The 800-word story experiment has run its first year and now, at the beginning of its second, Eden Baylee and I have agreed to double the output and offer 2 stories a month. This week we’ll start with a solo effort each, basing our separate tales on the same prompt. Mine’s called Love? and you’ll find Eden’s here.
Prompt: ‘I loved the way she said “balloon”. She said it as if she was blowing bubbles’.
In a way, it baffles me that people are still saying ‘I love you’ to one another. OK, I know the songs and movies still plug it, but you’d think all the reports of domestic violence might make kids think twice about it, wouldn’t you? Or that all the individual freedoms that have been won would put it in perspective as a mainly teenage thing that’s really just about getting access to sex.
I mean, kids nowadays want to be cool, independent loners. It’s an attractive image. Why ruin it by becoming a couple? Maybe it’s just that they’re young and don’t know any better, don’t yet have too many scars. That’s not a criticism; it’s an observation. I mean, we’ve all said it to different girls, boys, men, women, time and time again. Sometimes when we’re theoretically still ‘in love with’ somebody else? And did we really know much about who they were? Or was it just two big brown eyes widening slightly as they looked at you, a smile, a finger trailing across your cheek, a laugh, the rhythms of the words they spoke?. Or simply a knee-jerk reaction to some part of their anatomy that made them particularly attractive.
Cynical? Yes, probably. But mostly it’s me I’m getting at. I fell for it so many times with no real end result. Ever. Oh sure, there are the times when you convince yourself that those ‘others’ really mean what they’re saying, that maybe you are special to them. Be honest, though. You know very well whether you’re special or not. Or rather, you shouldn’t be afraid to tell yourself the truth. If you really did ‘love’ all the ones you said it to, it’s hardly that unique thing that all the songs and poems are about, is it?
In fact, to be honest, I’ve only once said it and meant it. She was French, I think. Maybe Portuguese. A student anyway. Maria, she was called, or maybe Marie. No Maria. She had this accent. In fact, this’ll tell you how crazy I was at the time, her English wasn’t very good at all, so I didn’t really even know her, what she thought about things, her background, who she actually was. I met her at a party. Loud music, so there wasn’t much in the way of talking anyway. But I’d had a few beers and… well, the way she danced… you don’t need talk when you see someone moving like that.
There wasn’t much in the way of competition there either. She looked great, just standing there with her mates. I suppose I was staring at her and she smiled. I smiled back, then it was a sort of flick of the head from me and a ‘come on then’ gesture from her and we were… well, dancing. Together.
And we stayed that way until she went back to France. Or Portugal. Not much more dancing but trips to the beach, nights at the pub, long walks in the hills. I think in the end I said I loved her because she didn’t. In fact she made it pretty clear that, as far as she was concerned, it was a short term thing. Which made me want her even more. And I really did miss her. Did all the clichés – crying, having semi-suicidal thoughts, the lot. In fact, playing the distraught lover was what got me her replacement,.
I was bored, sitting at a party and this girl came up. Called Evie. Pretty enough. And we started talking, and I went on about Maria. Just role-playing really, lovesick melancholy stuff, and Evie was sweet, sympathetic, understanding. Seemed to fall for everything I said.
And suddenly, she’d taken Maria’s place. Eventually said she loved me. The strange thing, though, was I couldn’t say that to her. Maybe I really had loved Marie. Maybe still did.
Anyway, Evie didn’t last long. My fault. Took the role play a bit too far. We were in my room at uni and she asked me if I’d spent much time there with Marie.
I just nodded and went quiet. All still part of the act, of course.
‘We just used to talk,’ I said. ‘Nothing else. I could listen to her for hours. That voice, her accent.’
‘Still missing her?’ said Evie.
I nodded again, tried to get some tears going, but failed.
‘There were some words…’ I just shook my head, as if remembering stuff, and lay back on the bed. Evie just looked down at me. I did a sort of sigh and said
‘I loved the way she said “balloon.” She said it as if she were blowing bubbles.’
‘Blowing bubbles?’ said Evie.
I wiped my eyes and nodded.
She shook her head, went to the door, said ‘Wanker’ and left.
We’d love to hear your reactions.
Hahaha! Bill, a good story with a more than some personal experience behind it, I’m sure.
I loved the way you interpreted the prompt. I’d almost forgotten about it when reading your story, and liked how you snuck it in at the end – perfect line for that moment.
Here’s to a terrific first solo of 2022!
Personal experience??? I’ve no idea what you mean, Eden. I do, however, find the difference this time between yours and mine very striking (and interesting).
I knew it would be divergent because this prompt is ridiculous.
It’s one of those nonsense phrases, which can make it difficult to rein in an idea for a story.
I’m sure if we had 10 other writers using this prompt, the stories would cover every genre.
Ah, Bill, with this tale I do thee crown Mr. Sardonicus.
I take it you do realise, Reb, that the various labels you’ve attached to me make my existential I.D. even more precarious. Thanks for reading and for the comment, though, although to Sardonicus I prefer Realisticus.