Wishing Well

The Wishing Well

 

Lost Princess Ashling Glamourlance, Sovereign of the Twilight Swamps beheld Ravens Wishing Well. She breathed a sigh of relief and pushed the last of the tree branches away. Stepping into the small clearing, she brushed down her body covering black dress. Autumn leaves, twigs and dirt clung to the frilly layers of the skirt and patches of dried blood stained the bodice. Her knee length boots were also mud splattered.

A soft, almost worried neighing came from behind her. Turning, she encouraged the Midnight Stallion, Thorn, to come forward. The mighty horse shied away, stamping the soft soil and shaking his head. Ashling stopped and debated going over to him. However, it didn’t seem worth using up the last of her energy to force the stallion onwards.

‘Stay there,’ she called to him.

Thorn lowered his head and fall silent. Ashling turned back and walked over to the Wishing Well. The circle of grey stones was moss covered and the water rising to the brim lapped against the sides, seemingly by its own force, as there was no wind in the clearing. Ashling peered into those depths. A single red leaf floated on the surface, creating small ripples. She put her hands on the cold stone and leant in further, but she could not see anything.

A twittering noise and flipping of wings caused her to look up. A small regal finch had landed opposite. It regarded her black eyes and then looked into the water. She looked down again and started to recite the spell she had memorized.

‘Oh, Wishing Well of Ravens old, listen to my tale upon this moonlit eve. Save me from this haunting fate that I desire no more. Take away this curse, so cruelly cast at birth and let me survive this dying light.’

The leaf bobbed and caused larger ripples. Ashling held her breath and kept her eyes on the water. Nothing else seemed to happen. Her fingers grabbed the stone tightly, going numb. At last she let go of the breath and gulp down cold air. Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes, but she kept them on the water.

‘Please,’ she whispered, ‘I do not want to die this night. My people need me still and there is no one left to protect them. How can this be the will of the Gods? I’ve done everything that was asked of me. Please, grant me this one wish.’

Thorn neighed loudly in a definite warning and clopped over to her. He nuzzled her shoulder and went to put his nose into the water. Ashling caught him and pulled him back.

‘No. None must drink from the Enchanted Well,’ she told him.

He whined and pressed his head into her chest. She patted him and casting a longing look at the Well, mounted him. The sense of hopeless filled her and she knew nothing would unseal her fate.

Escape

Wallpaper city, future, science fiction, sci-fi, night, lights, buildings

 

As Magtanta Soo Oolong stood in line at Zenx Star Shuttle Port, she rubbed the inside of her right wrist. Underneath the warm skin she could feel the wafer thin circle ID Chip like a foreign body. Her eyes rolled at the irony of that thought. She’d had an IDC all her life, just like everyone else at birth as the Galaxy Laws decreed. The problem was that this wasn’t her chip and she’d only received it two days ago.

The image of that event still shadowed her mind and came every time she closed her eyes. The brightly lit room, the scalpel cutting skin, a ribbon of blood, tweezers holding her chip, the healing Nanos ray, the thin scar, an injection containing her new identity and the cold floor under her bare feet.

Magtanta let her arm drop as the check gate opened and people began stepping through. Her eyes flickered to the blue hover case at her left ankle, which was programed to follow her and held a week’s worth of clothes and personal items. She then stole a last look around the boarding area.

The surrounding metal floor, walls and ceiling were covered by rotating images advertising produces and businesses. There was a seemingly never ending line of white door frame like gates facing large circle access hatches to the docked shuttles. Each gate had a slow moving line of figures before it and behind them, there was a vast space taken up by rows of chairs, merchant stalls, vending machines and a recharging station.

Keeping her head high, Magtanta firmly put one booted foot in front of the other. The familiar wobble of fear in her stomach, caused her breathing to quicken.  Feeling suffocated by the large concealing cream robe, she pulled back the massive hood, which went to rest on her shoulders and revelled her coiled up newly dyed silver hair. The fluffy robe gave nothing away of the cotton clothes she wore underneath or her slender frame. With her breath catching in her throat, her hand shot into the deep side pocket of the robe. Her fingers grasped a hard, smooth, round object and she squeezed it hard.

Magtanta knew it was dangerous to be a human, especially one from the former planet Earth. They had been deeply un-liked for generations by most of the known alien species. It was all to do with the past, she knew, their treatment of the planet, animals and each other. The governments had tried to shift the blame onto other things. However, Magtanta knew the grim truths because she had been a part of it all and now she was trying to get out.

The line stopped moving. Magtanta peered around the male centaur, whose dark brown bulky rear she had been semi-using as cover. The portal was flashing red and on the other side a security android was using a scanning device on two Coltands. The three foot, dark blue thick furred creatures, were witting in their own tongue and seemed very unhappy. There were both dressed in layers of brown leather and had matching sacks. As Magtanta watched, the security android pulled out a small glass jar from the first Coltand’s pocket. He shook the jar and there was a small flash of sparking gold light, a tiny humanoid figure flutter to the jar’s bottom.

‘Illegal,’ the security guard announced.

The Coltand pulled a face and started jabbering in very broken English, ‘come, come. Not real. Only artifice-ee, fakes. See, see. Looks-ees.’

The guard stared into the jar and then held it in the portal, which had now returned to standby. The red lights came on again.

‘Real. Illegal,’ the guard said, ‘Please follow me.’

Grumbling, the Coltands were marched away, surrounded by three other guards. Magtanta let go of a breath and saw that an asSIStant robot was hushing everyone remaining through the gate. The centaur clopped through and then it was her turn.  Relaxing her body and become coming calm, she walked under. A whispered disembodied voice tickled her ear with

the words, ‘Awentia Hah-dun-Key. Female, Astrialing. Red Leaf Isle, Astria, Gama Quadrant. Access confirmed.’

Stepping through with a sigh, Magtanta glanced at the SIS and clocked the empty face lingering on a screen embedded inside the portal’s frame. Something’s not right, Magtanta thought. She felt the hairs on her neck go up and her thoughts spiralled out of control. Is the IDC faulty/wrong? Is it something else and do they know? This was a bad idea. How many laws have I actually broken now? Buda, please get me out of this.   

‘Can I see your hand please?’

Magtanta stared, suddenly aware of movement behind her and the dead-pan eyes of the SIS. She gulped and peeked over her shoulder, but it was just the other waiting traveller; a Morph, who had taken the anthropomorphic form of a stripy orange domestic cat and was wearing a purple velvet jacket suit, complete with top hat and glasses. Magtanta, returning to SIS, opened her fisted left hand.

‘What is it?’

Frowning, Magtanta looked at her palm. The object she had been tightly gripping in her pocket lay there. She laughed and held it out to SIS, as a light beam reflected off the brown shining surface, highlighting a rippled effect.

‘It’s an artificial conker,’ she explained.

Sliding the trinket down the twisted twain it was attached too, she dangled it inside the portal. Nothing happened. SIS nodded and Magtanta hurried through the hatch and across the docking seal. Entering the shuttle, she scanned for empty seats and unluckily found that only the front ones were available. Heading down the aisle, she took the seat numbered one which faced a door marked pilots. Storing the hover case away, she sat down and put the cross belt on. It was only then she looked into the staring eyes across from her.

The centaur was standing in the designated square for large creatures. A halter belt looped around his brown furred back and stomach was attached to metal clips on the floor and wall. His muscular human arms, covered in colourful tattoos were crossed over his shirted bulging chest. He had broad shoulders, a veiny thick neck and large head, which was covered by a heavy black mane that trailed down his back. His large black eyes were staring at her and his wide flared nose was sniffing the air. His pink lips curled more into smile and flashed flat white teeth.

He knows….somehow…Magtanta thought, turning away, feeling a rush of heat. The chair next to her was taken and the door locked with a hiss. As the pre-record announcements got under way, she twisted back. The anthropomorphic cat was next to her and pulling out a screened personal pad device from a leather case. She leant back and from the robe’s other pocket took a music pod. Removing the first ear bud she put it in, then selected a play list from the mini screen displayed on the other, before placing that one in too.

The opening notes of Five Finger Death Punch’s Bad Company invaded her ears. Just before she shut her eyes, Magtanta saw the ears of the Morph cat and centaur twitching in her direction. The shuttle’s engine vibrated and she heard the distant blast of ignition. There was a shuddering movement, then the shuttle shot upwards like a popped cork, sending waves of juddering tremors through everything. Remembering not to clench her teeth, Magtanta seized the cross belt tightly, causing her knuckles to turn white. Only when she felt the shuttle level out, did she dropped her hands and open her eyes.

‘Oxygen?’ a male voice purred.

She glanced at the cat-man and his single pointed clawed finger. Following it, Magtanta saw a small plastic mask stationed in a circle hole lit by a dusty blue light, close by her left knee. Grabbing the mask, she pressed it over her mouth and began taking huge breaths.

‘Are you okay?’ A gruff voice called out, followed by a hoof stamp.

Trying to hide her embarrassment, Magtanta nodded in the direction of the centaur’s.

‘First flight?’ the cat-man asked her.

Magtanta shook her head and partly removed the mask, ‘my second.’

The cat-man nodded and took her in for the first time.  ‘Are you from Astria?’

‘Yes. How do you know?’ she said quickly.

‘Your robe.’

‘Oh.’

‘Where have you been? From my knowledge Astrialings detest travel and worship the natural. It’s rare to find one outside their Quadrant.’

‘I was…visiting someone and now I’m going home, to Red Leaf Isle,’ Magtanta answered carefully.

The cat-man and centaur watched her closely and feeling pressured, Magtanta put the mask back. Sinking down, she shut her eyes and pretended to doze off. The flight was due to last an hour, but Magtanta had heard that they often under-predicted it as there was always traffic getting into Beta Quadrant. With her hands on her stomach, she concentrated on the rising and falling caused by her breathing. FFDP continued to blast in her ears, covering up most of the shuttle’s noises and the chatting of the passengers.

She was the verge of sleep, when something brushed against her arm. She wasn’t sure how she’d felt it through the thick robe, but it brought her fully awake. Opening her eyes, she saw a hostess android with a small hover cart containing two large sliver two pots and trays filled with supplies. Magtanta realised that the cat-man had chosen to have a milky tea from the cart and had been pulling the small table up from between the seats. She pulled an ear bud out as the hostess turned to her and in a metallic voice asked, ‘Would you like a drink and/or something to eat?’

‘I’ll have some water and do you any chocolate?’ Magtanta asked.

Blankly, the hostess handed her a bottle of water and a small package, before holding out a digital scanning box. Taking the things, Magtanta held her right arm out and the box was waved over her IDC. The scanner bleep in confirmation of payment and the hostess moved onto the centaur. Putting her music back on, Magtanta opened the water, took a few sips and then fought her way into the air-sealed chocolate bar. The chocolate tasted glorious as she ate it and she began to feel completely calm.

I’ve done it, she thought, I’ve got out.

Death of a Butterfly

Purple Butterflies - butterflies Wallpaper

I enter the cemetery holding the jar tightly to my chest. The large gate swings shut as I slowly walk up the path. Bring my protecting wards around, I mutter Latin words under my breath. The cemetery is quiet, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty, the Dead are always here.

Stepping off the path, I feel the loss of its security. The grass wet with morning dew, soaks through my trainers. I weave through the rows of headstones, listening to the birds singing in the weeping trees and trying to ignore the almost faded voices calling out to me.

At a row of new graves, I find a white headstone with his name on it. His plain stone seems lost in a sea of bigger ones which are adorned with flowers and ornaments. I balance the jar on top of the grave and slowly unscrew the lid. I’ve come here to show him the results of his teaching. I speak to him softly in my head, telling him the things we all say to the departed and I let my heart whisper what I cannot say. I set the jar down and watch the small, dark purple butterflies flutter out for their first flight.   Watching them disappear, I recall the first time we meet.

*

I walked through the woods, listening to the soft movements of nature on the ground and the trees. It was early spring and the air was shaking with an eagerness to burst into life. I stepped into a field and saw him kneeing by a bench, chasing something with his fingers. Seeing him alone, I crossed the field and went to sit on the other side of the bench.

He looked up at me and I saw the faded outline of a bruise on his cheek. His face was puzzled and there was a slight fear in the corners of his eyes. He couldn’t have been much older than myself, thirteen and on the cusp of teenage-hood.

‘Hi, what do you have there?’ I asked, nodding my head at his cupped hands.

‘You wouldn’t like it,’ he mumbled.

‘How do you know?’

Slowly, he opened his hands and I saw a spider resting in his palm.

‘Aren’t you scared?’ he inquired after a few seconds, ‘I thought all girls were scared of spiders.’

‘Well, not me,’ I replied.

He set the spider free and we watched it crawl under the bench.

‘I’m Becky,’ I told him.

‘Louie,’ he answered.

‘What do you have there?’ I pointed to the two jars at his feet.

He looked down as if they had just appeared beside him almost the rubbish. The jars were the same size and had paper lids punctured with holes.

‘A frog,’ he said slowly, picking up the first jar and letting me see the small brown frog floating in some dirty water.

‘What’re you going to do with him?’ I probed.

‘Take him home and put him in a tank.’

‘Why?’

He shrugged, ‘I like watching them…..My granddad taught me…..’

I frowned and put my defences up. I had a feeling Louis’s granddad was no longer here and I wasn’t in the mood to be haunted by restless spirits wanting to pass messages on.

‘He was a bug collector and he liked studying them. He built a special room in the attic.’

‘Well….that’s nice….I should get home,’ I said quickly and jumped off the bench.

‘Me too,’ he breathed.

‘Bye then.’

I smiled and walked away before the pressure of ghost voices broke through. As I headed for home, I had a strange thought. Louie was unlucky to have lost his granddad as he’d been protecting him.

*

Over that summer, Louie and I found a strange friendship in each other. He, like me, was an outcast, someone the other children thought too weird. So, we found delight and security in each other’s company and Louie taught me about his world.

He was sat by the small pond with a homemade fishing rod and a large hat on his head.

‘Hi, Louie,’ I called and ran to his side, ‘have you caught anything?’

He turned his head away and didn’t reply.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked, kneeling down beside him.

‘Nothing. Go away.’

I sat back and watched the water ripple in the middle of the pond. He started sniffing. I glanced and saw his face. There was another large purple and yellow bruise under his right eye and across his cheek.

‘What happened to your face?’ I gasped, ‘Did you fall down the stairs again?’

‘Yes….do you want to see my fish now?’

From a small wicker basket beside him, he drew out a large jar, which was half filled with water and had small stones and pond weed at the bottom.

‘He’s a tiddler,’ Louie said proudly, holding the jar up to the light.

I saw a small fish darting around inside, the sun just bouncing off his scales.

‘He’s very nice, but Louie you have to start being more careful!’

Louie placed the jar back, ‘I’ll try,’ he sighed as he reeled in his line, where a dead worm dangled at the end of a small hook.

‘Do you want to come to my house?’ he said swiftly, ‘I can show you my collection!’

I pulled a face….houses were worse than people. All that energy absorbed over time meant that voices and images come more clearly into my mind.

‘It’s all right my dad won’t be there,’ Louie concluded. He stood up, smiling and holding his hand out to me.

‘Well…just for a little while,’ I resorted and took his hand…..

Big mistake! I saw a flash of white light and images poured into me, speeding by as if someone had hit the fast forward button. My head pounded with a migraine and things that shouldn’t have made sense appeared to unravel; laying the future bare of me to see.

I snatched my hand back and Louis stared down into his palm.

‘What was that?’ he muttered.

‘Nothing,’ I cried, ‘so your house then?’

I learned the hard way not to tell people once before. It’s not just ghosts that come to me, sometimes the future will come too. And that future is unchangeable. Sometimes, I hate having a gift that lets the dead whisper to me and shows the future fate via one touch.

He walked down the path, which was hidden in the grass and drew a key from under a statue of a Jack Russell dog. He went up to the house and unlocked the door, I felt goosebumps run across my arms and something seemed to warn me against entering.

‘Do you want to come in?’ Louie called, when I didn’t follow.

‘I….’

‘Its’ okay, no one’s here.’

‘Okay, but I have to go home soon.’

I stepped into the tight hallway and he shut the door. There was a room to my left and then a flight of stairs. The hallway was empty, the wallpaper faded and peeling at the top.

‘Follow me,’ he said.

We went upstairs and I threw my protective energy field out in preparation for any arriving ghosts. At the top, Louie turned and went to the farthest door. He opened it and turned on the light. The room was painted a sickly green colour and there was a low bed with a cupboard next to it, a scattering of toys and a scruffy teddy bear sit on the floor.

‘Is this your room?’ I whispered, stepping in behind him.

‘Yes, but I…..don’t really use it. This is my room,’ he said, nodding towards a door he had just opened in the joining wall.

I looked up the steps, but couldn’t see where they led to. He went up and I followed him.

‘Oh, it’s an attic!’ I cried, reaching the last step.

‘My granddad made it. Remember?’ he said, switching on the light.

I stepped into the small room and saw that there was a range of tables and shelves. Two covered windows let in thin trickles of light and dust was dancing close by them.

I felt a shiver run up my spine as I looked up at the shelves and saw a range of dead bugs in glass boxes. On the largest of desks was Louie collection. There were two large tanks and some large jars. I went closer as he drew the jar, which contained the baby fish he had caught, out of the basket.

‘This is my fish tank,’ he said pointing to a tank filled with light grey water. ‘The frog is in there.’

The frog who was sitting on a rock jutting out from the water, give a croak and jumped down with a large plodding noise. Louie giggled and taking the lid off the jar, he lowered it into the water and set the fish free into the tank. We stood and watched the fish swim around in circles.

‘I should go,’ I said softly.

He nodded, ‘Alright, but you have to come again.’

*

  The last time I met the bug boy it was late autumn. Winter was trailing his icy fingers across the air, making his presence felt on still warm skin from the long summer. I knew I had to be there in the woods that day….

It was raining and he was sheltering under some trees. I hurried over to join him, but he moved away when he saw me coming and I paused just under the branches.

‘What happened to your arm?’ I questioned.

He frowned and half raised his arm that was in a sling tied around his neck.

‘Nothing….’

‘And your face! There’s more bruises!’

‘I…fell over… on the street,’ he answered.

‘Really?’ I scowled.

He nodded.

‘Louie….’

‘You’re not going to tell are you, Becky? Oh, please don’t!’

‘But, someone has to do something!’

He shook his head and sniffed, ‘It’ll only cause more trouble….look….I caught a butterfly.’

He lifted up a jar and inside there was a large white butterfly, its wings were tapping against the glass.

‘Oh…’

‘I…have to go now….’ he said and dived out from under the trees.

It happened that night. I woke up with a sudden sense that something was wrong. I immediately thought about Louie and dressed quickly in the pressing darkness. I didn’t think about it as I left and walked to Louie’s……I just knew that I had to go there.

The rain started falling as I reached the house. I listened on the doorstep, but I didn’t hear anything and none of the lights were on. I took the hidden key and let myself in. I knew where he would be; in the attic amongst the smashed bug display boxes. I crept up there, the attic light was on and his small body was crumbled across the floor.

My face became a wash with tears and I went to kneel down beside him. I picked up his cold hand and held it tightly .

Gown

The Ballroom of Be Our Guest with the big mural on the ceiling

Philomena felt Isobel eyeing her as soon as she entered the ballroom. Pretending not to have noticed, she grabbed a crystal flute glass of champagne and drifted across the polished floor. She had barely reached Johnathan- the most eligible bachelor in all of London-when Isobel touched her elbow. Turning to glare at her, Philomena knew she had missed her chance again and could not help but think that Isobel was really determined to stop any romance blooming.

‘That’s a nice gown,’ Isobel’s childlike voice called out, ‘is it silk?’

‘No. It’s a new fabric called rayon,’ Philomena announced, aware that Johnathan and his gentleman friends were now watching them.

‘How…unusual! And such a deep shade of red too. Where did you get it from?’

‘My brother. His factory has just started manufacturing the fabric and he’s becoming quite the expert.’

Isobel’s lips curled in a fake smile, ‘but the cut is too low on you and look, it’s too short as well….’

Philomena kept her head up, though she was tempted to glance down. However, she already knew the gown was daring. It scarcely touched the floor, showing the matching satin slippers and a patch of ankle. The sleeves were also short, just touching her wrists and whilst the back of the gown sat comfortable on her neck, the front dropped down revealing all her chest and the full top half of her breasts. The pinched in waist and stomach, then flowed out into a full floating skirt. The gown left nothing to the imagination.

‘Actually it’s the latest fashion. Especially in Paris.’

Isobel screwed up her face, seemly speechless for a change. Philomena took the opportunity to sip the champagne. She also let her eyes slide over to Johnathan, who seemed to have an impressed look on his face. As one of his friends started whispering in his ear, Philomena turned back to Isobel, ‘I was just on my way to take some air.’

‘Of course, please enjoy your evening,’ Isobel muttered before taking her leave.

Taking a longer drink of the champagne, Philomena turned and started for the balcony’s French doors. Her eyes meet Johnathan’s and he stepped over.

‘Please let me escort you, Lady Trussoni, it would be my pleasure,’ he spoke.

Philomena smiled and linked arms with him.

Someone Else’s’ Divorce

When Millie heard about the neighbours’ divorce her thoughts went straight to the children. In an odd way she had always thought herself a part of their lives, even though she had only occasion babysit them, joined in on birthdays and said hi in passing. What would become of them if they moved away? It was such a weird thought that she scolded herself for trying to pretend they were her family. It had felt like they always had been though and hadn’t she once dreamed of having children like them?

‘Did you hear me?’ her mum’s gossiping voice cut through her thoughts.

‘Yes,’ Millie said slowly and then carried on staring at nothing in particular.

Her mum mumbled and pulled the car away from the traffic lights. The roads were emptying at this time of evening and the journey was going smoothly.

‘What happened?’ she asked suddenly, ‘I knew they were going through a bad patch. You told me about that, remember? But I haven’t had a chance to speak to Lucy yet.’

‘That was months ago!’ mum laughed.

‘I’ve been busy,’ Millie said defensively, glaring at her.

Unfortunately, they both knew it was a lie. Millie sighed and slide down the passenger seat. Her view changed so that now she could only see the edges of the road and lot more of the dusky sky. She crossed her arms and refused to get into another argument. Feeling her mum glancing at her, she turned back, still desperate to know the other details.

‘Apparently, Lucy’s had enough of Andy’s aggressive temper,’ mum picked up.

‘Understandable, he’s always been brash towards me. I thought it was a front or something though. A part of his personality?’

Mum scoffed, ‘No.’

Millie turned away again and tried to act disinterested. However, she knew that now the ball was rolling her mother wasn’t going to shut up about it. She bit her lip then let her chestnut coloured hair out of its pony tail and spilling over her shoulders. Checking the dashboard clock, she saw there was twenty minutes still to go. Why for once couldn’t time go faster? She thought.

‘Lucy said it started around the time you asked about driving lessons and he refused. Since then it’s just fallen apart. He’s still out of work and seems to be having a middle-life crisis. Problem is he’s decided to drag her and the kids down too. She just can’t cope.’

‘Has he been violent?’ Millie kicked in.

Her mum shot her a disgusted look, ‘Of course not. Do you really think he’d risk that? Though he does seem very capable…’

‘I should go over…see if she wants any help with Jenny and Billy.’

‘I asked her to come to you, Mill. I said we wouldn’t mind…just I didn’t want to get mixed up in anything. Nobody should get involved in someone else’s divorce. Are you okay?’

Wiping a tear from her eye, Millie nodded.

The Fall

Autumn arrived with a blast of cold air, which wrapped itself around trees and sunk into the earth. Nature shivered and desperately clung to Summer, even though it was pointless. Beginning with the small details, Autumn made leaves curl and change colour. The wind and rain grew stronger, pushing more warmth and light away. Summer gave a last sigh and surrendered herself. She could now only watch as Autumn made her bright flowers and lively animals fade back, replacing them with blankets of multi-coloured leaves, harvest time plants and sleepy animals. It is the ever changing circle, the Season Sisters whispered together.

Acceptance

Hannah felt more anxious with every step. Her body wobbled and she wished it could be blamed on the nerves and not the fact she was obese.  Arriving at the restaurant’s door, she stopped to catch her breath and wondered if she should take her inhaler. Before she had a chance to make her mind up, the glass doors opened and a laughing teenage couple came out.

Clutching her handbag, Hannah stepped to the side and distracted herself with searching through the contents of the bag. The couple breezed past her, still laughing and heading off into the car park. Hannah couldn’t help but stare after them once she had pulled out the inhaler.

They weren’t laughing at me, she told herself firmly.

Taking the medicine made her feel calmer. She took a few deep breaths and then entered the building. Luckily, the double doors were wide enough so that she could just fit through the first one. The smell of melting wax, hot food and warm bodies punched her nose. She kept a steady pace to the small wooden desk and met the hostess’s eyes determinedly.

Hannah saw a flash look of shock cross the petite, blonde haired woman’s face and then it was replaced by a false smile.

‘Table for…One?’ the high pitched, fake happy voice chirped.

‘No…Two. I’m meeting someone. I hope…’ Hannah trailed off.

‘Erm…..Is the table booked? What’s the name please?’

‘I think so. Brook? No, it’ll be under his….Pete Langton.’

The hostess cast a look down a thin book, her finger rushing ahead. Hannah held her breath. I got the details right didn’t I? She questioned, Today, nowish, here. Maybe it was a lie? She felt her cheeks flush and was on the point of telling the hostess that a mistake might have been made, when that voice cut through her thoughts.

‘Peter Longton?’

Hannah paused.

‘He’s the only one close enough I’ve got here. He’s at the bar.’

They both looked over and Hannah spotted a large man smiling and waving at her. Relief flooded through her body. She smiled back at him, then turned to the hostess, who was looking very pleased and indicated to Hannah that she could go over.

‘I’ll call you when your table is ready,’ the hostess added.

Hannah thanked her and went to the bar. It appeared to be full and she had to squeeze past a loud group of young women and a kissing older couple. Coming to stand beside the familiar man on the bar stool, she felt her legs shaking. She rested her arms on the bar, almost elbowing another man out of the way.

‘Hello,’ Pete’s cheery voice said into her ear, ‘are you okay? What was that all about?’

‘Hi,’ Hannah replied shyly, ‘I’m fine and it was nothing. I just got a bit confused by the table booking. How are you?’

‘Good. Better now you are here. Drink?’

Hannah giggled and as the bartender came over, she ordered a diet coke.

‘I was worried you wouldn’t show,’ Pete spoke.

Hannah nodded, she had been feeling the same way and wondering if he was actually interested in her and a relationship.

‘It’s understandable though,’ Pete continued, ‘Our second date and meeting online.’

He grinned as if it had been a joke and then got off the stool. ‘Here, sit down.’

Hannah shook her head, ‘Its fine. I’d probably not make it up anyway.’

Pete chuckled and Hannah felt a wave of fear.

‘I know what you mean,’ he replied and patted his backside. ‘I barely got up and stayed on! This is my first drink too,’ he added tapping his beer glass.

Hannah glanced away, trying to hide her smile and laugh. She dropped her head and then turned back to him. Pete was a half a foot taller than her and had long black hair, which was similar to her own. A short beard covered the lower half of his face and his large eyes were brown. He had broad shoulders, large arms and a very round, over flowing stomach. Even though he was wearing black jeans and a white shirt, he reminded Hannah of a motor biker.

‘They said the table would be ready soon. I’m starving, are you?’ Pete asked.

‘Yes, I am,’ she replied and took a drink.

‘I’m glad we decided to meet again. I really enjoyed last time and I’m starting to like you.’

Hannah’s smile widened, ‘me too.’

‘Excuse me?’

They bother turned to the hostess.

‘Your table is ready, if you’d like to follow me please?’

Cafe

ssw

Past Affairs

cute, handwritten, letter, letters, love letters. envelope

Bill found the box whilst digging a new bed for his potatoes. The spade hit the metal tin with a dull chiming sound and vibrated in his hands. He used the tool to scrap off the soil and uncover the item. With his bad back, it took him a full minute to bend down and tug out the box. The earth rapidly filled the hole in removing all trace of the space.

Bill studied the square tin, it was heavy and any pictures or words were long gone. Using the spade he climbed out of the hole and back on to the allotment. A drop of rain hit his bare neck and he ambled over to his shed.

Pushing open the door with his elbow, he stumbled in. The light was already on and casting a glow on the work bench and a deck chair. Putting the spade against the wall, Bill sank into the chair. He grabbed an oily cloth and scrubbed it over the box. When he’d removed nearly all the dirt, he studied the tin again, but couldn’t make anything out. With a shrug, Bill tried to open it. The lid refused to give way and his fingers couldn’t find a good grip. He looked around and spotted a rusty screw driver on the floor close by.

He lent over and picked it up. It was the perfect tool to use and in seconds, he’d popped the lid off. He placed it and the screw driver carefully on the floor then looked inside. There was a collection of papers; letters and postcards, as well as a handful of trinkets.

Bill pulled out the first postcard, which had a seaside scene on the front, flipping it he could just make out the faded handwriting:

My Dearest Petal, I miss you more each day. The sea is my only companion and it can’t be compared to your gracious spirit. How long till I see you again? I do not know. That day in the gardens is forever with me and I see it every time I close my eyes.

 L.Hughes

Brightmore House

Yorkshire

Frowning, Bill read the address out aloud. He’d never heard of Brightmore House. Yet he had lived in Yorkshire all his life. Also, he didn’t know any Hughes. He shook the tin and heard something metal bounce back. He shifted through the paper and pulled out a gold chain, which had been lying close to the bottom. On the end dangled a small locket. With slightly shaking, but curious fingers he praised it open.

Inside was a tiny black and white photo of a face. It appeared to be a man with long hair, a strong chin and large cheeks. Bill held the image close to his fading eyes, but he couldn’t decipher anything else. Checking the locket he saw nothing inscribed upon it, so he put the photo back and closed it. Placing it back in the tin, he pulled out an envelope and eased out the thin sheet of paper.

It was too faded to read and he needed more light. It was getting late anyway and he should head home. However, something had grabbed him about the tin’s contents and he wanted to find out more. Bill heard the rain start to fall faster and heavier. He made up his mind.

With the tin tucked under his arm, he locked the shed and hurried back home. As he entered the cottage, he was relieved to find that his wife had started the fire and dinner. He pulled off his boots and coat before going into the living room. Heat licked around his cold damp skin as he sank into his armchair.

He put the tin into his lap and opening the lid drew out the same letter. Turning on a lamp, he began reading.

Dearest Petal,

                      I have sent the money you have asked with this letter. Please use it to come to me. The nights have been countless and empty without you. My heart pains to hold you again and I feel so utterly lost without you. I am still over welled by the bad news in your last letter. I have prayed that no one finds out, though the possibility of your angelic mother talking tortures me so. Everything has now been sorted and I have the tickets to Africa in my pocket.

Darling, I can’t wait to elope. Do not fret about anything. Please come as soon as you are well enough to do. There should be no problems bringing your maid. Write back to me and let the boy leave the letter at The Black Bull.

 

Your lover

‘Bill, is that you?’

‘Yes. Mag,’ he called back without looking up. He could tell she was still in the kitchen by the sound of her voice. He placed the letter back in the envelope and pulled out a small handkerchief. Inside was a dried out forget me out flower.

‘What you got there?’

Bill looked up and saw his wife standing in the doorway.

‘A box ‘o letters,’ he replied, ‘dug it up.’

‘Letters? Who from?’

He shrugged and rooted around for the seaside postcard. He held it out to her and Mag, after drying her hands on her apron, came and took it from him.

‘Looks like I’ve uncovered some kind of love affair. What do you think?’

‘Maybe. Perhaps you should put it back? The past’s secrets are always best left buried in my opinion,’ Mag said, handing him the postcard.

‘Of course, Dear,’ Bill replied.

‘Dinner’s in a few. Go wash.’

Bill nodded and Mag left the room. As he thought over his wife’s words, he knew he just couldn’t do it.