“Well done everyone! Your first assignment was on the whole very good, read my feedback particularly on developing characters, and don’t forget to complete the reading set for next class. Before you leave can I please see the following students? If you could just stay behind, I won’t keep you long.” Jacqui looked through her diary at the names she had carefully written down, “Daniel, Catherine Litterman, Emana, Precious and Jake. Thank you class dismissed”.
The hundred or so students started collecting their belongings and filling out of the lecture hall, the five students whose names had been called slowly made their way to the front, each hoping they hadn’t done anything wrong at the start of their creative writing degree course. Once everyone had left and Jacqui had five worried faces looking intently at her she began, “Right, nothing to worry about” she started, rustling through her lecture notes, “The reason I have picked you five is that you showed the most promise in your assignment. I would like to form a writing circle with me to lead to make sure you are really going to achieve your full potential. We would meet for two hours, once a week, what do you think?”
The group were frantically nodding their collective heads delighted to be recognised in this way. “Just one concession, I want to keep this between us, if the other students find out, they will want extra time with me and I simply don’t have the time to give everybody, with all my lectures, marking and my own writing as well”. All agreed and the day and time of the meeting was set Wednesday`s 7-9pm.
The first writers club meeting arrived and all five pupils turned up at Jacqui’s house early, excited and with pens and notepads at the ready. Jacqui had made some sandwiches, put some cookies on a plate and filled a pitcher of lemonade and placed them all on the large oak table, for some reason she was a little nervous about this.
“Okay everyone, our first forty minutes is going to be a sprint, we are writing about a relationship between a man and a woman, the woman is in love, the man still wants to play the field. Right I am settling the timer, go”. In the quiet time Jacqui looked at her own manuscript and her editors comments written in red “Try to develop the nuances of the two main characters more, remember Isobel is totally in love, Richard isn’t”.
The forty minutes passed quickly and the sound of frantically scribbling pens was soothing. The ring of the alarm broke the spell. “Right everyone; let’s have a listen to your ideas.” Jacqui listened thoughtfully asking relevant questions and giving advice where needed. The group broke into a meaningful discussion then Jacqui set them one more task “I’ll just collect in your notes. “ she reached over and pulled their notes towards her a little too hastily. “Last task endings, you decide how this first story ends, let your imaginations run free.” While the students were frantically writing again Jacqui looked at her own editors notes once more “The ending does not quite fit, you should revisit it with a fresh idea”. She inhaled deeply, glanced at the students then smiled to herself.
Three weeks later and all five students were attending their writing circle. Jacqui was distracted and kept losing her train of thought. Her husband stormed into the room shouting obscenities and stopped abruptly when he saw the open mouths of the students and the awkwardness of Jacqui. “Er sorry” Jacqui mumbled “Could you excuse me for a second, please can you carry on writing about anger and how its displayed in a person, I` ll be right back”. Jacqui left the room and closed the door which was not much of a barrier to the raised voices and slamming of doors.
“Do you think we ought to leave?” Daniel whispered to the others “No” precious answered “Just carry on act normal, pretend we can’t hear anything.”
Jacqui re-entered the room visibly irritated “Change of plan, forty minutes to write about the perfect murder, off you go”.
The lecture theater door was locked and the class were lined up in the corridor or chatting in groups. It was not like Jacqui to be late, she was normally already in the lecture hall taking questions from the early arrivers. “Shall we just leave?” asked Catherine looking at her watch, some of the other students had started to leave in groups thinking the class had been cancelled. Suddenly Jacqui came running down the corridor looking disheveled “Sorry I` m late, please forgive me, in you go” she unlocked the lecture hall door. Another lecturer passed “Hi Jacqui, I hear your next book is being published, a tale of unrequited love, I can’t wait to read it”.
“oh thanks” Jacqui shouted back “I`m half way through another one as well”.
“How do you find the time?” he replied walking briskly down the corridor with a pile of papers in his arms.
Towards the end of the lecture the principle tapped on the door and Jacqui left to speak to him, Amana needed the toilet and took this opportunity to pop out, accidentally hearing the conversation taking place between them.
“The principle was saying the police had been in touch, they had found her husband’s car abandoned and wanted her to get in contact as they couldn’t get hold of her husband” Amana explained to the other four. “You don’t think she’s … she got rid of him” Catherine said quietly.
“They were arguing a lot and she made us write all about perfect murders and cover ups recently” Daniel added.
“Do you think we should go to the police?” Jake asked nervously.
“And say what? We’ve got no proof” Amana answered.
“Let’s confront her about it on Wednesday night in our writers circle” Daniel suggested. All agreed.
Wednesday night Jacqui was in an odd mood, upbeat yet strangely edgy and nervy. “Okay tonight I want us to write about a character who has got away with something, how he or she feels and acts, forty minutes, off you go”. Daniel raised his eyebrows and looked at the others. Luke nodded in the form of encouragement to him. Jacqui noticed that none of them had started to write and saw the nervous glances. “What `s the problem? Is anything the matter” she asked the group in a gentle voice.
Daniel cleared his throat “We were a bit worried about your husband what has happened to him? All this stuff you have asked us to write on the perfect murder” he mumbled.
Jacqui stared, unmoving for a few seconds and the others held their breath. Then she laughed a tinkly glass laugh “My husband is alive and well, we have not been getting on and he has gone to stay with a friend overseas to give us some space” she rummaged for her phone and showed them the text message from her husband saying he had had car trouble and got a lift instead and would be away a few months to think things over. “I’ve shown the police, it’s all sorted”. She added matter of factly.
“Sorry.” Daniel dropped his head “It was just all the writing we were doing about murder.” Jacqui reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a manuscript “That was to motivate me for my new book I am having a go at a thriller” The group murmured with relief and began to feel a bit silly about letting their imagination run away with them.
Jacqui put the manuscript back in the drawer and her hand made contact with her husband’s mobile phone under a pile of papers. “I must get rid of that quickly” she thought to herself as she smiled pleasantly at the group.