deadline day

Here’s a story-writing competition I entered recently for Grazia magazine entitled ‘The Deadline’. The first paragraph had already been written by a professional author and the idea of the contest was to finish off the chapter. I entered, not because I thought I’d be in with a chance of winning (I’m realistic enough to know I’m not that good a story writer), but because I wanted to practice a different style of writing to what I’m used to. My attempt is below…

The Deadline

She stood looking up at the house. At the blank grey walls, the shuttered windows with empty boxes on the concrete sills, the stern front door. The house said nothing about what it was or what took place inside, it was unassuming and nondescript and uninviting.  She’d come here several times before, but never got the courage to go in.  Now, there was no choice. The deadline was today, no last chance of a reprieve or change of heart. If she was going to do it, it had to be now.  She shivered, chill from the sudden drop in temperature now the light was fading, or from excitement or from fear, she didn’t know.  Also, the sense of possibility that, by pressing this suburban doorbell, her life could – would – alter for good. But still she lingered on the unwashed step, picking at a thread of wool come loose from her glove, caught between the girl she was and the woman she might be. A deadline she never thought she would face…

The Deadline. Continued…

Her mind drifted back to the previous summer when this whole thing had first started. Her, a carefree sixteen-year-old with the endless school holidays stretching ahead of her: him a good-looking and wealthy businessman in town for a couple of months’ work. She didn’t care that he was nearly double her age and neither, it seemed, did he. They’d met at the local holiday camp where he was staying. She worked part-time as a chambermaid there and often bumped into him on her rounds. The exchange of shy smiles soon turned into flirty hello-how-you-doings, and not long after that they were inseparable. For her, it was love at first sight: a good-looking man paying her attention! She could not believe her luck. And he seemed to share the attraction too. He was affectionate, considerate and charming, and in no way similar to the geeky boys her own age. Their relationship had developed rapidly and very soon she was staying over at his caravan on a regular basis. Despite her age and lack of maturity, things quickly got physical in the bedroom. It was an intense holiday romance and she had loved every minute of it. Her parents, of course, were livid and had banned her from seeing him as soon as they’d caught wind of their ‘relationship’. It didn’t stop her though. The thrill of sneaking around and lying to them had made it all the more exciting. For a few weeks it had been fantastic, they were in a little bubble, and no one else in the world mattered. But then one day he disappeared. With no goodbye, no explanation, and no note, he packed up and left. She had knocked on his caravan one morning and found it occupied by another couple. When she’d tried to call his mobile it was disconnected. Then it had struck her just how little she knew about him. She’d told him practically all there was to know about her, but he had revealed scarcely more than his first name. She didn’t know where he lived and had no idea how to get in contact with him, so had been left with no other choice but to try and get over him. For months she had cried herself to sleep, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. Questions rattled around in her mind: how could their relationship – albeit only a few weeks long – have meant so little to him? Had she said something to upset or offend him? Had she annoyed him in some way? None of it made sense to her. All she did know was that she had fallen well and truly in love with him and now he was gone forever.

Then, just last week, on a miserable March morning, completely out of the blue she’d received a letter in the post. Scrawled in biro, she’d read it in disbelief:

So sorry I went AWOL on you last summer. Something urgent came up and I had to leave. Please forgive me. I’ve missed you so much. Anyway, I’m writing because I have to go away soon – leave the country for good – and I want you to come with me. We can start over again somewhere far away. Will you come? I do hope you will. But, we have to leave soon and you mustn’t tell anyone where you’re going or who you’re going with. Understand? I’m leaving next Saturday at 5pm. If you want to come with me, be at the address below by 4. If you’re not there by then I’ll leave without you and you’ll never see me again. Remember, I love you. B x

She’d read and re-read the note until she knew it off by heart. The ‘I love you’ part at the end pulled heavily at her heartstrings: they’d never said it to each other at the time, although she definitely felt it even now after all these months.

And so here she was, less than one week later, outside that very address. It hadn’t been an easy decision to make, and she still didn’t know now if she’d have the courage to actually go ahead with it. A couple of days ago, she had made the excuse to her parents that she was staying with a friend out of town, packed a small suitcase and left. Torn between protecting their only daughter and allowing her some independence now that she was a young adult, they’d reluctantly let her go. A few bus rides later and she’d arrived in this little unfamiliar suburban village. She had intended to come straight to the address, but the overwhelming reality of what she was about to do had suddenly hit her, and so instead she had checked herself into a cheap B&B for a couple of nights to think things over. Even now, so many questions crowded her mind. Why had he contacted her after all this time? Why wasn’t she allowed to tell anyone about where they were going? Why did they have to leave right away? Why? Why? Why? She shook the doubts out of her head, certain that he’d have an explanation for everything. Suddenly she couldn’t believe it had taken her this long to knock on the door. She’d spent the last six months desperately missing him, longing to know where he was and what he was up to, and now she was dithering and delaying their reunion. Taking another deep breath, she pressed the doorbell and waited. A wave of excited nausea swept through her: this was it; there was no turning back now. After about a minute she heard footsteps. The door creaked slowly open. She was totally not expecting what greeted her on the other side…

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