Postcard #35

beach, salt water, sand

Dear Nora,

Today, I walked along the beach and I dreamed about you. I thought about that summer we spent together and why now we can’t have any more. You know I would give anything to change that, but we both know that I’m not the problem.

I shall await you forever, Charles.

The Bookworm

pexels-photo-267684.jpeg

I don’t know what was going through Kim’s mind that day. Only that she wanted to be left alone. My old gran would’ve said that girl was away with the clouds and why couldn’t I find someone normal to have as a girlfriend?

I didn’t want normal though. I wanted the unexpected and unusual. I wanted more excitement then a cheerleader – who were way out of my zone anyway and more beautiful then the geeks and nerd girls. Saying that though, Kim was a bit of a geek. Though she always denied it.

We were meant to have a date that evening. But as we left school, Kim told me it was off then left without another word. I pondered as I walked home if that meant we had broken up, but Kim would have said that. She was a girl of few words and when she spoke it was only to say what she meant.

The late afternoon was pleasant enough, for the end of March. There’d been a lot of rain recently, but it was a mostly dry and sunny day. I didn’t much feel like going home. But I was feeling stuffy in my uniform. So, I headed there to get changed.

There was plenty of things I could do, like homework or playing on my Xbox, maybe seeing if anyone else was up for hanging out. I wasn’t in the mood though. Kim had put me off and my thoughts were fixed on her.

What was her reason? She’d never cancelled on me before and we’d been dating for five months or so now. Yes, I wanted to sleep with her, but I was willing to wait. If she’d been ill or busy with something else, why didn’t she just say? It had been simply, ‘I can’t meet tonight. Sorry.’

I could text or call her, but Kim wasn’t one for phones. Instead, I decided to go and see if I could just find her by wondering about. A crazy, long shot of an idea, but it had worked before.

Grabbing a jacket, I left and walked around our small town. I checked Kim’s house, but there was no one home. I checked the school, but it was now locked for the night. I searched shops, the library, the little parks. Finally, I walked out to the woods.

There were a handful of dog walkers, a jogger and some school kids from the other high school dotted around. I was about to give up, maybe she’d gone out of town? Some emergency she couldn’t tell me about? Other ideas popped into my head and my feet came to a stop.

I was facing the river. The water was flowing gently, causing the grass and tree branches which dipped in to move also. It was a pretty spot. I looked further to my right watching the river moving past me. Something caught my eyes. There was a large branch stretching over the river and laying on it was Kim!

She still had her uniform on, but she had let down her long black hair. There was a book covering her face and her school bag was hanging up close by. She seemed to be asleep.

I walked over and lent around the tree. It was easy enough to climb up and walk over, but I didn’t want to. Instead, I said Kim’s name gently and tried to wake her. It took a few attempts.

‘Go away, Dustin,’ Kim said.

‘Why? What are you doing?’ I asked.

‘Communicating with this book,’ she replied.

I frowned, ‘why?’

‘Because it’s hard and I’m trying to understand it. Now go away!’

‘Is that why you cancelled our date?’ I asked.

‘No,’ Kim answered.

I waited, but she didn’t say any more. I rubbed my fingers over the bark of the tree and felt how rough and dry it was. Kim just lay there, book still over her face.

‘Then, why?’ I pressed.

‘Because I wasn’t in the mood,’

‘Oh.’

I put cheek to the tree trunk and stared at her. Kim had really nice legs. She wasn’t wearing tights or leggings today, a sure sign the weather was getting warmer. Her skirt was knee length though and give her the cover she needed. Her blouse was still tucked in and I could see it swelling around her chest when she breathed in. Even though I hadn’t seen them yet, Kim had small boobs.

I couldn’t decided what to do. From her demeanour it was clear I should go, but I didn’t want to. There was enough room on the branch for me if I wanted to sit close to her feet. Or, I could sit at the foot of the tree. What was the point in waiting for her when she’d made it clear she didn’t want me though?

‘I guess, I should go,’ I said, a little too loudly.

Kim finally took the book off her face and looked at me.

I lent off the tree and got ready to make a move.

‘You don’t have,’ Kim said, ‘I’m bored anyway.’

She sat up and shuffled along the branch. She put the book in her bag, tugged it down and put the strap over her head. The she clung on to the tree trunk and slowly climbed down. I helped her over the last bit then give her a hug.

‘What’s the book about?’ I asked.

‘Seventeen century witches’ plays,’ she added.

‘Witch plays?’

Kim held my hand and we began walking.

‘Yeah, because people in the sixteen hundreds loved witches.’

I nodded, noticing the sarcasm in her voice. Kim swung our hands and we headed down a quiet little path.

‘Maybe, you can help me figure it out later?’ she said.

‘Sure. Does this mean we get to have our date after all?’ I asked.

‘I guess…You’re going to pay for dinner, right?’

I shook my head, unbelieving that and Kim laughed at me.

First Date

Wine, Glasses, Outdoor, Cafe, Restaurant, Leisure

Poppy pulled down her light purple dress and decided she was showing too much leg. She went to select another, but nothing seemed as good. Sighing, she just decided to forget about it and leave. She was going to be late anyway. Getting her black high heels on and purple handbag, she went to her front door and stared longingly back.

What if I never come back? her paranoia whispered.

Shaking her head, she shut the door and walked off to the bus stop. Telling herself firmly she would come back no matter what. Waiting, she enjoyed the late spring afternoon and was glad she had decided against a jacket. The bus turned up early and was unusually crowd. Squeezing into a seat, she wondered if this was all really worth.

For a second, she almost changed her mind and got up, but then the bus moved away and carried her down the road. Trying to ignore everyone else and the softly crying baby, Poppy dug her headphones out and put some music on her Ipod. She listened to a natural playlist and found the sound of rain falling in a jungle soothing.

Poppy got off the bus at the stop she meant to. She looked around at the busy city street, which for a Friday lunch time felt more like a Saturday. Seeing the spot they were meant to be meeting at, she hurried over, happy she was the first. Standing there, holding her handbag in two hands, she looked around trying to see if she recognized any of the faces going by.

I hope it’s not that guy…her doubt muttered.

No! He had more hair in the photos then that…though he could have cut it. Okay stop thinking, Poppy thought.

She looked out across the little garden and watched the people eating lunch and talking. A group of teenagers with skateboards were arguing where to get coffee from. Poppy rested an elbow on the wall and put her chin into her hand. It was so strange, how everything just felt so…normal, she decided.

Turning back, she spotted a man dodging through the crowd. He was wearing what he said he would be and he was heading this way. Poppy swallowed and almost turned around again. He wouldn’t know her from the back right? Too late! Their eyes met. He smiled and came over.

Just breath and smile. Be normal! she told herself.

She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and smiled.

‘Hello,’ he said, ‘you okay? thought I was going to be late, but I made it.’

‘You did,’ she answered and laughed.

His smile grew wider and more relaxed, ‘Coffee then?’

Poppy nodded and letting him led the way, they walked off together chatting away.

Behind Every Door

Door, Building, Ruin

I stare at my front door then whisper, ‘my high street. Let me open the door and walk into my high street, please.’

Gripping the heavy brass knob, I twist it to the right and pull open the door. My totally normal three floored terrace house street flashes by and is replaced with a desolate countryside scene. I grit my teeth and look at the tall waves of grass rustling against the ruins of a giant stone doorway.

I close the door and press both hands to the three hundred year old wood. Praying to anyone and everything that’s listening, I wonder why I’ve been cursed with a magic door. To be honest there are more upsides then downsides. Last year, I spent two weeks in Italy, travel and hassle free. Also, when I had to escape from a blind date that went completely wrong. Well, there’s not much of a comeback after announcing you only have one ball and spilling red wine on my favorite dress.

Opening the door again, I keep my eyes shut and picture my high street. All those lovely little shops and fancy cafes, who’s window displays beg you to enter. The large flower pots and trimmed baby trees, looking far too good to be real. With the normal people going about their daily business, free from inconvenient magic doors.

A soft wind and swishing causes my eyes to pop open and I see the same scene before me. I growl and open the door wider, as if that makes any difference. The grass stretches before me leading to the other doorway. Nicely framed in the empty opening is an oak tree, looking smaller in the distance. There’s nothing else around, expect for some birds which are singing somewhere.

‘Why here?’ I ask, ‘I want to go to my high street. I’ve shopping to do!’

Of course, there’s no reply to my demands. The door has never given me any answers. I think if it did, I’d freak out and there’d be no leaving the house after that.

I close the door and lock it.

‘Now. My high street, please. No more funny business. You got it door? Or else…Chop chop for you,’ I threat then grab my shopping bag and handbag.

I take a deep breath, unlock the door and touch the brass knob. Holding my breath, I open the door and….

The long grass sways in a cross wind and the framed oak tree looks like a photographer’s dream.

I sigh, tug my bags higher on my shoulder and give in. I walk out, closing the door behind me and began to make my way through the grass. The sky is bleak grey above me, so I have no idea what time it is, but the wind is warm and dry, which is a good. I approach the other doorway, my thoughts badmouthing my bad luck.

The door frame is a lot bigger then it seems. Huge square stone blocks that surely could have only been placed by a monster crane guard the way. I touch one and find it cool. Staring through, I see the oak tree in the distance and surrounding it is nothing but empty grass fields. How am I meant to go shopping here?

I turn back and see a matching stone door frame. There is nothing to even indicted magic or anything. To the normal eye that is. I see the faint glinting gold outline of a door with a large brass knob matching knocker ring and letter slot. It looks the same wherever I end up, but only appears in the place it opened up in.

I have no idea how long it stays for or if it comes and goes at will. It certainly doesn’t listen to me. The only time I’ve came close to testing this was when I ended up being caught in the 2011 Japanese tsunami and earthquake. I thought the apocalypse had arrived for sure and here was me just wanting a quiet few days away…by sheer luck or maybe it had something to do with the door itself, I found it in an old tea shop and got back home. I didn’t leave home much after that.

Frowning, I walk back, running my hands over the grass. The ground is soft underneath me and I’m glad I decided on flat shoes this morning. High heels wouldn’t have stood a chance. I reach my door and grab the handle. Opening it, I see a flash of my hallway before a high street rolls out before me.

‘Thank you, door,’ I say and step out.

Avoiding a rush of people, I move out of the doorway and look around. It’s not my town. The sky reaching buildings and traffic packed road confirms it. I sigh and turn back into the archway, but something catches my eye. A coffee shop sign. Going over and looking through the window, my reflection smiles back at me.

Well, there’s nothing like a good cup of coffee in New York on a Saturday afternoon…even if a magic door did just transport you here.

The Swim Date

Dan still couldn’t believe he was doing this. He was sitting in the leisure centre’s small café, his hands almost touching the paper cup of coffee before him. Opposite sat the massive woman, or Nat. She too had coffee, but her hands were in her lap. Dan smiled at her and wondered where to take to the conversation too. He watched Nat fix her hair again.

‘Bit of an odd place to have a first date,’ Dan said.

‘It works for us though,’ Nat replied, ‘did you go swimming this morning?

‘No, I went to the gym. You?’

‘I slept in. Guess I was nervous about this.’

Dan nodded, he could relate to that.

‘So do you have a job?’ Nat asked.

‘I’m just a company monkey,’ he replied, ‘It’s a loans company and I just work in the office, making reports for the bosses. It’s dull. What about you?’

‘I’m a child minder and I work part time at a nursery.’

‘Never been my area, kids. All my friends seem to have ‘em, but its’ not really for me.’

‘I can’t have them,’ Nat burst out.

‘Oh, I’m sorry.’

‘It’s okay.’

Dan paused, letting the subject drop before he spoke again, ‘so what do you like doing?’

‘Many things,’ Nat replied, ‘I like arts and crafts, movies, music, books. What about you?’

‘Similar. I like sports and my car.’

Nat giggled.

Dan took a sip of his coffee and felt his tongue burning. This is bad, why did I agree to this?

Nat smoothed out a white t-shirt with butterflies and rested her arms on the top. She could feel this whole thing slipping apart. Well, she’d not really expected him to say yes, so… taking in a deep breath and letting it out, she thought about what else to say.

‘Do you have a car?’ Dan asked.

Nat shook her head, ‘I can drive though and I’m saving up for one. Do you have your own house?’

‘It’s a two bedroom apartment with a nice view over the city. What about you?’ Dan asked and braced himself for her reply.

‘I have a house.’

‘Oh?’

Dan’s mind suddenly began spinning with questions and possible answers.

‘I inherited it from my parents when they moved to Spain. I pay them rent,’ she added.

‘Cool. You live there alone?’

‘Yeah, but only for the last few months. My best friend moved out and went to live with her boyfriend in Rochdale. Before that there was my ex-fiancé…things really didn’t work out with him,’ Nat added.

Dan raised his eyebrows and looked puzzled at her. He took another sip of his coffee and waited for her to go on.

Nat sighed, ‘everything was perfect. But then he had a break down and went completely off the walls. He called it off and moved out. I’ve not seen or spoken to him in five years. I still have no idea what really happened. Guess I’ll never know.’

‘Sounds like a jerk,’ Dan mumbled.

Nat pursed her lips and stayed silent.

‘You know what? I’d like to meet you again. Maybe we should go out for a proper drink next time though?’

Nat smiled and nodded, ‘Sounds a good idea to me!’

Without

The little bell chimed over the charity shop door and Chloe stepped inside out of the autumnal wind. Swapping her Tesco shopping bags to her other hand, she helped the door to close then weaved her way through the clothes racks. She walked to the glass jewellery cases and looked inside as two old women behind her muttered about the half-price pair of curtains.

Before Chloe’s eyes fixed on the glass case, she glanced at the bored looking teenage girl behind the counter. She had blonde hair in short pig tails and a nose stud in her too small nose. She had on a dusting of pink eyeshadow and lip gloss that made her look a lot younger. Chloe looked back on the case and saw the perfect necklace to go with her new dress. It was a large bronze oak leaf with a small key and circle disc next to it on a brown leather thong.

She couldn’t read the price on it, so she went to the counter to ask. The girl gave her a sulky stare, but still went to the glass cabinet and got the necklace out. Chloe took it and saw the price was three pounds. The necklace felt light in her hands, but looked newish.

She brought it.

The days passed and it had actually gone two weeks before Chloe wore the necklace for the first time. Putting the leather thong around her neck, she caught a whiff of unfamiliar perfume and paused. She tied the cord then sniffed it. The perfume came to her once more, it was faint but smelt flowery.

Sitting on the bed, Chloe played with the necklace and wondered about it previous owner. Who had she been? A young woman with fancy tastes and a lot of money? Chloe shook her head slightly, nope, a woman like that could have afforded better than this. Maybe the perfume had been a gift? She took a few deep breathes with the leather thong under her nose and tried to figure out the fragrance as well as any images of the owner.

When nothing came to her, Chloe slipped the necklace off and decided against wearing to go on her date. There was just something too odd about having the scent of another woman on her and all the secrets she might have kept.

Blind Date

I hesitate and a stop before the door. There is still time to turn around and go back. I look over my shoulder and watch the night crowds hurrying about. Each person or group of people seems caught up in their own worlds. Laughter fills the air alongside happy voices and the tapping of shoes. I turn back, sweeping away my fringe and give myself a pep talk.

Now, Ash there’s nothing to worry about, be brave, be normal. Be yourself. Have a good time, live it up a little. Try and stay lady-like, be polite. Don’t let them pay for all the drinks and don’t get drunk. If anyone offers you anything, even a lift home or to find you a taxi, say no. You don’t want what happened last time again, do you? No, don’t even think about it. Don’t go there. Stay with the now and let the past lay where it belongs, in the past.

I reach out for the door and notice my hand shaking, but before I can drop my arm back down, my fingers and palm are touching the door. I don’t have an option, but to open the door and go inside, or else I’m going to look like Superwoman trying to throw down with an unlocked door. Cue national embarrassment.

The door opens easily and I enter a noisy and packed bar. Some old rock ‘n’ roll music is playing in the background, almost to itself because no one is really here to listen to tunes. A woman in a tight pink frilly dress appears at my elbow and looks me over. Without speaking, I pull a folded sheet of paper from my handbag and offer it to her.

‘You’re late,’ she says in a matter of tone voice, that reminds me of a teacher’s.

‘I’m sorry. The bar is not the easiest to find. That map I received was badly drawn,’ I counter back using my best teacher voice.

The woman huffs at me and ticks something- my name- off the clipboard she is holding.

‘Your first drink is free. Show this at the bar,’ she declares and hands me a slip of paper.

She turns and walks through the crowd, a slight shake of her head and no doubt mouthing something bad about me.

I clutch the paper and my handbag as I stand like a statue and cast my eyes around the room. Men and woman are stood in pairs or groups, hands holding drinks and chatting away. I feel like an intruded, an uninvited guest at a party. I need to blend, just like I did in high school with pastels on a canvas.

I walk to the bar, lay my free drink paper on the damp, worn wooden surface and eye up the bartenders. They look like teenage boys, fresh from college and dressed like penguins. They are moving like hummingbirds though and their dancing movements as they serve drinks fascinates me. My turn comes and I order a rum and coke.

My eyes drift to the side and I see a group of four men, who have clearly come together. I don’t know how I know that, but I guess it’s from the way they are acting. It looks all ‘pal’ like and young men gawking at skirt and daring each other to be the first to talk to her. They are breaking the rules, you are meant to come alone.

I shake my head and sip my drink. Turning around results in no handsome prince bumping into me, just the view of the door and a cluster of people. I have to drift. Standing by the bar just looks odd, especially in this scene. I weave my way around people and hear snatches of conversation. The standard topics for people first meeting and being on a blind date. What’s your name? How old are you? What’s your star sign? Who are your family? Likes? Dislikes? Funny joke, that isn’t actually funny and you’re heard a billion times. Cheese chat up lines; here’s some money, go phone your mom and tell her you’re not coming home tonight.

I find an empty table and sit down on a straight back chair. I take a mouthful of rum and coke, swallow and take another. I’m probably going to need some more to get me through. I place my glass down and watch Cupid flapping about the room. He needs to shot an arrow my way for a change.

Death Date

My eyes and brain took a few moments to register the 3d screened numbers before me: 28.10.2044. 10:08AM. I pushed myself up, the fleece blanket slipping slowly off my shoulders and my hands releasing their tight grip on the small teddy bear. Looking around my bedroom nervously, I expect to see someone in a black lab coat merge from a corner or knock on my door.

Nothing happened and my room looked the same: small white wardrobe, virtual table screen, image windows in which the sun was raising in all its orange glory, side table with all my medicines on it, the patchwork arm chair and the crystal mobile. Listening, I couldn’t hear anything, which was odd for this time of morning. My family should have been rushing about getting clean, dressing, eating, leaving for work and school.

Pulling the fleece away, I swung my legs over the bed and stood up. Cold air wrapped itself around me and slide up my favorite sleeping shorts and top. Seconds later, I felt warmness under my feet and the dull buzz of the heaters coming. I checked the date and time again and then, feeling a bit sick in the stomach checked the numbers tattooed on my wrist.

Everyone on Solria at birth received the numbers. They were selected by a Doctor Computer Generator and based on a range of biological and world facts. The eight digits represented a date and that date was your destined death time. And I had woken up on mine.

I wrapped the blanket around myself and went to the desk. I tapped it, waking up the screen embedded inside. An army of icons covered the table top and after staring at them, I selected photos. Images of the Halloween ball floated across the wall above the desk. I had gone as a mermaid, which some might have seen as an insult to mer-folk, but none of them had been at the party.

The smiling faces of my friends and family looked down on me before I closed the icon and went to my last listed Interweb searches. What to expect on your death day. How can I stop my death? Why must I die? How is a death date decided? Why is my death good for the world? I quickly inputted: My death day is today, but I’ve not died and searched it. No matched results, other than a handful of chat spaces and suggests of Do you mean…?

Signing, I clicked on the first link and noticed my fingers were shaking. I’d missed my first meds. Getting up and going across, I picked up the wooden box in which they were kept. It was empty. Placing it down, I dug out my emergency and travel boxes. The realization that no one had ordered or delivered more because of my death day hit me hard. Taking the pills I needed and downing some stimulated water from a bottle in my bag, I decided to get dressed.

If they were still going to come for me, I might as well by wearing day cloth. Opening my wardrobe, I pulled out a blue dress and matching underwear. I got changed, listening for voices or footsteps. I slipped on sandals and brushed my hair in the mirror. My skin was pale and sensitive because the blood disease. It also caused a large percentage of my veins to stand out and often makeup and clothes couldn’t keep them all hidden.

Leaving my bedroom, I walked through the house and found it empty. My parents and younger sisters were gone, but somehow I couldn’t make myself believe they were at school and work. I sat down at the kitchen table eating an apple and drinking water, reflecting on last night. We had the traditional life celebration day and done anything that I had wanted to do with my last twenty-four hours. I was forced into bed by exhaustion and that’s when they are meant to come with the killing injection.

The Interweb had told me all of this and more. My parents had been brief about it, but I hadn’t wanted to discuss it with them anyway. They had been lucky in getting the permission to have three children and they had been rewarded for having three girls in a time when that gene was down. My sisters were perfect, but for whatever reason, I had been born with the disorder and so they had shorted my life.

Finishing off my apple, I went to the front door and stepped outside. I was still expecting them to come for me. My street looked normal. Two opposite rows of small house with the road and pavement strips between. Cars were parked up, someone was walking their cloned dog, which had just spotted a cat rubbing itself against a pot plant. It was all completely normal, expect that I shouldn’t have been there.

Closing the door, I went to the phone and after a few moments of thinking dialed the services. An auto voice gave me a list which didn’t include or have anything similar to death day emergencies or services. Shrugging, I choice the last choice of Other and a ring tone started up. I had thought about trying to reach my parents, but if they thought I was already dead or else there’d been some kind of mistake, I didn’t want to put them through anything.

A dull voice answered and as I went to reply, it began listing off more numbered choices. Once again none of them seemed to fit my problem. I hung up and went back to bed. I was feeling tried and starting with aching limbs. Settling back down, I got the screen to play some classical music and wash the room in soft changing lights.

Dozing off, I told myself that something must have happened. Maybe this time I wouldn’t awake up or perhaps everything had been a dream?