Today’s task is all about character development. Here’s a letter written from the perspective of the main character in my short story The Secret that I wrote for yesterday’s assignment.
Long time no see! I hope you’re doing well. It’s been a bit of a crazy year for me.
Graham lost his job last month. It came as a huge blow to both of us. The swine didn’t tell me anything until after it happened. Turns out there’d been a merger at the bank and he’d had to reapply for his job. He says he didn’t want to worry me! Men, eh?
Paying the mortgage has been a bit of a struggle. We’ve had to really cut back and I’m hating it to be honest. I might even have to go and get a ‘proper’ job soon – his words. He has no idea how much I enjoy my part-time job at the salon, especially since I passed my level three. I might have to find myself a new husband – hahaha!
Sadly, I’m only partly joking. It hadn’t been going well even before Graham lost his job but now he’s so down it’s really hard to keep this marriage going. I know I can tell you this in confidence, Beth. I’ve been unhappy with Graham for so long now. But how can I knock him when he’s already down? Plus, Mum and Dad would never speak to me again if I get a divorce; they’d be ashamed of me. I’ll just have to carry on as if everything’s ok.
Let’s catch up soon, ok? Sorry to just dump this on you. It would be great to chat in person. Let me know when you’re free.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.” – Walter Scott
Will he ever shut up? I had to turn away to hide my bored look. When I asked about his game of golf, I really didn’t want a shot by shot run down of the whole 18 holes.
“…And on the 15th green I was so close to a birdie but the ball hit a divot and went off course”, continued Graham despite his wife’s glazed eyes and wandering mind.
It was our eighth wedding anniversary last month. We celebrated with a bottle of wine in front of the TV. Who said romance was dead? When people talk about the ‘seven year itch’, I definitely know what they mean. What I’d give to simply walk away from this marriage. But my family would never forgive me. The thought of being ostracised is enough to chain me to Graham until death us do part.
His name is Shaun, the scratch to my itch. The opposite of Graham, he’s a refreshing change. We met in a bar when I was on a work night out. He actually chatted me up! Just being approached like that – out of the blue – made me feel special. Wanted. Desired. I hadn’t felt like that in a long time.
Graham rolled over and a warm hand snaked around my stomach. “Morning, sweetheart,” he nuzzled my neck and went in for a kiss.
“Morning breath!” I clamped my hand over my mouth and made my escape to the en-suite. As I shut the bathroom door, I heard Graham sigh and sit up in bed. By the time I’d finished in the shower, he was already dressed for work and heading downstairs.
“No shower this morning?” I queried, puzzled as Graham’s normally a twice a day man.
“Got to get into work early. The boss has called a breakfast meeting,” he rolled his eyes. After a quick peck on the cheek, Graham dashed out the door.
As I watched him drive away, the relief I felt was huge. I don’t know how much longer I can cope with the lies. I know I should end it with Shaun but just the thought of it turns my insides in knots. He’s my shining light in a grey world.
After a sandwich in front of Loose Women (guilty pleasure!) I dashed upstairs to make the bed and freshen up. I was expecting Shaun any minute. Usually we meet in town and go back to his but this morning he had a meeting just down the road so he was coming to the house. The naughtiness of it all added an extra frisson. Once he arrived, we headed straight upstairs…
“What was that?” I whispered in a slightly panicked tone.
“What?” mumbled Shaun “I didn’t hear any…”
“Shit! That! Did you hear that? He’s home.” I jumped out of bed in a frenzy, picking up the clothes strewn around the room and throwing items at Shaun.
“Get dressed! You have to leave. Now!” I hissed at a now grey-faced Shaun.
I wrapped myself in a dressing gown and slipped out through the bedroom door.
“What are you doing back so early?” I asked Graham as casually as possible as he hung his jacket up in the hall cupboard.
“Meeting was cancelled so thought I’d escape on time for once. I’m going to play FIFA for a bit before getting started on dinner.”
Graham looked up at me briefly and noticed my dressing gown, “Just got in from the gym?”
“Yup,” I replied a bit more high pitched than usual. “Just about to get in the shower.”
Graham nodded absentmindedly and headed into the lounge. As I padded back upstairs I heard the familiar sound of the PlayStation firing up.
Back in the bedroom, Shaun was fully dressed and pacing. “This is such a mess! What are we going to do?” he questioned hurriedly.
“Give it five minutes and he’ll be so engrossed in that stupid game of his that you’ll be able to go out the front door.” And right enough, the volume of the TV downstairs crept up and we could hear Graham shouting over the din, “Pass it!”
“Now.” I ushered Shaun down the stairs, out of the house and, not that I knew it yet, out of my life.
Over dinner that evening, Graham was quiet. Unusually so.
“Is everything ok?” I asked softly, sensing something was the matter and dreading his response. What if he suspected something?
Graham looked up from his dinner with worried eyes, “I’ve been fired.” He burst into tears.
“I’m so sorry.” I ran over to my husband, “Come here,” I wrapped my arms around his chest and rested my head on his shoulder.
“It’s not going anywhere, Em.” Lewis shouted back. I think he was trying to reassure me but I hate going up in the loft. Lewis’ allergies mean it has to be me, otherwise he’d be sneezing and spluttering for hours on end. The things you do for love, eh?
“What colour box am I looking for?” Rummaging through the mountains of dust covered junk I wished we didn’t have quite so much stuff! I don’t even know what’s in all these random boxes.
“Erm..” pondered Lewis, taking just a little too long to answer, “a green one.” His voice went up in pitch at the end of the sentence. I don’t think he had any idea what colour the box was.
This happens every time we try to hunt down the elusive camping stove. And every time, I wonder why we don’t keep the camping supplies somewhere less dusty and full of scary dark shadows and spiders. But, alas, we don’t have enough storage space in the house and I want to keep the house as free from clutter as possible, so all the junk and anything not needed regularly is stored away in the loft.
“Ah! Think I’ve found it!”
A moment later, I gently lowered myself back through the loft hatch, clutching two boxes. Neither was green.
The bigger of the two boxes was manilla cardboard and had once been home to a DVD player but had STOVE written across it in black marker pen. The smaller looked pretty battered and quite old.
“What’s in the second box?” quizzed Lewis.
“It was under this one,” nodding my head towards the bigger box. “I thought it might be more camping stuff so I grabbed it just in case.”
“Don’t want to have to back up there again,” I shivered.
Back in the kitchen, I dusted off the two boxes, flapping the dust away from my face. Grabbing a pair of scissors from the drawer, I snipped the string securing the particularly musty looking box. Although I don’t remember tying any boxes up with string last year. Weird. Lifting off the lid, I peered inside the box, not sure what to expect.
“What on earth? I gasped, reaching inside to carefully pick up a thick bundle of old letters. The top letter in the bundle was address to Miss M Dawes, 11 Sidney Terrace, Folkestone, Kent, England.
“Lewis, come and take a look at this.”
Lewis traipsed into the kitchen, wondering what could possibly be so important as to drag him away from his Xbox. I waved the bundle of letters at him, “Look! These were inside that second box I brought down from the loft!”
“I don’t remember seeing this box before. It must have been here when we moved in.”
“Yay.” Lewis didn’t look impressed. “Old letters.” He sauntered back into the living room and I could hear his game resume.
My excited fingers struggled to unpick the knotted string keeping the bundle of correspondence together. After a few minutes of fumbling, I was finally able to loosen the knot, freeing the letters from their neat parcel. Each envelope was addressed in the same neat hand. All to Miss M Dawes at our address. With my heart beating hard in my chest I noticed the postmarks. These letters were sent during the First World War.
I knew at once what I’d found. Carefully peeling open the first envelope, I knew I was about to pry into someone’s private thoughts but I couldn’t help myself. I guiltily unfolded the aged paper and began to read, my eyes flicking swiftly across the page.
15th June 1915 Dearest Mabel It feels like an age since I last saw you but in truth only three days have passed. I am very glad that you came to wave me off. I could see your beautiful face smiling at me through the crowd. Once we marched down the slope, we filed onto a paddle steamer destined for the French coast. The journey was long and the waves rough. I was lucky not to suffer from seasickness, although there were many green faced men aboard that vessel, dear Mabel. We are now camped in Northern France. If it was not for the war it would be a lovely place to be. Soon it will all be over and I can see your pretty smile again. We can stroll along beside the sea, arm in arm. All my love, Walter
Daring myself to read on, one by one I opened the other letters. I sat at the kitchen table for hours, devouring the sentimental words. Read More
I'm a 30-something mother who works part-time in marketing for a local company. I live in Folkestone, Kent with my husband and daughter. When I get a rare moment to myself, I enjoy writing, baking and photography.