[ for the heroine competition ]


1. Isolde








Isolde of the White Hands is infamous for her tragic lovestory with the knight Tristan: the unrequited romance that fell away with white sails and poison. Isolde is the lover, the medieval princess, the legend still alive in fairy tales to this day, still beautiful and strong and completely hopeless, in every variation of the story.

It's such a big name, for such a small person. It means so much, and it's hard to live up to a name that's already lived such important lives. It makes me wonder if I deserve to be called Isolde, and if my parents thought of what it meant when they named me: if they wanted me to live up to the expectations of the name and the colourful past it holds close.

I want to deserve the name. I want to be the hopelessness and the beauty and the strength and the unrequited love that people want to read about, and I want to be the tears and the trials and the lover in a love story that people dream of. I want to be more than a Name, more than a Legend, more than words on paper and more than just a character in a story retold over time.

I want to be an Isolde with a future, not just Isolde with a past. It's kind of difficult, though, when you live in world where fame is made of plastic and wealth and paparazzi camera reels, and I'm just a girl living in it with a particularly old-fashioned name and over-reactive imagination.

I sigh, and swirl the teaspoon in my Starbucks coffee cup. I live in books and legend, and, unfortunately, I can't step inside and save the world myself. I have to just read, and then put the book down and wonder why I have to live in this world, with these people. I press my head against the table on top of my hands. Oh, God. I'm so bored. There's so many books that I can't even try and read them all, and there's TV on 24/7 but what's the point, when it's only for watching? And this coffee is cold. I need to order another one, but I don't have enough money.

And if I were in a book, I'd go over to the local Pub and slam some gold pieces on the counter, demanding a strong spirit to clean my head out. Only, if I did that now, I'd probably be stared at and then forced out by a pot-bellied policeman with a too-large hat and a love of bulldogs. Maybe I should just go to sleep, right here, in this Café, and then have the manager wake me up and tell me to go home, because that would be pretty adventurous. Or maybe, I could drop my coffee cup on the floor, and then a hand reaches out from nowhere and grabs it mid-fall, and it turns out to be an Edward-Cullen-esque young man who's even better looking and who can catch full coffee cups, not just apples. Maybe we'd kiss, then.

I think I could be a good kisser. I just don't know yet, because I've never had a boyfriend and everyone isn't prince-like or interesting or knight-like or fascinating. Everyone is just unbelievably boring. Like me.

I stare out of the window. There's a city moving on outside. It's not even beautiful. There's Christmas lights in places, but they're all too garish, and my eyes begin to hurt if I stare too long. People are walking around. Slowly. Dragging their feet thought snow that's less than an inch deep because this is England, and we're so moderate all the time. Halfway. Never up or down or left or right or big or small just in the middle. Always the same.

My head presses against the glass. Maybe all of a sudden the door might be flung open, and someone comes in with a switch knife and demands money or something or rather, and I get up and protect everyone or whatever and then I knock him to the floor and grab the knife and hold it up above his head, but then declare mercy. Then I'll be the headline of a newspaper as some kind of human saviour.

Only, that would never happen. Firstly because it just wouldn't, and second because I'd be far too scared and pathetic to save everyone and knock over a man with a switch knife.

Perhaps I'll find my true love today. Maybe he'll march in with a pair of funny-looking glasses on his head, and eyes so bright they look like stars. Cliché, but a winner. And maybe he'll just sweep me off my feet and tell me he's been looking for me for a while now, and perhaps he's just about to take me off somewhere incredible. In to a book, where things aren't boring, and people are so full of life you forget anything can ever end.

Maybe I should just do something incredibly spontaneous. Maybe I should do something no-one would ever think was possible, and then remember me in this town for years after. Maybe I should embrace or destroy or create or pull apart, maybe I should hate or love or win or lose or do something with this boredom. Maybe I should. Maybe I can't, ever.

If I go and do some spontaneous horse-riding lessons with money that I don't actually own, I can learn how to ride away into the sunset with my Prince Charming, and make sure I don't fall off the horse. Learn another language and save someone's life with my linguistic prowess, and the become a renowned language teacher in Oxford that makes daily breakthroughs that have never been broken through before. Perhaps I should just go onto the streets and find someone in trouble and talk to them and hug them and possibly look after them, and we end up being best friends and running a charity together for all people who have the same problems as us.

I close my eyes. But I won't. But I'll just sit here, like I'm falling asleep, and wonder why this girl in this world will only ever be an old-fashioned name and a crazy imagination no-one knew about. So, really, just a Name. Just Isolde, one half of a lovestory. Not me.

I hear the scrape of a chair next to me, and I look up. Zoe is sitting beside me, staring at me.

"You look grumpy," she says, matter-of-factly.

I glare at the window, my head still in my hands.
Zoe pulls her dark hair into a sleek pony tail and then clicks her fingers in front of my face, "Hey, you," she says. "You missed art, and I missed you."

"Nice rhyme," I say, so lazily it's like my voice is putting my face to sleep.

Zoe rolls her shining dark eyes. "What's wrong? Because if you're still contemplating the meaning of life, stop."

"I'm so bored," I groan, hating the way I'm even boring myself.

She tilts her chin upwards, and slides her finger down her cheekbone. "Stop worrying yourself. You're a beautiful, interesting, clever, funny, imaginative girl who will go far in life. You just need to do more, and not think more."

"You don't have to sit with me."

"I want to. We're best friends, and I love you very, very much, and I miss you when you blank me. It makes me wonder whether or not you actually like me."

"I love you."

Zoe raises a curved eyebrow. "So you say."

"I love you."

She smiles, resigned, and then takes my coffee and finishes it, even though it's ice-cold by now. "What're you reading?"


"What're you watching?"

"I can't remember."

"What do you want me to do?" Zoe asks quietly, placing a smooth, bronzed hand over mine. "I don't know how to make you happy anymore."

"Stop it," I say, pushing her hand off. "I'm happy in a different way to you."

"That's a lie, Isolde."

I snap back at her, "Don't say my name."

Zoe puts the empty coffee cup on another table nearby, and scoots her stool around next to mine. I can smell her perfume, and it's kind of rich, like velvet and dark chocolate and silk and stars. "Isolde. Isolde. Isolde. Isolde-"

I roll my eyes.

"If it's this crazy thing about being nothing, then tell me, because it's kind of worrying you think so little of yourself."

"Yes," I say.

Zoe nods, and a quick smile flashes on her lips. "You're really clever, and you draw the most pretty things when you want to. And you're also a really fast runner, even though you've never done any sport in your life. And you can eat a packet of biscuits quicker than anyone else in the entire universe. And you have really soft hair."

"That's weird, don't say that."

"I'm being nice."


Zoe bites her lip. "If you're so bored, do something about it. Do something insane. Do something that you're going to remember for the rest of your life," she shrugs, "Be your own heroine, in your own away."

"I don't know what to do," I say, folding my hands on my knee and sitting up properly.

"Do something now."

I sigh. "What?"

"Something insane."

"Like what?" I say, raising both of my eyebrows and looking at my best friend.

She swallows. "Something you've always wanted to do from the first day you thought of it."

I frown, and then repeat my same question. "Like what, Zoe?"

"Like this," she says, smoothing her dark, straight hair, and then leaning in so fast I have no time to register what's going on. She's pushing her lips on mine with a bruising force, and her hands are clamped down on my shoulders hard. Her perfume is overwhelmingly strong and I can't breathe properly and I don't know what to do. I don't know. She's shaking so hard and I can hear her heartbeat hammering, and she doesn't know what to do. She's just frozen, and her eyes are staring right into mine with a fury and a love that's crazy.

I don't really know what to do, so I decide to kiss her back. With everything.

Her hair is so dark it looks like night, and her eyes are brown and her skin is smooth and dark gold, and she's got a small nose and a bit of make-up and she always wears her Levi t-shirt wherever she goes. And she's really slim and strong, and her voice is quite but really confident. And she's kind of like a heroine.

I'm not sure why we're kissing, but I keep doing it because I want to. And because it's insane, but kind of the right thing to do, like maybe we should've done it a long time ago.

Zoe leaves an inch between our lips. "Say something you want to say," she whispers.

"Kiss me again."









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