fiction and other writing

Archive for July, 2013

The Gracious Smile

I looked like a chocolate caramel in my plain beige dress with delicate embroidery around the neck and sleeves. The dark cocoa jacket had seemed smart in Estelle’s, but now I wished I’d bought something delicate and floaty.

It didn’t matter really; the day wasn’t about me. Amber looked radiant and beautiful. When Mark’s car arrived I noticed a tear in his eye. Of course he’d be feeling proud of her; he wouldn’t be worrying about missing her when she left home. He’d not been here for the last five years.

My stomach did a little flip as I watched them leave together, but luckily there was no time to dwell on it. I needed to get to the church before them. Taking a shuddering breath, I collected my bags and keys, slipped on my low healed patent shoes and headed to the waiting car.

In the next half hour I would have to face ‘that woman’. I practised my gracious smile, having no intention of speaking to her. Amber said she wouldn’t invite her if I’d be upset, but I knew she wanted her there for her dad’s sake.

I bet ‘that woman’ would be wearing something made of silk or lace. Amber often mentioned her beautiful clothes. I was beginning to feel like a brown penguin, if there is such a thing. Not that I’m exactly fat and I don’t waddle, but how do you compete with someone almost twenty years your junior!

The scenery on the drive was just a blur, but once in church it was easy to focus on Amber and her soon to be husband, Charlie. ‘That woman’ had been seated further back and out of my line of sight, although somehow I noticed her white diaphanous dress with pink roses and overlarge hat.

At the reception I’d insisted it would be me sitting next to Charlie. It was my daughter getting married, not ‘that woman’s’ and so she’d been given a place at the grandparents’ table. The food was exquisite and the champagne very passable. As the meal ended the speeches started. I dreaded what Mark would say. I bet he’d get ‘that woman’ in somehow. As he started to speak I felt the vibrancy of his voice and could see small index cards on the table. On them he’d written reminders of whom he should mention and thank. His speech swam over me.

‘…Amber has had a happy childhood, largely due to the generous spirit of her mother. She has had a wonderful role model and today we are delighted to welcome Charlie…’

Quickly I looked up at him and he smiled his special smile; the one that makes you think you’re the only one in the room with him. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. I’m sure Amber was holding her breath, but she needn’t have worried. I wouldn’t spoil her day for anything or anyone. I rustled up my gracious smile and smiled right back. The room relaxed.

It was much later that I noticed ‘that woman’ sitting at her table alone. She was studying her drink with an unwarranted intensity as if it contained a miniature elephant or something equally unlikely. I picked up my glass, pinned on my gracious smile again and went over.

‘I hope you’ve had a pleasant day,’ I said.

‘Oh yes, it’s been lovely. Amber looks so beautiful and happy.’

‘She does, doesn’t she? I think they’ll be happy.’

‘It’s nice of you to come and talk to me. Mark’s off doing his hosting duties.’

It was at that moment I wanted to say, ‘Is that what you call it?’ but something made me stop. We both turned to look at Mark, who was dancing slowly and too closely with one of Amber’s friends. It shocked me that I didn’t feel humiliated as I had in the past, but I recognised the look of hurt in Mark’s new woman’s eyes.

‘I was admiring your beautiful dress,’ I said as I pulled out a chair and sat down. ‘Amber’s always talking about your clothes.’

I glanced back to the dance floor and Amber blew me a kiss.

Ukulele Solace

The hard case, shaped with womanly curves,
reveals smooth wood and nylon strings
that creates finger-picking melody.

The day has been harsh in its delivery.
I strum a rhythm with striking chords
and anger is carried far from me.

Sitting by a river as swan’s glide,
I play the tunes the waters sing;
the music calms my malady

The sun disappears from the sky.
My spirit’s risen from the depths
as I caress the strings unhurriedly.

I am learning to play the ukulele and find it very therapeutic.

The Ghost of Love

‘She lives her life in another world now,’ I said to the doctor as my auntie smiled with eyes that seemed to focus beyond the boundaries of the room.

‘Mrs Ash do you know who I am?’ asked Dr Parsons.

My aunt smiled, ‘Of course dear. Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘No thank you. Do you know what day of the week it is?’

‘I don’t need to know dear. Weeks are a thing of the past. Can you see the poppies? Aren’t they delicate; such big heads on tiny stems.’

I couldn’t help but look out of the window. Snow carpeted the adjacent field and left a fringe along the top of the fence. Trees were covered in white lace. I shivered.
The doctor continued questioning gently, not showing any surprise at the random replies he received.

As he prepared to leave he said to me, ‘I’ll refer your aunt to a specialist. It could take several weeks but call me if you need me.’

Suddenly auntie’s eyes were focused. ‘I won’t see you again Doctor. ‘I’m off on my travels. Tonight I’m spending with Susan. She’s such a good girl. I want to say goodbye properly.’

The doctor gave me a sympathetic look but as I saw him to the front door he said, ‘She’s so believable isn’t she? It must make it very hard for you.’

We spent a lovely evening together, drinking tea and eating cake. Auntie reminisced about the past. We looked at sepia photographs and each held a story. I studied Auntie Moira and Uncle Walter’s wedding photograph. They were so happy. Even now, when time had faded the image, you could see their joy.

In the morning I carried in her cup of tea in her china cup with tiny roses. As soon as I opened the curtains I knew she was gone. I touched her cold hand and saw the hint of a smile on her face. There was nothing anyone could do for her now. I was about to pick up the phone when I glanced out of the window. A sun light beam caught dust particles in its path, like dancing diamonds. I walked over to look at the view. The day would be full of formalities; it wouldn’t hurt to take a moment to myself.

Outside there was a young couple walking hand-in-hand, through a field of poppies, they turned with bright smiles and waved. Immediately I recognised them from their photograph. I waved right back and as I did so the scene changed to white. Snow covered the fields, lay delicately on the branches and collected into soft mounds under the fence.

Visit to Thornwick Bay

We visited Thornwick Bay in Yorkshire last week on a balmy sunny day when the wind was merely a whisper. The views were dynamic as the sea crashed against the chalk cliffs to produce spectacular sprays. Small flocks of gannets cruised across the sky and sand martins skimmed over the pebbles.

View of small cove from outside the cafe.

View of small cove from outside the cafe.


It’s a place that could easily be bypassed as you need to turn left before you reach North Landing. The car park cost only a £1 and was sparsely furnished with cars. While some visitors sat by their cars on the grass, picnicking, others perched near the edge of the cliffs enjoying the sea and caves. A few had binoculars and were studying the sky.

There is a cafe, which sells hot drinks, cakes, ice cream and lunches and dogs are allowed inside the cafe. Although we picnicked on the grass we enjoyed a cup of tea in the cafe later.To the right of the cafe (facing the sea) is a large bay with caves; to the left a small bay. We decided to descend down the bank to the small bay. I don’t know how many steps there were but they were steep and a number were missing. It was definitely worth the effort as the beach was deserted and I explored what I thought was a cave but which turned out to be an archway through to the sea. The smell of the sea was refreshing and the pebbles were covered with seaweed. The only downside was the number of plastic bottles dumped there. I would have picked them up but I knew I’d need both hands to climb back.

View of the smaller cove from the beach.

View of the smaller cove from the beach.

The climb up to the top was less fun as there was no handrail and where there were missing steps it was, shall we say, interesting. I was relieved when we reached the cafe again but wouldn’t have missed that special time in the little cove.

The larger bay at Thornwick showing the caves.

The larger bay at Thornwick showing the caves.


(Apologies for the quality of the photos as they are mobile phone pics.)

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