Written for week 5 of my Start Writing Fiction course at FutureLearn.
The first task was to write a brief scene, around 300–500 words, in which I portray a character in a complex way, going against the usual expectations for such a character.
Kathy closed the door of her apartment and sighed deeply, relieved to be home after another demanding day at the library. Since the council had restricted opening hours to save money there always seemed to be more people passing through than the pared down staff could deal with satisfactorily. In a town where unemployment was high the free wifi, with no need to buy a coffee, was in demand. Only the youngsters and elderly seemed to choose their books from the shelves; most other users ordered in the titles they wished to read specially, which took time for the staff to organise.
Kathy went straight to her cramped bathroom to shower. Peeling away her sensible skirt and neat blouse she stretched languidly. Her first client was due in an hour so she had time to prepare. He had promised her dinner before the function where she would serve as his arm candy. She wondered if he would be willing to pay the optional extra to find out what tricks she could offer in bed.
As she washed away her day under the welcome gush of hot water, Kathy turned her mind to the essay that she must complete the following day. Perhaps she would find inspiration amongst the strangers she would encounter this evening. It amused her to imagine those she was introduced to at these functions in the parallel worlds of her creative writing. She was considered good at her job because she could listen attentively, asking questions that encouraged others to talk about themselves. The rich and powerful did love to talk about themselves.
Kathy dressed carefully, her evening couture as much of a charade as the clothes she wore by day. Dress codes did this to a person. It was only at the weekend that she could choose to be herself.
The second task was to write a brief character sketch, around 300–500 words, in which I reveal certain aspects of the character such as appearance, feelings, current circumstances, occupation, voice, attitudes, hopes and fears.
The agency had promised David a young, attractive brunette and he was not disappointed. The young woman he had picked up from the agreed address was stunning. From the long, glossy locks that tumbled down her shapely back to the slim ankles that rose above her kitten heels she was truly a picture to behold. Even her teeth were even and white, a rarity amongst the English girls he had met since moving to this grey and soggy land.
David would normally have preferred a more buxom figure on a woman, but Kathy would be perfect for tonight’s demure function. She looked sexy yet oozed class. David wondered why she was working as an escort and allowed himself to imagine her as a bored heiress, rebelling against her upbringing.
Kathy was primed and ready, the single glass of champagne that she had accepted with her dinner enough to enable her to relax and get in character. She found these evenings tedious, especially when her clients turned out to be overweight and convinced of their own importance. They did, however, pay well and would generally treat her with enough respect to enable her to remain eager and animated as they seemed to like. There had been three memorable occasions when she had opted to forgo her fee and bail out, but on only one had she been forced to use the pepper spray she always kept to hand.
Kathy could gain some satisfaction from playing a role that was so different to her true self. She had learned quickly to respond to the suggestive comments with a smile or a quick touch to the arm, but never to allow such flirtations to get out of hand. Inwardly she may despise the way these men checked up on their imagined attractiveness and virility by hitting on her, but she played her role well. She was being paid to be an object; if they truly thought that this was how to impress a woman then she could only feel sympathy for their wives and girlfriends.
Kathy smiled, thinking of the growing balance in her bank account which was already almost enough to pay next term’s fees. She could do this job and move on. There were many amongst her peers who were forced to do things much worse in her eyes than pretending to be enthralled by financially successful businessmen.