It is a cloudy Wednesday and Helena is in the food court eating a falafel roll with extra chilli. She’s had a crummy morning. A cardio ultrasound with all that gel crap, and an email giving her the boot from her favourite account that had seemed so full of promise. The food court is brightly lit and noisy in a muffled way. Her head feels heavy and loud and somewhere inside it a story is coming about a guy with a wonky eye who gets a crush on his piano teacher. She likes this guy and his sweaty palms and nervous scales, the way he clears his throat to answer his teacher’s questions. When would she get the test results though? And how exactly had she lost the account? She feels weak and wobbly and the food court noise is dull and cheerless. Helena feels like she is underwater, and for a second she stops breathing. The piano guy seems like maybe he’s part of the problem. Helena realises that all her characters are nice. Maybe too nice. She should write more mean characters. Maybe if she can write mean she would toughen up. She wants to call a spade. She wants to speak her truth and if she can’t manage that then maybe she can learn to care less. Helena finishes her falafel roll and puts the foil wrapper in the bin. She is in a hurry now, so she can get back to work and write a story about a piano teacher who deliberately sends ambiguously flirty texts to one of her students – the one with the wonky eye – and then brags about it with her mates at Friday night drinks.


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