Challenge Betsy, Writing

A novel in progress – Live in Five – Prologue


You’re meant to start at the beginning. I do know that. But that paints a rather rosy picture and I want to draw your attention instead to the girl currently falling arse over tits down the escalator at Charing Cross tube station. I think (I hope) that you might like her more this way.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Stella Monroe.

‘Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck,’ she cried, as the sole of one rain-drenched Converse shoe slid out from underneath her, dragging its pair and partner in crime along for the ride. There was no comical slowing of time as she desperately tried to grasp on to a handhold (be it steel handrail or passerby); instead, she found herself landing, bum first, on the metal slatted edge of the bottom step within a matter of seconds. When that step treacherously flattened out in preparation to disappear under the floor and make its repetitive ascent, she was carried along in an inelegant wave to end up in a crumpled heap at the very foot of the escalator.

It wasn’t so much the loss of the helium balloons she’d had to brave the sleeting grey skies of London’s Strand for, that moments ago she’d been clutching in her sweaty palms, that finally broke Stella; rather, it was when the first set of feet simply walked their owner over the top of her pathetic looking pile, and made a quick dash for the approaching train without sparing her a glance, never mind a helping hand. She promptly burst into tears.

‘I fucking hate London,’ she wailed. When the second pair of feet did in fact, stop, crouch, and a set of strong arms pull her up, she found herself muttering, ‘It wasn’t meant to be like this,’ instead of the thanks that would usually have tripped so gaily from her lips.

She cast her eyes to the ceiling where the six revoltingly expensive silver and gold balloons bobbed with abandon, bitterly regretting declining the equally expensive balloon weights ten minutes earlier, she turned to her left, taking the escalator upwards and back out into the grim tourist-packed thoroughfare above.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that I am Stella Monroe. And I now have a bloody great bruise blooming painfully from my left arse cheek. And I’m pissed off, not only because I have to go back and get those fucking balloons again, and it’s chucking it down, but it really truly honestly wasn’t meant to be like this.

Let me explain. I’m fairly unremarkable, if I’m honest. Today I’m wearing skinny jeans, the aforementioned lethal Converse trainers (you’ll be binned later, you treacherous bastards), and an old university hoody pulled up in a cocoon around my ears, because, you know, it’s freezing. I’ve got blonde hair, blue eyes – the whole ‘my ancestors were pillaged and raped by Vikings hundreds of years ago’ package – which is neither here nor there in England. I’m pretty enough, in an average kind of way.

And now, patience rewarded, I’ll take you back to the beginning, just for some perspective. I grew up in Yorkshire. I have two parents (still together), an older brother (Charlie), a family dog (Deefa, as in ‘D for Dog’ – oh, how we laughed…) – went to private schools (first Prep and then Secondary), but only because my parents scrimped and saved. And if it appears from the surface that I made every sports team, hovered near the top of every class, and had a large group of friends around me, it’s only because the schools were so small everybody made the team. It’s not hard to be a big fish in a little pool; trust me. Then along came uni, hardly a doddle, and a slightly bigger pool, but, to a certain extent, if you go to the lectures, you do the work and you study for the exams, you’re going to do OK.

Fast forward to graduation (passing many many drunken nights and hazy mornings) and I was on the job hunt. I did what I always do in major life situations: I bought a book about how to succeed in said situation. I decided I wanted to get a job in TV. Just like that. And not just any job, presenting. So I researched production companies diligently, narrowed them down to a shortlist, applied for work experience placements, and finally won a fulltime permanent position as a Programme Assistant at one of the country’s biggest television channels. All of this in a matter of months. But there was nothing so surprising about that; after all, I’d done my research, I’d put in the hours, and now, I was receiving my just desserts.

So, you’re almost up to date and you’re probably sick of me already (I mean, who actually likes the girl who’s good at everything?), but it’s OK, not only have I just embarrassingly and painfully fallen down an escalator, I’m now screwing up my life completely. It’s my own fault really; I should never have ignored the tiny voice at the back of my mind telling me from the very first day that I walked through the doors of Wakey! Wakey! that I had made a terrible mistake.


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