Saturday, 29 September 2012

Short Story: Final Exam


Deep breath in, letting it out slowly.

"Come in."

Door opens. A young man's head pokes around the door.

"Erm...I have an appointment with Doctor Lawson...my exam..." He's so nervous; he must fear going to the doctors. I can't blame him.

"Ah, yes," I manage to smile smoothly. "You must be Anthony, am I correct?"

"Yeah. But everyone calls me Tony."

"Tony." My tongue feels too big for my mouth when I try out the abbreviation. "So you're getting out of here today, yes?"

"Yeah," Tony smiled shakily. "I can't wait to see my mum again. There's so much I need to tell her, and so much I need to catch up on. I want to tell her face to face how sorry I am, and I want to start afresh."

I swallow hard. "Right!" I clap my hands together, try to sound cheerful. "Shall we begin? We need to check you're fit and healthy before you're released. Prisons are nasty places after all." I presented a sample bottle. "First, I need a urine sample."

It gives me enough time to pull myself together. When he enters again with the bottle of dark liquid, I have pulled up my walls and mask that make me the obnoxious Doctor Lawson that people know.

"A bit on the dehydrated side," I note dryly when he hands me the sample. I hold it out ready for the nurse to take to the lab. "While we're waiting for those results..." I gestured towards the chair. The still blushing man obliged, taking a deep breath as he sat back in it. "I'm just going to run a few more tests. You don't mind needles do you?"

"No, not really."

"Good. So erm...what did you do?"

"What do you mean?"

"What do you think I meant?"

"Oh. Right. Erm...possession with intent to deal drugs."

I frowned. "What type?"

"Anything really. Started off as just a bit of weed, then coke...eventually spiralled out of control; was taking heroin twice a day. I was caught dealing weed in an attempt to make enough money to continue my habit." He sighed regretfully. "I caused my mum so much grief."

"I'm sure she understands you're sorry."

"Still, I need to tell her face to face. It's not the same on the phone." I hesitated, the wire in my hand hovering just above his skin. "Is...something the matter, Doctor?"

I steeled myself and stuck the needle in, securing it with a plaster. "Nothing," I told him, forcing a quick smile. "So, ah, how old are you?"

"24. Got banged up in here at 16. I'm surprised I'm actually coming out."

"Yeah, most Class B drug dealers get 14 years."

The lad's face fell. "Erm...I wasn't completely honest with you..."

I know. "What do you mean?"

"I...ah... I accidentally killed someone. A girl at my school." I feigned surprise, waited for him to continue. "The reason we got caught - me and some lads - when we were doing the deal...because someone brought a knife..." I watched him swallow thickly. "Gabby had fancied me for ages," he laughed. "She knew I was taking drugs, and was trying to make me go get help. I'd told her I don't know how many times to just piss off and leave me alone. I was so horrible to her, yet she still stuck by me, tried to help me. She must've known I was in trouble, so she found me that night, and..." He didn't need to finish.

My eyes travelled the length of the wire to where it was connected to a cold metal machine. I shook myself out of my trance. "Okay, let's get this show on the road." How sick.

"How long will this take?"

"Not long. Then you're free to go and explain yourself."

The wide grin made his eyes sparkle and my mask slip slightly. I took the remote in my sweaty palm without another word I pressed the button. The shock on his face before he slumped over his lap was understandable - he hadn't expected that.

My name is Doctor Paul Lawson, and I am a merciful executioner. And the ironic thing is I deserve to be in that chair, head lolled forward, since I am just as much of a murderer as the people I kill.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Short Story: You'll Come Back (Part Four)



A year passed by and the torment of memories and what ifs still plagued Virginia’s mind. She couldn’t rid herself of the memories she imagined they would have together – getting married, making love for the first time, having a family of their own... She’d wanted it all with Ralph, and now it had all disintegrated with him.

When her father passed away, she never thought she’d understand the pain that her mother was going through at the loss of the love of her life - her soul mate. Ralph was Virginia’s soul mate, and now he was gone. Her moods would vary widely between crying hysterically to inappropriate laughter to sudden episodes of rage, and sometimes she could be found screaming at the wooden cross marking her fiancĂ©’s grave.

“Whatever was it that was more important than focusing on your bloody job so that you could come back to me alive? How dare you leave me! How dare you! I miss you.”

She distanced herself from her friends considerably, throwing the lovingly cooked dishes in the bin and leaving it to her mother to lie and show appreciation for their neighbours and friends’ efforts. Black cloth hung from her pale skeletal frame despite the desperate pleads for her to eat more. She no longer cared about life, and although it may have seemed ridiculous to Virginia it wasn’t as simple as that. Ralph had been in her life for six years; six years was an impossible amount of time to just simply get over and continue without.

She was walking home from the shops when the sirens screamed through the otherwise silent streets, and before her eyes the streets became a scene of panic as people ran from their homes to find their nearest shelters. Virginia ran as fast as she could, though she knew she would not make it home in time to stay in the shelter with her mother. She therefore tried to come in with other people though the frustration and frantic searching for a free space in one of the nearby shelters was proving fruitless. She charged around like a madman, pleading to anyone who hurried past her to let her in their shelter.

She found an abandoned shelter that must have belonged to a now perished family, and she wasted no time in making her way inside. She felt so alone, with only the rats for company, but she felt able to breathe as she took note she was now safe.

There was a fraction of a second for her to feel secure before Virginia was thrown through the air by an inhuman force. It seemed to happen in slow motion; her ears were merely ringing as she mindlessly admired the twirling wood and brick that surrounded her in the air. She felt her body fall to the ground like a rag doll, and she could see the rubble that buried her in her resting place, preserving her ruined body so that someone could find her and tell her mama. Her mother would be so worried right now. She needed to assure her like she had promised to always do. Her eyelids fluttered and her lungs sighed as she noticed a figure stand over her, cupping her face with gentle hands. Ralph. Nothing else mattered when Ralph was with her.

“I said you’d come back,” she smiled. His only answer was soft laughter that seemed like a lullaby to her closing eyes. She kept them open long enough to notice the stretched out hand for her to take, and her left hand rested in his palm perfectly like it always did. They stood together, oblivious to the growing crowd surrounding them, gasping and crying at the sight. Virginia saw the sad look upon her love’s face and answered with a sad smile of her own before taking his hand leading him through the crowd and away from the black dress that covered the pale skin of a broken girl whose life would now begin in another light.



THE END

Monday, 24 September 2012

Short Story: You'll Come Back (Part Three)




They were on the beach together, singing their favourite song quietly to themselves:

“Heaven, I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek”

She looked radiant with curls in her hair; he loved how they framed her face. She almost looked as if she was glowing today, a smile stuck to her face as she hummed the backing music for him. He loved times like this with her. It was always so relaxed, as though they were in their own little bubble and nothing else existed except for the sea before them, the wind in their hair, and of course Virginia and Ralph.

“What were you talking to my father about earlier?” she asked out of the blue.

“Excuse me?”

“You took my father aside to speak to him. What was it about?”

Ralph grinned. “Nothing.”

“Tell me, Ralph,” she appeared to whine, though her facial expression remained nonchalant.

“Nothing for you to be worried about, Virginia.”

“Ralph, please.”

“I think I’m going to go for a swim.”

“Ralph!” He ignored her. “Ralph Hamilton, you tell me right now, or so help me God, I will-” Her playful threat dissolved on her lips when he knelt on bent knee. “Ralph?” She gasped at the sight of the small diamond ring before her.

“If you hadn’t the habit of being so persistent, you could’ve had a better proposal at my home with our folks present!” Ralph joked.

“I would rather it be just you and me,” she replied simply, “but you will have to do it again for my mother – she loves romance!”

“I can live with that.” He cleared his throat. “Virginia, I love you. I love you more than anything in the world, and I want to stay within your warm embrace forever. Will you marry me?”

That smile had been enough of an answer. “Yes. Yes, I will!”



The visitor at the door wanted to her, her mother informed, and she knew in that moment what it was about. She took a deep breath and stood to straighten her dress before walking to the door. She never really understood why her mother never invited people into the house, nor did she ask. She remembered having to eventually ask if Ralph could come in every time she answered the door when he came around. Maybe something had happened in her past that kept her from inviting people in.

The walk to the door seemed to take much longer than usual. Her heart beat echoed in her ears, and she could feel herself getting more lightheaded with every step. The door was slightly open so as to avoid letting all the cold in, and she had to take another deep breath to even touch the door knob.

“Mary!” She let out a sigh of relief. “How are you? Have you been well? I haven’t seen you in awhile.”

Her friend smiled. “I’ve been busy with the shop and looking after the family since Father was called up. Mae is there now; she’s been a lot of help lately. How are you? Have you heard anything from Ralph?”

“No. I received a letter from him last month, but nothing since.”

“He will be fine. He’s probably not had chance to write.”

It was as though her life was a play in the theatre – his mother’s grief-stricken eyes met hers and she knew her gut had been right. Mary caught her before she fell to the floor with Helen’s tears.


***


The service was beautiful, though their wedding would have been more so. A happy young couple in love would have stood where the simple wooden casket was, and the people gathered would’ve worn reds, creams, greens and blues with smiles on their faces instead of black with sorrow.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

And the writer strikes again! Another article in the paper - boo-yah!


The original piece I wrote can be found here.

Short Story: You'll Come Back (Part Two)





He was ordered to stay back in case they got through the other troops. He looked around at the soldiers accompanying him and flinched when a bomb went off somewhere in the distance. The sound of gunfire rang in his ears constantly; he couldn’t remember that noise called silence. He longed for that silence – silence and Virginia.

He remembered how it didn’t matter what they did – sometimes they did nothing at all – all that mattered was that they were together. But now Virginia had been replaced by this: gunshots, screams of agony, hoarse commands from soldiers, and the sound of bombs blowing up anything in their way. Ralph couldn’t help but feel sorry for everyone on that battleground, even the Germans. For all he knew, those men may have been forced to fight, just as he had.

That’s why, later that day, he felt terribly nauseous. It had all happened so fast. Some of the German soldiers had evaded the troops that had gone forward, and Ralph had heard the signal from the Lieutenant in charge. He had ran with them, ready to protect his country, and then he heard the war cry. He’d turned, and he saw the enemy charging towards him, knife raised. It was either him or the German. His gun went off and the eyes were wide as he fell to the ground. Ralph momentarily forgot where he was – who this was – and kneeled beside the dying man. His left lung was punctured; blood was on his breath. He was about the same age as Ralph, and as he turned his head to face him, the man spoke.

“Sagen Sie Pippi Ich liebe sie,” he gurgled. Ralph frowned. “Sagen Sie Pippi...Ich...liebe...sie,” the soldier repeated. “Pippi...love...” Ralph watched as the light in his eyes dimmed slowly until nothing was left. A tear rolled down his cheek, and he squeezed the man’s hands before running forwards towards the still raging war.


“Virginia! Virginia!”

She couldn’t leave it. Ignoring the sirens and her mother’s screams she ran to her bedroom, her heart threatening to leap out of her chest. She rummaged around desperately until she found it under her bed. She let out the breath she’d been holding and then hurried out of the house into the shelter, clutching the item to her chest. Not even a minute after she had managed to get to safety the shelter started to tremble as bombs were dropped on her hometown. Her little brothers and sister were crying, huddling close to her as she tried hushing them and singing a song to calm them.

“What were you thinking?” her mother scolded as soon as they fell asleep. “You could have been trapped in there – you could have died! What was so important that you had to risk your life?”

Virginia sighed as she picked up the photo frame on her lap and handed it to her. “It’s the picture of Ralph and Papa,” she explained. “I just couldn’t leave it. I miss them both so much.”

Her mother placed a comforting hand on her knee, rubbing soothing circles with her thumb. “I know,” she whispered. “I do too.” There was a long pause. “I hope you know that I do like Ralph. He’s a good boy.”

“I do know, Mother.”

“Do you remember that day you introduced him to your father and I?”

Virginia laughed. “He was so nervous!” she chuckled. “I think he asked one of his older brothers for some advice on what to wear; not exactly the most sensible idea!”

“That hat!”

“That bow tie!” The laughter suddenly fell dead on their lips. “I miss him, Mama. I miss Papa so much, and now I could lose Ralph as well!”

“No!” her mother stopped her. “Don’t say that. Ralph is a fine young man; he can get through this.”

“You’re right. He can.”


***

Ralph went through the same ritual that night as he always did. He held the cross that hung from his neck in the centre of his palm and silently prayed to God to help him through this, ending it with the Lord’s Prayer. And then he would hold the brooch that his beloved fiancĂ©e had given him. It had been a present for her birthday; he had seen it in the jewellers one afternoon and knew that this was the gift for her. It was a beautiful arrangement of Lucite forget-me-nots with clear rhinestone centres, surrounded with more rhinestones set in silver tone base metal floral bouquet design. It had cost him most of his savings, yet he had known that she would love it.

She had never taken it off until the day at the train station, and now it was never absent from his left breast pocket. It wouldn’t ever leave that place until he came back to her and gave it to her in person.

That was the last thing he thought before a gunshot rang in his ears.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Short Story: You'll Come Back (Part One)



“You know I have no choice.”

“Yes, I know.”

Virginia’s heart broke as she saw the terror swimming in the boy’s baby blue eyes. They both knew that he wasn’t cut out for war, but Britain needed all the help they could muster at this time, hence why Ralph had been called up. She shuffled closer to him, close enough to smell his familiar scent; it usually made her feel safe during these times in the throes of war, but now it only brought a feeling of panic. Panic that they will be separated today and never see each other again.

Ralph pulled her into a hug as he tried to keep the tears at bay. “I love you,” he whispered, kissing the top of her head over and over again. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” she sobbed.

“Hey, hey...” he hushed her. He held her face in his hands, forcing those beautiful green eyes to look at him. “Don’t cry.” His inner strength was lost. “Please don’t cry.”

Virginia breathed in harshly, bringing her tears to an abrupt end. She had always been the pillar in their relationship, and that couldn’t be any different now. If she felt this scared for the young man in front of her, she could only try and imagine the fear he was trying to hold back. It was her turn to cup his face in her hands. “You are so brave,” she told him softly. “I am so proud to call you my love. I love you so much, and when you come home I can become your wife.” He smiled at that, glancing down to admire his great-grandmother’s ring on her finger. That day had been the happiest day of his life. “We can find a small church like we discussed, and everything will be perfect. Our fathers shall stand merry...our mothers shall weep...” They both laughed before Virginia became serious again. “There’s no need for us to say goodbye,” she told him firmly. “You’ll come back to me when it’s over. I know you will.” She sealed this with a kiss which deepened as she tried to transfer some of her strength to him.

“Have I told you how much I love you, Virginia Elizabeth Stratton?” Ralph breathed when they broke apart.

“Have I told you how much I love you also, Ralph Harold Hamilton?”

A whistle was blown and the other young soldiers started to make their way hastily to the train that awaited them. Virginia saw the panic return in Ralph’s eyes, glassy with tears.

“You’ll come back,” she said firmly. “I believe in you.” She slipped something in his hands and held onto them tight before letting him go. Rucksack hitched high on his shoulder, Ralph only looked back once the train started to move away from the platform. Swallowing around the lump lodged in his throat he waved until he could no longer see Virginia before sitting down in a vacant seat. He opened his other hand which had still been tightly clenched and chuckled wryly when he recognised the item in the centre of his palm. He still remembered the day he met Virginia like it was yesterday.


She looked beautiful, catching his eye instantly through the shop window. Her auburn hair fell over her eyes and she impatiently pushed it back, curling the strand around her ears. It caught fire in the sunshine, crackling silently with various oranges, reds and browns. Her eyes – emeralds sparkling, gleaming, whenever she spoke to a customer. And those lips – full rosebud lips that looked like a soft caress as they moved and smiled.

He suddenly became aware that those eyes were staring intently at him, and that those lips were speaking words to him. He blinked a few times as he snapped out of the apparent trance in the coffee shop, feeling the blush creep up on his cheeks.

“Excuse me?”

She merely smiled as she repeated herself: “What can I get you?”

“Oh...” he stammered. He cringed inwardly as he started stumbling over ums and ahs in his quest to start up a conversation with her. “I’m sorry...ah...”

“It’s not a problem,” she smiled at him patiently. “Would you like some tea?”

“Tea. Tea would be wonderful, please.” That smile again. Ralph forced himself to remove his eyes from hers so that he could sit down at a table. He pulled out of his coat pocket a small pad of paper and a pencil, and before his eyes the girl’s eyes were staring up at him out of the page.

“You’re very good at drawing,” a voice came behind him, causing Ralph to jump. He turned to look up as she set his cup of tea down. “Virginia,” she introduced herself, holding out a hand for him to shake.

“Ralph. And thank you...for the tea as well as the compliment.”

“Enjoy your tea.” She turned to make her way back behind the counter.

“Wait.” She looked back at him. “Here,” Ralph said, ripping out the page in his pad and offering it to her. “You can keep the picture if you want.” Pearly white teeth were shown, and it was as though electricity was flowing in his veins when her hand brushed his when accepting the drawing.

“Thank you,” she said. “That’s very kind of you.”


Virginia waited for the train to go around the back of the church and out of sight before she allowed the tears to fall again. She had never understood the meaning of heartache until now, and she now realised that it was the most painful feeling she had ever experienced. Her mind was already riddled with worry, and she couldn’t stop the images of Ralph lain dead flooding the hippocampus of her brain. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to concentrate on naming the different parts of the brain – as this usually worked in calming her – but the images remained stubborn, causing a heavy sob to escape her lips.

She decided another way; she recalled memories – memories of her time with Ralph, of when they first met, of their first date...

That had been an exhilarating day – their first date. She remembered how Ralph had entered the coffee shop with a single red rose. He later admitted that he had picked it from Mrs Hemmingway’s garden, which he was quick to apologise for. The old woman hadn’t bothered to punish him – she said the thorns had damaged him enough. He had offered her the rose in front of the whole shop, asking her out to carnival that Saturday. She didn’t even hesitate in accepting, giving him her address to pick her up from. They’d had such a wonderful time – eating candy floss, riding the Ferris Wheel, applauding the jugglers. And then it was time to go home.


She was wearing his jacket as she had commented that she was cold. She leaned into his body slightly as they walked, his arm around her, rubbing her arm in an attempt to keep her warm.

“Well,” she sighed, giving him his jacket back, “here we are.”

“Yeah,” he smiled uncomfortably. It was obvious he had never gone on a date before. “Well...erm...I had a really good time.”

“Me too. We should do it again sometime.”

“Yes, we should.” There was a long silence; she could almost hear the cogs whirring in his head.

“Well...if you want, we could go watch a movie some time,” she offered. “There’s a film on called ‘A Face in the Fog’; we could buy tickets for that.”

His ears perked up at that. “You... You like horror movies?”

“Apparently it’s a thriller, but yes,” she laughed. “My friends don’t understand why I never go to the movies with them. It’s because they always want to watch romantic movies like ‘Break of Hearts’ and ‘Alice Adams’. I can’t stand them.” She put her hands in the small pockets stitched to the front of her dress. “Would you be able to pick me up at about 8 on Thursday night?”

“Sure,” Ralph grinned. “Yes, that would be fine.” She gazed into his pale blue eyes, studying the tiny crease under each one that seemed to smile along with his mouth. “Well...erm...goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Ralph.” He stood there unsure, so she rose up on her toes and gave him a small peck on the cheek before going inside.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Short Story: A Letter Not To You


Connor,

I don't know if you've realised it or not, but things aren't the same between us. I'm not the same. I don't know if you've recognised the sharp tongue that points at you in the texts that I now seldom send to you, or the ice in my eyes whenever you're around me. You probably haven't; I've never really been one to show anger - true anger - towards you. Then again, if I had, would you have realised it anyway?

If you have noticed these things, did you care? Did it bother you like it would have bothered me? I'm doubtful since it's since occurred to me that I took all the responsibility for our friendship, and you none.

It's almost as though I can hear you saying, "What the hell are you talking about?" as I write this. I wish I could tell you face to face, but you make such a thing impossible. I know that even if I was to send this to you, you wouldn't see the big deal I'm making. But it is a big deal. To me, it's a very big deal.

I have never tried to deny the fact that to me you are family. Look back.
Remember the good times. We were so close. You were my best friend, the twin I never had. I loved you almost as much as I love my own brother. I thought we had a special bond that nobody would ever understand but us. I mean, you trusted me first with your true self, and although I may have sometimes gone too far with the teasing as to whom you possessed feelings for, I also made it clear to you that I was there for you. But Connor, the thing that hurts me most is that I can think of so many moments where I've been there for you...yet none where you were really there for me.

I'm angry. The past two years of pain and upset have caught up with me. The dam has broken, and now I find myself seething whenever I see you or hear from you. I know it's probably petty in your eyes, but it's a spear in each of mine. If you were a piece of paper I would rip you to shreds and throw in the bin. But you're not a piece of paper. You're a person. You were supposed to be my friend.

To me, a friend is someone who you can rely on, who won’t keep putting you down – won’t keep hurting you. You’ve put me down so many times, whether it was intentionally or not, and now I can’t help but resent you. Don’t say that I never mentioned anything to you; remember that Maths lesson? That lesson where Megan taunted me for deciding to pursue writing? You joined in. The two of you told me that I would amount to nothing, that I’d end up working in Tesco or something – that I’d be a failure. You knew I was going to counselling. You knew that I called myself a failure every day. Because to me, if I didn’t get A grades, I’d failed.

I’m a perfectionist. And you just helped me drag myself down.

Do you know how many times I thought myself responsible for our friendship? I never realised it at the time, but now my eyes are open. I remember how close we were and then suddenly I was watching you be close to Imy like we had been. It hurt. I thought I must have done something wrong. Remember you thought I was needy? I was needy. I needed you to hold me and tell me everything was going to be alright. You were supposed to be my best friend. My twin. Family. I needed you, yet you were only interested in holding her. Was it because she’s smarter than me? Don’t get me wrong, I love Imy to bits, but I still felt jealous. It’s funny how I felt comfortable telling her that, but not you.

I think of when we finally hit 18 – we could go out clubbing. I loved it. I’d invite you; you were still my best friend even if I was no longer yours. You’d ask me the day before we would actually be going out how I was getting there and back, and if you could get there with me. Connor, didn’t you realise the first time that you would have to start asking me more in advance? It was one particular night which really made me open my eyes to how you were practically using me and blaming me. That night when I was getting ready at Katrina’s and was going to stay over at hers. Remember how you’d left it until the day before to ask me how could you get there and back, and I went through all that trouble of looking at train and bus times. Hell, Connor, I was going to walk all the way from one side of town to the other to meet you, and then walk with you to the other end to where the clubs were. Just for you. I had told you the two options of getting home, yet you still blamed me when your parents wouldn’t let you go.

It wasn’t my fault!

It was then that it hit me. Why didn’t you ask Imy, or Paul, or someone other than me? That’s really the thing that bothers me. Why was I responsible for it all?

Since then, every little thing that I had just ignored over the past two years has risen to the surface, and the fact that you haven’t even noticed the difference in atmosphere between us points to two different conclusions: either you are too busy thinking about yourself to realise, or you simply don’t care or don’t see it as a big deal. What upsets me the most is that it’s most probably the latter.

I feel like all I’ve done in this friendship is give give give, and you have done all the taking. I know that I’m useless at being on time, but it can’t boil down to just that. After all, Imy is even tardier than I am.

Which brings me to another conclusion: do you just think I’m not good enough to be your best friend anymore? Am I ‘demoted’ perhaps?

If you do ever read this, don’t decide to talk to me about it. It doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t want that ‘promotion’ anymore. I don’t want you to keep your promise to stay in touch. All I want now is to lose this anger and carry on with my life with dignity and become the best person I can be.

And I cannot do that with you in my life.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Long Way Home - Chapter Eleven


The new receptionist is useless; this was the third complaint she had received from a customer today. It was as though she had selective hearing, and no matter how many times a person was to repeat themselves she would still perceive what they said incorrectly. She was so fired when Bea got her hands on her.
 
“I can’t express how sorry I am, Mr-” She sighed as she was yet again interrupted by the seething man on the other end of the line. “Yes, I understand, sir, and I can assure you that this will not happen again...” The handle of one of the shopping bags she was carrying decided to break, and before she could comprehend anything her perfectly skilled juggle with her phone, paperwork and groceries disintegrated, leaving just her phone pressed to her ear. It took all her strength to not scream and swear in frustration as she knelt to stop tins and bottles from rolling away, as well as putting everything in their designated bags. She silently cursed the new slim phones – the older bulkier mobile phones used to fit nicely between her cheek and shoulder; these smartphones were simply a nightmare at times like this, and she couldn’t reach out in time with her free hand to catch the watermelon that rolled down the slight incline. And just like that Darren seemed to appear in time to pick the melon up. She looked up to see that lopsided smirk on his face, contemplating whether she should hit him – knock that look off his face. But since he was helping her...
 
By the time the phone call had ended with a happier Mr Penhall, Bea turned around to see that Darren was still standing there, looking at her expectantly as he held the shopping bags. “Hey,” he smiled.
 
“Thanks,” Bea sighed, pushing her long hair out of her eyes in frustration. “Today has been so hectic! That was yet another customer complaining on the phone. It’s that new receptionist; she needs to go. I don’t know how she got the good references she did – paid for them no doubt – since she is so crap at her job! And...” she paused. “Why am I telling you all this? You don’t care.”
 
“I do care,” Darren smiled slightly, seemingly nervous. Bea expelled a heavy sigh as she, again, pushed her hair out of her eyes. “Come on, I’ll help you carry these,” he offered gently.
 
“No, it’s fine thanks. I got these.”
 
“I insist.”
 
The look in Darren’s eyes was the reason for Bea to accept his help. It had been a look she couldn’t place; one of determination, concern and...something else. “Okay,” she said. “I guess I could do with the help.” The way his eyes lit up made her heart melt, but she snatched two of the bags, hitched her messenger bag on her shoulder and walked ahead of him, shaking thoughts of her ex out of her head. They were over. This was just a favour.
 
“You know,” Darren commented mischievously, “there are these wonderful inventions for times where you have a fair way to go with so much stuff to carry. They’re called...erm...I can’t actually... Ah yeah: cars.”
 
“Don’t be a jerk, Darren. I’m not in the mood.”
 
They arrived at her apartment within half an hour without saying another word to one another. “Okay,” Bea concluded. “Thank you for the help, but I can take it from here.”
 
“I can help you put everything away,” Darren offered hopefully.
 
“It’s fine, really. I can do it.”
 
“No. You go sit down – I’ve got this.” She tensed slightly, a sign of her anxiety that didn’t go unnoticed by Darren. “Don’t worry. I remember the way you like things put.” She visibly relaxed sitting on the sofa as she watched Darren put the fresh herbs in the alphabetical order on the windowsill, and stowed the tins in the cupboard in order of size with the labels facing him. Fruit went in the fruit bowl in their respective groups, and vegetables went in the fridge drawers in the same way. As much as he’d like to have thought that Bea had stayed living in their apartment because she was hoping they could try again, Darren realised that it was probably so that she wouldn’t have to face getting stressed at home trying to sort out the disorganised “mess” the rest of her family made.
 
“Thank you,” she sighed as he came to sit next to her. They sat in silence for a moment, only for Bea to suddenly jump up off the sofa.
 
“What’s wrong now?”
 
“I forgot to buy chicken thighs,” she groaned. “I was going to make some Spanish chicken stew. How stupid can a person get?” She hastily walked over to her discarded coat.
 
“Well, I can get it. You just relax a while.”
 
“No!” she objected, her back to Darren. “I need to go get it. I can go see Kris as well, make sure that he’s cop...ing...” She exhaled the last syllable with pleasure as skilled hands kneaded the tense muscles in her shoulders. Her eyes slid closed as his fingers worked their magic, and she found her body leaning backwards into him slightly, head soon resting upon his shoulder. She could feel his warm breath spreading along her neck, gently tickling her fluttering pulse. She could feel his stubble rubbing against her cheek as he moved in closer...
 
“I have to go,” she whimpered all of a sudden, quickly creating space between them.
 
“Bea-”
 
“I think now would be a really good time for you to leave.”
 
“Bea, please.”
 
“This is a mistake. You shouldn’t have helped me; you should’ve just carried on walking past me.”
 
“Bea, listen to me.”
 
“What do you want?” she snapped. Her eyes were wide like a deer in the headlights. “What do you want from me?” she whispered desperately.
 
Darren smiled as she gasped for air. “You,” he said simply.
 
Before she could comprehend what he’d just said, his lips were upon hers.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Friday, 7 September 2012

I hate it when my technology tries to intervene...

This has happened a few times, no matter what I've used. And today it happened again.

I was in full writing mode. My fingers were working up a sweat of their own as they whizzed around the keyboard of the computer, and then all of a sudden the freakin' internet crashed and now I've lost it all (I was using the website writer.bighugelabs.com since I've still not forgiven Microsoft Word for letting me down in this way). I had written a good couple of thousand words, and it's all gone. Usually Writer automatically saves your work, but obviously not this time.

GAHHHH! I hate my own technology sometimes. I was furious. I felt like throwing the damned computer out of the window and just smashing it hard against a brick wall over and over again. It took a HECK of a lot of biscuits and cheese on toast and cereal to calm me down! It had been going so swimmingly - obviously too well. And now it's all gone. And worst of all, the window has closed - I can't even remember what it was about properly! I usually try to offer myself the whole it-wasn't-meant-to-be thing - that my technology was simply stopping me from writing a story before I finished it and decided that it was pants, making me feel sick as I delete it - but the theory of Fate is so overrated in my head right now.

My mind just keeps retorting, "What right has my technology got to decide for me if this was not going to be a good story?"

To be quite honest, I actually had a beautifully warm feeling that this was going to be a good story - a great one in fact. I just can't help but feel bitter and so very annoyed.

EEESH!

Okay, I'm done ranting. Now hopefully that terribly overrated Fate will be a dove sometime and bring back to me what was stolen...

Sorry for my rant. Keep smiling for me!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Short Story: A Second Chance


"So, Mr Pirrell-"

"Please, call me Andrew."

"Andrew... What made you apply for this job?"

The man before me sat straight yet relaxed, a friendly unforced smile permanently upon his lips. "I'm more than ready to take on some responsibility and I feel that I would be able to prove myself within a firm of this size. Not to mention the fact that it would be a wonderful opportunity for me to gain some further experience in the industry - there's only so far you can go as a mechanic!"

"Ah, so you're ambitious?"

"Great success comes only with great ambition; yes I am."

I smiled. I knew there and then that I was going to hire this man without going through the other questions. It was apparent that he had done his research into the company - something a lot of applicants failed to do - and he was confident without being too sure of himself. He reminded me of myself when I first stepped on the company ladder, and now here I was - managing director. He had the same potential; I could feel it.

"Thank you so much for your time, Andrew," I concluded, standing to shake his hand. "We have several days of interviews scheduled for the position, so I will be in touch with you over the course of the next several weeks."

"Thank you for taking the time to see me today," he smiled warmly before bidding farewell. A charming gentleman. I wanted to cancel all the interviews I had lined up that week so that I could immediately call him to inform him that he had the job, but I knew that that was not possible, or fair. Not that it was fair that I was going to let the other interviewees go through the turmoil of question after question while I already had my mind set on someone. I tried to tell myself that there might be someone better in the group of applicants I still needed to interview, but I was wrong needless to say. Yes, most of them had far more experience than Andrew Pirrell, but he outshone all of them. His eyes had gleamed with passion for this job, and he knew exactly was he was taking on as my personal assistant and handyman. My brain was begging for peace and quiet as the last interviewee droned on about how he had overcome a problem at his previous place of work, and I found myself doodling on my pad of paper as I waited for him to finish his tale. I was perhaps too quick to jump in and thank him for his time when he finally finished, but I was past caring. Besides, he was definitely not getting the job.

It was at the time I was going to deliver the good news to Andrew that I noticed something on his application form that caused my eyebrows to shoot up to join with my hairline. Next to his contact number he had written in brackets "Ask for me". Puzzled, I dialed the number and was further shocked as a woman answered the telephone:

"Good afternoon, St Mungo's Homeless Shelter - how can I help you?"

I hung up before I could stop myself. The man was homeless? No, I must have dialed the number wrong. I redialed and again the same woman introduced the number to belong to the homeless shelter. Again I hung up. This couldn't be right. It just couldn't be!

Maybe it was stereotypical of me to have considered for even a microsecond that that guy maybe wasn't the right candidate for the job after all. Just because he was homeless didn't mean that it was his fault, nor did it meant that it had made him a thief, which I was quick to remind myself of that. I had had my heart set on this man, and I still did.

"Good afternoon, St Mungo's Homeless Shelter - how can I help you?"

"Erm, hi. I was looking for a Mr Andrew Pirrell..."

"Just a moment, sir," she said politely. I waited patiently, wondering what had caused the man to have lost so much in his life. He wasn't bad looking or anything - in fact he was very handsome and charming - so why did it seem that he had no family? Surely they could've helped support him.

My train of thoughts was interrupted by the voice on the other end. "Hello?"

"Mr Pirrell, this is Ian Bails from Wheel Deals. I'm just calling to inform you that you were successful in your application for the job. I was wondering if you could start tomorrow."

There was a stunned silence deafening me from the other end of the line until, "Oh my God!" he gasped, laughing slightly. "Oh my God! Thank you! I can't tell you how much this means to me!"

"I think I already know," I smiled.

"W-well when do you want me to start?" he stammered, so wrapped up in his ecstatic state to have really heard or registered anything else that I had said other than he had the job.

"I told you - tomorrow. Is that okay? Say about 8 o'clock?"

"That's perfect! Really, thank you for giving me a chance."

Putting down the receiver that day, I knew I had made the right choice.



-Ten years later-

Jeremy Langdon heaved a sigh of exasperation. The company was doing really well, but the constantly busy lifestyle was not doing anything to help his health. His wife was now constantly nagging at him to retire but he just couldn't bear the idea of living a life without the continuous ups and downs of a good day's work. Now, however, was one of those particularly long down periods, and he hated it.

His secretary chose the moment that he was massaging his temples - a telltale sign that he was feeling the strain - to peep her head round the door.

"Mr Langdon-?"

"Not now, Tessa."

"I'm sorry, but you have a visitor."

"Who?" he frowned.

"He wouldn't say, but he's very eager to speak with you."

Jeremy sighed. "Alright, alright. Send him in."

He was certain he didn't know him, but the man that entered his office looked oddly familiar. He wore a suit much similar to one he used to have and looked freshly shaven with his cropped to a professional style that suited his physique. What really caught Jeremy's attention, however, were the man's eyes. They lit up like large light bulbs behind blue filters, smiling wider than even his wide grin could manage. He looked ecstatic to see the businessman, causing even more confusion on Jeremy's behalf.

"Can I help you?" He had cleared his throat in that nervous manner he hadn't managed to rid himself of yet, and he inwardly cursed himself for seeming so vulnerable in front of this man.

"Actually I just want to thank you," the man replied, still positively beaming.

"Thank me?" He was stunned - no one had ever thanked him for anything before. "For what?"

The man chuckled slightly. "Exactly ten years ago today, you were a very generous man to me. I..." He focused his eyes on the floor with a sigh. "I was going through a rough time..."

"You..." Jeremy gasped, suddenly recognising the man. "You were on the streets."

"I was," the man smiled. "You were so nice to me. No one had ever been that generous to someone like me before..."


Jeremy had been trying to check his watch while still holding the umbrella in his hand, using his other hand to comb his hair back. He needed to look his best for this lunch meeting; it was an almost certain bet that this deal would be the making of him as an individual.

He was interrupted from his preparations by the sound of wheezing and turned to see a trio of teenagers kicking someone on the floor. “Hey!” he yelled, running after them, but of course they were too fast. Instead he turned his attention to the battered man on the floor. “Are you okay, sir?”

“They stole it...” he sobbed. “They stole it...”

“Stole what?” He furrowed his brow as he tried to understand what the man was trying to say through his gestures to his heart. “What did they steal, sir?”

“M-Miranda... K-Kyle...”

“Your family?” The man nodded. “Where are they? Your family I mean. Do you want me to call them?” The man shook his head as he sobbed harder, a mess of mucus and tears. Jeremy sighed and quickly rang to reschedule today’s meeting before helping the man up. “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up. What’s your name, sir?”

“Andrew,” the man sniffed. “Andrew Pirrell...”


“I remember after lunch giving you one of my best suits and telling you, ‘Here, take this and one day you’ll be dressing like me all the time’,” Jeremy smiled.

“And you were right,” Andrew chuckled.

“Of course I was,” Jeremy joked. “Golly, look at you. You’re unrecognisable from the broken man I helped who had lost everything.”

“Yeah,” Andrew sighed. “Those were hard times.”

“You still think about them?”

“All the time. But now I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I have my own business, a roof over my head, a family...” He put a hand on Jeremy’s shoulder, breathing deeply so as to keep the tears away. “And it’s all down to you. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

Jeremy smiled, lifting a hand to rest it on the other man’s shoulder. “It’s no problem,” he said softly. “In the end, it was really all down to you.”

Both men beamed as they clasped hands in a silent goodbye and good luck. As he opened the door, something ran through Andrew’s mind and he turned to look back at Jeremy. “You had been on your way to settle a deal at a meeting,” he remembered. “Did you still get the contract?” The grin on the businessman’s face was enough of an answer for him and he left the office with a spring in his step.

Jeremy couldn’t stop smiling after that encounter with the man he helped out. He even summoned Tessa to his office so that he could apologise for snapping at her.

“Wow, that man really cheered you up!” she chortled.

Jeremy nodded. “Y’know, I last saw him ten years ago today. He was homeless, and all I did was give him one of my suits. And now look at him. He owns a business of his own.”

“Didn’t he have any family?”

“His wife and kid were killed in a car crash. They’d been struggling financially for a good few months, and working three jobs took its toll on Miranda; she fell asleep at the wheel.”

“Oh my God.”

“After that Andrew was diagnosed with depression and couldn’t work; lost all his jobs. When he was well enough to work again, he couldn’t get anything. Within five months he’d lost everything and was roaming the streets.”

“And you helped him,” Tessa added, smiling widely.

“Well the state I saw him in, there was no way anyone would hire him. He needed a shave, his clothes were dirty and ripped, his hair was unruly... It’s shocking how two months on the streets can break someone even more than they already were.” Jeremy looked up at Tessa and a grin crossed his features. “But now he’s proven me right. He can make something of himself in the world. He just needed someone to prep him up.”


Andrew walked along the pavement smiling to himself, but stopped as he looked up to the respective window. Jeremy looked out and down at him, and the two of them exchanged another silent conversation between them. Andrew would always be grateful to Jeremy Langdon, as he would always be grateful to Ian Bails for giving him a chance to prove himself and later handing down the company to him when he retired. He reached into his pocket and held the set of keys that were his, his index finger momentarily stroking the key that would allow him access to his apartment. After one last glance towards the man who changed his life for the better, Andrew walked purposefully to see his family.

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