Tuesday 28 February 2012

The Visit

Trevor Belshaw


He walked across the veranda and stopped just behind her.
The young girl stared into the darkness and said nothing.
'Jodie, I...'
'Don't talk to me.'
'Come on, Honey, I just...'
The girl whistled tunelessly and studied the darkness.
'Jodie don't...'
'You left us.'
The man bowed his head. 'I know, Honey. I didn't want to.'
'You just left, without even saying goodbye.'
'I couldn't, Jodie, there wasn't time, your Mom...'
'Mom was hurt real bad. Do you know that?'
'Yes, Honey, I know that. Do you miss me too, just a little?'
'No, I got over you, it took a while, but I made it.'
'I never got over you, Jodie. Never will.'
The girl got up from the step and turned to face him.
'You haven't changed much.'
'No,' he laughed. 'I don't suppose I have.' He reached out to put a hand on her shoulder. She stepped back quickly. 'Have you seen Ryan?'
'Not yet, I don't know if he wants to see me.'
'Probably not. He calls Jim, Dad, now.'
'And you? Do you call Jim, Dad?'
She shook her head. 'He's not my Dad. I call him Jim.'
'Is he looking after you Okay? Does he...'
'What do you care? You left us. He wouldn't be here but for that.' She sat on the step again and wiped away and angry tear.
He placed a soft hand on her hair. She snapped her head away, then dropped her chin to her chest and began to sob. 'You went... without...saying...goodbye.'
He sat on the step and placed his arm around her shoulder. A few seconds later she buried her head in his chest.
'I would have given anything to stay, Sweetheart. You know that. I would never do anything to hurt you.'
The sobbing slowly subsided. When she spoke again her voice was soft, all the anger gone.
'Christmas was bad, and Thanksgiving. I didn't celebrate my birthday, not properly.'
'I couldn't send you anything, Jodie. It wasn't possible.'
'I know, Dad. I'm a older now, I understand.'
A voice called from inside the house. 'Jodie? Dinner's ready. Come wash your hands.'
She stood up slowly. He crouched and took her hands in his. 'You had better go or you'll be in trouble.'
She threw her arms round his neck and hugged him. 'Thanks for coming, Dad. Will I see you again?'
'He sucked on his teeth and tipped his head to the side. 'Never say never. It's difficult, but I'll try to come over now and then. It might be a while 'til next time though.'
She stepped back and gave him a smile. 'I love you Dad.'
He nodded slowly. 'I know, Honey, and I love you, never forget that.'
She smiled again. 'Sorry for behaving like a brat.' She turned  away and crossed the veranda as Jim appeared in the doorway.
'Jodie, how many more times...'
'Sorry, Jim. I was just thinking about Dad...it's three years ago today that he died.'

TRACY'S HOT MAIL! Release date 20th January 2012. Published by Crooked Cat Publishing
and direct 

Stanley Stickle Hates Homework. The new book from Trevor Forest

Peggy Larkin’s War, Abigail Pink’s Angel, Magic Molly and Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies available in paperback and eBook at my book store.

Short stories available at
http://www.etherbooks.com via Iphone app.

Wordpress Blog: http://www.trevorbelshaw.com/blog
Website: http://www.trevorforest.com
Twitter @tbelshaw
Facebook Trevor Belshaw

Friday 24 February 2012

The Milkshakes

Susan Jones
Chummy was his own man. An independent go-getter. When he set his mind on something, he made sure he got it. He had the answer to everything; there was absolutely nothing that our Chummy didn’t know. From listening to friends’ girlfriend woes, to giving advice on financial issues, though Chummy himself was a walking danger zone where owing money was concerned. That’s not to say he didn’t pay his debts, just that he left it until a knock on the door from men in smart suits beckoned.
Sharp as a box of Stanley blades, he was hard to pin down. If Chummy said, “Meet me in half an hour,” you could make it an hour. When his M.O.T. was due, he booked it a month later. Knowing Chummy is an enlightening experience. Throughout his schooldays he sent out only one Christmas card to his one special friend. Chummy has an important date this summer. He’s best-man to that one same friend; who, because he knows Chummy too well, will tell him the wedding is two o’clock; it is actually three o’clock. Chummy wouldn’t miss it for the world. To know him is undoubtedly to love him.

Nic-Nak had a shop full of unusual items. From toys and sweets to tools and biscuits. Ladies from far and further than that, shopped at Nic-Nak’s. It wasn’t only a shop; more, a shopping experience. His effervescent conversation ensured that once inside his emporium, customers found it difficult to leave. Though leave they did, loaded up with trinkets, biscuits and sweet scented soaps. Once a month he ran a raffle. Top prize being a Panda bear or sometimes a huge fluffy dog. One day Mrs Pierce called in to see what he had on special offer. As she walked in, Nic Nak burst out laughing.
“Well hello there, have you dressed up as a lady for the fun day Mr….er…..which Mr are you?”
Mrs. Pierce, realising Nic Nak meant no harm, besides she did wear the trousers in her house, joined in the merriment.
“You, silly old bugger Nic Nak you! I’m dressed as me-self you rogue you. Only you could get away with calling me a man.” That indeed was a fact. Anyone else would have had the handbag treatment from Mrs Pierce. Nic-Nak, on the other hand, sold her some fruit salad and fresh cream.

She’s pretty, sweet and just about as girly as a girl can get. Rich and generous to those she loves, and that’s not that many people. You get a warm glow when she’s around; you always know when she’s around because she never stops talking, and I mean, talking, analysing,
“Where am I going wrong?” type of debates.
“What do you mean? Where am I going wrong?”
“Why haven’t I got a boyfriend? My Nan thinks I’m too bossy.” I think her Nan’s too bossy. She thinks her Dad’s too bossy.
Strawberry shake is stronger than she thinks; she does have a knack of turning up smelling of strawberries. That’s a gift she has - turning a bad situation into a good one. She makes me laugh without even trying. Utterly sensitive, feeling everyone’s pain, yet capable of standing her ground and causing a mini earthquake if she has to. Frothy, substantial, honest and faithful; with her, life could never be dull.

Visit my website here.
I am blogging here. www.susanjanejones.wordpress.com

Thursday 23 February 2012

The Shallows

Gail Aldwin
Fennel Tea

Driving beside the beach again, an oyster curve of sand speckled with sunbathers, I make the same silent promise as last time we passed. We’ll stop at the beach one of these days. Only not today, Thomas’s threatening to throw up in the back and Alexia fusses over him. Emma sits behind Jen, plaiting her hair. We’re half way through the mums’ holiday (as the children call it). Without families to scoop us up for respite, we single mothers go away together.
Jen drinks water from a bottle, the supermarket shopping at her feet. The children start to chatter and she angles her head to tune into a snatch of their conversation. She spits water and laughs.
‘What’s so funny?’
‘Better check with your son.’
‘He’s not been sick?’ I change gears to turn the corner.
‘No, he’s got other things on his mind.’ Jen looks into the back and speaks to Thomas. ‘Can you say that again so that your mum hears?’
I look in the review mirror, Thomas’s white-blonde hair fills the reflection, the booster seat elevating him above the girls. Alexia holds his hand while Emma stares outside, her fringe flapping in the breeze from the window.
‘My willy’s gone all hard,’ he says. Jen and Emma convulse with laughter, Alexia gives a puzzled frown then joins with a machine-gun giggle. Thomas realises that he’s the source of amusement and smiles.
‘It’s all right Tommy. We’ll be back at the caravan soon.’ I give Jen a sideways glance.
‘Good job I didn’t have a boy,’ she says.
Jen’s in-charge of the barbecue, a gas one, says it’s no different from cooking on the hob and sets to work on the meat. I fill a bowl with shredded lettuce and slices of cucumber – this is for the benefit of Jen and Emma – my kids will never eat salad. There’s beetroot on a saucer and a tub of coleslaw. Maybe they’ll be adventurous and try some today. Thomas’s playing bare foot in the dirt, using a stick to poke an ant hole, shorts bunched up at his waist. I love to pinch his gorgeous calves. The girls sit on the steps, sharing a book, pointing at the pictures.
Wiping her brow against her forearm, Jen looks set to drop.
‘Can I help?’
‘No.’ She dismisses me by waving the tongs.
‘God, yes. Crack open the white. It’s gone five o’clock hasn’t it? No need to hold back any longer.’
‘Neither of us need drive tonight and there’s a stash of chocolate in the fridge.’
‘A perfect evening,’ Jen smiles.
I tell the children to wash their hands and they scamper inside. Shrieks emanate from the bathroom and they return in water spotted clothing. I usher them to their seats on the picnic bench and distribute the plates. Loading a dish with meat, Jen offers the children a choice: burger or sausage. There’s no squabbling for a change – they get one of each. I push the bowls around the table, like trains on a track. The beetroot is parked in front of Jen and she takes a helping.
‘My wee’s turned red from eating so much beetroot.’ Jen swigs wine from the beaker.
Emma nudges Alexia and they chuckle. I spear a couple of slices with my fork.
‘You want some too?’ The girls nod, their mouths too full to speak. ‘And you, Tommy?’
‘No,’ he says. ‘Don’t like red.’
‘But you’re wearing a red T-shirt.’
‘No.’ He strokes the fabric. ‘It’s pink.’
‘Tommy’s wearing pink,’ Emma chants.
‘Pink’s for girls.’ Alexia is knowledgeable about such things.
‘Don’t be silly.’ I glare at the faces around the table. Jen reaches a freckled arm to collect the beetroot, distributing the remainder on all five plates.
‘Just leave it on the side Tommy, if you don’t want to try it.’ But it’s too late. The beetroot brushes against the crescent of burger, leaving a stripe on the brown. He’s pointing at the plate, fingers wiggling in annoyance. I scrape the offending food onto my plate, collect a clean dish and slap another burger in front of him. He stares, hanging his head.
‘What’s wrong now Tommy?’
‘He wants it like the other one.’ Alexia interprets. Jen is watching me, I give her a quizzical look, take a bite out of the burger, and plonk the remainder on Thomas’s plate while I chew.
‘All right now, Tommy?’ I ask.
‘No,’ he says. ‘Want ketchup.’
‘But ketchup’s red.’ I squirt a dollop on the side.
‘It’s good red,’ he says.
I take the stacked dishes into the caravan and run the hot tap. Slinging them in the suds, I give them a rudimentary wipe then douse the cutlery. I’m not house-proud here. There’s no need and Jen doesn’t bother with an ounce of tidying or cleaning. It’s me who’s obsessed with sweeping the crumbs. But I can forgive Jen anything. Even leaving the inner tube of the toilet paper in the holder and stacking the new roll on top. There’d have been a sarcastic comment if Gary did the like. Think I’m the toilet roll fairy, do you? I’m glad I’m single again.
Calling the children from their games, Jen lines them up outside the tiny shower, ready for a dunking. There’s an edge of laughter in her voice as she swings them under the water: arms up, turn around, close your eyes. The first to emerge is Thomas, wrapped in a towel that covers him from shoulders to toes. I sit him on my lap for a cuddle, his wet hair sprays me as he turns his head. Emma comes next wearing an oversized turban, smelling of shampoo. Already in her pyjamas, Alexia joins our group. I reach for the paperback, find the page with the corner turned and read the next chapter. They listen while I change voices, taking on the speech of the characters. When I close the cover, the girls argue for more, but Thomas’s eyelids are drooping and he’s sucking his thumb. I carry him to the bunk, and chase the girls under the covers. Alexia curls like an ammonite, while Emma tosses her head and slinks beneath the duvet.
I awake when sunlight scatters diamonds across the emulsion. I hear bodies turning on the other side of the wall. I must be up before the children and I stagger in my night clothes to the kitchen. Tapping my fingers across the counter I find the kettle’s warm but no-one’s about. Jen’s gone for a run, I guess. There’s laughter from the bedroom and Thomas tumbles out, thumb in mouth, blanket trailing.
‘Did you sleep well, Tommy?’ He fixes me with his navy rimmed eyes and nods.
‘Ready for breakfast?’ He climbs onto the bench and sits waiting.
‘Would you like cereal?’ He shakes his head, his tongue working at his thumb.
‘Here, have an apple.’ I offer the fruit – he eyes it suspiciously. ‘Shall I peal it for you?’ He nods. The cutlery in the drawer rattles as I search for a knife. I cut a snake of skin, slice the fruit into quarters and dig-out the core. I offer Thomas a piece. With chubby fingers he examines it then passes the apple back.
‘What’s wrong?’
‘Want skin on.’ He slithers off the seat and goes to find the girls.
Jen appears with patches of sweat on her T-shirt, loose curls escaping from her pony-tail. She spins a paper bag on the counter, the tail of a croissant pokes out.
‘I bought a couple of pan au chocolat too.’ She puffs, holding her knees to catch her breath.
‘Poo au chocolate?’ Emma’s half-moon face appears at the doorway.
‘Yes,’ says Jen. ‘Come and have breakfast.’
I pack the car with swimming kit, picnic blanket, buckets and spades, a cool-box crammed with drinks and food. Rounding up the children, I check their seatbelts like an air-hostess, Jen joins us when she’s finished brushing her hair.
              ‘Right,’ I say. ‘All ready for the beach?’
              ‘Yes!’ Alexia sits up straight giving a crooked smile just like Gary’s.
               ‘How about some music?’ says Jen. ‘Anyone for Abba?’ The CD’s already in the player, the same one we’ve played most of the holiday. There’s something magical about abandoning nursery rhymes in favour of Dancing Queen. The children are growing up, thank God.
             I bump the kerb as I reverse into a space. I’ll get the bloody car in if it kills me. My forehead’s beaded with sweat and clumps of hair hang in damp strands. I instruct the children to get out and they wait on the pavement. There’s a pile at the back that Jen’s unloaded. She tells the girls to collect something to carry and gives Thomas a picnic blanket. I juggle with the back-pack, threading my arms through the straps then reach for the cool-box. Jen slams the boot and I startle but say nothing.
            ‘Keep your sandals on,’ I warn the girls. ‘You don’t want the sand to burn your feet.’ Alexia’s shoulders slope, her right side weighed down by the bag she carries. I follow as they find a path through families already pitched for the day.
            ‘Let’s get a bit closer to the sea.’ I encourage them to walk further.
            ‘Here’ll do.’ Jen decides, throwing down the beach bag. I slump on the sand, the girls have already set to work with their spades, skirts tucked into their knickers. Thomas sits by me and watches. Scattering sand as she lays the blanket, Jen secures the corners by dropping sandals. I move a little closer, conscious to give sufficient space to the neighbouring families. They talk in French and I’m fearful they’re looking down on us and our shambolic camp.
             Slipping handfuls of sand through my fingers like an hourglass, I study the sea: flurries of white in the distance and ripples of cobalt and aqua. A breeze flaps hair around my shoulders, and sends tickles across my arms. Already I’m picking up colour, a stripe shows where my watch should be; I’ve put it into my pocket, in case I go swimming. Thomas is ready for the beach, lathered with cream and dressed in his trunks. He watches the gulls circle around the driving platform, a tower poking out of the sea like the mast of a ship.
            ‘I swim out there.’ He points.
            ‘No Tommy. It’s too far, you go for a paddle, but stay near the edge.’
             He tip-toes over the sand to join the other children, larking and jumping waves. I notice Alexia’s nose turning pink, and I call her over. She sits between my legs while I plaster her with sun cream. I watch Thomas intermittently, his white hair like a beacon amongst the tanned flesh and costumes. This feels like a real holiday, somewhere different and exciting. Spreading the cream over Alexia’s neck I cover the dark moles thickly.
           ‘All done.’ I release her.
           ‘Where’s Tommy?’ she asks.
           ‘He’s playing in the shallows.’
            I look up, my finger poised to point in his direction. I study the bathers, all arms and legs like a thicket. In my peripheral vision I notice a boy and turn, but it’s not Thomas. Flicking my head from side to side, my heart pumps. Alexia jumps to her feet and runs around in a circle, waving her arms in panic. Getting to my feet, I shield my eyes from the sun and walk towards the sea. The slap of the waves and the shouting bathers annoy me now. I hurry back to the camp and find Jen laid out, her stomach sucked in, her ribs glistening.
          ‘You’re in my sun.’ She speaks with her eyes closed and I notice my shadow dissecting her middle.
         ‘I can’t find Thomas.’
         ‘Isn’t he with the girls?’
         ‘No,’ my voice quavers. Jen sits, dusting sand from her palms.
         ‘Take a walk along to the breaker, see if he’s with the children paddling over there.’
         ‘Okay. Will you watch Alexia? I don’t want to lose both children.’
         ‘He’s not lost – he’s just playing.’ She leans back onto her elbows and glances around.
         ‘Will you watch Alexia?’ I say again.
          ‘If you want.’ She re-ties the laces of her halter neck, her eyes fixed on the blanket.
           I pass the girls, Alexia is hopping like a demented lizard, Emma hangs onto an arm anchoring her.
           ‘Stay here.’ I tell Alexia. ‘I’m going to find Tommy.’
           ‘Tommy’s lost!’ she says.
           ‘It’s all right,’ I say, but I don’t see her, I see just the blur of a jiggling child. ‘Mummy will find him.’
           I walk to where the seawater gathers in a lagoon. Big boys paddle to their knees and wield fishing nets. Discarded crisp packet swirl in the water and there’s a smell of debris. I crinkle my nose and squint. School-aged girls kick the waves, splashing each other. There’s no sign of Thomas. I think about calling his name, but there are too many screaming children and squawking gulls to make my voice heard. My mouth’s dry, I press my hand against my forehead.
          Gathering pace as I walk back to Jen, I arrive out of breath and crumple onto the blanket. I swallow my anxiety, tears spilling from the corners of my eyes.
          ‘Don’t worry,’ says Jen. ‘There’s a Tannoy system – see the speakers lined along the path? I’ll find out where lost children are sent.’ She gets to her feet, puts on a T-shirt, and straightens her shorts.
          ‘Hurry,’ I say. ‘Please.’
          ‘I’m calling to mind my ‘A’ level French. Glad it’ll finally be useful.’
          Jen takes a path around the holidaymakers to reach a wooden shelter. She talks to a man sitting at a table, she nods and points. My pounding heart makes my whole body judder, Alexia’s pleading at my side. I wait. A ping-pong tune from the speakers quiets the beach. Everyone is still, listening to crackle that shows the microphone’s working. When the announcement comes, somehow I understand the French. A little English boy’s lost, three-years-old, blonde, wearing blue trunks, his name’s Thomas. Please alert the office if you see him. A final ping-pong and the holiday makers resume their conversations. From behind me I hear a woman speak: why is it the English who always lose their children? Jen returns, hands in her pockets.
        ‘Has he shown up yet?’ she asks.
        ‘No. No sign of him. What do I do now?’
        ‘No-one’s going to let him drown on a beach this busy.’
        ‘It’s not drowning I’m worried about,’ I squeal. ‘Maybe he’s been abducted.’
         ‘Ducted?’ Alexia repeats. I hold her hands, her expression reflects the fear in my eyes and I have to convince her that everything’s going to be all right.
        ‘I’m going to walk along the beach and find him. You wait here with Jen and Emma. I’ll be back in no time, and then we’ll have ice-cream.’
          ‘Okay,’ she says.
           I walk by the edge of the water, wet sand clings to my toes, there’s an urgency in my limbs but my mind’s foggy. I call Tommy’s name, breath leaves me with a surge. I cough and cry again. Swinging my arms, I walk with long steps covering the distance, my shadow surging forwards. Gary’ll kill me if I can’t find Tommy, he’ll hate me more than ever. I toss my head from side to side, sure that I’ll spot him in the distance. I’m crying and calling, scanning the faces on the beach, all of them realising I’m the incompetent mother. The crowds begin to thin, few bathers in the water here, but the beach stretches on. Like a mirage, fuzzy at the edges, I see my boy jumping the shallows, chasing the waves as they turn in a lacy froth. It’s him, it’s absolutely him: fluffy white hair, sturdy legs, blue patterned trunks. I run to him and collapse in the water.
          ‘Tommy, Tommy. What are you doing?’
          ‘Nothing,’ he says. My fingers grip him like pincers and I hug him to me. The water circles us. ‘Row the boat, Mummy,’ he says. ‘Row, row, row the boat.’ He struggles free and finds my hands, tugging my arms like oars. Dropping my head to hide my tears, I join the game. Thomas sings and giggles, I mumble out-of-tune. As soon as the verse is over, I get to my feet and drag Tommy’s arm to make him stand.
          ‘Come on,’ I say. ‘Alexia’s worried. You’ve been missing for ages.’
          ‘I been playing.’
          ‘I know, but let’s get back.’
Thomas raises his arms, wanting to be carried. I lift him, glad of his weight, his legs wrapped around my waist, his head tucked under my chin. I hear him chewing his thumb, his saliva drips onto my collarbone. My knees shake as I walk, my feet sinking into the sand. Anonymous faces watch my progress then a man approaches. He’s shorter than me, and tilts his face so that his eyes meet my gaze.
‘Is this the missing boy?’ His English is good.
‘Yes, thank God I found him.’
‘I saw him in the water and I went to ask him if his name was Thomas but he said no and carried on playing.’
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Thank you for trying.’ He nods and I struggle on. The child wriggles in my arms, the boy who only knows himself as Tommy.
Gail Aldwin’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in on-line publications and she has two short stories featuring in print anthologies to be published in 2012. Gail is currently redrafting a manuscript titled Manipulation which is set in Outback Australia and tells the story of a gap year that goes wrong. In What the Dickens? Magazine, Gail has a regular column that answers writers’ questions. Gail lives in Dorset and writes blog posts about all things literary: http://gailaldwin.wordpress.com

All rights reserved

Thursday 16 February 2012

Blind Date

Blind Date
Trevor Belshaw
Anything that stains
Blind Date 1

‘He’s a free agent and he’s very good looking. He has a good job, he’s charming, isn’t full of himself and he’s happy to go on a blind date with you, even though he’s never been on one before either. Come on Petra, give the guy a chance. What more could you ask? We’re talking Amici’s here, not the local burger bar.’

Stella was getting frustrated. Half an hour of gentle persuasion had got her nowhere. She moved on to cajoling.

‘Honestly, Petra. What have you got to lose? Aren’t you fed up with the TV for company seven nights a week?’

‘Let me think about it, Stella. I’ll let you know by the weekend.’

‘No dice sister.’ Stella had her on the ropes and she wasn’t going to settle for a draw now. ‘I’m not leaving until you agree.’

Petra threw up her hands. ‘Oh alright, you win, but it’s your fault if it’s a disaster. Tell him I’m okay for Saturday.’

Stella whooped and threw her arms around her best friend. He’s a gentleman, it’s Amici’s. What could possibly go wrong?’

Petra looked at her watch for the twentieth time. Where was he? He was half an hour late, and counting.  She snatched a quick look towards the door. Nothing! She could sense that people were beginning to take an interest in her. A woman on her own at a table for two? They must think I've been stood up. One or two of the women looked at her sympathetically. That made it worse.

Petra made up her mind to face the humiliation head on. As she picked up her bag she heard the door crash open and a gasping male voice ask where table nine was. Thirty seconds later he was at the table, red faced, blurting out apologies.

‘I’m so, so sorry Petra, please forgive me. There was an accident, the traffic, I parked up and caught the bus, got off at the wrong stop and had to run back here. I feel terrible. If I had your mobile...’

Petra held up her hand. ‘It’s fine Martin, honestly. I haven’t been here that long myself.’

Martin began another volley of apologies, but Petra stopped him in mid flow and almost begged him to sit down. She could feel the eyes of the whole restaurant on them. This was worse than sitting here alone.

She took him in as he removed his overcoat. He was about thirty five, and as Stella had promised, very good looking. He was tall, of medium build with a strong jaw and beautiful soft blue eyes. When he spoke his voice was deep, smooth, with a maybe a hint of Irish in there somewhere.

‘I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance, Petra. Stella's told me so much about you.’ Martin offered his hand across the table, caught the cut glass vase and emptied its contents over the table cloth.

Petra groaned inwardly. Martin tried to mop up some of the water with his napkin.

‘Oh dear, oh dear,’ he stuttered. ‘I’m so clumsy when I’m nervous.’

Petra looked on silently and breathed a huge sigh of relief as the waiter took control of the situation. Martin leant back in his chair, shamefaced, as the waiter cleared up the mess.

They were offered a new table but Petra refused in an instant. She was embarrassed enough already, moving tables would only make them the centre of attention again. She decided to take the initiative. Martin was obviously nervous and trying too hard to make a success of the evening.

‘What do you do, Martin?’ She asked, although she knew the answer before it came. Stella had primed her with all the details.

‘I’m a garage manager,’ he said, glad not to be taking the lead. ‘The same one Stella works at. She’s in sales.’

Petra refrained from saying that she knew exactly what her best friend did for a living. ‘Do you enjoy it? Been there long?’

Martin spent the next ten minutes telling her about how he had started as a mechanic and worked his way through the company. He was just about to relive his job interview for the manager’s post when the wine waiter arrived at their side. Petra looked at him gratefully.

‘Red, white or pink?’ asked Martin, feeling more confident.

Petra decided on the house Red and the waiter disappeared to see to the request.

Martin looked across the table. 'Sorry about that. I always prattle on when I’m nervous. I’m not like this normally, promise.’

Petra smiled. 'Prattle away,' she said.

The waiter returned and showed the label to Martin before pouring a small amount into his glass. Martin sipped it, nodded, then held up his hand as the waiter began to fill their glasses. ‘I’ll see to that. Thanks.’

Martin stood up, grabbed the bottle and made his way around the table in what he obviously hoped was a sophisticated manner.

‘Wine, Madame?’ he cooed.

Petra laughed, eager to lighten the mood. ‘Thank you, kind Sir.’

Martin poured the wine with a flourish and theatrically pulled back the bottle. A large gush of wine shot from its neck, splashed over the white table cloth and the front of Petra’s cream dress.

Petra shrieked and stood up. Martin dabbed ineffectively at the front of her dress with a napkin. ‘Oh dear, oh dear,’ he stammered again. ‘I’m so sorry. What a clumsy fool.’

Petra grabbed her bag and almost ran to the ladies room. No chance of a dignified exit now. She tried to ignore the chatter as she made her way across the room.

Just wait until I catch up with you, Stella.

After doing her best to repair the damage, Petra slunk out of the ladies room, retrieved her coat, and sneaked out of the door. Martin was waiting outside.

He began to apologise again but Petra interrupted.

‘Some things are just not meant to be, Martin. Go and find your car.’

Petra turned away quickly before he could reply. After walking five yards she almost fell headlong as the heel of her shoe caught in the pavement and snapped. She shook her head in disbelief and limped off towards the taxi rank half a mile across town. She wasn’t at all surprised when the heavens opened up before she had gone a hundred yards.

Blind Date 2

‘No, never, not again, not ever! And this time I won’t let you talk me round.’ Petra stuck out her jaw and put on what she hoped was a, ‘final answer,’ face.

Stella, shrugged. ‘Oh, come on Petra. I know there were a few teething troubles but...’

‘Teething troubles?' Petra was aghast. 'It was a disaster. I still can’t get those wine stains out of my best dress and I can never go into that restaurant again. I’m having nightmares about it.’

Stella made sympathetic noises. ‘I know,’ she soothed. ‘But let’s not be too hasty, you could be onto a good thing here. He’s desperate to make it up to you.’

Petra began to waver. ‘If, I were to agree, there will be no restaurants, no best clothes, no wine and definitely no audience.’

Stella cheered silently. 'This time it will all be perfect. Trust me.'

Petra cursed as she turned the key in the ignition for the umpteenth time. The engine made a short whirring noise, then went quiet. Battery’s dead now, it had to happen today of all days.

Spots of rain appeared on the windscreen, heavy rain was forecast. Typical, just typical.

The rain was teaming down by the time the rescue services reached her. They had promised to be there in thirty minutes but had taken well over an hour.

Petra watched the mechanic as he worked on the engine, anxiety increasing with every, ‘tut,’ or shake of his blond head. Eventually he came out from under the bonnet. ‘Electrics have gone,’ he announced.

‘That sounds expensive,’ Petra said.

‘Can be,’ he said. ‘It depends where the fault lies. It could just be a bad earth.’

Forty minutes later Petra was back home, her broken down car parked outside on the road. She checked the wall clock. Christ, he'll be here in thirty minutes.

Petra ran upstairs, undressed quickly and had a shower. After a rubdown with the towel she slipped into her dressing gown and plugged in her styling wand. Soft curls tonight, nothing formal.

She had managed to do one side of her head and half of the front when the power cut struck. Seconds later there was a knock at the door.

Petra pushed her hair back from her eyes, grimaced and opened the door just as Martin was about to knock again. ‘Hi Martin, sorry, err, I’m a bit behind.’ The attempted smile froze on her lips as a mass of hair flopped in front of her eyes. ‘Bad hair day,’ she quipped.

Petra led Martin through to the kitchen. ‘I can’t even offer you coffee,’ she complained. ‘We’re in the middle of a power cut and I'm all electric.

‘Look on the bright side,' said Martin. 'The power might be on again by the time we get back from the theatre. Your hair looks, err, will look, nice,' he ended, lamely.

Petra headed for the stairs. ‘Back in a few minutes, Martin. I just need to do something with this. Make yourself at home.’

Petra hurried to the bathroom, soaked her hair in the tepid water, then rubbed it vigorously with a towel. She looked at the results in the mirror. Soaking wet, but at least it hangs evenly, now.

Petra wrapped the towel around her head and walked through to her bedroom. She opened the wardrobe and studied its contents.

She settled on a calf length, black lace dress with a short red jacket. After applying the minimum of makeup and patching up her nails, she felt more or less ready to take on the public. Her hair was still damp so she pulled on a woollen crocheted hat. In the end she was pleasantly surprised with the results.

Martin was standing where she had left him. ‘Ready at last, she said. 'Sorry about the delay.’

Martin walked her to the front door and stood gallantly aside to allow her through, then stepped out himself and pulled it shut.

'Bugger, I've left my bag in the kitchen,' said Petra.

‘Is it such a disaster?’ Martin asked.

Petra sighed. ‘My house keys are in it.’

As if on cue the power came back on and the burglar alarm went off.

One broken rear window later, Petra and Martin were once again sat in the kitchen. Petra made coffee while Martin cut a piece of board to temporarily fix the window square he had just smashed.

‘I think the fates are against us, Martin,' said Petra.

‘Martin nodded sadly. ‘We haven’t had the easiest of starts have we? Do you still want to go? We still have time to get there.’

Petra thought for a while then nodded. ‘Okay, let’s see what else the fates can throw our way. It's beginning to look like a quest from a Sinbad movie.’

Martin laughed and led her down the drive to his car. ‘Our luck must turn soon,’ he said. He looked up to the leaden skies in mock prayer. ‘I wish this rain would stop, it’s been coming down all afternoon.’

He opened the passenger door and Petra climbed hurriedly into the car. The rain became heavier. Martin slammed the door quickly, leaving two feet of lace hanging out of it. Oblivious, he scampered round to the driver’s side and threw himself into his seat. Thirty seconds later the car pulled away from the kerb dragging the bottom of Petra’s lace dress along the puddle strewn road.

Blind Date 3

‘My best two dresses ruined and you want me to try again? I may as well let him loose in my wardrobe with a pair of scissors and a barrel of hot tar.’ Petra held her face in her hands and looked at Stella pleadingly. ‘No, Stella, you can’t be serious. Tell me you’re just playing games.’

Stella put on her best sad face. ‘Pretty please?’

‘Petra shuddered. ‘No, and this time I mean it. He’s a very likable chap, he has no major personality faults, he’s good looking, he’s charming, he’s...I’m sure we’ve had this conversation before. He’s a Jonah, Stella. Bad luck follows him round like a faithful hound.’

‘It wasn’t really his fault your dress got stuck in the car door, Petra. You were both in a hurry to get out of the rain.’ Stella held out her hands, palms up. ‘It could have happened to anyone.’

Petra glowered, ‘It happened to me. You should have seen the state of my dress when we finally got to the theatre. Cinderella would have thrown it out.’

Stella busied herself making coffee. ‘He offered to buy you a new one. He was so looking forward to spending time with you. He was heartbroken at work on Thursday.’ As she poured hot water into the mugs she took a furtive look over her shoulder.

‘Was he really? The poor man. What did he say?’

Stella clenched her fist and whispered, ‘yes,’ then turned to face her friend. Using all her amateur dramatics skills she put on her tragic face and relayed the conversation she’d had with Martin in the office.

‘He said that he felt totally and utterly devastated. He said he wouldn’t hurt you for the world. He said he thought you were the most wonderful person he had ever met, and he doubted he would ever get a chance to be with anyone like you again. He said he had ruined his undeserved extra chance and he thinks he’ll become a monk.’

Petra’s eyes brimmed with tears. ‘Oh the poor man, tell him not to be so hard on himself, it was only a dress...Okay, two dresses. He’s a lovely person; it’s just that poltergeist that follows him everywhere.’

‘Stella patted Petra’s knee. ‘Tell him yourself, love. I said I’d try to get him an opportunity to apologise in the flesh. Shall I tell him Saturday night? You two were made for each other.’

Petra cursed and hit the steering wheel hard. 'Stupid bloody car.'

 She took her mobile phone from her bag , pressed 9 on the speed dial and spoke to the RAC helpdesk. If it were anyone but me it would be funny. Who else has the RAC on their speed dial?

The girl on the desk promised that the van would be with her in twenty minutes. An hour later, the now familiar orange van pulled up in front of her. The mechanic opened her door and stuck his head inside. ‘Hi Petra, long time no see.’

‘Hello Colin. It’s been two whole days now, hasn’t it?’

Colin laughed, pulled the lever to open the bonnet and busied himself with the engine. After trying a couple of starts he gave her the bad news. ‘Your alternator’s had it.’

Petra groaned. ‘That must be the only original part of the car left. Is it going to be expensive?’

‘Define expensive. It could be worse I suppose. It could have been the gearbox.’

‘Been there, done that,’ Petra replied. ‘Can you get me going? I’ll get the local garage to pick it up again. They are talking about fitting a homing device.’

Martin was waiting at his gate as she pulled up. ‘Not the car again?’

Petra nodded sadly. ‘It’s always the bloody car. My life revolves around the RAC man and the mechanic, people are beginning to talk.’

‘Martin laughed quietly. ‘Why don’t you let me have a look at it for you? I’m still a dab hand with the spanners.’

Petra shook her head quickly. If he can ruin dresses like that, what could he do to a car?

‘It’s okay, Martin,' she said. 'The garage I use have had it so many times now, I get mate’s rates.'

Martin led her into the house. ‘I thought we might have a quiet dinner then watch a DVD. Nothing messy, just prawn salad then fish and veg. No gravy to spill all over you.’

Petra grinned. 'Jeans and jumper tonight, spill away.’

Martin led her outside onto his patio and handed her a glass of Merlot. Petra sipped the wine and wandered down the garden past rows of neat flower beds. At the bottom was a large shed. Parked outside, on a small lawn, was a gleaming motocross bike.

‘I didn’t know you were into motocross, Martin.’ Petra turned, wide eyed, as he strolled down towards her.

‘I’ve been into it since I could first ride a bike,’ he said. ‘I got my first one at sixteen.’

‘Both my brothers had trial bikes,’ she said happily.  'They used to let me ride them sometimes. I got quite good.’

Martin seemed delighted.

At last, something they had in common?

‘Would you like to have a go on this one?' he offered. 'There’s a track on the waste ground over the back. We could go after dinner.’

Petra grinned. ‘Fabulous,’ she enthused. ‘I’m so excited. It’s been years since I rode a bike.’

Over dinner Martin asked Petra to bring her car round to his garage. ‘Let my lads have a look at it,' he pleaded. 'We have a fully computerised testing system. I think it’s high time someone sorted that thing out for you once and for all. I’ll throw in mate’s rates too.’

Petra thought about it for a moment, then agreed.  'Thank you Martin. Between them, that bloody car and my wardrobe are bankrupting me.'

After dinner Martin and Petra walked the bike round to the wasteland behind his house. ‘What do you think?’ asked Martin. ‘Pretty cool, hey?’ 

Petra was amazed. Laid out before them was a vast expanse of grass and mud. Here and there were small hillocks, old piles of earth that had been left behind when the estate was built. A greasy muddy track ran through the whole area. She turned to Martin, opening her eyes wide. ‘They couldn’t have built a better track if they’d planned it.’

Martin grinned. ‘Me first. I’ll show you the best way round. Hang on, she takes a bit of kicking up.’

Petra stood aside while Martin tried to start the bike. It took four attempts before the engine burst into life. Martin lifted the front wheel, revved the engine and pulled away with a roar. Mud, grass, and worse, flew out from under the back wheel, covering Petra from head to foot in greasy, clinging slime.

Oblivious, Martin raced off. He was clearly in his element. After a hundred yards he planted his foot, skidded, and bought the bike round to face her. The rebel yell froze in his throat as he stared at her. She  looked a picture of misery.

Martin closed his eyes and cursed. I must have broken a hundred mirrors to get luck like this.

Slowly he made his way back across the muddy ground. As he got closer he relaised that Petra wasn’t crying. The tremors that racked her body were not brought on by tears, but laughter. Martin dropped the bike and walked over to her.

Petra scraped a handful of mud from her jeans and threw it at him. ‘Okay, Martin,’ she laughed, hardly able to get her breath. ‘I give up. Let’s take on this poltergeist together.’

TRACY'S HOT MAIL! Release date 20th January 2012. Published by Crooked Cat Publishing

Stanley Stickle Hates Homework. The new book from Trevor Forest

Peggy Larkin’s War, Abigail Pink’s Angel, Magic Molly and Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies available in paperback and eBook at my book store.

Short stories available at http://www.etherbooks.com via Iphone app.

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Wednesday 15 February 2012

An Illicit Romance
Julie-Ann Corrigan
Hazelnut Latte with a sprinkling of nut meg - a guilty pleasure

Margarita was standing in the kitchen brewing the morning coffee.  She spent as much time scooping it back out of the filter as she did putting it in.
Graham said she always used too much coffee.  Making the coffee had always been Graham’s job in the mornings, but since her early retirement, it had become her job.
Margarita flinched even now at the word retirement.
Graham appeared in the kitchen; tie neat, hair slicked forward too much over his bald patch, ‘What are you up to today?’   He was adding more water to the thick liquid Margarita had handed to him.  It was still too strong.
‘Today’s the loft day.  I’m finally going to sort my box,’ she said, eyeing up her husband’s tampered-with coffee.  ‘I really wish you’d boarded the loft before now, it’s going to be awful clambering about up there – I’m not getting any younger, you know.’
‘I know.’ Graham looked too hard at Margarita’s sensible dressing gown. ‘You know how it is with work and everything, never enough time.  Did he expect her to board the loft, seeing as she wasn’t working? ‘Don’t worry I’ll do it this weekend.  Just don’t nag me.’  He poured the coffee down the sink and kissed his wife.  ‘Leave your box today Marg.  Don’t go ferreting around up there until I’ve boarded it for you, okay?’
‘Okay.’ Margarita replied.


  *      *      *

         Margarita had been in the cramped loft for what felt like hours.  
Getting older was no fun, she thought, as she took a too large step to get to the next plank.  She ignored the pull in her calf muscle, determined to get to the enormous box that was perched precariously at the far end of the loft.
The aches in her body dulled as she contemplated the fun she was going to have looking at all the old photos; reading letters from friends.
 She’d thought after her retirement, she’d have all the time in the world. There were so many things she wanted to do; a whole world left to explore, maybe research her family history.  And … rediscover her passionate love for her husband.
Graham was ten years younger than Margarita.  It had never been a problem, ever.  Until she retired.  Until then their easy love and comradeship had seemed to offset any friction that might have occurred because of their respective busy jobs.  Friends were continually telling them how lucky they were to rub along so easily together.
Some of these same friends hinted at their childlessness and how much easier it was for them - because they didn’t have children.  Margarita and Graham were unbothered by these early cutting remarks.  They married because they loved each other.  Children were secondary to their needs.  So when children never happened, neither of them was at all concerned. 
Margarita paused in her loft quest and allowed herself to reminisce thinking of those early days; fending off the ‘when are you having children?’ remarks.
Margarita continued to pull the box along the loft.  It snagged on a plank, looked unsteady for a moment, but was then sitting in front of her. There, she’d got it.  Her excitement at finally conquering the box was overshadowed by thoughts of her husband.  This box was filled with memories; of holidays and special occasions. They took few photos these days, probably because they did so little together. He was consumed by his job, never really wanting to take holidays, too tired to socialise.
 Margarita was desperate to start seeing the world now she had the time, but she only felt strangely trapped by her freedom. Graham had another ten years left at work.  How could she wait that long?
Margarita had been a physiotherapist all of her life.  Her job had demanded organisation and efficiency.  She was straightforward but knew one of her more unappealing traits was her need to be in control.  Since she had more time on her hands, this trait had manifested itself into bossiness. 
She knew this because Graham had told her so only the other day.  In all fairness, he had qualified his comment by saying that is was her bossiness that had first attracted him to her.
Margarita had by now taken the battered box out of the loft.  She sat on the landing, made herself as comfortable as possible and tentatively opened the lid.
In one encompassing glance, she viewed the whole of their marriage.  She tucked arthritic knees under her chin and began.
The most recent correspondence and photos lay on the top.  Margarita put her hand and forearm down into the depths of the box and pulled the last twenty years out.  As it spilled onto the floor, she pushed it out of the way with her foot.  She dug again into the box, retrieving their first ten years of life together.  The part she, more than ever today, was compelled to examine.
There it was.  What she’d been subconsciously waiting to find. 
A faded black and white photograph of a much younger Margarita with a broad, blonde-haired young man.  They were sitting on a grassy embankment.  In the background was the old Victorian building in which Margarita had worked and then managed for over twenty-five years.  Just by looking at the old photo, she saw the sheer love, the determination of youth as the pair gazed at each other.
She had all but forgotten about her illicit romance.  Sitting on her immaculately clean landing, old feelings flourished.  The pain in her knees disappeared as quickly as the adrenaline had begun to flow.
Margarita was now, quite furiously, pulling out other photographs.  There was a batch taken in the old gymnasium of the Physiotherapy Department; lots of images of the statuesque blonde man.  With her experienced physiotherapist’s eye, she saw the pain in the young man’s eyes as he struggled to walk with the aid of the bars.  The photographs represented the recovery from the horrific injuries he’d sustained from his motorbike accident.  Margarita vividly remembered his slow and painful journey.  She was in many of the photos.  She was his physiotherapist and as she fell in love with her blonde patient, she’d felt his pain as if it were her own.  The surgeons, in their usual pessimistic way had told him he would never walk again.  Margarita was determined to prove them wrong.  She used all her skills to rehabilitate him to his full potential.  It took a long time. 
But in the end, neither of them minded how long it took.  Because each day in the Rehabilitation Centre represented another day in which they could be together.  Another day they could fall more in love. 
Another day in which she could well be, severely disciplined.
She pulled out another photograph, this time of herself and a tall, elegant woman, well into her fifties.  Her old boss. By only looking at the photo, she felt the dread.  She remembered clearly the day she’d been called into Mrs Clealand’s office.
She’d been made to wait outside for a good twenty minutes before her formidable boss called her in.  It was a ruse Margarita and her young collegues knew well.  ‘Makes you more acquiescent, you know.’  Josie had once observed.  ‘You’re so bloody terrified by the time she gets you in there you’ll do anything she bloody well asks.’ 
Margarita thought briefly of the now dead Josie and quickly felt guilty that she’d not thought of her for years.  How could she have forgotten Josie?
But like many things, she had forgotten.
Margarita finally sat down in Mrs Cleland’s office; the smell of cinnamon biscuits putting her at dangerous ease.
 ‘So, Mrs Hepworth, you appear to be achieving marvellous results with our young motorcycle boy.’  Margarita didn’t know if it was a compliment or not.  Did Mrs ‘See-Everything’ know about her and the patient?
‘Yes,’ was all she could muster as redness seeped up above her starched white uniform.
‘Margarita, you are very young and very married.  You have a marvellous career ahead of you.  What are you doing?’
Margarita had no idea what to say.  She was ashamed; she felt like an idiot, but was beyond rational thought.
‘I love him, Mrs Clealand, and he loves me.  I’m going to get a divorce.’  Margarita didn’t know who was more shocked at this statement, Mrs Clealand or herself.  Only for a moment did she worry her blonde Adonis felt the same. 
There was a barely audible tap on the door, Mrs Clealand snapped,  ‘Come in!’
The blonde head poked around the door, news travelled fast around the Rehabilitation centre.  His voice was strong and clear.  Margarita loved him even more.
‘Mrs Clealand, is there something we need to discuss?’  He glanced at Margarita reassuringly.
‘Yes, there is.’  She pulled herself up to her full height, ‘You’ve made a substantial recovery under the care of one of my best and most promising junior member of staff.’  Her face softened. ‘As the Senior Physiotherapist here, I will be discharging you from her care, as of today.’  Mrs Clealand pretended to shuffle some papers and not looking at either of them carried on, ‘I know nothing, I only hope you both know what you are doing.  Please leave now – and Margarita, make sure you finish your morning duties, you have a busy afternoon ahead of you.’ 
Margarita still remembered how despondent and yet at the same time, euphoric she’d felt.  Mrs Clealand was not going to sack her, but she still had to confront her young husband and more terrifying, her own mother. 
Divorce was still a dirty word in the early seventies … at least it was in Margarita’s middle-class family.
Margarita’s career had weathered the considerable storm.  Not that many years after the illicit affair and a convivial divorce, she was chosen as Mrs Clealands natural successor.  Mrs Clealand had called her a born leader and Margarita’s career blossomed.  Margarita smiled at Josie’s response to her promotion, ‘You still don’t get to boss me around missy.’  No one bossed Josie around, only the blonde Adonis had got away with that.  Again Margarita felt guilty about not remembering her old friend enough.  She made a mental note to visit her grave with Graham later that week.
Thinking of her contemporary husband brought Margarita away from her nostalgia.  She looked at the time, ‘Goodness, I really must go and start making dinner,’ she said to herself.   She unfolded stiff knees, pushed everything into a corner picking up only a few photographs to peer at downstairs whilst cooking.  She couldn’t help it.
 *       *       *

She hadn’t left herself enough time to prepare the casserole and felt a little bit cross with herself.  She’d spent too much time upstairs; tripping down memory lane.  Graham wouldn’t say a thing – she knew – but nevertheless she felt guilty.  In the old days before she had retired they would have laughed and sent out for a takeaway.  But for some reason now she felt she should be keeping the home fires burning, her mother’s voice reverberating in her head.
She heard Graham’s Jaguar pull into the drive.  Maybe they could have eggs on toast.
‘I’m home Marg!’  Graham shouted.  As he entered the kitchen, he brought in a strong smell of autumnal evening air.
Margarita quickly pushed the old photographs underneath the newspaper.  She had a feeling this wasn’t the best time to be showing them to Graham.  He didn’t look quite his usual self.
‘Are you all right, darling?  You look a little distracted.’  She forgot about her day and concentrated on her husband.
‘Had a bit of strange day, as it happens,’ Graham undid his tie and uncharacteristically, threw it onto the kitchen table.  ‘It would seem Marg, that I’ll be joining you in retirement.’  
Graham appeared older than when he had left for work earlier in the day.
‘I don’t understand – you don’t want to retire yet, do you?’
‘Well no - not really.  The company’s been taken over and most of the over fifties, in middle management, well, have been given a very lucrative retirement package.’
‘Including you?’
‘Yes, definitely including me.’ 
Margarita thought for a terrible moment he was going to cry.  She noticed the way he limped along the kitchen; his bad leg always got worse when something was bothering him; as though the burdens on his mind affected the damaged muscles in his body.  Mind and body always truly connected.
Graham sat down heavily.  He pulled the newspaper towards the end of the table pretending the conversation was over; Margarita’s day’s work slid out.  The faded photos dropped onto Grahams lap.
An invitation to sort things out.
‘You’ve been busy.’  Graham said.  ‘I told you I’d fix the loft … this weekend.’ 
Margarita felt a pang of guilt.  She knew that doing the loft was a major exercise for Graham.  Her gaze trailed down to his bad leg; she felt guiltier than ever.  It bothered him more than he would ever let on.  It was too much … she expected too much.
He still hadn’t looked at the photographs.
Margarita studied her husband, at the same time trying to find the right words to soothe his slightly bruised ego regarding his unexpected news.
‘Maybe it’s not a bad thing Graham – you know, being retired.’  She looked at him for reassurance and carried on, ‘We can spend more time together, go and see the world.’  His expression softened, she felt she could make a joke, like she used to, ‘Maybe you can start making the coffee again in the mornings.’ 
As Graham chuckled, he began to look at Margarita’s photos; staring intently at the black and white fading image of Margarita and the blonde Adonis.  It was as if a shadow had crossed his face. 
Margarita sat directly opposite her husband … and waited.
‘It must be over twenty-five years, Margarita.’  He glanced at his beloved wife.  ‘You haven’t changed at all.’
‘No, I have my mother’s genes, I think.’  She got up and walked behind his chair, peering at the photo with him, ‘It’s your hair, Graham – you have so much less of it now.’
  ‘Mmm – and it’s considerably whiter.’  He encircled her waist with his arm and hugged her like he hadn’t done for a while.  ‘It seems like only yesterday, yet at the same time, a lifetime ago.’
‘Can you remember that day in Mrs Clealand’s office?  You came in like a knight in shining armour and “saved” me.  I knew then that we’d grow old together.’
‘Margarita, you never needed saving, that’s why I fell in love with you.’
‘We were a bit naughty weren’t we?  An illicit romance - who would think it – looking at us now?’  Margarita started to giggle uncontrollably.  Graham got up, now not limping and kissed her.
‘Well, my darling we’d better start planning some holidays, don’t you think?’
Margarita knew they would be all right. 
Together they always got through everything.

Julie-Ann writes short stories and articles. She has had short stories published in collections and one of her recent articles was published in Beat Magazine (see her interview with Laura Wilkinson here
She has recently completed her first novel and is now working on her second.