Full Moon

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I lay shivering and bloody on the floor of the forest, catching my breath. Around me, the full moon night was shouting with sounds but I could now only hear half of them. I tried to focus on the moon and saw it coming in to sharper focus as well as the dusting of stars around it. I breathed deeply, smelling the pine and soil, the scent of animals and plants, but my nose was not as keen as it had been before.

I got up shakily on two legs. It always took me a good few minutes to get use to the change. I lent my hands on a tree trunk for support then when I was ready I walked out of the dense part of the forest. I headed for an old rangers’ hut that I had made into my shelter on these nights. It was too dangerous to remain the forest in this form.

I struggled through the darkness, only finding my way because I had walked this so many times before. Also, I had marked the trees with cuts which I could feel with my fingers to direct me.

I let myself into the wooden hut and turned on the light switch. A single bulb pinged on and the room lit up. There was a chair, a desk, a bed, shelves, a little kitchen area and a fire place. I took a poncho from the bed and slipped it on. It would keep this fur-less body warm.

Going to the kitchen, I checked there was enough bottled water and canned food. I always felt hungry in this form, but I had to be careful with what I could get. Trips to the camping grounds and the nearest towns were long and I often spent all night searching for things. I didn’t feel like all that walking tonight.

I went to the shelves and looked at the things I had collected there; a few books I couldn’t read, shinny stones, broken ornaments, a map, a compress and a few other trinkets. Some had been here already but the rest I had brought back with me. I took down a large book, it was falling apart, so I was gentle with it.

Setting it on the desk, I sat down and began turning the pages. There were coloured photos and drawings of animals. With what I guessed was information about them alongside. I went to the section further at the back and looked at a few pictures there. Finally, I turned to the one that I knew was me.

I sighed and touched the main photo of the grey wolf. Then I feel into wondering like I always do. Why was I cursed with this change every full moon? And why did it take this human form? Could I not be a bird or another animal?

Shutting my eyes I tried as I’d done countless times to turn into something else or even back into a wolf. But nothing happened. I had no power over this body. Closing the book, I put it back on the shelf and sat back on the bed.

I’d have to wait this out, just like I normally did on staying in nights. I lay down and dreamt of running with my pack.

Youniverse #atozchallenge

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Youniverse; a particular person has knowledge only of him or herself, their universe consists only of them.

That geeky looking woman was on the bus again! I clutched the handle bar and glowed at her. She was taking up two seats! Her rucksack was on one and she was bent over it reading a book. She had headphones on too and her back to everyone.

I knew that signal; don’t disturbed me. But how could you be so rude on a bus this busy?

Sighing, I struggled for arm room against the people I was sandwiched in-between. I wondered if anyone else had clocked her? A glance around told me not really, everyone else seemed in their own bubbles too.

Frustration and angry waved off me. Today was the day, I told myself.

After a bus stop which no one seemed to get off but more people got on at, I weaved my way over to her.

The headphones were padded, so only touching her would get her attention. I did so; lightly tapping her with my fingers.

She looked up and around at me.

I pointed at her bag. She glanced at it and turned back to me, sliding a headphone off.

‘Can I sit down, please?’ I asked her.

She frowned and seemed to be struggling for words. She was clearly surprised I’d spoke to her and it was as if she suddenly realised she was on a bus full of people and not by herself. Thankfully, she then picked up her bag and shuffled across the seats.

I sank down, balancing on the edge. She was a large woman which was the other reason why she took up so much space. I recalled when I’d been over eighteen stone too. Now I was closer to twelve stone and much better off. So, I couldn’t judge too harshly.

She got back to reading and I had a far better bus ride. There’s nothing worse then standing on a bus in tall heels!

Bedgasm #atozchallenge

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Bedgasm: a feeling of euphoria experienced when climbing into bed at the end of a long day.

Finally, I could go to bed! Getting under the duvet and feeling the soft fleece bedding snuggling me was like receiving a hug off a giant teddy bear. I sighed deeply and rested my head against the pillow, feeling totally content.

I felt the waves of sleep and I relaxed into them. For the first time in months, I knew sleep would come quickly and it would be restful. I let everything go, even though the excitement over my first novel being published was hard to let go of!

The road had been long and today, launch day! had been even longer, but now it was time to let everything go. Tomorrow was going to be a fresh start and I needed to be ready to face it. That wasn’t going to be too hard though.

The warmth of the bed was helping to bring sleep faster and I was on that threshold of slipping in. Still though, I clung to the happiness of being able to completely relax. It was a long time since I last felt like this.

Toxic Thunder

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It had been raining forever. At least it felt that way. I liked the rain, but I wanted to feel the sun on my face as I had done as a child. I remembered the yellow warmth, just about. The rain was always cold and wet, sometimes it would be a different colour too. When that happened people stayed inside for fear they might become contaminated. Though really, all water was toxic.

They claimed there was nothing they could do about it. It was a world wide disaster and the predicated death levels were higher then the War. That was the price we were paying for chemical warfare, the government said. Still, scientists and others were working around the clock for solutions whilst there was hope left. Everywhere warning signs stated not to drink unfiltered water, to stay inside as much as possible and report all health problems to a doctor.

Today, the rain was a lime green colour which was why I wasn’t allowed outside. Sitting in the window seat of the second floor landing, I watched a few brave people walking the street below me. They held their umbrellas up high and huddled in thick coats, as if that would protect them.

The book I had picked from our small library lay opened but unread in my lap. Since there was no going to school today, father had insisted we self-educate. My two brothers had taken over the library with their historical debates. Father was in the study and Mother had gone to lay down as as the lime rain had given her a headache, or so she had claimed. I could have gone to my day room, the family lounge or the parlour, instead I went to the best spot in the house to see the outside world.

I pressed the side of my head to the wet glass, knowing I’d be told off for getting my curled blonde hair damp. I didn’t care. I watched guards in red uniforms appear and began clearing people from the street. They must have been told that the toxic level had reached a high. A siren began to wail, confirming that. The street quickly cleared and just in time too as the lime rain picked up and started to change colour.

Black rain began falling and in the distance came a rumble of thunder. I tightened my grip on the book. The page corners curling under my fingers. I had always feared storms, but they were worse now. They said sometime toxic rain conducted lightening and exploded. Fires were common during storms and deaths.

I tried to relax my hands, the hard corners of the cover were digging into me. The thunder growled louder, sounding so close. The street before me went dark with only a few dots of light peering out. The lightening flashed, yellow red, capturing the street in that moment. I heard a popping sound and the lights around me all started to flicker.

The smell of gas and burning electricity filled the air. An emergency bell rang though the house, backed by the siren’s call. There was a rush of footsteps and voices. The clatter of things being dropped and doors moving echoed throughout the house.

‘To the shelter, quickly!’ my father bellowed.

‘I’ll get Madam,’ a maid spoke.

‘Where is Miss Victoria?’ another voice asked.

A flash of lighting hit the sky making me jump as it crackled away. I stood up, clutching my book and hurried two flights of downstairs. In the grand hallway, everyone was rushing into the kitchen, shouting at each other. I joined them hurrying into the cellars. My shoulders and skirts brushing maids and kitchen staff.

I tripped down the stone steps, losing a shoe, and my one of my brothers caught me at the bottom. He had to move me out of the way as the last people flew down and the metal door slammed shut. My brother rushed me down the corridors, through the wine and food cellars. My legs and feet hurt as we went further down. Finally, we arrived with everyone else in the last and deepest cellar. My brother hushed me into a corner and left me breathing in the damp air.

Huddling in the dim light with my family and servants, I caught my breath. My mother looking dazed was sitting on a small bed, half hidden by  a curtain. My father was sat comforting her and my brothers were giving orders to some of the servants. I tucked myself into a alcove, hugging my book and praying we would survived.

I’ve Been Published In An Anthology!

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to share this with you all!

Last year, I took part in a short story writing collaboration on one of the writing Facebook groups I’m a member of. They’ve released their first book and it contains the story I helped write. I got named too!

It would be awesome if you could support them and me by buying this book. It’s available in all formats and world wide.

Here’s the link;

 

There’s me! Hayley Hardman.

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Totally exciting to see your name in print.

Thanks for reading this and all your support. Every like, share and follower helps me to feel more inspired to carry on writing stories.

Dear Diary #30

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Dear Diary,

I’m ill again. It’s another cold. How is it possible to get two colds within four weeks? I don’t know! I’m off work for another day and I’m all ready feeling bored. I can’t concentrate on reading my book as I’m coughing and sneezing too much and daytime TV shows are unexciting like a broken roller coaster. There’s nothing else I can do though!

My little furry dogs have taken to keeping my feet warm and nuzzling me after every cough or sneeze attack. So sweet of them but there’s nothing they can do to make me feel better. Just got to get over it again.

I wish I could stay on the sofa all day, dozing and mocking people on TV whilst collecting piles of soggy tissues and empty cup stacks on the table. But I have to attempted to go out later, have a shopping list of things to get and do. That parcel still needs collecting from last week, I’ve got letters to post, light bulbs and birthday cards to buy.

Why are so many people I know born in February? At least I don’t have to go and buy presents, did all that last night, thank God for the internet. Luckily, I’ve not been invited to any parties either. Hate going to them when I’m ill or just getting over things.

Maybe I should go look online and see if there’s any quick cures for colds. It’s doubtful but might be useful.

Mind Lost

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The bell on the bus rang and with a few glances in his mirrors, the bus driver pulled up smoothly at the next stop.

I looked down the aisle and saw an elderly gentleman wearing a large brown hat and in a long, light brown coat getting to his feet with the aid of a wooden walking stick. He tottered to the hissing opening doors and looked out.

‘Wrong stop,’ he announced and hobbled back to his seat.

The bus driver with a loud sigh, closed the doors, indicted and pulled off.

The old man sit down again and looked out of the window, watching the rows of houses and small patches of green grass go by.

I returned to my open book, cursing my broken headphones as I felt the first pings of my anxiety starting up. Public transport always triggered it, even if I had taken the same journey hundreds of times. There was no stopping that strange wiggly worms sensation in my stomach and the loss of concentration on my book.

The bell rang again. The bus driver slowed and pulled over, easing the bus to a stop and opening the doors.

The same old man got up and walked over. He looked out then said loudly, ‘this isn’t my stop! This isn’t where I’m going!’

‘It’s all right. Just sit down again then,’ the driver said calmly.

Over the top of my book, I watched the elderly gentleman shuffling back to his seat again. He sat down heavily and started muttering to himself.

The engine rumbled, the indicted clicked and we were off again.

Sneakily checking out the other passengers, I saw that none of them were bothered by the elderly man’s mistakes. They all seemed to be in worlds of their own. There was a business man typing away on a small laptop, another man was reading the free newspaper and a third older man was on his phone. Of the four woman, not counting myself, one was reading a library book which I couldn’t see the cover of, two were sat at the back, heads together talking softly and the fourth woman was dozing off with a sleeping baby in her arms.

I turned my eyes back to my book and tried to get into the romantic story of an angel falling in love with a human he was banished from being with. Your typical young adult supernatural mush but I loved it. However, my mind couldn’t focus and I began to picture what would happen if the bus was suddenly to crash.

It was a reoccurring image brought on by the anxiety. I was caught up in it for a few moments, wondering what everyone would do if we became trip in the turned over bus. There’d be smoke, screaming, blood. People would die – the driver, maybe the old man and baby. Maybe even me…

I shook the thoughts away and placed down my book. My fingers still inside the closing pages. Oh, how I wished for my music! The loud beating and fast lyrics of heavy metal noise that I could fade into and forget about everything.

The bell ring and this time the man with the laptop got up. He hardly waited for the bus to stop and the doors to open, before he leaped to the pavement and hurried away.

The elderly man seemed not to have noticed the bus stopping. He was looking out of the window. He was still muttering, but I could not make out what he was saying.

The bus driver lingered for a few minutes, perhaps waiting for the old man to get off or maybe for a big enough gap in the traffic.

I looked through the open doors, feeling the cold winter breeze on my face and trying to relax. We were next to the old Jewish cemetery. The curling gates at the top of the driveway were locked but the smaller side one was half open. I could just make out the tops of the headstones. New apartments flanked both sides of the cemetery, looking out of place and making me recall an argument about the developers wanting to move the headstones and bodies to another location.

The bus doors hissed shut and with the engine sounding grumpy, the driver cut through the traffic and drove us on.

I saw the old man reach for the bell button and touch it. He got up and went to the doors as the bus pulled up only a little bit down the road. The doors opened and I really hoped, though it was so mean of me, that he was getting off this time.

‘Is this Courtly Way? No, it’s not,’ the old man began rambling, ‘I don’t know those trees there. Driver? Where are we going? You’ve taken the wrong route again! I want to go home!’

‘It’s okay,’ the driver said calmly, ‘I’ll take you home. Just go and sit down.’

The old man huffed and began hobbling back to his seat.

The bus moved off again. A car horn blaring from beside us as a car sped passed and jumped the changing traffic lights.

How could the bus driver be so calm? I wondered, surely he’s getting annoyed with all of this now?

‘Hello, Annie!’ the old man cried.

I looked and saw he was staring at me.

‘Why didn’t you tell me you were getting this bus?’ he asked.

‘I’m not Annie,’ I replied, ‘I don’t think we know each other.’

‘Of course, you’re Annie! I’d know you anywhere!’

‘No. You’ve made a mistake. My name is Eleanor.’

‘What are you taking about? We’ve been married fifty odd years, Annie!’ the old man shouted.

I shook my head, sinking back into the hard seat as my anxiety rose. My book began to tremble in my hands and my breaths started catching in my throat. Those stomach worms wiggled more, causing a dull pain to start up. Terrible thoughts came to me. The bus crashing, people dying, blood, fire, the scent of smoke, the smell of death, the whiff of leaking fumes, my book laying upwards with it’s open pages crushed against the roof as the bus land upside down.

‘Annie! Annie! What’s wrong!’ the old man was shouting, ‘Driver stop! My wife has been taken ill!’

For the first time, the bus driver slammed his brakes on at a stop. Passengers were thrown about and my head knocked into the wall of the driver’s cabin. I felt fuzzy and my ears were ringing. I shut my eyes and counted backwards as around me complaining voices rose and the baby started crying.

‘Are you alright, love? Do you want to get off?’ a new voice was asking me.

I opened my eyes and saw the bus driver looking at me.

‘He thinks I’m his wife,’ I muttered.

‘What?’ the driver asked, glancing at the old man who was hanging onto the newspaper tray.

‘He says I’m his wife,’ I repeated louder.

‘Oh. He says that to all the young pretty girls. He’s harmless,’ the bus driver added.

‘My wife?’ the old man suddenly said, ‘where is my wife?’

‘Come on now, Bert,’ the bus driver said politely, ‘sit here and be quiet now. We’re almost home.’

‘Home? Ah yes, that’s where we are going. My wife should be there. She’ll have tea on the table and wondering what’s taking so long. Get on with it, driver,’ the old man snapped and rudely waved the driver away.

The urge to question what was going on here grew but as the driver passed me I couldn’t say anything.

The bus started again and a few stops later, we slowed down and pulled up. The doors opened and the driver got out of his cabin. He walked past me and to the old man.

‘Bert, you’re home now, time to get off,’ the driver said softly.

‘Ah yes. Thank you,’ Bert replied.

The driver helped him up then off the bus. I looked out the window and saw the sign for an old people’s home in the front garden of a large building. At the bus stop, a woman dressed in dark blue trousers and a uniform looking top greeted the bus driver and Bert. I watched her link arms with Bert and take him towards the house. They were talking but I couldn’t hear the words.

The driver got back on and headed for his seat.

‘Is he okay?’ I asked.

The driver looked at me and nodded, ‘he has dementia. Some days he’s okay, other days he believes we’re in a past year and the worse days are when he forgets who he is. It’s a horrible thing and I should know! My dad had it and I had to watch him slowly forget me, everyone else and himself.’

I just nodded, not sure what to say to that.

‘Are you all right? He really didn’t mean you any harm,’ the bus driver added.

‘I’m fine…I suffer from anxiety attacks. It had nothing to do with him,’ I explained.

‘I see. You okay, now though?’ he said

I nodded, thanked him and he climbed into the driver’s cabin.

The bus started again, the seat vibrating underneath me and the voices of the disgruntled passengers muttering. My mind was far away though, reflecting on the bus driver’s words.

 

The Last Day

2016, concert, december 31

Kerry looked up from her book at the muted TV screen. A reporter, wrapped up warm clothes was talking to people in a large crowd. Despite the drizzle, everyone seemed happy to be there. The camera turned away and focused on the London Eye. The big white wheel stood out against the black sky and the city lights. Then the camera flashed back to the crowd.

Blowing her nose, Kerry balanced the open hardback on her knees then added the used tissue to the pile that was gathered around her. Coughing loudly, she settled back down on the sofa under her duvet. She read another page of her book, feeling totally distracted by the drama unfolding on the page.

The TV screen went dark and Kerry’s eyes glanced over at it. The big wheel was shown again and this time the camera stayed on it.

Kerry turned up the volume and put her book mark into the page she was on. A count down had started on the TV and people were shouting the numbers as a clock also flashed them up. Placing the book down, Kerry grabbed the small bottle of champagne. It was still cold from the fridge and there was a sheen of water around the the neck of the clear glass.

‘Zero!’ shouted the voices on the TV.

Big Ben began striking the midnight hour and London went into a frenzy.

Kerry cracked open the bottle, which wasn’t corked, but a screw top. The fizz give a little pop still and she poured it into her glass.

Fireworks suddenly went off, both on the TV and outside her apartment as music played and voices took up singing.

Kerry rose the glass in the air to give a little toast, then she sipped the champagne. It tasted acidic against her tongue. Taking a mouthful, she swallowed and placed the glass down. Her phone beeped with incoming texts. She picked it up and answered them all just as fast as they came in.

Swapping her phone out for the champagne, she took two mouthfuls then looked into the glass. The taste hadn’t improved and she’d only drunk half now. Her phone rang loudly. Kerry scrambled for it, knocking her book to the floor.

‘Hello?’ she answered it.

‘Hi. Feeling any better?’ her boyfriend’s voice came through.

‘A little,’ she replied as she sank back on to the cushions.

‘Happy New Year!’ he added.

Kerry giggled, ‘same to you.’

‘As soon as I get home we’ll celebrate properly.’

‘No. We don’t have to…’ Kerry said.

‘We’ll go out,’ he cut through her words, ‘a nice meal, a movie, drinks after. However you want to do it.’

‘No,’ Kerry said again, ‘I want to stay in. Let’s just sit on the sofa with a movie and popcorn.’

‘Well…if that’s what you want…’ he responded in a dropped tone.

‘Yes. I just want you. Us,’ Kerry explained.

‘Okay, I’ll try and get home as fast as I can then,’ her boyfriend added.

‘Good. I’ve missed you.’

‘I’ve missed you too! I should go though…I can’t see the noticeboard from here.’

‘All right. Text me soon,’ Kerry spoke.

‘Sure. Night!’

‘Night.’

Kerry hung up and looked at her phone screen. On the TV, the fireworks were coming to an end and the reporter had appeared again. From outside came the whizzing of a rocket and sound of a firework exploding into a frizzling noise.

Putting the phone on the coffee table, Kerry tossed the rest of her drink back then put the empty glass beside her phone. Picking up her book, she lay down again and opened the pages. A sneeze hit her before she could start reading and she had to dig out a new tissue. Growling, she lent back and wondered how the start to the New Year could get any worse.

Soup

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It was days like today that when she got home, she heated up soup from a tin and sat down with it in the conservatory to read a book and listen to the rain falling.

The Train Station (Part 4)

Train Station

The train station was just as busy as it had been yesterday. Bridget sat at the same table outside the coffee shop, notebook and pen awaiting her. This time though, she was sipping an ice fruit smoothie. Lost in thought, it took her a few seconds to see the man indicating to the empty chair opposite her.

‘Is anyone sitting here? Sorry to trouble you,’ he added.

Bridget glanced to the tables either side of her and saw that they were both occupied. The one on her right had a very large lady reading a thick book sitting at it and the one on the left had a teenage couple, both playing on their phones. Bridget nodded at the man and gratefully he sat down.

‘I was thinking,’ Bridget spoke.

The man looked questioningly at her.

‘That’s why I didn’t notice you,’ she added.

‘Oh. Its fine,’ the man answered.

Bridget smiled and took him in. The man was in his mid-thirties, with black wavy hair and a sculptured face. His nose, cheeks and chin, reminded her of Roman busts. He was wearing a plain t-shirt and jeans and carrying a single bag. He was holding a takeaway coffee cup and taking the lid off the top.

‘Are you waiting for a train?’ he asked.

‘No…I’m…waiting for a friend. Her train is late,’ Bridget answered.

The man nodded, ‘I’ve got a few minutes till mine.’

Bridget stopped herself from asking where he was going and instead put his face into her memory so she could write him up later.

The man turned from her, looking at the train time table board then at the ticket barrier. A train had clearly just come in and a crowd of people were coming through.

Bridget also drew her attention to them. Many seemed to be coming for a Friday night out or to spend the weekend. There were large groups of only men and only women, followed by a small mixed group of barely old enough teenagers. Bridget spotted a Hen party. All the women were wearing sashes that were pink and had silver writing on. They towed small suitcases and were chatting loudly.

Someone started playing chopsticks on the piano. The musical notes rising above the voices and the engines of trains.

Bridget sipped her drink and shot shy glances at the man. There’s no harm in asking him where he’s going, she thought.

A barking dog drew her attention away and she looked up. A woman was running to the ticket gates, holding two dog leads in one hand and suitcase in the other. Her dogs were racing beside her; a boarder collier and a smaller cross mix. She approached the wide gate, waved her train ticket in the guard’s face and was let in. Bridget watched her running to platform six, the dog still barking.

‘I have to go. Hope your friend gets here soon,’ the man said.

Bridget snapped her head back to him, ‘yes. Me too, thanks,’ she muttered.

The man stood, gave her a small wave and left. Bridget’s eyes followed him, noticing how nice his bum looked in those tight jeans.

Placing her drink down, she flipped open her book, wrote the date and title on the top line and started jotting down his description. She recalled as much as possible, adding in the question of where he was going underneath. Finishing up, Bridget looked up and saw a young man pacing before her.

He was checking his phone and when he reached the entrance to the pub he turned and came back. As he reached the entrance to the coffee shop, he turned and walked back again. Bridget watched him, fascinated. He was wearing a t-shirt that was too big that had some cryptic logo on and baggy jeans with scruffy trainers. There was something about the way he was pacing, it was frantic and clearly he was desperately waiting for someone.

Bridget dropped her eyes away and drew a line under what she had just written. With another look up, she began writing about the pacing man. Letting her pen flow across the lined page, she did not think too much about what she was writing. Stealing more glances, she noted down his clothes and how he looked. He had flat, wide cheek bones and a slight tan to his skin. His eyes were dark and constantly on his phone. He was so fixated that he did not notice his longish hair moving downwards over his face.

He stopped suddenly, looking up at the barrier as if he had heard something.

Bridget paused her pen and stared too. A new train load of people had arrived and they were all barraging through. There were too many faces and brightly coloured summer clothes mixed together for her to just focus on one person. So many had come for a night out, yet it had barely hit the afternoon. Families drifted passed with young children and large suitcases. Two middle-aged women stepped off to the side near the pub and began waving the rest of their group over to them.

Bridget regarded the pacing man. His back was completely turned and he was watching the crowd. Or at least she guessed he was. Whilst she studied him, a tall man peeled himself away from everyone else and came over. The pacing man jumped a little on the balls of his feet and slipped his phone away. As the man approached, they hugged and the pacing man went to kiss the other.

‘Not here,’ the other man whispered and quickly withdrew.

‘No one cares, Sas,’ the pacing man muttered.

The man nodded at Bridget, who quickly turned away and grabbed her drink.

‘Well, I don’t care!’

‘Calm down, Drew,’ Sas said quietly.

Bridget slurped the rest of drink and put it down. Her fingers were wet, so she rubbed them on her jeans before picking up her pen again. Moving her hair back with her other hand, Bridget looked secretly at the men. The second one was a lot taller than the first and more muscular. He also had softer cheek bones and plum lips. His hair was a rich brown and floppy. He was wearing tight, low slung jeans and a half open midnight blue shirt.

‘I don’t see why I should! Why are you so later anyway?’ Drew snapped.

‘The trains,’ Sas said with a quick shrug of his shoulders, ‘Do you want to stay here for coffee?’

‘No…let’s find a wine bar,’ Drew demanded.

‘Okay, fine, whatever…’ Sas trailed.

They began walking away, their footsteps mingling with the countless others and becoming lost in the background noise.

Bridget got back to her notebook and began writing furiously.

 

To Be Continued…