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Age is not Just a Number

Please can I have some feedback on my first chapter of my manuscript. Its work in progress and this is the first raw draft of chapter one. The story is aimed at women, particularly of a certain age, and is a crime novel. Essentially it is about a woman who is resentful of losing her youth and feels invisible seeking revenge. She is working for a young, attractive woman who she plots to harm.  The younger woman turns out to be her granddaughter unknow to her. here is the first chapter, all feedback welcome, gulp, swallow. This is quite exposing, frightening!!!

Age is not just a Number

Age is not just a Number

 I was fed up with being ignored, it was as if I didn’t exist. I remember being in my late thirties, when friends had told me, ‘Wait until you hit your fifties, you’ll become invisible’. I can recall thinking at the time, no not me, I was attractive, vivacious, I would never succumb to being invisible. That was until recently. Now at fifty the menopause seemed to loom on the horizon like the Sword of Damocles, hanging by a thread, ready to drop at any moment, ready to steal my youth, yes, I had become invisible.  

I had started noticing the change at about the age of forty-five. Until then, I’d never had a problem in getting men to notice me, they’d always been like bees to a honeypot. I loved the feeling it gave me, a feeling of power and control, a flutter in the stomach, the kind of high you get when your nervous but also excited. I knew just how to work it, a coy smile, a giggle, a flutter of the eye lids, but as time went by, these, let’s call them, personal skills; didn’t work as well and the pool of admirers, dried up. No matter how much I laughed at their ridiculous jokes, smiled sweetly at their inane conversation, or fluttered my eyes until they hurt, I became invisible. I had regular Botox injections to help, but somehow it made no difference. Tick, tock, tick, tock, that clock seemed to get faster and louder each year. Sure, there were a few men I’d met desperate for sex, but really, I could have been the elephant woman, they wouldn’t have cared, as long as I had a vagina.

As a young woman starting out in the world, we are ignorant of these things, we think we are invincible, and if we have any kind of good looks, we quickly learn how to use them. Try telling a beautiful eighteen-year-old woman, it doesn’t last. Will she listen? Will she listen hell, age does not exist in her world!

The Bitch treated me as an extra, someone to be tolerated, to be pitied, and when opportunity arose, ridiculed. I now worked on short haul flights, long haul, I had to admit had become too much for me. Yes, these flights were as cheap as chips, most of the clientele left a lot to be desired, but the times and flying schedules weren’t as demanding as long haul, and now fitted with my lifestyle. The Bitch carried an air of superiority, had smooth skin, too much makeup, thick glossy hair piled high, somehow messy, but formal, it gave the impression she was older than her twenty-two years.  She was in charge of the flight crew, and from what I’d observed, the captain, given the flirtatious looks between the two of them.   It was after she told me, wearing a huge smirk on that overly made up face, to clean up after someone had been extremely sick, that I made my decision. Something inside me snapped, it was as if my invisibility cloak had been lifted, I knew exactly what had to be done. The Bitch may be flying out, but I was damn sure she wouldn’t be flying back. She had to go.

 

 

We landed on schedule, after dealing with a particularly nervous man who was sweating profusely showing all the signs of a heart attack, but who calmed down after some help with a few breathing exercises. All passengers disembarked leaving us to clear up.  Usually it was a quick turnaround, but on this trip, a new crew were taking over. As an incentive, the airline had decided to give us a few days off in Krakow, all expenses paid. A thank you for all our hard work, successfully generating the highest on-board sales for short haul routes over the last six months. We agreed as a group we would visit the camp of Auschwitz, a harrowing choice, but one serving as a reminder of the atrocities of the war and how inhumane man can be and couldn’t be missed. The other choice had been the Salt Mines a tourist must, and supposedly beautiful, both tours had been pre booked to make sure we could get tickets. Other than this we hadn’t pre booked anything else, apart from We had been told of a great restaurant which the Captain, Mark, had booked for us for the first evening.

Mark was a good-looking guy and he knew it; he had tried it on with every air hostess I knew, I was just waiting for my time. Now he was sleeping with the bitch, but she wouldn’t last long, especially as I had plans for her.

We checked into the hotel which was located right in the centre of Krakow. Bars, cafes, and shops merged around enticing squares, designed so that you could take in the architecture and spend your money at the same time. It was November, cold with a light scattering of snow on the roof tops. It hadn’t settled yet, but the roads were icy, and you had to be careful when walking in heels. The bitch wore high heels and it was as much as I could do not to push her over, but I kept restraint as that pleasure was yet to come. My room was comfortable, I’d stayed in better hotels, but this would do and was very well located. The Bitch had a room opposite mine and Captain Mark had a room next to hers, a little too convenient I thought. Maybe they’d got one of those interconnecting rooms with a door in between, usually reserved for families. It was, however, a great place for me to watch what the Bitch was up to and make my plans.

After unpacking, I decided to go for a coffee and a wander. There were a fair number of tourists considering the time of year, the coffee bars and restaurants were quite full. I found a small bar with a few tables outside and a couple of heaters, blankets were laid on each chair and very welcome as a few flakes of snow had started to fall. I ordered a latte and a small pastry, savouring the indulgence. As I sat people watching I noticed more and more that no one has any interest in anything but themselves. Where shall we have coffee? Where shall we visit next? Oh, look there’s a horse and buggy, shall we take a ride? No one notices the middle-aged woman drinking coffee plotting, but why would they! I find this very comforting and smile to myself thinking about the power this affords, If I am to be invisible then this is to my advantage. The more I pictured myself as the invisible woman the stronger I felt and the more eccentric my plans became. This was a new and exciting feeling, empowerment they call it, although I think that’s a label invented by feminists.

After a cup of coffee followed by two glasses of wine, I decided I’d better head back to the hotel. Captain Mark was just leaving the bitches room as he walked past, he winked at me, Idiot! Men were so predictable to the point of being stupid. I sweetly smiled and entered my room. We were meeting in the bar at seven and I had an hour to kill. I decided to take a long bath which gave me time to think. It would have to look like an accident, I couldn’t let anything point to me. Difficult. Savouring several alternatives for a bit too long, I realised I had started to take on prune like qualities and needed to get a move on. I had time for further planning later.

I had picked out a short black dress to wear for the meal. It was one of those that has a Bardot neckline, making it sexy but demur at the same time. I chose to wear some knee-high boots to cope with the weather and they were suitable for evening wear. I looked in the mirror, yes not too bad for my age but the edges were a little frayed. As I closed the door to my room I turned to see the Bitch, whose name by the way was Paulette, a name you didn’t hear very often, probably given by her posh father who I imagined was a stockbroker. I could see it all, daddy pandering to her every whim, expensive clothes, fast cars, an allowance, no working for pocket money for her. She was dressed in a very sexy but expensive looking dress. It was black like mine but had a shimmer to it and a deep neckline showing her ample bust, probably paid for by daddy! Her skin was smooth and makeup immaculate, matching jewellery and louis Vuitton shoes. I felt a pang deep down. We exchanged pleasantries and she remarked on how nice I looked, I didn’t think it was genuine and I couldn’t bring myself to return the compliment, so I just mumbled thanks.

As I walked into the bar, I could see a few of my colleagues already downing their second drink. Cabin crew were well known for their love of partying and our crew were no exception. At a younger age, this life had seemed so attractive and glamourous, but now it all seemed superficial and repetitive, keeping up the effort was hardly worth it. Smiling I caught the eye of one of the ground crew and made my way to join him. Eric was one of the few in the crew who I really liked. It was a shame he was gay otherwise I might have made a play for him, he was a little younger than me had a great personality and, as gay men often were, was exceptionally good looking. I found myself wondering how gay he really was. I mean you hear of gay men and women who are married or who are bi-sexual, could I……?? I dismissed the thought aware I was clutching at straws! ‘Hi Babe, what would you like to drink?’ I detested the use of the word ‘babe’, it was demeaning and at my age even I knew I was no babe! I forgave him however otherwise I would be sitting in the restaurant with no one to talk to

The restaurant was as I had expected a mix of eclectic ornaments new and old to appeal to the young and affluent but with a vibe of an old Polish dining room. Tables and chairs mis matched to look trendy with pictures on the wall in black and white showing scenes of Krakow from the past. Old worn faces stared out alongside current day images replicating these scenes. Most beguiling was a large canvas picture of an old man sitting in the Main Square outside of the Gothic towers of St Mary’s Basilica taken around the 1930’s. The old man was smiling and the lines on his face betrayed his age, he stood cradling a small baby. Next to it was a replica of the pose and setting but showed a young man from the modern day holding a baby, with jeans, trainers, and a cut off T-shirt showing his tattoos and ripped muscular body. Our table ran along this wall and I found myself sat opposite the pictures which kept grabbing my attention. On one side sat Eric and on the other to my horror the Bitch! Both us seemed unhappy with the arrangement but it was late to change we were now all seated. There were eight of us. Captain Mark, his real name sat at the head of the table and started to order drinks for the table white and red wine with a few beers for those who didn’t drink wine.

The menu was typical of a Polish fare. Dumplings of various sorts, pork in cutlet breaded, cabbage roulade, to name a few. You could also get steak, chicken and burgers which grated with me as we were supposed to be in an  exclusive Polish restaurant, maybe El-Capitaine hadn’t been quite truthful when he had announced we were in one of the best restaurants in Krakow!

Food ordered and a few wines interspersed with Polish vodka we were in full swing. The noise level had risen with screams of laughter as stories of difficult or unusual passengers were exchanged and tales of stop over antics. I caught one or two disapproving glances from other diners trying to have a romantic dinner, but no one else had noticed. Paulette was giggling like a schoolgirl as Captain Mark made some stupid comment about the age of the waiter. Turning to me Paulette said ‘Anna, perhaps he could be your plus one when we go out after the meal, he’s more your age’ Taking a deep breath I smiled my sweetest smile and replied ‘oh yes what a good idea, I’ll have to get his attention’. As I said this I reached forward and knocked a large glass of red wine over. A mistake of course, but it just happened to go all over Paulette’s lovely dress, such a shame! She gasped as I offered my profound apologies, trying to wipe of the wine with a tissue. ‘Paulette I’m so sorry I don’t know how that happened I was just reaching over to get the salt, how clumsy of me. Are you OK’? She glared at me and I could see tears welling up, but she was too proud to let them show. ‘Well you should be more careful; I’ll have to go back to the hotel and change before we go out’. There was an awkward silence from the others and then lots of sucking up. Eric looked suspiciously at me and I turned away; I really couldn’t stop myself smiling, this was going to be a good night after all. 


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Comments (7)
  • Hi Debbie, 

    I think you will have more responses if you post this in the Peer-to-peer critiques forum. On the homepage if you click on "forums". On the next page you will need to click "Peer-to-peer critiques" in the forum categories section on the right-hand side. Then on the next page under the banner picture click "Add".

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    • The "where" in that respect shouldn't make a difference. It still shows up in the same way on the home page.

      But, if you want to post it there, you can edit this and change the category, thereby keeping any feedback in one place.

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      • Thanks guys

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      •  Hi Debbie,

        Very, very  interesting plot –  I think it will rock.  However, you may like to think about the tense. I was advised to write in past tense and  use the Old Man and the Sea as reference.

        Good luck

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        • Thanks Camilla, nice to hear. Not sure about the tense as I was told the opposite but it would be interesting to hear what others think? One to ask an editor. Thanks

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        • I think it’s fun. Keep it in the present and first person, that gives it real immediacy. It may be difficult when you set up the revenge but it does mean the reader will be on your side. I felt I would like to know what is going to happen.

          The descriptions of the place were good too. I could imagine a bunch of cabin crew on a night out.

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          • Thanks Georgina. It’s lovely to get such nice feedback. Interesting that you say keep in the first person, seems different people have different thoughts on this but yes I want to keep it going thrower eyes. I am interspersing it with snippets of the thoughts from the other characters and their perspective, but they are only short snippets rather than chapters, as I have seen in other books. Very encouraging, thanks. 

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