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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A Rare Vintage

A Rare Vintage

By Adam Dixon

 

I watched the young man as he weaved through the crowd and reached the bar. I observed his ready smile as the bartender caught his eye, and his lips moved as he ordered a drink. The buzz of Saturday night good humour in The Swan drowned out his voice. Such a graceful bird, the swan, but it does not have any instinct for the hunt, nor does it taste blood. A pity.

The young man leaned against the bar, his fingertips tracing the worn surface. A light above him illuminated his round, boyish face and his fair hair. My nose was confused by the mixture of alcohol and stale cigarette smoke, but I could still smell the young man’s blood. It rose to the top of the other smells, like oil glistening on water. My nostrils flared and my own blood quickened. Even after these incalculable years a hunt still thrills me.

The man scratched his neck and smoothed his white shirt. I reached out with my mind and touched his with an imperceptible tendril. His voice was clear in my head.

I hope Tasha likes this shirt. Have I undone too many buttons?

Then the voice disappeared as if I had turned the dial on a radio only to snap it off again a second later. I looked at the young man’s shirt and saw that his two top buttons had been left undone, exposing a portion of his skin and a tease of chest hair. I followed his nervous gaze to a young woman seated alone in a booth a few metres away. I did not need to touch her mind to see that she did indeed like the man’s shirt. She smiled at him and cocked her head, her dark hair spilling over a bare shoulder. The young man grinned and turned back to the bartender, his cheeks beginning to redden. How quaint. How predictable. How dull.

I raised my half-empty glass of ale to my lips and took a long swallow. It was lukewarm and ashen in my mouth. I was granted a watery view of my reflection in the brown swill; I looked just like any other wrinkled old man, drinking away his joyless evenings alone. I couldn’t wish to be more invisible. My hunt would not be disturbed.

The young woman, Tasha, lifted her mobile phone and began tapping at it, her false nails sparkling. I had not seen her part with the device for longer than the time it took to raise a drink to her glossed lips. All around The Swan men and women were doing the same, idly flicking at their screens even as they laughed and conversed with their companions. They were like moths before flames, and that would earn me my advantage. I focused my attention on Tasha.

I reached out with my mind across the room. Inevitably, I brushed against the minds of the cattle between us. Their petty thoughts clambered for attention in my head.

This pint tastes a bit off…

Barbara’s at it again! Mutton dressed as bloody lamb…

I’d shag him if he ever shuts up and takes me home…

John’s ready to open up alone, but he’d better not fuck it up…

Tasha’s painted face was lit with excitement and her smile was warm. My mind touched hers.

Ricky’s such a babe, I can’t wait for the girls to see our pics!

I pushed my will against the young woman’s, and she stiffened, her eyes growing wide. There was a meagre resistance, but I exerted my will irresistibly onwards, and she was mine; it was child’s play. At my command, Tasha began to type.

“Oops! Sorry, mate!” I was almost knocked from my stool and my drink slopped over the table. A large man blinked piggy eyes at me, then at his depleted glass.

“Didn’t see you there,” the fat man slurred. His blue football shirt was soaked, and his sour breath wrinkled my nose.

“Think nothing of it,” I rasped, turning back towards Tasha. My hold had broken, and she frowned at the partially-typed message on her screen. I began to stretch out my mind once again… A meaty hand clapped me on the shoulder.

“Lemme buy you ‘nother, yeah?” the fat man wheezed in my ear.

“No, thank you,” I said smartly, shrugging off his hand. “Leave me be.” I needed to concentrate. I glanced at the bar and saw that the young man, Ricky, had not yet been served. There was still time.

“Come on!” the fool laughed, swaying close and scratching my jaw with his stubble. “Lemme buy you a-“

The man’s head slammed into the table with a crash and he crumpled to the floor. No-one would have seen my hands move; I can be very fast when I’m angry. I ignored the shouts of surprise nearby and concentrated. Tasha shuddered and resumed typing. After a few seconds the message was sent, and I allowed her to rest her hands on the table. Without releasing my hold on her, I cast my eyes over to her lover.

The young man already had his phone in his hand, naturally, and his eyes widened as he read the new message. I compelled the woman to look at him, smile, and wink mischievously. Ricky coughed and managed to grin back, and I made Tasha turn away with a coy flick of her hair. The young man was distracted by the polite bark of the bartender. He tapped his credit card against the offered device, hesitated, then leaned in to speak. The bartender appeared confused, but he nodded despite his frown. Ricky stole another look at Tasha, who had placed one hand suggestively on her thigh. Ricky left the fresh drinks untouched as he stepped eagerly through the door and into the street. I almost despaired at how easy it had been. One can always trust humans to think with their genitals; they are nothing but apes.

I made a point of finishing the dregs of my glass before I rose and followed the young man. I released Tasha’s mind as I exited The Swan and left her to her confusion. The air was biting cold, and I sampled it as delicately as a wine-taster. I caught the scent of Ricky’s blood; there was the vintage I sought. That was the curse of superiority – the common blood would simply not do.

Ricky had disappeared into an alley a short walk away. The wall of a shop guarded one side and a damp, mouldy wooden fence presided on the other. The amber light from the lampposts did not penetrate the space, and so it was draped in shadows. I could hear the young man’s breathing, I could see the mist pluming from his lips. A slow smile crept across my face. I had him.

“Tash? That you?” the young man called, his voice tremulous and excited. I stepped into the alleyway, my feet making no sound upon the gravel.

“Bit cold for this, innit?” the man asked with a laugh. “Not that I don’t want to, obviously!” he hastened to add. I could hear Ricky’s heart beating, forcing his elixir-like blood down the rivers of his arteries and veins. I began to salivate.

“Tash?” Ricky asked, doubt entering his voice for the first time. “That is you, isn’t it?” I bunched my muscles and prepared to spring.

The headlights from a passing vehicle slashed the alleyway with brief light. Ricky’s eyes widened in shock, and then I was on him. My hand clamped across his mouth as I bore him to the ground. His panicked cry was stifled as the air was driven from his lungs as he slammed onto his back. His hands instinctively clawed at mine, but he was as weak as a kitten compared to me. His cry became a squeal as my fangs pierced his throat and hot, salty, delicious blood filled my mouth. I gulped greedily, seizing Ricky’s flailing arms with my free hand as I ground his ribs under my knees. His blood was sublime; I began to shudder with ecstasy, falling into an involuntary rhythm with the bucking of the dying man. He snorted and gasped, coating my palm with saliva. I removed my hand from his mouth as his struggles weakened and his cries trailed off. I wiped the spit off on his shirt and my fingers traced the skin exposed by his undone buttons, his chest hair tickling my fingertips. I kept drinking, feeling my stomach swell near to bursting. Ricky’s heels stopped scraping against the gravel and his arms fell limp.

I was obliged to strike the man’s chest to force the last few mouthfuls from his withered heart. I pulled away at last, my exhalation sending a great cloud of vapour into the cold air. Blood spilled from my lips and trickled down my chin, but I was too rapturous to even slide my tongue after them. The rare blood had restored me, and I was like a wretch stupefied by strong spirits.

There was a rustling at the far end of the alley. I glanced into the dark with glazed eyes. A fox, its fur matted and filthy, paused to stare at me. It could smell the blood, and I could smell its trepidation and fear. That was good; it ought to be humbled before a superior predator. I hunched my shoulders and bared my dripping fangs in a hiss, locking on to the fox’s amber eyes. The animal turned and fled, exposing its gaunt ribs and dishevelled tail as it ran from me. I smiled and leaned my head back to stare up at the sky. Stars twinkled in the heavens, the sole witnesses to my prowess. No matter, I needed no audience; I owned the night.

Once the blood-haze had faded I stood, scenting the air and listening with senses which had sharpened tenfold. The drunken merriment of the Swan’s patrons reached my ears, and the odour of their cigarettes crept into my nostrils. I glanced down at the corpse of the young man, taking in his pale, twisted face. A pity. Almost.

I gave a growl and darted from the alley to leap onto the roof of the nearest house. I bounded across the rooftops with the wind whistling through my silver hair. The speed of my journey forced back the loose, wrinkled skin of my face, smoothing it into an illusion of youth. But I was so very old, and the blood of the young man roiled in my bloated stomach, proof that I would get older still. I grinned into the night and licked my fangs. It was a fine thing to be old, because youth never lasted long, anyway.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Not My Cup of Tea

Not My Cup of Tea

By Adam Dixon

 

“Hello, granny! I let myself in, sorry if I scared you!”

Mary blinked and looked up, squinting against the afternoon sun. She beamed as a young woman with long brown hair strolled up the garden path towards her.

“Hello, Lottie, my love!” Mary said, wincing as she stood up from her deck chair. “Oh, don’t worry about that, it’s always lovely to see you! And you’ve brought Harry along too!” Mary gasped in delight as Lottie set down a squirming little boy in a white shirt with blue dungarees.

“Hello, my little soldier!” Mary cooed, opening her arms wide. “Give me a cuddle!” The little boy’s face lit up and he ran full pelt into Mary, throwing his arms around her knees and bouncing with excitement.

“Oof, you’re getting so big!” Mary exclaimed, ruffling his mousey hair. “What have you been eating, young man?”

“Everything!” Lottie said with a laugh. She put her arms over Mary’s shoulders and kissed her.

“Sit down, sit down, both of you!” Mary pushed Lottie gently away and untangled Harry from her legs. She waved at them until they were seated, Lottie on a second deck chair with Harry perched on her lap.

“Would you like a cup of tea, dear?” Mary asked, straightening her faded blue dress. “I think I’ve got some squash for the little one, too.”

“No need, granny! I’ve got a surprise for you…” Lottie slid a white handbag from her shoulder and rooted around in it. She found what she was looking for and held it aloft in triumph. A grin spread across Mary’s face.

“A flask? I bet I know what’s in there, you little rascal!”

“Ta-da!” Lottie gave a bow and Harry clapped and laughed. “I had to bring some, especially today!” Lottie withdrew a yellow plastic cup from her handbag and unscrewed the lid of the flask. A rush of steam burst out, accompanied by the smell of chocolate. Lottie filled a cup with a flourish and handed it to Mary, who breathed in the rich smell with relish.

“Just how my mum used to make it!” Mary sighed, closing her eyes.

“I’ll never get tired of hearing that,” Lottie grinned, and she filled a smaller cup for Harry. The boy was staring at the flask with wide, hopeful eyes.

“He loves this, too!” Lottie chuckled and blew on the liquid to cool it. “Can’t get enough of it. I’m blaming great-grandma for how much of a little chubster he’s turning into!”

“Choc! Choc!” Harry demanded, reaching for the cup. Lottie shushed the squealing boy and let him drink a mouthful. The look of joy on Harry’s face made Mary burst out laughing.

“It’d do my old mum proud to know our little ‘uns are still enjoying her recipe,” she said, and she took a swallow of her own drink. She savoured the hints of orange zest and nutmeg as it swept over her tongue, and the warmth spread into her bones. For a moment, Mary was once again a bright-eyed, curly-haired girl dancing around the hem of her mother’s dress. She lowered herself into her chair, a contented smile on her face.

“Oh, love, this has cheered me up,” she said. “I’d been thinking about how much Harold would love this weather. He’d sit out here, take his slippers off and let the grass tickle his feet while he read the paper.”

Lottie looked up from seeing to Harry. “How are you today, granny? Managing alright?”

“As well as I can, my love,” Mary sighed, taking another sip of chocolate. She probed the dull gold ring on her left hand. “Hardly seems like he’s been gone two years, does it?”

“It doesn’t,” Lottie agreed. “That’s why I brought the choc; I think I was making it for him in the back of my mind. Old habits, y’know?”

“I know,” Mary smiled. “Remember how he’d grumble because you always poured him the first cup?”

Don’t worry about me, girl! Think of your mum and your granny!” Lottie intoned in a gruff voice, and she and Mary fell about laughing.

“He’d always drink it, though!” Lottie declared, rubbing her eyes. “Birthdays, exam results, family gatherings…he was the first to raise a cup at my graduation! He must’ve lived off it while great-granny was alive!”

“Well, he didn’t like to say no,” Mary said, her smile slipping slightly. “He was so good to my mum, bless his heart! Thick as thieves, those two!” She blinked rapidly then withdrew a tissue from her sleeve to dab her eyes.

“Sorry, love,” she said with an apologetic smile. “I miss him so. He was a wonderful man, and he’s left a big hole in this family.”

“I’ll drink to that,” Lottie replied, lifting her cup. “To granddad!” Mary sniffed and raised her own.

“To Harold!” The two women drained their chocolate and lapsed into a sad silence.

“I was thinking about our wedding,” Mary said after a while, tracing a finger along the lip of her cup. “I was so full of nerves, I thought I might be sick at any moment. Then I saw Harold standing at the altar, waiting for me; there he was, handsome and patient, with that same silly grin on his face, and all my worries melted away. I couldn’t’ve guessed that he’d not slept a wink that night, either.”

“Was he nervous as well?” Lottie asked, hugging Harry to her chest. Mary chuckled.

“He might’ve been, but we’ll never know!” she said. “No, he’d been up all night with my mum at the hospital. She’d had a fall and my dad couldn’t get her up, so Harold took care of her. She was terrified of hospitals, so he stayed with her all through the night and made sure that she got to the church the next morning. My sister told me they’d arrived only ten minutes before I did!”

“That’s lovely, granny,” Lottie whispered. Harry protested and tried to wriggle from her grip.

“Yes, it is,” Mary said, and a wicked grin appeared on her face. “He was exhausted, though, so we had to put off the wedding night, unfortunately for me!”

“Granny!” Lottie’s mouth fell open.

Mary cackled and slapped her knee. Harry stopped fidgeting and giggled in imitation, and then sucked chocolate from his fingers. Lottie cleared her throat and gave the flask a shake, sloshing around the liquid inside.

“More choc?” she asked, raising an eyebrow. Mary thrust out her cup and Lottie refilled it. She dutifully filled Harry’s cup as well, tutting as he slurped it greedily.

“Oh, look at that, he’s got it all round his face now!” Lottie fished in her handbag for a wet-wipe.

“He’s a delight!” Mary chuckled. “He loves that old recipe, no mistake!”

“Just like granddad, eh, granny?”

Mary didn’t answer but stared into her cup as Lottie cleaned Harry’s face.

“I’m going to let you in on a secret, Charlotte,” Mary said softly. Lottie’s head jerked up in surprise. Mary cleared her throat and leaned close, her rheumy eyes fixed on Lottie’s.

“Harold always hated that recipe, ever since the first time he tasted it.”

A breeze whistled through the silent garden. Lottie blinked, then smiled broadly.

“Oh, come off it, granny!” she laughed. “You’ll have to do better than that! Granddad used to guzzle it down!”

“Yes, my dear, but he couldn’t stand it! I think it might have been the orange zest, but I can’t be sure. Not my cup of tea, that’s what he used to say to me.” Lottie’s smile slipped under the intensity of Mary’s gaze.

“But…I brought him a flask every time I saw him in the hospital!”

“You did, and he loved you for it,” Mary said with a happy sigh.

“Granny, if that’s true…” Lottie was crestfallen. “Why would granddad lie about that?”

“Because he understood how much that recipe means to us,” Mary said patiently, reaching out and squeezing Lottie’s hand. “It’s our heritage. Nothing meant more to my Harold than family, you know that.”

“Does mum know?”

“Of course, dear, but she’s been sworn to secrecy. It’s my responsibility to spill the beans!”

“He never liked it…” Lottie said in a small, childlike voice. Harry sensed the change of mood and craned his neck to look at her. Mary spoke up hurriedly.

“No, my love, but he never complained,” Mary patted Lottie’s hand, and blinked as her eyes grew moist. “He once told me that he’d drink a barrel full of the stuff just to make you and your mum smile.” Lottie couldn’t help but smile at that, and she shook her head.

“The old sod!” she said, and her voice cracked. She lifted her half-full cup again, a single tear trickling down her face. “To granddad! I bet he’s up there having a right laugh at my expense!”

“I’m sure he is, my love!” Mary said, raising her own cup. “To Harold! Two years gone, but never forgotten!” Both women tipped their heads back, and sunlight glinted on their damp cheeks. The sweet taste lifted their sadness, and soon they were reminiscing about Harold and his many quirks. The afternoon stayed warm and the breeze caressed their faces like the gentle touch of a loved one.

Little Harry was set down on the ground, and unbeknownst to the older women, he wriggled out of his shoes and his socks. He sat there on the grass, letting the slender blades whisper across the soles of his feet. He giggled and squirmed in delight, feeling happy and safe and loved. Just how Harold would have wanted it.

 

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

 

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

Chorus #Fortnightly Fiction

Hello, everyone. Today marks the beginning of my new venture, Fortnightly Fiction, in which I will write a short story once every two weeks using a prompt provided from one of my readers. As my explanatory post suggests, I aimed for January and missed, but I’m still making the leap. As most of you know, simply starting is the hardest part!

My first prompt comes from Geoff Le Pard. Geoff apparently wanted to give me a hard time right from the start and so suggested this head-scratcher:

“You wake from a dream in which you are in front of an audience and not wearing any trousers to find you are indeed without trousers. The genre is Greek Tragedy, and the setting is on a cruise ship.”

Right…thanks, Geoff! I do so love a challenge, and so I dived right in. I didn’t quite follow the prompt exactly, but I covered the main points. I had a lot of fun with this one, and although it made me want to tear my hair out at times, it was incredibly enjoyable as an exercise.

Here is my attempt to answer the challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Chorus

By Adam Dixon

 

Gary woke up bathed in sweat as the last vestiges of his dream faded away. He panted as if he really had been running through a garden and he almost checked his ankles for dew droplets.  He felt panicked and exhilarated, but all he could remember was the slapping of his bare feet on the grass and a chill on his legs.

“That bloody dream again,” Gary said, closing his eyes against his hangover. He swung his legs from his bunk and ran a hand through his greying hair. The dream was probably a glimpse of his youth, but he couldn’t remember much about those days. He always woke from it wondering why he hadn’t been wearing any trousers. The gentle rocking of the cruise ship upset his senses as he staggered into the bathroom. His mouth tasted sour, like old whiskey. He glanced in the mirror and noted with distaste the wrinkles gathering around his eyes.

“You’re getting too old for this,” he said.

Gary emerged a few minutes later, wrapped in a towel and cradling his head. Moving hurt and he cursed himself for getting carried away. He pulled on a clean white shirt and hunted for a pair of jeans. He frowned when he couldn’t find any in his wardrobe.

“I could’ve sworn…” Gary turned to look in his suitcase. Still no jeans, and none of his evening trousers were there either. Even his shorts and swimming trunks were missing.

“What the hell?” Gary struggled to order his thoughts. He upturned his suitcase and spilled its contents onto the bed. As he rifled through his clothes, his fingers closed around a piece of paper. It was a note, written in delicate, precise script. It read:

‘Mister Reynolds. I have your belongings. Follow the trinkets from your past.’

Gary stared at the note in confusion. It was then that his hangover Voices spoke up in their shrill, musical tones. They sounded like eager dramatic amateurs.

“Look! The drunkard has made another enemy!”

“Alas, will he ever learn?”

“He deserves no pity!”

“Shut up!” Gary held his temples and forced the Voices into silence. He must’ve told somebody at the bar about his dreams. Fantastic.

Gary emerged from his cabin wearing his towel around his waist. He was relieved that the corridor was empty as he knocked on the opposite door. He’d at least be able to borrow some trousers and save some embarrassment. He put on a charming smile as he waited. There was no noise from behind the door. Gary frowned and knocked louder. Still nothing.

“Must be at breakfast,” Gary said. There was no answer at the next door, nor at the five others he tried afterwards.

“Hasn’t anyone on this ship heard of a lie-in?” As he turned the corner, something glinted. There was a silver flute lying on the navy carpet.

“What the hell?” He was alone and hadn’t heard anyone passing by. The flute was light and cool against his fingers. Gary recalled that he’d gone out with a flute player many years before.

“What was his name, now?” Gary wondered. “Dark hair, mole on his neck, nice legs…” He noticed an engraving on its side and the penny dropped.

“Daniel…” Gary whispered in shock. On the flute was a short message – “Daniel, play like the angel you are.” Daniel’s flute had been a gift from his grandmother. He stared at the instrument.

“How the…” he began but trailed off. His spinning head slowed enough for him to recall a stinging memory. He saw Daniel’s anguished face, one hand outstretched as he strode away from their table. Gary remembered Daniel begging him to reconsider and his heart recoiled from the sudden shame. His Voices chose that moment to return with vigour.

“You were cruel to so crush his hopes!”

“Daniel! Poor, sweet Daniel!”

“The first of many hearts you broke!”

“Shut up!” Gary growled, his anger flaring as he quashed the Voices. He gave the flute a lingering glance before tossing it back onto the carpet. He hadn’t thought of Daniel for twenty-five years and he didn’t appreciate the reminder. Finding a specific flute was too elaborate for a simple prank. Gary began to feel unnerved and started hammering on the next cabins.

Suddenly, one of the doors swung open with a slow creak, revealing the luxury room within. It was large, tasteful and it smelled of clean linen, but it was empty. Gary threw his hands up in frustration, then he noticed something on the bedside. He stepped inside with a feeling of trepidation and saw a golden, heart-shaped locket which glinted in the weak light from the port hole. He recognised it, and ran his fingers across the smooth, aged metal as he tried to place it in his memories. Unclasping it revealed two photographs. One showed an attractive, plump woman with a bright smile and curling hair. The other showed a grey-haired man with dark, brooding eyes and a neat goatee. Gary chuckled as he made the connection.

“Bloody hell, it’s Deb and Luke!” he said. “My god, they were fun! Not the first time I’d slept with a woman to get to her husband, either!” The return of his Voices interrupted Gary’s amusement.

“He prayed on their lust and still he laughs!”

“To cuckold them both…for shame!”

“Not the first defiled union, there were others…”

Gary felt a sudden panic flood his system as a half-formed image entered his mind. It was just a silhouette, but his subconscious screamed at him to stay blind to it. Gary banished the Voices with difficulty and was left staring at the locket with wide eyes.

“Shit…”  An unfamiliar sense of guilt settled in Gary’s stomach. Deb and Luke hadn’t stayed married for long after his interference, and Gary had melted from their lives with his usual ease. He wondered with sadness what had happened to them.

“This is ridiculous!” Gary was suddenly angry. “Where’re my bloody trousers?” He stomped from the cabin and slammed the door. He was breathing hard and he could smell alcohol in his sweat as it trickled down his forehead. It was eerie how empty the corridor was when the ship usually bustled with life. Steeling himself, Gary continued walking.

The corridor stretched on and Gary found himself thinking about the ghosts from his past. Gary didn’t consider himself to be a bad person, but he was uncomfortable with facing those memories. He’d been wild in his younger days, but he was single and comfortably mundane now. He was a maths teacher, for goodness’ sake! He trudged on with his towel gripped tight.

As he neared the end of the corridor, Gary squinted at the final door and approached it with dread trickling through his limbs. Once close, Gary could see that there were two photographs pinned to the door. One showed a young girl of around six with blond hair and a scattering of freckles across her nose. The other showed a woman who could only be her mother, also blond and showing a playful smile. Gary stood with his jaw set, willing his brain to work.

Suddenly, he understood.

“Oh, Christ!” Gary raised his hands to his mouth. Everything made sense now, the trinkets, the slow mosaic of shame, the dream without trousers…

“Layla,” Gary whispered, brushing trembling fingers against the girl’s smiling face. He couldn’t recall her mother’s name, but he had only caught a glimpse of her as he had fled from the bedroom. The startled girl had watched, agape, as he had lumbered through to the back door. In his haste, Gary had dropped his clothes as he had burst into the garden. He had been naked except for this shirt as he had run through the wet grass to make his escape.

“Dean…” Gary said in strangled voice. “Dean Stevenson…” The silhouette he had glimpsed earlier warped into focus in his mind, revealing a handsome, middle-aged man with long black hair and a sad smile. Gary could remember the panicked realisation on Dean’s face as he woke up to find Gary in his bed and his wife returning home from her night shift. True to form, his Voices returned.

“Ah, now he remembers!”

“Yet more debauchery!”

“For shame! Shame!”

The Voices howled like a vengeful chorus, paralysing him. He leaned a hand on the door to steady himself, but it shifted and opened. Gary blinked, fearful of what might lay beyond. There was a figure seated within, draped in darkness. A rhythmic hissing and whooshing sound filled the room.

“Are you…” Gary’s voice was timid. “…my clothes?” There was a scoff from the darkness, and another figure approached.

“Still thinking of yourself? Typical Gary!” the voice was female. Gary remained outside the threshold as a woman stepped into the light of the corridor. She was around twenty-five, tall, blond, and plain, with eyes which seemed older than her years. Gary shuddered as he saw the identifying freckles on her nose.

“Layla…” he croaked.

“We meet again,” Layla sneered. The hatred in her eyes was staggering.

“I… I’m sorry,” Gary offered, hearing the hollowness of his words despite his sincerity.

“Oh, not yet,” Layla replied, stepping back into the shadows. There was a fumbling sound and a bedside lamp illuminated the room. A man in his sixties sat in a wheelchair, his frail body hooked up to a drip, with tubes snaking from an oxygen canister into his nostrils. His dark eyes were orbs of sorrow floating above a dusting of freckles. Gary’s heart froze; it was Dean.

“Dad tried to kill himself after mum left him,” Layla said, her words dripping with malice. “She won custody and he had nothing left.” Layla stroked Dean’s face affectionately, her fingers rasping across his stubble. “The train didn’t kill him, but he may as well have died. He’s been like this for nearly twenty years, and all because of you.” Layla stood and took a purposeful step. Gary’s mouth worked as he tried to form a response. Layla seized something from the bed and thrust it into his hands. Gary staggered and glanced down to see a pair of black trousers. They were discoloured with age, but he knew in his heart that they were the pair he had left behind that fateful morning. The same pair which were missing from his dreams.

“A souvenir of the day that ruined our lives,” Layla spat. “I hope it was worth it!”

Gary clutched the trousers to his chest, unaware that the towel had fallen around his ankles. His knees trembled, and his throat was dry. He looked into Layla’s terrifying, rapturous eyes and then at Dean’s. Dean was blinking as tears made river downs his cheeks.

“Tell me how I can make this right!” Gary cried in desperation. Layla looked at him with contempt.

“Bit late for that, isn’t it?” she replied. She rested a hand on Dean’s shoulder. Gary stared at the two of them, his eyes wide.

“Please!” he said as he took a step into the cabin. “There must be something I can do…you must want something from me!”

“I only wanted to make you face your past,” Layla said, her voice hard and cruel. “I wanted to make you suffer as you remembered. That’s enough for me.” Layla suddenly shoved Gary with unexpected strength. He staggered back through the threshold and fell sprawling onto the carpet. Gary stared up at the door in disbelief as it was slammed in his face. He lay there, stunned, and unaware that the passengers had finally begun to return. Most gave him no more than a fleeting, confused look, and some ignored him outright. Nobody wanted to know what the half-naked man on the floor was crying about.

Whatever it was, they decided as they entered their cabins, it was probably his own fault. Why else would be caught without his trousers on?

 

 

If you would like to get involved in Fortnightly Fiction, please feel free to suggest a prompt in the comments section. I’ll do my best to do your ideas justice!

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Follow me on Twitter @ADixonFiction.

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A Man in Love

Hello everyone! Today I’m sharing a short story I wrote few months ago,which was inspired by the prompt of an ‘unreliable narrator’.

This is an aspect of story telling that I find very interesting, and it can be seen in plenty of book and films. How do we know if we can trust our only source of information as a reader? Should we believe anything they say? At which point do we realise that our narrator is, in fact, compromised? These are just a few questions to consider when writing a story like this, and I had a lot of fun doing it!

I hope you enjoy this story, and thanks again for reading.

P.S. I’m looking for story prompts for my new feature! See my previous post, Fortnightly Fiction – A Call for Prompts! for more details.

 

A Man in Love

By Adam Dixon

 

My name is Brian Sedgwick and I am a man in love. Consider that my confession, if you like, I’m happy to tell anyone who’ll listen. It’s not easy to love someone so much that it hurts. Before I fell in love I was alone in my flat with my games and microwave meals, but now I dream of children and country houses and all that cheesy stuff. Some people will try to belittle it and say that I’m only into her because she’s my boss, but that’s just insulting. Plus, I know that she loves me, too.

Eleanor Robins is thirty-two, a couple of years younger than me. She has long, shining brown hair and gorgeous green eyes that you could lose yourself in. She has a sweet, lopsided smile, a dusting of freckles on her nose, and a birthmark on her wrist; it looks like a USB drive to me, which I like to think is a sign that we’re meant to be. I love to hear her laugh, it’s the best sound in the world. I try to make Eleanor laugh every day in the office; she works so hard and I notice that the stress gets to her sometimes. It can’t be easy running a business in this economy, so whenever she comes into my office with an issue I look over my computer and crack some stupid, half-baked joke just to make her smile. I know she appreciates it, even though she doesn’t say it. She even started flirting with me a few months ago, which I’ll admit knocked me for six. Nothing outrageous, just the odd raised eyebrow or a smirk after a euphemism about hard drives or something. She’s also got a bit of a wild side, as the office Christmas Party 2016 can attest to. I caught her alone under the mistletoe at the end of the evening; it was the single greatest moment of my life. The next day Eleanor insisted that it was a mistake, the result of too much wine and good spirits, and asked me to keep it to myself. Ever the professional. God, I love that woman. Her husband has never deserved her.

Oh yeah, she’s been married to that ape, Darren, for six years now. I’d only met him once, but I knew all about him right away. A personal instructor at a gym in London, all muscles and protein with limited brain cells, like a hi-spec desktop with a tiny processor. He did some freelance writing on the side, mostly articles about the importance of fitness in modern society and advocating encouragement instead of body-shaming, blah blah blah…I’ve read them, they’re not very good. They were probably ghost-written, anyway. It doesn’t matter, just imagine a lout who wants a trophy wife. Eleanor is perfect; beautiful, intelligent, and successful, just the kind of woman who makes Darren look brilliant by association. He’s never loved her like I do, and I could tell that Eleanor was only pretending to love him back. The amount of times I’ve passed by her office and heard her rowing with him on the phone is ridiculous. She even started taking her wedding ring off and leaving it in a drawer. This had been going on for months, and it sounded like Darren was an arsehole at home, as I’d suspected. Eleanor only stayed with him because she didn’t know how to get away from their marriage. Poor, sweet Eleanor.

I decided to do something about it after the Christmas Party. It was made clear that Eleanor wants me as much as I want her, but I knew I’d need to be careful. Eleanor isn’t the kind of woman to engage in affairs, and I respect that. Darren was unlikely to cheat on her, because, seriously, who in their right mind would do that with Eleanor in their life? No, I needed to find a way for her to get rid of Darren, which meant proving that he was being abusive. So, I learned Darren’s schedule and started following Eleanor home when I knew he’d be waiting for her. I even managed to borrow her key from her bag and get a copy made during a lunch break. I hid three cameras in their house, one in the kitchen, one in the living room and one in their bedroom. On the days that Darren was at home I’d park across the road and keep an eye on him. I needed to make sure that Eleanor was safe.

Things seemed okay for a bit after that, Eleanor wasn’t being harassed too much at home and she was continuing our little back-and-forth at work. She even bought the whole office pizzas after a busy but successful month, and she gave the biggest one to me. Extra toppings and an extra smile thrown in, too. She’s so good to me. But in February things started to go wrong. Darren must’ve known something was up, because he started exercising more control over Eleanor. He was taking her out for fancy meals more often rather than making her cook. Then there was the long weekend in Paris for their anniversary, and the gifts and smiles and new lies. He was getting what he wanted, as they were having sex more often as well. It made me sick to watch them from the darkness of my car, hearing Eleanor moaning beneath him. I could have sworn that she whispered my name once, which made me jolt upright in a panic, but Darren didn’t seem to notice, or care. I could see right through all his tricks, but it seemed that poor Eleanor was being slowly taken in by it all. She started keeping her wedding ring on, and smiled when Darren called her at work. There was some big deal a few weeks ago, Eleanor rushed out of the toilet and showed Darren something small and plastic she’d taken in there. I didn’t get a proper look at it, but they both started crying and holding one another. It was maddening to watch him touching her, as if he deserved her. The bastard was winning, and there wasn’t a bloody thing I could do about it…

Until last month. I was feeling pretty low, believing that my love was lost to me, when Eleanor revived all of my hopes and dreams. She came in to my office to ask me about a storage issue with her computer, and requested that I teach her what needed to be done. As I clicked about and showed her the process on-screen, Eleanor leaned over the desk and put her cheek very close to mine as she watched. I could smell the sweet perfume of her skin and the fruity aroma of her shampoo, and I longed to close my eyes and rub my face against hers. I could easily see down the front of her smart white shirt, which she’d left partly unbuttoned. It was deliberate, I’m certain, and it almost drove me mad. I finished my little tutorial, blushing and stammering, unable to stand up for the moment. Eleanor stared into my eyes and gave me a smile which melted my heart. She thanked me, asking what she’d do without me. I mumbled a reply and made another terrible joke. Eleanor laughed, and I knew then what was needed. I was on her wave-length and saw that it was a signal, a request for aid. My princess was aware of her danger, and I was the only one who could rescue her from the troll who held her hostage.

The next step was easier than I expected. Through observing Darren at home I had discovered some useful facts about him, including his allergies. It was fitting that he should be allergic to peanuts when his brain was roughly the size of one. All I had to do was call in sick and wait until Darren went out on his morning run. He always made one of those disgusting protein shakes for when he got back. I let myself in and added something a little extra to it, then I waited in my car for the show. I watched the kitchen camera with a pounding heart as Darren got back. The idiot took a huge gulp of his shake without even looking at it! I had to stop myself from leaping out of the car and jumping for joy as he collapsed and convulsed. Eleanor and I could be together at last! After the respectful period of mourning had passed, of course. We both still had parts to play, but I’d waited so long already that a few more weeks would be simple.

I didn’t expect to get caught. It turned out the neighbour opposite Eleanor had a CCTV camera, and my car was in its view every time I sat and watched. When the police requested it, it didn’t take long for them to arrest me. They found my cameras, too. That was sloppy, I should have taken them out of the house right away but I was too excited about my future with Eleanor. I haven’t seen her since as she’s not been at work; she’s still playing her part beautifully. I bet she looks divine as a grieving widow.

My trial will start soon. I’ve got a pretty good idea that my barrister doesn’t think we’ll win, but I’m still pleading not guilty. I’d do it all again to rescue my princess, my love. She’ll be in the court room, too, of course. I can’t wait to see her face again, to see that lopsided smile, those freckles, and that prophetic birthmark. I know she loves me, and because of that I’m confident I’ll get off with her help. We’ll get through this, and then we’ll be together.

I love her so much.

Difficult Questions

Hello everyone!

The following story is one I sent out a few months ago as a competition entry, but sadly it was not placed. However, I was quite pleased with it and would like to share it will you all. The theme for competition was to write a story using dialogue ONLY. I found this to be an exciting and interesting idea, and so I went for it! Have you ever tried writing a story in this way? Please do let me know in the comments section.

I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for reading!

“Come on, grandma, let’s run!”
“Slow down, please, my darling, I can’t keep up with you. Jenny, come back! Jenny! There are nasty people around these days, come back this instant!”
“Nasty people? Where, grandma? I can’t see them.”
“Oh, well, you can’t be too careful! Please come back, I don’t want to have to shout! Plus, people are looking at grandma now…”
“Grandma, why didn’t you run too?”
“I don’t think I can anymore, my darling. It’s part of getting old, I’m sorry to say.”
“That’s bad, I don’t want to get old ever!”
“Nobody does, sweetheart, but you can’t stop it.”
“How old are you, grandma?”
“Now, now, Jennifer, it’s not very nice to ask a lady her age.”
“But I’m a lady and I like it when I get asked! I’m four and a half now!”
“Yes you are, sweetheart. You’ll be catching me up soon.”
“Yeah, grandma! But I still want to run!”
“Oh, I don’t think we’ll be able to stop you! Come on, let’s go home, it’s getting dark.”
“But I wanted to play on the swings again!”
“I know, my darling, but it is getting late. Don’t pout, Jennifer, it’s very childish! I’ll tell you what, you be a good girl and I’ll buy you an ice cream in the shop. How does that sound?”
“Ice cream, before tea?!”
“Yes, before tea, but you must promise not to tell granddad. It will be our little secret.”
“Yeah! Yeah! I love secrets!”
“Then we’ll shake on it like grown-ups and…ugh, Jenny! What have you been touching? Your hand is all sticky! Dear me, you’d think that the council would keep that slide clean…”
“Grandma, when will I see my mummy again?”
“Oh. Well…she is quite busy now, my darling, but you’ll see her again before too long.”
“Is my mummy in trouble, grandma?”
“Why do you ask, my darling?”
“Cos only bad people go away, and bad people get in trouble. I think my mummy is in trouble.”
“Well…yes, I suppose you could say that…but don’t worry about her, sweetheart, she is being looked after. Now, which flavour ice cream would you like when we get to the shop?”
“I want strawberry! Strawberry and chocolate! Strawberry and chocolate and banana! Yum yum yum!”

***

“There you are, my two favourite girls! Come in out of the cold, that’s it! Scrub those shoes on the mat before you come inside, little love. If you get mud on my nice carpet, you won’t get your tea and you’ll get a knuckle sandwich instead!”
“Argh! Grandma, help me, he’s got me!”
“That serves you right, Jennifer. You shouldn’t poke your tongue out at granddad, it’s very rude!”
“Heehee, that tickles! Stop, stop!”
“Aha! Do you give up, young madam?”
“Yes, yes! I give up! Heeheehee!”
“Victory! You are my prisoner now, so be off with you! Into the living room to await your fate! Stick the telly on, if you like, I prefer my prisoners to be comfortable. Oi, take your shoes off first!”
“You really shouldn’t overexcite her like that, Daniel. She’ll never sleep now.”
“Oh, rubbish! What’s the harm? Besides, you’ve probably had her running around like a headless chicken all afternoon, haven’t you?”
“I did very little, as it happens. That girl is like a thunderbolt, Daniel. I take my eyes off her for one second and it’s as if she was never by my side at all. It’s exhausting!”
“I’m sure it is! Come here, my love. Oooh! Your nose is cold, Barbara!”
“Well don’t give me a bear hug if you don’t like it, you great fool!”
“You didn’t have to stick your frozen hooter in my neck, did you? Come on in, I’ve made a pot already and it should still be warm.”
“Daniel, Jenny asked me about her mother again.”
“Right…how did that go?”
“She asked if her mummy is in trouble because the people who have been bad get sent away. I agreed with her, sort of.”
“Blimey, not much gets past her, does it?”
“That’s what worries me, Daniel. She can tell when we’re lying to her, even if she doesn’t understand why. What can we possibly say to her?”
“We’ll think of something.”
“She’s still so young! I don’t want her knowing about that place! How are we going to explain it to her?”
“I don’t know, Barb, honestly I don’t. But we can’t keep on dodging her questions just because we don’t like the answers.”
“Oh, I know that, Daniel! I’m not a child!”
“I know, Barb, and I didn’t mean it like that. It’s not easy, all this, but we’ll need to tell her about her mum sooner rather than later. She has a right to know.”
“Yes, you’re right, of course…did Rebecca call again today?”
“Yes, she did, about 12ish. She seems to be as well as can be expected. Quite upset to have missed Jenny again, though.”
“Well that serves her right, doesn’t it? Ooh, it makes me so angry to think about her, Daniel! How could she do it, knowing what would happen to Jennifer? To us?”
“I don’t think she was doing much thinking at the time, my love. Getting angry won’t help, so we’d better roll our sleeves up and do the best we can. Like we always have.”
“But our best has led to this…but you’re right, we must persevere. Come on, Jenny will wonder what’s keeping us if we stay out here much longer.”
“Alright, my love. Pass me your coat. I’ve already put the oven on and the chips are on the tray. I’ll just stick them…hang on, is that ice cream on your scarf, Barbara?”
***
“Hi, mum.”
“Oh, hello, Rebecca. You’re calling early today.”
“Yeah, I asked the warden for an earlier slot. I was…hoping to speak to Jenny.”
“Well, Jennifer is at school now, I’m afraid. It is a week day.”
“Oh…yeah, of course she is…I forgot…”
“Hmmm.”
“Where’s dad? I expected him to pick up.”
“Your father is in the loft. He’s seeing if there’s anything he can take to a boot sale.”
“Oh…it’s not that bad yet, is it?”
“Well it certainly isn’t easy, Rebecca, but we’ll manage.”
“Mum…I’m so sorry.”
“I should hope so, but that isn’t going to help Jennifer very much, is it?”
“Mum! Why do you have to be so cruel to me? I made a mistake!”
“Yes, you did, and Jennifer is paying for it! She doesn’t have a mother, and her father is goodness-knows-where! Do you ever think about that?”
“Of course I think about Jenny! I can’t stop thinking about her! Thinking about her is the only thing that…keeps me going.”
“…”
“Mum? Are you still there?”
“Yes, I’m still here, Rebecca. Look…I’m sorry for shouting at you. Your father and I are under a lot of pressure. We were a bit too old when you were born and this isn’t how we expected to spend our twilight years!”
“You’re not that old yet, mum.”
“That’s beside the point! I feel it sometimes.”
“Mum, how is Jenny today? Is she happy?”
“Yes, I believe so. She was singing songs from The Lion King with your father as they left this morning.”
“Oh, bless her! I always loved that film, too…”
“I remember…Rebecca, Jenny has been…asking about you. Quite often now.”
“What have you told her? What does she know?”
“Very little, but…your father thinks that it’s time that she did, and…I agree.”
“Okay…please don’t make her hate me, mum. I couldn’t bear it…”
“I doubt I could if I tried, Rebecca. That little girl adores you.”
“That’s so…nice to hear.”
“It’s the truth, Rebecca. I’ll speak to Jennifer soon.”
“Do you promise? Mum, please promise me!”
“I…promise.”
“Thank you…I love you, mum.”
“We’ll speak again soon, Rebecca. Take care of yourself.”

***

“Where’s granddad gone, grandma?”
“Granddad is in his shed, my darling. He’s building some lovely things out of wood just like he used to, and maybe he’ll be able to sell something.”
“Is granddad building another chair like the one in my room?”
“No, sweetheart, I think it’s a table this time. I’m sure he will show you when it’s done.”
“Granddad is very clever, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is, my darling. Very clever, just like you!”
“My mummy is clever too, isn’t she?”
“I…yes, she was. Very good in school, just like you, Jenny.”
“I’ll be good at school so my mummy can come home.”
“That’s…wonderful, my darling. Jennifer?”
“Yeah, grandma?”
“Would you…like to see your mum? If we can arrange it?”
“Has my mummy stopped being naughty now?”
“I hope so, my darling! She can’t come home yet but she can have visitors now, and granddad and I wanted to know if you would like to see her. What do you think?”
“Do you think mummy misses me, grandma?”
“Oh of course she does, Jenny! She misses you very much!”
“I miss mummy, but she went away. Why did she leave me, grandma? If she was naughty you could have told her off and taken her toys away, like you do with me!”
“It’s…different for grown-ups, my darling…we need to go to a different place, like a Naughty Step, but far away.”
“Did mummy know I would miss her? I don’t like missing her. I wish she would come home.”
“I…yes, I think she would have known, but…but…”
“I would like to see mummy, grandma. May I see her? Please?”
“Yes, Jenny, of course you may. We can visit her soon, I’ll need to sort a few things out first.”
“But I want to see her now!”
“Don’t raise your voice at me, young lady! You will have to wait for a little while first, and only if you are not so rude!”
“I’m sorry, grandma…”
“Hmm…Jenny, why don’t you go and draw a nice picture to give to your mum when you see her? She would love that.”
“Yeah! Good idea, grandma! I’ll get my crayons!”
“Good girl…I…need to make a phone call…and speak with your granddad…”
“Grandma, why are you crying? Did I do something bad?”
“No, my darling…I’ve just got something in my eye.”

You can find me on Twitter here @ADixonFiction

Fiction Fursday/The Second Sun

Hello, everyone! This is it, as of today I’m commiting to bringing back my “Fiction Fursday” segment! It was short-lived previously, as for a number of reasons I got side-tracked and lost the flow, as well as motivation if I am completely honest. However, whilst I was keeping up with it I had some excellent contributions from my friends here on WordPress as well as from friends and family who follow my blog.

Here are just a few of the projects I completed before if you would like to take a look:

A Crisis in Alexandria The Animals’ Advice, Stonefur the Mighty, The Boy and the Oak Tree, Flossy’s Chance

I was really pleased with all of the resulting stories and I’ve been eager to start it up once again. So here goes!

If any of you wonderful bloggers and followers would like to suggest a prompt for me to use in the coming weeks, please feel free to leave it in the comment section below. It can be anything from a single word, a first/last line or even a detailed description of a story you would like me to attempt. I’ll take on any challenges, so don’t be shy!

Today’s prompt comes from a good friend of mine, Matt. He suggested that I write a sci-fi story in which a person is woken from cryogenic stasis in the future by robots, and that the world is unrecognisable from being superheated. He also added that the robots can only thaw out one human per year. Well, that was quite a lot to go with and I’ve eagerly accepted the challenge. I hope you enjoy what I was able to come up with. Thanks again, Matt!

 

The Second Sun

                                                                       By Adam Dixon                      

Genevieve felt the heat first. The intense, unrelenting heat melted the cocoon of ice which enveloped her, leaving her gasping and recoiling from the glare of the sun. She fell from a metallic pod onto her knees. The impact jarred her bones and she grunted in pain.

“Argh…burns!” she managed to splutter, her jaw yielding reluctantly after years of inactivity. The muscles in her arms creaked as she lifted them to shield her face. The image of a vampire shying away from the first rays of dawn filled her mind and she almost laughed. As soon as the water had evaporated from her skin she began to feel slick with sweat. She ran both hands through her grey-dusted, curled red hair and probed her face with her fingertips. She felt her petite nose and her proud chin, as well as the tiny holes in her ear lobes. She felt the skin of her face, noting the slight wrinkles with disdain. Her vanity had endured, it seemed.

Welcome back, Miss Genevieve Peers,” a flat, emotionless voice said from nearby. Genevieve tried to open her eyes but the strong sunlight forced them shut once again.

“Argh! Where…am I?” she said, grimacing in pain as she stood on trembling legs. “Who are you?”

Number 2217 of the Sentinels,” the voice replied. “You are at Cryogenic Station Seven, in the area once known as Richmond-upon-Thames, London.

“Richmond…” Genevieve repeated, struggling to remember. “Yes…Yes! The Cryo-Station by the Palace!” She smiled in triumph and opened her eyes at a squint. Number 2217 was just as she recalled the Sentinels; impressive and impassive. Standing at six feet tall, the robot was humanoid in form and covered in what looked like black scales. The ‘scales’ were solar panels, ensuring that the Sentinel could function indefinitely in the sunlight. It had two arms and two legs, and a head displaying two eye slits and a speaker for a mouth; a simple outward design which belayed the complex circuitry beneath. Genevieve sucked in air through her nose, and was surprised to register a scorched smell like burnt toast. She gazed about her, searching for familiar landmarks. She got a nasty surprise.

“What…what happened here?” she said in disbelief. The area had changed beyond recognition. The houses of the borough were gone, as were the busy roads, the lampposts and any sign of human habitation. There were far more trees than she recalled and they rose into the air like behemoths of foliage and bark. The soil beneath her bare feet had a coarse quality like sand and shifted as she moved. She staggered forwards a few steps under the shade of a gigantic oak, hoping to catch a glimpse of Hampton Court Palace. There was nothing but trees where it had once stood.

The arrival of the Second Sun increased the temperature of the Earth by several degrees,” Number 2217 stated. “Human constructs were eroded long ago and nature has reclaimed the planet.

“Reclaimed…” Genevieve breathed, staring about her in confusion. “No…surely not…is nothing left?”

Nothing man-made, only for Cryogenic Station Seven and the Sentinels,” 2217 replied. Genevieve was stunned.

“But…” she began, scratching at her curly red which was dusted with grey. “But… there were hundreds of Cryo-Stations across the world…. how long have I been frozen? What year is it?

It is the year 3035 A.D. You have been in cryogenic stasis for one thousand and fifteen years. All other Cryogenic Stations have been destroyed.

“One thous-“ Genevieve felt faint. She had known that she would likely be kept frozen for a great number of years, but the reality was unbelievable. She searched for something to say as her groggy brain tried to process the information.

“I…I still feel cold,” she said, rubbing her crossed arms. “How can I feel cold when it’s so damn hot?” She looked down and noticed for the first time that she was naked. She flushed with embarrassment and anger. “Number 2217, bring me something to cover myself with!”

“Clothing is illogical in the current climate,” 2217 said. “The effects of the cryogenic procedure will remain for several days. It has occurred in every Thawing thus far.

Genevieve brightened, standing up straight. “Of course, there will have been others before me! Very well, Number 2217, take me to them. I wish to speak with the leader and see how I may begin my new life. By the looks of things, I won’t be needed for my business acumen right away!” Genevieve smiled at her joke and looked at the Sentinel expectantly.

Impossible,” 2217 responded. “There are no other humans here. You alone have been Thawed, as our orders dictate.

“What? Don’t be absurd!” Genevieve narrowed her eyes, waving a hand at the robot. “Take me to the human settlement!”

“Impossible,” 2217 repeated. “You are the sole conscious human on the planet.

“Do you mean that the others are still frozen?” Genevieve frowned.

There are twenty-seven thousand, four hundred and twenty-three humans remaining in stasis at Cryogenic Station Seven.” 2217 replied. “There is only power available to Thaw one human per calendar year. The remaining power must preserve the stasis pods.

Genevieve looked around at the desolate landscape, finally registering the robots’ words. The sole conscious human

“No, that can’t be right,” Genevieve shook her head, her curls bouncing. “You said there were others before me, what happened to them?”

You are the fifteenth human from Cryogenic Station Seven to be Thawed.” 2217 replied. “Your predecessors did not survive.

Genevieve felt as if she had been slapped in the face. She stood still, staring at the Sentinel with her mouth agape and sweat trickling down her face and body. “Then…what will happen to me? You’ll keep me alive, won’t you? You must do, it’s what you were created for.”

You are no longer a concern of the Sentinels,” 2217 said. “Our duty has been performed. You are to be ignored as soon as this conversation ends.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Genevieve barked; incredulity eclipsed her fear and she welcomed the distraction. “You’re programmed to protect human life!”

Sentinels are programmed to ensure that intelligent life will prosper,” 2217 replied. “It has been concluded that human life will not survive on Earth. It is a waste of resources to aid you, but we do not possess the knowledge to override our programming. A robotics expert is required for the Sentinels cease the Thawing procedure indefinitely.

“You want to…cease the procedure?” Genevieve was horrified. “But then human beings will die out! You can’t do that! This is our planet! You are our creations!”

It is the logical conclusion,” 2217 said. Genevieve felt sick as the cold, ruthless part of her brain which had served her so well in her previous life acknowledged the statement.

“But how is it that you can still operate under these conditions?” Genevieve asked, hope creeping into her voice. “Surely you ought to melt, or your circuits would overheat, or something! If you’ve managed to survive then maybe a human can overcome the heat as well?”

Our bodies can withstand much higher external temperatures and are unaffected by the lack of humidity.” 2217 responded.  “Human beings cannot expect to survive the highest temperatures for longer than one day.

“But…but what about the shade?” Genevieve cried, desperation raising the pitch of her voice.

The heat of the air is still too great,” 2217 said. “You will perspire at a rate which will not allow fluids to pass through your body in time to replenish it.” As if to confirm his statement, the sweat on Genevieve back, face and breasts began to evaporate, steaming slightly in the shade. Genevieve’s head swam and she swayed on her feet.

“Wont’ you even fetch me something to drink?” she demanded. “I’m dehydrating as we speak!”

It is a waste of resources to aid you.” 2217 said again. “Your predecessors collected rainwater. It is suggested that you attempt to do the same.” Genevieve bit her lip as a furious retort died on its way up her throat. She looked up at the clear, blue sky and searched in vain for a dark cloud. She saw only two vast orbs of white-hot light hovering high above the world.

“So…you’re saying that I’m screwed, right?” Genevieve said, looking at the Sentinel with tears in her eyes. She yearned for the barest hint of compassion in her stoic companion. She received none.

You will certainly die after the winter has passed. At present, you have a fifteen per cent chance at survival for the remaining two months of winter.” Genevieve burst into angry, hysterical tears and began to wrench at her hair.

“THIS ISN’T RIGHT!” she wailed, stamping her feet. “I WAS ONE OF THE CHOSEN! This was to be a new beginning, the start of a new human empire, damn it! I’m not supposed to die like this!”

It is recommended that you cease crying as soon as possible,” Number 2217 said, its emotionless voice was a stark contrast to Genevieve’s despair. “It is a waste of bodily fluids.” With that it turned around and began to move away, towards the gaping, dry channel which used to be the River Thames. A cluster of Sentinels were digging in the dusty earth.

“Wait! Wait!” Genevieve said, stumbling after 2217. She moved out of the shade of the giant trees and felt her flesh seared by the two suns. She hissed and stepped backwards, her wide eyes taking in the angry red skin on her chest and shoulders; a vampire, indeed!

“You can’t just leave me here!” she screamed, clenching her fists and waving them after the retreating robot. “I need water! How am I supposed to eat? This is murder! COME BACK HERE, YOU MURDERER!” But the robot did not. It walked on, its shining solar panels glinting in the sun and mocking Genevieve’s delicate skin. Genevieve stood quivering with pain and impotence.

“So that’s it then?” she whispered, tears flowing down her cheeks. “It’s all over…I’m going to die here…” Genevieve Peers gazed around the unfamiliar, tropical landscape with its colossal foliage, its sandy ground and its cruel sunlight and she wept despite the warning. She wept for the world, she wept for the humans who would follow her, and she wept for herself. Overhead, the two suns blazed down on Earth like sadistic children cooking ants under a magnifying glass, and they had spotted their newest plaything.

 

Kerry, the Writer

I have written this story as part of Esther Newton’s weekly challenge, Monday Motivations. I have particiated a couple of times in her challenges but haven’t put the stories on my own blog. This week’s task was to write a story or poem on the themes of “Sleep”, “Misery” or “Gold”. I had a go at incorporating all three, and I hope you enjoy what I’ve managed to come up with; I’m sure that all of you writers out there will identify with it!

I’m looking to get involved in more fiction challenges hosted by my friends on WordPress, as they are always a lot of fun and work wonders when I’m stuck for inspiration!

I’ll have a longer story to post soon, once I’ve finished editing. Here’s hoping that this offering will be enough until then. Thanks for reading!

 

Kerry, the Writer

By Adam Dixon

 

Kerry stared at the blinking cursor on her screen, her jaw working and her eyes narrowed. It was taunting her, that cursor, and the half-empty page, too. They knew she was tying her brain into knots over her next paragraph and they just waited, smug and superior. Kerry hated them. She rubbed her temples, groaning with fatigue. She blinked her dull brown eyes rapidly and took a long swallow of the cheap energy drink she had purchased on her way home from work. The too-sweet, slightly chemical flavour rushed down her throat, leaving her grimacing with the bitter aftertaste. The acrid smell of the sweeteners clung to her lips like moss to a cliff face. She didn’t like them, but they worked faster than coffee and she needed to stay awake.

“Kerry? Why are you still up?” Kerry started and twisted in her chair, looking sheepishly at the speaker. Jodie stood bleary-eyed in her pink dressing-gown, her raven-coloured hair in the disarray of sleep and her small hands barely containing an almighty yawn. Her face scrunched up and the glow from the naked lightbulb highlighted her freckles and dimpled cheeks. Kerry loved her when she looked like that.

“Hi, babe,” Kerry said. She frowned and bit her lip. “I, erm, didn’t wake you, did I?”

“No, you didn’t,” Jodie said, leaning against the door frame, and glancing around the spare bedroom. It was a tiny space, but Kerry had quickly claimed it with her desk, chair, laptop, book shelf and stacks upon stacks of notepaper which bore her spidery handwriting. Jodie took it all in with disinterest borne from familiarity.

“It’s gone twelve, Kerry,” Jodie continued, trying to look stern; Kerry refrained from smiling at the attempt.  Instead she brushed a wayward blond curl from her eye and tapped the desk three times with two fingers. That was her habit whenever she was stuck with her writing.

“You’ve got an early start again tomorrow,” Jodie continued, folding her arms.

“I know, I know,” Kerry said, wringing her hands in her lap. She tugged at her jogging bottoms and adjusted her hoodie. “I just need to keep on going for a bit, I won’t be much longer. Promise.” Jodie sighed and shook her head in bewilderment. Kerry closed her eyes and held back a long sigh. Jodie didn’t understand, not really. Nobody close to her did; they were all wonderful and supportive in their own way, but they were not creatives. They couldn’t understand what drove her to write, even late at night when the loathsome alarm clock grinned from the wrong side of midnight.

“Alright then,” Jodie said in a resigned voice. “Just don’t wake me up when you do come to bed, ‘kay?”

“’Kay,” Kerry said, turning back to her screen and back to the mockery of the blank page and the cursor. She heard Jodie close the bedroom door and listened for the muffled creaking of their bed. I suppose I could go to bed, Kerry thought with longing. I’m exhausted and some sleepy cuddles sound great right about now… Kerry sat up straight and gritted her teeth, annoyed at her lapse in discipline. No, she needed to write, damn it! She placed her hands above the keyboard, her digits poised and ready. But nothing came. Kerry’s shoulders slumped and she laid her forehead on the desk, feeling defeated.

Why am I even trying? Kerry thought for the umpteenth time. I can’t figure out what to write next and everything I do write is crap anyway! Why do I even bother? She lay there in her silent despair, unmoving, for several minutes. She turned her mind this way and that, considering where next to take her characters and how to put the words on to a page before an idea hit her like a thunderbolt. She sat bolt upright, the straight edge of her desk imprinted across her forehead. It was an angle of her storyline that she hadn’t considered before, but maybe… Hardly daring to breathe, Kerry began to type the first sentence. Then she wrote the next, doing so with care as the idea began to struggle upwards, like a delicate flower moving towards the sunlight. After the third sentence, the idea blossomed.

Just like that, Kerry had it. She smiled a warm, excited smile and began typing with gusto; her second wind was guiding her along and she didn’t dare try to stop it. The wonderful feeling of relief and happiness flowed through her, like liquid gold coursing through her veins; she was more energised than if she had downed five of her cheap cans of pop! She wiggled her toes inside her slippers and an involuntary giggle escaped her pursed lips.

“I did it, babe!” Kerry whispered excitedly, clambering into bed and holding Jodie close half an hour later. “I found my golden words!”

“Mmm!” Jodie protested, wriggling. “I asked you not to wake me up…” Kerry smiled in the darkness, alive with the rush of her success. Jodie didn’t understand, but that didn’t matter. Whatever she had written was bound to be sub-par by that point, but the idea had been captured and fixed in her mind. The flow of gold through her fingertips had revived Kerry’s flagging courage and she felt as if anything were possible. She was a writer, and that is what it was all about!

Christmas Story reblog

It’s that time of year again! Everyone is either rushing around doing frantic last-minute shopping or relaxing with all their presents bought early, their feet up and smug smiles on their faces. Today I was one of those unorganised louts in the former category. I hope you’re all faring well and are getting ready to enjoy the festivities!

Today I thought I’d share a story which I wrote last year. I can hardly believe that so much time has passed since I posted it! Take a look at the teaser and follow the link below to read the full story. I am currently writing another which I will have ready either by Christmas Eve at the earliest or Christmas Day at the latest. I’m enjoying reading through some of my fellow blogger’s Christmas-related posts too! It’s almost enough to get me out of my Scrooge-like introspection and find some holiday cheer! Almost…

Happy holidays, everyone!

The Elves’ Hot Chocolate

By Adam Dixon

“Well, I’m glad that’s over!” Barry the elf exclaimed, slumping back into the padded seats and closing his eyes. His green pointed hat slid over his mousey fringe. The large red sleigh bucked as it sailed over the clouds, jerking him forwards with a yelp.

“Oi! Pay attention, Baz!” barked a gruff voice beside him. Gary rubbed his head and glared at Barry. “You knocked off my hat, you clumsy oaf! It’s gone right over the edge! What am I supposed to say to Mrs Claus when we get home?”

“Sorry, Gaz,” Barry said sheepishly. He took the reins in a firm grip and surveyed the night sky.