Well. That was pretty special.
It was special because it was our very first first line prompt of the year. And, well, let’s hold our hands up here: it was a bit special because one of us here in the office wrote it. Yep, it’s the first line of Nicci’s new YA novel, which comes out next week, and so it was extra special to see what you all thought might have happened to Lizzie. (And also a tiny bit frustrating that some of those ideas were more exciting than the actual thing!).
And obviously it was special because you guys were mega-talented as always.
Anyway, let’s have a look at who’s going to be rehoming our books this week.
RUNNER-UP: Jane Bradley
I don’t hear anything about Lizzie until the police knock on the door.
Then, after that fateful moment, she’s all I hear about.
Suddenly, all anyone talks about is Lizzie and Lizzie only. What about me? I want to scream. But no-one’s listening.
I’m the good one now, the one they don’t need to worry about. Funny that. I wasn’t the good one before. I was the average one. Not as smart as my older brother, not as pretty as my little sister.
But Lizzie? She was nowhere until that day.
She’d disappeared, walked out of our lives years ago, before I had the chance to really remember her. I had a vague recollection of blonde hair, curly, floating about her head like an angel. Wild, angry eyes, nothing like an angel.
Then she was gone.
But now, she’s back. Not Lizzie herself, just a dark cloud of nightmares with the same name.
The police said it was definitely her, there was no doubt. She’d been found standing next to the body with a knife in her hand and a maniacal grin on her face.
I hitched my school bag onto my back and took a deep breath. I opened the door.
The flashing started immediately, a disco of strobe lights exploding over our front lawn. Black boxes hoisted onto their shoulders, tiny silver recorders. A few had pens and notebooks.
They were all shouting the same thing:
“Lizzie? Lizzie? Have you seen Lizzie?”
Yes, it’s all I hear now.
RUNNER-UP: Kirsten Riley
The Unsolved Case of Lizzie Meadows
I read everything there was to know about her; the colour of her hair (blonde), what perfume she wore (Daisy), what toothpaste she used (Colgate) and what time she died. 6:14 am. Today.
Lizzie Meadows was a girl who youth looked good on. She wore her 18 years well and men noticed. Sometimes the wrong ones. I thumbed through the file I was given at the door by PC Grace and Sergeant Wishaw; old-fashioned coppers who exhibited that collective contempt reserved for Detectives like me. Desk jockeys that didn’t get their hands dirty.
The file was no more than a few pages but I sensed it would grow, unwritten words filling blank pages as we found out more about Lizzie’s past life. So many questions were unanswered, facts unknown. When was she last seen, who was she with and where did they go?
She was found wearing a pink summer dress in an alley less than 30 metres from her flat. Ligature marks suggested strangulation. Her roommates said she often didn’t return so never raised the alarm. I’d start with this, and hope that the scarce threads of evidence could form some fabric of truth.
But Miss Meadow’s was only one of my cases and I knew she’d probably end up in the filing cabinet under ‘unsolved’, like so many others. My job taught me that life was fragile and sometimes unfair. It also taught me that you never start the day without a cup of tea.
WINNER: Will Downes
An Exercise in Relaxation
I don’t hear about Lizzie until the police knock on the door. And even then. The snow is falling more gracefully now, settling briefly on the brickwork beneath our feet before fizzing away. Their faces are painted with a blank, silent mystery, and yet their presence screams.
We have not yet spent a day apart. It has not yet been a day since we spoke. She took a class on Tuesday nights. I would collect her on my way home from the office, sitting and waiting before watching as she crossed the car-park with a group of her friends. She spoke so highly of the two hours she spent inside the theatre each week.
I remember the occasion I went inside, taking a seat at the back of the auditorium and watching an exercise in relaxation. There she was, laid amongst her peers, a patchwork of bodies on the stage boards – their tutor treading carefully between the limbs. Such stillness; such silence; such commitment to both.
My wife comes down the hallway behind me, un-rushed in her ignorance, and places her hand on the small of my back. She is not yet trembling. Behind the police officers, a car passes slowly, lights ablaze through the night. The chill of the air has become softened across my face, a tacit connection between myself and what still remains unsaid.
When words are finally spoken, I do not hear them. I feel only a pain in my back.
Congratulations, Jane, Kirsten and Will! And well done everyone. Excellent Friday-ing.
See you next week!