Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Thursday Short #6

A love story for today's Thursday Short - but with a difference. See what you make of this one...

By Fran Clark

Libby Taylor wasn't beautiful, her figure was far from perfect. I would never dress like her or dye my hair that shade of red but she fascinated me all the same. I saw her almost daily from my window. I stopped writing to watch her pottering in the garden, setting out for a jog or jumping into her Spitfire.
Not long after they moved in next door, Libby and her husband, Jack, invited Paul and me for dinner. It was summer. We sat in the garden drinking sangria and eating salad. I was bothered by the flies but Libby, so poised and confident, had Paul infatuated.
A few mornings later I went to hang out the washing. I heard a radio playing in Libby's garden. She hummed to the music and then let her voice soar. It wasn't a special voice but I dropped Paul's shirt back into the basket and peered through the hedge. She was on a reclining chair, the radio beside her on the uncut grass. She wore a bold orange dress, long and flimsy. It clashed with her beetroot red hair. Her eyes were closed, her feet bare, a fine, gold chain around her ankle. She raised her arms and from the nape of her neck she flicked her hair so it fell like a silky red drape over the back of her chair. Her armpits were unshaven, her arms silky and white.
Suddenly she stopped singing and turned towards me. I crouched down. How stupid. She saw the top of my head, or at least the pink towel wrapped around it since my shower.
“Don't be shy,” she called. As she leant forward to turn off the radio, her dress gaped in the front. I caught a glimpse of her breasts. Smooth domes that collided as she leant forward and separated just slightly with a fluid movement as she stepped off the chair.
“Can I come through?” She asked. I couldn't answer at first. She laughed, only lightly. I shook my head so that I could focus again and my towel dropped onto the lawn. I bent to pick it up and saw Libby making her way through the gap in the hedge. She ran a hand over the bark of my eucalyptus tree, its branches overhung her side of the garden.
“I hope the leaves won't bother you.” What a ridiculous thing to say.
“I love eucalyptus,” she said. And that's how it began.
I hadn't intended to fall in love with Libby.
Jack and Paul usually worked late. Paul was a lawyer and Jack an architect. I didn't care what either husband did. All that concerned me was how Libby made me feel and what she taught me. After a few months my personality was transformed. I dressed more like Libby. I bought an ankle chain. I felt freer, more open with Paul but my most precious moments I spent with her.
We talked a lot about running away together. I imagined our husbands' faces as Libby and I jumped into her open-topped car and waved goodbye to them. Paul in a dirty shirt – I was becoming increasingly fed up with looking after him – and Jack, just as bemused.
But summer came round again and we were still with them.
On a hazy afternoon in July, Paul called to say he'd been delayed. Jack wouldn't be home for another two hours. The heat was overwhelming. All the windows in Libby's house were open but it was still stifling in the bedroom. I asked her to turn the music down because the neighbours might complain. Libby only laughed with that musical trill in her voice, a delightfully, audible exhale.
“Just relax,” she said.
I did just that, laying my head on her pillow. I looked down to see her red hair spread across my stomach and the gentle movement of her head. I thought she was humming to the music, slight vibrations passed through her lips. I arched my back, my head sank deeper into the pillow. I sighed in time to the music letting the sound swell and diminish to her rhythm until I called out her name like an anthem. I lifted my head and opened my eyes. There stood Jack. I wanted to scream but the sound got caught somewhere between the thought and my mouth. I tried to pull the sheets across my body. Libby just sat up and smoothed her hair.
“You're back early.” She turned to Jack then slipped off the bed to turn the music down.
“Decided I'd had enough.” Jack's tie was loose and he unfastened another button. He looked over at me and smiled. I lowered my eyes and watched his feet reluctantly leave the room.
“Sorry about that.” Libby stood by the open window and lit a cigarette. “Will you stay for dinner?”
In my rush to leave, my ankle chain broke but I refused to answer the door when Libby tried to return it.
The hedge between our gardens grew taller. I had the gardener fill the gap and cut back the branches of the eucalyptus. Libby and I never spoke again.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Thursday Short #5

This short story was inspired by an exercise on the Creative Writing MA. We were given three words and asked to use them in a short story.

Can you guess the three words? Comment below if you figured it out and I'll let you know. But this may or may not be a clue:

by Fran Clark

When Ian Marsden sat at his desk, his new desk, in his own office, he smiled. I have arrived, he thought to himself. I have a door that everyone has to knock on to enter but before doing so they will read my name on the door. Here everyone will know who I am.
Ian hadn't been entirely unhappy with his last position in the firm. He had worked there for six years and, finding that he could do his job in his sleep and sometimes wondering if in fact he had been asleep for a large proportion of the day, he applied for and gained a promotion. Where he'd sat, in that open plan office, with the persistent hum of the air conditioning system and Tom Downes' constant rustling of sweet wrappers and biscuit packets, he thought he might slump backwards in his swivel chair and die - his death going unnoticed by the inexorable flow of colleagues walking past his desk leaving wafts of perfume, aftershave and deodorant just under his nose.
Of course there had been Katy Browne. Lovely Katy Browne who he'd glance at occasionally, her desk being only six feet away. But she never glanced back. Her eyes were always fixed on her computer screen and her right hand glided up and down and from side to side over her mouse pad as she held her mouse, clicking and double clicking, stopping only to raise her coffee mug to her mouth and sip.
With his promotion, his new desk and his new office, a new suit naturally followed. His mother urged him to wear the cuff links she'd given to him as a present when he turned thirty. They had been handed down by his grandfather but he'd never had occasion to wear them until now, just ten years after having received them. His mother, as a special treat, made him a packed lunch on the first day in his new position. She got up especially early to prepare it. She made a cheese and pickle sandwich, boiled and peeled an egg and rubbed a Gala apple on the front of her dressing gown before placing them all into a large, plastic food storage box and handing it to a blushing Ian before he left for work ten minutes earlier than usual.
The plastic, food storage box sat in the top draw of his new desk as his manager welcomed him to his new post, promptly leaving his office and closing the door behind her. Once he'd sat down and turned on his computer he became aware of the air conditioning system, the noticeable absence of Tom Downes' noisy snacks and the comforting click-clicking of Katy Browne's mouse. It had to have been the longest morning of his life as he thought longingly of his packed lunch and the undeniable knowledge that yet again he would be eating alone.
At the window in his new office, he stood with his hard-boiled egg in hand, the sun glinting off his right cuff link as he distinctly heard footsteps approaching his office door. Making a swift lifting and lowering action of his egg to and from his mouth he shouted, “Come in!” before he'd even heard a knock at the door. Startling himself by the volume of his welcome call, he dropped his egg and watched as it landed on his left shoe, rolled onto the floor and lay just inches from his foot. He bent quickly to collect it. Rising from a crouched position, he remembered that someone had been approaching his office. He stood to see Katy Browne holding the door open with one hand and a mug of coffee in the other, a warm smile on her face.

You might also like The Thursday Short #4

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Thursday Short #4

Today's Thursday Short has a taste of Brazil because of the World Cup - but there is not a single football in sight.

Please feel free to make a comment below.

By Fran Clark

Marta Bat 011 Marta ran through the small field of orange lantanas and along the gritty path to the wooden house. She clutched the unopened letter in her hand, the envelope warm and creased. Thiago would be expecting her and the door, as ever, would be open.
“Take a seat, Marta. How is it town today? No, don't tell me. I moved out here to be away from the madness, I only wish you could have too.”
“Obrigado, professor.”
“Please, Marta, call me Thiago. I stopped being your teacher a long time ago and even then you very rarely attended class. Here, let me see the letter.”
Minha querida Marta
I miss you so much and I hope this finds you well. I spend my waking moments imagining what life must be like for you now. I still pray that you can forgive me one day for leaving you alone like this. I dreamt last night that you came to visit me. Perhaps one day?
It has been almost six months and by now you must have run out of money, or close enough. Your family turned their back on you because of me but if you are desperate then you must turn to them for help. Maybe you could go to your father and beg forgiveness. After all, he was right, I am a failure. God knows, nothing pains me more than to think you are lonely and afraid, Marta.
I know, you are saying, where was God when my husband behaved in such a brutal way? I have thought about my actions for a long time and wish I had an answer. I am no better than any of the criminosos I am locked away with. They act tough and threatening by day and by night they cry themselves to sleep like hungry children. I cry silent tears - but not for me. God knows I deserve my fate. But you, Marta. So pure, so innocent, I should never have made your life so stained. Perdoa-me, Marta. If I live to return to you I will spend my life atoning for my sins against you and your family.
Today a gift of books was presented to the prison. I was to teach you how to read. I have not forgotten. Please find a way to continue with your lessons. It will help you in the future. Maybe one day we can read stories to our children.
I hope my mother's health improves and she is no longer a burden to you. She loves you as though you were her own daughter, I know.
One sheet of paper is never enough to write everything in my heart but I leave you once more until I am permitted another letter. One day I hope you can write me back.
Com amor o seu marido
“You should think about that, Marta.”
“Think about what?”
“Letting me teach you how to write.”
“One day, Thiago. I have more important things to worry about.”
“You always make the same excuse. Eduardo is right. Education will give you a better future. You could move out of that place, make a new start for yourself. But you should be getting back. You mustn't wander too late in town. Get home before your mother-in-law begins to worry.”
Marta left, wrapped her shawl over shoulders. All the shops in the small town were closed. She saw Dores on the corner.
“Olá, Marta. Going home or coming to seek some fortune?”
Dores stood a little distance from the other women but Marta could see that they wore just as much make up as her. They were also as brightly dressed.
“Look,” said Dores. “The business men and tourists from São Ricos are already arriving in their fancy cars. What do you say, Marta? Paint your face and make some money so you can feed your husband's family. God knows he can't.”
“I've made my decision.” Marta tied her shawl around her waist and walked a short way up the street. A car stopped and she leant into the open window. The letter slipped onto the curb as she stepped into the back seat and the car pulled away.

Check out the other Thursday Shorts  Number 3, Number 2 Number 1

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The Thursday Short #3

A slightly eerie Thursday Short today folks. See what you think of this tale.

By Fran Clark

The clock on the bedside table says 2am. I'm sure that's what it said half an hour ago. I'm tossing and turning but I can't get back to sleep. Just relax, I keep telling myself. I am relaxed. I'm sure I am. I try counting sheep and then taking deep breaths. Nothing works. Damn. Now I need to go to the loo.
   The floor is cold against my feet and the flush sounds a million times louder at this time of night. I hope I don't wake anyone. It's too warm in the bedroom, no wonder I can't sleep.
   I look over at Eddie and he's fast asleep. Snoring. Just great. But wait, what's this on my pillow? Did I leave a book or... My hand is at my mouth, I want to scream but... I. I can't believe this. I'm there. In my bed. That's my head on the pillow. That's me lying in my bed. Wearing my nightdress. Asleep.
   I sit beside the me who is happily resting in my place. My heart feels like thunder in my chest and I don't know what to do. Eddie is still snoring. I put my hand on her, slowly. I'm convinced that I'm asleep, that I'm dreaming this. But her body is warm, it moves up and down in a gentle, relaxed rhythm. I put my face next to hers and I can feel her warm breath. I stand abruptly and look at the door. I look at the window and then at all the dark shapes in the room.
That's just the chair, I tell myself, that's just the wardrobe and that's just me. Asleep, in my bed. No it can't be.
   I go around to Eddie's side. Maybe I'll wake him and he can wake me up and everything will be all right. I kneel beside him. “Eddie, Eddie,” I whisper. I touch his arm and he rolls over and throws an arm around her. She's smiling.
I stand and pace the room. I'm feeling cold now. If I’m feeling cold then this can't be a dream. My hands are like ice. My fingers like icicles as they grip my arms, now covered in goose bumps.
   Eddie, please wake up.
   I sit on the chair and rock gently back and forth. I watch the minutes on my alarm clock moving agonisingly towards daylight.
   At last it arrives. Eddie leans up on his elbow and looks over at her. He yawns and she wakes slowly and rolls over to him, reaches out and strokes his face. He smiles and slips a finger under the strap of her nightdress and pulls it down. He kisses her cheek, her lips, her neck. She wraps her arms around him and seems to be looking straight at me as Eddie's tongue finds her nipple.
   The bedroom door flies open and there's Suzy.
   “Mummy,” she screams and jumps onto the bed, while she pulls her nightdress back on. I stand and watch them tickle Suzy and then Eddie gets up to start breakfast.
   She combs Suzy's hair the way I do, dresses Matty in the clothes I'd planned for him to wear. Tears gather in my eyes but cannot flow as I watch them eat breakfast.
   They drive away and I'm standing at the living room window screaming at them to come back but they don't stop the car, they just keep going.
I've been curled up in a ball by the living room window all day. She was the first one back with the children and got packed and ready for our drive to Grandma's for dinner tonight. Somehow I have to follow them, try to make Eddie see me. Surely the children will.
   The journey in the back of the car with them was a waste of time. I watched Matty hitting Suzy, listened to her tell him off and watched her run her fingers through Eddie's hair.
   Please see me. Please hear me.
   They've stayed too late at Grandma's. The kids fall asleep in the back of the car and Eddie drank too much so she's driving. She's driving my children, my husband. I want to scream.
   I watch her in the rear view mirror. Her eyes are drooping, her head nods every now and again. Eddie chats but now he is asleep.
She puts on my favourite CD and sings softly so she won't wake the kids.
I see her eyes droop again, her head sag and the lights of the lorry, driving towards us. Her eyes are closed now and the car swerves to the wrong side of the road.
   I shout. I scream my name. I shout for Eddie and then try to turn up the music to rouse her. The lorries lights are flashing and I hear brakes screeching. I lean forward, my hand at the dial and then I see the time. 2am.

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