He threw the coin into the wishing well and didn’t think any more of it, until a week later when a beautiful blonde moved in next door.
He threw the coin into the wishing well and didn’t think any more of it, until a week later when a beautiful blonde moved in next door.
Tomorrow is my birthday and for the first time ever I’m spending it alone! Okay well, not so alone because I have the three dogs, two cats, the rabbits, the hens, chicks and the two baby lambs. It didn’t dawn until this morning when I saw the date, realized it was my birthday tomorrow and thought I’ve made no plans!
I guess though the more older you get the more birthday’s lose their excitement. When I was little birthdays and Christmas were always big and the only times of the year when you could really ask for a lot of stuff and get most of it. The parties seemed so much fun, even if they were simple and easily forgettable.
Getting older having my own money meant could just buy whatever I wanted when I felt like it. No more waiting for my birthday and Christmas to role around! I could have it now with a click of the PC mouse and scan of a card. But I miss those special presents. The ones you hadn’t even thought to ask about but your parents and friends knew you’d love. I do kinda wish to re-live those times again.
I guess I should figure out what to do, see if anyone is around. I can’t be alone for my birthday! I don’t think anybody should be.
(Side note; with it actually being my birthday tomorrow, I thought I’d have a theme of ‘birthday’ this month. Just thought I’d announce that. Also, planning to get the first short story collection out by the end of this month! Thanks for reading and please like and share. Hayley)
Bradley paused and listened again. The faint crying of a baby brushed his ears once more. He looked over at the wall next to him, with its slightly peeling and faded floral paper and old family photographs. The noise seemed to be coming from behind there. He wondered if someone had finally moved in next door. He tried to remember if he had seen any signs this morning or before when he came back from work.
The crying stopped and Bradley, with a shrug, unmuted the TV and started eating his pasta ready meal. The news was full of the latest political scandals, murders and weather. Bradley hurried through his food, trying not to notice the gloopy, bland taste. He turned the TV channels over and turned on his game console.
The crying came again, muted only slightly by the single brick wall between the houses. The wailing noise rose and fall and Bradly couldn’t help but think about a baby in a cot seeking comfort. Shaking his head, he got back to his game, the sound of gun fire blocking out any more noise.
He went to bed far too late. The creaking of the stairs in what had once been his grandfather’s house, but was now his, seemed to accuse him of laziness. Getting ready for bed, Bradley just knew he was going to be grumpy for work in the morning. He flipped back the covers and stopped. The baby was crying again, only it seemed to be directly behind the bedroom wall now. Bradley walked over and put his hand on the wall then his ear. There was most defiantly a baby living next door to him now.
Groaning, he got into bed and put a pillow over his head. Luckily, he was far too tried and drifted off quickly.
His phone alarm clock broke into Bradley’s dreamless sleep. He reached out and turned it off before rolling over and snuggling back down. He awoke suddenly minutes later and hurried out of the bed, nearly tripping in his desperation. Flying through his morning routine and skipping breakfast, he dashed out of the house and into his ancient red Mini.
Driving, he had no other thoughts other than to get to work on time and he did barely make it. Dropping into his chair, he dragged a few breaths of stale, coffee scent air then cracked open the window next to his desk. He spent a few moments straighten his black tie, white crinkled shirt and trying to flatten down his mop of blond hair.
He brought his hand down and nodded at Mark, the only real friend he had in this Hell hole.
‘Sleep okay? Looks like you didn’t,’ Mark chucked.
‘I think someone moved in next door,’ Bradley began.
‘They have a baby,’ he finished.
‘Damn. Unlucky. When my neighbour had her brat it kept me up all night too. You’re going to have to invest in some ear plugs, my friend,’ Mark stated and patted Bradley on the shoulder.
Mark walked to his own desk, which was behind Bradley’s and began shuffling papers around. Bradley nodded and looked down at his clutched desk. Too much work with left over from yesterday and he knew today’s would have to wait.
‘Hey, you coming to the pub tonight?’ Mark called out.
‘Maybe,’ Bradley replied over his shoulder then threw himself into his job.
Work done for the day, Bradley couldn’t talk himself out of going to the pub even though he didn’t feel like it. He sank into a plush sofa that felt too hard and still stank of cig smoke though the ban had been years ago. He nursed his pint and thought about all the trouble he was going to be in on Monday. He couldn’t risk getting fired; there were too many outstanding bills of his grandfather’s left to pay. Someone brought another round just as he had finished his first and he couldn’t refuse a free drink.
It was late by the time he left, the sky was dark with clouds and no stars or moon peered down. Bradley got into his car, sure he was over the limit as he put the key in. He drove back straight enough, with the street lamps flashing by like a count down. A light rain started falling as he pulled up outside his house.
Getting out, he wobbled up to the terrace house on the end and let himself in. He stumbled in the dark upstairs and into his bedroom. There he threw himself on the bed, grabbing pillows and blankets to wrap himself in. He was fast sleep when the crying began.
In the morning, his head hurt so much, it took him a while to clock the sounds of crying coming from the wall. He sat in the living room, sipping too hot coffee and regretting last night. He put a hand to his head and thought about the fact he could have gone into work and tried to catch up on everything. The baby screamed.
‘Shut up!’ he yelled and almost threw his coffee at the wall.
Instead, he splashed it down and stormed to the front door. Opening it, he walked out and around to the gate of the next house, he went through and was at the front door before he realised that the front bay windows were boarded up and so was the front door. A for sale sign stuck up from the front fence and the street was as silent as ever.
Unclenching his hands, Bradley looked about confused then quickly left. Going through his house, he went out the back door and looked over the wired fence that divided the two gardens. He could clearly see the boarded up back door and windows of the house next door. Wondering what was going on, he went back in then out onto the street once more. Maybe a neighbour had had a baby and the noise was carrying a lot?
Undecided, he went back in and spent the day being too hungover to do much else. As evening came through, he heard the crying of a baby once more. Getting up, he went to the living room wall and really listened. The noise was just too loud and there could be no doubt it was coming from next door.
Maybe, squatters got in somehow? He thought.
Grabbing the phone he dialled the police and told them what he now believed.
‘I’ll send someone around as soon as I can,’ the too cheery female voice on the other end replied.
Bradley hung up and turned the TV on to block out the noise.
The knocking at his door came hours later and it was now dark outside. Bradley let the two male officers in and told them about the baby crying. Together they went to the front then the back of the house, looking for away in. The wooden board was nailed down too well and no corner had come away at any of the doors or windows. There was no access inside.
‘Maybe it’s an animal they left behind?’ one of the officers suggested.
‘I don’t know,’ Bradley replied, ‘I’ve been here four years now and before that it must have been empty for about six years or so…would a pet survive that long?’
‘No,’ the other policemen put in, ‘it could be a wild animal that has got stuck though. We’ll get the RSPCA and come back tomorrow.’
‘It just doesn’t sound like an animal though…’ Bradley muttered as the cops left.
He went back inside and got into bed. As soon as his head touched the pillow the crying started again. Growling, Bradley put the other pillow over his face and tried to ignore it.
Finally the morning arrived. He awoke, sore eyed and tried as if he’d had another night drinking. The sound of hammering and a drill buzzed through his head. Scrambling up, he threw on some clothes and rushed outside. A police car, an RSPCA van and a locksmith’s van were parked outside.
He looked across and saw a burly man removing the board over the front door. Two different police men and a female animal inspector were standing next to the gate, watching him work. Bradley eager though he was to join them, decided to stay where he was and just watch. Soon the locksmith had gotten in and they all entered the building.
It seemed to take forever, but at last the animal inspecting came out. She was gulping down air and looking very pale. She walked down the path and back to her van, where she rested against it as if trying not to throw up.
‘What did you find? Was it an animal?’ Bradley called out.
She looked at him, wiped her hair back then got into the van. Starting the engine, she drove off, leaving Bradley more puzzled. He went and lent on the wall to try and peer into the now open front door, but he couldn’t see anything. For a few minutes, he debated jumping over and going inside to see for himself, but then the locksmith and cops appeared.
‘What was it?’ he asked.
The cops looked at him, whilst the locksmith hurried off as if desperate to be far away.
‘I was the one that phoned about the baby crying last night,’ Bradley explained.
‘Oh…did you know the people who lived here?’ one of the officers asked.
‘No. I never saw them and I never asked my grandad about it,’ Bradley answered.
‘All right then, I’ll go and call it in,’ the second policeman said.
‘Wait, wait! What was it?’ Bradley shouted.
The two cops eyed each other, then the second walked away as the first turned to him, ‘I shouldn’t be telling you this,’ he said a low voice, ‘but we found the mummified remains of three babies…..Now, are you sure you know nothing about the people who lived here?’
Bradley shook his head, too shocked to open his mouth.
Eleutheromania: A manic earning for freedom – Collins Dictionary
The impulse to move on was getting too strong again. James looked at the sleeping form of his girlfriend then got quietly out of bed. He padded bare foot to the small balcony of her apartment which looked out across Manchester city centre.
Breathing in the polluted air, James noticed the roads and pavements were already busy with people heading to work. They were dressed in winter clothes, which seemed odd for the middle of spring, but the forecast had stated there was a cold front coming. To James it actually felt more like an autumn day with the chilly wind and grey sky.
He went back inside and put his running clothes on. Creeping out of the apartment, he felt slightly better as he reached the hallway. Once outside on the street, he felt even better. He smiled, filled his lungs with exhaust fume and cooking fast food tasting air then began his run.
The wind whipped around him as if racing him, but in the wrong direction. James held out his arms to embrace it, feeling his urge for freedom getting satisfied. Letting his body do all the work, he fell into thinking as shop fronts and apartment blocks clustered around him. He wished he was in the countryside again or even back in Sweden or Canada, where he could be with just green fields or woodlands.
The urge to pack up and leave swelled. That little voice that lived in the back of his head told him to get on the next plane out of here. He almost stopped and turned around. Instead with a glance up at the sky, he forced himself onwards. For now, this would have to do until he had enough money again.
She walked down the street cradling the loaf of bread like a new baby. Going into her flat and the kitchen, she set the bread down and dug out the butter and jam from the fridge. Sitting down, she remembered she needed a knife and got up quickly to get one.
Opening the bread, she took out two slices and made a jam sandwich. Taking a small bite, she sighed at the sweet taste of jam and the softness of the bread. She took the time to chew and swallow, before having another small bite. Avoiding stuffing her month all at once, she carried on nibbling at the sandwich.
Finishing she settled back, feeling the hunger held at bay but also disappointment. For a moment she debated having another, but then she quickly put everything away. Grabbing her purse, she tipped it up and counted out the two pounds in change she had left. Placing the cool coins back, she wondered how she was going to make that last for the rest of the week.
Mini sat on her father’s shoulders holding her breath. Below her, the heads of the crowd pressed around them and she saw more children on adult shoulders who were pointing with chubby fingers down the street. She looked, but couldn’t see anything other than the red paper lanterns that were strung up between the streetlamps.
She sniffed and rubbed her nose, feeling the tail end of her cold getting her down again. Mini put her hands on top of father’s head and pressed her cheek on them. The voices and movements of those around her slipped into the background and her eyes began to close.
The pounding of drums jumped her awake and her eyes shot down the street. A path was being made and coming through were smiling people wearing red and yellow costumes. Above their heads, flags and banners waved in the breeze. Mini wiggled, leaning over to get a better look. Father’s voice told her to be still, she’d see soon enough.
The people walked past, waving to the crowd then the drummers came, rolling out the marching beat. She caught a glance of something big and golden bobbing in the sky. Her hands slipped back to around father’s chin and Mini lend over his head, desperate to see. The shape grew, becoming clearer and clearer till she could see the mighty head of the dragon. He was gold and fiery orange, with large white triangle teeth, a red mane and crest. She gasped and watched him swooping over peoples’ heads. She wanted to cover her eyes, but couldn’t move.
The crowd was going crazy and shouting so much at once. Most of the words were drowned out by the drummers. Hands clutching red squares reached for the sky and the dragon as he came closer, weaving from one side to the other. His tongue was flopping out and his black eyes seemed to searching for something to eat. Mini tightened her grip on father and got told off, but she couldn’t help it.
The dragon loomed over and she ducked, burying her head in father’s hair. He bounced her a little, telling her comforting things, but she couldn’t listen. She was sure the dragon had seen her and was preparing to eat her. She felt a strong wind sweep over her head and cried out. Mini risked a peek and saw that the huge dragon head had past her. Easing up, she watched the dragon’s body flying by, the gold and orange colours moving as if they had a life of their own.
She sighed and watched the spiky tail disappearing into the crowd. The dragon hadn’t been hungry for her after all. Mini patted her father’s head and told him, as he looked up at her, that the dragon was scary. He laughed and told her that’s how they were meant to be, but dragons had no interested in eating little girls. They enjoyed money and treasure far more.
It’s the start of a new year and I’m still drunk. It must have been about five am when I got home and god the taxi must have been expensive. Though, I might have brought some wine and other stuff before going to Alex’s, but I really don’t remember.
What I do remember is that we all had a great time and no one ended up in hospital like last year. I think Sophie threw up on the stairs just before eleven then fell down them. At least I think it was her. It could have been Sammy, she’s never been a good drinker. Whoever it was seemed fine though. The last thing I remember was counting down to midnight and standing in the drizzle watching fireworks.
My new job starts this Monday now, meaning I’ll have broken two years of unemployment and the dole. Hopefully, I’ll break my third year single status too. I wanted that to be my New Year resolution. The only reason I remember what everyone’s was, is because Alex wrote them down and give everyone the list.
Mine caused arguments because most of the girls said finding a boyfriend wasn’t a resolution and it had to be something you wanted to give up. Penny and Lucy were in my corner and agreed that the resolution didn’t have to be like that anymore and could be a goal you want to achieve. In the end, I changed it to stop buying large amounts of clothes that I don’t wear and stop wasting money, which I now need to save up to buy a car with.
Alex and Sophie had as theirs; to go on a diet and loose like a quarter or half of their current weights. I never understand that one because they both look skinny anyway and no one ever really sticks with it. Sammy said she was giving up drinking for the year. Penny was giving up chocolate, which is one I could never do and really I don’t see her being able to do it. Lucy’s resolution was to plan her wedding as Dan had asked her on Christmas Eve.
Some of us said she couldn’t have that, but she and the bridesmaids to be –who just happened to be Alex, Sophie, Sammy and Becky-voted it was allowed. I did try to use that to argue the case for my boyfriend one, but it didn’t work. The last two on the list,Becky and Krystal both decided to quit smoking.
Anyway, I’m still keeping finding a boyfriend on my personal list. Maybe, I can find an okay dating website to join?
Hurrying into the shop, Harriet repeated the list in her mind once again. Grabbing a wicker basket and putting the handles to rest near her elbow, she walked passed the first display units. The air hummed with an overpowering multitude of pleasant aromas, which remained unidentified till you had picked up a few different candles. She clocked two poshly dressed women talking in low voices behind the sale’s desk. They looked like they belonged at a five star hotel desk, with their neat blond hair, black jackets and white blouses.
Looking further around and towards the back of the shop, Harriet saw another assistant with black hair and a cream blouse, talking to two Japanese women. They were dressed casually in tight jeans and t-shirts. Harriet caught some snatches of their broken English and discovered that all of them were engrossed in a conversation about one particular candle.
Harriet came to a pause by the small shelf with the Halloween display. Looking at the offerings, she selected a burnt orange candle tart melter that was in the shape of a Jack ‘O Lantern and looked at it. She noticed a large chunk of paint was missing from its mouth, so she placed it back down and selected another one. Holding it tightly, she looked at the wide teeth showing grin and decided it would do.
Lowering it into the basket, she looked at the candles and grabbed two of the different Halloween scented tarts. She sniffed the orange one first and got a hint of sticky sweets then the black one which smelled patchouli. Harriet put those in, recalling that they smelt just like the candles by the same names that she had brought last year.
She turned and started to walk past the sale’s counter, totalling the price in her head, twelve pounds all ready!
‘Hello, are you all right? Do you need any help at all?’
Harriet smiled at the two women, one of whom had spoken and with a little shake of her head replied ‘no, thanks,’ and went to the bookcase like shelves. Harriet browsed through the Christmas candles and selected the two other wax melters she had come in for. One was her second favourite scent, fresh vanilla alongside a soft gentle flower like touch and the other a new release that she had seen on the shopping channel which was meant to capture new snow and winter pines.
With those safely in her basket, she went around the shop and looked at the other candles. They were divided into further sections in a rainbow of colours; foods, flowers and fresh. The large candles, which she had to crane her neck up to see, sat on the top two shelves. The mediums were under them then the smalls ones, the tea lights and finally the tarts, which she collected. Resisting the temptation to pick any up, Harriet read some of the fancy names off in her head then convinced herself to leave.
Half turning, she spotted a dark chocolate skinned man stacking small candles. Swearing he hadn’t been there before, she looked at him in his prim black business suit. Their eyes met and his face broke into a wider smile.
Keeping his bent over position, he asked ‘Do you need any help?’
‘No. I’m fine. Thanks,’ she replied.
He turned back to work and she watched his large hands.
‘Actually. Do you have any new autumn candles? Or anything you could recommend as smelling like autumn?’
He stood up, ‘Erm, I’m not too sure…’ he responded and had a quick glance around, ‘Maria,’ he called to his colleague who had just left the Japanese women to their own conversation. ‘What would you recommend as an autumn scent?’
She repeated his words in a cheerful voice and looked around thoughtfully. She was actually taller than first seemed, even despite the clearly flat shoes. Her long black hair was in a tight ponytail which added nothing to her too long face and olive skin. She reached out a slender arm and pulled from the shelf a large orange candle.
‘What about this one?’ she asked.
Harriet stepped forward and sniffed the candle lid which Maria offered out to her.
‘It’s very orangey,’ Harriet replied, ‘mmm…too orange.’
‘Okay. This one?’ Maria asked switching for another one.
Harriet sniffed and smelt oranges mingled with other fruits and grass, ‘still not what I had in mind.’
‘Right. Let me see,’ Maria placed the candle back and moved to the next shelf.
Harriet made a small side step to follow her and watched her take other candle down with the grace of a ballerina. Behind them, the man was getting back to restocking.
‘This one. It’s a very warm homely scent. It’s got some cinnamon in it and I’m not sure what else.’
Harriet sniff and caught that waft of cinnamon and mix spices. She nodded, ‘Yes. I like that one. Do you have the melter of it?’
‘Sure we do,’ Maria chirped and slotting the candle back, dipped down and grabbed one of the wax tarts from the tray.
Harriet took it and popped it in the basket. She looked down, that’s enough now, leave!
‘Have you seen the new candles that were brought out this month?’
Harriet snapped her head back up then followed Maria’s eyes to the display next to the door. Maria walked over and Harriet trailed her. Coming to a stop, Maria launched into sale’s pitch about the three new scents after which, Harriet selected two; a dark vanilla coffee and a sweet gingerbread.
‘Have you seen the new Christmas ones?’ Maria chimed in.
‘No, but I think…’
‘Some of them might have the autumn feel you are looking for.’
They spun around and matched towards the back of the shop, passing the two Japanese women who were on their way out. Coming to the Christmas display, Maria selected a few different candles, but this time, Harriet only picked one.
‘Thanks, I’m done now,’ she said, eyes flashing to the inside of the basket.
‘Of course, would you like to pay now?’
Harriet nodded and let Maria led the way to the counter.
‘Please don’t tell me the price,’ Harriet said in soft voice.
Maria smiled, ‘I’ll see what you’ve got.’
Harriet watched her total everything then stated, ‘twenty-two pounds all together, is that all right?’
Harriet nodded and handed over her card.
‘Just think of it as an investment for the rest of the year,’ Maria said soothingly.
‘Yes, I really won’t need any others,’ Harriet responded as she paid.
Still smiling, Maria bagged everything and handed it to her.
Saying thanks and goodbye, Harriet left feeling ninety-nine percent happy and one percent guilty.
Balancing the old guitar on my knee, I still couldn’t believe the bargain I had gotten. Even with the new strings, I still felt worried that I had ripped the charity shop off. A smile crept on to my face at the two old biddies that had stood arguing behind the counter. They both had had wispy pinked hair and glasses perched on their noses. Their wrinkle faces had been so animated and their lipstick dabbed mouths popping like fishes’. I think they had both been wearing blue pinafores too.
I had stayed quiet and a few minutes later, the first one had keyed up the till and demanded a fiver off me. Trying not to laugh, I handed it over and received back the guitar. Now in my one-bedroom apartment, the instrument played beautifully. Strumming the old strings made me realise how worn and too twinge they sounded. The guitar sang of how it had been loved and played every day.
Having replaced the strings, I decided to dust the inside sections and then wipe some bee’s wax over the body. Carefully dusting, my fingers hit something. I wrapped the cloth around it and pulled it out. There was a piece of paper folded into a small square. Placing everything down, I folded the paper and saw it was a hand drawn map at the centre of which was taped a coin.
I pulled the coin off and looked it at. On both sides was the fading image of a guitar. I had never seen a coin like that before. I looked down at the map and saw the title, Best places to busk. It was a map of Manchester city centre with roads covered in different symbols. Running the coin over my fingers, I turned the paper and saw the shapes listed in a key. I had never busked and I only played the guitar for pleasure.
Still though, everyone needed the extra money these days. Placing the map and coin on the table, I picked up the guitar and finished off cleaning it. Afterwards and before I got ready for bed, I looked up Manchester’s rules about busking and realised that I wouldn’t need a licence and as long as I stuck to a few simple rules, I could perform. That made me more determined and with tomorrow being Saturday, I decided to give it a shot.
Arriving in the city centre, I followed the map to a seemly quiet street in the Northern Quarter. It was the nearest spot to me, but also the key listed it as a good place to start. Standing under the street sign, I put the guitar case on the floor and pulled out the instrument. I spent a few minutes sorting things out, then I placed a handful of coins in the case and began playing.
Even though the area had seemed empty, moments after starting up people began walking passed me, dropping coins at my feet. I nodded my thanks and carried on playing. I wasn’t that good a singer, but strangely the urge to start adding the lyrics came to me. My voice rose and fell with the guitar as more people came by.
Forty minutes later, I paused and looked down at the shining coins. There was a lot more then I had expected. I sipped some water and pulled out the map and strange coin. Looking for the next location, I rubbed the coin between my fingers. There was another street at the back of the Northern Quarter, outside the cinema.
I headed over and set up to play again. The same thing happened, only this time a small crowd gathered to watch me. The jingle of coins became mixed in with the notes of the guitar and my voice. I told myself I wasn’t just doing it for the money, I wanted to entertain and inspire. As that thought curled around me like a sleepy kitten, I realised that it was the first time I had thought such a thing about my hobby.
I took a break at lunch and decided to place all the money I had earned into the rucksack I had brought with me. I had made over thirty pounds already. Shocked, I went to get a sandwich and on the way out I give some money to a homeless man. After I had eaten I studied the map, placing the next three street names into my mind. The first was on Market Street, the second Spring Gardens and third St Ann’s Square.
I went to the first and began playing. I seemed to draw in an even bigger crowd then before and my confidence grew. The rest of the afternoon was spent like that. I moved around from street to street playing and singing, coins dropping my way. I didn’t want to pack up and go home, but my fingers and throat were hurting too much.
I placed the guitar, map and coin on top of alot of coins in the case and went to catch the bus. I dozed off and awoke just before my stop. Getting off and arriving at my building, the only thought in my head was to shower and change. It wasn’t until I was getting ready for bed, that I decided to count up the money I had made.
Seventy pounds and sixty-seven pence were stacked in coins on my coffee table. I sat back and smiled. That map and coin had been useful. I doubt I would have been able to make that kind of money on my own. I should do something useful with it though. I earned an all right income from my full job already and though the extra odd pounds a week would be good. There were more people out there at needed it.
I bagged up the money and decided to look into local homeless charities I could give the money too. Picking up the guitar, I inspected it more closely, but could see no markings or anything. As for the map and coin, there was nothing else to them. Maybe it was just coincidence and had nothing to do with magic or supernatural elements?
Sighing, I went to bed knowing I’d probably never know the answer.
Micro fiction contest
Traveler, Foodie, Eclectic Unschooly Mama, Blogger, Outdoor-Seeker, Gardener, & Voracious Reader, sharing bits of my life at Bikurgurl.com