Violet in Red

Text: Violet in Red


Violet in Red<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

By Rose Agnew


Lady in red, you’re dancing with me


All Violet heard after entering the room was the first line of the song.  From that moment on she was too terrified to concentrate on the singing.  The room was bare, brightly lit and pine lined like a sauna.  After a steep ascent in near darkness she was startled by the bright, stark room.  Movement attracted her eye, and as she was there with a purpose, Violet walked towards it.  A latex-gloved hand beckoned with curling fingers through a small cut-out in one of the pine walls.  As she got closer the hand retracted and a single eye peer out at her.  The singer’s voice was dark, languorous, mocking.  He sneered at her as she fumbled for her money.


Violet had arrived early one morning at Heathrow with fifty pounds in her pocket and a deep longing for a spliff.  Her mother met her at the airport and together they proceeded to a charming hotel just around the corner from the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />British Museum.  Imagine her horror when confronted with the tiny room and double bed.  Three years of non-contact and they were to share a bed. 


To belay the effects of jet lag mother and daughter went out for several hours.  The first stop was Harrods.  Violet looked at Beluga Caviar on velvet cushions.  Her mother bought Liberty handkerchiefs and lavender bags.  


“Would you like something?” her mother asked.  But Violet had no need of lavender bags.  Eventually she got away to the peace of Bloomsbury Square Gardens and a cigarette, and later slept in the double bed next to her mother.


The next night the tiny room was filled with the presence of her mother.  Violet left to find a place to have a cigarette.  Standing in the street, leaning against the wrought iron railings, men in cars leered through their windows to proposition her.  She hurried on, weighing the need for solitude against the jeopardy of seclusion.  She walked to a nearby park and sat down on a bench to roll a cigarette. As her eyes adjusted to the grey-scale landscape, the skin on the back of her neck tightened. The bushes were alive with people.  It was a seething morass of comings and goings.  She made a hasty retreat from the anonymous beat.  Violet returned to the hotel, where she risked fire alarms and smoked her cigarette as she lay in the hotel’s communal bath.


Another day passed.


That restless night the sound of her mother’s breathing filled her with anger.  Violet imagined suffocations – her own the result of forced proximity, her mother’s an encounter with a pillow.


Violet got out of bed.  She put on the red cardigan she so loved and left the stifling room.  Outside as cars flashed past Violet drew her bag closer, pulled her arms in.  She considered going somewhere for a drink, but the thought of pickup lines, star signs and small talk repulsed her.  The laughter and music that tumbled through opened windows and pub doorways were pain to her.  She had no way into that world.  Imagined pursuits pushed her faster to that crowded inner city warehouse where in the company of dimly lit strangers she might slide quietly from the burden of her asphyxiation.


It took an hour of harried walking through the side streets of central London to gather the courage to enter the building.  With each attempt to broach the entrance Violet ricocheted back into the flow of passing traffic.  She was nervous and guilty.  She was determined.

She had been told of the “coffee shop” before, just days before, after approaching some likely looking lads in Bloomsbury Square, asking if they knew where she could score.  Violet had been nervous then too, amazed at her own bravura, or stupidity, depending on the outcome.  They laughed when she repeated that it was dope she wanted, not coffee. 


“That’s just our name for it,” they said.  “Like in Amsterdam, you know?”


The boys were friendly and nice: did she like Massive Attack, where was she from?  Yes, they would show her where to go.  They wanted nothing from her.


Bouncers under security cameras waved her through.  No pass word was necessary, though the boys from the park had told her of one.  She went up an old wooden staircase. The illumination reduced at every landing.  A distant techno pumping was felt rather than heard.  Through doorways here and there she saw black light interiors, bodies pulsing in rhythm with the blasts of noise that pressed into her ears. Up more darkened stairs.  Then, a long, long line of people as enduring as any checkout queue, but each of them young, styled, orderly.


“Is this the line?” she asked a young man. “All these people waiting to go upstairs?” Violet also waited.


In the upstairs room the gloved hand passed her a small plastic bag.  Afterwards, Violet found her way downstairs, and breathing hard, passed the quietly patient queue and slipped into a chill-out room.  She pulled up a bit of floor space and set about her business.  As her fingers worked away to the nonchalance of the dubbed out crowd her heartbeat slowed.  From around the perimeter of the room the vacant gaze of her fellow smokers glanced over her, unconcerned.


Later, as she wandered down the staircases, through the open warehouse, a Rasta with an earpiece called her over. “Hey, sexy lady, where your stuff?”

“It’s okay,” Violet said. “It’s in my shoe.”

“Next time, you put it in your sexy bra.”



Alert Moderator

[Alert Moderator]



  • Anonymous's picture

    15.04.09 — rose agnew

    thanks gretchen for your

    thanks gretchen for your comments and suggestions. i will have a go at "activating" the text. i think i know what to do. as for the image, that's my own artwork. glad you like it too. bye for now, rose

  • Anonymous's picture

    15.04.09 — Gretchen Miller

    PS - I REALLY like this

    PS - I REALLY like this image... where did you get it from? You may need to credit it if it's not your own... and probably check if it's not copyright...

  • Anonymous's picture

    15.04.09 — Gretchen Miller

    Hi Rose, the last line

    Hi Rose,
    the last line really made me laugh... I think we used to call that a shaggy dog story. I like the way this little tale is like a moment in Violet's life - there's no beginning or end, no moment of truth with her mother, no meaningful conclusion, no revelation of a greater social observation...

    As I know you're planning to read it and put it on Pool, my suggestion is you go through the text and make it active not passive. For example, I'd have a look at this paragraph in this way:

    "Days before Violet had been told of the “Coffee shop”. She'd approached some likely looking lads in Bloomsbury Square - asked them if they knew where she could score. She'd been nervous, amazed at her own bravura - or stupidity. They laughed when she repeated it was dope she was after, not coffee."

    It may seem a bit short and sharp on the page, but when you read it aloud you'll find it better captures the action.

    I'm no expert in this, but it's something I learned 100 years ago when a journo at the Herald. Another thing I learned is the word 'that' can usually be removed. It slows things down and is mostly unecessary... So now whenever I write a 'that' I read it and check if it's needed - usually not!

    all the best