Sunday, October 02, 2011

Leah (a.k.a. Writers Circle post for September.)


‘Hello?’ croaked a voice still coated with sleep.

‘Hello Leaves,’ replied the caller, a smile breaking quietly over her lips. She curled her bare feet under her and began picking loose threads on the threadbare brown sofa.

‘Leah? It’s – what?’ There came the sound of fumbling as the sleep-riddled voice reached for their alarm clock. ‘It’s three in the morning over here.’

‘Yeah, I know.’

‘Seriously, it’s three in the morning. It’s still fucking dark.’

‘Not here, though,’ said Leah, looking out of the window into a brilliant blue sky. The voice on the other end grunted irritably. ‘Wouldn’t have called you so late but it’s just – I’ve got something to tell you.’

The bed creaked as the distant occupant sat up. ‘You’re not dying are you?’

‘What? No! Why would you guess that?’ A soft thump as the occupant lay down. ‘Anyway, shouldn’t you be able to tell? Twin intuition and all that shit.’

‘Whatever.’ Whatever – she was becoming americanised. A lighter clicked on the other end of the line. Inhale. ‘Well?’ Exhale. ‘If you’re not dying, what is it? Another failed diet?’

‘They’ve all failed me,’ replied Leah, sighing. She ran a nervous hand through her uncombed hair, momentarily surprised by its short length, briefly forgetting the encounter with the hairdresser only the day before. ‘Dad got a new girlfriend.’

There was a brief pause then another intake of cigarette.  ‘That was quick.’ Exhale.

‘Tell me about it. Miss Money Penny only left, like, last month.’

‘Do we like her?’

‘She’s okay. You’d like her, she plays golf.’

‘Wow, a girlfriend I can finally connect with,’ replied Evelyn, a hint of sarcasm riding on her voice. ‘What does she look like?’

‘Very pretty; all legs, blonde hair and blue eyes.’ Leah played with an earring, rotating it as instructed by the piercer. ‘And supermodel thin – doesn’t look like she’s ever eaten cake in her life. You know the type.’

There was an explosion of laughter. ‘Sounds like my type, not Dad’s. Must be serious, though, if Dad’s introducing her to you already.’

Leah’s free hand moved to the phone cord, twisting it tightly around a finger. ‘Something’s not right about her.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘She’s ... different.’

‘We’re different.’

‘Speak for yourself.’ Leah stood, picking up the base of the phone and carrying it with her clutched to her chest. She began circling the cream wallpapered room, tapping her feet on the brown carpet to an unheard beat. ‘I can’t even begin to explain it to you. Her eyes, Leaves, her eyes are so cold.’

‘How can eyes be cold?’ asked Evelyn. The sound of a draw opening echoed down the line. ‘I’ve never understood that expression.’

‘You’d get what I meant if you met her.’ Leah stopped and began to practice the routine taught to her a few days previously, tapping her feet on the flowery threadbare rug between both sofas. ‘Dad really likes her.’

‘Good for him. Someone in this family needs to get some.’

‘Evelyn!’ cried Leah, swinging her leg upwards, her heel brushing the rug. ‘Really don’t need that image of Dad, thanks, or you. Besides, Dad and Penny only broke up last month. They were together for, what, four years? Don’t you think that’s a little fast, even for Dad?’

‘Maybe she’s The One,’ said Evelyn, with particular emphasis on “The One”.

‘Maybe,’ agreed Leah, softly. She stopped dancing, starring at an old picture on the thick wooden mantle above the fireplace. A woman in her early twenties sat cradling two babies with wisps of rusty red-hair, smiling ecstatically through the glass of the frame at Leah. They had inherited her straight nose and hazel eyes. A knot of anxiety tightened in her stomach. ‘He seems... almost enchanted by her.’

‘Wow,’ said Evelyn, laughter hiding in her voice. ‘Like magic? You think she put a spell on him? Or gave him a love potion?’

Leah clicked her tongue. ‘You know what I mean.’

Evelyn yawned. ‘I think you’re worrying too much.’


‘Yes,’ said Evelyn, yawning again, forcing it as though making a point.

‘Leaves, I think you need to come home.’

‘Can’t. I’m still filming. You know that.’

Leah sighed, disappointed. ‘Come back as soon as you’re finished.’

‘Sure,’ said Evelyn, her voice full of false promise. ‘I need to get some more sleep. Call me if anything else develops.’

‘’Kay, I will,’ said Leah. ‘Bye Leaves, love you.’

‘Oh, I saw your new haircut on the internet. It really suits you.’

Leah smiled to herself. ‘Thanks, Leaves.’

‘You’re welcome. Love you, Pea. Bye.’

The line died and Leah replaced the phone in its cradle.


  1. I liked it Carla. It was very obvious that it was part of a larger piece,and that's great. Your dialogue is very naturalistic, which is excellent because even the most outre fantasy narratives must be grounded in reality for the reader to find them believable. I particularly like the way you've left certain things unsaid, the fact that you haven't resorted to exposition (in all but one case) makes the story more compelling. For example, I like the way Evelyn says that she is filming. This hints at the fact that she might be an actress, or maybe work behind the camera. Equally, she could be a porn star! I'm keen to find out and keen to read more. I'm also interested in the reasons why your main protagonist might be so concerned about this new girlfriend of her father's, to the point where she talks about her being 'bewitched'. This is incredibly interesting to me, and I want to know more. Ditto 'We're different' - how are they different? You've managed to create a compelling framework in which the reader can hang their own suppositions. Now we're just waiting for those thoughts to be confirmed or blown out of the water by the next piece of the story.

    My only criticism is a small one. In the eighth paragraph (if they can be called such) you have the phrase 'twin intuition'. This really grates on me, because it smacks of exposition and goes against all the subtleties in the rest of the piece. I really think that you need to 'show' us that the two characters are twins, rather than have one say it outright. It almost sounds like your character is turning to the reader and saying 'We are twins you know'. I don't think its how twins would actually talk to one another. Maybe instead you could have Evelyn say to Leah that no one will mix them up now that Leah has the short hair cut? You might also keep the part about intuition, but remove the word 'twin'. This would make it more subtle, but still obvious that there was a familial connection there. In this instance you need to trust that your reader will be able to decipher your clues.

    I'm really intrigued to see more of this story, I'd love to find out where these two girls fit into the vampire narrative of your prologue :)

  2. REALLY liked this piece. You and Rachel have struck a similar chord in me with simple, believe, naturalistic speech and mannerism. I believe the two characters as sisters, from the none-explained nickname, to the casual but quickly accepting and forgiven frustrations, you see immediately that they're close. There's also lots of tantalizing hints at other facts, mundanities that still are suddenly interesting and work to expand the characters in your mind: Dieting. Haircuts. The lighting of a cigarette. Filing. It's those little subtleties, added without the oft occurring (elsewhere of course) overwhelming need to explain everything.

    Wonderfully simple, I have no complaints or quibbles, I simply take the piece as is, watching the little scene that plays in my mind. That's what it feels more like to me, to be honest, a short scene on stage. That's the beauty of it really, the believability of the character interactions and the little quirks that mark them as individuals and not just story constructs.

    Can't fault and can only offer praise and hope for a continuation. Or the conversion to a script maybe?

  3. I enjoyed the simplicity of your peice and like Leanne and Simothy I agree with the way you've set the peice and also the way it is carried out.

    I was confused with the beginning, I didn't know who she was talking to. At first I thought it was maybe a lover and this raised serveral questions for me - but you cleared it up nice and quickly with "Dad got a new girlfriend" from then on I understood that they were sisters.

    I love the difference between them - how Leah is so suspicious of the new girlfriend and how her sister is a little more laid back - it makes me want to know more of their relationship and more about the new girlfriend - is there something sinister about her or is it a daughter protecting her father? Or jealousy?

    I really liked the way you hinted at both their careers - Leah a dancer(?) and her sister and actress(?) or (as Leanne said) something in that field?

    I look forward to reading more about these two and I would like to know more about those nicknames! It threw me at first (Leah saying Leaves) but then I caught onto the fact it was a nickname (I'm just not on the ball this month!)

  4. A nice piece Carla! I really ike the fact that you've taken the story far back into Leah's past. The reader knows she is going to become a vamp, and kill her husband. We have seen what happens to her as a person, which contrasts nicely with her innocence as a teenager. Also leaves us with the Q of what happned to Evelyn.

    There were points during the convo where I was unsure which girl was talking. They are not very distinct from one another, even though you have tried to show differences. Im not actually sure which got the haircut and which the peircings...or was it one that got both? Argh

    Also I think you need to be aware of renduntancy. From small things like the sky a 'brilliant blue'-skies are always a brilliant blue! To larger things.

    Its almost a Point Horror (remember those books?) trope to have the vamp/monster stepmother entrap the hapless, possibly rich, father. The children left to see truely/under threat.

    If you want to use this plot device, go for it, just make sure you make it fresh, and put your own stamp onto it.

    Agree with Leannes sentiment, both praise and critical. Sim-feeling the stage scene also.

    Oh I think maybe als you need to work in the way they say things more. Like the golf joke. Im still not sure whther Leah is into stereotypes or teasing her sister. The latter does seem likely. But then is it really necessary to have that there? Seems a clunky way of letting the reader know Evelyn is gay...when later you do this smoothly with her 'my type' comment.

  5. I want to write a short character driven piece now. Your fault completely if I do (I probably will for November).
    You give little pieces of information and attitude away quite well here and I#m wondering how Evelyn leaves (see what I did there) Leah's life.

    I hope that you're busy working away on the next part now as I think this is a great beginning. Why? Well for reasons already mentioned as well as the minimalism - tell the audience just enough about everything relevant to the action and internal action and you've got em. I appreciated the attempt at introducing the stepmother as a threat but as Ashley says, put a new spin on her evil ways. Ascribe the bitch a motivation that might even justify (from her warped perspective) why she's gonna take Leah's dad for a fool.

    Often I find that your work reads like a superior draft and not a finished piece - not quite so with this piece, not if you work on the clarity of who is speaking to who (possibly my main gripe but not beyond fixing at all).

    No one has made any comments about the pacing which worked well (Evelyn mentions that dads new woman might be 'The One' and immediately I felt that if I were Leah I would think of my mother, maybe look at a picture of her. Bang on!).

    'The line died and Leah replaced the phone in its cradle.'

    Great way to end the piece as I presume that using the word cradle was a choice to tie up not just the end of the convo but that Leah was going back to sleep and that we'd just had a view back into her infancy courtesy of the picture). Cradle manifested her innocence and how dare any evil step mother try to tarnish her family!

    Very focussed, very considered; you're best piece for The Circle so far ;)