Blessed Moment

Night was pressing its face against the kitchen window watching Val as she washed the dishes in the sink. It had been a long time since they had eaten dinner but there had been no time for cleaning up afterwards. Val sighed and placed another plate in the drying rack. The house was silent, a strange sensation after all the noise before.

It was the first day back at school tomorrow the new calendar on the notice board declared. The children hadn’t been happy about the early night and the prospect of the coming morning. Val’s ears still echoed at the screams and shouts of the tantrums, the slamming of doors and throwing of books.

Val looked up at the ceiling, her hands wrinkling in the hot water and soap bubbles popping. There was no movement from upstairs now. Before it had sounded like a stampede of elephants. Val wondered if her husband had fallen asleep with their youngest again. Five month old Jay and three year old Zak shared a room and were the hardest of the children to settle to sleep.

Washing their plastic plates and cutlery, reminded Val how she hadn’t want anymore children after Aaron. Three was enough but then Zak had been a bonus blessing and Jay had followed soon after as if God had caught up answering all her past prayers for a baby at once.

Rosie had come first, now aged eleven and taking after Val in everything. Lottie, eight and Aaron, six were glued to each other and always up to mischief. They seemed to have become the twins that Val had miscarried during the second IVF treatment. Though, she’d had Lottie and Aaron naturally.

Unplugging the sink, Val dried her hands and flicked the kettle on. She thought about going upstairs to check on her husband. Sleeping sitting up in the corner wouldn’t do his aching neck any good. Tired and reveling in the quiet, Val made herself an instant gingerbread latte and went to in the living room. It was messy with children’s things and she had to fix the sofa before sitting down.

She wrapped her hands around the hot mug and lent back, shutting her eyes. There was a blessing in this snatched moment of peace and self-care. Before she dozed off, she opened her eyes and put the mug down. Val could have turned on the tv and found something to watch or she could have go on her phone but the stillness was something to be saved and not broken.

Sipping the latte, Val rolled in the quietness and watched the night moving by the un-curtained window.

Postcard Short Story

Dear Dot,

Thank you for your Christmas card, it was nice to hear all your updates. I shall have to write fully soon but for now here’s a short note. We’re all fine, not much news, only the wedding has been moved to later on this year and the puppy is feeling lots better after the chocolate mishap on Christmas day!

There’s been some heavy snow up here and more is due. Bet it’s not much warmer on the coast but I’d rather walk on sand instead of mud.

Did you hear about Fred? Falling off the roof like that at his age! He’s home and his broken legs are healing well.

Let me know if you hear anymore about Norma. I never got a card off her.

Best wishes, Millie.

Raise A Glass

The champagne corks pop. Laughter echoes as white froth pours from large green bottles. A sea of cups lifts to capture the raining champagne, the golden liquid sparkles. The bubbles bead along the thin steamed glasses, bursting as they reach the top.

A clock chimes. Midnight as arrived.

Voices and glasses raise a toast to a new year.

Post It Note Short Story

Let’s not take the Christmas decorations down but keep them up for some more cheer in these dark days.

The Rising Sea

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Oliver peered nervously out of the window and saw a sea wave crashing over the wall and on to the road outside his house.

The white foam tops of the waves clouded the air and sea spray mingled with the falling rain. The sea roared with an untameable lust that deafened everything nearby, only challenged by booming thunder.

The weather forecast had said it was going to bad on the coasts and flooding were likely. Of course, Oliver had prepared with sandbags at the doors and low windows. Most of his furniture was stacked upstairs and his car was parked up at Raven’s Edge cliff carpark.

Oliver thought that he should have stayed with his car because it was safer but he would have been fretting too much about his house being flooded.

Listening to the sea bashing about as the wild wind stirred the waves up and rain poured down, Oliver realised it was too late to do anything else. He would just have to hope that the sea didn’t rise anymore and his house didn’t flood.

Postcard Story

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Dear Ally,

It’s spring but here it still looks like winter. Snow is thick on the ground and the edges of the canal are iced over. The trees have frost on their trunks and snow laying their branches. It looks pretty and makes me wish you were here to keep me warm at night.

I know you said we weren’t right for each other, better to be happy with other people then miserable together but I never felt like that. I always thought you were the one and without you I’m incomplete.

I hope you will reconsider anything,

Love, Gil.

Snow Light

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My car’s windscreen wipes struggled to clear the heavy snowflakes away. I turned them all the way up and that helped somewhat. Everything around me was either white, grey or black like I had entered an old fashioned movie dead of colour.

I clutched the steering wheel tighter and listened to the faint rock music from the CD player. A glance at the Satnav and it didn’t looked like I had moved much. The time of arrival kept going up instead of down and I gritted my teeth.

If it had been anyone else but my dying father, I wouldn’t be out here now driving from my honeymoon in this snowstorm. I rounded a corner and saw in the beam of my headlights two stark trees clawing at the grey sky.

I had to pee and my ankle was cramping.

Pulling over under the trees, I got out but left everything running. The worse thing right now would be the car to breakdown.

I went behind the tree and got up real close as there wasn’t much cover here. I unzipped, aimed and relieved myself. Feeling better, I pressed my head against the tree and took a few deep breaths of frozen air.

Then for a few minutes, I walked about and stretched. The conversation with my mother came back to me as it had been doing on repeat since I had hung up the phone this morning.

‘Christian, your father is really sick. You should come to the hospice.’

‘I know but there’s a snowstorm and I can’t leave Jan up here alone.’

‘Bring her with you.’

‘And have us both stuck in the snow? No. I’ll come.’

‘I think it’s almost time…’ mother sniffed down the phone.

I rolled my eyes, she and father had been saying that for the last three months. It’s why Jan and I had brought the wedding forward but still dad hung on. I didn’t want to leave my wife in our honeymoon cabin in the magical snow covered forest, but there was no other choice.

Feeling the chill sinking through my thick coat, I got back in the car again and drove once more. Still the snowfall. It was like a blanket on the bare land softening the hardness of winter.

There was no other cars on this country road, sensible of everyone but it also meant the road wasn’t gritted and the wheels felt like they were sliding. I took it easy, watching all the time for dangers because there was also the gloom of night looming.

I thought of Jan and how she would be curled up before the fire, reading and waiting for me to call. Had I done the right thing leaving her behind?

‘I don’t mind either way,’ she had said, ‘do you want me there when he passes?’

‘He won’t pass. He’s too stubborn. This is just another false alarm.’

‘But you are still going?’

‘Yes. For mother’s sake more then his. He’s out of it most of the time anyway thanks to the drugs.’

‘Christian, it’s really coming down outside. Will you be okay driving?’ Jan had asked.

‘I’ll take it easy.’

I hugged, kissed her and said, ‘I love you, wife.’

Jan giggled and replied, ‘I love you too, husband.’

Now, I regretted leaving her and I wished I had told my mother no but what if dad was finally going and I wasn’t there when he died? I couldn’t have forgiven myself to that.

The snow became blinding and I had to slow further. I couldn’t stop though and turned my thoughts to how when I reached the main roads and motorway it would be easier. I tried to relax and just concentrate on what was ahead of me though that was only about a few inches.

Was that lights ahead? I frowned and and squinted. It looked like just one light. A motorbike then? But who would be insane enough to drive a motorbike in the middle of nowhere, in a snowstorm?

A creeping feeling raised the hairs on my arms and had the strange urge to pull over. Why? I couldn’t say. I wrestled with myself for a minute then despite not wanting too, the steering wheel was turning and I was bumping off the road into a low ditch.

Confused, I let go of the wheel and sat there, listening to the wind howling and the car engine rumbling. Where was the light I had seen? I waited for something to pass me by but nothing did. Had it been a reflection off something? I had read somewhere that snow could cause something like that.

Shrugging, I went to pull back onto the road but the steering wheel wouldn’t turn.

‘What the hell?’ I uttered aloud.

I turned the wheel this way and that whilst pressing on the pedals but the car didn’t move. The engine revved then fell into it’s comforting rumbling as I stopped trying.

‘I don’t need this! I really, really don’t need this! Come on! God damn it!’

I hit the steering wheel with my palms and threw my head back into the head rest. I shut my eyes and breathed angrily. Thoughts went through my head and I decided to get out and see what the problem was.

Opening the door, I walked around but could see I wasn’t stuck in the mud as I was frozen ground. The ditch also was only slightly lower then the road. I opened the bonnet and looked inside. Everything seemed fine in there.

I got back in the car, snow melting off me. I picked up my phone and saw I had no signal.

‘Typical! Just typical!’ I shouted.

I blared the horn in anger, got out again and slammed the door shut. I walked up and down, blaming my parents, the cancer, the snowstorm, the car, myself until my legs and arms felt frozen stiff.

Getting back in the car, I looked at the Satnav to see if there was any civilisation nearby. Perhaps, there would be a helpful farmer? Or maybe I was close to the village? The Satnav came back empty, just showing the red lined road I was on and nothing close by.

I turned off the car engine. Not sure what else I could do.

Sitting for a few minutes, I watched the snow burying my car and strangely recalled how one summer holiday my dad had let me bury him in sand at the beach. Mum had taken a photo as we had all laughed. Then we had got fish and chips followed by ice cream. Dad had then carried me back to the hotel as I dozed in his arms.

I smiled and began to recall other favourite memories. Finally, I came to one about my first diving lesson and how I had scared my dad as I had almost hit a wall. We had laughed about that long afterwards and he still wouldn’t get in a car with me driving today.

Shaking my head and laughing, I turned the engine on and the car started up. Handbrake down, foot on pedals, gear in and turning the steering wheel, the car obeyed me and pulled back onto the road.

‘What was all that about?’ I cried.

Unsure, I carefully began driving. Everything felt normal and like there had been no problems back there at all. Shrugging, I carried on my journey.

Two hours later, I arrived at the hospice and went to my dad’s room. He was sleep with the blanket pulled up to his chin. My mother was sitting beside him, face hidden in a tissue.

‘I made it,’ I whispered.

Mum looked up her, her face tear stained and eyes red, ‘he’s gone,’ she stuttered and threw her arms around me.

‘When?’ I asked.

She mumbled the time and as I held her I cast my mind back.

He had died at the same time I had seen that light and my car had stopped working.

Bootlegged

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The alley was getting darker as the sunset. I lent against the wall and watched the streetlamps flickering on. The rain had stopped a few minutes ago, water dripped off the broken guttering and the overfilling bins. I had no idea how long or how much longer I’d have to wait but it was going to be worth it.

I tried to look casual, perhaps acted like I was looking for a lost kitten or something but it was hard to be so normal in a place like this. I hadn’t seen any police or soldiers or anyone else who looked suspicious. The only other sounds were from the cramped houses either side of me; babies crying, children talking, adults shouting and a lone dog barking.

A rattling of the broken wire fence at the back of the alley and the shuffling of feet drew my attention. It could be him or it could be someone else… I cast about and made clicking noises as if I was looking for a lost pet.

A hacking coughing stopped me and I looked up at the small man standing in the shadows. He was wearing a massive coat that covered him from head to floor, a floppy hat that covered the top of his head and give his face more cover. He might also have been wearing a woollen mask but it was hard to tell.

I walked over to him nervously but trying not to show any fear. There was enough light from the streetlamp to aid us and I tried not to stand in front of it. We both looked and listened, giving enough time for anybody watching us to jump out. Everything seemed normal.

Slowly, the small man opened his coat and there was a soft rustling sound. Light flashed across something shinny. He held his arms wide and coat high to reveal the many pockets sew inside which were stuffed full of bootlegged products.

I licked my lips and stepped even closer. Forgetting for a moment that we had to be careful. Someone could still be watching us, waiting for either the handover or the completion.

‘What you got?’ I whispered.

‘Whatever you want,’ the man hushed back, flashing a smile that showed off his golden teeth.

‘Nonpareils?’

‘Left side, down.’

I looked then pulled out a small grey packet. I felt the weight in my hand and decided that was fine. I put it in the secret pocket in my jeans.

‘Belgian Sea?’

‘Right, top.’

I pulled out a small box and looked quickly inside. I nodded and slipped the box into a pocket inside of my coat.

‘Cow Solid?’

‘Right middle. I got dark, white or milk.’

I selected a small paper wrapped bar of milk and eased it down the side of my left boot.

‘How much?’ I uttered.

He named his price and I handed over a few packets of cigarettes, painkillers and ketchup.

Satisfied we both walked away as it started raining again.

 

(This story was inspired by my fiance wondering what it would be like if chocolate was banned. This scene came into my head and I had to write a short story about it!)    

Blown In On The Wind

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Returning from dropping the grandchildren off at school, I sank into my armchair and looked out the window at the storm I had just battled through. The wind was as strong as a car speeding on the motorway and it was driving the heavy rain and hailstones into you like shards of glass.

I turned the TV on, then left some daytime game show sounding in the background. I changed into slippers and a warmer jumper. There was housework to do but it could wait until later.

Sitting down again, I looked at the collection of photos on the mantel and the wall. There were many of my husband who had died six years ago, we had been married for fifty-two years. He had been in the army and though the idea of being an solider’s wife had worried me, I had enjoyed the travelling and many experiences.

There were photos of my only child, my daughter, Victoria and also her husband, Danial. Both had died in a car crash, five years ago. Then there were my grandchildren, ten year old, Beth and seven year old, Alex, smiling brightly in every photo.

I got out my knitting, feeling the need to relax. My joints were aching because of the cold and I couldn’t get warm enough. The joys of old age and having to look after young children once again. I would soon feel some energy back then I could do some chores.

A banging upstairs stilled the clicking of my needles. I looked up at the ceiling, listening as the bang came again. The wind was swinging a door about, that was all.

I got up and climbed the stairs, feeling pain in my hips and knees. At the top, I saw Beth’s door moving and banging against the frame as the wind blew about.

‘She didn’t shut her window probably, that child!’ I uttered.

I went in, closed and locked the offending window. Outside, the wind carried on raging away, leaving the bedroom freezing cold. Turning the heater up, I went to head back downstairs and put the kettle on.

Something white moved out of the corner of my eye and I turned to it. Was it a bird? No..it was something else….The shape seemed to grow and become more solid, yet still see through. The white colour became more cream and I saw the outline of a long dress drifting.

The more I stared the more the ghost took form before me until a young woman was standing before the bed. Her long hair was down to her waist and her face was full of sadness. As she looked around, confusion frowned her face then she went to the window and looked out as if she was lost.

‘Hello? I said gently.

No reply.

‘I can see you, ghost,’ I added.

The woman turned and looked at me slowly.

‘What are you doing here?’

She sighed and softly, almost in a whisper answered, ‘looking for my child.’

‘Are they here?’ I pressed.

‘No,’ she uttered, ‘the strong wind blew me into your house. I am sorry.’

‘It’s okay, pet. Would you like to stay until the weather passes?’ I asked, ‘some company meet be good for you.’

The ghost took a moment to think then nodded. She turned, taking the room in again.

‘This is my granddaughter’s room. Come down into the living room,’ I spoke.

I went back down and the ghost followed me. A cold draft trailed around her and her dress floated on a wind that seemed to be a part of her.

Settling in my chair and picking up my knit, I tried not to watch the ghost hovering around.

‘They have passed,’ she muttered after a few minutes.

I looked up and saw her before the photos, ‘yes, pet,’ I replied, though there wasn’t a need too but it did open a conversation, ‘you lost your child?’

‘At birth. I followed a day later,’ the ghost answered, ‘and I have been searching ever since.’

‘That’s why you are still here,’ I added.

‘Yes,’ agreed the ghost. She give a long moaning sigh and stirred the leaves of a pot plant.

‘Where do you think your child is?’ I questioned over the clicking of my knitting needles.

The ghost was quiet and thoughtful.

‘At your house?’ I pondered after a few minutes.

‘If she was, she is no longer,’ the ghost woman replied, ‘that is why I had to leave. I cannot rest without her.’

I nodded and fell to thinking. Soothed by the sounds of the TV and needles, it was easy for my mind to drift.

‘You know, pet,’ I said, ‘stillborn babies probably go straight to heaven.’

‘Do you think?’ the ghost gasped.

‘Yes. They are innocent and have no reason to stay here. Maybe, that’s what has happened?’

‘Has it?’ whispered the ghost.

‘And perhaps, it’s not the search for your child that keeps you here but the grieve of the loss?’ I concluded.

The ghost let out a low moan.

‘Have you tried to leave?’

‘No. I did not want to,’ the ghost replied.

‘Try and see what happens, pet,’ I responded, gently.

‘Am I scared.’

‘I know but there’s nothing to worry about and your child will be waiting. If not, I shall help you.’

‘You will? Oh! Thank you!’ the ghost cried and she smiled.

‘Now, try to go to Heaven, pet.’

The ghost nodded and after a few moments, she began to fade away.

‘I am going! I am going!’ she shouted, ‘I shall be united with my child.’

‘Yes, dear. Go, go! Find your child and be at peace.’

With a finally smile, the ghost woman vanished.

Her cold spot lingered another minute or two then warmth took over once more.

I lent back in my armchair, knitting abandoned on my lap, looking at where the ghost had stood. Then, I turned to the photographs and said, ‘if I was her, I would have done the same. Mothers and children should always be together.’

Beau #FFftPP

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Beau stolen my heart. I wasn’t looking for a pet when I met him. I was driving home after the death of my beloved uncle and Beau was eating a dead rabbit on the road side.

I took him to an animal centre and hoped his family would come. Nobody did and Beau was put up for adoption but he had problems. I connected the shelter for an update and learnt that, so I decided to rescue him again.

Saving Beau sealed our fate together.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforthepracticalpractitioner.wordpress.com/2020/02/12/flash-fiction-for-the-purposeful-practitioner-2020-week-07/ with thanks).