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2.6 Challenge

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I wrote a blog post. It’s like I blinked and a year went by! That’s definitely how it feels at the moment, working from home and following social distancing rules – the days all blend together.

I’m aware, in the current climate, that things are tough for many people. It’s why I decided to take part in the Marie Curie 2.6 Challenge to help charities who are finding it difficult to raise money.

This Sunday I will begin the challenge of writing a novel in 2.6 months, which equates to 79 days.

I aim to post updates on my website to let people know how I’m doing, and to finally catch up with the online community because I really miss you guys!

Thanks, as always, for stopping by

Mel

Challenge 2.6 Update: 30/4/2020

I’ve had a few rough days where the words trickled instead of flowed and my characters were decidedly taciturn! It’s only been four days so there’s no need to panic, but it’s at times like these I wish I was a planner! The circumstances don’t help, the sense of not knowing when the restrictions will ease up, it’s a weird kind of suspended animation. I must admit I’ve struggled with motivation in general, even P.E. with Joe hasn’t helped as it usually does.

But showing our appreciation for the NHS this evening, and celebrating Captain (now Colonel) Tom’s birthday with the nation was a nice pick me up. It’s always good to be reminded that love wins and together we can achieve extraordinary things.

Here’s a snippet (206 words to follow the theme) of my progress.

Maddison didn’t bother with fancy tricks or going the traditional route of flipping a light switch, she welcomed the dark as she might an old friend. Okay, so she’d pushed out with her senses a little, but the last thing she wanted to do was land on her ass.

Stopping by the bed, she climbed onto the mattress and made herself comfortable. There was a surprising amount of room considering the other occupant.

Silence settled around them, a regular companion of the dark. Maddison tried to wait her friend out, to let him acknowledge her presence, but she didn’t last more than fifty-eight seconds. Points for almost making it to a minute, though.

“You don’t call, you don’t talk incessantly in my head.” In fairness Donovan had never done that. He wasn’t exactly a talker.

“You’re confusing me with Tobias,” he said, the words hard to decipher given that he was lying on his stomach with his head in the pillow.

She wasn’t going there. Not right now. The Hympe King was a different topic entirely and she was more interested in her friend’s radio silence.

“What’s going on D? I haven’t heard from you in a month.”

“I’m not the one who accepted an extended assignment.”

As always, thanks for stopping by

Mel

Day 1 – A Novel Idea (Sort of!)

collective logo smallDay one of seventy-nine went as well as it could. There was a little family drama but other than that, I managed to stay focused. I still don’t have a title, but I’ve decided to go with the flow. I do have some names to announce. I gave readers the opportunity to name a character, a place/building and a virus. Here are details of the winners:-

Character name: Ruby Nettle or Vicious Ruby suggested by Lily Dodds McConnachie.

Place/building name: Veridiem (Truth Day) suggested by author M.J. Moores.

Virus: Fatuinia Agotismus suggested by Chris Heptonstall.

Keeping with the whole 26 theme (2.6 Challenge), below I’ve shared the first 206 words. I’ll edit the hell out of them another time, I’m just glad there are actual words!

Maddison had been away from Merc Hall for so long, she barely recognised the place. It hadn’t always had a kick-ass moniker – honouring the hunters who had taken up residence – but it had always held a certain appeal.

Once a prominent part of the community, its large imposing presence was still a beacon of hope for those making shit happen. Namely the hunter cell who had claimed the space and made it their own.

Now there was a darkness to it, a sense of neglect she found grated along her already frayed nerves. The large windows were like gaping mouths – especially given the gothic architecture – the spires making it appear more beast than haven.

She was tired of preparing for a war that would turn out to be the same crap with a different name. The mortal realm had barely recovered from the last one and everyone could use a damn break.

After returning home from an extended mission, she had been looking forward to shooting the breeze with her buddies. What she hadn’t expected was to find a moping, sorry excuse for a welcoming committee. Make that a party of one, and that one didn’t count since it was a soldier… (she didn’t recognise, who happened to be taking a smoking break.)

I aim to post updates on a weekly basis. Today, that’s about it! I’d better get back to Maddy…there’s still time to play before the night is up!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

To title or not to title!

There are just two days to go until I begin my challenge. I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo, so writing a novel in 79 days shouldn’t be that difficult, except this time it’s for charity and I’m starting to feel the pressure. 

I don’t have a title for a start, and that’s the issue. Do I start without one? I’ve done that with short stories and the title has come to me at the end, but I’ve usually had a rough idea what the title will be for my novels. It would help to reference the work, too. When I’m giving up dates, the novel that is yet to be named will start to get old!

I did make it a little easier for myself by using familiar characters. I haven’t worked with Maddy for a while, but I’m sure I can immerse myself in her world and achieve my daily word challenge in order to finish on time.

I’m also giving readers an opportunity to take part by naming a character and a place/building. All suggestions will go into a hat and the winners announced Sunday, the day it all starts!

If you would like to get involved, drop your suggestions in the comments and I’ll add those to the hat!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Reflections

At the end of October I went to Paris, and though I took hundreds of photographs, the following is one of my favourite shots and the inspiration for the short story I wrote to capture the romance of the great city.

 

Reflections

Harry blinked against the glare of lights, dropping his gaze to catch the reflection in the surface of the fountain. But he didn’t notice their glow, or the building they caressed with their ambiance, he only saw the woman at his side.

The first glimpse of her took his breath away, a reaction he knew would never wane. She was like the pretty lights dancing around her reflection in the water. Her beauty was a beacon, illuminating his way on the darkest of nights and the brightest of days.

He felt his heart race as her gaze found his in the mirrored surface and he had to blink several times against a wave of emotion. It was hard to fathom that one so lovely could belong to him, but she did, the light shining back at him was proof of their connection.

Pausing in his tracks, he applied gentle pressure to her hand and she turned instantly, her pretty eyes alight with mischief, something he’d missed in the reflection, a poor facsimile of the power they held over him.

Bringing their joined hands to her lips, Lucy brushed a kiss against his skin, making him shiver. “What’s on your mind, mon chou? You’ve been stuck in your head for a while.”

“I…” He shook his head, trying to formulate the words circling his brain. “Marry me.”

Her smile was resplendent, the sight of it made him giddy. “I think I answered that well enough forty years ago.” She held up her left hand, wiggling her fingers so her rings glinted in the light. “Smartest thing I ever did, saying yes.”

He knew she felt that way, but it soothed his nerves, nevertheless. “Again. Marry me again. I want to celebrate the last forty years. I want to stand before witnesses and share the wonderful life we’ve had, while pledging the rest of eternity by your side.”

“This is why you brought me back to Paris,” she whispered, her eyes overflowing with tears. “This is almost the exact spot you proposed.”

Harry turned his head, following her gaze. As he did, he saw a young couple silhouetted in the spray of water and the years fell away. “God, I was so nervous! I had a whole speech prepared and I couldn’t remember a damn word of it.”

“I didn’t need to hear the words because I saw everything you wanted to say. I always have.”

He turned back to her, leaning down to steal a kiss as he had then. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring you back sooner.” They had travelled the world together, had returned to France many times, but never Paris.

She shook her head. “I’m not. This is perfect. Like everything else in our lives. It’s all about the timing.”

That made him laugh. God, but he loved her. Had loved her since the day she’d bounded into his life at eighteen, full of fire and female indignation as she declared her sister wasn’t going anywhere in his ugly, four-wheeled monstrosity. Harry had been so lost in her mesmerising beauty, that her words didn’t even register until her brother elbowed her aside and told her to stop embarrassing him. At witnessing that, Harry had felt a wave of anger so strong his hand had reached for the door handle before he registered that he wanted to pound on his friend. Not that Lucy needed him to rescue her. She’d simply wacked her brother at the back of the head and told him he did a good enough job of it without her help. Then she’d bounced back up the drive and disappeared around the side of the house.

“You’re thinking about the day I made a fool out of myself, aren’t you?” she said, her light laugh ending on a groan as she covered her face with her free hand.

“That’s not how I remember it.” It was the day he’d fallen completely under her spell. “I thought you were the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.” He gripped her wrist and pulled her hand away from her face. “I still do.” Nobody compared to his Lucy.

She closed her eyes briefly, cherishing his words. “And I was crushed when I thought you were there to pick up Stella, because despite that contraption you rolled up in, I knew there was something special about you.”

“You love that contraption as much as I do,” he said, grinning.

Her eyes twinkled, hundreds of memories playing out for him to see. Harry had kissed her for the first time in that car. Had driven hundreds of miles to visit her at university. It formed part of their beginning and was the reason he lovingly maintained it.

She squeezed her thumb and index finger together, laughing lightly when he pulled on her hand and brought her flush against his body. “You still haven’t answered my question,” he said, enjoying the way her eyes had dilated.

“My answer hasn’t changed. I want nothing more than to spend an eternity with you.” She laid her head against his chest, right over his heart. “Yes. It will always be yes.” When she shifted again to meet his eyes, the mischief he loved so much was back. “As we’re taking a trip down memory lane, does that mean we’ll be celebrating in the same way we did-”

Stepping back, he took hold of her hand and resumed their walk across the square. Only this time he wasn’t thinking about anything but showing his wife exactly how he felt about spending the rest of his life with her. And like the first time, he planned to do that thoroughly.

The sound of her musical laughter was a perfect backdrop to the lights and magic of the city, and the love in his heart.


Thanks for stop by

Mel

The Right Path – A short story

I’ve talked about writing tools before, and the fun I have with prompts. When I’m struggling to focus on a work in progress, I often find ways to flex those writing muscles. A good sentence starter is a great way to do that. This time, the sentence was provided to me by a friend (thanks, Mike), and there were a few hiccups along the way, like losing my work (no, Jacqui, I didn’t do a backup!) Hopefully it all turned out okay in the end! I hope you enjoy.

“So, look, I know this is going to sound cliche, but all the best stories start off this way, right?”

Veronica glanced my way, her brows pinched into a deep frown. “If the story involves losing the main player in the first act.” Her beady eyes squinted her disapproval. “But this isn’t a story, and this poor young man may very well lose his life. Clearly, my presence has been required for quite some time.”

I rolled my eyes at the self-righteous tone that matched her prissy attitude. “You’ve got to lighten up, V. ” Glancing down at Tristan, I stroked a hand across the top of his head as I’d done when he was a babe, only there was slightly less hair, emphasis on the slightly (the boy was born needing a haircut). “This isn’t the first bump in the road, and I’ve been with him every step of his journey. You get to see a snapshot, the closing chapter in this part of his life.” I scooted further back to make room for the paramedics, but I didn’t lose our connection. “If things go according to plan, this is a great place for you to start.”

“You can’t interfere,” Veronica snapped, hovering over me with a clipboard that matched her disapproving frown – it was big and foreboding. “That’s why you warranted an assessment in the first place. You take far too many risks.”

With one final caress across Tristan’s brow, I rose to my feet and watched as a police officer approached our little scene. “This whole job is about risks, my friend.” I grinned across at her. “Perhaps you’ll learn something while you’re here. The big guy knows you could use a sense of humour. It’s why they sent you to me.”

I didn’t give her time to respond, I barely gave her time to process the wink I threw in her direction before I vanished from sight. Unfortunately, Veronica was right on my heels and, given the nausea I’ve never been able to shake when transporting from one place to another, by the time I caught my breath she was back in her superior position.

Not that it mattered at that point. I was too busy taking in the new scene. Sarah-Ann was sitting alone at the centre of a busy restaurant, and she did not look happy. I spared a moment to get a read on her emotions before I glanced to the giant behind her chair. Not a literal giant, but Alexander made for an imposing figure wherever he went, with his dark skin and whiskey coloured eyes.

“You’d better dust off those pixie wings because it looks like you lost the bet,” he said, though his deep voice belied his concern.

A shudder ran through me at the thought of playing pixie. Not my choice, though it has to be said, I’d rock the character; a big, kick-ass gothic looking pixie with an axe to grind. “It isn’t over yet. How’s our girl doing? And more to the point, why doesn’t she already have her phone in her hand?”

“I don’t know how you can joke about this. There’s a lot on the line if your little scheme doesn’t work.” Veronica, ever the buzzkill reminded us.

“Joking about it is the only thing that keeps us sane,” I told her, shrugging because I wouldn’t apologise for it. “They’re ours. We’re with them during their highs and lows, we celebrate their victories and we feel every ounce of their pain.”

Being a Guide could be hell on a spirit. Having Alexander to torment was a perk I couldn’t live without. There were times I wanted to rub myself all over that smooth skin (it’s not difficult to guess my other form), and indeed I scratched that itch any chance I got.

“She’s dialled his number three times. I’m running out of arguments here.” Alexander’s grin was all kinds of wicked, but then he liked getting me into trouble. “Why don’t you give it a go?”

Why indeed? It could have something to do with the fact I was under review, and my actions often fell into the grey as far as my superiors were concerned. Then again, I’d never let it stop me before, so considering Tristan’s current plight, the big gorgeous idiot eyeing me with amusement knew exactly how I’d respond to the challenge.

“I’m going to get fired for this shit,” I mumbled as I sidled up to a nearby table and snatched a phone. It was merely a prop and the device would be back before the human making moon eyes at his date even noticed it was missing.

Revealing myself in a public place was never a good idea, so I was relying on the fact everyone was too busy filling their faces to pay too close attention to the fact I kind of appeared out of nowhere.

I strode past Sarah-Ann’s table, phone to my ear, and praying the impromptu plan worked. “No! That’s terrible. A hit and run? That poor man.” I let the silence hang a moment as I stopped to clutch the back of an empty chair. Probably overdoing it, but I was desperate. “I wonder who he is? If someone is right now waiting for him? They’d have no idea what happened.”

The spark of relief when I noticed Sarah-Ann pick up her phone got me moving again. I walked until I reached a corner and then disappeared, returning to Tristan just in time to watch as the police officer answered his phone.

“Are you trying to lose your job?” Veronica asked from behind me, though I did notice some of the indignation had left her voice.

“No, V. I’m trying to guide two extraordinary people in the right direction.” I turned to look at her. “You can’t imagine what it feels like, knowing they’re meant to be together and having to watch as every opportunity pulls them further apart. What it was like to feel that link snap into place when they were five years old and see them floundering without it.” Reaching out a hand, I placed it on hers and let the experiences flow from my mind to hers; the emotions buzzing along my skin. “When I left that page for Tristan to find on his computer, I wasn’t cheating, he didn’t have to choose to contact her, no more than she had to accept his invitation to dinner. And right now, Sarah-Ann is hearing that there’s a reason he didn’t make it. She’s feeling that bond they share, and if we’re lucky, if they finally find the path that leads to one another, she’ll be by his side as he recovers from an accident that I would have prevented if I could. So, don’t come down here and tell me I’m not doing my job. If I was as reckless as you seem to think, I would have jumped in front of the car.”

“And what of your inappropriate relationship with Alexander?” she asked, her eyes gleaming from all I had shown her.

“Where does it say in the handbook that we have to do this alone. That we have to watch as day in and day out good souls suffer?”

Her face softened. “They don’t suffer alone. That’s why you’re here. They’re never alone.”

I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my face. “Yeah, well neither am I, not if I can help it. Come on, V. Can you blame me? I saw you drooling in that restaurant!”

Shaking her head, V stepped back. “Let’s finish up the evaluation so you get to see how the story ends.” I knew I had her when the edges of her mouth twitched.

By the time I returned to Tristan’s side, I’d even managed to make her laugh, which made it a really good day considering I arrived to witness Sarah-Ann leaning against the hospital bed, both her hands wrapped around one of Tristan’s.

Alexander, who was lounging against the door frame, was just icing on the cake. “It looks like we both won,” I said, enjoying the way his eyes lit up. “Do you want to change first, or shall I?”

I let the sweet energy from across the room wrap around me, coated with the sound of Alexander’s laughter as I carried through on my part of the bet. The pixie and the gladiator, an interesting choice, and a story for another time.


It’s a little longer than I wanted, though I did crop it as much as I could! And there is way too much ‘telling’. Still, it was fun and we learn every time we create something new.

Maybe you want to play along, or have examples of writing techniques you use. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

I will always be grateful for you


I hope you can forgive me for this one, because I broke the rules of the Ballade it was supposed to be! It took on a life of its own, so I went with it. Still, it was supposed to be an exercise in improving my poetry skills so for you poets reading this…be patient with me!

When shadows fall and claim the light

Like marauders who don’t belong

You sweep right in, my own dark knight

Yielding a calm to lean upon

Like lines of my favourite song

your words, they both soothe and renew

A melody that will hold strong

I’ll always be grateful for you

***

When the space between us feels too great

And the hands of time trickle by

You find ways to communicate

In ways words can’t always define

A soft touch, a look in the eye

It’s there in everything you do

So even if things go awry

I’ll always be grateful for you

***

When my mind is blissfully still

And body in a state of repose

You touch me with consummate skill

Stoking the fire until it grows

Creating a desire to expose

Every sight, every sound, every cue

A dedication that clearly shows

I’ll always be grateful for you

***

But these gifts of ours work both ways

And this fact fills my heart anew

Especially when I hear the phrase

I’ll always be grateful for you

_____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Reality Check – A short story

I ignored the persistent sound of my doorbell and buried further into my pit of despair, complete with a dozen pillows, my favourite throw and a large enough duvet to drown my sorrows. A comfortable pit that allowed me to feed my misery and keep it alive; an incubator for the sad and lonely.
The buzzing progressed to a pounding, which was much harder to ignore. To begin with my neighbour was an ogre (not a real one but he made a pretty good impersonation when his sleep was interrupted) and more importantly, I felt the resonating sound like a hammer to my skull.

Dragging myself from bed, I shuffled to the door. Since I’d spent the past two days wallowing I didn’t have the energy to pick up the pace, so the boom, boom, boom echoed through my feet and provided a percussion to the beat in my head.

I paused momentarily when I caught sight of the creature in the hallway mirror. It kind of resembled me, if you looked past the matted hair, wrinkled t-shirt and the bags that could have carried the shopping I had yet to do.

“If you don’t open this door right now, I’m going to break it down!” The booming voice was followed by an irate punctuation of knuckles against wood.

Luckily, I’d reached the door so flipped the lock and yanked it open before it was pulverized by my bear of a brother and his trusty sidekick. They were like two peas in a pod, if the peas had been left in the fertiliser too long.

Both were glaring at me with identical expressions, which had its usual effect. I was torn between slamming the door and telling them to butt out and embracing the comfort they so readily offered.

Adam took the choice away when he pushed past my brother and stepped into the flat. He stopped when we were toe to toe, his big body way to deep into my personal space. “We’ve been trying to reach you for days. Would it kill you to pick up your phone?”

Stepping back, I turned to look over my shoulder and spied the debris where I’d left it on the floor. “Be my guest, but I don’t think it works anymore.”

It would take a miracle. My phone was in pieces against the skirting board. With some distance I could be impressed by my show of strength. Clearly, I’d had more energy at the time.

“Jesus Christ, Sammy, look at the mess.”

I frowned, about to tell my brother it wasn’t that bad, until I realised he was talking about the room. I’d done a number of that, too.

“Whatever. I’m alive, you have proof, now kindly leave me in peace.” I met Ky’s worried brown eyes and my irritation vanished. “I’m okay.”

“When was the last time you ate?” He shot back, ignoring me. Something he excelled at.

“I eat plenty,” I said, thinking of the empty bag of Doritos and the remnants of fiery hot flavouring which was probably staining my sheets.

“Crisps don’t count.” He shook his head and turned to head to the kitchen. “Buddy. It’s over to you.”

“Wha-?”

Adam clamped a big hand around my wrist and began to pull me in the direction of the bathroom.

“Get your hands off me, you big oaf,” I shouted, twisting to try and catch my brother’s attention. “Call off your guard dog, Ky or I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

The sound that came from Adam was somewhere between a curse and a growl. He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. I was so shocked I couldn’t speak again until he was dumping me on my feet in the bathroom and moving to turn on the shower.

“You did not just do that.” Not very original, but I still hadn’t recovered from Adam’s caveman routine.

“I did, and I’d do it again.” He slid the shower door shut and turned back to me. “You can’t spend any more time wallowing over that piece of shit, Sam. I gave you time after news of the engagement, but I’m through doing that. I’m through with a lot of things. He was never good enough.”

My mind blanked at his words. I couldn’t find my anger, couldn’t drum up any fiery indignation at being treated like a child, because it hit me just how much he’d been hiding. That and the fact he hadn’t included Ky, like it was personal.

When my brain kicked back into gear I felt my body sag and the rest of my energy wane. “It hurts,” I whispered, not even trying to stop the tears.

The next thing I knew I was pressed against Adam’s chest and one of his arms hooked me in tight. The other began to make soothing motions down my back. A dozen thoughts vied for supremacy; the fact I was in nothing more than a long shirt and my underwear, that I hadn’t bathed in days and Adam smelled so good, and that, for the first time in weeks, I felt something other than empty.

But the thoughts that won out were actually a kaleidoscope of memories from the past couple of months. The times Adam had called to ask about my day, or dropped by to check in, and each time he’d been alone. I’d gotten so used to thinking of him and my brother as a double act, I didn’t stop to consider what it meant that he was offering me a piece of himself.

“I’d take away the hurt if I could,” he whispered, bringing me back to the present.

You do. “I know.” I didn’t share that he’d been doing that all along and I was too blind to see it. Instead, I leaned back so I could look at him. “You’d better rescue Ky before he burns down my kitchen. I’ll shower and be out in a few minutes.”

He leaned in to press a kiss against my temple and then let me go. “That was a ruse to give us a moment. We both know there’s nothing in your cupboards to cook.”

I thought I’d understood what I’d missed by being foolish, but I had no idea. Since I also had no clue what to do with all that, I shut down the flurry of emotion and rolled my eyes to cover the onslaught. “Well then, you’d better let me get to it.”

He grinned and walked to the door but stopped just in the entryway to look back. “Do you understand what I meant about being through?”

Nodding, I cleared my throat. “Yes.”

“Good. Because there’s no going back. I’m not your brother’s best friend, not to you.”

Oh yes, he’d been hiding a lot. “I’m beginning to see that.”

At my words something flashed across his face, something good. “Finally.”

He left before I could respond, and it took me quite a while to remember that the shower was still running, and I had a job to do.

Fifteen minutes later when I entered the living room showered and dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, my long hair combed through and hanging free, I was greeted by a dose of all the goodness yet to come.

It wasn’t the fact that Adam and Ky had tidied up my living space and the room looked good as new. No. It was the look on Adam’s face. He was no longer holding anything back. What he felt was right there for me to see and I discovered I liked it very much.

“Now tell me how glad you are that we dragged your sorry ass out of that pity pit there’s no way I’m touching,” Ky said, and I heard the smile in his voice.

I didn’t take my attention away from Adam. “Totally worth confronting an ogre and the price of a new door.”

Adam grinned. “What does it mean that I completely understood that?”

“It means I’ve been an idiot.”

“I could have told you that!”

This time I did turn to my brother, and then, giant or not, I set about making him eat his words.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Chatterbox

Dear Dad

It’s your birthday today, so I hope you’re celebrating in style. I can imagine it so easily. You would bake your chocolate cake (even if it is your day) because, even in heaven, it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t be in high demand! You would sit back for a while and people watch, content to be part of the fun. Then, when you were tipsy enough you would maybe sing for the crowd in that deep voice of yours.

Me? I’ll just have to imagine. I’ve missed your every day this last fourteen years, but it seems particularly hard this year. We usually all get together and go to the coast so we can spend a day remembering, and celebrating your life and everything we shared. This year we couldn’t plan anything due to schedules, so I’m having a private party!

I’ve had an interesting couple of months. I even have a little romance in my life (yes the kind that’s not in my head!) I took my head out of the clouds long enough to look around and realise the girls are grown and I really should do something about my social life!

Everyone else is well. I got the chance to see Andrew recently. As we’re both night owls, like you, we stayed up after everyone had gone to bed for some brother and sister time. We were also watching movies like you used to do, you know…flicking through the channels and watching old classics even if they were halfway through. Andrew is so much like you! He has your voice. Sometimes when I hear him on the phone it makes my heart ache and at those times I close my eyes and somehow feel closer to you. You’d be so proud of your boy.

You’d be proud of all of us, grandkids included. Lissy has a good job and Grace did really well in her exams. She also went to a festival and nearly gave me heart failure! You think I’m being dramatic but they had a huge drugs bust this year! Josh, Keira and Zack are all good, too. I’m sure you know this as you watch over us.

Anyway, I should probably leave it there because you know I can chat for hours. Do you remember when you used to say I could chat the hind legs off a donkey? Of course you do! I’m still that little girl who you took fishing and then sent home for being a chatterbox and scaring the fish!

So many memories and I’m going to share them with the girls and celebrate in my own way.

I try not to be sad, but I miss you so much.

Until next time.

Love you

Liss

Thanks for indulging me this post. I’m really feeling the loss this year and a letter felt like the right thing to do.

Mel

Raising the Stakes – A short story

As I perused the fresh meat section of my local supermarket, my phone trilled in my pocket, dragging my attention from an excellent cut of ribeye beef. Instead of building an entire meal around the tasty morsel in my head, I tore my eyes away to check the message.

Jon-boy: Hey Kaz. Don’t forget I’m out tonight, so won’t be home for dinner. Don’t wait up! Xx

I rolled my eyes at the message. My son lived to get on my nerves. I was rarely mom any more. At the moment I was Karen, or Kaz, which would have been mildly acceptable had that been my name, but no, I had been christened Kaz because of the designer name on my glasses. I would never understand my kid’s humour (or I pretended not to, he was actually kind of funny).

Tapping out a reply, I grinned at my phone.

Jonathan David Henderson you are pushing your luck, mister. I want proof of life photos before midnight. Stay safe. Love Kaz xxx

Okay, so I went there. What can I say, I love my boy, even if he is seventeen and makes a sport out of pushing me past the point of sanity.

I was just putting the phone away when it chirped in my hand. Glancing at the screen, I saw the notification from my daughter.

Jen: Just letting you know I’m staying at Stu’s again tonight. I’ll be back tomorrow because I’m running out of clean clothes!! Love ya x

This message shouldn’t have surprised me. My eldest was rarely home anymore. Both my babies had all but flown the nest, and I was trying to ignore the emptiness left behind. It wasn’t their fault I put my personal life on hold. Truth be told I barely survived losing their father, and for years all my focus had been on raising the two of them (as well as my other babies, those being my first-year students). I ignored the loneliness because the part of me that craved intimacy had been dormant for so long I wasn’t sure she would ever thaw out.

You know, there is this amazing invention called a washing machine. You open a door, throw your clothes in and they come out clean on the other side. Magic! We’ll take the adventure together. See you tomorrow. Love, the cleaning lady xxx

Yes, my son wasn’t the only snarky member of the household. His father, god rest his soul, had given him his exotic looks. I’d given him the gift of sarcasm.

My eyes returned to the steak, my mind already pairing it with a superior glass of wine. It appeared that I would be again cooking for one, so I should at least indulge a little.

I could practically hear the sizzle of meaty goodness as I reached for it, which was of course when my damn phone interrupted again, this time with a call.

Since the tune was blaring out ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ I didn’t have to guess at the caller. It was my best friend’s anthem.

“You certainly pick your times, I have my eye on a delicious hunk of meat.” Yes, that was how I answered.

The snort down the phone line was so Andrea I grinned. “If it was anyone but you, I’d cringe at that derogatory comment. But alas, I suspect your libido has not decided to join the land of the living, so what we’re really talking about is your version of a happy meal.”

“You’re no fun anymore.”

“Hey, stop stealing my lines!” Andrea’s musical laughter warmed me, which, considering where I was standing, between a cold barricade of fridges, this was no easy task. “Now, step away from the prime beef and get your butt over to my place. We’re going out tonight.”

“I told you. No can do. I have to prepare for the end of term musical, so I’ll have to take a rain check.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. I did have costumes to sew. But the main reason I used my work as a shield was the prospect of squashing my behind into an overpacked club and feeling like a frumpy old housewife trying to recapture her youth.

“Come on Dee. You need to dust the cobwebs from your-”

“Don’t even finish that sentence, Miss Halliday. We’ve been over this. Save your lecture for girl’s night tomorrow.”

Andrea sighed. “Fine, I give up. And, just saying, I might as well get started on securing your cat collection so expect a furry gift.”

“Hilarious. Stop annoying me and give me a break. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hung up, mainly to get one over on her. It was my fifth call from her today, and each had ended with a dead tone.

Shaking my head, I again zoned in on my prize and made a grab for it. Unfortunately, instead of wrapping my fingers around packaging, they settled on someone’s wrist.

Dragging my hand back, albeit reluctantly, I mumbled a ‘Sorry,’ and glanced at the meagre offerings left on the shelf.

“Not a problem.”

The voice was a deep rumble, and momentarily distracted me from my disappointment.

“It’s a novel experience to fight for my dinner.”

That was kind of funny, so I looked up and to the side, my curiosity getting the better of me.

My gaze was snagged by a deep, intense blue, and I swallowed against a sudden dry throat. “It’s a piece worth fighting for.”

His sudden burst of laughter had me stepping back so I could enjoy the show. Of course, the moment I took in the beauty of twinkling eyes and even white teeth, it hit me how attractive he was, and my rational brain shut down.

I’d been painting with my students earlier, so my hair was a nest around my face and I hadn’t looked, but I probably had rainbow splotches that were not a fashion statement, but a testament to the fun I’d had.

My clothes were wrinkled, and all I could hear was my grandmother’s voice in my head. She had lectured me many times about not leaving the house without looking my best. I’d always joked about the chances of bumping into royalty, but not once did I consider looking like a scarecrow in front of an attractive stranger. At this rate I would get hit by a car on my way home so the paramedics would discover I was wearing my ugliest underwear. Why did I never listen to my grandmother?

“It’s Mrs Henderson, right?”

I blinked, then scanned his face more closely. A second later recognition hit. “Mr Carter?” He was a much older version of one of my favourite students.

“Michael.”

I smiled, forgetting my earlier discomfort. Right then I was remembering how the entire staff team had been in a flap about Daniel’s uncle and his generosity during the school fete. I’d missed the event, but the kids hadn’t stopped talking about the animals Michael had brought from his vet’s practice. Maybe it was worth getting a cat after all.

“You were the talk of the school last month.”

He dipped his head to the side. “I was hoping to see you there.” When I said nothing, because what could I say to that? He continued. “And I have a confession to make.”

“Oh?”

“I didn’t really need the beef.” His grin was slightly crooked, just like his nephew’s. “I just used the opportunity to strike up a conversation.”

“Does that mean I get the ribeye?”

He laughed again, and god but it was a beautiful sight. Then his face softened, and he gave me a look I didn’t understand before reaching over to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “I tell you what. I’ve been waiting so long for you to notice me, I’m prepared to buy the steak and cook it for you.”

Dear god. What did I say to that? What did it even mean?

“Or you could take it home while you think about throwing me a bone.” His grin came again. “And accept an invitation to dinner.”

A thousand excuses flitted through my mind as I stood frozen in his intense stare. But not one of them came out of my mouth. No, apparently, I’d taken leave of my senses because what I said was, “I’m free tomorrow night.” I mean, screw girl’s night, right? Andrea would probably be over the moon.

The next thing I knew, Michael was thrusting the tray into my hand and I no longer cared about steak or wine or the empty house I was trying to avoid. Suddenly I wanted to do more to earn one of his crooked smiles, and find out if my libido really had left the building.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel