Finalists of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award will be given opportunities to generate greater audience reach for their literary works through a number of substantial prizes which include publication. The Award remains open for submissions until 31 August. We look at the short fiction writer Rosalind Green, selected for her story The Love that Mattered, who is now pursuing her dreams as a full-length fiction writer.
Rosalind Green lives and writes on the Suffolk Coast. In addition to her work as a freelance journalist and writer, she is the Director of the Essex Book Festival, a position she relishes. She recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Essex, where she teaches part-time, and is in the process of developing her thesis into a full length novel The Keeper of Human History. The Love that Mattered grew out of a windy walk on Holkham Beach in Norfolk followed by a chance encounter in St Stephen’s Church in Norwich. It forms part of a trilogy of short stories: Golden Years.
The Love that Mattered
It was his hands that gave him away. His restless fingers withered on the bone that could not and would not stay still. His right hand fidgeting nervously with his black rimmed glasses, then stroking his dry, crumpled forehead, and squeezing his wide, fleshless nose, before travelling down his face to caress the rough chin that he’d carelessly forgotten to shave that morning. His left hand kneading Eva, his late wife’s, handkerchief that he’d thrust into his pocket on his way out, his fingers crushing it into a ball and then nervously rolling it up and down his navy cords. Each hand an independent entity at work on him.
The rest of him was a picture of tranquillity bathed in a euphoric shaft of liquid sunlight that poured through St Stephen’s Nave. His shoulders, bunched but firm in the green-waxed jacket, partially concealed a comfortable brushed cotton shirt unbuttoned at the neck, while his perfectly polished walking boots that had that “never been worn before look” tentatively rested on the church kneeler. Something he knew was wrong but something that he felt compelled to do to relieve his aching legs.
Cautiously glancing over his shoulder, he picked up the glossy brochure resting on his lap, then quickly scanned its contents and stared up at the stony faced gargoyles that festooned the carved wooden roof. His eyes slowly dropping down to the golden altar and squinting as he calculated the wingspan of the twelve angels, followed by the height and depth of the Cross. A calculation designed to distract him from his mission. A mission, put simply, to wrestle with his self-made demons and idols, not kneel down and bare his godless soul to someone else’s man-made God, that now, in the thick of St Stephen’s Nave, he struggled to resist.
Although he had survived two wives with four children and six grandchildren between them, William had only loved once. And the cruel thing, the really cruel thing, was that it was neither of them. His one and only love, the love he’d polished like a precious metal until it shone like gold and silver, was buried in the desert along with a pocketbook, two bone-handled penknives and an empty pewter flask. His one and only love was James, his best friend, who’d kissed him once on Holkam Beach.
William had never mentioned James to anyone and almost never to himself, but as the years passed by it was James who was real. More real than either of his wives who faded almost imperceptibly with time. And because James was real, William convinced himself that James was his one and only love: the love that mattered.
As he looked up at the stony faced gargoyles peering down from above, he imagined two old men nursing their gout and cursing the swooping seagulls on Holkam Beach. He imagined the languid James dressed in a long, grey cashmere coat, the fur collar turned up against the Dutch wind, his thin, old man ankles frozen where the socks didn’t quite meet the trouser leg, William’s urge to take them in his hands, to rub them between his legs. He imagined James laughing, his face crinkling around the mouth, a grey whisker missed above the cheek: a tell tale sign of fading eyesight, attention to detail, that William could deal with. He imagined James leaning against him as the wind buffeted them, the inexorable tide pouring onto the beach, the swooping seagulls tossed wide off course. James dressed in gold and then in silver. James holding his tired tortured hands until they were still again.
His head bent over his clasped hands, his eyes closed, William considered his options: an old man on the brink of an uncharitable infinity. Should he be brave? Write his poem in the sand on Holkam Beach… Roll up his trouser legs and kick and spill the surf revisiting that other time when time indeed stood still… Abandon common sense and seize what little there was left of the diminishing day to make amends… Admit his love to James?
Read the full story in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual: www.aestheticamagazine.com/shop#cw.
Enter the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award at www.aestheticamagazine.com/creativewriting. Entry is £10 and permits the submission of two works into one category. Submissions close 31 August 2014.
Prizes include publication; a consultation with a fiction agency and a poetry organisation; £500 prize money for each category winner; a selection of books courtesy of Vintage and Bloodaxe Books, and a subscription to Granta.
1. Image copyright of Robert Couse-Baker.
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