Franklin (Part 3)

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Haley and I became inseparable. If we weren’t in class together, we were catching up at lunch, usually in the music room, and we always sat next to each other on the bus home. We started writing songs together, playing music and goofing off. Sometimes Jared would join us on bass, but it wasn’t until senior year, when we were playing open mic nights around Nashville that we realised we had a good thing going.

Haley practically lived with us, especially over the summer months. It was becoming tradition on the last day of school to walk home together instead of take the bus. Mom and Dad would be waiting for us and we’d have a barbecue that evening. It was always sunny on the last day.

Tim would make a fire and we’d sit around, cook sausages, toast marshmallows and eat s’mores, and talk about how much fun we were going to have over the summer. For Haley and I, that usually meant writing more music.

Afterwards, we would all set up camp in the basement, watch movies until the early hours of the morning and eat chocolate, just because there was no school the next day. Tim would fall asleep eventually, but Haley and I would always stay awake to watch the sunrise from the roof of the garage.

We sat there quietly, the red tones of Haley’s hair illuminated in the sun’s glow. She caught me staring and smiled.

“We’re not going to be able to do this next year,” she said.

“We will, it’ll just be…”

“Different,” she finished and forced a weak smile.

“We’ll be thinking about our future, and making the most of the time we have left.”

She sighed. “Mom is really against us going to college together.”

“Whatever,” I shrugged. “That’s our decision.”

“I just feel like I’m not ready, you know?”

“I know.” She looked out at the rising sun again, and I wrapped my arm around her tightly. “I bet you wouldn’t mind getting away from your mom and John though?” I said.

“Yeah,” she whispered.

“It’s not fair that he treats you the way that he does. I know you don’t think so, but believe me he treats you like shit.”

“He doesn’t hit me,” she replied.

“It’s not about that.” I kept quiet because I didn’t want to argue with her. I didn’t want to ruin the moment. “I just hate him hurting you,” I muttered, picking at the holes in my jeans.

Haley laid her head on my shoulder, and I rested mine on top of hers. Haley was right, leaving wasn’t easy no matter what we had to face. Leaving meant change, just when everything was starting to make sense for us.

We stayed like that for a while. We would be thankful for another year in Franklin, pushing the thoughts of the last “last day” from our minds.

~

Present Day

Mom closed the lounge door. I felt suffocated, smuggled blind, kicking and screaming into a situation that I had been trying to avoid. I hated confrontation, especially now. Haley and I had argued so much recently that I was sick of it. Haley paced the room, and I could see the rage in her eyes.

“You didn’t say anything, you just left.”

“I couldn’t do it, I thought you of all people would understand that,” I cried.

“I do, Taylor, but I thought something had happened to you.”

“I buried my father, that’s what happened.”

“I know this has been really tough for you, but if you had just… left a note… or -?”

“I just had to take some time out,” I insisted. My eyes were burning into hers, but not the way they usually did. “Things were getting… too hard.”

“I know that.”

“So why don’t you get off my back?” I could feel the heat rising from me.

“I’m not on your back.”

“Well, it feels just like that.”

“I know we’re not the same kids anymore, Taylor, but don’t treat me like a stranger.”

“I’m not.”

“I came down here because my boyf… my friend, my best friend, isn’t okay and that’s what friends do. What happened to night time walks around campus, or studying together after class or just playing music, like we used to.”

“We’re not those people anymore, Hales.”

Tears started welling in her eyes. “You haven’t called me that in a long time.”

“Jesus – I can’t do this -,”

“Why can’t you write music in front of me anymore, Taylor?” She asked. I couldn’t give her an answer no matter how hard I tried. “Is it because the songs are about me? The songs that we used to write together about our identity and friendship, about Franklin and us – do you remember that?” I avoided her gaze. “Are those songs we used to write now about me? Why did you push me away?”

“I don’t write music in front of you anymore because I can’t bear to – because everything has changed since then, Haley.” I took a breath, trying to work out everything that was going on in my mind.

“Taylor -,”

“I didn’t mean to push you away.”

“I think ‘cut me out’ is a more appropriate phrase.”

I thought I hated her for that.

“It’s because I care about what you think of me,” I cried. “I care if I fail in front of you. For so long I’ve spent my time looking after you, and I cannot accept the fact that I need looking after too.”

Haley closed her eyes, and let a small tear fall onto her cheek. “I know that.” Her voice was dry, and she sniffed loudly. “I’m here for you.”

“I’m not okay…” I resigned myself to it. I couldn’t pretend anymore. “I needed to come home and be with my Mom. I can’t settle at college knowing she’s here on her own.”

“She has Tim.”

“I know, but Tim has his own family to think about.” I saw in Haley’s eyes that she knew how I felt. “I thought I could go back to college but I don’t think I can,” I said.

She nodded. “If you think the best thing to do is come home then…”

“I know,” I reassured her. “I never thought we’d be having this conversation either.”

“It just scares me that I have to do this without you,” she whispered, and stepped forward to wrap her arms around my waist. I rested my chin on the top of her head, inhaling her scent all over again. I felt a stab of guilt, but I couldn’t decide what was right. “Where are we now?” She asked, looking up at me.

“I’m always going to love you, Hales. That’s all I’ve got.” She nodded, and I kissed her forehead, then looking down at her. “I’ll take you home?”

Haley looked up at me again with her big eyes blinking back tears. A ghost of a smile crept onto her face.

“Alright,” she said.

Franklin (Part 2)

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Haley and I first met in freshman year at Franklin High School. I was moving up with the rest of my grade, so I knew a lot of my classmates already, but Haley didn’t. She moved around the hallways like a fish out of water.

“So, what’s her story?” Jared asked me, as we walked past her down the corridor.

“Who?”

“The new girl.”

“How should I know?” I shrugged.

Jared gave me a look. “She looks kind of cool, though.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I like her style,” I agreed, thinking about how girls always dyed their hair peroxide blonde and wore tight jeans all the time. Haley didn’t seem to follow that trend. “I overheard her saying to Miss Williamson that she moved down from Indianapolis when her Mom got remarried.”

“See,” Jared grinned, and shoved me playfully. “I knew you’d hear something.”

“Are you coming to check out the music room?” I deflected, feeling the tips of my ears go hot. “I hear they’ve got six string basses.”

“Nah, I need to go ask Vanessa to Winter Formal. I’ll catch up with you later.”

“Alright, later,” I said, ducking into the music room and picking up one the guitars on a stand. I sat down on a nearby chair and gave it a strum. When I looked up, Haley was standing in the doorway wearing an oversized Phil Collins t-shirt and her trademark frizzy hair. We were a mess of acne, bad haircuts and thick eyeliner back then, but I still thought she was cute.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” I smiled, strumming a few chords again. I really hoped she hadn’t overheard mine and Jared’s conversation.

“You’re really good.”

“Thanks,” I stuttered.

She shuffled through the doorway and sat down on a chair opposite me.

“I’m Haley.”

“Taylor.”

“That’s a nice name.”

I had never heard my name be described as nice before. I shrugged. “It’s alright.”

“You’re really good,” she said again, looking down at the guitar I was playing.

My words stuck in my throat. “Thanks. Can you play?”

“Not really. I sing and write songs but they usually suck.”

I shrugged again. “I’m sure they’re alright.”

She smirked at me, but I wasn’t sure why, and I could feel my ears going hot again.

I cleared my throat. “So… the Alaskas are playing in Nashville on Saturday,” I said. “Do you know them?”

“Are they from Alaska?”

“No,” I laughed. “They’re Swedish.”

“They sound cool though.”

“Well they have this album coming out; it’s called We’re Not Actually from Alaska.” Haley snorted. “I know,” I laughed with her. “But they’re really good… and I was thinking of going…”

“Is this a really long winded way of asking me out?” She asked.

“No. I mean – yes. I mean.” I could feel myself sweating. “Do you wanna go? I mean, with me – to see the show. If you want to…”

Haley looked at me, her eyes big and blue, and her goofy smile showing the gap between her front teeth. She had a nice accent, and suddenly I found myself smiling.

“Alright.”

Taylor – Taylor!” I shook the thoughts from my mind. Back in the coffee shop, Tim was waving his hand in front of my face with a sympathetic smile.

~

The next day, I was still thinking about Haley and me, as I lay on my bed staring up at the ceiling, admiring the poster for The Alaskas I bought at their concert. I suppose it was mine and Haley’s first date. I don’t remember if The Alaskas were any good or not, but I’ve had the poster ever since.

Mom knocked on my bedroom door. “Are you alright, honey?” She asked, pushing it open.

I sat up, leaning on my elbows. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

Mum stood in the doorway clutching our home phone. “We had a strange voicemail from Haley this morning. Maybe you should give her a call?”

“Okay. Yeah – maybe,” I nodded.

Mom smiled and closed the door again. I looked towards my phone on my bedside table, which hadn’t vibrated since earlier that morning. Thirteen missed calls. I knew Haley would want an explanation from me but she must have guessed where I was.

I thought about her finding my empty room, all the clothes gone from the wardrobe, my truck gone from the parking lot. I hadn’t left a note but there were still books on my shelf, which I thought made it clear I would return at some point. I just didn’t know when. There was so much I had to do, get over what happened to my Dad, finish college… put things right with Haley… continue with my life. It all seemed so impossible.

I got up off my bed and headed downstairs for some milk. As I got to the stairs, I overheard my Mom on phone in the hall. I sat down at the top of the staircase and listened in, resting my forehead on the banister, like I used to do when Mom and Dad would argue.

“… I just feel like he gets mad at me every time I try and make sure he’s alright.” Mom said into the phone. “Of course, he isn’t alright, his father is…” She sighed deeply. “I don’t know how to help him, Tim. I know he’s gone back to college since but that doesn’t change anything. I’m glad he’s home, at least I can keep and eye on him here… I’ll talk to him, I will… what? Come on… Tim, tell me… they broke up?”

My Mom started to cry. A wave of crashing disappointment washed over me. Everything flashed into the forefront of my mind. Haley and I. Running, laughing, drinking, crying, shouting. They had been talking about me. My Mom was crying and they were talking about me and me and Haley had broken up and my Mom was crying.

“He just doesn’t need this right now,” she choked out as the doorbell rang. “I’m sorry, honey. I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.” Mom put the receiver back on its holder and opened the door. “Oh my God,” she said, as Haley stepped in out of the rain.

“I’m sorry,” Haley said, and then looked up at me. “But I didn’t know what else to do.”

Franklin (Part 1)

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Franklin was originally a short story I wrote in my second year of university, and was my first assignment to achieve a First class mark. It’s a piece I am immensely proud of, and wanted to share it here in a serialised form for my readers to enjoy.

Franklin

by Clare Holman-Hobbs

My Mom always used to say “if you ever feel afraid, all you have do is come home.” I thought about her words long and hard as I stifled a yawn, the sun rising over the dusty hills of my hometown. Franklin wasn’t far now that I was seeing signs for Nashville. My cell phone vibrated on the passenger seat next to me but I ignored it, and kept my eyes on the road.

The UNC campus had been dark when I left, probably around midnight. I would be lying if I said I had made the decision to come home rationally, but I couldn’t sit in the four walls of my dorm room any longer. As I headed out towards my car with my heavy duffle bag slung over my shoulder, I glanced up at Haley’s window. I knew she’d worry about me, about where I’d gone when she knocked for me in the morning for breakfast like usual. I considered going back for that reason alone, but I didn’t want another argument.

I shook the thought from my mind, realising I had almost passed the turning. People were stirring on the streets of Franklin as I turned down Main Street, commuters passing by on their way into the city and shops owners unlocking their doors. I drove further into the suburbs, passing house after house until I got to mine. It hadn’t changed a bit since I left; only this time, the driveway was empty. I pulled in, taking the space where my father’s car used to be and shut off the engine. I sighed, looking at the worn out wood of the porch, the swing swaying slightly in the breeze.

I got out of my truck, slamming the door behind me and checking my watch. After composing myself, I rang the doorbell, reminding myself to breathe. After about a minute, the front door creaked open, and my mother emerged from around the dark oak that separated us. Her face was pale.

“Taylor. I heard your truck. I thought it was you,” she said quietly. “What are you doing here?”

In the shadow of the cold, empty house that I had fled from months ago, I asked myself the same question.

~

After I got back, my brother Tim and I met at the coffee shop in town. I had spent a lot of time in the basement; trying to make my fingers move coherently enough to play a decent song on my guitar, but it all came out in fragments of an un-tuned mess. Tim took one look at me and knew I needed a break, practically marching me out of the front door and into his car. In the café, he sat across from me, shaking the sugar packet between his thumb and forefinger.

“I couldn’t believe it when Mom called,” he said, breaking off the top of the packet and pouring the sugar into his coffee.

“I know,” I agreed, forcing a weak smile and picking up a packet of sugar from the bowl on the table.

“Little bro – back in town,” Tim muttered, sipping from the steaming mug.

I poured the sugar into the coffee and stirred it, taking a sip; beautiful and bitter, just how I liked it. I sighed and tried to relax.

Tim noticed my posture. “You didn’t bring Haley back with you?”

“Not this time.”

“How come?”

I inhaled deeply, trying to begin. Tim raised his eyebrows at me.

“We’re not together anymore; she doesn’t know I’m here.”

Tim’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah.”

“Taylor and Haley. Like Lennon and McCartney. I never thought I’d see the day.”

“I know,” I sighed. “I can barely believe it myself.”

“What happened, man?”

“Well, I can’t listen to Fleetwood Mac anymore.”

Over his shoulder, I saw a girl with deep chestnut curls. My breath caught, heart hammered against my chest, eyes transfixed on her as she turned her head. It wasn’t her. It couldn’t be.

I looked back to Tim and opened my mouth, but I couldn’t find the words, or the strength to begin to tell him of our downfall, of how everything had changed, and how I had lost the best thing to ever have happened to me. I had lost Haley. I may as well have lost a limb too.

Promises and Wishes: 2015 Edition

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On Christmas Eve 2014, I wrote a blog post titled Promises and Wishes, where I looked back on my university bucket list that I’d written three years prior. In the same post, I also made a 2015 to-do list of things I wanted to achieve by the end of the year.

As most of you know, the past year and a half has been very difficult for me. A year ago when I first wrote my Promises and Wishes post, I was five months into my recovery having been diagnosed with severe depression and an anxiety disorder. Since that post, I have completed 16 weeks of talking therapy and have just begun a cognitive behavioural therapy-based support group. I’m still on medication, I’m still struggling, but I’m winning the battle every day, and am that step closer to winning the war against my disorders and illness.

That being said, let’s look back and see what I wanted to achieve this year and whether I did or not.

  • Learn to manage my depression and anxiety.

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Sometimes meditating on a candle can be all you need to relax.

TICK. Although this is quite a difficult thing to measure, I’m beginning to know my own mind, know my triggers, not rely on safety seeking behaviours and find the courage to be more assertive, both emotionally and mentally. To be able to say that, and mean it, is a massive achievement for me.

  • Buy some trainers and take up running. 

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A photograph of the haul where I bought my trainers.

TICK. Well, half a tick. I bought some trainers and I TRIED to take up running, but unfortunately after my first run I conveniently had a panic attack afterwards. My energy levels are something I struggle with on a day to day basis, and I don’t think I’m at the stage of my recovery where I can successfully go for a run without doing some major damage. Regardless, I bought some trainers, gave it a go and saved the idea for when I’m a bit further down the road. (see what I did there?)

  • Do something that scares me. 

Wake up every day? Adult successfully? Do things by myself? Yes, I do things that scare me everyday. Once again, this one is hard to measure. Not sure if I have, or haven’t achieved it.

  • Learn to Knit.

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Mum’s scarf.

TICK. I actually learnt to knit. I knitted a whole scarf for my Mum who wears it with pride, especially now it’s winter.

  • Get better at French.

No tick. Don’t ask.

  • Pass my driving test.

Still, no. I have paused my driving lessons for the time being because my coordination isn’t good as a result of my medication (and is kind of a fundamental skill for driving), so once I am figuratively and literally further down the road of recovery, I shall pass and go on a road trip… probably… maybe not.

  • To finish The Last Four Years.

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The last day of progress on The Last Four Years.

TICK. BIG TICK. BIGGEST TICK EVER. Not only did I structure my story as a screenplay, I also completed NaNoWriMo and achieved 50,000. Doing NaNo was such an amazing tool to explore my story more and I found that I was really writing my best work. You can read about my progress here.

  • Get another piercing.

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The day I got my piercing done.

TICK. I got a labret piercing in February.

  • Get another tattoo.

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The day I got my tattoo done. 

TICK. I got a semi colon tattoo which donated money and services in aid of Mental Health charities and for the Mental Health Awareness Campaign.


So, I think it’s safe to say I had a pretty successful year in terms of goals. Now, let’s start as we mean to go on and look at what I hope to achieve by the end of 2016.

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.
  • GET BETTER AT FRENCH.
  • Start sending The Last Four Years out to literary agents.
  • Finishing structuring/plotting the next big idea.
  • Begin volunteering somewhere, even if it’s just an hour a week.
  • Come down on my medication dosage, as I think it’s contributing, at least some, towards my lack of energy. (Although a hefty dose of depression is enough…)
  • Write more blogs.

I’ll probably make some more along the way, but for now that seems like a decent, achievable amount of goals to have. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season and has a fantastic time full of food, family and frivolities!

The art of chilling out.

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Having an existential crisis does not mean putting your head between your legs. It also does not mean breathing heavily into a brown paper bag. It does, however, mean that a certain amount of your thought process goes into thinking, wondering, and wishing.

I’m doing a bachelor degree in Creative Writing, and I’m about to become a graduate. The weeks are counting down as the word count on my dissertation goes up, and it’s safe to say I’m not enjoying it. In fact, I don’t actually know many people who are enjoying it.

Currently I’m sitting in the university library, surrounded by stressed third years sweating over a mountain of job applications, dissertation chapters and academic diaries. Scribble, strike, repeat. Scribble, strike, repeat. Highlight. Highlight. Scrunch. Throw. I’m sure the library staff are sick of seeing it. In fact, they’re probably placing bets on who is going to burst into tears first.

I’m sure there is at least one person reading this who has graduated, and you might say it’s not as bad we’re making it out. But let me tell you: Yes it is. Shut up.

I’m joking. You’re right obviously. All of this worry and stress does nothing except worry and stress us out more. Eventually we forget that although we need to work hard during the final push, we should also be celebrating. Sticking at something for three years, in times of great uncertainty and doubt, is a great achievement. Throughout the arguments with housemates and bad assessment grades, hopefully all of us will agree that it was completely worth it.

Cue cheesy, feel good, mantra: The end doesn’t always mean the end, it’s the beginning of a new chapter.

So upon leaving university, you’re expected to know what you want to do with your life, right? Wrong. No one knows. I guarantee that many people who have graduated end up down a completely different career path to the one they set out for themselves. Not from being misguided but because things change, life changes, people change.

Nobody expects you in the beginning of your twenties to have it all planned out. Take opportunities, have new experiences, meet new people and build a life for yourself.

So what am I going to do? Hand me the paper bag, please.

But really. I know I want to work in publishing and literary agency, and I have the rest of my life to do that so why not enjoy the journey getting there. It look me a good four months because I snapped out of my existential crisis and realised that actually it didn’t matter what I thought now, because that might change in a few months time. I might decide I want to become a heavyweight champion of the world by March.

Unlikely, because that involves going to the gym, but an example none the less!

So here is my advice to you, graduates of the world, who like me sweated and stressed over scribbled on bits of paper: chill out.