Another week means another collaboration and we’re back to writing our own interpretations of a set prompt.
Last week, we all wrote roughly 600 to 700 words about a dispute between two characters on a beach and the end results couldn’t have been more different. As I’d hoped these writing tasks would show, we all have varying styles and interests that affect how we choose to write about something. While some of us opt for a younger, more humorous approach, others focus on the darker, grittier stuff to tell a story.
The prompt for this week’s task was ‘holding hands’ as decided by Sarah, with the micro fiction also requiring the underlying theme of discomfort. Once again, we’ve all gone very separate ways in our interpretations , but that’s what makes these collaborations so interesting to do.
Read below to see just what we all came up with…
Danny was going to be sick. This wasn’t fair, he wasn’t ready. Why was this happening now?
‘Let go,’ he whispered, eyes darting back and forth as he scanned the room. They’re all looking at me, they have to be. Hundreds of eyes all staring, glaring – they’re after me. He couldn’t escape.
‘Huh? What’s up?’ Ryan stared at him dumbfounded. Frustration creased the thin curves of his eyebrows.
He’s doing this on purpose. That’s what it is. He’s laughing with the rest of them.
‘Please just let go.’ Danny’s words were no more than a breath, but even that was a struggle. His lungs felt tiny. Suffocating. I’m gonna die.
‘You don’t want that.’
Is that a threat? Is he threatening me? Fuck. Why won’t he just let go? Why does he hate me?
I need to get out of here.
‘I’m begging you.’
‘Danny just calm down.’
He’s so angry.
‘I need to go, I need to get out.’
‘No, you don’t.’
LET ME GO!
‘Thanks for letting me know.’
Ryan hung up the phone and stared out the window, the fields a hazy mist in the rain. The guilt burning in his stomach was making him feel ill, but he still had a history class to go to and there was no way he could miss it. Danny was relying on him; they couldn’t both afford to fall behind.
You pushed him too far you idiot.
He couldn’t imagine what Danny’s mum thought of him. Her son’s panic attacks had gotten worse ever since the two of them had become an item. Am I really such a bad boyfriend?
The school bell echoed around the common room drowned out the voice in Ryan’s head. While everyone else picked up their bags and shuffled out the door, he stayed put.
I just need a minute.
I need to make everything right.
What if it’s too late?
The rain hadn’t settled by the time fifth period had ended, nor when Ryan got off the bus two stops early. With his jacket pulled over his head, he crossed the road and hurried along the path until he found the house he was looking for. 104 – bingo.
The bedroom window facing out onto the road was blacked out, the curtains drawn tight across the glass. Danny’s panic attacks usually left him with a migraine that hung around for hours.
He’s probably still asleep. Go home.
Ryan knocked on the door.
‘I don’t know if he’s awake yet,’ Danny’s mum warned when she opened the front door. She wore a weak smile on her face, but the redness in her eyes gave away her fragility.
‘I just need to see him.’
She nodded and allowed him inside, leaving him to make his own way up to Danny’s room. He knew where to go.
‘Dan?’ A quiet knock. ‘Danny?’
He peered inside and noticed his boyfriend’s shrunken figure peeking out from a mass of blankets. His smile was as feeble as his mother’s.
‘I hope you brought pizza.’
‘The answer to that is never going to be yes, no matter how often you ask.’
‘I’ll downgrade to chocolate in the future then. I’ll be expecting that next time.’
The room fell silent. There will always be a next time.
Ryan moved over to Danny’s side and knelt on the floor, one hand fiddling with his collar, the other drawing patterns on the bedspread.
‘You’ll get there.’
‘How many times have I heard that now?’
‘We’ll get there. There’s no deadline on these things.’ He felt for Danny’s hand under the covers but then thought better of it. ‘We’ll go at your pace next time.’
‘I asked you to push me. I thought it would help.’
‘Instead I just made things worse.’
‘It’s fine, I’ll build that time machine one day. We can make those things go away.’
‘I’m pretty sure I’m the one that’s supposed to be comforting you, not the other way around.’
‘I’ve cried enough for one day.’ Danny shifted back in bed and lifted the covers. ‘Lie with me?’
The two of them cuddled for half an hour, content with the sound of one another’s breathing. Ryan enjoyed the warmth of his boyfriend against his back, found it unquestionably soothing.
‘Can I hold your hand now?’ Danny asked out of the blue. Ryan could feel the pace quicken in the boy’s chest.
‘Are you sure?’
‘It’s just the two of us here. I feel safe.’
“HOLD MY HAND, YOU JERK OR I’LL RIP YOUR FREAKING HEAD OFF!”
Rhys was reluctant to approach the hospital bed, really. His best friend was sweating, screaming, with her legs apart, ready to welcome a new life to the world. She was going to be a patient mum, he could tell.
She opened her mouth to say – or shout – something violent at him but a contraction cut her off, saving everyone’s ears. She panted, squeezing her eyes closed, trying to block out the pain. Her hands clenched the bed-railings, gripping them with white-knuckled intensity. Rhys had no wish to be on the receiving end of that. Comforting from a distance was much more his thing.
“You’re doing great, Jess. Give it, what? Ten minutes? You’ll be done, no sweat.”
Rhys knew nothing of labour. Even the midwife looked at him disbelievingly. Jessica groaned, letting out sharp breaths to relax her body. The pain of the contraction faded.
“Okay Jessica, you’re doing great. The baby’s beginning to crown so on the next contraction you’ll have to push.”
Jessica fell back against her pillow, beads of sweat dribbling down her neck. Rhys, aware she was too exhausted to attack him, edged towards the bed. She glanced at him, her eyelids heavy.
“R-Rhys… thanks for being here. You’re a great friend.”
He smiled, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles. “I wouldn’t let you go through this alone.”
She smiled, closing her eyes. She looked more peaceful than he had seen her in a long time. Being a single, pregnant teenager had taken its toll on her, there was no doubt. She had refused most of his help nevertheless, being as headstrong as a bull. It had been hard enough to lend her his mum’s old maternity-clothes.
Undoubtedly the first three months had been the worst – both for Jessica and Rhys. Phone calls at ungodly hours of the morning with her crying down the receiver that she was throwing up.
Then, of course, later in the pregnancy, her unreasonable tantrums set off by the smell of chocolate; something she loved but could not have because it made her ill. How he had smelt like chocolate to her, he had no clue.
Rhys barely had the chance to evacuate his hand when Jessica reached for it, yelling,
“Rhys! Quick, give me your hand!” He held them aloft. “I’ll break your neck if you don’t!”
She was as calm as ever. Clumps of hair stuck to her face, her shoulders hunched and tense. She looked like something from hell. The midwife called for the nurses. It was time.
“Jessica, it’s time to push.”
Jessica arched forward, squeezing her eyes together. She pushed, crying out. Between her screams she yelled in Rhys’ general direction,
“Hold. My. Hand!”
Rhys stared, wide-eyed. She would break every bone in his fingers. Jessica pushed, screaming. No-one’s ears were safe. Then suddenly she stopped, flopping backwards. The midwife urged,
“You can’t give up now. You’ve got to keep pushing.” Jessica breathed heavily, sweat trickling down her face.
Rhys edged forward. “Come on, Jess. Keep going.”
She turned on him, her eyes glowing red with rage, “Shut up.”
He stepped back. Yeah, he wasn’t going near that. Jessica forced herself onto her elbows, pushing with all she had. Then stopped. It wasn’t enough. Below her hard exterior, she was almost spent. Nine months but the final hurdle was too great.
Rhys watched her. He knew he had to do it. The use of his hand was a small price to pay.
Taking a breath and one final, loving look at it, Rhys stepped forward and grabbed for Jessica’s, taking it and squeezing it gently.
“I’ve got you, Jess.”
She looked at him amidst her anguish and gave a smile. It was that smile that made Rhys believe it was worth it. When Jessica screamed and clenched her fingers around his knuckles, he changed his mind. His scream was louder than hers.
A long while later, a worn out Jessica lay in her bed, her eyes closed and her expression peaceful. Rhys clutched his hand, his eyes watering from the pain. The nurse had gone to fetch him an ice-pack.
He glanced from his hand to his friend, then to the new arrival lying in the cot beside her. He couldn’t help but smile, even in his agony. They had both made it out okay, and that was all that mattered.
A soft gurgling noise alerted him. He looked at Jess but she was fast asleep. He stepped around the bed and peered into the plastic box. A tiny face peered out from amongst the blankets. She looked just like her mother. It was scary to think that this sweet baby was the spawn of his best friend, the hand-crusher.
He reached down and stroked the little girl’s face. She gurgled, probably unaware he was there, then raised her tiny hand – a little clumsily as it was her first time doing so – and landed it on top of Rhys’ finger, instinctively wrapping hers around his. She was so strong already. Rhys could not stop himself smiling. Yes, he could tell. One day she was going to be just like her mother. Her wonderful, freakishly-strong mother. They would be an unstoppable pair.
But he would still be there to change the nappies.
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Pulsating lights and a pounding bass surrounded Beth – she hated it. The bodies of juvenile freshers were everywhere around her and she tried her best to peer over their heads in search of the exit.
‘Do you want a drink?’
A low voice pulled her out of her thoughts. She turned to see her friend looking at her with eager eyes.
‘What?’ The blaring music made it hard for her to hear anything.
Jackson leant forward and moved his mouth close to her ear.
‘I said do you want anything to drink.’
‘I’ll have a vodka and coke, thanks.’ Jackson gave a swift nod and walked off towards the bar, leaving Beth alone in the mass of drunken students.
She regretted agreeing to a night out. The club scene with its crowds of strangers and endless pulse of songs that she hated made her uncomfortable. She’d have much preferred to be at a bar enjoying a quiet drink. At least there she’d have been able to hear her own thoughts.
‘Where is he?’ Beth wondered as the minutes ticked by. It felt like it had been hours since Jackson had gone to get their drinks as the barrage of elbows and drunken stumbles continued to ruin her night.
She glanced around in search of her friend but her eyes ended up landing on those of a man much older than the freshers that filled the dancefloor. He appeared at least ten years older than her and was looking her up and down, prompting Beth to quickly remove her gaze. When she felt something grab her arm, the sudden contact made her jump.
Jackson was standing in front of her awkwardly holding two drinks in one hand, prompting Beth to take one of them off him. She did so and nodded in thanks, but Jackson seemed unhappy.
‘You alright?’ he asked, furrowing his brows. Beth shook her head slightly to get rid of her thoughts of the creepy guy.
‘Yeah I’m fine. What did you get?’
‘Desparados.’ He held up his glass, a lime wedge sticking out of the top.
The music played on and their group grew a little bigger, Jackson’s friends gradually rejoining them after disappearing to do their own things. The speakers were churning out all the latest songs, with every fade out replaced by another melody that received approving cheers from the crowd as they continued dancing.
Beth swayed side to side, not caring enough to listen to the words, wondering how much of this torture she had left to endure. She looked over to Jackson who was singing loudly and dancing along to the music and she couldn’t help the small smile that grew on her face. If just for a moment her mood lifted slightly and she started to dance along with the others.
As the night drew on, their group started to close in on itself. People were dancing into each other, but Beth remained on the outside of the circle not wanting to be dragged into the middle. A familiar song began to play and she started to sway her hips to the beat, but half way through she felt a pressure on her back and realised someone was pressing themselves against her. When she turned around, she came face to face with the older guy from before.
The man wasn’t deterred by the shock on her face and moved in closer. Beth backed up and tried to catch Jackson’s attention, thankful when their eyes met and he reached out to grab her hand. He spun her into him and narrowed his eyes at the older man whose own annoyance was clear on his face.
‘Are you okay?’ Jackson shouted down her ear. Beth looked up at him and nodded, the relief fluttering her chest as he moved her next to him to keep her away from the creep. Discomfort and disgust filled Beth’s head, but when Jackson looked back to where the creep stood, he saw that he’d gone.
‘Do you want to go?’ he asked already aware of what her response would be. She nodded quickly. ‘Hold my hand.’
Jackson took hold of her hand and moved towards the exit, pushing his way through the other dancers as he pulled Beth through the crowd. Suddenly, he felt Beth be dragged back and turned to see that same man had grabbed her and had his mouth by her ear.
‘Why wont he let go of me?’ she thought terrified as she tried to wriggle free from his grip. She couldn’t hear what he was saying and she was glad.
Jackson darted in front of her and pulled her away from the creep. Beth didn’t need to see his face to know he was angry, the protective stance he held in front of her was enough. She could hear voices shouting over the music and was surprised to hear the anger in Jackson’s voice. She’d never heard him raise it before.
When she felt him be pushed back, she looked around him to see the guy was becoming aggressive. She gasped and pulled on Jackson’s arm.
By that point, the two men had already begun to draw attention from the other people in the club. One of the bouncers had interfered between the pair while another spoke to Jackson. After a minute, he looked over at Beth and nodded before gesturing to the back of the club. He told them to follow him and he’d let them out the back door.
Jackson grabbed hold of Beth’s hand tightly as they made their way out of the club. He turned to face Beth as her hand in his was shaking.
‘You don’t need to worry about creeps like that anymore. I’m here.’
He pulled her into a hug and held her there for a moment until she stopped shaking. They broke apart and, still holding onto one another’s hands, they made their way away from the club until it was no longer in sight.
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