Brickwork was all that was between them these days, and little good it did, for they hadn’t spoken for over thirty years, for a reason neither chose to remember.
Now, each of them left alone in the world, they continued with their long-forgotten feud. Two women whiling away the dog days of their lives empty and routine, of no comfort to anyone, least of all themselves.
The doorbell rang on a Tuesday, much to Mildred’s surprise.
She woke from her mid-morning doze with a jump and hurried as best she could to the door, checking her hair and other presentation as she passed the hall mirror. Not perfect, but she would do.
“Hello, Mrs Jenkins, how are you today?” He didn’t wait for an answer as he bustled his way through his bag.
Soft blonde curls lay on their pillows. Two near-mirror images face each other with only a nightlight to see them, somehow making more of them, in that angelic light.
Every evening, Julia always feels a little choked when she walks in and looks at them. It would be ten years tomorrow she brought them home and she can never make sense of where the time has gone. She tip-toes over and pulls the cover up a little on Isabelle and pushes teddy back into bed with Melissa. She stops and smiles once more as she leaves them.
All is well. Continue reading
You see a flash of orange across the square, just for a moment.
It’s the first time that you’ve actually seen him, but you know there have been other times recently when you sensed him as well.
It was a him back then. Always a him. For that’s how you know they do it. Every time.
He’s gone now, after he knows you saw him. Not that he was anyone you actually knew.
But you did know of him, from the other times.
That one time in the back street in Siena. And the other time way up in Ravello, way across the valley from the restaurant. The pizza was the best you’d ever had and Michel was with you. He almost threw you off guard for a while. Those beguiling eyes that he used so much to his advantage, peering deep into your soul.
“Goodbye darling. I love you.”
My little red legs are running to keep up with her as we scurry along, on that misty, cold morning. It’s a grey and brooding Victorian stone-built school and I’m feeling bad as we make our way through the crowd of bigger children and their parents. We walk up the steps, where a blonde, cheery woman speaks with my mother, sharing encouraging, sympathetic words. As she touches my mother’s arm, one last time, I look up at that face I love and she smiles a nervous smile and turns and leaves through the half-glazed door. I’m rooted to the floor in disbelief. My new red St James’ blazer is stained with bitter tears. “Come along Reggie, let’s hang your coat up here.” Continue reading
The ring of empty seats that surrounded him was an indication not only of the nits he was supposed to have in his wild red hair, but of how they all shunned everything about him. He had gotten used to being ignored by the others. It wasn’t the first time he’d experienced ridicule and loneliness in a classroom.
As the fire alarm bells rang, Miss Dufour put in motion the well-rehearsed drill. It was not Friday at 11 am after all, it was Tuesday.
They didn’t do drills on Tuesdays.
Michael saw the meat fall as he bit into the thick sandwich. He’d thought he wouldn’t be able to get it in his mouth. The pastrami on rye, wasn’t quite. It was more pastrami on table.
The sandwich was huge and it was the size of it that took him back all those years.
They’d been on a last-minute trip of a lifetime to see the sights of the Big Apple. For Jess, though, it was more than that, for she was starting her new life as well. The New York office job at Cantor Fitzgerald was an opportunity she could never pass up on, he knew that, but he worried he would lose her when she started there, across the wide Atlantic.
It had happened to him before. When Helen went to university a year before him, he realised that there would be strains, but he never thought she would end it with him. Girlfriends in far off places would always cause him some anxiety.
Their last meal at Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue was a treat they’d waited for. A New York icon for visitors and locals alike, the kitsch entrance lobby was full of pictures of the stars past and present who had eaten there and it only precluded the glass cases of huge desserts they both drooled over in anticipation.
I position myself to shoot. The target bobbles into vision in the scope and I’m ready. I suck air in deeply and slowly, then squeeze on the last out breath. That’s how I always did it back in the old days.
Never failed me. Gently does it.
I once heard that lunacy was defined as ‘a population of one, believing themselves right’. I don’t know where I heard that – or even if I did. Maybe I made it up. My thinking around this little situation is perfectly sound – to me – and that’s all that matters. Maybe it’s a little selfish, but I am doing a service to so many. The fallen. The innocent. The unprotected.
And looking after myself as well, of course. In this case, everyone’s a winner, in the biggest sense, except him, of course. Even his family and friends loathe him behind the scenes, so I’ve heard. So they can be on my side and, in their quiet moments, raise thanks to their God above, too, now that it’s done.
I slip silently from the 300 thread silk sheets we brought with us. He doesn’t move at all. It’s early yet and I can barely see what I’m doing. The darkness in my eyes still getting in the way. I stumble a little and find support in the bathroom door. And I find the chair where my things ended up. At least some of them did.
I look back at Johnny, and smile as I think of the night. Our night. Together.
It’s always the same amazing same with Johnny and just thinking of it makes the rest of the world go away. The world with all the imponderables of the changes that will surely come now.
He heard the van at six. The time they always came. He was ready and waiting and eager to get on his way.
Before they had time to knock, he was at the door and took his place in the informal procession to his place in the back. Through the darkness, the overhead neon lights provided an institutionalized backdrop to exaggerate the intensity of the rain that hammered on the roof.
“Ready Albert?” He knew the guards well enough for them to call him by his first name.
“All buckled up? We don’t want any accidents now, do we?” Roberts chuckled lairily as he looked across to his mate who was driving.
“Going home then, are we?”
She came to me every week. A crowd of skinny dark faces parted as I walked to her, alone in the impeccable dark blue suit. Perfect in a thousand other places.
“I love you.”
The smile appeared amidst the heat and dust.
“I know.” She took my hand and led me to the cottage by the sea.
“What about Erica?”
She always asked. In my guilt, she looked at me with a knowingness she never explained and in those moments she held me all the tighter; loved me all the deeper.