She sits on a staircase, fag in one hand and a vodka straight up in the other. Half of her hung out in something black and tight. She takes a deep drag before putting out the cigarette and finishes her drink. Then she lifts and twists her long brown hair up and ties it into a loose knot. Tendrils of hair slip down. She pushes them away then picks up her empty glass and looks for some help to refill it.

It sounds as if I know who she is, doesn’t it? And what she’s doing there? Her name is Helen, I know that. And that she has been sitting (mostly in my bottom ideas drawer) on that staircase for over a decade puffing away at those fags.

If she won’t give them up I’m going to have to shift her to the front porch, but it won’t be the same. She’s watching the New Year’s Eve revellers. Is she alone? Is she waiting for someone to join her? Perhaps she’s been dumped and she’s sitting there trying to work out what to do next. Perhaps she’s got a nifty little gun in her purse she plans to use on the ex-boyfriend when he turns up.

She could be waiting for a friend, a brother or a lover, who knows? Not me. But I do sense that Helen is bored. Everyone’s downstairs, frantically using up the last minutes of the old year as if they are in fact the last minutes of the end of the world. Helen sits quietly contemplating the foolishness of mankind. She is indifferent to the occasion. After all, she thinks, the moment the old year goes, a new year starts dying. Why make such a big deal of the last day?

As I’m wondering all this, I notice that Helen is still where she started and yet again I find myself no further along. I think I’ve begun the story quite well. I like the first couple of lines and have decided that I don’t want to wed them to a cliché story. I’ve also decided that I badly need help to get Helen downstairs, any suggestions out there?

6 thoughts on “Sitting on a staircase

  1. She sounds like an interesting character. I’d have her notice something or someone unusual, something that piques her interest. Maybe someone stealing something, or a gatecrasher who’s acting in a mysterious way – something that drags her out of her boredom and pulls her into the story to investigate/follow them.

    • Glad you liked the start, Bruce, so did I. She’s been waiting so long and deserves to move forward. I’m hoping I don’t have to put Helen back in the drawer again. 🙂

  2. Having workshopped this idea over several drinks we offer up these scenarios. A knock at the door would draw Helen down the stairs, it could be the police, or an undertaker. The need for another fag/drink, a ringing phone, a child crying, the New Years countdown, the cold closing in, a gunshot. We had fun with pre dinner drinks and your conundrum. I’m sure you have a better idea of your own!

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