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Love sucks

Image by Lumpi from Pixabay 

December was Imogen’s Birthday month. And her Deathday month. And ReBirthday month.

Sat on her bed, planner in hand, she tapped a long, black painted fingernail on each of those three dates, then exhaled sharply and drew a line through the page.

This year had been a capital D disaster. It was time to close her eyes and sleep til January crept up on her. She tossed the planner aside, hitched up her black jeans, and then wriggled herself flat underneath her bed.

It wasn’t dark enough. She tugged at the edge of the duvet until it hung down to the carpet, like a lumpy blind. That was better. She crossed her neatly manicured hands over her chest, then felt like a cliché and folded them up under her armpits, as a regular pissed off person would do.

Her fangs quivered with frustration.

In the darkness she pictured Guy Fawkes night, the black November sky lit up with starbursts of colourful fireworks. And oh, that frickin sound. It was like someone had planted dynamite sticks in her delicate eardrums, and then set them off. That was why she had crushed her date’s hand bones, quite by accident. One moment they had been staring up at the sky, like romantically twined humans do, fingers interlaced. And the next the handsome human (Dillon) was down on his knees, yelling to the sky and trying to shake himself free of her grip. Disaster.

The Halloween party with Ben, the month prior, had been no better. Imogen shivered at the memory, and for a moment it felt like the shame heated her icy cheeks. What a fool she was to have been so excited that she could go to a party…as herself. She’d let her fangs down, claiming she’d bought them on Amazon. Ben had bought the story too, and flicked them lightly, lovingly, as they’d waited on the steps of his best friend’s house, to be let into the party. She should have known from the thump of music radiating out through the doors and windows that it would all be too much for her sensitive ears.

“It could have been worse,” she tried to reassure herself, tucked in her under-bed coffin, fingernails dug into her palms. It really could have been worse…

That Halloween party night, she could have ripped the throats out of the humans, as they danced in the living room, instead of just tearing wires out of plugs until the music stopped. But oh…the silence that followed, all heads turned to Imogen…. and then Ben… (Who is this girl? Who did you bring?). It was a total killer for their relationship. It had only lasted three sweet days of texts, and a fraction of a night.

Imogen sighed through her nose, and sucked a slow breath back in, trying to ignore the musty tang of the air under her bed. Oh life!

The best stretch, love wise at least, had been in the summer. Three whole months dating Marcus, a D& D player who was happy to keep things online. She’d kind of got to be herself? She’d called herself Vampire Girl, and he’d called himself Sword Lord. She’d told as many truths as she could get away with, and he’d revelled in his own puffed up lies.

It was him who pulled the plug, when she’d made a surprise visit to his sixth form college in the September, for the start of his new term. What a fool she’d been!

She’d texted…

SURPRISE I’M HERE

(Sword Lord): WHERE?

AT YOUR COLLEGE

Silence. Blank space. No messaging dots. No further contact. Ghosted. Just like that. After travelling 100 miles to track him down.

She’d stalked the corridors, and grilled students, up against their lockers, but no luck. No trace of anyone who’d matched his profile – his favourite subjects, Head of the D&D club, and the debate club, and…all LIES.

Imogen groaned and coughed under the bed. Sword Lord could have been 40. And one day she’d be 40 too and still actually look 17. What then? She’d have to decide what kind of perve she was going to be.

Or maybe she’d just give up on the whole love thing…

Was it really worth it? She’d worked so hard. She’d been so committed to the quest.

She’d even spent three whole months, from March to May, religiously focused on a project she’d called Operation Spring Fling. She’d spent the best part of her days staring into a mirror, even though she had no reflection, saying ‘You are worthy of love. Love is coming your way.’

Like that wasn’t enough of a torment, she’d then made herself leave her little bedsit to walk the streets and attract love. She should have been a magnet. For love. Of the highest degree. She’d sat on park benches, with a cute scarf wrapped around her neck, wondering if she was capable of caring for a dog? That could be the missing factor? It worked in films. Cute dog equals cute conversation with cute person. But not even the pigeons would come close. It was like she had a dark shadow that pulsed around her and warned people away.

“Maybe you do, Imogen. Maybe you do. Maybe you do have a dark shadow. Maybe you are repulsive. You’re certainly no love magnet. Nu-uh…. Maybe you are no good.”

Imogen writhed under the bed, like a fish on a deck, in its death throes. Then she made herself go still, all the muscles in her body tight, like she was a stiff little rod.

“I am good,” she said, through gritted teeth, fangs locked away in her gums.

She hadn’t drunk a drop of human blood all year. That had to count for something?

“Where is the upside? Huh? I HAVE BEEN SO GOOD!”

She beat her fist against the wire springs that held the mattress, and felt a fine powder of dust settle down, over her face. There were probably mites in it. Perfect. That’s how special she was.

Imogen brushed her stubby eyelashes free of the dust and grunted. It sucked that she didn’t have the sweeping allure of vampires in films. If she did, she’d have boys beating down the door of her bedsit.

She cocked her head, under the bed. To be fair, having to fight off hordes of boys could come with its own problems. She’d likely end up breaking more than their hand bones. Ah well.

Her strength was…a strength…. And a curse. Even when she tried so hard to use it well. And mixed it with her speed. The double whammy. She hugged herself as she remembered the Valentine’s Day fiasco.

Using her strength, and her speed, she’d stolen a whole cargo container of Valentine’s chocolates, from a warehouse, on an industrial estate. She’d delivered the chocolates to over 100 boys – through letterboxes, and in college lockers, and left on the passenger seat of their cars, along with a love note, and her mobile number.

She’d only got one intelligible message in response, from an irate lady. ‘You owe me £140 for a vets bill, whoever this is.’ From her long, aggressive phone message it turned out that Sonny the Labrador had eaten the letterbox chocolates. And then puked all over the rug.

Under the bed, Imogen dug her socked heels into the carpet, and chewed on the end of one of her fingernails, before slapping it away from her mouth.

“Nope, Imogen. You are not fit to own a dog, even if you could pay the vets bills. Nope, you don’t deserve a dog, not even to attract a boy. And you probably don’t deserve a boy either.”

Her chest ached.

Yes, this year had been a capital D Disaster.

She should have burned that darned book, back at the very start of the year. It had got her too fired up. It had set her up for all these falls. She ground her teeth together. It had been an odd, anonymous gift, put through her own letterbox. ‘How to live your best year’. It was what had inspired her to do her own stupid Valentine’s mailing.

And now, as she lay hunkered in her duvet coffin, Imogen blinked. And blinked again. And smacked her own forehead with her palm. Then she wriggled and flung herself out from under the bed, like an excited seal.

She bounded over to her wardrobe and rifled through her clothes, finding the book gift it in the pocket of her long black overcoat.

She opened it carefully, to the inscription.

LOVE MIKE

Back in the dark depths of January, she’d grumbled to herself, “Weirdo. Who’s Mike?” He hadn’t left a number. She didn’t know who he was. And she had definitely not been looking for love at the time. From what she could remember, she’d just wanted to sleep under her bed for a hundred years.

But now? She shook herself, like she was emerging from a cold lake. She’d played the love game all year, and even been out on a few dates. Maybe it was time to track Mike down, like a bloodhound? She had time. Plenty of it.

She retrieved the planner from her bed, and grinned, with a flash of her fangs, as she wrote in big letters, across December….PRESENT TO ME…FIND MIKE.

Week 21

I came across a poem that had a reverse structure. (It started with the final image in the sequence of events, and went backwards in time from there.)

I wanted to have a quick go at thinking through the story backwards, so starting in the December, and working in reverse through the months in Imogen’s year. While still keeping things straightforward to read.

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