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Henshaw Short Story Competition
    Henshaw Short Story Competition

 

 

 

 

 

  September 2019 Competition Winners are: - 

 

 

 

                                                                      First Prize:

 

                                         Hazel Whitehead of Southampton

                                                                                        for

                                   ‘My Name is Verity’

 

Second Prize:

 

 Phil Parker of Sheffield

 for

 ‘Ayesha’

 

 

   Third Prize: 

  

  Linda Muller of Penryn

    for

                              ‘The Windmills of her Mind’

 

 

   

                                                                                          ******

                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

                      ‘My Name is Verity’

 

                                                                                   by

 

                                                                      Hazel Whitehead

                        

 

     ‘No. Stop! Don’t do it.’

How many times have I castigated myself with those words since Jack left for his latest tour of duty?  I have absolutely no idea; but definitely more than my four-year old could count on her fingers. Sometimes, I thought them from the safety of the bedroom. Sometimes, I whispered them, menacingly, as I mopped the kitchen floor. Or, forgetting that Eloise was in earshot, I shouted them out loud.  ‘No. Stop. Don’t do it.’

‘But Mummy, I’m not doing anything,’ she would say. Then I would smother her with kisses, consumed with guilt.

‘Stupid Mummy!’ I would laugh. ‘It’s fine.  You’re my best girl. You haven’t done anything wrong.’

‘Maria at Nursery says it’s rude to call people stupid,’ she says, now that she has the upper hand. And whatever ‘Maria at Nursery’ says is true.

     Justice done and control regained, Eloise turns her attention to her dolls who are never allowed to call anybody stupid. Whether or not they will grow up to hide bottles in the laundry basket is anybody’s guess. Eloise talks non-stop as she pushes them around the garden in the double buggy, struggling to get the wheels over the uneven paving. They’re gradually doing away with army housing so there’s no budget to fix the path. But we don’t mind. It’s not so bad, living close to others in the same boat.

     While Eloise enjoys her fantasy family, I work at survival, emptying bins, peeling carrots. Maria at Nursery says that vegetables are good for you, so Eloise eats them without complaint.  When she is in bed, I line up the toys against the fence ready for tomorrow.

Sometimes, Kirsten from next door comes in so that I can go to choir practice. Ever since Gareth Malone and the Military Wives Choir, we’ve been meeting every Tuesday. Gareth even came once but now we have Ralph who is just as musical but not as charismatic. We meet on the Base and we all get a free drink in the interval so that’s a bonus.

     It has taken me a year to accept that I have a problem.  Even now, I can’t bring myself to say the word alcoholic for fear that, by naming it, it will define who I am.  Being a journalist, a mother, a passable alto used to evoke pride in me. But ‘My name’s Verity and I’m an alcoholic’ is just a step too far. There might be no going back.

Yet I am not in complete denial. I have read books, researched on-line, watched the occasional documentary.  And – yes - I am putting on weight and my skin is dry. My sleep is erratic and I often wake up more tired than when I go to bed. For all I know, other parents rush home at 9’o’clock in the morning to steal the first drink of the day – but I doubt it.  Perhaps they also fail to turn up for meetings by giving increasingly unconvincing excuses.  I am rarely there, so there’s no way of knowing.

             I know that it is not normal to squirrel away bottles in the Christmas decorations box because nobody will look there for ages; and I know it is shameful to spend my child benefit on red wine when Jack thinks I am saving it all for Eloise. And now we are at crisis point, me and Eloise.  Well – not Eloise.  Me. Jack is due back next week for a month’s leave. Eloise is so excited she can barely contain herself.  Every morning, she crosses dates off the calendar with a large red marker pen.

‘Only four more sleeps before Daddy is home. Aren’t you excited, Mummy? I’m so excited, I can’t sit still. Maria at Nursery says I’ve got ants in my pants. It doesn’t mean you really have, though.’

‘Of course, I am, my lovely.  I’m so excited I could burst. Won’t Daddy be surprised to see how clever you are at counting and writing your name?’

‘That’s what Maria at Nursery said,’ she confides. 

            When she is safely in bed, curled up foetus-like under the fairy duvet cover my anxiety surfaces.  I am like a chicken who has spent all day pretending not to be scared of the fox.  I have forced myself to do essential chores - filled in the permission form for the school trip to the zoo, fixed tomorrow’s packed lunch.  Only now do I succumb to the irresistible yearning.  Only now do I race to the cupboard under the sink. Nobody goes there. Only me. 

             So here I am, just me and the TV and a bottle of red. It can’t be really serious, I tell myself, if a bottle of Merlot – or two – can do the trick.  I can resist the spirits that I know real alcoholics crave. I’ll be fine when Jack is home. I won’t have time to keep thinking about Ben; might be able to banish the all-consuming pictures of his lifeless little body.  However hard I try, I can’t get rid of the image of that miniscule, white velvet sleep suit with those adorable, blue and silver penguins marching up and down, round and round.  That’s why I can’t be a responsible adult on the trip to the zoo.  I checked the website and there are definitely penguins - so I’ve made up another excuse.

The tears come, as they always do about this time of night. How is it possible to be so in love with a person you have only known for 3 days?

Guilt accompanies grief. It should have been enough, shouldn’t it, to have a perfectly healthy daughter waiting for us at home. And it was no consolation being told we would be able to have another healthy baby.  We didn’t want ‘another healthy baby.’ We wanted Ben.  The hospital staff treated us as though Ben was the only child in the world and we were the only parents going through this hell. The Chaplain didn’t insult us with platitudes or promises of a life with Jesus. Nobody could have done more - but none of them could bring Ben back.

             Now there are only three sleeps until Jack comes home and desperation is taking hold.  How can I hide from the man who knows every inch of me what I have become?  The hiding places are secure, that’s for sure. He’s unlikely to count leftover Christmas Crackers or check our stock of disinfectant.  I have a fool-proof strategy for weekdays. He can take Eloise to nursery. He’ll chat to other parents, go and buy a paper. And after a few days of relaxing, and with subtle encouragement, he’ll want to get back to the gym so I’ll have time for a drink before he gets back.   Then I’ll be fine until the evening. Jack always does bath time when he’s home – making up for lost time – so I can grab a glass in the utility room while I am sorting the washing. Must buy more peppermints and syphon the wine into innocent looking blackcurrant bottles. 

            Who am I trying to kid?  What has it come to that I am plotting to prevent my own husband from seeing me as I am?  He is no fool. He will smell it on my breath, wonder why I am twitchy and irritable and lose my temper at the drop of a hat. He’ll want to catch up with friends and there are only so many excuses I can make.  Only so many dinner parties we can go to without my sneaking out to the kitchen to drain the dregs. And, though it doesn’t sound like it, I really love him. It’s just that if I don’t drink, I can’t cope.  There, I’ve said it.  I can’t cope. Maybe I am an alcoholic after all.

            Two more sleeps, one more sleep until Daddy comes home. 

The preparations are complete.  The beds are changed, the house is cleaned to within an inch of its life, balloons of varying shapes and sizes drift in the breeze. Eloise’s garish welcome home card leaks glitter all over the carpet and the elephant shaped rubber, a present from the zoo, will erase anything in sight except my grief.   Everything is in its proper place. All should be right with the world. But, of course, it isn’t.

Maria says it’s a special occasion so Eloise can have the day off nursery.  We head off in plenty of time, Eloise pushing the twins. Today, they are Eva and Kyle – don’t ask why.  We chat nervously with other spouses – husbands as well as wives nowadays – as their well-scrubbed children run around unnaturally in their best clothes.  I managed two glasses before we left – and a strong coffee – so am able to make intelligent conversation without too much effort.  When Jack emerges, along with his mates, Eloise runs into his arms and he throws her up in the air, twirling her round as she screams with delight, covering his face with kisses.

            ‘My goodness – what a welcome,’ he laughs, with tears in his eyes.  ‘I hardly recognised you - look how you’ve grown!’

‘That’s what Maria at nursery said you’d say,’ she giggles.

I am holding back, pulling my cardigan around me. He looks tired but well. Apparently, it was a relatively easy tour. Nobody died and the mission was successful. And then he turns to me and we embrace and re-familiarise ourselves with the smell and touch and taste of one another.  It’s always like this - like being on a first date.  We both smile, slightly embarrassed. Jack looks lovingly and a little quizzically as we walk off arm in arm with Eloise skipping around our legs. 

             We saunter home past the swings and across the Green, unable to get a word in edgeways as Eloise chatters away. Jack shuts the front door firmly. Home again!  Eloise and the twins go in search of a snack.  We stand, face to face, sizing each other up, relishing the familiar warmth of a hug and a kiss. Funny how your body remembers as well as your mind and your heart.  I daren’t speak for fear of breaking down before we have even made it into the living room. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch the balloons swaying in the breeze and the sparkle of the glitter on the hearth rug.

            ‘There’s so much we need to talk about,’ says Jack.  An unusual opener for him.

‘I haven’t been managing without you. And I just can’t get Ben out of my mind.  I miss him so much.’

‘You do? Really?’  Jack organises battles and campaigns. He commands troops. Can he be suffering like me?  ‘You miss Ben?’

‘Of course, I do. Sometimes, it’s unbearable. One guy even named his new baby Benjamin. I wanted to hit him.’

There is no time to respond.

‘Mummy – this blackcurrant juice tastes funny.’

‘NO!’  I scream.  ‘No!  Stop!  Spit it out. Now! How stupid . . . ’

Eloise crumples. She lets go of the beaker as though it were poison, the wine splashing down the wall. Jack looks askance at me – half critically, half terrified.

‘Are you calling yourself stupid again, Mummy?’ she trembles, catching her breath.  ‘Or is it me?  I’m not stupid and Maria at Nursery says it’s wrong to call people stupid.’ 

‘And Maria at Nursery is right, my lovely.  You’re not stupid.  But Mummy is – sometimes.’

‘Jack – you’re right.  We do need to talk. I’m not managing well either.  In fact, I’m not managing at all. I cry at night and I hide bottles of wine in strange places and I can’t cope with the simplest thing and I miss Ben so much . . .’

The words tumble out in a stream of consciousness as though the dam has been broken.

‘And it’s worse. Much worse.  I . . . I think . . . I think I may be an alcoholic.’

 

 

 

                                                                             ******

 

 

 

                                   ‘Ayesha’

 

                                                                                         by

 

                                                                             Phil Parker

                        

 

 

 

Ayesha stares at the reflection in the mirror and smiles.  The reflection smiles back.  This feels good.  For some minutes there is careful scrutiny.  It’s not perfect – Ayesha has the wisdom to know this could not be true, given the current circumstances.  But it will do.  It will more than do.  At last, after years of pretence, of trying to fit in, Ayesha has the sense that the image that stares back from the mirror’s tarnished surface is something authentic, something real.  It is the truth. 

  Mostly this comes from the new purchases, which arrived only this morning, and which Ayesha rushed back to the flat at the end of the morning shift to try on.  It was awkward, of course.  Ayesha defied anyone to put on a sari successfully the first time around.  But now, after several false starts and much recourse to the explanations on the shop website, it seems possible to master the complex wrapping around the waist, the draping over the left shoulder, without the whole thing simply slithering to the ground.  The petticoat purchased to wear underneath also feels oddly new and curiously old-fashioned, but Ayesha experiences an inarticulate thrill in the whole ensemble.  To wear the garments of one’s ancestors, to step out in the garb that proclaims one’s heritage, one’s essential difference from the faceless crowds out on the streets – all this is more than special. 

             Ayesha spends several minutes staring at the mirror from a variety of angles.  It would have been good to have had two mirrors, to have been able to place one directly behind as well as in front, so as to see the rear view also, but no matter.  The purple silk feels so smooth, so cool, so light.  It is almost erotic, Ayesha senses, but more than that, it is powerful.  It is a statement.  This is me, it says.  It is who I am.

  It has taken Ayesha more than a decade to get to this point.  As an adopted child, there was a nagging sense of not really fitting in, even though Mother and Father had done their best to ensure that everyone knew that their new arrival was to be treated as a full part of the family.   But difference haunted the details of the interaction in the small family home just as much as the more obvious, glaring contrasts.  Ayesha knew even as a small child that when they were all out shopping in their tiny Norfolk village, tongues would wag, comments would be passed after they had traipsed out of the shop or wandered through the market square.  Mum and Dad looked so different, as did cousins and uncles and aunts.  Where they were stout, broad yeoman stock, Ayesha was elfin, delicate.  Their ruddy complexions looked permanently weather-beaten beside Ayesha’s smooth skin and finely-chiselled features.  They ploughed the fields and chased rabbits with dogs.  Ayesha dreamed of far-away worlds, exotic landscapes peopled by princes and emperors who rode not wheezing nags bogged down in East Anglian mud but elephants. 

             It was a kind household, Ayesha knew.  There were no material needs.  Ayesha had clothes – jeans, tee shirts, stout boots for family walks along the Norfolk coastline, sweatshirts emblazoned with names of rock bands, all in the rough and ready ‘no airs and graces’ fashion of the rest of the family.  They even indulged Ayesha’s odd passion for books.  The bookshelf in the plainly functional bedroom Ayesha had been given from the earliest days was burdened down with tales of fantasy, poems about the Far East, versions of the Arabian Nights, as well as the more exotically inventive tales of other worlds and distant galaxies. 

             Now, in front of the mirror still, Ayesha smiles once more.  So this is where the passion for dressing up would lead to.  Memories stumble over each other in the fading light of the bedsit afternoon.  Ayesha thinks of the early days at the local primary school, of being introduced as the new person who had come to join the class, who everyone should be nice to and invite to join in their play.  Some of the girls clearly listened to Miss Allsopp only until morning break, when they turned their backs on Ayesha and proceeded as though this new visitor were simply invisible.  Others, though, were more welcoming, and allowed Ayesha to join with their passionate, vivid games of making friends and falling out, games that often crossed the boundary into real life. 

             What Ayesha loved more than anything in that first year was the dressing-up box.  No doubt it would have been impossible to explain, if Miss Allsopp or anyone else had taken the trouble to ask but, Ayesha senses now, it must surely have been about escape, of inhabiting another world, in another time and another identity.  Of course, in the end even the kind girls had enough.  You’re not like us, they’d say.  You don’t belong with us.  Go outside and play in the yard.

             Ayesha bites a lip pensively.  No, it would not be possible to point back to childhood schooldays as the happiest days of one’s life.  The subsequent successors to the kindly maternal Miss Allsopp each, in their various ways, encouraged Ayesha out of the melancholy gloom that pervaded each classroom in turn.  Ayesha ‘has a vivid interior life,’ a school report might say, or ‘has a solitary personality, and does not mix readily with the other children.’  Miss Chappell, sharp and no-nonsense to the end, wrote on the last end-of-year report before the transition to secondary school, that Ayesha ‘is looking for something, but clearly has not found it yet.’

            Ayesha’s smile returns.  Well, whatever it was, it has certainly been found now.  It is ironic, Ayesha thinks, that these secondary school years, so turbulent, so challenging, so downright vicious at times, should also have been the route to this fulfilment.  At puberty, no doubt, the herd instinct kicks in, the desperate need not to stand out, not to have attention drawn to one’s difference.  Yet, at the same time, those years bring the opportunity for trying out roles, for playing with notions of identity as maturity beckons. 

            Looking back now, Ayesha reflects, it was quirky Mr Parkinson, the more than eccentric English teacher, who opened the door to the present.  It might not have been deliberate, but it worked nonetheless.  He had an odd choice in class readers, favouring fantasy fiction of various eras, but it meant that after CS Lewis, Ursula Le Guin and the inevitable Tolkien, there was time spent in the rather arcane company of H Rider Haggard, reading ‘She’, and then the sequel, ‘Ayesha, the Return of She’.  Ayesha was not given to notions of predestination, but, reading this cocktail of Tibetan fantasy, Ancient Egyptian myth, evil sorcerers and the like brought into focus the character of Haggard’s Ayesha herself, shape-shifting, exotic, all-powerful.   In moments of introspection, Ayesha recognised that the attraction of the fiction was at least as much the Pre-Raphaelite line drawings of the edition that Mr Parkinson used as it was the character of the novel’s heroine, but no matter: from now on, Ayesha thought, this was the object over which to fantasise, an alter ego one could inhabit, a full-colour persona to challenge the monochrome tedium of village life.

             It would be dishonest to say that the transition into Norfolk’s equivalent of Rider Haggard’s fictional Ayesha was easy and seamless, but gradually the world of the village in which Ayesha grew up extended.  Adolescence brought exposure to city life – yes, the sleepy cosmopolitanism of Norwich, but even this came with its own excitements.  Ayesha found dress shops, market stalls, niche bookshops, and hesitant contact with like-minded individuals searching for an alternative to the white, Anglo-Saxon patriarchal monoculture in which Ayesha had grown up.  It was occasionally a bumpy ride – too many memories of being chased down back streets and alley ways by groups of lads with shaven heads and thick military boots.  Once Ayesha inadvertently ended up enmeshed in an angry protest outside the city hall and was told, at great length and in creatively violent language to go home, to go back to wherever it was, that your sort just weren’t wanted here.

             It was internet shopping that provided both the solution to Ayesha’s feelings of isolation and also, painfully, the trigger for the swift move out of the family home and into Ayesha’s current, rather less than salubrious bedsit.  Mother was initially intrigued by the parcels that arrived, but Ayesha was conscious that there was a limit to the number of times that these could be passed off as materials for an art project or a response to some school work on theatre make-up and costume design.  With hindsight, it was clearly foolish not to have locked the bedroom door first, but when Mother wandered in just as Ayesha was putting the finishing touches to the most elaborate version yet of Rider Haggard’s heroine – pastel pink salwar kameez with a vivid magenta chiffon veil, full face make up and blood-red painted nails – the initial silence was ominous. 

             Mother curled her lip in distaste.  When the words came, they were quiet, but wounded and angry.  ‘We’ve brought you up and cared for you since you were a tot.  Fed you and clothed you.  And is this how you repay us?  To get yourself up looking like that?  Get that lot off this minute and put your proper clothes on.  What would your father say?  I never want to see such a thing in this house again.’

             Ayesha had expected tantrums and rages, rows and slammed doors.  It was oddly nothing like that.  The bedsit above the charity shop was available, Ayesha explained the plan matter-of-factly to Mother and Father, and within three weeks the move was made.  At the end, there were even tears.  ‘We’ll always love you, you know?’ Mother said through her snuffles.  ‘No matter what … no matter what you wear or how you choose to go on.’  Ayesha was neither as happy as might have been imagined at all this freedom nor as sad as might have been feared at the loss of a family home.  But in the weeks that followed, life in the bedsit brought its own comforts.  After all, thought Ayesha, when you live on your own you get to be the person you want to be, to wear the clothes you want to wear, to live the life you want to live.

            The phone rings.  Ayesha steps back from the mirror, taking care not to trip over the hem of the sari, and picks it up.  It’s Mother.  Ayesha sighs, prepares for whatever might come next, and taps the green icon to answer.

  ‘Hi.  Mum here.  Is that you, Adrian?’

  Ayesha sighs again.  Baby steps.  Life has to proceed very slowly.  You can’t rush people who won’t be rushed.  So, for now, it’s Ayesha here in the security of the bedsit.  The outside world might take a little more time.

             ‘Hi, Mum,’ he says.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                           ******

 

 

 

 

                                 ‘The Windmills of her Mind’

 

                                                                               by

 

                                                                    Linda Muller

 

                        

It must have entered the house whilst the glass in her patio door was being replaced, Though Bella couldn’t remember when that was; maybe it was yesterday, or this morning? But there was no other explanation, or not one that she could think of, for it being here in the house, though for Bella, thinking about anything for very long was becoming more difficult. That was the problem with being old with a short-term memory that didn’t seem to work.  She was either battling to physically move from room to room or wondering for what purpose she’d made the effort in the first place.  She’d no time nor energy left in which to scrabble around in her memory banks. But Bella did remember the glass in the patio door being replaced because now she could see the garden really clearly; whereas before, trying to see through the patio door had been like looking through gauze.  As soon as she thought the word “gauze” Bella balked at it, it was too medical, reminding her of hospitals, making her shiver.

She’d caught sight of it out of the corner of her eye whilst filling the kettle:  a small ball of light flashing around at the far end of the work surface. Seeing it made her feel insecure, more out of control than ever. She’d turned her head away, not wanting to look, not wanting to have to question her own judgement yet again. Then suddenly the thing flashed right in front of her face. Bella drew in her breath but resisted the urge to turn and gaze after it.  She didn’t believe she’d completely lost her marbles, not yet anyway, but she was aware enough of her condition to know that some of her marbles were rolling around freely, confusing and confounding her on a daily basis. She spoke aloud, attempting to reassure herself but also to pierce the suffocating silence of the room. There was far too much silence in her life these days. “Has a ball of light just been bouncing around on my kitchen or am I imagining things?’ She’d waited a long moment before answering herself. “You’re imagining things again!”.

To confirm that it was only her imagination Bella permitted herself to glance down to the far end of the kitchen and was astonished to see, staring straight back at her, a tiny fairy.  It was perched on the rim of a vase of daffodils, its tiny legs swinging from side to side.  Bella quickly screwed her eyes shut and kept them like that for a few seconds, when she opened them again the vase of daffodils was still there but not the leg swinging fairy.

 “Bella – you’re seeing things”, she told herself.

 But as she didn’t much like the feeling that statement gave her, she decided that what she’d actually seen was a brightly coloured butterfly.  After all, her eyesight was failing, and she’d always had an overactive imagination. And she was old.

Happy with her conclusions Bella turned back to the kettle. She made herself a mug of tea and placing it gingerly on her trolley made her way into the living room.  It took a few minutes to settle herself into a chair, she had to be so careful with herself these days, she couldn’t afford to break another bone.  Once comfortably seated with the trolley close to hand Bella picked up the TV control.  She thought about what she might like to watch but couldn’t remember the names of any programmes, or even what they were about, so she gave up on the idea of watching TV, she found it hard to follow a story line anyway, so it didn’t really matter. And anyway, she needed to drink her tea before it grew cold: she was forever finding cold mugs of tea around the place.  But as Bella reached out her hand for the mug she was astonished to see the same ball of light that had been in the kitchen now tearing at great speed around and around her trolley.  ‘’Dear me that looks like a very angry ball of light”, she thought to herself, before bursting out laughing at the nonsense of the thought. And that’s when it happened. The spinning ball of light landed on the surface of the trolley and Bella watched as its spinning gradually slowed down.  When the spinning finally stopped, there before her on the trolley, even though Bella didn’t really believe what she was seeing, was a fairy.  Had she just seen a fairy in the kitchen?  Bella wasn’t really sure if she had or she hadn’t – but she was completely mesmerized by this one and leaned forward to get a closer look at it.

The fairy stood 2 or 3 inches tall and as she examined it she thought that it seemed a very feminine sort of fairy. She wondered if fairies and piskies were related and then tensed her shoulders, as if the thought had been said aloud and she was waiting for ridicule from someone.  She wondered if she might be making the fairy nervous with the intensity of her stare, for it began to flit a little from side to side; as though it wasn’t sure what would happen if it tried to fly away, nevertheless Bella still couldn’t stop herself from staring at it, she didn’t want the fairy to fly away and she was sure that if she took her eyes off it, it would disappear. That was when Bella had the thought about the patio door and the fairy finding its way in.  The patio doors were shut now, so if that was the way it had come in, it now had no way now of getting out. It wouldn’t be leaving. Sighing with satisfaction at this thought Bella allowed herself to relax a little; sitting back in the chair she lifted the mug of tea to take a sip of her cold tea. It was nice to have company.

Bella must have fallen asleep then because the next time she lifted her head and looked around she noticed it was growing dark outside.  She felt as if something different had happened today but she couldn’t remember what it was.  Perhaps she’d had a visitor. Someone had suggested that she have a visitor’s book, so she’d know who had been and when, but she thought that was a very odd thing to have in your own home: after all she wasn’t a hotel or a holiday attraction.  She giggled to herself at that thought.  Now that she was properly awake Bella realized that she needed to warm herself and feed herself.  Struggling, she raised herself up and made her way into the kitchen: she wanted to switch on the central heating and heat something in the microwave. She was pushing her trolley towards the freezer when she saw it, saw a thing in the corner of the room: a tiny glowing globe of light that pulsed on and off. 

‘What on earth can that be?’ she asked herself.

Nervously pushing the trolley closer, Bella examined the strange thing that lay there pulsating in front of her.  Whilst she stood staring at it, the pulsing abruptly stopped and there was a sudden blur of movement.  Bella then saw that what she had thought was a ball of light was in fact something very different indeed: now that it had stopped thrashing about it looked just like a fairy!

“Or maybe”, she muttered aloud: “a Cornish piskie”. 

Astonished and a little frightened that such a thing could be in her kitchen, made Bella shout at it, demanding to know what it was doing on her kitchen floor.  Eventually, when there was no response to her shouts Bella slumped into a kitchen chair. She screwed her eyes shut and sighed in frustration and resignation at herself.  She felt like her mind was spiralling out of control.

 

For a few moments Bella sat musing in the kitchen chair and then her head shot up.  She looked wildly around the room, frantically searching for the little creature that she was sure she’d seen.  She needed to speak to it, needed to tell it that she understood. Bella’s head had come alive with images of her childhood bedroom.  She could clearly see the book-laden shelves that had run along one wall.  Bella had loved all her books but ‘The Adventures of Peter Pan and Wendy’ was her favourite, a book she’d read over and over again. This was why she clearly understood what was happening now: she’d managed to work it all out.

 “Peter sent you didn’t he? Didn’t he?” Her voice made a high pitched squealing

sound as it reverberated around the empty room.

 “Or was it Tinkerbelle? Did she send you?” Bella struggled to her feet; and peered

into the gloom that surrounded her.

“It is you, isn’t it?  You’re Tinkerbelle?”

There was no response. No flitting globe of light to be seen: no little fairy fluttering about the room. Bella, struggled to her feet and raised her voice so that it could reach every corner of her home.

 “You’ve come to take me with you back to Never Never Land haven’t you?  Well, all I can say is you’ve certainly left it a little late.”

Momentarily an image of a crocodile danced through Bella’s head and she shuddered. 

Exhausted by her exertions she slumped back into her chair and fell into deep thought.  Her head drooped lower and lower as she struggled to work out what she should do next. These days it was so hard for her to think clearly, so hard to concentrate for very long.  But Bella knew that this thing she was thinking about was really important and that she mustn’t lose hold of it, mustn’t let it escape. 

Finally, she had an idea and she felt more energized than she had felt in a long time.  Convinced that the fairy was Tinkerbelle, now in hiding because being shouted at had upset her, Bella decided to put her plan into action. She would open the patio door and sit by it in the darkness. As the open door was the only way Tinkerbelle could have found her way into Bella’s home, then it must be the way she’d leave; she was bound to be enticed by the open patio door. And when Tinkerbelle did come along, Bella had made up her mind to apologise for shouting at her.  And she’d tell Tinkerbelle that she was very happy to be taken along to Never Never Land with her.

Bella struggled to the patio door and slid it back a fraction; leaving just enough of a gap for a fairy to fly through. She then sat down heavily in a comfortable armchair, one that she liked to use in the mornings to watch for the birds who visited her garden.  Though she was supposed to be keeping a watchful eye.

 “Like being on sentry duty”, she told herself.

Bella could feel her head nodding and she began to grow anxious, frightened that she might fall asleep and miss Tinkerbelle altogether.  Grabbing hold of the handle of the patio door Bella used it to pull herself out of her chair, then slid the patio door back on its runners until it lay wide open, allowing a bank of cold air to flood the room. She shivered, but her growing excitement made her dismiss the cold. Stepping outside Bella made her way to a

garden bench that was placed opposite the patio door.  She thought that being outside would help her to stay awake and she had to stay awake, she knew that: she knew that this was her last chance, a chance that she couldn’t afford to miss. 

 

 

 

 

The September 2019 Short List

                                                             

                                  My Name is Verity by Hazel Whitehead

 

                                            Ghost Writing by Julie Evans        

                           

                                            Black Boots by Jane Hayward     

                              

                                       Keep It Running by Andrea Emblin

 

                                                 Ayesha by Phil Parker        

                               

                              The Windmills of her Mind by Linda Muller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                            The September  Long List September 2019

                                                             

                                                      The Funeral by Joy Deacon

 

                                         My Name is Verity by Hazel Whitehead

 

                                                    Ghost Writing by Julie Evans     

                                    

                                                         Bled by Ryan Brunning

 

                                            Amazon Adventure by Tony Oswick

 

                                                      Disinterest by Peter Ford    

                                            

                                                 Black Boots by Jane Hayward  

                                                  

                                             Keep It Running by Andrea Emblin

 

                                                        Ayesha by Phil Parker   

                                               

                                   More than Lunch with Ginger by Sherry Morris

 

                                     Just the Facts about WACTS by Sherry Morris     

                                        

                                       The Windmills of her Mind by Linda Muller  

 

           

                  

 

 

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