Short Story – Innocence Lost?

A while back I read a blog post advising authors to improve their skills by writing a short story every week. To paraphrase the post, it didn’t matter whether the story was a literary classic or a pile of poo as long as it got written.

Interesting, I thought. My fiction writing to date has been very much character driven, meaning the readers need to get to know the characters in order to take an interest in whatever happens to them. And that, of course, takes time. Not conducive at all to short story writing, so here was my chance to give my work a new dimension.

Having read the post shortly before Christmas, I had a ready-made New Year’s resolution. However, I’m not talking about last New Year – it was the year before. Keeping New Year’s resolutions isn’t my strong suit!

For some reason the blog post’s idea came back to me at three o’clock this morning. Oh the joys of being creative – not that I’d want to be anything else, but why do alpha waves love the early hours so much? By four o’clock my mind was working feverishly on the following short story. By five I was editing and fine tuning it. By six I was still awake and heartily fed up.

Later, after an appalling night’s sleep, I got up and wrote ‘Innocence Lost?’. So here it is: my first attempt at short story writing.

*****

Innocence Lost?

How did this happen? Jenny thought miserably, watching the summer sun sink behind pretty suburban houses. The scent of barbecues filtered into the car, and cheerful groups of people wandered here and there, enjoying the balmy evening. How happy they all looked. How safe.

How Jenny wished she could join them.

Risking a glance at the man beside her, Jenny felt her insides recoil with fear. Even through her drunken haze she realised she was in trouble – deep trouble – and she only had herself to blame. Hadn’t her dad warned her about the company she kept? Hadn’t he repeatedly told her about predatory men who wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of a pretty fourteen-year-old? Especially one full of a potent cocktail of cheap alcohol.

As the car passed under a street light, Jenny caught sight of her reflection in the wing mirror. An hour ago she’d felt so grown up, drinking in the park with her older friends – ‘friends’ too drunk to notice (or care) when the man beside her had persuaded her away.

Now she looked like a frightened little girl caked in makeup.

Wriggling in her seat, Jenny pulled her skirt down as low as it would go, but still it barely covered her knickers. The man glanced at her legs and made a sound somewhere between a growl and a sigh. Cold terror coursed through her booze-laden body.

Oh God, what’s on his mind? As if I don’t know. But I’m so young, and he looks so old. I didn’t realise he looked that old

The lights of the town were now behind them, and even Jenny’s fuzzy brain didn’t take long to register that ‘showtime’ was approaching. She pressed her hands over her mouth, vainly hoping to stem the rising tide of panic that threatened to burst out of her.

The man pulled into a layby. It was classic – a deserted country road; no one around for miles; spooky woodland on either side. All the horror cliché was missing was a ground mist.

‘Showtime’ had arrived.

The car was at a standstill, but the man continued to grip the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were white with the effort. His jaw was clenched; his breathing was ragged.

“It’s no good,” he muttered, looking at Jenny’s bare legs again, his expression hard and determined. “I can’t drive in this state. We’ll have to do it here, in the car.”

“Please…” whispered Jenny, immediately clapping her hands over her mouth again as panic overwhelmed her. No, no, no! her mind shouted. Not here, not in the car.

Her mouth, however, had lost the ability to utter a word.

Jenny fumbled with the door handle, but the man grabbed both her wrists, restraining the inebriated teenager with ease.

“Not so fast, young lady. I’ve not even started with you yet.”

Oh God, no! Why did I drink so much? Why didn’t I listen? No matter what, I’ve got to get out of this car. Now. I’ve got to do whatever it takes

“Whatever were you thinking, you stupid child? I could have been anyone.”

“I know, Dad,” Jenny mumbled eventually. “I know you’re waiting to read me the riot act, but I’m about to be sick in your car.”

*****

What do you think? Is the twist a little too obvious? If you’d be so good as to add comments or constructive criticisms below, I’d love to read your thoughts. Then I can take them on board for short story #2, which may appear next week, or may appear in two years’ time.

You never can tell with my resolutions.

*****

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12 thoughts on “Short Story – Innocence Lost?

  1. Oh wow, I so did not see that twist coming! Brilliant, Alison! There’s something magical about those middle-of-the-night flashes of inspiration, even if they do leave us pale and drawn the next day. Well done, and stick at your resolution, because I’m keen to read more of your short stories. 🙂

    • Wow, you enjoyed it! I’m so glad, you being the short story writing expert. I certainly intend to write more short stories, but hopefully they’ll come to me at more sociable hours of the day in future!

  2. No, I did not anticipate then ending – and had to re-read the story to see what I’d missed!!

    Just two points – please use barbecue not barbeque (although I admit the spelling does seem to be changing but for the time being I’d stick with the conventional English spelling), and I would change the word “enticed” in paragraph 4 perhaps to “persuaded” in order more accurately to reflect what a father would do but without giving the game away.

    Overall though an excellent first go at this genre. Well done x

    • You’re quite right about barbecue. I’m so used to abbreviating the word to BBQ that I assumed the spelling would be with a q, but the OED agrees that the correct (and only) spelling is with a c. That’ll teach me to be so smug about my spelling ability!
      Funnily enough, I wasn’t happy with the word enticed myself, so I shall take your suggestion on board and edit the post accordingly.

    • Thank you for your comments. It’s interesting that you feel the plot could have been more fleshed out as my usual mistake when writing is to be rather too wordy. Perhaps I went too far in trying to keep this story as short as possible. I’ve tweaked a couple of things regarding the ending. It probably wasn’t clear that Jenny’s desperation to get out of the car was because she was about to be sick and she didn’t want to get any further into her dad’s bad books, not because she was about to be molested by a predatory paedophile as the reader’s been led to believe. The title too was misleading as, of course, Jenny’s innocence is not lost on that particular night, so I’ve added a question mark to introduce the element of doubt.

  3. Well it didn’tseem like a first ‘go’ and while I expected a twist it wasn’t that one!

    I think short story writing is great for honing skill, as you can’t ‘flesh it out’ so you have to use other ways to bring the reader in.

    I participate in a weekly Flash Fiction challenge where a blogger identifies a piece of music and then participants have to write a 100 words. Tough, but fun. I really believe it is a fab writing exercise and I’m sure it’s improving the way I redraft my work in progress. If you feel that a weekly challenge would help your resolution you might like to check out this link. X

    https://thebookblogger2014.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/flash-fiction-foray-anniversary-edition-writings-on-the-wall/

  4. Nope, I didn’t see the ending coming either. Reading it over though, perhaps one clue was his use of ‘young lady’— a bit incongruous in the mouth of a potential rapist. If you tweaked that, you’d cover your tracks completely 🙂

  5. I didn’t see the twist. I was so scared my heart was pounding! Great story. good descriptions and ending!

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