Module: Creative Writing Research Skills 1: Theories, Models, Self
A portfolio of 5,000 words in total:
PART A: A creative portfolio of 3,000-4,000 words. This can comprise a short story, a chapter of a novel or a number of shorter pieces. [90%]
PART B: A self-reflexive essay of 1,000 words commenting on your creative work. [10%]
PART A: THE MOTION OF LOVE
The last time Amanda went out with Megan and Jess, Matt said he would finish with her if she ever came back to their apartment in that state again. Tonight, she was staying out.
‘I’ll take you to the station, it’s pouring,’ Matt said.
‘Thanks,’ Amanda replied. Her red lipstick brought out the green of her eyes, in the same way a ladybird draws attention to a stem, and her hair was pinned up loosely, so that her neck was exposed.
It was early November and the town’s Christmas lights were up but not switched on. The rain sounded like the fuzziness of an untuned TV channel as it fell on the roof of the car, and the BP garage was a blur of green light reflected on the road. At a house around the corner, a girl laughed as her parents carried shopping bags from the boot of their car to the front door. Matt and Amanda said that they would buy that house one day when they both had proper jobs. The windscreen wipers moved back and forth rhythmically, keeping tempo on the silence between them.
‘I’ll see you tomorrow then,’ Amanda said, as they parked up at the station.
‘You will. Love you. Have a good night.’
She was going to ask him how she looked, but compliments should be given instinctively, not reassuringly. She wanted her attractiveness to worry him and make him say immature things like ‘don’t leave me’ or ‘don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do’. She hated how accustomed he was to her. She wanted to erase his memory, and have him look at her in the same way that he had done two years earlier.
‘Love you too,’ Amanda said, and she shut the car door.
The platform looked like a black-jack half-chewed, an uneven surface with dribble in its crevices. The lateness of the train increased in two’s, and a recurring announcement about the changes being made in the Leaf Fall timetable played out over the speakers. Megan would call soon and ask her why she had left her alone in Jess’ company for so long.
The 20.33 service to Birmingham New Street was full of people off ‘out-out’. Amanda sat down by the luggage rack. There was a rowdy group of men in the carriage who had been pre-drinking on the train since Derby. Everyone was invited to listen in on a lively debate about the size of Jamie’s cock and how the girl Jake cheated on Michelle with last week looked like Martine McCutcheon, and not in a good way. Megan rang as they were coming up to spaghetti junction.
‘Where the hell are you? I can’t deal with Jess for much longer.’
‘I’m on the train. I’ll be about ten minutes. Why, what’s she doing?’
‘Well, she’s invited herself to stay at mine. I’ve told her, she’s not bringin’ anyone back, and she said that’s fine, but I know she’ll try it. And then, do you remember that lad Dan from Mechu?’
‘She’s been textin’ him behind Chris’ back, and he’s out tonight, so she wants to meet him later in Walkabout. I said, what if me and Amanda don’t wanna’ go to Walkabout? And she said she’s not goin’ to Brindley Place because it’s too expensive. So now we’re going to fuckin’ Walkabout.’
‘She’s so selfish. All she wants is attention. She has a boyfriend. I’m the single one. If anyone is goin’ out looking for it, it should be me. She pisses me off. Why can’t she just enjoy a night out with her friends? She doesn’t give a shit about us.’
‘Where is she now?’ Amanda asked.
‘Gettin’ money out. She owes me six pound for a bottle of wine.’
‘Alright, I’ll be there in five.’
‘We’ll meet you in the station, hurry up.’
‘Will do. Stay strong.’
Grand Central reminded Amanda of something she had seen in the new Star Wars film. A huge white structure with arched windows that exposed the sky. Megan was easy to spot in a crowd, she was tall and her outfits exposed the tattoos that decorated her body. Jess had on her ‘lucky’ playsuit, black and low-cut.
‘A-man-daaaaa,’ she shouted.
Jess’ hair was long, blonde, and parted just left of the middle. She had a cute button nose that twitched when she laughed, and a genuine smile, the kind that encouraged people to be funny. Amanda was often attracted to her in the revolving lights of dancefloors.
‘You drunk already?’ Amanda laughed.
‘She’s been out since half-three with her work friends. I’m not leaving early if she’s sick, I’ve told her,’ Megan said, walking off in front. Jess told Amanda about texting Dan, and how Megan was being her usual stroppy self.
‘And how’s Chris?’ Amanda asked.
‘Oh, you know. Usual knob-head. How’s Matt?’
Broad Street was busy and bright when they reached it. Drinkers spilled out of bars on both sides of the road. The brake lights of slow moving traffic formed trails of angry eyes, and the neon lights around the doors of Pop World flashed to the muffled rhythms of nineties classics. Clusters of women make-shifted umbrellas out of handbags too small for the task, and a stag do coming towards them down the road liked to drink with Joey cus’ Joey was their mate.
Walkabout, the Australian themed sports bar, had recently reopened after a £450,000 refurbishment. They sat down in a booth with a birch-wood table and red leather seats. There were eight, huge linked screens on the wall next to them, relaying images of a coral reef, designed to make customers feel as though they were looking out at the Pacific Ocean. Jess thought it was relaxing. Amanda was still very aware that she was in Birmingham City Centre watching someone being sick in a bin at nine-thirty in the evening.
‘Are you two friends now then?’ Amanda asked.
‘It depends whether Megan’s stopped putting the world to rights.’
‘It’s not the world I’m puttin’ to rights it’s you.’
‘Here we go,’ Jess sighed. Amanda poured the wine and nudged the glasses into each of their hands.
‘All I’m sayin’ is, if you’re in a relationship you should value it,’ Megan argued.
‘I do value it.’
‘You cheat on Chris all the time!’
‘He cheats on me.’
‘You don’t know that. You’re goin’ to lose everything you have with Chris, and for what, sex with Dan after a night out in Walkabout?’
‘Do you really think that people just get into relationships and that’s it forever, they never look at anyone else? It doesn’t work like that anymore.’
‘Well it should.’
‘You’re always banging on about how love’s fluid. What is it that she says Amanda? That different people carry you through different stages of your life.’
‘Yeah, I do think that.’
‘Then stop being hypocritical.’
‘I’m not bein’ hypocritical, I’m not in a relationship. You’ve got a fuckin’ mortgage.’
A bleakness overcame Amanda. She felt embarrassed for having always stayed faithful to Matt, and for thinking that he could be happy, and remain happy, only with her. Why did people even bother getting into relationships if they were just going to go out and shag everyone? Why did anyone get married anymore?
‘What have you got to say about all of this bullshit?’ Megan asked.
‘People are too lazy to love these days,’ Amanda said, ‘they only want what pleases them.’
‘That’s it, get Mrs Philosophical over here involved,’ Jess said, downing her last bit of wine. ‘People like to shag and that’s the end of it.’
Jess signalled to Megan for a fag and they both stood up. They were social smokers, which meant they occasionally needed an excuse to follow attractive men outside. Maybe Jess had a point, could she see herself being with Matt forever? She despised the routine they had developed. He was bored of her. She was bored of him. If they stayed together, and never let anyone else in, they would probably grow to resent each other.
Amanda turned to look at him. His hair, shirt, jeans, shoes, and socks, even, were black and unimaginative, and one eyebrow was permanently raised as if he was troubled by how attractive he found himself.
‘I’m Gary. You’re beautiful, do you know that?’
‘No, tell me,’ she replied, barely turning her cheek to face him.
‘Enlighten me. What is it about me that is so beautiful?’
Part of her hoped that he would surprise her and say something specific, something magically poetic, to explain why he had been drawn to her instead of any other girl in the room, except for the fact that she was, literally, the closest one to him.
‘I’m not going to lie, it was that arse I noticed first.’
He didn’t know the meaning of beauty. He handed it out flippantly. He was probably one of those people who drew quotation marks around generic messages inside greeting cards. “Thinking of you” but only briefly, not for long enough to construct my own message of sentiment. She went to the bar and bought two shots. He followed, but she drank them both.
‘He was hot,’ Jess said, as they regrouped at the table.
The girls drank away time. Quarter gone. Half gone. Quarter left. Ding ding. A new hour and a new bottle of wine. Secrets spilled between them like oil on the roads as they learned about the cars crashes that were about to happen in each’s others’ lives.
‘Look behind you,’ Megan said. Jess and Amanda turned sharply. ‘Not at the same time. Fuck’s sake, why don’t you just fuckin’ point at them? A man dressed as a crocodile was snogging a petit, blonde woman wearing a tiara. The pink, fluffy, dangly bits of her wand were an inch away from Jess’ leg. ‘Ten minutes they’ve known each other.’
Amanda wanted to go up to them, and pull them apart, and tell them to wait, tell them to go home tonight, to their own beds, and spend seven days torturing themselves with thoughts of each other, and then come to this same bar, at the same time next weekend, and hope that they would happen to see other again, and spot each other from across the room, and then kiss.
‘Why would you kiss someone that soon?’ Amanda said.
‘I know, at least talk to each other first.’
‘Oh, piss off Megan,’ Jess laughed. ‘You snogged five people last Saturday. Two of them were called Jack. And when the one text you saying ‘hey it’s Jack, the love of your life from Saturday,’ you had to text back saying, ‘which Jack?’
‘And what right do you have to lecture me?’ Megan snapped, but Jess had unapologetically turned her attention towards the door. The glare of the oversized light bulb, which hung above their table, caught her pupils as she looked away, so that her eyes seemed to sparkle. Dan was here.
He wasn’t Jess’ usual type. He didn’t seem too much older than they were, he wasn’t wearing a shirt and he wasn’t clean-shaven. Jess called him over, and he joined their table with four of his friends. One of them, Rich, took an immediate shine to Megan. He showered her with compliments, which at first, she dismissed dubiously, but after time coyly accepted.
Matt would be asleep. Curled up on the right-hand side of the bed, with one foot hanging outside of the duvet, twitching every so often. If Amanda left now she’d be home in twenty minutes.
‘Oi. Have one of these,’ Megan shouted, handing her a double gin and tonic.
She would be home in twenty minutes, and she would go to bed, and then wake up tomorrow, and probably watch Frasier on Channel 4 at nine, and again at nine-thirty, and Matt would go to play football at eleven for three hours, and she’d read a book. She took the drink and downed it until it was half-full.
‘Have you met thingy yet?’ Megan asked. ‘Oh shit. What’s his name?’
‘Who?’ Amanda replied.
‘The blonde one. Rich! Rich! What’s your friend’s name?’
‘Who?’ Rich said.
‘That one at the bar.’
‘Not Dan, you idiot. The other one.’
‘Cian? I’ve only just introduced you to him.’
‘It’s an unusual name!’
‘Then you should remember it!’
‘Cian.’ Megan repeated, knocking her straw out of the glass, it fell on her foot. ‘Have you met him yet?’
‘He did English at your Uni.’
Amanda turned to look at him. He was slim, with small features and soft skin that made him look boyish in a mischievous sort of way. He was facing their table, and in leaning back on the bar with both elbows, seemed to bend at the spine and lay open to her.
‘Alright, don’t fuckin’ stare at him!’ Megan shouted.
‘Shit,’ Amanda said, turning back around. ‘I know him.’
Cian was the enigmatic Jude Law lookalike from her T.S. Eliot module at University. He would stare at her with his intense dark eyes as he walked down the aisle to his seat. He’d voice opinions on Baudelaire, Sweeney and Prufrock, and she’d watch his hand guiding the loose loops of his pen on the page. He had moved to Australia after Uni, apparently. She hadn’t found him on Facebook.
He came back from the bar and sat on the opposite side to Amanda at the table. His hands were animated as he dipped in and out of conversations that darted across them. If he knew who she was then why hadn’t he said already? He probably didn’t recognise her. They had hardly ever spoken to each other, except for the debate they had had over The Hollow Men in the last lecture of term. But that didn’t count. He probably fancied Jess. Amanda didn’t care.
‘I remember those eyes,’ Cian said, nudging Amanda’s hand with his forefinger. An imperceptible prickling sensation, like a giddy pins and needles, overcame her upper body.
‘Oh, so you do know who I am then?’
‘Eyes I dare not meet in dreams –’
‘Don’t start,’ she said, covering her eyes with her hands. But, unable to hide her widening smile, he nudged them away.
‘Sightless, unless/the eyes reappear/As the perpetual star-’
‘Stop,’ she laughed, inviting him to continue.
They sat at the table for over an hour, until Rick and Megan urged them come and dance. Half a glass of vodka spilt on Amanda’s arm as they pushed past people, leaving it sticky and cold. Cian grabbed her hand and led her through the crowd to Jess, who was already throwing her arms around carelessly in the rotating lights of the dancefloor. A group of girls next to them had formed a circle around a pile of bags and shoes, which was being infiltrated by six lads in oversized t-shirts and neon war paint. They danced, and drank, and found excuses to touch each other innocently, and later, when the area to the left of the bar had cleared, Cian dragged Amanda over to it.
‘So, are you with anyone now Amanda?’ he asked.
She liked to tell people about Matt, she would listen to other people moan about their partners and revel in his perfectness. He had never raised his voice in an argument. He’d never purposefully upset her. But he wasn’t very spontaneous. He took her out for dinner, but he didn’t plan surprises, or buy her presents that she hadn’t already asked for. He would kiss her, but he wouldn’t snog her. He didn’t tell her that she was the most beautiful person in a room.
‘No.’ she replied and there was a silence between them.
‘Good,’ he said, and moved closer into her.
‘You don’t hold back do you?’
‘When genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.’
‘Don’t try and swoon me with quotes of romanticism,’ she smirked. He kissed her. Desire washed over her like a cold wave and the rawness of it all made her wince, as if burned.
‘Consider yourself swooned,’ he said.
Glasses started to stack up on the table. One had spilt, and one had smashed on the floor. The fake candle in the middle of the table had ran out of battery, and the people at the table next to them had left an hour before. Amanda went to the toilet. She always felt more drunk sitting alone inside the cubicle. She washed her hands and put them under the drier, it stopped too soon, but she left anyway and wiped her wet hands on her skirt, which was suede, so it showed. She was too drunk to care whether it looked like she had pissed herself.
‘Where have you been?’ Jess said, as Amanda approached their table.
‘Toilet. Where we going?’
‘We’re going back to theirs.’
‘We are not going to theirs.’ Megan said.
‘You just said you wanted to! You and Ricky Martin over there.’
‘I do! But Amanda might not want to.’
‘Come on Amanda.’
‘Don’t encourage her.’
A girl was standing next to Cian. She had short, black hair and a grey dress that hugged her tiny waist. She was laughing excessively, and falling into his chest. Cian propped her up slightly, he looked up, saw Amanda, and made a grimacing expression.
‘Fuck it.’ Amanda said. ‘Let’s go’.
It had stopped raining now, but it was colder. The group huddled together at the side of the road, and Dan approached the front windows of stationary taxi’s trying to find a six-seater. Heels hurt the feet of women hobbling up the street, shrouded in other people’s jackets, and passers-by asked for the closest place to get food. They crammed into the back of a taxi, and Amanda lay her head on Jess’ shoulder.
‘I’m so glad you came,’ Jess whispered, ‘I’ve missed our crazy nights out.’
‘I know! I feel like I’m the femme fatale of a modernist novel.’ Amanda slurred.
‘Well you’re not,’ Megan snapped. ‘You’re bein’ driven from Broad Street to Erdington in a Vauxhall Zamora by a man called Ali.’
‘Soz,’ Jess said, ‘I didn’t realise you and the driver were on first name basis.’
‘I know more about Ali than she does about Cian.’
‘You know that his name is Ali and that he drives.’
‘Do you drive, Cian?’ Amanda asked.
It was the kind of sex that starts as soon as you get into the room. A body forced against a door that shuts. Belts that aren’t as easy to unbuckle as some films suggest. It was the hair pulling arm pinning teeth clashing kind that has an imperfectness and aggressiveness only achieved with people you’re not worrying about seeing again. In the morning, they wouldn’t remember at what point they had fallen asleep, only that they hadn’t cuddled.
When Amanda woke up one of her legs was outside of the duvet and she suddenly felt very cold and exposed in her nakedness. It was still dark outside. A light from a lamppost left a stain the colour of marmalade on the window, and the condensation spreading up and out from the sill made her feel damp. She lay with her chin on her chest, and stared down at her body, the same way she did when she stayed in a bath long after the water had drained out.
She switched a pillow from landscape to portrait and sat up, resting her back on the steel bedframe. Her insides gurgled slightly, like a car engine flooded with fuel, reluctant to start. Someone had turned the tap on in the kitchen. Cian was asleep. A trail of red lipstick reminded her of the steps taken last night. She began to pick her clothes up off the floor.
‘You coming?’ Jess said, poking her head around the door, and caught Amanda midway through pulling up her tights.
‘Megan’s called a taxi, its outside’.
Cian was probably pretending to be asleep, and for that Amanda was grateful. There was no need for him to see her out. She put on her heels and met Megan and Jess by the door. They followed a path through an unkempt garden up to a green gate that opened out onto the road.
‘What’s our driver’s name this time?’ Jess asked.
‘Devon. He’s got four stars.’
The taxi ride home was quick and quiet. Worthy of a five-star rating. Jess picked the last clumps of mascara from her eyelashes, her eyes were bloodshot and lined with the faint remnants of last night’s eyeliner. Surely Chris would ask her questions about where she’d been, and what she’d done? She got dropped home first. The trees flitting past made Amanda feel queasy.
‘Oi,’ Megan said, kicking Amanda in the shin. ‘Don’t tell him.’
A fear washed over her. It felt like the blood was being drained from her body and that her heart was lashing out for being starved.
‘I mean it. There’s no need to make him suffer for something you’ve done.’
Amanda wouldn’t be able to hide her guilt. Matt would be waiting on the other side of the door, he wouldn’t be crying but his face would be flushed and his chin would be trembling like a child’s. He would ask her why she had done it, and refuse to touch her, and she would realise instantly everything that she had lost.
‘Text me later.’ Megan said, and Amanda stepped out of the taxi.
Their apartment was on the second floor. Matt liked to sleep with the curtains open. She could see the books that she had received for her birthday on the windowsill, tucked between bookends that were red and shaped like old telephone booths. Puddles of white and spots of green would be forming like galaxy clusters in the mug of tea that she had left their yesterday.
The slight bend in Amanda’s key meant that she had to struggle with it in the lock before it opened. The lights were off. Matt was asleep. She went straight into the bathroom and shut the door to, so that the running of the shower wouldn’t wake him. She took off her clothes, stepped in, and let the water fall off her body. She turned the temperature down, and the water fell like icy spears. Her skin tightened. She turned the temperature up, and the water fell like spits of lava. Her skin turned through pink to red. Tears dripped amongst dropping water. She got out and sat on the toilet in a towel. Matt had left pyjamas on the radiator for her overnight. They were warm. He would leave her and she’d deserve it.
She lingered outside of the bedroom door for a while. She could hear the gentle rasping of his breath as he lay sleeping, she crept in. His head was tilted to one side, he looked older now than when they first met, and handsome. His jaw-line was defined and lined with stubble, and there were faint creases appearing on the outer corners of his eye, where his skin folded like a tiny Viennetta when he laughed. The slats underneath the bed creaked, the mattress sunk a little in the middle, and the pillow moulded around her wet hair as she lay down. She nudged his arm with her nose, and he stirred slightly.
‘Hello,’ he said, the tail-end of the word getting lost in his stretch. ‘What time is it?’
‘Just past eight.’
‘Eight? You’re back early.’
‘Give me a kiss then.’
His lips were full and familiar. Satisfying to hear and to feel like a button pressed on a typewriter, or the popping of a disk out of a DVD case. She wanted to kiss him, repeatedly, so that her last one-thousand kisses belonged to him.
‘Eugh. You taste like Sambuca.’ He said, turning to face outwards on the bed, he wiggled his bum in want of attention. ‘Spoon me.’
Their bodies interlocked like fingers, and the hairs on the back of his calves tickled her as he fidgeted. She felt the warmth of his back against her belly, and her chest. She lay, and waited for the guilt to engulf her. But it didn’t come.
She had missed this overwhelming feeling of love ablaze inside of her. This need to touch him, hold him, and hang on to him. She wanted to tell him to go out, and have sex with someone else, so that he’d return to her with this much want and need. She didn’t feel ashamed. She couldn’t feel guilty. They had lost sight of how extraordinary their love could be, and he still lay there, undismayed, but she saw him now as if for the first time. She stroked his back with her forefinger, and then she fell asleep in his arms.
Word Count: 4158