“This won’t take long” the man said as he stepped onto the short, narrow jetty that led from the choppy waters to the lighthouse. His knees felt stiff as he placed a foot onto the sodden wood, but his blood contained as much salt as the sea and he had a few good years remaining in his joints.
He took a final look back at the small craft and thanked Gordon for bringing him out here at such short notice and wondered if Gordon’s useless son, Henry, had the same desire to spend his days on the water.
The air was cool and damp and the pathway was illuminated by the pale moonlight that made his ascent to the circular building a little easier. Why Joseph, the keeper, had not lit the gas burner meant something was wrong, whether that was the lighthouse or Joseph himself remained to be seen. Either way, it was the man’s responsibility to check.
Gripping the length of thick rope that acted as a handrail that ran parallel to the path, the man looked out to sea, he wondered what ships travelled out there in the darkness, where they had travelled from and what cargo they carried. The world was changing, becoming smaller, new trade routes established, it was a time of much change, but they would still need the warning light from the beacon on the shore.
Upon reaching the small door, the man used his shoulder to gain entrance, shoving the heavy wood backwards and immediately feeling the shift in conditions. The base of the tower was warm and sheltered, circular with a staircase running upwards and around. He placed one foot on the bottom step and hesitated at the sight of a bloodied boot print.
“Joseph?” he called up into the gloom.
© Darren Arthurs
‘You did what?’
‘I already told you, Andy. Mr Thomas rang while you were gone. He said your Friday meeting is re-arranged. I told him you didn’t really want the job anyway. That’s what you said to me. I remember what you said, and I got every word right. You said, ‘If he thinks I’m going to do that then he can stick his job where…’
‘Okay, okay. I remember what I said. I just didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to tell anyone. Let alone my boss. My new boss. The same boss who’s going to be heading my six-week probation interview on Friday.’
‘I’m not stupid. Don’t call me stupid.’
I closed my eyes. Inhaled deeply through my nose as flashing lights behind my eyelids glowed red, yellow, orange. I tried to remember my promise to our mother.
‘You’re not stupid. And I’m sorry for saying that.’
‘Are you angry with me?’
‘No David, I’m not angry. I’m wondering why you picked up my phone. You don’t usually answer my phone.’
‘You said make yourself at home. I always answer the phone at home. I wrote down what he said so I wouldn’t forget. I know sometimes I forget what people say. But I didn’t. I wrote it all down, like you said I should. Right away.
‘What did he say.’
David checked his notes.
‘He said, ‘Andrew, is that you Andrew? Who the hell is this?’
‘No. I mean what did he say after telling him that ‘I didn’t want the job anyway’.’
‘Ummm…,’ he slowly turned over several pages; his huge writing was like a young child’s.
‘I think he said, ‘go figure’, I wasn’t sure I heard that word right.’
‘And then he said to tell you he’d see you first thing Monday…’
© Helen Northey
The letter had triggered it. She encouraged him to believe he had offered to drive her, in case she had a bad turn.
More fool her when she’d opened her mouth and “Do you know where we’re going?” came out.
“Of course, I know. I’m driving us there, aren’t I?”
“When the letter came you said you had no idea where it was.”
He harrumphed and muttered about fool women. She turned her head to the window and stared out at the blustery sky.
The crossing was choppy. The boat struggled to land, the chain winched tight before it was clamped and they were let off.
At the top of the road a police car blocked all exits, its blue lights flashing. Her heart pulsed to its beat. Would he get fed up and turn around? He’d done that when the children were little, refusing to wait even ten minutes for a jam to clear. They’d returned home in tears.
She breathed again as the police cleared the blockage. They turned right at the top, following the road into Stonehouse. Her eyes searched for clues to their destination, desperate for a sign before he snarled at her.
A yellow notice told them to turn right and they were into new territory for them both. The sward of green on her left was welcome as were the town villas on her right. A masked man waved them down and checked their papers before showing them to a parking spot.
At the barricades they were checked again by masked people.
“Waste of time,” he grumbled.
All too soon they were sat in opposite chairs with their sleeves rolled up.
“This won’t take long,” said another masked man.
A sharp prick and it was all over.
“Glad we got our COVID jabs together?”
© Liz Berg
Slowly walking towards the office, I was trying to remember my lines. My hands become sweaty and my face showed trauma, unlike ever before. I forced my hands to knock, and luckily, the door was opened for me, because I wouldn’t have managed that. Shaking with fear, I sat uncomfortably on the chair, hoping it’d end soon. He took a seat, and looking at me, I returned a nervous smile. “This won’t take long” he said, looking towards the clock. It was 1pm, every meeting was limited to 40mins. This cleared out a bit of the stress, and feeling more relaxed, the stressor came rushing back, slamming me in the face.
Turns out, I’d forgotten to turn down my phone. Loudly, Angus Young’s taped-up guitar thundered up the room with Brian Johnson’s sandpaper voice, it seemed to foretell a razors edge. My face went white. “Sorry, it was just in case I didn’t wake up.” The interviewer was clearly intrigued. Why did that happen? How did I forget to off it? My hands began to tremble violently…I quickly switched it off. Embarrassed, I looked up at him, regretting every second of it. It was a very uncomfortable interview. For him, he was wasting his time, and for me, the mortifying moments just kept rolling, like a spool of awkwardness. I tried to prep my mind while he spoke, and so, I didn’t hear any of his questions. He began the interview. “So, tell…..” Alright John, don’t worry about it. He must have forgotten it. Just get on with it. Then, I realized that I missed the question. By his expression, he looked angry. He cut the meeting down to 25 minutes…I knew I blew it. Frustrated, I quickly nicked his pens…throwing them in my pockets. Atleast I got something from it.
© Jessica Ann George
The little girl had been brutalised and flung into the gutter where she died within the hour.
Nevertheless, before the night had been out, the town’s folk had caught the perpetrator, had beaten him up within an inch of his life and had taken him to the police. From there they conveyed him to a nearby hospital, a mass of blood, sweat, spittle and dirt.
As dawn broke and the body of the little girl was conveyed to the same hospital for analysis, the town’s folk gathered in a mass before the building, demanding justice. Back at her home, her half-demented mother wailed, and her father stared vacantly at the ceiling.
While the little girl lay in her dark, silent mortuary, her rapist was handcuffed to a bed within a special ward and a policeman was placed outside the door on guard. He moved aside as a lady doctor walked brusquely into the room to check on the man. She was young and pretty, with a smile that shone right through her eyes. The rapist stared at her as she checked his wounds, his pulse and then his heart-rate
Then she rummaged around a table, and returned with a scalpel in her gloved hand. She smiled at him, ruffled his matted hair and calmly reached under the sheets and beyond his midriff. He looked once more at her, stunned.
“Relax,” she whispered and smiled warmly at his gaping face. “This won’t take long.”
He felt a sudden sharp pain in his crotch and the warmth of blood against his thighs. Then, agony spread across his body, and he passed out. As blood from his groin reddened the sheets under him, the doctor silently left the room with a kidney tray of cotton, concealing the body part she had just amputated.
© Cindy Pereira
It was time to walk Bo. She had been inside all day on account of all the meetings I’d had. Michelle had taken the children for a short break to Martha’s Vineyard. Only I couldn’t find Bo’s lead. Yesterday we had walked across the White House lawn and Bo had run after a squirrel and I’d lost her. I had security go find her, but whilst they were searching, a drone was flown overhead with a mounted camera and pictures of security searching for Bo had since gone viral.
The red phone rang. It was Michelle asking if I’d remembered to help Sasha with her school project and it was only then that I remembered that she’d only taken Malia for a “girls weekend”. I couldn’t remember seeing Sasha all day, but I assured Michelle that the school project about the Liberty Bell was in hand. Michelle shouted down the line; “bell hooks” is the project; “Bell Blair Hooks!”. She ended the call and I walked towards the library to locate my copy of Outlaw Culture, then I needed to find Sasha.
In the hall, the black phone rang. I answered it. “Sir, I have Xi Jinping for the scheduled call from Beijing.”
I talked about trade and currency and his forthcoming visit which he reminded me about.
“Daddy, you said we would read bell hooks together”, Sasha appeared from nowhere.
“I did” I agreed. “But that was a very important call from China’s President.
“Did you ask him about human-rights abuses”
“I did”, I lied. The whole point of the call had been cleverly avoided.
“Sir” came an urgent call, “we are due to test emergency procedure on the nuclear button, do you have the briefcase?
I looked at him in askance. “I know I put it here somewhere”.
© Steve Goodlad
I stood there relived at least Emile was finally dead. I knew Merenne would have liked to deal the killing blow. I turned to face the horde amassing hundreds of feet in front of us they were a shambling mass of bones coupled with rotted and rusting weapons. It was their bodies that shocked me, their skulls had purple orbs where their eyes were meant to be, holding it all together in a macabre manner was parchment-like skin. I looked along the lines and there was one being looking more putrid than the others with a tarnished crown. I focussed on it and it raised its crude glaive toward us and the horde charged. It was unsettling, to say the least. I looked further back and I saw another giant creature must be one of the other horsemen. By the retinue in front of him, this must be death himself.
‘Merenne you ready?’ I said
‘Cleansing fire?’ She asked.
‘Of course, you use fire against the undead.’ She gave me a tired look then a wicked smile.
‘This won’t take long.’ Khazak said
‘Aye Lord Khazak. There is nothing like a Mages fury.’ Henry said swinging his axe
Merenne and I shouted the same incantation ‘ignis purgationis’ and a flash of flame from the ground rose in amongst the foul ranks this halted the charge. The smell of staleness permeated the battleground like an old building aflame. I felt the tinge of pain burning down my arm which dissipated into my sword. I had the acrid taste of vomit which I spat out.
After the smoke cleared my resolve seemed to waiver I looked out over the field and I saw several scores of undead fiends still charging.
‘Not Again?’ Merenne said
‘Ignis purgationis’ I replied flames leaping.
© Dean Hodsfry
“Mum, you go and put your feet up. I’ll put the shopping away and make us a brew.” Pamela Hetherington watched as her mother Mabel shuffled gingerly into the lounge. With a deep sigh, she eased back into a large armchair and kicked off her shoes. “I’m whacked. Shopping does me in, hurry up with that tea Pamela, I’m spitting feathers here.”
Ten minutes later the pair were settled in their cosy lounge, sipping hot tea from two china cups.
Mabel gave Pamela a sidewards glance, “Look, do you know what college course Parsons is doing, you know, like what that Johnson woman told us at Myrtle’s wake?”
Pamela’s eyes shot up at the mention of Rob Parsons, “I’ve no idea, probably howtobeatwatology.”
“Pamela! Language, remember I’m still your mother.” Pamela blushed, “Sorry Mum, it’s just the mention of his name makes my blood boil.”
Mabel leaned down and pulled out a glossy looking brochure from her large shopping bag. “Well, I thought you might like to do one, you know, a college course or something. So, I got you this from the library.”
She handed the brochure to Pamela.
“You did what?”
Pamela stared at the cover. ‘The Open University – Courses and Qualifications.’ She glanced inside, carefully studying the list of courses from Arts and Humanities to Sports and Fitness.
“Oh, I don’t know mum, I haven’t done any school work for ages. I’m not sure I could concentrate.”
Mabel looked firmly into Pamela’s eyes, “You were a very clever girl, all the teachers said so. You’d breeze one of these courses. I mean you don’t want to stay as just an office clerk at Morton’s for ever, do you?”
Pamela took a deep sip of tea. She placed the brochure carefully on the table. “I don’t know mum; I’ll have a think.”
Mabel, smiling, drained her cup.
© Graham Crisp
The funeral was over. He put his arms around Tilly’s shoulders. “I know this feels like the end of the world. I can’t replace your parents, but I can give you a good life. Your dad was my best friend.”
Days later, he said, “We need to think about schools for you.” He registered her at a convent in the nearest town.
“Tilly, I know it’s a boarding school, but I am away too much for you to stay home alone, but I promise you I’ll take leave for all your school holidays. I’m not farming you out.”
She nodded her understanding. He kept in regular contact. He collected her at the end of the term. “So, you survived your first term. How has it been?”
She laughed. “Uncle Giles, it’s been a lesson in hypocrisy.”
A crease furrowed his brow. “Why? What’s been happening?”
“Well, we have to fast before going to church on Sunday. Sister Moira has coffee and toast, which we can smell. We walk to the church in the heat. They go by car. I know it would be impossible to pack a hundred of us into their mini, but there’s a principle here. I inspected Sister Moira’s private quarters.”
“You did what?”
Tilly smiled at the recollection. “I checked, she has a well-stocked fridge plus a kettle and toaster. We have a table on the veranda with a kettle. On Sundays, we have to kneel while the congregation goes for communion. They sit back on the pew.”
“Why didn’t you write and tell me?”
“They listen to our phone calls and read all out mail.”
He felt guilty. “Do you want to change schools?”
She chuckled. “Uncle Giles, no, I want to stay there and torment those hypocritical nuns. They deserve me!”
© Felicity Edwards
A row of dispirited people sat on chairs facing the two doors to offices being used for a few hours a week by the Citizens Advice Bureau. They arrived early as they ran it on a first come, first served basis and the doors shut promptly at one regardless of how many were still waiting.
Mavis walked confidently up the stairs, glanced at the queue and thought. “What a bunch of losers. I’m going in. I need these forms signed.”
She held the file high and smiled at the down, beaten people as she knocked on the door. “This won’t take long.” She brazenly walked in. The man at the desk blinked rapidly, “I thought my next client was a gentleman, Mr Watts.”
Airily, she waved her hand and said, “He’s happy for me to see you instead.”
He sighed, how can you help people when they don’t even wait? “What is it you want?”
A cascade of paper flowed from the file onto his desk.
“It’s not much. I need to prove to the council that I need a disabled parking bay, a blue badge and a reduction in council tax plus some form of disability allowance.”
He looked at the jumble of paper and her. “Is this for you, or are you here on behalf of someone?”
She was shocked. “For me, of course! Why would I want to help anyone else?”
He clenched his jaw before taking a deep breath. “Madame, if it’s not an impertinence, what is the nature of your disability?”
She screwed her eyes and with a sneer said, “I don’t have to tell you. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with me, but I was told you could help me fiddle the system. I’m tired of working and want to take things easier.”
© Felicity Edwards
Nancy was nearly 90 and her memory a little rusty. She had recently phoned me to say she had found an exquisite blue sapphire ring on a recent walk in the park, and asked how she could find the owner. After some thought I suggested that I could put a notice in the park about the lost ring – not giving too many details in case it attracted the wrong person. Nancy agreed, and not long after a softly spoken woman called Anna phoned to say she had lost a ring. She didn't know where she lost it, but she often walked in the park and was just hoping the ring might be hers. She had described the ring in detail to me and it matched the one Nancy had found. She said it had very special significance for her because her husband had given it to her and he had recently died. A week later I met Anna outside Nancy's house. Nancy didn't seem to remember that I was to visit with Anna, and offered to make tea. Over the tea and biscuits Nancy dropped the bombshell : “You know that ring I found , well I was so pleased to meet somebody in the park who said they had lost a ring. So we walked back to my place and I gave her the ring. I was surprised she seemed in a great hurry and hardly thanked me”.
Both Anna and myself said “You did what?”, and we knew from the look on Nancy's face that the ring had gone forever.
© Jude McGowan
It was her engagement ring, a pretty little ruby flanked by diamonds that Jack had given her so many years ago. She’d probably taken it off to do the washing up and it should be on the window sill.
‘I know I put it here somewhere.’ Maggie wept as she searched the cupboards, even taking food out of the fridge, just in case. She felt sick with worry.
Jack always said: ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’, which was a good idea but not always easy to stick to. ‘Anyway,’ he joked, ‘you don’t have to worry about forgetting where you left something; it is only a problem if you find it and don’t know what it’s for.’ Maggie knew she’d put the ring on her finger if it turned up.
Jack came into the kitchen and put the kettle on to boil while he tidied the kitchen.
‘Fancy a cuppa, love? You look upset, what’s wrong?’
‘I’ve lost my … finger, sing, thing. I can’t find it, I can’t find the thing.’
‘Do you mean your engagement ring? Don’t worry, Maggie. Remember we took it to be re-sized? We’ll collect it next week.’
Jack took his wife by the hand and led her to the living room. He poured their tea and put some biscuits on a plate, first removing the lipstick that was nestling amongst the Custard Creams.
© Elaine Peters
“I’m sorry Mrs Koalt,” the Doctor looked genuinely upset to be the bearer of bad news, “There’s nothing more we can do, we’re going to have to pass him over.” Dr Bennet glanced at the men standing outside the room.
“Where will they take him?” Felicity was calm. She’d heard about the virus on the news, the odd case here and there, nothing to be concerned about. Until Eddie came back one morning explaining that he’d picked up a patient who had it. He’d kept his distance, talking to her through the French doors, refusing to come into the house. They’d had to burn the ambulance, he said, him and David were being taken straight to the hospital in specialist transport. Just as a precaution.
Now he was inside a giant bubble, hooked up to machines. David was god knows where.
“I don’t know”. Dr Bennet wasn’t sure where the men took them. They just turned up for the patients who still had full brain activity – regardless of the rest of the body shutting down.
Felicity watched the men as they entered the room and wheeled her husband’s bubble away. The Dr handed her a death certificate. This was what happened when virus patients got taken. They were officially dead.
Three weeks later.
“Breaking news. A fire has swept through a government run facility that was set up to investigate the new virus. There are believed to be no survivors…”
*Ding Dong Ding*
The doorbell. Felicity turned the news off and walked toward the front door. She could smell something burning.
Her 4-year-old son came running up the hallway excitedly. The burning smell was stronger now, acrid and charcoal-like. Toby stopped.
“I opened the door for daddy.”
She stared at him in disbelief, eyes wide and unblinking.
“You did what?”
(c) Emily Dixon
Sophie had cajoled and wheedled him into coming on this trip. It wasn’t usually his “thing”, preferring to be down the pub talking football with his mates on a Saturday afternoon, but there was none on this weekend, so no excuses! She was skipping along the path, talking incessantly and excitedly, he felt like the condemned man, and started to drag his heels, trying to delay the inevitable as much as possible.
As they approached “The Little Shop of Dreams” his sense of dread increased, why had he agreed to do this? She had heard that this place had unique designs and that was what she wanted and she needed him to help her choose!
They walked up a little dark side street that not many serious shoppers frequented. As they approached, he could see how unassuming, and a little drab the frontage was, but the dress in the window looked astonishing, like the stars from the sky had been drawn down and attached themselves to the diaphanous material caressing the mannequin’s curves. As they walked through the door, the gentle music seemed to soothe his mood and reassure him that this was the right place to come. The racks of dresses surrounded the walls, and they seemed to whisper and sway to try and gain attention. The pinks, purples, blues, greens and yellows to one side of the room, to the reds, burgandy, creams and whites on the other, sequins, lace, brocade, devore……. A cacophony of colour and texture!
“This won’t take long”, she had told him, but as he settled into the welcoming folds of the armchair, thoughtfully provided, he knew he would be in for the long haul. He closed his eyes and wished his wife had lived to see their daughter in her first ball gown.
© Hilary Taylor
Granny Grace was very popular among her many grandchildren. In spite of her age she was full of life and laughter. Our parents thought she encouraged our mischief and overlooked our shortcomings.
“When you are with the children you behave like one of them,” scolded Mother.
“Let me be,” Grandma answered, “I enjoy their company more than I like spending time with any of my children.”
“How could you enjoy our company when all you did was scold and correct, all through our younger days? At least you could tone down your volume when you dance around with these brats.”
Grandma only turned up her nose and thumped vigorously on the piano as we broke into song and dance.
But Grandma was getting older and problems of age were catching up. There were spells of absentmindedness that made her forget where she had put her false teeth or her slippers, and we’d all go on a treasure hunt to find her belongings.
When I came home from school one day, I found my siblings giggling and pointing to granny.
“I know I put it here somewhere,” she mumbled, “Where has it gone?”
She was unaware that she was sitting on her spectacles.
But the funniest was yet to be. Coming in from a stroll in the garden she said, “I’m tired. I need to sit down and relax.”
However, the poor dear placed her walking stick on her chair and went and stood in the corner, where her walking stick usually stood.
© Eva Bell
“You did what?” asks my mom. I looked at her. I retold her my story of seeing a ghost or someone walking in the old school house. She laughed. Personally, I made my request again. "Can I use your camera?", I said. The answer was a long winded conversation in which the final answer was no.
Not giving up I went next door. Asked if they had a Pollard camera I could use. They did. I said, “This won't take long for me to get the photo, I will bring it right back.”
The school was using it for storage ever since some students had hung them-self in the rafters five years before. No one had found the missing boy for two years. Meaning? The story was he had hung himself in the attic during summer break. His body had not stunk up the place because of something eating his flesh. When someone went upstairs they were not even looking for him. She found him according to hear-say. She freaked out.
Anyway I went in through the boarded up window in the basement. I had a flashlight. The camera. I got to where I saw the image in the window. There the shadow or shade or ghost appeared to look out the window. I took the photo. The flash either made the shadow disappear or something. I got out of there rather fast. I got the camera back to its owner. Looked at the photo. I had placed it on my desk. I asked my mom if had it? Because I had shown her the photo. She had not seen it. I said, “I know I put it here somewhere, it was gone.” That is my story of the school in the large white school house in Lame Deer Montana.
© Clinton Siegle
Imagine if you will a man named Saltmire. A man as broad as a coal barge. A man whose head comes to a point. A man of forty, and that’s just his collar size. He has smooth, unlined skin but sports three chins that jelly-wobble when he talks. His seal-flipper hands tell you that he has never carried out any manual work. If a boa constrictor could talk, it would sound like Saltmire. He is one of those fat people who are gossamer-light on their feet. He seems to glide across the floor like an English butler. He can spout management consultant-speak until everyone is broken. The sheer volume of corporate blather that pours from his jackdaw mouth is unparallelled.
Newby loathes him. He sees right through him.
Saltmire goes to meet Newby’s boss, McGuigan, another weasel.
‘I’m busy,’ says McGuigan.
‘This won’t take long.’
‘Get on with it, then.’
‘Been doing some blue-sky thinking. Climbing the strategic staircase. Mind, this is just a helicopter view. You know the Sybile project? Well, it’s drifted off course. No, I’m not blaming Newby, he does his best, but he’s past the pain point. He’s not the type of thrusting achiever you’re looking for to lead this project. Me? I’m only a humble servant. I’m not here to make waves. Sixty-one, you say? You’d never take him for that, would you? Still plays badminton? My, oh, my. Physically, he’s still up there, which is super. I’ve nothing against him personally. Great pals and all that. What did you say were the results of his last appraisal? Don’t you want to look under the bonnet of the project? You might end up punching a puppy, but we’re all in business to make money, aren’t we?
Three weeks later, Newby takes early retirement.
© R.T. Hardwick
Jon dashed cool water over his face and breathed deep.
What are you going to do?
“Hey! Jon!” Ernie called. First off, ask Ernie to leave. Then you can deal with Marlene when she arrives without your accountant bearing witness. God knows why you told him about all this anyway.
Jon returned to the lounge to find Ernie who was a short, rotund man, bouncing with excitement.
“I dealt with that little problem for you!”
“You did what?”
“Marlene! She came to the door and I sent her away,” he said proudly.
Jon scowled, “You sent her away?”
“Yep, I told her you weren’t going to leave your wife and she should take her cute little tush elsewhere.”
Jon’s eyes widened, “You said that to Marlene… and she just left?”
“Yes. Well, she looked a little surprised but she could tell I meant business,” he added a wink, “You’re welcome.”
Jon brushed the hair back from his forehead. He couldn’t believe it. Marlene was vivacious, feisty and stubborn. The last time he cancelled their plans, a crystal wine glass had shattered on the wall behind him before he had a chance to react. A worrying thought snaked into his consciousness.
“What did she look like?”
“Ah! I can see why you had trouble saying no to that one! Tall, short blond hair. Very elegant. She had… class.”
Jon’s stomach heaved. The lights blurred. His mouth sucked dry.
“What’s wrong?” Ernie asked.
“My wife,” Jon gasped, “you sent away my WIFE!”
Jon pushed his hapless accountant aside, grabbed his coat and yanked open the door.
Stood in the doorway, clenched fist held up ready to knock was a petite woman with long, thick hair the colour of polished mahogany.
“Uh, Marlene,” Jon grinned stupidly, “please come in.”
© Rachel Smith
“What are you going to do?” Said Sarah, placing the vodka in front of Lou, as she sipped her own.
Lou smiled and drank. “ I’ve got a blackjack heart.”
“So how will you play this?” Pushed Sarah.
“It’s an acting job. And the better I play the role, the more he believes me, the more money I make.”
“What about… what do you call him? .. your Boss.”
“My agent or manager. He’s working towards a better future, for both of us.”
“Don’t you think it seems like, Revenge?”
“A bit. But this could be the one, and with a manager I trust.
If I can make Charlie atone.”
“It seems dodgy to me. And I’m no good at lying.”
“It’s called acting Sarah.” Smiled Lou.
“How will you deal with Charlie? From the descriptions he could be vicious and maybe vindictive.”
“I can deal with Charlie. The key is making him believe in us and me. Then I can make him show me his hand, and knowing that, my hand can be better.”
“So what’s the ground like now?”
“I’m holding all the cards.” Lou smiled, till she saw Charlie at the bar, observing them both.
Quickly she raised her smile again. “Charlie!” Stepping over to him.
“How long have you been standing there?” She whispered, while hugging him.
“A few minutes.” He acknowledged by lifting his half full glass of beer.
“Why didn’t you joined us, as soon as you got here?”
“I was going to but I liked watching the conspiring and plotting you were playing.”
“That was just girls gossiping. Come and join us, and see there is no conspiracy.”
Lou said, playing her wild card, caressing Charlie’s hand and leading him over to the seats.
(c) Rob McClellan
“If looks could kill.”
Jess hissed the words over her cocktail, her head inclining to a figure on the settee. Nora followed her line of sight, and was instantly struck by a pair of scorching familiar eyes. Miriam. She turned away quickly, heat flushing across her cheeks. Nora had known she’d be here of course, but still…
“Who is she?” Jess said, noticing her reaction.
“Oh, that’s Miriam Hall. She’s, well she was, Rupert’s finance.” Nora said, fiddling with the cherry in her glass. Jess raised a black eyebrow.
“Ah, so that’s the bitch.”
“Jess!” Nora took her arm and dragged the girl into a corner of the drawing room, as far away from Miriam and the other guests as possible.
“But I thought you said she was making your life hell.” Jess protested, “Nice people don’t do that! Bitches do.”
“Well, not exactly. A mild sort of hell.” Nora said, “Look it’s understandable…”
“Is it?” Jess said, flinging her arm out and splashing her drink on Nora’s dress. “Alright, it has been known, when the eldest brother has died, for the younger one to take the newly bereaved finance as a wife. Fine. But usually when that happens, it’s because the younger brother likes said woman. It’s not a rule! Edward chose you. He married you. And there’s nothing she can do about it.”
“I suppose.” Nora nodded. She stirred her drink idly and took a sip. It smelt of almonds. That was odd.
Five minutes later Nora lay struggling to breathe on the carpet, Jess screaming for a doctor, whilst Miriam watched with her grey killer eyes.
(c) Katherine Sankey
Unobtrusive yet elegant in beige, Lucy stood in the gallery staring at the painting. It was abstract in a way that she thought she understood, but would never know for sure.
Two men stood in front of her, gazing at the same artwork. The taller one spoke in a confident drawl.
‘Yah, it’s by Ella Carter. Raw emotion in every brushstroke. Some people said she was only at the college because of her famous mother. Not true. The girl had real talent. Tragic that she died so young in that awful accident.’
A slight pause followed.
‘But maybe just as well she’s not on the scene any more. At least I’m still with my wife, if you get what I mean.’
Then came the other male voice, quieter and with a tinge of West Country in it,
‘Sebastian, are you telling me...?’
‘Well, yeah. All that raw emotion – just like in her art. It was electric. But we both knew what we were doing. It was all under control, you know.’
‘Honestly, no. I don’t know. I thought your students were off limits now, after Eloise nearly left you over the last one.’
‘Oh, that was nothing to..’
The shorter man turned briefly away from his companion towards Lucy. She watched as recognition and horror crept across his face.
He tapped the other man’s arm urgently. ‘Sebastian!’
A jerk of the shorter man’s head in her direction and the taller one turned to face her, his features revealing nothing but arrogance and entitlement.
Lucy held out her hand to shake his. He didn’t respond.
‘Good afternoon. Lucy Carter. Ella’s famous mother.’
‘I know damn well who you are.‘
He bent towards Lucy.
‘How long have you been standing there?’
‘Long enough. You and I need to talk. ‘
(c) Maisie Bishop
Dom had told Clare he’d meet her outside the bistro at half seven.
Clare, who hadn’t been a date in nearly three years, had dolled herself up for the occasion. New dress, red lippy, even a small heel. She’d met Dom on a dating website. She’d tried the apps but worked out pretty quickly your average Tinder user wasn’t looking for a pear shaped receptionist rapidly approaching her 40’s. It was one of those websites where you had to pay, and they’d find you your “perfect” match. Dom was 93% compatible, though obviously they had different opinions on the importance of timekeeping.
Clare’s stiff shoes were beginning to rub away at her heels as she shifted from foot to foot. Should she call him? Send him a text? She plucked for something simple, with a slight hint of underlying passive aggression.
“I am here, see you soon :)”
Ten minutes passed, no reply, and no sign of Dom. This is what you get for putting yourself out there, she thought. As it got to eight she started planning her evening, she remembered she had a bottle of Barefoot Pinot in the fridge, and began to plan where she'd get her portion of cheesy chips to accompany it on the way home.
“Sorry I’m late.”
Clare looked up at Dom, a sweaty, bald headed man in his early 40’s. At least he wasn’t lying about his height, she thought to herself.
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Half an hour. I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show.”
“I’m sorry...I got you these.”
Dom thrust a limp and uninspiring bunch of garage bought flowers under Clare’s nose. Maybe cheap wine and cheesy chips wouldn’t have been so bad after all...
(c) Caitlin M Kearns
Jerome Hartley was the same shoe size as his wife, Veronica. That’s where it started. Veronica, or Ronnie, as Jerome fondly called her, was a masculine size eight. Beryl. Veronica’s mother pointed out that men weren’t attracted to women with big feet. Imagine Grace Kelly with big clods of feet like that? You can’t, because it’s too ridiculous, Beryl would say.
Jerome didn’t seem to mind, in fact, he revelled in Ronnie’s generous foot size and the stunning shoes she found in spite of her oafish plates of meat, another of Beryl’s sayings. What Veronica didn’t know was that Jerome was fond of a twinkly something, or a sparkly bit or other. Ronnie, put on that chiffon number and pair it with those bejewelled heels, the red ones. Ooh nice, he’d say.
Don’t mind if I do, Jerome said as he slipped on the silver, Shirleys as he liked to call a particular pair. After Mistress Bassey of the booming voice, of course. They bring out my eyes, thought Jerome as he caught sight of himself in the freestanding, full length mirror
But wait, Jerome thought, where are those exquisite, feather-adorned vixen shoes? Made especially, like the others, for the larger footed lady. Plus sized shoes, for a lady a step ahead of the rest. Jerome put on his favourite shoes, admiring them, and his shapely ankles, when it occurred to him, that it would be an injustice not to team these ravishing beauties with an ensemble of equal glamour. The blue, sequinned dress.
Jerome was mesmerised by the gorgeous creature who stared back at him in the mirror. So delighted to meet you. Women have so much fun, he exclaimed loudly.
Ronnie’s cough, loud and deliberate, alerted Jerome.
“How long have you been standing there?”
(c) Liz Breen
In the mid ‘90s I was employed with a global courier company, and it was my first job. Within the accounts department was one lady, Sylvia, perhaps a little older than I, and quite senior in her role. Sylvia was the one who provided the approval for our salaries to be paid out each month, and with that kind of clout, no one messed with her.
She loved to dress up in bright colours; it wasn’t uncommon to see Sylvia prance in each morning in high heels, garish outfits and lipstick plastered across her wide, ample mouth.
The building that I worked in was rather old – normally summers are moderate in Bangalore, South India, but here, with frequent power shut-downs and terrible back-up generators for the ACs, we suffered in the heat.
One evening I was working late with another colleague and the power had shut off. All the light that we had was from our computer screens and a small emergency lamp nearby. So, I stood up, went to the window and pulled up the blinds for a little of the outside light and air to penetrate in.
I turned and my heart almost stopped beating. Sylvia suddenly appeared out of the darkness, jingling across the floor in a saffron coloured dress, silver dangling and clinking earrings and ridiculously thick, orange lipstick.
“Hi” she crooned and smiled; her white teeth contrasted with the bright orange lips and I collapsed into a chair. “Working late you two? Just need some stuff.”
She rummaged around her table, found what she wanted and took off. From the neighbouring desk my colleague popped his head up from behind his screen and piped:
“If looks could kill.”
“They nearly did,” I replied, still stunned and trying to catch my breath. “They very nearly did!”
(c) Cindy Pereria