He imagined her naked. He’d imagined it dozens of times but today was different, special. She’d chosen today, a brilliant summer’s day, to wear a near-see-through dress. David suspected she hadn’t realised the sheerness of it but when it caught the light he could see the pattern of her underwear; tiny flowers.
His mind drifted to an imaginary field, to poppies, puppies and Ella. He didn’t know her name but she looked like an Ella. Italian. She had to be with that long black hair.
She turned to the tumble dryer and started reading the instructions. David had seen her use it every time the two of them had been there together but she looked at it like a stranger. Like him.
He knew which machines she preferred but kept his distance. “One day,” he told himself but so far, that day hadn’t come.
David’s washing was nearly finished and he knew he’d then have no excuse to be there, to watch her, to imagine the two of them together, lying in the field of poppies, dogs by their feet as he fed her grapes like a modern-day Cleopatra. He was her Anthony and he’d do anything for her.
He was still staring at her when she turned and walked towards him.
As she closed in, his mouth went dry. He wanted to run, to hide, climb in one of the washing machines if he could but he sat, motionless, on the old padded seating.
“Hello,” she said in a soft European accent. “Can you help me please.”
David nodded but said nothing.
“I understand most but not all. There is one word I do not understand. It is c-y… c-l-e. Like bicycle, no?’
“Sort of. It just means it goes round and round.” David made a circular motion with his right index finger. “Like a bicycle wheel.”
“Ah, I see… You come here often.”
“I sorry. I make joke?”
“No. I’m sorry. Hi. I’m David,” he said, stretching out his right hand.
“Bella,” she said, shaking his hand and smiling. “It means…”
“Beautiful. Yes,” he said and looked down at his knees as a flush of red overtook his face.
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As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do, and a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me posting it online in my new Red Pen Critique Sunday night posts, then do email me. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.
Once the love’s gone
“You really should go to the dentist,” she said for the umpteenth time but had known the answer before she’d spoken the words; “It’ll come out of it’s own accord.”
She’d given up saying that it didn’t need to, that technology had moved on and the sooner… that’s as far as she’d got, his pain outweighing her concern.
So she’d sit at the kitchen table reading her book, a half-hour respite until the oven timer would set her back into action. She’d read about the exotic lives of the film stars she’d only ever see on the television, watched when he was down the pub, too drunk, too busy to take her to the cinema in town. April had had an exotic life once, before she’d met him, a handsome young farmer at the local dance. She’d spent the summers picking vines in France, liaisons in the Louvre, backpacking around Europe until her money had run out, then home to reality, her parents, college, a real job in an office before the farm became her life.
As she read her book she heard him shouting at the TV, answers to quiz shows or an early football match. He’d slap his hand down on the chair’s arm, hitting wood through the worn-away foam. It reminded her of when he’d slap her backside, gently in a playful rather than sexual manner, although she’d give anything for either right now. She wondered whose backside he was slapping these days. Cindy and Emily down The Old Bull would tolerate it, knowing it came with the territory. Barbara at The Haven actively encouraging, knowing it usually led to higher tips. This had been one of the nails in the Milton marital coffin – the affection and the money divided elsewhere, like an affair without the adultery, April sure of his fidelity despite appearances, his battle with cancer becoming a battle with her – a silent one – the throat cancer that hadn’t robbed him of his voice, just his passion. She knew it was an act with the other women, but it hurt all the same.
“What’s for dinner?” he grumbled, shuffling through to get a beer from the fridge.
“Steak and ale pie.” April waited for a reaction but none was forthcoming. She’d chosen his favourite as the alcohol in it, she’d added extra to be sure, would assure her of a quiet evening, quiet other than his snoring while slumped in his armchair if he didn’t make it to the pub.
April thought back to the day they’d bought the chair, an odd addition to their old two-piece suite.
“But I like it,” he’d groaned when she’d suggested something more neutral, the pattern of the suite long discontinued. She’d thought the armchair hideous but over the years it had hidden the stains of the beer and meals he’d taken through then rushed to eat, eager to meet ‘the lads’ down the pub, the lads being Ernie and Bert who’d still be eating their dinners, while chatting with their wives, long after he’d arrived so he’d spend his time letching at the bimbos, his loose tooth wobbling in its socket, not bothering anyone but April. She wondered if that meant she still cared but if she now enjoyed seeing him in pain… was it enjoyment or pity? She couldn’t put her finger on it but one thing she knew was that it was no longer concern, no longer love and once the love’s gone, there are decisions to be made, actions to be taken and she knew she had to be the one to make them.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.