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Freewrite Friday: ‘Kat’

Welcome to Freewrite Fridays!

I’ve been considering some changes lately–blame turning 30, or the pandemic, or finally recovering from the exhaustion of undertaking two degrees, one right after the other–specifically about what I want to do with my life. Which is the same answer it’s always been: write.

And I’ve been coming to terms with the concept that I haven’t been prioritising that, or taking it as seriously as I should. It also occurred to me that I have the perfect platform to become more comfortable with doing it: right here! So I’m going to be posting things I’ve written twice every month: in Flashbacks–pieces I wrote a while ago, and am revisiting now (check out the masterlist here!)–and Freewrites.

The Freewrites are going to be short flash pieces from different perspectives of a family I’m writing. Their story (stories?) span several decades, so each Freewrite will be dated somewhere along the timeline–and I’ll be posting a family tree that’ll be updated with every Freewrite, to help situate the characters and timing. I’ll also be using one writing prompt from Jamie Cat Callan’s The Writer’s Toolbox, and one from the Storymatic, every time–just to make the Freewrites even freer! (Check out the Freewrites Masterlist here!)

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Without further ado: this month, Kat, with the prompts ‘unflattering portrait’ and ‘a yellow bus’!

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1997

Kat

The moment Kat’s daughter laid eyes on her–standing apart from the other mums in the nursery playground, trying her hardest not to have to talk to any of them–she flung herself into Kat’s arms, so pleased to see her she forgot to be gentle of the giant baby bump she’d been babbling to for the last eight months.  

Kat caught her on reflex, and almost regretted it when the rubber soles of Roxie’s shiny school shoes caught her ribs; but Roxie was already wriggling to be more comfortable, her hair tickling Kat’s cheek as she turned to face her.   

‘I made you a present,’ she declared, pride stamped across her little face.  

‘Well then, you’d better show me!’  

Still beaming, even as Kat swung her back onto her own feet, Roxie held out a piece of paper.  

Kat would’ve assumed it was scrap paper, if it hadn’t had Roxie’s name printed teacher-neat at the top corner. It was ragged-edged, a little damp from being clutched in Roxie’s hand, and covered in vaguely circular blue and black wax crayon shapes.  

‘Sweetheart, that’s beautiful,’ she told her daughter, still squinting to make out any remote understanding.  

And then Roxie gave Kat all the insight she needed: ‘It’s you!’  

Sure enough, with the new information, Kat could make out a vague humanoid appearance among the circles. That tiny one with the blue dots and pink line must be her face; the spirals her bad hair day; the blue ovals her legs, always in Levis, stumped at either end with black lumps that must be her boots. Which meant the giant circle in the middle, taking up at least 70% of the page, must be…  

‘Your belly,’ Roxie said, helpfully pointing at the bus-sized shape. ‘With the baby!’

Kat would have–had already–breathed fire at anyone else who’d dared mention the fact that she was, in fact, pregnant enough to look like a giant human circle. She’d traumatised the supermarket cashier who’d suggested she was having twins, and ripped a new one into her sadistic sister-in-law for suggesting she prepare for ‘copious stitching’. Kat had never been known for her stable temper; and having painfully swollen ankles, fits of nausea, and a bladder the size of a pea, and the absolute necessity to get on with every part of her life anyway, no matter the exhaustion, hadn’t made her any calmer. Everyone expected her to be glowing with the miracle of life, and as far as Kat was concerned, it was her duty to set them straight–in fact, it was the one thing she enjoyed about pregnancy— 

But, she reminded herself, as her temper rose like the acid reflux after yesterday’s craving of whole pickled eggs, this wasn’t a throwaway comment from a mannerless stranger, or a snide dig from a loathed in-law. It had come from her four-year-old daughter, who had once given her the same back acne and borderline incontinence—and an unmeasurable amount of joy afterwards. Who was staring up at her with widening, increasingly worried eyes, concerned for the offence she’d made without even understanding how she’d made it.  

So Kat did what she wouldn’t have done with anybody else: she breathed in and out instead of breathing fire, and forced a smile across her face that became genuine when Roxie returned it.  

‘Tell you what, my little artist,’ she said, folding the drawing up and taking Roxie’s hand. ‘I think you deserve a present, too. How about we go and get you a colouring book?’ And nip those artistic portraits right in the bud.  

The baby kicked, as though in agreement, and once again, Roxie beamed.  

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Updated family tree!

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