I’ve had some ideas for books – fiction and non-fiction circling in my head. I never actually share them with other people or even really write them down. An idea I had today (or awhile ago, who knows, they always seem to run around and around on a loop and never get pulled out and dealt with) was to start writing a few pages of fiction each Friday to get some practice at writing them down. I tend to go over-wrought on the details and I’m working to strip that out and get down to the ideas themselves but these might be ROUGH. Feel free to give any feedback you like, but I’m hoping to just start writing stories or bits of stories once a week – just to get myself going…
Crisp and burning, a long, grateful draw filled lungs already soaked in the musty, slightly urine-soaked smell of the alley. Brushing at damp strands clinging to her forehead, Maude studied the round face of the girl standing beside her sucking desperately on her own cigarette. Furtive glances around them assured them that no one, particularly not their landlord who was strictly against smoking or smokers in his basement apartment, was watching them huddle in the dark shadow of the alley around the corner from their Adams Morgan apartment.
Slightly too hot in the oversize sweater coat she had thrown on to cover her t-shirt and yoga pants, Maude shifted uncomfortably, edging her toes exposed in worn out flip flops away from the questionable damp patches around the edge of the road. The waistband of the yoga pants, which used to sit attractively on her hips, now cut in to the soft white flesh of her belly, expanded due to too much beer and not enough exercise recently.
Maude shifted again and tried to pull her attention back to whatever Sadie was discussing. Probably something relating to her co-workers and how they were all less capable, less efficient, less motivated, less, less, less than Sadie herself. But who knew, maybe it was something different even though it rarely was. Blink. Blink. Maude sighed and forced herself to reassure and commiserate “I don’t know why you do his work for him, you know the filing rules better than he does, just let him screw it up and maybe they’ll recognize how much you do.”
Sadie worked in a K Street law firm as a paralegal tasked with managing their campaign finance filings. Sadie, to hear her tell it, was the only person capable of understanding the arcane rules of campaign finance and definitely the only one in her office who cared enough to actually follow them. She was probably right, nobody in DC cared much beyond the title they could tack on to their name and the grand idea they could present as their own. Day to day minutiae and details of the actual laws were more academic than interesting – especially in this town where they were written, if not ever actually felt.
Sadie continued to draw strenuously at her cigarette, as if she were in a race against time to finish it, with just short puffs of smoke released in between drags. Maude coughed slightly and reminded herself to return her own cigarette to her lips. Maude started smoking two years ago, mostly as a reason to take study breaks during her first year of law school at Georgetown University. Girls prettier and more fun than she had met on the roof of the law school residence and she’d not wanted to be left out. She smoked now as a way to hang out with Sadie and because of habit rather than any actual desire for nicotine. Maude wasn’t sure what the cigarettes said about her, but then she wasn’t sure what she wanted them to say either and continued to maintain her habit out of, well, habit.
Laughing voices and shuffling steps toward their alley had both girls shifting anxiously and peering out, blinking eyes dulled by the shadows of the alleyway against the light spilling out the doorway on the corner that had opened to gush five people onto the street.
“Hey, you got a light?”
Sadie jumped forward, happy to be approached once she realized that the group of five was men around their age – as if there would be any other guys wandering Adam’s Morgan late on a Saturday night. As the group moved forward to take Sadie’s outstretched lighter, Maude noticed that all of them had the neatly cropped hair and three out of five wore the Hill Staffer’s uniform of khaki pants and button down shirts. They shuffled at the edge of the alley and Maude resisted the urge to scuttle further back into the corner.
Heaving a sigh, she forced herself to step toward the interlopers, rather than away.
“Party kind of sucks, they won’t even let us smoke in the backyard,” one of the staffers was saying, with a shrug. Sadie laughed a bit louder and longer than she normally would have at something a staffer had said. Shifting a glance to at her roommate under the fringe of her hair falling against her cheek Maude resisted the urge to stroke Sadie’s arm in an effort to calm her.
“What are you doing tonight?”
Maude jerked and stopped her contemplation of Sadie’s attempts to captivate two out of five of the interlopers when she realized that one of them had spoken directly to her.
Mechanically raising the cigarette to her lips again, more to buy time than anything else. Maude shrugged. “Raging. Obviously.”
Staffer number 5 (they’d introduced themselves but Maude had missed it in her contemplation of Sadie’s laughter) blinked twice and then smiled, recognizing the dry sarcasm in her response after a minute’s contemplation.
“Obviously,” he muttered, blushing a bit.
Sadie felt her chest expand a bit and curiously, her desire to finish her cigarette diminished enough that she was able to drop it to the group and grind it out with her toe, before smiling at number 5. “I’m studying, actually,” she offered quietly. “Law school.”
“Georgetown or American?”
Number five had a true staffer’s grasp of the important status question to be covered before conversation could proceed.
“Georgetown. Exams are coming up”
Spring exams 2L year at Georgetown University Law Center had the air of being a last gasp before freedom. Most students had a summer job lined up with a law firm and just needed to maintain a slightly better than passing grade point average in order to achieve that coveted offer for post-graduation employment. Being a summer associate meant avoiding alcohol just enough not to embarrass oneself by sending out a stupid firm wide email or dancing on a bar, but not enough to be seen as boring and uninteresting.
Maude wasn’t sure that her summer job in Paris, France would lead to after graduation employment, but then, she wasn’t sure she actually wanted to move to Paris long term – just long enough to get out of DC and away from Sadie. She and Sadie had been feeling cramped and aggravated with each other more often than not lately.
Number 5 nodded sagely, as if he knew all about law school exams. His slightly shaggier than his companions’ hair falling over his forehead endearingly.
“I think we’re going to bail on this in a bit – you want to come hang out somewhere?” his friends stopped at stared, surprised that these alleyway girls were anything other than a five second pause on their way somewhere else.
Sadie jumped in while Maude still wondered what just happened. “Of course! We just need to change and finish up our work.” Maude resisted the urge to point out that Sadie definitely didn’t have work to do, but that she, Maude, definitely did. And that she, Maude, definitely didn’t really want to go out, but she swallowed that thought seeing the embarrassed chagrin in number 5’s eyes when he realized that he’d invited both of them to hang out.
Shrugging, she managed “that would be fun, yeah.” Shifting on feet that wanted to carry her straight back to the comfort of her apartment where she could lock the door and pretend this hadn’t happened. She could see the other four elbowing each other and imagined she could hear their laughing at both her, Sadie and number 5 for this situation.
“Pete, man, they said they were studying..” one tried to avert disaster.
“It’s cool,” Maude forced out, straightening her spine and easing her cardigan open enough to reveal the slightly tighter tank top she wore underneath, hoping desperately that the bulge over her hips where the yoga pants dug into her hips didn’t show. She wasn’t sure what made her want to challenge them, but she felt a driven to make them regret their laughter and, well, regret.
Also, now that she knew number 5’s name, she felt almost interested in him.