Anna sat down to write on the multi coloured Christmas card she had spent over an hour selecting in the David Jones Xmas section. Baby animals jumping around the well known portly man in his red suit filled the front of the card. Anna was sure her new grandson would love it. Her first grandchild.
‘Dear Jacob’, Anna started, imagining her daughter reading out the words to the young baby who’s age was still being counted in weeks and days.
Anna wanted the card to be special. It was going to be Jacob’s first Christmas. She would much prefer to be there, to hold him tight and whisper ‘Merry Christmas my little one’ into his ear, but it was not to be this time.
She stared at the blank inside of the card. The words did not flow. Instead, wet giant silent tears formed and trickled down her cheek. Images of Jacob from the many photos and videos her daughter Lilly had sent rolled in front of her eyes. This tiny human that she had yet to meet in person had already taken up a massive chunk of her heart. He was not her own baby, but the feelings she felt for him seemed as strong as her feelings were for Lilly. It had taken Anna by surprise, and memories of holding her own babies had come flooding back. She longed to hold this baby, but it was too dangerous to travel just yet with the pandemic still raging.
She wiped her cheek and pushed the chair back, making it almost fall over. The heat in her chest spread like wildfire across her body, causing knots in her throat and redness in her cheeks.
Damn flushes. Not now!!
Anna couldn’t control the tears or the hot flush, and raced to the bathroom, stripped down naked into the shower of welcoming cool water. While the tears flowed down her cheeks the tightness in her chest and throat eased. The roughness of the towel drying her body felt comforting.
She walked back into the kitchen and made herself a cool drink from the fresh mint leaves and soda, then pulled out the old family photo album.
Pictures of happy faces over the years, sleeping babies, birthday parties and picnics. And many Christmas’s; silver and gold adorned trees, tables laded with turkey and glazed ham, steaming pudding full of rich marinated fruit and warm creamy custard.
Christmas in so many locations, most years in their old red brick home. But also the occasional Christmas spent abroad in the cold northern winter with snow and darkness outside, and smells of vanilla cookies, roast pork and pine needles inside. Other times with friends up north in the blistering heat, everyone in swimmers in the backyard under the tarp thrown over the Hills-hoist, and the kids playing with their water guns soaking wet and laughing.
So many memories in the photo album, but also in Anna’s heart and she knew in her children’s heart. No Christmas had ever been a sad event for the little ones, even if the adults had had their own problems to deal with. For the kids, every Christmas had always meant good times and lots of presents.
Jacob would have many more Christmas days, and Anna knew she would celebrate with him one day. His parents would be with him this year. It would be their new little family Christmas. Their time to start their very own mesh of old and new family traditions filling albums of happy memories.
Anna sat down to write.
You don’t know me yet, but you will soon. I am your Grandma from Sydney, where our Christmas is in summer, and the sun shines almost every day. We will meet one day, and I will read Australian books to you, and show you pictures from your mum’s homeland. Maybe one day you can visit me, and I can take you to places I am sure you will love; giant beaches and bays, shady bush lands with enormous trees reaching right up to the clouds, and so many wonderful animals that will make you squeal with delight.
Till we meet my love, I welcome you to life, and hope you have a wonderful blessed Christmas with your very own mum and dad.
“King of the forest, old Silverback, fell down with a thump on the soft mulch-littered ground, and the whole forest held their breath. They realised something was wrong.”
A teaser for my children’s short story which I am SUPER excited to announce is now finally available in print as part of the Sutherland FAW anthology Webs of Life; a collection of short stories written by the many talented writers in the group.
It has taken several months of planning and organizing, and we can’t wait to officially launch the book at our Writers Unleashed festival on Saturday 17th August at Gymea Tradies in Sydney.
Also had my first taste of a writer’s reading yesterday. My workplace organised a BBQ and had me read the story. Was nerve racking and exciting at the same time. Happy to say the story was well received with lots of laughter and congratulations from everyone.
Enjoyed sharing that part of my life with my colleagues. To work at a place that encourages and supports employees in a life outside of work is heart-warming.
I’m feeling a bit more like a real writer today and it feels damn good.
If you would like a copy please DM me. Pre-orders before the festival at a discounted rate of $12 plus postage.
The pavement rushed towards Angie’s face like an overnight intercity train. Last sound she heard was when her skull cracked; last thing she remembered was seeing three colours, red, blue and green. It was also what her facial bruising looked like over the next couple of weeks. First blood red, then the bluish tint and finally greenish. Not at all flattering.
Angie could live with the unflattering look, but hated her lost hour before stacking it and waking up in the hospital bed, dressed in white cotton; a stark contrast to her blood-stained face.
‘Good to see you are back with us, Angie’ the nurse approached her, exhausted eyes belying a face showing teeth from ear to ear.
‘Where am I?’ Angie whispered, her throat full of sandpaper.
‘You are in Merryvale Hospital. You fell and hit your head on the pavement. I believe a waiter from the Windsor cafe tended to you and organised the ambulance,’
‘I remember nothing,’ voice cracking with panic. What had she been doing in Windsor? Knew no one there other than an ex boyfriend; a real pain in the arse, in fact borderline stalker material.
‘It’s normal Angie. Your memory will come back in time. Relax and rest up now,’ the nurse assured her.
Her head spun sending nauseous waves up her whole body. The nurse passed a bowl just seconds before Angie’s stomach broke. It was lighter after. The bowl was not.
After a few days of bland hospital food and noisy cleaning machines waking everyone up at 5am, she eagerly returned home. Non the wiser as to her lost hour, she rummaged her handbag for clues. Receipts, train tickets. All pointed to her trip to Windsor. But why? She emptied her bag, but it still felt heavy. Something in the inside zippered pocket. ‘WTF!’ Angie slumped on the bed staring at the small black gun in her hand.
Angie’s memory never returned. Neither did her ex boyfriend.
Their gaze met across the busy pub. He was dressed in blue jeans, t-shirt and a trendy jacket. He had a broody air about him, but it was his intense dark amber eyes that got her attention.
Janice was ready to flirt with a man again for the first time since the incident. With a new sense of braveness she lifted her wineglass with a smile waiting for his response. It was slow at first, just the corners of his lips moving up ever so slowly. He brought up his glass in return and nodded his head.
Janice returned her attention to her girlfriends, but couldn’t stop thinking about the stranger across the room. She deliberately didn’t turn her face, but his stare burnt into her back.
‘Where are you Janice?’ her friend Sue asked.
“Oh, I was just daydreaming” Janice tried to deflect.
“No you’re not. You have that air about you. Good to see you showing an interest again. So who is he?” Sue kept pressing her eyes full of mischief and too much wine.
“You are such a stickybeak Sue. But ok, tell me if the guy in the opposite corner, blue jeans white t-shirt, is looking in my direction?” Janice asked her group of friends.
The whole group of girls turned to gawk at the same time much to Janice’s embarrassment. She laughed nervously.
“You are so obvious. You might as well just go and ask him’
“He is definitely looking your way Janice.” Sue exclaimed and with her usual determination and spontaneity got up and walked to the man’s table, returning a minute later with the guy in tow.
“This is Dan. He is by himself, so I invited him across to join us,” Sue said giving Janice a cheeky smile.
Sue did the introductions leaving Janice to last and motioned Dan to sit next to her.
Janice wondered if they had met before, but couldn’t pin point where. His eyes drew her in and made her anxious at the same time. But Janice enjoyed the sense of being alive again, ignored the warning signs and decided tonight she would take the next step.
When the pub closed up Janice accepted to head back to Dan’s place only a few blocks away. The rest of the girls said their goodbyes with lots of winks and smiles.
Dan’s apartment was roomy and neat. It felt familiar. Her heart started pounding as she watched Dan come across the room with a glass of wine. His eyes looked intense. Like burning amber. He brought his arms around her. She was pinned by his embrace. It was forceful and hard. In that moment Janice remembered. The attacker, the body against her, the pain. The same intense fire in Dan’s eyes. Just like the night 2 years ago.
Janice panicked and ran through the apartment to escape. The door was locked.
Short story written for competition. Only prompt was this picture had to be the opening scene. Didn’t win , but I loved writing the story
‘Is that a chip?’ Moira thinks out loud leaning across to pick up the sparkling wine glass. The table is set with luxurious silver ware, sparkling glasses and perfume rich flowers from the garden. Ready for her distinguished guests.
‘Oh damn, I am down to the last of my mother’s best set. Must be more careful when I clean them. I cannot replace them,’ Moira thinks to herself.
Dinner is ready and the smell of roast turkey with all the trimmings is wafting from the kitchen.
‘Hope there is enough this year for all of us. They come hungry and dig in like it’s their last meal. For some it may be,’ Moira fights back a lonely tear making its way down her cheek.
‘Must be happy and grateful tonight. It is Thanksgiving Day’ She reminds herself and puts on some cheery music, trying to fight back the memory of 3 years back.
The doorbell rings twice and Moira opens to greet all her guests. They come together all dressed in their best Sunday suits and dresses.
‘Thank you for inviting us again Moira. How have you been?’ Frank asks as he leads the group into Moira’s dining room. His face weather-beaten and red from too much alcohol over the years and his suit worn and frayed at the ends.
Moira smiles without answering. They all know.
‘So good to see you all’ Moira announces noticing Lily admiring the silverware running her finger across the smooth lines. Lily is wearing a long 70s dress in silver herself. Her unwashed hair has been brushed. She looks almost attractive if not for the dark sunken eyes and bruises on her arms.
‘What’s for dinner Moira?’ Tom asks as he sits himself next to Moira. The hungry one, Tom is. Also the youngest at barely 24. He joined in the annual dinner last year invited by Tammy after Dave left the city.
‘Just vanished one day,’ Tammy told them all ‘no farewell, just took his few belongings and left,’
‘We are going to have Roast Turkey Tom, hope you all like it. I have tried a new stuffing this year,’ Moira tells them all.
‘I liked the old stuffing’ Gary quips up looking frightened. He doesn’t like change. Has never moved from his tiny place in the city.
‘You will love this one too Gary’ Moira reassures him patting his shoulder as she gets up.
‘Tammy and Tom, please help me,’
The young couple jump up eager to help, hoping to grab a morsel before the others.
Trays of food is brought in and placed on the table to the hum of appreciative noises. Moira looks at her guests; their eyes shining and their mouths eagerly smiling in anticipation.
Her rich and colourful family from the city streets gracing her home once again. They are her family now, her only family. They all help each other on this often lonely Thanksgiving evening.
‘Thank you all for joining me; enjoy your dinner,’
This short story was written and submitted for a competition last month.I didn’t win but I think it was good for me to write. Guide lines were: The story had to begin with the words “A long time ago” The story had to include the words “star”, “war” and “force” (or a plural of those words). The story had to feature something that flies.
A long time ago when I was only 23 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. She had treatments and after 5 years we all thought she would recover. But it returned and this time in her lung lining.
Mum lost her war against this dreaded disease and died in 1987. That is over 30 years ago. But her spirit often surrounds me and pops into my mind. Sometimes so vividly I can see her clearly; other times it gets harder to remember. But I know she is with me. Such is the force of parental love. It is too strong to ever totally leave.
Tonight my mum’s spirit again popped into my life. I was attending the annual Relay For Life; a charity event held at Cronulla along the sand dunes and the azure blue ocean. A perfect backdrop for the huge crowd of people in their purple and yellow T-shirts doing their 24 hour walk raising money for Cancer Council. A day where both young and old, families and friends gather to support each other and enjoy some fun entertainment and great musical talents, both local and interstate stars. It’s an enjoyable social event with a serious undertone. You see it in the frightened eyes of the sick and in the grateful faces of the recovered. An event of both celebration, positivity, empathy, grief and support.
Each year people organise the candle bags in memory of people who have passed, and just after sunset everyone quietly join the lone bagpipe player who leads the walk along the track flanked by the candle bags lighting the edge. It is a sombre quiet walk where emotions are raw and tears flow easily. Many walk holding hands or in a supportive embrace. It’s a heartwarming experience where the human spirit is truly witnessed by all.
I was walking along quietly with friends on the track tonight nearing Hope hill; where the only light comes from the huge lit up word HOPE. That’s when I sensed mum’s presence. Her spirit soared alongside us like a beautiful bird; her love warming my heart and filling me with contentment, love and gratitude.
I am by no means a child any longer; my emerging wrinkles and grey hair proves that, but deep down there is still a young girl that takes comfort in knowing that her mum’s love is ever lasting inside her.
He was not my first love. But he ended up my biggest and my last love.
It was a short love affair, but the fall was intense. We both knew it would not be an easy road yet it was a road we both desired and had to travel. Almost like there was no other option.
I saw it in his eyes across the breakfast table in the hotel cafe busy with people enjoying a last weekend away before fall. We seemed to be the only people by ourselves. I was wondering if he had a partner. But he remained on his own. Our eyes locked and we both smiled. I think that was the moment I fell. Something in his face, the way his smile seemed to not only make his lips move. His whole face and body smiled. I felt instantly warm, secure and immensely content. My whole body felt alive. Longing raised to the surface so overpowering I could only go with what my soul urged me to do. Both feeling the pressure of time and a need to let go once more and just dive in for the fall. Dive into falling in love.
We had both given up on finding love again. Settled for life as it was. Content with friendships and family catch-ups. Life was good. But the longing was always there. The longing to connect and to love again. The longing to have another human being to share life’s little moments with. To rid you of the loneliness that would creep in at night like a silent thief robbing you of your contentment and leaving you with sadness wondering if that was all there was left. But you kept going each day suppressing the loneliness and focussing on all the positives in your life.
We were both at that point in our lives. I saw the reflection of my life in his eyes when we smiled across the tables. The instant attraction was deep. I normally would never do what I did next, but it felt so natural. I got up and walked over to his table.
“Can I join you?” I uttered cheerfully. His grin said more than yes. That was the start and the end for both of us. No return.
We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the sights together. We laughed and smiled a lot. And we talked. We talked for hours. It was like we both knew we had limited time together. We wanted every minute to count and to be the best we could.
We spoke about our lives and realised how close we had been to crossing paths on a number of occasions. Our travels throughout Vietnam in our twenties, staying at the same hostels only days apart. Our children attending the same universities and graduating the same year. We would have been in the crowds cheering for them. Both with partners then. Both unhappy staying in miserable marriages for the sake of our children. Both finally divorcing and starting our new lives in our late 50’s. Settling into single life only a few suburbs apart. Eventually, both settling for life as it was. Single and content, but always longing.
The weekend ended too soon, but we exchanged numbers. His hug enveloped my whole body and reached beneath my core into my soul. It penetrated the loneliness and brought feelings to the surface that overwhelmed and surprised me. I felt like crying. A need to shed the loneliness I had suppressed for an eternity. Even with partners, I had always felt lonely. With him, I felt complete. I felt joyful. I felt love.
“Let’s catch up again soon” he whispered in my ear. I nodded and saw my own reflection in his moist eyes when we said our goodbyes.
We spoke every day after that and started our love affair. We kept it a secret to avoid trouble and the inevitable backlash. Our families would not approve easily, but we were committed to making this work and would tackle any issues together.
Our time was filled with romantic dinners, drives to new places and movies. Always talking, always laughing, always exploring new activities together. We loved with such intensity it sometimes didn’t seem real. Like being the main characters in a romance novel. Yet it was extremely real. Our feelings raw and real. Intense and beautiful.
We loved with no limitations, we read each other like open books. We didn’t always agree, but we never quarreled. We accepted each other with no questions as to who was right or wrong. Our families and friends eventually accepted us being together. Except for my daughter. “It’s just wrong” she yelled and slammed the phone down when we last spoke. “She will come around in her own time” he reassured me in his kind loving way.
We had six months of pure bliss. Pure unadulterated bliss feeling like nothing could stop this love or change our lives. But something did.
I saw it in his eyes as soon as he walked in the door. I had prepared an easy meal for a movie night at my place. Outside was windy and rain had started to set in. A perfect night for snuggling on the couch. We hugged, but I felt his tenseness. Then his body shook. He held me tight, his tears quietly rolling down my neck. His body told me he was holding back the sobs. I held him till he relaxed. Then he looked into my eyes. I saw the reflection of the end, I felt his intense pain. I took his hand and led him to my bed and we just laid there in each other’s arms. I knew he would tell me when he was ready.
I could feel he was relaxing as I caressed his face. I looked at him, my eyes full of questions, my heart full of fear, but I was ready to hear what he had to say. I needed to hear it. His voice was filled with sorrow and despair when he uttered the six words that changed everything “I have cancer. I am dying”
My world stopped then. I struggled to take in the words at first. I don’t think I wanted to take them in. I cried. Then I kissed him intensely. We tried to make love, but we both just cried. We gave up and just hugged. Dinner stayed in the oven and burned to a crisp. We stayed in bed all night, just hugging, kissing and talking.
A routine checkup had revealed the headaches were not mere headaches. A large brain tumour had been growing inside his skull while we had enjoyed our love affair. Silently sneaking into our lives with malicious intent to rob us of our last chance of happiness and love. At our age, the fall season of life, it does not come easily or often.
The days following was a rollercoaster. He pushed me away at first saying he didn’t want me on this journey. He wanted to spare me the sadness, he wanted me to leave and find a new love. I shouted at him for the first time in our time together. I screamed and used words I didn’t know I knew. The result of my sickening fear, sadness, and despair came out in my yelling. Through it all, we both ended up accepting our needs to be with each other no matter what. Till the end. I could see that he wanted me there deep down. My eyes and emotions showed him I wanted to be there too.
We accepted our limited time. Our lovemaking returned. It was as deep as before but tinged with a sadness that we couldn’t escape. As the visits to the hospital increased and he grew weaker we mostly just held each other quietly throughout the long nights. Or we cried till we both slept. In each other’s arms, savoring every moment we had left. I would wake often. More than him. I would watch his face and listen to his breathing. Capturing the image for my memory bank to keep forever.
I laid in his arms, in the hospital bed, on his last night. Just listening to his breathing and taking in his beautiful face. His family had left for the night, vowing to return in the morning. I wished my daughter would accept us like his family had.
He woke up briefly at 4 am. His eyes were clear and looked deeply into mine when he whispered “I love you, Sam. Thank you for loving me”
He never woke again. He took his last breath shortly after in my arms. I stayed in his arms for a while longer then I called my daughter. Still with my head on his chest, I looked up as she walked in. She came over, hugged me and whispered. “Dad, I am so so sorry”
My first short story published on Short Friction Break in 2017
I stopped dead in my tracks not believing what I just saw. Standing in the front carriage cabin on a busy commuter train packed with people silent and half asleep on their way to work I saw the figure. It seemed like just another commuter, but dress style very reminiscent of another era. The baggy striped pants, fitted vest with watch chain and long coat jacket was like out of an old photo reminding me of my grandfather.
The figure entered our cabin and moved with grace, almost like it was floating. Nothing really unusual until I saw it move through to the next cabin without the doors opening. Straight through the glass. I looked at the woman next to me to see if she had seen it too,but she showed no reaction.
“Did you see that person walk straight through the doors?” I asked her. She gave me a funny look and shook her head, obviously thinking I was just another nutcase on the train. I decided to stay quiet and told myself maybe I had imagined it.
Was relaxing and almost forgetting the whole episode when I looked up and saw the figure standing right next to me. I jumped in fright knocking over a guy’s coffee cup in his hand. He swore from the pain of the hot drink all over his hand and glared at me.
“What is your problem lady? “
“Sorry I got spooked by the person next to me”
“There is no-one next to you. Are you crazy lady or just an idiot”
How rude! I instantly disliked this man and wished his hot coffee had hurt more than just his hand. I could clearly see the figure right next to me, the piercing steely blue eyes looking right at the man with the coffee cup. Then I saw the knife. Just inside the left side of the old jacket. The figure was reaching for the knife and getting ready to strike the guy with the coffee. He had no idea what was about to happen to him.
The figure stopped and looked at me with questioning eyes. I had spoken to the figure without using my voice. We communicated without words, connected via our minds.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am your assistance and your deepest subconscious wish maker. I am here to help you take control of your life and live with no boundaries or restrictions”
“What? Are you saying you are my genie? I asked again.
“Yes, you could call me that if you like. Your wish is totally my command. I have no conscience and act out any wish with no feelings or empathy”
I smiled to myself. This was my day. A genie all to myself. I felt like I had won the lottery. I could ask for anything my heart desired. Where to start?
Make the rude guy trip when he leaves the train.
I had to contain my laughter when the guy left the train tripping on his way out spilling the rest of his coffee all over his white shirt. I looked at the genie and noticed his eyes were smiling. I smiled back. Karma is indeed a bitch.
I wish I was slimmer and super sexy looking wearing a top class suit ready for a day at the office.
O.M.G. I saw my reflection in the train window and I looked amazing. Still me, just really toned and beautifully dressed. So classy.
I walked off the train with my genie figure following me. This was going to be a great day.
Except it was raining and as usual I had left my umbrella behind.
I wish I had a beautiful umbrella.
Right away my hands were clutching the most beautiful and stylish umbrella I had ever owned. Perfect. I motioned to the genie to join me under the umbrella, but he declined. Thats when I noticed he was totally dry walking in the rain. Must be so cool to be a genie.
I wish my bank balance was a lot healthier.
I checked my mobile bank account in the lift up to the office. WOW! Do I really have to work with that much money? I love you genie. Again the smily eyes.
I wish for a day full of laughter in the office.
Mondays were always a drag, but with my genie by my side, I was looking forward to my working day. I was still thinking about all the wishes I could ask for when I walked into the office. Too excited to notice everyone laughing and huddling around Peter’s desk. Peter had only recently started in the office and was the hottest guy I had ever laid my eyes on. Making my way through the crowd I noticed they all turned to look at me and laughed even harder.
That’s when I noticed the email up on his screen. The email I had sent him asking him out for drinks. I knew it had been a mistake sending the email late last night after a few drinks, but I had felt game and had celebrated a salary increase with a couple of drinks with dinner. This morning, after sleeping on it, I had had second thoughts, but I still hoped Peter at least would just take it as a compliment. Instead, he had decided to show it to everyone. My photo was staring at me from his screen and all eyes were looking at me waiting for some explanation. All I could think about was how I wanted to just curl up and die right there.