The Mystery Of The Night Bus

Stella had stopped on the corner of a crossroads, her phone pressed into her cheek. “I can find my own way, no, I don’t need help, I just wanted someone else to know where I was, you know, precautions and all. Honest, just covering my back, being responsible, a cautious daughter. I will, I will, yes, I’ll send a text once I get back. Yeah, love you too, bye Mum.”

She felt her mascara run as the light rain made her eyes water. > It’s good that it’s too dark for anyone to see me. What a state I must look, < She thought as she rubbed at her eyes with a screwed up piece of used tissue found in the pocket of her pale pink faux fur jacket. A half-laugh left her as she stuffed her phone in her silver clutch bag and click-clacked her way to a bus shelter she could see illuminated by one flickering bulb in the distance. At least she would be dry. Even she knew, standing on a street corner dressed in pink fluff and sequins at way past midnight was not the most sensible thing to be doing.

Sella had a smashing night, dancing at the club. It was great just her and her bestie, gyrating and giggling like when they were kids at the school disco. Until her fellah came. Jenny twitched and became shy, almost childlike. “Stell, this is my Gavin.” Stella frowned, stuttered, then had to shout to be heard over the music. “Jen, I thought it was just us. I am crashing with you in your bedsit. At least that was the plan?” Stella loved planning and needed to know what she would be doing next. When and how was the minimum, the basic stuff. “Gav missed me.” She said, lifting her arms as if doing some sun salutation or worshipping a sky-bound deity. Jen was promptly gathered up for a session of face sucking, right there on the dance floor. Stella was mad. A studio pad was not a place she wanted to be. Not if the demonstration in front of her was a prelude to the main event. So Stella left the club. That was how she ended up on a wet night in town, in the early hours of the morning, alone. … Dressed like a Christmas tree.

Stella tried to read the timetable, it was not helped by the flickering light. It seemed there was a bus. The night bus, but it gave no destination or times. She shivered as she tugged off her jacket and shook some of the rain from the fur, then pulled it back on. Fastening it firmly around her against the wind. A taxi passed with its light off > probably finished for the night she thought < All she could do is sit and wait for the night bus and take it from there.

A rowdy bunch, of mostly blokes, poured out of a building. They were staggering, jeering, pushing and shoving each other. Some stumbled into the road and were getting closer. “Ello darling on yer lonesome then.” A wolf whistle and shouts got louder the closer they came. “cor, I could, yeah, c’mon shows us what you’re selling.” shouted another. Stella pretended to call the police and spoke loudly down the mouthpiece. “Yes, a bunch of louts officer come right away!” A bloke at the back of the group shoved them along. He nervously checked behind as they passed. Soon they were out of sight, but she could still hear them in the distance. Usually, Stella was confident and strong. That night, she was decidedly uncomfortable and felt vulnerable. Tugging her skirt down, Stella pressed her bum into the rickety wooden bench. She twitched at each sound. The passing street cat startled her everything felt like a threat. The hiss of air from the buses brakes made her jump only then did she realise the night bus had arrived.

Stella hadn’t heard or seen it coming. Cautiously she approached the doors they unfolded with a whoosh. “Hello, can you tell me where you’re going, where you stop, please?” She put one sparkly foot inside the bus. looked up and down the aisle. “This is my last stop tonight, but as you can see, she’s empty. Where are you wanting to go?” Tom, was written on his name badge, had friendly eyes and a soft voice. “I um, … Stapleton, about six miles from here.” She flinched as her teeth nipped the inside of her lip. “No problem, I know it well, Stapleton it is. Make yourself comfortable I will have you home in no time.” She fumbled in her bag for her season ticket, swiped it on the pad and took a seat.

Now, if you were to meet Stella today, she would tell you, there seemed all but a minute between the whooshing of air as the doors closed to leave that bus stop and the hissing of brakes as he stopped and called, ” last stop, please disembark.” His bus pulled up right outside her door. Though she never told him where she lived. Stella would say that when she inquired, the council told her, the night bus was a pilot project supposedly run by volunteers in the 1970s. After only a month, it folded. The scheme was never funded and didn’t catch on. She would tell you that in the library archives, after investigating, she found that the bus shelter had long been taken down and replaced with a bus stop sign more than a decade past.

The above vignette is in response to Esme’s monthly picture prompt #3, the link to join in or read other responses is in the link under the picture of the bus. I hope you enjoy reading them. Have you ever travelled alone and been scared or uncomfortable please let me know, leave a comment in the box I love to chat?”

The Remnants of what was.

Photo by Elina Krima on Pexels.com

He knots his fingers and flexes his hands jerkily, leaves clean stripes on his arm and neck when he rubs hard. My lip twitches with sadness at his grimy hand trembling. Eyes down, glued to his boots, they’re good boots. He startles onlookers with his strange muttering. I’m only a step away or at least a short distance from him. My gaze wanders across his prematurely lined features and the weathered cloth of his twine tied coat. I catch the eye of my passing waitress, who nods knowingly. I wave my fingers, more chewed than she would have seen before, so quickly fist them away, out of sight. She returns with a bag for takeout. I keep watch as I settle the bill. Coffee spilt due to its weight on the wobbly-legged table. Her eyes pool as she apologises while wiping it up. She rips the cover from her note pad expertly folds it then squats to push it under the leg. I think ‘If only it could be that easy to fix everything. Her smile is kind. Blinks away the telltale tears undercover of the table. Nods once looking back towards the road. Her shoulders slump, and with a sigh, she continues to clear tables. My explanation spilt out six months ago when I first found him. Now it sits like secrets between spies ‘A nods as good as a tapped nose.’ Dad used to say when we were kids. We loved telling him it was wrong. “No, it’s a nod is as good as a wink,” We would taunt. He doesn’t joke much anymore; not one of us does.

I wipe my eyes with a paper napkin that I am twisting thoughtlessly in my fists. I hold my breath as I watch. Martin takes too much time manoeuvring unseen enemies and mined traps. I am counting his steps, speaking out loud. I am startled to silence by a mumbled word (Crackpot) coming from a suited man brushing past me. Four minutes it took for him to walk six feet of the busy pavement. The lunchbreak office staff, bankers, business people and shoppers moan and gripe as he blocks their path and swallows a moment of the hour of freedom they have. A pensioner’s rheumy eyes spot him. He nods knowingly, pats his arm and dodders on.

Martin is opposite me, with only one road to cross. But I am hopeful today, whisper > today I will be successful <. He stoops, scans the tarmac, takes an audible breath and runs as if his life depends on it weaving towards me. I stand, my face pulls the biggest of grins I feel my arms start to lift. Then a horn blasts, I see him freeze, a voice shouts obscenities at him. And just like that, he is gone. There is no point in chasing him. I learned the hard way how that goes. No, I will try again tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that no doubt there will be. With sisterly love and a heavy heart, I tip the server, straighten my back and fasten my coat. Before I leave, I pause to pass a raggedy bundle in a shop doorway the bag of food that Martin did not get. For we never know their story, we only see the remnants of what was.

Too many of our ex military, police, medics Firemen and others are left broken by the trauma they see and clear up every day. This flash fiction is a glimpse at that, a speck of what we know is on our streets, in our towns and villages. Broken discarded people #MentalHealth. Please comment leave me your thoughts below.

When I teach my daughter about Lemons. She’ll say, ‘they are sour, and need loads of sugar before you use them.’ I will pour her a homemade lemonade, sweetend with Agave. I’ll tell her how lemon juice can cure heartburn, it’s the only, citrus fruit that turns alkaline once joined with saliva. While passing her a slice of my lemon drizzle poppyseed cake, I clean my glass to a sparkle with a used lemon skin as we speak. We will chat about life and love as I slice lemon and freeze them, for days when there are no more.

 

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

August 27, 2020, flash fiction prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens. Maybe it’s an ancient fairy tale or a modern brand name. What ideas seep into your imagination? Is there a character or place involved? Go where the prompt leads!

My response to Charli at the Carrot Ranch was a no brainer because Lemons are magic.

‘What do you use yours for?’ Answers in the comments please,  I hope to find some new things to do with the queen of fruits. 

Respond by September 1, 2020

Lemon The Queen Of Fruits.

A look At Life Along The Footpath.

On the day in question, she took the black tarmac path that snakes behind the row of terraced houses. Houses with their postage stamp gardens that are secreted away behind red brick walls. They sit prettily on the edge of the small English market town. Across the width of the path are the allotments. Every forty or so feet of its length are gates, if you stand still enough, you can sometimes hear the squeak and crunch, as rust drags itself across the warped hinges. The home owners can slip out of the doors of their walled gardens, and walk to their patch. Sectioned plots of land just big enough for fruit, vegetables and herbs to grow. Each one has a wooden shed, some are used for hiding Dads from noisy homes, while others are potting and tool sheds. Some, are the holders of secrets, places where illicit pairings take place.

Old Jack, wanders the allotment with a paint kettle, and a blackened gnarled brush. “A ten pound note will get your shed protected” he calls waving the brush. Jack sleeps wrapped in bubble wrap and cardboard; close to the Brazier. Often he rests inside unkempt sheds that he tidys in return. He blows and snorts as he splashes his face at the ice cold pump. You can see where his stained hands are dried on the threadbare seat of brown corduroy trousers. The scent of Creosote wafts around him like midges beside a Scottish loch. Often people smell Jack long before they see him. A harmles but important character of the allotment.

As she walked, she looked at the bustle going on both in and around the allotments. Old men nod in acknowledgement to each other; men with no need to waste words on pleasantries. Years of shared knowledge and friendship, camaraderie and memories have passed between them. Women with their hair covered, and gloves protecting their hands, lean on wheelbarrows and forks. Girls laugh at secret stories. A young woman colours as she looks about; checking she wasn’t overheard. An elderly couple stop what they are doing to smile at each other, and touch fingertips … A shared silent moment. Father’s dig and tend the early veg. Cutting curly spring cabbage for dinner, digging in Manure, sold to them all by old Jack. She scans the scene spotting a damp steamy pile at each shed as she passes, pressing a fine linen handkerchief to her nose.

Life goes on around her as she continues on the path. The sun shone on the crisp morning, birds sang and dogs wagged their tails. A boy on a micro scooter passed her; head down, furiously concentrating on the pounding of his white trainer against the path. A cough pushed spit from his mouth as he passed her. It slapped against her stockinged leg making her gasp. The woman wiped it with her handkerchief, curled her lip in distaste as she lifted her head and screwed her eyes.  He poked up a middle finger and snarled back. A moment or two  passed before she straightened her collar and went on her way.

The path comes to a halt. Cobbles trail a curve around the periphery of the luscious green patch of neatly manicured lawn. Several keep off the grass signs are the only things to mar its perfection. A dozen impressive buildings stand around the edge like sentinels. Her eyes scan the area and her brisk steps echoed as she looked for the large black door of number 5; the doctor’s surgery.

Old Jack squinted, and blinked. His green eyes followed the woman. Drawn to her composure, he followed at a distance along the track. Something bothered him, like an over-wound clockwork mouse with no control of her speed. He watched until she pushed on the heavy black door.

Inside they were very efficient. Fifteen minutes later it was over, Her chewed raw fingers struggled to push the three oversized buttons through the fastening’s of her best coat. Fingertips twitched, she pressed her palms into the worsted fabric to still them. Silently she tugged on the cuffs of her pristine leather gloves. A sound, a crisp snap made her flinch as the door closed behind her. Standing for a moment, she took a shuddering intake of breath, placed her smart shoes one in front of the other. She walked the cobbles in the same manner she came. Controlled, back along the tarmac path. But old Jack saw the difference, he saw her legs tremble, the tightening of her lips. Oblivious, she concentrated on the rapping sound her shoes made against the tarmac surface … Click-clack, click-clack. Holding her head high she blinked furiously a fixed determined expression on her face gave nothing away to the onlooker; the passer-by. So she thought.
All was changed for her. Her world had tilted in a sentence. But life on and around the path continued. Birds sang the sun began to shine as the wind dried her lashes. He watched, until she closed the gate that shut herself behind those red brick walls. He listened for the clink of keys opening her door. His view obstructed not by the walls or the door its self … but the clouds in his eyes. Jack shakes his head slowly as he logs another look at life along the footpath.

What do you think happened? Leave me a comment I answer quick smart.

As I captured this mornings buds on the bush by the door. I was reminded of this writing from last year. After a tweak or two I repost it. A throwback Thursday; as relevant as it was back then. The last of my roses, still beautiful to me … even as they fade. Like the Ebb of Summer.

I shiver, pull my wrap tight about my shoulders. Evenings have drawn in; become sharper. Dew-laden mornings make my toes curl and the chill pinch my nose. Only two weeks ago we sat in the garden … way past ten. We sipped wine and listened to the night. We had no inclination to close the bi-fold doors, or to shut out the last of the warmth. Instead we jabbered about everything and nothing, until the light crept below the moon and purpled the sky.

As I flinch from the chill I know, my pyjama clad gardening this year has passed. Nor will we eat breakfast outside amongst the birdsong. I already miss him … reading aloud from the papers; while crunching toast. Tomorrow I will put flip-flops, sleeveless tops, shorts and sunscreens away. But today I will savour the last rays that warm my bones. The last of the peach Roses next to the door.

As the sun sits low in the morning sky; I see the Autumnal work to be done. The dust motes that dance in its lowered beam across the table, the streaks on glass that summer hadn’t seen. The Rhubarb’s last crumble waiting to be cooked. I see the rake that needs an oil before leaves hit its Tyne’s. There are beds to be made warmer. A sigh leaves my lips as I turn to go in. A season departs as I rouse another in its wake.

Thoughts of frosty mornings, warming soups, logs crackle and muddy boots. Rosy faces, knitted hats, harvest suppers, coconut mats. Shepherds pie served with peas. Suppers by the fire on cushioned knees.

Cuddles on the sofa under fluffy throws. Hear the crackle of a fire, taste hot chocolate laced with Brandy while warming our toes. Heathers pop their heads up to view Autumn’s arrival. Hedgehogs scurry past along the fence-line; like dryer balls, they roll up when the Cat flicks its tail. A memory beckons and Autumn has taken the Ebb of Summer away.

Could you taste the Autumn? Leave me a comment or two … just to please me.

The Ebb Of Summer.

My rucksack was packed tight with an arctic sleep-sack strapped on top. At low tide, I could wade out … Two months before, I had loaded the dinghy, stuffed with supplies and a two-way radio. Once there, I scrubbed until the skin on my hands became rough and the sores sticky. I pounded rugs, hung hooks for mugs and on a calendar I put a Red cross to signal the chosen day. Painting the outside left each muscle and tendon aching; at last, it was done.

Today was the day. Surprisingly It was easy to leave, I waited until I heard the rumble, saw the soft yellow glow and smelt the fuel. I could almost taste the freedom. On The table, I placed a sealed buff envelope containing a thin gold band. One single elaborately scribed word graced the front; where the address should be. I tugged hard on the handle. A slow lift of my lips and drop of my shoulders felt good … the door clicked shut. Without looking back, before posting the keys through the door I sighed. That sigh was to carry me to my long-awaited destination.

The huge pack was a weight on my shoulders, but one worth carrying. I stuck to the tree-line along the road; ducking from sight, avoiding towns and villages. I slept in barns and an old rusted lean-too; or under my tarp … laced between branches or rotting fence posts. Foil pouches of tasteless food and energy bars swallowed on the move; gave me strength. A dry heat built up where the nylon straps rubbed, but the blisters couldn’t stop me. I trudged on; never losing hope or sight of the end.

A deep intake of breath filling my lungs excited me. At last, the salty smell of the sea drowned the aches and dulled a migraine.

My head, full of fond times and good memories filled the endless stride of my journey.

Uncle Tom took me to this isolated place as a kid. He named it ‘The Retreat.’ By thirteen I knew exactly how it worked. The tides, the isolation. The best fishing spots, where to put the lobster and crab pots.

A lost teen I was … until Tom took me back to basics. If Mam thought I would fail and run home; she was disappointed. Summer, Winter and warm lilting springs were spent at the retreat. It became the only place I wanted to be. Uncle Tom had posted me the keys and owners log; six months past. In the pack was a note, with one word written in black Italic script ‘Escape.’ A stamp from the nursing home was the only identification. On that day my plans began in earnest.

Glenside nursing home called me, the day he passed; there was only me left to tell. My plans were fluid as if I was being guided, memories of conversations filled my waking; as much as they soothed my sleep.

The old map snagged on the zipper of my rucksack; as I logged another ten miles. The wind whipped and tugged It from me. Cross with myself, I crouched down to stave off the worst. My finger followed an old faint pencil line; the map reading lessons Tom gave me came in handy that day. Back on track, fed and watered I hoisted the kit over my painful shoulders. With teeth clenched, I rubbed a hand across my jaw and pushed my booted feet firmly into the sandy soil. It was two more hours of hiking before I gave in to a rest. Too dark to orientate myself and too tired to try; I kept the pack on my back, slid down a smooth trunk and tugged the tarp over my head and slept.

At dawn, a sea fret soaked the tarp but my face must have beamed. Unable to remember the last time I ached from a smile; It was such a good feeling. Even the searing pain in my body couldn’t wipe off that grin.

At a five-bar gate, my steps slowed, my eyes narrowed as I watched a farmer bringing in his herd. A fleeting nod in my direction and a frown made me wonder if he recognised me. As mad as I was for loitering it was good to know a face from the past. The last mile was tough. A steep scramble down to the pebbled cove.

There on a sandbank, half a mile out I caught sight of her. Resplendent in her best frock. Her Windows seemed to wink a greeting. A sigh left my lips my heartbeat slowed and the scent of the sea filled me. Only the cry of a Gull broke the sound of the wind. Not far now, I said in my head. Exhaustion made the wade out so much harder. Weighed down with water I had to force myself on. My legs shook uncontrollably. It took all my strength to reach the door, turn the key and enter my new home my safe place.

His car slammed to a stop, creasing the garage door and jerking him forward. Pleased he didn’t take the last drink, or he surely would have more than a bruised chest. The alcohol saved him from much of the pain as he staggered to the front door clutching his chest. “The bitch” he mumbled. “She knows to have the garage open,” His anger only grew, as he tried in vain to get his key to work. Furious, he picked up a boulder from the lawn’s edge and hurled it forward. The sound was like a bomb exploding as rock met glass. He looked around and saw the curtain twitch at number 18. He turned to face it and growled like a rabid bear as he shook his fists and screamed abuse. Swinging his arms as he turned was a bad move. His weight toppled him head first through the gaping hole. The last thing he saw was the word ‘Escaped.’

His eyes flickered and his lashes raised. Searing pain shot through him. He blinked rapidly; the tears ran down his cheeks as the room stopped turning. He could make three figures out. Two of which stepped back; as they seen him wake. “What the Fuu” he shut his mouth swiftly. “Where am I? What’s going on?” The doctor leant in with a light, looked in his eyes and the nurse checked the screen beside him. “Do you know your name?” Said the Dr While he scratched with his pen on a chart. “Yes, I am Frank … Trubshaw. ” He spat as he spoke, “What’s going on? What’s wrong with me.” The doc looked over his spectacles raising his eyebrows and nodding his head. “You sustained several injuries including a lacerated torso … glass punctured your lung. You have fractured two vertebrae, have a broken scapula and fractures in both your tibia and fibula.” The rustle as he turned the page was loud to Frank’s ears. “You received, two transfusions and were in a medically induced coma for eight days.” He gave him a moment to let it sink in, then glanced at the clock and nodded. “Frank, can you remember what happened?” Said the voice on the other side of his bed. “Two minutes sergeant no more.” The doc said sternly waving his index finger. Once cautioned the policeman continued. “Can you tell us where your wife is?” He leant in closer Frank was perspiring heavily. “Helen, where is she.” Frank frowned, his eyes bulged, a fierce pain shoot into his skull and his back arched.

On opening his eyes Frank slowly recalled the room. A nurse, Sat in a winged chair beside him; her hands curled in her lap. “Water nurse … Water please.” At the last word she shifted; looked confused, stood up and left. The door had barely closed before A doctor folowed by the nurse burst in. “Water, please, he croaked. His voice wobbled and his mouth dry. She gave him water from a pink sponge on a stick, he sucked greedily and she administered more. Again a light was flickred to and fro, the doctor scratched with his pen; charts were filled in. “Well Frank, gave us all a scare you did. We will clean you up and see where we go from there.” With that, he left the room. She worked silently, methodically trying not to make eye contact. When he needed turning a male nurse assisted but there was no conversation. Hours later, when he was clean and a bit more alert; the doctor returned. “What do you remember Frank?” He peered over his spectacles and squinted. “I was speaking to you” Frank stuttered, ” and a pain in my head …” He began to shake. “Okay, okay, try to stay calm.” When he had got his breath Frank asked; “what the hell happened?” The doc introduced himself as Dr Pearce and told him he had a bleed into his brain. “We have fitted a stent which appears to have done a decent job.” He told him tapping the side of his own head to somehow he thought it would reassure the man. “You must rest and stay calm; the next day or so will be tough, I can’t pretend otherwise. The police need to speak to you,” He held up his palm and nodded. “Not until you are stable … All in due course.”

Oblivious to the media coverage I spent my first three weeks between bed and table; eating enough to soothe me back to bed. My exterior wounds were healing nicely thanks to the abundance of salt water to bathe them and air to dry them. I soaked my feet in water drawn from the deck and warmed above the pot-bellied stove. Welts had scabbed on my shoulders enough to bear the weight of a fleece jacket. Internally I would take a lot longer to sort. It was bright and warm, the sun lured me to sit on the porch … the first day outside since arriving. While hugging a mug of hot chocolate and allowing the sun’s rays to caress my face; I heard my name. My top lip twitched and a sweat formed like pimples above it. Invisible hairs stood to attention; down my arms, back and legs. I ran. Unsure of how much time had past; I remember the door cracking, a shaft of light burning my eyes, big arms trying to pull me from the safety of the closet. My fists hit flesh my teeth sank deep, kicking and bludgeoning with all the strength I could muster. Then nothing.

Two months I have been fighting my demons, first from a hospital bed now from my home; my retreat.

Frank has been charged with abuse, false imprisonment, causing mental and physical harm and multiple counts of assault and rape. I am informed he will be facing trial. Frank has been remanded in custody for the duration of his recovery in a prison hospital wing.

Luckily for me, Ben, the unsuspecting farmer who found me huddled in the closet; had recovered. He has long since forgiven me for his broken nose, bitesto his cheek and bruises. He spends time with me; on my porch, sharing memories. Memories of us as children, fishing with Uncle Tom, being scolded for fooling in the dunes, drinking milk from a bucket on the farm. One day who knows … I may find the courage to invite him inside.

Thanks to Esme Slabs who loaned the photo’s that inspired the idea. If you would like to join her Facebook bloggers promoting group click HERE And let the fun begin.

Thank you Lorna from Gin and lemonade. Home of the prompt, to be posted by Friday 9th November.

the prompt is Home go on press it to join in.Home

I share this at EsmeSalon where we can connect with new bloggers, and share our writing. We get to read and comment on other posts press “Here” to share or have a read.

Another wander down the new genre path for me so my question is did it work, was it believable ? Answer in the comments please I can’t wait to chat 😊

Her Solitary Hike to Freedom.

I’m Only Human After All

This is a revisited story one that deserves a second glance … or that is what I think. I hope you feel the same. 😇

I called out, but his name lodged below my voice box; like a bubble, it floated until it popped. Slowly I turned back the bed, cotton sheets held at arms length, the smell of stale lovemaking sweat and perfume. Bare feet kissed the wooden floors leaving a mist; an impression of where I walked. Across the room down to the utility with my arms full. Once the wash was loaded, I glanced down, my nose twitched at the stench, my mouth sticky, I dry retched and memories flooded back. I peeled my dishevelled stained nightshirt from my aching self and it joined the sheets. My mind was busy trying not to think as I scrubbed and soothed my flesh, steam covered the pointless tracks on my cheeks as Rag n Bone man’s lyrics pounded over the sound of the shower. ‘I’m only human after all.’ I dropped a pill, swigged stale coffee left on the drainer and sat wrapped up in a towel. The dusk alerted the back of my mind it Snook in to disturb my … nothing, my emptiness.

This was ridiculous I am a grown woman Out loud I said ‘pull yourself together’. For the next week or so I worked on auto, walking to work, doing my admin, answering when I had no choice, until Friday night. Backpack on ready for home I felt him watching. A damp trickle formed between my breasts as I scanned left to right, I knew he was there somewhere. Head down, my shoes slapped against the damp tarmac, three, four, slap, slap, counting, walking determined not to be startled. ‘Hi toots, I thought it was you, fancy a drink?’ His voice hit my eardrums, but I was ready. A smile touched my lips for a second. ‘No thanks, busy busy’ I strode on. He was almost jogging alongside me, breathlessly he stopped me with a ‘Hey hey what’s the hurry, he stooped in front of me. Come on, we can continue where we left off.’ He twisted a strand of hair by my cheek, he bent further to peer into my face. ‘I said, I am busy, now please just,’ I snatched my shoulder from his grasp and carried on. I didn’t look back, slow down or think about him, I just allowed my feet to pound the pavement slap, slap, slap. Ashamed that’s what I was, ashamed and regretful and I couldn’t accept what it was I had done.

Weeks had passed since he met me from work, I still felt uneasy, he hadn’t called or text or poked me on Facebook, but, I was wary. Maybe he didn’t know my name either, I couldn’t remember him using it.

Ange and Jack had been arranged for months, dinner with friends, that would get some normality back. I tousled my hair and dressed casual but nice, I pouted in the mirror checking my lippy, I was the most relaxed I had been for a month or more. After fajitas, we had tequila and chilli chocolate buns with mallow topping; her food amazing as always. Ange and I laughed and reminisced about school, Jack cleared up and Ange and I began to talk freely. ‘What’s doing girly? You have been somewhere else for a while, I thought we trusted each other. I tell you every grizzly detail; like we always have.’ She nudged me, her head shook in disbelief, her eyes clouded over and she bit her lip. Just then Jack called through, he was walking to the pub, leaving us to our stuff, as he called it, while he indulged in a lary game of pool. Ange followed for a kiss. I saw them in the mirror’s reflection. She grinned and mouthed thanks, she closed the door. ‘Well … I’m listening’. She did that thing, that glaring eye staring, folding arm thing that she does when she’s mad. ‘Nothing to say really, I just, well … I was stupid, a slut and I, I’m ashamed. After Todd and I finished I felt lost, God that is so cliché, but I didn’t feel attractive or wanted.’ I dropped my head in my hands, roughly rubbed my cropped hair and grunted. Ange plopped on the edge of the chair with me, rubbed my shoulders. I released a howl so guttural I startled myself. ‘C’mon you’ll feel better, I won’t judge you-you know me better than that.’

I scrubbed my face with my palms and wiped them down my jeans. ‘I went to that club, the one on the corner, the one with the tattooed bouncer, the cute gay guy. I had some Jeager bombs and I began to dance, winding myself round guys legs, rubbing up behind them. They didn’t know me; nor me them.’ I leapt up and paced the floor. ‘It was sort of freedom, a liberating, sexy … I know, a slutty thing to do. The bouncer Jason, pulled some guy off me for stuffing his hand up my skirt. He tried to call a cab but I wasn’t having any of that. In my head, I was showing Todd, even though he wasn’t there, couldn’t see. My heart was racing as I dropped into the seat again. ‘Next thing I knew is I kissed this guy. He mouthed a wafer under my tongue … don’t get me wrong I wanted, … I was reckless. I’ve been having flashes come back to me of the stuff we did, the table, the kitchen, outside the front door for god’s sake.’ That’s not all. He met me from work one night, a week or so later, it freaked me out. How could I be so stupid?’ Ange’s eyes grew as she listened with her lips clenched tight. ‘Don’t worry,’ I patted her hand. ‘it was fine, he just wanted more. He hasn’t been back.’ After a minute, I looked at her holding both her hands. ‘I’ve been petrified Ange, I took him to my home! The things we did.’ I shook my head, looked at Ange’s horrified face. ‘ Don’t say anything, I can’t cope with your disgust too.’ We sat for a while with a box of tissues between us, Ange crying for and with me. Me crying out of self-pity and shame. ‘I went to the clinic on Duke Street and had tests, well you just don’t know, do you. I find out in a fortnight … so far, several are back and I’m clean, just waiting on Hepatitis and HIV. I wouldn’t hold it against you if you never spoke to me again.’

We cleared the dinner debris and emptied the dishwasher, although together, we completed the chore in silence. When the coffee was made Jack burst through the front door, pink-cheeked, smiling, relaxed. He looked from one to another, pulled a face, pouted his bottom lip and said ‘I’m going up, night then’ and gently closed the door.

Red-eyed and nervous I said ‘I can’t cope without your friendship, please don’t hate me.’ I held both her hands, looked into her face. ‘For the last time I will not ever, hate you, but I am hurt, hurt because I was too busy to see the effect Todd’s affair had on you and because you felt you couldn’t come to me. I let you down and you put yourself at risk.’ We hugged hard I stroked her hair said. ‘Sometimes, we do stupid things, sometimes, it is no one’s fault but our own and sometimes we are lucky enough to walk away unscathed. I Jane Masters, head of finance, single thirtysomething female, should have known better! but I won’t get it wrong twice. As the song says … ‘I’m only human after all.’

Flower photo borrowed /thieved temporarily from Geoff LePard I thank you, Geoff. Press here to visit the master🔜 here🔚

A new venture into a different genre yet again inspired by the magnificent Rag n Bone man song I hope you enjoyed both the song and the story I look forward to your comments *waves*.

My First Exquisite Dress.

I love the life of your hat,

I once had a dress like that.
All grace and glamour,
The boy’s would clamour
To glimpse the off shoulder
French fancy.

And me, at sixteen,
I learned how to preen
I perfected a wiggle,
A look over my shoulder,
But under my brows.

The dress held my joi de vivre
My confidence my class.
It was in the lace,
While I hid the blush
Upon my face.

My parisienne dress
wasn’t me.
But in it, I could be,
Entertaining and sweet.
They would fall at my feet,
And I could shoo them away.

Back then, when age was nothing
But a moment in time.
Confidence plucked from air
As the flower in my hair.
It was all so fleeting,
like a clandestine meeting.