“I’m bored... Bored, bored, bored.”
“Wanna play a game, then?”
“Okay; what shall we play?”
“I know! Let’s play ‘Protagonists and Secondary Characters’. I’ll be the protagonist;
you can be the secondary character.”
“But you’re always the protagerist. Why can’t I be the protagerist this time?”
“You just can’t.”
“’Cos you’re a girl, and girls can’t be protagonists. Daddy said so. Anyway, I bet you
don’t even know how to do it.”
“Protagonize, of course.”
“Er... Yes; at least I think so.”
“Go on, then; do it.”
“Well, first you have to stand like this... see? And then you wave your arms around
“You look silly.”
“Well, I can’t do it properly unless I have a viewpoint. Protagonists always need
viewpoints, so I’m going to build one right here behind the settee. Oh, don’t pout
like that; you can share it if you want to.”
“Why should I want to share your stupid viewpoint? It’s all one-sided. Mine’s over
here by the window, so it’s much more enlightened than yours. And no boys
“Ha! Your position is indefensible! I can attack your viewpoint from all sides.”
“Go on then; make my day. Start protagerizing.”
“I can’t; I need ten things about me first.”
“What sort of things?”
“Oh, you know... Just things.”
“Do I get to have ten things too?”
“No; secondary characters only get to have nine things.”
“That’s no fair! I want ten things, like you.”
“Hey, what are you doing? Stop it! Let go of my thing!”
“Children? What’s all that noise?”
“She’s holding onto my thing, Mom, and she won’t let go!”
“She’s doing what? Roberta! Stop that this instant!... Oh! For a minute there I
thought... Well, never mind.”
“But Mom, I need his thing so I can be the protagerist.”
“The word is ‘protagonist’, honey.”
“But girls can’t be protagonists, can they, Mommy? Daddy told me.”
“Oh, he did, did he? Well, you listen to me, sweetie. You don’t need a thing like
your brother to be a protagonist. Girls can do it every bit as well as boys.”
“You mean... Daddy’s wrong?”
“Yes! Er... No! Well, maybe he’s a little confused. I’ll sort him out - I mean we’ll sort
it out - later this evening, okay? In the meantime, you kids must play nicely
together; you must play by the rules.”
“Rules, Mom? What are the rules?”
“They’re called Robert’s Rules, sweetheart; your Dad uses them at work all the
time. They’re all in this book here. Now, you read the rules and play quietly while I
finish making dinner.”
“Cool! Now I can protagonize properly. Let’s see what the rules say. Hmm... First,
we need to choose a Chair. This one’ll do.”
“What’s that for?”
“I guess it’s for me to stand on while I protagonize. But apparently I can’t do that
unless I have a quorum.”
“Like where I keep my goldfish?”
“That’ll have to do. And then - you’re not going to believe this! - the rules say we
have to pass a motion.”
“What? Right here in the living room? I don’t think Mom’s going to like that.”
“You’re right. We’d better skip that one.”
“Okay... You’ve got your viewpoint, your ten things about you, the rules, a Chair,
and a quorum. Now are you ready to protagonize?”
“I need to choose who I want to be first. I think I’ll be the President, ‘cos he’s got all
the best words.”
“What about me? What am I?”
“You can be a Board member.”
“But I was bored before we even started this stupid game! Next time, I’ll be the
protagonist, and we’ll play by Roberta’s Rules.”
(c) Andrew Ball
I flip the calendar page over. The big red cross is in sight now, but we still don’t use
Nearly ten years we’ve been here, Keith, his dog Rusty, John and I. Rusty’s a funny
old beast; born with one eye blue, the other green. They’re like glazed marbles now.
He must be on his last legs.
Keith felted the dining room table up back in ninety-six so we could play Texas
Hold’em for coppers or match sticks. None of them can read me for custard. Proper
poker face. I keep my match sticks in a Tupperware box I found next to the sink.
He’s a good egg is Keith, terrible cook though. We met outside of Currys’ Electricals
back in the winter of ninety-two. I had a terrible case of frostbite. He’d shared his
blanket in exchange for some rolling papers. We stayed in touch, on the front-line.
We’ve a four-ring hob now, a power shower and a large television with five
channels. Makes a change to have the sound up and I can’t say I miss watching all
the shows at once through the glass. I took the master bedroom. The boys were
more than happy to share the spare. I say boys, we’re all in our fifties now.
Jack pretty much keeps himself to himself. I’ve had more words out of the dog than
out of ‘e. The fridge has got more to say. I’d forgotten how lush a chilled beer on the
patio was in the heat of the summer. Hums like a rascal, that refrigerator. Instead
of moving on down the street though, I just move into another room if it gets on me
It’s funny how things turn out when you look back over twenty odd years. And they
have been odd, for me at least. I’m the first to admit I made a mess of my youth.
The bottle, red wine that is, never brought me said promises of unoaked, full bodied
essence of the Rhone valley, just a divorce and the sack. I spent my forties in the
stairwell of the NCP. Still chain the old coffin nails like it’s going out of fashion,
We have our happy routines: Job Centre on a Monday, Wetherspoon’s on a
Thursday, kebabs on a Friday at the start of the month, then beans with a flipped
egg to garnish when the giro runs dry. The boys keep the kitchen clean and I do the
lounge. The bathroom is no man’s land; it’s functional but you wouldn’t want to be
trapped in there for longer than needs be.
In and out.
I’ve fixed the place up a treat – put an extra bolt on the front and panelled up the
When I first arrived, his bed was off the ground. Pine slats, medium-to-firm
mattress and he had those Egyptian cotton sheets – the ones that hold the heat in.
They were in need of a wash though, even by my standards.
As soon as I was in, I did what I needed to do, tossed my old sweater and jeans on
the floor and used his shower gel. God, that water felt like liquid gold compared to
the public toilet three-point sponging.
Washed away years of street life under the power-jet head, I did, that first night. It
went cold at the end though - woke me up a treat. Penance for my sins I suppose.
Slept like a log after.
He was a man of habit; I’ll give him that. He even folded his under-crackers. I’ve
taken to a clean pair each day now we’ve figured out the washing machine. Once I’d
got out and dried off, I bundled my old clothes into a ball and stuffed them in the
bin. Then I slipped into something fancy; cashmere the label said, from Marks and
Spencers. I had a good rummage in his wardrobe, my bottom half needed covering
too. I remember thinking, given all that freedom of a job – an office worker of some
sort perhaps - bricks and mortar, money, why would anyone choose five identical
pairs of slacks?
Six foot on the nose I reckon, thirty-four-inch waist, on the right side of thirteen
A good size for a grown man. Felt it too. Nearly did my back in when I moved him.
He drank good coffee; mind and his freezer was full of those ready meals you put in
Couple of weeks later, once I’d worked my way through his comestibles, I had to
nip out and get more supplies. Found a twenty in his wallet so I came back fully
loaded, brought the boys back too. They’ve been here ever since.
When it arrives, I always open the post. It’s my gaff so I do the admin. Just a quick
check, make sure the direct debits are still being collected.
Keith found a stash of notes in the bottom of the wardrobe - must’ve been about
three grand or so. Old Roy must have been saving up for the apocalypse or
something - should’ve used a bank, silly old boy. Since having a roof over my head,
getting an account was easy as pie. Got me one of them cards too now mind. One
with a pin-code.
We always make sure one of us is in. There’s honour among thieves, see. John
doesn’t go out much anyway which is handy because Keith and myself love a brew
or three down the Ring O’ Bells. One of us is always locked in. Just in case anyone
snooping catches wind.
I keep looking at the red cross and I’m wondering which of them legal beagles I’m
going to let handle this case. Got a few cards from my last trip downtown, I have.
Put on his smartest suit I did, fits me a treat. Looks like royalty in it, I do.
We’re both size nine and a half so he gifted me some lovely leather penny loafers
which are perfect for driving in. It’s my yard, so the boys and I’ve agreed - I get the
Aston Martin and I’m keeping the keys to the garage. No questions asked. When I
do nip out for a spin, I take his black leather driving gloves and waxed jacket from
the hall and a handkerchief to hold over my nose - just to get it out of the garage.
No photos anywhere when I first arrived, except a sepia one in the hallway. Looks
old as time, must be his parents or grandparents. Poor old chap can’t have had any
family. That, our measurements and our schooling are the only similarities we’ve
got, I guess. No one’s come after him anyway and he’s still paying all the bills.
He was a mean man and he died with little, yet he still had more than I. I saw him
often, with his snide glares, passing me as I sat cap-in-hand outside of County
Stores. Never gave me the time of day. We’d sat side-by-side at school, Roy
Sneddon and I. We sat side-by-side in the register, so we were sat side-by-side in
the class for five years at least. Five years of Sneddon’s sneaking eyes running up
and down my answers every day. It was enough to drive a man crazy.
Following him home had been a doddle. He seemed oblivious to my presence. In
fact, he seemed unaware of anything but his chest which he clutched like a wild
rabbit as he entered his abode. Key in nook, I saw his humped frame launch
through the door, as he fell into the hallway. I stood and watched.
Do I feel guilt I expect you’re wondering? Not at all. Death comes to us all, some a
little sooner than nature intended. Carpe diem - our old school motto. If I hadn’t
seized this opportunity, it’d just have rolled into the hands of the state.
Nearly ten years ago, from behind the hydrangea, I crept, carrying my worldly
possessions on my back. Not another soul was watching as death swept his away.
A rind of moon clung onto the midnight sky that night, smiling at me, giving me the
signal, the go-ahead. I lunged over his sprawled carcass which lay blocking my new
front door. The moon slid behind a blanket of cloud. I stood and I waited for total
darkness to take over then I dragged him through.
Seventeen days and the law says this’ll all be mine.
I took the cane for him on more than one occasion; he always copied my
schoolwork. Thing is, I was never a grass.
There’s a big red cross on the calendar this month and we still don’t use the
(c) S.J. Townend
Loud clanging and the beating of a drum woke me from a dead sleep. For
several moments, blanketed in tomb-like blackness, I assumed that the ruckus I
was hearing was a continuation of the storm that had raged throughout the night.
The longer I lay there, the more I was convinced that something else was taking
place outside the hotel. Whatever it was, I wished it would stop; it was forcing me
awake. The persistent noise refused to go away… Instead it grew louder and
sounded more like a parade.
I edged myself around Suna, careful not to wake her, and groped my way
through the darkness holding onto the table, the wall, and the sink. I fumbled
several moments with the wooden shutters before finding the latch, unhooking it,
and thrusting both sides open. Sunshine poured in, drenching me with far too
much light. I blocked out what I could with my hand and squinted until my half-opened
eyes could adjust to the intense brightness.
On the narrow street below, a Chinese procession in full swing passed in front
of the hotel. Leading the way, a truck carried several people beating gongs and
drums, accompanied by pre-recorded hypnotic chanting. Squeezed in with the
musicians was an odd assortment of food, including a whole roasted pig. A crowd
of people dressed in black walked behind the truck. Some wore gunny sacks over
their heads like makeshift hats, others held dark umbrellas. Despite the gaiety of
the music, no one in the procession was smiling. Several, in fact, were crying. It
took several moments for it to sink in what was going on; then I saw something I
never wanted to see first thing in the morning….Suspended from a long pole like
freshly captured quarry and shouldered by several men was a casket.
Trailing behind the mourners, several Indians pushed purple sedan effigies on
wheeled carts. The men struggled to keep the uncooperative wheels going straight.
The wheels clearly had a mind of their own. The effigies, like circus clowns, were
constantly and rather comically on the verge of crashing into each other. Yet no
one was laughing.
As I watched the funeral procession pass by, I felt a distinct uneasiness, an
urging not that unsimilar to what I had felt upon boarding the ferry to Penang. An
urging that refused to go away…. I tried to remove the gloom from my mind. I
wanted to think about life, not death. I wanted to dwell on the present, particularly
last night with Suna, and the future.
Today was a new beginning for me. Today, I realized, was also a Monday, a
day for getting things done. A day for tackling long overdue tasks. From my years
of running Copycat Boston, tackling long overdue tasks first thing Monday morning
was an ingrained habit. Clearing unwanted tasks would give me a sense of
accomplishment and would propel me through the week. The one task I had been
avoiding since arriving in Penang was calling Patricia. Finally, I felt ready to make
that call…confident to clear the air and put everything behind us so I could move
forward with my life here in Penang. I owed that to Suna. Patricia was my past.
Suna, if she’d have me, my future.
If only there was a phone in the room, I’d call Patricia right now, get it done
and over with. Last night I glimpsed one at the front desk. Even if the clerk
allowed me to use it, which I seriously doubted, it’d afford me no privacy, plus the
inevitable interruptions from guests coming or going or checking out. For a
moment I felt stumped. If only I were back at the E & O….The thought crossed my
mind that if I hurried back to the E & O, I could make the call, get cleaned up and
be back before Suna even woke up. By making that call, I could have the best of
both worlds: an unpleasant task completed and the prospect of spending the rest
of the morning in bed with Suna.
I didn’t like the idea of leaving Suna, but I knew that if I waited for her to
wake up, the mood would be different, the call would not be made, and the
opportunity would be lost. Knowing my tendency to procrastinate, it could be days
before I got around to it, assuming Patricia could wait that long. The one thing I
feared more than anything was having Patricia show up in Penang. I knew
Patricia, and she knew Penang far better than me.
I kissed Suna on the shoulder; however, she didn’t budge, sound asleep. I got
dressed and left a note on the dresser informing her I would be back within the
hour. At the bottom of the note, I added those eight magical letters I hadn’t had
the courage to say to anyone in a very long time: I LOVE YOU.
While waiting outside for a passing trishaw or taxi, I noticed an elderly woman
bent over as she tied flattened cardboard boxes to a wooden cart, oblivious to the
traffic swerving around her. The woman straightened up yet remained doubled
over, permanently crippled. She continued to push the heavy cart along the road
to forage for more boxes. When she came to where I was standing, she turned her
head sideways to look at me. Her eyes were cold and gray and the expression on
her sun-baked face was lifeless, akin to death itself. As she continued to stare, I
felt a sudden chill and had a premonition that something bad was going to happen.
This lingering feeling, coupled with seeing the funeral procession, caused me to
reflect upon the wisdom of leaving the sanctuary of Suna’s bare side in a bed still
warm from the heat of my own body.
(c) Robert Raymer
We all feel alone sometimes. It’s especially easy to feel alone when you perk up in your bed at 1 AM, unsure of whether or not you just heard your door creak open. Are you alone? Is someone in your room, waiting for you to drift back into dreamland, just so they can take you?
It’s pitch black outside, you are home alone, and you get out from underneath your safe haven of covers to investigate the hopefully imagined noise coming from your doorway... so you creep to the door. You cower behind that wooden door that blocks you from whatever is in your house right now. It is the only thing separating you from what lies beyond the threshold. What you don’t know is that the door would serve as much purpose as using a wooden shield to block a dragon’s breath. Useless. You hear something, or someone, in the house shuffling through your kitchen. You keep telling yourself that no one is in the house, that you’re safe. But paranoia sets in. Or is it a built-in sense, leftover from when we were hairy little chimps, that let you know when a crocodile was stalking you. When you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and your stomach freefalls to your feet with a reverberating pounding sensation, that shoots through every nerve ending in your body. But maybe it is just paranoia. Did you lock all the doors? Maybe you forgot one, and someone just walked into your house with ease, laughing quietly to themselves, thinking, “How stupid IS this kid?”
You remember locking each door, as you mentally check each one by memory. But… then you realize. Maybe you left a window open and the intruder climbed his way in through your sister's bedroom. She lives on the bottom floor and absolutely needs to sleep with a breeze. Her window is always open. He, no… IT, must have seen that. No. No, there’s no one in the house, you think to yourself almost laughing at how naive that sounded. After what felt like hours, but was most likely just minutes, you feel confident enough to open the door and perform the classic leap across the hall, into your bathroom. Typically, that leap is performed in fear of the unknown. This time, it was in fear of what is known. You shut the door as gently as humanly possible so as not to alert the intruder of your presence. Hopefully, he thinks the house is empty. But you know deep down he does not care. You hear something drop and shatter from inside the bathroom. Just behind you. Your body freezes with terror, you feel the paralyzing toxin that is pure terror shoot down your nervous system, causing you to sweat profusely as your Lizard brain sends every possible signal to fight, but the terror… the terror has you locked in place. You close your eyes, breathe what would be your last breath, and force 12 yourself to turn around, almost painfully. When you open your eyes, for the first time, you can breathe. A sigh that decompressed such excruciating tightness built up in your chest leaves your body when you realize it was the cat that knocked it over. Whiskers must have been making all this noise the whole fucking time. Finally, you are convinced you’re alone in the house, and that it was just your instinctual reaction to behave in such a way. You open the bathroom door with a liberal push. A non-fearful push, nearly braggadocious. You head into the kitchen and grab some cold cuts from the fridge, so you can roll them around some cheese like a true Austrian. They’re rotten. Mom hasn’t stocked up recently. She also hasn’t been home in a month. Your fault. Wired with enough energy to jumpstart a small sedan from your intruder scare, you retreat to your covers and stay up doing the schoolwork you’re behind on. Fuck math.
For some reason, your parents still have a house phone, and it starts ringing in the kitchen. At first you jump in fear, still a little wary of what could be out lurking in your home. Thinking nothing of it you walk into the kitchen and pick up the phone. It’s your mother.
“Hey, Mom, is everything okay?”
“Yes, honey I’m okay, Vienna is beautiful in the winter. I just wanted to remind you to let Whiskers out.”
“Oh right, yeah. Yeah... I’ll get on that. Thanks for reminding me. And mom, it’s the middle of the night, can you call me at a different time please? I was asleep and you scared me half to death.”
“Yeah, yeah I know. By the way, Johnny is your phone dead? I tried texting you, but it didn’t go through.”
“Uhh let me check, I’ll call you back okay?”
“Okay bye honey give me a call when you’ve figured it out.”
You go to your room to check your phone. It’s not on your bed where you left it. You walk back into the kitchen, start picking up all the mail on the counter looking for it, when you pick up the note your mother left with chore instructions. Before tossing it, you notice something on the page that catches your eye. On the bottom of the page is a handwritten note. Not your mother’s Times New Roman… The paper falls from your hands as you read it.
You hear your ringtone go off on your phone from behind you and your heart drops to the floor so hard you could hear it. “Don’t turn around” speaks a voice of unknown origin.
(c) Alexander Gerolimatos
I should’ve realized how the day would get when I broke the shoelace of my left
shoe in the morning.
Or when I forgot the car keys inside the car.
Or, when the judge, on grounds of two counts for adultery, one for mental
harassment and one for domestic abuse, granted my ex-wife the bungalow and the
Those should have been the signs that this day would end as anything but
Even my ever-faithful Jack was proving to be highly inefficient. With half the bottle
empty (or half full; at this point, I was way beyond bother), the dull throbbing in my
head matched the rhythm of this hell of a thunderstorm. This constantly twisting
and turning road wasn’t helping either. It was like a giant ink-black snake trying to
slither its way to the top of the mountain.
Earlier that day, my attorney had given me the filthiest look one could manage
while being on the subject’s payroll. With a 3-day stubble, and not one of those
sexier ones you find outside a modelling agency office, I certainly looked less than
presentable. Add to that a once-expensive black suit that looked like it had been
slept in and leather shoes (with a missing shoelace) that had successfully avoided a
clean cloth for some time now, and it was no wonder the jury did not reconcile me
with the ‘hard-working, honest family man’ that my attorney had been spouting
about for the past six months.
The thunderstorm was threatening to reach its howling best. The pouring rain had
reduced visibility on the road to almost nothing. There were just two narrow,
bouncing headlights moving blindly over the unending snake.
Just as one of my windshield wipers stopped working, I spotted him for the first
What I saw in my rear-view were two highly distorted pricks of light piercing the
darkness I was leaving behind. Judging by the bouncing quality of light, John Doe
seemed to be in even more hurry than I was. Though I should have felt better
having another person to share the menacing night and my death-wish with my
brain (whatever part was still functioning. Jack was making its presence felt now.)
had already classified him as the intruder on my territory of the night.
The mountain was mine; the snake was mine.
The intruder had already reached me by the time I got my windshield wiper to work
again. I could see his car more clearly now. It was similar, if not exactly same, to
my car. The color was perhaps black to my ‘more sophisticated’ midnight blue. The
car looked in need of a visit to a workshop. Both the windshield wipers were
completely inert. It was a wonder this idiot had managed to drive so far at this
speed. I was almost marvelling at his driving skills when he started honking.
At first, it was just a single short honk. Harmless enough. But soon, he switched to
the type of horn you hear when the driver drops dead in the seat. The incessant
honk, coupled with the near-deafening thunderclaps and rain that seeps to the
bones, was driving me to the edge. It was like all the day had to offer, night had
stuffed in a bag, shaken vigorously, and thrown at my face. That’s when I decided:
This idiot is not getting past tonight. You had the day; the night is mine. I steered a
little to the left and then as soon as he sped up to overtake, slid right in front of
him. As expected, his horn became even more expressive, if that was possible. A
squelch of a laugh erupted from my mouth, even though I would have had trouble
pointing out the joke.
His tailgating got even more aggressive. He began to come up right close to my car
and then back off, even lightly scraping my car once. It felt like somebody was
poking me from a deep slumber. I think I heard something snap inside me.
The gloves were off. Apparently, adrenalin and alcohol are not so good for your
He was extremely competitive, that I can tell you about him. Neither of us yielded
an inch. The sound of screeching added to the night of thunder. We both knew we
were at the end of our patience and luck. The question was- Who would run out of
it first. Every time he decided on a direction, I would anticipate. It was as if we were
getting our orders from the same master. A passer-by would have thought we were
a part of the president’s convoy. Given the condition of his car, it was remarkable
how he kept perfect pace with me.
And just when the battle was moving towards a certain stalemate, the events o the
night took an unexpected turn, much like this road that was our battleground.
We were heading towards a rather precarious bend to the left in the road ahead.
This was especially tricky as it was just tempting enough to seduce my tailgater to
attempt an overtaking manoeuvre. Determined not to let him pass, I had my eye
firmly on the rear-view mirror when suddenly my unreliable windshield wipers gave
way. They just dropped dead, as if a sniper had shot them. That distraction of a
second was all that my tailgater needed to take his chance. He swiftly swerved to
my right and accelerated. Even before I heard the screeching of his tires and the
protest of the engine against the acceleration, I knew the battle was over. As his car
drew abreast, the weight of the day finally proved too unbearable. With a ferocious
cry not unlike a wounded predator, I jerked my wheel with all my strength to my
As he passed me, I hit his car’s swiftly receding boot. The car swerved a little and
my adversary countered the steering wheel to negate the impact. For a second, it
looked as if he would get it under control and my mistakes of the day would end
there. But with a sudden twitch, the car swerved wildly to one side and flipped. The
whole event looked like a fascinatingly macabre performance. With three flips, the
car came to a screeching halt, resting on its hood. To me, it suddenly felt like
someone had turned the volume down to absolute zero. I was uncomfortably very
aware of my breathing. My first reaction was to gun my engine and speed away. It
was hard to imagine a human body surviving the impact of this magnitude. But as
relatively saner thoughts returned, a morbid curiosity of taking one last look at this
intruder took hold of me. I did not turn off my engine. Leaving my jacket on the
seat, I stepped out in the rain, as if spellbound by the dance of death I had just
witnessed. As soon as I stepped out, the volume was turned up.
The rain had been worse than I thought. By the time I took the fifth step, every
inch of my body had been breached. My shoes squelched in the rain. Tire marks,
after a few twists, disappeared in the darkness. Tar had been chipped off from the
road where the car had hit it. There was an acrid smell of burning rubber. The road
was still recovering from what it had witnessed; the conspicuous steam rose from
the assault of the tires. What had started as just another bleak day in a
progressively bleaker looking life was inching towards the end with this journey.
The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word. I had
woken up with a start today when someone had whispered ‘guilty’ in my ear. As I
struggled to gather my bearings to meet the challenges that only a morning of
hangover can device, I had almost convinced myself that it was part of some weird
dream I was having given my impending divorce trial. But they don’t pronounce
you ‘guilty’ at a divorce hearing, do they? I mean there were a couple of bruises
over the years and this one time I had to take her to the emergency, but surely my
conscience wasn’t suddenly uncomfortable with my certain dark moments. I
thought we had made peace years ago.
I slowly made my way to the car. Up close, the car looked more midnight blue than
black. Given the wreckage all around me, it was impossible to be sure either way. I
could not spot my tailgater. I reached the car and peeled off the door. Door
stubbornly stuck for a moment, but then gave way. Eager flames snapped at the
rear end of the car. Veiled by the smoke, I pulled the bastard out of the car. I
looked into the face that must have mirrored my own incredulity.
Looking back at me with open disbelief was my face.
(c) Vaibhav Sharma
A sunbeam rippled through the skies above the sorrowful town and alighted on the
first leaves of spring. The leaves parted to allow it passage, though not before
exchanging pleasant how-do-you-do’s and swapping gossip on the sky. With a quick
goodbye, for it was expected somewhere else by midday, the sunbeam sped off,
spreading its light as it streaked through grassy meadows, and dotting the noses of
any daffodils curious enough to peek out their pistils. One such flower piped up
“Sunbeam, why are you in such a hurry? Would you not stay and delight us with
your presence further?”
A cascade of laughter bubbled up from the sunbeam, and it replied:
“Dear daffodil, you flatter me! But come, you are surrounded by your kin, the
dandelions and foxgloves, both of whose natural delights are sure to be more than
enough for your lifetime. Nay, you may liken my presence to a tryst: In passing it
might seem soft and pleasurable but partake in it too long and it will burn you to a
As I rolled across my newly laid linoleum floor, a warm sunbeam wrapped itself
around me, and Ally’s departure was absolutely the last thing on my mind. A mind
in which the entirety of this room -my room-, a garbage-strewn assemblage of wood
and plaster in downtown Manhattan, was contained. Beyond those walls lay the
expanse of the white space, limitless potential. People did things out there, I was
sure of it. I’d seen ‘em do it too.
I regarded my walls. I shouldn’t have caved to Ally’s suggestion to slather them
with white paint, they were basically the colour of wet diapers now. Big, soppy wet
diapers, the kind you really don’t want to clean. Ally’s suggestion. It was always
Ally, making the decisions, running off on her own. She could take her stupid
fucking record collection with her for all I- Ah. Nonono not now. Goodbye Ally, hello
walls. Walls. The walls, they were fine. Love these walls, what great walls, whose
idea was it to paint them? No clue. Whoever they are, they deserve a medal. A big
medal. Hadn’t Jack won a medal at some point? Yes, he had of course, the chess
medal, oh, what a tournament that had been. Twelfth grade? Jack had contracted
an eye infection off some six-year old halfway through. This meant Miss Flanagan,
being the only teacher on hand, was assigned the job of dictating the board
placements to him. Miss Flanagan also happened to have a rather present nervous
stutter which, while great for entertainment, had not been so good for Jack.
In these situations, there really were only losers.
‘Course, Jack had still won, because well it was Jack. You don’t beat Jack in chess.
Don’t think I’ve beaten him at anything. Ever. Anyway, he’d still looked like an
idiot, and me and Ally, we were never letting him live that one down, win or no win.
We’d stand outside his house; I’d put some weird gunk in my eye to make it look all
gross and Ally would- Alright this isn’t working. Stop it Cass. She’ll be here soon
anyway. I turn around, press my face hard into the floor and stare into the newly
laid linoleum abyss.
Slowly the newly laid lines of linoleum come loose, unfurling themselves in my
mind. They leave their physical anchors behind and travel into the air, these lines,
weave around and touch each other like entranced lovers, searching for one shape
which might fit them all. Moving, dancing, they shape themselves: eyes, ears, nose,
whiskers. Facing me is the linoleum-wrought figure of a wide-eyed cat.
Mum and I found one once. A stray cat I mean. We were walking back from the
beach when there it was. A tiny sound, fragile, like a snow globe, coming from
inside the bramble bushes. The foxes usually ate anything that got caught up in
the bush’s barbs, but this miraculous furball had survived. Think it was black and
white, but it could’ve been white and black. I mix those up all the time. A timid
little thing, it raised its paws and hissed bloody murder at us the moment we tore it
loose. Mum, who was never afraid of these things - I saw her stare down a guard
dog once - hunkered down and reached out her finger toward it. Its tiny fangs sank
deep into her flesh, and I watched a pearl of blood form on her soft fingertips. I
must have cried out or something because I remember her telling me it was okay,
that she wasn’t hurt. Mum beckoned me closer, her eyes shimmering like marbles
under the sun, and before I knew it I was on my haunches, feeling the kitten’s soft
white needles as they pierced my skin. It hurt like hell, and I tried to draw my
finger back, but Mum’s handheld it there with a grip like an army commander, as
she brought her mouth closer to my ear: “Don’t be scared Cassidy. It’s going to
hurt, but only for a little while. It’ll be gone soon. You can handle it. You’ll be fine.”
Sure enough, the fangs retreat, and I feel the cat’s hairs rub up against mine. I
open my eyes to my mother’s bright face beaming down at me. “See? Wasn’t that
great? Come on Cass, let’s bring him home!”
Both of our wounds got horribly infected of course. Mum was brave, I never said
she was smart. But we had a small furry miracle with us now, and we brought her
everywhere. I showed her to everyone I could. Showed her to Ally, and Jack too. “Go
on, fetch!” and the kitten would just sit there in pleasant befuddlement as Ally
chucked stick after stick afterI turn my back to the door, face the wall, and pull myself
along the floor towards it,
the black record shards strewn across the newly-laid linoleum digging into my skin
as I find comfort in its solid white surface. Maybe I should just count the sounds.
Car. Car. Car. Car. Car. Bike. Car...
“Hi Cass.” Door. “God I’m so beat; work was a nightmare.” Bag. “I could use a stiff
drink. See this place off with a toast, know what I’m saying?” Coat. Hat. “Vodka?
We should do vodka, we haven’t done vodka since Claremont...” Shoes, the Other
Door, “...d’you mind if I invite Jack in? He really wants to-” Nothing. Finally. “Cass?
Oh my god Cass what- Are those my FUCKING RECORDS Cassidy?” I wince.
Cassidy? No, she’s biting. It’s going to hurt, but only for a little while. It’ll be gone
soon, you’ll be fine. Wall again, wall. White space. “Are you ACTUALLY insane
Cass? Why the fuck are there pieces of my records all over the- WHAT THE FUCK
HAPPENED TO OUR FLOOR?” My floor. Not ours. She’s striding around. Striding
around in her well-kept jeans. On my floor. “Did you... Did you torch our floor?” My
floor. She strides closer. “We just laid that floor Cass.” Says it like it’s a fact. “Cass
I- I can’t deal with this anymore.” That’s when I know. Her hands. They’re not
coming. My back is empty. There’s too much restraint in that voice. My own hands
grind across hard stone, scraping against layers of white paint.
Coat, Hat, Shoes, Bag.
“Al? Ally what’s wrong?” Jack. He's outside. Good.
“Come on, we’re leaving.”
It’s the middle of November, Jack’s birthday party, at his parent’s house. I’ve
wriggled my way through the hormonal mists spilling around downstairs, and I find
Cassidy in the corner of a bedroom, her back illuminated by soft green light,
creeping through the window from the streetlamps outside.
“Cass?” I whisper, and I see that she’s shaking. I rush to her back, place my hands
on it, turn her over. “Cass?”
Her eyes are swimming. “Ally?”
“I’m here.” Her hair’s drowning, so I rescue it. “What happened?”
“Olly said I was insane.” Her voice is halfway toward being swallowed. “He hit me.”
There’s blood on her lip.
I pull her closer. “Why?” Softly. I know why. Jack told me.
She grins weakly, “I broke his grandma’s snow globe.”
“Cass! You have to stop doing things like that!”
She looks away, her gaze suddenly transfixed by my belly button. Her hair reminds
me of roasted chestnuts. “Jack said it too.”
“Jack just goes along with things.” I sigh. “He likes you y’know.”
“Funny fucking way of showing it.” Her head burrows further into my lap.
I sit there with her, wiping her tears away, allowing the silence from downstairs to
drift up and settle into the corners of the room.
“I don’t think I’m good with people.” She pulls at my fishnets.
“Shhh-shh-shh. Cass, look at me.” I hold my arms tighter around her. “Look at me.
That’s fine alright?” I stroke her hair. Her roasted chestnut hair. “You just need to
be good with me Cass.”
She turns her head toward me, her face fading into the rays of the dying
streetlamps outside; caught in a false sunbeam.
(c) Roghan David Aran Duggan Metcalf
I miss the feel of his head. The broad rough span beneath my fingers. Nose
crinkling hopefully as he pushes up into my hand. One fang catching gummily on a
I loved him because he was so reliably needing of love, of attention, of certainty.
He demanded nothing else, had no inconvenient flaws. No meekness, weakness,
instability, all the elements that set my teeth on edge with people.
I’m slow to empathise, quick to sentimentalise; I’m endlessly tolerant towards the
poor behaviour of animals but flicked on the raw by the slightest imperfection in
my fellow man.
Not an attractive characteristic by any measure. I thought this would at least mean
when the end came for my lovely boy, I would have the balls to face it square on as
some sort of comeback to every time I’ve shied away from feelings, failed to dredge
up a sliver of compassions for my imperfect, lovely ( I can’t even write that without
doubting I mean it) family and friends. But no, I failed in this too.
He wanted company right to the end, our palms ran gently across bony ribs and
shanks, all fearfully watching the shifting breathing patterns. Show sucking
breaths, shallow panting; sometimes you’d hold your own breath to watch, as if
that heightened your perception, meant you’d be less likely to miss the next
And still he kept going, materialising suddenly in different spots: under the bench
in the cool forgiving long grass; stretched out on the hessian mat in the
conservatory. We barely ever caught him making his way from spot to spot - a
drunken old man, lurching with careful dignity. Only the renewed strained
breathing showed what it cost him.
I knew how the end would be. I’d planned it, like the arrogant twat I am. I’d lie next
to him on the rug, tell him how much we loved him, tell him to let go, to be at
peace. I did all those things, even held his water bowl tenderly at head height so he
But in the end, he didn’t want that. He disappeared while I was texting ‘think we
might need to phone the vets’. It didn’t take long to find him though.
He’d crawled into the dark space between conservatory and fence, lying on
discarded balls and a fork. You never go there I thought.
The breathing was loud, tortured; I didn’t know whether to touch him or not. Then
he howled out a yowling agonised protest. There was such pain in it, and I was
I rang my husband. “I don’t know what to do”.
He gave me the absolution I was looking for “Leave him, you don’t want to drive
him further in.”
No, no I didn’t want that. I also wanted to avoid pain and suffering; I wasn’t brave
enough to comfort when it was needed.
So, I left him. Stood uncertainly in the doorway, trying not to hear, hoping for the
And I’m back eighteen years, watching a tall man shrinking against the radiator as
he lets me in, hand tentatively reaching out to pat the shoulder that breezes past.
“Hi Dad, how are you? Where’s Mum?” A cheerful greeting squeezed out of a
And I’ve failed him all over again.
(c) Ruth Makepeace
Sergeant Paul Horne threw his green duffel bag in the back of his pickup truck
before climbing in the cab. His combat uniform was worn in places and his boots
had seen many miles. The young man glanced in the rear-view mirror. His tanned
face and tired brown eyes stared back at him.
At twenty-eight-years old, Paul had just finished his fourth tour. The last nine
months in Afghanistan have been more stressful than all the previous deployments
Half his section had been taken out by IEDs while patroling a highway in the
Helmand province. The thin scar under his left eye was a constant reminder of how
close the shrapnel came to having him join his friends in death.
As he shook his head to clear his thoughts, Sergeant Horne concentrated on the
positive. His tour was over four weeks early and he was going home to surprise his
He smiled when the Chevy truck turned over on the first try. The platoon
quartermaster had made sure their vehicles were running and the batteries
charged up. The windshield was clean, but there was enough dust on the black
truck to make it almost appear gray.
Paul had ten days of leave before he had to report back to Fort Benning, and he
wanted to make the most of it. Once the windows were fully down and the warm
spring Georgia air filled the cab, he left base and headed out on I-185N. The hourlong drive home to Pine Mountain helped calm the knot of tension he’d carried
around in his chest for months.
He relaxed the tight grip on the steering wheel and turned on the radio and sang
along under his breath. He never could carry a tune and his deep baritone voice
was more suited to yelling commands over the battlefield than joining Garth Brooks
in a song.
Paul grew up in Pine Mountain and he smiled at the familiar sights. It had been
nine months since he’d been home, but it felt like a lifetime. Soon, he saw the Wild
Animal Safari sign and headed east on county road forty-seven. When he was a
teenager, he had worked many summers at the attraction, and it helped nurture
great respect for the animals and the outdoors.
After he passed Harris County High School, Paul turned south on Maple Street
instead of continuing to his parents’ home.
His grandmother lived a few minutes from the school and he hadn’t talked with
her in a while. She didn’t own a computer, so he had sent a few letters to her over
the months he was away, to keep her up to date.
He parked on the road and strode up the driveway to the old white bungalow,
then stepped onto the wooden porch. The gardens were full of early spring flowers
and the grass looked like it had recently been cut. Nothing had changed since he
played here as a little boy. Paul automatically straightened out his uniform before
knocking on the screen door.
He heard the old floorboards creak as his grandmother ambled toward the door
and paused. She didn’t appear too surprised to see him standing there, but he saw
her tear up and a big smile washed over her face. Once the door was opened, the
small woman stepped forward and gave him a big hug.
“About time you stopped by,” she said. “I missed you.”
She barely came up to his chest and the familiar smell of her perfume filled his
“I missed you, too, Grandma.” Paul couldn’t help the tears as they fell down his
She stepped back and reached up to wipe his face clean. “Have you been home?”
Paul shook his head. “I stopped here first. I was going to surprise Mom and Dad,
but I wanted to see you first.”
Clearing her throat, she gave a short laugh. “You are my favorite grandson.”
Paul laughed along with her. “I am your only grandson.”
“That’s why you are my favorite. I have something for you, hold on.”
She stepped back into the house and quickly returned with a red and green tin
box. Paul smiled when he saw it. His grandmother had used that same tin box all
his life after she baked.
“Here you go. I made your favorite cookies this morning. Bring them with you and
make sure you share them.”
“You better get home. You have some surprises to do.”
Paul stepped forward and gave his grandmother another big hug. “Love you,
Gram. I missed you. I will be back later.”
“Don’t worry about me, everything is fine. I love you, too, Pauly. Tell your mom
and dad I love them, as well.”
“Will do.” Bending down, he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
“You better go before I start crying. Welcome home.”
As he walked back to the truck, Paul turned and gave her a quick wave goodbye
before he jumped inside. Placing the cookie tin on the front bench seat, he gave a
little honk and wave before he headed home.
After he turned right onto Main Street, he took the back roads home. At this time
of the morning, he knew his mom would be out in the gardens before the day grew
warm while his dad puttered around the garage.
Paul parked a few homes away and turned off the truck. With the cookie tin in
one hand and his duffel bag in the other, he slowly strode along the sidewalk. He
had guessed correctly. His mother knelt on the lawn, weeding the front garden.
“Excuse me, but I seem to be lost.”
At this, his mom looked over her shoulder to see him standing there. Letting out a
scream of delight, she crossed the lawn in two steps and threw herself into his
“Oh, my baby boy is finally home.”
Paul dropped the duffel bag and held on to the container with one hand while he
picked up his mom with the other. “I’m home a little early.”
He saw his dad come around the corner toward them, and soon they all were
hugging and crying at the same time.
“When did you get in?” His mom wiped her eyes on the back of her hand. She
couldn’t stop smiling.
“Late last night. I wanted to surprise you guys.”
His dad gave a little chuckle. “You certainly did.”
Paul’s mom took in a sharp breath of air and moved a step back. She glanced
down at what he held.
“Where did you get that?” she asked.
After he fixed his gaze on the red and green tin, Paul smiled. “Sorry, this wasn’t
my first stop. I went to Grandma’s and she sent some cookies back with me.”
His mom closed her eyes and lowered onto both knees on the grass. “Oh my God
Confused and concerned, Paul turned his attention to his father. “What’s wrong?”
His dad was white as a sheet. He also couldn’t take his eyes off the cookie tin. “We
didn’t want to tell you this far into your tour, but your grandmother passed away a
few weeks ago in a house fire.”
At this, Paul chuckled. “Nice try. I was there six minutes ago. She’s fine.”
His mother shook her head. “We are not joking, Paul. My mom died from smoke
inhalation when her house caught fire fifteen days ago.”
Looking down at the cookie tin, Paul didn’t know what to say. He could still smell
his grandmother’s perfume on his uniform. Once the lid was removed, he saw the
stacks of chocolate chip cookies under the wax paper. “They are still warm.
Grandma just baked them and handed them to me.”
He filled them in on what happened and described the light blue dress his gram
wore. Helping his mom to her feet, Paul realized she seemed to be in shock.
“Come with me, son.”
Paul handed the container to his mom and followed his dad over to his truck
while she knelt back down onto the lawn and sobbed, the tin held close to her
Paul handed the keys over to his dad before they got inside the truck. “Is Mom
okay? What’s up?”
His father held up one hand. “Just hold on…”
A few minutes later, they turned left onto Maple Street and his father stopped the
truck outside the house. The tightness was suddenly back in his chest as Paul
looked out the passenger window.
His mouth dropped open.
What was left of his grandmother’s house had collapsed into the basement from
the blaze. Blue fencing surrounded the home to keep everyone out and the burnt
smell of the fire still lingered in the air.
“This isn’t possible,” Paul whispered. “I was just here.”
His father’s strong hand reached over and squeezed Paul’s shoulder as their tears
started once again.
I love you too, Gram. Thank you for saying goodbye.
(c) David Darling
"Okay, okay, fine…you all know how much I hate these speeches—but hey,
something needs to be said for thirty years. Thirty wonderful years, and it’s
fantastic to have you all here to celebrate with us, we love every one of you.
“Don’t worry I won’t say anything that’s going to make you feel like throwing
up. I think the smell coming off the cheese and onion rolls that Paul bought is
making everyone nauseous enough as it is. I would say that it’s further proof of his
terrible taste in everything, but then again, he married me, so he must get it right
from time to time.
“I’m joking though. You all know how much I love this man- he might not be
the most refined gentleman in the world but Jesus, who wants all that? I’d always
much rather go for somewhere for chicken in a basket than a chicken terrine,
whatever a terrine might be.
“And of course, that’s where it all started. For those who don’t know, we
actually met in the Ken’s Fried Chicken in town, 3am. I’d spotted him in Martha’s,
snogging the face off some short skirt in the corner. She was long gone by the time
we met. I remember him sidling up to me at the counter.
“Paul, I tried to ignore you, god knows I tried, but you were so charming and
surprisingly respectful, despite the reputation you had when we met…but, I had no
chance. As soon as you were down on one knee on the sticky floor, putting an
onion ring over my finger, I knew you were the one for me. Ha look, he’s blushing!
You don’t need to Paul honestly, look at how much joy it’s led to.
“Oh, while I think of it, can we just get a round of applause for our beautiful
daughters? Come on girls, wave at every one, there they are. They gave us the idea
for tonight and put it all together—save for the sausage rolls—and haven’t they
done a wonderful job. Can I call for a toast? To Carla and Ceili! They look beautiful,
don’t they? They might have gotten my nose, but they didn’t get their Dad’s taste in
clothes, so I guess that’s something.
“Ha, Paul I’m sorry but it’s so easy! You make it so easy! I do love you
though, and actually you did get me something stunning, remember that stunning
necklace you bought me on our 25th? I loved it and would be wearing it right now if
I hadn’t lost it. So, I might make fun of your taste, but without you I’m not sure I’d
get my head on straight if it weren’t for you, so you trump me there.
“Amy’s just caught my eye, Paul’s second wife as I call her, who does such a
good job of looking after him during work hours and actually, if any of you wonder
what my necklace looked like, it was a little something like that. Actually, you know
what it’s very similar isn’t it?
“Let me just take a closer look…yes it’s almost identical, funny that.
“Amy, Amy, Amy.
“You probably would have gotten away with it too if you hadn’t dressed in
that with the plunging neck, using it to draw attention to those stuck on your
chest, especially after I saw you wearing it on the Facebook photos from your
Christmas party. What Paul?
“Actually, no Paul, you don’t get to interrupt me for once. You’ve spent three
decades stifling me, making sure I gave up everything for this family, and why did
you give up? You couldn’t even stop getting it out your pants at every chance. Yes,
ladies and gentleman, Paul is having an affair, and it’s not the first one, and he
thinks I don’t know about any of them. How stupid do you think I am? Well I
clearly am for putting up with it for so long.
“I’ll just take that back Amy, and hey, it’s still got that chip in the green gem.
I mean when I knocked it the value dropped, but it’s pretty bloody worthless to me
now isn’t it?
“Now, some of you might say that I’m making a spectacle of myself, you
might even think I’m drunk. Well, this is alcohol-free beer in my glass, and I think
I’ve been humiliated enough already, wouldn’t you all say? Why not give a little
back on a night like this, eh?
“So please, now you’ve eaten all my food and drunk all my wine like
vultures, let’s have a toast. To marriage!
“Now, get the fuck out of my house.”
(c) Andrew Galvin
I remember it like it was yesterday. The jury looked on as you crumpled to the
floor. Your eyes were the ocean, hands a tambourine. You could see their faces,
agape and pitiful. And me. Your own wife. I just sat there, staring. Like I was
afraid. Like you weren’t my husband. But, at that time, I was afraid. At that time,
you weren't my husband.
My eyes flickered open and arms broadly stretched, incidentally hitting the four
grey walls that confined me. I looked up to see everyone in a line, gnarling their
teeth like lions in a cage. It was horrible. I was so out of it. I just jumped up, my
arms scrambling around the room to search for my briefcase; the brown one with
the scuffed corners. And all that time, they were just staring at me, like I was a fish
out of water. Smirking and whispering and staring. I started calling for you,
wondering why you wouldn’t answer. ‘What have I done wrong now?’ It took me ten
minutes to realise where I was. Ten whole minutes. I’ve never been so humiliated.
Anyway, how are you? How’s Daisy and Ben? Do you think they remember me?
I love you, Richard
I had a daydream about the car ride the other day. It was emotional, to say the
least. Do you remember the weather? The clouds cried more than me. I remember
analysing your face as your jaw clenched whenever the clouds let out any
supernatural grumble. I feel like that was the first day I ever really saw you. I’m so
used to the Richard whose ocean eyes were cloudy, whose hands were always
clenched and bruised. I’m not sure what was different. Maybe because it was the
last day you’d ever be able to appreciate nature again. Or maybe because you’d
never see me again. All I know is that the conversation we had was indelible. I
won’t ever forget the way your face lit up and your eyes scrunched. How your leg
stopped being so restless and you seemed so relaxed, so at ease. I miss that.
Ben and Daisy miss you. I miss you. I’m seeing you in two weeks! Make sure you
don’t forget me.
Someone got hurt. A lot. His head was stained the colour of your ring. And then I
couldn’t stop thinking about you. I keep reading your letters, and in everyone you
say you’re scared, afraid, that I never was your husband. You think I did it, don’t
you? You’re not handling the pressure at home. They’re liars, everyone is lying. I
have been nothing but truthful. I didn’t do it. I need you to believe me because no
one else does. Friend or wife, I love you. Say it back. I’ll see you next week.
I love you, Richard
My family aren’t handling it well. No one is handling it well. I’ve been dragged into
this shameful ditch and I’m still trying to clamber out of it. So sorry if I seem
distant. Sorry if I seem like I’m having a hard time. I imagine that your situation is
more important, more significant, but mine is dire too. My husband is in prison.
That will not take me a week to get over.
You didn’t come.
Richard. I’m sorry. I mentioned in my last letter that I was nowhere near the right
mindset to see you. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know what you were going to
do to me. Send another angry letter? Send someone to get me? Hurt me? I haven’t
seen you in two months, and I’m still not sure if I can. My breath quickens when I
think of you, and my fingernails dig into my skin when I see another letter. I don’t
think it’s supposed to be like that. Yasmin
I’m not sure if two weeks were long enough for you. I’ve been swimming in this pool
of emotion for fourteen days, trying to think of what to say. As I look at the four
walls surrounding me, besmeared with a sense of neglect and melancholy, I think
of you. I painted you to fit our status quo, and I’m sorry. Every time I look out of
my frowzy window, I see people who deserve to be here, yet they’re being compared
to me. I feel as if there’s nowhere I can go but down, even though I’ve reached my
lowest point. The floor is scruffy, and the ceiling has streaks of green and brown
snaking around it. I don’t fit in here, Yasmin. I need you to take me home. It feels
like God flicked a switched and now my life is irremediable.
“To love and to cherish, till death do us part”. That’s what I said to you. And I don’t
think either of us are dead yet. I’m sorry for being a negligent wife - for never taking
your emotions into account. I sent you some Windex and antibacterial wipes,
hopefully you get them before I come. I was looking at our wedding photos the
other day and an overwhelming wave of depression just crashed over me. I never
knew how incapable I was without you, and now that I know, I’m never going
through it again. I hired a better lawyer, Oliver McBrady. It made a bit of a dent in
our income, but I think it’s worth it. I really think you can get out now, Richard.
Just stay strong for me. I’ll see you on Thursday.
I love you,
“Hey, hi. How are you?”
“I’m good, a little shaken up, but good. You?”
“Oh, yeah, I’m doing fine. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this whole
situation. I’m up all night trying to think of ways to leave.”
“Leave? Richard, I spent two-grand on a lawyer. I don’t think you need to plan your
escape anytime soon.”
“So how are the kids?”
“They’re fine. I don’t think they really notice you’re gone,”
“Yasmin, I’m sorry. You know with the balance between work and --“
“Did you do it?”
“Did you hurt him? Did you kill him?”
“No one is here. I won’t look at you differently. I’ll still be your wife,”
“What did you do that night? You never came home,”
“I really don’t think you have to be concerned with what I was doing that night. Or
any nights for that matter,”
“I shouldn’t be concerned? Richard, you’re my husband. I’ve got a right to know
where you were,”
“Well it’s not like I knew where you were. All those nights where you had late
meetings. I never asked, I just went along and nodded. And look where that got us.
A broken relationship and two children that aren’t even mine. So, no. You really
shouldn’t be concerned.”
“Don’t change the subject. I told you in the end, didn’t I? Richard, look at me, did
you kill Thomas?”
“I don’t know,”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I don’t know. I think I did. I knew what you were doing with him, all those secret
trips to the hotel down the road. It’s like you weren’t even trying to hide it. You
thought I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it. You thought I’d be fine and we
could continue being the happy married couple down the road. Why weren’t you
fine with that? What was wrong with me?”
“No. Let me finish. I stormed out and went to that pub round the corner. Everyone
kept staring as I drank drink after drink but I really didn’t care. I left the pub and I
remember stumbling to every hotel near us and knocking on every door until I
found him. You didn’t even try, Yasmin. It was only 15 minutes away. Why didn’t
The next thing I remember, I’m in the back of the police car with red hands and a
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t think you’d confess. You killed the only man who ever loved
me. I’m sorry.”
“Yasmin? Who are those? Did you bring them? Did you bring the police? I was just
joking. I was just telling you what you wanted to hear,”
“Richard Lawrence. You are under arrest for murder. Your trial is in fifteen
minutes and you’ll be expected to face a life sentence in prison, in the likely event
you are found guilty.”
This is the last letter I can send before I live in solitary confinement for fifteen
years. I’ll miss our letters. I’ll miss you. I’m sorry you felt you had to turn me in. I
hope you live a nice life with someone better, more caring. At least I have our ‘love’
(c) Adesola Adewale