The Mail Eater

adorable, animal, black-and-white

He watches and awaits by the front door, listening as footsteps go up and down the street. He growls as he hears the mailman approach and a shuffling of papers. The letter flap is fluttering and it’s raining inside the house. He jumps, catching white and brown papers which he rips and throws about. He snatches the last few out of a hand he can’t see and tears the letters up.

Afterwards, he sits, tail wagging and tongue lolling, his task of defending his home and family complete.

Bridge

beneath-the-bridge

The troll had lived under the bridge for a long time, however he had finally decided it was time to move. The river was too polluted and the smell was making him sick. Every morning, the troll would sit at the edge of the river and watch rubbish floating by. Sometimes he would pull things out; a bent bike, a rusting shopping trolley, a dead dog. He would add all these things to his collections and in the afternoon he would make art.

The troll enjoyed bending metal, snapping wood and breaking other things up to constructed his sculptures. Then he would leave his art in random places so that passersby would see them. His favorite pieces were; the owl made out of wire netting and car parts. The horse made out of shopping trolleys, bikes and wood. The armless mannequin who’s dress was made out of plastic bags and coat hangers.

That morning, instead of sitting by the river and collecting things, the troll began packing. He dug out two huge suitcases he had dragged from the water and ponder what he would take with him. He emptied the broken wardrobe of his clothes, – he enjoyed being fashionable- the cupboards of his kitchen equipment, – he liked cooking tasty meals- his shelves of books, – the troll was a great reader- his chest of drawers full of trinkets, – he liked shinny things- and finally he took his paintings from the wall, – the troll enjoyed experimenting with different mediums.

Putting on his huge coat and large hat, the troll picked up the suitcases and left home. Waves of sadness washed over him as he left the bridge and sculptures behind. Of course, he hadn’t been able to take any of them with him for they were all far too big. Trying not to think any more about it, the troll walked and walked.

Hours later, he arrived at the seaside. He took in deep lungfuls of fresh salty air and decided he liked it here.

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/23/thursday-photo-prompt-bridge-writephoto with thanks)

Mind Lost

bus-690508_1280

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.

The December Sea

smoke

I knew it was going to be a disaster from the start. Who goes to the seaside in December? But the girls and wife instead.

‘You do know it’s going to be freezing right? And everything will be shut?’ I stated as we sat around the dinning room table eating breakfast.

‘But we can still build sand castles,’ Sky, the oldest, cut in.

‘And get ice cream? Not all the shops will be shut,’ Charlie added.

‘Can we go crabbing too?’ Ethany, the youngest, piped up.

‘I think the fresh sea air will be great for everyone and Lexie would love the change of scenery,’ my wife, Sue, finished the conversation off with.

From the closed dinning room door came the soft yipping of Lexie, the king charles spaniel puppy. She was banished to the hallway whenever we were eating as she couldn’t be trusted and the kids liked sneaking her titbits.

I grumbled into my toast, ‘this is a bad idea.’

‘Can we take, Bob?’ Charlie asked.

From under the table came the thumping of a heavy tail. My old yellow Labrador let out a soft chuffing sound. He was allowed in because he kept my feet warm and all he did now a days was sleep.

‘Maybe not…’ my wife said, ‘he’s very old and I don’t think he’d like it much.’

‘We could put his coat on and if he get’s tried dad can take him back to the car,’ Charlie suggested.

‘I’d feel bad if we left him behind,’ Ethany added with a pout.

‘Okay,’ Sue said, ‘let’s get ready then.’

So, off to the seaside we went and you know what? I was totally right.

We found a sheltered spot in the entrance to a small cave to set up camp. The girls went running about the empty sand, shouting and playing games. Lexie ran with them and also had a couple of dips in the cold sea. The waves were pretty big as it was quite windy. I, my wife and Bob sat on the picnic blanket, huddled in our coats coming to the realisation that that this was a bad idea.

Soon enough, Ethany came running back to us crying.

‘What’s wrong?’ Sue asked.

‘There’s sand in my eyes! Sky did it!’ Ethany shouted.

‘Come here. I’ve got some wipes.’

Sue pulled Ethany into her lap and cleaned her eyes.

‘Do you want to go home?’ I asked, hoping that the answer would be yes.

‘No,’ Ethany sniffed, ‘I’m okay now.’

She hugged her mum tightly then got up and walked over to her sisters. They were building a sand castle close by and Lexie was eating seaweed.

‘Stop Lexie from eat that,’ I called after her and pointed at the puppy.

Ethany nodded and broke into a run.

I watched Ethany pulling Lexie away and fought down the urge to tell my wife that we should leave for the tenth time.

A few minutes later, a huge wave crashed on to the beach. The girls screamed. Sue and I rushed up and over. The younger girls had managed to escape, but Lexie and Sky hadn’t. I grabbed Sky first and hauled her away by the hood of her coat. My wife was yelling something Lexie, but I had to make sure my daughter was safe first.

‘You okay?’ I asked her.

Sky nodded, breathlessly. She was dripping wet.

‘Lexie!’ Charlie and Ethany were screaming over and over again.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw my wife stood ankle deep in the sea. She was half bent over, her hands in the water, searching.

‘Get back to the cave,’ I said to all the girls.

I turned and made my way towards the sea. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sky struggling across the sand then shepherding her sisters back to our camp.

‘I can’t find her!’ Sue hollered above the wind and the waves.

I quickly scanned around, looking for any flashes of black, white and brown in the grey-green-white topped sea.

‘Lexie! Puppy!’ my wife screamed.

‘There!’ I yelled and pointed at some shape far to the left of of us that seemed not to be a part of the sea.

I wadded into the freezing water. Feeling my thick wool socks and trousers getting soaked. The waves bashed around me as if threatening me to get out. Frantically, I kept looking then dipping my hands and arms under the waves. The cold shot through me and in seconds my fingers felt numb.

A voice at the back of my head was repeatedly saying, she’s gone, she’s gone. How can a little dog survive this?  

I had a flash image of my little girls all crying and sobbing, ‘Daddy, why didn’t you save our puppy?’

Then my numb fingers hit something; wet fur. I clutched hold tightly and like a fisherman wrestling with a big fish, I yanked the king charles puppy from the raging sea. Holding her by her collar and scruff of her neck, I trudged back to the shore.

‘Oh my God! Lexie! Dave!’ my wife gasped.

She rushed over, out of the sea herself and joined me on the wet sand. She took the puppy from me and held it close to her chest like one of her babies. Tears were streaming down her face and her cheeks were flushed a deep red.

I watched her, struggling to steady my breathing and waiting to feel my body again. She checked the puppy over. Lexie was alive, but only just.

‘We must get her warm,’ Sue was saying.

She jogged across the beach and I saw the children rushing to meet her.

I walked back. My feet sinking into the sand, sea water dripping off me. When I reached the cave, my wife had wrapped Lexie in a towel and put the puppy inside her in coat. The girls were crowded around her, demanding to know that Lexie was okay. Bob was standing up, wagging his tail in greeting and wondering what all the fuss was about.

‘We need to go home now!’ my wife declared loudly.

Finally!

‘Yes, of course. Right away!’ I said, ‘girls help pack up.’

Quickly, we packed everything away and gathered things up. My wife stood holding Lexie in her coat and giving a few instructions. I held my tongue still even though the words I told you so and this was a bad idea were on my tongue.

‘Ready? Let’s go,’ I said and went to step outside.

The sky which had always been dull grey had now turned darker and from it was falling snowflakes and sleet.

‘It’s snowing!’ Charlie declared.

‘So it is. Come on,’ Sue cut in and strolled out.

We followed after her, trying to hurry across the sand. Reaching the car, everything and everyone bungled in. I started on the engine and my wife turned up the heater.

‘Everyone okay?’ I called.

A choir of female voices answered, ‘yes.’

Nodding, I drove us home and the snow began to fall more heavily. An hour later, I pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine.

‘How’s Lexie?’ Sky asked for what felt like the millionth time.

‘Better now,’ Sue replied.

‘Do we still have to take her to the vets?’ Charlie questioned.

‘I don’t think so…but we’ll see how she is within a hour,’ Sue replied.

We all got out the car and unpacked. Once in the warmth, dry space of home, everyone got themselves sorted. I got in the shower afterwards, when the girls, wife and dogs were okay. The hot water swept the remaining coldness from me and I felt cleaner too.

Going into the living room afterwards, I saw Lexie and Bob curled up together on the big dog bed in the corner. All my girls were snuggled on the sofa under a blanket and there was a Disney Princess movie on the telly. It all seemed so normal.

‘Let’s think twice before we go to the seaside again,’ I spoke out as I sank into the armchair.

 

(Inspired from: https://scvincent.com/2016/12/08/thursday-photo-prompt-smoke-writephoto/ with thanks. Click to read other people’s stories or to create one yourself.)

There’s Always Someone

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There’s always that one person you forget to buy a Christmas present for. No matter how carefully you write lists and confirm with other people, someone slips your mind. Perhaps, it’s your child’s teacher? A neighbour who’s been super kind to you this year? A long lost relative who’s appeared out of the blue?

Whoever it ends up being, it always comes to you at the last moment. You could be sat wrapping up presents and suddenly a name will pop into your head. You’ll check and see that yes, you’ve missed that person. Or you’ll be talking to someone and they will say that so and so has been in touch and suggested they would like… and you will gasp and says you’ve forgotten to get them something! Or even worse, said person will turn up at your front door, weighed down by gifts and with their family shouting, ‘happy holidays.’

There’s always that scramble, isn’t there? That rush around the house and into the cupboards to dig out something to give them. Don’t try to deny it. We all have that one place were things brought in the sales and unwanted gifts live in case that last minute present is needed. You’ll pull something out; a forgotten bathroom wash kit, a feet care set or a child’s blonde haired doll.

You’ll wrap it in a hurry and hand it over, hoping that it wasn’t actually a present they gave you last year. You’ll smile and make it seem like you’ve had that present for weeks and you didn’t forget at all. You’ll accept the gifts given to you but still you will question who you got that particular bathroom spa set or where you brought that bubble bath from.

In the Christmas madness, these thoughts will fade and vanish. You’ll be distracted trying to get the turkey lunch finished, the children crying over a wrong present, granddad snoring during the Queen’s speech. You’ll fall into the enjoyment of Christmas once more, that niggle feeling of forgetting someone gone.

Postcard #28

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Greetings from the middle of snowy nowhere!

Of course, I can’t tell you were I am because that has to stay a secret! Let’s just say I’ve been made to feel at home by a married elderly couple who love the color red and children. They also employ a lot of ‘short people’ in the making of toys and gifts.

The couple have their own farm with the normal animals, but also a few special ones. I was out there the other day helping to feed the deer and brush their coats. The wife breeds animals, mostly puppies and kittens because of the high demand for them, but she has a soft spot for bunnies.

I’m still not sure how long my stay here will last, but the old man has said he’d give me a lift home on the 24th, if I still need it. I’m keen to take him up on that. Lord knows the trek out here nearly killed me! But it’s such a wonderful and beautiful place. I can really understand why they choose to live out here.

I’m out of space now, so give my love to everyone and I’ll see you all soon!

Hector.

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.

Cold Morning

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Lizzy didn’t want to get up, but the alarm clock was demanding she did. Throwing the bedding back from her nest, she got up and ran to the bathroom, before her body had time to register the cold. She got in the shower and blasted hot water until she felt like a layer of skin had been burnt off.

She got out before she had fully thought about it. Leaving the shower to drip itself to a stop, Lizzy wrapped three towels around herself and went back to the bedroom. There she got dressed, trying not to take too long to decide what office clothes to wear. Anything warm and comfy would do.

In black trousers, a dark blue blouse and a long black cardigan, Lizzy sat before her mirror and sorted out her hair. Then abandoning the towels on the heating rack, she went into the kitchen and made breakfast. It was at that point Lizzy’s mind fully awoke. It was as if someone had flipped the switch that made her off autopilot and on to normal again.

Lizzy sighed as the kettle clicked and the microwave binged.

‘I don’t want to go to work today,’ she muttered, ‘its going to be another blue Monday.’

She made a cup of tea then collected her porridge out of the microwave. She put the TV on just for background noise and had breakfast whilst half watching the news. Then she left her things in the sink, feeling an odd sense of satisfaction that no parent or housemate could yell at her. Living alone might have it’s loneliness, but there were so many benefits.

Gathering her things, putting on her shoes and coat, she risked a peek out of the windows and saw the streets below shining as if a million tiny diamonds had been dropped on the tarmac. The weather forecast hadn’t lied.

Leaving, Lizzy didn’t bother calling the elevator, but went straight down the five flights of turning stairs. She braced herself at the front door then opened it. An icy wind blew in her face and around her legs like an old man’s wandering fingers. Lizzy fought it off and hurried outside. She walked boldly to the bus stop and waited with a few other people.

There were two old women dressed like Antarctic explorers with shopping bags on wheels. A middle-age man in a tried grey business suit who looked washed out by society’ demands. Four chatting school girls in mini skirts and nothing covering their legs, but short socks. Lizzy wondered how they masked the cold they must be feeling so well.

The bus pulled up and it was full as was to be expected. She showed her pass and had to stand up for the twenty minute ride into the city center. Luckily, her office was just around the corner. Getting off in a sea of people, Lizzy hurried down the slippy street and to the office door. She took off her gloves keyed in the numbers and opened the door when it clicked.

Climbing the stairs, she decided to head straight to the kitchen and make herself a hot drink. Maybe some fancy fruit tea? She pushed open her office door and stopped.

Brightly colored Christmas decorations were hanging from the ceiling and the windows. Plastic ornaments spun in the breeze from the door and the soft notes of Christmas songs tickled her ears. In the far corner, a fake green Christmas sat. Heavily decorated with cheap tatty things which the string of fairy lights lit brightly up.

Lizzy walked in and closed the door. A few people were at their desks all ready. Their voices as they spoke to one another or to someone on the phone rose and fell. She went into the small kitchen and found that had had a make over too. Someone had hung some mistletoe up by the window and there was a wicker gift basket by the sink.

She went over and looked at it. A large noticed announced it was a collection for the homeless to be given to the church just up the road on Christmas Eve. Lizzy tucked the card back and made herself a strawberry and lime tea. She took it back to her desk and just sat there for a few moments.

There’s just something, she thought, about Christmas decorations that makes you feel at home. I guess I was wrong about it being another blue Monday.   

Journals (Part 2)

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(Please be aware this story contains adult sexual content.) 

I sighed deeply and tried to focus my eyes on the ceiling as I felt myself drifting off. Dan had wrapped us both in quilt and I was warm, comfy and satisfied. Rolling over, I snuggled against him for the second time and kissed his nose.

‘We have to go,’ I whispered.

‘Five more minutes,’ he replied, sleepy.

‘We can’t. The kids are waiting for pizza and we need to put those boxes in the car.’

Dan mumbled something I didn’t hear and tried to hold me in a hug. I wiggled away, pulled off the quilt and got up. I felt his arms snaking out to draw me back again, but I was out of reach.

I dressed quickly, feeling the chilly air against my skin. I put on my shoes and thought about leaning over to kiss him again. A part of me desperately wanted to get back into the bed. I wanted to feel his arms protecting me and the soft brush of his lips on my hair. I wanted to forget everything again and let it be just me and him forever.

But we couldn’t hide from our responsibilities and the world.

‘Come on,’ I said loudly and tugged the quilt off him.

He sprawled out then sit up quickly as the cold blew over his skin, ‘damn that boiler.’

‘Check it. I’m going to the loo.’

I hurried from the room and into the bathroom next door. Clicking on the light, I sat on the loo and my eyes wondered. There was a large spider in the bathtub. Tutting, I finished, washed my hands then used the empty soap dish to save the spider. Setting it free on the window ledge, I left the bathroom and went back into the attic. It felt colder then before and darker too.

I gathered the books I had dropped earlier into a new plastic box with some other ones and closed the lid. Pushing it towards the doorway and the pile of other boxes we were taking with us, I heard Dan coming up the stairs.

‘It’s gone off again. I’ll have to fix it tomorrow,’ he said.

I nodded, ‘Just these boxes and the ones by the front door.’

‘Right.’

Dan bend down and picked the first one up. He walked to the door and began going downstairs. I went for the box next to it, but my phone rang, the sound breaking through the quietness that had settled into the house. I answered it quickly, seeing it was Darla, ‘hi, sweetie.’

‘Where are you?’ she demanded.

‘Still at gran’s-‘

‘Still?’

‘I know. I’m sorry. But we are leaving now. What pizza do you all want?’ I asked.

‘Four cheese and pepperoni. You are going to Costco, right?’

‘Yes. Of course,’ I answered, suddenly realising that I hadn’t given picking a pizza place a thought.

‘Good. Don’t get the chicken one. I don’t like it.’

‘I know. I’ll text you when we are on our way home so you can warm the plates and set the table. Is Mrs. J still okay?’ I questioned.

‘She wants to speak to you.’

I  began pacing the attic in small circles. There was the muffled sound of the phone switching hands then Mrs. Jamesson’s old cracked voice, ‘Maya? Do you know what time it is?’

‘I’m so sorry, Maggie. I wanted to get the attic emptied and we’ve just not been able to. And I’ve just promised the kids pizza now. We won’t be longer then a hour.’

‘And hour?’ she hissed the down the phone, ‘That wasn’t what I agreed too!’

‘I know and I’m sorry…but I’ll make it up to you.’

She mumbled something down the phone and I heard Freddie crying in the background.

‘He’s hungry!’ Darla shouted.

‘We’ll try to be home faster. See you soon,’ I hung up and putting my phone away, grabbed a box.

Soon, the black Land Rover was packed with boxes and we were driving to Costco. I warmed my hands on the air coming through the vent and listened to the news on the radio. My thoughts were heavy with the weight of the tasks still ahead of me.

‘We’ll have to take the kids tomorrow,’ I spoke out.

Dan stopped at a red light and glanced over at me.

‘I know it’ll be harder to sort stuff out, but I can’t ask Mrs Jamesson, I’m in her bad books now,’ I added.

‘We can get Dee and Ty to finish off the attic-‘

‘No. we need to do that. There’s fragile stuff up there and they wouldn’t know what to keep, throw or donate. Plus, I’ve not found the china set or the plates or the jewelry yet.’

The lights changed and Dan drove off again. We turned into the large car park and found a spot straight away.

‘Do we need anything else?’ Dan asked.

‘No. Just food for the starving wolves,’ I laughed.

Dan smirked at the joke and we hurried into the brightly light warehouse. The queue for food was long and I wished we’d gotten here sooner. We ordered then had to wait longer. I sent a text to Darla informing her of the delay then as soon as we got the pizzas another text that we were on the way home.

Dan took the short cut back whilst I balanced the hot pizza boxes on my knees. As soon as the car pulled into the driveway, the front door was thrown open and Darla rushed out carrying Freddie.

‘Look, it’s mummy and daddy!’ she said loudly.

‘Hello, darlings,’ I said.

Dan came around and took the pizzas from me so I could take and hug Freddie. The four year old weighted a ton in my tried arms. I put him on my hip and closed the car door. We walked to the house together, where Mrs Jamesson was stood in the doorway barring it like an angry pub bouncer.

‘We are so sorry, Maggie,’ Dan broke out, ‘would you like to join us for pizza?’

‘No, I would not,’ she snapped, ‘you owe me, Maya,’ she added turning to me.

Then she stepped from the doorway, barging past us and out onto the street. I sighed deeply then called after her, ‘Thanks!’

‘You kids have fun?’ Dan asked.

‘I guess,’ Darla mumbled.

I walked inside and headed into the kitchen. I placed Freddie down in his high chair before taking and drying the warm plates from the sink. Dan put the pizza on the table, left and shouted Ty from the hallway. I turned and set the plates down.

Darla had opened both boxes and she quickly took a plate and began grabbing slices.

‘Sorry about the wait. It was really busy,’ I said.

‘I know I got your text.’

‘Did you get pepperoni?’ Ty called from the doorway.

‘Yes and four cheese,’ I answered.

‘Good!’

He grabbed a plate and some pizza then made to leave.

‘Come back, young man! Sit down!’

‘But mum!’ he groaned.

‘Come on, Ty. We’ve not seen you all day,’ Dan put in.

‘But I got a game running!’

‘It can wait. Sit,’ I said firmly.

With more groaning my thirteen year old, sat down and began eating with us.

‘Tell me about your day,’ I called out as I cut up some pizza for Freddie.

Darla and Ty relayed their day around mouthfuls of pizza. Once they were done, Dan and I talked about ours and then I broke the bad news to them.

‘I’m afraid tomorrow you’ll all have to come with us.’

Darla and Ty groaned loudly and both said why at the same time.

‘Because there’s no way I’m asking Mrs J again and there’s no one else,’ I explained.

‘I could do it!’ Darla spoke out.

‘We’ve been over this,’ Dan answered calmly.

‘I know…but please. It’ll only be a few hours, won’t it?’

‘Please let her do it!’ Ty jumped in suddenly, ‘I’ll be good and I’ll help look after Freddie.’

I looked at Dan then the kids, weighing everything up, but there was still no way I was going to leave my fifteen year old daughter in charge of her younger brothers.

‘Darla. I know you’ll make a good babysitter and I believe in you, but you’re still a little to young to watch the boys all day. It’d also be unfair on you. If there was another way we’d do it. But there’s not and to be honest your dad and I could use a hand in trying to finish sorting things out, ‘ I explained.

Silence fell for a moment then Darla nodded her head and Ty growled something, but perhaps it wasn’t even words. We finished tea then got the boxes from the car and put them in the dining room, which we were using for storage. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and putting the kids to bed.

Just before Dan and I went up at a little past ten, I went into the dining room and looked for that last box of books. Something had been bugging me about it, but I wasn’t sure what. For some reason, those leather bound volumes had stuck in my head and I knew they were not just normal books.

I found them and pulled them out from the box. Opening the first I looked at the handwriting across the page.

‘What is it?’ Dan said from the doorway.

‘I thought I recognised these…They’re my grandma’s journals.’

‘Oh…anything interesting in them?’

‘I don’t know.’

I flipped through the pages, but all I could see was flash of words in different colored inks. I closed the book and left it with the others. I was too tried to read it now.

‘Well, you know where they are now,’ Dan responded, waving a hand at the box.

‘Yes,’ I replied.

Going to him, I kissed him and wrapped my arms around him. He returned the kiss and hugged me.

‘You were amazing today,’ he muttered in my ear.

I giggled.

‘Shame the kids will be there tomorrow…is there no chance…?’

‘I’m afraid not…Unless, we’re going to trust Darla?’ I suggested.

‘We can’t,’ Dan breathed.

‘That’s that then,’ I spoke.

I held his hands and turned off the lights.

To Be Continued…