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Sad Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

TW: some swearing and mention of self-harming

“Aren’t you a bit old to go clubbing?”

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, you’re hardly love’s young dream. You look ridiculous in that getup. You can’t get away with a pink skirt and blingy gold top at your age. Clothes like that are meant for the young and gorgeous which isn’t you. Exposing your midriff is hardly a turn-on. For fuck’s sake, tuck it in.”

“Stop swearing, you know I hate it. I wasn’t brought up to swear. I like wearing these clothes and I like going to Club 49. You can go there at any age and have fun, something you wouldn’t know much about. There’s no need to be so nasty.”

“Why do they call it Club 49?”

“It’s number 49 on the high street.”

“Oh. And I’m not being nasty, just honest. Someone needs to tell you the truth. You go through life with your head in the clouds, unaware of how you come across to others. You need to take a long hard glance in the mirror and tell yourself what you see. You remind me of a clown in that makeup. Do you know anything about being subtle?”

“I think my makeup rocks. I LOVE the eyeliner. Cleopatra would have worn it like this, all thick and dramatic.”

“And we all know what happened to her!”

“What happened to her? I’ve forgotten.”

“Don’t you know anything about history? Beats me what they taught you in that school you went to.”

“I do know. My mind just went blank. You are being vile.”

“Cleopatra, though. Really? Who are you kidding? She met a tragic end and so will your makeup by the time you’ve finished trowelling it on. It’s more like the bride of Dracula than hot chick about town. Not that you will ever be that. But who’s going to fancy you, all dressed up like a dog’s dinner?”

“I don’t know, you seem to have all the answers. YOU TELL ME!!

“Someone who wants to take advantage of you is who. Or someone totally desperate. Most likely, both.”

“Thanks for that. Do you realise there’s a difference between being honest and being cruel. You’re just plain cruel. Always have been.”

“And while we’re about it, why must you drink that bloody awful stuff?”

“It’s a snowball, as you well know. Isn’t it a lovely colour with the little striped parasol in the glass? It reminds me of family holidays and cocktails on the beach. Happy times abroad when mum and dad were alive.”

“Yeah. Cute and fluffy times when you were protected and felt like nothing could harm you.”

“Until it did.”

***


“Stop that bloody awful snivelling. It’s giving me a headache. I’m going to have to take some painkillers if you carry on. It’s pathetic. Mum and dad aren’t around to protect you now. To pull you out of whatever hole you’ll end up getting into tonight.”

“OOOOoooh, cruel. You are cruel. OOOOoooooh.”

STOP THAT BLUBBERING RIGHT NOW! Pull yourself together.”

“I can’t pull myself together. I’m a human being, not a pair of curtains. I don’t know why you think you have a right to talk to me like that!”

“Like what? You silly moo cow.”

“Like I’m………I dunno……Like I’m nothing. Like?”

“Go on, Spit it out dumb ass!”

“Like I have no right to my feelings.”

“Feelings! What a load of claptrap. Like you’re inferior, you mean. Which we all know you are.”

“Who’s this we?”

“Everyone knows you’re a useless lump of lard. Always have been, always will be.”

“That’s a fucked-up lie.”

“Oooh, get you. Who’s swearing now, Miss Pure of Tongue?”

“It’s you. You make me. You bring out the worst in me. Whatever you say, some people value me. I know they do.”

“By some people, you mean people at the shop, I suppose.”

“Exactly. Kevin and Yvonne value me.”

“Kevin and Yvonne, huh? Dream on love. They’re just too polite to say what they really think.”

“You’re so wrong. They’re kind people. The trouble is, you see the bad, never the good.”

“They’re just using you, except you are too dumb to see it. They just need you to cover the shifts they can’t get anyone else to cover.”

“You’re wrong. They’re nice people, genuine. Don’t take that away from me.”

“They’re using you. You’re just too dumb to see it.”

“That’s not true. They need the shifts covered, but they do care. They’re always saying nice things about me. Encouraging me. Yvonne says I have a great personality and the customers love me. Imagine that! She’s brought me out of my shell.”

“Didn’t she once say you were a kind of warrior queen after all you’ve been through?”

“She did. I couldn’t believe she would say that. It made me feel worthwhile. She says no matter what I go through, I still come up fighting.”

“Yeah, she’s really got the sum of you, that one. A bit of flattery goes a long way. She’s playing you like a violin.”

“And I’m not dumb. I enjoy reading.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot. You enjoy reading those daft magazines where people send in lurid accounts and pictures of their sick lives. It usually involves husbands who’ve slept with their mothers-in-law and managed to slip in a sister or two, preferably at the same time.”

“I find stories about real life interesting.”

“You would! And don’t get me started on all the online crap you devour about that boy-band you continue to follow – even though you’re a far cry from being a teenager and they’re no longer boys.”

“I love Westlife. They are brilliant.”

“Yeah, right.”

“What’s wrong with them, then?”

“How long have you got? What’s right about them?”

“What do you mean? Their music is fantastic. They’ve sold millions of records. Their fans adore them. You’ve never said all this before. I thought you liked them too. Even at my lowest times, I only had to listen to them and it pulled me out of a slump. They are a positive force in my life. Listening to them stopped me wanting to harm myself.” 

Thankfully those days are behind you. You can barely see the battle scars now you’ve got that dragon tattoo.”

“It’s beautiful isn’t it. As for Westlife, I know you love them really.”

“Let’s face it, I haven’t had much choice in the matter – being round you all the time. But seriously, what’s the point of following a band at your age?”

“I dunno. What’s the point of anything? They have amazing voices, they’re easy on the eye and they are FUN. Something you wouldn’t know much about.”

“Let me ask you something and I want an honest answer. When’s all this fun business going to end? When are you going to grow up and actually start taking life seriously? I mean, take this room. You can hardly see the bed for unicorns and fluffy things.”

“But I love unicorns. Lots of people have cuddlies. I find them comforting when I can’t sleep. Leave them alone.”

“Alright, but you’re not getting any younger, you know. How old are you?”

“You know how old I am. Why would you ask such a silly question?”

“I want you to say your age OUT LOUD. Make it real. Go on, I dare you.”

“I’m not going to.”

“Say it aloud. No one else is listening. Say it.”

“No. Stupid.”

“Who are you calling stupid? I thought you hated that word after one of the teachers called you it at school when you kept making mistakes with your handwriting.”

“I do hate it. It’s a horrible, ugly word. Like something you want to spit out. They can’t say things like that and get away with it anymore.”

“But the real question is, how old are you in physical years? Obviously, we all know in mental ones, you’re a long way from being an adult.”

“I……..am.”

“You are? WHAT? Stop beating about the bush. Why’s it so difficult to say?”

“Alright, misery guts. I’m 49. Same as the club.”

“Correct. And what have you actually achieved during those 49 years?”

“According to you, not much. But I’ve done things.”

“Yeah, like what? You haven’t exactly climbed Kilimanjaro, have you? Imagine if you tried. That would give everyone a laugh. You struggle to get up the stairs without having and puffing. As for dancing, you spend more time sitting down than you do dancing at that club. As for Kilimanjaro, you’re so out of shape, you’d probably collapse in a heap after a few strides. You never did have much in the way of coordination. Mum used to say that.”

“Don’t bring mum into this. I don’t need to climb a hill, let alone a mountain to prove myself because I have achieved one big thing in life. Some would say it’s the biggest. Even with everything against me, I had Ollie. I don’t regret a second of the struggles I had to go through to have him. People kept telling me it wasn’t a good idea, including mum, but I went ahead. Never been so sure of anything in my life. I’m so proud of him! No one can take that away from me, not even you.”

“But someone already has! Where’s Ollie now? He’s not here with you. He’s with his dad most of the time.”

“I’m trying everything I can to get him back. I’ve got a court date in March and Yvonne’s supporting me through it.”

“I’ll give you that. She is supporting you. Although you’ve got to admit it’s in her interests to help.”

“That’s not true. If I get Ollie back, I won’t be able to help anywhere near as much at the shop. That’s not in her interests.”

“IF YOU GET HIM BACK!!”

“I will. It’s the thing that keeps me going.”

Whatever happens with Ollie, you’ll be forever in Yvonne’s debt, though. She’ll be able to call you whenever she’s short of staff, or whatever else she has up her sleeve and you’ll be there in a flash. Sounds like a plan.”

“I’ll always do my best to help if I can. Hold on, she’s texting me now.”

“Oh, here we go. She’ll want you to help out at some really awkward time, no doubt.”

“She wants me to help out next Saturday.”

“There. What did I say?”

“OH, that’s going to be difficult. I’m supposed to be going for a day out with Roger and his young nephew. He wants to go to the Planetarium. But I don’t like letting Yvonne down. Saturdays are really busy at the shop.”

“Now, you’re in a proper fix. Who are you going to please? Roger or Yvonne?”

“I can’t let Roger down. Although I’d rather go to Madame Tussauds and see the waxworks of famous people. I don’t think it’s far from the Planetarium. It might be possible to do both.”

“Sounds like an expensive day all round. You’re supposed to be broke. Don’t forget, you’re going to need money to fix the car. Unless Roger’s paying. It’s not as though he can’t afford it, is it?”

“I wouldn’t expect him to pay all of it. I’m happy to go halves. Seeing we’re just good friends.”

“You tell yourself that if it helps. But you used to want more than friendship once. Before Tim took pity on you. Or, have you forgotten?”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Maybe now Roger’s showing signs of interest, you don’t want him. Sound familiar?”

“I do want him. It’s just….”

“Let’s face it. You’re not likely to get a better offer.”

“Stop going on. It’s confusing and hurtful. It’s just I’ve spent so long being Roger’s friend, I can’t see a way out of it. But you’re right. There’s love in his eyes.”

“Meantime, what are you going to do about Yvonne?”

“Maybe I can fit in an or two hour at the shop – before I meet Roger.”

“That’s going to work out fine. I don’t think.”

“I don’t know. I’ll have to play it by ear. I’ll text Yvonne and explain it’s going to be difficult and see what she comes back with.”

***


“OH NO. Roger’s at the door. I hope he can’t see me looking at him through the nets. He usually texts before he comes round.”

“Try not to scream. HE’S CARRYING FLOWERS!”

“Pink roses. He knows they’re my favourite. Oooooh. He’s never brought me flowers before.”

“Things are looking up, girl. No going to the club after all. Pity you haven’t got time to change into something more flattering. Quick. Try dabbing down the makeup a bit. Throw on that white cotton top. You don’t want to make the poor man think he’s turned up to a horror show by mistake. Try not to blow it. This is your last chance.”

“How can I not blow it? I don’t have a great track record of not ruining things when it comes to men.”

“Just BE COOL. Try listening to what he has to say. For a change. Don’t go all giddy and throw your arms round him and try and drag him to the bedroom as soon as he’s through the door. Not unless he makes it clear that’s what he wants.”

“Okay, but no more talking. YOU ARE DOING MY HEAD IN. If he finds I talk out loud to myself like this, he’s not going to want to hang around.”

“He may well skedaddle if he hears you talking to yourself. But then, who’s going to tell him? Certainly not you. I only talk in response to you. Now, go and answer that door before he thinks you’re out. That might be a lucky escape for both of you, of course, but we try to be optimistic about these things.”

“Okay. Will do.”

“Oh, and try not to fall downstairs on the way.”






February 22, 2023 14:52

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14 comments

Michał Przywara
23:53 Feb 26, 2023

Ah! I thought she might be talking to her reflection, but in truth she *is* both people. Either way, the point remains: we can be our own worst critic. And yet, by the end when there's an opportunity, it's almost like there's some cooperation after all. That's the way with self-criticism, isn't it? It's not meant to be hurtful, it's a kind of self-defense mechanism ("better not to try at all, and risk getting hurt" kind of thing) - it can just misfire spectacularly, as it does in the beginning here. And then, it's so hard to manage it, isn'...

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Wally Schmidt
16:05 Feb 26, 2023

Like Wendy, I went through all the possible roles in my head while I was reading your story too-parent? sister? Never occured to me it was the insidious voice in her head. I think the MC is so relatable and I am hoping that maybe she will turn that voice inside her head into some positive chatter one day. Very enjoyable and well-written

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Helen A Smith
16:09 Feb 26, 2023

Thanks Wally I hope so too. Her negativity is both sad and terrible.

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Kandi Zeller
02:04 Feb 26, 2023

I loved the way you used dialogue to create such a relatable, heartwarming, empowered, and realistic main character.

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Helen A Smith
10:04 Feb 26, 2023

Thank you Kandi. In my mind, she is an awesome character, but has much to overcome.

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Delbert Griffith
15:05 Feb 22, 2023

Loved it, Helen. Especially the twist at the end. You really got inside her (their) head(s). The profile of a desperate woman approaching a milestone in her life was nicely done. The dialogue was just right. Good work, Helen.

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Helen A Smith
15:10 Feb 22, 2023

Thanks Delbert. Just finished putting last touches to it. Feel nervous about putting this story out there so appreciate your comments all the more.

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Mike Panasitti
01:11 Feb 27, 2023

I was waiting for some light at the end of the tunnel between the two characters, but got quite the surprise. Monologues are one thing, but this was quite an unexpected other. Valiant effort with the prompt.

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Helen A Smith
07:38 Feb 27, 2023

Thanks Mike.

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Wendy Kaminski
03:42 Feb 26, 2023

Oh my gosh, Helen! Wow! I was getting so angry at "the voice," and I couldn't pin it down: Significant other? No... maybe sibling. Sounds about right. It finally began to dawn on me, what a twist! It's terrible the way we talk to ourselves sometimes. Hopefully not to THAT extent, because man I'd want a divorce, haha. But you raise an excellent point about the detriment of negative self talk. Also I want to highlight a certain phrase that I thought was marvelous, though only tangentially related: " It’s just I’ve spent so long being Roger’s f...

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Helen A Smith
09:31 Feb 26, 2023

Hi Wendy Thank you so much for your kind words. If only the MC could find a way to stop this critical and painful voice, more of the awesome character could come out. Yes, definitely a divorce needed as you so humorously and aptly say.

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Unknown User
18:34 Jul 12, 2023

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Helen A Smith
19:23 Jul 12, 2023

Thanks Joe I totally enjoyed writing it at the time!

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Unknown User
20:05 Jul 12, 2023

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