Showing posts with label Short Story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Short Story. 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.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Call #WriteBravely #Day5



Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/search/telephone/


Catherine knew she had to make the call. As soon as she opened her eyes the thought pierced her brain. The surgery would be open at 8.30 so she could get it out of the way. She was due at her Weight Watchers meeting at 10. It was just a formality. She was sure it was nothing.

"This won't kill you," her GP had said. Dr  Fiona McAllister had a forthright but reassuring manner. She had guided Catherine's hand to her right breast where she'd found the small lump. Catherine had felt an odd sense of detachment as she lay there for the exam.

Slowly she got up, put her bra and top on, smoothed her crumpled hair. Maybe if she focused on these simple tasks she could pretend this wasn't happening.

"I don't think it's cancer," Fiona was saying. Her actions belied her words. She picked up the phone to book Catherine in for a mammogram. She'd only come in for a routine check up. There had been no inkling of any worrying lumps or symptoms. Besides, she was young, fit and healthy. Wasn't she? Her hard work at Weight Watchers had paid off. She'd never felt better.

"How's tomorrow?"
"Fine," Catherine's voice seemed to be coming from far away. If she doesn't think it's cancer, why the hurry? Another voice whispered ominously in the back of her mind.

Common sense clicked back into place the following morning. She remained calm as the imposing machine crushed her flesh. The imaging staff were encouraging. It seemed almost certain that it was something small and benign. The results confirmed it. There was no need for alarm.

Fiona insisted on sending Catherine for a biopsy anyway. That's the kind of doctor she was. Thorough, as well as kind. It was one of the reasons Catherine never put off her appointments. Checking in with Fiona was almost like chatting with a good friend.

Catherine uncurled her legs from the bed and padded to the bathroom. She went through her morning ritual as she reflected on the past few weeks. She brushed her teeth, put the coffee on. Carefully chose her clothes.

Soon she was dressed and caffeinated. Time to make the call. To cross it off her to-do list. It was just a formality. Then the eerie voice surfaced again.

"They don't send you for a biopsy unless they're worried there's a chance of finding something."

She placed the call with shaky hands and a thundering heart. A rush of dread threatened to engulf her. Fiona was with a patient but would ring her back immediately. Catherine waited for the phone to ring and her heart to slow.

Danny had taken the girls to school en route  to his office. They hadn't been expecting bad news. She picked up her mobile phone and began scrolling through social media to distract herself. Seconds later, the landline blared.

"Hello," she said.. Her equilibrium had returned. Soon she could get on with her day.

"Hi Catherine, it's Fiona," the doctor was her usual warm but professional self. She didn't waste any time.

"I'm sorry, but they did find something."

"Fuck," Catherine blurted.

Fiona didn't blanch.  "That was my reaction, too when I read it."

Catherine was instructed to get a pen. Writing the words would make it real. This can't be happening.

Infiltrating carcinoma insitzu.

Infiltrating? She didn't like the sound of this. Why?

She thought of Danny and the girls going about their day. Blissfully unaware that their whole world was currently being turned upside down. Fiona wanted them to come to the surgery as soon as possible to make a plan.

She called Danny and got his voice mail. She left a croaky message. The words couldn't quite come out. He called back five minutes later. Her panic had clearly been discernible through the croakyness.

"They found something," she told him.

"Shit. I'm sorry," She knew he would want to be as positive and proactive as possible.

"I'm going to call Fiona and then I'll be home to go with you," her husband said. 

She hung up and immediately picked up the phone again to call her mother.

The conversation was brief. Audrey drove straight over.  The two women embraced. Her mother was always a tower of strength, but this would be so difficult for her. She always hated to see Catherine suffer.

"I'm going to phone Penny," she said.

Catherine paced while her mother placed the call. Penny was a good friend of her parents who was in the medical field. She would be able to recommend a good surgeon.

Audrey passed her the phone, but Catherine wasn't capable of small talk at the best of times.

"Look, it's a journey," Penny told her. It wouldn't be the first time she would hear that word.

But she would face the journey and the fear. She knew she would.

"She's stronger than she thinks," Fiona remarked later, as they sat in her office preparing referrals and appointments. The first of many more to come.

Catherine was slowly accepting her new reality. Later, when she reflected upon her "journey", as she was loathe call it, she realised something. Fiona's words that day had been true.

Somehow she had made it through the long road of surgery, chemo and radiation.  She'd faced up to something she'd never believed she could.

"I don't run from anything anymore," she thought.

The End.

But only the beginning...

Side note: This is a fictionalised version of my own breast cancer diagnosis, with names and some other details changed. Inspired by the following quote:


“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of them all.” – Mulan

Linking up with Write Tribe for Festival Of Words. 



Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Ticked Off #WriteBravely #Day4




Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/



Diane Smith had been smug and self important all her life. The fact that her time on earth appeared to be drawing to end had done nothing to change this. She'd delighted in telling everyone who'd pissed her off exactly what she thought of them.

First, her obnoxious boss. He could stick his stupid job. Then her ungrateful daughter. She'd always been a disappointment.  Next on her list had been her pathetic sibling. How she'd loved telling her sister Mary about her husband's affairs, including the drunken one night stand he'd indulged in with her years ago. Let them work that one out!

Never one to be deterred, Diane had then moved on to her hapless, doddering parents. Spitefully she spat out every injustice of her fifty six years. They were responsible! They'd never really cared about her. Refusing to loan her money over the years when she had debts. Well, they could have her inheritance now. She didn't need it!

The cancer was aggressive, so she'd been told. Sure, she was bitter. But if she had to go, she was going to make damn sure she went with a bang. Always extravagant, she'd taken it to a whole new level, maxing out her credit cards. She'd ticked off every thing she'd wanted on her wish list. Then ticked off every human who'd ticked her off over the years. Screw them! 

"Here's to bucket lists! And fuck it lists, which are even better!" She laughed, pouring herself a celebratory glass of wine. The doctors had been non committal about exactly how much time she had left. But she wanted to make sure she had extracted her revenge before she couldn't. 

She was still chuckling to herself when she answered the phone. Her mirth gradually fading to mortification as she heard the doctor's words.

There was a buzzing in her ears. She took in certain phrases. Something about a mix up. "I'm terribly sorry," the doctor's voice was anxious.

She didn't have cancer after all. She wasn't dying. Another Diane Smith was. She didn't spend more than a nanosecond considering that other woman.

The stranger with the same name who was about to have a bombshell dropped in her life. This Diane only ever thought of herself. For once in her life she was actually speechless.

The wine glass slipped from her hand and shattered into a million pieces. 

The End. 

Written for Festival Of Words 2018 Day 4 using the prompt:

Day 4 – 27 Jun – Write a story about a character who finds out that he or she is dying and has been knocking things off his/her bucket list and has finally reached the last item.

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, 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?


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?