on the last 4 chapters - 18, 19, 20 and 21.
I know I said 20 to begin with, but one was a bit long so I split it in two.
Oddly enough, the closer I get to actually finishing, the harder it seems to be.
It must be my desire to hang on to it.

Carlyagain at 17:00 on 18 September 2018  Report this post
Gosh, it's great to see there being so much interest in your chapter. Apologies for not coming back sooner to pass comment. I see you've had some great feedback, so I'll stick to the bits I found more noticeable in addition to the comments already given.

This is great foreshadowing:

 Lucy hadn’t known then what really dangerous men could do.

I'm not too keen on this. She fingered the rim of her glass or played with her glass:

Lucy slumped in her seat while her fingers played with her waterglass.


At one point Alex becomes Alec.

This is lovely imagery but you could tighten it, eg. small is unnecessary as you've given the butterfly simile. I don't know about cabbage either, as white butterflies bring the cabbage variety to mind (IMO):

Although it had been a long time ago, she still felt a hot flush of shame whenever she thought about the way it had ended and even now her nights were disturbed by small slips of folded over paper fluttering around her like a cloud of cabbage white butterflies



I thought this was a great chapter. Succinct and it drew us on through the story, throwing titbits of suspense and background detail that makes us want to know more. I look forward to seeing your other chapters.


 

Catkin at 22:03 on 18 September 2018  Report this post
Here at last is the rest of my critique:

a personal assault

- or a personal insult, as an alternative. Insult would be the more usual term.
 

‘Okay then, Mr Colledge, what do you think about the Hungarian uprising?  Do you think Khrushchev was right to send in the tanks and kill all those people?’
Sensing blood, Celia’s needle-sharp eyes glittered.
Anna raised her head and looked at her tutor

- the order of the first two sentences gave me the impression that it is someone other than Celia who is speaking. I think you should reverse them. And there is also a viewpoint issue. The sentence about Celia’s eyes can’t be from Anna’s viewpoint because she has her head on her desk - that’s fine, if you want to be in the author’s viewpoint sometimes, but as this chapter is mostly from quite deep within Anna’s viewpoint I think it would probably be better to stay with it all the way through. I’m not sure about needle-sharp eyes.
 

She loathed the mouthy Celia and her fawning coterie.

- we already know that Celia is mouthy, so I’d cut that word. It would read better with just the one adjective.
 

the girl winked and jerked her head towards the door

- but Anna is obviously leaving the room, so why does Lucy indicate the door? It would work better if, at this point, Lucy stood up too.
 

            Anna, flicked her a glance

- stray comma
 

Always dressed in black, the girl stood out against the froth of pastels and her shapeless tent dress didn’t succeed in hiding her looks, which were spectacular

- does she always wear a shapeless tent dress, or is she just wearing that sort of dress on this particular day? “The shapeless tent dress she was wearing today” ?
 

her eyes, deep blue, almost purple, the colour of bluebells in the shade

- I think I might put a colon in there: “her eyes: deep blue”. I like the bluebells.
 

wheedled a tap water

- do students in that college really have to wheedle just to get a drink of water? What a mean place!
 

Lucinda uttered a shrill yelp of laughter and slightly startled

- you need a comma in there, otherwise it reads as if it’s Lucy who’s startled.

icy water flowed the whole length of her spine, Lucy hadn’t known then what really dangerous men could do.

- the water is a cliche, and as a whole this is a comma splice and needs a colon or full stop.
 

‘Now you mention it – doesn’t your Mum

- small ‘m’ needed for mum here
 

know why, after all, they’d only just met

I think I might put a dash in there “know why - after all,”
 

She looked down at the table, she’d never really had a close friend

- comma splice
 

her brother had even managed to ruin that

- or, as an alternative, “her brother had managed to ruin even that”
 

even now her nights were disturbed by small slips of folded over paper fluttering around her like a cloud of cabbage white butterflies

- I agree with Carly that “cabbage” could go, and isn’t it that she is disturbed by the memory of small slips of paper, rather than by the slips themselves?

I hope that helps. It's an excellent and involving chapter, as I said, and I am looking forward to reading more.
 


Chestersmummy at 11:03 on 19 September 2018  Report this post
To both Carlyagain and Catkin,

Thank you so much for all your help with this chapter.  You both seem to be singing from the same song sheet (cliche, I know) so you have given me a lot to think about.  Thank you also for your positive comments, they mean a lot and have given me the impetus to get on and write some more - at the moment the rest of the story is still in my head.

Best wishes and thanks to you both again.  Perhaps your obviously skilled critiques will encourage more to post pieces of their work in progress.  I hope so.

Janet

Catkin at 11:52 on 19 September 2018  Report this post
You're welcome, Janet - and I hope it encourages some others, too. I would really like to see this group up and running again.

Carlyagain at 13:35 on 19 September 2018  Report this post
Catkin's points are fab. Do post more, Janet. It would be great to see other chapters.


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