Wow. We have to be honest here, guys, and say that we thought this week’s prompt was actually pretty tough. A bit of a headscratcher. We thought we might see fewer entries, that maybe your muses might not be , you know, feeling it.
But you lot sent in SO many brilliant stories. We were bowled over by them. We’ve laughed, cried, and argued about who the winner should be.
But before we tell you who came out on top in the end, let’s have a quick look at that prompt again:
That was, of course, the first line of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.
And these are, wonderfully, our winners.
RUNNER-UP: Jenny Redmond
We’d bought drinks, so many it was practically fizzing out of my ears.
That vile green shot was so sweet it made my teeth feel furry for days afterwards.
I missed one of my exams two days later thanks to Boots and their ridiculous opening hours.
But at least I can retake that. You didn’t try and speak to me. That was fine.
Games of pool had led to spillages and sword fights, giggles and shots. Thoughts of upcoming exams, life after uni, family and every-single-other-thing were drowned in a toxic mix of Apple Sours and watered down lager that had gone flat. Tim had stood on the pool table bellowing along to Cast No Shadow whilst Sarah, getting her round in, had stared at him from the bar, peering through her fingers with complete embarrassment and helpless with laughter.
We went back to her house afterwards, and picked up cheap wine and ice cream from Spar on the way. She’d made me take my shoes off when we got inside. Something about creaky floorboards and annoyed housemates. We sat on the sofa and she fed me ice cream.
We kissed. Her legs were over my lap.
I didn’t hear her say no.
RUNNER-UP: Chrissie Cuthbertson
Jules misses many things. She misses browsing for men’s clothes. Cooking Tim’s favourite childhood dishes and making coffee for two. She misses Friday nights after Alfie’s bedtime when they shared a bottle, or even two, of wine and told each other about their day. She remembers Tim gently arranging the covers around her after they had made love. Cherishing her. When Tim collects Alfie, Jules takes care to dress in clothes that Tim might associate with happier times. She fills the house with the smell of home cooking. Jules hopes Alfie retains the scent of home – the right brand of soap and a tendril of her own perfume.
Tim misses things too. He misses wearing the clothes of the man Jules wanted him to be. Eating the same stodgy meals and the need to always make coffee for two. He remembers Friday nights when only alcohol saw him through another boring weekend, and her monotonous voice as she described the hellish tedium of her life. He remembers pulling the quilt over her after sex, ashamed, like a cat covering its foul-smelling faeces. When Tim prepares to collect Alfie, he makes sure he wears something new.
They meet on the doorstep. Here is Tim, slimmer and fitter than before, dressed in something that Jules doesn’t recognise, unwilling to step inside, his stomach gripped by the sickening smell of a baking cake.
And Jules, in a dress she thought Tim had always particularly liked, using the child to lure Tim inside.
WINNER: Joshua Davis
Several people, witnesses, agree Edith was smiling when she left the hotel. She was wearing the navy dress I gave her for her last birthday, Sam trainers and a t-shirt he’d bought in San Sebastián that afternoon. That’s how Sam remembered it. So did the bartender of Bar Gallina, where they ate padrón peppers and steak, though Edith is a vegetarian. He inspected her photograph over his glasses. You’ll find her, he said.
The owner of Bar Ostra remembered them arguing. Edith didn’t like the crowds or the pintxos. She got oil on her pink dress. Navy, I corrected him. She had a cigarette outside while Sam ordered a mackerel dish that came presented in a smoky dome and tasted like ash. The owner made me one. Edith doesn’t smoke, I told him.
The casino girls remembered Sam, who came alone and hit on the croupier. The dress code says no trainers, I said, but he wore them. They glanced at each other. He can’t have, the youngest said.
After that, nobody saw Edith with any certainty. Girls at a bar might have seen her on the beach, too many drunken nights ago to be sure. She’d get sandy trousers, one had thought. Another said, She had a black eye. She didn’t, the others were sure.
After she argued with Sam and left him at the casino, Edith met a stranger. He knew nothing about her, except perhaps how to kill her. But everyone agrees, they didn’t see it happen.
Congratulations Jenny, Chrissie and Joshua! And thanks so much to everyone who entered — we salute you.
Happy weekends, happy writing all.