I haven’t really set any new years resolutions but one thing I want to do more of is write. That goes for writing posts for this blog more regularly, pitching pieces to other websites and publications and to try and do a bit more than just dabble in fiction writing. I first started writing fiction back in 2017 when I attempted NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I got about four chapters into a twisty turny thriller and just completely confused myself and got overwhelmed by the thought of actually making it to the end so I gave up. I tried my hand at novel writing again last year, this time the story was about a mum so easier to write but I was still struggling with the belief that I could write a whole book, so I gave up around the sixth chapter. I don’t want to give up though, I really want to give writing fiction a good try as getting a book published one day is the dream (you know, the BIG dream I’ve had ever since I can remember). So, I have been thinking about it and I have decided to start publishing fiction on my blog once a week on a Sunday. I am using a writing prompt book to help me, each day of the year has a different topic for you to write about. As Naptime Natter is an honest blog about motherhood, I am going to try my best to link each prompt to a theme that will fit organically here on my blog – expect lots of protagonists who are mums! I’m not going to think too much about it all though, I’m just going to write and see what happens and keep my fingers crossed I get no horrible comments (constructive criticism is, of course, welcome). Without wasting anymore time and with nervous butterflies in my stomach, let me introduce you to the first piece of fiction to ever be published on Naptime Natter – The Hotel Room. Happy reading.
Short stories for mums – The Hotel Room
I thought regret would be the first thing to hit me. If not regret then it would be crashing waves of guilt. It was neither. It was the silence.
After the heavy door had stopped reverberating in it’s old wooden frame and the bang no longer sat in my ears, I could hear nothing. The silence struck me like a hand to the back of the head, it was sharp, it lingered and I struggled to concentrate on anything else. I strained my ears for a sound but none were forthcoming, even the volume of my breath seemed to be set to mute.
There was a small radio alarm clock sitting on the light pine desk that doubled as a dressing table beneath a glass mirror with no frame, strung up to the magnolia painted wall by a thick piece of string tied snuggly around a protruding nail. I could have turned it on, added some background noise to the silence but instead I basked in it, I relaxed into the soundless room like slipping into a warm bathtub at the end of a busy day.
The room was smaller than I was expecting, the photos on the website had clearly been taken from the most flattering angle, the photographer moving the camera around to get the best shot, just as a teenage girl does when taking a selfie. The peacefulness and the zen feelings it was already creating within me meant I did not much care about the missing floor space around the sides of the bed or the size of the shower in the en suite, I was only really there for the quiet after all.
Visits to hotels have been few and far between in my life. As a child we holidayed here in the UK; with five children my parents were only able to afford a week camping in a tent somewhere along the Welsh coast during the summer holidays. In retrospect, this is where my love of the outdoors must have been conceived, I’d choose a day out hiking up a hill over a pamper afternoon at a spa every time. When I landed in my early twenties, the other side of three years of university, a time where I pretended to act like an adult but still felt like a scared and anxious child inside, I was barely scraping together enough money from my several waitressing jobs to pay my rent; hotel stays were a luxury I couldn’t afford.
Then I met Danny and Danny doesn’t care for hotels. A waste of money, he says, why break the bank to stay in a bed in a different city when we have a perfectly comfortable bed here and this city has everything we could possibly need. Danny only parts with his money if Danny wants to part with it, he would need the cash surgically removed from his hands before coughing up for a city break in a swanky hotel. He didn’t spend a penny on my weekend away, of course.
In the hotel room I ran my hand over the duvet resting on the freshly made bed. It was a soft pink with tiny grey polka dots speckled across it so it looked like the housekeeper had sprinkled it with fairy dust. It was soft and plush like the fur of a teddy bear, I flopped my whole body back and my head landed with a soft thud just below the fluffy pink pillows. I stretched my arms and legs out until I resembled a star and I let the soft fabric stroke my skin as I swished my arms up and down like a child lying in the snow. I stared up at the light bulb hanging from the ceiling, there was no shade surrounding it, it was just a ball of glowing glass dangling above my head. A dive, that’s what Danny would have called the place. As the silence continued to weigh heavy but welcome in my ears, I smiled to myself and realised, dive or not, there’s nowhere else I wanted to be in that moment.
I closed my eyes and woke four hours later, the light above me still on and the blue numbers shining from the radio revealed it was seven thirty in the evening. Seven thirty, this was not what this time of day usually looked like. I was in bed and not trying to coach small people into their own beds. I had an evening waiting for me that didn’t involve falling asleep at eight with a cup of tea going cold in my hands, only ten minutes into a film Danny had put on the television. I wasn’t rushing around the kitchen scraping jam onto bread ready for tomorrow’s packed lunches. There was no listening to someone acting like they are dying of thirst, five minutes after they’ve gulped down their second glass of milk. The only trips to the toilet I needed to worry about were my own and, for the first time in years, I could do whatever I wanted at seven thirty.
A small armchair had been manoeuvred into the corner past the bed and one of those vintage looking glass touch lamps sat on a small coffee table next to it. I rolled off the bed, reluctantly peeling my body from the duvet of dreams like I was a piece of Velcro. I stripped my clothes off and folded them into a neat pile on top of the desk come dressing table. This shower is a load of shite, I imagined Danny saying in his gravelly voice as I pulled the white cord dangling from the ceiling and stood for ten minutes, waiting for the water temperature to reach somewhere above tepid. I didn’t care though, the shower was mine, to have alone. No one came in asking for a snack and bringing a cold draught , their sibling and the cat along with them too. I didn’t nearly rub lavender bedtime bath bubbles into my hair instead of my own expensive shampoo. The only items around my feet were my bottles of various lotions and potions, no rubber ducks unnervingly stared at me from the shower tray below and no plastic toys burst into My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean as I concentrated on shaving my legs.
Once clean and dressed in my favourite pyjamas, the striped ones made from one hundred percent cotton, I pulled my small overnight bag out from above the wardrobe where I’d found a slither of space to store it and I pulled out my companions for the night. A bottle of red wine, the third cheapest from the super market instead of the usual one I buy for £4.50, a book and my headphones. Whilst the silence from earlier on was a pleasure I didn’t realise existed, I buzzed with excitement at the thought of listening to my own songs, no nursery rhymes were going to torment me whilst I stayed in that hotel room.
I took my ingredients for a perfect evening over to the small coffee table and tapped the lamp three times so it was just bright enough for me to read the thick hardback romance that had been sitting patiently on my bedside table for the last six months. I poured some wine into one of the mugs that was turned upside down next to a travel kettle and a handful of tea and coffee sachets on a tray beneath the mirror and pulled my headphones over my still damp hair. As they began to play my chill out playlist from my phone, I sank into a love story between two strangers and stayed with them until two in the morning. By the time I finally moved the half foot from my chair to the cosy cocoon of my bed, the bottle was empty and my head was fuzzy.
I missed the morning, I woke with a bulldozer churning through my brain just after midday. I stretched and rolled and rejoiced in my lie in. I grabbed my phone, five missed calls. And there it was, at last, the regret. I pressed his name on the screen and listened to the tinny ring, waiting for him to answer.
‘So, you are alive then. How was your night of relaxation?’ he asked.
I wanted to say absolute heaven, instead I said, ‘It has been good. How are the kids?’
He tells me they’re fine, they’ve missed me and can’t wait for me to get home. The guilt arrived then, washing over me and making me shiver.
‘Are you ever coming home?’ he asked next, not quite disguising the annoyance in his voice that I wasn’t there at that specific moment.
I rolled out of bed, padded to the bathroom to fill the kettle, grabbed my book off the chair where it was lying upside down and open across the velvet cushion and shuffled through the contents of my bag before pulling out a packet of chocolate brioche rolls and a cereal bar.
Climbing back into bed I said, ‘Tell the kids I miss them too. I’m not coming home today Danny.’
His shock and anger was conveyed through a lengthy heated silence at the other end of the phone.
‘Tomorrow,’ I said to the emptiness. ‘I will be home tomorrow, I promise.’
Wriggling down under the teddy bear duvet until the soft fibres stroked my chin, I started to read. The kettle was singing to a boil, I had a picnic breakfast spread out on the pillow next to me and as seamlessly as I slipped back into the story between the pages of my book, with a similar ease the feelings of regret and guilt slipped from my mind.
I’ll go back to being Mum and wife tomorrow, I remember saying to myself as my eyes began to grow heavy and I could feel myself being gently led back to sleep. My final thoughts before sleep pulled me under were these: I’ll go back tomorrow, today is for me, I deserve this time in this hotel room, I deserve the time to be just me.
I still think of that hotel room and the two nights I spent there. It was small and not dissimilar to a students bedroom in university accommodation, or maybe even a more luxurious prison cell, but to me that hotel room was special. That hotel room was where I realised I needed to be me again. I love being Mum, I love being the ‘misses’ but that hotel room showed me I need to remember to love being me, just Sophie, too
Do you feel like Sophie, like you are always being Mum and don’t have enough time to do the things you love? Like you never have a moment to really relax? Let me know in the comments and I will also love to read your honest feedback on my first short story.