If only Part I.

Hi all,

I’m going to share with you my latest story I wrote for my assignment. It scored the best mark so far and because it’s a wee bit long I will split it into two halves. Second part is coming tomorrow. Enjoy


If only

‘All you want for four quid. Try some. Fried chicken, fried chicken,’ the stall holders were shouting one over another. Most Chinese, some Mexican, Marie hardly saw a face with European features among them.

The sun shone above the rooftops of Camden town, morning traffic easing with every hour in this part of London. Saturdays were usually quieter than weekdays. Crowds of curious tourists and visitors flooded the streets, eager to buy a bargain, find forgotten treasures in the antiques market, or just have a browse through endless stores and stalls, offering all sorts of goods. If one wanted to stand out from a crowd, Camden Markets were the right place to go; and Marie loved the place. It offered a trip back in time to days she used to force her hair up with sugar and water solution and wear heavy combat boots, dressed in black from head to toe including her fingernails. She felt at home, surrounded by odd people, who seemed to take a little care of what others thought of them. On the other hand, she knew, she looked insignificant, like millions of others.

‘What freedom,’ she thought and a pang of jealousy poked her ribs.

‘I need to get to the shop that sells all vintage clothes. Do you remember where it is?’ Marie got distracted from her daydreaming by a voice that belonged to Celine. Her friend kept looking around desperate to find a way to a store she once discovered and spent a little fortune on clothes from sixties. She was different; she dared to stand out from the crowd.

‘Oh, I don’t know Celine. It’s always a matter of luck with me, I’m afraid. You know my sense of direction is useless,’ Marie sighed and adjusted her handbag strapped around her shoulder, clutching it hard to her body. Last thing she wanted was to come home without her purse and a bag with a long slit. The pickpockets were ever so present and seduced by the amount of visitors taken aback with the atmosphere they got lost themselves in enthusiasm and were caught off guards.

‘I have to find it. I have to,’ Celine kept mumbling, jumping up and searching the maze of Camden Market.

‘Calm down, for God’s sake,’ Marie muttered and rolled her eyes. Although Celine was her best friend, she hated her sometimes. She took it as a price for their twenty years’ long friendship; working together, sharing their secrets and mistakes, heated discussions they led and flat they shared. Sometimes Marie wondered if their lives would ever get their separate ways. And sometimes she envied her friend’s open mind and adventurous character. Celine seemed to have much more fun in her life.

‘I think I found it. Can you see that figurine at the back? Isn’t that the shop? It must be, mustn’t it? Look at the dress. The colours are just right for sixties. And the design as well,’ she turned to Marie, her rounded face lit with joy and sparks twinkling in her brown eyes. Marie wondered if Celine was ever going to grow up and be sensible.

‘Wait for me,’ Marie shouted watching her friend’s back disappearing in the crowd, heading with a bull’s focus towards the shop.

What do I care? She’s a grown up,’ she thought and stopped in her tracks. If Celine lost her, they could always call each other and meet somewhere. Or they could split up for the day and Marie could be left on her own, just walk around, watch people and relax with no need to follow Celine, wait for her or do things together she didn’t want to do. The thought excited Marie.

She turned around and fought her way back to the entrance of Camden Stables Market. The smell of oriental food, spices and mulled wine tickled her nose and made her stomach rumbling. She rubbed her hands together, regretting she forgot her gloves.

‘Fried chicken, try our chicken. Four pounds only. Eat what you want,’ the sellers chanted their mantras, smiling at first to twist their expressions into anger if they didn’t sell. Marie often wondered what happened with the leftover food. She hoped the sellers fed the homeless but a doubt clouded her mind. She just hoped and didn’t want to try to find out the truth, for it might hurt and take her romantic ideas she held about people away.

‘Hi, how are you?’ she heard an English accent among other languages. The mixture of Italian, German and French buzzing in her ears almost pushed out the language she spoke and understood. Marie searched for the voice and found a smiling face of a boy, hardly twenty, looking at her.

‘Oh, hiya, I’m fine. Thank you,’ she stammered, ‘how are you?’

‘I’m OK, thanks. Fancy something to warm you up? It’s all for four quid,’ he said, smile not leaving his smooth face.

‘No, I’m OK. Thank for asking, anyway,’ she said and forced herself to look away. She felt her cheeks burning and her stomach trembled.

‘I’ll be here all day, hope to see you later,’ he shouted after her and Marie struggled to keep her eyes in front of her, although she wanted to smile at him and let him know she appreciated his interest.

‘Oh God, get a grip,’ she mumbled under her breath and hurried through the crowd.

Marie treated herself to a new scarf she wrapped around her neck. She took a glimpse of herself in the antiques shop window. Red nose dominated the picture. She studied her reflection for a while, searching her face for wrinkles, spots and other imperfections. She turned forty last autumn and tried to forget the reality of getting older. Her slim figure helped to mislead others but not herself. Celine often laughed at her for the pure fact Marie made herself look and sound older than she was.

‘You’re not ancient, you know. So stop dressing like an old bat. Look at you. You could pass as my mother, at least,’ Celine joked.

‘Yeah, like you’re twenty, ay? I have no desire to look ridiculous. I’m not gonna pretend I’m young when I’m not. Who are you kidding?’

‘Say what you will, Marie. You know me. I don’t care what anybody says. And that’s part of your problem. You put too much of weight on people’s opinions. They don’t live your life.’

‘Exactly. You’re right. It’s my life and I’ll do whatever I want with it. If I want to look like your grandmother, I will. All right? And stop lecturing me.’

‘Touchy, aren’t you? I just wish you would relax a bit. Take a risk, for God’s sake. Look at you.’ Celine forced her to stand in front of the mirror. ‘What do you see? Tell me. Describe who you see in that mirror.’

Marie reluctantly lifted her eyes and watched her reflection. Dark hair intertwined with occasional streak of silver. Pale skin was slightly discoloured under her eyes from the lack of sleep she suffered since she was in her teens. Her arms just hung off the shoulders, as if they were attached by a loose string. She saw an old woman. Old and sad, at the end of her days, regretting things she hasn’t done. Regretting things she has done. Regretting… What was it? She couldn’t remember. Marie’s brain stumbled upon the memories, blurred, insignificant and grey. Tears stung in her eyes and she fluttered her eyelashes to fight them off.

‘Oh, come on, Marie. I’m sorry,’ Celine put her arms around Marie’s waist and pulled her towards her. She patted her back, and stroked Marie’s stiff shoulders. ‘Don’t cry, honey. I didn’t mean it like that.’


~ by Niina Erin on April 6, 2013.

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