Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Nutella Sandwich Day

One day I might write something not centred around snacks and tea-drinking ... but today is not that day.

yelena bryksenkova:
[source] // Yelena Bryksenkova
For context I would probably suggest reading previous LesMisBook snippets, which are available in the I Write page.

~***~

The Nutella Sandwich Day

“Please.”

“No.”

“Pretty please.”

“I said no.”

“Nina, you’re my light, my truth, my happiness, please—”

“I’m not doing it!”

It was helping Jonathan bloody Holcroft learn the monologue he should have been practising for weeks. I knew he’d scrape through without my help, but that wasn’t why I was saying no; my determination to refuse stemmed from my treacherous desire to agree. He’d asked me to go to his house, and I really wanted to, and so I was trying to think of reasons why not.

“I’ll give you snacks,” he said.

“What kind of snacks?”

“Snacks beyond your wildest dreams … I’ll design you a palace and build it out of chocolate—”

“That doesn’t sound very practical.”

“Nina, please, I’m literally begging you! Mrs Moseley’s going to kill me …”

“You should’ve learnt it already! You don’t need me, anyway—”

“Yes I do.” He grinned, a rarely self-deprecating grin that made my insides shiver. “Don’t you know I always need an audience?”

I rolled my eyes, by default, but he must have seen my surrender, because his face lit up. “Éponine!” he sang, “you’re the friend who has brought me here! Thanks to you, I’m at one with the gods and heaven is near!” Before he could finish the phrase I cut him off with a further barrage of sarcasm, but he had won, and that was how I ended up at Jonathan bloody Holcroft’s front door on a Tuesday afternoon.

Inside was a scrabble of barking. “You don’t mind dogs, do you?” he said. I don’t know what he would’ve done if I’d said no, but I didn’t have the chance to say anything, because something small and black was hurling itself at my legs. Claws needled through my tights, accompanied by an incessant, staccato yapping. In the hall two more dogs, these ones massive, ambled forward. Jonathan said, in the jocular tone particular to the owners of badly-behaved dogs, “Don’t worry, they’re friendly!”

“Ow!” I said as the small one lanced a paw down my leg. I half-stumbled, stopping myself just in time from grabbing Jonathan bloody Holcroft’s shoulder. 

He laughed and picked the dog up, shoving it under one arm so its legs dangled comically. “This is Nina,” he said.

“I don’t think it speaks English.”

“You’d be surprised. Come on, I’ll make you a Nutella sandwich.” And as if this was the most normal situation in the world he strode through the hall, past the two waist-high dogs. One of them put its cold nose in my palm as I skirted past, making me jump. I was glad Jonathan bloody Holcroft didn’t see. He would definitely have laughed at me. As usual.

Still with a dog under one arm he was filling the kettle. The kitchen was mostly grey, stylish but not unfriendly, magazines on the table, dog bowls in the corner, a fruit bowl with a regal pineapple looking down on the oranges and apples. Jonathan put down the dog, which ran back to me and started assiduously sniffing my shoes, and put tea bags in mugs.

“Aren’t you going to ask if I want coffee?”

“Do you want coffee?”

“No.”

“That’s why I didn’t ask.”

“I resent your choosing my drink for me.”

“Because it represents the oppression of the patriarchy?”

I glared at him and he laughed. “I know you, Nina Seth, and I know that you want tea. Don’t argue.”

“I never argue.” I sat down and took off my shoes, and the dog, with a well-calculated leap, landed on my lap. It turned in a circle three times and lay down.

“There, you see?” said Jonathan, turning to the fridge. “Friendly.” He sloshed milk into each mug. “I’m not using a teapot and I’m not even taking the bags out first. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

“Either of my grandmothers would kill you. Indian and Irish. Giants of the tea-drinking world.”

“Irish?” He couldn’t stop it. The flash of surprise.

“My mum’s family,” I said.

“Right.” He didn’t want to ask the question he wanted me to answer. 

I let him struggle for a moment before saying, “Yes, she’s white.”

He nodded. “Well, there you go.”

“Wouldn’t have seen that one coming, would you?”

He grinned and dipped his head. “Admittedly, no.”

I couldn’t help smiling, the disease of smiling that caught me whenever I was with him. “Some people are so shocked to hear I’ve got a white parent, it’s like they want to ask, Are you sure? Thanks,” I said as he put the tea in front of me. “I’ve even had people make jokes, like, Is your mum being quite honest, eh? Is the milkman Asian? Then I tell them it’s my mum who’s white and she’s pretty sure she remembers pushing me out her uterus, and that tends to shut them up.”

Jonathan snorted with laugher. He was putting white sliced bread in the toaster. “I can imagine it only too well.” He reached to get plates from a cupboard, and for a second I was distracted by the hair at the back of his neck, brown curls falling into a slightly irregular V. “Do you have any siblings?” he asked, turning, and I blinked.

“A brother.” My voice sounded strange to me, as if betraying what I’d been thinking seconds before. I cleared my throat. “Dipankar. He’s twenty. He’s at Leeds studying” – I made a face – “dentistry.”

“Gross,” said Jonathan.

“I know.”

“Dipankar’s a good name.”

“My father always said his first son would have an Indian name, and my mother always said her first daughter would have an Irish name, so they both ended up happy. Of course, the gene pool has a great sense of humour, so Dipankar just looks like he’s got a good tan. Sometimes people ask if he’s Hispanic.” I smiled. “Or Australian.”

Jonathan laughed. “Australian?”

“I know. And yet he’s the one with the Indian name. Oh the hilarious ironies.”

“I’d love to tell you an exciting story about my name, but I’ve got nothing.” The toast popped and he fished it out with childlike excitement. “I’ve been thinking about this sandwich all afternoon.”

“Is it a true sandwich if it’s toast?”

He frowned. “Please don’t call my life into question.”

“That is an obscene amount of Nutella,” I said, watching him spread it.

“I always make healthy choices, Nina, you know me.”

The door opened and I looked up, expecting a family member, but it was the other dogs, noses twitching towards the food. As Jonathan gave me my sandwich the dog in my lap woke up too. 

“I feel watched,” I said.

“Come on, let’s leave the zoo.” The dogs eyed us mournfully. “Sorry,” Jonathan said as he shut the kitchen door on them, a genuine apology.

My pulse was quick as we climbed the stairs, and not just from concentrating on not spilling tea on Jonathan bloody Holcroft’s parents’ carpet. It was the thought of his bedroom, foreign and intimate. You can tell a lot from a bedroom. Seeing his felt like some invisible milestone.

It smelt of him. An observation I felt stupid for making but couldn’t help. It was untidy but not badly, schoolbooks on the floor, a few dirty mugs, the bed not made, but the curtains were open. A guitar leant against the bed. I watched him bend to pick up a pair of jeans and hang them on the chair. He was humming Les Mis under his breath.

There were plants lining the windowsills.

He had two windows in two walls, his desk below one of them, and I went straight to it and put mug and plate down. A fern trailing from a pot, a plant with big white-striped leaves, a purple flower. I stopped, unwilling to touch them, and turned to look at him. He was smiling, and somehow I felt like I’d passed a test, like he was waiting to see what I thought about the plants and, from that, would form his final opinion.

“These are beautiful,” I said.

“They are, aren’t they?” He nodded to the purple flower in its small vase. “That’s my favourite at this time of year. Spotted orchid.”

I looked past them down the residential street, with its terraced houses and cars in driveways. “Where did you get it from?”

“We take the dogs to the country at weekends. I brought that one back from an old quarry. The stem was broken, it would’ve died if I’d left it.”

“You carried it home in the car?”

“Yeah.”

“Like a little birdie with a broken wing?”

“Are you making fun of me?”

I grinned. “I love them. Have you always been into … plants?”

“We used to live in the country. We’ve not been in this place long.”

I looked at the A Level Biology book on the desk. “I always thought bio was a weird choice for you, but …”

“I want to study horticulture.”

He said this with a slightly bashful, endearing grin, as if it was a secret.

I couldn’t stop smiling. “That’s so cool.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Nina Seth thinks something about me is cool. That is an achievement.”

“Only one thing,” I said, “don’t get ahead of yourself,” and sat down at his desk to eat my sandwich, so he wouldn’t detect just how cool I find everything about him.

When we’d eaten the sandwiches – which were second to none – he got Hamlet ­out and we went through the monologue. Act Four Scene Four, “How all occasions do inform against me / And spur my dull revenge.” Jonathan bloody Holcroft is a good Hamlet, riding the wave between naïve, boyish uncertainty and the desire to be a man. It is my favourite speech in the play, and when he opened to it my heart skipped, as if this were some sign, a connection between us. I told him it was my favourite, and there was a second when he looked at me, lips slightly parted, as if he, too, sensed this quivering string running between us, like two notes slipping into a chord. But he grinned and said, “I wasn’t going to choose to be or not to bloody be, was I?”, and he moment was gone.

We spent hours there in his room, talking, he laughing at me for my earnest discussion of iambic pentameter and hamartia, but in a mildly impressed way, the laughter of one who does, in fact, love Shakespeare, but doesn’t splash it over the front page of their life. I looked at his bookshelf, mostly modern, a lot of horticulture, the Harry Potter series in its bold, brave colours. “But no Les Mis,” I said. 

He laughed. “You wish.”

When the monologue was faultless a woman called upstairs, “Dinner!”, and without asking me if I wanted to stay he led me back to the kitchen. I’m normally not a fan of meeting other people’s families – Beth’s dad always tried too hard to be friendly, and her mum used to look at my underbrushed hair and unshaved armpits as if worried I might infect her daughter – but Jonathan bloody Holcroft’s mum was the kind of woman I wanted to go for coffee with. 

“Come again!” she said as I eventually left. Come again. I wanted to, more than almost anything. In the hall he hugged me goodbye and as I walked home I could smell his aftershave on my coat. Scenes of what could have happened were running through my head, spiralling in and out of the Les Mis he’d been singing – In my life, there's been no one like him anywhere, anywhere where he is – but I tried to shut them down. I was happier than I’d been since that last time I spoke to Beth, happier than I’d been since Katie’s party, but colouring my happiness was the longing I was trying to ignore. Things had been uncomplicated this afternoon, friendly, and I knew that friendly was the only portent of things to come.

~***~

Pinterest •♛T O R I ♛•:
[source]

HOW CUTE ARE THEY?! I have zero idea how I've got to this point, though. A fully-fledged romance contemporary?? Written by me?? This is not a thing! But ... apparently it is. Ha. This book was meant to be about Nina's friendship with Verity Locke. Oops ...

Expect another extract before the end of the month, when I link up with Starting Sparks. Until next time, friends.

~***~

23 comments:

  1. It was only last night when I was re-reading the last LesMisSnippet, wishing for another one! And look at that, my wish is granted!

    JBH and his food- what a character. Maybe he needs his own cooking show.
    It was great to hear more about Nina's family. Her brother and my brother have similar stories- my brother (who has a french name) was often thought to be Chinese when he was a baby. Now people think he's First Nations.

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    1. Aww Blue you are so nice! I read this comment via email at work and couldn't stop smiling, I can't believe you were rereading it! <33

      Ha, maybe he DOES need a cooking show. He would love that ...

      That's so interesting. I'm fascinated by the relationship between the way people look, where they're from and where they consider themselves to be from. LesMisBook is all about that national identity!

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    2. aw, thanks! Well, it's an engaging story! There's something in it that's real and relevant.

      I was just having dinner with my Indian friend and her mother. We were discussing heritage. I couldn't help but think of your LesMisBook. I think Nina's story, and the honest way she tells it, is a story that people need. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the whole thing grows!

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    3. I'm so, so happy you like it. I can't wait to write the novel! (Eventually ...)

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  2. Awesome! I can't wait until you post for Starting Sparks! :)

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    1. Hopefully soon! Though I've not edited it yet and it is the 26th, oops XD

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  3. i'm getting old and my eyes are getting worse so it took me longer than usual to read this which means i have two seconds to comment before i have to leave the house BUT OMG YES I LOVE YOUR DIALOGUE

    and goodbye.

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  4. These two! omigoodness, such a cute non couple. I mean freaking nutella sandwiches, I ship it!

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  5. EMILY THEY ARE SO CUTE! I ship it. The end. You're such a brilliant writer! Your dialogue actually killed me. *dies*

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    1. THANK YOU. I ship it too (ahaHAHA CAN YOU TELL?!). I'm so glad! (That you're dead? *ahem*)

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  6. Hello Guys,
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  7. Awww! Comparing this to the first time we met JBH, I wouldn't have imagined how adorable he could be with Nina. I mean, horticulture? Nutella? (I love Nutella.) Your character interactions are the best. :D

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    1. ISN'T HE ADORABLE. The horticulture is one of my fave things about him. I'm glad you liked! <333

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  8. A chocolate house "doesn't sound very practical." XD This makes me think of that scene with Gwen Stacy and her dad in the Amazing Spider-Man.

    So I LOVE everything about this! I am shipping them so hard now. And really? Nina doesn't like dogs? But why? I do rather like the bit about coffee and tea. Of course, he knows she prefers tea. He notices her as much as she notices him, she just doesn't realize that.

    I like how he's so excited about a Nutella sandwich. XD (though truly, what is life if you can't get irrational excited about Nutella?)

    "That is an obscene amount of Nutella."
    "I always make healthy choices, Nina, you know me." I do like this. And I like how he says "you know me" casually after he asserted that he knows Nina's preference for tea (although this does take place in the UK, right? a preference for tea is not a huge leap, is it? *wiggles eyebrows* so I might be thinking of that scene in TCATT in which Corrie cries at the sight of tea).

    So, so true, you can learn so much about a person from their bedroom. It's their own personal space.

    I am a little confused how reading Hamlet will help him with is Les Mis lines (although I do love that paragraph and JBH, of course, that boy ruined their "moment" XD). And meeting people's parents/family is the most awkward thing ever. They always act weird instead of being their normal selves.

    Nina and JBH are the BEST together. Just, ugh, I love them. I love them too much. I knew I wasn't sure about JBH before, but now I hope you keep them together at the end. So much.

    So I love that he brings the country with him and fills his room with plants. And that he likes horticulture. It's so unexpected and. . . cool. I should try having plants in my room. I miss wild trees so much. But then, I never open my window, so any plant I bring inside would die of sunshine deprivation. But my window opens to the road and the park beyond and people go by regularly and can see right into my room and that's far too obtrusive for me. Otherwise. . . I'd grow a jungle in my room!

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  9. Hahaha yeah I had that scene in my head! XD

    I'm so glad! ME TOO. ~ships across several oceans~ So, I don't think she doesn't LIKE dogs, she just doesn't have much experience of them. She's never had one growing up ... her dad would quite like one but her mum is scared of them so that's the end of the matter. I guess her mum has kinda brought her up like DOGS ARE BAD. But she will grow to love JBH's ... :3 (I, like JBH, have three dogs, two big ones and a small terrier, and I know people can find them a bit ... overwhelming. Mine are much worse behaved than his, though, as well as the terrier barking and jumping you'd have one of the big dogs barking her head off, and the other trying to sit on your knee. So actually Nina's got off quite lightly. The bit: Jonathan said, in the jocular tone particular to the owners of badly-behaved dogs, “Don’t worry, they’re friendly!” -- that bit is me. The jocular tone is me. I have, like, zero patience for people who don't like dogs. SORRY NOT SORRY.)

    Haha I think I whacked the “you know me" on more idiomatically, if that makes any sense, as in it's just a phrase which I think I say quite a lot, but I love how you got all that deeper meaning! XD (Which was totally accurate, by the way.) As for the tea preference ... I tend to assume people prefer tea just because I tend violently to impose my own tea preferences onto others. I can't imagine a non-tea-loving character written by me, it probs just won't happen. The TCATT trilogy is almost literally BUILT on tea. (And so are, like, all my stories ever. I'm thinking of Annika in the cafe ... of Teresa ... of Kit ... *ahem*)

    Hahhahahaa the Hamlet/Les Mis thing made me laugh! So, he is learning the monologue for the subject Drama. They live in England so they are doing A Level Drama. I do not live in England so I don't really know about A Level, when I actually write the book I guess I'll do some more research ... in Scotland we do exams called Advanced Highers, and for Advanced Higher drama your grade is made up of: a dissertation; a piece that you write yourself and perform with a small cast; and a scene from a play which you perform with a small cast. In my school everyone did scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream ... I guess there's other options on the curriculum but that's what they had to do. So, anyway, I am taking artistic license and imagining that A Level is similar, but I've swapped AMND for Hamlet. And THAT is why he is learning a Hamlet monologue.

    And I imagine that was far more about the British education system than you ever wanted to know ... you're welcome.

    (NB: the school show does not make up any part of your grade. So they're not being assessed on Les Mis at all. It's just the annual school show.)

    (Glad you liked their moment! As I said in the Cinder email just now, I love moments that just blossom a lil bit and then get SHATTERED. Mwahaha.)

    As if I could do anything other than keep them together! (Spoiler ... LOL hardly. But guess what? I'm actually planning to write this book while I'm in Kenya! I'M SO EXCITED I CAN'T EVEN!)

    The horticulture is one of my fave things about him. I'm so so sorry you are missing trees! And that your window is not private! These are hard things. But maybe you could grow that jungle anyway?? With a plant that thrives in darkness?? ... ??? XD

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  10. I do so love that scene. Especially the part with the crumpled flowers.

    XD I was kind of wondering there. The dog parts feel very realistic, and I like how you got in the head of someone with less dog experience. I do notice that people who haven't grown up with dogs are usually nervous around them just. . .because. But yeah. I've grown up with dogs too. (I actually have a Great Dane back in TX, and I miss her D:)

    I know that it was idiomatic, it just seemed like a very fitting idiomatic phrase. ;) (But seriously, college and all its critical reading has gotten to my brain. Someone help!) I have noticed this tea trend of yours. But I think everyone has something that they put in almost every story (like the outset of all my WIPs take place in the autumn?). And teas a good writing fetish. Tea-drinking readers will relate, yeah? XD Oh, yes Kit, I remember him. But Abel, he drinks coffee, right?

    Oooooh! I understand now! Like I feel like I learned something kind of understand now. That makes so much sense! XD Is it really dumb that knowing why they were reading Hamlet makes me smile? (I've never read Hamlet though. . . but I am currently reading King Lear.)

    (That seems strange that it's part of their grade. *shrugs* But I was homeschooled, man. I don't even know much about the US school system.)

    (YES! Shatter all the moments! I am so with you. . . readers are going to hate me. *cough*)

    Gah! Are you seriously planning to start writing it soon?! That's awesome! I hope you have a good time in Kenya too. :D

    I will have to look into that. ;)

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    1. I don't remember it too well apart from the chocolate ... and the “I'm going to throw you out the window". (I think that's the same scene? Is it? I need to rewatch!)

      YOU HAVE A GREAT DANE??? WHAT WHAT WHAT?? HOW HAS THIS NEVER COME UP BEFORE?? I LOVE GREAT DANES SO MUCH! THIS IS AMAZING! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! What's she called????

      All your WIPs start in autumn? Ha, that is interesting. It's a good time to start a story, as the conflict/darkness builds the year is also drawing to its close ... (It's upsetting me *slightly* that as things Build To A Head in SitC it is mid-March. So by the time we get to, like, the Big Battle in SotT it's gonna be, like, midsummer! Not really the same as those EVIL DARK WINTERY vibes XD ) Abel does drink coffee. He's also the only non-British character on that list ... XD (I don't mean to perpetuate stereotypes! But also ...)

      Ha, not dumb at all, I'm glad it made you smile XD I would 10/10 recommend Hamlet, though go see it first ... (If you can find the Benedict Cumberbatch version online WATCH IT, HE'S AMAZING.) King Lear, interesting! I saw that recently but wasn't a massive fan??

      I am going to write LesMisBook in the new year, yeah, and I'm so excited! Though as I just said in a different thread (us and all our threads ...) I have not very much plot. So it'll mostly just be sass and sandwiches.

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  11. (Um, no that's not the same scene. XD But definitely go rewatch it. It's hilarious!)

    Uh, I don't know? You never asked, "Ashley, do you have a GREAT DANE you're hiding up your metaphoric sleeve, hm?" Ahem, her name is Posy. Yes, I know it's technically spelled Posie, but she's my dog, and I prefer the spelling Posy. I'll email you soon and tell you how I got her. Because there is a story there. But she's huge and she is a mottled color of black, lighter black, and grey. She also does not have her ears or tail docked. So her tail feels like a whip if you happen to be standing behind her when she's wagging it. And she has huge floppy ears. XD I love her.

    So what are your dog/s name/s?

    It does work perfectly actually. The whole seasonal vibes. Sometimes too perfectly. *suspicious eyes at WHOEVER IS WRITING THIS THING* Oh, wait. That's me. (Your "But also. . ." makes me laugh. XD If it matters any, I have a co-worker who is an English grad student, and he brings hot tea to work a lot. He also kinda looks like Milo from Atlantis, but that's irrelevant.)

    I will look for Cumberbatch's performance then. Uh, the storyline was interesting, but I didn't understand half of the Fool's riddles (which makes me feel very stupid). I kind of thought it was fascinating that the plot was taken from a legend. But to be honest, I was more interested in the conflict surrounding Gloucester and his two sons than Lear and his bratty daughters. Although I didn't mind Kent so much.

    Sass and sandwiches! My two true loves!

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    1. (Oops! I feel your true-fan-disapproval. XD )

      OK, yes, I suppose I never DID ask that ... I would LOVE to hear the story of how you got her! She sounds beautiful, I am very keen on whippy tails XD

      Sally (black lab, 10), Risga (ginger mongrel terrier, looks a little like a tiny highland calf, 7) and Tig (yellow lab, 2).

      Hahaha. WHO IS FLYING THIS THING? I say that to myself a lot whilst writing XD (I am glad. Do you mean a grad student from England, or a grad student of English? I don't know what Atlantis is. This parenthesis is getting me a bit confused.)

      You should! The Gloucester and his sons plot was probably more interesting ... I found the whole thing quite confused and confusing. I'd like to see it again.

      And mine! XD

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  12. (Sorry! A grad student whose major is English.)

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    1. Right! So, I'm still slightly confused about him / why you brought him up. But I am amused all over again by this comment thread, because I just spent a while flicking through TCATT reading comments (couldn't resist! AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SENDING IT BACK AND ALL YOUR AMAZING COMMENTS LOVE YOU BRO) and saw a) you said Fetterman reminds you of this Milo from Atlantis (must look him up!) and b) all the tea hilarity. (Of Corrie crying, eg.) XD

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Thanks for commenting! :)