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.

Crooked Cottage

This is just a little piece of flash I wrote.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Crooked Cottage

 

I pause at the gate, taking in the slant of the thatched roof and pale patchwork stone. The sign says ‘Crooked Cottage,’ and I know I am at the right place. Smoke winds its way from the chimney, catching in my throat. 

I raise my hand to the door knocker, but there is a sign reading, “Do no knock. I will see you.” The temperature drops a good ten degrees, I’m sure. Suddenly, I’m aware of my nerves. My heart thumps behind my ribcage. Tanya had better be here already. The prospect of being alone with this house and its owner sends a shiver up my spine. 

When the door opens, I am greeted by an old woman with violet eyes and wild grey hair. “Come in, dear,” she says, in a voice so soft I can barely hear. I start to say thank you, but she puts her finger to her lips and instructs me to hush.

Instinct tells me to run away, but greed for the revered chocolate hangs over me like a spell. Tanya has not stopped talking about it all week. 

“Is Tanya here yet?” I asked the witchy-woman as she leads me through the house.

“Shh,” she replies, “Quiet.’

“Why are we whispering?” I ask.

As she motions for me to sit, she smiles and begins to explain. “This chocolate is the most perfectly silky, sweet, magical chocolate. Whatever you want from it, you will get.” She pauses briefly, then says, “The secret ingredient is fairy dust. But fairies are timid, they are easily frightened, so you must be quiet around them.”

With a sceptical hand, I reach for the chocolate and put some in my mouth. Instantly, I understand. My mouth bursts with sweetness, and all thoughts of apprehension dissipate as I groan my appreciation. A happiness I haven’t felt since childhood floods my veins. Licking my lips,  I turn to the old lady and whisper, “Thank you. Can I come again?”

You’re An Original

This story is based on the Sheryl Crow song, “You’re An Original.” I love to use songs as inspiration, and Sheryl Crow is one of my  favourite artists. “You’re An Original” is one her lesser-known songs. It’s take from her “C’mon C’mon” album.

 

glitter

 

You’re An Original

 

“Hey, Lomi, come over here! You have to meet this person.”

“All right, all right. Let me finish my business over here, first.” The girl in scarlet hot pants and a glittering, green bikini top waves her hand to dismiss the man with thinning, sandy hair. I watch this girl as she takes the rolled up £10 note and inhales the magic powder. 

I knew this girl; once upon a time. She was different then. My best friend. We did normal teenage things, like going to the mall, shopping for shoes, and discovering boys. I recall Lomi chatting non stop about her first love; a wiry, acne laden boy called Will. But, life has changed. For Lomi, at least.

“Steph, come with me,” my friend says, holding out a heavily tattooed hand. “Stuart wants to talk to me, and I’ll only forget what he says if you’re not there.”

We approach Lomi’s manager and wait for him to speak. His eyes are fixed on me as he speaks to Lomi. “Tom Philips wants an interview, Lomi. He saw the show tonight, and he wants to meet you in the morning.”

“Yeah, sure, Stu. Whatever. Come on, Steph, let’s get back to the party.” 

Lomi is already dragging me away when Stuart says, “Wait. Lomi, you can’t screw this one up. He’s from ‘Celeb Weekly,’ and you need them behind you. You remember the heading last month, right?”

My friend stares at Stuart, and her blank eyes reflect a lack of understanding. She has forgotten. I haven’t. She was caught driving drunk after a two day bender. The headlines were brutal. True, nonetheless. ‘Celeb Weekly’ said, “In your cadillac, reaching for your Jack, there’s nothing we can say to stop you because you, Lomi Burnette, are a star.”

“Don’t worry, Stuart, Lomi will be just fine,” I say, not really believing my own words. With so many vicious stories hitting the celebrity magazines, it makes her behaviour worse. After the drink-drive story, rather than stopping or cutting back, she started to drink at ten in the morning, rather than waiting until mid-day.

A couple of weeks ago, some one-night-stand sold his story to a magazine. He said Lomi was, “deadly in the sack.” It earned her an army of new fans. 

“Thanks, Steph. Now, where did Josh go with the magic dust?” she says, glancing all around. 

I grab her arm as she starts to walk away. “Don’t get wasted, Lomi. You have to nail that interview tomorrow. You have to be sober.”

“Chill out, Stephanie. I’m Lomi Burnette. I can do anything I want.” As she shakes off my hand, she walks away, throwing over her shoulder, “Why are you here, anyway? You follow me around like a ridiculous, little puppy; stifling my fun.” She shakes her head as she says, “You’re pathetic. Just get out of here.”

Latching onto the first body who passes by, she heads toward the restroom with him. I’m caught between saving her and letting her set fire to her career. I decide to let her burn.

Stuart yells at me as I leave the party. I ignore him. I’ve had enough. Lomi was right, it is pathetic how I do everything for her and get nothing in return. I thought I was being a good friend. But sometimes friends have to do the right thing, even when it’s not the easy thing.

I hear nothing from Lomi for eleven days. Then, ‘Celeb Weekly’ publishes her exclusive interview. It seems she was not sober for Tom Philips. He found her to be, “A little, wannabe queen; dirty mouth and mean.” 

From what I can make out, my ex best friend was barely coherent. Tom’s final conclusion was aimed directly at Lomi; “Yeah, you’re an original, baby, like we’ve never seen before. You’re an original, baby. Turn around and you’re looking at a hundred more!”

Remorse tugs at my heels as I throw the magazine in the trash can. Right about now, Lomi  will be screaming and throwing things around her penthouse suite. Despite the fact that her rise to stardom came through reality TV, she is genuinely talented. It’s such a shame that couldn’t be enough for her. That’s the thing about Lomi: she could never be satisfied. Sure, her strong will ensured success. But the flip side of that came too easily.

********************************

Tom Philips’s article started the decline in my friend’s career. A photograph appeared of her falling out of a cab at an exclusive London club. The headline ran, “Caught you in a pose that everybody knows. You’ve done that a million times already. We thought you had something special. Seems we were wrong.” It was hard to return from that one. 

When my doorbell rang this morning, I didn’t expect to see Lomi standing in my porch. A spiral of sadness wound its way through my core as I took in her skeletal frame. Her skin—covered in acne—stretched over her bones, and she couldn’t meet my eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Steph. Please don’t hate me.” Her voice was a whisper, and my heart constricted. Pulling her close, I ushered her inside before anyone could see her. I knew, deep down, this day would come. Now it has, the vindication I imagined hasn’t appeared. The only feeling I have is sadness. My best friend is broken, and all those people who rode on the back of her fame have dumped her now things are tough. Well, not me. She is my best friend. That means something.

 

Percolation

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

 

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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.

A Sense of Entitlement

My prompt for this was to write about greed. This story is fictional, although it is based on people I have known.

Greed2

 

A Sense of Entitlement

Wilma pulled her car onto Edna’s driveway and sighed. There was nothing worse than the obligatory days spent with Edna.

Jumping from the car, she straightened up, and lifted her chin high. Her nostrils flared, detecting an imaginary, unsavoury smell. She knocked on the frail old lady’s door and let herself in.

“Oh, Wilma. Lovely to see you. Come in.” The old lady’s pale blue eyes sparkled as she pulled her ex daughter-in-law close.

“Hiya.” Her eyes scanned the room, resting on the money pot on the mantelpiece. “I see you’re still keeping that in here.” She forced her eyes back to Edna, who was heading into the kitchen to make tea.

How easy it would have been to plunge her hand into the jar and take everything, but no; she was holding out for the big one. Her heart quickened as she thought about the prospect of inheriting the house. She licked her lips, feeling she was ready to run a race.

With tea and biscuits in her chubby fingers, Wilma sat in the living room, sweeping her eyes from side to side. The photograph of her with Edna’s son, taken a couple of months before he died, sickened her. She had given him the choice: “Buy me the house and move in, or I’ll move in with the guy I’ve been seeing behind your back.” It wasn’t her fault he was weak.

“Oh, I have news. Molly took me to see the solicitor. I needed to sort out my will.” Edna placed her cup on the coffee table.

Wilma’s skin tingled. Her moment had finally arrived. Edging forward in her seat, she slowed her breathing as she waited to hear the news.

“I’m leaving everything to Rose. I want it to go to family.”

Leaping from her chair, Wilma erupted; eyes bulging, face scarlet. Heavy-booted feet stomped the ground as a chain of expletives flew through the air. “I’ve come here once every month to sit with you. How dare you leave me nothing. I’m family!”

With a voice that sounded steadier than it felt, Edna asked her to leave. This response wasn’t entirely surprising. Everyone told her Wilma was only after her money. That’s why she made up the lie about her will.

As she leaned in close, their heads almost collided. Spittle landed on Edna’s cheek as Wilma
hissed, “This is it. You will never see me again.”

The bulky figure of her ex daughter-in-law slammed the front door behind her. A veil of sadness settled over Edna. She had just lost the last link to her only son. A single tear fell over her cheek. Logically, she had done the right thing. Wilma didn’t deserve anything. But loneliness seemed such a heavy price to pay.

Magic Carpet Ride

This is something I wrote about someone who is the star sign Pisces, incorporating the following Piscean traits: big heart, kind, compassionate, extremely positive, intuitive, follow instincts, dreamers, escapists, enigmatic, get lost in own imagination, emotional, spiritual, romantic, artistic, creative.

 

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Magic Carpet Ride

Matthew sat cross legged under the old oak tree. His hands, placed palms up on his thighs, he breathed slowly. A hush came over him, and the whole world disappeared.

As his lungs became cleansed with the clean, fresh air he was breathing, a warmth spread through his body. He cleared his mind of all the stresses of teaching his Year 10 Art class that afternoon. Sarah Baker’s catfight with Polly James faded into insignificance, and his heart became filled with love.

“Hey, Matt, I thought I’d find you out here.”

Rosie. The girl who made his skin tingle in anticipation of being touched by her. Opening his eyes, he brought himself back to the present. “Hey, you.” A smile spread across his face. “You’re looking beautiful.”

Watching her face colour as she dipped her head towards the floor made him need to kiss her. Grabbing her hand, he pulled her down and pressed his lips to hers. A corkscrew of electricity wound its way through his core. Pulling back, he caressed her face. “I mean it, you know. You are beautiful.”

This time, she kissed him, and a forcefield of static buzzed around them. It signalled the course of true love between soulmates, and, in that moment, Matthew knew they would be together forever.

When Rosie pulled away, she leant back against the rough bark of the oak. She sighed and picked a blade of grass,

“What’s up?” Matthew always knew when people had things on their minds. His mum told him he possessed a sixth sense. It was what led him to his spiritual path. Knowing that he could intuit things that others wouldn’t begin to see, he had to share his gift with the world. As for the non believers, they were the ones missing out. And so today, he knew Rosie was unhappy. Although, admittedly, anyone could have picked up on this one.

Rosie swallowed and opened her mouth to speak. But her breathing was shallow, and her words wouldn’t come.

Taking her hand and kissing the back of it, Matthew turned his whole body to face her. “Hey, this is me you’re with here. You can tell me anything.” He continued holding her hand.

“I hate my job. No, I hate my boss, and I can’t do my job.” As she sobbed, she stared back toward the house.

Edging close enough for their hips to touch, he draped his arm around her shoulders and squeezed, then kissed the top of her head. “Damian. I should have guessed he was responsible. What’s he done now?”

“Nothing new. Only undermined every sale I made, then told me I have to see an Occupational Therapist to assess my abilities, since I had six weeks off sick with glandular fever. He hates me, Matt. He thinks I’m rubbish at my job.” She let out a wail of unhappiness and Matthew hugged her tight.

“The guy is an ass. You should quit. You don’t have to put up with that kind of crap.”

Shaking off his arm, she rounded on him. “And what would I do, exactly? I’m trained for nothing. And, can you imagine the kind of reference he would give me?”

“Hey, it’s okay. I was thinking about the book you never have time to write. You could do that. I’m making enough money teaching to take care of us. We have some saved away. We’d be fine. And you could become a world-famous writer and we could travel the world, promoting it.” His blue eyes sparkled as he spoke, but Rosie just shook her head.

“I can’t quit my job to write a book I don’t even know if I can write. It’s too risky.”

“Okay. Well, oh yes, even better. We’ll both quit, and we could travel to remote areas of Africa or, like, the Himalayas, or somewhere, and we could teach them. We wouldn’t need money. We could volunteer with charities. Oh, that would be so good. Wouldn’t it?”

He looked at her as a lone tear drifted down her cheek. Using his thumb, he wiped it away. It hurt his heart to see the love of his life this unhappy. He kissed the spot where the tear had been. “Sorry, I got a little carried away, didn’t I?”

With a laugh, she smiled at him. “Yes, just a little. But you’re right about one thing: I do need to find a new job.”

“And I’ll help you. We’ll get you away from that nasty piece of work that calls himself a boss. I won’t let him hurt you again. I promise.”

“I know,” she said as she started to stand.

Holding onto her hand, he pulled her back down. “Don’t go inside just yet. Sit here with me on my magic carpet, and I’ll take us on a ride of your choice.”

After tapping his arm playfully, she said, “Okay. The Maldives, please. Expensive and showy, but I need some white sands and sun.”

As he began to describe the scenery in the countries they floated over, he could sense Rosie’s shoulders relaxing and her hurt melting away.

Busted!

chocolate fudge cake2

Busted!

Ed’s car is in the garage already. That means I’ll have to be quiet. I prise open our front door and hold my breath, listening for an indication of his whereabouts. I take off my shoes and creep along the hardwood floor. No sign of him downstairs, so I take the risk. I have no choice. It’s calling me. I open the pink cardboard box, and the intoxicating, sweet scent fills my world. The first bite of crumbly, chocolatey heaven-sent cake explodes in my mouth. “Nicki,” I suddenly hear, “What happened to the diet?”

 

  • This is my attempt to write micro fiction. It’s 95 words long. So much harder to write than you would think.

Have You Lost Your Mind?

I wrote this in response to a flash fiction prompt to use the title ‘Have You Lost Your Mind?’

 

Brain

 

Have You Lost Your Mind?

A I creep around the side of the building, I’m surprised at how little security there is. One guard. Marcus said he has a penchant for hard liquor. I just need to wait until he’s asleep.

It doesn’t take long. I creep towards the old metal door and dig into my pocket to pull out the instructions. There are no lights surrounding the doorway itself, only a large, menacing security camera.

I tug at my hood, pulling it over my head and re-read the door code. My breaths stall as I wait to gain entry. Almost instantly, the door welcomes me in. I pull the bandana over my mouth and nose, and claustrophobia overwhelms me. But I have no choice. The consequence of being caught is death. That’s what Marcus said.

The building smells of chemicals. It makes me gag as it penetrates my scarf. I glance once more at the instructions.

Even though I have learnt them verbatim, I can’t unscramble the tangle of words inside my head. I need to read from the paper. The building is a mass of corridors that threaten to hold me hostage. I mustn’t get lost in here. When I’m certain I’ve found the right direction, I start jogging.

Sweat covers my body, and I’m not sure whether it’s from exertion or fear. It must be a couple of miles of corridor before I reach my destination.

I’m in. I gasp at all the jars on the shelves. Each one is labelled with the names of the unfortunate souls they once inhabited. I’ll never find my mother’s. I search the labels, repulsed by the grey walnuts of humankind. The door creaks, and I spin around.

“What you doing here?” the tipsy security guard says.

I gulp, unable to answer. He speaks again, “Have you lost your mind? Is it in one of these jars?”

“No,” I say. “I—I’m looking for my mother’s.”

“Your mother’s? Oh, I see. We can’t let her down, now, can we? What’s her name?”

Stunned by his response, I grapple for the name I’ve spoken with love for the last forty-two years. “Marian Gilmore,” I say and wait.

“Gilmore,” he says, rubbing his chin like a wise old sage. “I’ll take the far side; you start from here.” He motions to a stack of jars at least ten high. He must see the panic on m face because he adds, “Don’t worry, Missy. We’ll get her back.”

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 Curse of King Khaba

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The Curse of King Khaba

Nighttime cast long shadows over the Pyramids of Giza. Panya and Ramla stood in the shelter of the smallest structure. Pressing her hands to the cool stone, Ramla shook her head. “No. This is the wrong place.”

Panya kicked the ground and a puff of red sand sprayed his sister. “It was a long shot,” he said. “Professor Naguib told us not to waste our time.”

“Hey,” said Ramla, nudging her brother’s shoulder, “Khaba may not be buried here, but he isn’t far. I saw it in my dreams, remember? And my dreams are always right.”

When Panya smiled, his teeth shone white in the moonlight. He brushed his dark hair from his eyes and made eye contact. “I know, Ramla. I just really need this, you know? I’m tired of being the mouse of the family. I’m an archeologist. I have to discover something.”

“And you will, brother. I predict it.” Taking his hand, she said, “Come. The Layer Pyramid is about eight miles southwest of here. The sun has only just set, so we can get there in time to investigate.”

The heater in Panya’s car had stopped working a few months ago, and his lack of significant discoveries meant he didn’t have the money to repair it. Shivering, Ramla grabbed her jumper from the back seat.

The eight mile journey didn’t take long. They had to park the car about a five minute walk from the pyramid. As soon as it came into sight, Ramla shouted, “This is it!” Turning to her brother, she continued, “He’s here, Panya. It’s exactly like it was in my dream.”

Panya’s dark eyes widened. “Really? Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. We need to get to the east side. There will be a hidden entrance there.”

Running ahead, leaving a trail of footprints in the compacted sand, Panya made it to the east side of the pyramid. “Okay, so where do I need to look?”

Standing with her hand on her chin, she surveyed the mound of rubble that she was told used to be a pyramid. She walked around, trailing her hand on the stone. Panya tutted and muttered under his breath.

“Here!” she exclaimed. “We need to moved these rocks away. There will be a small hole, just large enough for you to climb into. But you must be careful. No one has entered this part of the pyramid. The structure could be unsafe.”

“Yeah yeah. I hear you. Now, come on, let’s clear the way.”

Quickly, they tore the stones away from the groundwork. When a small hole revealed itself, they both took a step back, lost for words.

After a minute, Panya said, “Okay. Well, I guess this is it. Wish me luck.” As he knelt and prepared to climb into the tomb, he turned to his sister and said, “Ramla, if I’m not out in an hour, maybe you should get help.”

Nodding, she said, “Oh, you’ll be out. Don’t fear. I will see your face again.”

As Panya disappeared inside the Layer Pyramid, Ramla sat on the desert floor and leaned against the rough stonework. Closing her eyes, pictures from her dream danced in front of her. She hadn’t lied to Panya. He would resurface from this pyramid, and his discovery would be hailed the greatest of the new millennium. It was only the tiniest detail she had left out: the price her brother would pay.

Inside the tomb, sounds of screaming, then two voices, fading to one. A shuffling from the entrance forced Ramla to her feet. When Panya’s head emerged first, she smiled and breathed out her relief. There were no signs of a struggle about his person. His dark eyes were still the ones she knew and loved. “Panya,” she said and rushed to help him stand.

“He’s there, Ramla. I found him. Look, I took photos on my phone. I shall be world-famous.”

As he spoke, his eyes shone with excitement. Slowly, their dark chocolate melted into yellow, then green. A sharp intake of breath, and Ramla stumbled backwards. “No.” Taking the phone from her brother, her mouth fell open as she studied the photos of the great Pharaoh.

The first showed the sarcophagus, still in tact. But the following photos terrified her. At first, it looked like a blur; like her brother had moved as he took the photo. But the blur quickly morphed into the face of a man she didn’t recognise. Finally, the selfie. Panya had turned the phone on himself. Only, it wasn’t his face. It belonged to another, older man with long, raven hair.

“Panya,” she said, looking up at her brother. Her mouth fell open, and she shook her head. “The curse,” she whispered.

When he spoke, his voice was too low. “Ramla, you have been most helpful in achieving my goal. I knew all I had to do was wait for you to unlock my body from this dark tomb. You were always my destiny.”

He moved toward her, with outstretched arms. The red dust pounded under her feet as she ran back to the car. Once inside, she locked the doors and turned the ignition key. She knew how the curse ended, and it wasn’t well for her beloved Egypt. I should never have led my brother to this place, she thought as she revved the engine. When the figure who was no longer her brother came into sight, she reversed, then accelerated forwards as fast as she could.

The thud when she hit him jolted her backward, and pain shot through her neck. Peering over the bonnet, she saw the lifeless body of her brother. There was no sign of King Khaba. Her brother’s olive skin, tainted with red, forced her to let out a cry.

The curse had been broken. King Khaba remained dead. Egypt is safe. Cradling her brother’s limp body, she wept. But my heart is broken.