The Mermaid on Amazon kindle
I wanted to wish everyone who follows my blog a very Happy Christmas. It’s been a good writing year and to celebrate I’m giving the kindle version of my book of short stories away for free on 22 – 24 December 2014. Please download it from Amazon from Tuesday until Thursday inclusive. I hope you enjoy reading it. Here’s one of the stories, a Christmas Story, to get you started.
Eve tucked the letter into her coat pocket, as she wheeled the pushchair out of the front door. Her daughter was wrapped up warmly, with a thick padded coat, gloves and hat. Her feet were tucked into a woollen blanket. Eve pulled her scarf across her face to keep out the bitter cold. She remembered the terrible row she’d had with her father about Ian, three years ago.
“He’s no good. He’s a chancer and if you keep seeing him he’ll ruin your life. I order you to stay at home.”
“I hate you,” she’d replied, “you always try to stop me having any fun. You’ll only be happy if I’m stuck here forever with you.”
Eve smiled to herself now. How unfair she had been. Her dad had always held open house for all her friends and she remembered this clearly now, but she had only been sixteen when she’d left.
This morning Eve and Tilly had spent the morning unwrapping the small presents that Eve had managed to collect from car boot fairs and charity shops. Tilly’s favourites had been the two tiny fairies that Eve had found in an old tin at the local boot fair. She had worked hard to make Christmas special for Tilly and had managed to decorate her flat with some decorations that her work had been throwing away. It was amazing what you could do with a little imagination. Eve started to sing Christmas carols as they walked along the road to the park. She could see her breath mist in front of her. In her basket she had a flask of warm soup and some sandwiches. It was an odd Christmas lunch but luckily two year olds are easy to please and Tilly was always a happy child.
“Feed the ducks. Feed the ducks, mummy,” said Tilly.
“Yes, Tilly we’re going to feed the ducks.”
“See the green duck,” Tilly said, kicking her blanket off her legs.
“I hope we’ll see the green duck, but I can’t promise he’ll be there. We’ll have to wait and see.”
When they reached the pond at the other end of the park, Eve took out the damp bread and released Tilly from the straps of the pushchair. Standing at the edge of the pond they looked for their favourite duck and Tilly started throwing the bread into the water.
“There he is,” shouted Tilly and Eve looked up to see the green duck making its way over. “Hello green duck. Here you are.” Tilly threw down some bread near him and squealed with delight as he started to peck it from the ground by her feet.
Later they sat in the warmer side of the covered shelter, out of the wind, to eat their lunch. Tilly enjoyed the soup from her Peppa Pig mug and ate her sandwich, chattering away between mouthfuls. Eve knew she was really blessed. Whatever happened this afternoon didn’t matter. She was managing on her own to look after her daughter, however hard it was. She thought back to last year when Ian had still been with them. They had spent a ridiculous amount of money on presents for Tilly and they’d cooked enough food to last them the week. Missing him had become more of a dull ache within her and not the sharp pain it had been in the first few months. She mustn’t think of it today. She took out the letter and read it again. Her father had invited them over and suggested two o’clock as the time they should call. She had missed him too. It was her father who had brought her up. He had been a good father lavishing time on her. He had supported her in all the activities she’d wanted to try, discussed her homework with her, showed her the magic of theatre and even helped her learn to play the flute. They had argued about literature, politics and even food. She could see now he had been helping her develop a critical mind. He had been a wonderful dad.
“This afternoon we’ve got a special treat. We’re going to your granddad’s house. He has invited us over. You haven’t met him before but I’m sure he’ll love meeting you.”
“Granddad’s house,” Tilly repeated happily. “Oh look, green duck,” Tilly pointed to the ground. “Can we take him with us?”
“No, he needs to stay near the pond. He’s a naughty boy, isn’t he? He keeps coming to join us for our picnics when we come here.” They fed him some more bread and walked him back to the pond before they left the park.
At two o’clock on the dot Eve knocked on her father’s front door. It was the first time she’d visited in three years; since she’d run away from home with Ian. Her father had warned her that he’d have nothing to do with her if she carried on seeing Ian and he’d been as good as his word. It had shocked her when he’d shut her out of his life, but each time she had written to him, he had put her letter in an envelope and sent it back to her. And he had been right. Ian had conned people out of money, got himself into fights and then run off with a girl called Tania, who was still at school.
The door opened and Mrs Hood, her father’s housekeeper grinned at her.
“Come along in child. So this must be Tilly. What a little poppet she is. Your dad’s in the front room.”
Eve helped Tilly out of the pushchair and took a deep breath as she opened the front room door. Her father was standing at the other side of the room. They hesitated for just a moment and then he moved towards her and gave her a hug.
“Good to see you Evie and is this Tilly?”
Tilly darted behind her and clutched her legs.
“She’s just a little shy. Give her a few minutes.”
“Would you like to see what’s under my Christmas tree, Tilly?” he asked. She peeped round and looked at him and then at the tree.
“Shall we all take a look?” said Eve taking Tilly’s hand. Soon they were sitting round the fire opening presents. There was a small parcel for Eve and two larger ones for Tilly.
“Would you like to give your Granddad this present?” Eve said. Shyly Tilly went over and gave him the little package. It was a small picture of Tilly in a recycled frame, but it looked good and meant she had not come empty handed.
“Thank you so much, Tilly,” said Granddad with the biggest smile on his face.
The first present that Tilly opened was a beautiful fairy tree house. Eve took one look at it and found herself crying. All the hardship of the past year came to her; the scrimping and scrapping and how Ian had so completely deserted them. She wiped her face so that her daughter wouldn’t see her cry.
“Is something wrong with the present Eve?” her father asked, full of concern.
“Not a thing. I bought her two little fairies for Christmas and I wanted to get her the tree house for them, but well, I couldn’t. It’s a perfect present.” She took the fairies out of her bag and gave them to Tilly, who became completely engrossed in the magical land of fairies.
After a while Tilly opened the second present and there was a soft cuddly green duck.
“How could you possible know about green duck?” Eve asked.
“About a fortnight ago, I was sitting in the park in the shelter and I heard you and Tilly talking, from the other side. I recognised your voice immediately. Green duck had joined you for lunch and I gather he had most of your sandwich,” said Granddad. “When your letter arrived, telling me Ian had gone and asking to visit, I persuaded Mrs Hood to make it for me. Seems to be a hit!”
They both looked at Tilly who was cuddling green duck to death.
“Tea’s up,” Mrs Hood called round the door. “Are we all ready?”
“Tea’s up and milk for me?” asked Tilly.
“As much as you like,” said Mrs Hood.
“C’mon Granddad. Tea’s up,” Tilly said as she took Eve’s hand to follow Mrs Hood.
The dining room table was laden with goodies. There were plates of ham and cheese and sausage rolls, cakes of all shapes and sizes and everything was set out beautifully. At the end of the table there was even a high chair. It was a proper Christmas feast. Eve smiled. She may have very little money but Tilly was having a brilliant Christmas.
Later as Mrs Hood was talking to Tilly, her dad had a chance to talk to Eve.
“I’m sorry that Ian left you. You know I thought he was no good, but that’s in the past. You’re welcome here anytime, and if you wanted to move back in, there’s plenty of space. I rattle round in this old place, even with Mrs Hood to keep me company.”
“Thanks Dad. Not sure about moving back home. I like my own space and it might take Tilly a little time to get to know you properly.”
“Peep bo,” shouted Tilly peeking round the side of her mug and looking at her Granddad.
“Peep bo,” shouted Granddad back. Eve smiled at her dad. It looked as if her daughter had decided Granddad was fun. Eve slipped off her shoes under the table and stretched her toes. It felt so good to be home.