Author Topic: Truth in numbers Chapter 2 Part 1- First Draft  (Read 33 times)

Offline Nooglepop13

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Truth in numbers Chapter 2 Part 1- First Draft
« on: February 12, 2020, 02:22:07 PM »




Hi, this is the second part of a mystery novel/ short story I'm writing, the first part can be found on this site too. I'm struggling with pacing and I worry that this section needs more description as it feels a little sparse. I'd love to know what you think and how you think I can make this better. Thank you for reading.
It was midday when they met in the campus café, a cutesy vintage place serving overpriced coffee and flavourless hot chocolate. Tash sat at the high table by the window, glugging back her diet coke and watching the fine drizzle drip down the windowpane, making the midday murkiness even more miserable. A slim feline girl dressed in an oversized black hoody and gym leggings entered through the side door and took her place opposite Tash. Up close, Sophia was even more dazzling – mercurial ocean green eyes, glossy hair the colour of a black coffee and a toned body that emphasised her Instagram-model looks even in the casual workout attire. Her skin was milky and smooth, blemishless, and above her eyes were a pair of fine, curved eyebrows and glossed black lashes. Her nose was petite and button-like, slightly upturned at the end. Her nails were trimmed and painted one shade deeper than her mesmerising eyes; her face was contoured; her lips were coloured a matte cherry red; a sleek black fitbit rested on her slim white wrist. She wouldn’t be described as thin or curvy; she was fit, with a modest chest, slim yet muscular arms, and strong thick thighs. She leaned forward, thumbs pressed into the crooks of her elbows, and quirked an eyebrow. 

“So...”

She paused to beckon for a waitress. Words weren’t necessary for her – she reached out an arm, smiled over at the countertop, and made that elusive yet all important eye contact that seemed to get things done.
She flicked her attention back to Tash, who was staring out of the window and wondering why she had decided to
get involved with a task that involved so much onerous socialising.

“Why have I been summoned?” asked Sophia.

Tash wiped the hair from her eyes but kept her gaze fixed on the checked tablecloth. A long silence elapsed. Tash reached for the wooden table number, planted it in her lap, and began to fiddle with it. Only then did she speak.

“You went out with James.”

“Indeed I did. Your point?” Sophia was confrontational but friendly. There was no anger or fear in her tone.

The waitress arrived at the table, and Sophia swung her neck back towards her.

“I’ll have a coconut milk latte please. To eat in.”

Sophia looked Tash directly in the eye, making her squirm. “Or drink in, in fact.”

Tash lowered her gaze once more. She drained the dregs of her diet coke and shrugged her jacket on. A cold draft was eking its way through the door and coiling around Tash’s shoulders. Sophia seemed unaffected. She picked a coral red lipstick out of her gym bag and reapplied it to her pouted lips with care. Tash analysed the straight edge of her bob while she waited for the waitress to leave.

Once the waitress had returned with the coffee and left again, she watched Sophia take a greedy gulp and reached for her own empty bottle in a sudden burst of sympathetic thirst. Maybe this meant she was nervous. Tash wasn’t sure. Anxiety was such a constant in her life that it made variation difficult to identify.

“Why didn’t you mention it?” she asked Sophia. The flickering of the fluorescent lights and the low murmer of music was grating on her brittle nerves.

“You were too strung out to ask.”

Tash took in a sharp breath. It didn’t occur to her to cover her shock, or to lie. Sophia blew onto the smouldering surface of her coffee, a self-satisfied expression on her face. It altered the nature of her prettiness and exaggerated her feline features.

“Oh please,” She took a sip from the mug. “You’re a maths student at a top uni who can’t make her lectures. You’ve
obviously got mental health problems, an eating disorder, or addiction issues. Or all of the above, in your case.”

Tash took out her pills and popped one in her mouth with a slight surprised smirk. She drummed her fingers on the table for a moment, then rested her head on her fists.

“How did you know?”

“See here?” Sophia reached out a hand and traced the back of Tash’s knuckles with her finger. Tash flinched, as though scolded by the touch. This made Sophia’s smug grin widen.

“Red grazes on the back of your knuckles. From, you know…” She made an exaggerated mimicry of retching.
Tash paused a moment. Sophia leant back in her chair, her back arched and her hands stuffed into the pockets of her hoody. Her wanton smile gave her an air of a wolf who’d just been allowed into a chicken coup.

“Did you do it?” Tash asked, her face expressionless.

“Do what?”

“Kill him. James.”

Sophia seemed more amused than offended.

“Absolutely not!” she said, snickering.

There was another pause, awkward for neither party. Sophia seemed to possess an arrogance unshakeable even by silence, and Tash was, as usual, so engrossed in her own thoughts that she didn’t notice the passing of more time than was strictly socially acceptable.

“Do you want to be my friend?” Tash asked, in a monotone voice.

“I’ve got plenty of friends.”

“Do they know you’re a cokehead.”

“Of course not.”

Sophia’s nonchalant smile faded, and a look of irritation passed over her pristine features.

“How did you know?”

“Just a guess. You’re always inebriated on social media…”

“I’m a student. I drink socially.”

“But you’re very slim. I doubt you binge drink every night.”

“So I must be getting wasted some other way.”

“Exactly. And you seem to do it every other night, but you never miss a lecture.”

“Because I have a bump in the morning to get me up and running. Your deductive skills aren’t bad actually.”

“I’m just not a show-off about it.”

Sophia scoffed.

“You didn’t need to explain it just then. You love it as much as I do.”

“It’s occasionally useful. I much prefer maths.”

“Ah yes, maths.” Sophia sighed, smiling. “Codes. Your joie de vivre. Bit of a cliché, don’t you think?”

“Not really.”

Tash started to get up from the table, packing her pills and purse back into her handbag and shoving her head into a
fluffy snood.

“C’mon. The mad genius, the autistic kid sat at the back with her numbers and her codes.”

Tash was silent. She had nothing to say to that.

Sophia took another sip of coffee.

“I didn’t kill him and I didn’t carve numbers into his skin. I’m not a nutter”

She set her cup down in its saucer.

“And I’d like to be your friend.” She tapped the side of her nose twice, her eyebrows raised and her face arranged in
a rakish grin. “I’m going to the bathroom. Wanna come with?”

“I don’t do stimulants. I’ll wait.” said Tash.

While Sophia was in the bathroom, Tash considered her options. While she wanted a friend, she most decidedly did
not want to spend any more time with Sophia. She was craving solitude with the same desperate yearning that wheedled her for more food and drugs. She wanted to pass out under her electric blanket with a goofy grin on her face. God, she even wanted to sit and watch telly. Anything but more tiresome conversation. However, she wasn’t sure how to extricate herself from the situation.

Sophia glided out of the toilets, massive pupils swamping her irises and giving her a frenzied look. She strutted towards Tash, confidence dripping off her.

“Close your mouth you’ll catch flies.” She said.
Sophia gave a contented sigh and scraped her inky hair into a tiny ponytail. She snapped her head back towards Tash, who sat stock still, looking dazed and distracted.

“Are we going then?” Sophia asked.

“Going where?”

“To your place. Keep up.”

“Why would we go there?” Tash’s brow tightened into a inscrutable knot. Her eyebrows became one thick caterpillar.

“Why do you think?! To find out why someone made James look like a tomb covered in hieroglyphics!”

“No one goes in my room.” Tash said, a look of disdain etched on her chubby face.

“Enjoy sleeping on the streets do you?”

Tash rolled her eyes.

“No one except me.”

“Tinder?” Sophia asked, mouth twitching into a lazy smirk.

Tash turned beetroot.

“No one goes in my room.” She repeated.

“Break the rules. Live a little!”

“No”

Tash turned her back on Sophia and walked out of the café without another word. She pulled up the hood of her too small raincoat to bolster her against the howling wind. The walk to the bus station was dismal, and not just because of the hard sheets of pummelling rain. She felt ashamed that she’d refused to allow Sophia into her room. Perhaps she had sabotaged the friendship before it had even begun. But she hadn’t wanted to socialise. She never wanted to socialise. Sometimes she wondered what was wrong with her. Sometimes she wondered what was wrong with the rest of the world. Wiping the rain from her forehead, she got on the emptiest bus she could find. It was a long route, taking in the smaller villages populated only by the rich and the elderly, but at least no one talked to her.