Last year during lockdown, I attended a course with the Faber Academy on Creating Brilliant Characters. We had several assignments through the course and in one of them, I wrote a short story about a young professional in Cornwall.
You may recognise some of the character traits are similar to Ajay in Crowned Worthy.
Don't ask me why, but I thought as the staycations are coming soon, people might be interested in having a read. Let me know what you think!
He kept telling himself it was nice to get away. Nice to have a break. It was an opportunity to unwind. He’d feel refreshed, ready for the next big project. It was good to inhale air that wasn’t riddled with pollution. Leisurely sauntering down a beach was healthy for the mind; a nice substitute to sweating on the tube as your snot turned black. Though he thought back to the office. His vacant desk chair and blackened computer screen. Joe better not get into big meetings while I’m gone, Stephen thought. He inhaled the sea air as he looked over the beach from the balcony of their cottage. Evening dog walkers, surfers and young teens starting fires whilst drinking beer from cans made an almost peaceful scene. The roar of the Atlantic disturbed it; the foaming waves galloping over the tide furiously. Stephen enjoyed listening to it. He hated silence; he needed noise to keep his brain stimulated. That’s what London gave him. Noise. Drama. Information to process.
He told himself again, this was good for him. To be back in Cornwall. He could read a book, do some baking, play board games; listen to music, and just hang out with the friends he came with. Though his mind kept wandering back to his email inbox. He wondered about something productive there to do. No, you’re on holiday, he told himself again.
His thoughts were disturbed by a wet splat on his left shoulder. Looking over, he groaned in frustration at the bird faeces covering his expensive cotton shirt. “For God’s sake”, he blurted. He lowered his shoulder to avoid any dripping and shuffled back through the french patio doors. Stumbling across the living room, he prayed that his mates wouldn’t come down. This would be ridicule. Making it to the kitchen, he rang the water into the white ceramic sink. With an overused blue jay cloth, he rubbed at his shoulder. “Please come out.” He murmured as he thought back to the price of the shirt. The cashier was hot. They flirted a little. He felt great when he left, carrying the premium, branded carrier bag. He didn’t even like the shirt that much. It’s just the style all the lads were wearing, and the ladies seemed to like. Middle-class priorities, he sniggered. But now a bird has shat all over it. Giving up, he decided it was a lost cause, the stain now resembling the colour of a penny. Why did that bloody bird eat? He questioned.
Darting back up to his bedroom, he found James lying on his bed. James was wearing a low v-necked white t-shirt, tight enough to see his pecks underneath it. Stephen whipped off his shirt and rumbled around in his exploded suitcase. James fell off his bed, placed his ray-bans on his head and stood tapping on his Iphone.
“You changing? We’re going in a minute.”
“Yeah. Err...I decided a shirt was too formal.” Stephen picked up the t-shirt closest to his feet. A black one. Similar to James’. That’ll do. He could have just said about the bird. He just didn’t fancy being the brunt of the holiday’s jokes. Maybe this was a bad omen. He should have stayed at work.
The five London lads bounced into the Cornish pub. “I’ll get the first round in.” James said as he lifted his ray-bans over the spikes of his hair.
“No mate. I’ll get this one. My treat.” Will insisted. The other lads watched him as he leant onto the wooden bar where many golden beer taps glinted. There was something about a country club a high-end London bar didn’t offer. The smell of cheap meat pies and laid-back decor; golf shields and beach portraits falling over the walls at screw-wiff angles.
As the four of them slipped into a vacant booth, James mumbled, “Trust Will to get the round when it’s only £2 a pint.” The others laughed, as did Stephen, though the comment made him worry. He often avoided getting a round. Mainly as it meant only eating baked beans for the following week. If he wanted to keep his flat in Shoreditch, that is. But this wasn’t university anymore. If you work, you buy a round. It’s a decent thing to do. A way of showing your success, your financial stability, that you’re doing good.
Will arrived then carrying three pints with both hands, and the beer slushed over the side of the glasses as he placed them down.
“Stephen Jasey. Is that you?” Stephen stopped still. They all looked over towards the voice. It was carried by a young man about their age. He wore muddied denim jeans that were ripped around his right knee; his fly was slightly open and his shirt was too tight. They could see his fat between the space of its buttons.
It was Jacob. From back home. Stephen didn’t dare look again. Maybe if he didn’t say anything, Jacob would just walk away.
“Erm, Steve. Mate, I think this guy knows you.” Tom nudged Stephen on the elbow. Stephen clenched his cheeks. He slurped at his pint and felt the refreshing hops slither down his throat.
“Jacob, hi.” He said dismissively. Very aware that the others were looking at him, he felt the sweat start to form down his back. He turned towards Jacob and said with a forced gusto, “How are you?”
“I’m in good shape. The farm is making me louster but it ain’t like when you were home.” Jacob edged towards their table, as if he was waiting for an invitation to sit down. It wasn’t going to come, Stephen thought.
“Good to hear.” Stephen mumbled. The lads had now dismissed Jacob altogether and were each probably texting someone more important. Stephen decided to just stay quiet now. Soon Jacob would get the message and leave. Then, he would say how Jacob wasn’t his friend. He’d weasel his way out of talking about his run-down home life. Since being a big shot, lying had become easy.