Spare Change

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Normally, I wouldn’t have stopped but today I was feeling too happy, so when I spotted the homeless man sitting against the car park wall, my hand was already going to my pocket.

‘Got any change?’ he asked in crackling, horse voice.

‘Maybe. Sure,’ I added.

I removed my hand and opened my palm. The coins were digging against my fingers, so I moved them and looked closely what I had. Counting out a one pound in the sliver coins, I give them to his out stretched hand. His hand was filthy, his fingernails black with dirt and his skin dark with too sun and not enough washing.

‘Thank you,’ he replied.

I nodded and made to move off as he dropped the coins to the ground in front of him.

‘How old do you think you are?’ he asked suddenly.

I paused. His voice was calm and curious, not mocking or angry.

‘Well…I know how old I am….twenty-nine,’ I answered.

‘No, no, no! A woman should never tell a man her age!’ the homeless man gasped.

‘I don’t mind….’

He shook his head, ‘let me tell you how old you look….twenty-four!’

‘Well, thanks. I’m use to people telling me I’m younger,’ I explained and smiled.

‘Do you remember the sixties?’ he asked.

‘Erm…no….Sorry, but I…’

I started to shuffle away, regretting I’d stopped in the first place.

‘Let me tell you want happened!’ he shouted.

‘I have to be somewhere,’ I spoke.

‘My wife got pregnant,’ he cut in, ignoring me, ‘only I was shooting blanks, so I knew it couldn’t be mine.’

‘Oh…’

‘Shooting blanks, I was!’ he shouted and burst into laughter.

I felt the urge to get away growing. Something wasn’t right about this man and I was feeling uncomfy. My good karma was fading and I reminded myself this was why I didn’t give money to the homeless.

‘I knew it wasn’t mine,’ he ranted, ‘so, I looked and looked and found she was having an affair with her best friend’s husband! The baby was his. So, I left.’

He waved his hands around then leered at me. For the first time I fully took him in. He had black hair, streaked mostly grey that was long and shaggy. He had a short beard that was also grey and his face was wrinkled like a dried fruit, making him twenty years older then he seemed. His dark blue eyes looked worn and heavy, he’d seen too much bad stuff. He was wearing an ancient track suit that might have once been blue but was now holey and dark with age and dirt.

‘Okay. I’m sorry about that, but I really have to go now,’ I said gently.

He moved as if to reach my hand and I stepped back but he was merely shifting around.

‘You know what they named him?’ the homeless man asked.

I shook my head.

‘Hal. Do you know what it means? First seed,’ he snapped.

I pressed my lips together and eyed the exit door, it was only a few steps away and I could make that in a few seconds, especially, if I ran.

‘Hal! They did it to spite me! Are you religious? You don’t look it. But it’s in the Bible that.’

‘I am actually,’ I uttered.

The homeless man didn’t seem to care any more. From under his jacket, he pulled out a white rosary and danged it between his fingers.

I nodded to him.

He began to play with the beads, muttering to himself. Perhaps it was a prayer.

‘Well, bye,’ I said and walked away, what else could I have done?

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Imbroglio #atozchallenge

 

pexels-photo-89820.jpegImbroglio: an extremely confusing and embarrassing situation.

I wanted to hide my shame, but I couldn’t, the best I could do was get up and leave. Even though that didn’t feel right. I had always been one to stand my ground just like my mother had told me. She had been too headstrong and modern for this tiny Irish village in the middle of nowhere. She had never been accepted by the locals and many were happy that she was now dead.

Wrapping my shawl tighter around me, I walked across hilly ground. Not really going anywhere because sometimes you just had to walk away. The wind twisted my loose hair about and though I felt the chill, I was warm enough. My hands dropped to my rounded stomach that was no longer concealable.

Behind me, I could still hear the villagers’ voices and laughter, even though the pub was miles away now. I blamed my mind and the fact that their harsh words would always linger with me. I wanted it not to be true, but it was hard not to believe them when I myself didn’t know.

I came to a sheltered nook and gratefully sat down. The thin grass was dry and so was the soil below. I curled up as best I could, wanting to feel safe. I tried switching my mind to other things, but I couldn’t let it go.

Sighing, I wondered why love had to be so confusing. Even the most simple love could be, but in my case it was far from simple. My hand rubbed my stomach in circles as I fell into more deeper thinking.

Was the man I had fallen in love with and grown to know for two years really lying to me?

The locals said he wasn’t American like he claimed to be, but a born and bred Irish man. He’d gone to America to be an actor, but that hadn’t lasted long. Now, he was working where he could and he was married with a family too.

I just couldn’t picture my dashing boyfriend being like that. For a start, when I’d announced my news he’d been delighted. Surely if I was his mistress he’d have recoiled? And he’s away so much because he’s an actor and he has to travel to filming locations.

Rattling my mind, I tried to think if I had ever noticed anything that might have suggested other wise. Had their been papers about? A call or text on his phone? Reminders on his fridge?

There seemed to be nothing. I had to know though! I got up, struggling to do so then under a darkening sky, I walked back to the village.

I needed to hear the truth, not just for my piece of mind but for the baby’s too.

The First Thing

Vanila Sundae With Choco on Top

The first thing she found herself craving was ice cream. It was weird but she couldn’t get enough, even at 3AM when she should have been sleeping. She had her excuses though and blamed the fact that she was going to have a summer baby.

(Inspired from; https://first50.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-first-thing)

Dear Diary #28

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Dear Diary, 

It’s finally here! The first of December! And as usual Ted and I both had the day off work and we spent it decorating the house. Now, the outside and inside looks like Blackpool illuminations! There are so many different lights everywhere and it’s already making my eyes hurt and my head spinning looking at them all. I don’t care though because it’s Christmas!

I’ve been blasting themed music all day and singing along to most of them. When were putting the lights and decorations up at outside, I brought the speakers out with me and let the music drift into the street. Ted said it was a good job most of the neighbors were at work or they’d be complain about the noise! Let ’em I said. The shops do enough blasting songs as it is, why can they get away with it and not me?

The tricky part was setting up the tree. Every year I say we need a new one and Ted rolls his eyes and says this one is good enough. It looks even more scrappy this year. Some fake pines came off in my hands and it looked so small and depressed in the corner. Once the lights were on it, the tinsel, the baubles and those other decorations it didn’t look so bad. I’m thinking though come the end of year sales I’m going to buy a new one.

After it was done, I sat on the floor and sighed deeply. Ted asked what was wrong and I brought up the whole baby issue again. I want so badly to see ornaments saying baby first Christmas danging from the tree. Followed by the things they’ve made, which look crap but you put them on anyway because your kid made it. I want to hang a third and maybe a fourth stocking with our own. I want to buy toys and games and fun kiddie things. Most of all though, I want to share the magic with Christmas with them. Give them memories they can never forget.

Ted did his normal it’s okay and we will get there speech. But we’ve tried so hard this year and nothing. Not even a false reading on any of the tests! It’s shocking that I tried so hard not get pregnant all those years we dated and the first few we were married and now when the time is right, nothing! There’s time I know, but still….I’m ready and next year I hope we can finally hang that third stocking.

Dragons

varnadragons

As she handed the egg over, she knew he’d make the perfect father. It didn’t matter that he feared he wouldn’t right now because she felt within her heart thar once he saw the baby everything would be different. Letting her hands drop back to her side, she watched him staring at the cracks that were quickly forming across the egg.

Soon, she thought, we can put everything behind us and start a new life.

Yes, he repiled into her head, having overheard her thoughts.

She rolled her eyes then saw that the top was dropping off the egg. She drew closer, holding her breath as a small nose, large eyes and bronze colored scaly head rose upwards from inside the egg.

The baby dragon looked at them both. Made a little happy cry then hiccuped out a puff of smoke.

 

https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/microfiction-challenge-23-dragons-egg/

Photo ©Grantscharoff

The Last Humans

trees, broken, inside

The humans glanced out of the cage as the aliens passed. Unlike the Earth zoos in which the animals had been behind metal and glass, the last humans were behind an almost clear force field. Nor where they roaming though fields and trees, they had ‘mock’ houses and large gardens styled on what was known to be how the last earthlings lived in.

There were twelve of them all together. An old woman, who would smile and wave at the aliens from a rocking chair. Three children who would play in the gardens and staring questionably back. A baby, who was a fascinated by all, but not when he was crying. The rest were young and middle-aged men and women who lived a quiet life which to them was all they had ever known.

The humans were given enrichment and the aliens watched them in wonder. The children were given toys – stuffed fabric in animal shapes, puzzle games and wooden blocks. The adults were given art supplies, cooking equipment and exercise machines. The keepers wanted them to live as naturally as possible and enjoyed researching old earth pass times.

Today, the last humans had received a mixture of instruments and music players. The adults showed little interested, but the children enjoyed ringing the bells and blowing the trumpets. Finally though, the oldest man took up a guitar and began playing it. The others gathered around and soon form their own band.

The aliens were delighted. Humans were deeply mysterious after all.

 

Faulty

Telling myself that I wasn’t stuck, I carefully lowered the screwdriver and balanced it on my chest before trailing my hands down to my heavily pregnant belly. The little voice at the back of my head once again questioned why I was under the spaceship’s main engine changing the last of the faulty power crystals.

‘Because no one can be trusted,’ I spoke.

‘You okay?’ a very distant voice answered me back.

‘Next time, husband, when you meet barbarian traders offering you a too good a deal, walk away!’ I yelled.

Taking the purple, pulsing crystal out, I slotted a new one in it’s place. The red warning light and ringing alarm cut off. I sighed then slowly backed away, dragging my tools with me. Coming out the hatch, I fixed a scowl on my face.

The whole crew were stood in the room, looking worried.

‘I fixed it. Everything should be fine now. Don’t ever mess with my ship again,’ I added to my husband as he helped me up.

 

 

Story prompt from: https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/fffaw-challenge-week-of-september-13-2016/#comments

Photo prompt provided by Jade M. Wong with thanks.

 

Family Secrets (Part 5)

Pedestrian, Walking, Shadow, Night, Evening, Street

Em rolled over and pressed herself against her husband’s back. She breathed deeply, smelling cig smoke, beer and damp grass. Coming fully too, Em wondered what time he had got in at. She looked over to the window and saw a faint light coming through.

Had he been out all night?  she questioned.

She looked at the time and saw it was a little past seven. Deciding there was no way he could have just got in, she settled back down. However, she was too awake and had to get up. Being quiet, she went to the bathroom then came back to get dressed. Tying her hair up, she collected the dirty clothes and headed down stairs.

Em spent the morning cleaning and getting the chores done. She was curled on the sofa when she heard her husband moving upstairs. She looked up at the ceiling then back on the TV. Soon his footsteps came downstairs and he went into the kitchen. She listened to him loudly making a mug of coffee whilst she carried on sipping her tea.

He appeared in the doorway a few minutes later then joined her on the sofa. He flopped down and yawed.

‘Good night?’ Em asked.

Rick nodded.

‘What time did you get in?’

‘Don’t know…’ her husband answered.

Em pressed her lips together and though a small part of her pressed not to burst the balloon, she finally decided to.

Taking a deep breath she asked; ‘I know about the other woman.’

Rick shot up off the sofa moving faster then a stepped on cat. His coffee split on the arm of the sofa and the floor. If any splashed on him he didn’t notice as he started in shock horror at his wife.

‘Who is she?’ Em asked staying calm.

Rick opened his mouth then closed it.

Em waited though quickly she saw he could not speak.

‘I know you’ve been going out when you think I’ve gone to bed,’ Em picked up, ‘You’ve been seeing her for awhile, haven’t you? I don’t get it….Why?’

Em sighed. She broke eye contact with her husband and looked at her going cold tea. The cup was balanced on one knee and both her hands were wrapped around it. She let the TV fill the silence between them. A murder mystery series was flashing by.

‘It’s not what you think,’ Rick finally uttered.

Em looked back at him. He had placed his half empty mug of coffee down and was messing with his hair. He glanced at her then looked at the TV, though he wasn’t interested in the detective pondering in his office, Rick’s thoughts were far away.

‘Oh?’ Em broke in.

‘I’m not “seeing” her,’ Rick answered, he drew a deep breath, ‘and I wasn’t keeping her from you either, it’s just I didn’t know how to tell you…’

Em’s grip tightened on the mug and she fought hard not to speak. She rub her lips together and swallowed her words. She looked at her husband with teary eyes and waited for him to go on.

‘I have an older sister.’

‘A sister? Em cried out.

Rick nodded, ‘I found out by accident…Remember when my uncle died and they had to find his family?’

‘Yes,’ Em replied, ‘we’d just got married.’

‘Well, there was some argument about the inheritance and I got to see the family tree. It took awhile, but I got in connect with her….turns out she only lives a mile away.’

Em shook her head, a part of her felt he was lying, covering up his betrayal, but another part of her knew it could  be true. Rick had never lied to her before, but maybe this time….

‘It sounds like one of your novels,’ she blurted out.

Rick’s frowned and tried to counter her back, but he could not. He settled back the sofa, pick up his mug and drink some coffee.

‘It’s not….?’ Em muttered.

‘You can see the family tree, meet her, see her birth certificate. She actually has that though she was adopted. We sort of look a like too,’ Rick added.

Em pulled a face and felt all the tension draining. She finished her tea then placing her cup down she turned to her husband. He was looking into his coffee as if it held the solves to this hole that had been opened.

‘Whilst we’re cleaning the air…’ Em begin.

Her husband moved his head up to looked at her, but she couldn’t meet his eyes.

‘Remember how I said I couldn’t have children because of an infection in my womb as a teenager?’

Rick nodded and went to reach out for her hand.

Em paused him, ‘I didn’t tell you the whole story… I had a baby.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ Rick gasped.

‘Because I wanted a clean start when I meet you and that was such a bad time in my life.’

‘What happened?’

Em shrugged, ‘I wanted to keep him, but I got really ill and my parents went behind my back and sent him to be adopted. I kept what I could and sometime I think about him. Wonder what he looked like now and what he’s doing and what would have happened if I’d got to keep him.

‘Maybe we can find him?’ Rick suggested.

‘Perhaps. What if he doesn’t want to meet me though or what if we can’t find him?’ Em voiced.

‘We have to try…firstly let me introduce you to my sister.’

Family Secrets (Part 4)

Pedestrian, Walking, Shadow, Night, Evening, Street

Em’s eyes scanned over the objects in the steam trunk. There was a heavy mix of papers, thin books, photos, objects wrapped in newspaper and letters. Instead of looking through them, Em stood up and ran her hands over the inside of the lid. It was covered with flowery wallpaper which was peeling at the edges.

She dug her finger tips into the top right corner and pulled down. The inside lid easily give way and dropped quickly downwards. Em tried to shelter the contents from flying out, but all they did was bounce before settling. She looked over them, finding for a few seconds all the baby stuff a strange compared to the old woman items.

Em knelt down again and started picking up things and moving them neatly to one side. Sometimes she would linger on items like the small teddy bear, the blue booties, the small patchwork blanket and a baby’s white jumper. When she came to the only photo of the baby, she stopped. She looked closely at the image and saw  her very young self cradling a small pink baby. He was wrapped in a hospital blue blanket and just the side of his head could be seen.

With one finger she touched the baby’s head and wondered where he was now. All the memories rushed back taking over her completely. Sighing and giving into her sobs at last, Em dropped her head. She cried hard, letting everything out and the tears wash over her. She curled on the floor, her body shaking and no longer able to keep herself up.

Slowly, her sobs grew quiet and the tears stopped. She wiped her face and pulled herself up. Gently placing the photo back in, she closed the inside lid on those memories again. Using her jumper sleeves, she scrubbed her face and palms. Glancing at her grandmother’s things, she pulled out a few letters to distract herself with.

Opening the first one, she saw it was a love letter. It was one she’d read before and she knew it was to her gran from her granddad’s childhood friend who was also looking for Em’s grandmother’s attention. Reading it, made Em smile. Putting it back carefully, she opened another one and saw it was a returned letter that her gran had wrote to her granddad close to the end of the Second World War.

Scanning it, the history of her family opened like  a book in her head. She fell into that, forgetting for a few minutes her own past as she became lost in someone else’s. Once she was done, she put all the letters back and closed the steam trunk lid. She turned the key in the lock then removed it. Getting to stiff legs, she put the key back on the roof beam.

Weaving her way out of the attic, Em wiped her face again and felt her cheeks still damp. At the hatch, she turned out the lights and went down the ladder. When her feet hit the bottom the sound of the TV came fully back to her. Folding the ladder up, she closed the attic hatch and went into the bedroom.

It had grown darker and she turned on some of the lights. Catching herself in the mirror, she saw her dust smudged face and clothes. Not stopping to see what the TV was now displaying, she went into the bathroom and had a shower.

The hot water combined with the smell of lime and lemon body wash cleared her head.

Why did I even go up there in the first place? Em thought, did I think it would be different this time? I should get rid of all that stuff. 

‘No!’ Em cried a loud.

She pressed her hands to the wall, the water rained down and soaked her hair.

‘I can’t…’ she shook her head.

Sniffing, she tried to hold it together and told herself that it was okay. Em straightened and started washing her hair. Letting all the thoughts go again. Hair washed, she got out and wrapped herself in a massive towel. Glancing back at the shower, she longed to be back under the hot spray again.

Drying herself as she left the bathroom, the sounds of the TV called her back. Going into her bedroom, Em put on a nightdress and turned off all but her lamp. Then she curled in bed and watched the news telling the world’s updates. She felt herself drifting, but not wanting to be alone, she left the TV on.

Snuggling down, she dozed and felt sleep easily take her away.

Stars In A Jar

‘Mummy? How can I get a star in this jar?’

I glanced down at my eight year old daughter. She had come to my side, holding a large jam jar in both hands and frowning into it. I stopped chopping vegetables for the pasta sauce and turned to her.

‘A star?’ I questioned.

She nodded once and clutching the jar tighter to her chest, looked up at me.

‘It’s for Nana’s birthday,’ she explained.

‘Oh…Well, you know catching a star is very hard. You can only see them at night and you need a really long fishing rod, a net and maybe some rope,’ I told her.

She stared up at me with big blue eyes framed with loose yellow curls that had escaped her ponytail. She pouted, becoming confused, but I could also she that she was trying to work out if I was lying or not.

‘Perhaps. Instead of a real star we could just make some?’ I suggested.

‘How?’

‘I’ll show you after dinner. Here, let me put that somewhere safe for you….’

I reached to take the jar from her, but she shook her head and started walking off.

‘Be careful!’ I called after her.

She mumbled something and walked out of the kitchen.

I listened for a few moments as her voice drifted back from the living room where her dad and baby brother were watching cartoons. She seemed to be telling him what I had just said. Shaking my head, I got back to making dinner, but my thoughts were really on how to create a star that would satisfy her.

Afterwards, I gathered some craft supplies and found an old box of Christmas white fairy lights. Bringing everything into the living room, I presented my ideas to her and though she seemed a little uncertain, within two hours we had created some stars in a jar.

‘Do you think Nana will like it?’ I asked as I tucked my daughter into bed at last.

She looked at the jar which was now on her bedside. The fairy lights glowed softly inside it, casting light on to the danging paper stars attached to the lid. It did like very effective.

‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘and you were right mummy. That was a lot easier then catching a real star. Though I do wish we could have given it ago.’

‘Maybe, we could try tomorrow? Good night,’ I whispered.