Story offering – “Cherchez La Femme” (most of it, anyway)

Pulling a fast one on you, as I said it would be Saturday or Sunday. But here it is, Friday, and I’m posting it now! Ha ha!

Actually, it was a case of, I’d better do it now, before I completely lose my nerve. Hence the ‘Uncertain’ Punkymood icon over in the sidebar at the moment.

Once again, so sorry about the length of this post! But please give it a read. Any feedback whatsoever on this story would be greatly appreciated.

A couple things need to be said first….so, yes, more build-up….gosh, I feel like I’m going to totally let you down with the actual story! But I sure hope not.

~ First of all, this is not the whole story. It’s most of the story. I’m taking a cue from another creative writing instructor who, if he had read this story, would have told me that the story truly starts with what I’ll be posting. Most of the first part of the story is exposition, which can basically be summed up as follows:

Sarah and Francine have been friends since they were three years old. Francine is a famous actress now. Sarah is not famous at all. But they’re still the best of friends.

And that is the gist of the story.

~ Second, this is not the original story that I wrote for the class way back when. I’ve been making edits to it, to reflect things I hope to bring up throughout the rest of the story. I actually have a rough outline (currently 12 pages, single-spaced, and it’s ever growing) detailing the story I would like to tell.

I know this particular piece is still sorely lacking. There are gaps, I know. For example, I’ve been trying to work in a bit where the phlebotomist explains to Francine how a vacutainer works. (My thanks to second cousin Kathie and to all the users at the NaNoWriMo forums – I’ll get it eventually!)

That’s why I’m asking you, my blog audience, where you think it should go or what you would like to see happen to Sarah and Francine. Basically, what would make you want to read more of this story? So, once again, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

~ Now, about the title. “Cherchez la femme” is a French phrase, which basically translates to mean “look for the woman.” Wikipedia has a whole entry devoted to the phrase, but none of the meanings therein would quite apply to this story. I suppose I was just being too literal, again, when I chose it as the title. I just liked the sound of it – ‘look for the woman.’ There’s more to it than that, but I can’t talk about that just yet. Bottom line is, I’m too attached to the title to change it now.

~ Yes, Francine is based on a real-life well-known British actress, only I won’t tell you who I have in mind. Though it’s not like you couldn’t figure it out. I will tell you it is not Emma Watson. When I presented this story in class years ago, my classmates all thought Francine was based on Emma Watson. Uh, no. Sorry. Think older. And I’m not all that familiar with the British way of speaking. I intend for the story to be told mostly from Francine’s point of view (she is the ‘I’ in the story), so if something doesn’t seem British enough, tell me, and I’ll fix it!

~ Finally, in the story below, there are about three paragraphs that are completely italicized (‘That Look’). This is a flashback on Francine’s part.

I don’t mean to beg, but please, please, please! Questions, comments, concerns, complaints, constructive criticism….let me know! This is a work in progress, one I’d really like to bring to fruition, and so I need all the help I can get.

Okay. Done talking. Here it is, a majority of “Cherchez La Femme.”



….The clinic was cramped and cold. People buzzed behind their hands and purses, surreptitiously gesturing in our direction. It was me they were talking about, and Sarah seemed annoyed, sighing loudly and stomping her feet. When I asked her about it, she said she just hated waiting. Which, actually, was probably true – Sarah had never really been jealous of my success with acting. But sometimes with Sarah, a person couldn’t tell.

“Sarah Goeken.”

I unfolded my legs and jumped to my feet. Sarah moaned slightly as she stood. Baby, I thought. She was afraid of needles. “Honestly, it’s no worse than a mosquito bite,” I hissed at her as we passed through the restlessness of the waiting room.

She glared at me. “You have no idea.”

The nurse looked up from Sarah’s chart as we approached and smiled. “How are you today?”

“Pretty good,” Sarah replied. Her voice did that ‘high helium’ thing it does when she was nervous.

“No, you’re not!” I stage-whispered from behind her.

“Shut up, Francine!”

The nurse led us back into the examination room. It was white, blue and boring, just like a hospital exam room. The only difference was there was a small television in the corner, tuned in to “Gilligan’s Island;” Sarah’s father liked that show, as did my father, to my dismay. There was a sofa against the far wall, presumably for fainters. I assumed Sarah would head straight for it, but instead she sat in the blue monstrosity that looked more like an electric chair, with its padding and fold-down front arm, which Sarah did fold down across her chest.

“Please spell your last name,” the nurse addressed Sarah.

“G-O-E-K-E-N.” Then, almost as an afterthought, “This is my friend Francine.”

The nurse smiled. “I thought I recognized you. You’re in movies.”

“That’s right.” I smiled brightly, depositing myself in the corner chair. Thank you, but no more about me, please. I’m only here to observe.

But Sarah waved me over. “Just stand here,” she whispered softly.


“Moral support.”

I rolled my eyes. “Bollocks. Don’t think I’m holding your hand.”

She gave me That Look….

I was in Chicago, filming a movie. Sarah and her parents were also in Chicago at the same time, on account of Sarah’s father was attending a three-day insurance conference, so this was their big family vacation for the year. That, and it was the summer following Sarah’s suicide attempt – her parents were loathe to let her out of their sights. The hotel they were staying at wasn’t far from mine, so Sarah and I were able to visit each other between takes.

One afternoon, I had an interview scheduled. My parents were sitting with me at the poolside, and Sarah was hanging around awkwardly in the background. Before officially beginning the interview, quite off-record, the interviewer told us a story that had already gained legendary status – a couple that recently stayed at that very hotel had gotten into an argument and, in despair, the woman drowned herself in the very pool we were seated by.

All I could think to say was “Ew, gross!” And then suddenly I clamped my jaw shut, and glanced over at Sarah. She had moved to the pool’s edge, and was staring sightlessly down into it.

My father had winced at the story’s end. Of course, my mother was oblivious: “Don’t worry, dear, I’m sure they changed the water.”

Sarah had turned and gave my mother That Look then….

“I think it would work to take it from my hand today,” Sarah was saying to the nurse, interrupting my reverie.

“Not a problem,” the nurse said. She adjusted a rubber strip to the middle of Sarah’s forearm. “Do you have bad luck with your elbow?”

“No, just spotty luck,” Sarah said, glancing at me, trying to smile. I noticed she didn’t look at the nurse or her hand at all. “My hand worked last time.”

The nurse fingered the prominent vein on the back of Sarah’s hand, then, to my surprise, she slapped Sarah’s hand several times. “It just needs to pop a little more,” she explained. “Your hands are cold.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Sarah said, trying to smile again.

Some more prodding, then, “Yep, I think we’ve got it.” The nurse dabbed at Sarah’s hand with a cotton ball, then leaned in with the needle. “Okay, there’ll be a little prick, and…” The needle slid in.

I leaned forward. I’d never seen blood drawn before, and I expected to be fascinated. I expected the blood to flow out of Sarah’s hand, all beautiful and tumbling red, and within a few seconds it would be over.

That didn’t happen. Rather, nothing happened at first. Then I could make out a slow glug of blood filling the vial. It was dark and paint-like. I almost told Sarah to look, but she wouldn’t have.

“Is it coming?” she asked, wincing, eyes squeezed shut.

“Yes, you’re doing great,” the nurse said. Sarah clutched the arm of the chair; her knuckles were white. I felt a stab of pity, and gently took her hand after all. I felt her relax, to a degree.

“So do you girls have any plans for the weekend?” the nurse asked, not taking her eyes from the vial.

Sarah exhaled noisily, and I felt her relax more. “No, not really.”

“Just hanging out at her place,” I said.

“It’s supposed to be a nice weekend,” the nurse said.

Suddenly Sarah tensed. “Ow!”

“What?” I asked.

“Are you okay, Sarah?” the nurse asked.

“No….it hurts!” She was squirming slightly in the seat.

I glanced at the nurse. She was moving the needle slightly. Why are you doing that?, I thought, but stopped before I could open my mouth. There wasn’t any more blood filling the vial. This, I thought, would probably bother Sarah to know.

“Does it still hurt?” the nurse asked.

“Yes!” It sounded like she was trying not to cry.

“It’s all right, Sarah,” I said. “Look, she’s got it now!” I noticed the vial filling faster now; the nurse must have gotten the needle right where she wanted it.

But Sarah was squirming more, her feet drawing up from the footstand, like she was trying to curl up in a ball.

Now the nurse looked concerned. “Do you feel funny, Sarah?”

“Yes,” was the immediate sobbed response.

“Okay.” The nurse immediately withdrew the needle. She motioned me near. “Press down on this,” she said, putting a cotton ball over the site where the needle had been. “Sarah, put your head down and breathe.”

Sarah immediately did so, trying to breathe deeply. I could tell she was trying not to cry. That may have been me projecting, however, as I was trying not to cry myself. She wasn’t a baby for being afraid of the procedure. She was strong to go through with it. On “Gilligan,” the Skipper was sleepwalking and yelling about bombers. A laugh track ensued. I was ready to kill it.

The nurse rubbed the back of Sarah’s neck briefly, then put her hand against it. “Push up against my hand.”

Nothing. Sarah didn’t budge.

Then there was a sudden loud clop sound, which made me and the nurse jump. Sarah’s sandal had fallen off her foot to the floor. It didn’t rouse her.

Bloody hell, she’s fainted.

The nurse stepped into the hall, called for another nurse, but I just stared down at my friend. She seemed so small. On the television, Gilligan was trying to tell the Skipper about his sleepwalking, but the Skipper thought Gilligan was the one sleepwalking. Gilligan responded by falling into a pool of water.

I noticed she was slowly stretching her foot down and around. “Sarah?”

A beat, then, muffled, “Oh, I lost my shoe.”

I felt profoundly relieved. “Don’t worry. It’s over.”

The nurses returned, and helped Sarah out of the chair to the sofa nearby. They propped her knees up and had her lay there for a while until the color slowly returned to her cheeks. One nurse brought her a cup of water to drink as the other nurse left with the vial of blood. When she came back, Sarah was sitting up.

“We won’t have to re-stick you, Sarah,” the nurse said. “There’s enough blood here so the technicians can run their tests.”

As we were leaving the clinic, I asked, “Did it really hurt?”

She wasn’t very happy. “Yes! It felt like a black hole opening over my hand!”

I was proud of her.

“I get this done twice a year,” she seethed. “Why is it such an ordeal?”

“You did all right,” I reassured her.

She shook her head, obviously not convinced.

Lightly, I said, “You know, I could have the director write this story into the movie.”

She smiled faintly. “You do and I’ll sue.”

I hoped she was joking. Sometimes with Sarah, I really couldn’t tell.

(C) by me, Mouse, originally early 2009, but ever-changing and looking ahead to more!


Image found via Google search for 'cherchez la femme'
Image found via Google search for ‘cherchez la femme’

4 thoughts on “Story offering – “Cherchez La Femme” (most of it, anyway)

  1. Dear Mouse – I first want to say how touched I was by that kind comment of yours about me on Britt’s blog….and then on the story – one thing is not important, but don’t they usually take it from the arm – ie if one arm is not good they would just use the other one….just veins in the hand are smaller and well, they do hurt more.

    Then, more substantive – not sure why the person has to be famous…in fact it seemed to me to get in the way of the thing I find really interesting in this – the three way dynamic between nurse, friend and patient… just disregard this if you like, but what I really like here is that you have picked up on a scene we all face, and dread, but do not discuss much. So the needle and blood thing is a good idea, well, again, I think so!

    • Thank you, John. I’ve still got things to think on with this, I know. It is a work in progress. Things could change.

      I have tiny veins, anyway, and every phlebotomist I’ve ever seen has told me so. Several times, they’ve had to draw blood from the back of my hand because they had a hard time finding a decent enough vein at either elbow! And, yes, the best I can describe it is the one time, it did feel like a black hole opening over my hand. Don’t know why I thought that, but I did.

      Here’s a good bruise story – when I first ever had blood drawn (due to that January 15th), both veins in both elbows blew because the needles were too big. So I had pretty decent-sized bruises at both elbows for about two weeks – the one at my left elbow was about the size of a JFK half-dollar coin, and the one at my right elbow was as long as a newly-sharpened pencil. At the time, I wanted someone to take pictures of them, but my mom and my older sister were horrified by that idea. Ehh, can’t say I blame them, but I sort wish I had done it anyway.

      • And as to the ‘she’s famous’ thing….really, it’s a sort of story that I’ve been wanting to try to write since I was little. A couple books I liked to read when I was younger dealt with a famous girl and her not-famous friend/s. The idea behind this whole story actually sprung back in 2003, when I saw a movie starring this particular actress, and I did some research on her afterwards, and at the time, she seemed like someone I would have liked to be friends with (don’t know if that would still hold true now). And how would a famous person get along with a not-famous person? I just like the idea and the dichotomy that presents itself.

        Egad. That doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, does it? I’ll have to do some more thinking.

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