Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Open 24 Hours #WriteBravely #Day7




The car park was almost deserted under the welcoming glow of the neon sign. It was mostly a truck stop at this time of night. nondescript sedan swung into a car space. A woman got out and walked purposefully toward the door of the 24 hour diner. A place to rest along the highway.

She pushed the door open. The smell of freshly brewed coffee mingled with the icy air. Her glance swept over the near empty restaurant. A few truckers sat hunched over Phones or newspapers, sipping coffee. The woman paused before heading to the counter.

"What'll it be?" A spotty gum chewing young woman who was barely out of her teens asked.

"I'll take some coffee," the woman replied. "And the waffles with bacon and cream."

It figures, Spotty Girl thought, as she tapped in the order. The woman was tall and svelte. The kind of woman who still looked willowy even in a long grey coat. It looked expensive.

Probably Burberry or some other brand Spotty could never afford. Besides,  she would look a lumbering elephant in such a thing.

The woman had an equally expensive looking red scarf wound around her swan like neck and straight long blonde hair. She obviously spent a fortune on that hair. It was impeccable, even at this ungodly hour. She was almost a dead ringer for that Gwyneth Paltrow. Spotty couldn't stand her.

Blondie tapped her card briskly to pay, then slipped into a booth near the entrance. She bent over her phone. Every so often her eyes flicked towards the entrance,  then peered out into the dark car park. She must be expecting someone.

Spotty, whose real name, Frances, was emblazoned on the badge pinned to her smock type uniform, saw this kind of thing reasonably often during these graveyard shifts. Clandestine meetings. A secret rendezvous. Suburban soccer mums, middle aged dads. Meeting their lover in the dead of the night. Injecting some excitement in their otherwise stagnant lives.

Frances/Spotty poured endless cup after cup of coffee night after night and nobody ever noticed her. Nobody flirted or asked for her number. She was free to people watch.

"Order's up!" Nick, the short order cook snapped. She'd be scolded for daydreaming again. She shuffled over and placed the food in front of Blondie. There was no thank you. No acknowledgement. No common courtesy, as Trudie often lamented.

Her older sister had taken on a parental role since Mum had passed away a few years ago. Dad had taken off when they were little. She could barely remember him. Spotty set about polishing tables.

Minutes later, a man in a blue hoodie entered the diner and casually slid into the booth opposite Blondie. Her expression changed. Soon they were talking, their voices urgent. Blondie became more and more animated in between bites of bacon and waffles.

Spotty began polishing the tables behind them. Not that they needed polishing. But she had to keep busy, she reasoned.

"Are you sure?" Hoodie was saying. They huddled in closer.

"I just want her GONE!"

Spotty was all ears now. Perhaps Blondie was ordering a hit on her lover's wife? Or her husband's girlfriend?

Nah, she'd been watching too many episodes of Criminal Minds.

That's what Trudie would say. "You need to get out more! Meet people."

"I'm around people all the time at work."

That was just another bone of contention. "How can you date when you work night shift?" Trudie wailed. As if there was a line of men vying to date her.

Blondie was smiling now. Positively jubilant. "Can't wait till that bitch is dead!"

Spotty placidly kept polishing even as her heart skipped a beat
. She'd become skilled at eavesdropping if nothing else.

"Five thousand," Hoodie named his price.

Blondie pouted then smiled coquettishly "I can give you three... and...sex..." she laughed.

Spotty went back to the counter reluctantly as another trucker ambled into the diner.

Dawn was beginning to creep in through the darkness. The neon sign a beacon in the fog. Soon the breakfast rush would begin in earnest. Spotty's shift would end.

She noticed Blondie get up to use the rest room as she finished serving the trucker. Presumably to rid herself of all those calories. Women like her never digested such food.

Spotty was grateful it was knock off time. She didn't want the odious task of cleaning any resultant mess in the ladies room. Wouldn't be the first time she was roped into it, despite janitor not being her job title.

Outside, Spotty adjusted her backpack and lit a cigarette. A quick one before she got the bus back to the burbs. It was light now, with clearing fog. It was going to be a sunny winter's day.

Blondie was strutting back to her car. Spotty glanced back inside. Hoodie was nowhere to be seen.

Spotty watched the men approach Blondie. She didn't flinch when the plain clothed detectives flashed their badges.

"You're under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder."

Spotty stared. Holy shit! This was AWESOME. A real life criminal minds in the car park at work!

Blondie denied any wrongdoing as they continued reading her rights. But Spotty knew what she'd heard. Besides, it would all be on the diner's CCTV cameras. Blondie wasn't a very smart criminal for all her surface elegance.

The neon sign flickered off as Blondie was taken away.

Spotty headed to the bus stop, phone to ear.

"Trudie? You'll never guess what just happened..."

The End.

Written for Festival Of Words 2018 Day 7 using the above photo prompt. (And unlike Spotty, I've clearly been watching/listening to too much true crime stuff...😃)

Aaaaaand that's a wrap.  It's been fun!

Thanks for reading.

Linking up with Write Tribe for Festival Of Words.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Together Again #WriteBravely #Day 1


Welcome to the Festival of Words 2018! What on earth is that, you ask? Read about it here. I'm joining in for the first time, because I never really knew about it before. But better late than never, as the saying goes!

So let's get this party started, as P!nk says... Or something...

For day one, I chose the following creative writing prompt:

Day 1 – 24 Jun – Use this sentence in your post : You’d never believe me if I told you that I _____________, but it’s true and I can prove it.

Here's my story:

TOGETHER AGAIN



Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/




You'd never believe me if I told you that I'm a murderer. But it's true, and I can prove it. You see, everyone dies around me. You might meet me and think I'm a regular person. I'm witty, quirky and quick with a joke. Fun to be with. You may even want to be friends. I would advise you against it. It could be fatal.

"It's not your fault," my psychologist told me. Her eyes exuded kindness and warmth. Warmth I didn't deserve. The day they'd taken away Blake's lifeless body, all those years ago, I thought they'd take me, too. Mum was still slumped on the floor. Her guttural wails sliced through the unnerving stillness. I felt frozen in time. Floating. Surreal. How could this be happening again?

After the funeral, Mum didn't get out of bed for weeks. I made her bowls of cereal and cheese on toast which lay untouched. The only things I knew how to make at age ten. I became the mother to my mother. Tall and mature for my age, people said. They shouldn't trust me.

"Poor love," Auntie Lorraine said. "First her father, then her baby brother."
"So sad," sniffed cousin Sally. I didn't like her. She'd never visited before, why was she here now? Auntie Lorraine had always been in our lives. She was Mum's auntie really. My late Poppa's sister. I loved her. She wore brilliant coloured scarves and bustled about as she gossiped. She rarely mentioned my Dad though.

For years afterwards I replayed the accident in my mind. Dad's eager face when he saw me waving from the school gate. He stepped off the kirb onto the slippery wet road. I never knew if he saw the oncoming car. If his life flashed before his eyes in that instant. He bounced off the bonnet, hitting the ground with a sickening smack. My screams were swallowed by the clap of thunder as biting rain fell on the gruesome scene.

Six months later, Blake stopped breathing. They said it was SIDS. Sudden infant death syndrome. My already scarred ten year old psyche didn't understand. I'd been playing peek-a-boo with him. Maybe I'd left the blanket over his face when the phone rang and I rushed off to answer it. I'd murdered him, and I knew it. Could ten year olds go to prison?

Mum was never the same. She was there, but not really there. After a while I went to live with auntie Lorraine. Luckily she didn't have any children, or I may have killed them too.

"Your mum is sick, but in her mind, not her body," she explained. "Do you understand?"
I nodded. I'd made her that way. She'd probably die next. Because of me. She didn't. But she only made brief appearances in my life.

Months and years went by. I went to school, netball, piano practice. I was the good girl. I blended in, fooling everyone. Later, anger surfaced.  I became a bratty, belligerent teenager. This eventually morphed into a sarcastic, wisecracking twenty something. I was a chameleon, but drowning inside.

By now, Mum and I had an on again, off again relationship. She'd never remarried and moved around, living a nomadic life. I never knew when she'd flit through the periphery of my existence.

Somehow I'd survived university and established a career. Every day I expected someone to tap me on the shoulder. My secret discovered. I was a fraud. A freak. I didn't deserve a normal life.

Inevitably, Auntie Lorraine passed away suddenly. People I love always do. This time I planned the funeral. Mum turned up.

"Hello, Bethany," she gave me a wan smile. She'd put on weight, but it suited her. Her once coppery gold hair was streaked with grey, but her eyes were the same olive green flecked with hazel and underlying sorrow.

"Hi." I wanted to say so much more than that one innocuous word. Where have you been? I screamed internally. Then she surprised me by learning in to give me an awkward hug.

One by one, family, friends and strangers, paused to give me grave looks and platitudes, before leaving the wake.

"I'll help you clean up," Mum began clearing plates of half stale sandwiches cut in triangles.

"Leave it," I held up a bottle of wine from the fridge. Auntie Lorraine always had some on hand. She'd been fond of glass or two after a long day. "One for Auntie Lorraine?"

"Of course." Mum agreed. I poured and we clinked glasses.

"To auntie Lorraine," we both murmured. A few glasses later, we began to unwind. Or unravel. We were pouring out memories along with the wine. Laughter mingling with tears as we remembered what a remarkable woman auntie Lorraine was.

"I'm sorry, Bethie," Mum wiped the tears gently from my cheek.
"For what?"
"Everything. Especially not being there for you after Dad and Blake died."
I looked into her eyes and knew she meant it.

"You look so much like your Dad."
"It was my fault," I blurted.
"What?" Mum shook her head.
"Dad and Blake. I killed them."
Mum looked thunderstruck. Then everything came pouring out of me. I told her how Dad had stepped in front of the car because of me. About my game of peekaboo with Blake.

"I had no idea," Mum was sobbing now. "I thought you blamed me. You see, I blamed myself."

Then she explained how Dad had picked me up that day because she'd been unable to. She'd been suffering from post natal depression.

"And when Blake died, I felt so guilty. I felt like such a terrible mother, and that's why I was being punished. Why he was taken from me. You were only a child and it wasn't fair to you to be responsible for your baby brother. You did nothing wrong. You were only a girl. My beautiful girl."

She help me tight, snivelling into my shoulder. I tried to tell her I understood, that everything was okay, but the words were stuck in my own sobs. We had so much to say.  I knew I could never bring Dad and Blake back, but I finally had my mother back.

The next day we went to the cemetery together, armed with flowers. I finally felt a sense of peace as we placed them on Dad and Blake's crypt. Mum squeezed my hand. "We're all together again," she whispered.


THE END.

Linking with Write Tribe for Festival Of Words.  

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Kiss And Tell: The Decision


Hello again, gorgeous people! I'm back with a quick and dirty* bit of flash fiction for Friday Reflections using the prompt: Kiss And Tell. 

Drum roll please...

Here it is:

 KISS AND TELL: THE DECISION 






Rochelle's fingers hovered over the keyboard. Her shoulders were rigid with tension and repressed fury. Should she tell her? She wouldn't usually kiss and tell. But this wasn't a usual situation. Not for her anyway. The woman's serene features gazed at her from her Facebook profile. With the tap of her fingers Rochelle could change everything. All she had to do was tell her the truth about her husband. Rochelle was still reeling from the revelation that Nathan was married. Why should he get away with it? Her decision was made. Her fingers flew across the keyboard. It was done. She had the feeling she couldn't tell Nathan's wife anything she didn't know already. But she was done with online dating. She'd deleted her Tinder profile. 


THE END

 *Okay, not so much dirty, but very quick.   


What do you think?

What you kiss and tell in this situation?                                        
    
Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/

Friday, 10 November 2017

Spaghetti And Meatballs: The Sequel



Greetings Earthlings,

Another Friday has rolled around. They tend to do this. Predictably, right after Thursday and just before Saturday. Funny about that.


 Anyway, this means it's time to join in, yet again, with the fun that is called,  Friday Reflections. 

You may recall that I wrote a sweet little story last week, and ended with a teaser for a part two. Well, here is that promised finale. If you don't recall, you can read Part One here. 

I've also cleverly managed to weave in this week's prompt, which is: Heart's Content. Yep, I'm a genius. Or something.

Here is Part Two: 




SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS: THE SEQUEL







Have you ever had one of those weekends? You know the kind. You're really looking forward to it. You have it all planned. And what you're planning is, a whole lotta NOTHING. Yes, you can plan to do nothing. In fact, I take great pride in doing so.

Then, absolutely everything goes pear shaped. It's ridiculous. Until you realise, you actually quite like pears. Pears can be delicious. Look, I'm going somewhere with the pear analogy, stay with me.

First, my car was ruined. Then I was locked out of the house. In a robe. In the rain.

Which led to me eating spaghetti and meatballs with a handsome stranger. 

Mr Strong and Silent Enigmatic turned out to be surprisingly easy to chat with. I found myself loosening up. I was witty, charming and self-deprecating. He laughed in the right places, was courteous, kind and interesting. Oh, and he was also single, I discovered.

And then I ruined it. Evidently, I was much more exhausted from my hectic week than I'd realised. Next thing you know, after only one glass of wine, I was snoring on the couch. Classy. I was having a dream about an Italian dude with smouldering eyes. He was leaning in towards me and...

"Carolyn!" That accent.

 I was jolted awake to see those very eyes.

"Your sister is here with your spare key."

Oh, SHIT!

I stumbled outside, still half-asleep. There was Diana waving the key. Dressed head to toe as a dominatrix.

"You know what your problem is, sis? You need to get out more. Get a life. Make friends. Go on dates. HAVE SEX!"

Marco seemed to have adopted a permanently bemused expression. He hovered behind us, watching the exchange. I snatched the key.

"Couldn't you have changed?" I hissed.

"No." She smiled, completely unfazed. "But YOU definitely should. What in the living hell are you wearing?"

"It's a long story... I..."

But Diana was bored already. Vanilla and dull were so not her style. That was clear. To the entire neighbourhood.

"OK, gotta go!" She interrupted me." Can't stay and chat. I have someone waiting to whipped." She clattered to the driver's side of her car, adding in a stage whisper "By the way, he's HAWT. Go for it!"

I stood there flushed and flummoxed as she drove away.

"Your sister is... very interesting." Marco observed.

I laughed a little uneasily, not sure what to say. Then I shrugged. To hell with it.

"Her job is certainly unconventional, but she has a good heart." I figured if my sister had no shame about her lifestyle, then neither should I. Though we had one pact. Our mother must NEVER KNOW.

Not for the first time, I was thankful she had moved to Queensland after our dad passed away. The endless phone calls, texts and emails about our single states were draining, but at least we had a buffer zone.

"Well, thanks for everything." Now that I had a key and an escape route I was curiously reluctant to leave. Especially having no idea when I'd see him again.

"No problem," he replied. There was a pause while I waited, for what I don't know. Did I really think he was going to ask me out? That he would be so taken with me he'd want to see me again.

Maybe Mum and Di were right after all, I did need to get out more.

"Okay, well seeya." I sighed.

He nodded politely and headed back inside as the rain began to patter again.

The next day, my car was towed away. I washed and dried Wendy's clothes and waited until a respectable hour. I had to return them. It wouldn't hurt to fix my hair for once. And what about some lipstick? I mean, I hardly ever wore it, but why not? And what should I wear?

Wait a minute, you're just returning some clothes. Get over yourself. In the end I settled on jeans and a nice top. But I fixed my hair. A girl has to have some standards. Okay, a middle aged woman. So sue me.

"Carolyn!" Wendy greeted me like a long lost friend. "Come in. Excuse the mess! Vince has taken the girls to the park for a bit now that it's stopped raining. Thank God! They were like caged animals. Sorry about your car! Coffee?"

All of this while she kept moving and bustling to the kitchen. I glanced around. The mess didn't seem to much more than a lot of toys on the living room floor. I remembered those days with my three quite vividly. I'd been a young mum. Consequently, I had a 20 year old daughter, and the boys were 16 and 15, being only 18 months apart.  I was glad those toddler years were over.

"I just came to return your clothes and say thank you." I was glancing around for other reasons.

"You're so welcome!" Wendy handed me a coffee. "I'm glad my brother-in-law was here. We thought about leaving the girls with my mother but she was unwell and Marco wanted to baby-sit, so it all worked out beautifully. Sit down!" she motioned to the couch that was littered with toys. "If you can find somewhere to sit!"

I shoved some things over and sat. I sipped my coffee. Clearly Marco wasn't here. I should have taken more notice of his car.  Wendy chatted while I imagined  an alternative world, where, instead of the pile of ironing awaiting me, Marco and I were alone, eating spaghetti and meatballs and drinking wine to our heart's content.

Just like a scene out of The Bachelor or Bacherlorette. I blame my daughter. She forced me to watch such vapid programmes. Oh okay, she didn't have to try too hard. We both watched and made droll remarks, as if we were regulars on Gogglebox. It was fun. Note to self: do something about that getting out more thing.

Meanwhile, back to my imaginings. Beach side setting. I would be wearing a gown. This was a fantasy, so I'd be at least five kilos lighter. No, make that ten. My legs would be shaved. My hair and make-up perfect. And as for Marco. He was already perfect. A sexy cross between George Clooney and Mark Ruffalo. He'd be looking suave in a suit. He would...

"Carolyn?"

"Huh?" I was jolted out of my daydream. 

"I was just asking what you do," Wendy said. "Marco was asking so many questions about you, it made me realise how little we know about each other even though we're right next door!"

He did? YESSS. 

"I'm an office manager for a small legal firm," I replied. My job was so boring compared to my sister. And I preferred it that way. I wondered if Marco had mentioned her. I sipped my coffee. I was bursting to ask about him, but I didn't want to appear too obvious. He'd asked about me! That had to be a good sign, right?

By the time I left, we were firm friends in real life as well as Facebook . Only a matter of time until I crossed paths with Marco again.  Maybe I should speed up the process by inviting them all over for a dinner party?

I decided this was a brilliant plan. Except for one small thing. I don't cook. Unless you call shoving things in the oven cooking.

So I called my amazing caterer friend Gavin, who agreed to do it for mates rates. He's a great friend, and the only reason we aren't anything more is because he is very gay. Also, according to Gavin I have embarrassing taste in clothes and music. And I'm too messy... And the list goes on. Fair enough. We could never live together, but I adored Gavin. 
.
I scheduled the dinner party for a weekend the kids weren't there. Wendy had her mum babysitting the twins. It was all systems GO. 

Gavin arrived.

"Hello. I've been dumped. I don't want to talk about it. Don't worry. I'll get cooking." he swooped through to the kitchen. Oh dear. This wasn't good. Gavin was usually the dumper, not the dumpee. 


 I left him bustling away and went upstairs to get ready. This was fun! Why didn't I do this more often? Probably something to do with the days of maniacal cleaning that were necessary beforehand. Note to self: price a cleaner. 

The wine was chilled, music on - 80s vintage, much to Gavin's disgust - and I was in a fabulous mood when the doorbell rang.

"I brought some wine," Wendy handed me a bottle. More wine. Yay!

The were loud curses from the kitchen. Everyone politely pretended we hadn't heard them. 


Wendy began gushing about my place as I led them through to the open plan kitchen slash dining slash family room. 

Gavin's chopping now appeared to be frenetic. Hesitantly I introduced him to everyone.

"How are you? I was dumped today. I'm fine." he deadpanned. "Dinner will be served in half an hour." His eyes flitted to Marco. He raised an eyebrow at me. 


The first course was finally served when the front door opened and slammed. McKenzie stomped in. 

"He dumped me!"

"You too!" Gavin said. "Men are bastards." 


"Darling!" What happened?" I jumped up. "Everyone, this is my daughter, McKenzie." 

 "Some bullshit about needing space." 

"Maybe it's for the best." It wasn't the time for me to admit I hadn't particularly liked her boyfriend. They'd probably make up, and then where would I be? 

"HA!" Gavin scoffed.

McKenzie burst into tears. "He's broken my heart! I'll never get over it." 


"Maybe we can talk about this later..." 

"FUCK!" Gavin bolted to the oven just in time. Our main course had narrowly escaped ruin. 

"I couldn't eat anything right now," blubbered McKenzie. "But I'll take some wine." She poured a generous glass. 

Marco and Vincent exchanged glances while I  stood there awkwardly. I had pictured a civilised and sophisticated dinner party. Trust my overly dramatic daughter to disrupt things.

Gavin served the main courses amid more lamenting over the general hopelessness of all men, straight or gay.

"Present company excepted, of course!"

The doorbell trilled. What next?

"Excuse me." I hurried down the hall.

"Surprise!"

"MUM!" I was stunned. What was she DOING here?

"You're always saying you'll visit and don't, so I thought I'd surprise you. Well, aren't you going to invite me in?"

I had a choice? I seriously considered slamming the door, but she bustled in and immediately began telling me how to live my life. 


"You've put on weight! What are you eating? Do you have guests? I heard what happened from your sister and I agree with her. Sweetheart, you just need to HAVE SEX!" The last two words reverberated around the room as an unexpected silence descended. 

"Nan!" McKenzie jumped up to hug her grandmother. "You really DO, Mum." she said. 

"Haha," I managed a weak laugh "enough about that."

I introduced my mother. Marco had that same bemused expression he seemed to adopt around me. When I caught his eye, I thought I saw his lips twitch. I needed more wine. Oh well, what could go wrong now? 


It was supposed to be a rhetorical question. But the doorbell rang. This was ridiculous!

"Diana!" Or should I say, Mistress Delphine. 


"I need your shower. Mine's bung. You owe me one!" 

"Okay, but before you go in there you should know..."

It was too late. She'd barged in, without waiting for a reply. OH. MY. GOD. 

"MUM!"

"What...? Who...?" There was a gasp of recognition. "DIANA?!"


With that, my mother fainted. 

That was how my dignified, elegant dinner party ended. My guests made a hasty exit.

"You obviously have a lot on your plate." Wendy said. 


The next few weeks were a blur. I was busy with work and the boys. My mother had imploded. She was all  set to move back to Sydney, convinced that her daughters were degenerates.

It took every ounce of my energy to get her back on a plane. Diana was predictably unrepentant. McKenzie had gotten back together with the unsuitable boyfriend. Even Gavin had moved on, judging from his Facebook posts. 

And I was still very single.

Marco was in Italy. He'd gone back to visit family. Wendy wasn't sure when he'd be back. My beach side visions had vanished. What was a girl to do? Well, for one thing, I was finally going to have that quiet weekend. A bubble bath. A bottle of wine. You know the drill. 

I relaxed into the tub and the doorbell rang. I threw on my trusty old robe. It was probably McKenzie. She often forgot her key. I flung open the door. 

There were those eyes. The ones that could go straight from smouldering to bemused. Either way, they were hypnotic. 

"Marco!"

"Hello Carolyn. I'm looking after the girls again and I have A LOT of spaghetti and meatballs. Would you like to help me eat them?"

"Love to!" 


I stepped outside to go with him, under the spell of those eyes. Then we both began laughing. I'd locked myself out wearing my robe. 



THE END.




 So there you have it. A tad corny, but whatever. It was fun to write. And I will continue to write to my heart's content. (See what I did there?) Even if it's corny. 


What do you like to do to your heart's content? 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Serendipity Is Spaghetti And Meatballs: A Story.


Hello, dear reader! I hope you are enjoying another wonderful weekend. Once again it's time to make an appearance here and join in with the gang over at Friday Reflections. Here's some more stuff I made up, using the prompt: Serendipity. Use the word in your post. 

I went with fiction again, because it turns out that my life isn't really interesting enough to sustain a blog. NO?! Really??? I know! Hard to believe, right?! Anyway, here it is: 




SERENDIPITY IS SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS: A STORY



Image credit: https://www.foodiesfeed.com/



I was going to do the unthinkable. I had a very important date. With myself! I had the chocolate,the trashy novel, the wine, the bubbles. A long soak in the tub was beckoning. Afterwards, I was going binge watch whatever the hell I liked, without interruption. Screw, Netflix and 'chill'. I preferred Netflix and solitude. 

"Not like you have a partner, anyway," said that mocking voice in my head. It often sounded like my mother, for some inexplicable reason. "Shut up," I murmured, frowning. I had no time for such negativity.

Everything had fallen into place. My ex had the boys this weekend. My daughter had gone away with her boyfriend. There would be no bevy of teenagers inhabiting my home. Just me. Bliss. 

Serendipity. Sweet, sweet serendipity. 

What's that saying? Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. Thank you very much, John Lennon. At least, I think it was John Lennon who said that. Note to self: Google that later when you attempt to read the entire the Internet before bed. Bath first, though! As  soon as I sunk into to the tub, sighing in sheer delight, I heard the thud. Except it was more like an earth-shattering crash.

I jumped out of the bath wearing nothing but bubbles. Well, it would be kind of weird if I bathed clothed. Grabbing a towel, I scurried to the window. A small truck barrelled down the street. It had hit my car and driven and off! 

One of the myriad problems that came from living with three teenagers in a modest sized home, was we had A LOT of stuff. Consequently my garage was always full. I had parked on the street. Okay, so there's also a long boring story about narrow driveways. I sincerely dislike reversing out of them. Suffice to say, my ex-husband always blessed himself whenever I reversed. But that's because he's a jerk. I'm a good driver. I am! I've never had any accidents. Alright, there have been one or two scrapes, but I always leave a note! Besides, this certainly wasn't my fault.

Furious, I flung on a robe and dashed out the front without thinking. I was right. The car was completely totalled on the front drivers side.

I screamed a litany of curse words at no one in particular. Then I cursed myself for quitting my running regime. At my pace, the truck would be suburbs away before I'd even reached the end of my street.

"God dammit!" I huffed and marched back to the house to call my insurance company. Then I realised my mistake. I'd locked myself out of the house. With no phone. Wearing a bathrobe. What is the opposite of serendipity?

Neighbours were peering through blinds, but apparently no one wanted to help the crazy lady in the bathrobe. Was it possible to break in to my own house? Wait a minute! I wondered whether my back door was open. I couldn't remember if I'd unlocked it. I raced around to find it shut tight. Predictably, there was my phone mocking me on the kitchen counter. I banged my head on the sliding glass door in exasperation. Now what?

"Let me tell you," answered the Universe, and the heavens opened. It started raining. No, make that pouring. I huddled under my meagre back awning shivering. The warmth from the bubble bath and my fury had vanished. I felt, cold, hungry, and utterly foolish. The way I saw it, I had two choices. Stand here and freeze to death, or swallow my pride and go and knock on my neighbour's door.

The couple next door,Wendy and Vince, and I, had a distant but friendly kind of relationship. We waved cheery hellos and goodbyes as we dashed off to work and various other things and often chatted over the fence, but we weren't exactly neighbours who exchanged keys. 

I'd only been living there for a few years, since the divorce, and had teenage children. Wendy and Vince had four year old twins, so our kids didn't hang out either. Note to self: be more friendly towards your neighbours in the future. Would it kill you to get to know them? Invite them in for coffee? Suss out that they're not serial killers? Then give them a spare key.

There was only one problem. I was going to be drenched just getting to their front door. Oh, screw it! I squared my shoulders and marched over there. Saturated, I hugged my sopping bathrobe around my frozen frame and rang the doorbell. No answer. I rung again. I was pretty sure I could hear muffled noises inside. Then someone stomped to the door.

"Who IS it?!" a voice barked. Male. Didn't seem like the laid back tones of Vince who had always seemed like a fairly chilled sort of person. The door swung open. A face was scowling at me.

And what a face. I was momentarily struck dumb. Serendipity.

The scowl turned to bewilderment as he noted my attire. "S...s...s..sorry to bother you," I stammered "but someone hit my car and I locked myself out of the house."

He was staring. He had enigmatic eyes. Smouldering eyes. You've been reading too many of those trashy novels, Carolyn! I berated myself. Cool it.

"Oh, I live next door," I added.

Before Mr Enigmatic could reply, the twins thundered down the stairs.

"Uncle Marco! You need to read us a story!" Two pyjama clad figures appeared at his legs. Their eyes were like saucers as they took in my bedraggled appearance.

"Aren't you the lady next door?" Amelia asked.

"It's okay, Uncle Marco. You can let her in!" Alana chirruped.

Mr Enigmatic unlocked the screen door and motioned for me to enter. I was mortified. I hastily explained my attire.

"You can wear Mummy's clothes," stated Amelia. Her chocolate brown eyes were dancing. They were both simply adorable.

"She's not here. She's on a date with Dad!" Alana giggled. She seemed to find the idea of her parents dating hilarious. I was glad someone did. I hadn't had a date since... Never mind.

It seemed Mr Enigmatic, aka Uncle Marco, was the strong silent type. He pulled out his phone and tapped in a number. He was talking briefly to Wendy with the most exquisite Italian accent. I tried not to melt.

"She says it's okay," he told me "you can borrow her clothes."

He bustled the girls upstairs back to bed, pointing me to Wendy's room. It felt intrusive to go through her things, but I quickly realised a couple of things. One: Wendy (and presumably Vince too) were very meticulous. And two: Wendy was also considerably smaller than me.

It didn't take long to find some track pants and a sweater that fit rather snugly over all of my, shall we say, love handles? "Don't you mean ROLLS?" It was my mother's voice again. Christ, I could never get away from the woman. Even when she'd moved thousands of miles away to far north Queensland.

Another note to self: have a clear out at home. And for goodness sake, lay off the carbs! My stomach grumbled in protest.

 "Right on cue," I mumbled to the mirror. I realised I hadn't had dinner. I'd been planning to order whatever takeout took my fancy right after my soak. For some reason, I really fancied Italian right now. Ahem. Get a grip, I admonished myself, and trudged back downstairs. There was nothing I could do about my tangled hair. 

Marco was in the kitchen grimacing at the mess. There was a mountain of used pots and pans. Abandoned Peppa Pig bowls with half eaten spaghetti and meatballs littered the table This didn't seem like Vince and Wendy's handiwork. 

"I make them food, they don't eat," Marco explained. "Sit. You eat!" 

"Oh! I don't want you to go to any trouble."

"It's no trouble. I have too much. You can keep me company." He gave me a sheepish smile. I almost swooned.

Maybe this was serendipity after all. 



What happens next....? 

Stay tuned for Part Two. Coming next week. 
Yep, I've decided I'll pick up this story again next week. So let's leave the characters feasting on spaghetti and meatballs and you're all invited back next weekend! 


Do you have a story about serendipity? 

And while we're at it, what actually IS the opposite of serendipity?


Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Way You Make Me Feel

Hello! Here I am with a rather late last minute link-up offering for Friday Reflections. The prompt was this: put your Ipod on shuffle/turn the radio on. Write a post using the song as your prompt. 

The song I heard was Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel. So I made up this story and called it... The Way You Make Me Feel. Just for the good old obligatory Captain Obvious. Done.

Here it is: 


THE WAY YOU MAKE ME FEEL





I was standing at the sink when Ben came in and turned the radio on. The infectious beat of Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel filled the room.

"Turn it off!" I snapped. 

"What's wrong with you?" Ben frowned. 

 I still couldn't hear that song so many years later. It had been one of her favourites. Ben poured himself coffee and made toast. I took slow breaths and tried to stop shaking. The flashbacks were happening again. I'd never told Ben what had happened. 

We were getting married soon. It was time. I couldn't keep this from him. Stephanie should have been here, helping me prepare for our upcoming wedding. She would have been my bridesmaid and closest confidante.

She would have helped me plan a hen's night and choose the dress. Just like I would have helped her. Although Steph had always scoffed at the idea of settling down. She'd wanted to travel. Now she would never get to do any of it. Because of me. 

I don't know how long I stood there before I realised I was crying. My knees gave way and I sunk to the ground. 

"What's wrong?" Ben was alarmed.

"I have to tell you something," I mumbled. 


Ben's eyes clouded, his expression wary. "Okay."

"I killed some one." 


"I'm sorry," Ben laughed. He clearly  thought I was joking. 


"I killed someone." This time was louder.

"I don't understand." Ben had crouched beside me. He sunk onto the floor. I told him everything. 

I told him about that rainy day so many years ago. I was only seventeen and a cocky P-plate driver. We'd gotten into the car to go on a road trip to the coast. We were so full of joy. Carefree, young. Having our first taste of freedom. We'd been laughing and listening to music. It started to rain but that certainly didn't dampen our spirits. 

Then the song came on. 

"Turn it up!" Stephanie urged. I obliged. We both joined in to the chorus like over eager drunken karaoke participants at a pub. To this day I still don't know what happened. I wasn't speeding. I hadn't been drinking. I just lost control of the car. One minute were singing along in jubilation, and the next we weren't. I woke up in hospital. Stephanie didn't. It was a miracle I was alive. That miracle hadn't extended to my friend. I'd killed her. 


I would never forget the pinched haunted faces of her parents at her funeral. I knew what they were thinking. I thought it too. Why her and not our daughter? In the months and years that followed, my life unravelled. I quit driving. It was impossible. I couldn't imagine ever driving again. It was only because of my parents unwavering support that I eventually finished university and began working. I'd met Ben through mutual friends, and life suddenly seemed sweet again. Until I heard I heard a damn Michael Jackson song and it all came rushing back. 

"Babe, it wasn't your fault," Ben regarded me with those magnificent blue eyes that had made me fall in love with him. "It was an accident." I sobbed in his arms. 

Some weeks later I knew what I had to do. I was shaking as I rang the doorbell. Ben squeezed my hand.


"Claire!" Stephanie's eyes gaped at me. 

"Hello, Mrs Carlson." 


She ushered us in and I introduced Ben. Mr Carlson shuffled in from the backyard and shook Ben's hand warmly. The picture in the living room momentarily halted me. Stephanie and I were smiling from inside the frame wearing our formal gowns.  Mrs Carlson caught me looking at it and we exchanged glances before she excused herself to make coffee. 


We finally sat down with steaming mugs for sustenance. "I suppose you're wondering why I'm here," I began. 

"I'm just glad you came," Mrs Carlson replied. "We never see any of Steph's friends. It's...like she didn't exist..." she trailed off.

"The thing is," Mr Carlson continued "we didn't handle things very well at the time."

"Neither did I," I admitted "I'm so sorry..."


Before I could go on Mrs Carlson shook our head. "We realise now that it wasn't your fault."

We all had tears in our eyes and the atmosphere was charged.

"I've always wanted to ask you something." Mrs Carlson broke the silence. "Do you remember her last words?"


I nodded through my tears. "We were singing The Way You Make Me Feel. It was on the radio."

Mrs Carlson managed a winsome smile. "She always loved that song." 


"Yes, she did."

Once we started talking about Steph, we couldn't stop. I felt her presence. My funny, amazing, beautiful friend with her red gold hair and crooked nose. We remembered her love of 80s music, animals, the beach. Her offbeat sense of humour, her kindness. It felt so good to talk about my friend again. Before we left, I handed Mrs Carlson an invitation to mine and Ben's wedding. "I'll understand if you don't want to come," I said.


"We wouldn't miss it," she insisted. "Thank you." 

We walked to the car and Ben looked at me. "Proud of you," he said and handed me the car keys. "You can do it." 

I got in and turned the key in the ignition with shaking hands. Slowly, we drove away. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Bated Breath


Greetings and salutations, lovely readers! How are you all? I keep pretending that there are so many of you. Why not? It's a lovely little game called Being Delusional that I like to play. No harm done. 

So just for shits and giggles I wrote a little made up story for Friday Reflections inspired by the prompt: Bated breath.  Of course I didn't get around to posting, linking and sharing it until Saturday evening, but, as I like to say, details! Besides, that's just how I rock a Saturday night! So anyway, here it is...



BATED BREATH


Adrenaline pulsated through me as I approached the counter. Every nerve ending was tingling. It happened every time. It was equal parts thrilling and gut wrenching. Yet, I couldn't stop. 

"How are you today?" the teller flashed a flight attendant smile. Her eyes were warm behind her designer frames. I glanced at her name tag. 

Louise. 


"Good thanks," I replied, matching her smile. I couldn't be sure if it reached my eyes. Mentally I summed her up. Her ash blonde bob and manicured nails spoke of regular trips to a salon. Her trim physique suggested an expensive gym membership.  Louise was thoroughly middle class. She probably had an immaculate brick home in a leafy suburb. A husband. Kids. Just like me. 

Except I was different. I had to be.

"How can I help you?" Louise asked.


I slid the cheque across the counter.  "I need to deposit this," I handed her my key card. My hands were steady. I had become skilled at pretending that depositing generous cheques was common place for me. 


"No problem," she swiped my card and efficiently tapped away. 

I waited with bated breath. My exterior remained placid, inscrutable as my heart beat a crescendo in my chest. Any moment she might say something. Louise's pleasant features would suddenly look puzzled. An eternity seemed to pass as I willed my heart to slow. 


How many similar cheques had I deposited in the past few months? I'd lost count. Each time was the same. The trepidation. Exhilaration. Bated breath. 

"Done!" Louise beamed. It was too easy. "Have a great weekend," she added, handing me back my card. 

"You too," I exhaled, then strode out past the security guard. Maybe I wasn't safe yet. He might tap me on the shoulder. I would be cornered. Found out for the absolute fraud that I was. I lived in perpetual fear of being discovered. When I wasn't, elation replaced fear. 

The guilt always evaporated when I walked out into the busy shopping mall. I felt alive. Energised. Euphoric. I was living a double life and I loved it. Time to go shopping. 

Travis would have picked Ella and Max up by now. He'd be at home, patiently helping with homework and preparing the evening meal. He'd taken on the reluctant role of house husband since he'd been made redundant a year ago. 

Meanwhile, their bills were piling up. Travis couldn't find another job despite applying for many. He sank into depression. I'd had no choice. I was the breadwinner now. 

I lingered near one of my favourite boutiques, lost in my thoughts There was only one way to stop these intrusive worries. Shopping. My card was never declined these days. That hadn't been the case some months ago. 

"We'll have to sell the house," Travis had told me. He was flat and defeated. 

"NO!" I couldn't bear it. It was our dream home, minutes from the beach. We'd been living the good life and I wasn't ready to give it up. 

"We just can't afford the mortgage repayments," Travis argued.

"I'll be getting a promotion soon," I said "we can make it work."

In the end he gave in, too bogged down in his depression. He already felt like a failure for losing his job. Now his wife was taking care of him. He'd always been so driven. We both were. There was no way we could just give up on our lavish existence. It would be humiliating. I was too proud.


Sure, we could sell the house, but then what? We'd had have to live somewhere. Imagine having to leave their prestigious suburb to move to bum fuck boganville. I'd worked too hard to get out of there. I couldn't go back. I'd have to take Max and Ella out of their expensive schools and send them to the school I'd gone to. There was no way I'd ever do that. So I made my decision.

Though in some ways it seemed like it was made for me. My role at the major insurance company where I worked involved drawing and cancelling cheques. On that fateful day I was there early. 




There was a tap on my office door. "Coffee!" my assistant Veronica trilled.

"Thanks," I took it, smiling. Veronica was a decade younger than me and I'd taken her under my wing. She seemed to have something of 'girl crush' on me. I knew she aspired to be where I was eventually. 


"I'll leave you to it," she said, closing the door. Then I saw it. A returned cheque. The customer was no longer at the address.

Ms Sarah James.


I couldn't believe it. I knew I was meant to cancel it. Instead, I put it in my top drawer and locked it. I tried to forget, but it was burned into my brain. When I left the office, darkness was descending. In more ways than one.

"See you tomorrow, Sarah," Veronica said. She eyed my Prada suit with open envy as I sashayed to the lifts. 


At home there were more bills. Final demands. The next day I banked the cheque. It was fate that my name was the same. Didn't everything happen for a reason? 

As the weeks went on, it became an addiction. I would draw another. Just one more, I told myself. To get myself out of this predicament, give me more time. One more became two more, and eventually I lost count. 

"It's exquisite, isn't it?" The sales assistant startled me out of my ruminating. "Would you like to try it on?" 

Before I knew it, she'd ushered me to the change rooms. The dress hung perfectly over my lean frame. Stress and long hours had made me too edgy to eat much these days, though I managed several coffees and wines each day.  The liquid and embezzlement diet certainly paid off, I mused.

"I'll take it," I told the sales assistant. I could always leave the tags on and return it, I told myself. Besides, it was an exclusive label, so it was practically an investment. I could already picture the likes and envy on Insta.

 And anyway, I deserved this. I had to carry the entire financial load while Travis was at home with the kids. I would need more wine. I made a quick detour to the bottle shop. 

I walked into work the next day with a sense of foreboding. I shook it off. I saw my reflection in the elevator mirror. I looked sensational. I was winning at this thing called life.

"Good morning!" I greeted colleagues who refused to meet my eyes. Outside my office, Veronica was absent. She was always there early. My stomach dropped. I glanced at the gold lettering on my office door.

SARAH JAMES 

Financial Manager

Then I saw them. My boss was approaching me with a subdued Veronica at his side.

I froze. Bated breath. It was all over. 


"You will do jail time," I was told. When I rang Travis he was livid. He was taking the kids and going to stay with  his parents. My whole world was crumbling around me. 


The last thing I remembered as I cleared my desk was Veronica's cold stare. 


THE END.

What do you think about silly old Sarah?

Do bills give you bated breath?


Friday, 10 February 2017

Scary Things

Hello again! If you are currently in the land of Oz, I do hope you haven't drowned in a pool of your own sweat.  Lordy, it's HOT. Horrendous, really. Phew!

Anyway, pop on the air con on, pour yourself a cool beverage and enjoy a lovely little story I wrote for #FridayReflections. 

Alternatively, if you're in another part of the world, where it's frosty and cool, snuggle up with a cosy blanket and a hot beverage. Also: I hate you. Don't take it personally.

But onto the story...

It was inspired by the following prompt:

Do one thing every day that scares you. 



SOMETHING ABOUT FERN


Ever since she could remember Fern had been frightened. Of the dark. Of dogs. Of her brittle, distant parents. The bullies at school. What people would think.

Even the telephone! It's rings could send her into abject horror. Then she'd seen it. The free course at the community centre seemed like it was invented for her: Overcoming Fear and Becoming Confident.

Unleash your inner potential with proven steps to success, the blurb assured her. The irony that she'd had to confront her fear of groups to turn up to a group about overcoming fear wasn't lost on her.  

"Do one thing every day that scares you," the instructor told them. She was a tall, charismatic woman with a sharp highlighted bob and booming voice. The kind of woman who appeared to have never been frightened in her life. Her name was Donna Savage.

Fern supposed you could never fear anything with such a name. If anyone ridiculed Donna Savage, she could certainly live up to her name with one look. Her eyes were laser sharp and piercing. Even a wallflower like Fern couldn't fade into the background. That was her usual way in groups. 

Now she had do scary things each day for a week or risk the disappointment of that probing gaze. Yesterday, she'd sent her coffee back when it was too weak. The day before she'd approached the neighbour who always parked across her driveway. 

Now, she was meeting Brian. An online date. Well, just a coffee to start with. She was nervous, but he'd seemed nice enough during their online chats. He'd told her he loved her name. After years of being bullied by all the Jennys and Amandas, it was refreshing.  A portly, balding man with glasses entered the cafe. Fern dismissed him. 

"Fern!" the balding man beamed at her. 

She blinked. "Brian?" He must have used a rather old profile picture. She'd been catfished. 

"Lovely to meet you!" Brian leaned in, going straight for her lips. She turned her cheek at the same time and they knocked faces awkwardly. 

"Can I get you a coffee?" 

He ordered their cappuccinos. They sat facing each other with only the sound of the coffee machine and the quiet murmuring of other customers to break the silence. 

"So tell me..."

"Have you been here before?"

They suddenly spoke at once. This seemed to open the tides for Brian and he was off and running. 
In no time at all she knew his whole life story, including rather more than she would like about his ex-wife and his interest in aquariums. He didn't seem curious to know anything about her. 

When he finally asked her if she would like to come back to his place to 'see his aquariums' she politely declined. Mustering up her courage, she added "It was lovely to meet you, but I don't think this is going to work."

Brian looked momentarily flummoxed. His confusion soon turned to contempt. "Typical," he muttered. 

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"You women are all the same. Only after money." 

Fern took a deep breath. "I earn my own money, Brian. I just don't think we have anything in common." 

But Brian was already looking at his phone. 

"Doesn't matter. You were only my third choice, anyway." 

Fern left him scrolling away for his next victim. Imagine this odious man ranking women! But at least she'd done her scary thing for the day. 

Donna had promised them that each day it would be less scary. Fern wasn't so sure. You just did the thing, feeling petrified all the while. And the next time was no different. There was no such thing as conquering all your fears, Fern concluded. She knew this, because the next day she went to a completely sickening dentist appointment she'd been avoiding for months. She lay back in the chair, rigid with tension. 

"Try to relax," the dentist instructed. It was only the fact that she had her gaping jaw locked as he examined her that stopped her from guffawing in derision. 

After the appointment, she treated herself to a new book, feeling triumphant. Until she remembered tomorrow's task. 

The next day, she picked up the phone and pressed the number with trembling fingers. The answering machine clicked on. Her mother's monotone delivered a laborious instruction to leave a message after the beep. Fern knew she was home. Her parents always screened calls.

"Hello Mum, it's me," she breathed. "Please pick up."


There was a clunk and a gruff greeting. 

"What's up?" her mother never had time for pleasantries. It occurred to Fern that maybe she hated the phone more than she did. 

"I just rang to tell you that I won't be able to come home for Christmas lunch. Some friends from work invited me to their place." 

For the next fifteen minutes Fern was treated to an explosive diatribe about how utterly selfish and worthless she was. Finally, she announced: "I'm hanging up now!" She slammed the phone down with her mother still ranting at her. She guessed she wouldn't be hearing from her parents for a very long time. This made her equal parts sad and relieved. 

At the next meeting she proudly related her achievements to Donna Savage. The group had dwindled to only a half dozen or so of them now. 

"Excellent!" Donna congratulated them, after they'd all spoken. "I think you are all ready to go the next level." 
Her eyes gleamed as she started a PowerPoint presentation. 

By the time it finished, Fern's head was hurting. It was a ten minute testament to something called SOLUTIONS FOR SUCCESS - ULTIMATE CONFIDENCE!! A comprehensive programme, including two one to one sessions with Donna and a package of her books and instructional DVDs, all for the bargain price of - wait for it - 1,500 dollars! 

Fern was flabbergasted. "You never mentioned anything about these charges before," she squeaked. A few other participants seemed to be transfixed. They were under Donna Savage's spell. It was like she was some sort of Tony Robbins/Oprah/Deepak Chopra Svengali. They were ready to sign up. 

"It's all on my website and brochures," Donna replied "Didn't you read the fine print?"

Fern was speechless. Fine print? This was absurd! 

"The first five people to sign up receive a 30 percent discount!" Donna trilled, all smiles. Those enigmatic eyes were more piercing than ever. 

A few people started doing the sums. Fern felt a flash of something. What was it? Yes! It was anger! How dare this woman call herself a Life Coach, then try to exploit people's insecurities? 

She stood up, all five foot one of her bristling with indignation. She looked straight into those hypnotic, penetrating eyes. 

"YOU are nothing but a phoney and an opportunist!" her voice was shaky but loud. "This is outrageous! And I, for one, am not paying you a cent!" 

"Fine!" Donna snapped, her eyes suddenly cold and dangerous. "Maybe you're not ready. The offer is still available for anyone else!" 

The other attendees were gaping at Fern. She'd been the quietest one in the group until this point. Yet her outburst seemed to have an effect. 

"It does seem like a lot," one woman agreed.

"I'd have to discuss it with my husband," said another.

"I never saw any fine print!" huffed the only gentleman in the group.

"Come on, everyone," Fern decided to take charge. "Let's go!" They filed out in a disgruntled line as Donna barked after them.

"You'll be sorry! The offer expires on Monday!" 

They stood in the car park afterwards sharing their astonishment. Fern was amazed to discover that not only had an hour and a half passed, but evidently she'd made three new friends. They all agreed to meet for coffee again next week.

At home, she dumped her bag and flopped on the couch beside her cat, Archie. He meowed his disgust at her being so late. "I didn't do my scary thing today, Archie!" she told him. The she sat up. Of course she had! She thought of Donna Savage's churlish face and laughed and laughed. Archie just stared at her. Humans were so weird. 



THE END


Do you like to scare yourself?


Have you melted yet?