Monday 28 February 2011

The Family Tree

By Iain Cosgrove
Earl Grey tea

I have lived in this house all my life. As I gaze out on the morning I can’t quite identify what is wrong until I realise the horizon is different.

I know it’s a cliché, but oh how the mighty had fallen. He was always so straight, so erect, and so proud. He was massive and omnipresent on his small hillock, challenging the heavens to do their worst. He must have really angered the Gods this time. He carried his lightning scars like a badge of honour, and shrugged off all the Gales that nature threw at him.

But like all living things, his time has come. Last night’s storm has uprooted him like a weed; tossing him aside like a weak rooted sapling.

As I step through the carnage, I notice the white swing; moss covered, flaking paint, the sounds of my children and grandchildren shrieking with delight returned anew. ‘Higher Dad, Higher!’ they shrieked. 'Higher Grandad, Higher!' as he cradled them safely in the massive solidity of his branches.

We grew up together, him and me. Like most friends, we hurt each other too. If I turned to the side in front of a mirror, I could see the ten inch scar he inflicted on me as a child; I was trying to rob him of his juiciest fruit. And I can still see the unthinking and thoughtless wounds the six inch nails from my tree house made. And of course there was the heart and arrow carved into the base. Alan loves Helen.

She squeezes my shoulder; she has seen me from the house and has silently joined me in mourning. We walk through the splayed out branches, surveying the damage like dazed soldiers on a battlefield. 'Don’t worry love,' she says, wiping a tear from my eye. 'We’ll give him the send off he deserves.'

***

So here I am, rocking back and forth, safe again in his gentle caress. I am particularly fond of the chair, but he had given us so much more. We found a carpenter who listened to what we wanted and lovingly re-formed him so that he remained a part of our lives; a true member of the family. And as I look across the glowing embers of his remnants, I see my great grandchild asleep in his loving embrace. If I squint over the top of my glasses I can just make out a heart with an arrow through it on the headboard of the crib.

I nod to myself in satisfaction. I think he would have understood. I go back to my book, rocking gently as the wet wood crackles in the heart



My Name is Iain Cosgrove. I was born in Canada to English parents. I was educated in the UK and went on to study at Brighton Polytechnic, before starting a career in IT. I moved to Dublin, Ireland in 1988 with my future wife, and subsequently got married and had three sons. I am currently an IT Director and have been writing in my spare time for the last 15 years. I have written two novels, a number of short stories and have a number of projects underway, including an idea for a short story collection. But nothing published so far! Here's hoping.

Monday 21 February 2011

Since You Left

by

Gavin Broom


A double espresso with a Red Bull chaser

Oct 17, 1993

Dear Luke,

So, wow! I guess as I’m writing this you’ll be flying home. See? Told you I’d write! I wonder if you’re up there looking down on the same Scottish clouds I can see from here. Wouldn’t that be weird?

My dad calls those jumbo jets “big doss-houses in the sky.” He flew to New Zealand on business once. Took him forever and the entire cabin was stinking of other people’s sweat, like someone had died or something. He said the other passengers took off their shoes and socks and stuff, which would totally gross me out. As you know, I hate feet. Except yours, of course! Hope it’s not too bad on your flight.

Nothing much has happened since you left. Big surprise, eh? Ha-ha. It’s been four hours! After I waved you off, I grabbed a coffee at the bus station, but it was too busy and too noisy and I was feeling too sad, so I ended up leaving it and I headed back to the flat, which is where I am now. Everyone’s out and I have the place to myself, but I’ve locked myself in my room anyway, listening to the new Nirvana album and feeling worse than I did at the bus station. God, and if that wasn’t depressing enough, uni starts up again tomorrow and I haven’t done an ounce of work. Arg!

I’ll write a proper letter to you once something happens.

Miss you already.



Caitlin x


Oct 18, 1993

Dear Luke,

It’s funny. I guess you won’t have received the first letter and here I am writing to you again. Sad or what? Have you even landed yet? I never could get my head round time differences!

Hope you got home safely and you’re not too jet-lagged. My dad said that it took him a couple of days to adjust but his was a longer flight in the opposite direction, so hopefully it won’t be too bad for you.

Uni started up again today. It was the longest day ever and I just realised how far behind I am in my coursework. I’m seriously considering faking ME or glandular fever or something. Steph, who I think you met at Louise’s party (she’s the one with the huge breasts that looks a lot like Wendy James out of Transvision Vamp but don’t tell her I said that!) didn’t show up until the afternoon just so she could make a big entrance. She’s so tanned! Even darker than she was when you saw her. But with that white hair she looks kinda like the cappuccino I had at the bus station yesterday! I feel a bit opaque in comparison to her. Maybe I need to get to a tanning salon. Or maybe I should just come out and visit you. What do you think?

Anyway, that’s me two letters in the lead, so you better write back soon, mister. Just kidding! Ha-ha.

Still missing you loads.


Caitlin x


Oct 23, 1993

Dear Luke,

How you doing? Did you get my first two letters? (I think I’ve written to you twice but it might be more than that. For some reason, I was really missing you last Wednesday so I skipped Uni and I got very drunk instead. I woke up with my shoes on and there were stamps missing from my purse. I hope I didn’t write anything too corny or messed up! Oops! So if you do get a third letter that sounds like the postcard Homer sent Marge in that episode of the Simpsons, please ignore it – unless you think it’s cute!)

It’s the first weekend since you left and I must admit it’s been strange not having you about. Steph had a party at her parents’ place in the West End (probably just to show off her insanely deep tan) and I went on my own. And I left on my own, too, before you ask! Ewan, who I don’t think you officially met, used to flirt with me every time we were out together, but he didn’t even talk to me last night. I think he must have heard about us, coz although he was pretending to be interested in Rahat Ali talking about her new Mercedes, I caught him glaring at me over her shoulder a couple of times. You know, before I met you, I might (might) have given him a chance if only he hadn’t been so persistent. Now I’m just glad I didn’t.

It was an OK party. I spent most of the time just listening to conversations, feeling kinda spaced out and trippy. I have to admit, Steph did look gorgeous. She had this off-white, linen dress on and she looked like a model. Even Louise said so, and Louise hates Steph, as you know. Despite it being her party at her parents’ house, she left with Mark Templeton before midnight and hadn’t come back by the time I left, which was much, much later. I was pretty drunk (again) and stoned (oops) but I’m paying for it today. I’ve got three assignments to hand in on Monday and it’s just not going to happen so I thought I’d be better writing to you instead!

I’m going to take some painkillers, lie on my bed and listen to the new Smashing Pumpkins CD, which absolutely rocks, by the way.

Did you have any plans this weekend? Hanging out at Quarter Moon? How’s JD? You talked about him so much I feel like I know him myself. How have you been occupying your time besides crying over me (kidding – ha-ha!)? Write soon and let me know, ok?

Caitlin x


Nov 1, 1993

Dear Luke,

Sorry I haven’t written for so long. It’s been more than a week and I feel really bad. Am I forgiven?

After my shock at how long it had been since I last wrote, I got paranoid that I had been writing to the wrong address all this time. But I phoned international directory enquiries and the guy there said I had it right. I even tried calling you a couple of times, but it just rang out. Maybe I got the time difference mixed up or something, which would be so like me. I just can’t get my head round it!

You’ve been gone for longer than you were here, which makes me so sad that I could cry if I thought about it long enough. I miss you so much. It’s like someone gave me a reason to live and then ripped it away. Uni’s closed for three weeks over Christmas and New Year (if I haven’t been kicked out before that!) so I’ll try to come and visit you if I can sweet talk my dad into lending me the money. How does that sound? Of course, if you want to come over here again, I’ll make you more than welcome. Ha-ha! But you already know that!

So what’s been happening here? Not a lot. The other day I’m fairly sure I spent three hours sitting in the library at Uni just staring out of the window at absolutely nothing. Is that weird? Beats reading textbooks, I suppose, coz that just reminds me of how far behind I am. It’s like I’m seeing the words but I’m not taking them in. I don’t know if that makes sense, but my concentration levels these days are practically nonexistent. I’m blaming you, mister! Ha-ha!

Last night was Halloween and Ewan had a fancy dress / masquerade party / ball. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. They are lame. He didn’t invite me (not that anyone actually invites anyone to these things – we just turn up) but he made a point of not inviting me. Still jealous about us, no doubt. I went anyway and kept my ice hockey mask on all night so he probably didn’t realise I was there! I just mingled in with the eight other Jasons. It must’ve been quite funny watching us all smoke joints and drink punch through a straw. Ewan pulled this stunt where he pretended to cut his own wrist with a kitchen knife but he had ketchup smeared on the blade so it only looked like he was cutting himself. His idiot brother, whose name escapes me but has been the drunkest person on the planet each time we’ve met, tried to copy him and ended up in hospital. Rumour has it, he needed twenty stitches and they’ve got him on suicide watch.

Once again, you needn’t worry. I was a well behaved girl. Well, drink and drugs aside anyway! Not everyone behaved with such angelic morals, though. When I went to collect my coat from the bedroom as I was leaving, Marsha Greene (who you said reminded you of an even more manically depressed Courtney Love) was having sex with two of the Jasons and none of them even registered that I was in the room.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be meeting my mother for lunch in the city centre today and I’m already an hour late so I’d better get going.

Can’t wait to hear from you. I’m really missing you. Please write soon.

Caitlin x


Nov 15, 1993

Dear Luke,

I think my postman’s looking into getting me institutionalised. He thinks I’m stalking him or something. And for all my troubles, I still haven’t heard from you. You have been getting my letters, haven’t you? I’ve no idea how long it takes for mail to reach you, but surely it’s quicker than a month? Can you even let me know if you get this?

Longing to hear back from you.

Caitlin x


Dec 2, 1993

Dear Luke,

I can’t believe it’s so close to Christmas and as usual I’m broke. Christmas depresses the hell out of me.

To make matters worse, it looks like my coming to visit you in a couple of weeks is off. I got into an argument with my folks last week when I had to ask for some help with my rent and in the commotion I ended up blurting out about my failing university work. My dad gave me the usual spiel about “knuckling down”, “putting in the extra effort” and “focussing on my studies” which totally washes over me now. He’s calculated exactly how much I need for food, rent and my share of the bills and is giving me £5 a week more than that for “emergencies”. I’ve had to sell my last eighth of blow and six ecstasy tabs just so I could afford a packet of cigarettes and get to the pub! Oh, woe is me! Don’t worry, though. I’ve put a little aside for your Christmas present!

Do you think you’ll be able to come over before New Year? It would be amazing to see you again. The city’s lovely at this time of the year when they put on the Christmas lights and it would be great to have someone to share that with. I spent most of today imagining how magical it would be to walk round George Square with you at night, especially if there was a little frost in the air. What can I say? I’m an old romantic at heart. Ha-ha!

So what else is new? Well, remember I told you about Marsha (you did meet Marsha, didn’t you?) and her antics at the fancy dress / masquerade party / ball? Well, short of being embarrassed about it, she’s going about the place telling people she thinks she’s pregnant and doesn’t know which one’s the dad. What a strange little world I live in!

I guess I should tell you that Ewan’s talking to me again. He’s invited me to an early Christmas party up north tomorrow night, but just as friends. I’ve decided to go but I promise you nothing will happen and I always keep my promises. He said he doesn’t look at me that way anymore and I’m certainly not interested in him. I hope I haven’t upset you.

I was seriously thinking about not mentioning it, but honestly you have nothing to worry about and I’d rather be up front.

I hate not knowing what you’re thinking about this. You’re not angry, are you? Please let me know.

Caitlin x


Dec 7, 1993

Dear Luke,

It’s taken me to today to get my head together enough to write this. I feel like I’ve taken a ton of really badly cut speed.

Nothing “happened” last weekend, before you get all worried. I told you, I keep my promises. You won’t believe me, but the party was held in a castle. A real castle. You’d have totally loved it. I can just see your face! They had the grounds all decked out with ice sculptures and fairy lights. It was like something out of Cinderella and I was totally in the mood for having a great time. But for the whole night, Ewan went on and on about you and not in a good way. He thinks you’re a bad influence on me and that I’ve changed since I met you. I know I should have left at that point, but I had taken some E and was so high with all the fairy tale stuff anyway – I just wanted to dance. You know what I’m like! But he kept going on and on about it and saying how he was just being a friend and friends look out for each other and if he was you, he’d be treating me with some respect.

Eventually, I abandoned him for Louise (turned out she was there with a guy we had no idea she knew – small world) but she feels pretty much the same way as Ewan, which was odd because I always thought the two of you got on really well.

Maybe it’s jealousy. I don’t know. They have no idea what you mean to me and how important our relationship is. If only you’d write back to me – then maybe they’d understand.

Anyway, I was too drunk and wired and confused to be able to deal with it properly so I broke down in tears and ran out of the place (just like Cinderella again), despite the fact that I had no idea where I was or where I wanted to go and this castle was in the middle of fucking nowhere and it had taken us hours to drive there. After I’d walked for a couple of miles, I finally made it to a telephone box and I called my dad. It was nearly daylight by the time he found me. We didn’t speak at all on the drive back.

Why don’t you write? I’m at my parents’ house now. The address is at the top of the page, so there’s no excuses, mister. Just kidding! Ha-ha! I hope you get this in time for Christmas. I’ve enclosed your present. I hope it fits.

Caitlin x



Dec 24, 1993

Dear Luke,

I’ve decided I’m not going to write to you again.

Caitlin


Jan 3, 1994

Dear Luke,

Happy New Year!

I tried to phone you at the bells but there was no answer. I couldn’t work out if it was already New Year where you are or if it was later, but I didn’t get hold of you so I don’t suppose it matters. One of these days, you’re going to need to sit me down and explain this time difference thing to me. I just can’t seem to get my head round it! What am I like? Ha-ha! Don’t answer that!

So Uni’s starting up again soon and I’m actually looking forward to it. I think this year is going to be really good for me. I have a great feeling that everything is just going to fall into place.

Being back at my parents’ has really helped me get my head together – away from all the stresses and strains of university life in the city. I’m also saving money, which can only be a good thing! Who knows, I might even have enough for a flight. Keep your fingers crossed!

So how are you? Did you have a good Christmas and New Year? I saw some highlights on the news of some big bomb dropping in Times Square. I looked out for you. How sad is that? But like I said to my dad, somebody somewhere’s got to see somebody they know in that crowd, why not me? Does that make sense? Do you have any plans to come over again? It would be great to see you. I spoke to Louise on the phone last night and she told me to say “hi”. So, “hi” from Louise and an even bigger “hi” from me! Oh, Luke, I’ve got a great feeling about 1994. I really think this could be our year.

Write soon.

Caitlin x


Author Bio:
Gavin Broom lives and writes in Alloa, Scotland. He's had fifty works published online or in print and he is a 2010 Pushcart Prize nominee. At time of writing, he doesn't own a house at the beach. Further evidence can be gathered at gavinbroom.co.uk.

Monday 7 February 2011

The Hydrogen Fairy

By Julie-Ann Corrigan

Vanilla Café Latte



I am a tiny particle, not yet fusing with any other particle. I am moving in small circles but I remain invisible within the vast universe. My movements are random and free. As yet I only exist in time and space as a concept.

Just a thought.

I can only anticipate the next event. In the burning core of the solar explosion that you will know as a distant star, I am biding my time. I am not waiting; waiting is an idea that doesn’t exist in a universe where time itself is illusory. How can I linger in timeless space?

My time is measured in the massive explosions that surround me. I cannot count. As yet there are no numbers. Numbers are a concept. A concept that doesn’t exist yet. But it will and when it does, it will transform everything. It will become so important and intricate the universe will appear too small. But I will become large and significant and will surpass all that came before and anticipate all that lies ahead. I will become the blueprint.

I will become you.

There are many explosions in the core of my star and I am only a tiny particle.

I am moving closer to my metamorphosis. Very soon I will be two. When the last explosion of my life as being one finishes, I will fuse and multiply. Nuclear energy will enable me to begin my journey. I will not be the hydrogen atom of my birth, but will become the first stage of my growth. I am slowly becoming the complex compound that you need.

It is the journey of my destiny and your tentative life.

Unfortunately, my voyage anticipates the beginning of the demise of my star; a star that has been burning for so much longer than you will ever know. And as it transforms into a Supernova and I travel further away from my birthplace, I sense where I am travelling. Although I have no conscious idea of my final destination, I feel the cajoling, subtle pull.

The collapsing star is spurning my siblings continually. They are moving so quickly in their attempt to catch up with me on our long journey. It is a voyage that is lit constantly by other distant stars. My siblings are trying desperately to find me, to attach to me, so we can multiply together. They know the importance of this journey and this knowledge only serves to encourage them to become part of me.

So we can become you.

I am passing much smaller and younger suns. At a time in the distant future when they themselves are spent, they will produce more of us.

Barren planets come and go but these desolate places do not beckon me.

They are not my final destiny.

Cosmic debris is littering my path. But I need to focus on my journey and arrive safely at my ultimate destination.

Massive comets, which have their own tale to tell, collide into me; the energy is so strong, I multiply again and again. I am becoming stronger, more complex. My growth is exponential and my size is slowing me down. Some of my siblings are catching me up. They are hurtling through time and space in a supreme attempt to be with me. Silently jostling, they collide with me and once connected they are assimilated, becoming part of me.

As I will become part of you.

Quickly and I move through so many solar systems. Each one seeming larger than the one I have just left. More and more organised they appear. Each one hinting at the promise of what will be. Hinting at the promise of what should be.

Of what will be you.

Now I am changing again. My siblings are now so a part of me that we are one entity, real matter. Our name alters. It changes again and again. I am becoming impenetrable. Still not as important as my parent, the star - but my destiny is drawn And as surely as your sun will burn for a long but finite time, my destiny is as clear as the final fate of your sun. Perhaps clearer.

Because soon I am you.

I am now more than the hydrogen atom of my birth. I am expanding, filling space; creating a tiny part of gravity. As one, I am nothing. But there are many more like me. Our births and multiplication are constant.

As constant as constant can be.

We need to be prolific. Occasionally instead of expansion, the universe implodes, taking many of my siblings with it. There is no time and no space inside the two dimensional hole. Does it exist? It may do to my siblings trapped inside, but to me now, as I travel forcefully to my final goal, I think it doesn’t. How can it?

When it isn’t part of you.

By knowing my size and my complexity, I recognise that I am nearing the end of my journey. I am now becoming the organic, stable matter that I need to be.

This solar system, which I’m now entering appears disparate from the others. More organised? With ripples of a divergent form of energy, it feels different. It is an energy that inspires me.

To become you.

I am beginning to perceive an irresistible pull. Although subtle, it has been with me from the beginning. I am passing planets unlike anything I’ve seen before. They seem to be directing me towards my destination; enormous pointers in the massive space all around me. I can do nothing to halt my progress, my fate.

And your destiny.

Everything is becoming smaller. I am aware that this solar system is more compact…yet more complex. The planets are evenly spaced and the debris is becoming less. I am serene. I sense that I am arriving at my real home.

I am beginning to feel who you are; to know what you will be and what I will become. An excitement overwhelms me at the thought, the idea of becoming you.

You, who will be more important than your Sun and know more than anything which I have passed on my journey.

It will be many years before you become what your destiny is, but I am patient and know that we will achieve the goal of my dying star.

My arduous journey is not in vain because you nearly exist. The older solar systems already comprehend what you will finally be. They have glimpsed at your destiny. They know that there is nothing that will compare to you.

You will be unique.

I am now reacting with oxygen and water vapour. I am growing up.

Gravity is pulling me ever more strongly towards the blue planet. A planet that is different from all the others. Now I want to get there. I want to be part of it. This planet will become my home.

Your home.

I am now moving faster than ever before. I see the spectacular blue planet in its impending glory. Beautiful and serene. Calm and peaceful. The white clouds hovering tentatively just above its surface, beckon and cajole me. They are willing me not to make a mistake. Their hope is for me to be successful, to penetrate the fragile atmosphere and find my new home.

To find you.

I am plunging through the atmosphere of the beckoning planet. Now I am what I need to be and complex enough to begin your life. I am entering on the bright side; your Sun is shining strongly and emphatically. It is shining down so hard that the blue oceans are twinkling white as they swirl and dance in the invisible wind. Water which will be my new home and inevitably, the start of you.

It is a sight more beautiful than anything I have seen travelling through thousands of solar systems. The view is an idiosyncratic image of loveliness and unparalleled in the infinite space that encircles its precious parameters.

It is ours.

I am moving at great speed through the atmosphere, which is light and welcoming, warm and enticing. I begin to slow down and float gently. As I break my way through the fragile shell of the blue planet, which is incommensurate with its size and beauty, I am at peace.

I am sinking into a great ocean, where I find my penultimate resting place.

Because soon, in thousands of generations of life, I will become a part of the puzzle that is you. I will become the part of you that thinks and reasons. Loves and hates. Laughs and cries. I will be a fragment of all your emotions.

And when you grow old and die, I will continue on; then becoming part of your offspring, and their offspring.

Because I am the fairy inside all of you.

I am looking backwards towards my star, a silvery dot shimmering in the sky. It is now long dead. It died giving birth to me. It died giving birth to you. And although I look and marvel at its persistence: it is the persistence of you and your planet that is truly marvellous.

I will never leave you.

I am your fairy.



* * *



Biography

Julie-Ann had her first short story published in October 2010 in Bridge House Publishing’s ‘Devils, Demons and Werewolves’ Anthology. She has also had articles published in local magazines and the online culture magazine, ‘Beat.’ www.beatmagazine.co.uk Her recent interview with best-selling crime writer, RJ Ellory has been accepted for publication in The Writing Magazine , April edition, out mid March 2011.

She’s been writing for two years. She is desperately trying to concentrate on her novel, set amidst the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War – but is constantly side-tracked when short story ideas inadvertently, pop into her head.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

The Snowflake Gloves

By Lucy Oliver
Exspresso



Ricky placed the daisies, gloved hands brushing the kerb. He looked up at the steep hill remembering the screams and flashing blue lights. Thick ice gleamed from the road, the same as it had so many years ago.



***

“I don’t want you hanging around with that gang,” Ricky’s mum said. “They’re a bad influence.”

“You’ve been talking to Mrs Green. She hates all kids,” Ricky said.

“I’ve seen Liam smoking. And kicking a football against the cars. Why don’t you play with Josh instead?”

“I hate Josh, I hate living here, and I hate you!” Ricky said, slamming the front door.

He walked down the snow covered path, hands thrust into his pockets, fingers aching from the cold. The gang stood opposite, Liam in the centre with Laura, his Second-in-Command. Ricky could see them writing bad words on the lamppost.

Liam knew many bad words. He lived at the top of the street with his mother, a foul-mouthed woman avoided by the neighbours.

As Ricky watched, Laura pointed to a bent figure wrapped in an anorak, walking with a stick. It was Mrs. Green from number five. She shuffled past the group, staring straight ahead.

“Come on,” Laura said.

Ricky saw them creep after Mrs Green, pressing close behind. She stumbled as Liam stepped on the back of her shoe. Ricky bit his nail as Laura took hold of the woman’s handbag and pulled at the straps. Ricky thought he was happier when the gang raced their bikes or played street ball. He looked away.

“Get off!” Mrs. Green shouted, brandishing her walking stick. “Get off, or I’ll call the police!”

Laura drew back and Ricky watched Mrs. Green reach her front door. He breathed out, shoulders relaxing.



A curtain moved at the window next door and Ricky saw Josh’s face look out. The boy waved to him.

“Your friend?” Liam said.

“No,” he said.

Ricky looked back at his own house, his mother watching from the window. She often did when he played with the gang. It made Ricky feel bolder. He would laugh louder, run faster. He hoped that if he upset her enough, she would regret leaving Dad.

Liam flipped his skateboard into the air and Ricky clapped. His mother refused to buy him a skateboard. He was going to ask his father for one. Then he could race across the street with Liam, best friends.

“Can I ride your board down the hill?” Ricky said.

“What do I get in return?”

“What do you want?”

“Get him to do something awful,” Laura said.

The door to Ricky’s house opened. His mother walked down the path.

“Shout the F word at her,” Liam said.

Ricky pictured himself whizzing down the street on the skateboard, faster and faster, all the girls staring. His mum watching, hand to her mouth.

“Ricky, I thought you might be cold,” his mum said. She held out his black gloves with the snowflake picture on the back.

Ricky looked at them.

They were his favourite gloves. He and his mum had chosen them together one glorious day when his world seemed bleak. He thought of the hot chocolate they had shared, thick with cream. They had bought the gloves, watched the Christmas parade and hadn’t talked about the divorce.

“Go on,” Laura said.

Ricky raised his eyes to his mother, seeing her wan smile and reddened eyes. He remembered she had given him the flake from the drink. He looked at the skateboard and then back at the gloves.

“Thanks Mum,” he said, taking the gloves.

Liam spat on the floor near Ricky’s foot.

“Look at what you’re missing,” he said.

Liam jumped on the skateboard, speeding down the road, faster and faster.

Ricky never saw the car, but he heard Laura scream.

***

“I thought you might be here today,” a voice said.

Ricky turned round. It was Josh.

Ricky thought of his sons, waiting at home. He thought of his wife and the job he loved.

“I owe him,” he said.