Writing inspired by not 1, not 2, but 3! SWC creative writing prompts:
- Time is not there to be saved. Experiences are not fun if they’re neat and tidy. How do you like to spend your time copiously, generously? How do you experience life messily, sprawlingly?
- Through the Letterbox
Why is someone shouting through the letterbox? Whose attention are they trying to attract inside the house? How do those inside react when they hear the voice?
- “Why didn’t you call?” Begin a story or a poem using the above line of dialogue.
Time Is Not There To Be Saved
by Jane Dudeney
“Why didn’t you call?”
“Because I knew you’d ignore me,” she calls through the letter box, her voice echoing down the hall towards me. “Come on, open the door or I’ll start singing sea shanties and that’ll really annoy your neighbours!”
I hesitate, but then I pad barefoot towards the door and turn the key, opening it up, feeling the humidity wash across me. Tara doesn’t barge in like she usually does. Instead, looks me up and down, no doubt taking in the redness around my eyes and the slightly swollen features from hours of crying. I still have a balled-up tissue in my hand, and I push it into the back pocket of my cut-off jeans before running a hand self-consciously through my hair. I must look a state. My plans today were for solitude, not company.
“Get your shoes on!” Tara tells me. “We’re going out.”
I open my mouth to protest, but nothing comes out. Tara’s looking me right in the eye, and I realise it’s not a request. My parents aren’t due back until tomorrow anyway; they’re not going to know.
Once my old Converse are on my feet, we’re moving. I’m caught up in Tara’s energy somehow, floating along the road. I feel removed from my body in a way, and I can hear Tara talking as though her voice is all around me.
“You’re not crying over him anymore, Naz,” she says firmly. “We’re 17 and he was not the love of your life. What do we even know about love?”
Everything, I think, but again I don’t speak. Instead, I focus on Tara’s long plait bouncing down her back with every stride she takes. The humidity has curled the escaped strands around her face, and it makes her look fiercer than usual, like she is framed by flames of red. She is, no doubt, on a mission tonight.
“Where are we going?” I finally ask. I feel sweat sticking my t-shirt to my back as I struggle to match her pace.
“We’re almost there,” is all she says, though she smiles a little too, so I guess she thinks I’ll like it.
There’s nowhere in this town we haven’t been. When we were 10, we used to ride our bikes all over the place with just a promise to our parents we’d be home by dinner. We’d climbed all the trees since then, explored all the woods, swam in all the rivers we could. We’re heading in the direction of the golf course and the west side of the river, and also our old school. I don’t know why she’d be taking us to any of them.
“This way,” she says, her hand grasping mine as she pulls me to the left. It’s getting dark now, and every now and then I see bats swooping above our heads. We are heading up Tulluck’s Hill.
“Tonight’s the night you’re letting him go,” Tara says, looking at me. “You’re my best friend and it’s killing me watching you waste this time over him.”
“You don’t understand,” I start, but I don’t say more. It sounds so cliché, like no-one in the world has ever had their heart broken. Like I’m accusing her of not feeling things as deeply.
“Maybe,” she replies, unoffended. “Or maybe I just think these messy moments serve a purpose, eventually. Not like fate – I hate that shit, you know I do. But time is not there to be saved, Naz. You’re stuck, like you’re in quicksand or something, and it’s killing you. I’m getting you out before it does.”
We reach the top of the hill. I am panting slightly and wipe my arm across my forehead. I haven’t been here in years. The bench that had been up here was eventually removed after people used it for drinking and littering and probably more. It just stopped being a nice place to go, but I see now that the bench is back, and a new bin installed, and the view over our town is as beautiful as ever.
I stand beside Tara cast my eyes across everything – I can see the church steeple above everything else, and the lights from the houses. The river through the centre actually kind of sparkles up here. There’s even the slightest of breezes, helping to cool the heat of my skin.
Tara moves then, and my gaze automatically follows her. She walks to the other side of the hill and then turns, grinning and beckoning me over. There is a slide – or some sort of slide, that looks like it’s made from wood. It’s wide and steep, running down towards the tree-filled woods at the bottom.
“Isn’t it cool?”
I place my palm on it, and it’s surprisingly smooth. No chance of splinters at least.
“Come on,” Tara says, swinging her legs over and sitting expectantly at the top. She pats the space next to her.
“This is it. This is what’s we’re doing tonight. You’re going to have your last minute to grieve, and then we are going down and you are letting him go.”
I stare at her for a moment. Life isn’t like this; people aren’t like this. You can’t just tell yourself that you no longer care. I know this, and yet I feel a spark of something in my heart that I haven’t felt for a long time. So I sit.
Our bare legs hang down next to each other and Tara reaches an arm around my waist. We wait, silent, our heads nestled against each other’s for a minute or so. I listen to the sounds of the town below, and the very gentle rustle of the leaves in the nearby trees.
“I know you loved him, but you need to love yourself more,” Tara whispers to me. “Enough now, Naz. Enough. We miss you. And we’re here for you. But we need you back, okay?”
A small tear escapes from my eye, but I wipe it away quickly.
“Okay,” I say finally, nodding. We shuffle forwards slightly, hands gripping the top of the slide. “I’m ready.”
And together, we both let go.
Sunday Writers' Club Member
Jane Dudeney studied Psychology at the University of Surrey before floundering as an editor for nursing journals and ending up working in Student Support with a responsibility as a designated safeguarder. It was this role that led to inspiration for a YA contemporary novel with which she was lucky to longlist with in the Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award in 2018 (subsequently winning a year of mentoring for being the highest ranked entry with a BAME main character). Following mentoring from the wonderful Simon James Green and Emma Smith-Barton, she also entered the same novel into "Undiscovered Voices 2020", a competition by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and was long-listed as an "Honorary Mention" at the back of the winner's anthology.
Jane now works as a Senior Training and Development Adviser for the Open University and is currently working on the eternal editing of her YA novels while embarking upon her first adult contemporary.