Fiction is a peculiar beast, and I’ve been enjoying it hugely, though I’ve come under some accusations as a writer – namely from Piper (who gave me the idea for this post), when she took a word I invented to apply to someone else’s writing, and told me that I was equally guilty of ‘cliffhangering’.
So yes – not only did I neologise an entirely new verb, I wrote this just to prove her point – that I can leave you in a tizzy of suspense, with the BEST of them. You’re welcome.
I stretched my arms back behind my head, feeling the joints pop as my sleepy muscles sprang back into use after long hours of inactivity. There was a lingering feeling of wine around the edges of my mind, blurring my peripherals and making the room seem cosy and bright.
Susie grinned and threw a cushion in my direction, both of us laughing as it walloped softly into my face and plopped down into my lap. I scooped it up and threw it back half-heartedly, rolling my eyes as I missed and it glanced off her onto the floor.
“Go on with you”, she said “You were meant to be gone hours ago. I’m not sure you shouldn’t just stay the night at this point.”
I hemmed and hawed, but decided that the idea of waking up early when she left for work (I thanked my lucky stars again that my job didn’t require Saturday shifts) with a muzzy head and no clean clothes was singularly unattractive, and that I’d rather make the 20 minute cycle-ride home, even though it was 3am.
The evening had been planned for ages – her crazy shifts and my need to keep stepping in with family conspiring together to deny us of more than swift phonecalls or snatched conversations in passing at the netball courts (neither of us willing to give up the game to spend time together – why, when we could play and chat?). This night was a long-awaited indulgence, and we’d clasped each minute greedily.
We began with grocery shopping, preferring to wander the supermarket aisles discussing what we’d cook, as a prelude to the whole night. Take-away was fun, and good in its place, but we wanted our meal to reflect the time we planned to share – a lovingly prepared, purposefully made, delicious meal accompanied by fine wine (alright, fineish) and deep, indulgent conversation.
Giddy with the freedom of the evening, we’d giggled our way through the checkout queue before returning to her house to make use of her ample kitchen; vast, glittering expanses of marble and a terribly fancy ‘kitchen island’ (did I mention she has to work Saturdays?) showing off the perfect decor and pots of fresh herbs at the windowsills.
Priorities: enormous wine glasses brought out before the bags were even unpacked, and we solemnly observed the glorious pop and glug as the bottle was opened and its golden nectar decanted, simmering with fragrant, intoxicating notes.
Glittering utensils flashed like our conversation as we chopped and prepared our rainbow of food. We talked like affected 1950’s housewives, had pirate-style knife fights and somehow both ended up with vegetable peelings down our necks and in our hair.
The meal itself was incredible, and eventually we staggered, stuffed with fresh flavour and ready for slaughter (or slumber), to the lounge, where the bright sofa awaited with open arms to cradle us as we continued to talk. The pace became somnolent and the tone buzzed low, like sun-drugged honeybees as sleep threatened to overtake us. Then one of us remembered the dessert, and we both squealed with delight, leaping up to run helter-skelter back to the kitchen to locate bowls and spoons and ice-cream.
Late-night-fright TV accompanied the frozen sweetness of chocolate salted-caramel (topped with hot popcorn, for good measure) and we chuckled our way through several increasingly bad horror shorts. We turned the sound down to continue chatting when a documentary about body-snatchers came on, inspired to begin a flight of fancy about Halloween costumes when we saw their ridiculous tall hats and masked faces.
The night had drawn on, our conversation becoming more and more disjointed (yet still deeply meaningful, and laden with intent) as time went by, culminating with my stretch, and the incredibly half-assed cushion-fight.
“Much’s I hate to love you and make you leave me,” she said “If you aren’t going to stay, could you make the ‘going’ rather quick, because my brain’s about to fall out of my head from tiredness, and I have to maintain at least a passable pretence of a competent professional, tomorrow morning…”
“You’re such a charmer,” I retorted “All sweetness and light until I rebuff your overnight advances and then I’m out and back on the streets quicker than you can blink”
The next cushion was thrown with more force, and the next, as I gathered my bags and chattels together, making a big show of weathering the onslaught.
There were no drawn-out goodbyes – we’d see one another again (fleetingly) before the week was out – and I was quickly on my way, wheels purring across the damp tarmac as I glided through pools of effulgent, acid orange poured out by the street lights.
The woods lay ahead, and a decision; to cut through and save myself several miles, or to stick to the streets and pedal the extra. I could feel my bed beckoning, telling me that no-one would be out at half-past three in the morning in the middle of the woodland, and I bumped my bike off the road onto the cycle path and left the light behind me, entering a chill avenue redolent with the smell of old leaves.
I barely noticed the mist until I cycled out into the large field around which the woods had been planted so many hundreds of years ago, when this was common grazing ground. It had collected, like a fog-machine gone berserk and unstoppable. My field of vision narrowed to mere metres, and I slowed to a crawl, watching the ghostly cone of my front light become visible in its entirety, the flashing red from my rear light dancing behind me.
I shuddered and wished I could speed up, suddenly wishing I’d not watched the documentary, swearing I could see the tall, cone-hatted, blank-masked body-snatchers just beyond my field of vision, cloaked in swirling mist, prompted by my fevered imagination and lack of sleep.
A little further down the path, circling it, blocking my way and closing in behind, the cone-hatted figures solidified and began walking towards me…
What do you mean, “When’s Part Two?”
There is no ‘Part Two’…that’s why it’s a CLIFFHANGER!