So recently I was having a read of some writing blogs, when I came across a post about short stories. It was a topic I hadn’t thought about in years, since I was at school.
After reading through, I thought more about short stories, and I remembered enjoying them in my English class, although we never actually got to write any for ourselves. The person who wrote the post was very encouraging and suggested that I give it a go. I considered it, and he was right! There’s nothing lost by trying.
So I was actually supposed to finish this yesterday, but I fell asleep, as people often do. I guess that can’t be helped! I had wanted it finished yesterday, since today I was meant to go Christmas shopping in the city. However, Storm Barra landed this morning just as we were getting ready to go, so our plan was very much thwarted. A silver lining, though, was that I managed to actually get my short story done today!
I wrote this as a short story, but it is also actually an excerpt from my current book that I’m working on. I hope it functions on its own as a short story, and I also hope it fits into my book well, but I’ll just have to see.
I feel like I should say, that it is absolutely a very 1st draft, and that I have not edited it at all yet or put it into the correct formats, so things like word choice may not be the most efficient or interesting at the moment, but hopefully the bones of the story are there. I decided not to edit it straight away, since this is part of Chapter 4 of my book, which I’ll be editing after it is all written, so I thought I would just do it all then instead of in pieces.
Well, here’s my first ever shot at a short story, and the first ever part of my book I’ve ever put online!
The sun was just starting to lower in the sky as Olivia made her way to the florists, only a street away from her own house. She hadn’t been home yet to change out of her school uniform, after all, it was the second Wednesday of the month, so her parents would’ve sent her out anyway to collect their order of flowers. It wasn’t too much of a chore though, the florist was always nice, and eager to chat with her, and the aromatic smell of the plants was relaxing to be around.
She stepped into the shop, breathing in the sweet scents and tuning her ears in to the classical woodwind music that trickled out of the old, tinny speakers above the counter. Gladys the florist was well accustomed to their monthly routine, and had timed her tea making so well that the steam was still wafting out of the cup when her young friend arrived. Olivia rushed over to the chair next to the jasmine flowers, her personal favourite fragrance out of them all. She always took the chance to appreciate it while she was here, since jasmine was strictly banned from her own house. Migraine inducing, her mother claimed.
Gladys settled more slowly into her own seat behind the counter, her slightly older frame needing a bit more patience and gentleness. It was lucky that she had those traits to spare, and she wondered how Olivia would cope someday when age caught up to her, if she would still try to jump around and throw herself into things like she did now.
They enjoyed their tea, elegantly sipping and eagerly gulping, respectively. Once they had finished, the soft clinking of the china cups against saucers signalled that it was time to talk more.
“So your parents, do you think they wanted you to be a florist? Y’know cause Gladys is kinda like a Gladioli, the flower, maybe it was deliberate.” Olivia asked abruptly. Gladys’ voice was quiet as she laughed, used to more common conversation starters about school life and such.
“I never thought to ask, but it’s a nice idea, I’d like to think it was true.” She admitted.
“I do have a friend called Marigold though, and I used to know a Lavender. I don’t think there’s any question about those two.” She added.
Olivia hummed, thinking deeply.
“There’s a Dahlia at school, but that’s all I’ve got.” She piped.
“I like flower names. They’re so… glamorous. I kind of wish my parents had given me one.” Olivia mused, looking over her shoulder at the jasmine flowers and holding in a sigh.
“You’ve got one, In a way. You can get ‘Olive’ from ‘Olivia’. It might be a tree rather than a flower, but I’d say trees are quite lovely too.” Gladys reassured her, smiling kindly, in the way that only old ladies can.
“Olive is nice.” Olivia agreed, feeling satisfied.
“You’ve reminded me of something. Marigold, my friends and I called her Goldie. She used to win at everything. Card games, marbles, and worst of all was the bingo. Many a bitter row we’ve had over bingo games.” Gladys recalled, deadly serious.
“Do you know how many bottles of gin I’ve lost out on thanks to her bingo skills? Too many, I’d say.”
Olivia didn’t understand the value of gin, but she nodded along anyway.
“In fact, tonight will be the first game in years that she won’t be coming to.” Gladys looked more forlorn than angry.
“The last time she missed a game was for her honeymoon.” She finished.
“Maybe you’ll clean up the prizes tonight then.” Olivia said.
“Well, I’m not sure if I’m really up for it all by myself.”
“You can’t convince Goldie? I can ask her for you, nobody can resist these eyes!” Olivia joked.
“Oh no, I can’t ask someone to come away from their family just for a silly game.” Gladys said, omitting the real reason for her friend’s absence.
“I’d like to go, I really would. I bought a fancy new skirt last week and I’d rather like to make the girls jealous. They needn’t know it was on sale.” Gladys’ soft eyes sparkled again and the mood of the shop perked up.
“It’s just not the same to turn up on your own. I’m sure I’d be the centre of gossip, and not the flattering kind.”
“I’ll come!” Olivia chirped, brows raising in awe at her own brilliant idea.
“A 13-year-old at the bingo with us oldies? Don’t you have texting or face-booking to be doing?” Gladys gently rebuffed her offer, not wanting to be a burden.
“Nope. This sounds way cooler.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Yes! Come on, Cinderella, you shall go to the bingo!” Olivia stood up, excited.
“I’m not letting my friend be lonely, we’ll have a great time, and instead of something mean, everyone will talk about how you brought such an awesome guest.”
“Go on then. I think we’ll sweep the floor with those old biddies. I’ll tell you though, it can get pretty intense.” Gladys’ warned, with exaggerated gravitas.
“I hope it does!” Olivia grinned.
Gladys cleared away the teacups, and began the process of closing down the shop.
“Starting time is 6:30. Do you think you can be ready by then?” She asked, still unsure if her young friend was genuinely wanting to join her.
“No problem, I’ll meet you back here at 6 ish. I’ll be the one with the wacky colours on.” Olivia promised with a smile.
They said their goodbyes, and after handing over the monthly order of flowers, Gladys went off to find her beloved new skirt, while Olivia bounded home, buzzing with energy at the thought of attending a bingo evening.
When she arrived at her parents’ house, she was greeted with two disapproving faces peering at her from the foyer, which was to be expected.
“I do hope those haven’t wilted from all the time you wasted.” Her mother sneered as she flounced into another room, silk shawl flowing behind her like a witch’s cape. Her father lingered in the hallway, raising his eyebrows briefly as if he was waiting for an answer, but after a few seconds of silence, he stopped paying attention to the situation and sloped off to the lounge without a word.
Olivia ignored them both, and set about arranging the flowers in each room’s appointed vase. The arrangement was of the utmost importance. It was imperative that the house looks like a catalogue display at all times, on the 1 in 1,000,000 chance that someone ever saw inside it, despite everyone in the neighbourhood being permanently uninvited.
The two mixed bouquets were always for the halls.
The deep purple carnations were for the sitting room, to match the wallpaper.
Yellow gerberas for the kitchen, to keep the room bright.
Red roses went in the dining room, to give a traditional, classical feel.
Olivia had one bunch left after completing her rounds. Blue cornflowers. They were for the bathroom. Or was it the bedroom? Did people really put flowers in the bathroom? She couldn’t remember.
Olivia opted for the bathroom, the walls were blue, so her mother would probably have wanted it that way… Either way, she was sure she would be promptly and loudly notified if she had gotten it wrong.
As she began to head up the stairs to get ready for bingo, she was apprehended by her mother.
“Where are you off to? The study is down here.”
“Uh, yep. It is. But actually, I was gonna go out with a friend.” Olivia said meekly.
“That would be a first.” Her father mumbled, sound hidden by the crinkling of his newspaper, as he vaguely listened in from the lounge.
“No, you’re not. Tonight you study.” Her mother proclaimed.
“Come on, I can study at the weekend, or even in the evening. It’s only for a couple of hours!”
“I said no. Your A- last year might be wonderful news for little Millie and her simple family next door, but not in this house. You need to try a lot harder with your schoolwork.” Olivia winced at her mother’s harsh words. Millie and her mum had always been very nice to her, she thought.
“But mum, I will be practicing. Bingo is maths, it’s got numbers in it.” She argued back.
Her mother’s neatly lined eyes became narrow with rage, till her husband appeared in the doorframe, leaning back on it, and finally paying more attention.
“Olivia, why on earth would a 13-year-old want to waste an evening playing bingo of all things with a bunch of dusty old people.”
“I’ve never played before, it sounds fu-“
“And who’s the friend mad enough to come with?” He interrupted her.
“Gladys isn’t mad. Or dusty!” Olivia declared, offended on her friend’s behalf.
Exchanging a confused look, her father silently mouthed ‘Gladys?’ while her mother shook her head in response.
“You’ve never mentioned her before, who is she? Who are her parents?” Her mother demanded to know.
“They’re in their nineties at least, I’m not sure you’d know them.” Olivia replied. The confusion grew more evident between the two.
“You really don’t know? She’s the florist! You speak to her on the phone every month, and you don’t even ask for her name!” This kind of thing was annoying, but not surprising anymore.
“The florist? Oh Olivia, if you were going to worm your way into someone’s inheritance, couldn’t you have picked someone a bit richer?” Her father chortled at his own cruel joke. Even her coldly composed mother let out a smug, tittering laugh.
Distressed by that last comment, Olivia took revenge by using their momentary distraction to escape up the stairs and into her room. She heard shouting and angry footsteps, but that hardly mattered once her door was shut, barricaded, and the music was on.
Looking through clothes and putting together outfits was a pleasant and welcome distraction. She had almost every item in multiple colours, so there were nearly endless different options. She managed to spend a whole stress-free hour with her beloved clothes and accessories before settling on something jazzy to wear.
Hoping her parents had cooled off by now, she emerged out of her room and down to the hall. In perfect synchronization, her mother and father materialized in the doorways of the lounge and the kitchen. One on the left, and one on the right, in a two-pronged attack.
“You aren’t going out anyway, but you certainly wouldn’t be going anywhere dressed like that.” Her mother hissed, arms crossed so tightly it looked like she might break a rib. Olivia tuned her voice out for a minute, she was happy with her clothing, and none of the 1000s of negative comments she had heard could change that.
“So gaudy, it’s embarrassing. And those silly trousers don’t even fit!” Her mother looked over to her father for backup, but his mind was somewhere else entirely, a place where clothes weren’t the topic of conversation.
Olivia looked down at her soft pink trousers and the blue ballet flats that were nearly hidden underneath them. At only 13, it was true that she hadn’t completely grown into all of her clothes.
“You’re right mum, I should’ve worn the heels instead, that would be better.”
Suddenly her father thought of something to contribute to the argument.
“Are you sure you’re not meeting a boy? Why dress like that otherwise?”
“Uh, maybe because I might want to?” Olivia responded, but she went unheard.
“To be honest I’d rather you were making plans with boys, respectable ones at least. I hear the Johnson’s son is back from boarding school in a couple of weeks.” He added, unhelpfully.
Her mother was still steaming at the ears, and continued,
“Do you understand how humiliating it would be to explain to the other mums why my child is hanging around a scummy village hall dressed like something out of the 70’s! Mortifying, honestly!”
“I’m so sorry for embarrassing you.” Olivia held her hands up in surrender.
I’m going to go upstairs, change out of this hideous outfit, and study until dinnertime.” She finished, smiling as sweetly as possible. Her parents nodded, satisfied that they had gotten their way.
When Olivia reached her room, she thought of her next move. She knew of an escape plan. It was rather a genius one, but having used it before, she didn’t know how many more times she could get away with it before they caught on. Gladys was absolutely not going to be lonely tonight, so Olivia knew it was worth trying.
She looked in her sock drawer, and fetched out a couple of small stones, each hidden inside one of the rolled-up sock pairs. Silently, she opened her window, and threw one of the stones, hitting the recycling bin with a discernible bang. She saw the garden lights come on, but they weren’t taking the bait yet. She threw one more, hitting the fence this time. The second time was the charm, and her father stepped out into the garden to look around.
“Julie! I think we have a fox, or maybe a rat?” He called out to her mother, who stormed out to see for herself, armed with some poisonous pellets.
Olivia was very glad of her choice of flat shoes for her next move.
Heart pounding, she grabbed her handbag, raced down the stairs, (jumping over the last 3) and sprinted towards the front door. She heard her parents rush back in from the garden as she fiddled with the lock. In their haste, they knocked over one of their floor lamps, but they still weren’t fast enough to catch her. Olivia had escaped.
The minute she crossed into the outside world she knew she was safe. Her parents would never chase her out here, it would cause a scene.
She was free for the night, and as she got further away from the house, she successfully left all her stress behind. All of the drama had made her a couple of minutes late, but Gladys didn’t seem to mind when she arrived at the florist’s doorstep.
“You look fantastic! So bright and cheery, it reminds me of the discos!” Gladys said kindly, as they started walking.
“Well I think you’re pretty stylish tonight too, I love the skirt.” Olivia replied. She really meant it too, it was a rich cream colour, long and pleated, with pale red flowers in a pattern rising up from the hem. It perfectly matched her freshly ironed white blouse and long ivory cardigan. Between Gladys’ older elegance, and Olivia’s bold colours, they were ready to hit the town.
Olivia didn’t realise they had reached their destination when they stopped outside a pub. She had no idea that pubs actually had anything above them, but she followed Gladys inside and up the stairs anyway.
“It can get a bit loud and stuffy in here sometimes, so don’t worry if you need to take a break for air.” Gladys warned as they reached the upper floor.
Loud and stuffy were promises to Olivia though, not warnings, and she breathed in the scent of unaired carpets, lack of ventilation, and wine. Lots of wine. Her nose wasn’t the only thing that was in overdrive, and her ears enjoyed the blaring 00’s pop songs, and the cackling laughter of all the women, while her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. Olivia thought she had just entered heaven.
She couldn’t keep the grin off her face as they moved over to pay. She looked out her sparkly coin purse and fished out a few crumpled £20s that she had thrown in earlier, unsure of what the cost would be for a game.
Gladys quickly intercepted though,
“Don’t flash those about too readily, you’ll have a crowd of vultures on you in seconds.” The thought hadn’t crossed her mind, but she complied.
“Besides, you’re not paying for a thing tonight, you’re my guest.” Gladys said firmly.
Olivia agreed, but ‘dropped’ £20 into her friend’s bag when she wasn’t looking.
They found a table, and Olivia got a crash course in how to dab the bingo pen properly before the game started. She practiced diligently on her own hand till it was covered with pink ink.
Gladys’ luxury skirt had indeed caught the attention of the other ladies, and before long they were deep in small talk with tables of people on all sides. Far from overwhelmed, Olivia collected bingo tips from everyone in her head, till she was confident she knew what she was doing, but when the caller stepped up to the makeshift stage and began testing his mic, the conversation dampened down into mumbles.
Gladys took the chance to give some last minute advice when the ladies had moved back into their own seats.
“Now some of the girls get quite fired up, you should’ve seen the fights that broke out when Goldie got into a winning streak. But don’t worry, they’ll settle after a few from downstairs.” Olivia nodded, excited for the experience, fights and all.
The first line went to Gladys. Olivia tried her best to follow along, but was slightly bamboozled by the speed of the caller.
As the games continued, she got used to the quick pace and the shouting, and began to keep up with the numbers. As a beginner, she was no match for her friend though, but as it turned out, neither were the other more experienced ladies. Gladys was as fast as lightning, and soon their table became filled with gins, wines, and trinkets. A few of the other players could be heard grumbling in the background between rounds, as promised, but Olivia was on cloud 9. Laughing along to the cheesy one liners and quips of the caller up on the stage, she felt proud of her friend’s clean sweep rather than jealous.
After her second bottle of gin, and third chocolate selection box, Gladys feigned tiredness, and started to slip up. It didn’t need to be said, but Olivia could see she was letting the others have a chance at a prize. The evening went on, till as expected, multiple alcohol refills had mellowed out the feisty vibe of the room. There was only one prize left, and Gladys tapped her on the shoulder when they saw that it was.
“Oh Olive, look at that… Bailey’s, the only thing better than gin.” She said, longingly.
“Going to continue your winning streak for it then?” Olivia asked.
“No, I think I’ve won my share of booze for the night.” She replied, gesturing to their overcrowded table, though her eyes said something else.
One of only a few people who hadn’t consumed any alcoholic beverages, Olivia’s brain was still sharp. She knuckled down, hand grasping the dabber tightly, and focused on the numbers. She matched 1, 2, 3 numbers, then more and more until
“BINGO!” The shout filled the room. Her still developing lungs louder than any of the other women who had won.
The ladies looked on in disbelief, and Olivia bounced up to collect her prize.
“Sorry kid, you’ll have to give that to a family member.” The caller informed her.
“I will.” Olivia replied, looking over at her friend.
The pop tunes returned since the game was over, and the chatting resumed amongst the tables. Olivia sat back down, and added the bottle into Gladys’ horde of prizes.
“Oh, you don’t need to! Give it to your parents, I’ve got more than enough. Besides, it’s wrong for the guest to go home empty handed.”
“Honestly, you should have it. You were on fire tonight! When you tell Goldie she’s going to be so proud.” Olivia said, determined.
“I hope so…” Gladys replied.
“If you insist, then we’ll do a trade. Pick something of mine to take home.” She continued.
Olivia took note of the winnings in front of her. None of the liquors were really an option. Chocolates were fine, but you can get them anywhere. She wanted something that would always remind of her of such a wonderful day. Her eyes happened upon a bronze statue. It was a man, with sunken in eyes and a strange complexion thanks to being made of metal. He had a flashy outfit on, and a big stick. She read the box; he was a snooker player. Olivia had never watched snooker before, and she probably wouldn’t start now, but it was certainly a unique item, with a rather kitsch appeal.
“Can I have the zombie snooker statue? Only if you don’t mind.” She asked.
Gladys looked around the pile, till she saw the bronze man.
“Of course you can, I think he suits you.” They laughed for a minute, before another woman came up to congratulate Gladys for her victories. The atmosphere had been revived by the music, and conversation was lively. They sat, talking animatedly, and making new connections for a good half an hour. Some of the topics went over Olivia’s head, but she nodded and laughed along at the appropriate times anyway, caught up in the vibe of the night.
After some time, the crowds dispersed slightly, and people started to trail off home. Gladys and Olivia were the last to leave, wanting to enjoy the evening to its absolute fullest. Eventually, they too ventured back out of the pub, and began the journey home.
Olivia dropped her friend off at the florists, and thanked her sincerely for the most fun she had experienced in years.
She slowed her pace considerably when she neared her house, but she couldn’t postpone it forever.
She opened the door, and passed through the hallway.
Her parents lay in waiting in the dining room, table laid for two, and plates cleared of food.
“I’m afraid you were too late for dinner.” Her mother said, tone colder than the frosty breeze outside.
“It’s fine, I don’t mind.” She replied as she moved into the room, willing to trade a meal for her night of fun.
Her father spied the box that she was tightly clinging to.
“You actually won something?” He asked.
“Yes, it’s pretty cool actually.” She held up the box so they could see. Her mother was the first one to see the picture on the front.
“There is no way you are keeping something so garish in my house.” She sneered.
“In my own room?”
“You don’t own the house.” Her mother warned.
“Well technically, I don’t own this statue either, so if you try to get rid of it, you’ll have damaged poor Gladys’ property. I don’t think that would look very good to the other mums, do you? It would be, as you said, mortifying.”
And with that, Olivia retreated to her room before an argument could ensue properly. She unboxed her new metal friend, displayed him proudly on her dresser, and smiled.
I apologize if this post was far too long, and if you made it all the way down to here, then you must be a saint, and I thank you very much.
I’m reasonably happy with this for a first attempt. I’m not 100% certain on the ending, I feel it was a bit abrupt, but I couldn’t quite think of a conclusive and satisfying final line, but maybe that will come later when I edit this. Also, I’m sure I probably made a lot of mistakes with formatting the dialogue, as that’s something I’m not entirely clear on the rules of, but I think that can be fixed another time.
I’m also slightly concerned that this might be the most boring thing ever to read, I find it hard to tell if it could actually be interesting, or if it just seems silly. Either way, I had a lot of fun trying out this type of writing for the first time, and I also felt really great to get back into the world and characters of my first story idea again, which I should have another post about later this week!
Also, as a little side note, the song that was on repeat in my brain while writing this, was ‘Sexy Free & Single’ by Super Junior, not only because it fits the vibe of the scenes, but it actually contains the word ‘bingo’ in every chorus!