Thursday, 30 April 2015

Zoom In #AtoZchallenge

So, you’re looking down, from up there; you’re on the moon, just perching on the edge, feet dangling into space, staring down at the Earth. And maybe, we’re down here staring up at you.
You can’t see much – just a load of blue and green and sandy yellow swirls on the surface. From up here, it’s the most stunning place in the galaxy. The silence helps, of course; you’re so far removed from the chaos and hubbub. You can close your eyes and hear the melody of the Milky Way.
Now, zoom in… let yourself fall, just a little. You can see the clouds, the early formation of tornadoes, the north winds. And it’s beautiful, isn’t it?
Nearer still, you can make out rivers and mountain ranges and cities; volcanoes and islands and forests.
It’s night time, on this side of the Earth; but below you metropolises are lit up like beacons guiding you home. Can you see your home from here? Wrong continent, maybe, wrong hemisphere?
Fall further, see tiny ants that are really people. Just dots. You can’t tell whether they’re male, female, old, young, black, white. You can get closer, but maybe you don’t need to. Maybe right here is perfect.

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

You Wore Green #AtoZchallenge

I shake my head.
“It was that restaurant on the high street…”
I shrug. “No. Are you sure I was there?”
“Yes, I never took anyone else there.” He’s getting cross. He checks himself when the nurse gives him a look. He sighs and starts again. “It was our third date. I remember thinking I was with the most beautiful girl in the world.”
I chuckle. “A long time ago.”
“No, always.”
He always says the right thing.
“We had our first kiss that night, and I knew I would ask you to marry me.”
“That early?”
“Oh yes.”
My eyes are watering. “I don’t remember any of it.”
He takes my hand and brushes his finger over my wedding ring. “You wore green, to the restaurant. You had your hair pinned up—”
“How can you remember that?” I catch the twinkle. “You’re making it up!”
“No, no. I promise, I always tell you the truth. I always will.”
I smile at him and nod. “I’m going to forget who you are, aren’t I?”
He squeezes hand, wipes a tear from my eye. “Yes.”

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

xxx #AtoZchallenge

That’s how he always ends his messages, xx.
He’ll text: Do you need anything from Tesco? xx
Or: I’ll be late home xx
Little messages left on the kitchen counter: I’ve put the bins out xx
He means he loves me, of course. Even when we’ve had an argument, they’ll still be there, my little kisses. He doesn’t often say it; I love you are like caustic words, the occasion has to be very special. Our wedding day, the birth of our son, things like that. But I’m okay with that.
Today, his text reads: I’ve got a late meeting. Don’t wait up xx
And then, after a moment or so: Hey you, I’m free all night, same place? Love you xxx

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Monday, 27 April 2015

When the Truth Comes Out... #AtoZchallenge

… we all hold our breath. We scan the group, trying to work out who knew, who didn’t, who is desperately wishing for a hole to appear in the floor so they can escape.
Lizzie, who told the truth, holds her hand over her mouth. “Oh God, I shouldn’t have said that.”
But it’s too late. We’re all staring, all wondering. And it’s Lizzie who’s wishing for that hole.
“Um,” says Sue. “I’m not sure how to respond to that.”
Rachel suppresses a giggle, suppresses a No way! I wish she’d say it out loud, because that’s exactly what I want to say.
Beside me, Helen squirms, breathing heavily. Every so often she sounds like she’s going to say something, to mount her defence. Her mouth opens, she rises up slightly and leans forward; but then she sinks back into her chair, and bows her head.
“So, are we going to talk about this?” I ask, because no one else will. I’m the sensible one, the one who’ll make sure we all get home safely after a night out, the one who keeps snacks in her handbag, the one who’s always available for every crisis. And this… this is a crisis.
No one answers. Helen’s face reddens, darkens. She looks close to tears, but no one reacts. It’s too late for that.

In years to come, we’ll probably looks back on this as the moment our friendships disintegrated.

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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Views From a Yellow Metro

“Paint how you feel,” is her instruction. So I do; I paint a little yellow Metro driving along a country lane. Because yellow Metros are happy things. I paint the sun high in the dazzling blue sky and cows grazing in the lush green grass. Smiling faces peering out of the windows, waving and smiling.
Memories surface as I create my scene. Friends squeezed in for trips to the beach, for spontaneous camping at the foot of Glastonbury.
Halfway along the canvass this happy countryside image stops. I fill my brush with black paint and smudge it into the painting; creating darkness, nothingness. I can’t stop myself. The picture fragments, the road they are travelling along becomes a bleak and unwritten place.
“Is that how you feel?” she asks, appearing over my shoulder.
“I don’t know,” I reply.

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Friday, 24 April 2015

Undetectable #AtoZchallenge

I creep, I lurk, I skulk. I drift in and out, all around. I walk beside strangers, because I have nothing else to do. I watch them buy things they don’t need, food they scoff quickly in their lunch breaks, gossip with friends over coffee.
No one sees me. I’m a ghost, a memory, a heap of clothes discarded in a dank alley. In truth, I don’t know what I am any more. I was a girl; a teenager with friends and a mocha addiction. But it changed, suddenly, one night, one late quiet night when I was walking home. I don’t know what happened. A sharp pain, a dizziness, an emptiness.
I creep, I lurk, I skulk undetected. Because I have nothing else to do.

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Thursday, 23 April 2015

This Author #AtoZchallenge

Today, I am doing something different. Over the past couple of days, I've started several T themed vignettes for today's post - and they were all just wrong.

So, I thought I'd introduce this author (me!) to my new followers, and maybe say something new to my regular readers.
  • I have no idea what genre I actually write - in fact, I don't think I write in any. I normally use the tagline contemporary stories with elements of paranormal. Or shades of..., hints of... etc. I sometimes think I'm just bluffing my way through.
  • I was about 7 when I started writing, with a marvellous story about a flying golden horse, that I unfortunately threw away!
  • This means I have been writing for over 30 years, and lived through the time when submitting via snail mail and waiting months for a response was common, and self-publishing was really not an option. Everything I've learned about writing and accepting rejection came from that period. I actually cherish it, and the rejection letters I received.
  • I once told someone that I was going to win the Booker Prize when I was 56, and I have written with that goal in mind ever since. Being so sure that will happen has prevented me giving up writing on several occasions.
  • I was never formally taught grammar. I started school in the late seventies when traditional teaching seemed to be unfashionable. I was never taught my times tables either!
  • And finally, if you've been following my challenge posts, you'll notice my real voice is a lot different to my author voice. I don't know what happens - as soon as I start to write, I get very dark very quickly!
So, that's a very small part of me. If you want to ask questions, please feel free! 

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Stars - Hannah's Mother 3 #AtoZchallenge

(You can read the first two stories about Hannah's Mother here and here.)

I don’t like the dark, especially this dark. The walls are closing in. But I said I’d be here for her, until the end.
Her pulse quickens and diminishes while I hold her hand, as though her body is doing ferocious battle. Which of course, it is.
A few days ago, while she was still lucid, we shared memories from my childhood. She laughed at all the things that had driven her to despair when I was sixteen. “Time passes so quickly. You were so rebellious, and in the blink of an eye, you were a mother yourself.”
I barely remember being sixteen at all; I’d forgotten half of her stories.
Now, the silence shrouds us; only her rasping breath cuts through.
“It’s a beautiful night,” I say, standing by the window, peering into the cloudless sky. “The moon’s waning, high in the sky. The stars… there are so many stars.”
I feel a tear rolling down my cheek and wipe it away before I turn back. She’s looking out of the window, trying to see for herself. As I reach the bed, she holds my hand reassuringly, and smiles.

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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Rendezvous #AtoZchallenge

At the park gates, I pause. What if I don’t recognise him? What if he decides this is a bad idea, or ignores me?
Let’s meet, right here, in exactly one year’s time.
What if he’s forgotten?
I almost turn away, my feet shuffling backwards until I bump into a young family and have to mutter my apologies.
Stupid woman, just go in. If he’s not there, I’ve simply had a nice walk. If he is…
If he is… I guess we’ll have some kind of awkward chat. He might explain that he fell in love with someone else during our separation, but he’d love to introduce me to her. Or he might stare at me with horror and release he never loved me. He might make his excuses, or pretend he hasn’t seen me and just walk on by.
Perhaps I should have some kind of story lined up: a whirlwind husband of my own, maybe? Something to comfort myself with, if nothing else.
I pull the photo from my pocket, the one I want to show him, but I’m not sure I will, not yet.
The clouds are drawing in; it’ll rain soon. I might have to invite him back to my flat; it’s not far. I walk along the path, staring intently at every man who walks past; maybe I really have forgotten what he looks like! Dark hair or blond? Is he as tall and broad as I remember?
And then he’s there, sitting on the exact bench we agreed to. He stands when he sees me, awkwardly walking forward, unsure whether to hug me, shake my hand or simply nod and say, “I wasn’t sure you’d remember.”
“Me neither, whether you would, I mean.”
“You look well.”
“You too.”
He looks along the path. “I’m not sure what we should do now.”
“It’s been a long time.”
“It’s not like this in the films, is it? I kind of thought I’d sweep you off your feet.”
“You would have done, last year.”
“Yes.” He pauses.
I feel for the photo in my pocket, and leave it there.

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Monday, 20 April 2015

Quite Pretty #AtoZchallenge

(excerpt from My Mother’s Mother’s Mother, "That Sadie Thing and other stories", print edition)

I sit on the floor in front of the full length mirror in the hall, with my candle, with a box of matches. Behind me is the unlit dining room, and I perversely recall every horror film I’ve ever watched; every psychotic murderer, vampire and green-skinned alien is waiting for me unseen in the gloomy corner of the room. Get a grip, I tell myself sternly.
The room in reverse reminds me of Alice before she stepped through the looking glass. An alternate room; an alternate me. I wonder what she’s like, this other me. If she’s a direct opposite, she’ll be extrovert and idealistic, she’ll be lazy and flaky. She’d go out of her way to help a person in trouble; and always try to save people, even those who don’t want to be saved. I’d probably find her as exhausting and frustrating as I find myself on this side of the mirror.
The flame flickers as I breathe slowly in and out, wondering whether I’m supposed to be chanting, or counting down from twenty to zero… or something else entirely. So I simply look at myself in the mirror, watching my expression alter in the flickering shadows. In this half-light I look quite pretty, although the more I stare, the more distorted I become.

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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Peanut Butter and Ice Cream #AtoZchallenge

I sit down at the kitchen table and huff. The huff is unintentional. Or maybe subconscious.
He doesn’t say anything. He turns away as though he doesn’t even care.
He didn’t wrap his arm around me. Or ask what’s wrong. He didn’t smile or say something reassuring.
Even a bad joke right now would be better than this silence.
This is it, I guess; the end of us. I know things haven’t been right, but I thought we’d sort them out; I thought it was one of those petty little things. We’ve been together six years; it should take more than this to break us up.
He rinses a few dishes, wipes them. He’s fussing, to avoid me. He’s humming to himself; one of those annoying tics he’s got when he’s stressed.
I lean forward and bang my head against the table. Gently at first, then a little more firmly, until I can feel the impression of the table on my skin. I grumble to myself; my own little tic, making unintelligible noises in place of words.
I have no words.
I have a tear, though, dripping down my nose and onto the table.
He wraps his arm around my shoulder; he smiles when I look up; he offers me a bowl of peanut butter and ice cream. My favourite.

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Friday, 17 April 2015

One Hundred Pieces of Me #AtoZchallenge

(This is a first draft - I meant to get back to it, but extra hours at work and my novel have taken over. Thank you for all the lovely comments so far, and apologies that I have been absent over the last couple of days. Some of you made some lovely comments about my M post - Monsters - so you might be interested to know that was an excerpt from the first story in Our Beautiful Child, which you can check out on Amazon and Goodreads. Thanks for all your support so far! Normal service resumed tomorrow.)

The mirror smashes. It falls from the wall right in front of me, the crash cascading around the room. I jump and my heart races.
A hundred faces watches me; a hundred pieces of me.
A thousand pieces of my soul, scattered on the floor.
A million scraps of my life.
I reach down pick up one of the shards; it slices into my hand. For a second, nothing happens, then a bubble of blood erupts and starts to trickle down my finger.
The images mutate, blurring at the edges. I stare until some of them don’t even look like me any more. I am gazing into the faces of countless strangers, all staring back. Not one of them is me. I am lost.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Monsters #AtoZchallenge

(excerpt from Ella's Story, "Our Beautiful Child and other stories")

I am three, maybe four. It’s dark, very late; the house is silent. I can no longer hear the comforting hum of voices from the living room, but I can hear the tick-tock clock in the hall, echoing in the shadows. I'm gripping my Barbie blanket around me and pulling it over my head. Because there’s a monster under my bed.
I'm being very quiet so the monster won’t know I'm here. I hold my breath and keep my eyes shut very, very tight. I hear a little whimper and I think it must be me, because monsters don’t get scared. Everyone knows that. A monster would roar loudly, or growl like a tiger; and this sound – this little whimper – is very soft, like a kitten when she’s lost. But I'm still scared, and I want my mummy.
I cry out by accident, then hold my hands over my mouth and wait for the monster to crawl out. Almost straight away Mummy and Daddy are standing over me; the light from the landing pours in and makes my bedroom look almost normal again, like it does in the day time.
“Monster,” I manage to whisper, before bursting into tears. Mummy sits down on my bed and hugs me tightly, folding her arms around me and smoothing my long blonde hair; I can smell the scent of fabric softener on her nighty. She rocks me backwards and forwards, and I start to feel silly: how could a monster get in when Mummy and Daddy are here to look after me?
“No monsters, Sweetheart,” says Daddy, looking under my bed and in my cupboard and through my stack of teddy bears in the corner.
“Just a bad dream,” says Mummy, kissing my forehead. She lays me back down and strokes my cheek.
Bad dream? I remember now. It was a bad dream. But it wasn't about a monster.

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Letters Home #AtoZchallenge

I write a letter every day, explaining, apologising. The same words over and over. But it’s not enough. My crime will never be forgotten, forgiven.
I address it neatly; I hate the way my writing slopes up on the envelope, so I take special care. Sometimes I write about what I’m doing, or what I’ve read or watched on TV. I tell them about the courses I’m taking, the counselling I’m having, the new friends I’m making.
They’re not even living there any more, at the house I’m sending my letters to. The house where I held tea parties for my teddies and marked my height on the wall; the house where I broke my arm playing Bulldog on sodden grass, and where I took a bread knife to my mother’s throat.
They’re not there because they packed up and moved far away; they couldn’t bear the memories. My mother had nightmares for months, even though I was locked up; Dad told me. He visited once, to tell me how bad I was, how evil. He wouldn’t let me explain. He walked away, while I screamed after him.
So, the house is dusty and boarded up, infamous and unsaleable. I imagine my letters echoing in the hall as they land, bunched up against the front door, unread.
But I can’t stop writing them.

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Monday, 13 April 2015

Kai #AtoZchallenge

His name is Kai. It’s not his given name; his parents named him Colin, and it really doesn’t suit the man he’s become. He’s a free spirit; he plays guitar at midnight, wears shorts in the winter, and his dirty blond hair has the remnants of dreadlocks from his Caribbean adventure.
He’ll be off again soon. It’s time, you see; no room for hangers-on, for clingy women, for love. He doesn’t want to be chained into a suburban life; and that’s what would happen if he stayed. He needs to see everything, feel everything. He wants to bury himself within other cultures. He laughed at Cara when she showed him the holiday brochure – her dream hotel, with its all-inclusive buffet and coach trips and cocktails delivered to the patrons on the beach.
“That’s all you want?” he asked, dripping with derision.
“Don’t you think it would be heaven, lying in the sun, doing nothing, eating dinner as the sun sets?”
Cara couldn’t see his disgust; she wasn’t looking for it. She thinks he’s in love with her, that she will conquer his wanderlust, but she’s really just a distraction, a bit of fun while he plans his escape.

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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Just a Child #AtoZchallenge

The child sat alone, aware of the adults lined up watching, but refusing to acknowledge them. They were pointing, writing on clipboards, as though he was an experiment in a lab; because he was an experiment. He resolutely stared ahead, focused on his task.
The adults stood behind a window and discussed him in muted voices. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but a couple of them were extremely animated; their hands were flapping wildly and their faces held unease.
The child stacked wooden blocks the way he’d been shown the day before. Concentration etched on his face; his chubby hands working fastidiously. The blocks were yellow and blue and red, so first he stacked them in colour order, then in a neat pattern. Each time the stack fell, he embarked on a new design.
Once, just once, he looked up at them. His piercing green eyes penetrated each of them, as though he was looking deep into their souls. A cold chill flooded the room. He focused on them, one by one, considered them, then settled on the first and smiled.
It was a soft smile even though his eyes were scowling. His victim dropped her clipboard and ran away with a shriek, disturbed, chosen. He watched the ensuing kerfuffle with apathy, then simply turned back to his blocks, trying to create a tower taller than himself.

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Friday, 10 April 2015

Insomnia #AtoZchallenge

This story has been removed because I am re-writing it into a longer story and don't want any publication-conflicting issues.

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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Hidden in the Candlelight #AtoZchallenge

(excerpt from Our Beautiful Child, "Our Beautiful Child and other stories")

     The Boathouse collects misfits. Strange solitary creatures that yearn for contact with the outside world, but not too much. They sit, glass in hand, either staring at the table in front of them, or at some distant point on the horizon. As tonight’s music flows freely amongst them, these soulless souls seem to sing, seem to radiate a little, one or two smile, tension dispels. And all of them seem happier than when they arrived.
     As the sun sets, Rona sways between the tables, lighting candles. Shadows hover on the walls, looming over the room; a slight menace, a slight disquiet prevailing. In the furthest corner, away from both the bar and the entrance, a candle refuses to be lit. A chill hangs on the air, right at that spot. Rona relights to candle; it flickers as though a child is blowing it out. It’s gone, leaving a thin flume of smoke in its place.
     She shivers, noticing the draught for the first time. She looks around, peering into the dark corner, uneasiness creeping across her skin. For a second, in the gloom, she sees the face of a man. He’s looking intently at the table, his head moving slightly from side to side as though he’s reading. But there’s nothing on the table, nothing in his hands. Indeed, the more she looks, the more indistinct the outline of his body becomes.
     Suddenly, he looks up. He looks straight at her; his eyes wild and frightened. But not at her; past her, as though she’s stepped in front of his actual target. The stare is ice cold. Rona feels as though she’s being strangled. And then, he disappears. Leaving her gasping for breath and shivering. His energy burns a little longer; the spot where he sat is outlined with a silvery glow.

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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

(The) Gift of Listening - Hannah's Mother 2 #AtoZchallenge

“Hannah, it’s time,” says Mum on the phone, her voice weak, soft. And a cold chill shrouds my body. I listen as she struggles to take breath, as her body aches with each movement.
The nurses would have offered to make the call, of course, but I know she needed to say the words aloud.
My bags have been packed for days, my husband and kids prepared, my line manager briefed on my need for a sudden departure, when the time came.
“I’ll be with you in half an hour.” I take a breath; I try to stay strong. “I love you.”
I hold the phone to my ear long after she’s hung up; I whisper her words to myself.
It’s too soon; I’m not ready.
Mum has been ready since her diagnosis; pragmatic and placated. She fought, of course, but also made plans in case the battle failed. Finally, it seems, it’s too much, too hard, too tiring.
She tried to tell me about her funeral last week, but I couldn’t listen. I didn’t want to think about it. I should have listened; I should have heard what she was saying. I should have been a better daughter.
The dialling tone buzzes in my ear, and I hang up.

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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Dragon of the Stars by Alex J Cavanaugh

SCAVENGER HUNT! Comment to win an autographed copy of Dragon of the Stars, tons of bookmarks & postcards, and a $20.00 iTunes gift card–where is Mini-Alex? Visit Alex for a list of the participants.(Open through April 11 – winner announced April 13 at Alex’s blog.)

Available today!

Dragon of the Stars
By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
What Are the Kargrandes?

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.

Future Tense #AtoZchallenge

I’ll hold her in my arms tomorrow; she’ll wrap her tiny fingers around mine. I’ll be amazed that someone so new can make my heart ache with such love.
We’ll call her Lily, selected from the list of names I've kept tucked in my pocket since we discovered I was having a girl. We’ll bring her home from the hospital and nurture her; we’ll watch her grow, sit up, stack building blocks, take her first step, say her first word.
She’ll have long strawberry blonde hair, and I’ll plait it for her on her first day of school, I’ll curl it for her first sleepover. I’ll slip turquoise grips into it for prom, and help her zip up her dress.
On the day she goes to university, I’ll pretend not to cry; although I’ll have suspiciously puffy eyes. Steve will laugh at me, but his voice will crack. Neither of us will want to let her go.
“Oh Mum,” she’ll say. “I’ll be back at Christmas. You’ll hardly have time to miss me.” But her arms will draw us in for one last hug.
She’ll graduate; she’ll find a job that’s not quite her perfect job but good enough. “A stepping stone,” she’ll say, using my pet phrase without even realising.
She’ll have plans: travelling, a year working in New Zealand, to see her dress designs on the catwalks.
But her plans will be interrupted. “Mum, I've met someone.”
“Mum, I’m getting married.”
“Mum, I’m having a baby.”
And, too soon, my granddaughter will wrap her tiny fingers around mine.

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Monday, 6 April 2015

Everyone, Everywhere #AtoZchallenge

I stand with my hand on the door handle; I can do this. Other people manage it all the time, after all; they walk open their door and walk outside as though it’s no big thing. But they don’t know what I know. They don’t know of the danger and animosity that’s waiting for them.
My flat is warm; it wraps around me like a blanket. When I stand at my front door, I feel like a tortoise; my face peaking out, but my body hidden, protected by the walls around me. There are too many people outside, they’re everywhere, crawling around like little ants, scurrying this way and that, unpredictable, confusing.
Two days ago, I sat at my dining table and drank coffee with Arthur, my friend. He understands. Before I learnt how to do my shopping online, he would buy groceries from the shop; a little bit at a time, as much as he could carry. Now, he brings cake and we drink coffee together; he says if he didn’t, I’d forget who I am, I’d simply fade away.
Sometimes he gives me flowers so I have a bit of the outside in my house.
He comes most days but today he’s late, two hours later than normal.
I’m worried.
So I’m standing at my door, trying to leave my flat because I know Arthur needs me. He might be lying on his bathroom floor, unable to move. He might have broken a bone, or had a stroke, or… worse. I have to leave my flat, my protective shell. I have to help my friend.

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Daisies #AtoZchallenge

I saw daisies on my way here. They reminded me of the summer we did nothing but sit in the field behind my house and make daisy chains; hundreds and hundreds of tiny white flowers, strung together with such care. We draped them across our shoulders, arranged them in our hair, and we danced.
I heard Duran Duran on the radio this morning. I sang along the way we used to, but I didn’t get past the second verse; I couldn’t remember the lyrics. So many sleepovers spent singing along to Hungry Like the Wolf, and I’ve forgotten the words!
Old age does that, I suppose. Bits of memories disappearing randomly. The tune is stuck in my head now; I can’t shake it.
I walked past a post box a moment ago, I stood and stared like a fool. I haven’t written to Nikki for so long; no calls or emails. We send Christmas cards, with assurances we’ll meet, but the year never seems long enough to keep those promises. An invite to her son’s wedding is sitting on my mantelpiece.
I didn’t think it would happen to us, that we’d lose touch, drift apart. This is more an abrupt halt though, I guess. The phone call that eventually came wasn’t from Nikki; it was from her son. She’d been ill; I didn’t even know.
We were Goths for a while when we were seventeen; today, black is the last colour I want to wear.

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