A few weeks ago Freya and I spent a fun morning with my friend Kate and her lovely children walking in the woods.
As we are freelance journalists our work was naturally a key topic of conversation but we both also have aspirations to write a novel (Kate’s already published a fabulous non-fiction book).
That day, we decided that, to spur each other on, we would make a commitment to write a minimum of 500 words a week (of the same story), which seemed doable for two busy work-from-home mums, and send it to each other on a Friday – hence the title, the Friday 500.
SlowRunnerGirl, who writes a fab blog, commented yesterday that she found it easier to break things up in a bid to reach the end goal – and writing 500 words a week seems like a way to do this (let’s not think about how long it will take us to actually write a novel).
Anyway, I thought I’d post my first 500 (ish) words in the hopes of some feedback but also just in case you’re a would-be writer looking for a way to get started. Join us in the challenge!
This story is brand new, started this week – although I’ve had the idea for a while.
An unexpected phone call in the middle of the night was never going to be good news – although little did Maddie Warner know just how much three rushed sentences were about to change her life.
She had barely said a croaky hello before her best friend, Alissa, launched into: “Someone overheard our conversation. They’ve printed it in a magazine. You’re on the front.”
The final words were so high pitched that even the neighbourhood dogs would struggle to understand her.
“Magazine? What? Liss, is that you?” Maddie checked the time on the bedside clock. 3am. She groaned, slumping back on her fluffy pillows.
Alissa started to ramble about coming off a night shift at the hospital and walking past the 24-hour newsagents.
Such a warm, comforting voice, Maddie thought, drifting back to sleep.
The mention of her soon to be ex-husband had the same impact as if someone had chucked a bucket of ice-cold water over her head.
She sat bolt upright, instantly and completely awake, frantically replaying what Alissa had already said.
“Wait, not that conversation?” She asked. Please, no.
It was all her nightmares combined.
To her, Matthew would always be her first and, so far, only love. Her first, but not only, heartbreak.
To the world, though, he was Matthew Armstrong, Hollywood darling and A-list celebrity. And she? She didn’t exist – or at least she hadn’t done. Maddie had been written out of his history. A wife, even an estranged one, didn’t fit in with his leading-man image. And she’d been fine with that. Sort of.
“What does it say, Liss?” Did she really want to know?
“The short story? You never stopped loving him and want him back”.
“What?” Now it was Maddie’s turn to communicate with the dogs.
She swore. This was bad. Really, really bad. But it had the potential to be worse.
“Anything about…” Maddie broke off, she didn’t need to say it, knowing Alissa would get what she was talking about.
She released the breath she wasn’t aware she was holding. That was something, at least. He wouldn’t find out via a trashy gossip magazine.
“What are you going to do?” Alissa asked.
First she needed to see it for herself. Then? Well, then she would decide. Maybe he wouldn’t see the story? Maybe he wouldn’t care even if he did; he was divorcing her, after all.
That’s why she found herself outside the newsagents at 5am before it had even opened. Still in her PJs with a coat thrown over the top, she stamped her feet to keep warm in the pre-dawn darkness.
“You after a job, Maddie?” Rich, the newsagent asked, as he unlocked the front door with a bewildered look on his face.
“No, er…” What could she say? “I couldn’t sleep and just, really wanted a magazine to read.”
It sounded lame even to her ears and Rich, who had served her nothing but chocolate, wine and the occasional pint of milk (in that order) in the three years since she’d moved to the area, gave her a look that suggested he felt the same.
“Right, well, you’d better come in then,” he said, motioning her past him and into the small shop that looked even smaller since it was crammed with as many items as he could get his hands on.
“Got to compete with the big boys,” he often said, even if it meant sacrificing the natural light from the windows to pile things high.
Stepping over a tray of baked beans on the floor waiting to be put out and weaving around a stand of reading glasses, which she was pretty sure no one had ever even touched, Maddie made it to the magazine section.
She frantically scanned the shelves for what she was after.
And there it was.
Or, rather, there she was.
Wow. Could they have taken a more unflattering photograph of her? She had clearly just left off from her mum’s restaurant and was still wearing her white and black uniform -along with a shift’s worth of food stains. Not for the first time she wondered why her mum insisted on white shirts.
She’d obviously just pulled her auburn hair out of the bun she wore at work and it hung dull and limp to just below her shoulders.
There wasn’t a scrap of make-up left on her face – although she wasn’t sure why she bothered to put any on in the first place as it just seemed to evaporate when she was in and out of the heat of the kitchen. Her skin looked pale, like porcelain, almost translucent.
The photographer, who she couldn’t believe she hadn’t spotted, had caught her looking directly into his lens, her light blue eyes intense and more than a little sad.
She looked…what was the word? Tired? No, that wasn’t quite right. Exhausted? Getting closer. Ghostlike? Yes, that was it. And to be fair, wasn’t that often how she felt too? Like for the last few years she was floating above her own life; seeing it all from a distance. No emotions. No connections. No pain.
And then there was the headline.
“Exclusive: Hollywood Hunk’s Secret Wife!”
To be continued….