What If You Need A Pen?
It will be different this year. The words scream out from the very first page of my journal — my hopes for the future writ large. But who was I kidding, this is the last day of the year and it has turned out to be like every other. I started the year poverty stricken and alone and that is exactly how I am going to end it.
A quick flick through the pages reveals my sprawling script, recounting tales of despair over the weeks and months, each entry darker than the previous one. I can hardly bring myself to fill in the final page. What more is there for me to say? Nothing has changed. Reluctantly, I pick up my pen and begin to write exactly that, but it is out of ink.
Rummaging through the drawer, I find nothing but a broken pencil. I close the journal and walk over to the window. It is so cold a layer of frost has crystallised on the inside of the glass. Scratching my name into the hard white coating, I peer down into the street. There are still heaps of snow covering the curbs.
I try to warm myself up with a mug of tea — black, no sugar. The steam mingles with my breath and hangs in the air. My stomach rumbles. The only food left is a tin, bought at reduced price because of a missing label. I just hope it isn’t dog food again.
When I pull open the lid, I discover peaches staring up at me. Their cheerful orange somehow lights up the greyness of the room; the only good thing to happen in weeks, maybe my luck is finally changing. I reach for my journal — if only I had a pen. I think back to the superstore on the corner of the high street, it has those small blue ones for customer’s use.
I pull on my boots and leave the bedsit, fighting my way through crowds of people spending money they do not really have. They are all here to see in the New Year. All I want is a pen. The crowd’s happiness is irritating to be honest — all that laughter and merriment. I want to tell them the future is bleak and already written. But why spoil it for them, they will find out for themselves soon enough.
Crossing the river, I stop halfway along the bridge and glance down into the black water. Spots of blurred reflections catch my eye, sparkling dots embellishing the rippling surface. They part in the wake of the passing boats. I watch my reflection’s fragmentation; watch myself disappear from sight as if my very existence is in doubt.
Leaning further over in search of myself, I hear the swirling depths calling my name. I imagine what it would be like to let the river swallow me up. How long would I last in the near-freezing water? Would I finally find peace?
My question remains unanswered. There is movement at my side. I turn and see a woman has climbed onto the stone parapet. She is sitting, feet dangling above the fast moving water.
“Careful! You don’t want to fall,” I shout, acknowledging the irony of my words.
“Go away. Leave me alone.”
I consider doing just that, but cannot walk away. Instead I move towards her.
“Don’t come any closer.”
“Tell me your name and I promise I’ll stay here,” I say.
She stares at me for a while before answering. “Jenny. My name’s Jenny.”
As we talk I gradually inch closer until I am standing right beside her. Close enough to see the dried tear tracks marking her face. She tells me her problems, I tell her mine. Holding out my hand, I persuade her to climb down from her perch. She laughs at my jokes and before we know it Big Ben’s ringing in our ears.
People hug and kiss and dance around us, wishing everyone they bump into a Happy New Year. We’re pulled along with the throng.
“I only came out to steal a pen,” I tell her, laughing.
“Oh! There’s one in my bag.” Jenny says, rooting around inside her hold-all. “Here you are, you can keep it.”
I look at the pen, and then at Jenny, a wave of optimism rushing over me. Everything will be different this year.
CR Smith is currently working towards a Fine Art degree. She can be read on Paragraph Planet, VERStype, Visual Verse, Zero Fiction, The Angry Hour Glass, Microcosms Fic and Ink in Thirds. She has also written for The Infernal Clock, an anthology of horror stories due out later this year. You can find her on Twitter:@carolrosalind and firstname.lastname@example.org