Tetrafied

Tetra Fish

 

Tetrafied

 

Alice knew as soon as he entered the bar she would be leaving with him that night. His beautiful olive skin and inky-black hair called out—like a siren—to her womanly desires. His indigo eyes locked on Alice’s, and he took the seat next to her. “Hi, I’m Jack. Let me buy you a drink,” he said, immediately summoning the bartender’s attention. 

After just two Martinis, Alice found herself linking arms with Jack and leaving the bar. As they climbed into a taxi, her stomach somersaulted. She hesitated, contemplating what she was about to do. She had never picked up a guy in a bar before. That was an occupation of the beautiful and confident; not Alice. With mousy-brown hair and pale blue eyes, she was too plain to ever attract someone at first sight. At least, that was what her mother told her.

Taking a deep, cleansing breath, she followed Jack along the rocky stone path to his front door. The house loomed high over them, casting a long shadow in the moonlight. A small flower garden alongside the path looked well-kept. Surprisingly so, for a single man in his twenties.

The old, wooden front door creaked as it welcomed them inside. In contrast to the aged exterior, the heart of the house was light and contemporary. Before Alice had even noticed Jack was missing, he returned; hands carrying more Martinis.

As they settled on the cream leather sofa, they began to explore each other. Their mouths locked and their bodies entwined. The electricity was sharp and Alice could feel herself start to let go. Then she saw it. Oh no. A wave of nausea flooded her bloodstream. 

“Fish!” she yelled, “I hate fish. Oh my God, they’re staring at me!”

Surprised, but wanting to reassure her, Jack said, “It’s okay. They’re not looking at you. They’re Mexican Tetra fish; they have no eyes.” 

But Alice didn’t hear. Throwing open the front door, she ran as fast as her feet would carry her. I’m never picking up a one night stand again, she thought, as she rounded the corner onto her own street.

Miracles

Miracles

 

Do you believe in miracles? Speculate on your idea of a miracle you’d like to see happen.

Do I believe in miracles? In short: no. Sorry to be boring and unimaginative, but I don’t. I believe we all control our own lives. At least, that’s when we don’t have someone oppressing us and controlling our lives for us. But, I do believe that if we want something, we have to do whatever needs to be done to move closer to that dream. The kind of people who really annoy me are those who whine constantly about how much they hate their lives, and how they want a better job, more money, etc. But they change nothing. They don’t look for another job. They don’t ask their boss for a raise, or more responsibility. They just keep everything the same, and expect change to fall into their laps. That annoys the hell out of me. Especially, when I know people who have worked their butts off to get where they are. Continue to work their butts off. So, that’s my realistic take on miracles. 

Despite my thoughts above, I remember constantly wishing for a miracle when Dad was slowly dying of cancer. Especially, in the last couple of months. I would see him growing weaker and weaker, and I would hope—beyond hope—that he would be one of those people you hear about who make sudden, miraculous recoveries when they are within days of death. A part of me genuinely thought he would. Until the last week. I had to keep hoping. But it didn’t happen. Because miracles aren’t real.

If I could have a miracle, though, it would have to be world peace. I would make everyone tolerant of everyone else. People could live alongside one another, knowing their beliefs are different, and be happy to call them neighbours. The whole world would get along. Now, that would be a miracle. I really don’t understand why it can’t be that way. I don’t understand why people who pray to different Gods must be enemies. I know it’s been the case, like, forever, but I don’t get it. I really don’t.

Alternatively, I would make chocolate the healthiest food on the planet. Ooh, world peace or healthy chocolate . . . tough call.

 

Meringue Dress

 

I Wish I Could Take It Back

I wish I could take it back: first time

I gushed and said, “I do.” 

But he was oh-so cute, you see,

we danced to the Cutting Crew, 

the decade was the eighties, so 

my dress was a meringue,

with puffy sleeves and hula hoop,

we drove off in a Mustang.

It wasn’t long before I knew

it wasn’t going to work, 

we were both too young to settle down,

and, besides, he was a jerk.

My second husband came at me

with oodles of sex appeal,

his olive skin and sea-green eyes, 

made me want to squeal,

the day he got onto one knee

and took my hand in his,

without a second thought, I swooned

and said, “Let’s order fizz!”

The wedding—paid for by his folks!—

was a dazzling, winter affair,

now in the nineties, at least there was no

Flock of Seagulls hair.

Instead, the gel he wore was thick,

his aftershave divine,

I could hardly wait for the honeymoon,

when he would be all mine.

This marriage soon fulfilled its course,

on account of how he strayed,

since quarter past committing to me,

he had played with my bridesmaid. 

Number three, I guess I should have known was wrong,

his eyes were close together,

he looked like he’d been caught in the wind,

his face frozen by the weather.

But he called me sugar, stroked my cheek,

his touch, it was electric

within six months, I walked the aisle, 

who cared about aesthetics? 

Our love affair was hot and fun,

it makes me blush to think,

but all too soon we fizzled out,

and our marriage started to sink. 

It’s been said I fall in love too quick,

I need to wait and see

if I really want to go the distance,

if our love is meant to be.

And so I waited for my current beau;

numbers four is the one, I know!

 

  • This is something I wrote a couple of years ago. I came across it yesterday, and thought I’d share it with you. I have to stress, this is not written from personal experience!

Percolation

This is another of my zodiac pieces. This time, I’m writing about a few of the stereotypical Taurus traits.

 

taurus200

TAURUS
21st April ~ 21st May

Taurus traits ~ Practical, dependable, frugal, materialistic, reliable, stubborn

 

Marcia clutched the box containing the shiny new coffee machine as she opened her front door. She could hear the sound of Nirvana on the stereo, telling her Phil had got home before her. Swallowing hard, she marched straight through to the kitchen.

She stopped dead when she saw the space where their old coffee machine used to sit. A chill spiralled through her core. Placing the shiny, new gadget on the pine table, she braced herself for more arguments with her husband.

When Phil said hello, she jumped and spun round to face him.

“Hey, honey. You’re home early.” The words stuck to the sides of her mouth.

“Yeah. I said I’d work from home this afternoon. I thought it would give me chance to fix the coffee machine that you love so much.”

With her heart in her mouth, Marcia prayed he had failed in his quest. “Oh. So, how did that go?”

“Piece of cake. Once I took it apart and figured out what was wrong with it, I—what’s that?”

Crap. Here we go. “Well. I thought the old machine was beyond help. So I stopped at Curry’s on the way home and picked up a new one.” She watched him fold his arms across his chest and take a step back.

“I told you I’d fix it.”

“I know, but—“

“But, what? Since when have I let you down in the past?”

Pulling out one of the pine kitchen chairs that her husband lovingly crafted in his garden workshop, she slumped into it and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“I’m not saying you ever let me down. It’s just that old coffee machine keeps breaking down. You’ve fixed it, like, three times already. It was a wedding present, Phil. We’ve had it for five years.”

“And? What’s to say it won’t last another five? It’s fine now, Marce. You need to take the new one back. It’s not necessary, and we can’t afford to spend money like it’s going out of fashion.” He shook his head and turned to walk away.

The sound of him tutting flipped a switch in Marcia. She always acquiesced to whatever argument they were having. Not so much because she wanted to keep the peace, but because she just didn’t have the energy to fight Phil’s stubbornness. He would argue the grass was purple with blue spots if he felt like it . . . and probably win!

“No.” One word. Her voice faltered only slightly. She breathed quickly as she waited for her husband to turn to face her. When he did, she couldn’t read his face. Why does he have to be so bloody steady?

“We went through all of this this morning. We don’t need a new coffee machine. Especially, when it’s . . . “ He stopped speaking as his eyes fell on the machine for the first time. “When it’s, ugh. Is it one of those Italian jobs; the ones that grind the beans?”

A smile crept over her face. “Yes. It’s an espresso machine, as well as latte, cappuccino, Americano; everything you could want in one.”

As he moved closer to the kitchen table, he reached out a hand, and the tremor in it told Marcia she was onto a winner. “It looks very . . . professional.” He touched the box and breathed deeply. “But, professional means expensive. How much did this set us back?” His eyes narrowed and he withdrew his hand.

“I’m glad you asked, honey. It was on sale; the last one in the shop. They’re getting all the new stock in for Christmas next week, so this one had to go.” She paused, watching her husband’s eyes widen.

“On sale? I love a good sale. But I bet it was still too expensive for us to be wasting our money on.” He licked his lips, and the air between the two of them thrummed with tension.

“£125. Down from an original price of £400.” She sat, crossing her legs and tucking her chin into her chest. “What do you think of that, then?”

In an instant, his hand returned to the box. “Oh, that’s good. Did you take it from our first savings account? We had £25,000 in there, so £125 would have only made a small dent in that.”

“Yes. I used that account. Now, can we please get this thing unpacked and try it out?”

A grin took over his face, animating his features. “Yes! I’m gonna have an espresso. I want to hear the beans percolating.” He ripped open the box and set up the new machine. While the beans were doing their thing, he draped his arms around Marcia and nuzzled her neck. “You’re the best. You know that?” As he moved to stand in front of her, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her mouth. “I love you.”

She giggled and kissed him back. When he pulled away, she knew where he was going. He returned to the kitchen with the old coffee machine in hand. “I’ll put this in the new box, and we can keep it for emergencies. You never know when these new-fangled gadgets might break down.”

She watched him walk out to his workshop, where all other useless, no-longer-working items were stored. “I love you too,” she whispered.

I Don’t Fit in Here

For today’s flash fiction prompt, I had to write something with the title, “I Don’t Fit In Here!” Here is what I came up with.

 

Cake Jumper

 

I Don’t Fit In Here

 

Sandra gasped when she realised the task required of her. Uncertainty in her voice, she asked, “Do I really have to do this?”

“Yes,” replied her mother-in-law, “you do. Martin will be overjoyed.”

The two of them had never clicked. Harriet was the kind of mother who fussed and clucked over her son, even when he was no longer hers to smother. Sandra knew Harriet would never like her, and she suspected this was her punishment for stealing her precious son. Even so, she would not let Martin down. She could risk making a fool of herself if it meant showing Harriet just who she was messing with.

Paolo, the party organiser, arrived two hours before he was due. He brought with him the giant monstrosity from which Sandra was expected to rise. At first glance, she guessed it was supposed to resemble an over-sized chocolate cake. It didn’t. Sure, it had thick, creamy butter icing (or some such concoction), but pieces of cardboard poked through the seams. When she stepped closer to inspect the icing, she quickly decided it was best not to question what it actually was. What have I got myself into? she wondered. Literally.

Scanning the room for her mother-in-law, Sandra was sure she couldn’t be pleased with this cheap offering. But when she found her, the older woman beamed and said, “Sandra! It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Have you tried it for size yet? You must have a practice, come on.”

A shot of pain ran down her arm as Harriet grabbed her and led her to the cake. “What are you waiting for? Hop in!” she said with twinkling eyes.

As Sandra stepped both legs inside, Harriet held up a hideous salmon-coloured leotard, dotted with sequins, and said, “You’ll need to wear this, dear. It adds to the whole effect.”

Seething, Sandra lowered herself into the cake. Then, the miracle occurred. “I don’t fit in here!” Sandra shouted, “I’m too big!”

Climbing back out to safety, she stood next to her petite mother-in-law and draped her arm around her shoulders. “Harriet, you’re smaller than me. You’ll have to do it.”

Sisters

Yesterday, my family held a surprise party for my Mum’s sister, Josy. It is her 70th birthday, so we all decided a party was in order. Mum was one of ten children—seven girls and three boys—and I’ve heard so many stories about their childhood. Although their parents had very little money, in many ways I would have loved to be one of them. They were always (and still are) very close, and their childhood sounds like it was idyllic. Josy is the second-youngest, but my dear Auntie Gwenda (who was the youngest) died in 2008, so Josy is the youngest living. She’s had a hard life, all in all, but she’s the most generous and giving person I’ve ever met. She genuinely would give you her very last pound if you asked her for it. She’s just a lovely lady.

The story I want to share today is based only very loosely on reality. It’s the kernel of an event, taken and changed into a short story. I’ve changed the names of all the sisters, but I can tell you that, in this story, Henrietta is Josy. I hope you enjoy it. (In the photo, Josy is second from the left. Mum is the one in the wheelchair at the front.

 

Sisters

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“Henrietta Joyce, outside. Now!” Edie grabbed her sister’s wrist and yanked her from the chair. The rest of the siblings trotted behind.

“What have I done now?” Henrietta asked, huffing as she struggled to keep up.

Ten children tumbled outside, and were met with a thick blanket of humidity. This whole summer had been hot and sticky. Hannah and Cherry lay a blanket on the grass, whilst Gillian produced the boxing gloves; the Carmichael children’s most revered playthings.

“Seriously? The gloves? What am I supposed to have done?” Henrietta looked from sister to sister, none of them meeting her eyes.

“You took my floral jacket without asking and left it at the dance hall. Now, I challenge you to a fight.”

Henrietta shifted feet. “Come on, Edie. You never wear it now you’re going steady with Charlie. You only have eyes for the leather jacket he bought you. I think it’s because you love hi—”

“Shut up, Henrietta! I do not love him. What do you know about love, anyway? You’re nothing but a silly, little girl.”

Henrietta sighed. “Hannah, hand me the gloves.”

“Ha! I knew I’d get you.” Edie beamed as she stretched in preparation. “Best of three. Loser carries the other’s school books every day for a month. They do all their chores, and that includes Little Gran’s shopping.”

“I hope you’ve got a free calendar, Edie.” Henrietta turned to her sisters and whispered those words that were a red rag to a bull: “She’s too chicken to do this.”

Edie flew at Henrietta, but the younger sister was more nimble. She ducked and dodged Edie’s gloves, finally delivering a sucker punch that knocked her sister to the floor. Pauline counted to five, and the first round was over.

Henrietta bounced from side to side; throwing fake punches. “Round Two,” said Pauline, throwing her arms dramatically in the air.

As the two girls fought over the floral jacket they all knew Edie didn’t even want, the rest of the sisters knew better than to pick sides. Seven neatly-ribboned heads watched the punches fall.

There was never any question who the winner would be. Bespectacled Edie was at a disadvantage the second her glasses fell to the floor. Cherry leaned over to Hannah and whispered in her ear, “Edie’s crazy, I swear. She was never going to beat Hetty, was she?”

“I know,” Hannah replied. “But that doesn’t matter. Edie had to fight as a point of honour. You know how it works, Cherry.”

Shaking her head, she sat back in time to see her older sibling crumple to the floor. Caroline (always the saviour!) rushed a glass of water to her side.

Peering through narrowed eyes, Edie glared at her sister. “I hate you, Hetty. Why are you so good at this?”

“I’m not good. You’re rubbish.” Henrietta laughed and skipped back inside.

“I hate her,” said Edie to the rest of her sisters as she felt in the grass for her broken spectacles.

The Saga Of Serge The Snail

My lovely hubby is trying to help me get my mojo back. Just lately, my confidence has dissipated. I think confidence is dependent upon you mental state, isn’t it? So, yeah, mine has kind of gone right now. But, my husband has said he will give me a prompt every morning for me to write 500 words or so about. Just so that I’m writing prose, which is where I want to be.

So, I agreed, Sounds like a good idea. Then, he gave me my first prompt: write about a snail that is trying to stop someone from eating it. (Did I say my hubby is a little odd? No? I probably should have!).

This is my effort:

Snails

 

The Saga of Serge The Snail

 

“Oh, monsieur, monsieur. Arrêtez-vous, s’il vous plait!”

The fat man hovered his pudgy hand between the plate and his mouth. “Huh? What?”

“This is a little delicate, monsieur. I need you to put me down.”

“What? Put you down? Who said that?”

Sweat beaded across the man’s forehead. Flicking his dark eyes around the room, he shook his head and continued raising his hand.

“Non, non, monsieur. I ‘ave asked you nicely. You must forget this treacherous path you are on. It will not end well. Bof!”

Claude yelped as the realisation hit him: the snail was speaking. “Non, this is not possible. I must have drunk too many Cabernets. Or, maybe those truffles were poisonous. I told Chef they did not taste as they should. Garcon! Garcon!” He tried to click his fingers, but the garlic butter dripping from them made the sound fall flat.

“Oui, monsieur? ‘Ow can I ‘elp you?” The waiter blew a strand of russet hair from his face.

“Those truffles you fed me. Where did you get them?” His eyes narrowed, and the boy took a step back. “Find out! Now. Allez!”

Bowing as he backed away, the boy scurried through the kitchen doors.

“Oh, monsieur. You do not understand. Those truffles came from the finest source. They have not made you ill. I am speaking. And there is a reason. My name is Serge. You must not eat me. Must not. I implore you, monsieur.”

A rash of panic shot through the snail’s body when Claude lifted him to his face once more. This time, though, he brought him to his eyes. As he turned the gastropod and examined his under-carriage, Serge’s head became woolly and light.

The kitchen doors crashed open, and the chef strode over to Claude’s table. Red-faced and covered in a film of sweat, he nodded at his patron. “Monsieur, I can assure you those truffles have not upset anyone else. It must be something else.”

Looking from Serge to the chef, Claude took a deep breath. “Okay, bon. Then, why can I hear this snail talking?”

“My name’s Serge. I told you that.”

Claude and the chef snapped their heads in unison to the plate where Serge sat alone.

“Wait, you heard that, too?” Claude studied the chef’s face as it contorted in an attempt to understand.

“Of course he heard me. Why wouldn’t he? Look, I do not wish to cause distress. I simply need you to set me free. Please.”

Pulling out a free chair, the chef took a seat and poured himself a large Cabernet. “But, but, you are escargot. You do not speak.”

“And yet, here I am, speaking with you. I understand it is slightly irregular, but if you just set me free, we can forget all about this.”

The men gawped at each other. Claude tried to speak, but the words got lost behind the hysteria filling his thoughts.

“Okay. I take that as agreement. Bien. Your forager ventured to a part of the woods where permission is not granted. Protected animals and plants live there. Some of us—well—let’s just say, you do not wish to consume us. A price must be paid for those who do. A dark magic spell will be cast over all who sink their teeth into our flesh. A curse upon your home, monsieur. Un malediction!”

A heartbeat passed before either man spoke. Eventually, the chef lifted Serge and looked directly at him. “Hmm. Un malediction, you say? Bon. The only problem with this tall tale is I forage my own food and plants. So I know you are not a special snail of magical properties. You lie, and I shall eat you to prove it.”

Despite his brave words, Claude couldn’t help but notice the tremor in Chef’s hand as brought the snail right up to his teeth.

“Non! Arrêtez-Vous! I beg you. I implore you. Ne mangez-moi pas. I will tell the truth. Okay. The truth. My wife—‘er name is Celine—needs me to help with the babies. Ten babies, and they are so badly behaved. If you don’t keep your wits about you, they run riot. The stories they tell, especially the youngest. Oh, monsieur. My Celine will go crazy without me. Please, spare my life for her.”

The two men looked from Serge, to each other. “Well . . . ” Claude no longer wished to eat the escargot. How can you eat a creature with whom you’ve had a conversation?

“Well, nothing,” said the chef as he pushed the little snail into his mouthed and swallowed. As he licked his fingers, he proclaimed, “Mmm. Delicieux!”

“Garcon, l’addition, s’il vous plait. Bring me the bill!” Retrieving his wallet from his jacket pocket, Claude left a pile of bills on the table and, as he fled the restaurant, shouted over his shoulder, “Never mind. These should more than cover it.”

The moment the door closed, the chef and waiter descended on the money. “Oh, dear me,” the chef said through a barrage of laughs. “It worked again. I don’t know how you do that, Michel. You throw your voice so well. Today, a snail. Tomorrow, a shrimp. Oh, so clever.”

The smile vanished from Michel’s face. “But that wasn’t me. Monsieur Claude always tips well. I saw no point in conning him.”

“What?” The air grew cold. “Say, what?”

“Honestly, monsieur. I thought you had mastered the art.”

Clutching his stomach, he ran to the restroom. As he entered a stall, a tiny voice from deep within said, “I told you, monsieur. I am special!”

 

Final Betrayal

FINAL BETRAYAL

A Tale of Friendship Told Entirely Through Dialogue

Ski Lift

 

“Isn’t it beautiful, Lacey? It’s gotta be . . . what? . . . a mile down to the tops of the trees , or something. Woah, wait a minute. Did you feel that?”

“Shut up, Dani. That’s not funny.”

“No, seriously. Shit. We’re stopping.”

“Oh no, no, no. Why aren’t we moving? Is this supposed to be a joke? Because, okay; you win. I’m scared. Now let’s get moving along.”

“Why would I want to scare you? Geez, it’ll be a backlog up ahead, or something equally boring. Like an axe wielding maniac taking over the wire.”

“Shut up.”

“Haha. The look on your face! C’mon, we’ll be moving again any moment. Take advantage of this down time to check out the scenery. It’s beautiful. You must see that.”

“I could see it better if I was stood on the ground, in amongst the trees.”

“I can’t believe you’re such a baby. How did I not know this about my best friend of twenty years? I mean. You really are scared of heights, aren’t you?”

“Not scared. Just prefer to be underneath them. Not dangling from a zip wire fifty feet off the ground with a pair of skis attached to my feet. Skis, Dani. I can’t even stand in them, let alone land from a fifty foot drop. I can’t believe I let you talk me into this.”

“Excuse me? I didn’t lock you in my suitcase and smuggle you through customs. You jumped at the chance to holiday in Italy. You’ve always wanted to go to Italy, you said. I would have been just as happy with a week in the sun. But we all know Lacey gets what Lacey wants.”

“What are you talking about? You’ve been a bitch ever since Jackson’s party last week. What gives?”

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just focus on hoping this lift starts up again before it turns dark.”

**********

“Stop! For the love of God, Dani, stop!”

“What? I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re swinging your legs. This whole seat thing is swaying.”

“What’s the matter? Afraid I might swing us right off?”

“Stop it. For Christ’s sake. I don’t know what’s going on with you, and I don’t really care, to be honest. Just stop swaying the sodding chair. I do not wish to die like this.”

“Fine.”

“God, I don’t know what your problem is, but you’re right. This holiday was a bad idea.”

“You would know all about bad ideas.”

“What?”

“Or maybe not. Maybe you wouldn’t understand there are things you don’t do, places you don’t go. Maybe you’re oblivious to everyone around you. So long as you get what you want.”

“Seriously, Dani. What the hell are you talking about?”

“You want me to spell it out?”

“Ugh, yeah!”

“You’re unbelievable. I’m talking about Jackson.”

“Wh—what? I d—don’t understand.”

“Oh yeah. Not so confident now, are you?”


“I have no idea what you’re speaking about, Dani. You’ve always had a vivid imagination. Why would I sleep with Jackson? He’s my best friend’s—“

“So you admit you slept with him? How many times?”

“Well, just . . . just the once. C’mon, Dani. I was drunk. You saw how wasted I was that night, right? I would never do that if I was thinking straight.”

“Oh. Well that’s okay then. I’ll forget about it. My best friend and my fiancé. No biggie. It’s all right because you were wasted. That’s fine.”

“Okay. I think you need to calm down. You’re rocking this chair. Shit. It’s a long way down. Calm down, breathe, and I’ll explain.”

“Has it not occurred to you I don’t give a shit what excuse you want to tell me, Lacey? Maybe I just want revenge. Maybe I know the person running the ski lifts, from my holiday with Jackson last year. Maybe he agreed to stop the lifts just as our chair reached this point. Maybe I know how to lift the safety bar just enough to push somebody out. Somebody who betrayed me. Somebody I hate.”

“No no no. You’re crazy. You’d never get away with it. Everything about me and Jacks would come out, and you’d hate that. No. You wouldn’t dare.”

“Haha. Really? You are amusing, Lace, I’ll give you that. Haha. Now. Which button do I need to press?”

“HELP! You’re insane. HEEEELP!”

“No one can hear you, Lacey. We’re all alone up here. Haha. Oh. Here it is. Pop. Oh, look. The bar moves.”

“Stop it, Dani. This isn’t funny. Stop!”

“Ummmm, no. Are you ready to fly?”


“Okay. Here. You push me, I’m taking you with me. I’m not letting go of your arm. I die, you die.”

“Yeah. I kinda thought you’d say that. But, you see, the problem is I don’t care. So are you holding on nice and tightly? Ready? I’ll hold you, too. Just in case . . . go!”

“Aaaarrgghh! Nooo! Aaarrrgggghhh!”

“That’s the last time you betray me, Lacey! Hahahahahaha.”

A Haircut To Die For

Scissors

 

My prompt for this was to include the words hair, flower, and mail and write a piece of flat fiction of 300 words or fewer. This is the result. I must point out this hairdresser is in no way based on any hairdresser I’ve ever used!

A Haircut To Die For

I should have known there was something odd about Darren when I caught him licking the scissors before he started to cut. I assumed it was simply an eccentricity. My friend Lola told me he was different. “Different, but brilliant,” she said.

Hairdressers have a tendency to chat while they are performing their art. They dissect the state of the weather, which celebrities are sleeping together, the frivolities of life that nobody really cares about. Not Darren. I watched his face as he snipped at my hair. It was like he was on another plane. One which he seemed to inhabit alone.

“How’s it looking? Not too many split ends, I hope?” I had to say something; the silence stifled me.

“What’s that?” Scissors crashed to the floor, making me jump out of the chair.

“I . . . I just asked if I have many split ends. Sorry.” My heart thudded, and a rash of fear spread across my chest.

Darren’s face twisted, and I didn’t dare move. When he spoke, his voice was tight. “It’s okay. Not too many split ends. Sit back in the chair, my pretty flower, and I’ll continue.”

My pretty flower? I gulped as I sat back. It took forever for him to finish my cut. I peeked in the mirror, with one eye closed, and was surprised to see he’d made my listless, brown hair radiant.

“Wow. I love it.” I beamed. “How much do I owe you?”

“Ahh, let me see. If you give me your address, and I promise not to send you anything strange in the mail, £10.” He was serious. No trace of a smile.

“What if I don’t give you my address?”

He tipped his head back and guffawed. “Oh, my dear, it’s best you do!”

 

Missing Mum

 

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It was the annual Christmas Party on my Mum’s side of the family yesterday. Mum was one of ten children (eleven in total, but one died age three months), so I have a lot of cousins. Consequently, each year, we have a Christmas Party and a Summer BBQ. It’s a lovely tradition, and one I have always looked forward to.

This year, I found myself feeling sad, though. The older I get, the more of Mum’s siblings are no longer here. Only five remain, and one of those lives in Australia. My cousins are all married with grown up children, and a lot of them have moved away.

Yesterday, only sixteen people came to the party. In one way, it was nice because I hate being amongst too many people. The smaller number meant it was easier to talk to people. But Mum’s loss felt huge. It always does. She died in April 2012, so it’s not my first Christmas without her. I should be used to her loss. I think, maybe, I was already feeling sad before I went yesterday. Something inside made me sad, and I felt old and like my life is going nowhere, and like all the good bits have gone forever. Old feelings, for me. But I wished they had stayed away yesterday.

After losing Uncle Rob in August this year, I’ve felt like Mum’s family (and my connection to her) is disappearing. Which, I know, isn’t true. I worry about my Auntie Beryl. She’s always been my favourite. She and Mum were next to each other in line of birth, and they spoke two or three times every day on the phone and saw each other once a week. Plus, she is the kindest, most generous person you could ever meet. She’s seventy-four and has a better social life than me! She’s always on the go. But I worry about her. She’s had two heart attacks in the past.

I didn’t intend to write this post today. I had a story all ready to paste into here, but my fingers had another idea. I guess, what I’m trying to say is, don’t take those you love for granted. Love them and hug them and laugh with each other. Spend precious times like Christmas together. The company of loved ones is so much more important than presents and Christmas lunch. Enjoy the time together, make memories you can fall back on when you have the mean reds.

I will share this poem with you, though, in an attempt to brighten the mood a little:

 

The Silver Trousers

The moment I dreaded was finally here,
My auntie’s house, full of festive cheer,
With twinkling eyes, she gave me my gift,
Uncomfortably, on the spot I did shift
“Open it now,” she said with a grin,
“Show everyone what you find within,”
Smiling back I carefully unpeeled
the paper, saw the present, I reeled,
Silver trousers, shining bright
I had to shield my eyes from their light,
“How festive,” my dear husband said
“You should try them on, go ahead,”
Grimacing, I climbed the stairs,
Into the bedroom, I sat on the chair,
One leg first, then the other,
They fit perfectly, “Oh bother!”
In trepidation, I rejoined the crowd,
My husband actually laughed out loud,
I shot him a look that plainly said,
When we get home, my love, you are dead.

Sliver Trousers