Welcome to my second week of the February Showcase. You’ll remember from week one I’m an illustrator and artist as well as a writer. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy my illustrations below!
This week, I want to turn my attention to St. Valentine’s Day. Saint Valentine was a clergyman during the third-century Roman Empire. However, his characterisation as the patron saint of love, and the traditions of celebrating romantic love on his saint’s day, 14th February, came much later,through the writings of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer.
Fast forward a few hundred years to today, where St. Valentine’s Day is often mocked as’ Hallmark Day’, suggesting that the day is now more recognised for the commercial aspects associated with it, rather than its true meaning. That said, there are still plenty of people who choose to celebrate this day, demonstrating their love and appreciation to their loved ones. This is becoming far less restricted to couples, as people all over the western world shower their friends, children, and even pets, with tokens of affection on 14th February.
While I was thinking about this, I wrote a somewhat playful poem about Frida, my 18-month-old cat, who, despite being a cheeky little devil at times, I love dearly with all my heart.
Mornings With My Frida…
I wake up in the morning to the sound of my alarm,
Her cute little pink nose near mine,
I’ve barely opened my eyes, and she says,
‘mummy it’s play-time!’
I wipe my weary eyes,
And sit up straight in bed,
Checking my phone for missed calls,
Whilst little poppet nuzzles my head.
‘Get up, get up! It’s play-time mummy…
…and I can hardly wait!’
But in my mind at the moment in time,
All I think is ‘crap I’m late!’
I launch out of bed at the speed of light,
and run to the en-suite,
But there’s Frida singing her song,
Looking up at me from down at my feet.
‘I’m sorry sweetheart, mummy hasn’t got time’,
She looks at me with disappointed eyes,
‘Give me one minute’ I say ‘I just need to pee’
But she sulks, knowing it’s all lies.
I’m rushing around, trying to get ready,
With my companion stuck to me like glue,
Tripping over her toys, and making her feast,
When suddenly, out of the blue…
‘Mummy, mummy, look at me!’
Frida sprints on her running wheel,
‘You don’t need to go, just stay here with me’
Please understand, for her, it’s a big deal!
‘I’ll be back soon, don’t worry baby girl,
I promise I won’t be long’,
I reach for my coat, and pick up my bag,
But there’s Frida, again, with her song.
She runs down the hallway up to the front door,
And as I turn the key to unlock,
She whimpers and pleads for me not to go,
And with her claws, tugs at my sock.
I pick her up, and cuddle her tight,
And tell her ‘it’ll all be okay,
Mummy will be back later for kisses and cuddles,
I’ll see you at the end of the day!’
She jumps out my arms, and chases her ball,
As if now happy and content,
But as soon as I open the dreaded front door,
Her little heart drops with a dent.
I quickly run out, leaving my girl behind,
And proceed to lock the front door,
I hear her cries, and my heart does break,
So I quickly leave the floor.
Hours pass by, and I return home,
With dinner and treats in my bag,
I open the door, and there she is,
My princess, her tail in a wag.
‘I love you sweetheart, I’m so happy to see you,
I hope you had a good day?’
She looks at me, with her sparkling eyes,
‘Mummy, now can we play?’
© Charlotte Webb, 2022
Valentine’s evening can be a big event for some: a night of proposals, baby-making, and even firstdates. However, it’s not always the commercialised day of romance that marks big occasions, and not all occasions are laced with frills and perfection. Like the character Jason in this first Showcase, sometimes what we plan to be a momentous occasion can actually become the most awkward and embarrassing of times. This account of teenage ‘first-time’ angst, brilliantly written from the perspective of Jason, by writer K.J. Quinn, is taken from her novel The Purity Pledge.
Jason and Tiffany extract from The Purity Pledge
At the end of one of the longest days of his life, Jason lay still, listening to Tiffany’s breathing, astounded that he was actually, finally here. In her bed. Naked. He glanced down at her. Her closed eyelids flickered and a thin line of drool made its way slowly from her mouth down her chin and onto Jason’s bare arm. He had never expected Tiffany Vanderkamp to drool. It was gross.
At least their second attempt at sex had gone more smoothly. The first time, on Monday, had been so terrible he hadn’t been sure he’d get another chance. He burned with embarrassment as he remembered it. Tiffany had been stretched on her bed, wearing only red lacy underwear. When he had fumbled with her bra hooks, she had snapped “Careful! It’s Victoria’s Secret!” like it made some kind of difference.
He had panicked and torn the sheer fabric as he pulled his hand away. She had rolled her eyes and wriggled around, unhooking the bra herself. Jason had watched her, arms awkwardly by his sides, his legs dangling off the side of the bed, unsure whether to help. What would his teammates say if they knew he was screwing up his first time with Tiffany?
Things had gone from bad to worse when they were both naked. After trying not to react to the sight of Tiffany’s pubic hair (there was so much! Was that normal?) Jason had been physically unable to find the right location to make losing his virginity a viable option. Was he too tall? Was his dick too big? Tiffany was pretty small though – was it her? After she had said “Not there!” three times, she had pushed him away and muttered “You have to go. My mom will be home soon.”
He had left without being sure whether they had done it or not. But this time had been much better. He grinned. Finally, he wasn’t a virgin any more. Definitely. But still, the whole sex thing seemed to be … kind of awkward. He closed his eyes and tried to take his mind off his arm, which was aching and trapped under Tiffany’s head. He thought about Tiffany’s new friend, Lauren. They had History together in the mornings so after meeting her at lunch, he’d smiled at her when she walked into the classroom the next day. She apparently took this as an invitation to come and sit next to him and had done the same every day since. He spent most of class watching her neat handwriting spread across her notebook as she wrote down everything the teacher was saying. Her nails were short and neat, free from nail polish and not bitten to the quick like Tiffany’s.
Jason wondered what sex would be like with Lauren. She would have white cotton underwear, not little scraps of fabric that tore as soon as he touched them. She would just laugh gently if he struggled with her bra, or caught his fingers in her hair.
Lauren would smell like fabric softener and keep her eyes open the whole time.
Jason felt the tingle of an erection begin and willed it away. Why was he thinking about some random girl when he had the most beautiful one right here? Tiffany shifted, and the pain in his arm intensified as she began to snore.
(c) K.J. Quinn, 2022
My next showcase is also an extract from The Purity Pledge, but this time it’s written from the perspective of Molly, a teenage girl working in McDonalds, who is almost certain her supervisor has a crush on her. But when he doesn’t make the unwelcome advances that she expects, her next moment alone she breaks down in tears. The question is, are these tears of relief, or anger, or even disappointment? This extract makes me want to read more to find out!
Molly and Darryl extract from The Purity Pledge
Three torturous hours later, Darryl spoke to her for the first time that day.
“Hey, Molly. Can I talk to you for a second?” he asked from behind the counter.
Molly looked up cautiously from the seat by the window where she was keeping watch for her mom’s car and picking at the spots on her chin.
Molly stood up and pulled off her cap. She let down her ponytail and fluffed up her shoulder-length brown hair. She followed Darryl into what passed for an office. It was so small that with both of them in there, it was uncomfortably close, especially after Darryl closed the door. As they both perched awkwardly on opposite ends of the desk, Molly found herself getting nervous. Was this going to be the moment when Darryl would make unwanted sexual advances and she’d refuse, and then he’d fire her? Or he’d say she could become assistant manager, but only if she let him put his hand in her pants? Or maybe he’d be more refined – and slowly reach over, resting one hand lightly on her thigh, gently cupping her face with the other…
Molly felt her face flush bright red, while Darryl seemed increasingly fidgety and nervous. Oh God, this was it. This was actually happening. She knew he had a thing for her. Ever since he’d told her she was the only person he could trust to open up at 5am on a Saturday morning. The way he’d looked at her then said it all. And now, now –
“Mollywouldyoulikeanewuniform?” Darryl blurted, his words falling over each other. He stared at her, a wild-eyed look on his face.
“ … What?” Molly squeezed her cap with both hands.
Darryl took a deep breath. “I was wondering if, if you wanted a new uniform,” he said carefully, looking at a point over her shoulder.
“Er, no?” Molly looked down to examine her clothes, which were pristine considering she worked in a fast food restaurant. “We just got these uniforms a few weeks ago. Are they changing them again?”
Darryl cleared his throat. “I just thought you may be more … well, more comfortable. In a new one. A new uniform. If you want one, I mean.” Tiny beads of sweat formed on Darryl’s forehead. “I mean, I remember being a teenager,” he continued, now examining the ceiling. “Growth spurts, hormones … ha!”
He picked up a McDonald’s napkin from the centre of the desk and wiped it across his brow. A dark stain was spread across his armpit.
Molly clenched her jaw, putting her whole being into not bursting into tears. They listened to the wall clock ticking and the muffled clamour of the kitchen. Seven seconds passed before Darryl glanced up at the clock, opened his mouth and then closed it. He dropped his head and cleared his throat, and started picking apart the scrunched up napkin.
“Well!” Darryl told her feet. “I guess, er, if you’re comfortable, I mean, happy – then it’s fine.” He paused. “Good … great!” He reached across her to pull open the door, his arm lightly brushing momentarily against her breasts.
Molly nearly collapsed.
“Okay then, thanks Molly! See you next time!”
Molly stepped from the office into the steamy, clattering kitchen and through the window saw her mom’s Ford LTD waiting outside. She hesitated and then headed for the disabled bathroom across the restaurant. There was no way she could sit next to her mom being all skinny and perky, asking how her day was. Molly shut and locked the door behind her just before hot tears spilled from her eyes.
(c) K.J. Quinn, 2022
I was about to wrap up for the week when this wonderfully clever arrangement of words from Danny landed before my eyes. I knew straight away I couldn’t sign off without including it!
We’ve all been there; I know I certainly have. It’s the one that’s comfortably draining… the continuous conveyor belt of ups and downs… the emotion that seems to have a split personality of its own. For me, this poem is for those who will be spending Valentine’s Day receiving the greatest love of all: the love you give to yourself. Whether that’s healing from a broken heart, nourishing the mind and soul, or just working through a really complicated situation; just remember to keep loving you.
(From) Hate To Love
I love you.
Love you? Then love you?
I was love sick, now sick of love.
Tired of love. Tired love.
Yes, tired. Love tired. Love going.
Pain. Pain of love,
Pain from love.
“Tired of pain?”
Tired of pain from love.
“I love tired?”
No, I hate tired!
I hate love, hate to love.
I hate to love.
I worship with you on Sunday,
Then on Monday I love you,
On Tuesday you love me,
On Wednesday I’m generous to you,
But on Thursday you abuse me,
So on Friday I hurt you,
On Saturday I make it up to you,
Again on Sunday I worship with you,
On Monday I pray for you,
On Tuesday I even cry over you,
Yet on Wednesday you blatantly cheat me,
On Thursday I blank you, walk past you,
And on Friday, Friday? – can’t remember…
Can’t remember what happened on Friday,
Too tired to remember.
I hate tired.
Love makes me tired.
I hate to love.
Don’t give me love, God, give me hate.
Love hurts, give me hate.
I know hate, hate is easy.
What? Hate is hard?
How is hate hard?
On Sunday I’ll hate to worship with you because you
cheated me on Wednesday,
But I’ll hate to be apart from you because I loved
So I hate this more,
Because I loved, I hate.
What? It gets harder?
How does hate get harder?
When you abuse me while I love you it hurts me and
I hate that,
I hate it when it hurts!
But I hate it when you’re hurt too, because I loved
And I hate it when my hate hurts you,
So I hate myself.
No, I don’t hate myself, I hate my hate.
“It’s the wrong hate.”
What? My hate is the wrong hate?
Now, I have a headache,
A pain in my head,
Pain, tired of pain,
What? I have the wrong hate and I have the wrong
I hate this!
I’m tired of this drain,
I hate my love and I hate my hate!
Teach me the right love,
Show me the right hate,
© Danny Baxter, 2001
And that’s it for this Valentine special; next week I hope to bring you a taste of writers from my home town. It was Wolverhampton’s Literature Festival earlier this month, which was a wonderful opportunity to speak with both amateur and professional writers, from many different backgrounds and cultures.
If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to: pentoprint.org/get-involved/submit-to-write-on/
Write On! Audio Podcast Contributor Giveaway
Get involved with Write On! Audio. As a contributor, you could win A Writer’s Journal Workbook by Lucy van Smit. All Write On! Audio submissions (creative or opinion pieces up to six minutes, inspirational moments one to two mins – a short poem for example and why it inspires you – submitted before 20th February) will be considered eligible. The first two pieces chosen for broadcast will receive a book. Submit on: pentoprint.org/get-involved/submit-to-write-on/.
Visit anchor.fm/pentoprint to listen to the Write On! Podcast and get inspired.
Launched by Bloomsbury, A Writer’s Journal Workbook is packed with creative tasks, goals and advice. As an added bonus, you can also purchase it directly with this special discount code: AWJW25.