Tag Archives: writers

No Way Out – the Second Installment

13 Apr

Unedited first draft. Please offer your thoughts within the comments. First installment can be found here. remember this is your project as much as mine so we are looking for a) further plot developments b) inaccuracies c) HONEST opinions and anything else you want to add. If you haven’t been involved to date, check out the page above with a full list of related posts.

‘Take a seat,’ Charles commanded as Steve shut the door  behind him, before even reaching the round back chair, deliberately chosen to be uncomfortable and uninviting Charles said ‘I won’t dance with my words. We have to let you go.’

Steve finally sat, stunned. Surely Charles was having him on.

‘You may as well as clear your desk immediately. Your contacts have been transferred already. If you speak with Sharon, she has all your documents.’ Charles turned to his computer and began typing.

Steve tried to find his voice, ‘But..’

Sighing Charles turned to Steve. ‘Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Your sales record does not make you invincible. Our staff have to give 100%. Shut the door on your way out.’

Steve did just that. As he walked across the sales floor, he was reminded of the scene from Jerry Maguire. Tempted to ask who was him? But he already knew the answer. It was obvious. All of these people, the ones that had shared his champagne, frequented lunches with, they all smirked and turned away. It was laughable. He didn’t feel anything except pity. Pity for these people that worked for a company that didn’t care, and in turn had become soulless themselves. He knew their greed. He knew nothing mattered accept that next sale. He also knew they wouldn’t get it. There had only ever been one reason for his success, one reason why he stood above the rest, quite simply, he gave a damn.

Steve grabbed his jacket and keys, and left the office. No hugs, no farewells, and no regrets. They had done him a favour. It was obvious he and Poppy were entering a new stage, and what better way than to enter it without the trash of the past.

***

Steve ran down the stairs scooping Michael from the floor he ran from the house. Mindful of how sensitive Michael is, Steve bundled him into the car, with promises of a surprise.

‘What surprise Daddy?’ Michael beamed, the features on his face highlighted by a rosy glow.

Thinking on his feet Steve responded cheerily, ‘How does a play in the park followed by the nugget shop or pizza sound?’ Michael cheered and began to chat incessantly. Steve, as hard as he tried he could not listen, the images of the past few minutes crashed like a cannon ball around his head.

Pausing in traffic, Michael’s voice broke his thoughts ‘…and what about the shower Daddy? Didi the man fix it?’

‘What?’

‘Mummy said the man was fixing the shower. Did he do it?’

Steve swerved the car into the parking space. Snapping his seat belt he turned to Michael’ we’re here. Last one to the swings is a monkey.’

Sitting on the bench, Steve watched Michael play with two other children. He thanked his lucky stars that this was the case. He hated to admit it, but right now was not the time for him to be with Michael. He didn’t have the capacity to be a caring loving father, broken husband and recent redundee all at once. His luck couldn’t get any worse. But this wasnt his fault. He didn’t do all of this. It was her. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t rationale her behaviour.

It had taken him what now felt like a lifetime to realise what was happening before his eyes. Thinking rationally, he was sure it was barely seconds, but he wouldn’t stand in court and swear on it. The ruffled bed, the strewn clothes, the stranger with his wife before his eyes. When she turned, and realised he was stood there, on the threshold of the bedroom, she had smiled, a slow smirk of a smile, it hit him hard, it was the second time that day he had seen that look on the lips of those he was meant to be connected to.

The words had stuck in his throat, the emotions strangling him. He had connected with her eyes. They wasn’t cold, or filled with hate. No love no compassion, just empty. Needless to say he had never seen such blankness in her, or anyone else for that matter. It was like the life was gone.

Maybe that was it. Maybe the loss of their child had taken everything from her. Maybe there was more to her grief than what had been on show. It was often said that you hide the most from those you hold most dear. But, the smirk, the very deliberate smirk, she knew what she was doing. The whys where’s and how longs were questioned to be answered later. For now, all he knew for certain was that she felt no remorse for what she had done.

****

Poppy sat on the bed, wrapped in her dressing gown, knees hugged to her chest. The silence in the house was just that, silent. Outside the clouds moved across, the dusk beginning to settle around the house like the dusk did every night. There was no comfort in the darkening skies, just as there was nothing to hear in the silence. The world was, at least within the house, just nothing.

Knowing steve would return soon, had to return soon, did not drive Poppy to move. The voice that still gave a damn told her she should at least get dressed , remake the bed, but the naughty voice, the one that she had indulged for too many months now told her to forget it, what was done is done, and finally so.

She could already predict the conversations that were soon to take place, both to her face and behind her back. It will be the shock of what she had done, how her and steve had always been such a strong couple, think of Michael.

Well it was Michael she was thinking of. If it hadn’t happened now, it would have happened later. If left they would have argued and Michael would have witnessed that. He would have heard the awful words, the terrible accusations, felt the tension. As for those that would argue she should have tried, well she had. But it was quite simple, if you didn’t love someone, then no matter how hard you try, you cannot wave tinkerbells magic wand and be in wonderland. There may be such a thing as happily ever after, but it would never be with her and Steve. Cheating may have been cowardice, but it will certainly provide the opportunity to escape.

Looking around the room, Poppy critiqued it. From the cream and brown walls, to the thick pile carpet, to the intricately wove bedding, Poppy knew she was surrounded by luxury that very few could afford. It was a risk she had taken, but she knew these things, as much as she adored them, were not enough.  She remembered, she had practically begged Steve for the hardwood shutters at the window, the thought of not having them , not having the perfect home had just been too much for her to handle. How shallow she had been. And yet, she had been online, she had spoken to women in unhappy marriages, and all they wanted was just what she had, just what she was leaving. She didn’t think any less of these women, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what life would have been like had her and Steve been hard up, but what she did know, even without money worries, steve was not enough.

Standing, Poppy walked across the room, and swung open her wardrobe door. Stepping inside she saw the plaque that still made her laugh out loud, ‘All men are idiots. Better to be married to an idiot with money than without’. This time however, she wasn’t laughing from the memory of the purchase, or at the saying men are idiots but just the irony that she was married to an idiot with money.

Needless to say Steve hated the plaque, he wasn’t too fond of the ‘what if the hokey cokey is all its all about?’ plaq either, but they were her guilty pleasure, and they could be found in her wardrobe only. Her little sanctuary. As much as she loved her house, and frankly, who couldn’t, sometimes she wished she could be brave enough to throw some colour or quirkiness in. Conformity was where she had been at since being with Steve, but today was the first day that was going to change all that. She could feel it, like a bubble of recklessness fizzing around her insides, it escaped in the form of laughter, freedom, her mouth salivated, her eyes glinted with mischievousness, this was it, the time had finally come, feeling breathless Poppy danced to the music in her head, pausing to chew her lip, suppressing the scream of excitement.

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Just Because I Write It, Doesn’t Mean I Do It

11 Apr

Yesterdays post was about learning about what you don’t know, to write what you do know. Today we are talking about the fear of telling what you dont actually know, but your reader believing this is your experience.

(That was quite a mouthful for an opening paragraph, apologies for that).

This is, I believe, is a rookie writers fear. I say that knowing full well I still awake in the night panicking that I have written something that may make others think differently of me.

Who cares you say, what does it matter? You are a writer, your job is to tell a story, it can’t always be ‘truly you’. But you must write what you know, and you must give a certain amount of your self to each  story – at least one of the characters must be you.

I think my head may explode with all the contradictory information out there.

Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it.

Just because you write about airhead blonde girls who have a vocabulary of five words doesn’t mean that is a reflection of you.

Just because you write about a world where everyone has three hands and the sun is blue, doesn’t mean you have been there.

Just because you write about the death of a child and it makes your readers cry doesn’t show you are sharing a secret that no one knows about.

All of this, and everything else you can think of simply says one thing, you are a writer, and to be honest, if your reader believes you lived it, it means you are one of the best.

You can’t always write about what you know, as per yesterdays post, you can’t always tap into someone elses memory, but what you can use is your imagination, mixed in with a bit of empathy.

In my mind, all this leaves is our own demons, our own self doubt I guess. Can it be likened to our multiple personalities? You know, our face for friends, and our face for family? Is it the same demon that says I can’t post that on Facebook, I don’t want (INSERT NAME) seeing that. At what point, as a writer, do you have to accept by writing we are giving away more than the average joe. As a writer you aren’t tight-lipped, you are always talking, every time someone reads your work, your voice is speaking.

Have I lost you?

The point is, all of that contradictory information is correct. Writing is not like being a hairdresser. At best a hair cut lasts 4-6 weeks, a story lasts forever. You may have a good ability with a pair of scissors, but when writing you use your life, your experience, your memories, your observations, your heart your soul (add more cheese here). Every story is a bit of you, just not the whole you.

Writing What You Know?

10 Apr

Write what you know – Natasha McNeely spoke about this on her blog titled ‘Life Experiences: Why Not add Them To Your Book’.

Read the post, Natasha is very clever and has an idea to get you used to writing about, well, what you know.

I love writing about what I know, and for many writers that I have spoken with, we have in common a love for music for bringing past feelings back to the fore of our minds, to really encapsulate those emotions.

What if though, we need to write about something we have not experienced? How do we create those emotions, how can we make that scene not just real in our minds, but that it translates to the page also.

Obviously the first thing we need to do is research the particular topic. An example would be I was writing a YA novel with an autistic protagonist, not only did I need to have an understanding of autism, but for this piece, it involved a young offenders institute. I needed to know how such a place would affect a teenage boy with autism, reactions for both the protagonist, and those around him.

I have two full notebooks filled with information on this subject. It wasn’t enough though, my writing was limited as it was imagining an emotion, I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it, it was just…bland.

This can be overcome by following step two, speaking with someone who has been in a similar situation.

There was one problem however, I neither knew a teenage boy with autism, or even just a teenage boy who had been in a young offenders. This particular piece has been put to one side. I may pick it up again one day, I like to think when I am a well-known author and people believe in my writing skills enough for me to ask them about such personal issues. as it stands, I’m just Ellie, wannabe writer but probably just a dreamer.

That doesn’t mean to say I havent employed these techniques elsewhere. Now I will share with you how you can steal those memories, those emotions, and make them your own.

I was writing a novel (unfinished, sigh) that involved a chase across Europe. I have visited many places, but to make the novel more authentic, I needed more experiences – I couldn’t afford to travel around for a while, so hijacking memories was my only option.

Fortunately for me, some friends of mine had found themselves stranded in Europe at the time of the Icelandic volcanic ash. On a mission to get home, they flew short flights, and took train journeys, spending each night in a different hostel.

Sitting down, I asked them to walk me through each hostel. From standing outside right through to the small little details such as the cracks on the wall. I wanted to know about staff, other visitors, the little tidbits of conversation overheard when walking by. It sounds simple, but this task can be somewhat tiresome. Some people just can’t get around to the idea of sharing every detail, thinking that, ‘it was tatty but friendly, oh and the walls were orange’ is enough information for you, but eventually they give you so much you couldn’t possibly include it all. Once you have gone through this process once, they are always eager to share, how many people truly want to hear another’s experience down to the finest detail? They get as much from this process as you, the writer does.

One word of warning, if they offer to show you photos, do NOT accept. It will completely ruin the process, that place you have just imagined will be stripped back to reality and the haze will be gone. Keep the haze, the haze is good.

No Way Out – The First Installment

20 Mar

After several false starts, I finally have the first installment of ‘No Way Out’ that I would like to share with you.

It has not received even what I class as a first edit, as I am not ready, nor have I written enough to begin that process. So take it as you will. I shall continue to write in this format and share it with you. remember this is OUR project so if you can see me heading in a direction that you don’t feel works, or perhaps my characters are unbelievable, please shout it out.

The tears poured down her face. The pain, or was it just discomfort was more than she had ever dared imagine possible. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Surely the guilt of her actions was enough.

The nurses were kind enough. If she allowed herself to think it, she may even say caring, but how they couldn’t be judging her right now she didn’t know.

As she was wheeled into the next room, she kept her eyes closed. Slowly they helped her into a wheelchair, and then pushed her into a lift upstairs to a room to recover. They all spoke to one another, jovially talking about their plans for the weekend whilst she sat there praying for a distraction. The distraction never came, but who would be listening to her right now. They had said when she came in she was lucky, normally the bible bashers were hanging around outside, but maybe, just maybe, that would have made her feel better. At least it would have been a sign that this just wasn’t OK.

***

Steve busied himself in the kitchen. He could hear CBeebies coming from the lounge; the jolly jingles a contrast to his and his wife’s feelings of despair. Gently stirring the tomato soup Steve berated himself. Just the day before, he and his boss had shared a bottle of champagne in the office. Once again Steve had made salesman of the year for the UK, and was shortly to hear if he had indeed been awarded the coveted international prize. Without mortgage, debt, but a beautiful wife, a three year old son and a recently confirmed pregnancy, Steve felt as if the world had turned on its axis.

The celebrations had come too early, just seeing Poppy’s face as he had walked in the door the evening before had confirmed this error.

Pouring the hot soup into a bowl, Steve felt a movement behind him.

‘Daddy’ questioned the small voice of his son, ‘why is mummy crying?’

Crouching down low, Steve pulled Michael into him, ‘Mummy is just poorly, she just needs lots of hugs to make her better’

Seeming to accept this answer, Michael pulled away and went back through to the lounge. Steve followed with the soup, hoping that these little gestures would help make everything OK.

***

‘Will you just go back to work?’ Poppy hissed at Steve, the frustration of the past five week’s nonstop companionship smacking the air

Steve turned to Poppy, confusion on his face, ‘But I thought you needed me here?’

‘Just go.’

Poppy was seething. Unable to return to work herself until Steve stopped fussing, Poppy felt as if the world had been torn away from her. Isolated, lonely yet always in company, Poppy just craved normality. Actually, she just craved her time to be the person she had always been, the person that was only ever allowed to escape at work. The person that since meeting Steve had been locked away. It wasn’t his fault, well, he never asked to change, but when she did, and she lived her life as he did his, he never commented, he never questioned why, he just allowed it to happen. Life was all about what he did and what he wanted. There wasn’t room at home for Poppy.

***

The message on the email read,

My office. Ten mins.

Steve looked through his own office window, across the sea of administrative staff and into Charles’ office. Catching his eye, Steve nodded at Charles.

Steve felt reassured. In the past Steve had fretted over this type of email, back in the day before the awards. Since then, Steve understood Charles had one way of communicating, good or bad he was never anything other than brief. There was no room for additional use of words.

Starred on his electronic calendar was an event one week ahead. It marked Steves ten years service with the company. Within the first two years, Steve had been awarded regional sales rep, by year five; he had won international sales rep. His figures stacked up. The only thing that stood between Steve and his promotion was Charles. His time would come, five years he reckoned on. Sure, he had been offered various positions, with worldwide locations. The type of position most could only ever dream of, but he had chosen to decline. His wife, the sweet, kind yet viciously ambitious Poppy had received her own promotion and there was no chance that Steve would jeopardise her career. They were a partnership and that meant both at home and work they were equal.

How did this get published??

15 Feb

Taking a break from the No Way Out challenge, I thought today I would discuss the inappropriate use of language.

I say discuss, I am guessing this will turn out as a bit of a rant, but I will let you be the judge.

Now I am the first person to readily admit I often get words wrong, sound like a cockney, and I do tend to use 50 words when one will suffice, not to mention the swearing that tumbles out of my mouth as soon as I am out of work and child free.

Does this come across in my writing? Sometimes yes. You can tell when I have rushed my writing, it tends to be full of insignificant details, on this blog WordPress alarms go off left right and centre over my use of the passive voice, and I often miss my point.

However, when I am writing seriously, and I am taking the time to edit I am freaking amazing. It is no coincidence that I walked away with 84% in my dissertation equivalent. Writing is a skill, one we would all love to have, one many of us strive for. Unfortunately very few have a natural ability.

Most of us, and I include myself in this, have to work hard, understand we are not perfect, and respect the opinion of others when it just isn’t right. We must not just learn from the best, we must learn from each other (obviously in this circle we are all the best so its win win ha!).

From this hard work, for a select few, comes publication, a joyous moment in a writing career. That acknowledgement that you have done something, and done it well. Afterall, if you couldn’t fully develop your characters, have a full plot with natural subplots, have a way with words etc your manuscript would have ended up on the slush pile right?

WRONG!

It is absolutely shocking to me, that I know of so many very talented writers that are still unable to get published, when Waterstones (and all major bookstores, not to mention supermarkets) are stocking the most utter dreadful drivel.

Now before anyone gets on their high horse, I am not talking about genres. Each to their own is what I say, I am talking about writing style/ability/talent…

I have just finished reading a book. It was most definitely chick lit, and it was most certainly a light fun read. However I had a major problem. Well several actually.

The plot focused around a famous family with three daughters. We discovered the life of the parents, the careers and loves of the children, plus the two employees, the boyfriends (and girlfriends), the extended friends and family.

So many characters together resulted in a fight for presence on the page. We never truly got to know anyone, we just accepted the telling of the traits. Momentous occasions seemed to be brushed over, and frequently we were built up expecting something major, for it to just fall flat. Quite often all I was thinking was ‘is that it, all that fuss for this?’

I can’t honestly say we had a protagonist. I don’t believe I truly connected with any of it, but it WAS a page turner…to begin.

I think I was about mid way when I was shocked at the sudden use of the word ‘cock’. It wasn’t that the story hadn’t led to it, it just wasn’t required. It felt like it was on the page because hey this is chick lit and we use language like this, but the reality was, it did not suit the style of writing. After this first incident, it became more frequent the turns of phrase were inappropriately used. I felt that I had this confused expression until the end of story, which ultimately was a let down. It was kinda like reading a celeb mag but having no idea who the celeb was you were reading about.

I think my biggest issue is that I want to stamp my feet like a toddler and shout it’s not fair. Because it really isn’t. This book was poorly executed. It must have passed through so many hands before going to print how was it not picked up that this was just not good enough….and I am certain there are many examples out there that are even worse!

For me it makes a mockery of what us non published writers go through. Why bother plotting, planning, considering, researching, editing…just go write like an eight year old that is trying to impress the grown ups, that’ll do.

Writers Wobble

8 Feb

Writers Wobble, that is the name I am giving to my current state of mind.

I have posted my intentions, the first buzz of the project has passed, and it is time to begin. I read the comments with intrigue, some of the questions asked were the same as I had already considered, and then bam, the wobble begins.

What if this project does not have enough strength to it? What if I do not have it in me to complete this? (even with your help) What if I get midway and give up?

I think that last thought is the one we fear the most. That fear we may have to walk away, and the consideration that perhaps rather than let ourselves down, we just don’t bother starting.

And we may have to walk away. I think this is one of the hardest things that writers must come to terms with. Sometimes, the idea just wont work, no matter how hard you work at it. Maybe it is too complex, maybe just too simple, or maybe the timing is just wrong. Until you get going you won’t know, and that is why you mustn’t quit too soon.

Writers wobble is definitely real. You must not underestimate it. Those of us with oodles of belief in our writing may not suffer with it as strongly, those that perhaps lack the confidence could potentially allow it to destroy a real passion before the fire has truly been ignited.

It doesn’t go away either. I know many writers that hold off sharing their work, for many reasons, but ultimately it is that wobble, that fear. Ask them what they are worried about and they don’t know. For most they understand it is irrational, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

I do believe the wobble is greater the longer you leave it between projects. I also believe that without at least a momentary wobble, your writing shows an air of arrogance (or maybe that’s wishful thinking – just let me have that one as i reassure myself that the wobble state is a worthwhile tool for us writers).

So how do you get through writers wobble? Have you any tips as to how this can be put to good use?

Coming up this week – I answer the questions and pose more in response to your comments following the start of the project found here.

No Way Out – The Challenge

6 Feb

 

Below I have posted a short story. It is one some of you may have seen in the past. The plan, is to take that story, and turn it into a one hour drama for TV, with your help. A collaborative project, where I am looking for ideas as to how the plot shall develop, whilst posting the stages I am completing.

If something came of it then that would be great, but primarily, it is a step by step process for us all to enjoy, share ideas, and see a full piece of work be completed. A challenge to show that writing does not have to be a solitary pursuit, and that we all have skills in different areas. Plus it may help combat this dont trust other writers attitudes that can sometimes appera through blog world.

I  came up with the idea because I see those in the know share how you get through a project, without actually showing a complete example. that is not to say they aren’t doing an excellent job, I have often popped in to different sites to grab hints, but just sometimes I want more, and I can see others want more also.

This will be a real challenge for me. I am expecting criticisms for my steps, and possibly some arguments about how the plot develops. namely because I am somewhat of a control freak, so this will be an exercise of letting go, learning to accept that just because it is my idea, others are able to give useful insights and advice as to how looking at parts from another perspective can make something truly amazing.

So this weeks task is to read through the story, and identify the parts that make you want to ask questions. And if you wish to share them, which questions come to mind.

NO WAY OUT

Dressed in black jeans and a navy hooded sweatshirt, Steve walked towards the bank. The smell of fried onions and hot dogs filled the air mingling with the smell of his sweat. He really didn’t want to do this but his hands were being forced.  Like a bomb ticking, he could hear the town clock, pushing him forward.  The once cold loaded gun was now warm and clammy tucked down the back of his trousers. Steve could feel his pace slowing. Conscious that he couldn’t afford to lose time; he forced himself forward, pushing the door to the bank open.

As Steve stepped in, he pulled the hood up and over his head. The scent of polish and perfumed air freshener, familiar to Steve from previous visits to the bank, was trapped inside the fabric of his hood; the smell so overpowering his head began to spin. The clock said 16:09. Steve approached the counter.

She was young, maybe 19. Her skin was creamy, and Steve was instantly drawn to her. Her hair was mahogany and framed her face. It emphasised the deep brown of her eyes that pulled Steve in. Smiling, she asked,

‘Can I help you sir?’ She seemed genuine, shame really, they could do with more people like that in banks. Normally they were so stand offish.

Almost in a whisper, Steve lent forward and pushed his blue bag towards the cashier. ‘Fill it up’ Looking confused, the cashier smiled again, ‘Sorry sir, can you repeat that?’

She really wasn’t getting this. ‘I said fill it up, NOW’

Hands shaking she began to fill up the bag, none of the other cashiers appeared to be paying attention, which was lucky as he really shouldn’t have raised his voice. Steve noticed her name badge, Becky. It suited her, another day, another time he may have thought to ask her out for a drink. Grabbing the bag, he turned to run. The bank was now empty. He could hear sirens in the distance. Running to the door he realised she had fooled him, they all had, but that Becky, she was going to get it. The doors were locked. Reaching for his gun he turned back towards the cashiers. Becky was just staring at him, noting every detail (he thought). Holding his aim he pointed the gun at her, just one pull of the trigger is all it would take. From the corner of his eye he could see movement, he was trapped, and there was no way out. He saw the policeman’s gun, he saw the trigger pulled, he heard no sound, he just saw darkness.

***

Looking at his watch, Steve climbed into his blue Audi estate. They had bought the car just last year when Poppy, his wife, had fallen pregnant again. What was he going to do, it was only 2.30pm, if he turned up at home now, Poppy would guess there was something wrong, and she had suffered enough stress recently, she, well both of them, could really do without this.

Driving away from the office, Steve headed towards the town centre. He could park there and work out what he was going to do. The last thing he had considered was that he would get made redundant. There was no escaping it, of course. Every time you turned the news on, or read a newspaper, the figures for unemployment were on the rise. But this was Steve, winner of top salesman last year.  Although they didn’t actually say it, Steve knew he was out because of the amount of time he had taken off recently; consequently, his sales had suffered. Sure they understood at the time, Poppy had miscarried, and then suffered with severe depression. She couldn’t look after Michael, their three year old son, so it had only been right for Steve to take compassionate leave. Strange how quickly things change when financial times get hard.

At 5pm, Steve headed for home. He’d be there just in time to make Michael’s tea. Earlier than usual, but not so early to be obvious. That afternoon, he had visited the job centre, and signed up to the recruitment agencies, but the signs were not looking good, not at all. He had been told in the job centre, he wouldn’t be able to sign on, too much in savings, what they didn’t understand though, was those savings wouldn’t be there in a couple of months without any income.

Approaching the house, all was quiet. Normally he could hear Poppy shouting at Michael for something or another, poor kid, it wasn’t his fault.

Pushing the door open, Michael ran out into the hall, dressed in blue jeans and a red t shirt, he looked more like thirteen than three. His brown curly hair bounced up and down, just like Poppy’s did when she wore her hair loose. ‘Daddy’ he shouted as he ran at Steve to be picked up.

‘Where’s Mummy?’ Steve said, almost to himself.

Putting Michael down, Steve started to look around the house, his heart beating frantically. Last time he had got home and Poppy wasn’t waiting, she had overdosed in the bath, leaving Michael to watch the television downstairs. If Steve had been just five minutes later, the chances are she wouldn’t be with them now. Heading up the stairs, he could hear moaning; not again thought Steve, after all they had been through, he thought they were passed this. Pushing open the bedroom doors, Steve’s legs froze. Ice cold, but clammy, Steve felt like his insides were going to explode. There on the bed was Poppy, with another man.

***

Clambering out of his bed to the sound of the post, Steve felt rotten, the culprit, the empty bottle of whisky by the bed. Looking around the room, Steve felt the contents of his stomach rise to his throat. The yellowing wallpaper, from the previous tenant who was a heavy smoker, was now peeling away from the walls. The ceiling was speckled with damp which left a heavy dank smell in the room no matter if the windows had been opened. All of this was made worse by the sparseness of the furnishings, a bed, a hob, and a single cupboard. Other than his clothes strewn across the floor, that was all there was. Touching his head, in the hope it would stop it spinning, Steve wandered across his bedsit to the door, where a single letter lay. Turning the envelope over, Steve was dismayed, of all the things; it was from the CSA, demanding more money.

That day he hadn’t just lost his job, but his wife, his home, and in a sense his son too. Steve got to see Michael every other weekend now. Each of those visits was like torture, as Steve could not buy for Michael the things he needed, let alone wanted. Steve wouldn’t even consider bringing Michael to the bedsit, as a result, if the weather was bad, Steve would end up dropping Michael home early. It just didn’t seem fair, he had been everything a good husband and father should be, and yet he was being hounded like the guilty party.

The worst part though was the shame that now filled Steve’s every waking moment. Prepared to forgive Poppy for her lapse in judgement, Steve had worked hard to reconcile their differences, and tried to take responsibility for Poppy’s action. What he hadn’t known at the time was Poppy had been having an affair for the past two years, and it was quite possible that the child she had miscarried hadn’t been Steve’s at all. As a result of her own guilt, she had tried to take her own life; for fear that the truth would come out. The truth was she just didn’t love Steve any more.

Steve had moved from the family home when Poppy had finally told the full story. What with the mortgage still to pay, not to mention all the bills, Steve found himself with limited funds. Unable to keep up the repayments on the car, it had been taken away by the debt collectors, and it wasn’t just that. Practically anything he had had been able to claim as his own had been taken. Now, Steve was working in a fast food restaurant, barely making ends meet. With this latest letter from the CSA, Steve now had no choice, find money somewhere, or find himself in prison.