Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Story: Winding

Hi there. This week's story is a non-horror instalment of the further adventures of Gina and Francis. Yes, Gina was called Sophie last time, but that's changed. She's Gina now. The explanation is two-fold...and I'll explain after the story. If you read the last two stories featuring them (here and here) you'll know what happened previously, and what Gina's feeling guilty about. If not, well, it's not essential. Or is it? Is there a twist? Probably not. But enough of my rambling. Enjoy the story.


Gina’s skin was itching. Behind her ears, on her hair-line, on her wrists. It happened when she was irritated. She was always somehow hurt by the fact that for most people the idea of someone getting under your skin was just an expression, but for Gina it was a very real symptom of being incredibly pissed off. She’d thought about seeing a doctor about it in her teens but had since dismissed that idea as probably a bit excessive. He’d have only told her to calm down. And she didn’t want to calm down.

It didn’t help that she knew that she didn’t really have a very good reason for being pissed off, or at least for being pissed off with Francis. Francis drove in silence. He knew she was upset. He wasn’t stupid. He was also not stupid enough to give her an opening to yell at him. He didn’t want to have their first big argument; especially not while trying to navigate the ridiculously narrow country lanes that were the only way from her irritating parents’ house back to the motorway and back to London. If he could just get through this drive in silence then maybe he could postpone dealing with whatever was upsetting her to a later date. Any later date.

And she knew that he was pissed off with her as well, though he wasn’t saying anything. He hadn’t said anything, and probably wouldn’t unless she prodded him. And yes, she had killed his gerbil. She hadn’t meant to snap that little rodent’s spine like a fucking toothpick but if it hadn’t bitten her in a fit of absurd psychotic terror she wouldn’t have brought it crashing down on the kitchen surface and ended its sad little life. He had accepted her apology but she knew, she could tell that he was still angry.

But she knew it was ridiculous to be angry at him for trying to be nice. She wasn’t angry at him for repressing his feelings and telling her that it was OK; because she knew that he wanted it to be OK that she’d murdered his pet. She knew it was ridiculous to resent him for trying to smooth things over. But her parents had sensed that something was wrong, they must have done, otherwise they wouldn’t have acted the way that they did.

Francis had a couple of ideas why her parents had behaved the way that they had. They had seen him shuffle in, tired after a long drive and not much sleep. But he wasn’t hungover. He’d resented the fact that Gina’s dad had winked at him and muttered “rough night?” like he was in on some imaginary secret that involved shots of sambuca and music that Francis had no interest in. Gina’s mum had taken one look at him and smiled politely, and had remained very polite for the whole day. Any questions that had been directed at him had been so impossibly bland that Francis had only really established that his name was Francis, he lived and worked in London, he had parents, and had two brothers and a sister somewhere else in London.

Gina had noticed that Francis hadn’t opened up. And she knew that it wasn’t really his fault. He was nervous; of course he’d been nervous. But he could have made more of an effort. But why had her mum been so...quiet? Dad had at least made an effort to be friendly but it had been in that painful way where he was so clearly trying to be matey. He’d completely ignored Mum as well. Hadn’t said word one to her, hadn’t helped in the kitchen at all.

Francis hadn’t wanted to visit Gina’s parents, especially when he had found out that she was an only child. He knew that he would walk in as the person who was doing terrible sweaty things with the light of their life, their reason for getting up in the morning, their precious little child. But of course he had to go, he knew that. It was only fair. To their credit, they hadn’t said anything. But they hadn’t quite made him feel at home, either.

They had invited them up for a visit. They’d rung Gina the Sunday before and told her to bring her boyfriend up for a visit. They’d said that they liked the way she talked about him. They had said that they thought that they should meet him. So why had they been like that? Mum had been so quiet and Dad had seemed determined to talk about everything apart from how things were going at home. She felt her skin itching again and felt the urge to say something, anything or she’d start scratching the window glass.

“You’re still pissed off that I killed your gerbil.”

“I’m not. I told you.”

Too quickly. They both knew he’d answered too quickly.

“Then why were you so...why were you like that today? Why were you so rude to my parents?”

Now that was going to have consequences. She’d opened herself up there, that was untrue and he could prove it.

“Sorry, in what way was I rude?”

She turned her head and looked out of the window. He stared straight ahead. He didn’t want to argue but it had been a shitty day and she clearly wanted to get into it. But they were supposed to have gone to see his parents first, before she’d got the jump on him. He’d been in the room when she’d got the phone call. He’d seen the expression on her face, that expression she made where she was clearly trying to decide whether something was a good idea or not. But that was what had happened.

“You didn’t say anything to my mum.”

“And she said fuck-all to me.”

“You could have made an effort.”

“I did make an effort, actually. But your dad was too busy trying to get me to go for a pint for me to actually get a word in with her.”

She giggled. She didn’t mean to but she did. He didn’t hear it. It sounded like she was coughing in that way she did when she found something both surprising and irritating. So he pressed on.

“And thanks for inviting me to such a delightfully awkward family Sunday dinner. If it's any consolation it doesn't seem like there'll be too many more.”

He stopped. He’d gone too far. He'd had more to say, worse, but that was horrible enough. Too horrible. He knew it, and regretted it. She was looking at him and he could see that he’d struck a nerve. He had to smooth this over; he hadn’t wanted to do that. She hadn’t wanted to do that either, but she didn't want to argue anymore. She could only think of all the other places she would rather be than here.

“Gina, I'm sorry. Are your parents OK?”

“I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know. I’m sorry too. Can we both just...shut the fuck up for a bit?”

So they sat in silence as Francis drove and tried to decide how long it would be before she would be alright with him telling her that he was lost.


Hello there. So, hope you enjoyed the story. I'd planned to write another Gina and Francis story but I was thinking about putting something else up. But I wanted to write an argument and they were due for one. I liked the idea of a couple having an argument despite not wanting to, the argument really needing to happen. I also wanted to show them both being childish and impetuous. I was just in the mood for writing a childish, nasty argument. However, because it's characters I want to continue with, I couldn't write it so nastily that they couldn't recover so it made sense for the argument to be covering something else. There'll be another short story with stand-alone characters who take their argument to the worst possible conclusion coming at some point I'm sure.

Right, the name change. Well, if it was a novel, I'd have hung onto it, but while I'm still getting to grips with characters, the names change quite frequently until they become properly fixed in my mind. Francis and Gina are still sort of in flux, less so than they were a few weeks ago, but there are a lot of details that I haven't pinned down yet. Basically, I plucked two names I liked out of the air. Then a few days passed and I started to worry that I plucked the name Sophie out of the air because of similar characters. So out goes Sophie, and Gina came in. Gina fits a bit better, I think. The name-change actually helped.

The project I'm working on with Ben Sheppard is going well, though there's still quite some ways to go before the next stage, which will be finding people to help us with it. I think it could be really good, but it requires a lot of attention, effort and a hell of a lot of hard work. Which is only right, really, if you think about it. But we're still near the start of the process. Exciting times.

Oh, I did actually have a question for the people who read this blog. I'm thinking of putting up a few excerpts from my longer writing. I was going to put a bit from the sequel to (although I think in current terminology it would be a "sidequel") The Novel that Nobody Wanted. It would be stuff that I think would make sense out of context, but I was wondering whether that would interest you, or if you just want short stories. I may put one or two up anyway, just to see what kind of reaction they get.

Anyway, see you next week with some writing about writing. Hope you liked the story.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jonny, as usual I have no problems with the story. I'm perfectly happy for longer excerpts - it would be interesting to see more overarching plotlines (although the whole Francis and Gina thing kinda does that anyway). I can't see why anyone would complain about you doing it either.