Short Stories

Samson and the Poncy Prince

The fresh hay in the stable was an aroma Samson found intoxicating. He breathed it in deeply and opened his eyes. Dawn was just breaking and the low sun from the east shone through the open hatched door, casting long shadows from the trees outside.

He stretched his long legs and quickly got to his feet The other two horses in the stable were still asleep. He let out a loud whinny and blew his breath out sharply so his upperlip vibrated noisily over his teeth. His ploy of waking them up had worked. Ginger’s eyes snapped open. She stared agrilyover to Samson who had now hung his head over the partition and was giving her a wide toothy grin. Roger however, buried his head deeper into his bedding of hay and chose to ignore his annoying new neighbour. Samson had only moved into the stable four months previously. The other two horses soon found he was an old gobby git that didn’t know when to shut up.

     ‘I know you’re awake Roger, I can still see your eyes open under there,’ he laughed. ‘Besides I want to finish my story from yesterday.’

     ‘Ok, ok,’ sighed Roger as he shook the straw from his head and wearily stood up. ‘But can we eat something first before you start?’ he rolled his eyes with exasperation at ginger, who was looking equally disheartened at the thought of yet another one of Samsons rants.

     ‘So where were we? asked Samson, after they had all finished their breakfast. ‘Ah yes, I told you yesterday how the baby Princess was cursed by the wicked fairy who was angered beacause the King and Queen had not invited her to the Princess’ party. The wicked fairy waved her bony hand over the Princess and vowed that before her sixteenth birthday she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die. Of course not only was the curse she cast upon poor baby Aurora pure evil, it was one of powerful magic that no other fairy could break. The other good fairies gathered together and the best counter-curse they could produce was that poor Princess Aurora would not die if she were to prick her finger upon a spinning wheel, but would instead fall into a deep sleep for one hundred years along with all that dwelt within the castle walls. The only way the curse could be broken was if a handsome Prince were to enter the castle and kiss the slumbering Princess. Only then would she wake and all the people in the castle.’ Samson drew breath after his long speech.

     ‘And you say it was your master, Prince Philip, who went to the Princess’ rescue when it happened and that the Princess and all the castle were frozen in time? Asked Ginger.

     ‘It was, but what not many people know is that if it wasn’t for me he wouldn’t have gone anywhere at all. For not only is the Prince lazy he is a terrible coward. Scared of his own shadow he is.’

     ‘Prince Philip, a coward? I cant believe it,’ snorted Ginger.

     ‘Its true I tell you. I was the one who told the Prince about Princess Aurora and the sleeping castle. Which by now was surrounded by a thick forest of thorned briary and guarded by the wicked fairy, who had transformed herself as a fire-breathing dragon. I remember his response  well. He merely yawned at me and asked why on earth would he risk his neck for some dame he’d never met before. But when I told him that she had enough money to fill a banquet hall, his eyes lit up. Everyone knows the Prince’s family have squandered away most of their money. And so we had to come up with a good plan. When I say we, I’m being very generous, for all the Prince contributed was a few mm’s and ah’s as he laid about cleaning out his ears with his little finger, before starting on his nose, while I came up with the strategy.’

     Roger wrenched out some straw from the wall holder and chewed noisily on it, looking over at Samson with sceptisim in his eyes.

     ‘The plan I decided on was simple enough but it would be extremely dangerous. We were to offer ourselves as bait and try and get the wicked fairy dragon to blast out her fiery flames towards us. We, of course, will be standing in the right spot in front of the briary. We would then dive out of the way to safety leaving the flames to eat away at the tough shrubs which would pave a path for us through to the castle on the other side. The Prince, being such a coward, really didn’t like the sound of this idea at all. I told him I was a fast horse and we wouldn’t get burnt. He was only convinced however when I said he could wear his full suit of armour.’ Samson dipped his muzzle into a large bucket of water and took a long drink. He was glad when he looked back up to the other two to see that they were all ears.

     ‘So what happened then?’ asked Ginger eagerly.

Samson smiled. ‘Well, the idea was a good one. As I said I’m a very fast and I dodged the flames easily enough and as we’d hoped, the tough briary was struck by the flames. But it took longer to burn through than we’d anticipated and we had to offer ourselves as the target half a dozen times before we finally broke through. Boy! was I glad to get through to the other side. Not only to get away from the dragon but to stop the Prince from cowering in his saddle and squealing like a big girl.’

Roger chuckled and took some more hay to munch on.

     ‘Once we were through we knew the wicked fairy would not be able to get through in her dragon form. She would have to change back. What we didn’t think of however was that she wouldn’t change back to her human form. For as we entered the stone spiral steps to the nearest north tower we heard a thunderous roar of a lion.

Roger’s hay fell from his mouth. He now stared at Samson with his gob wide open. Ginger on the other hand let out a small gasp.

     ‘So how did you get away?’ asked Roger, finally finding his voice.

     ‘I don’t mind telling you my friends, I was getting quite worried. I am, on the flat, a fast runner but the stairs were narrow and steep, which slowed us down. It didn’t help of course with the quivering jelly-legged Prince shaking hysterically on my back. But we managed to get to the top, the lion hot on our heels, and came out to a small balcony that encircled the tower. With my back towards the on-coming beast, I waited until she was almost upon us and I then kicked out violently with my hind legs. The wicked fairy lion was stunned as she was directly hit directly on her chest. She flew into the air, over the side of the of the balcony and plummeted to her death. Of course with the wicked fairy out of the way, all we had to do then was to find the Princess, so the Prince could then kiss her and wake up everyone in the castle. The Prince however, had other plans. He said he was quite tired from all his exertion and was going to find the nearest bed to have a little kip, while I searched the castle. My orders were to fetch him as soon as I had found her. The castle was huge and after hours and hours of searching through numerous bedrooms I finally found the Princess in the south wing. I went to get the poncy Prince from his room. There he lay, asleep on an enormous king-sized four-poster. Such a sight with his mouth open wide, snoring loudly and dribbling spit down his  big poncy chin. Of course when he kissed the Princess she and all the castle awoke and it was the Prince who got all the credit.’ Samson now looked rather miffed as he tore out some straw from his wall bracket.

It was at that momment the stable boy entered through the large wooden door of the stable. He was followed by the Prince Philip who sniffed loudly as he came in.

     ‘Poowee, it really wiffs in here,’ he said rudely. ‘Don’t these horses ever get a bath?’ His question was directed at the stable boy who was now entering into Samson’s partition, carrying a large saddle in his arms. Suddenly the Prince let out a loud piercing screech. He jumped up onto a large wooden barrel and crouched there pointing at a tiny mouse in the corner of the stable. The stable boy rolled his eyes behind the Prince’s back, put down the saddle and shooed away the mouse with a broom.

     ‘Ive changed my mind,’ said the Prince shakily, as he climbed down from the barrel. ‘I don’t feel like a ride now. I think I’ll go and have a lie down. I’ve come over all funny now.’

The Prince then wobbled out of the stable leaving the stable boy to put away the saddle before he too left, shutting the door loudly behind him.

     ‘So, did the Prince get his happily-ever-after then with the Princess?’ asked Ginger.

     ‘Nah, she saw him for who really is and went and married Prince Edward instead,’ Samson chuckled.

All was good in the stable as the three horses munched silently on their hay. Samson smiled to himself, for he now knew he had gained a new found respect from Ginger and Roger.

 

The Box

Anne, stared at the blank page on her computer screen and sighed. She’d never suffered from writers block before, so why now? It seemed the harder she tried to concentrate the harder it became to be inspired. Her mind empty, like she’d fallen into a great void and there was just nothingness all around her. She stretched out her arms and interlocking her fingers cracked her knuckles. She could hear her mum’s voice in her head, ‘Oh love, don’t do that! You’ll get arthritis.’ Anne looked over to a photo on the mantle. There, smiling broadly was a picture of her mum and dad. The photo had been taken on their honeymoon in the near Loch Lomond. They both looked so happy. She missed them both terribly. It’s funny how you don’t really appreciate people until they’re gone, Anne thought to herself. There were many times when Anne had been doing something and she thought, ‘I’ll just ask mum or dad what they think.’ It was only for a few seconds, but then of course the wave of realisation washed over like a cold wind and knew she wouldn’t be able to ask them anything ever again.

    She stood up, rotated her shoulders and walked over to the window. It was a miserable rainy day outside and she watched the rain trickle down the window. It made her feel cosy. That was probably the problem with her lack of creativity in her writing today. When she felt cosy she would always feel sleepy. Feeling tired certainly didn’t help her to think of new refreshing ideas. She needed a change of scenery.

     She had only moved into her mum and dad’s house in Chorley Wood a few months ago. Of course being the only child she had been left it in their will. She had sold her tiny flat in Leavesden and moved to the posh end of Hertfordshire. She had fond memories growing up here as a child so the thought of moving back in was comforting, as if she were coming home again. The big difference of course was the absence of her parents. The quietness and the awful feeling of being utterly alone was overwhelming. Her eyes stung slightly as she fought back her tears. No, she wasn’t going to cry again. Surely she had had her share of crying over the past few weeks. She had to be brave. Her mum and dad had also left with their Will a letter. She carried it everywhere with her. Even now she had it folded neatly in the back pocket of her jeans. She took it out, unfolded it carefully and read it again for the millionth time. Not that it made any more sense from the first time she had read it.

It read: Dear Anne,

  1. lease make your ayto
  2. Atti up board
  3. nter
  4. ookver
  5. ehind elindaisa
  6. eather ox
  7. here  on cealed
  8. With N the oxlining
  9. Are twoom pact diss
  10. I’ve thesto
  11. Ete atem I five
  12. There he’ll ind roof
  13. Foruur derer
  14. To be ute hind
  15. Ars peran ently  

All our love forever

Mum and Dad xxx

     Tucking the letter back in her pocket, she found herself climbing the stairs to the attic room. Walking in, it was like stepping back in time. These two rooms, up there, had been her bedrooms when she was younger, before she had left home. One of the rooms was where her bed was and a small dressing table and the other a small settee, chair and telly. She sat down on the end of her bed and looked around her. The Duran Duran posters were looking shabby now but her mum hadn’t had the heart to take them down. She then went over to one of the inbuilt cupboards and opened the door. Inside were old toys and games she had played with as a child. She shut the door and looked around her. Then she remembered that the cupboard door next to the one she had just opened led into the other part of the attic, the storage part. This was where they kept all the stuff that they no longer used. She opened the door, stooped down and peered inside. It was dark and smelt musty. She reached out and felt for the light switch. She knew exactly where it was. With the room illuminated brightly she crawled through. This part of the attic was boarded but it was dusty and was impossible to stand upright because of the huge angular beams that held up the roof. She sat there crossed legged and looked around. She spotted her old wooden guitar she used to play, now covered in a thick layer of dust and with a few strings missing. It had been one of her many fads her dad had said. Like many things in her youth, she would start them because all her friends were doing it, but soon got bored and gave up. Next to the guitar, flopped onto one side and looking very sorry for herself, was Belinda her beloved ragdoll. Her face was dirty and one of her hands had a small rip in the stitching part. Anne crawled over and picked Belinda up. She shook the dust from her hair and gave her a quick cuddle for old time’s sake. It was then she spotted something in the dark corner she had never seen before. It was an old leather chest-type box. She reached over and pulled it slowly towards her. It wasn’t heavy but Anne suffered from arachnophobia and was very cautious about putting her hand anywhere dark and dusty. On closer inspection she saw it wasn’t covered in dust like everything else in the attic, it looked like it had been recently used. She carefully opened the lid. Inside, were various items of memorabilia. She took out each object in turn and examined it closely. Each one had a small white sticker on it. On the sticker were numbers and letters. For instance, the first item she picked out of the box was a feather pen, numbered twelve with the letters F.P. The second was a lavender bag, numbered six with the letters L.B. on it. She looked at these two items in her lap and thought for a while. She understood that the initials were for what the item were. The feather pen had F.P. on, easily concluding the letters were for: Feather Pen. The same for the lavender bag: L.B. but what she couldn’t understand was, what were the numbers for? It came to her in a sudden rush. Of course, there were numbers on the letter her mum and dad had left for her. She quickly retrieved it from her pocket. In their letter, number twelve read: There he’ll ind roof. But inserting the letters F and P into the sentence it read: There he’ll find proof.  She quickly reached for her pen, that was tucked behind her ear (writer’s habit) and wrote in the missing letters. Her hands shook with excitement and her heart was pounding so fast she thought it was going to jump right out of her chest. It was a code. Her mum and dad wanted her to decipher a code. But why? She looked at clue number six it read: eather ox. But with the L and B inserted it read: leather box. This was the box that was now in front of her and held all the items. She then carefully took out all the other items in the box and placed them in number order. Number one was a Penny Whistle, number two was a confirmation card, number three were earrings, number four a letter opener. Item number five a biscuit box. She knew the lavender bag was number six. Number seven a tray cloth, number eight an ink bottle, number nine cigarette cards. She filled in the missing letters on the coded message as she worked her way down the list of items. Number ten a small Gray’s Elegy book, eleven, a pill box. Number twelve of course was the feather pen. Number thirteen was a map of Scotland (Scottish map), fourteen was a little prayer book and fifteen was a book mark. It took a little while to find where the missing letters in the code were meant to go, but when she had finished she found the beginning of the code didn’t make sense. The first five sentences still needed decoding. She studied them carefully and bit by bit she finally worked it out. She leaned back against a wooden beam and read the letter how it should have been read.

Dear Anne,

  1. Please make your way to
  2. Attic cupboard
  3. Enter
  4. Look over
  5. Behind Belinda is a  
  6. Leather box
  7. There concealed
  8. Within the box lining
  9. Are  two compact discs
  10. Give these to
  11. Pete Bate M.I.Five
  12. There he’ll find proof
  13. For our murderer
  14. To be put behind
  15. Bars permanently 

All our love forever

Mum and Dad xxx

Anne clasped her hand to her hand to her mouth. Her mum and dad had been murdered? This wasn’t true was it? But they had died in a car crash and the police had said it wasn’t suspicious, just a freak accident, them being in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of a sudden she heard a noise. There was someone in the house. She silently reached over and switched off the light. She was plunged now into complete darkness.  She could hardly breathe as she heard the intruder below start to climb the stairs to the attic rooms. All went silent for a moment and she listened carefully. Where was the intruder now? She screamed loudly as the attic door was suddenly flung open.

     ‘Anne, is that you?’ Came a deep voice. ‘I’m Pete Bate M.I.Five.’    

This was a story, that proved to be a challenge, our writing teacher asked us to create a story that did not contain our initials. This meant D & R could not be used anywhere within the story. This is what I came up with:

The Wobbing Wook

By Wiana Wozevskis

Hello, my name is Wyan Wobson of Wamsbottom, my job: a wailway maintenance man, in which I’ve been at since I was a young’un.

You may be thinking wight now what in heaven’s name am I on about. I must agwee with you that my speech is a bit stwange. Well, I will tell you my faithful mate. I have a weal pwoblem pwonouncing my . . . well, let’s just call it the eighteenth symbol in the alphabet.

I can wecall the exact time it all began as well. It was late Spwing, May twentieth, nineteen seventy five, I was six.

I was in my woom playing with my toy twain twack when it all came about. Mum was in the back of the house waking up the leaves. A gentle humming, floating thwough the open sashes, fwom mum as she mewwily swept up was soothing. But, that was not the only thing that came into my woom that evening.

All at once a fwantic flapping noise was appawent. I look up to see a black flying animal, flapping about the ceiling light. I saw panic in its eyes. So not to spook it, I got up slowly. I spoke to it so quietly, until finally it began to calm itself.

The animal then came to sit by me. It gave me a cheeky little smile. That moment on I knew we saw each one as a pal. It was then he thought it the wight time to ask me something. It was stwange, but I knew why he was asking. He was a Ook you see. He was so cwoss that the west of the animals in the fowest took the mick out of his name. They say nasty things like ‘Ook out’ inplace of ‘look out’, ‘That ook me’ inexchange of ‘that shook me.’ That was the pwoblem you see. He felt incomplete, with his name at least.

He then saw fit to ask if he can have one of my symbols to put at the beginning of his name. I ask him how it can be possible to achieve this. His weply was simple. He was to sing his summoning song, then my symbol (in my case the eighteenth in the alphabet) was to come flying out of my mouth.

So the little animal sang. He sang so beautifully I was in awe. My mouth slowly swung open. It was then I saw my symbol in fwont of my face. It hung in between us, but was soon entewing the animal’s open beak. It gulp it back, gave me a wink as it flew out to the sky, not to be seen again.

Inevitably, my eighteenth symbol was also gone too. But I suppose he has put use to it well. As now, the little animal will not be known as a ‘Ook’ but a Wook . . . a Wook . . . a WOOK . . . oh shoot, you know what I mean.

Colonel Ronald D’Arcy Fife

     ‘I will not be spoken to in such a manner, and especially from someone who was still peeing in his nappies while I was fighting on the front line, in the trenches, during the last war,’ roared Private Fife. ‘I was a Colonel back then, I’ve been given bravery medals and been awarded the Distinguished Service Order and I certainly had respect for my men.’ With that Private Fife stormed from the room leaving Colonel Ned Clive banging his first upon his desk in frustration.

     Minutes later an expected knock rapped upon the door. ‘Enter,’ barked Colonel Clive.

     In came Sergeant William Howard. He saluted his senior and stood to attention.

     ‘At ease Sergeant,’ said Colonel Clive.

     ‘I would like permission to speak freely sir,’ barked Sergeant Howard.

     ‘Granted,’ replied Colonel Clive.

     ‘I feel you give Private Fife too much freedom and he has lost respect for all his senior officers’ sir,’ said Sergeant Howard stiffly. ‘If I don’t have respect from my men, I lose control and where would we be then I ask you? Besides . . .’ He was stopped in his tracks by Colonel Clive putting up his hand in a stop talking gesture.

     ‘I do understand your situation Sergeant, but I also see it from both sides. Please, if you would be so kind as to take a seat and maybe I can shine some light on this matter.’

     Sergeant Howard did as he was asked and lowered himself into a nearby leather chair in front of the Colonels desk.

    ‘Well, as you are well aware, Private Fife and I go way back. I worked for him when I was a young lad, at his home: Nunnington Hall. Back then I was just an ‘Odd Boy’ which meant of course my job was to run the household’s errands. I was in my late teens when I was promoted to gamekeeper. Colonel Fife, as he was known back then, had a huge passion for hunting game. As long as I did my job well, he was a very good boss and a fair man. But of course a man in his position demanded the best and was very used to getting what he wanted. He was not a man to be crossed, but at the same token he was kind to us all.

     ‘He served his time in the First World War and, as you heard earlier, was well respected and awarded many medals. He was well liked amongst his men and they served him well with courage and loyalty. You may ask yourself why he was so respected. I will tell you, but first I would like to tell you this:

     ‘It was 1917 when he was returning from a tour of the front line trenches when an exploding shell broke his arm in three places and shattered his eardrums, leaving him profoundly deaf. This of course meant his eventful career as a professional soldier was now over. He returned to Nunnington Hall and into the arms of his loving wife Margret. I was there when he returned and I think we all at Nunnington Hall were shocked at the transformation in him. Once strong and confidant he was replaced by a broken man who was left with a feeling he now had no purpose in life. It was very hard times indeed, but we helped him through it. But bleaker times were to follow I’m afraid.

     ‘His wife fell pregnant with their first child and finally he seemed to gain faith once more thinking that things were going to be ok. Until one tragic day Mrs Fife tripped and fell down the stairs and although not badly hurt herself she lost the baby. She later confided in her husband that it was no accident that she took a fall. She said that she had been pushed. But when the Colonel had asked who would do such a thing. She merely replied “It was your first wife Alice, I saw her at the top of the stairs when I had landed at the bottom of them.”

     ‘He told Margret that it had been a long time since his marriage to Alice and that he had only been married to her for four short days. She had caught influenza a few days before their big day and had concealed how sick she was until their wedding night. The doctor was called immediately but she was dead within the week. He was distraught. She had been his childhood sweetheart, you see, and him hers. Of course the Colonel dismissed Margaret’s theory of being pushed and said it was probable that she had banged her head in her fall and was merely seeing things.

    ‘That of course was until it happened for a second time. Mrs Fife was indeed pregnant once more. But this time she wasn’t pushed down any stairs. No, she was simply taking breakfast with her husband in the dining room when suddenly, Mrs Fife let out an almighty scream. She fell from the chair where she was sitting and clutched at her stomach in agony. The Colonel rushed to her side and held her in his arms as she writhed about in pain. He then saw her.  Alice, his ex-wife, was standing beside Margret’s chair and she was laughing wickedly at them both.

     ‘They had lost a second child and it seemed highly unlikely that they could conceive another, the family doctor sadly announced to the Colonel, after a thorough examination of Mrs Fife. He now believed what his wife had said and he knew that his first wife had cursed them both.

     ‘Times again were very dark at Nunnington Hall. The Colonel spent most of his time with me hunting and it was then that I got to know the true man behind this mask of pretence. Ronald, as he allowed me to call him now, was a deeply broken man. I’m not ashamed to admit to you that he broke down and cried in my company on many an occasion. But I guess it was his healing process.

    ‘It was one day, on one of our shootings, that I was so bold as to make a suggestion to him. We had become good friends, you see, and he took my suggestion to his wife to see what she thought of it. She loved the idea and it was soon settled between them that they were now to adopt a baby.

     ‘Little Susan Fife came into our lives when she was six years old. The joy she spread within the household was so uplifting that we knew that the curse at last had now lifted.’ Colonel Clive paused and stroked his chin. He was pleased to see Sergeant Howard was still listening to him intently.

     ‘I have a reason why I tell you all of this William. I tell you because we are real people inside, behind this uniform, behind our outer shell that we protect ourselves from the hardships of lives. But we all breathe the same air in our lungs, all have feelings no matter how hard we try to hide them and we all have our own crosses to bear. Some harder than others, and as we all know tragedy can knock on any man’s door. It’s how we handle it that is important and makes us the people we are today.

     ‘I now will answer the burning question we discussed earlier: “Why did his soldiers treat him with so much respect?” The answer is simple my friend. He saw people inside, the real people. He got to know his men inside and out and knew what made them tick. He was genuinely interested in their lives and what they did. They weren’t just a mere number to him. They were flesh and bones, the people who he trusted with his life as they did him. At the same token he still commanded authority and would take no nonsense from any of them. Firm but fair they called him.

     ‘So, you now see why he was so well liked and I’m hoping now you know a little more about him you will get to like him too. May I make a suggestion William? You have twenty men under your command in the Home Guard. Can I ask you to go sit with your men, talk to them. Ask them where they are from, what they like to do. Are they married? any kids? Find out everything you can about them and see what the real men are like inside. Then in a week report back to me and tell me what you have discovered. I guarantee you will not only come back a different person yourself, but you will have gained respect from every man in that room.

     ‘Of course you can start with me. My name is Ned Clive; Once I was Colonel Ronald D’Arcy Fife’s gamekeeper at Nunnington Hall.  I now live at Rose cottage in Nunnington Village with my wife Susan and I have been happily married for five years. We live there with our little dog Darcy and love to go to church every Sunday. Oh and Susan bakes the sweetest blueberry and apple pie I have ever tasted.’ Ned smiles at William and he smiles back in return.

     ‘Thank you Sir . . . I mean . . . Ned. It’s very much appreciated,’ said William and then turns on his heel to go.

     ‘Just remember, we’re all fighting on the same side William, no matter what backgrounds we have and where we are from. In my opinion it’s ‘the great people’ in life who never forget that.’

 

It is always important to use a bookmark.

The rain beat down heavily on the bus shelter roof and Tracey pulled up her collar of her coat and shivered. Another mundane, uninviting work day loomed ahead. It was only Monday but she was wishing for the weekend already. Not that she went out much. Tracey was a bit of a loner. She liked her books. In fact everywhere she went she carried the latest novel in her bag. She would always read when she got on the bus. She didn’t want to chance any of the pages getting wet, not in this weather. The book, in her bag, was carefully wrapped in a clear waterproof wallet. Some people would say she was a bit obsessed with her books. She had to disagree. True she cherished her books like a mother would a new-born baby. Her books were always kept very neatly on her enormous bookcase in the lounge. She would take them down and dust them all once a week. She would make sure that they never went anywhere near anything wet, sticky or any kind of food and she certainly never, never turned down the corner of the book, she always used a book mark. Well, maybe she was slightly obsessed; she had to smile to herself despite of this. It was the reasons why she never loaned out any of her books to anyone. She knew they wouldn’t look after her books as well as she would like them to. It just wasn’t worth the heartache of it all. Not that she had many friends to loan them to. Her work colleagues in the salon all liked to go out clubbing and saw her as a bit of a freak: A hairdresser that liked J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte books was just unheard of in their eyes. She didn’t care. She liked the escapism of her own little world in the pages that she cleaved to. So while the other girls nattered on, in the staffroom, on their break about who they fancied and what they were wearing on their Saturday night out, Tracey’s nose would be stuck in a book, her head full of Orc’s, Hobbits, Ghosts, wizards and eloquent Edwardian ladies sipping tea on the lawn.

     She suddenly jumped violently, for she heard a loud sniff from behind her. She turned around quickly and came face to face with a man huddled in the shelter beside her. She hadn’t heard him approach.

     ‘Oh I’m sorry. Did I startle you?’ he asked and smiled sheepishly. Tracey thought he had a warm smile but there was something in his eyes that was slightly disconcerting. She put her head down and blushed deeply, as she always did when someone, particularly a man, caught her off guard. ‘Shouldn’t be too long now, the sixty three,’ he said. ‘I mean…er… the bus,’ he stammered. Tracey looked up to see the man looking down at his shoes and he too now was going a deep colour of crimson. It was then she felt a bit sorry for him. She didn’t like a man to come across as too sure of himself. She found shyness quite endearing. She certainly knew how that felt.    

     ‘It’s always late this time of morning,’ she said quickly. The man looked up and smiled back at her. He looked quite relieved somehow that she had spoken to him. They chatted a little while longer, about the weather, how they both hated Monday mornings and the lateness of the bus. And just as they predicted when the bus arrived, another sixty three bus was right behind it.

     Tracey boarded the bus and paid for her ticket. She then went to the back of the bus where she knew it would be quiet this time of the morning and where she could get her book out to read. Her latest was a book by G.P. Taylor called Mariah Mundi and the Ghost Diamonds. It was just getting to a good bit as well, so she was dying to get back to it. Mariah had just fallen into a tank in the huge aquarium and a large octopus was trying to squeeze the life out of him. She was slightly put out when the man came and sat beside her.  Not only because there other seats available, as the bus was only half full, but it meant she would have to make polite small talk when all she wanted to do was read. She decided she was going to be a bit rude and retrieved the plastic folder, with her book inside, from her bag. She was just about to open her book when the man spoke to her again.

     ‘So what you reading today?’ he asked.

     Tracey looked up at the man. He was looking rather distraught as if he had once again he’d said too much. Tracey held up the book so the man could read the cover. She was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable. How did he know she liked to read? Had she met him somewhere before? Come to think of it, how did he know which bus she was catching? There’s at least half a dozen buses go from that stop. She shuffled uneasily in her seat and opened her book to where she had last been reading. He then surprised her and he too retrieved out of his rucksack a similar clear plastic wallet and inside was the book he was reading. He took out his book and opened it. Tracey found a newly found respect for the man. Anyone who cared for books and looked after them like she did can’t be that bad. She had to look to see what he was reading. She surreptitiously glanced at the cover and immediately recognised the distinctive cover of the Harry Potter book, ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ by J.K. Rowling. She looked away quickly, but it was too late. He had caught her looking.

     ‘Er…I’m a bit of a Harry Potter geek,’ he stammered out.

     ‘I love Harry Potter,’ smiled Tracey.

     ‘Really! Which one did you like the best? I can’t decide whether I liked the first one, The Philosopher’s Stone where he discovers he’s a wizard or the sixth one ‘The Half-blood Prince with the battle at Hogwarts, the best. But then again that’s a really sad one cos that’s when Dumbledore dies,’ he blurted out, Tracey was sure this was all in one breath as he had said it extremely fast. His face was bright red and he fidgeted slightly.

     ‘Erm… I don’t really know,’ said Tracey. ‘I definitely like the first one, like you said, it was his first trip to Hogwarts the school of Wizardry but I can’t decide if I like the fourth book ‘The Goblet of Fire’ because of the Triwizard cup tournament which was really exciting, or the last book ‘The Deathly Hallows’ for this is where Harry finally defeats the evil wizard Voldemort. And then there is the end of this book where we get a glimpse of his life when he is older and sending his own kids to Hogwarts.’ It was her favourite subject talking about books, which she didn’t often get to do.  ‘I will have to buy another copy of this book though as I stupidly left my copy on the bus just the other week. I think I must have panicked when I realised that I was at my stop. I could have sworn I’d put it in my bag, but when I went to get it out at work later I realized I must have left it behind. I even rang the bus station but they said no books had been handed in. Of course I was quite put out of the thought of leaving behind my book, but what I was mostly upset about was the bookmark. It was a special bookmark you see. My little four-year-old niece, Lucy, had made it especially for me. It was the sweetest thing really, with bright pink feathers stuck on to a strip of white card and carefully laminated together. She knew I loved books and wanted to make her auntie something special.

     The man was positively beaming back at her. She had obviously said something he liked. ‘The Deathly Hallows is probably the best one,’ he chuckled and now looked, Tracey thought, like he had a coat hanger stuck in his mouth as his cheeks had lifted into an enormous grin, showing all of his teeth.

     Tracey noticed she was coming up to her stop. She pressed the bell button and heard a distant ding at the front of the bus. That was the man’s queue to get up. Which he did. She said goodbye and was soon hopping off the bus and walking the short journey to the Salon where she worked.

     It was the usual Monday in the Salon. Very busy in the morning as it was half price for pensioners. Which meant: Blue rinses, winding perm rods for the old dears perms and then under the dryer, fashioning rollers and hairnets, for an hour while their hair baked to a crisp and then set solid with some extremely strong hair lacquer. Of course it always made Tracey laugh when the little old ladies showed her a photo of Farrah Fawcett Majors and asked if they could have their hair done exactly like that. Especially in reality they only had two hairs and a nit. But she was always professional and smiled politely.

     After work she waited at the bus stop opposite the Salon for her bus. It was always empty when she got on but by the time she reached her stop, half an hour later, it had filled up and people were fighting to get a seat.

     It had stopped raining now but the air was still damp which made her cold. She hurried along her road quickly and was soon inside her little terrace house. It wasn’t much but it was a cosy home. ‘I’m home,’ she shouted to her cat. Normally Smokey would come running down the stairs to greet her. She shouted again and then listened… She heard a small meow coming from the lounge. The door was shut, and when she opened it Smokey came running out. She was clearly quite distressed that she had been shut up in there. ‘How on earth did you get locked in there?’ She picked up her cat and carried her to the kitchen while she tickled her ears.  Tracey put her down near her empty food bowl, opened up a fresh tin of cat food and spooned it into Smokey’s dish. Smokey was ravenous and ate greedily. ‘I think you were a bit hungry weren’t you? Poor thing.’ Tracey took off her coat and hung it in the cupboard under the stairs. She then headed towards the lounge, all the while she muttered under her breath and wondering what mess Smokey had made in there. But when she went in she wasn’t prepared for what she was about to find. She stood completely still in the lounge doorway. Her eyes started to widen as the realisation started to sink in. She felt suddenly sick and slightly dizzy. She couldn’t take her eyes off the book that now lay on the coffee table. She cautiously approached; she didn’t look anywhere else but the book. The book: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ was the very same one she had left on the bus a few weeks ago. She knew this, for poking out from within its pages was the distinctive pink feathered bookmark her niece had made for her.

The Forever Changing Waterway

     Onboard our boat I look down at the clear crisp waters below. The water is still just like the breeze around us and dampness from the ancient forest trees fills the air. It seems like the water is waiting patiently for us to break its surface and bring it to life once again. We wave goodbye to our new made friends and we start to drift westerly downstream. All that can be heard now is the gentle swish of the oars as they slice through the water pushing us onwards to the unknown. The mast down and rolled upon the deck looked rather sad and unused. The trees above us are dense and only allow small shafts of light which shine down to the water’s surface casting rippling dark shadows upon it.

     I look deeper into the river as it deepens and catch a glimpse of small fish playing around the plant life. We lazily drift on peacefully. All is calm and so very quiet.

     Warm, light breezes caress our cheeks as the boat starts to speed up and it finally breaks through the trees to gorge with grey rock on either side. The water is running faster now and intertwines around large boulders that stretch across the river like stepping stones for the Giants.  Swirling, splashing and whirling the water now in a frenzied hurry to get somewhere but no particular place to go. We navigate careful around the boulders as the riverbanks bubble up against the rocks and the torrent sweeps us on. The wind flaps our hair wildly and catches my breath. Our stomachs seems as if they have been left behind as the river dips us down in small slopes and we start to laugh hysterically at this wonderful but dangerous ride we are now on.

     Once through the rapids the scene opens up to a large meadow and the river slows to a peaceful trickle. Sunlight warms our skin and we feel the tranquility return. Sporadic trees amid the abundance of flowers, low bushes and greenery drift lazily on by. I watch the birds swoop down to catch bugs for their breakfast and butterflies flutter from flower to flower. A large mammal then broke through the trees on the far side of the meadow. This elephant-like creature was about twelve feet tall and with long slightly upward-curving tusks, but its legs were so much longer than the ones we knew back home. It drew closer and didn’t seem fazed by our presence in the slightest. Then it did something quite remarkable. It flicked out a long tongue that wrapped itself around the grasses at its feet and ripped them from the ground from the root. The tongue then flicked back into its mouth with his chosen food and proceeded to munch on it as it cautiously eyed us up. A little way down stream we came across dwarf elephants as they drank from the river. But it was only a brief glimpse we caught as they were far more nervous than their larger family. Of course what I did see surprised me deeply, for these little creatures not only had one tusk but a central, singular eye that protruded slightly from just above their trunks. My first thought was of the ancient stories of Cyclopes. Of course my little sister told me all about the large Elephas Antiquuus and the smaller Dwarf Elephas Creticus. Her ancient knowledge was incredible.

     Soon the river rises upwards and the water seems to speed up again. It appears this strange and new place even defies the law of gravity. Suddenly, my ears detect a distant sound, a slow rumble at first but as we approach it grows louder and then louder still. The noise is almost deafening now and my little sister and I cover our ears. But we soon realize it shouldn’t have been our ears we should have covered but our eyes as they now grew wide with fear at the sight that lay before us. We were at the top of a huge waterfall and our boat was heading straight for it. Panic stricken we threw ourselves upon the decks of the boat and held on to anything we could. The boat creaked loudly as it began to tilt up . . . up and over the edge we went. Now on a vertical dive downwards we looked down at our feet and saw huge boulders at the bottom of the fall and we were plummeting straight for them. We were surely going to die. We closed our eyes, clung on to each other and waited for the end to come. But . . . with a miraculous stroke of luck, not only did we miss the sharp rocks but the boat stayed upright and gently bobbed around for a few minutes at the foot of the waterfall before it meandered calmly in to the still waters of a magnificent lake.

     Gathering our courage we got to our feet and peer cautiously over the side of the boat. Panoramic views stretched out in all directions, a scene that took our breath away and stole our hearts. We felt peaceful again as we glided across the lake, it was a place that seemed to calm the nerves and lift our spirits. Our journey was not of course over; we all knew that there were new adventures waiting for us around the next corner, just out of view for now, along this forever changing waterway.

The garden.

I was twelve years old. My Gran’s back garden on Marton Burn Road was a secret and magical place.

A huge bush in the centre of the garden stretched right across the whole width of  it, from fence to fence. This bush alone was very exciting as me and my friend used to crawl between the branches and find a place inside where we would build a den. But this wasn’t the best of it. Beyond the bush was a secret part of the garden. A part that almost seemed forbidden where the grass grew so long and wild it reached the tops of our shoulders and tickled our cheeks as we waded through it. It was exciting, strange and new. You never knew what you would find there in amonst the abundant plants and entangled brambles. Things like old lawn mower parts: a small indication that once the garden had been cared for by someone, long ago before it had grown wild and mysterious.

One old and very grubby shoe poked out from the foliage, along with a tattered handbag: stinking of mildew and mouldy tissues, long ago forgotten.

Suddenly up from the otherside of the fence popped the old man from next door. His face so wrinkled his eyes almost disappeared in the folds of skin around them. His mouth gurned over his pink shiny gums. He cackled loudly and muttered something quite inaudible.

Then over the fence came his long bony hand, the back covered in liver spots. In it he held a very dirty, once white, tattered, small paper bag. I approached cautiously and glanced over to my friend who was looking equally as jubious. Inside the bag were imperial mints that had seen better days. There they sat, looking rather grey and quite unedable. He waved the bag under my nose, beaming at us both and nodded towards it to take out a sweet.

My friend and I politely took one and held it between our forefinger and thumb. His smile widened over his dirty toothless face and he disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.

We quickly flicked the mint into the undergrowth and carried on playing our game.

It was a few weeks until I went back to grans house. My friend couldn’t come out to play today but I was itching to get back to our secret garden, even if I did have to play on my own. I was dying to get back to the magic of my own little world. I stooped under the branches of the bush and crawled through to the other side. I stood there for a few moments looking around me. My first thought was that I must have crawled through to someone elses garden. But I knew this wasn’t possible as there were fences on either side and no way of getting through. The garden, where I now stood, was beyond recognition. The grass was cut back into a well groomed, weed free lawn. To my left was a large, beautiful rose garden emblazioned with vibrant reds, yellows and pinks.

I walked down the path, which led me to a side garden where an old oak tree towered above me. It hadnt been there before and yet this tree, with its thick roots petruding from the ground like knarled fingers looked like it had been there for hundreds of years.

This transformation was not the only surprising thing. This place, my place, the place where I’d played since I was a kid wasn’t the same at all for it had almost doubled in size. I knew then that I wasn’t in Grans garden anymore.

A cold hand touched my shoulder, which made me jump. I turned quickly and I came face to face with someone familiar.

My long gangly legs buckled from underneath me as I turned to run. I stumbled to the floor and cut my knee on a sharp stone. I looked up to the pale, white face of my great auntie Rose. She had been dead now for three years.

The Salon

It was Summer time in London, the air seethed with not only car fumes and heat but with noisy traffic, the chattering of people, screaming Police sirens, blaring music escaping from nearby music stores and the patter of thousands of feet all marching to work like robots. No one talked. Everyone’s mission every morning, it seemed, was to avoid any eye contact with anyone and heaven forbid if they got in each-others way. A stare that felt like it could burn out your eyes if you looked at them too long followed by a loud tut before walking off with their nose in the air.  Yes London could be a very unfriendly place. Who would have thought that being surrounded by hundreds of people could make you feel completely and utterly. . . alone.

Harvey Nichols, resplendently sits on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloan Square. Proudly our flagship store to the world’s most exclusive brands in fashion, beauty and food. The breathtaking exterior boasts impressive high shutter-style windows and adorned with white masonry carvings that contrast against the vivid red brick walls.  It is truly impressive at first sight. This is where I worked.  

I arrived, as always every morning via the back door. A huge let down opposed to the grand, shiny and beautifully decorated front entrance where all the customers came in. The staff entrance was dark, scruffy and smelt musty and damp. As I enter onto the brightly lit shop floor I pause momentarily at one of the many make-up counters and quickly squirt a fine mist of tester perfume on my neck and wrists. A perfume normally too elaborately expensive for my pocket. A manicurist, even in Harvey Nichols, was not paid well and I mostly relied on my tips to just merely exist.

The Salon, situated on the top floor, smelt of hair lacquer, perms, nail varnish and a heady mixture of glues, acrylics and sweet smelling hand-creams, which wafted constantly throughout all day. There was always a buzz of people and today approaching the main desk, to check my appointments for the day there was an extra air of excitement for some reason. The reception girls all peered at me and smiled as I scrolled with my finger down my column.  Yes a very busy day. Fleur the head receptionist pointed to the first name on my list, that was circled for some reason. The client was booked in for a pedicure and her name was Yasmin. I had a little joke to the girls about the name saying ‘wouldn’t it be funny if it were Yasmin Le Bon? ha ha.’ The other receptionist giggled loudly. I walked away to the staff room thinking the girls must be in a rather silly mood today. My joke wasn’t that funny surely?’

I entered the staff room, now already half full with hairdresser’s and therapists all ready for a day’s hard work in the Salon. I said a quick hello to Stewart our tea-man, who by the way didn’t just make tea and coffees but the best Tuna and sweet corn jacket potatoes and gorgeous toasted sandwiches ever. He beamed broadly at me, which made him look like he had a coat-hanger stuck in his gob.

Was it my imagination or were a few people surreptitiously peeking at me every so often. Only to look away quickly and giggle to their neighbor, who sat beside them. How strange! Nobody had even glanced at me before. Mrs. Cellophane was the usual score, despite having worked there for nearly seven months now.

I hung up my jacket and slung my handbag over the back of a chair before heading out the staff room towards the beauty rooms. I knew the drill by now. Before any clients arrived we would have all equipment sterilized and checked and made sure we had everything at hand for the professional service we were to provide. When I was ready with everything prepared I went to the reception area to greet my first client.

My face suddenly flushed and I felt as though I was going to pass out. ‘He…ll…oo,’ I stammed. ‘Would you like to fff…ollow me?’ My heart raced wildly and my tongue felt as though it were made of lead. For there, looking back at me, was the famous Yasmin Le Bon and she was waiting for her pedicure.

This was a poem I wrote about a candle. The task of the exercise was to read out the poem first and the class were to guess what the object was.

Time to Ponder

Intoxicated

Your scent entices me in

Heady aromas

Tallow coated, thread within

Illuminates me

Lifts my mood and gives me peace

Resonates the light

Heart-warming pleasures increase

Vibrant colours

Captivates my inner soul

Radiantly bright

But snuffed out, blackened charcoal

My gaze is transfixed

Calming silence enchants me

I inhale deeply

The air is thick and smoky

Slowly wastes away

Knowing never to return

But all is not lost

Replenished, then watch it burn

Walls of love

Still falls the rain, the veil of darkness shrouds the blackened trees. Dampness filled the air and the strong breeze was bitter cold. Charlie pulled up his coat collar around his neck and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. He would be glad when the weather started to get warmer. It would make trudging to work these early, cold, winter mornings more bearable. He worked in a factory on the outskirts of town. His wages were minimal and barely kept him, his wife and five kids alive. He couldn’t afford a car.

     Despite being extremely poor they were a happy family and very close. He had good kids, they knew he couldn’t afford materialistic things and they didn’t seem to mind. They would stick up for each other at school if any of them were picked on by the other school kids for having second hand clothes and shoes. Many a time Fred, the eldest, would come home with a bloody nose. His identical twin brother, Sam, who was born two minutes after him, would always be by his side. They never went looking for trouble, of course, but they took no crap from bully’s that sometimes picked on their younger siblings. George was the next eldest. He was the most handsome out of the boys, in the family and he was an extremely fast runner. But he wasn’t as strong as his older brothers and sometimes needed help when he was jumped upon unaware. Sophie was next and she was a tough little cookie in her own right. This of course was inevitable being brought up with four other brothers. She looked out for her little brother Frank at school but it wasn’t necessary most of the time. Frank was the bright one in the family and most of the kids in his class looked up to him. But there were the odd few that would take advantage of him and copy their homework from his books. Sophie wasn’t having any of it. 

     Charlie thought of his family as he took the left fork in the forest and followed it until he came to the factory gates on the other side. The tall grey buildings loomed ahead of him and as soon as he walked through the gates he felt all his good feelings leave him. They would not return the whole day. Not until he was finished work and he started his walk home did his mood lighten. It was as if he had left his soul behind at the factory gates and then collected them on his way out.

     On his way home he thought of his lovely wife. He had known Dawn since they were at school. He thought of the first day he had laid eyes on her, and thought that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He knew then and there this was the girl he wanted to marry. The hard part of course was trying to convince her of that. She clearly wasn’t impressed by his little pranks to try and win her over. He thought it would be a good idea one day, in class, to put a whoopee cushion on her seat. She sat directly in front of him and so he waited till she was just about to sit down and then he quickly slipped it under her before her backside met the chair. He thought she would laugh, spin round and give him a playful clip around the ear lug. What he wasn’t expecting, however, was the reaction the moment the air came rushing out the cushion, causing the loudest farting noise he had ever heard. This was followed by the whole class erupting into raucous laughter. He had never forgotten her face, which had now gone bright red, and the tears that welled up in her wide blue eyes. She ran from the classroom with her head in her hands and Charlie’s smile dropped like a stone from his face. Her felt dreadful. It had all backfired.

     Years later after they had left school he met her again. He was working at the local grocery store. She had walked through the door, looking more beautiful than ever, like a summers welcoming breeze. She was doing some shopping for an old neighbor that was too sick to come out. She had over her arm a large basket and in her hand was a list with a dozen items on it. He of course went to help collect her groceries for her. He even walked her all the way back to Mrs. McGregor’s house, so she didn’t have to carry the heavy basket. It was at Mrs. McGregor’s gate that he plucked up the courage and asked her to the local dance that Saturday night. He remembers her face as if it were yesterday. She had half turned towards him. Her head slightly tilted to the side and she smiled warmly at him. She said she would love to. She gently pressed her soft lips against his cheek, turned quickly on her heel and ran into the house. He had stood there for the longest while, quite overcome and not quite believing it.

     The rest of this is of course is history. Charlie smiled to himself as his memories of this moment wrapped around him like a warm blanket. He pushed open his front door of the little cottage where they all lived. There she was, in the kitchen, the love of his life. The mother, to all his wonderful children and his soul mate. She turned and smiled at him when she heard him come in. He took her in his arms, as he did every night when he returned home. She was as beautiful as ever in his eyes. With very few lines on her face, time had been kind to her. He brushed her grey hair out of her eyes and noticed she had a little black smudge of coal dust from the fireplace on the side of her nose. The fire crackled in the hearth and he stared deeply into her eyes.

     ‘I love you Mrs. Edwards,’ he said softly.

     ‘Aw go on yer great lump,’ she chuckled and gave him a friendly clip on the arm. ‘Get your supper before it goes cold.’

     He turned toward the table by the fire where his hot meal awaited him. He pulled out his chair and slowly sat down. Suddenly a loud farting noise vibrated his chair and his backside from the whoopee cushion his wife had surreptitiously placed under him before he was seated. Laughter  now filled the kitchen, as his kids came running in from the other room. Frank jumped on his knee, Sophie flung her arms around her father’s neck while the other three boys just stood there crying with laughter.

     All was good in the Edwards house hold. Life was simple and even a bit tough sometimes but the love, that ran through these walls and surrounded all the family, was priceless.

Wednesday

Wednesday, I woke up thinking today would be just like any other Wednesday. At the age of fifteen, I’d experienced roughly seven hundred and eighty Wednesdays. Why should this be any different? But of course if it wasn’t there wouldn’t be a story would there?

     It all started the moment I opened my eyes on that Particular Wednesday morning. It was January 24th, my birthday and I was very excited I had now turned fifteen. The sun streamed in from the half closed curtains and I blinked rapidly around the room. As usual fifty pair of eyes looked back at me from the music posters that filled every square inch of my room. It was then I began to realize that something was really quite wrong. It wasn’t the room. That remained the same with my purple flowered duvet set, crumpled untidily on the end of my bed, my pink fluffy rug beside it and the usual sprawl of clothes, records and books strewn around the place, just to make it more homely. No, the room was as a fifteen year old girl’s should be. It was me that was different. My first glimpse of myself as I looked down gave me a fright, for I first thought my pyjamas had shrunken in the night. But I soon realized that it wasn’t the pyjamas that had shrunk it was me that had grown. My legs had lengthened and my toes now wiggled and hung over the end of the bed. I quickly took a quick peek down my pyjama top. Big floppy boobs now replaced my usual tiny ‘A’ sized ones. Where did they come from? My hands then went immediately to my face. My features felt older and my cheeks weren’t the firm plump ones from the night before. Now my skin felt saggy and rather wrinkled. Even my hair felt longer and coarser. I took hold of a piece between my fingers and looked down apprehensively. Another shock! My hair was completely grey. I jumped out of bed and hit my head on the sloping ceiling. Usually I could stand up when I got out of bed, but now I had to stoop slightly until my head cleared the ceiling on the other side of the room.

     A quick glance in my long mirror confirmed my fears. I looked absolutely ancient. I must be as old as forty, which of course is very old. What had happened to me? What did I do last night? Ah yes . . . it was all coming back to me now. I went over to my record player. Perched on its lid was the bottle of Auntie Peggy’s wine I had surreptitiously sneaked upstairs the night before. I didn’t want mum and dad to see that I had found it from the secret stash in the garage. I had decided then and there that Tuesday evening I was going to find out what this wine drinking malarkey was all about.

     I’d heard that Auntie Peggy’s wine could put hairs on your chest, but I didn’t expect this. I sniffed dubiously at the wine. It had a peculiar odour of sweet fruits but a sickly musty smell that lingered in my nose long after I had jerked my head away from this unusual brew. What on earth had Auntie Peggy put in this?

     I thought it best then to go down and face the music. Mum and dad would get a shock when they saw me as an old woman coming down the stairs, instead of their fifteen year old daughter. I heard mum in the kitchen making breakfast. Dad was in the utility room polishing my grubby school shoes. I took a deep breath, entered into the kitchen and closed my eyes and waited for the scream . . . it didn’t happen. I opened my eyes and looked at mum who was now putting a plate full of toast on the table and propped my birthday card up against the jam jar.  

     She looked up at me. ‘Happy birthday love, just money in a card this year, hope that’s ok with you?’ Hurry up, get some breakfast before school.’ She said as she grabbed her car keys, kissed me quickly on the cheek and hurried towards the front door. ‘Better go, or I’ll be late, have a good day you two,’ she called to us over her shoulder.

    I was dumbfounded. Didn’t mum see me properly? Maybe she was in such a rush she hadn’t taken a good look at me. I went over to the utility doorway. Dad looked up. ‘Happy birthday sweetheart. Fifteen today, do you feel any older then?’ Of course this was the understatement of the year. ‘Aren’t you dressed yet? You’re going to be late for school if you don’t hurry,’ he said as he passed by me and put my shoes near the front door. What was going on? Couldn’t they see I was different?

     I went back upstairs and looked in the mirror again. The same old face stared back at me. Why could only I see that I was old. Maybe the wine affected only my eyes. But when I put on my school uniform the skirt was far too short, even for my standards, and the waist I couldn’t close without lying on the bed and breathing in to flatten my protruding tummy. Getting my tiny bra to cover my droopy boobs was a challenge not to mention my shirt and tie that strained at the buttons. Good job the jumper was baggy and hid a multitude of sins underneath. I slung my blazer over my arm and ran down to put my shoes on. Dad dropped me off at school and as I walked through the school gates my friends were waiting for me. They came over with the usual ‘Whatsup’ greeting and we all went inside. So it wasn’t just my mum and dad that couldn’t see I had changed. My friend too hadn’t noticed anything different as well.

     As it happens, the day ended up being a really good one. Classes even seemed fun and I forgot for a while how different I thought I looked. If nobody could see it I wasn’t going to bring up the subject. I just hoped that my eyesight (seeing myself so differently) would return.

     Dad picked me up from school and when mum got home from work we sat down and had dinner. Dad had cooked my favorite: hotdogs with homemade chips. We had a real laugh at the table. Dad told us a really funny story that had happened at work and mum for once looked quite relaxed and less stressed than usual. Mum produced from the fridge a large black forest gateau (another of my favorites) and we all tucked in.

     After Top of the Pops I trudged off to bed. I glanced in the mirror. Still grey and wrinkly but I was too tired to care. I’d had a really good day and I fell asleep feeling very happy.

     When I awoke the next morning, I noticed I wasn’t in my bed anymore. I was curled up on the settee downstairs and it wasn’t the only change too. As I looked down at myself I was relieved to see my body was back to normal. I took a quick glance in the mirror over the fireplace to confirm things. Yep, my young cheeky fifteen year old face was back. It was then I noticed someone was sitting in the armchair in the corner of the room. I got a bit of a shock when I looked more closely at the person sitting there. It was me as my older self. Exactly how I had looked the day before but I had on a flowery dress and fluffy slippers. A little black cat sat on my lap and I had my eyes closed and looked very peaceful. I noticed the television was on and the breakfast news had just come on. The news reader announced that it was Wednesday 24th January 2052. It was the strangest feeling standing there in my fifteen year old form looking at me at eighty three years old.

     Suddenly the room filled with a brilliant light. I looked around to see mum and dad behind me. Mum looked stunning with her hair all swept up in a sixties style hairdo, a poker dot dress and little white gloves. Dad looked very handsome and very young. He even had brown wavy hair. They both smiled at me warmly. ‘So you chose to be fifteen then?’ said dad. I gave him a puzzling look. ‘You always seem to choose the best times in your life,’ he said. I was still none the wiser. I looked around and saw my older self, open her eyes. She then stood up but left a solid body behind her. The see-through ghostly image of my older self, walked towards me. Then with a sudden whoosh it disappeared into my chest.

     Wednesday, I woke up thinking today would be just like any other Wednesday. At the age of Eighty three, I’d experienced roughly four thousand, three hundred and sixteen Wednesdays. Why should this be any different?

     Of course this Wednesday was very different . . . as this is the Wednesday that I died.

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