Friday Flash Fiction – 800 – Home Working

Friday again; each week Cassie was more relieved when Friday evening arrived. She had James to thank for ensuring she drew a line under the working week. He insisted they Facetime early and put the week behind them, they were not being paid to work at weekends, it was already too easy to catch up with work in the evenings. She opened a new bottle of wine, a glass to share with James and a glass later to enjoy with dinner as she watched Gardener’s World. Is that what her life had come to? Doris had got her on to gardening programmes, but it was to relax and enjoy the calm that she tuned in, away from Covid news and work. If a few gardening tips penetrated her brain, that was a bonus.

Working from home suited Cassie, but motivating and organising her little team was another matter. James said she should not be carrying the others, but it was easier to do extra herself than worrying. No one had sent their children back to school, even the few who could were too worried, or could see no point in sending one child back and still have to look after the others. Having seen, or more often heard, children of various sizes bouncing off the walls during Zoom sessions she thought it a miracle anyone got any work done. And then there were those who had found themselves being full time carers for elderly parents.

But that was only a part of Cassie’s low feeling this evening. She had spent so long planning and executing a move to own a proper house, have a change of interests, slip out of Giles’ life; she had done all that very successfully, but now what? The promotion had been a means to an end and now she realised it could have been a mistake. Being in lockdown made people think too much; normal rushing to and from work, out and about socialising stopped people pondering the big questions like ‘What are we all here for anyway?’

Cassie’s aunt had brought her up to be independent and secure; with no family to fall back on and the fact that ‘you can’t depend on a man to look after you’ Cassie had always sought out secure jobs, not that any job was secure in the 21st century. Now she wondered if she should have thrown caution to the wind and gone travelling properly or taken up breeding llamas. Was it too late to try something completely different?

‘James, cheers… oh some pink stuff I got from the One Stop down the road. Any news, have you been in to work yet.’

‘The good news is I got the hire car for a month and I went in yesterday, the bad news is we are no further forward. We can’t even take all the people who don’t have to worry about kids or parents. Coming in on different days, sitting three desks apart, it’s no improvement on what we have already. The boss thinks we are all doing a grand job working from home, but he’s hardly in the zone, it’s only six weeks since his daughter died and his second in command is pretty useless.’

‘That’s so sad… and the other girl, no wonder morale is low in the company and everyone is nervous of coming back to work. They were both younger than us… me and in good health. I don’t know how people can crowd down to the beach or go on protests when they know people are still catching it and dying.’

‘Cassie, Cassie, let’s get off that subject, I wanted to ask you something.’  

Of course, it filtered through to her brain that he now had access to transport; the ferry was still out of action, but it wouldn’t take long to drive the hire car the long way round and over the bridge. Was he going to ask where she lived, were postcodes something modern young women kept a secret? She had not dated since Giles, what were the rules?  No, she was jumping the gun, he was just going to suggest she cycle down to MPJ when he was assessing the building, stand two metres apart by the coffee machine…

 She tuned back in to what he was saying

‘…and Mother would love to have you round for dinner and of course I could come and see you properly, so what do you think, would you consider being in our Bubble?’

‘Bubble!…?’

The only bubble that made sense to Cassie was the one she had created around herself and her home and she wasn’t sure she wanted anyone to burst it, or was that just what she needed to raise her spirits?

For some pre-Covid tales dip into one of my collections.

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Friday Christmas Fiction – I Isabella

When Ollie started at Mulburys’, work brightened up and so did the windows. He arrived just in time to create the Christmas window displays and he brought new ideas.

‘Every window tells a story,’ he would say to the other window dressers. ‘Most of your window shoppers could never afford the dresses in the window or the houses the models appear to live in. But we’re going to make them feel they could one day… that’s the magic of Christmas.’

It seemed natural that Ollie and I would become close. Ollie knew how to treat a lady and my confidence grew as I worked with him. ‘Nobody leaves Izzie in the corner,’ he would joke.

True to his word, Ollie had created a story which started at the side of Mulburys’, opposite the tube station. An old man sat at his computer, Skyping. On his mantelpiece were plenty of cards and photos – photos that matched the moving pictures on the computer screen. The next few windows took shoppers around the world and around Mulburys’ until they reached the main entrance. Scenes of the old man’s family getting ready for Christmas, a BBQ somewhere hot, a ski hut somewhere very cold, a cruise ship; every scene so realistic, but always with glamorous women dressed in Mulbury outfits, from bikinis to winter coats.

On the other side of the main entrance was the busy airport scene, followed by the airliner up in the clouds with Father Christmas waving as he passed by. The window on the corner showed a street scene, Christmas trees in windows and the old man taking his dog for a walk, looking longingly at the bright windows. How the children loved these scenes; to find out who was in the plane they were directed upstairs to the Christmas grotto. I was dressed as the glamorous elf welcoming children and adults to the final scene, bigger than any window could accommodate. The old man opens his front door and surprise, surprise all his family have arrived.

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In the middle of December Ollie bought himself a shiny new red car and parked it at the front of Mulburys’ in the ‘ten minutes only pick up zone.’ Just long enough for us to look admiringly from the window. There was much amused chatter about the new traffic zones; single occupant cars were banned from the city centre, everyone had to be seen to be car sharing.

‘No probs,’ said Ollie, ‘I shall give Izzie a lift.’

I was as surprised as everyone else, or rather they were amused. Ollie knew what my circumstances were, but gave no hint that I had no home to have a lift to.

Like the gentleman he was, he helped me into the leather passenger seat. ‘Well, darling Isabella, how jealous other drivers will be when they see my glamorous girlfriend.’

I couldn’t help smiling, I thought we were just good friends; any physical closeness had been within the confines of the store windows. How I enjoyed the drive, looking out at the Christmas lights, watching the busy pavements as shoppers and workers made their way home.

Ollie’s flat was not in a smart building, but as he helped me up the narrow staircase and opened his front door I was delighted to see the interior decor had the same style as Mulburys’.

‘I can tell from your enigmatic smile that you like it Isabella, but it hasn’t been a real home till now, with you here.’

He sat me down on the comfortable sofa. ‘Relax and watch television while I rustle up something to eat.’

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And so my evenings were no longer lonely, Ollie and I had the same easy relationship we had at work, but I had to admit I preferred it when we were alone. At the weekend he had a few friends round, not from work, people I didn’t know. They seemed to enjoy their visit and laughed and talked a lot.

‘So this is the delectable Isabella, the mystery woman I saw you with at the traffic lights.’

‘Yes, the woman of my dreams.’

‘Has she got a sister?’

More laughter.

‘She has actually, but I’m not going to introduce her, she’s too good for you.’

More laughter.

After a few visits, I began to realise I was different, I thought I must have one of those syndromes. I couldn’t really join in the conversations, never quite understood what they were talking about, although it was obvious they were often talking about me.

Other times I felt totally ignored. Like when Joe from work dropped in looking rather wobbly, I thought he was never going to leave. I think Ollie was fed up with him but too polite to say so. Joe went on and on about someone called Milly.

‘How am I going to get through Christmas, I was going to propose to her, now she’ll be in New York with Miles.’

‘You’re best off without her mate, she’s a bitch, we could all see that except you. I know it’s unbearable, I’ve been there, but it will get better. Reckon I’m the lucky one. Isabella would never look at another man and would never utter a word to hurt my feelings.’

I almost blushed at his words, but I wondered where it was that he had been and how did words hurt your feelings.

‘You don’t know how I feel Ollie, you have a wooden heart, just like your cold girlfriend there.’

I glared at the awful Joe, so different from the Joe we knew at work. I was not cold, never felt the cold; that’s why I was happy to wear the low cut sleeveless dresses Ollie loved to see me in.

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Christmas Eve came and Ollie was going to a party.

‘Sorry to leave you by yourself Izzie, but I know you don’t enjoy parties. Come and sit by the window and look at the lights, have you seen the great big tree in the garden opposite? Tomorrow it will just be us, no work, we’ll watch sentimental Christmas telly together.’

A few merrymakers passed by and waved to me, I almost felt as if I was back in the shop window. When at last Ollie came home he was a bit wobbly, but his hands were as gentle as they were at work when he undressed me.

‘I bought you some new lingerie, well actually I pinched it from work. You and me go well together, two lonely souls. Won’t you tell me truly what you think, do you love me? If I wished hard enough, in ten minutes time at the stroke of midnight would you talk to me, would the blood run warm in your veins?’

I did not understand his words, but I was just glad to have Ollie home again, where he belonged, with me. But for some reason I wasn’t keeping him cheerful, there was water running down his cheeks, like the dreadful Joe had that time, but with Ollie I wanted to reach out and hold him. For a moment a strange feeling came over me, just below the neckline of the lovely red lacy garment. But as the clock on television started to strike twelve I felt cold for the first time.

Ollie turned away from me and covered his face, then turned back. ‘It didn’t work, did it? Beautiful cold Isabella, this isn’t a fairy tale, you will never be a real woman. On Boxing Day I shall take you back to the shop window where you belong, in time for the sales.’

 

liebster-award

This story was first published two years ago on line at Thanet Writers.

https://thanetwriters.com/story/i-isabella-by-janet-gogerty/

Today I’m putting it in to Stevie Turner’s Christmas Short Story contest. Stevie runs a monthly contest at her blog.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Cinderella

 As the great clock struck midnight, Cinderella flew down the sweeping stone steps of the palace; four… five… six. One shoe had slipped off on the top step, now she nearly tumbled down the last few steps; seven… eight… A strong hand reached out to steady her, she looked up at a pair of dark twinkling eyes.

‘Steady Miss, what’s the hurry?’ a deep voice asked. It was the coachman.

‘We must go,’ she cried ‘the coach…’

Eleven…

‘No hurry Miss, what about the Ball?’

TWELVE

Her heart seemed to stop as the chimes stopped, but the coach remained in all its splendour, the four grey horses stood tossing their heads proudly.

‘I don’t understand…’ Cinderella stammered.

‘Look Miss, the prince is waiting for you to have the last dance.’

She hardly dared take her eyes off the coach, but forced herself to look back at the golden light pouring from the great palace doors. There at the top of the steps stood the Handsome Prince, behind him his valet held aloft the beautiful shoe.

‘I shall be waiting here for you’ said the coachman, his rich husky voice sending a tingle down her spine.

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Cinderella tried to walk gracefully back up the steps.

‘Princess, put this dainty shoe upon your pretty foot and let us dance again.’

The Prince twirled her back into the ballroom, but as his slender cool hands clasped her, all she could think of were the warm strong hands of the coachman. Something new had awoken in her and she wondered why she had thought the Prince so handsome earlier in the evening. Close to his perfumed powdered wig, she recalled the dark tousled hair of the other man. Glancing down at the whirling floor, she noticed the Prince’s boots had high heels, yet he stood only an inch taller than her. When she had first danced with him she had been relieved he had not asked her about herself; now she realised that was because he only talked about himself; how big his palace was, how many horses in his stable, how many princesses wanted to marry him. The words drifted over her as she thought of the man she had only spent one minute with. Now the Prince had glided her onto the balcony and she was relieved to glimpse her coach still there with its fine guardian. Cinderella felt something cold on her finger and glanced down to see a huge diamond ring; she realised what the Prince was saying.

‘…it will be a great privilege for you to marry me.’

A cold chill swept through her; hours ago she could only have dreamt of marrying a prince, now she realised she would be as much a prisoner in the palace as she was in the kitchen.

6

Jethro the swineherd patted the strong necks of the beautiful greys; they smelt of new mown hay and leather. How different from the pigs he had to tend every day. As the youngest son, he was never allowed to plough the fields or take Dobbin to market. This morning, as he cleaned out the pig pens, dreaming of meeting a beautiful girl, a blinding light had struck him and his Wizard Godfather had appeared.

‘You will meet a beautiful girl this evening, but you must return her home safely before sunrise.’

In a flash, Jethro found himself dressed in fine livery, seated on a golden coach, holding the reins of four fine horses. He truly had met the girl of his dreams, but she had met a prince. In a few hours the sun would rise and the coach and horses would be gone.

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On the balcony, Cinderella managed to collect her thoughts.

‘Sire, I am greatly honoured; allow me to slip away and fetch my cape, then we may talk further, under the stars.’

She melted back into the crowded ballroom and soon she was creeping back to her coach.

‘We must leave immediately coachman, I cannot go home.’

Out of the coach window she caught a glimpse of the Prince, waiting on the balcony. Down the dark road the horses galloped on for many miles.

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Now the horses were tiring and dawn could not be far away. Jethro knew he must stop the coach. He helped the princess down and showed her the twinkling lights of a town in the valley below. Cinderella felt they must have left the kingdom by now.

‘Princess, I have something I must tell you…’

‘Ssh, don’t speak, let us watch the sunrise together.’

Jethro knew his dream would be over in a few moments; he laid his jacket on the grass for her to sit on and moved close. As the first rays peeped over the horizon it happened; within seconds they were both sitting in dirty rags and turned apart in shame. On the grass behind them sat a large pumpkin and they glimpsed a flash of grey fur and long pink tails disappearing into the undergrowth. Nervously they turned back to look at each other properly in the dawn light. Jethro thought she was more beautiful than ever and Cinderella gazed admiringly at his rugged face. Marvelling, they exchanged their strange stories, but Jethro was in despair; how could he keep this girl and look after her?

Seeing his frown she said ‘Do you know anything about selling jewellery?’ and held up the magnificent diamond ring.

He gasped.

‘But first let us have breakfast’ she laughed, unwrapping a large bundle she still held, to reveal the white linen cloth she had whisked from one of the laden tables at the palace. As the new day started, they both knew more adventures lay ahead than they could have dreamed of yesterday morning.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Black Mamba

John had set out to buy a birthday present, but had no idea where to go or what to choose. The initial euphoria at being invited to the party, albeit at the last moment, had been replaced by panic. When his mobile beeped and he looked at the message one question had been answered; what time to turn up? Two of the others in the group were going to meet him at the tube station; he had never been to Ali’s place before.

He smiled to himself, now he had a timetable to work to and the weekend was looking up. That was the good thing about being in London, you didn’t have to be lonely, there was always something going on, especially if you were part of a group. He had started going dancing to get out and meet people and it seemed to be working. The group of twentyandthirtysomethings had absorbed him. From Valentine’s evening to bank holidays, it didn’t matter if you weren’t in a couple; there was always a dance or a picnic in the park. With mobile phones and Facebook everybody kept in touch. He tried to explain to his mother on the phone that these days girls and boys could just be friends; if he mentioned a girl’s name she was liable to get twittery.

 

Ali was his friend, she was everybody’s friend, the centre of the group. He had no idea if there was a boyfriend lurking in the background, too new in the group to know much about the lives of the others.

John sighed, he surely wasn’t the only bloke who fancied Ali. She was tall, slim and beautiful, but there was more to her than that. The first time he saw her on the dance floor, her long legs were encased in jazzy black tights and she wore a short red tartan skirt that his mother would have called ‘no more than a belt’. Ali’s short black hair, stunning eye make up and black lipstick were set off by the broad, black leather collar with spikes that she wore around her long neck. It was a look that only Ali could carry off with aplomb. She had done modelling, but was far too intelligent to actually be a model; her job was something interesting and arty.

He found himself at the flower market near Brick Lane. Flowers would be a safe gift he pondered, as he paused at a stall. Amongst the lush bouquets he saw a small pot, a neat plant with two small flowers.

‘It’s a Black Mamba Gallia Lilly’ the flower woman interrupted his thoughts.

John picked up the pot and examined the exquisite flower. No flower could be truly black; these blooms were deepest purple, the hint of colour gave them their beautiful velvet sheen.

‘I’ve got some nice pink tissue paper if it’s for a present’ she said helpfully.

Ali certainly didn’t do pink.

‘Do you have black tissue paper?’

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When the three of them arrived at Ali’s place it was so crowded he wasn’t sure of the set up. Girls were arriving bearing shiny gift bags; he tried to see what the other men had brought and hung back as Ali gratefully hugged everybody. As people wandered off to get drinks he nervously edged forward and proffered his gift.

‘Oh, it’s perfect, that’s so me, you really get it.’

She pecked his cheek and he kissed her shyly, wary of the collar spikes. She clasped his hand.

‘Come through and meet Lucas, my fiancé.’

Silly Saturday – Potty Poems

                        Garden Gate         

 

The man next door has a notice on his gate,

ALL CATS WHO ENTER, BEWARE YOUR FATE.

For he prefers two legged creatures,

Those with wings and feathers as features.

 

Four legged creatures who climb, chase and bite

Beware of getting in my neighbour’s sight,

For the man next door is a very good shot,

His eyes are sharp and his fingers hot.

 

Blue Tits swing on the latest contraption,

Before grey squirrels get into action.

Wood Pigeons plummet, Sparrows flutter,

He presses a button and snaps the shutter.

 

Doves coo, Crows squawk, Magpies chatter.

Wren in the hedge hears him natter.

Blackbird sings, Robin hops and follows him around,

Worms and grubs aplenty when his fork goes in the ground.

 

The man next door tied a letter to my gate,

Welcome new neighbour, we surely will be mates,

If my views you share; dogs and cats detest

And make friends with all creatures who build a nest.

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                                     True Love        

 

Robbie was my true love,

He stole my heart one day.

He came to fix the plumbing,

When I was in dismay.

 

He said ‘Where is your stop cock?

That’s where we must begin.’

As leaks sprung all around,

My feelings he did win.

 

It’s location I knew not,

As the kitchen he did roam.

‘May I search your cupboards?’

‘Please make yourself at home.’

 

His voice was melted chocolate,

I did not mind the flood,

As eyes of startling blue

Stirred something in my blood.

 

Shall I put the kettle on?

Was all that I could say,

When Robbie the hunky plumber

Stole my heart that day.

 

He soon was in my cupboard,

Found the valve to turn.

As he knelt upon the floor

My cheeks began to burn.

 

I caught a glimpse of waistband,

Calvin Klein was what it said.

An inch of sun tanned back

Made my face turn red.

 

He filed and sawed and screwed,

As he mended all the pipes.

The sweat began to pour

Down his manly big biceps.

 

We sat out on the patio,

At last his work was done.

Wine and chunky sandwiches

To eat out in the sun.

 

He called upon his mobile

To cancel his next call.

‘Shall I check your heating,

Then will that be all?’

 

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https://www.seanhenry.com/sculpture/

Friday Flash Fiction – Father’s Speech

 When Ken came to ask… no, tell me he and Julie were going to get married, I was surprised. They have been friends for a long time, but I didn’t know love was in the air. My wife did of course, being a woman; claimed to have seen it coming for a while. Either way, we knew our Julie would be marrying a wonderful man and there is no better base for a marriage than to be best friends as well. And they have been friends for a long time; I can remember Ken as a little nipper standing at the back door, asking if he could come round to play.

Julie was a bit of a tom boy when she was young; if they weren’t building something amazing with Lego, they were out there on their bikes or catching tadpoles. We never knew what she was going to come home with when she went out with Ken.

But Julie grew into a beautiful young woman who wanted Ken to take her to the pictures or the theatre. Now we all know that Ken was sadly widowed last year and Julie helped nurse Babs in the last months. She would not have wanted Ken to stay on his own and Julie was always there for him; the same as Ken was always there for Julie when she had all her troubles.

So we wish two wonderful people all happiness for the future; Julie my only daughter and Ken, my best friend since our days at Green Lane Infants School. He’s been a wonderful god father to Julie and I know he will be a marvellous husband.

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Covert Coves and Continuity

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We once stayed for a week at a secluded Scottish cove where I was glad to discover there was no reception for mobile phones, nor was there a landline in the cottage. At the very top of the cliff, if you held your phone high in the air you could be lucky and get reception. A peaceful place for a holiday and proof for authors that there are still settings where mobile phones cannot be used; where characters can escape without being traced or where persons in peril cannot call for help.

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The plots of crime fiction, spy thrillers and romances changed for ever when mobile phones became ubiquitous. No running along dark lonely roads or knocking on strange doors to fetch help, a quick call on your mobile and an air ambulance or armed response unit could be with you in minutes. No wonder authors enjoy putting their heroes and villains in spots where there is no mobile reception.

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But you can’t always trust your characters. Reading through the third draft of one of the novels in the Brief Encounters Trilogy  I realised several of my leading characters, in several scenes, had casually used their mobile phones when they knew perfectly well there was no mobile phone reception at Holly Tree Farm. Some minor plot changes were needed for the fourth draft.

Proof reading and editing the manuscript of a novel is not just about lost commas, the wrong ‘their, there and they’re’ and ‘from’ turning to ‘form’ when you’re not looking. Continuity is just as important as on a film set.

Holly Tree Farm nestles in the quiet Wiltshire countryside; when Nathanial inherits the house it offers a refuge for his new friends and their secrets, but they never could have guessed the rambling old farm house had secrets of its own.

Read the first book in the trilogy for 99 pence.