Typical Emily

Typical Emily

By Adam Dixon

 

The rain had been relentless that morning. Fat, eager drops tumbled from the sky and soaked the street below. Commuters cowered beneath ineffectual umbrellas and hoods, their splashing steps echoing around the streets. Emily sat under a bus shelter, observing them and warming her hands with a take-away coffee. A double decker bus coughed out a lungful of muttering people who blinked at the deluge as if it had never rained in London before.

“Do you have a visual on the target?” The voice was deep and brusque in Emily’s ear. She calmly took a sip from her cup and waited as the bus rumbled away. The road was a river separating Emily from the coffee shop on the other side of the street. The simple red logo on the sign above the door also peeked out from between her fingers as she idly spun her cup. Emily checked that she was alone under the shelter before replying, making sure not to touch her fingers to her ear as she did so.

“I see him,” Emily said quietly. Her brown eyes stared across the road and fixed on the wide front window of the coffee shop. Water flowed down the glass and distorted the view inside, but the man she was watching still cut a striking figure. His white hair complimented his immaculate navy suit as he sat in apparent ease in the shop. He was around five-foot eight and slender, with an air of effortless charisma. He seemed a little bit of out of place in the modest shop, to Emily’s mind. Any excuse to get out of the rain, Emily mused, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to look. Emily’s eyes slid to a larger man who was sat close to the suited man’s table. He was at an angle which made him harder to see but Emily estimated him at about six foot two, eighteen stone, with hands like shovels and arms like tree trunks; the obligatory muscle-bound bodyguard of an egotist. Neither of them would notice Emily with her plain hair and drab coat, she had made sure of that. Their eyes would slide from her like rain from the window if they chanced to see her at all and that made Emily glow with satisfaction. She loved her job.

“Good,” grunted the voice in her ear. “Maintain a visual. Report in the moment the meeting takes place.”

“Understood,” Emily replied, holding her tongue; she knew what to do. She sat up straight and took another sip of coffee, savoring the smell of the beans and their bitterness on her tongue.

“Bloody weather!” A hooded figure lumbered out from the street and took cover under the shelter. Emily’s gaze didn’t move from the window, but her peripheral view led her to estimate the newcomer at just shy of six feet tall with an average build. He muttered and cursed as he performed the ritual of shaking his sleeves and hood free of clinging droplets, but Emily remained silent. The man in the shop leaned across his table and the big man threw his head back with laughter. The suited man sat back and sipped at his cup, evidently pleased with himself.

“Forecast was a bit optimistic, eh?” the stranger said cheerily. “Light drizzle, they said!” Emily ignored him, but there was something familiar about the lilt of his voice…

“Bloody hell. Emily?”

Emily would have frozen if she hadn’t already been as still as a statue. Against her better judgement she turned her head. The man was staring at her with wide, green eyes and his hood was pulled down to expose a shock of dark hair. Emily noted the scar on the man’s lip and the burns on his knuckles and forearms, all known to her. Unbidden, her mind conjured the image of the green dragon tattoo which was wound around his left bicep.

“Jonathan…hi….” Emily said, inclining her head. The man beamed at her.

“I thought it was you! What’re the chances, eh?”

“Yes…” Emily resisted an urge to fidget. “It’s a bit unexpected.” Jonathan smiled, and Emily noticed his hesitation; he was likely deciding on whether to shake her hand or embrace her. Emily was relieved when he chose neither.

“What are you doing?” the voice in Emily’s ear warned. “Interaction with the public was not part of your briefing!”

“Just a bit!” Jonathan chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair. “You’re looking well. How’s everything going?”

“Oh, fine, thanks,” Emily replied. It was her turn to hesitate then. “And you?”

“Agent!” the voice barked. “Need I remind you that you are on a mission? This is no time for personal reunions!” Emily almost gritted her teeth. I know that! She thought angrily. This was hardly part of the plan!

“I’m fine, too,” Jonathan said brightly, seating himself on the red plastic bench an arm’s-length from Emily. “Job’s going well. Got promoted and moved to a posh restaurant in Kensington. Head chef now!”

“Really? That’s great.” Emily’s mouth twitched into a smile. “Congratulations.” Jonathan smiled back.

“Thanks! Bit stressful but I’m loving it. How’s….how’s your work going?” Jonathan’s smile faded, and Emily winced.

“Oh, you know, same old same old. Busy.” Emily’s eyes flicked back towards the coffee shop. Jonathan followed her gaze and frowned.

“Hmm, yeah. As always, right?” The question hung in the air between them and Emily’s jaw tightened.

“Agent, we need an update.” The voice in her ear was almost welcome. “Do you still have a visual on the target?” Emily did – the seated man had bought himself a muffin and a second drink; he seemed to be in no rush. Unfortunately, neither did Emily’s companion.

“God, this is a bit weird, isn’t it?” Jonathan said. “Last time we saw each other I was loading my stuff into a van!” Jonathan forced a laugh and scratched the back of his neck. He glanced out at the street as the downpour continued.

“It was pissing it down that day, too,” he added as if to himself.

“Yes, I remember,” Emily replied quietly. Their silence was broken by the steady pattering against the shelter.

“This deviation is becoming concerning.” The voice in Emily’s ear sounded angry. She blanched, and Jonathan frowned at her. Oh, good one, Emily thought.

“Is…is that all you have to say?” he ventured. “Don’t you want to ask me anything else? Are you even interested?”

“Of course I am, I’m just…” Emily searched for the word. “Busy, at the moment.”

“Too busy to give an old friend the time of day, right?” Jonathan snorted and folded his arms. “Typical Emily!”

“It’s not like that,” Emily replied, keeping her voice controlled. “I’ve just got things to do.”

“Like what?” Jonathan demanded, spreading his arms wide. “Like waiting for a bus? Christ, Emily, we were together for two years! Doesn’t that count for anything anymore?”

“Jonathan…”

“Agent, do not allow this mission to become compromised,” the deep voice warned. “Confirm, do you have a visual?”

“Oh, don’t give me that!” Jonathan said, his lip curled in disgust. “Don’t even start. You never had it in you to care about anyone but yourself!”

“Agent! Confirm!”

“It’s not like that,” Emily repeated, her eyes darting between Jonathan and the coffee shop like those of a cornered animal. “I’m sorry, but it’s work-”

“It’s always flamin’ work!” Jonathan cried, getting to his feet. “You never even told me what it is you do!  Christ, I hoped that things might’ve changed by now!”

“Repeat, come in!”

“That maybe you’d learned something when we broke up, like that there’s more to life than working!” Jonathan ranted, his face creasing.

“Can you see the target? Has he moved?”

“I…” Emily began, but she trailed off. The paper cup crackled beneath her fingers. She looked at the man in the coffee shop; he was still there, still enjoying his morning.

“What are you looking at?” Jonathan demanded, his voice rising in pitch. “Can’t you even look at me when I’m trying to talk to you?”

“Jonathan…” Emily’s eyes flicked to Jonathan’s, then back to the target.

“What’s going on out there?” the voice buzzed. “Have you been compromised? Will we need to abort this mission?”

“I don’t know why I’m even bothering,” Jonathan threw his hands in the air. “I was an idiot to hope that – “

“Nothing has changed!” Emily barked. Her eyes widened, and a shocked silence stretched out. The rain hammered against the shelter like words flung at the accused. Jonathan’s mouth was agape and his eyebrows were reaching for his hairline.

“Oh, Jonathan,” Emily whispered. Her thumbnails pierced her cup with a sharp squeal. “I meant…I didn’t…”

“I know what you meant, Emily,” Jonathan replied, his face twitching. “You’re right, nothing has changed. Best of luck with work.” Jonathan stormed out into the street without lifting his hood.

“Wait! Jonathan!” Emily shouted after him, but he was soon lost in the grey morning. Emily was dimly aware of moisture on her cheeks – she supposed the shelter must be leaking.

“Stay with the target, agent,” the voice in Emily’s ear was firm, no-nonsense. “You’re on a mission, remember.”

“Of course.” Emily settled herself back into position and stared at the coffee shop. “The mission always comes first.”

Across the road, the white-haired man laughed behind the window. Sometimes, Emily hated her job.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

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Be Real

Be Real

By Adam Dixon

“…and then he ran away!” Sean concluded with a dramatic sweep of his arm. He laughed in triumph and brushed the jet-black fringe from his eyes. His three friends sat before him, stretched out on the grass.

“What, just like that?” squeaked Nick. The shorter boy was sat forward, rapt attention on his pimpled face. Like Sean’s, his collar was undone, and his tie flapped loose in the breeze.

“Yeah, it was pretty pathetic,” Sean continued, accepting a cigarette with a gracious nod.

“Why did you do it, though?” Charli tossed her long blond hair over one shoulder as she settled against Nick. Sean inhaled, holding back a coughing fit with practiced willpower. He exhaled the stinging smoke from his nostrils, making sure that everyone was watching.

“The dickhead nearly made me drop my camera,” he said. The group crowed their understanding.

“Oh yeah, that’d do it!” Nick laughed. “You’re more attached to that thing than your own dick!” Charli pealed with laughter, and Sean winced.

“Well, maybe,” Sean forced a grin and rested his hand on the case hanging from his neck. It housed his beloved Nikon, which was old for a compact digital but was his pride and joy. He scanned the area as he passed the fag on, surveying the green space with disinterest. Wooden fences bordered two sides, and the metal fence of a school guarded the others. It was a pleasant place, and quiet in the evenings. A smattering of children played football nearby, watched over by a solitary adult.

As Sean’s gaze swept across the park and back to his friends his eyes met Jo’s. Her eyes were large and brown, and they glittered in the fading sunlight. The corners of her mouth twitched into a smile. Sean felt heat flare in his cheeks and he looked away. Jo would rarely speak up or join in with the boys’ story-telling, not unless it was to put one of them down. Sean held his swagger, listening to Nick spout some similar bullshit story. He could feel Jo staring at him and he pictured her full lips for an instant, and the beauty spot just above them which was almost invisible against her dark skin. His mouth went dry.

Fortunately, whatever Jo might have said was silenced when Sean’s phone rang. The heavy chords of Royal Blood cut into the air, muffled by trousers. Nick swore and demanded that Sean “turn that shit off”. Sean fished his phone from his pocket and let it ring for a few more seconds. As his thumb hesitated over the screen, the call cut off. It was his mum, and it was time for him to go home.

“Well, guys, I’d best be off,” Sean said, stuffing his phone away.

“Aw, bless him! Mummy’s boy!” Charli exclaimed in delight. Sean reddened.

“Yeah well, things’ll change when I’m eighteen!” he insisted. “I’ll be at lock-ins and everything!”

“Yeah, whatever you say, mate,” Nick chuckled, stroking Charli’s hair as she rested her head on his chest. He took a drag from the dying cigarette and blew three perfect smoke rings into the air. Sean felt a stab of envy; it wasn’t that he fancied Charli at all, it was how Nick was always at ease around girls, despite his spots and his high voice. Maybe it was his tan and his muscles; Sean was pale as a ghost and lanky as a scarecrow. He was caught somewhere between admiration and hate for the smug prick.

“Off you pop, then,” Nick said, waving dismissively. Charli smiled and said goodbye, and Jo simply waved. Sean stalked off down the street, head down, the sound of his friends’ merriment and the shouts of the kids playing football fading away. His footsteps sounded lonely and insignificant to his ears, and he muttered angrily to himself as he walked. After a few moments, he paused and looked up. He enjoyed the way the red sunlight was decorating the horizon, and the empty road split his frame of vision into three pleasing sections. Sean unzipped his case and raised his camera to his eye. The snap of the shutter was like a whisper of pure potential to his ears.

“Sean! Hang on a sec!” a voice called. Jo came hurrying from the park, shrugging her backpack onto her shoulders. Sean’s spirits lifted, but he also felt a burst of panic. He just stood there as Jo caught up with him.

“Hey,” he said, trying to sound casual. Jo stopped and smiled.

“Hey,” she said. Her voice was deep and scratchy; Sean quivered at the sound of it. He cleared his throat and stuffed his Nikon back into the case. He felt ridiculous as he towered a foot and a half above her.

“You off as well?” he asked.

“Well, yeah,” Jo replied, and her eyes sparkled. “Thought I’d keep you company. I’m going your way.” Sean nodded and kept walking. His footsteps seemed loud and brutish now, echoing obnoxiously around the street. Sean racked his brain for something to say. Where’s your mouth now, big man? he thought. After a few minutes, Jo spoke up.

“So, have you decided to go to uni, then?” she asked.

“Y’know, I’m not sure,” Sean replied, grateful for something to think about. “I guess so, as it’ll probably help me in the long run. The colleges round here don’t really appeal to me.”

“Yeah, I get that,” Jo said, rubbing her lips thoughtfully. “There’s not much for me, either, but I don’t really fancy uni. My parents are pushing for me to go, though.” She grimaced. “My dad nearly hit the roof when I said I wanted to be a carpenter! It’s like I told him I was pregnant or something!”

“It’s hardly a secret” Sean grinned. “You made them stuff, didn’t you?”

“Couple of chairs, even a bedside table for my little sister.” Jo said, with a note of pride. “I worked afterschool for weeks to get those done. They were impressed, but they weren’t happy.”

“That sucks,” Sean replied, adding a grimace of his own. “Is it…is it because it’s not a girl’s job?” He raised his fingers to make quotation marks. Jo laughed.

“No shit, Sherlock!” she said, but her smile took the sting from her words. “They say it’s unlikely I’ll get an apprenticeship over a guy when there aren’t many to begin with. Won’t stop me trying, though.” Sean marvelled at Jo’s determination; if only he could be so sure of himself.

“I’m actually a bit freaked out by it all,” Sean said as he scratched the back of his neck. “Mum and dad are pressuring me to make a decision, and the school is pushing me, too. The school only cares about conversion numbers, so fuck them, but mum and dad mean well. But what if I don’t want to go? Will I need to get some boring job which I’m gonna hate? I know that’s reality for a lot of people but surely it can’t be all there is? I just wanna take pictures and forget about exams and sixth form, but there’s so much riding on what I do with my spare time! It’s all too much, y’know?” Sean stopped, suddenly embarrassed. He was breathing heavily, and his fists were clenched.

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “It’s bothering me more than I’ve been letting on.”

Jo was staring at Sean with an odd expression.

“What?” Sean asked, folding his arms. Jo pursed her lips and traces of glitter sparkled as they passed under a lukewarm lamppost.

“It’s good when you’re like this,” Jo said at last. “No bullshit, not like back there,” she jerked a thumb over her shoulder, back towards the park.

“I dunno, I guess I feel like I can tell you this stuff,” Sean said with a shrug. “You’re not judgey like the others, you don’t expect me to be anything. You’re…” Sean waved his hands, searching for the right word. “You’re real.” Sean felt heat in his cheeks again and he moved on hurriedly.

“One good thing about uni is that I can get away and be myself. Plus, there’s not really anyone I’d miss from round here.” Jo’s head jerked up.

“No-one?” she asked. Sean balked at the obvious cue. He dry-swallowed several times, wishing that the street wasn’t so bloody long so that he could escape to his home.

“Well, I…” he said, rubbing his neck. “I’d miss…well, y’know, I’d…not miss exactly, but…oh, fuck it!” Sean halted and turned to face Jo. Their eyes met. Now or never, big man! he thought. He wished he was more like Nick.

“I’d really miss you, Jo,” he said, forcing the words out. “You’re not like everyone else. I can be real with you.” Heart thumping, he carefully took one of Jo’s hands. Her calloused fingertips brushed over Sean’s knuckles and he almost lost his nerve.

“I’d miss you too, Sean,” Jo replied, her voice a breathy whisper. She took his other hand and squeezed. God, she’s beautiful, Sean thought, as warring emotions tore through his body. He opened his mouth, but Jo placed a finger on his lips.

“Don’t,” she said. “Be real with me.” Jo pushed the camera case over Sean’s shoulder, then cupped his cheek. Sean felt his head being pulled gently down, and panic flared in his mind as Jo’s face filled his vision. Her dark eyes began to close as she turned her mouth towards his, her lips parting. Sean watched her come nearer, closing his eyes at the last possible second before their lips met.

It was delicate at first, and hesitant. Jo’s lips were soft and warm, and Sean could smell coconut butter on her skin. Jo’s fingers stroked his cheek, her fingertips tracing his jawline. Sean pressed closer and encircled Jo’s waist with his free arm. His heart hammered against his ribs and his body grew hot. He let go of Jo’s hand to pull her into a tight embrace, and she exhaled in pleasure, breaking them apart. Sean opened his eyes saw that Jo’s were also open, and they were shining in the fading light. Jo smiled shyly and ran a finger along the downy fuzz on Sean’s upper lip.

“Now that’s what I’m taking about!” she said in a husky tone. Sean giggled. Like a girl.

“Real enough for you?” he whispered, and he leaned his forehead against hers.

“Mhmm,” was Jo’s simple reply. Sean could feel her heart pounding as her breasts pushed against him.

“So, what, are we, like, together now?” Sean asked lamely. Jo chuckled and pulled away from him.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, boy!” she chided, fluttering her eyelashes. “You might not be good enough for me!”

“Oh, it’s like that, is it?” Sean replied, raising an eyebrow. He grinned back, but he felt dread settle in his stomach. Jo inspected her nails with exaggerated care.

“Yep. Maybe I don’t want someone who tries to act like tough guy. Starting on people in parks and all that. Besides, you might be buggering off to uni soon!” Sean’s expression must have betrayed him because Jo burst out laughing.

“Y’know, you’re pretty sensitive for a tough guy!” Before Sean could protest, Jo stood on her tiptoes and kissed him, slowly and softly. She breathed a deep sigh when they parted.

“Come on then, I’ll finish walking you home,” she said, chuckling. Sean shook his head with a smile and let himself be dragged along. They walked through the darkening street holding hands and chatting about anything which came to mind, their hearts fluttering like birds in their chests. For Sean, life had never seemed brighter or more beautiful than it did right then. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but in that moment, for the first time in months, he didn’t care.

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Fortnightly Fiction – A Call for Prompts!

Hi everyone! As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m going to be launching a new feature on my blog. Just like my previous ‘Fiction Fursday’ posts, I am looking to write stories with your input! I will write, edit, redraft and post one short story every two weeks for your enjoyment (I hope!) and your scrutiny.

What I will need from you, dear readers, is writing prompts. They can be in the form of first/last lines, a particular theme you would like to see, a suggested point of view, or even just one word to get the cogs turning. I’ll welcome any suggestion of genre, too, so please feel free to give me something tricky! Please note, I will draw the line at anything unsavory, such as extreme erotica or gore. Just as a heads up!

This process has worked very well for me in past, both in my April A-Z Challenge in 2016 and my ‘Fiction Fursday’ posts, and it gave me a tremendous sense of achievement as I was regularly writing and receiving feedback. Of course, I will also be adding stories from within my own mind-palace from time to time, as I can’t let you lot take all the credit!

I’m currently looking to begin in January 2018 with six prompts, which will take me into the middle of March. If I receive more than I need then I’ll simply file them away for future use, especially if they are good ones! My aim is to stay ahead of the game by keeping to a strict schedule this time around, as it’s high time I got this blog organised!

As always, I will aim to keep the stories around the 2000 word mark or less. If any are likely to go over by a large amount then I’ll consider splitting the story into parts. Also, anyone who suggests a prompt which I use will be acknowledged and linked in to the blog post. I’d be extremely grateful for any suggestions and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can come up with together!

Thanks, everyone!

 

Image credit to pixabay.com. 

Here are a few of my ‘Fiction Fursday’ short stories, to give you a flavour of the excellent prompts I have received in the past. 🙂

A Crisis In Alexandria

Flossy’s Chance

The Boy and the Oak Tree

Dark Side Debriefing

The Animals’ Advice

Death Vision