Annoying Upstairs Neighbours – An Excerpt

On Saturday, when I finally sat down to work on my NaNoWriMo story (after a few hours of procrastination), my upstairs neighbours decided to be as loud as they possibly could. These people yell at each other at all hours of the day and night. I’m also fairly certain they wear their shoes inside (wood floors + shoes = loud. Very loud) Once, the lady walked around all night in heels.

That made me want to hit something.

Anyway, so I complained about the noise to my fellow NaNoers via a chat room that one of my fellow Montreal NaNoers set up for us. They suggested that I incorporate it into my story. In fact, they suggested three different ways to incorporate it into my story:

  1. Personify the upstairs neighbour problem in one character
  2. Have the MC’s father banging around in the attic/upstairs
  3. Write a flashback wherein the MC experiences exactly what I was experiencing.

Then we proceeded to have a word war, where I wrote the following scene. Let me know if you think I succeeded in incorporating the three suggestions!

OH! Before we continue to the story. I HIT 25K YESTERDAY! *so happy* Here I was thinking I’d be behind by now when I’m pretty much half way done. ALSO, I FINALLY managed to get Clara where I want her… thought she’d be there by now, but no, she’s a stubborn creature. Now to write the more exciting part of the story. What WHAT! :) 

Excerpt from Clara’s Story

Clara sat in the living room with Breanna and Lucas. The clattering of dishes in the kitchen was the only evidence that her mother was is residence. Janelle had gone to a friend’s house for a play date.

“Well, that was an interesting Christmas,” Breanna said. She was carefully not looking at Clara. Her face was twisted in an attempt at a pleasant smile.

“Oh be quiet Breanna,” Lucas snarled. He had been unpleasant to her all morning. The family dinner yesterday had been tense, a tenseness made more unpleasant by Breanna’s snide remarks about Clara. Clara stared at the TV. Some show was on, but she wasn’t paying attention to it. Instead, she was thinking about her time in the city and the noise. Here in the country, there was no noise. Nothing to distract you from the sounds coming from the TV. There was no one to make you feel like you weren’t alone in the world.

“What? I thought it was lovely,” Breanna’s voice dripped with sarcasm on the word lovely. It was like she was intent on being inconsiderate to everyone around her. She didn’t care who she disturbed, as along as she was free to do and live as she wished.

There was a clunk over their heads. Heavy footsteps echoed through the living room.

“What was that?” Lucas asked, looking at Clara. Clara shook her head, frowning.

“You dad is setting up Clara’s new painting things,” Breanna said with a frown.

“Oh, the ones that Janelle picked out?” Lucas asked.

“Yes, the ones we’d spent far too much on, after all she’s not going to use them now is she?” Breanna said.

“Breanna, that’s enough. Stop being a bitch ok? You’ve made your point, now leave off it.” Lucas glared at his wife.

“I won’t Lucas. I won’t leave off it until you see the truth. Your sister is…”

Clara drowned out the noise of her sister-in-law. She didn’t like what she heard, but she didn’t want to say anything about it. Everyone is allowed their opinions. Everyone is allowed to do as they want, when they want. Clara knew now that there was something off about the past few days. She reconsidered the poisoning angle, become more and more certain that that was what was happening. Someone in this household was poisoning her so that she wouldn’t realize that they were keeping her from Nathaniel and Logan. She knew that now, she just didn’t understand why.

A bang echoed through the living room, followed by the heavy thumps of someone walking.

Clara’s mind drifted back to her apartment in the city, the first one her and Nathaniel had shared. It was a large two bedroom in an old building. The wood floors were a beautiful yellow with hints of auburn in the complementing grains that ran through each panel.

The only problem with them was that everyone could hear you walking around.

Their upstairs neighbours persisted in wearing their shoes everywhere, had no carpets to muffle the sound and had a young child that ran around all day, every day.

The second week they were there, she had just finished setting up her easel and paints in exactly the way she liked them. Her and Nathaniel had agreed that the extra room would be his office and the guest room. Her “studio” was a small corner of the living room, directly beside the windows. There was plenty of light; the balcony was right there if she chose to go out for some fresh air and the TV was close if she chose to play a show in the background.

The only problem was that their upstairs neighbours loved spending time in their living room. The child loved to run around. She glared up at the ceiling, wishing a painful death on the noise makers, then sat down to work on her latest project.

The child decided to skip rope.

The thumping reverberated down the walls, echoing through Clara’s skull like a jack hammer. Her hand shimmied across the canvas. A large blue-black line crossed over the large puppy dog faces that stared out at her, nearly complete.

“No!” Clara exclaimed, frustrated. Nathaniel ran into the room.

“What happened? Are you ok?” He asked. His face was the picture of concern. The banging upstairs continued. He looked up and winced. “Don’t tell me…” he said, looking at her canvas.

“I’m done with them Nathaniel! You need to go up there and tell them to shut up or I will go up there and ram my paintbrush through their eyes,” she gripped the paintbrush, knuckles white.

“Now Clara,” he started.

“Don’t you take that tone Nathaniel,” she said. “This is a consignment piece. A PAID piece. I’m supposed to be done it by tomorrow morning and it’ll take hours to fix this mess!”

“Ok, ok. Relax my love. I’m not going to go up there to talk to them, because I really would rather not. But why don’t you set up in my office. The light is good and it’s quieter. Just bring your stereo and you should be ok.”

Clara looked at Nathaniel, thinking through his proposition.

“Fine,” she grunted, arms folded. She glared at the ceiling, wishing death on the inhabitants. “Stupid friggin inconsiderate assholes.” She turned, putting her paints and brushes back in their carrying case.

“It’s going to take forever to get myself set up again,” she whined. Nathaniel’s hand thumped down on her shoulder, patting her.

“There there, you’ll succeed. You always do.”

“Yeah, after I pull an all nighter and ruin my eyesight squinting in the poor night light. Can you help me carry my supplies in?” She asked. He smiled at her.

“Fine, let’s get this done. I have to finish washing the dishes and then I have work I need to get done.”

“Thanks love,” she said, kissing his cheek. “You’re the best.”

“Yes, yes, come on,” he said. He grabbed her easel, careful of the wet paint on the canvas. She stacked her painting supply cases on the chair and followed him down the hall, around the corner and into the office.

The office was a clutter of boxes. He put her easel down by the window and moved all of his boxes around to give her more space.

They finished setting up her  station. She looked at the ruined image of two beautiful puppies laying on a pillow. Taking out the colours of the animal’s fur she’d mixed three days ago, she started fixing the black smear that she had created earlier. It wouldn’t take long, but it was a painful process of trying to match the shading and colours she had completed. Her music played in the background, a light and comforting background sound that kept her mind from wandering too far from the task at hand.

A bang echoed through the room. Then another. The upstairs neighbours had followed her.

“Ugh!” she groaned, putting down her paintbrush and throwing open the door. She wanted to scream at them. She wanted to beat them over the head with her palate. But she couldn’t do either of those things. Instead, she could only passive aggressively complain.

“Nathaniel! They’re at it over my head. I can’t deal with this anymore!!” she yelled as she walked down the hall to the kitchen. He met her in the hall, drying his hands on a dish towel.

“Why don’t you put some headphones in?” he asked. He looked bemused. Anger shot through her. She hated it when he was bemused at her inconvenience. She hated her upstairs neighbours. She hated that she couldn’t finish this stupid picture of dogs.

She wanted to be painting the unseen, the fanciful things that only she saw. She wanted to paint the patterns she saw in the world around her, so that others could see them too. That’s what she wanted to be doing, not painting puppies for some dog lady with too much money to spend.

She said as much to Nathaniel.

“I know my love. I know. We’ve been over this though. We need the cash. Your job at the pub isn’t exactly going to cover the bills and my student loan is only stretching so far while I’m still in school. It’s only for one more year and then you can paint what you want and I’ll work to pay our bills.”

She looked up at him and sighed.

“You’re right, I know you’re right. I’ll go back to the painting. I’m sorry for yelling.” She kissed him.

He smiled down at her, his rugged face sending shivers down her spin.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you too.” She walked back down the dim lit hallway, smiling to herself.

“Clara? Earth to Clara!” Her brother Lucas’s voice echoed through the apartment. Confused, she looked around.

“Lucas?” she asked, not sure when or how he got there. There was no sign that he’d been there and Nathaniel didn’t say he’d showed up. Which was so unlike Nathaniel.  “Where are you?”

“I’m right here silly,” Lucas’s face was in front of hers. His brown hair and blue eyes floated in front of her eyes. She blinked and focused on his face.

“Lucas?” she said. Her parents’ living room was unnaturally bright. Confused, she looked over at Breanna, who stared at her with daggers in her eyes.

“Yep, that’s me. Where’d you go?” he asked, concern written all over his face.

“To the place in Toronto with those horrible upstairs neighbours.” Clara shot a look over at Breanna. Her sister-in-law glared back.

“Oh, I remember that place. You lived there a long time ago, didn’t you?”

“I guess,” she said, fidgeting with her sweater. The living room was warm, very warm. The patterns along the walls were continuous, dancing around. The grain of the wood panelling matched the floral patterns of the couch upholstry. Lucas touched her hand, his grip soft and cold.

“Well, welcome back to the living room. Sounds like dad is done upstairs. Did you want to go check it out?” He stood, holding his hand out to her.

“Yeah… yes. I do. I’d love to start painting again.”

That’s the excerpt. What do you think? Did I succeed in my attempt? Or did I fail miserably? 

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