“You’re going on a little holiday. Just for a few days.”
Dad cajoled me towards the front of Uncle Jim’s car. With me between him and Aunt Edna on the long, leatherette seat, we could all just about fit.
“But why?” I could see my Mum looking weary, as she peered out at me from the front door of our house.
“You’ll have fun. And it will only be for a few days.” He gave me the third hug since we came outside.
I gave in to the ushering of my Aunt, unwedged my arms from between the two of them and, before I had time to resist any more, the journey began.
Once again, she had been talked into it. Even though she thought differently, Jeremy had got his way.
Deborah never knew why she let it happen, for she had her own preferences, and now, as it turned out, his weaknesses had let him down and they were in quite a fix.
She’d been there before and knew more than he did. She could have tried to put him off perhaps. At at this stage in their relationship she simply thought, “Why should I?”
I’d been waiting in all day for the postman to call. The book I needed was urgent for the research paper. When he arrived, it was not there, much to my disappointment. Instead, in an envelope addressed to me by hand, was a small lined postcard, the sort used for indexing, with a cryptic, handwritten message: –
‘I’m not dead. Meet me Tuesday night at 8 at our old haunt.’
I’d arrived back in my home town late on Sunday to see off my old friend Jim Barnes. We went right back to junior school and despite our being estranged for so many years, I felt quite a pang of sadness as I walked up the path to the crematorium. There were no other faces I knew and after some consideration, I sat on the family side. As the heavy red curtains pulled across that one final time, I admit that I shed a tear. Not so much for Jim, but more as an acknowledgement to my own mortality, about which I had been thinking more and more often recently.
Our old haunt was a small fishing shack out on the lake. As kids, we would make a beeline for it as often as we could. Far away from the prying eyes of overprotective parents. Somewhere we could be ourselves and explore without much interference the multiple rites of passages of boys growing up.
Slowly but surely the train lurches to a halt. Hugo finishes his pastry. There are sounds of shouting outside and he wipes some of the condensation from the window with his thick glove. He can just make out vague, directionless flashes of light in the dark, against the banks of snow.
He looks across at the girl, and sees her eyes. Her pupils are huge. Her brow is wrinkled and shiny. She holds his eye contact so tightly that he cannot, for a moment or two, let go.
There are voices coming along the corridor, indistinct initially and growing in volume as they proceed towards them. For a second or two, Hugo cannot forgo a look as they approach and yet when he looks back, she is still looking right at him.
Imperceptibly, he nods. No-one else in the compartment notices, for it was such a small nod. Yet the girl sees it and just as subtly returns the tiny movement back to him. Continue reading
A tea shop, somewhere up North…
So, I said to her, ‘This can’t be happening again.’
What did she say?
Well, you know what she’s like, she always knows best – or so she thinks. Drives me mad. How can someone always be right. That’s what I want to know. Continue reading
It had started in the boardroom and spread to the shopfloor.
Safe in her sanctuary, Eliza wound the strand of hair wound her finger once again. And looked up.
“You promised that wouldn’t happen again.”
“I didn’t know the others were feeling like that.” James replied, taking a seat.
“Don’t even think of sitting down. You have things to sort out.”
He shot out of his seat. Continue reading
The vacant dance floor is echoing to the music. I’m watching carefully, but there’s no sign of her. Steady on, there’s plenty of time.
I have a clear and casual view to the doors, without looking desperate. Cool is the place to be, for us all.
My nose wrinkles at the heavy, sweet smell of the floor wax and the reflections of the disco lights show that someone has been busy during the afternoon.
I sip my coke more often than I need to. I’m tempted to bravely suck the lemon as I would at home, but perhaps not, I decide. I see another small group of excited faces laughing as they come in.
Still no sign of her.
“Should be some talent in tonight, you reckon?” Billy says to me, interrupting my thoughts. “Some little crackers.”
“Yea. Sure. Of course,” I’m irritated at his trivia, for I’m on a right old mission. Tonight’s the night for Gemma.
“…Calling out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat…” Continue reading
August brought the rain, unexpectedly after the searing heat of July. A heat that was as exhausting for its intensity as it was for its consistency.
The locals had something else to bitch about now. Far from the cooling relief, they complained about it raining ‘again’, fickle as they always were.
As she walked home, Simone had more to think about than the ups and downs of the weather, for August brought her crisis fully into focus. This was the month she’d had ringed in her calendar all year.
The month when it would finally come to an end. Continue reading
“How are you feeling now?” she said, as she sat on the bed beside him, soothing his head with a cool flannel.
“Not very well, Mummy.” He shifted around, uncomfortable in his sweaty pyjamas.
“What can I get you for your dinner?” she knew she had to get some food inside him. ‘Feed a cold, starve a fever.’ She remembered what her mother had told her.
“I don’t want anything. I’m NOT hungry.” Was ALL he said.
“You’ll have to have something. Build you up.” she got up and straightened her pinafore.
“That soup.” He shouted after her, as she disappeared into the kitchen.
He would eat something, for the first time in days. So she allowed herself a smile as she reached for the tin from the cupboard.
She knew that he would eat this, his favourite. The chip pan was already bubbling away and they would be ready soon.
“Would you like a few chips in it as well?” She didn’t wait for his affirmation, for she knew he would. She smiled again. Continue reading
He was white as he lay there. As white as he had ever been in his life, which was now as ebbed away as a life could be.
The small crowd that had formed was starting to drift away. Nothing more to be seen here.
For nothing was going to happen now, as the paramedics began to wrap up their gear and load the body onto the collapsible gurney one of them had fetched from the ambulance. Continue reading