#tuesdayuseitinasentence : If only

Bed sheets, linen

Image : Pixabay

His gaze fell upon the flower still clinging behind her ear. Its petals were flushed coral, curled back like lips parted in surprise. Her hair tumbled from its clip, curls lapping her neck. A tangle of sheets pillowed her head, exposed a shoulder, an arm thrown behind her, fingers still gripping the fabric even now.

If only she had said yes.

 


Well, that went creepier than I expected!

Written for Stephanie at Word Adventures’ #tuesdayuseitinasentence. Today the word is GAZE. Pop along here and join the fun.

Always old fashioned

They sat in Terry’s office on stiff-backed chairs. Two untouched mugs of tea and a plate of soggy Bourbons perched on reams of paperwork on his desk. Terry didn’t like tea, but he always made himself one when visitors came because it seemed to make people less self-conscious than when they drank alone. Now things such as tea and biscuits seemed old-fashioned in this newly made world. But Terry didn’t mind that. He’d felt old-fashioned since he was a small boy.

The surface of the tea had formed a skin,  wrinkling under the air conditioning like geriatric flesh. He thought of mentioning his observation to the man from the Government – Donald was it? Or Dennis? – but his thoughts often made other people feel uncomfortable. Though Janey had never minded.

The Government man’s suit was as creased as his face, as if he’d used the jacket as a pillow. His skin was greasy, grey as the ring of dirt around his shirt collar. Yes, standards had dropped since the beginning of the outbreak.

Donald / Dennis scratched his forehead with bitten down nails. ‘Doctor Goddard, if you can tell me anything about Doctor Faber’s movements over the last few days. Anything at all.’

The man looked exhausted, but then they all were. He and Janey had taken to napping on the chaise longue in the corner of the office rather than bothering to drive home. They were both single. No one missed them. He gazed at the sofa now, at the threads of gold that could only be strands of her hair.

‘Doctor Goddard. Please. This is a matter of national security.’

‘We were trying to find a cure -‘

Donald / Dennis leaned forward, his tie shifting the papers on the desk. ‘A cure funded by the government, with key research and statistics supplied by our departments.’

All Terry knew was that she had been there one evening, peering over her notes, twisting her hair on top of her head with a biro, and gone the next morning. He hadn’t noticed the slides were missing until the phone rang.

The Government man’s jaw clenched. ‘I cannot stress how important it is we regain those samples.’

He didn’t mention Janey’s safety, that she was out there alone, the world dying around her.

When Terry had picked up the phone, her voice had been faint and breathy through the receiver. He thought she might have been running. Or crying. ‘I’m sorry, Terry,’ was all she’d said. ‘I’m so very sorry.’

Donald would take the words as an admission of her guilt, but Terry knew them for what they were. A goodbye.

 


I fancied revisiting Terry and Janey, two scientists caught in the jaws of a catastrophic disease outbreak. To read their first outing, When the time comes, see here.

What pegman saw : Mystified Cottage

 

 

 

Mystified Cottage it was called, a stocky one storey building snuggled in the lap of the Dales.

In the parlour two Carver chairs scuffed their backs against a worn sideboard, in the kitchen a Welsh dresser wore a motley of grease from generations of braised brisket and pigs head pies, gifts from the blackened range.

Tom Dunty the coalman would chuckle under the slick collar of his backing hat that the cottage was so called because all were mystified as to how the Crofts raised seven children inside. Though as Tom signed the register on his wedding day with an X, I’d guess he was parroting his snippish wife Mary.

He was wrong of course.

The name was no riddle to any who stayed a night beneath its eaves, any who dreamed of oily black feathers, of straw dollies swinging from dusty beams. Who heard The Lady call their name …

 


Written for What pegman saw, a weekly prompt using Google Streetview as its inspiration. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

The ‘backing hat’ Tom Dunty wears was a cap with a strip of leather sewn to hang from the back in order to protect a coalman’s neck and shoulders. See here to learn more.

What pegman saw : Yaya’s secret

 

My yaya’s house was the brightest spot in the whole colonia.

She painted the walls turquoise herself with a balding brush and though it had grills on the doors and windows like every other house, the gaps behind the iron were stuffed with pots of trailing vines and geraniums and spider plants that tickled my wrists when I reached up with the long necked watering can. Plaster toucans and parrots roosted on the first floor, nodding to smiling suns and moons.

Her living room was snug, cluttered with clasp-handed Virgins, candles and crucifixes, each object draped with cloths or doilies or tied with the florists bows she saved from bunches of gladioli and coxcombs Uncle Arturo brought her each Sunday.

Upstairs, though, behind knotted satin drapes the colour of cayenne pepper, was a mystery.

‘Es un secreto,’ she would say, kissing my forehead with feathery lips.

So it stayed until the day she passed away …

 


What do you think yaya’s secret was? Rude, lewd, romantic, violent or just plain bizarre? Let me know what you think and maybe we’ll get a sequel.

Written for What pegman saw, the hugely enjoyable writing prompt using Google Streetview – this week, we’re in Mexico City. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

 

 

 

 

What pegman saw : In the shadow of St Basil’s

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5 Red Square, Moscow, Russia


 

His accent was heavier than I’d expected, voice gravelly from endless Asmoloff cigarettes, the buzzing line making him sound distant. ‘Meet me at the cathedral.’

I crossed the glittering Moskva towards the Kremlin hunched on the other bank – a red brick play fort on a grand scale. Broken down Ladas and Volgas zipped like grounded wasps along the bridge, the occasional Mercedes and Bentley, windows blacked out.

The biting cold made me feel my foreignness most – how my movements stiffened, my cheeks turned to drum skins – while the locals negotiated the ice slicked streets with quiet doggedness.

Standing in the cathedral’s shadow, I craned to see the onion domes, let the golds and reds, the zigzags and swirls warm me, distract me from my jangling nerves.

A hand gripped my elbow. Jutting eyebrows, a jaw to match. That familiar, guarded look in the coal grey eyes.

‘Hi Dad,’ I said.

 


Written for What pegman saw, a writing prompt based on Google Streetview. This week, a stunning shot of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow … and a hint of Cold War mystery. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

 

 

 

FFfAW : X marks the spot

This week’s photo prompt is provided by Louise with The Storyteller’s Abode. Thank you Louise!


 

‘Summer job, is it?’ said Dave.

Samantha stepped into the cockpit, placing two mugs of tea on the wooden seat beside him.’That’s right. Back to uni in the autumn. One sugar, wasn’t it?’

They were always the same, these kids. Came from nice families but not rich ones, meaning they had to earn a bit of beer money during the holidays and ‘crew on a river boat’ looked better on their CV than ‘shelf stacker’ or ‘cake factory operative’. Next year it would probably be ‘chalet maid’ on some Alpine resort, cleaning up after hapless tourists.

At least she made a decent cup of tea.

‘What are you studying?’ he said, turning the nose of the River Queen towards the jetty.

Slipping out onto the gunwale to tie up, she called, ‘Marine archaeology.’

Dave’s pulse beat with the rhythm of the engine. He could show her, get some answers. But the things he’d found – silt covered, softened by moss – he hardly believed it himself. Still …

‘Err, Sam?’ he called.

 


Written for Priceless Joy’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. See the pic and write a tale to suit it. See here to join in and to read the other tales.

A lifetime ago and only yesterday

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Image :Pixabay

 

I take one step, another. The air’s thick with decay. The taste of leafmould coats my tongue, making it slippery against my teeth. I’d forgotten it, but now it’s as if there’s never been anything else.

How long has it been since I was here?

Stupid. I know exactly how long – to the day, to the hour. A lifetime ago and only yesterday.

I run the back of my hand against each tree trunk, savour the scrape against knuckles, the spring of moss.

Keep going.

The trees shut down the sun. Slow as mist, branches drift left and right until the way is clearer, with only a step to take over tangled roots. A groan, the snap of wooden sinew – a crack, loud as a gunshot. I look behind. The boughs have weaved together, a tight net of twigs, sewn with ivy, embroidered with holly berries. I could lean against it, let the tendrils lace us together, a wedding of flesh and greenwood.

But they’re waiting. I walk on.

Finally, the clearing and there – a ring of blood red caps. They are as I remember them – mottled grey bodies, some straight, some twisted as if reaching outwards, their feet sunk beneath the soil, ankles swallowed by a fall of gold and copper leaves.

One step forward. Another. My shoulder brushes a red cap and I’m showered in dust the colour of saffron and I never want to leave again.

Their warmth washes over me, filaments spread, creeping up my shins, gripping my skin, crawling under my nails, in through my ears and nose, filling me.

Home.

***

A little bit of flash, inspired by Rose McDonagh, fellow Mslexia blogger.