NOTE: Welcome to part 4 of my novel. It’s a first draft, and the work has a long way to go. Writing dialogue is always daunting for me, not because of character voices or interactions, but because of the grammar. I could swear I was absent the day they taught about comma versus full stop in dialogue. Yesterday I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo, which is a writer challenge held every November. The goal is to write fifty thousand words in November, which is about 1660 each day. I’m counting my notes and character development writing, my plotting, and basically all the writing to do with this project. It’s exciting, and fun, I just hope it doesn’t start to hang over my head and bog me down. Okay, here’s part four, I hope you like it. (To refer to part 3 for context click here)
“Magpie, I’ll call her Maggie for short.” Ashleigh said, holding the tiny pup against her.
“Oh, that’s so cute.” Mia said.
“Let it lick the cake,” Hayden said.
“Yuck no.” Ashleigh said.
“Give it time,” Hayden said. “It will be eating off her plate, that’s what my sisters dog does.”
“I have a staffy, we’ll have to do a doggy date.” Ruby said.
“Only if you want a dead Magpie,” Hayden said. “Your dog is a raptor, Ruby.”
“She is not,” Ruby said. “People are always hating on staffies, but they’re actually great dogs.”
When nobody said anything, Ruby added. “Morticia is an idiot, not a monster.”
“Let’s get her used her new home before we start socialising he.” Ryan said. He squeezed Ashleigh’s shoulder.
“Thank you so much, Ryan, I just love her.” Ashleigh said. She lifted the puppy so she could see its face. “Such a precious little thing.”
“Okay, now you can open some other presents,” Ruby said. “We might have been in on the secret and bought you some things for the Magpie.”
“Maggie,” Ryan said. He shook his head at Ruby.
Ashleigh looked around at the party faces, appreciating the moment. She searched the small crowd until she found Fia, then waved her over.
“Here,” she said, holding the pup out to Fia. “You hold my baby and I’ll unwrap the rest of these gorgeous looking presents.”
“Your baby hey?” Fia said, laughing. She took the warm bundle into her arms.
“Yeah, the furry kind, never the naked kind thanks.” Ashleigh
“Here,” Mia said, reaching over the cake and holding out a very large black gift box tied with a silver bow. “Start with this.”
“It’s a dog bed,” Ruby said, folding her arms. Mia looked at her with her mouth open.
“What?” Ruby said. “It is,”
“You didn’t have to tell her.” Alice said from across the table. She looked away when Ruby glared at her. Mia sent her a small grateful smile.
River rescued the birthday cake, taking it to the kitchen so it could be sliced and put on plates. He loaded the dishwasher and tidied up the bench tops. His mobile buzzed, telling him he had a message, and he checked it and sent a reply assuring a friend he was going to leave his place soon, to attend their party. He left his kitchen in a pretty bad state, knowing he’d hit it sometime tomorrow, and went back out to the patio.
Fia smiled at River as he reappeared and he came over and stood beside her. He leaned across and spoke to her as quietly as he could. “Come with me to Harry’s, once the excitement is over here.” He said.
“Oh,” Fia said. “Thanks for the invite, but I’ll probably stick with Ash until she goes home, and who knows when that will be. I’m pretty beat anyway, had a huge week, looking forward to a reasonably early night.”
“Okay, not a problem,” River said. “But you can change your mind anytime, the offer stands. Be great to have you there.”
“Thanks Riv,” Fia said. In a few hours she knew she’d regret her choice, but she still held a grudge against Harry after the way he’d dumped Mia.
Ashleigh unwrapped the stack of gifts that had been moved to the table in front of her. She got dog toys, dog outfits, a blanket, a rubber bone, a black collar with tiny silver stars, and a few things for the dog mum, like candles, a t-shirt, some books and a bum bag, which she held up, looking confused.
“The best thing to wear when walking the dog, I promise,” Jack said. “You put the poop bags in it.”
“If you have zero style,” Ruby said, shaking her head at Jack.
“Function over form, for sure.” Jack said.
“It’ll be very useful,” Ashleigh said. She wrapped it around her waist. “I can wear it under my top.”
“There ya go.” Jack said and he finished the beer he was holding.
“Now that the presents are out of the way, and I think the cake is ready, I think it’s time for a speech from the birthday girl,” Ryan said.
“We didn’t sing Happy Birthday yet,” a friend of Jacks said.
“Ah, we don’t do that,” Alice said. “Never.”
Over the top, someone called out “Yeah, speech, speech, speech,” and a few guys picked up the chant.
Fia was surprised when Ashleigh stood up, scooting her chair back.
“Yes,” Ashleigh said. “I know it’s not like me to be up for giving a speech, but I have an important announcement.”
“Really Ash?” Alice said. “Go you.”
“Come on now, a bit of shoosh for the birthday girl if you don’t mind.” Jack said.
“A bit of shoosh.” Hayden repeated and things quieted down.
“This should be good.” Ruby said.
“Having turned thirty, I want this year to count,” Ashleigh said. “There’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve put it off forever. I’m not putting it off another day. This year, I’m writing a book.”
The silence spoke volumes, but it didn’t deter Ashleigh. “I’m writing the novel I’ve had in my head for about four years. And also,”
“There’s more?” Fia said. She turned to Ashleigh, a shocked look on her face.
“Yes there’s more,” Ashleigh said. “I’m starting a women’s writing group, and if any of you feel the writing bug like I do, please join me and we’ll smash this thing.”
“Well count me in,” Ruby said, while everyone else was still processing. “Everyone knows I’ve always wanted to write a book.”
“Me of course!” Mia said, nodding.
“Come on Fia,” Ashleigh said. “We always talk about writing for real, not for work, and now is our time.”
“Yeah,” Fia said. “I guess so.”
“So much enthusiasm,” Ryan laughed. Fia gave him a fake mad glare.
“Alice,” Ashleigh said. “You have a book in you, and we need your expertise, you know, because you work in writing.”
“If you want me, I’m in, yeah for sure,” Alice said.
“So women only?” Hayden said. “No men allowed, isn’t that discrimination?”
“Yeah, unfair,” Jack said. “Boo.”
“No, let’s be real, it’s for self-preservation.” Fia said.
“It’s the best idea you’ve ever had, Ash.” River said. “Your book will be brilliant, all your books will be brilliant,”
“Yeah but no men?” Jack said.
“Get over it, man,” Hayden said and slapped Jack on the back.
“Now,” River said. “everyone go into the kitchen and get some cake, I’m not serving you guys.”
Once the cake was demolished, the party thinned out pretty fast. People had other, serious venues to get to.
River had asked Fia one more time if she’d go with him, no pressure, just checking, and she’d told him no again. He’d said goodbye and taken off in his car.
Ashleigh and her writing group were left around the stone table.
“When will we get together?” Mia said, draining a bottle of beer.
“Where will we get together?” Alice said.
“I’ve already thought about this stuff,” Ashleigh said.
“Why are we not surprised?” Mia said.
“We meet up every Wednesday night, at Fia’s place.” Ashleigh said.
“Oh, what?” Fia said. “My place isn’t really the best house.”
“Oh rubbish, and it’s roughly the same distance to all of our homes. And there’s parking. And you’re near a train station.” Ashleigh topped off her wine glass and took a sip.
“I can make Wednesdays,” Alice said.
“Me too,” Mia said.
“You’re all free Wednesday nights,” Ashleigh said.”I pay attention, you know.”
“Apparently,” Ruby said. “Well if we’re meeting at Fia’s, we’d better bring food. The girl never has food in the house.”
“Bring food, fine by me,” Fia said. “Extra points if it’s Italian.”
“Seven o’clock, Fia’s place, this Wednesday,” Ashleigh said.
“Wow, that’s soon,” Alice said.
“Bring food, and whatever you want to write on, paper, phone, tablet, laptop, whatever” Ashleigh said.
“We get it,” Alice said.
“So, all I have to do is be home,” Fia said. The women laughed.
“We should all commit to a writing project,” Ruby said. “And be prepared to share. And we will all commit to completely honest feedback.”
“Yikes, okay, I’m in,” Fia held her wine glass up.
“I’m in,” Alice said, raising a bottle of cider.
“We’re all in,” Ruby said and raised her beer.
“This is going to be awesome,” Alice said. “I know it is. We’re going to get writing and get real.”
“I’m always real,” Ruby said, frowning.
“Oh, we’ll see about that,” Alice said, standing up. “Hey, I know exactly what we can call the group.” She looked around the table and saw nods of encouragement. “We are going to write, and be real, and honest and open. We’ll be The Naked Ladies Writing Group.”
Mia choked and drink came out of her nose. “The naked who now?” She coughed.
“I like it,” Ashleigh said. “Balls to the wall, ladies.”
“Not writing in the nude, but as a group we’ll be as open and real and honest as we can be. Naked.” Alice said.
“Brutal,” Ruby smiled.
“So we’re going to write, then come to the group and share some of what we write, and everyone gets to tell us what they think?” Mia said. “Scary,”
“No pain, no gain,” Ruby said.
Fia smiled at Ashleigh and handed the puppy back. “Surely the dog needs to pee by now. Should I get her some water?”
“Oh, good idea,” Ashleigh said and walked the puppy over to Rivers garden and put her down so she could sniff and do what she needed to do.
Fia went into the kitchen and found a dish, she filled it with water and brought it back outside. The puppy was whining now, and Ashleigh was holding it out in front of her, asking it what the problem was.
“No-one ever accused Ash of being the motherly type,” Ruby said.
“I’m being a great mother,” Ashleigh said. “I’m asking it what it wants.”
“Here, try this,” Fia said, placing the dish of water on the pavers next to Ashleigh.
“She’s not thirsty for water,” Alice said. “Maybe she wants some of your wine?”
“She can’t have wine,” Ruby said.
Fia decided this was a good time to leave. She’d put in a good effort and had a great time. Ashleigh had had a good birthday, although Fia was doubtful that the puppy would end up being a good idea. Not that she’d say this to Ash.
Driving home, Fia was happy about two things. One, she’d hardly had a drink all night, and two she was glad to be the one without a new dog. As she put the key into the door at home, she sighed. There were definite benefits to living alone, and coming home after a huge day to shower and hit the sack without having to talk to anyone was right up there.