The Dress

10 September, 2011 at 14:01 (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

She kept tugging on her sleeve, hours after they had passed the shop-window.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Ella could feel the exasperation rising. Debbie had learned the word please only recently and seemed to think it was the magic word that unlocked everydoor. This wasn’t helped by Phil asking her everytime a ‘please’ was wanted – ‘What’s the magic word?’ Ella had grown more frustrated with that phrase as Debbie had grown more convinced of it’s literal truth.

“Please Mummy, please Mummy.”

Part of her wanted to turn around and shout at the pleading face. She wanted to shout ‘No! No Debbie, you can’t have it. It’s a dumb dress that you’re going to grow out of in months and it’s far too expensive what what it is. You can’t have it because I don’t want you to have it. You’re a horrible, whining little girl who doesn’t deserve a pretty sparkly dress. Now shut the fuck up and let Mummy pretend she doesn’t have a horrible whining child to satisfy all the fucking time.’
Part of her wanted to slap the child across the face. As she held Debbie’s hand waiting to cross the road she imagined accidentally-on-purpose tripping, sending the tiny girl sprawling across the path of the oncoming traffic. She imagined the tears she’d have to force to her eyes by digging her nails into her thighs and the sobbing way she would say ‘My baby’. She dragged Debbie hard across the road and looked, guiltily, into the eyes of a policewoman coming the other way.

***

“Isn’t it a bit expensive?” asked Phil, later on that evening.

Debbie spun around and around in front of him, delighted with her new dress.

Ella pasted a smile across her face.
“Anything for my little girl,” she said.

“I love you Mummy,” said Debbie, her joy evident in her eyes.

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Bedtime Story

8 September, 2011 at 22:30 (Flash) (, , , , , , , )

“Daddy, just one more?” she asked, her big blue eyes looking up into his.

He smiled down at her. “One more.”
Then he looked down at the book in his hand and read the next story, ‘A Christmas Angel’, this one was about an angel who ate too many christmas biscuits. She fell asleep when he was about half way through reading it. When he heard her breathing become even and slow he put down the book and let the tears flow.

The nurse poked her head through the door. “Mr Chambers?”

He looked up at her.

“There are some more papers for you to sign.”

He nodded and got up, leaving the book on the chair besides the bed. It had been her favourite book when she was a kid, when she had been about seven she’d recieved it for Christmas and he hadn’t been allowed not to read from it for her bedtime story. Now she was thirty-seven and here in the terminal cancer ward he read it to her again. This time though, when she closed her eyes and slept he didn’t wish for her to wake with her dreams fulfilled, he just wished for her to wake at least once more.

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Glitter

6 September, 2011 at 11:28 (Flash) (, , , , )

She cried, she knew she wasn’t being a good, brave girl, but she couldn’t help it, the tears just came. She sniffed, hard. Then she peered between the bannisters of the landing, that wasn’t anygood as the tears came again, harder, when she caught sight of the glint in Mary’s hand.

Mummy had given her the small tub of glitter that morning and she had put two small dabs of it on her cheeks. She had said it was fairy dust and it had made her smile, even though she had known really that it was just glitter and not really fairy-dust.

When Mary had seen the glitter on her cheeks she had wanted some as well and when she had got the tub out of her pocket to put it on Mary’s cheeks Mary’s eyes had glittered.
“Give it to me.” she had demanded.
“But it’s mine.”
“It’s my birthday.” Mary had said. “Give it to me.”
“But…”

Then Mary had started crying, very, very loudly and the nursery nurse had come over to see what the matter was.
“It’s my birthday!” Mary had wailed first. “And she won’t give it me back.”

It was the word ‘back’ that had surprised her, and that meant that when the nursery nurse had told her to give the tub to Mary she had done so.
Now she sat upstairs and tried not to cry because she knew it wasn’t really her Mum’s fairydust and she did want to be a big, brave girl. She just couldn’t seem to stop.

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Freedom

1 September, 2011 at 22:46 (Flash) (, , , , , , )

“Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum, Mum” said the little girl, tugging at her mother’s dressing-gown.

“Not now dear, Mummy’s talking.” said her mother, not bothering to look down, “Do go on with what you were saying,” she said to the very attractive door-to-door salesman who’d explained that he was only recently out of prison and was in fact a door to door salesman in an effort to get into the army.

The little girl gave up on trying to attract her mother’s attention and walked back down the hall. She clambered up onto the kitchen table and then lent out to reach the lock on the back door. With no small effort she pushed down and the catch moved allowing the door to swing back open. Hoisting herself off of the kitchen table she looked back over one shoulder, her Mum was still talking to the salesman but it looked as if her dressing gown had slipped a little bit. This often happened when Mum was talking to good looking men. The little girl headed out of the back door, closing it carefully behind her.

She walked into the garden and crawled under the hedge until she wriggled herself through the dirt and discovered herself in the field behind the house. Laying down in the mud of the field she saw the blue sky stretching wide above her and smiled whilst watching the birds wheeling, high over head.

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Corner Shop

31 August, 2011 at 23:06 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , )

“Spareabitofchangemate?” called out the old, homeless man on the street corner, running the words together as if they were one.

The girl ignored him, she wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, and ran along the pavement, the wooden end of her skipping rope dragging behind her. At the corner she stopped running and glanced behind her, the homeless man was peering into his polystyrene cup, trying to count the loose change there. The girl stepped up the two shallow, concrete steps into the corner shop and peered over the counter at the sweets there.

“Whachoo wan? Wishwon?” asked the grey old asian woman behind the counter, her English heavily accented. The girl smiled up at her, over the sweets.
“Wishwons?” asked the woman again, smiling back over the sweets.

The girl pointed to the cherry chupa chup lollies and held up one finger.

“Won lolli,” said the shopkeeper, placing it deftly in the bag.

The girl’s front teeth bit down thoughtfully over her lower lip. She pointed to the blackjacks and raised two solemn fingers.

“Chew off those.” said the shopkeeper, smiling broadly now. “Thas twenny pee.”

The girl glanced down at the fifty pence coin she held in her hand. She pointed at one of the white chocolate mice, two fruit salads and a packet of parma violets.

“Thas fifty pee.” said the shopkeeper twisting up the paperbag with hands as crinkled as the paper.

The girl handed over the coin and took the bag of sweets with glee. Then she took off down the steps of the corner shop and back up the street at a run.

“Spareabitofchangemate?” called out the old, homeless man on the street corner, running the words together as if they were one.

The girl glanced at him as she ran by but said nothing. Then she made it to the terrace house she called home, dashed through the door, slammed it and took the stairs two at a time to her bedroom.

Mumbled words shouted from the kitchen below didn’t penetrate the room clearly enough to be replied to and she happily ensconced herself in the comfy armchair in the corner of her room. With her back to the door she didn’t react when it was thrown open and her father came stomping across the floor to her. She did however, jump a mile when he laid a hand on her shoulder and placed a small object into her hand. She fiddled with it and he waited until she had it in place.

“Please stop going out without your hearing aid.” he said.

“Sorry Dad,” she replied. “But I had to get to the shop before Mr Street did or he wouldn’t go in.”

“His name isn’t Mr Street, you should stop calling him that.”

“Sorry Dad.”

“And I don’t think it’s polite you watching him and Mrs Harishandra.”

“Sorry Da…ooooh there he goes!”

Her fingers delved into the paper bag to pass her father one of the blackjacks and she nibbled on the nose of the white mouse as they peered out of the window. There the homeless man finished counting his coins and drew himself up to his full height before walking to the corner shop.

“Where do you think they’re going to go this time?” she asked her father.

“I don’t know, her son caught her last time so they can’t go to the back yard again.”

“Do you think they’ll try the bus shelter? All the kids from the big school do it there.”

“No, it’s too open, they need somewhere no one’s going to walk in on them, especially not her son.”

The pair of them chewed away on their sweets until they saw Mrs Harishandra flick the shop sign to closed.

“They’re staying inside then,” said the girl.

Her father shook his head, “Surely not, the smell would alert her husband and I’m sure he doesn’t approve.”

“Maybe the yard again…”the girl trailed off as on the roof opposite them the skylight began to open. Soon out of it poked Mrs Harishandra’s head and the homeless mans, with one arm each able to stick out they passed their illicit cigarette between them as the little girl and her father watched, fascinated to see if anyone would catch them this time.

(Three Word Wednesday: Drag, Mumble, Penetrate)

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The Last Dance

30 August, 2011 at 20:38 (Flash) (, , , , )

“May I have this dance?” he smiled at her as she sat, sipping the last from a glass of bubbly.

She stood and he took her hand and led her onto the floor. It had been a long time but his arm went deftly around her waist, and he still led like a pro. With a good lead she managed to spin in her new heels and the skirt of her purple dress span with her.

“Don’t they look beautiful?” he said to her as they waltzed gently past the happy couple.

She smiled up at him and nodded. “Better than we ever did,”

He deftly altered their direction, avoiding a drunken uncle staggering about. “Dave looks good too.” he said, nodding to her second husband, still stood at the bar.

“Hands off you,” she said. “Yours is right there.”

Steve, his partner, bent over a table talking to the bride above the music, didn’t seem to have noticed their dancing.

“I’m glad we got married,” she said.

“You are?”

“I like our kids. Besides, we couldn’t have divorced else now could we?”

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Out Of The Frying Pan

26 August, 2011 at 12:31 (Flash) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Frying Pan was not your typical greasy spoon cafe although it liked to play upon the image. Ma, behind the counter, looked just slightly too young to be anyone’s actual mother, certainly not any of the patrons of The Frying Pan. If you looked closely at her you might suspect that was because of judicious botox rather than actual youth, nevertheless, Ma was what it said on her namebadge rather than a friendly nickname. It was all about image at The Frying Pan, a real greasy spoon would never have survived in the heart of The City, a real greasy spoon would have had the bankers and the PAs and the enthusiastic cyclists up in arms talking about health and safety or trans fats. The Frying Pan was talked about, but in glowing terms, terms that embraced it’s image and liked to extend it’s pretense that a family run, greasy little cafe had been in The City for generations patronised by those bankers who were down-to-earth and real men’s men.

The Frying Pan had been open nine months. ‘Ma’ had stood behind the formica counter and called unrecognisable terms to ‘Pa’ everytime one of the smartly dressed customers ordered.

The Frying Pan liked to play upon the image and did it very well. Ma liked to pretend that it wasn’t The City outside her plate glass window, on somedays it was Manchester or Leeds or even Sheffield and her shout backs would affect the trace of a Northern accent. The days she pretended it was Manchester her accent was better than the days she pretended it was New York, New Orleans or San Francisco.
Ma’s real accent came from the Home Counties but she didn’t use it much. Ma’s real hair was brunette but she hadn’t seen it in years. Ma’s real name was a lot less obvious than her real accent or real hair and hadn’t been used for half a decade before the brunette had vanished. Ma would quite happily have told anyone that she was a ‘Total fake, but a real fake, like Holly Golightly’ and she didn’t really think that much of herself.

This is why she was surprised to find herself inching along the ledge of the window in her bare feet. “I have my limits,” she’d say, her ‘northern’ accent oscillating from Lancashire to Yorkshire and back again. But her limits appeared not to matter today. She took a deep breath and readied herself for what must come next.

Ma had come in, around four thirty as she did every morning. She had expected Johnny (Pa’s real name) to come in around five, but for once he hadn’t shown up. She’d called his mobile and his home and then she’d gone into the kitchen to work out how to turn the ovens on so they’d be ready when he did turn up. Whilst inside the kitchen she’d been vaguely aware of a pouring sound, like water running in the next room over, but she hadn’t thought anything of it. Ma didn’t have much in the way of a sense of smell and so the fumes didn’t hit her as soon as they might have done a younger woman who’d never smoked. She also hadn’t heard the lock of the front door being forced, it had been done quietly, professionally, so that was understandable. Later she would be very glad that Johnny hadn’t come in to work on time or she’d have been in the front when it had happened. As it was she was in the kitchen in time for the sudden rush of hot air to hit her followed by the unmistakable roaring sound of flames.

Ma turned and the nylon in her skirt crinkled back, showing more fear than she did as years of lectures and training actually hit her. She dropped to the floor as the petrol fuelled fire roared above her across the ceiling. She scuttled, crablike, backwards as fast as she could across the tiled floor. Her shoulders hit the fire-exit door harder than she would have liked, but she knew she bruised her knees when she knelt up to push the bar to open the double-doors. She couldn’t fathom why they wouldn’t open, only that they didn’t and her exit route had been cut short. Side to side her eyes flicked, aware that outside was a few inches away if the door had not been blocked, the flames looked like some vast hot liquid in front of her, racing across the tiled kitchen, then she saw, to her left, the stairs leading to a small staff toilet upstairs.

The tiny staircase was hot and smoke-filled, back smoke that she tried not to breath into her lungs. As she crawled up the stairs the wood grew hotter under her palms until she felt that they were blistering, the nylon on her skirt had melted solidly together with the net petticoat.
It was the sanitary bin that she used to smash open the window in the pokey little toilet, it was solidly full and on the second try broke the glass with it’s weight. The high-heels she tried to use to clear the broken glass away from the edges of the window as she’d seen on television but it didn’t work so she flung them out. That was the first clue that the gathered onlookers had to her being in the building. The second was her eventual emergence onto the window ledge.

“Jump!” they shouted to her. “Jump! Ma! Jump!”

She looked down, through the smoke and the flames and knew that she’d have to do it. She knew that she’d break her legs on the street below, there was nothing to catch her, but it was either that or stay here and suffocate or burn.

She took a deep breath, then Amy jumped.

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Voice Mail

17 August, 2011 at 14:13 (Flash) (, , , , , , , )

“I just need you to action this item.”

Again Paul wished that there was a mute button on real life, especially when it came to the heartless verbing of nouns.

“Sir?”

He blinked a little and brought himself back to the reality of his secretary and her paperwork standing in front of him.

“If you could sign…”

He shook his head. “Not now, just…out please!”

He looked at the phone, no message light flashed at him from the desk. He had become used to the messages, from the first sobbing, pained one he listened to on returning from a meeting.

‘They say the fetus isn’t viable. Please…please call back.’

He had left work at the usual time that night, unable to face her crying.

There had been angry ones, ones full of sobbing, then hopeful ones. ‘Jade made it through another night, I’m still at the hospital. Come visit us.’

He had, and he had peered at her baby through layers and layers of clear plastic and tubing. Machines beeped and tubes gasped around her. She had never seemed to be anything to do with him but had always seemed a life removed by a dozen layers of plastic.

The hopeful ones had been when the messages became more and more infrequent, rather than dozens all day there would be one or two.

‘Jade’s allowed to come home. Pick us up after work.’

Each one, getting more and more terse, to the point. He had thought that this meant she was feeling better, and in a way, he supposed, it had.

The final message had been very terse and straight to the point.

‘I’m leaving. I’m taking Jade. We’ll be gone by the time you get home.’

He had left work early that day, as soon as he recieved the message, but some cruel trick of fate had a tanker crash on the motorway ahead of him and he was trapped there for hours. By the time he reached home they had long gone and no helpful note or handy clue left to tell him where.

He had returned to work, uncertain of what else to do. He took refuge in the routine and now he sat in his office looking out across the other city-blocks and down from his window at the cars, looking like models, whizzing below. He could barely make out the people, only those sporting clothes of particularly vibrant colours were obvious to him, sat up here, being asked to action documents. He was looking at life again, through a dozen layers of plastic.

A loud knocking at his door startled him from his reverie.

“Paul? There’s a meeting in half an hour, will you be attending?” the head and shoulders of one of the younger managers poked through the door.

“No.” he said, standing. “No I won’t.”

Then he marched down to the switchboard, determined to cash in some old favours. He walked out some time later and made his way to a cafe where he ordered a coffee, nothing fancy, with milk and sugar. He sat at a table positioned on the pavement where he could watch all the colours move around him, then he took out his mobile and dialled.

“Hello?”

“Hello darling. It’s Dad, and I’d really like to see my Grand-daughter.” he said.

“She’d really like to see you too.”

(The words this week were: Gasp, Mute and Viable)

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