Editors Note: Kamena is pleased to publish the winning piece of this year’s Transformation programme, a widening participation scheme at the University of Warwick that takes Warwick undergraduates out to schools in Coventry to teach about Literature and Creative writing. This year the winner is Caitlin Hoyle, a year 9 pupil from President Kennedy school in Coventry.
Linda Patterson awoke one sweltering morning, turned to the empty place in her kingsized bed, and sighed. She secretly wished that George didn’t spend so much time at the gym or wherever he was, but would never tell him so. She thought it best that she stayed quiet- things were calmer that way.
Yawning quietly, Linda got to her feet and pulled a book from her bedside shelf. It was by far the best book that she owned; in fact, it was the only book that she had ever owned. Its pages were slightly worn, and its sparkly pink cover had lost some of its shine. Linda, noticing the minor imperfections, promptly wrote a note reminding herself to replace it and stuck the sticky note to her mirror.
The Woman’s Guide To Perfection was by far every woman’s favourite book. Five hundred pages, each with detailed instructions on how to achieve beauty, and for only £39.99. Linda flicked to page 395. For years she had followed the instructions on page 108, but recently George had commented on her eyeliner being too bold, so she had switched looks. George liked page 395’s look. Linda started to follow the instructions, paying close attention to every detail.
After hours of work, Linda was perfect. Well, as perfect as Linda could be. She still had an odd figure and small ears (1.297 times too small according to her book), but at least her makeup was pretty. The phone rang; Linda, who had been expecting it, answered the phone in a false, high pitched voice. “Hello there! This is Mrs Patterson! How can I help?”
“Kindly state your choice of makeup look for today, and the brand of products used.” The monotone voice played its usual message, and a loud beep told Linda she could reply.
“Page 395, The Woman’s Dream Date Look. E.l.f foundation and concealer, and Morphe for everything else.”
“Many thanks. Stay pretty, live longer. Have a great day Mrs Patterson.”
The phone went silent.
Linda had a lovely day. After doing her usual chores, she sat on her fluffy armchair before the television and watched a movie. She didn’t understand the movie at all, but she did notice how the ladies in it moved so gracefully, and attempted to copy them. Advertisements played once every three minutes, and one of them had convinced Linda to ring the number on-screen and purchase some new red shoes. George wouldn’t be happy. But he would forgive her soon enough- he always did.
George got home at dinner time, covered in sweat and with his eyebrows furrowed slightly, as they always were. He threw himself onto the sofa in the living room, grunted at Linda to turn on the news, and began furiously wolfing down his dinner. George was a burly man, with muscles comparable to those of an ox and whose perpetual state of anger made him a very unlikable person. Linda liked him. She didn’t know why, but she just did. She was bothered slightly by his eternally scruffy brown hair, but didn’t say anything about it.
The news that night was entertaining. A young lady had been shot outside New Look for being in public without makeup. “The audacity of some people!” George growled at the television as the reporter moved on. “If I ever caught a woman like that in public, I’d shoot her myself! Ghastly sight.”
George continued to grumble under his breath for the rest of the night, until he fell asleep and his grumbling became snoring. Linda then wiped off her makeup, feeling utterly exhausted, called the Beauty Hotline to reorder her book, then tucked herself into bed and fell asleep.
The next day, Linda was dusting the coffee table, whistling a tune to herself contently, when she heard something from outside. She ran to the window, being careful not to drop the duster. Across the street, a young man that Linda recognised as Theo Clifford was thrashing wildly against his father’s arms. Theo was shrieking at the top of his lungs, and looked as if he was slowly losing consciousness.
Stood a few yards away, sobbing silently, was Mrs. Clifford, who clutched in her trembling hands the shreds of a book. Linda knew what book it was. What other book could it be? Pink sparkles from the cover sprinkled the pavement, and she recognised the photographs on the pages instantly. The young man’s face was blotchy and tear streaked; the sight of it made Linda tut disapprovingly. He would never get a wife if he carried on like this.
Catastrophes like this were tolerated until a certain age, so Theo wouldn’t be punished for it. In fact, his parents might even praise him later for the overt display of anger. Not so much the tears, but things like tears could be easily corrected. It seemed as if he was calming down when things took a turn for the worst; Mr. Clifford was crying.
Was it with stress? Sadness? Either way, Linda had never seen such a sight. It seemed as though Mr. Clifford had been holding back these tears for years. She had to look away for a few moments, and when her eyes turned back towards the window, a sleek black car was pulling up in front of the scene. What happened next was common knowledge among everyone. Mr. Clifford would be taken to a doctor, who would correct his behaviour. Linda watched with wide eyes as Mr. Clifford was handcuffed (for his own safety) and driven out of sight, until only Theo and his mother remained.
Mr. Clifford returned later that day, drowsy with both exhaustion and his new medication, and with the doctor’s promise that such a display of weakness would never happen again. Ever.
by Caitlin Hoyle