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‘The problem with original writing is it’s just so hard to be original. I mean how do I compete against the wonders of JRR Tolkien, Jane Austen and JK Rowling? I need to be inspired Tay, I need to ride the tube and wait for an idea to hit me square in the face. Right here!’ Jess screams smacking her hand against her forehead, ‘school confines me! School locks me up inside its concrete shell sucking away at every last drop of creativity in my blood. What do I need it for?’
Jess is a geek; a full blown literature geek prone to bouts of melodramatic speeches professing her woes and tortured artistic soul. We fell into our friendship because neither of us wanted to be alone but neither of us had time for friends. We were in our third day of school and while everyone else in the class was busy eating glue and sticking god knows what in their ears we sat in our respective corners looking on at the rest of our class with pity and bewilderment. Annie, our year representative since our 7th year and current cross country champion, was drawing on her hand with felt pens and licking the primary coloured marks off her hand. Every time she did it her face screwed up in pain. I giggled. Jess did too.
‘Yeah, you know, you could end up being so good that they use your work in schools, Jess, how about that?’ I roll my eyes – not that she can see from the angle she’s sat. I look up after counting to ten, giving time for Jess to react to my eye roll if noticed, and take a sweeping glance of the lunch room. Giggling girls in the years below sit clustered around tables too frightened to leave their herd, boys cackle together clawing at scraps of food and tearing apart sandwich packets and a girl in a blue jumper stands alone in the line for lunch.
‘Oh god, the children! The poor children! No one would ever understand the full brilliance of my work. Oh god, imagine them dissecting my tales into little more than clumps of words. Searching for hidden meaning too deeply hidden for them to ever find! Oh, the children! How tragic!’ I laugh as she holds her hand to her heart; something I would do mockingly but unfortunately Jess takes very, very seriously, ‘to save my reputation, my dignity and my good name I’ll just have to write my own cliff note book.’
‘Oh yes just condone children all over the country to cheat, that is perhaps the best idea you’ve had.’
Sometimes I wonder if Jess had really noticed Annie and The Felt Pen Incident or if she’d merely been laughing at a similarly crazy idea. That is, until I remember 8th year.
8th year kick started the ‘boost’ of Jess’ desire to be a writer. One day in Autumn while all the leaves were dancing she galloped into the form room announcing she was leaving for the day to sit by the cliffs and Find Her Muse. I didn’t know what a muse was but I agreed with her and picked my The Beatles bag up to follow her out of the room, ‘this is a one WOAH-man mission, Tay. I’m sorry,’ she said to the floor. ‘Oh.’ I replied feeling dejected dropping my bag down by my desk. I spent the rest of that day slumped in my chair in the corner of the classroom feeling sorry for myself until period five. Mrs Dawkins was by my desk and had apparently been calling my name for quite some time. She’d told me to pick up my possessions and follow her to her office. A dark, dingy room with only a singular papery flower in the letterbox sized window to brighten the place. She’d told me Jess had been in an accident - fallen while finding her muse. I didn’t get to visit Jess but I knew she’d be ok.
‘Cliff notes are not cheating. They are just a guide for those who can’t understand great novelists and there is no crime in prodding them in the right direction.’
‘Mhm.’ I reply, ‘sure.’
I look up again and I watch her, the girl from the lunch line in the blue jumper, as she files out from the lunch line tray in hand. Her steps are stiff as though she’s trying hard not to slip and she walks towards me; understandable in those dagger like heels.
‘Don’t think I want to sit here but would you mind moving along a little? You’re taking up the whole bench.’ The blue jumpered girl says bending over too whisper in my ear. I give Jess the look – why is she asking me to move? Can she not plainly see this two seater bench already has two people sitting on it? ‘I mean come on I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t desperate.’
‘What do you mean, desperate?’ I ask biting back the sudden rush of anger in my voice.
‘You’re her. You’re The Girl. I know you are, I’ve seen you do it.’ She says with eyes darting around the room.
I wait for Jess to pipe in but she says nothing. I lean forward to see past the girl but Jess isn’t there. She’s gone. As if she never where there. My heart implodes, stitches itself up and fills with heavy, cruel lead.
‘Never mind, god, I’ll just stand then. Jesus some people are so inconsiderate.’ She says kicking my bag with her shoe. A risky move to balance on one foot considering the cautious way she moves.
The words stab at me - but don’t pierce through my grave metal heart - while all the Autumn leaves dance outside. I pick up my shabby The Beatles bag and head to the door in search of my muse.