AFTER ANNA


AFTER ANNA - Final Draft
Written by Tony Lee Healey.

The night had gone on for what seemed an eternity. But it was light outside; the many gas lights that they had had installed specially for the wedding gave a warm glow that made the snow appear golden. The night air was cold, and...

I stopped there. I had begun writing my new novel, my seventh in fact, early in the summer break. It was now nearing winter and I was no further along. I had written three lines; they were perfect lines that were in keeping with the style and voice that I had written my previous novels in. It was just that I didn't seem to be able to progress past them. I knew roughly the story that I wanted to tell, and how to tell it (with my experience in the publishing business, it comes quite naturally) but for some reason I found it almost impossible to continue.
I would sit for hours at a time, putting in maybe one word an hour. Those words would later be deleted, and I would be left with what I had before. A condition that I had never before believed in, occurred to me every time that I sat down at my laptop to write. It made me feel sick to my stomach every time, because I knew why this was the case: Writers Block. It was like a brick wall in front of my mind, cutting off my imagination's contact with the keyboard. I knew precisely why I had it.
My girlfriend had died two years before, in a horrendous car accident that the doctors had told me, would have killed her within seconds. It had taken me a long time to even accept it, let alone deal with it. I had taken to smoking a little dope for a time.
One night, totally stoned, I had seen her walk into the living room and sit opposite me. She sat there smiling, and then vanished. After that I never lit another piece of dope; I didn't want to see my own manifestations of a woman who was no longer here, and a woman whom I had loved. I wanted to remember Anna as she had been before she had set off on that foggy morning of June 23rd to drive to her parents house.
It had taken me a long time to get back on track not only with my life, but my career. Aside from writing romantic novels, I teach creative writing at an all girls College not far from where I live. Its miserable money, since I'm not officially a proper teacher and only teach for three periods a week, but it gives me something to do with my day other than sit in my study writing. I also get to read up to twenty short stories every weekend, which (I think at least) keeps my mind fresh and active.

The night had gone on for what seemed an eternity. But it was light outside; the many gas lights that they had had installed specially for the wedding gave a warm glow that made the snow appear golden. The night air was cold, and...

I stared back at the glimmering laptop screen that sat ready and waiting. My fingers tiptoed lightly over the keys.

The night had gone on for what seemed an eternity. But it was light outside; the many gas lights that they had had installed specially for the wedding gave a warm glow that made the snow appear golden. The night air was cold, and Susan wondered why she was outside smoking, when she could have been inside; smokers were allowed at the wedding reception, weren't they?

And as soon as it appeared, it was gone.

The night had gone on for what seemed an eternity. But it was light outside; the many gas lights that they had had installed specially for the wedding gave a warm glow that made the snow appear golden. The night air was cold, and...

I stifled a yawn, noticing that the light had begun to disappear from outside, and glanced over at my wall clock. 6.15. I closed the lid of the laptop, switched out the light in my small study, and left the house for a drink. I had given up dope, but there was no way I was giving up a quiet drink every now and then... or every evening. We all have to have our own little niches, sins, habits, what have you; I couldn't give up my daily G and T.
It kept me sane. And, hell, it helped me forget a little about the novel that I had been trying to begin for practically six months.

*

Beanie's Bar was a small place about a half hour walk from my house by the shore, overlooking the sea. I could have driven, or caught a cab, but I enjoyed the exercise.
Other than my weekly visit at the gym to keep toned, I didn't really get out often, which accounted for why I was a little pale. I had taken two or three of my students stories with me to read over at the bar. It had become a regular habit of mine to do this, and sometimes I did have to wonder if perhaps they weren't getting the maximum from me in my half-cut condition as I read their work.
They were entitled DREAMING OF HOME, VOYAGE, and DICKEY SMITH'S ADVENTURE.
They were dismal, and I soon found myself chuckling away at how lame and half-assed their attempts at stories were. Yes, they were well written. They were clear, well punctuated, with precise grammar and a nice structure to them; they were just very childish stories to write. I realised that I would have to sit these three students down for a private chat one afternoon, about putting more time into thinking up a remotely worthy story line.
Beanie's was just across the road from the College where I taught, and was frequented by both the students and the tutors. Sometimes they would dance, totally drunk out of their minds, and I would sit and watch to edge away the night. But mostly, they sat in  groups at the tables drinking and laughing and occasionally coming on to each other.
Sometimes with the boys from the neighbourhood who would hang at the bar some nights, but mostly with each other.
These girls would later marry top company executives, or become barristers who earned enormous pay checks... and their past, and what they did in that time, would remain firmly where it belonged; in the past.
I sat reading the end of the third story, smiling at times, rolling my eyes at others, picking nuts from a bowl on the counter. It seemed the most that I ever ate consisted of nuts from Beanie's every night. My meals had become spontaneous, erratic, and virtually non-existent since the death of Anna. I still remember the last meal she cooked for me. It was Macaroni. I have never eaten Macaroni again, or anything remotely like it. I can't bring myself to.
Joe behind the bar noticed that my glass was nearing empty.
“Hey, wanna nuther wun?” I looked up at him, down at my glass of Gin and Tonic, and nodded.
I drained the last few drops (the drinks weren't cheap there, you know, despite being a student hang out) and handed it over.
The person seated next to me up at the bar, asked him for something and he waved a hand at her as if to say `wait.' I wasn't even watching.
He returned presently with a fresh glass with ice, and put it down to the side of my on a napkin as always. I hardly paid any notice.
When I read, no matter how dismal the material, the world could break out into a nuclear war and I wouldn't notice. I carried on reading.
Something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye; my drink was gone. I put the couple of sheet of paper down, and looked to my side. My neighbour was sipping at my glass!
I turned on the stool, and tapped on her arm. She was young, very attractive, and I saw instantly that she was a student. She had long silky hazel coloured hair with eyes to match, and she was more than just attractive... she was beautiful.
I wondered why she didn't have a man at her side.
“Umm... I think you have my drink.”
Her face flashed in embarrassment, and she picked up the drink with a nervous giggle. “Oh I'm sorry, I really am.”
“You must have asked for the same drink.”
She smiled, and I thought it was cute and sexy. “Yeah. Must have.” She thought for a second, “I'll get you a replacement. What are you drinking?”
“Don't you know?” I said quickly, easing the tension and embarrassment a little. She seemed a little quiet. I was staring at her, but in a casual way. She was stunning.
“Of course,” she turned to Joe behind the bar. “Can I have another please?”
I watched Joe get my drink and then put it down in front of me. “Thanks. It's very kind of you...? I'm sorry I didn't catch your name.”
Was I flirting? No, I was coming on to her, wasn't I? I panged with guilt. I was twenty eight at the time; she had to be, what? Nineteen? About the average student age. I wasn't old enough to be one of her parents (yet) but I was old enough to be, perhaps, an older sibling; like a brother or sister.
I brushed it aside.
“I'm Amy. And you are?” she held out a hand. I took it.
It took me a moment to answer. Her touch was so soft, gentle, yet firm. Her skin reminded me ever so much of Anna's. I would lay, sometimes, awake at night and run my hand over her bare back in bed. This girl... Stacey, had wonderfully soft hands.
My thumb rubbed one of her knuckles. I expected her to be repulsed, and draw back.
Instead she kept it there, holding my hand now, and moving her free hand down to my thigh.
We both smiled and laughed quietly. Nobody was taking any notice of us, sitting up at bar.
“My name's Sarah.” I said.

Word Count 1741