The World According to Renee

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Illusions

Silhouette young lovers

Teenage Me thought Teenage You was cute.

You had dark brown hair, just a shade or two lighter than black. Your smile could light up a room. Your attitude… Well, it was just a typical teenage boy’s do-not-care-about-anything attitude.

“What are you looking at?” Teenage You said.

“Nothing,” Teenage Me replied. “There’s a cockroach on the wall behind you. I was waiting to see if it jumped on your back.” It was a lie. I’d been staring at you, wanting to remember every part of your face, hoping my subconscious would recall your features in my dreams that night. Unaware of my lie, you jumped, brushing invisible creepy crawlies from your shoulder. You didn’t see my face flush with embarrassment at being caught staring at you.

Eventually, the weight of my stare was too much and you didn’t talk to me at all. We both moved on. My mind drifted to my next crush, another boy I wouldn’t admit my feelings for.

It was a surprise to run into you more than twenty years later, in a shopping centre neither of us frequented. Fate was the romanticised name for it.

“Hey…?” At first, I wasn’t sure it was you. Eventually my long stored memories of your face came back asking for confirmation it was you. Yet all my mouth could muster was ‘Hey’, as if you actually had any idea who I was.

“Uh, hi?” Your face gave it away: your brain did not remember me.

“Milly,” I said, trying to jog your memory.

“Milly! Of course!” But your eyes gave you away: You couldn’t place me although your brain was clicking over all your memories. “How are you? It must have been, oh, five years! Has it been that long already?”

“You were in my Social Studies class with Mr Plummer. Do you remember him? That bald spot he always tried to hide with a terrible combover?”

You laughed. “Oh yes, I remember him! He never liked me, kept comparing me to my brothers, who were some sort of geniuses.” You laughed again.

I smiled politely, my heart beating fast. It too remembered the nights I stayed awake wondering if you liked me. “How are your brothers?”

Your smile faded. “Uh, well, um… Sam died and uh, Jesse is a human rights lawyer currently trying to get the government to remove people from Nauru.” You looked sad.

“Oh fuck, I’m sorry,” I said sincerely. Although I had studied your face a thousand times, I had ignored your brothers.

“Yeah, it’s been tough,” you said, and I asked no more.

“Look, it’s been really great catching up…” I started, desperately wanting to ask you to join me for coffee and lunch.

“Same,” you said. I didn’t believe you.

“Uh, I’m just heading for lunch and I’m not meeting anyone. If you’re free…”

You glanced at your Apple Watch, tapping twice and looking at the results. “You know what? I am free for lunch.” Oh, that smile!

The past twenty years melted away over that lunch. I ordered blistered cherry tomatoes on sourdough bread with feta and avocado. You ordered a latte, BLT and a cherry chocolate cake for dessert. I raised my eyebrow.

“Cake fan?”

You looked sheepish. “Yeah. I’m not supposed to eat junk, but you know… I stress eat.”

We talked about what had happened in our lives since those heady days at school. As you spoke, my eyes gazed at your face like it had so long ago. There were a few wrinkles around your eyes, smile lines showing a fun-filled life. I smiled and I’m sure you thought I was smiling at the anecdote you were telling, but it was me comparing Teenage You with this version now before me. A few grey hairs sidelined that face I remembered, giving you an air of authority and maturity.

We finished lunch, both of us too nervous to shake hands and seal that chemistry I still felt.

“Look me up on Facebook!” You called as you walked away. As if I hadn’t looked you up a dozen times already. Now, you gave me permission to actually request your social media friendship and I could stalk your secrets.

“Wait!”

You stopped, cocking your head like a dog trying to understand its master.

I bit my lip, summoning courage I felt building inside. “I’m sorry, I’m about to make this really awkward.”

You smiled. My heart skipped a beat.

“Can I kiss you?”

You did not know how to respond. Here’s this mad woman you haven’t seen for twenty years suddenly asking permission to invade your personal space. Don’t think I didn’t notice the lack of wedding ring on your finger.

Eventually you smiled. “Do you always ask?”

“Well, no.”

You leaned forward and lightly brushed my lips with yours. Everything I had ever felt for you rushed into every organ in my body. A rush of adrenalin surged through me, manifesting into my lips engaging with yours. For a second, I thought I actually felt a spark just before you pulled away.

“Teenage Me is very happy right now,” I admitted.

“What about Adult You?” You said.

“Adult Me wants more,” my lips said before I could stop them.

You didn’t speak. You grabbed my hand and pulled me along until you found an unoccupied toilet for the disabled.

I raised my eyebrows. You shrugged. It was the best solution at the time.

We were passionate, we were fast, we were quiet. Nobody was waiting outside when we finally came out, our clothes askew, our hair messy.

One last wordless kiss and we parted.

I returned home to my husband, who was slouched on the beanbag holding the game controller, his thumbs working furiously with his eyes glued to the big screen television.

“Hey,” I said cheerfully. “You’ll never guess who I ran into today. Your asshole brother says you’re dead.”

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September 17, 2018 Posted by | Short Stories | , , | Leave a comment

Inheritance – A Short Story

Stock photo casket funeral

Inheritance

It was too hot for a March morning. I stood back from the crowd, respectful of the mourners and wondering why I was even here. I recognised his family from photos: parents, brother, sister, grandparents.

“He’s too young to die,” wailed a female voice. I choked back a sob.

Soon, the doors to the chapel opened and people started filing inside. I chose a pew fifth from the front, away from his family and close friends. A blonde woman strode confidently down the aisle, flicking her long ponytail as she walked. She was taller than everyone else there, even without the stilettos.

“That’s his girlfriend,” someone behind me said. Of course she was, I thought, rolling my eyes.

A man pointed to the seat next to me. “Is this seat taken?”

“No,” I answered, the words caught. I cleared my throat and answered again.

He sat down, his weight squeaking the pew. He offered his hand. “Sam. I’ve known Dan from high school.”

”Emily,” I replied politely, offering no explanation as to my relationship with the deceased.

The deceased. I sighed, trying to get my head around the fact that he was dead. As the music started for the first hymn, I dropped the program onto the floor, grateful for an excuse for the blood rushing to my head.

“He’d have hated this,” he grinned.

“Yes,” I agreed.

“Cremation was always his thing. He wanted to be burned and the ashes buried in a time capsule.” Sam laughed. “Never thought the bastard would be the first to die though.”

I bit my tongue. He was well aware he could die young. His remaining kidney couldn’t hold out forever.

At the graveside service, his father and sister spoke and the minister spoke about how the body may be dead but the spirit lives on. As the heat belted down, I pulled out the funeral program and fanned myself with it, wishing I’d brought a bottle of water. Movement to my right caught my eye: a group of women moving as one walked towards the gravesite, holding back from the main mourners.

As the service closed and the casket was lowered, fresh wailing from Dan’s mother could be heard throughout the cemetery. Her husband held her as she cried, while her remaining children held hands and sang a low tune I couldn’t quite hear.

“You’re invited into the wake room for tea and sandwiches,” announced the minister.

‘This should be interesting,” Sam said, raising his eyebrows.

Inside, I stood by the door with a triangle of sandwich in a paper napkin, happy to be observing. Sam was talking to Dan’s brother, chuckling over school shenanigans only the two of them remembered. The tall blonde was standing alone, her eye on the suspicious group of women who had wandered into the graveside service. I was so busy watching the blonde that I didn’t see the group of women moving towards me.

“Who are you, then?” A short brunette stood before me, one hand on her hip. Her hair was pulled into a high, tight ponytail. Her tight black dress was completely inappropriate for a funeral, showing off her voluptuous bosom. Her makeup was bright and heavily applied. She cracked gum in her mouth.

“Excuse me?”

”I thought I knew all Dan’s girls, but I don’t know you.”

I smiled, part amused, part pissed off. “Emily,” I said. “We broke up only about six weeks ago.”

The woman who spoke grinned. “That explains it then. She’s only new,” she said to the others in the group. The ladies tittered among themselves, making me feel quite uncomfortable at being blasted into a spotlight.

“Come join us,” another said. “We’re like the ghosts of girlfriends past. We all dated him, many at the same time,” she said with a sly grin.

“Quite the ladies’ man,” I agreed with a sigh.

“Anyway, this is Susanne, Angela, Mollie, Tina, Christina, Tammy, Sara, Hannah, Liz and I’m Lou,” said the lead woman. “There are others, but they thought it was inappropriate to come.”

”Who’s the blonde? I heard she was his current girlfriend.”

Lou nodded. “I think her name is Erin? Stephanie? Maybe Jessica?” she shrugged. The others laughed. “She’s not interested in us. She thought she’d be the last love, the one who finally tamed him. Joke’s on her, he’s been cheating on her for the past six months.”

Yep, I thought. I knew I wasn’t the only one although he denied everything. He’d told me his cheating days were over, he was only interested in me. Fuck him.

“Anyway,” Lou continued. “You’re welcome to hang out with us. We know what Dan was like, we just laugh about it.”

”Sure, that sounds fun. So uh, why are you guys here?”

Another answered; I think it was Tammy. “Same as you. We all loved him and thought we have just as much right to be here as anyone else.”

“Makes sense,” I replied, knowing that was exactly the reason I was there and hating myself for still being a little bit in love with the lying bastard.

Lou and the girls stayed for around an hour, chatting among ourselves and basically. ignoring everyone else. I’d even forgotten about the tall blonde. As we left, they all kissed each other on the cheek and reminded each other about the meetup in a fortnight at their favourite cafe.

“You actually hang out together?” I laughed.

“Of course!” Lou replied. “We swap stories, talk about his dick and the things he says to himself in the middle of doing it. I’m sure you’ve got stories too. Come join us!”

”Yeah… that’s not weird at all,” I answered.

Lou shrugged. “Up to you. Here’s my number,” she said, handing me a business card, “and you can call if you want.” Lou Parker, Senior accountant. Impressive.

I dialled her number into my phone and called. Lou’s phone rang, with a Nicki Minaj song as her ringtone. She fumbled in her oversized handbag but I stopped the call before she found it.

“Now you have my number too,” I said as I clicked open my car and crawled inside, glad the whole ordeal was finally over. The girls waved as I drove out of the carpark.

Two weeks later, Lou called me. I assumed she wanted to remind me about the Girlfriends’ Meetup.

“Hey hun,” she said cheerily. “Just thought I’d let you know, Dan left us all a parting gift. You gotta get yourself checked for chlamydia.”

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment

Slide

By 10am, the rain had stopped, allowing the funeral to be held outdoors as planned, albeit on soggy ground. At least it would be easier for the gravedigger, thought Lyndall bleakly. She pulled on her black dress, a half-size too small, choosing silver hooped earrings and black shoes with a small heel. Was it wrong to think she looked good in this outfit?

Dying was a terrible inconvenience. Terence never planned to die like this. He thought he’d die dramatically; a car crash or slip in front of a train perhaps. It’d started with a cough that didn’t go away, a diagnosis of lung cancer despite Terence never having smoked, and just four short months later he died in his sleep. Lyndall was furious with him. How dare he die so suddenly? They hadn’t seen the cherry blossoms in Japan, meditated in the middle of Stonehenge or posed in front of the pyramids in Giza. No, he’d gone and left her before they could do any of those things. And now Lyndall was alone, squeezed into a tight black dress with a zipper she couldn’t quite do up on her own.

Lyndall stood steadfastly during the service, staring straight ahead as the celebrant spoke comforting words Lyndall had written. The sun had burned the remaining rain clouds away, leaving a muggy residue that clung to everyone’s skin, making them even more uncomfortable. By request, the service was short with an invitation to Lyndall’s house for sandwiches and coffee and friendly chat about Terence’s happier times. She didn’t want anyone in her house but she was expected to be hospitable. Besides, she got a great deal on the catering thanks to Terence’s niece.

“Those with roses may now place them,” said the celebrant cordially. Lyndall stepped forward, placing her yellow rose on the casket.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” Lyndall swung around, trying to place the voice. She found it belonged to Kathy Street, Terence’s first wife. Kathy placed her own yellow rose next to Lyndall’s.

“Thankyou,” replied Lyndall succinctly. She really didn’t have any malice towards Kathy, but she wondered what Terence would have thought had he known she was at his funeral.

“Lyndall! How are you doing?” Lyndall’s attention was pulled again. Frank Deely, Terence’s former boss. Frank placed a rolled up newspaper on the casket. Lyndall made a mental note to ask about that at the wake.

“I’m well, thankyou.” What else was she expected to say?

Back at her house, the guests mingled in small groups. Lyndall knew most of the faces, the Who’s Who of Terence’s life. Mostly family. Terence’s three brothers stood in a corner, sipping water from iced glasses. Lyndall spied Frank Deely and wandered over to him.

“Thanks for coming, Frank. It would have meant a lot to him, knowing you were there.”

“He was a great bloke, Lyn.” She detested being called Lyn. “I’m so sorry we lost him so early.”

“What was the newspaper for?”

Frank smiled. “The day I met Terence, he brought a newspaper to the interview and asked if I wanted to read Garfield because he knew the job was his and he didn’t want to waste any of my time answering silly questions.”

Lyndall smiled. He was right, of course. Terence had already been offered the job and the interview with Frank was just a formality.

“He would’ve appreciated the gesture.”

Frank smiled wryly, unsure of what to say next. He gave her a short, awkward hug and moved towards the roast beef sandwiches. Lyndall sipped iced tea. Despite being the centre of attention, she stood alone in the room, no one quite sure what to say to her. She wondered if she could sneak a nip of vodka into the iced tea without anyone noticing.

“Lyndall, it’s good to see you.” Her head swung to her left, finding no one standing where she expected. She looked around, confused. “Over here!” called the voice. She followed the sound, her eyes settling on a tall man standing a few feet away, leaning against the wall near the kitchen entrance. He was smiling, his hand wrapped around a bottle of Terence’s favourite beer. He must have found it in the bottom of the pantry where she’d hidden it a few weeks earlier.

Her brow furrowed with confusion. She couldn’t place him.

“Thankyou for coming,” she started. “It would have meant a lot to him…”

He grinned. “You have no idea who I am,” he noted with amusement.

“I’m sorry…”

He transferred his beer to the other hand, holding out his now free hand to shake hers. “Mark Delvaney.”

“You obviously know me,” Lyndall replied in a tone that could be construed as bitchy.

Mark wasn’t put off, his grin getting wider with bemusement.

“Yes, I know you,” replied Mark without further explanation. “I always knew someday I’d be your man.”

Lyndall’s heart skipped a beat, her fake smile frozen on her face as her eyes widened. Suddenly, the black dress was even tighter and she stumbled backwards in her hurry to escape outside. As she did, she heard Mark laughing.

The vodka-laced iced tea was a puddle on the ground but Lyndall didn’t notice or care. She was outside, gasping for air, her lungs filling but not feeling full. Too late, she recognised the panic attack. Inside, Mark was congratulating himself.

“Mark Delvaney. I’m a property developer. I’m very rich.”

Mark Delvaney was indeed a property developer, and he was also quite wealthy. It was his ‘elevator speech’; the line he used whenever he was asked to introduce himself. Most people were instantly turned off by his introduction, but Mark had a habit of harassing people until he got what he wanted. In his opinion, it was the only way to do business. He had dropped out of school aged seventeen and bummed around for a few years in menial jobs before deciding working for The Man would never make him rich. He enrolled at university as a mature age student at 25, quickly discovering there was no degree for becoming a billionaire. He weaseled his way into Martin & Martin, a property development company with numerous portfolios worth several million dollars. By the time Mark was finished with them, they were within a whisper of becoming a billion dollar company. Mark took the knowledge from Roger Martin Sr and used it for his own profit. It didn’t take long. Mark was one of those people whom others would say inspired them, a Richard Branson of the property world, a charming version of Donald Trump with better hair.

Mark Delvaney, self-made millionaire in four years. Unmarried, childless (as far as he knew), and madly in love with Lyndall.

He’d first seen her at a cafe. She was alone, ordering an ordinary coffee on an ordinary day wearing ordinary clothes and ordinary, unbrushed hair. If he remembered correctly, it was six years, four months, three days and seven hours ago. Perhaps it was her ordinariness that captured his attention. His eyes were drawn to her left hand; she wore a plain, yellow gold wedding band. He finished his double shot espresso, licked his lips, cocked his head and determined his destiny to follow her. She walked three blocks to an apartment building, pressed the button and was immediately invited in. She didn’t even look around. In that walk, she hadn’t sipped her coffee. She hadn’t taken a single bite of the double choc chip muffin she carried but not bought at the cafe. He found himself besotted from just a glance at her, despite her desperate housewife appearance. He told himself later it was her inner beauty he’d seen. Of course, he didn’t know her name at first. He imagined her name was something glamorous, named after an old Hollywood star or Greek goddess. He felt pleased with himself when he learned Lyndall meant beautiful.

Lyndall didn’t notice Mark that day in the cafe. She’d woken late after a restless sleep, grabbed a coffee from a cafe she didn’t normally frequent, and headed to a friend’s place to watch chick flicks and bitch about their men.

Terence was having an affair. Lyndall knew about it for some time before confronting him. At first she was angry, then sad, then vengeful. In the end, when she found his secret phone tucked in the pocket of jeans she thought he never wore and confronted him, she felt defeated.

“Do what you want,” she’d told him. “I knew you were never mine.” She closed the door, leaving him staring after her.

“Once a cheater, always a cheater,” reminded her friend. “He cheated on Kathy with you…”

Lyndall nodded. “Yeah. I knew then he was never truly mine. He would always belong to the next pretty dame in a skirt.”

Her friend laughed. “Since when have you ever called anyone a dame?”

Mark made it his business to find out who this woman was. His attraction to her was fuelled by his lust for older women and his desire to control them. Maybe she appeared vulnerable that day in the cafe? Despite his immodesty when it came to his success, he had never been interested in trophy girlfriends. “Oh sure,” he would brag. “I could have models and actresses and pretty things hanging off my arm, but they’re all pretty brain dead, wouldn’t you agree?”

His first girlfriend was in high school, when Mark still wore braces and his hair hung in his eyes. She was a year older and taught Mark everything she knew, which wasn’t much. He was twenty three when he met Mari, the first real love of his life. Mari was in her mid thirties, a little pudgy around the belly and thighs, but really quite pretty when she dressed up. She worked in an accounting firm and when Mark Delvanely first walked through her door, she was smitten; she’d always gone for that bad boy persona. Their relationship was rocky from the beginning as Mark pursued his dream of becoming rich while she earned barely enough to keep them both fed. She was besotted by him, but his refusal to work in a job just to pay the bills finally crumbled their relationship. He knew he was destined for something better both personally and professionally.

He once bumped into Lyndall at a shopping centre, deliberately of course. In that one bump, he knocked her handbag and while she was busily putting things back, he apologised to distract her while he pocketed her purse and mobile phone. This act gave him all the information he wanted to know: Mrs Lyndall Browne, an address, a birthdate, a stack of loyalty cards to her favourite stores. It was too easy to buy her something from a store and send it to her on special occasions. At first, she naturally thought it was Terence trying to repair their marriage, but his credit card bills showed the purchases weren’t his. Her friends also denied it. Her colleagues pleaded innocence. Terence never knew. The mobile phone also provided her phone number. He took a gamble, guessing she wouldn’t change her number when she bought a new phone.

Happy birthday, Lyndall. A scented candle from her favourite candle store.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year, Lyndall. Fourteen karat rose gold earrings, bracelet, necklace, anklet.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from your secret admirer. A dozen long-stemmed roses and a box of imported Italian chocolates.

Happy anniversary, darling. A diamond ring which she always returned and never wore.

The cards and text messages were always signed, “With love, someday I’ll be your man.”

Now Terence was dead. His obituary was printed in the same paper announcing Mark’s intention to bulldoze three run-down houses and build a new high rise residential tower overlooking the new man-made lake he’d also developed. Expressions of interest for the pre-sale of these apartments were welcome. Terence Browne, loving husband and father, now with Jesus in His Eternal Kingdom. Lyndall didn’t write the obituary; she had told the funeral director to submit the cheapest template he had. Mark was looking through the obits from habit, noting which of the recently deceased had a spouse needing to sell their house in a hurry. Death was so expensive these days and it is so hard to look after a big house all by yourself… Terence’s notice piqued Mark’s interest. Until now, he’d admired Lyndall from afar. She was his true love, she knew he existed, she was just waiting for her husband to be out of the picture before she was able to be with him. And now, her husband was dead. It was time to make his move.

Mark smiled when the rain cleared just in time for the funeral. He dressed in his best suit, his lucky suit he always wore when brokering an important deal. As he adjusted his tie, his heart raced. Today was the day he would make himself known to her. It would be easy; she already knew him. She would’ve loved those scented candles. He knew floral scents would have to be her favourite, but he’d also sent summery flavours because she was a burst of sunshine in his world. He pictured her wearing his rose gold jewellery, fingering the delicate chain as she admired herself in the mirror. She’d be thinking about him, wishing she was free of her marriage shackles. He imagined her gazing wistfully at her roses, a candle illuminating the flowers, releasing scented oils from the petals. The tropical air would be filled with a multitude of scents swimming around her senses. As Lyndall made love to her husband, she’d be imagining the forbidden lust of a haunted lover. His gifts got him noticed; today he would reveal himself triumphantly. Sure, she couldn’t attach herself straight away, but after an

Lappropriate period of mourning they would come out as a couple. Yes, today was the day.

Lyndall gasped for breath, her lungs on fire, her brain screaming for oxygen. Her friend Sara ran out after her, holding a bottle of water and a pack of cigarettes. “Lyn! Lyn!”

“He’s here,” breathed Lyndall heavily. Sara’s brow furrowed with confusion.

“Honey, drink some water.”

Her brain was spinning. It wasn’t just the presents. This guy knew her. He knew her favourite stores, her favourite scents, her birthday… Terence had always been there to defend her, protect her, be with her. Now Terence was gone and she was alone, he was inside her house right now. Was he going through her wardrobe as she struggled to breathe? The weight of his stare bore through her even though he was nowhere in sight… or was he? She looked around. Sara had one hand on her, mouthing words Lyndall couldn’t hear, drowned by her own thoughts.

“Stop!” she yelled. Sara pulled Lyndall to her feet and walked her inside. The darkness confused her eyes for a moment, but when they’d adjusted she saw him standing by the breakfast bar at the entrance to the kitchen. He was still smiling, beer still in one hand.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he said simply.

“Get out,” Lyndall said weakly. Even Sara, standing next to her, didn’t hear.

“We should talk, Lyndall. Get to know each other. I think you’d be surprised.”

Lyndall stood to her full height, her heart pounding, her thoughts muddled. But this, this she saw clearly. She smiled at Mark, moving closer to him. He grinned seductively as she walked past him into the kitchen. She turned to face him, her hand slipping into the top drawer behind her back. She silently withdrew a knife from its sheath, hiding it behind her back.

“It was so nice of you to come today,” she drawled, a smile slipping from her lips. “Terence would be so pleased to know my true friends are here for me today.”

Sara only watched as Mark made small talk as he walked towards her. She saw the knife behind Lyndall’s back.

This was his moment. In his mind they were already betrothed, all he needed from her was her hand to slip on the ring and make it official. There was no better moment than this, her husband’s wake. He bent on one knee.

“I have something for you,” he responded. His heart was beating faster now; this was his moment. Her husband had kindly stood aside to let destiny take its course. He slipped his hand inside his pocket, fingering the perfect diamond ring. He opened his hand to show her. “I know you’ve seen this before. I know you returned it. That’s okay, I know now that it was stupid of me, expecting you to wear this while your husband was still alive. He’d never have understood that someday, I’d be your man.” He held the ring towards her. Lyndall stopped, the smile frozen on her face. Sara nudged her forward; knowing what was about to happen but powerless to stop it. She felt sick. Lyndall took a step.

“I… I hardly believed this would ever happen,” she whispered, her hand stretching to meet his.

“It’s been a long time for me too,” answered Mark. “From the moment I saw you, I knew you were special.” The other guests were oblivious to what was happening in the kitchen, their voices hushed in respectful conversation between themselves.

“Shh,” whispered Lyndall. “Stand up.”

Mark obeyed. His eyes were locked on hers. In that second, Lyndall whipped the knife from behind her back, sliding it into his abdomen just below his ribs. Her breath was heavy, her hand steady. His mouth opened in surprise, his hand instinctively shooting to his wound to stem the blood.

“What have you done?” he tried to say, but the words caught in his throat. He slipped to the floor amid an increasing pool of blood. Sara’s scream hung in the air, calling attention to the kitchen.

“You’re wrong,” spat Lyndall over the dying body on her kitchen floor. “You’ll never know what it’s like to be my man.”

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment

Lyric: An Original Short Story

The late afternoon sun wasn’t yet orange; instead it hung like a bright golden ball sinking ever lower in the sky. Lyric checked the clock again although barely ten minutes had passed since she had last glanced at it. Still another half hour until close with nothing much left to do. Her supervisor, Margery, was in the office busily typing up reports or short stories or updating the website. Lyric honestly didn’t care what Margery did, but she was sure Margery didn’t spend all that time in the office doing actual work. Supervising was far too important to do menial work, like replacing books to their proper shelves or stamping library cards for kids.

Lyric glanced around the library again. Old Pete was sitting in his usual spot, reading caravanning magazines that he had already read a hundred times. A young woman was browsing the teenage fiction, stationed in front of the supernatural romance genre that the library had highlighted for the month. Over at the cafe in the centre of the library, the barista Daniel waved to her as he wiped the tables for the millionth time that day. Lyric smiled and waved back. There was a lone man sitting at the cafe tables, oblivious to everything except the book in front of him. She watched as Daniel tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to the clock, probably telling him the library was closing soon. The man grabbed his book, slurped the last of his iced coffee and meandered lazily towards the toy room at the very back of the library. Realising she hadn’t yet locked the toy room, Lyric grabbed the key and followed. The man was unsuccesssfully trying to coax a young girl into leaving the big foam blocks she was jumping on.

“Toys open tomorrow?” Enquired the young girl.

“Yes, baby, the toys wil be open again tomorrow. Did you want to borrow this book about trains? Or did you want the one about the yellow dinosaur?”

“RAWR!” Said the young girl. The man smiled.

“Excuse me,” interrupted Lyric. “I need to lock the toy room.” The man and the young girl watched as Lyric twisted the key into the ancient lock until the door clicked.

“Toy room open tomorrow?”

Lyric kneeled so she could look into the girl’s eyes. “It sure will be! What’s your name, princess?”

“I Melody,” said the little girl proudly, offering Lyric her book about trains.

“Hi Melody, I’m Lyric. Will you be back again tomorrow? We’ll be having a story time at ten thirty. Parents welcome,” she added, looking up at Melody’s father.

“Ethic,” said the man, smiling. “My name is Ethic.”

“Ethic is an unusual name,” Lyric commented, standing up to her full height. “And Melody… well, it seems like we’re destined to meet.” Melody let go of her father’s hand and ran off to the colouring table.

Ethic laughed. “I was brought up in a religious community,” he replied. “I have a sister named Prayer, if you can believe that. Anyway, you can’t talk. What kind of name is Lyric?”

“My father was conductor for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and my mother was the lead violinist. They were hoping I’d be musically inclined as well.”

“And are you?”

“Hardly. I hated playing piano, I wasn’t allowed to play the drums, I sing like a dying banshee and I’ve forgotten how to read music. I’m more of the artistic type,” Lyric explained. “Painting, mostly. Some of my artwork is hanging in the foyer.

“Well, let’s get these books borrowed.” Lyric, still holding the trains book, started walking towards the front desk, hoping Ethic was following after a detour to retrieve Melody, who was colouring a picture of Alice sitting on a mushroom opposite the Caterpillar.

“Oh. The self serve is down?”

“Um, I just switched it off,” lied Lyric. “So close to closing; I don’t think anyone else is going to be borrowing anything today.” Old Pete never borrowed the caravanning magazines, and the teenager perusing supernatural romance looked to be losing interest.

Lyric swiped each book, chatting with Ethic about favourite authors and subjects. He was interested in astronomy, but upon discovering a lack of viable career options, had settled for IT instead.

“Well,” began Lyric as she finished lending the books, “These are due back in a month, here’s your reminder slip, and of course we’ll send out a text a couple of days before they’re due.” As Ethic took his books, he deliberately brushed his hand against Lyric’s. She inhaled briskly, sure her face was blushing.

“So… You haven’t taken the hint yet, so I guess I need to ask directly. Would you like to have coffee with me?” Ethic smiled. Lyric accepted. As he left the library, Ethic made special note of the artwork hanging in the foyer, particularly the ones bearing Lyric’s name at the bottom.

Romance wasn’t on Lyric’s mind as she met Ethic for coffee several times over the next few weeks. They chatted casually about the world and their place within it. They dissected overseas political issues, raising debate about how the North Korean missile crisis should be handled. Before the conversation became too heated, they caught each others’ eyes and laughed.

“Is this how you pictured your immediate future?” Ethic asked one day.

“Well, no,” admitted Lyric. “But who ever thinks they’re going to meet someone, especially while working?”

“I wouldn’t say working at a library would be exactly challenging,” mentioned Ethic casually.

Lyric almost choked on her latte. “Pardon?”

He shrugged. “What’s there to do? Put back books, help cute guys borrow books, explain to old people how to use the computer. It just doesn’t sound like a hard job.”

“Shows what you know. Anyway, my shift starts in half an hour. I’d better get going. I have to mentally prepare for helping cute guys borrow books and explain to oldies how to use the computers.” Her words came out more bitterly than she intended, but Ethic grinned it off.

“I can’t pretend I’m doing anything in half an hour. Going back to the office and having more coffee,” he said smugly. Ethic was the team leader for cyber security and was pretty lax about the whole thing. Lyric wondered if he actually did any work or delegated everything to his team. She smiled to herself, comparing Ethic to her own supervisor Margery: neither seemed to do anything vaguely important.

Still, Lyric found herself falling for Ethic faster than she’d expected. Despite her reservations about his sense of humour, she was otherwise enchanted by him, and Melody, of course. She hadn’t seen Melody since that first day at the library; Melody lived with her mother most of the time, something which Ethic didn’t speak much about. Obviously it was a sore issue, thought Lyric.

A couple of months into their new relationship, Lyric invited Ethic and Melody shopping. “The real test of a relationship is whether someone can handle a woman’s retail therapy,” smiled Lyric as she snuggled into Ethic late one Saturday morning. Ethic laughed and kissed her forehead.

“I’m game,” he chuckled.

Lyric’s shopping centre of choice was one of the biggest in the country. Sprawling over four levels, with over a hundred stores per level, Lyric was in heaven. Melody ran from store to store, calling Ethic to watch her play with a toy or to find her while she hid behind a rack of clothes.

As Lyric paid for a set of magnetic blocks for Melody, Ethic looked on with a concerned expression. “I didn’t know a librarian earned so much,” remarked Ethic. “We’ll have to do something about that.”

Lyric’s forehead furrowed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. Just that, as a man, I’m supposed to earn more than a woman. Especially one is who just puts books away eight hours a day.”

“Pardon?”

Ethic shrugged. “Look, I didn’t mean anything by it. It’s nothing. Let’s just enjoy our day, OK?”

Lyric felt uneasy as she browsed. Ethic refrained from further comment. As she opened her wallet to pay for an off-the-shoulder maxi dress, she felt Ethic’s eyes burning into her. She turned to see him quickly pick up a necklace, holding it up to Melody’s neck. I shouldn’t be feeling guilty for buying this dress, thought Lyric. She shook the negative thoughts from her head as she made small talk with the cashier, who gushed how great Lyric looked while wearing the dress. “Is it for a special occasion?” Winked the cashier, glancing at Ethic. Lyric smiled weakly, took the bag containing her new dress. Her eyes followed Ethic, who was already walking out the door.

“No,” Lyric replied to the cashier. “I’ve had my eye on this for ages and it’s on sale now…” She bit her lip. Ethic’s remark about her wage still stung.

“Even better! How great is it that you can grab a bargain? Especially one that complements you so well,” the cashier drawled, slipping the receipt over the desk for Lyric to take.

The rest of the shopping expedition passed without further incident. Still, the early exchange left Lyric feeling guilty. No matter her wage, she was entitled to buy whatever she wanted!

“Well, I think you did well,” conversed Lyric later that afternoon.

“Hmm?”

“You followed me into all the stores and didn’t once wait at the seats.”

“What seats?”

“You know, the seats! You often see men waiting on them when their wives are trying on shoes or something.”

“I’d follow you anywhere,” soothed Ethic, wrapping his arms around to pull her closer for a kiss.

Lyric was working when Margery broke the news. “That singer you like? He’s doing a tour and tickets are on sale next week.” Margery, obviously feeling she deserved a break after delivering good news, shut herself in the office again, leaving Lyric on the floor alone.

When Lyric searched for herself using the public computers, she found Ed Sheeran was indeed touring. Her heart gave a little flutter. The library was empty; the barista Daniel had put on some music and was dancing while cleaning the coffee machine. Lyric texted Ethic. She already knew he wasn’t a fan but maybe he’d still like to come with her to the concert.

Are you sure you can afford it? He replied.

Yes. Why are you so concerned about my finances? She wrote, but after re-reading it she deleted it. It irked her that he thought himself in charge of her money.

She ignored his text, vowing to speak to him later about it.

As Lyric drove home, she rehearsed what she was going to say when she met up with Ethic for dinner. He was coming over and said he had a surprise. He was probably bringing Melody, although Lyric was sure this was the week she was away with her mother. Confidence oozing from her pores with the prepared speech she was going to give, she was ready when he knocked on her door. He was wearing a huge smile and holding a bouquet of purple irises. The flowers took her by surprise; Ethic wasn’t known for splurging money on things destined for the bin in a few days.

“What’s this in honour of?” She gasped.

“I passed them on my way here. I couldn’t resist, they remind me of your eyes.” Lyric’s rehearsed speech melted from her mind as he kissed her. She broke away only to stir the meaty spaghetti sauce – it was not a kiss she would voluntarily leave.

“I grew up vegetarian,” admitted Ethic when dinner was served. “I was twenty before I knew people ate animals, and twenty two before I realised how delicious animals were!”

“Tell me more about how you grew up,” encouraged Lyric, leaning close to him, brushing his arm with her hand. Ethic regaled his unusual childhood growing up in a cult. Only he didn’t call it a cult; it was a ‘religious community’. A self-sufficient community growing their own vegetables and grains, several prayer sessions every day and a sermon every evening after supper. Lyric was fascinated. She’d read about Jim Jones’ Jonestown and wondered how someone can be so charismatic as to brainwash a thousand people to commit suicide. Listening to Ethic, she saw how people can fall under a superstitious spell. Ethic was born into the community and genuinely did not know the wider world outside the walls. His sister Prayer was still part of the community, raising her own family.

“Did you ever think of changing your name?”

He shook his head. “It’s the name I was given, it’s the only name I’ve ever known. It’s a reminder of where I came from, who I am, was and will be. I can’t see that changing,” he said.

Lyric had made chocolate mousse for dessert. Sure, it was from a packet and all she had to do was stir some milk into the powder, but Lyric argued there was still a certain skill in getting the mousse light and airy instead of a dense mess. She also didn’t mention she sometimes made the mousse all by herself whilst watching Bridget Jones films…

“Mmm, this is delicious, Lyric,” he gushed, savouring each mouthful of the silky mousse. Lyric beamed. He could be so charming! He was brought up so constricted, so suffocated, that it took time to learn to speak his mind. It wasn’t his fault. His filter wasn’t quite refined yet. She dismissed it as a character flaw and chose to see him as a perfect person still on a journey of self discovery and learning.

As their relationship progressed, Lyric began making plans for a romantic weekend away at a secluded cabin in the hinterland. She made sure it was his weekend without Melody. She encouraged him to pack suitable clothes by giving him subtle hints about where they were going. She would drive as to keep the destination a secret until they arrived. Ethic had been so nice lately! He’d surprised her with a date night at the movies, Gold Class no less. He had been really sweet, with only occasional jabs which always made her squirm. Still, she was able to overlook these jabs because he always made up for it.

“Was he cute?”

Lyric snapped around. “What?”

“That guy you were looking at through the rear mirror. Was he cute?”

She spat out her words. “It’s the rear view mirror! I can’t even see the driver behind me, let alone make judgements on their looks. Give it a break, will you?”

Her grip tightened on the wheel as Ethic questioned how often she continued to check her mirrors. He looked behind him, trying to gauge the driver behind her. Anger and frustration built up in Lyric even though Ethic wasn’t talking to her. It was his simple actions of constantly looking behind them as she drove. After several minutes, she indicated and pulled over to the side of the road.

“Stop it! Just stop! I am driving, not checking out other guys. Do you want to get to the cabin or not? Because I am this close to just giving up and going home. On my own,” she added dramatically as he opened his mouth to protest. She stormed out of the car, slamming the door behind her. Annoyed, he followed her. Lyric couldn’t go too far; the embankment was too steep and the car was blocking the shoulder. Lyric just needed a minute to catch her breath and calm down.

“Babe, come here.”

He stepped forward to pull her close. Lyric stepped backwards, catching her ankle in a hole by the side of the road, stumbling backwards, precariously close to falling down the embankment. He tried to catch her. She pushed him away, falling hard on her hip. She caught her tears before they fell. Surely he’d have some smart arse remark if she cried.

“I’m done,” she announced. “This constant jealousy, wanting to control what I do and what I earn, I’m done. We’re over.”

Ethic breathed hard. “Babe, I can change. I promise. I’m just afraid of losing you. Come here, let’s just go to the cabin, we’ll talk it out. I’ll change. I love you,” he pleaded.

Lyric took a moment to compose herself and her next words. “No, you can’t change. You shouldn’t change. That’s you. I’m driving you home. I’m not going to do this anymore.”

As Lyric lay on the comfy couch in the romantic cabin, sipping chilled champagne and eating chocolate dipped strawberries, she smiled. “Happy Valentines’ Day,” she wished herself.

February 15, 2018 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | 1 Comment

Perfection: An original short story

Mother and child silhouette

Jenny was a Presbyterian Princess. Her hair was golden blonde. Her cherubic face housed an angelic smile and innocent blue eyes. She sang in the church choir with talk of auditioning for a television talent show, but Jenny was too shy. She believed in Heaven and Hell, telling her school friends she was guaranteed a place in heaven because of her faith. Some of her friends weren’t so lucky. They would be spending eternity bathed in Hellfire for unconfirmed sins which only God knew and Jesus could save them. Knowing her ultimate fate gave Jenny a sense of completeness, a knowing, a calmness. She knew. Everyone wanted to be Jenny’s friend. Just being near her brought peace.

By twelve, Jenny had budding breasts and had caught the eye of her male peers. Jenny’s female peers became envious of this sudden attention. They wished they could speak coolly like her, have golden blonde hair and the boys’ attention. Her face, still angelic, drew peoples’ gaze wherever she went. It’s cool to be Jenny.

Rae considered herself Jenny’s best friend, living next door to her. Despite their friendship, Rae felt plain. She did not worship Jenny the way most people did, however she did feel an aura of popularity because Jenny spoke to her. Rae had mousy brown hair, wore glasses, needed braces but too poor to afford them, and wore plain clothes. Rae held intelligence she wasn’t sure Jenny possessed. Rae had been brought up on the fringes of Christianity; her parents attended church occasionally but now her mother was into spiritualism, tarot cards and crystals. Rae adhered to the idea of Heaven and Hell, believing there was no reason she would be sent to Hell. Rae was good, obeyed her parents and kept her room tidy.

“You’re wrong,” said Jenny one day. “You tell fortunes and worship crystals. The bible forbids that, so you’re going to Hell!”

Why would Jenny say something so mean, unless it was true? Jenny was her best friend, and best friends don’t lie. It’s hard to be Jenny.

In her twenties, Jenny developed a product called Fanny Fit, which could be used to strengthen pelvic muscles. It was a hit- woman all over the world wanted one, especially those who’d had children. Jenny became even more popular, her finances quickly growing to match her dreams. She married Timothy McBeale, a successful, older, extremely handsome businessman . Early in their marriage, he was offered a very attractive deal to work in New York, so Jenny packed up her life and they moved to the commerce capital of the world. Fanny Fit took on a life of its own. Jenny watched her one product spawn several products, worth even more money. She was delighted with her success. Her life in New York was perfect: she was a socialite, seen in all the right places with the right people. Her husband worked hard, earning more money than anyone could spend in one lifetime. Eventually,, Jenny sold her business for an undisclosed amount, rumoured to be several hundred million dollars. It’s rich to be Jenny.

Rae lived a different life. She moved from Sydney after her parents divorced, living briefly near Melbourne before finally settling on a large rural block north of Brisbane. She kept horses and dogs, living on the proceeds from her creative works sold online and at local markets. One of her artworks, a large mural featuring the view from her back verandah, caught the attention of a senior politician in Canberra, who commissioned several pieces for his office and Christmas presents for his friends. Rae was comfortable, but wouldn’t describe herself as happy. She survived. Her daughter and grandson lived several hours’ drive away, but they always visited on holidays and for extended stays in summer. Rae and Jenny stayed in touch via irregular emails and the even rarer phone calls. Some years, Rae would receive a Christmas card from Jenny, with an update on how perfect her life was, but how lucky Rae was to have a child.

By the time Jenny and her husband were ready to have a child, Jenny was considered geriatric. However, she fell pregnant naturally and quickly. Her pregnancy was uncomplicated despite her age. Of course, she saw the very best doctors with the very best health care and the very best hospitals. Neither Jenny nor Tim were in any way concerned about their unborn son, who was destined to be the shining light not only in their world but the entire world. He would be someone. Jenny fantasised about the kind of mother she would be: walking around Central Park with baby in his stroller, highlighting her beautiful boy on social media to attract the very best sponsors who would happily pay for her son to wear their clothes and use their products. He would be a household name by his fifth birthday, raking in his own deals to secure his future. Jenny would lovingly feed and attend to her son, smiling through his tears, soothing him to sleep, taking afternoon naps while he slept next to her. She would teach him all about the world. He would be intelligent and worldly like his father, angelic and God-fearing like his mother. He would be kind yet ambitious, climbing the corporate ladder to eventually run his own wildly successful corporation, right here from New York City. Jenny sighed with happiness. Jenny’s life had always been perfect. Her son would be the pinnacle of her happiness. It’s perfect to be Jenny.

Except it wasn’t. Her labour progressed normally for several hours, until a sudden surge of pain tore through her body. Jenny could see the pained faces of her birthing team as blood began gushing from her. She needed an emergency C section. Tim squeezed her hand as she was wheeled into surgery. Woozy with pain, blood loss and baby joy, Jenny’s first glimpse at her new son was not what she expected.

“This is the wrong baby,” she slurred.

“This is your son, Mrs McBeale,” assured the doctor. “The cord is still attached.” He handed Tim an instrument, clamped the cord and Tim cut through the cord with an exuberant grin on his face. His son was born!

Jenny shook her head. “No!” She tried to scream. “This is not my son!”

Jenny’s son had a cleft palate, and his tiny beating heart was visible under the skin. Tim soothed his wife but she was not listening.

“Mrs McBeale, we need to check your son… but I have to tell you to prepare yourself for the worst.”

Surgery on the newborn was a success to everyone except Jenny. She resented this thing, this creature, for impersonating her perfect child. She argued with the doctors that they had switched the baby. She screamed at Tim for conspiring with the doctors to give her an imperfect child. Her real son would not require surgery. He would be born perfect, like newborns should. This child was imperfect. His cleft palate would hardly be noticeable in a few years, she was assured, but he would require surgery on his heart frequently as he grew. No one was able to offer an explanation as to why her son suffered these atrocities of nature. Jenny had another explanation.

“I have sinned,” she confessed to the hospital chaplain.

“What is your sin?”

Jenny gulped back her tears. “I do not know, Father. But I am being punished! My son… he is deformed. It’s punishment for my sins.”

The chaplain reassured her that God does not punish babies for their mothers’ sins, but Jenny could not be placated. She insisted the chaplain leave. If he didn’t believe her, who else would? She yelled at God; her screams could be heard from the nurses’ station. A psychologist was summoned but she too was thrown from Jenny’s room. For the first time in her life, Jenny did not talk to God. He had betrayed her. She was a sinner, destined for the eternal fiery pits of Hell with an ugly creature instead of a son.

Jenny and her unnamed son were released from hospital a month after his birth. Her son was doing exceptionally well, he was a little fighter exceeding everyone’s expectations. Jenny had been prescribed antidepressant medication, which she refused to take. Tim was at his wits’ end, submersing himself in work to avoid dealing with his psychotic wife and his needy newborn. He hired a nurse instead, worried Jenny would do something to her child while he was away. Instead of encouraging mother to bond with her child, the nurse kept them apart, also worried Jenny would harm him. The nurse tried slipping medication into Jenny’s food and drink, but Jenny refused to eat. She sipped purified water from her water bottle which she filled herself. When she slept, the bottle was tucked under her arm or hidden elsewhere to prevent contamination. Everyone was now against Jenny. They hated her for her sins. They judged her for birthing an imperfect child. Tim named his son Benjamin. Jenny refused to acknowledge the child.

One day, the nurse insisted Jenny take a day outside. She organised a day spa treatment, designed to rejuvenate Jenny’s wellbeing. It was unlike Jenny to miss so many days of exercise, self care and skin treatments. Already her athletic body was thinning, her skin beginning to sag with lost weight.

Jenny returned that evening cradling another baby. She had snatched the child while his mother paid for ice cream, distracted by her two toddlers. This baby was perfect. She named him Samuel.

It’s fucked to be Jenny.

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

March

Yikes! Where did March go?

Yes, I’m a little behind in this month’s story. In fact, I only started it today despite thinking about it all last month.

This story started out differently. It was to tell the story of Stepsi and four friends with a twist at the end (I love twists). Instead, it evolved into exploring the relationship between Stepsi and her mother, also with a twist at the end.

Stepsi was originally a young woman around twenty, but she’s now six years old. She sees and communicates with ghosts, and her mother doesn’t believe her. Six is far too old to be making up stories about people who don’t exist. (Personally, I think this means Stepsi is going to grow up to be a writer…)

Stepsi’s name has been in my head for a while. I’m not sure where it came from but the seeds of it probably came from mishearing a word, or possibly from early ads for this season of MKR in which Hazel and Lisa, stepmother and stepdaughter, were referred to as Stepsies. Either way, Stepsi is unique.

Kids’ imaginations often run wild and for some reason, adults tend to quash them. Whether Stepsi is actually seeing ghosts or not, the issue is her mother, who fights to normalise her daughter. In my mind, this “normalisation” is the issue, not the supernatural. What is normal? Why are we quashing imaginations? Who decided that kids need to conform to the rigidity of adult life? What’s wrong with imagination? For that matter, what’s so wrong about talking to the dead?

April 11, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

February 2016

February’s story doesn’t have a title yet. Its working title is the uncreative Valentine’s Day and is essentially a love letter to my sixteen year old self.

February is full of love and retail. Just this morning, I walked past several jewellery stores proclaiming love is best said with diamonds. One 1ct diamond ring was $1799 reduced to $799. Makes me wonder if the ring was originally 2ct and one fell out.

These days, I don’t do anything for Valentine’s Day. I tell my boyfriend every day that I love and appreciate him. Plus I really don’t want an oversized stuffed gorilla holding a heart. Once upon a time, in the days before I’d ever had a boyfriend, Valentine’s Day was important. It showed the world that someone cared about me and I cared about them too. It was a day to celebrate our love with cards and roses and chocolates and a nice kiss. It was a day to say goodbye to being single and revel in the warm, gooey feelings of having a boyfriend.

Valentine’s Day represented everything my sixteen year old self wanted. This short story is an amalgamation of all those teenage thoughts and feelings, the desire to tell my crush I loved him but avoiding the public embarrassment should anyone find out. The boy-crush of this story is also a combination of high school boys I had a crush on, with added extra bits of awesome thrown in. He represents everything I wanted in a teenage boyfriend, along with dreams of our future life together.

Dear 16 year old self,
You’re so cute. Those guys don’t know what they missed. Wait for someone worthy of you.
Love, yourself in 20 years.

February 10, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , | Leave a comment

January 2016

Sometime last month, I decided I would write a short story each month of 2016 with the intention of self-publishing an e-book at the end of the year. No biggie.

Lately I’ve been feeling creatively unfulfilled. I constantly have things running through my head with no outlet. I’m unproductive. I seem to be doing a lot with nothing to show for it except a clean, well-fed baby and not burning my workplace to the ground (accidentally, of course…).

One night as I was driving home from work, I was listening to the radio and singing along (as I often do). Goo Goo Dolls’ 90s hit ‘Slide’ came on. Even though I’ve sung it a thousand times, one lyric caught my attention and I thought I could do something with it. I did. January’s short story is called Slide and I just finished editing it last week. It’s not the most cheery story, it’s not at all autobiographical, I just liked where that one lyric took me.

Slide is a story about desire and where desire can take us. Although I’ve chosen the dark places desire can lead, it can also be a creative force which drives us to do whatever we want, wherever we want to go and end up in the best possible place for ourselves.

I hope these stories showcase life, love and loss in all their gritty, beautiful glories. Don’t worry, February’s story is a lot cheerier!

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Short Stories | , , , , | Leave a comment