Flash Fiction – Do you see what I see?

Her

I hover outside the door, wobbling on unfamiliar heels. The bass thumps in time with my heart. Thirty minutes I promise myself. Half an hour of social pleasantries and chit chat, how bad could it be? I rearrange my face into something resembling happy and push open the door.

I scan the sea of faces, smile and wave at my boss, now he has seen I have made the effort to come I am almost tempted to leave. I don’t belong here, all the women look gorgeous and tiny in their little black dresses. I feel like the ugly duckling, horribly out of place amongst swans.

‘Drink?’

The most incredible looking man I have ever seen stands at my side, proffering a glass of champagne. He is so out of my league. I wrap my damp palm around the glass, wishing I could press its coolness against my forehead.

‘I was drawn to your smile.’

I clamp my lips together. I wish I had listened to my mum and wore my braces.

‘You look beautiful.’

My eyes dart around looking for hidden cameras or a row of sniggering men nudging each other with their elbows, waiting to see if I will fall for it. I look for someone I could talk to, anyone would do, even Brian from accounts.

‘That’s a stunning dress.’

‘This old thing. I’ve had it ages.’ I fiddle with the straps of my pale pink satin gown. I knew I shouldn’t have bought it this afternoon, it makes me look fat but after four hours of shopping I had given up on finding something that looks good. I should have stuck to black.

‘It really flatters your figure.’

I cross my arms over my belly and bite back tears. ‘I am on a diet.’  I hate this man, why is he making me feel so bad. I gulp my champagne. It churns inside my stomach.

‘Will you dance with me?’

That’s a step too far. I thrust my empty glass at him and leave.

My night is ruined.

Him

There isn’t quite angels singing and beams of light as she enters the room, but it is close.

I watch as she waves and smiles at someone and my stomach twists sharply. I want to be the someone she smiles at.

I am hesitant at approaching her, my small talk sucks, but if I don’t someone else will, she is so gorgeous.

I grab two glasses from a passing waiter.

‘Drink?’ My pulse is rocketing. Please say yes, please say yes.

She does!

I fumble around for words, she looks so confident, the polar opposite of me.

‘That’s a stunning dress.’ It is. All the other women are in black, legs and boobs spilling out. She looks different, classy.

She mutters a bored response.

‘It flatters your figure.’

She isn’t stick thin like so many others here. I want to touch her so badly.

She studies the floor. I don’t blame her. It’s far more interesting than me.

Sweat pools at the base of my spine, my shirt sticks to me.

‘Will you dance with me?’ Marry me, be mine forever. I have never felt like this.

I have blown it. I am left cradling an empty glass and an image of what I so badly wanted to be.

I should have known she was out of my league.

My night is ruined.

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Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Write the first thing you think of following a prompt and post, no editing allowed.

 

The prompt this week was compliment/complement. It triggered off so many thoughts about how we often deflect compliments, we don’t believe them, we feel embarrassed by them. How often do we assume someone is more confident, happier, more content than we are? We often don’t see ourselves how others do at all.

Flash fiction – The truth

I claw at your hands, tight around my neck, eyes stinging, lungs burning.

‘Remember Maddy,’ your face close to mine – coffee and cigarettes – ‘stick to the story. No variations, no extra details or they’ll be all over you, like flies on shit.’

Black flecks dance before me, obscuring your scarlet face. My thighs feel weak and powerless and just as I begin to crumple you step back  and I slump the the floor, greedy lungs grappling for air.

‘Remember, last night I was here with you, all night.’

I nod but it’s not enough. I curl into myself, cradling my head with both hands as your steel toe cap connects with my ribs.

‘Yes,’ I croak.

‘Yes, what?’

There is a rapping on the front door, your footsteps pound up the wooden stairs. I haul myself to my feet, hands gripping the back of the armchair as I wait for the dizziness to pass. The doorbell sounds and I smooth my hair, tug my clothes back into place and weave my way into the hall.

They aren’t wearing uniforms, this is serious. Badges are flashed, introductions are made and then I am handing out tea that sloshes over the side of mugs as my hand trembles.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ the shorter one says, his brown beard is flecked with ginger and blonde and he looks kind, ‘we can protect you.’

I breathe in sharply, my ribs are bruised.

‘Tell us the truth Madeline, was he with you all night?’

I swallow with a throat that feels constricted.

I shake my head. ‘He came home about 3.00 am and gave me this.’ I pull deep into my pocket and pull out a gold locket.

An evidence bag is produced, triumphant smiles flashed. ‘We can tie all these cases together now,’ the taller man says, ‘once we find him, he will be put away for a long time.’

My eyes flick up to the ceiling, I nod towards the stairs.

It isn’t long before you are dragged down, cuffed and spitting with rage.

‘You stupid bitch, why didn’t you just tell the truth?’

The truth? The truth is I don’t know where you were all night. Yes you were fast asleep in bed when I ‘popped out’ at midnight, and still prone and snoring, spittle collecting on your chin, when I returned at 3.00 am to hide my bloodstained clothes, but I couldn’t vouch for the time in between.

All I know is it’s over. You can’t hurt me anymore. I collect black bags and begin to gather your things, whistling as I go.

 

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday – write the first thing that comes to mind following a prompt and post. No editing allowed. This weeks prompt is vary/very.

 

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Join me on the Peace Path

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Those of us that have been blessed enough to have spent time around children will recognise the look of utter contentment babies have as they observe the bright, shiny new world they have been thrust into.

Fast forward a few years, throw a career, a home, financial stress into the mix (aka real life) and those once serene babies look as frazzled as the rest of us.

What happens to that inner peace we are born with? Where does it go?

It doesn’t actually go anywhere, but as we grow and get busier we lose touch with ourselves. We come defined by our relationships, our job titles, always busy, always striving for more, waiting for the right time to be happy. Happiness won’t come when you are 14 lbs lighter, when you have a different job, financial security. Happiness isn’t a destination.

When I lost my mobility the physical effects were hard to deal with, the emotional effects almost impossible. I see-sawed between depression when I thought about all I had lost and anxiety when I thought of all the obstacles I would face in the future. I was completely missing the present moment. Through mindfulness I have managed to make peace with the past. I take time each day to meditate and reconnect to that place inside, the place were we are enough, whatever our circumstances.

Inner peace isn’t an absence of emotion, it’s being comfortable with whatever we are currently experiencing, even if that emotion is uncomfortable. It’s about releasing the need to be in control, to let go of judgements, relearning self compassion.

The Dalai Lama once said. “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” 

I am privileged enough to teach mindfulness now. If you want to try one of my short mediations click here to listen or download. Ten minutes a day can make a significant difference to your physical and emotional health.

Join me on the peace path.

 

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. This weeks prompt is Peace/Piece.

 

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Flash Fiction – A list of the things I’m not (SOCS)

I balance on the rickety wooden stool and pull the tarnished shortbread tin, and about ten years worth of grime, from the top of my wardrobe. I cough as tiny dust particles dance in the rays of apricot sun shining through the window. 

It seemed like only yesterday that I had sat in my school uniform in front of my nan’s gas fire scorching my toes, but of course it wasn’t.

After we had demolished the biscuits, I flicked the buttery crumbs from my jumper onto the worn brown carpet and asked if I could keep the tin ‘for my most precious things.’

I prise open the lid and smooth out the yellowed piece of a4 paper torn from my Geography book. A reminder from my thirteen year old self. A list of the things that I hoped I could be, but I’m not. 

I’m not rich, or thin, or beautiful. I’m not well travelled, famous or married to a millionaire.

My nan’s eyebrows had knitted together above her thick glasses as she read my innermost longings, her liver spotted hands causing the paper to tremble.

At the bottom of the list, unbeknown to me, nan had added in shaky handwriting ‘I hope you are happy.’

There is one more thing in the tin, the veil my nan wore when she married my granddad, the veil I will wear today, and I know that I may not live the life I dreamed of but I am loved, and I am happy.

  

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. A piece of writing inspired by a prompt (write the first thing that comes to mind, no editing allowed).  The word this week was ‘not.’ 

Go, while you can

I want to travel the world,

I want to live by the sea,

In another place, I would become,

The person I was meant to be.

I want to go far away,

I want to leave that boy,

The one who broke my heart,

The one who stamped on my joy.

I unfurl my battered map,

Smooth creases with my hand,

Now where should I go?

Where is the promised land?

I squint through blackened eyes,

I dream of sand and sun,

I jump when the front door bangs,

I tremble when I see his gun.

I’ve never travelled far,

And now I never will,

A bang, a scream, a pain,

And then everything is still.

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Write the first thing that comes to mind following a prompt and post. No editing allowed. This weeks prompt is go.



Man’s best friend

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This weeks streams of consciousness prompt, the word friend, immediately conjured up an image of my old boxer dog, Bailey. Man’s best friend, my best friend. The biggest character, the warmest heart.

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Right from when we brought him home, an eight week old puppy, skidding across our never before seen wooden floors on bambi legs, we knew he would never fail to make us laugh.

 

It wasn’t long until Bailey weighed almost as much as I did but that didn’t stop him being scared of puddles. When he was smaller I could carry him over them, when he was fully grown, we had to navigate our way around the tiniest pool of water, his ears flattened, visibly shaking at the thought of wet paws.

 

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Bailey’s size belied his gentle nature. When the boys dressed up as policeman and ‘arrested’ him, he sat patiently, legs handcuffed together long after the boys had wandered off to play something else, until they remembered to go back and release him.

Bailey had a myriad medical problems. His body produced steroids, making him grow to giant like proportions, and his too short eight year old life was spent in and out of surgery. Nevertheless the vets remained one of his favourite places to be. We would walk through the front door and Bailey would jump up and down with joy, often catching his paws on the mesh door mat. He frequently ripped his claws off doing this, blood would spurt up the walls as he spun around in happy circles while the other patients looked on in horror. It wasn’t long before we were ushered quietly in through the back door and allocated our own waiting room.

Bailey loved everyone, but his family most of all, he never strayed far from our side. Once my son left the back gate open and it was a while before we realised that Bailey was missing. We flung on coats and shoes and opened the front door ready to scour the neighbourhood. Bailey was sat on the front door mat, head hung, rain dripping from ears. He sighed, shook his head and padded past us to his bed.

Our house was emptier, quieter, without him and not a single day goes past when I don’t miss him.

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Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday – prompt – friend. Write the first thing that comes to mind, no editing allowed.

Flash Fiction – I have the most

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I bet I’ve had the most Christmas presents,’ James thrust his hand high in the air, his back rod straight.

‘It’s not a competition, James,’ Mrs Hamilton said.

‘But I got a new ipad air, an iphone 6, an xbox one and a new laptop. I bet Ben didn’t get anything.’

‘I got a pack of cards and my mum made me a jumper.’

His classmates sniggered and the blood pulsed in Ben’s ears. He was glad when the bell rang.

*

Ben trudged home, melting snow seeping through the hole in his hand-me-down trainers. A snow-ball thudded against his too small coat.

‘Loser,’ shouted James from the window of a brand new Mercedes.

James unlocked the front door and trailed melting ice down the marble hallway. The cleaner would mop it up. There was a note on the granite worktop, next to the rarely used Aga.

Dad is needed in the New York office, I have gone with him. There is money on the side for takeaways. See you Saturday. Mum.

James stuffed the wad of notes into his pocket. A hard ball formed in his stomach. He wasn’t hungry.

Ben climbed the stairs to the twelfth floor. The graffitied lift was broken again. His Mum rushed to help him take his wet things off. He pulled on his new Christmas jumper and thawed his pink fingers in front of the gas fire. ‘I’ll make some hot chocolate to warm you up and I made a lemon cake today.’

Ben licked tangy icing from his lips and told his Mum about his day. They cooked spaghetti together and stood shoulder to shoulder at the sink. His mum washed the mismatched crockery and Ben dried.

‘Cards?’

They sat cross legged on the threadbare carpet. Ben beat his Mum, two games to one.

*

The canteen was noisy but James’s voice was clear and loud. ‘I had an awesome night. I played xbox live until midnight. I feel sorry for you Ben, you have nothing.’

Ben unwrapped a piece of lemon cake, wrapped in greaseproof paper. His mother had written on the inside, Rematch tonight? Love you xxx

I have the most, he thought.

 

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Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Write the first thing that comes to mind following a prompt. No editing. This weeks prompt was most/least.

Healing from loss

How do you even begin to heal from a loss? How do you start to move forward when your bruised and fragile heart wants to stay in the past. How can you contemplate a future when your exhausted mind is stuck in a loop, reliving memories and replaying conversations? How can you contemplate integrating with the world when you feel so alone?

The truth? I don’t know. It is very early days for me and just as we all have unique fingerprints, our grief is never comparable to anyone else’s.

What I do know, is that while we are grieving the person we lost, loving the person we lost, we must make sure we love ourselves too, show ourselves the same compassion and understanding we would offer our best friend.

My mindfulness practice enables me to explore my feelings in a kindly, non-judgemental way, not an easy thing to do, but grief is not something I want to repress, resist or try to get over. Grief has no time limit.

Through self-compassion we can once again feel connected to the world, not isolate ourselves in a bubble of hurt.

There is a story about a woman called Kisa Gotami. She lost her only child and desperately asked if anyone could help her. Buddha told her he could help if she could bring him some mustard seeds from a household where no one had died. She went from house to house but could not find a home where no one had suffered loss.

Grief. You are not alone.

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. This weeks prompt is heal. No editing allowed.

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Grief – such a small word

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Grief is not the opposite to love. It is love. Love turned inside out, upside down and back to front.

Grief is such a small, tiny word. It doesn’t encapsulate the feeling that your heart has been ripped in two; the piece that can feel joy and happiness, knows how to laugh and smile now missing, what remains is the half that feels sorrow and pain, longing and guilt.

It doesn’t express the lurching fear that washes over you each and every time you contemplate the world, your new world, now missing one vital person.

Grief doesn’t explain why your insides feel rigid, your stomach leaden. Why you can no longer eat, sleep, create. Why if you try to smile your skin feels taut, unnaturally stretched over your skeleton.

Grief does not help you to comprehend how incredulous it seems that the sun still rises, that people continue to love, laugh, hope.

Grief does not cover astonishment that the human body continues to function, lungs inflate, hearts beat but you cannot remember the simplest of tasks, making toast is unfathomable.

It doesn’t begin to prepare you for the oceans you will cry. For the times you will wake with cheeks wet, pillow sodden. For the inherent sadness, now as much a part of you as your bones.

The main thing, the most important thing, that grief knows is how deeply you must have loved to be experiencing such pain. The gratitude you feel for having your life enriched by one special someone. The privilege it has been to have known them, to have loved them, to have been loved in return. Grief can be a million happy memories. A comforting presence of a life that once was.

 

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Word prompt – opposite.

 

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Flash Fiction – Washed Away (SOCS)

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Tyres sloshed through ever deepening puddles as unrelenting rain sheeted onto glistening tarmac. Work weary drivers turned up tea-time news and switched on headlights to cut through the gloom.

A lone cyclist zipped a box of chocolates inside his jacket, a surprise for his wife who was eating for two, adjusted his ear buds and pulled forward his sodden hood.

He couldn’t hear water gushing into overflowing drains, he didn’t hear the screech of brakes or crunching metal. He didn’t notice the momentarily stillness or hear anguished cries as they sliced through the silence. He didn’t hear the sirens. He didn’t feel anything.

The council worker undid his top button and loosened his tie. The heat was unbearable. He took his pen and checked all the ‘No’ boxes on his clipboard. He could see no reason to install speed bumps here. It would be a waste of resources. He strode towards his air-conditioned office without a second glance at the bunch of wilted flowers, cable tied to the railings. The only visible reminder of a life that once was.

 

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Write following a prompt (this weeks was water, earth, fire or air) and post. No editing allowed.