The Writing Group

It was an interesting group  – different backgrounds – different ages – male, female – some looking bright-eyed - fit and healthy, some worn - faces showing traces of weariness, some hovering in between.

12 weeks into the course they had become more comfortable with each other – not completely open - there wasn’t time for that – a few minutes before the start, 10 or so in the break, and a rushed word or two as they headed for the lift and the stairs at the end.

As Marta talked she looked around – and smiled inwardly, thinking that at last she had a group that was as enthusiastic about writing as she was – especially about short stories - the last lot had mostly been budding poets, giving her the almost impossible task of writing something reasonably pleasant and constructive about the drivel they’d written – except for Jan, who’d surprised her with the beauty and tenderness of her writing …. pity she’d left the group early in the year ..

Patrick listened to Marta intently – he liked the way she described things – tools, techniques, approaches – you needed these if you were a serious writer, as he was – why can’t some of the others see that and stop asking inane questions that took the discussion away from the essentials.

Melanie looked across at Patrick, wondering why he had an angry look on his face – he always seemed so pent up – ready to explode.

Like my husband, she thought, always simmering, always something eating away at him, then losing his temper over the silliest things. The kids and her weren’t to blame for him losing his job, but it’s us that gets punished. If he’d taken it more seriously and worked harder at it he would still have a bloody job.

She wondered if anyone else in the group had fallen out of love with their partner.

As always, David was doodling across every spare inch of space in his notebook.

I do listen, he’d told Anna, but the doodling helps me to concentrate. It was a lie of course, and as he looked up he realised that, as usual, he hadn’t heard a word that Marta’d said. No problem, he thought, as long as I hear the homework bit at the end then it won’t matter.

Pity I couldn’t just have the homework emailed to me, he thought, but then quickly remembered that if he wasn’t here he’d have to spend the evening at home alone … and there were enough of those nights without adding another.

Tina tried to concentrate on taking notes, but she couldn’t help thinking about it.

Pregnant. The word kept ringing around her head. Single, temping, sharing a flat, no savings, no partner, no idea who the father is – and pregnant. What a mess, she thought – what a bloody mess.

But I won’t give up the writing, no matter what .. it’s  too important ..  a way out of the miserable world I’m in.

Kevin looked across at Tina and wondered how he could ask her out without making a complete fool of himself.

They’d spoken a couple of times and he’d liked her – she seemed down-to-earth, full of fun, pretty too – someone he would feel comfortable with. – someone who wouldn’t laugh at him because he wasn’t highly educated, wouldn’t make fun of his job.

I’ll ask her on the way out, he thought – she works near me - just for a coffee  at that café on the corner.

Alan looked at the blank page in his notebook. I can’t do this, he thought, not now I know what’s happening.

No point …  probably won’t be able to finish the course anyway … not much chance of finding a job here – London maybe – more likely overseas – the Middle East or Africa.

Elaine picked at the skin around her fingertips. She could see the raw skin but kept on picking. It isn’t  my fault, she thought  … how can they expect me to share looking after her when I live so far away?

Birmingham, for God’s sake .. it would take up the whole of a weekend with all the travelling .. and what about my own life?

What am I expected to tell Daniel .. he wouldn’t understand .. after the first couple of times he’d start looking elsewhere … “I like you here every weekend, it’s a special time for us” he’d said … and they want me to spend two weekends every month up there .. she won’t even know it’s me, she never remembers any of us now.

I’ll phone John tonight and tell him she’ll have to go into a home .. that’s it .. a home … she’ll be looked after better there too.

Marta looked up ...

everyone clear about that? she said ..

and seven heads nodded yes.