A short story collection

The Winner takes it all by Elle May ©

The April rain was beating down heavily onto the windowpane and Sadie stared out of the window, her eyes glazed over.  She couldn’t believe the way things had turned out.  She watched the cat in the garden for ages, slowly steadying her shoulders and preparing to pounce on the unsuspecting bird gaily nibbling away at the soggy bread.  How that cat reminded her of Tamzin.  That must be why they call nasty women ‘cats’ and bitchy  women ‘catty’ she thought, although its seems unfair on our feline friends.  She thought that they were the best of friends, they did everything together.  They went shopping, clubbing and on holidays together.  They saw each other every day and shared all their most innermost secrets and dreams.  Now Tamzin had snatched it all away from her, she couldn’t believe it.  Sadie’s stomach was turning over, her heart racing, legs shaking, still not believing the news she had heard.  Why did she do it?  She thought to herself.  She knew that Tamzin really must have hated her to do something like this, why else would she do it?  Not only had she got the job that Sadie so dearly wanted, but it meant she was closer to him, the man of her dreams.

Sadie was jolted back into reality with the telephone ringing.  Let it ring, she thought.  She didn’t care who it was; there was nothing that anybody could say that would make her feel better.  Besides she didn’t want to speak to anyone.  She couldn’t face them.  She carried on watching the cat preparing to pounce on to the bird.  That poor bird, Sadie thought, why don’t you fly off and bring back an army of crows to scare the cat away?  It was just then that it dawned on her; she knew she identified with the bird as a victim, but she would prefer to identify with being successful.  She thought about her life a great deal and knew that for far too long she had played the doormat to others, she felt she was a ‘joke’ amongst all their friends; the unsuspecting bird to preying cats, well not for any longer she thought,  this bird had turned.  She got out her notebook, and started to write, I’m not going to get mad, just even Tamzin Black, she thought and she started to plot.

The hot July sun seared through the window and gave Tamzin an intense warm glow.  The sun didn’t shine much that year and it reflected the way she was feeling about life in general.  This bitter feud with Sadie seemed to have been going on forever.  It started out over something very trivial, it must have been when Tamzin forgot an arrangement they had made and Sadie got the wrong end of the stick, she had got the idea that Tamzin was out with James; as if! Thought Tamzin.  The irony of all this was that she was trying to arrange a blind date between Sadie and James, how was she to know that on that particular night Sadie had arranged a surprise party for her, to celebrate her birthday.  Tamzin knew that over the last few months’ things hadn’t got any better between them and it could only get worse.  Sadie was now driving around in the car that Tamzin had always wanted; she had been saving hard for the rare classic car, the only one being sold in the area, which now thanks to Sadie she can never have.  Tamzin winced as she thought about prize Sadie had won in her art class, the dream that both of them had shared for years.  Tamzin had helped and supported Sadie in her quest, even though it was Tamzin who was the one always set for reaching that particular goal.  Through their friendship, Tamzin had put aside her talent for art to support Sadie.  Everyone knew that Tamzin was naturally gifted and it was only a matter of time before she would scoop all the awards.  Despite this she willingly spent even more time helping Sadie and look how she had repaid her.  Tamzin was seething inside.  She felt so angry.  Sadie had joined another Art class and managed to excel.  Rumour had gone round about Sadie and the Art Teacher; Tamzin remembered her boast about her prowess and success with men.  Good luck to them she thought. Perhaps that’s why James had asked her out instead.

Tamzin decided not to dwell on this anymore, the score was two all, so she thought it was time to win the return match.  She thought about her brilliant job in the art gallery, which she wanted long before Sadie did, it was just that Sadie had verbalised her dream to everyone whilst Tamzin kept her childhood ambitions to herself.  Sadie managed to split the group of friends they had shared, some backed Sadie, others sat on the fence and the rest were just plain two-faced using every opportunity to stir up trouble.  Tamzin wasn’t going to admit defeat, she wasn’t the one in the wrong, no, she thought I shall now step up my campaign, after all she more than anyone knew all of Sadie’s dreams and of course her secrets.

Sadie stared disbelievingly at the letter; the glow on her face matched the autumn leaves.  This is so embarrassing she thought, how could they do this to me?  She thought about all of her friends, or ex ones now and how cruel the all were.  Fancy writing her a letter to disown her – the sheer audacity of it, anyway they’re nothing special she thought indignantly.  How could they have known what she did?  It must have been Tamzin that told them.  Sadie was a bit confused she truly believed that none of their friends ever had much to do with Tamzin; they were all Sadie’s friends to begin with.  The two-faced cats Sadie thought and the only glow of satisfaction was that her new friends were from the next Town and never met the old ones.  Wow I must have really got to Tamzin for her to do this she thought smugly.  Sadie liked men, she couldn’t help herself and Tamzin was the only one to know that she had slept with some of her friend’s boyfriends, so what she thought was only a bit of fun actually turned into people being hurt by Tamzin.  Sadie smiled at her new collection of art awards, they were beautiful and meant more than her old boring friendships.  So the score was now three points to two in Tamzin’s favour but to win she knew exactly what to do.  She knew what Tamzin feared the most and Sadie had nothing more to lose, yes she’d do it and stuff all the consequences.

Tamzin knew she had been foolish.  She had acted on impulse through her own resentment and jealousy.  Why did she let the cat out of the bag regarding Sadie’s dubious liaisons with Jane and Pip’s partners?  They did already know, Pete and Josh came clean about their misdemeanours, but they still looked humiliated and she knew that Sadie wouldn’t’ believe the guys had the gall to own up.  They had to really as Pete was caught in the act quite literally.  Secrets and lies usually come out.   Sadie had, as Tamzin dreaded, retaliated, true to form and wrote anonymously to the Art Gallery informing them that Tamzin’s qualifications aren’t quite the ones that she claimed she had.  The Christmas break seemed one of the longest times that she would have to wait the outcome of the management’s decision.  Her boss indicated to her that things should be alright as it was the gallery who had approached Tamzin in the first place and they were pleased with her work.  But nevertheless, you can never be sure when it comes to these matters, particularly as Sadie has made a renewed attack on trying to fill Tamzin’s shoes, if she were to leave the gallery.  Sadie had thrown her cap, or pants thought Tamzin well and truly at one of the leading business partners at the Gallery.

The past few months of bitter feuding had got out of hand.  The group of friends they had both shared had all pledged support for Tamzin, but she knew all this had been at the cost of a good friendship, there was no going back for either of them.  With all her friends around her she felt very lonely, but she knew Sadie wouldn’t be feeling the same, she wasn’t the type.  The battle lines were drawn and this war between them was set to run and run.  Sadie never seemed to share anyone’s joy; she would just make some bitchy comment if things weren’t going her way and just reinvent the truth.

Sadly, neither of them truly won.  Tamzin always felt a strong prick of conscience each time she saw Jane and Pip, seeing their hurt and humiliation.  Sadie was full of bravado even though she had lost the only true friend she had ever had. If only Sadie answered the telephone on that rainy April day when Tamzin was going to call a truce and let Sadie have the coveted gallery job maybe they might now have been friends rather than sworn enemies.

Elle May©

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The Best Present

Becky didn’t believe that she had guardian angel, she had been so excited, Mum had always got her the latest trend for Christmas and she believed that this year would be no exception, even though things had been different. She had seen how hard mum worked with all the overtime.  When it came to opening her gifts she couldn’t see anything that matched what she was expecting and she couldn’t hide her disappointment.   She didn’t notice how upset mum was. ‘Christmas was going to be awful she thought, the only highlight would be when her cousin Jane came round, although she will probably be showing off the gift Becky wanted.

 When Jane arrived she looked even sadder than Becky and she had got the coveted present.  Becky couldn’t understand it Jane took one look at what Becky had and told her that she had the best present ever.  “How can you say that?” Becky asked.  “Because your mum worked overtime to make that for you, it’s beautiful and timeless and my gift for all it cost my parents broke so quickly”.

 Becky realized how daft she’d been she may not have got what she wanted but it was what she needed.  Money had been hard this last year and the best present ever was the giving of love and dedication.

A Town Like Malice (1)

The sun was especially bright that morning, it made it much easier for Daz to get up and do his paper round. It was the ideal job for him whilst he was still at school. He loved cycling; it was a big freedom for him. He didn’t care for much else. He happily rode around on his bike laughing as he threw the papers at people’s doorsteps. This made the chore of doing his round go quite quickly. He would give himself a point each time he managed to get the paper to hit the letterbox. It was all a huge joke to him, he couldn’t care less if the newspapers where creased. If anyone complained he knew nothing would be done about it. Paperboys were very hard to come by in this town. It was beneath a lot of the local lads.

It was quite a superficial place, the majority of it filled with large, beautiful, clean houses. The gardens were all well maintained, the up to date 4 x 4 washed with precision at the exact same time as the Sunday before, despite the fact that they’d never really come face to face with any mud or tough driving terrain for that matter.

The only shops in the town centre were expensive brands and not a trace of the regular high street brands.

Daz only had a year left of school, he couldn’t wait to leave. He only enjoyed mucking around with his mates. The school didn’t seem to care about them anymore, with the exception of some Teachers. Students could misbehave as much as they like and nothing much was done. Like many others he didn’t get to the grammar school, which started the segregation in the town, they were treated like failures at 11 years old.

Mrs Plumley Barnes was making a new start with the job she got down at the local school. It obviously helped knowing one of the Governors, their children went to the private school together. She liked to have her network of people that to her was how the world revolved. She’d often talked about her sons studying hard to get the right job, but the actual world of applying for jobs in an organisation where you or someone in your family hadn’t actually networked was quite alien to her. It crossed her mind from time to time that these things might happen but this was to other people, and besides she thought she knew all the influential people to make things happen in her charmed life. Her views were dominant and looking around her home and all that she had was proof of that. It was a school which had its fair share of troubled teenagers; it would be interesting how Mrs Plumley Barnes would manage to mask her disingenuine sympathy, particularly as her facial expressions showed what she was thinking. This environment was unreal to her. She knew she would return home to her comfortable large house, her successful family and be totally disaffected by anything she saw at the school.

The world has many Mrs Plumley Barnes. They try to do their bit for society by ingratiating themselves by doing what they believe to be of value to the ‘dregs of society’. It was a subject they enjoyed dropping into conversation at their dinner parties.  Sadly they would judge, rather unfairly at times, which would attribute to the misfortune of their target. Unfortunately Mrs Plumley Barnes was the sort of person that the teenagers enjoyed trying to ridicule, they could see her flaws. Whether it was the way she talked or how she was quickly stressed, it would leave her a bit of a target amongst the school. She wasn’t as street wise as she would like to be. She underestimated how much she knew or understood of the world.

It was the day before she was due to start her job. She rose early to start her new routine. Whilst getting water for her coffee machine she gazed out of the window happening to notice the paperboy on his round. She shook her head in disbelief as she observed him laughing whilst flinging the papers at the doors. ‘What is it with these youths’ she thought ‘they’ve no respect’. Forgetting about still wearing her dressing gown (she’d never leave the house without wearing the appropriate attire) she stormed out the house. She called out to him and once she had his attention, spoke in the most condescending manner. Daz just laughed and replied ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’ and cycled away. Mrs Plumley Barnes was quite indignant; she would go and complain to the newsagents. And so the web of the town’s intricacies yet again starts to synchronize.

 

Elle May ©

Purely By Chance

Lucy found it all hard to come to terms with, was it really all true? How would she cope, how would she manage? Her tears had now subsided into a distant memory, talk about crying a river, she felt she had cried an ocean, complete with its blue-green sparkle glinting in a hot summer sun or in this case grey and black reflecting the dark clouds looming over her. She had managed to overcome death, purely by chance. Her check-up was a routine one, where they managed to find some pre-cancerous cells. She had further tests to confirm it and have laser treatment to erase them. What a worrying time, would the cells come back? Would people think she was dirty? Would she ever have the children she so desperately wanted?
The last few years were a long hard struggle to get over her treatment, followed by a succession of short illness and extreme tiredness. Lucy’s doctor read the riot act to her. ‘You cannot live like you used to, no more late nights and rushing about, some women never get over something like this, you must change down a gear in your life’ he shouted.
At first Lucy took no notice of him, why should she? She knew what was best for her so she continued partying, working hard and living life to full; she had a very lucky escape from serious illness or even death. Lucy decided to meet as many new people as possible and although being careful about her diet and other aspects of her life she resolved to make the most of each day.
Lucy’s time-clock was slowly ticking away, her deep need was to have children and settle down with a partner and this was slipping away from her as time marched on. This was pretty difficult after he deep hurt that Terry, a previous boyfriend, had left her with. Lucy felt he was ‘carrying on’ with half the Town before she had found out for certain that he was unfaithful to her with her ‘then’ friend Madge. It was purely accidental that Lucy found out, she was due to meet Madge to go out shopping when she rang and cancelled. She decided to go anyway as she owed Madge some money and she could pop it through her letterbox, Madge will probably need she thought and she hated owing money. It wouldn’t be any bother as she would be virtually passing her door to get into Town. As she approached Madge’s house she could not believe her eyes there was Madge and Terry on the doorstep embracing passionately. Never one to miss a chance and always one to take control, no matter how hard, Lucy calmly got out of her car, walked straight up to Madge and handed the money to her, she looked them both straight in the eyes and said ‘I believe this makes us quits – quits on the money front and quits as friends’. She then looked at Terry and said ‘ditto’. Lucy was a cool as a cucumber as she held her head up and walked away. They both tried to stop her, with little success and eventually a quarrel started between them trying to place blame. Lucy was damned if she was going to let them see all this getting to her.
After that incident Lucy found it hard to trust anyone and kept up a cool hard shell. She had been seeing Terry for 2 years and Madge had been her friend since leaving school. It was a couple of months after this Lucy had her cancer scare – to Lucy that year was one of ‘lucky escapes’ and it was best to close the book on that ‘anus horribulus’ and move forward.
Several years flew by and all Lucy seemed to do was party and work, no Mr Right seemed to come knocking at her door. She had struck a great friendship with John at work. The times they worked together were great, they were always on the same level, they had lunched together regularly and got on well like a brother and sister. They always laughed at the same things, and had plenty of ‘in’ jokes and yes at times flirted outrageously with each other just to cast doubt in the minds of others. Lucy’s friends often teased her about John, but she swore the relationship was purely platonic; he was nine years older than her, had escaped a messy divorce and only had time for his children. But it was great fun keeping people guessing.
Christmas was looming and John had become very ill with the flu and Lucy volunteered to complete his Christmas shopping, she knew how much it meant to him to give his children the right presents and as she seemed to have plenty of spare time these days she enjoyed the prospect of busying herself with finding the toys he so desperately wanted to give his children. Lucy for once had finished her Christmas shopping early and thought it another opportunity to meet more people; it also took her mind off her own loneliness. Everyone she knew seemed to have suddenly settled down and always had other plans.
Lucy managed to find the toys straight away, with the minimum of fuss – much to her disappointment. ‘Well’ she thought to herself, I shall just have to treat myself to a nice lunch and drop the present s off. But this time her plan was going against her, she could not find anywhere to eat, the bars and restaurants were either full-up, closed or had ran out of what she wanted. Lucy went straight on to John’s and decided to kill two birds with one stone and cook lunch.
When Lucy arrived at John’s a gorgeous looking guy answered the door. ‘Hi’ he said ‘I’m Bob, John’s brother. Lucy could not remember John ever mentioning his brother. John then came to the door and said ‘Talk about timing a few seconds more and you would have missed Bob, he was just setting off back to Bristol’ ‘Oh and I was just about to cook some lunch and feed the patient’ she joked, feeling gawky and embarrassed like a 16 year old with a crush on a teacher.
That was five years ago. Lucy had overcome some of life’s ups and downs but the past five years had been magical, she married Bob three years ago and now she is looking at her beautiful new-born daughter Emily. After many attempts at motherhood she finally got there. Lucy’s ocean had regained that blue-green sparkle; she not only had her own but her child’s life ahead of her. Yes she did manage, yes she did have children, yes she did cope and her life worked out better purely by chance and a few lucky escapes.
Elle May ©

The Unseen Allies

It had been a difficult year for Jean, she missed Bob, his passing was a shock.  During the long summer days she had managed to busy herself with the garden.  Her grandchildren had giggled a bit at her garden ornaments; secretly they loved the variety of fairies accompanying Bob’s elves.  The sound of the wind chimes gave it a magical feel.  It had given Jean a sense of fun and helped her forget about her loneliness.

 When the winter came life was harder with the heavy snow and ice that didn’t seem to go away.  She was unable to lift the wheelbarrow as it had all the dug out earth in it.  She managed to cope with Christmas and just before New Year’s Day she looked out to see if any snow had thawed.  It puzzled her to see that a large branch was lying across the top of the path near an icy patch and the nearby wheelbarrow was knocked over, even the wind couldn’t have managed that.

 She found out later that some burglars had been in the area and she realized their attempts to break into her house had been unwittingly foiled.  They must have slipped on the ice and tripped on the branch.  That night she had the most fabulous dream about garden elves and fairies having lots of fun and mischeaveny in her garden, she felt young again and that she was being watched over.  She awoke feeling happy, remembering the magic of the world and she was grateful for all the miracles no matter if they are big or small.

 

Elle May © 

Mr Muscle

 Mr Muscle

There was nothing to watch on the TV that night, thought Alice.  She was feeling bored senseless, the children were settled in bed and Bob was working late as he does so frequently now.  She flicked through the channels; she couldn’t even watch her favourite soap as it was going to be shown later due the football match.  Maybe I’ll just flick through the local free newspaper, she thought, she hadn’t done this in ages.  After checking the job adverts it usually goes straight in to the bin.  As she picked up the paper she couldn’t help but notice a slogan on the bottom of the front page ‘Is there someone trying to get in touch with you?’  What kind of sad person takes this seriously she thought, but her curiosity got the better of her and she went to the page quoted.

It was then a particular message caught her eye.  It read ‘Remember the Isle of Wight, hot summer in the early 1980’s?  You were the Beauty Queen and I was a young muscle man.  Please get in touch, Jack P O Box 56, London SW1.  What kind of nerd remembers someone from all that time ago, Alice thought.  What a sad person, holding a torch for somebody for all that time.  Hang on; she remembered she was at the Isle of Wight for some of her family holidays.  When she was about 11, just before she could really start to rebel, Mum had forced her into some of those competitions.  Alice racked her brains, remembering it was a hot summer when she won that contest, it couldn’t be she thought, too much of a coincidence.  It played on her mind while she flicked through the TV channels, she knew it would gnaw away at her so she raced upstairs and retrieved her little box of memories.  It was a beautifully decorated box she had made and kept in it photographs, old letters and postcards from friends.  She smiled fondly at the small collection of sea shells and even held one against her ear.  She delved deeply to the bottom of the box and here some letters from friends she had made at the holiday camp that year.  It was strange reading all those old letters and all her old memories and feelings that had been firmly locked away came bubbling to the surface.  Then she saw it, she didn’t notice it straight away, but there it was still in good tact, the sash she had to wear, ‘Princess Holiday Camp ~ Isle of Wight’.  She could still remember the surprise she felt when they announced her name.  She was sure the dark haired girl, with lots of make up on would win it.  She couldn’t remember what the prize was, but it suddenly dawned on her that she had to take part in the carnival float with none other than, oh no, she thought, it was ‘Muscle Man’.  She then saw the photograph, which had been wrapped up in the sash with some of things.  It was Alice pictured with ‘Muscle Man’.  She giggled with embarrassment, remembering that awful hairstyle she had, it was the fashion then and she did want to look like one of the Banamara singers at the time.  She looked more closely at Jack, and recalled how handsome he was and wondered if he was still as good looking.  All the memories came flooding back, he was 14 at the time and she felt really great winning the competition and sitting with an older handsome boy,  all her school friends were jealous when she recounted the story.  She couldn’t believe with all these years that had passed by, she could recall the same feelings she had at that time.

Well what do I do now, Mr Muscle she thought?  Why does he want to get in touch, was it simply that he came across the photo and wondered what I will be doing now, it must be, what other possible reason could there be?  It’s not as if he’s held a torch for me after all these years.

It wasn’t long before Alice had written a letter, a very brief one in fact.  She never enjoyed writing letters, she never knew what to put, she’d much rather bake a cake or make a dress, so she made it short and to the point.  She was glad it was this way; she wasn’t particularly IT savvy either.  Yes writing a letter is much more nostalgic she conceded.

It was a few days before she received a reply, it seemed she wasn’t the only one who was bored enough to read those pages either.  Jack had received 20 replies and he wanted her to write back and confirm the name of the now famous celebrity who had compered the contests.  Well that’s ridiculous, she couldn’t for the life of her remember who on earth it was.  She went back to her little box of memories and rifled through to see if she could find any clues but she couldn’t.  She was well and truly miffed and she started to feel a bit irritated by Jack’s letter, surely he must have remembered her name.  With that thought she sent him a very abrupt reply.  She enclosed a recent photograph of herself, plus a copy of the original photo of them and told him that if he can’t even remember her name then it wasn’t unreasonable for her to have forgotten the celebrity that worked at the holiday camp that year.  She knew that anybody could tell from both pictures that it was definitely her.

Alice felt guilty after posting the letter, she knew she was upset because she was lonely and had rather vainly anticipated the thought that Jack may have held a torch for her after all these years.  Life had become very dull, she felt like a dreary housewife and mother with all the excitement gone.  The thought that someone fancied her after all these years had given her a lift but now she was hurt that he couldn’t be bothered to even remember her name.

A week had passed by and Alice had heard nothing, she had started to think about that summer a lot, memories of it were coming back, it was a particularly hot summer and she remembered all the hopes that she had for the future.  She wanted to work in television production and never got beyond being a secretary at the local paint factory.  She realised that she had forgotten all about Jack and her only competition win.  She knew she should be flattered that she had won a beauty competition and decided it was best to keep memories back in the past.  If nothing else she should take this as a jolt to do more things for herself, Alice had buried herself in suburbia.

Alice was packing away her memory box when the doorbell rang.  She wondered who it could be; most of her friends where and the school then a latte run.  She opened the door and couldn’t believe her eyes.  She knew it was him, after all these years, it was definitely him, Jack, the muscle man.

“Hello Alice” he said with a big smile.

“Hello Jack, you have not changed at all”, she said hardly concealing her excitement.

“I should hope I have, otherwise that sash would be tight” he joked.  He was as confident as ever.  “Look it is lovely to see you again Alice, I didn’t mean to offend you but I had to make sure it was the right girl.  Once I saw the photo I knew that it was you.  I just happened to be passing and I thought I’d better call by.  The thing is I’m researching a television programme about holiday camps and their entertainment and I wondered if you would like to take part in it” Jack explained.  “I know this sounds daft but I hope you’ll do it, it’s just as I was there it seems relevant to include it” he continued.

With that Alice started to laugh, well the mystery was finally solved, she wasn’t the only one being vain and this was the closest she would ever get to her childhood ambition.

 

Elle May©

 

 

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