This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
About the Author
Ruby Whittaker is 26 years old and currently resides in Halifax, West Yorkshire. By day she works in a call centre and by night she is a club singer. In between all this she adores writing fiction and dreaming up ideas for the perfect sunday roast.
Excerpt of Being Her by Ruby Whittaker
“ The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence but you still have to mow it…”
On a beer stained seat, in a dubious taproom, in a very average suburb of Manchester, I sit silently, and wonder how the hell a pub quiz became the high point of my life.
Seriously. That kind of thing doesn’t just happen to a person. It creeps up on you over time, like a cupboard full of 1993’s baked beans, or a fat arse. It happens so slowly that there’s this curious disbelief when you eventually notice it.
It’s like one minute you’re twenty four and anticipating a life of glamour and success and brilliant parties. The next your twenty-seven, a pub quiz champion and contemplating your entire existence.
Don’t get me wrong. Up until about oooh two hours ago, I was happy with my life. Ok, not so much happy as generally satisfied. I have the worlds most undemanding job weighing packages at the post office, plus I’m getting married this year, and we just got Sky Plus installed with all the movie channels. So everything was simple.
And then on the drive over here something happened. Nothing remarkable, I’d even go so far as to say it was incredibly unremarkable. But it was enough to send my head into a bit of a spin, so I should probably mention it.
So anyway, there we were (me and my fiancé), in the car over here, and we stopped at traffic lights outside some super trendy bar in the Northern Quarter. You know the type, all soft lighting and discreet signage so that no-one but the coolest people know where it is. And milling around outside the bar were this group of girls, all about my age, all drinking cocktails and all smoking cigarettes. They were dressed up in these tiny sparkly dresses, and giggling, and chattering and fizzy. And then this tall, really super glamorous blonde one turned around and caught my eye. Oh, and you should know that at that exact moment I was chomping into a Big Mac and had secret sauce on my chin. Well, we locked eyes for a moment, she got this weird pitying look on her face, and then off we drove.
See, it was nothing. It didn’t mean anything really, but – and I know how daft this sounds – but for the past couple of hours I keep thinking about what I must have looked like to her. Her with her shiny mates, and her fortunate legs and her pity. I just can’t get it out of my head. What must she have seen?
Boring, quiz champion with premature belly roll and a bad fringe?
Un-ambitious burger muncher whose most stylish outfit involves a cardigan?
Sturdy stamp licker who hangs out with her fiancés friends girlfriends. And pretends to like them?
Usually I’m not the type to give a crap about other peoples opinions of me, not least someone I don’t even know. But something has shifted. In the space of time it hast taken to answer questions one to sixty three, the habitual satisfaction of my simple life seems to have faded slightly. And to make matters worse, I really should be concentrating on this quiz. A quiz that has suddenly become the most tedious thing I’ve ever encountered…
With a muffled tap of the microphone, the quizmaster booms out the final question.
“And the concluding question is…In the film version of Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing…Which Hollywood movie star plays the part of Don John, The Bastard… Prince?”
The hiss of sotto voice rises to a crescendo. The team opposite whisper frantically behind their hands. The group on the next table use chubby arms to protect their answer sheet while glancing around stealthily. The very prospect of winning twenty English pounds is just too much to contemplate.
And tonight, I can’t find the energy to give a shit.
“Come on, Jen. You love all that filmy stuff! Think, Think”
That’s Ryan, my lovely fiancé, and he does give a shit. Along with our fellow team members Karen n Kevin, who are lovely, and Alice n Steve who are also very lovely. They all give a shit, and they’re all staring at me like I’m about to tell them the point of Danni Minogue.
Of course, I know the answer. I always know the answer. so even though I haven’t seen the film, I know that the answer is Keanu Reeves and I know that he was probably terrible in it because, well, he always is.
They continue to stare, willing me to relieve them of the mental strain.
“Was it Tom Cruise?” asks Karen, reaching up to tighten her pony tail “I just have this image of Tom Cruise dressed up like a prince…”
“Are you sure that wasn’t a dream you had last night?” quips Steve, his mono-brow wiggling suggestively.
“Come on Angel Face, you know this one.” Ryan looks into my eyes with deep intensity, “You have to know this… we can’t lose. Quiz Team Aguilera never loses!”
I really should try to be enthusiastic. Usually I’m the first one there, showing off my curious pop culture knowledge before accepting the prize with a hearty air punch of joy. But tonight, it’s all different. Tonight, I find myself wishing that I was the one outside a trendy bar in a sparkly dress having a fabulous time. But I’m not. I’m here.
How the fuck did I get here?
Yes, I know, in a taxi because I just said that, I mean in the philosophical sense…
The prospect of an end to our reign as the Trap Inn quiz champions causes all colour to drain from Alice’s face. Not an easy task, considering the salmon pink blusher she’s recently taken to wearing. She eggs me on with a little yelp of desperation.
What would happen if I deliberately answered wrongly? Would they refuse to speak to me? Would Karen n Kevin stop inviting me to their Pictionary dinner parties?
I consider the option while doing my best deep thinking expression, which basically involves tilting my head to the right, squinting my eyes a bit and gazing up towards the ceiling of the pub.
It’s very tempting, but as I glance at Ryan’s handsome, expectant face, I realise I just can’t do it. Winning the pub quiz is his…our thing. Despite my current existential crisis, it’s not in my nature to disappoint.
“It’s Keanu Reeves.” I say finally.
The sigh of relief is audible as Alice quickly scribbles in the answer.
“Ahh, I knew you’d know it. My clever Angel” Ryan draws me in for a cuddle. His strong arms, which normally feel safe and cosy seem clingy and tight, but I go with it. It’s not his fault is it?
“Good old Jen!” beams Alice giving me two perfectly manicured thumbs up.
Steve, Karen and Kevin all nod happily in agreement.
Yup. That’s me. Good Old Jen. Boringly Good, Old before her time, what the frick happened, Jennifer Anne Farmer. How do you do?
There’s a flurry of activity as each team swap papers with the next to add up the final scores. Alice has the pen, as usual, so happily settles in with the answer sheet of the team on the next table, as usual.
Ryan takes the opportunity to go to the bar. He doesn’t ask anyone what they’d like because he doesn’t need to. After three years of this we’ve got ordering drinks for each other down to a fine science.
I watch him clear his way through the hub of people, turning the heads of at least three women. No wonder. He is lovely. He’s tall and broad, with lovely sandy blonde hair, and lovely pale green eyes, and a lovely bronzed tan from our recent lovely barge holiday in Cornwall. He’s perfectly lovely.
I sit up quickly, and attempt to push away the completely ridiculous thought. What is with me?
Ryan is not boring, he’s sensible. There’s nothing wrong with sensible, is there? Infact there’s a lot to be said for sensible. Sensible means we get the bills paid on time, and we have a small budget available for a yearly holiday. Oh, and he has this cleaning rota so that the house never gets into a mess and –
the sex is about as exciting as a radiator…
I’m sorry. I don’t know where that came from. That’s honestly not true. Our sex life is fine. Measured, but fine.
Ok, so it’s not the animal monkey sex we had when we first met, but so what? After three years together I no longer feel the need to be surprised in bed of all places. Being flipped all over the show, contorting yourself into all manner of crazy positions when you’re tired after work? No thanks. Missionary position is fine for me. The same results, with time to spare for a cup of tea and a slice of toast before sleep. Yes. Sex with Ryan is …lovely.
It’s not like sex is the most important thing in a relationship anyway. There are far more important things. Like love, and respect and the innate ability to do wallpapering and stuff. Ryan has all of those things.
“There you go, my darling” he hands me a small chardonnay from the tray of drinks before passing out beverages to the rest of the group. Pint of bitter for him and Steve and Kevin. Small chardonnay for Karen and Alice and me.
I take a sip of the wine. It tastes tart and samey.
I find myself wondering what it would be like to have a cocktail. I had one a few years ago at my sisters birthday party in London, – a cosmopolitan. I remember how glamorous it made me feel. The delicate martini glass glowing with delicious, magical pink liquid.
Do you know what? I think I’ll have a cocktail right now, damn it.
I turn to the group.
“I’m sorry, but would anyone like this glass of wine?” I rub my hands together “I think I’ll go and get myself a cocktail… a cosmopolitan.”
There’s a short, tense pause, then
“You won’t get a cocktail in here!”
“Really? The chardonnay is lovely…so fresh and light”
“What’s a cosmopolitan? Is it a wine spritzer?
“Do be so daft, Jen. Cocktails are rubbish value for money. Eight quid for a piddly little drink? Keep the wine. You love white wine.”
He looks seriously put out. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I’m sorry,” I answer in a small voice. “you’re right. It is silly. I think I’m just tired or something.”
I feel stupid. I’m being stupid. I would look totally stupid drinking a cocktail in this pub.
Karen n Kevin, look across at each other as if to say ‘ooh get her with her cocktails.’ There’s an awkward silence, which for some reason, I don’t feel the need to fill immediately. Alice does it for me.
“Oh, look everyone, they’re about to announce the results!” she coos excitedly.
A hush descends over the pub as the quizmaster taps his microphone.
“Two, One two, t-t-two. Ok, guys and gals, the answers have been checked and verified by my good self and it’s one of the closest runs we’ve ever seen here in the Trap Inn… so the top three teams in reverse order are…”
Karen actually squirms in her seat, I try to fight an unexpected giggle as I watch her grab Kevin’s hand in excitement.
Ryan leans over towards me and cups his hand around my ear.
“This is it, babe. This is it!” he whispers gently.
“In third place,” booms the quiz master “with seventy five points is… Linford Quiz Team!”
There’s a spattering of half hearted applause, as the team opposite us smile grimly at one another and shake hands.
This is it?
“In second place, with seventy five and a half points is… I Like To Wear Women’s Under …Oh, ha-ha very clever!” There’s a great big laugh as a group of students sat beside the bar stand up and take a bow.
THIS is it?
“And finally… the winners of twenty pounds is…”
Ryan grabs my hand and squeezes it tight.
This is IT?!
“Quiz team Aguilera, with a fantastic seventy eight points!”
A massive cheer erupts from our table. Ryan pulls me in for a wet kiss before hopping up to collect the vouchers. The rest of our group hug, while the rest of the pub throws us daggers. I try my best to get into the spirit by doing an air punch, but what Ryan said keeps running through my head, over and over until it starts to develop a tune of it’s own. This is it. This is it. Thisisitthisisitthisisit.
I take a large glug of my wine, and berate myself for being so silly. I’m happy. My life is good. I’m obviously just tired. That girl meant nothing.
You know, maybe it wasn’t even a pitying look. Maybe she had just, at that very moment, noticed a really bad smell, or perhaps she had wandering eyes and wasn’t even looking at me. Yup that’s it. She had wandering eyes. I am being totally silly.
I stand up and hug the others, plastering a grin onto my face.
“You know what the best thing is?” smiles Karen, eyes shining.
“What?” we all chorus.
I already know exactly what she’s going to say, because one of us says it every week.
“The best thing,” she continues “is that we can use the money we won to pay for our drinks at next weeks quiz!”
“Brilliant idea, Karen!”
“Make mine a double JD, ha-ha!”
This. Is. It?