Friday, 7 October 2016

General SS Failures // LesMisBook

[source] // Patricia Grullon
Remember that time I failed to participate in my own link-up? This is September's Starting Sparks, albeit slightly late.

Honestly, my September could be retitled The Saga Of Starting Sparks Failure, because not only did I miss the link-up, I also wrote from the wrong prompt. The real prompt was this, but I had it in my head that it was this:

Writing Prompt:

... So here, have a story that is neither in the link-up nor based on the prompt, and pretend it is Starting Sparks. You're welcome.

NB: I really do recommend going to the I Write page and reading previous LesMisBook stories, for context. 


Things were different after the Nutella sandwich day.

He seemed different to me. I’d sat in his kitchen, had his hyperactive dog on my knee, eaten dinner made by his mother. I had seen the shoes by their front door, the family pictures tracking years of growth: Jonathan as a baby, Jonathan on a beach with ice cream on his face, Jonathan smiling hugely in school photographs from younger, simpler days. I’d felt his father’s absence. I had been in his room, seen his guitar and his books and, most amazingly, the plants spilling over the windowsills. When I looked at him now I could see him gesturing with bright eyes and saying, “Spotted orchid.” He seemed more vulnerable, and more known.

I wondered if he felt the same.

Did he know me? Furious with myself but unable to stop I analysed his looks and his words and his touches. This was not flirting. There was a spiralling wheel of girls ready for him and he basked in their attention: Cara, Katie, Nicola, Nadiya, Livs. I tried not to watch them, to break their behaviours apart like a nature documentary, but they giggled and fluttered and touched his arms, his shoulders, and he continued as he always had, like for like. Except only some of them liked him – some whose eyes couldn’t stop following him, one or two with what could genuinely be called crushes. The rest weren’t really interested; they flirted with other boys in the same breath, not caring as long as someone with a Y chromosome was making them feel validated. Jonathan bloody Holcroft, poster boy and Prince Charming, was an excellent choice. But there were others too and who cared? Disposable, he to them and they to him.

He wasn’t disposable to me and he knew it. We were friends, indubitably, and whilst the others flapped and flitted he seemed to see me as a constant. More often than not we sat together, with Tracey and Ibrahim, and when it came to the other girls we both knew exactly what he was doing. He didn’t care, and he looked at me with a secret, under-the-skin smile to tell me that he knew I understood him. That we were both laughing at these shiny-lipped, fake girls. I told myself it was better to be me, his friend, co-conspirator, and what I told myself was right. They who flirted and twittered, they were ridiculous, and I hoped fervently never to be like them. But sometimes he’d joke with them, his eyes running across them, and some rogue stab of envy would travel through me. Jonathan bloody Holcroft was not subtle, and he did not play the long game. He flirted with girls at school and kissed them at parties, and I was his mate. He respected me, perhaps as much as – more than – he respected anyone, and I reminded myself to want nothing else.

One Thursday I was eating lunch and he was chatting to Cara.

Liam Mitchell was at our table. Liam Mitchell is a sort of cartoon maths nerd, Simpsons-ready with the nasal monotone and the glasses and the poor, pasty skin. Ibrahim, stuffed as he was with the milk of human kindness, put up with Liam Mitchell for hours on end, nodding through his stories and his theories about wormholes.

Endearingly – remarkably – Jonathan bloody Holcroft was excellent too. Liam craved their attention, reaching for it like a snail straining its feelers. Today Jonathan was busy with Cara, and Liam was explaining a model of space probe to Ibrahim and me.

Maybe he sensed my attention waning. Whatever: I found myself sitting in silence as Liam, turned away from me, showed something to Ibrahim on his phone. On my other side Jonathan’s back was to me, Cara laughing at something he said. My view was of dirty schoolbags piled on the floor, lumpy potatoes piled on plates, guffawing Year Nine boys piling onto each other. I checked my phone. No texts. Feeling intellectually superior I ignored Instagram and opened the BBC News app.

The Prime Minister grinned at me with frightening lipstick. You could cut yourself on her hair or her blazer lapel. I scrolled past her.

“Damn,” I said out loud.

Jonathan said, “All right?”

I put a hand through my hair. “Nineteen people have been killed in a terrorist attack in Istanbul. A ninety-four-year-old priest is among the dead.”

“Sick,” Cara said.

Ibrahim sighed, a long weary noise. Beside him Liam Mitchell said, “That’s unfortunate.”

“Right.” I scanned the rest of the article. “They slit their throats.”

“Gross,” said Cara. Jonathan wasn’t looking at her. After a strung second she slid off the table, said, “See you,” and walked away.

“They probably didn’t do it right,” Liam said.


“The throats. They probably didn’t slit them right.”

I turned to him, shock blooming.

“Mate,” Ibrahim said, “I don’t think that’s really—” 

“What the hell?”

“What?” Liam blinked at me.

“Are you bloody serious? They didn’t slit them right?”

He pushed his glasses up his nose. “Most people don’t know that if you want to kill someone quickly, you have to slit diagonally—”

“Stop!” I threw my hands up, chair screeching back, anything to get away from him. “People are dead, Liam, they were murdered, it’s not about the bloody way their throats were split! I cannot believe you.” I stood, swooping up my bag with perhaps more dramatic effect than necessary. “You are disgusting,” I said, and I strode from the lunchroom, and it was only when I’d locked myself in the toilet beside the Music classrooms that I admitted there were tears in my eyes.

I had a free period, which was a blessing because the thought of spending one more minute in the company of this school’s inhabitants made my fingers itch to claw something. I stowed myself between a pile of bags and a rack of cellos and tried to think about my problems in an academic way.

a) i) I lived in a broken and bleeding world and

    ii) I didn’t know what to do about it.

b) i) I couldn’t care fully about important things because

    ii) I couldn’t stop thinking about Jonathan bloody Holcroft which

    iii) was a massive problem in many ways.

c) i) My ex-best friend had said something to me that probably got termed as racial abuse which meant that

    ii) I was really far lonelier than I liked to admit but also

   iii) I didn’t know if I was dealing with it well at all, because I’m not Maya bloody Angelou and I really don’t have much of a clue about my identity, even if I pretend I do, because

d) I’m far more a faker than I can ever own up to.

I spend so much time attacking people like Liam Mitchell, in my head and in my reality, and yet I don’t know how to deal with myself. And maybe I was crying slightly when I heard footsteps, and studiously didn’t look up, and heard an aggravatingly nice voice say, “Éponine?”

“You should be in class,” I said.

“They’ll cope.”

I was looking at my knees in their crumpled school skirt, which I now noticed had a pasta stain on it from last night’s dinner. I really didn’t want to look up.

“Hey,” he said.

I slowly lifted my chin, not wiping my eyes, because to do so would be a sign of weakness.

He sighed, bent down, moved the bags, and sat beside me. My heart spasmed. The smell of aftershave. Our legs touching. My pulse was in my neck, hot.

After a moment he said, “You shouldn’t cry over Liam Mitchell.”

“I’m not,” I said carefully.

“Then what?”

“I just—” For a dangerous moment I was on the verge of sobbing, telling him everything, but the warning klaxons sounded and I returned to Default Nina Mode: acerbic and self-righteous. “I just think that was an awful thing to say and I really hate being around people who don’t care at all what’s going on in the world.”

Jonathan was silent. He was about to agree with me, surely, but then he said, “You can’t expect everyone to be like you.”

“Like me? You mean, with a fraction of care for human beings?”

“Liam does care about human beings. But he wasn’t really thinking about what he was saying. He’s got Asperger’s, doesn’t he? You’re not being fair to him, Nina.”

I spluttered, the injustice of this stinging me. There was no risk of tears now, just anger. “I’m not being fair? He’s the one going on about the right bloody way to slit a throat—”

“And you’re the authority on all morality?”

“Are you saying what he said was OK?”

“No, but I don’t think you helped by attacking him. You’ve got to make allowances for some people, Nina.”

“Don’t talk to me like I’m a child,” I snapped. “Now you’re the one playing the moral authority—”

“Why do you have to fight everyone all the time?”

This stopped me. I didn’t reply.

“Fighting him, fighting me. I’m trying to help you.”

“By patronising me.”

“No!” Jonathan bloody Holcroft sighed. “You’re purposefully not getting me. You want to be annoyed with me, as usual.”

I wanted to say something scathing, but for once nothing came to mind.

Quietly he said, “Don’t let Liam Mitchell get you down, OK? There are enough problems without listening to what he says.”

A pause. “I hate letting things slide.”

“I know you do. And it’s one of the best things about you. But you don’t need to exhaust yourself.”

I sighed. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I’m always right.”

“Yes, I forgot. Silly me.”

He got up, grinning, and offered me his hand. I took it, ignoring the surge in my stomach, and stood. There we were, him still holding my hand, face to face. He smiled. “I feel like I should bow now.” He did so. “My lady.”

I rolled my eyes to camouflage my foolishly racing heart. “Don’t you have to be stupid somewhere else?”

“Not until next period …”

We went to buy chocolate, talking about the show and Mrs Mosely’s state of rising panic, and I wished he hadn’t just proved he knew me better than almost anyone, but he had.


[source] // I am so in love with this image
I think that is going to be all for a while on the LesMisBook front. There are only so many exploratory snippets I can write before I need actually to write the novel. Which I am ridiculously excited about. A recent fun discovery is that it is set in Staffordshire. Who knew? Still, Nina's family might make an appearance at some point. Or maybe Verity Locke, who the book was meant to be about, thanks for nothing JBH. As ever, a thousand thanks for reading.

Until Then If Not Before  #neon:
[source] // Jonathan Monk


  1. Great job, Emily - your writing style is awesome *nods*.

    ~ Savannah

  2. Wow, he really does know her better than anyone. Shipping them! ^_^ Seriously though, I love that he can call her out like that and get away with it. And be right about what he said. (Though I would be mad at Liam too, goodness.)

    Thanks for sharing all the exploratory snippets! I'd say I can't wait till you write the book, but currently SitC has a bit more sway with me right now. ;)

    1. He does! SHIPPING SO HARD I CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU. I ship no one except Corem the way I ship this.

      Thanks for reading them! Ha, that makes me VERY happy -- that you are excited about SitC! Because you liked TCATT! I'm still on cloud nine about that! -- though I am equally stoked for LesMisBook. But all in the fullness of time. SitC is The Thing right now :D

  3. I hadn't expected this camaraderie, but I'm enjoying it!
    I've always liked the parts when Nina retreats into her mind to mull over an issue. But up until now she's been alone with her thoughts. To have someone come in and challenge her a bit makes things even better.

    1. I'm so glad! I am all about breaking into Nina's thoughts XD

  4. As always, I'm really enjoying these characters and where they're going. I'm definitely interested in seeing where it goes next.

  5. These two will always make me smile! Love this!

  6. I ADORE this book!! Whenever you post a snippet I just get sucked in and it's beautiful and the rest of the world totally disappears. (And that "feeling intellectually superior", lol).

    1. Thank you so much! You are a babe. What kind, kind words. (And yes, that is Nina all the time! XD )

  7. Hm, Jonathan Holcroft seems to be quite an intelligent guy. He certainly knows how to calm a person down! I think your writing style is quite nice. I like it.

    And that image you're in love with is quite cool. I don't know what's up with me and pretty boys. *sigh*

    1. He actually is! He just hides it quite well sometimes ...

      Isn't it? Hahahaha Grace I could say the same XD

  8. Just don't tell Verity she was tossed off center stage by JBH.

    I love this. :) Everything about it. Nina's dilemma. Her ardent stubbornness to FIGHT everyone. Their little "misfit" group (whom it seems JBH has adopted? I didn't take JBH for the misfit-adopter type, but yeah, so I kinda like him more now). The Default Nina Mode. XD Their convo.

    The outline though. *sneezes* Ew. I'm allergic to anything that smells of organization. *sneezes again*

    But the outline is very Nina-ish. :)

    *whispers* So I thought that the prompt that you used was the real prompt too?! Maybe it's a good thing that we both missed that month. The prompt apparently did it's own thing. XD

    Speaking of, your prompt this month has me stumped.

    1. Ha, I won't XD

      I'm so glad! I'm not sure if JBH has adopted the group, that is, I wouldn't say it's particularly a group ... I mean, Liam Mitchell and Nina are definitely NOT in a “group" together, but she is quite good friends with Tracey and Ibrahim. I'm not sure about JBH, like I don't really know who his friends are? I think he has fewer friends than people think, like, if someone said “does Jonathan have lots of friends?" everything would say “oh yeah totally, he's super popular", but when you actually try to THINK of the friends ... I think he has a male best friend. I've just not figured him out yet.

      I know, gross XD

      Weird! I wonder how that happened?? It's all very weird. The prompt is clearly in league with the bloath ...

      I have an idea for it now! Based on the nursery rhyme How Many Miles To Babylon? I'm excited. (Not that I've, like, written anything *ahem*)


Thanks for commenting! :)