Sunday, 7 February 2010

Random Encounter

As part of my continuing mission to learn to write stories that actually end, I wrote this interesting little encounter a while back. I've tried to write in a slightly more implicit tone than I usually do. I wanted to take the mantra of 'show, don't tell' to a level that I am not really used to. Normally my narration is fairly explicit as to what emotions the characters feel and what is going though their minds generally. I've tried to cut that out as much as possible here and just describe what happens in a fair amount of detail, leaving the atmosphere and emotions of the characters up for interpretation. I quite like it, but I think my style leaves something to be desired at times. Read it and tell me what you think.

She sat in the corner of the empty coffee shop, pretending to read the bullshit fantasy novel she’d picked up on her way out of the door this morning. She had bought it from charity shop months ago because the front cover had some cool artwork. She’d read the first page and a half, then thrown it across the room in disgust. She reckoned that she could write something better. The book was open in the middle somewhere, but it didn’t matter because she’d not read a word in the hour that she had been sitting there. Her coffee had turned cold by now. She hadn’t even touched it since buying it for far more than it was worth. The bland, characterless music blared far too loudly into her ears from the cheap headphones. She knew that, were anyone else in the shop with her, they would hear every painfully generic riff, although they would, perhaps be spared the meaningless lyrics screamed tonelessly out as though they were worth hearing.

Her hair was mostly black with streaks of red and blue. She wore it short, so that it came down past her ears but not much further. For the brief period that she had worn it long she had found that looking after it was more effort than it was worth. Her natural colour was blond, but she had long ago gone off the idea of looking like every other platinum blond clone she had gone to school with for years. The only makeup she ever wore was black eyeliner.

She was so engrossed in staring blankly at the page in front of her; the same page that she had been staring at for the past hour without reading a word, that she didn’t see him approach, coffee in hand.

“Excuse me, do I know you?” he asked, sitting down without waiting for the permission he assumed he’d get.

“I hope not.” She did not look up from her book.

His pause was barely noticeable. “You look like you could use some company?”

“Can’t you seem I’m reading?”

“You’ve been on that page for twenty minutes now.”

She looked up. The boy had sandy blond hair that fell about his face, half covering his pale blue eyes. “So how long have you been watching me?”

Half a smile crept across his face. “About twenty minutes. How long have you been sitting here pretending to be busy?”

“Long enough.” Her gaze returned to that page in her book. Suddenly the tribulations of the generically young and charismatic protagonist in his cliché battle against the inexplicably evil Dark Lord and his hoards of unquestioning minions became interesting.

There was a silence penetrated only by the sound of the arbitrary power ballad inserted at random into the middle of the album she was listening to. He supped his coffee and looked around, more for something to do than anything else.

“What are you listening to?” he asked finally.

She looked at him through her eyebrows, only tilting her head up slightly. “Music”.

“Really? Just sounds like noise from here.”

She snorted air through her nose in what could be interpreted as a laugh and allowed half a smile to briefly paint her face before remembering herself and looking back to her book.

The silence again resumed after the brief interlude of fleeting contact between the two. He sat and looked at her this time, leaving the coffee to get cold alongside hers.

She looked up after a while, half out of boredom, half out of the uncomfortable feeling that his grey-blue eyes were fixated on her. “Any reason why you’re staring at me?”

“Because you’re pretty.”

She raised her eyebrows. “I know” she returned again to her book.

“So why do you object to me staring at you?”

“Because it’s unsettling.”

“You ignoring me is pretty unsettling too you know?”

“No one invited you to sit down.”

“You looked like you could do with some company.”

She looked up at him again, indignation barely visible in her features. “and what made you think that?”

He shrugged. “You looked lonely.”

“I’m not.”

“Then why are you sitting in the corner of a coffee shop all alone, pretending to look busy?”

“Because I was trying to avoid human contact.” Her stare was icy now and her voice had a hint of anger.

“Any reason or are you just being a loner?” his voice was cut with frustration.

“If you must know my parents tied in a car crash a week ago.” There was a hint of a challenge in her voice.

There was silence.

“I’m sorry, I had no–”

“Just go.” She whispered.

He sighed and got up, snatching his coffee. “I honestly didn’t know. I’m so sorry. Please, I… if I’d known…”

She watched him as he walked out of the dooe, cursing to himself. She sighed and slumped back into her chair. She ripped the earphones from her ears and threw them to the floor. She didn’t like lying.

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