Clay by Lauren Bell

clayI know I shouldn’t stare but I just can’t help myself. It’s like when someone tells you not to turn around because something bad will happen to you if you do, and even though you might lose an eye or several teeth, you can’t help but to turn around and look. It’s human nature.

Except this girl doesn’t look fully human to me.

I see her every morning on the train into town with her hair in a sleek midnight bob which effortlessly frames her face. She reminds me of a china doll with her small hand-crafted features making my heart giddy. She doesn’t look at me even though I know she can see me from out the corner of her eye. I’m just another suit-wearing guy with far too much deodorant choking the air.

She turns away and huddles close to the door, peering out at the landscape which passes us by. We zoom past fields, nuclear gas stations, dual carriageways and huge clouds which seemingly dwarf the sky.

My heart yearns to scream out: Please look at me!

I hear her sigh as she glances at her watch wishing she was far away from here, fast-walking on the platform to her next train, speeding her way to work.

I need to pluck up the courage to speak to her, to ask her whether she wants to grab a coffee or something, although she doesn’t look like the coffee drinking type.

I need to do something so that she notices me.

*

The fall is completely accidental, I tell myself, yet my heart knows different. I feel her slight weight give beneath mine. She looks at me, her eyes like chocolate I could melt in. I mumble an apology and straighten up. She half-smiles, tells me its okay. I tell her it’s not okay and that I should have steadier feet. She laughs and says well that makes two of us.

I want to keep her talking so I ask where she’s heading. After a brief pause she divulges and I think I’m in.

*

We meet up a week later and her features have changed slightly; they’re still small and perfectly formed but she has prominent cheekbones now and a rounded chin. Up close, her skin appears dull like clay waiting to be glossed.

I lean in and kiss her cheek. She shifts beneath my touch.

‘Are you okay?’ I ask.

She nods and smiles although I can see a faint impression of my lips on her cheek. Sensing she knows what I see, she runs a quick hand over the surface. Once removed, there is no evidence that my lips were ever there.

I know then that my suspicions are correct.

Later, after we have visited the city’s biggest museums we head back to my place, except she’s still reluctant to be kissed again. As we turn onto my street I look at her beneath the sodium haze of the streetlamp and picture myself playing with her features. She could look like a new woman every day.

‘I know about your face,’ I say. ‘I know it’s made from clay. And that’s absolutely fine by me.’

I smile at her while she stands disbelieving. Then, without saying a word, she links her arm through mine as we mount the front steps.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy like you before,’ she says.

No you haven’t, I think. And you’ll be even more surprised when you find out I’m a sculptor.

About the Author

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16 thoughts on “Clay by Lauren Bell

  1. I can imagine this flash fiction working very well in a performance reading – the setting and characters are established very economically and the suspense would keep people’s attention.

    I agree too with Anne that this could also be developed into something longer – the revelation that the speaker is a sculptor is something that could be dramatised over time rather than stated explicitly at the current end point and the reader would get a pleasantly sinister tingle when they see what’s happening in the relationship – very symbolic!

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  2. Great to see a flash piece on here. I absolutely loved this. Intriguing, memorable and a wonderful piece of writing. So far the standard of stories has been incredible… can’t wait for next week’s story!

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    • Dear Tracy, I would just like to pass on my heartfelt thanks – your kind words really mean a lot and you have made me smile ALL day with your nice comments. I have also seen the lovely comment you put on Twitter which I am entirely grateful for. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my work, and I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

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  3. I know this was Flash Fiction but, for me, the narrative voice didn’t give me enough of either of the two characters.
    However – clever idea Lauren – I’d like to see it developed into something darker or even romantic (what happens if they kiss?). I think this is the sort of story you will dig out and write another version of one day.
    The very best of luck with your novel writing – get started, and when you need a break, write another short story.

    Also – I thought the illustration matched the story perfectly, and could look good on the cover of Lauren’s first collection.

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    • Dear Anne, thank you for your feedback! 🙂 I had considered developing it but decided to keep it as a flash for the time being. Who knows…I may return to it in the future? I tend to get lots of ideas for stories, some long, some short, and sometimes think that maybe it would be better if the length was different – it’s certainly food for thought. Again, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my work, and yes, I must get cracking on with my novel!

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    • To Amani, I just wanted to pass on my grateful thanks to you for taking the time to read and comment on my work. You have no idea how much it means to me! I love anything a bit weird and wonderful, and am really glad you liked it. Thank you! 🙂

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    • To Chrysler, again thank you VERY much for reading my work – it means so very much to me to have other writers reading my work and commenting on them. To know that you enjoyed it means a lot to me, so thank you once again! 🙂

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  4. This was a great read, awfully satisfying and full of imagery. I loved how even the dullest things such as nuclear power stations fit the mood of the story. Tip-top writing 🙂

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    • To Nick, Roz and Greta – I would just like to say a HUGE thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my work. I really do appreciate you taking some time out to read stories from upcoming writers like myself. Thank you very much for your kind words – you have made me incredibly happy!!! 🙂

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