Once again it was incredibly difficult to choose the winner of the monthly writing exercise. So congratulations to Zann who wins for showing, rather than telling, and her mix of guilt and longing and irritation.

We’d like to give special mention to Heather Hotaling, who handled this exercise with her usual delicacy and charm. Heather, who has been one of our most regular participants, has left South Africa for Colombia. (You could just have stopped coming, Heather. Really! You didn’t have to go to such extremes.)

We’ll miss you, Heather. We hope you’ll come back when you’ve got enough material for a couple of novels.

Shirley (38-42) has spent two weeks in Greece with her best friend Amanda. She fell wildly and inappropriately for a young diving instructor, Vasilli, who made her feel beautiful and for whom she experienced an intensity of emotion she hasn’t felt in years. They made frequent love. This is her first marital transgression. The scene you will write is set on her first evening back in SA. Her husband, Basil, has sent their teenage children to her sister for the night. He’s anticipating a warm welcome. He’s gone to a great deal of care to prepare dinner for them. Exploit the emotions inherent in their interaction as much as possible. ‘Show’ as much as possible, although you can use some inner life. This is a relationship-driven story: we don’t want to see too much plot development.

Red roses on the hallway table and wafts of green chicken curry with coriander meet Shirley as she pulls open the rain swollen front door.

“Is that you Shirl?”

The sink tap in the kitchen runs. The lid on the small rice pot with the orange handles clicks shut.
“Shirl, I’m in here.”

The Extractor fan hum calls her down the hall towards the open kitchen door.

“Shit the rice is burning.”

Still she hangs back, arranging her expression. She feels his slightly rough hands on the small of her back. His neck stubble scented with lime.

“Hey Shirl, just stirring the curry. What’s taking you?”

“Uh, bursting for a wee. See you in a sec.”

Safe behind the bathroom door. Forehead against the cool mirror. He’s pressing her from behind. One tanned arm across her soft belly, holding her arms down by her sides. The hotel mirror is cold against her hot, tingling breasts.

“Shirl, are you ok?”

Flush the loo. Check mascara. “Ja, good, coming.”

Shirley brushes her lips on his freshly shaved cheek. Noticing how their bodies don’t quite connect across his tight boep.

“Where the kids?”

“Sophie’s… Hold the door, love, just need to get the garlic bread out.”

Dinner for two?

“How was the trip – you look, uh different?”

Shirly carefully opens the foil on the steaming hot bread. Buttery garlic. Slowly licked off long brown fingers.

“Yeah, I’m feeling really relaxed. The weather was great. Probably look good with a bit of colour.”

“I’d forgotten how beautiful your eyes look when you’re tanned.”

“So what’s for dinner? Not sure I like you using my yoga candles.”

“Hey thought we could get to know each other again. Red or white?”

‘Why d’you always have to hold the bottle between your knees?”

“I dunno, been doing it like this since varsity. Remember our first date, when the cork broke.”

He slowly pulled the cork out, she felt liquid. The sun and Amanda taking off for the day on an island tour, left her free to keep eye contact. Long after she needed to. Vassilli lent forward, feeling her heat, poured her a glass. God, that first kiss. His lips were firm, wet, she wanted to bite down. Feel him wince like she knew she would later, when he pressed into her.

“Hey Baz, lets eat in front of TV. Haven’t watched Survivor in weeks. Feeling a bit tired from the flight. Really love to crash on the couch.”

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