Amelia – Part 4

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Amelia’s Lucky Day

Amelia was feeling on top of the world. She was almost skipping along as she headed for work. This was her last day.

The magazine had been a great training ground, but Amelia was ready to take the leap. Her stylist business, The Barefoot Fashionista was on its way, and today, at midday she was hopefully signing up her first big client – Maggie Barker, an up and coming actress.

Amelia was ready, willing, and able, and she couldn’t wait!

She was bouncing along happily as she thought of the meeting. She was smiling at everyone she passed. As she got closer to the office, she waved to the pop-up coffee shop owners and to the sales girl from the boutique next door. She sidestepped the courier who was delivering parcels, and as she was about to walk through the front door, she noticed the camera crew further up the street. Wonder what that’s all about, she thought.

Life was good and everything was going exactly as it should be. Even the sun was shining.

The morning passed uneventfully. Amelia was handing over the last bits and pieces to the new girl, recruited from fashion school. She remembered when she started and how daunting the magazine was. She looked at the clock…. 11.30 a.m. Not long to go.

They were meeting at Maggie’s flat, not too far away. It should only take 10 minutes to get there, so she had fifteen minutes up her sleeve before she had to leave. Maggie had slotted Amelia into her tight schedule so she couldn’t afford to be late. She quietly gathered together the personal portfolio she had prepared for Maggie so she could scoot out the door quickly. She hadn’t made it public knowledge that she had a meeting and didn’t want anyone asking questions. After all, she hadn’t clinched the deal yet.

Satisfied, she was giving herself a big mental tick for organisation – not always her best strength. Just as she was about to leave Amelia noticed Bev, the head secretary purposefully hurrying towards her.

“Just popping out for lunch Bev.”

“Could you spare a minute,” Bev said, as she steered Amelia towards the Board Room.

“Can’t this wait.”

“No, not today,” said Bev, as they reached the door.

Bev stepped forward, opened the door and there stood at least 20 people – all with a glass of champagne in their hand. Amelia was stunned. This was the last thing she expected. The magazine was not one of those girly friendly places. It had been all work, work, work in the five years that she had been there. Deadlines and pressure didn’t make for a chatty social environment, but here, in front of her were all the important people, and even some of her clients – all, holding their glass of bubbly.

Surrounded by happy faces, Amelia couldn’t think of a thing to say. She couldn’t run and she couldn’t stay. She needed to get to a phone and she needed to do it quickly, but the minutes ticked by as she walked around with a smile plastered on her face.

“Thank you. This is so thoughtful.”

Tick, tick, tick.

Fifteen minutes later she was in a loo cubicle with a mobile in her hand, but Maggie wasn’t answering. She heard the door to the ladies open.

“Amelia, are you in here?”

“Yep, be out in a sec.”

“The boss wants you.”

Oh geez, what now!

Andrea waved her arm as Amelia walked back into the boardroom. There was no way she could escape the boss. She would just have to keep ducking out and ringing.

Fifteen minutes later, and Maggie still wasn’t answering.

Amelia looked at the clock. 12.30, and just as she was about to make her excuses, food trollies were wheeled into the room. Oh, I give up, she thought. I will try Maggie once more, and if she doesn’t answer, I’m going to relax and enjoy this.  Maggie didn’t answer and Amelia did relax, and she enjoyed herself immensely.

Much later, after she’d tidied her desk for the last time, and was heading down the street towards home, she saw the film crew up ahead. Right in the middle was Maggie. She had seen Amelia walking towards them, and was smiling.

Maggie had been called away to her shoot much earlier than she had expected and had turned off her phone. She’d left a note on her door.

All was well.

The Barefoot Fashionista’s reputation was intact.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece: 
Create a ticking clock situation for the main character who has an appointment and can’t be late.

Amelia – Part 3

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The Barefoot Fashionista

“This is going to be fabulous!”

Amelia loved her job as a stylist. Working for a magazine was a great job, but today, she was the stylist for a local fashion show. It was a charity do, but the best promotion Amelia could ever get if she was ever going to start her own business. And that’s what she wanted to do.

The air was buzzing with excitement. All the right people were in the audience.

Amelia had always had an eye for fashion. And, she knew precisely what an outfit needed – a scarf, beads, a hat or a splash of colour. That was why she was the stylist in charge of getting the models onto the runway looking exactly as they should.

One by one her girls hit the lights and did their thing. It was going like clockwork. The usual backstage chaos was humming along surprisingly smoothly. Of course, Amelia’s wardrobe assistant, Jeannie – perky, bubbly, enthusiastic little Jeannie was an absolute gem.

With hair and makeup done, it was, dress on, accessories, shoes and then out they went. The music was throbbing, the lights were flashing, and the dress rack was thinning – only three more to go, and then the finale. The show-stopper and only one model could do it – the fabulously tall Jo.

Putting the finishing touches to the last outfits, Amelia started to relax. She peered through the curtains – yes, it was going well. She was feeling more than chuffed when suddenly, a panic-stricken Jeannie rushed towards her.

“Jo isn’t here.”

“What do you mean, Jo isn’t here?”

“She’s not here yet, I haven’t seen her.”

“Jeannie, why didn’t you tell me? She needs to be here now!” Amelia could feel herself getting hot. She couldn’t afford anything to go wrong. She was depending on this show.

But the seconds were ticking and no Jo. How could Amelia not have noticed she was missing? Because Jeannie was so organised, that’s why, and Amelia depended on her to get the models into their dresses.

“I am so sorry. I was so busy, I didn’t notice.”

None of the other models fitted into the show-stopper.

“Oh God! What am I going to do?”

Be calm! Be calm! Amelia told herself. There has, to be an answer.

“Amelia, you could do it.”

“What?!!”

“You’re the same size, and you’re tall enough.”

“What?!”

“Amelia, listen to me – you can do it, you have to do it.”

“But my hair!”

“I’ll fluff it.”

“But makeup? There’s no time.”

“Just lipstick.”

“Oh, My God! There’s no time.”

“Quick, here… put it on.”

The dress slid on like magic. A glittering sheath of beauty. Oh, how wonderful it felt!

“Sit down.”

Jeannie went to work on Amelia’s hair. She ripped out the clip and let Amelia’s blond locks fall loose. Oh, yes, this will be easy. She put a loose comb through it and grabbed the hairspray.

“Bend down, let your hair fall forward,” said Jeannie, already spraying madly.

When Amelia put her head up, she couldn’t believe it. Her hair was fluffed and really, quite spectacular. She rummaged through the lipsticks. Yes, there it was. The bright red. That’s the one.

She looked at herself. Not bad. Not bad at all. Only two minutes to show time. Amelia reached for the shoes. Oh, no, no, no! They didn’t fit. Amelia’s feet were too big.

“What next!”

“Bare feet, that’s what,” declared Jeannie

Looking around wildly, Amelia’s eyes fell on a long sheer scarf. Bright red, just like her lipstick. Yes, the perfect thing to trail along the floor.

“Thank God I painted my toenails this morning!”

Red lips, red scarf, red toenails, fluffed hair – it would have to do.

She grabbed the scarf, fluffed her hair for confidence, looked down at her big feet with the fabulously painted toes and knew she was ready.

The music cued. Amelia straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, mentally crossed her fingers and out she went.

The finale was a huge success. And ‘darling, wasn’t it just marvellous how the stylist wore the show-stopper’. Amelia’s talent was duly, noted and some even started calling her the ‘Barefoot Fashionista’.

Her business as a personal stylist had begun.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece:
Create a two-level problem for your main character

Amelia – Part 2

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Got It!

Flooded with relief, Amelia rushed forward and grabbed the envelope that was stuck in the screen door.

“Thank God. Bless you, whoever you are!” she shouted to the heavens as she waved the envelope above her head. She had the letter in her hand – a good Samaritan had returned it. Amelia wasn’t about to lose it again. But then, just as she was dancing a little jig of triumph, she stumbled and lost her grip. At that very moment, the breezy afternoon whipped up a colossal gust, grabbed the blue missive and shot it up into the air.

“Oh no! Kids, help me!”

Amelia and her three children began twirling and jumping, trying to grab the flash of blue that was flurrying about in the wind. But to no avail. Suddenly, it lifted and off it went across the street.

“Kids! Go next door,” shouted Amelia. “I’ll go after the letter.” She knew her neighbour was home and would look after her brood.

“Mum!” Andy, her oldest yelled back. “You won’t get it – it’s too high.”

“Don’t you worry. I’ll get it,” shot back Amelia. Your Dad will kill me if I don’t, she thought, as she charged after it.

Across the street, she tore, not taking her eyes off the more and more distant speck of blue.  How can this be happening? It must be payback for my flighty ways. If I catch it, I’m going to change, she bargained with herself. Yes! She would take herself in hand. As each foot hit the ground, she spurred herself on chanting: “New me! New me! New me!”

Amelia was hoping it was slowing down a bit. And surely it was getting closer to the ground too. She was now three streets away from home, still running. But, if she had to turn the next corner, she would be on the main road. Please, no, not the main road, she thought.

She was now a touch breathless. It was hard work, this running after a speck in the sky, but she couldn’t afford to lose sight of it. David had been waiting weeks for the letter. How could she lose it twice in one day? First leaving it in the library book, and then letting it fly right out of her hand!

Amelia knew how much it meant to him – the first letter from his birth mother. It had taken years of searching. He would never forgive her if she lost it. As she turned the corner onto the main road, she saw the letter fly out into the middle of the street. She considered rushing out to stop the traffic, but thought better of it, and instead kept her eye on its floating path.

Then abruptly, it swooped back towards Amelia and straight into the leafy tall tree on the corner. Amazingly, it stayed there, wedged within the branches. I’ve got this, she thought, I’ve really got this now, she repeated as she headed towards the benches underneath the tree. And she did. As afraid as she was of heights, she climbed that tree and retrieved David’s letter.

She never did tell David about her escapade and she swore the children to secrecy. That night, she dreamt of chasing a blue speck… she is running, running, the blue speck falls into the back of a ute. Hang it, she thinks, I’m going after it. She commandeers a motorbike and takes off, her hair flying wildly in the wind. Crap, she thinks, was that a speed camera that flashed me? Not caring, she charges on, her quest thrilling her to the core.

In her dream, Amelia was last seen heading out of the city following a white ute.

Secretly, she loves her escapades.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece:
The main character does something selfless that makes his or her life more difficult

Amelia – Part 1

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Where Is It?

Amelia was frantic. She’d looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it.

Frustration was getting the better of her. ‘Where did I put it!’ she said out loud.

“For goodness sake!” she stomped her foot in exasperation.

And she’d told David about it too. He’d been waiting weeks for the letter to arrive and she had texted him from the post office the minute she had it in her hand. And now she’d lost it!

It was still in its blue envelope, somewhere. But where?

Amelia sat down, took a deep breath and backtracked her steps. It had been one of those meandering work-free days. After she’d dropped off the kids, she picked up the mail, had done a bit of shopping, gone to the coffee shop, and then to the library.

She’d put the bundle of mail into her carry bag, then gone through it at the coffee shop before she opened her book to finish it.

She closed her eyes and pictured the scene, and suddenly, remembered. It was in the library book! She’d put the letter in the book to hold it open while she checked the rest of the mail. And then without thinking, moved it to the front inside cover as she finished the last chapter. Full of satisfaction at having read a wonderful story, she then blissfully closed the book.

Glancing at her watch, Amelia grabbed her keys and headed back out to the car.

She made it with 15 minutes to spare before the library closed. Stepping up to the front desk, she tapped her fingers impatiently.

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“I dropped off a book earlier, and left a letter inside the front cover.”

“Name of the book please?”

“Pearl In A Cage by Joy Dettman.”

“Just a minute.” The librarian clicked at the keys, blinked at the screen and looked up.

“The book is out.”

“Oh no! I need that book – the letter’s in it. How can I get it?”

“Well, you can’t. Not right now. We’re about to close. I can ring the borrower tomorrow if you like and see if it’s still there.”

“No! No! No! I need it now!”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

Amelia closed her eyes and let her chin drop. How could she be such a scatter-brain, she thought as she left the library. Lost in the characters of the book, she’d returned it without a second thought.

How was she going to tell David? Driving to the local pool to pick up the kids after their swimming lessons, she tried to put it out of her mind. She would have to face the music tonight, but there wasn’t a thing she could do about it until tomorrow.

It was still warm out and the car was full of happy children-chatter, so they stopped off for ice creams all round – she needed it more than the kids! It was either that or chocolate!

And then she headed for home.

As they walked up the path to the front door, Amelia admonished herself once again for being so careless…. until…. she saw something stuck in the screen door.

It was a blue envelope.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece:
The character needs a particular book from the library

The Pearl Brooch

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When Anna heard the voice on the other end of the line she was instantly alert.

“Sorry to ring so late, but I have something for you,” he said. “An address in Esterbridge.”

Her heart leapt. This is what she had been waiting for. Hiring a private investigator was the last thing she thought she would ever do, but there was something very comforting, even liberating, about handing it over to someone who knew what they were doing, especially after years of fruitless searching.

“Esterbridge,” Anna said to herself thoughtfully. Amazingly, not that far away, and she had three whole days to herself to explore the possibilities. Suddenly, she was wide awake. If she left now she could be there by morning. Within half an hour her bag was packed and she was on the highway heading west.

She lost track of time somewhere in the middle of the night. A heightened sense of the task ahead had kept her awake and thinking.

Anna couldn’t remember the time when she had been part of her family. Her earliest memories were clouded in smells and noises that belonged to the hospital. There were vague faces connected to ever changing people who seemed to bustle around without ever really stopping. Then came the Home. A child with injuries wasn’t on the top of anyone’s list for adoption. But Anna learned quickly, and she not only survived, she thrived. She had made a good life for herself, even mapped out her future, and today was part of filling in the map of her past.

As she drove through the bright sunny morning Anna was suddenly overcome with tiredness, and as luck would have it, over the next rise she saw a roadhouse. Even though she was only an hour from Esterbridge, Anna knew she had to take a break and hoped the place would be open. She pulled over and parked next to a snazzy-looking old Ford, and eased her stiff body out of the car. She glanced up at the sign: ‘Harry’s Roadhouse’, and saw that it was indeed open. Must be a truck stop, she thought. It looked surprisingly new as she stepped into the coolness of the building. She was struck by the décor of the place. It was an instant reminder of her childhood … lino floor, stark white walls, laminate tables, fluorescent lights, and ceiling fans. These country places never change, thought Anna as she chose a booth by the window and looked around for the waitress.

Within a minute she heard a door swing, and a young girl with short bobbed hair and an apron was handing her a plastic covered menu. The waitress beamed a smile and waited. As Anna ordered a toasted sandwich and a much-needed cup of tea, she noticed a couple sitting in the far corner booth. They were in a world of their own young, and very much in love. She watched them with interest. The woman was dark haired, like Anna, and her young man was thin and fair. Both were both dressed rather stylishly for country dwellers – the woman in a smart tailored dress with a golden brooch at her collar and the man in a light double breasted suit. Even though Anna was captivated by their joy and thought perhaps they too were going on a special journey, her mind turned back to her own mission. A childhood longing welled up as she thought about what she might find. Eager to continue, she finished her sandwich and with the last mouthfuls of tea, watched the young couple leave arm-in-arm, get into the old Ford and drive off in the opposite direction.

As she stepped out into the bright sun again Anna squinted and lowered her eyes. A shiny object by the car caught her eye, and she moved to pick it up. “Why it’s a brooch!” she said aloud. It was really beautiful with a lovely pearl setting. She turned it over… ‘To my Betsy with love always Ted’. It must belong to the woman, thought Anna. She looked up and saw that the couple were gone and there was no chance of catching them. Anxious to get going she decided it would have to wait and put the brooch into her pocket. She would deal with it on her way back. For the moment her mind was only on what lay ahead.

Anna drove slowly as she turned into the main street of Esterbridge. So this was it, the place where her parents had lived before they moved to Sydney. Now that she was here, she was bursting with anticipation. Surely there would be someone in Esterbridge who remembered them, and she knew exactly where to look first. She parked the car in front of the old church and hurried in through the open doors. With fingers crossed, she hoped to find a nice elderly cleric who knew everyone in town. And as she looked down the aisle, there he was – sorting prayer books near the front pew.

Full of confidence she walked briskly down the aisle, and without waiting, extended her hand, “Hello, my name is Anna Watson,’ she said quickly. ‘I’m looking for information about my parents, Lilibeth and Edwin Watson, who lived here in….” But before Anna could finish, the minister raised his hand, took her by the elbow, calmly guided her to a seat, and in a quiet voice said, “Now young lady, let’s start again. I’m Reverend Allen, what is it that I can do for you?”

Anna took a deep breath, and slowly said, “My parents lived here for a few years before they moved to Sydney. I was orphaned as a baby and know nothing about them. There was no family, you see, and I’d be grateful for any information. Anything at all. Apparently, my mother worked here as a teacher. Do you think anyone still living here might remember them?”

“Now, let… me… see…” he said thoughtfully. He looked up and gave Anna a smile. “Well, yes, maybe there is. I think you should have a chat with old Mrs. Bromley. Her mind wanders a bit, but her memory is as sharp as ever about the old days.” He looked at his watch. “In fact, you’ll find her at the Church Hall, just around the corner. The ladies are getting ready for their weekly morning tea. I’m sure she’d be happy to talk to you.”

Just around the corner! Anna couldn’t leave fast enough. She thanked the minister and hurried off. Within minutes she was at the Church Hall. She poked her head through the door and looked around at the ladies carrying plates and cups. She wondered which one was Mrs. Bromley. After a few discreet inquiries, she found her sitting at a small table waiting for a cup of tea.

“Hello, Mrs. Bromley. My name is Anna Watson. May I speak with you?”

“Yes dear, of course, you can.”

“I’ve just been talking to Reverend Allen and he thought you might be able to help me.” Anna spoke slowly and deliberately, “I’m looking for information about a couple who lived here a long time ago. Lilibeth and Edwin Watson. I wonder if you might remember them?”

As Anna sat down, old Mrs. Bromley’s watery eyes came to life at the prospect of a chat.

“Watson you say, Lilibeth Watson?” Mrs. Bromley responded. Suddenly a spark of recognition lit up her face. “Oh, yes dear… I do remember her. That was Betsy, worked at the local school… clever little thing… married to young Ted Watson.”

Anna felt as if she’d been hit by a bolt of lightning. Her mind was racing. “Betsy, did you say? Betsy and Ted?” said Anna, incredulously.

“Yes, dear, I remember them very well,” she repeated. “Betsy loved to write letters. No family, either of them. Always kept in touch when they moved to Sydney… but tragic dear, so tragic… both killed in a car accident you know, only the child survived. Badly hurt, poor little mite with no family… taken into care you know…” she trailed off.

Anna’s heart was beating so hard she couldn’t speak. The pearl brooch! She pulled it from her pocket and stared at the inscription… ‘To my Betsy with love always Ted’.

“But… but, the roadhouse, Harry’s Roadhouse?” stammered Anna.

“The roadhouse? Harrison’s old place? Closed dear, been closed for years….”

© Inara Hawley 1996