Tag Archives: #shortfiction

Libby (a short story of childhood’s end)

6e19137ed2bcadb0d5e198fb16b9a8e3--hans-peter-imaginary-friends

Sunrise was her favourite time of day. At sunrise there still hope that, with the start of a new day, Lucy would remember she was there.

On the far side of the bedroom, a muffled sound escaped from under the duvet as Lucy rolled over in bed. A teddy bear was shoved unceremoniously onto the floor as Lucy muttered, “At least Libby didn’t take up as much space in the bed.”

Libby’s heart skipped a beat. Lucy still remembered her. She was safe for another few days. She glanced down at her hands and feet, then curled up on the rocking chair and went back to watching the sun come up.

 

For ten years Libby had been Lucy’s closest confidante. They had played together day after day. They had gone to school together for seven years. They had holidayed together, first in Devon and Cornwall and then, as Lucy grew older, they had visited France, Spain, Portugal and America. She had liked travelling with Lucy. Everywhere Lucy went, Libby went too.

On the last trip to America, Libby had met another girl about her own age while she had waited at the bag drop at one of the many rollercoasters in the theme park. She had been surprised by the cynicism shown by her new acquaintance.

“It won’t last much longer. Trust me. Just you watch. You’ll grow apart real fast. It’ll end and losing…what was her name? Lucy? Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

 

Almost five months had passed since that Easter trip to Florida. At first, Libby has dismissed the American girl’s comments as nonsense. Forget her? Why would Lucy want to forget her? They’d been inseparable since Lucy was three years old. But, as the seasons moved from Spring to Summer, Libby began to pick up on subtle changes in her beloved Lucy. Some days she would leave for school without her. Other days she would arrive home late and barely have time for her between dinner and bedtime. Once she went away for the entire weekend and left Libby behind without a wave or a backwards glance.

At Lucy’s thirteenth birthday party, Libby had kept to the shadows and was hurt that Lucy barely spared her a thought all day. She even blew out the birthday candles without Libby by her side to share a wish!

“You’ll grow apart real fast. Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

The words began to haunt Libby day and night….

 

As August wound its way towards to September, Libby found herself excluded more and more by Lucy. For hours on end she would wait patiently for Lucy to remember she was there and to involve her in her day.

By the middle of the month, Libby began to panic. Once morning when she awoke early to watch the sun rise, she realised she was fading away. Her hands and feet were barely visible. Just before panic took over, she heard Lucy talking in her sleep and heard her mention her name. Instantly she felt whole again. Her hands and feet were there. Her black patent ballet pumps were shining in the early morning sunlight.

 

Unfortunately, this had only been the beginning of Libby’s torment.

 

As August ended, there had been no less than half a dozen similar fading episodes. The last one had really scared Libby. Her hands and arms had disappeared all the way up to her elbows; her feet and legs had vanished right up past her knees.

Lucy was forgetting her!

Lucy was growing up!

Yet again, the American’s words tore at Libby’s faithful heart, “Losing her will kill you. Literally.”

 

September marked a milestone for Lucy – she started high school. From the relative safety of the rocking chair under the window, Libby had watched as Lucy packed her new school bag and laid out her new school uniform.That night Lucy had gone to bed without wishing her goodnight. In the darkness, Libby had cried herself to sleep on the rocking chair.

 

Now, as she watched the teddy bear, always a favoured bedtime bear of Lucy’s, lying on the floor, Libby finally resigned herself to her fate. September had been filled with gaps in the relationship with Lucy and there had been almost daily episodes of fading out. For the past week, Libby had barely seen her hands and feet. Even her long pigtails had faded at the ends!

To save herself, Libby knew she had to take action. She realised that she could no longer rely on Lucy to remember she was there. Now that she had been fully restored to her old self, Libby decided that today was the day.

 

The week before a new family had moved into the house next door. From Lucy’s bedroom window, Libby had watched a little girl playing alone in the garden. Hiding behind the curtains, she had watched the little girl, Wendy, play on her swing and slide down her chute. Seeing her playing on her own for hours on end had tugged at Libby’s heart strings.

 

After Lucy left for school, Libby waited on the rocking chair until Lucy’s mum had come in and opened the window to let some air into the room.  

This was her chance!

A quick glance outside informed her that Wendy was already out playing in the garden with a bright red ball.

Carefully, Libby climbed up onto the window sill. With a last look round the bedroom, she balanced on the ledge for a moment, then carefully climbed down the trellis, trying not to damage Lucy’s dad’s Clematis.

As she crossed the garden, Libby began to panic anew. It was the first time she had been outside alone in over ten years. What if Wendy couldn’t see her? What if Wendy rejected her?

It was too late to go back now.

Slipping through a gap in the fence, Libby made her way into the garden next door. For a few minutes, she stayed in the shadow of the big, old, apple tree that dominated that corner of the garden. With a nervous smile, she watched Wendy play with the ball. The little girl was throwing it up and trying to catch it. Eventually she dropped it.

The ball rolled down the gentle slope and landed at Libby’s feet, nudging her black patent shoes.

“It’s now or never,” thought Libby, bending down to pick up the ball.

When she stood up again, Wendy was staring at her.

“I like your shiny shoes.”

“Hi. Thank you. I’m Libby,” said Libby, tossing the ball back to the little girl, who caught it safely in her arms.

“HI. I’m Wendy,” came the shy reply. “Want to play?”

“I’d love to!” declared Libby with a smile.

“Daddy’s going to build me a tree house in that tree,” explained Wendy as they walked back up the slope. “It can be our club house. Our special place. You can live up there when it’s done. It can be your fairy castle.”

“I can?”

“Of course you can! You can stay in my room till its builded but you’ll need to hide. Need to be a secret,” whispered Wendy seriously. “Mummy doesn’t want me to have imaginary friends. We can be secret princess friends forever though.”

“I’d like that,” said Libby as her heart turned a somersault of delight.

She was safe at last.

 

(image sourced via Google- credits to the owner)

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So, what would you do?

latte-stock-photo

So, if you came face to face with your favourite actor/rock star/sports star in a normal situation, what would you do? If they were “off duty”, would you approach them? Would you ask for that obligatory “selfie” or an autograph on the only scrap of paper you have in your purse, most likely a receipt for something mundane?

It’s a conundrum I’ve thought about occasionally over the years and never really drawn any finite answer to. I’ve frequently thought that, as I live in a reasonably small town and am used to seeing familiar faces about town, I’d most likely nod and say “hello” thinking it was someone from school or work or an old neighbour…..then several hours later go “Damn, that was So And So!” (ha ha…..it’s happened!- Mike Oldfield in Debenhams in Glasgow a long time ago!)

A few years ago, I wrote this while pondering such a situation.  Enjoy!

 

The Tale Of A Skinny Decaff Latte

With a quick glance at the clock on the dashboard, I figured I had just enough time to spare to treat myself to a well-earned and much needed caffeine fix before my next appointment. Signalling to my fellow drivers, I slowed down and turned off the main road down the narrow twisting slip road into Gourock’s water front car park- the Swimming Pool car park to us locals. As usual, the car stereo almost drowned out the warning bleeps from the reversing sensors; as usual, I heard them just in the nick of time. One of these days I knew I wasn’t going to and would be rewarded with a resounding expensive “crunch”! Grabbing my bag, I scrambled out of the car, checking twice on my way across the car park that I had locked it. A narrow alley led me from the car park back up onto the main thoroughfare and right to the doorway of my caffeine source- Gourock Coffe Co.

Pushing open the heavy door, I inhaled the heavenly aroma of coffee as I looked to see if my favourite table was free. It was. In my hurry to get to my caffeine fix, I had barely noticed the hire car that had parked haphazardly outside or the driver inside, who was talking animatedly on his phone. With a sigh, I slipped off my jacket and sank down into the squishy, soft, velvet-covered chair. The coffee shop was surprisingly quiet for a Monday afternoon. Only one other table was occupied. Spotting my arrival, the owner, Robert, called over from behind the counter, “Usual, Coral?”

“Please, Robert,” I replied then added, “And a fruit scone and jam too.”

Reaching into my bag, I brought out my phone debating with myself “Candy Crush or Facebook?” Facebook won and I watched the screen as it connected to the shop’s WiFi. While the newsfeed was loading, I heard the door open, felt the draft of cold, autumn air rush in as a tall, slender man entered, his puffy, bomber jacket zipped up and a black beanie hat covering his head. It struck me as odd that he was wearing sunglasses on a dull October day in Gourock. There was something vaguely familiar about him but I barely gave him a second thought as he sat at the window table across from mine.

“There you go. Medium Americano, no milk,” said Robert, setting down the hot mug in front of me. “And my last fruit scone. Enjoy.”

“Thanks.”

As I sliced the scone in half, scattering crumbs across the table, the owner went to take the man’s order. Robert was blocking my view but I could see that the new customer had removed his hat and glasses. They were just visible on the table from where I was sitting. His soft American voice caught my attention. I knew that voice! I’d know that voice anywhere. Not surprisingly, I listened as he ordered a large, skinny, decaf latte. On the table in front of me my Facebook newsfeed had opened. The first post on there was that day’s photo from the fan page of the very man who was now sitting ten feet away from me.

My hands trembled as I fumbled the foil top on the portion of strawberry jam. Flustered, heart racing, I attempted to spread the jam onto the scone and only succeeded in dropping the knife on the table, with a resounding clatter. The noise echoed round, causing the new arrival to glance over in my direction. He smiled at me. My heart skipped a beat as I flushed scarlet with embarrassment.

On the table beside him, his phone buzzed and vibrated. Instead of answering it, he ignored it, turning instead to gaze out of the picture window at the panoramic view of the Argyll Hills, Ben Lomond looming in the distance. A few seconds later, his phone buzzed again and, again, he killed the call and then again, a third time, as a young waitress brought him his latte.

Trying to act normally, I pretended to be reading the screen contents of my phone while actually watching him sneak a spoonful of sugar into the mug then sip the hot, milky coffee. His long, slender hand was shaking as he lifted the mug to his lips. Something about him looked sad, haunted almost.

How I managed to eat my scone and drink my own coffee, I will never know. (Maybe that caffeine habit is worse than I feared.) All the while, I kept my own counsel but discretely observed him sip half-heartedly at his latte. There was an aura about him that seemed to scream “I need my own space for a while.” Repeatedly his phone buzzed and every time he declined the call. I drank in everything about him. His fine features; his long hair, with a hint of grey appearing. After a few mouthfuls of his coffee, he stood up and removed his jacket. I recognised the fine black and grey striped hoodie he was wearing underneath from the interview I had watched on YouTube over breakfast a few hours before. I risked a glance beneath the table as he sat back down and noted his trademark worn leather boots. What size were his feet? Ten? Eleven?

Inside my head, a battle was raging- one half of me saying go and speak to him; the other half saying leave him to enjoy his coffee in peace and quiet.

A message flashed up on my Facebook page asking if I was excited about heading to the Hydro later for the gig. It was Susan- who else? She had been outside the venue for hours already. With surprising calm, I typed back, “Having a coffee and enjoying the view. Will be up as soon as my friend finishes work. Should be there around 6. X” She would never believe me if I said exactly what view I was enjoying. He was meant to be thirty miles away where she was! Why was he here?

I finished my coffee and scone before he was halfway down the large mug. Not entirely trusting myself to remain calm for much longer, I got to my feet and prepared to leave. He was still staring out at the view of the ferry crossing the river as I put on my jacket and gathered up my belongings. At the counter, I handed over a twenty pound note with shaking hands and said to Robert, “That’s for mine and the guy over at the window’s. Send him over another latte and a slice of carrot cake. My treat.”

Stuffing the change into my pocket, I left without a backwards glance and headed back down the alley way to the car park. Had I imagined that? Had it really been him?  Yes, it had been. Why had he been there? I would never know. Did I regret not speaking to him? Yes and no. As I reached the car, I looked back up at the cafe window. He was watching me. Raising his coffee mug, he nodded then smiled that beautiful smile of his.

 

Those of you who know me may have guessed the inspiration for this   😉

(image sourced via Google -credits to the owner)

(If you ever see me drinking decaff, I’ve been kidnapped and it’s a plea for help!)

 

 

Silently Watching On Midsummer’s Night

dark angel

An act of indiscretion had confined the dark angel to her lonely mausoleum for almost six months. Several impulsive acts of indiscretion; several acts of abomination that had stunned the close knit village community into deep, dark mourning.

After her missed opportunity on All Hallows Eve, desperation and hunger had got the better of her judgement less than a week later. As the family community had gathered round a huge bonfire for the annual fireworks display to commemorate Guy Fawkes, she had swooped down, snatched a young woman from the edge of the crowd and disappeared soundlessly into the night with her. One bite was all it had taken to silence her victim. In the sanctuary of her mausoleum, she had drunk deeply from young woman’s blood, realising too late that her victim had been pregnant.  With the bangs from the fireworks echoing through the night sky, the dark angel had let out a howl of anguish. Even for her, this had been one kill too far. A breeding female should never be drunk from. One of the golden rules of her lonely existence.

From a distance, she had watched the village mourn the death of the young mother-to-be; had stood silently in the shadows observing the girl’s funeral, noting that her grief stricken husband held two small boys, twins, by the hand as the coffin was lowered into the earth.

Her carelessness had angered her. Her frustration had driven her to seek more human blood to rid herself of the taste of the young woman’s hormone filled nectar.

On Christmas morning, she had feasted on an old man in the graveyard who had come to pay his festive respects to his late wife. His blood had been watery and tainted with the prescribed medication that had kept him alive.

Less than a month later, she had swooped down on a lone mountain biker, who had been roaming the trails above the village. There had been an exotic taste to his thick fresh blood, hinting at origins from warmer climes than this God-forsaken Scottish village. Yet again, she had feasted on one of the small community. How was she to have known that he was the son of a popular businessman, destined for sporting greatness? What did it matter to her? His young, virile blood had tasted divine and finally quenched her thirst for a while. The taste of the forbidden young mother-to-be finally banished by the taste of his exotic elixir.

 

Summer was always a lean time for the angel. There just weren’t enough hours of darkness to allow her to hunt. Her three kills in four months had drawn too much attention to the local area, meaning she would have to hunt further afield but it was too light to travel unseen. The local media were spreading tales that the village was cursed.

Patiently, she had bided her time in the cool darkness of the abandoned mausoleum until hunger pangs had gripped her. The evil in her soul was craving more and more human blood to sustain her. Writhing in agony on the floor of the tomb, she had resisted for as long as she could before having no choice but to risk an early evening foray for sustenance.

Under the cover of a cloudy midsummer dusk, she had spread her magnificent, black wings and soared over the village, heading towards the hills behind. Relishing being outside once more, she soared high over the narrow road for almost an hour before spotting three adult deer on the edge of the forest.

Lightning fast, she swooped to the ground and had her fangs deep in the neck of one of the deer before her slender, leather clad feet had touched down in the bed of pine needles on the ground. As she drank deeply, savouring the gamey taste of the doe’s blood, her nostrils picked up another familiar scent, a heady, ferrous musk mixed with sweat. Listening closely, she heard it – the gentle rhythmic thud, thud, thud of a runner approaching.

 

Ever since his encounter with the dark winged apparition at Halloween, he’d avoided running through the village, preferring instead to pound the forestry trails in the hills behind the house. The spate of sudden, unexplained deaths in the community over the winter months had unnerved him, as it had many of his friends and neighbours. He’d avoided venturing out in the dark but, now that summer was here, he was loving the long, light, warm nights.

Feeling a little guilty at upping the pace, he’d dropped his running buddy half a mile back, enjoying the freedom to run at his own naturally quicker pace. Since he’d sped up, the midgies didn’t seem to be biting so much.  He could feel them in his spiky hair and his eyebrows. As he ran, he pondered how fast a midgie could fly.

He rounded a bend in the trail and stopped in his tracks. The hairs on the back of his neck were on end; the birds had stopped singing in the surrounding trees. Everything was silent. A dead deer lay in the middle of the path, it’s throat recently ripped open.

Behind him, he could hear his friend approaching; hear his heavy breathing as he gave it his all to catch up. He glanced back to see if he was in sight yet but the path was deserted.

Turning back towards the deer, he let out a gasp.

A dark winged female, with waist length raven black hair, stood between him and the carcass. Her piercing green eyes were boring into his very soul.

He stood frozen to the spot as she stepped towards him.

The purple tipped feathers of her wings rustled softly as she moved gracefully to stand at his shoulder. Unable to take his eyes off her striking, alabaster features, the runner noted the fresh blood at the corner of her mouth.

She reached out a long, slim hand with long, pointed, purple nails and traced her finger tip around the outline of the tattoo on his upper arm.

His heart was pounding out of his chest.

Closing his eyes, he felt her breath on his neck.

 

Thud. Thud. Thud.

 

“There you are!” gasped his running buddy. “You trying to kill me with that pace, mate?”

He opened his eyes. The dark angel was gone. The deer carcass had vanished. Turning to face his friend, he muttered, “Sorry. Just needed to stretch my legs for a bit.”

“Hey! You’re bleeding!” exclaimed his breathless friend. “You ok?”

“Bleeding?”

“Yeah. It’s running down your neck.”

Reaching up with a trembling hand, he felt the sweaty skin at the side of his neck. Sure enough, his fingertips came away covered in fresh blood.

“Shit. Must have caught a branch back there.”

“Must have been a thorny one. That looks like a puncture wound,” stated his friend. “Come on. Let’s get you home and get that cleaned up. It looks nasty.”

Together they set off at a leisurely pace along the trail towards the housing estate.

 

High up in the trees, the angel looked down on the scene. Thwarted again but at least this time she’d been able to savour a taste of a meal yet to be enjoyed. Running her tongue over her fangs, she sighed as she lingered over the final drop of his divine blood.

 

 (image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)