I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m still working on coming to terms with the fact that I’ve finished my BA. Part of this process, I’ve figured, is going back and looking at pieces I wrote in first and second year. Most writers hate looking back at earlier pieces, and I’m definitely no exception. All the sentences you’d cut, all the careless spelling mistakes, so much showing and not enough telling. However, it is interesting to see how far you’ve come, and it feels good to know that all the errors you find in your old work are things you know how to correct now; areas in which you’ve grown as a writer.
This short story (hidden under the Continue Reading bar) was one of the first short stories I ever wrote in a lecture, in a module called Creative Voice I. The task was to find an idea by looking at pictures, then head to the library to quickly research said idea and like this, come up with a story. I got a picture of Audrey Hepburn, the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s shot, and started looking at her past and her life during the war; how she and some other girls put on secret ballet rehearsals and shows unbeknownst to the German soldiers. It got the ball rolling for a story about children helping out the resistance during the second world war, and resulted in a 700 word story. Also, today I’ve edited it slightly and submitted this story to The Master’s Review‘s Flash Fiction competition.
On the topic of growing as a writer, though, if I were to write this story now I would show more of the surroundings to properly set the time and place more clearly, and also make the character’s intentions and feelings more clear. I would also work more with the characters, as the reader doesn’t really get a clear feeling about how old the girls are or why they’re doing what they’re doing. Also, the change in mood from the girls skipping down the street to one of them suddenly sneaking into the abandoned shop feels very sudden. Other than that, I do like it.
Click the Continue Reading Button to read the piece, or click here to see some of my other pieces!
“In the soles of their shoes”
The girls ran out of Ms. Dubois’ dance studio, revelling in the contrast of the brightly lit studio and the grey, dirty streets of Paris. The city was as beautiful as ever, just a bit dustier. It was a lovely day, lit up by shy rays of sun reserved for April, and the smell of buttery pies and sweet pastries lay like a cover over Rue Saint-Jacques. Ms. Dubois herself could be seen in the window, statuesque and still on the wooden floors polished clean by pirouettes and chassés. She looked down at the girls walking arm in arm, ballet shoes tied on strings around their necks. They twirled and leapt in their dance costumes, unable to keep their feet on the ground. They looked just like every other group of children, but Ms. Dubois knew the secrets they were hiding in the soles of their shoes.
“Tag, you’re it,” Lauren hit Adele lightly on the shoulder and started running.
“Oh, just you wait,” Adele said, before lunging after her. Lauren dodged one of the younger girls and picked up her speed. She glanced at her surroundings. Dusty roads, dirty market stalls, German soldiers. Nothing out of the ordinary. Keep smiling, she told herself. No one knows, no one can see. She held onto her shoes so that they wouldn’t fall from her neck in the chase. Anxious, she threw a second look at the clusters of soldiers, stationed out along the road. Had she laughed too loud? Did it sound fake? Suspicious, maybe? She let out a relieved breath upon seeing that the soldiers hadn’t noticed anything. They were too busy lazily hanging around the lamp posts, “patrolling”, their postures not matching their uniforms.
After another five minutes of running the girls reached a small shop in a quiet, secluded area of the city. Around them the roads got even dustier, the stalls even dirtier. There was no sign on the shop door, no grand window display, only a small note hung on the door handle. Closed, it said. Lauren turned to Adele.
“Take the girls home, and I’ll catch up with you later, okay?” Adele pursed her lips and nodded her head.
“Of course,” she said, before rushing the rest of the girls over the street without looking back. Lauren double checked that no one else saw her, before she quietly entered the building. She never got used to this part either. The air inside the shop felt heavy, with the big windows covered with brown paper. Only a few rays of light could fight its way through the tears. She jumped when the door closed behind her with that dull thud that always took her by surprise.
Even though she was inside, sheltered from the streets and peering eyes, she felt watched. Very quietly, she hummed to herself. “Liberté, liberté chérie, combats avec tes défenseurs,” as she tiptoed behind the counter and into the back room like she had so many times before. Safe in the back, she made sure that she was completely covered by shelves and boxes and bookcases, before she sat down on the ground and opened a small compartment in the floor.
She lifted the ballet shoes from around her neck and gently flipped the pink satin inside out. Carefully, she pried out the solid tiptoe part. Inside it, there was a small folded note with a Lorraine cross drawn in pencil. Lauren put the note in the compartment, before carefully placing the floorboards back. Lightly, like on dancer’s feet, she crossed the room, opened the door, and quick as lightning she snuck out of the small shop. Once outside she went on her way as if nothing had happened and the shop lay abandoned once again. She walked the streets of Paris, her ballet shoes hanging innocently around her neck.
It is the spring of 1944. Who knows what happens next.