I've been sitting here for the past hour trying to drop the set of balls that would allow me to write what I am about to write. All I've gained has been a racing heart and slightly sweaty palms. And no dear reader, I haven't got any cosmic revelation about my self, sexuality, financial status, spiritual enlightenment or political leaning to break to you, it's just that I have decided to share some of my writing and it feels rather awkward and life-threatening. You'll be excused to arch your eyebrows until they merge into your hairline at this point because, yes of course, I know that I share my writing on here all of the bloody time for crying out loud so what's the big deal on this one?
Ehrm... the big deal is that I am a closeted fiction writer. I have been since I went to university and my imagination was beaten into submission by shelves and shelves of books by critics, as I told you in passing right here, and about how proper writing is done and about what proper writing is. At some point I thought, 'Blimey, I am not sure I want to write fiction anymore... look at how nasty and clinical all of these people are with their criticisms!' I felt The Anxiety of Influence weighting upon me like the proverbial ton of bricks and it wasn't until many years later, when I watched Ratatouille, that I started hopping from foot to foot, trying to get those bricks off my back for good.
Why Ratatouille of all things? Because of food critic extraordinaire Anton Ego:
'In many ways the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But, the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things... the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something... and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.'
Hence when I read of 21.5.800 I immediately decided that I wasn't going to progress my other projects, I wasn't going to spend the 800 daily words on the proposal I am working on or on the weekly pieces I write here or on all of the sensible writing I ought to do. Oh no, my insides twisted and turned as this thought bubble erupted from my ears and hung above my head like a thundering cloud, 'I am going to write Sugar Rush'.
Sugar Rush is the story of Milla and Vanessa. Milla is the daughter of fashion designer supremo Tallulah Frisk, who is keen on turning her introverted and slightly plump daughter into a supermodel, while Vanessa is the daughter of Italian celebrity chef Giorgio Rubino, who encourages his already gluttonous daughter to experiment in the kitchen. Can their blossoming friendship survive a world of extremes where food is both friend and foe? I don't know dear reader, because I've only just started it, and I am now taking the plunge and showing you the first fiction (the first 814 words of it) I've written in... I'd say... twenty years. I must warn you: it's rough but that's the whole point of the exercise! And I think that after this one... it's savasana time. Definitely.
Sugar Rush – One
It all started one Wednesday at six on the dot. Mum rarely comes home before ten in the evening, not unless she has got a launch party to go to or something absolutely extraordinary happens, like that time when her best friend patented the dripless teapot. Mum invested lots of money in that, but then it turned out that dripless teapots are very expensive things to produce and so it all went downhill from there and now she is not friend with Josie any more.
So on this Wednesday I started telling you about, she began calling me the second she closed the frontdoor, and this was already a cause for concern because she never checks on me, not even if she has won a prize on TV. She just assumes that I’ve seen her live anyway and that I am not interested in checking the prize out. And she is right.
I let her call and call and then heard her clacking steps across the marble hall to the kitchen where the Roald Dahl CDs were playing in the background. She had left the studio full of great plans, good intentions and very dark make-up but it was her grinning above all that surprised me and preoccupied me because mum never grins like this. She says it engraves her naso-labial folds into her face, which is plastic surgery speak for those thin lines that run from the bottom of her nostrils down to the side of her mouth. Not that you can see them mind you, but she does.
‘What do you think honey? Patricia was over for the photoshoot and I think she did a great job.’
‘You look nice. Will that thick glitter come off?’
‘Oh I am sure it will, I’ve got a bottle of special glitter remover in the dressing room, you know the one that Marcel created for the Concrete Safari shoot? It always comes off. The guy’s a genius.’
Mum talks very fast and types even faster when she is talking to someone. I guess by the time she has entered the kitchen she must have told Jane to call her hairdresser first thing tomorrow and that, no, she doesn’t want the hobo in the pony but in the jag and that Guido has better be five minutes early at the pick-up because she needs to get to Harrods before the store opens for her special appointment with Marygay. I don’t type fast at all, in fact, I don’t like it. I like to get lost in curly scripts, especially if I am using one of the scented gel pens which always make my mouth water.
‘What are you smiling at honey?’
‘Nothing. I mean, I am smiling at you.’
‘Right, well Milla, I’ve thought about something and it’s one heck of a smart idea’.
Ah. Mum and smart ideas do not go well together. She has been defined as an ‘airhead’ by the Sunday papers and we all know that ideas, especially smart ones, and airheads don’t exactly go hand-in-hand like cheese and Marmite. But my mum does not see some journalist’s definition of her as the be-all-and-end-all of who she is, I can assure you.
‘You know when I told you that in a couple of years, when you’re a little older, you can start modeling for my main line? Well, I thought why wait a couple of years, why not give the girl something to do now?’
‘I have something to do, I go to school.’
‘Oh yes, I know that. But I mean... something more important than that. About your future.’
She is perched on the marble side, with her legs crossed in that odd way she calls 'eagle' even though I've never seen an eagle twisted on itself like this. She is so obviously awaiting a burst of enthusiasm from me that I almost feel sorry I cannot fake emotions to save my life. It would really help at this point.
‘Don’t look so worried honey! It’s great news. Really. Today I was talking to Mark, you know Mark, the sportswear designer, yes? So I was talking to him and he thinks that my ranges have a really good...’ and she rolls her eyes to the little halogen bulbs in the ceiling, silently asking them for wordy inspiration, ‘...I have a really, really good... eye, yes, eye for things’.
She squints at me as she approaches, repeating ‘eye’ softly, impressing her memory with this turn of phrase.
‘And so he proposed that we work together at a sportsrange’.
‘Right. And? I would care because...?’
‘Because you can model it, silly!’
‘Mum, this isn’t such a big reveal. It makes no difference to what we always said.’
‘Oh yes of course it does, of course it does! It’s because I haven’t told you the rest. So the rest is this: you cannot be just thin, you need to be toned as well. So you should start taking classes.’
‘Classes in what?’ I ask.