Cheerio

I had everything packed in my box. All I needed now was the stapler hoping the new girl didn’t do a June Carver and snatch it off me. But she just stroked my shoulder slightly and said good luck. It had been 12 days since I gave in my notice. All the people I passed just looked up from their desk and either nodded or smiled. Nod. Smile. Smile. Smile. Nod. Smile. I never really knew them. We talked on the occasion. At least I said goodbye first. One morning I came in and a desk was just empty. She was nice, even thought we didn’t see or talk to each other that often. We were in different division so we hardly came to work at the same time. It kinda hurt but it didn’t matter.

Then I saw him walk towards me. i hadn’t seen him in a day or two. It’s nice to catch up with him. Sometimes it was short and we were off doing separate things either in the same room or back to our desks, or we would spend ages talking by the kettle, or the water-dispenser-wotsit-thing. You know, the one that looks like a vertical fish tank and makes the blub blub sound. I guess him and I were just friends. We spent more time with each other than we did with other colleagues. Sometimes we walked to our desks together still talking. I would often think about what we just talked about. Does he do the same? Doesn’t matter now I guess. He leaned his thigh on my desk and put his hands in his pockets.
‘Best of luck.’
‘And you too.’ I didn’t know in what, but I meant it.

I knew that when I was telling funny stories to friends of mine about me, him and our conversations, they would look to one other. I didn’t know what this meant but it happened more than once. It’s not really something I think about, but I noticed I stopped mentioning his name or on purposely omitted it to see if they did the same thing. Very weird of me. I guess I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression, whatever that was. He was just nice. We just talked when we saw each other. I don’t know why we spoke to one another more than the others. We just…did. One time I saw him through the door window whilst he was leaving the office, I smiled then I kept walking to fill up the kettle, he opened the door,
‘Hello’
‘Hi’
‘Goodbye’
‘Bye’.
That was it. Didn’t think it was necessary for him to just do that when he was leaving. He just did. By the large window I saw him walk away from the building then went back to making my drink. Shame it’s considered a ‘no no’ to drink in the afternoon, I could have used a splash of rum. Never mind.

We had a small chat about how our day was. It was good. It was a good day. It just was. I wanted to keep talking to him just for the heck of it but I had nothing else to say. We were silent for a bit. I tried filling it by pretending to check my draws to see if I got everything. I did. This was it. My time here was done and all packed in a single cardboard. Quite a temporary substance really, isn’t it? You never know when it is going to break or how long it took to wear away but someday, it just will be useless and need replacing. Cardboard boxes don’t really last too anyway so you can’t expect them to. Oh well. It was time for me to leave.

We shook hands. It was longer than usual handshakes. It wasn’t uncomfortable, or awkward. It was just…nice. I picked my box off my desk then headed to the lift. He pressed the button for me.
‘Cheers’, I gave a single nod. He just smiled.

 

You know, we never finished answering the 36 questions. We got to 14 one day then we just said goodbye.

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Lighthouse

It was nice. Sitting there. I made sure we picked the spot that didn’t have patches of mud around them, the evening dew on the grass was slowly seeping into my jeans. Nothing like a mildly cold arse to make you regret deciding to sit on the Hoe. In Plymouth, not a person. Who would sit on a- never mind, don’t want to go there.

I sneaked my hands into the sleeves of my jacket and closed the openings to prevent them getting any colder. My cheeks felt lightly bitten and the wind brushing against us only aggravated this sensation. I stretched my legs out and crossed them, If I tried to sit cross legged them my jacket would rise up like the tide and curl into a wedge of material up my stomach. Attractive. My jacket could stop traffic; it was a fluorescent blue like the water in front of us when it’s a clear day. He stretched out his legs too, the weight of his torso was anchored up by his arms behind him. He just stared forward. He sat next to me. We were close.

‘Thanks for inviting me again to join you’. He turned to my direction but I didn’t want to turn and look at him, his stare was so intense it could make my ear radiate with a flushing heat of embarrassment. I have no reason to feel like that.

‘No problem, it’s just nice to get out’. I didn’t do anything. But then again I haven’t really done anything. To ask. For all I knew he wanted something, or not the case at all. My emotions and vulnerability were locked in a concrete cell. I could hammer it down anytime but the cracks were becoming bigger and bigger, I was tempted to just seal up the cracks again. I wanted to leave them as unexplored and dormant as Jumanji. At least that was what I thought, because this could really mean nothing at the end of the day.

I have spent so long questioning myself and his actions that I was only torturing myself. My romantic emotions had become Pandora’s box. It was my decision to pry it open but the two optional fates seemed just as terrifying. The moment I was patient for so long to have of my own, or nothing. The curse in the box was that very often I guess it’s nothing and it turns out I’m right. Sometimes it’s not fun being right all the time.

I didn’t know what to do. The calm ocean had flickering moments of chaos when it collided with the earth. I wonder what it is like to have flickering moments of chaos. Or even a small break from equilibrium. We all like those so when crashed into, we don’t know what to do afterwards. Does the sea ever know when it crashes what to do afterwards?

This was the only chance I could really get, but my small and meek words disappeared when I began overthinking this, it was too late to rehearse anything in my head. I don’t know if it was my tongue-tidied thoughts leading me or some stupid sense of suspicion to find out the truth. But I did it anyway. I leaned my head on his shoulder.

He froze. I could feel his entire body and his breath petrify. I did not expect what happened next.

‘NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO’. He recoiled away from my head, his eyes widened and his glasses steamed briefly out of expiration. Probably shock. I flung back myself from such a reaction. I opened the box. I was right.

‘Ummm…’. I wanted to give an explanation but I was thinking of the multiple responses from him:
What the hell is wrong with you?
I have a girlfriend.
I’m not attracted to you.
Did you really think I would be interested in you?

The actual words weren’t as triggering and he wasn’t horrid, but just as painful and soon his words became ugly and repelling. It was unlike him.

‘What are you doing?’ He jumped from his spot and towered above me whilst I crawled myself up to his level.

‘Everything was fine and now you had to ruin it. What did you think would happen? Why do girls always assume that we are interested in them like that? God!’ I didn’t know what to say to this, even hearing it from a person a liked as a friend and as a possible other for quite a while seemed out of character from him. And I had to ruin our friendship. I wasn’t sorry but I knew things have crashed and wouldn’t be the same.

‘Look, I’m sorry, it was just a lean. If you feel this strongly then forget about it’. I didn’t want to look at him again from either embarrassment that was more appropriate to this situation, or a mild bubbling of anger. He paced in short bursts on the pavement off the grass, leaving tracks of his shoes from the mud he squelched out from his abrupt move.

‘What did you think was going to happen? Did you plan this the whole time?’ I had no words. They have completely gone. I tried to must a sense of logic out of me and shut the box again.

‘I don’t know. Wanna head back?’ He took of his glasses, grabbed a handful of his shirt and wiped them clean. He perched the glasses back on the bridge of his nose and pushed them closer with his index finger. He then interlocked his fingers, swept his palms above his head and sighed heavily as if the situation made his breathing buckle out of confusion and angst. That was how I was feeling.

‘Why did you have to complicate things?’

 

Feature Image URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/de/Plymouth_Sound_at_evening_light_-_geograph.org.uk_-_89777.jpg

I’m Offended.

This is insane.
Completely insane.
It is insane isn’t it?
You think it’s insane right?
Just insane and unbelievable.
I cannot believe it.
It is unbelievable.
Can you believe it?

Can you possibly see what I see?
Are you even seeing what I see?
I can see.
Can you?
Do you hear what they say?
What you see and what you hear,
can you see and hear it clearly?
What is this?

I don’t understand.
Why is this?
Do you know why?
I don’t know why.
That’s why I’m asking you,
please let me.
I need to know why.
Why this is something I cannot believe.
Nor something that you can believe.
So you should also be asking why,
This is something so unbelievable.

I don’t know why,
That it is so insane, so unbelievable.
I also don’t know why
This should be something to believe,
Or not.
This thing that’s insane
Or not.
From what you heard and saw,
Or not,
Do you know why?
Do you?

Purple Flags

I admire those purple flags.
The ones that wave at fellow flags,
Ones where pride is shown in all colours.
But oh lord, those purple flags!
The ones that pucker power and voices
Of the population.

For the flags that witness those
Being torn, losing their sound and structural stitching,
To be thrown at the feet of the flags,
They quake and tremble throughout their bodies
Out of disgust and disappointment.
They be the ones that flicker out from their arsenal
Small speckles of sounds
That roar in unity in which strike upon
The ignorant and the angry.

But oh, those purple flags!
The ones that either through misprint,
Or of their own choosing,
Stand toweringly tall
In a variety of shades of purple.
They slide and slice through
The still and stagnant air
With their vocals and with their actions.
But, why so many supposed shades of purple?

The ones that frown or even smack each other
As they billow in competition
Whether tis’ nobler for them to suffer
In mind or not.
How I marvel at each flags’ initial stand,
Yet, surely they voice out equal sound
And move in the same motions for attention?

Some flags stand in small armies,
Arrogantly blocking out other types of purple.
Some so weak and feeble they fall behind,
Or have no pole to stand on in the first place.
Some fall forward, either to cheat to the finishing line
Or to flatten out the opportunity for man
To take them down, or not,
As paranoia can settle through the winds
And into the folds of some flags.

Some proudly stand alone,
Some are walked by when
Some flags remain not planted;
Those dot-to-dot with no discernible pattern,
Or message, or image to provoke
Their out-spoken voices from
Some flags flying through the loudest
And at times, the stormiest of winds.

Some flags just don’t know
As I plant one, sun bleached and stained;
A messy conglomeration of shades of purple
A flag that doesn’t know where to plant itself.
How can they be so of the same
And yet so dissimilar?
Even when they are born through
One factory of supposed equal thought.

But oh lord, those purple flags so marvellous,
So revolutionary, so confusing.
When they march against
Not only opposing units,
Contrived with backward forces
That time would rather forget
It’s out-dated voices.

But also march against each other,
The ones that flap about,
Creating exceeding amounts of breath
And wasted energy when shouted
At one another without focused result.
A labyrinth of thought,
Trying to map previous ideals
Of what shade of purple the flags should be
And create a universal idea
That should be relevant to every single flag
Planted by every single person,
But this doesn’t seem to be the case, yet.

What was at first, a single colour of purple,
Letting other colours burst through
From the dense darkness
Into the spectrum of light, of right.
It is now an awesome tapestry
Of our rights to be human,
Of our Human Rights,
Slowly unravelling and tangling into
Thin and clumpy threads of purple.

But oh lord, those purple flags,
The ones that were an army,
The ones that were resolving
A backward war of man,
And woman.
How did we get here?
What does it take?
To get – there?

Marilyn

Lights. Click click. Blonde.

‘Smile this way, please, beautiful.’

I shouldn’t feel this way, she deserves better.

Flash. Click click.

Her white skirt graciously fluttered and puckered from the biggest fan in the studio.

‘Just fabulous, now this way.’

Not a person, an actual fan just to be clear. I know it’s not her, but her fame, and her fame were enough to create this tribute for the classic edition of the magazine. Great opportunity for us to be picked for this, right? For me to be closer to her, right?

Click click.

A woman rushed to her with something that appeared like an artists’s palette with the multiple colours of nude and red on that bit of board. The woman took a small brush and gently brushed a coat of a bold red lipstick (I assume) on her lips. She smacked them together, the sound a kiss could make. The thoughts of someone opening the camera cupboard, finding us two with that very lipstick smudged around my lips with patches on my cheeks. How many fan-boys would have felt like this?

She turned to me again and smiled, more out of sympathy as a camera-guy rather than being really sincere. I was only aware then of the small mole drawn on her face. Such a small thing to contrast the silvery blonde sheen of her wig which glowed under the lights, thanks to the light guy (his name I have not yet learnt). God, somebody’s made a mistake picking me to be here, with her here. I stood there during the shoot thinking, ‘Remember, she is a star, you aren’t.’ And yet there she was, glowing under the lights.

I unfocused the light guy and everything was a blur. She was just laughing. Everything I was thinking was verging on stalker-like creepy. Verging? It is creepy… Who is ever like this! It’s just a cover shoot. I am feeling so much over a face. I don’t need to fantasise. I could move pass this, I deserve better, someone else, who loves me, who marries, who I’ll love forever. I could, but…you know, I never thought I would see someone illuminate the room so brightly with the flashes reflecting off her porcelain skin. It’s stupid, daydreaming, fantasy, but perfection in a shot.

There was suddenly silence, no laughing. She was walking towards my way. Like earlier this morning, I thought she was going to say hello, but she saw someone behind me and her coat slightly rustled against my arm. I winched slightly, thinking in my head she turned around hearing that and wondered about the weird sound the camera guy made. I wanted to punch myself, I didn’t need to feel like that. It could have been nothing. I could have imagined it. But I embarrassed myself enough to feel the blood rush through to my cheeks, shuttering from the worse-case senario possible…Over an arm brush(?) So, I turned around and this time and no one was behind me. She was walking- towards me. They said in their murmurs she was single.

Listen here, you need to get this right. There is a lot of things you could say. But you can do this. This is your chance, do it now. Do it.

‘Sir, are you alright?’

Just say it.

‘The light guy said you might want to ask me something.’

So, I’m not the only one who calls him that. Wait, how does he know? Does he even know?

‘Sir, are you okay?’

Say. It.

‘It’s nothing, head’s in the clouds.’

Idiot.

Blast From My Past: Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

I was going through my books to see which ones I was going to keep and which ones I had to give away. It was then I found a book from my first year of A level English Language and Literature: Enduring Love. We looked at key parts of the book and the film for coursework in order for use to be inspired to create a creative writing piece of fiction based on the book with a 500 word commentary. This was the reading piece and we also had to do a listening piece mainly based on a selection of sources including Coleridge’s work oddly enough.

For my (now-old) college, the examination board was changed and this meant the coursework was no longer required to do in the A level. For me, this would have been a shame. Also, the texts studies were going to be things like Shakespeare and Chaucer rather than the words we studied which were Joyce’s Dubliners, Tennesse’s The Glass Menagerie or Pinter’s Betrayal. Please don’t mis-understand, I enjoy the early works but arguably ‘contemporary’ pieces were more up my street like the works we studied.

My edition of the book (shown in the featuring image) is close to the DVD cover and posters of the film. The red lettering of the author’s name matches nearly the colour of the red balloon. In terms of sensuous language, the balloon is the catalyst to the events cataphorically referenced by the main character and narrator. The red balloon connotes how that one event created certain amounts of danger fro different people. This shows only through the cover alone how simple symbolism for that one event is key to foreshadow what happens to the main characters.

Back to Enduring Love, it was very interesting and clever how the voice is written to reflect the narrator’s character and unreliable part in telling the story. Especially when he forgets, goes off tangent or doesn’t remain true to the story since the entire story is in his first person narrative. It is also a meta-fictional narrative so adds another element to the fact this character is writing this story off the top of his head like a diary entry so parts of it are going to be untruthful to what actually happened. Even when the narrative is mainly about his partner, her point of view is still manipulated by what he thought she would be thinking, especially about him in an admirable way. In my opinion, it was nice to learn all of this and I do give props to McEwan with how he able to create such a voice for this one character who is being stalked by a mentally unstable man after a balloon incident (in a nut-shell).

However, even though I was very interesting, because this characters was such a strong character in his matter-of-fact-because-I’m-a-professor voice, it can get very annoying very quickly and you might feel as if you want to say ‘WE GET IT, NOW GET TO THE POINT.’ Not only that, but because McEwan has a background knowledge in film, you also get multiple perspectives from the ground to the sky to being in the balloon which in a way suited to the different technical shots in the film adaptation. Again, people might enjoy this and other might find it annoying and want a more coherent narrative. Because of this, I unfortunately struggle reading this again and I think if you are interested in alternative forms of narration, this might be worth a read.

There are spoilers of the techniques if you don’t want over-analysis, my commentary is the last 500 words of this post but if you want to read it, I advise reading it even though I just mentioned it now, reading it after my creative writing piece ‘Missed.’ that way, you can make your own judgements on the piece as an independent piece of work, in comparison with the book if you have read it or any other way you like reading this type of work.

Sit back with a cuppa tea, your scrolling finger and enjoy Missed by Hannah Rose Govan.

Missed:

I can’t remember how it actually started. I can’t recall why I’m here. But it started when I entered the room. The doors where china white, and the windows on them looked as if they had been cleaned. They were small windows, possibly larger than very small but I don’t think you were able to see beyond the glass. I opened the one to the right and entered. It was humid. In the corner of my eye I noticed there were grey cracks on the ceiling. Likely from the pillars being less than substantial in a solid structure, causing an irregular pressure and therefore the cracks. Maybe that’s why it’s still humid. I sat on a chair; the oldest one. The threads from it were hanging in clumps and reached the floor. If I knew it was that hazardous I wouldn’t have sat there. But it was the closest to the door, and I would then avoid walking down that intimidating corridor, with little peeping eyes and faces in different shades of mood sneaking their gaze at you. It might have been before I opened the door or after I sat down, but I saw Catherine waiting in line to the reception, with four or five people waiting in front of her.

I don’t recall ever being in this building, but the faces appeared so familiar it was as if I’d give them a crooked smile when we’d cross roads, one day. There was one that was the most perplexing, was also the most average. The woman sat beside me. As I did when I entered the room, she was staring at the ceiling.
‘Humid in here, probably from cracks in the ceiling’.
Best to pace myself here, but I need to tell you about Jen; I learnt her name later. Her hair was in ringlets of blonde which covered her face. She tucked a lock behind her ear once we began to exchange words. This was a pin to the timeline of this day, or at least what I recall of it. She was a writer on neuroscience so we quickly fell into a discussion about the biochemistry by which the feeling of love is created and gravity pulling on them with this sensation people call ‘falling for someone’. I was lucky to have had Catherine in my life when I did, and this woman was the uncanny resemblance of her. The same hair, but only shorter, and the gaze Jen gave me when she deeply listened to me showed how intense her green eyes were. All the things I found physically attractive in Catherine was exaggerated in Jen’s physique. It was as if she was to my specification (and her words would’ve appeared in the perfect textbook on our knowledge). Would I still have met her if I hadn’t sat there? I wandered.

‘Have you never read the book then?’ Jen was curious about why I hadn’t read a particular book. A novel written a few years ago, the unravelling of three characters after a balloon incident.
‘To endure, one must have patience to do so, not this malarkey!’ I may have known about the book anyhow if it wasn’t brought up in our conversation again and seemed familiar.
We then imagined testing a hypothesis about this room. We chose those four or five people waiting in line. One was a man not unlike myself, bellowing to the receptionist with a string of curses attached like ‘tmesis’. He seemed flushed. As if he was going to be attacked.
‘You have got to listen. Take this man off the street. He is off his rocker and should be locked away!’
The receptionist was trying to reassure him it might not be what he thought , but at the same time anxiety was quickly spreading over her face and I saw her slamming various buttons down with one hand and a phone in another. It was clear he felt fear, he was exhaling heavily and his hands had a subtle quiver as if he exerted too much energy. There was a knock on the door, the one I opened, and the man began yelling at it. To go away and leave him be. I don’t think anyone saw who it was because of the slit of glass from the door, but it was clear it was going to be the same person he was catastrophizing about to the receptionist. He eventually left; we still don’t know who he was or what happened. It was only later we took it more seriously.

It wasn’t the end of the story, but something that happened earlier led to that bursting through the doors. It was a balloon incident. This isn’t part of the story but it creates cohesion with one of the people in line. With a bouquet of lilies. She was next and the top of her cheek bones looked sore, the bags underneath her eyes puffy and raw red. At the top of her lashes was residue in small coal-like clumps that just hung on. It appeared to be left after the rest wiped off. Or were a result of tears for some personally explicable reason. Her talk withered, the eventual pauses were frail at the end as if she was overwhelmed by what the day had already brought her. We all knew what happened. It was in the paper. Her husband died, falling to what was his inevitable end. He held onto a balloon that flew away with a child inside. Somehow thinking back, the flushed man looked familiar. An odd feeling he was somehow a part of this loss. And maybe who he was yelling at too.
‘Cu-Could have a-anything be done? Eh-anything?’ The receptionist responded with disappointing news that nothing could have been done to help Logan. To think saving a child resulted in a death. The receptionist apologized for what had happened him. It wasn’t her fault though. Nor was it the wife’s, but somehow it’s the only thing we’re able to say. The widow then kept asking if someone came by to see him. Another woman. I don’t think anyone took notice of the apprehension in her voice. I knew there was something she was fishing to hear, to want to hear so she wasn’t just seeing things. The agitation would have been from the rumours that she had been searching for someone that was with her husband that day, that he had the feeling of gravity for this other person. I do say person. She left after asking questions that obviously couldn’t be answered.

Jen and I looked to one another and our mind was one. It was as if we knew everything in this room, and now in this position I wish I had done something. The chair clamped me down and only left my thoughts floating. If only both of us had been aware of the two men in black. And their faces hidden in back hoods.

We didn’t have any time to say anything else though, because suddenly our eardrums burst from the fire of a bullet. This was a pin that now exploded the timeline, and the chain of events still missing obvious links. Someone got shot. One of the hooded bodies swivelled out of the queue, through the right door that was now the left and the other followed. Another fire was shot outside. The man who was trapped in line tried to leave by the other door. The one that had a sign saying it was locked. No one had time to react. Everyone had their own ‘dazed’ face. Someone had their hands covering the mouth; another was jumping out of their chair. It was an emotion circus. Jen and I joined in, baffled that we witnessed a murder. Sirens were ringing and fired a jet of noise into our ears. The wounded man was taken out through the open door and to A&E. It was the anxious man from earlier, but this time with blood trickling down his shoulder. And he was gasping for oxygen. At this point I didn’t believe it was attempted murder. We then heard shouting. A police officer was having to drag away another man that shot through the door, calling out the injured man’s name and what seemed to be an apology. He nearly tripped over my chair.
‘JO-JO! You led me to this Joe! I’ll never forget you, our love will be forever. God wanted you and me to be us! We’ll find each other again!’
He was hanging by one arm to the door, presumably hoping to see Joe, but the officer was pulling his other arm back into cuffs. This man. Must be him, the guy that earlier Joe was yelling to through the door. To see this man’s face now, he appeared remorseful, guilt ridden. And his features showed that love’s gravity was tripping him up; that he had fallen for Joe. I hypothesize: this wasn’t a mutual love.

It was the butterfly feeling that urged me to hold Jen’s hand, but she got there first. The idea of holding someone in a life and death moment made the shock less. Now everyone waiting felt as if they were waiting for something else, something unexpected. The death cast gloom over us and the white walls which now I looked closer were more of pale beige, speckled with grey from the humidity. The cracks were showing more clearly. In my moment of weakness that I shared with Jen; I kissed her. Nothing more, nothing said, just that.
The minutes stretched to what felt like hours [with just talking yet nothing said to what happened]. But again we both knew what the next step would be…

Sadly, I was interrupted. Catherine had finished, and did I just imagine five people when there were only four? She was with someone.
‘James, this is Nurse Karmen, she’ll take you to your room. I’ll visit next week, who were you talking to?’
I found that there was no-one beside me: Just me in an old chair. The one beside me no sign of an imprint. No recollection of people seeing me with someone. I know now, why I was waiting…

If you want to read the commentary I had to write for my reading piece, then continue if you want. But if you do, you commit to it and deal with the weird way it’s written. It essentially explains the way I have written the piece and my influences from the book.

My short story influenced by ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan is about a man in a waiting room watching events unravel in front of him including those waiting in line who are all characters and events from the book [‘ widow then kept asking if someone came by to see him’]. He shares this with his ideal woman but readers realise at the end she doesn’t exist [‘who are you talking to?’]. The story stands alone but also creates intertextual links for those who have read ‘Enduring Love’.
The title ‘Missed’ is slightly punning like ‘Enduring Love’, and connotes being missed, have something/one physically missing and a missed shot (as in Chapter 19/ the waiting room).
The first person narrative reflects Joe is narrator in the book and is aIso unreliable narration [‘I can’t remember how it actually started’], pinpointing time of events [‘it started/this was a pin to the timeline of this day’] also used as a metaphor for cohesion throughout and often going at a tangent [‘they were small windows, possibly larger than very small’] reflecting realistic spoken features but also the unreliability. I linked to Joe’s character with the lexical field of science and logical thinking [‘less than substantial in a solid structure/ irregular pressure’]. Like Joe’s, cataphoric links are made to the story James is trying to tell [‘if I knew it was that hazardous I wouldn’t have sat there’] and writing a meta-fictional narrative. [‘Best to pace myself here’] to develop tension and involve the reader.
The whole story develops elements of the Chapter 19 shooting, placing them in a new story. Intertextual link to Logan’s widow, looking for the mistress but it might not be a woman (could it be Joe?)[‘I do say person’] includes the connotation of death with her holding ‘lilies’, foreshadowing the balloon incident.
I wanted to linked Joe’s relationship with Clarissa into James’s ideal woman by having ‘Jen’ imagined because that is all she can be [‘Catherine was exaggerated in Jen’s physique’].
Further intertextuality with the book by having James and Jen talk briefly about [‘unravelling of three characters after a balloon incident’] also foreshadowing James’ ‘unravelling’ sanity using the declarative sentence ‘it was a balloon incident’ foregrounds the interlinked reality for James.
As McEwan has done, I have included clues to event that readers don’t notice at [‘four or five people’] to suggest James lost perception of reality, the obsession with the door (lexical link to Joe’s obsession with the balloon) and the ‘cracks in the ceiling’ (connoted physically and in James’ dawning realisation). Obsessive reworking of detail also reflects the book and film.
The twist that James imagines things foreshadows the ‘cracks appearing’ in his narrative and life, the walls ‘more of pale beige’ symbolizes his viewpoint too. The last words answer the question he first asks [‘who are you talking to/I know now why I was waiting’] but the answer is only implied, allowing interpretation for the reader, like the open ending of ‘Enduring Love’.

Please let me know what you did like, didn’t like and anything else, bearing in mind I am trying to imitate a style not necessarily my own and it was written two years ago.