Not Perfect

Fiction By Maddi // 10/3/2013

I am SO excited! For ages, I have been developing this story in my brain. I have really wanted to write something worth posting on AP. Something that I would follow through with, and not give up on. I want this picked apart, and be given brutally honest comments.
Just to give a foreword, this story is about a woman who's husband died. She has one daughter. She lives in Alice Springs which is a real place in Australia. It has a population of about 25,000 but I only want my fictional place to be 1,000. Small town, hot temperature, in the middle of the Australian bush. The story is about how she realizes everything doesn't have to be perfect.

The paragraphs with this ** are meant to be flashbacks. I couldn't get the whole thing to italicize.

A little blurb first:

Ainsley-Kate lived a perfect life. In a perfect world, with the two people she loved the most.

Perfect.

But then that world was shattered. Like a mirror. Into a million shards.

And no longer was anything perfect.

Live the life of Ainsley-Kate, as she searches for a future and a hope. As she learns, everything doesn't have to be perfect.

Chapter 1

It was Kristen who kept me going. I never realised it, but it was always her.

***

The pounding of the computer keys, the ticking of the clock, and the warmness of the coal heater…that’s what made me feel comfortable. That’s what helped me to forget.

If I got too busy, caught up in work, then I wouldn't have to remember.

If I didn't remember, then it would all go away.

I was trying to pretend.

And that’s why I worked like mad.

***

Someone rapped on the glass of my office door.

“Come in,” I said, barely glancing from my screen.

A gust of warm air rushed through the doorway, as my colleague, Dale, opened it. I winced as the hinges groaned. They needed an oil manicure.

“Kate?”

“Mm.”

“Those hinges really need fixing.”

“Yeah.” I lifted my head to see him inspecting the dirty blind shades.

He sighed. “Darlene wants to see you.”

“Okay.” I leant back in my easy chair, and almost unconsciously started pounding at the keys again.

“Like, now, Kate.”

“Coming, coming. I’m coming.”

Sweet, petite Darlene was “boss” of the entire newspaper building. Her office was scented with the perfume she used everyday. It was from Paris, or so they told me.

I marched into her office, only to gag at the over-powering odour of her supposed from-Paris perfume.

“Hi Kate!”

“Hi,” I mumbled, wishing to be anywhere else but this suffocating office.

“Did you wanna sit down?” Darlene motioned towards the peach-tinted chair opposite her desk.

“Sure.” I noticed a new pillow on the chair. Covered in cat print. Cats. Darlene loved cats.

“Kate…I, um, wanted to know the reason you’re working so hard.”

“So you’re pleased with my work?”

“No, no. No. I was just wondering what inspired you…a book? A quote? I know a few workers here could certainly use a bit of motivation.” She adjusted her neat bun, wound into her thin brown hair. “So?”

“No motivation, really. I just sort of realized that things needed doing around here.”

“Ah. I see. So, um, Kate, why don’t you take a break?” Her cat, Missy, curled up beside her on a pile of papers. I was disgusted. I hate cats.

“What the heck for?”

Darlene threw her hands up. “A reward for all the hard work you’ve done! Everyone needs a break sometime.”

“I’m good.”

“Really, Kate, I insist. You could spend time with, ah, what’s her name? Kristen. Yeah.”

“Darlene, seriously, I’m fine. Anyways, I have a huge article that needs editing. So…excuse me.” I got up, away from the cat cushions, and made a beeline for the door.

“Kate…” Darlene fiddled with the turquoise ring on her skinny thumb. “Do you want to get a coffee after hours? Like…like we used too?”

I remembered sunny afternoons, chatting under the tree that overshadowed the small café. They were nice days. But that was in the past. I shrugged away the warm memories.

“As I said, this humongous article is waiting for me. Maybe tomorrow. Bye!”

***

Work left me drained.

I usually drunk three mega cups of coffee a day, but it didn't help. Neither did the energy drinks the office had stashed inside the staff freezer.

I pulled my car out of the asphalt parking lot. I turned on the radio, only to turn it off again. I hated news updates. That’s all it ever played.

Dusk was falling as my little car sped along the streets. Alice Springs had way too many gum trees along the road, but no one really cared. Or really, no one bothered to clean them up.

That’s how the accident happened. All because everybody was too lazy to leave their air conditioning.

I slammed down on the breaks, realizing I was in my driveway. I left the car unlocked. No one would steal it.

I turned the handle of the great oak door. It was …hobbit-like.

**
“Ha, the handle’s in the middle!”

“I know, right? That’s why I bought it, honey. You know why?”

“Why?”

“It’s…hobbit-like.”

Laughter.

“And now I will proceed to carry my elf-bride across it!”**

I walked on the creaky floor boards, remembering the laughter it produced years ago. The books that lined the walls were filled with fantasy novels. How he liked them. How she takes after him.

My heels made dull clicks on the floor, reminding me of reality.

My stomach rumbled. I realised I hadn't eaten since my weetbix for breakfast. I was starving.

Dumping my bag on the hallway unit, I looked around the lounge room.

The house was neat. Cleaner than I’d left it this morning. Kristen must have tidied it.

My sweet, 16 year old, baby Kristen.

**“What do you want to call it?”

“Her.”

“Um…her, yes.”

“Kristen.”

“Just Kristen?”

“Just Kristen.”

“Whatever you say, honey.”**

“Kristen? Are you home?”

I heard giggles, mixed with boyish laughs, coming from the kitchen, for an answer. I cringed.

My sweet, baby girl…

Who had a boyfriend.

Comments

Hey! Okay, so--here's the

Hey! Okay, so--here's the full, unedited, pick-apart critique that you asked for. :) Hope it's okay.

First of all, I really like this. I like the feel, the mood. It reads easy. I love the Australian bits--Weetbix and such. It's a good setup, really, it is. The conversation seems to flow quite easily. I really enjoyed it.

And now for my critique:

I wonder if you wouldn't be able to dig deeper if you were writing Kristen instead of Ainsley-Kate (LOVE the name, btw!). That's my main concern here. My problem with teens writing adults is that they haven't felt that yet. The freedom and burdens. The relationships. I've written adults myself, and I think that it's SO FUN. Writing teens can feel limited. But I also think that when we kids write adults who have experienced things we haven't, it turns into us writing our idea of what adults are/should be. And occasionally that becomes cliche. Especially when you're writing a main character adult. So that'll be a challenge for you, but perhaps it's one you're willing to rise to the occasion for. :)

This also reminds me a lot of Reflecting The Sea (Kassady), if you don't mind my saying so. What with the flashbacks and premise...it's not a bad thing, since the idea isn't a oh-wow-breakthrough one. It's up to the person to take that and make it different.

Now some typos:

The needed an oil manicure. I think you meant 'they'.

I pulled my car out of the ash felt parking lot. I think you mean 'asphalt'. Kind of a tricky word, so I understand.

Also, I really liked the way this chap ended. Cliffhanger! Ahhhhh! I really want more now. :)

So! Have you applied to be a monthly yet? I didn't even know you posted until you told me, and I was thinking about how lovely it'd be to see your stuff on the home page! (I'll vouch for you! Arthur, James? If you're seeing this--this girl needs to be a monthly!)

Anyway, good job!

Madeline | Tue, 10/08/2013

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

:D

Thank you!! This totally made my day! Thanks for your precious feedback.
Yes, I wanted to write something Aussie. :)
Thanks for the critique! My biggest worry about this story, was writing about adults. After I had the overall idea, I tried writing it in Kristen's voice. It just didn't work, but it was easier. I just couldn't bring myself to do instead of Ainsley's. So yes, a big challenge for me! If there is anything that you spot that is cliché, PLEASE tell me! I'll try to fix it. :)

I don't mind you saying that. :) I just hope Kassady doesn't mind that this story is kinda like hers.

Ahh, thankyou. I'll fix those typos.

No! I don't exactly feel that my writing's worthy to be on the front. Not yet, anyway. There's always room for improvement! But thanks :D

Thanks SOOOOO much!

Maddi | Tue, 10/08/2013

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

Well, I guess then I would

Well, I guess then I would argue back that your writing would improve if it was on the front and more people saw it. ;) I became a monthly like....a year or so ago? And my writing's come a loooooooooong way since then. Still has a long way to go. But your's could, too! (Although I might add that I find it very front-page worthy!)

Madeline | Wed, 10/09/2013

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

Aw shucks....

Thanks! Maybe I'll apply next year as a sort of late-Christmas-prezzie to myself/new year-resolution-to-write-better. We'll see!

P.S. Also posted a poem thing-o too. If you're interested. :)

Maddi | Wed, 10/09/2013

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

Sorry I took so long to read.

Now that I have, I have some things to say.

First, I do like how simply you write this. It's easy to read, but would be even easier if you italicized - do you not know how? Do you want me to help you?

You said brutally honest. I have two things. Your writing style and how you cover things. After reading this, I'm wondering whether you could elaborate and describe more. I mean, I feel as if you are trying to make this dramatic by writing mostly one sentence paragraphs and then having a flashback explaining it. Not that it's wrong - and if it's your style...fine. But there are cons. For example, after the end of this, I still have not gotten an idea of the theme of this story. What it's going to cover. The only thing is that the main character is struggling and unhappy at her daughter's suitor. I think if you described more, and was more specific, you could have covered much more and given me an idea of what this story is going to be about. Why I should keep reading because you hooked me with your important theme, rising conflict, and love-able characters. By the first chapter, I want to see some hints. Do you understand what I am trying to say?

But don't get me wrong - I'm not really criticizing your style. One sentence paragraphs are powerful and that is why you must use them sparingly. If you use them too much, I think it will weaken the story and make it seem overly dramatically portrayed and corny.

You don't need to worry whether or not a chapter is too short. Just concentrate on quality, and not quantity. Which I think you're doing.

The conversation is not at all stiff - it's very natural. :) The mention of Hobbit was sweet and I really liked your descriptions i.e. the turquoise ring on her thin thumb.

Maddi, keep writing! Days will come that you just hate your writing and it drives you crazy, but if God wants you to keep writing - you must. Glorify God who will guide your pen! :)

Lucy Anne | Fri, 10/11/2013

"It is not the length of life, but the depth of life." Ralph Waldo Emerson

:D

No worries! Thanks for readng and giving your honest feedback/critique.

Italicize--yes, I'd love some hekp! I thought you were supposed to do this at the start of the paragraph, and this at the end. Apparently it didn"t work for me.

Okay, I understand what you are saying. I can definitely elaborate and describe more. Definitely. I'm actually not quite sure how to get the theme of the story in, though. I will think about how to do it. :) Thank you so much!

Thanks for the encouragement! I really appreciate your critique, Megan. And yes, all glory to God!

Maddi | Sat, 10/12/2013

Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we just go back to page one and start all over again?” – Winnie The Pooh

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