Over There

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1580 words.

Clyde was only fifteen years old when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour. He didn’t even know where Hawaii was, but he knew that he was mad at the Japs. Every man seemed to be joining up, right after. Clyde asked his Dad when he could go, but the old man told him, “Wait a while son, and it might all be over. Anyway, you’re too young now”.

Dad worked at the factory in Kenosha, making engines for Chrysler on the production line. But he wanted better for Clyde; wanted him to go to college, and make something of his life. When Dad had finished with the newspaper, Clyde would read about the war. The Limeys had lost Singapore, and the Germans were not doing so well in Russia. They listened to the radio news too, Alistair Cooke, and others. Sobering reports of bombing in London, failed raids into France, and resistance building in Europe. In the Pacific, America had a victory at Midway, and had started to claw back the islands taken by the enemy.

When Clyde turned seventeen, Dad refused to allow him to try to join up. He could never win an argument with Dad, so knew he would have to wait another year. Frank Bauer got killed soon after. Only three years older than Clyde, he lived across the street, and had been a popular boy at high school. Mum saw the army car arrive outside Mrs Bauer’s house, and feared the worst. Frank’s parents looked ill after that. Their boy was buried on some island, and they couldn’t even pronounce the name of it, let alone know where it was. Clyde didn’t cry over Frank, but he had a strange feeling for weeks, after hearing that news. He would be in soon, and Frank would be avenged.

Mum had cried when he left for training camp, standing by the bus wiping her eyes with an embroidered handkerchief. Her only child, leaving home, and who knew when she would see him again. Dad shook his hand firmly, like he was a real man, and his lips were set, pressed together. Clyde had a lump in his throat for sure, but his overriding emotion was one of excitement, and the thrill of the unknown.

Camp started out better than he ever imagined. Haircuts, uniform issue, and meeting the other guys in his company. They were from all over; Texas, Louisiana, New York City, and Boston. They called themselves ‘Irish’, ‘Italian’, ‘Swede’, or ‘Dutch’. One black haired boy from New York asked Clyde what he was. “Just American”, he replied, and they all laughed. There was a lot of marching, a lot of digging holes, and even painting huts. Some guys were tasked with painting the stones that lined the paths between the barracks. Clyde thought it was crazy. There was a war to fight, and they had dozens of men painting stones. But the food was great, and plenty of it. And despite the unfamiliar heat in that southern state, Clyde soon got used to the daily runs, the assault course, and the constant drills.

After what seemed a long time, they even got to fire their rifles. There were lectures first of course, always the lectures. The M 1 Garand rifle was heavier than he had expected it to be, but he was young and strong, so soon got used to carrying it. He was a fair shot too, considering he had never hunted. When they finally got to the passing-out parade, Clyde was as proud as could be. He and his pals had been assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, and would be heading off to Virginia, on special buses.
The 29th had a reputation, and a nickname, ‘The Blue and Gray’. Almost all the other guys there had served in the National Guard, so Clyde and his friends were very much the new guys, and felt completely overwhelmed by the set up they found there, with everyone knowing each other so well. They agreed to stick together as much as possible, despite mostly being placed in different companies.

More training followed. Simulated combat, fighting alongside armour, digging a one-man foxhole or slit trench to get cover, and how to clear houses of the enemy. They watched films and had more lectures; learning about everything from venereal disease, to how to search a prisoner. The war raged on elsewhere. The Pacific was still hell, Italy had given up, and the Russians were sweeping the Krauts away in the east. But Clyde’s unit was going nowhere, just sweating in the Virginia heat.

Things happen when you least expect in the Army. One day after chow, the sergeant came into the huts, and rousted everyone to get their kit packed. Clyde turned to his friend, the black-haired New Yorker, Angelo. The smiling Italian winked, and said, “It’s happening, Kenosha”.

Clyde had never been on a ship at sea, and he didn’t take well to it. They had crammed into the surprisingly small grey ship, being forced right down inside, where sailors had rigged metal-framed bunks in long rows. Just enough space to squeeze into, and barely able to turn around, the whole place stank of fuel oil, and hot bodies. That voyage was Clyde’s idea of hell. Constantly sea-sick, and feeling like he wanted to die. The short breaks allowed up on deck were little relief, with the ship crashing around in the waves, and cold seawater spraying over the sides. When they arrived in England, many of the guys kissed the ground, and swore they never wanted to see a ship again.

England was great though. The people were mostly very friendly, and the camp was comfortable. Down in the nearby town, small boys would run up to the soldiers, asking “Got any gum, chum?” The local girls could be very friendly too, according to Angelo. If you had some nylons or lipstick, they got really friendly, Angelo told him. But Clyde hadn’t thought to get any nylons or lipstick. He had never had a girlfriend, and when the English girls giggled at his tall frame and sandy hair, he could only blush.

It wasn’t too long before they were on a ship again. The company commander told them that they were part of ‘something big’. Bigger than they could ever imagine. The docks were crowded with troops and equipment. Clyde had never seen so much stuff, or so many men, all in one place. Once on board, they waited. Clyde didn’t mind it so much when the ship was tied up, but he dreaded the thought of it moving. The weather was unusually bad for summer, windy and wet. The rumour going around was that it would all be postponed, and they would be going back to camp. Clyde was asleep when he felt the ship moving. He woke up, and looked around. Angelo was playing cards with some guys from the 1st Infantry Division, and was lucky not to get caught cheating. This was a much larger ship than the one they had crossed the Atlantic in, and Clyde was very happy when he didn’t start to feel like throwing up.

Klaxons sounded, and sergeants were shouting. Everyone tumbled out of hammock and bunks, grabbing their rifles and kit, forming lines ready to wait their turn to get up to the deck. Out in the air, Clyde felt his mouth drop wide open. He had never seen so many ships. It seemed like you could walk from one to the other, without getting your feet wet. Angelo turned to him, grinning. “This is it!” He yelled. The sky was filled with planes heading inland, and when the big guns on the battleships opened fire, Clyde felt his ears would burst. The Lieutenant was shouting above the noise, getting them in lines to climb down to the waiting landing craft. He pointed out into the distance. “There it is men. Omaha Beach”.

In the landing craft, Clyde stuck with Angleo. The thing was bobbing around like a cork in the waves, but Clyde was full of a mix of excitement and fear, and too amazed by what was happening to feel seasick. The strange sound above their heads was unusual, and it took Clyde some time to realise it was incoming fire. The Germans were shooting at them. This was the real deal. After circling for a while, it was their turn. The craft accelerated as it got close, and the ramp dropped down sooner than expected. Clyde followed the sergeant into the waves, the shock of the cold water above his waist making him catch his breath. Keeping his rifle held high above the water, he moved steadily forward, until he could feel solid sand under his feet. Looking round, he could see Angelo close behind, but some of the others were floating face down in the water, or struggling to gain their feet in their waterlogged clothes. The sergeant looked half-crazy, and was waving his free arm, shouting ‘Keep moving!”

Angelo felt something hit him hard, and it knocked the wind out of him as he fell. It was what was left of Kenosha, who had stepped on a mine. He screamed “Medic!” But the sergeant grabbed his equipment straps and hauled him to his feet. “Get moving, greaseball”, he snarled.

It was warm in Wisconsin that June. Clyde’s Mum was walking home from the shops, hoping there would be a letter from her son today.

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A perfect match

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1300 words.

Malcolm had finally decided on the main photo he would use. It was three years old, but so what? He looked quite good in a suit, and this photo taken at his cousin’s wedding was before he had put on a little weight too. For the extra two free profile shots, he had chosen one where he was sitting in a canoe, and another from a charity abseil. They would make him appear to be the outdoors and sporty type. Women seemed to like that.

He saved the online form, and went back over the details.

After a lot of thought, he had decided to use his real age. Thirty-three wasn’t old, after all. Choosing the age range of a potential partner was harder. He would like to have just typed in ‘twenty-four plus’, but that wasn’t an option. Instead, he chose the box marked ’25-39′. Perhaps an older woman might be a good idea in the long run, and that at least took in those his own age.

‘Hobbies and Interests’ gave him some concern. Playing video games long into the night was unlikely to appeal to a potential partner, so best avoided. No point putting down ‘Theatre’, as he had never been to one. ‘Reading’ was missed off too. He didn’t want to have to try and read all the latest books, just to have something to talk about. The other suggestions didn’t make life easier. ‘Travel’. Malcolm knew in his heart that visits to Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach would not count in that category. But he loved those thrill rides, and went as often as he could afford. As for foreign travel, he didn’t even have a passport. He chose not to click on ‘Travel’. ‘Films and Cinema’. That was an easy one. there wasn’t a horror film made that he hadn’t watched, and he had over one hundred DVD films in his collection. That was one he could click with some confidence. Given the photos he was using, he added ‘Canoeing’ in the ‘Sports’ sub-category, even though it had just been that once. Plus football of course, as he always watched the local team on TV.

‘Smoking’ was simple. He didn’t smoke, and didn’t want to meet anyone who did. As for ‘Alcohol’, he clicked on ‘Non-Drinker, and added ‘soft drinks only’. His choice of favourite food was easy too. ‘Pizza’ was an option, so he just clicked that. Everyone loves pizza, Malcolm thought, so why bother with any more choices? Other categories had taken much longer. ‘Style’. What was his style? The suggestions listed things he had never heard of. He didn’t know what ‘Preppy’ was, so looked it up. No, definitely not him. ‘Well-groomed’? He guessed that meant clean and tidy, so was happy to click on that one. After much agonising, he settled for ‘Casual’ as his overall style. T-shirts and denims, that was his ‘Signature Look’.

Malcolm got his debit card from the bedside table, and typed all the details into the payment box. He chose his password, and decided that his actual name would do, as he couldn’t think of any username that didn’t relate to a first-person shooter video game. A box appeared on the laptop screen, suggesting he preview his profile before publishing, so he did. Happy with how it looked, he pressed ‘Enter Profile’, and was pleased to receive an immediate confirmation.

“Congratulations, Malcolm. Your profile is now live on ‘Perfect Match’! Stay logged in to receive your matches, likes, and messages. Good Luck from the team at ‘Perfect Match’.

Malcolm blew the air out of his cheeks, and went down to the kitchen to get a can of Coke. He might have time to get to the next level of the game too, level twenty-four, if he didn’t get killed first.

Kerry was going to turn thirty in September. She had never had a real boyfriend, and often felt lonely when her friends were off out on dates, and Mum and Dad were staring at the telly downstairs. She didn’t really understand why nobody ever asked her out. She looked pleasant enough, and although she was somewhat heavier than many women her age, she also knew that many men liked ‘curvy’ ladies. She had a good job, and drove her own car too. Her favourite television show was ‘Game of Thrones’, and she enjoyed all the latest films, especially the horror ones. Best of all, she liked to ride on the big scary rides, at places like Alton Towers, or Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Her bedroom wall was adorned with the photos they took of you as you screamed on the ride. Those, and a football scarf signed by her local team. She loved to watch football, and never missed a game if she could help it. Most of the time, she was on her own in the bedroom, playing video games on her PC. She liked the most popular games, and hours of practice had made her very good indeed. In fact, she was up to level twenty-four on the latest one.

Michelle was her best friend, and had been since primary school. But she had got pregnant at eighteen, and married soon after. That hadn’t worked out, and she drifted from man to man, acquiring two more children on the way. She had a habit of popping round, usually trying to borrow money, or asking Kerry for a lift in her car. Kerry didn’t mind too much. Michelle had a great sense of fun, and was good to be around. One night, she had even let her talk her into joining one of those dating sites online, called ‘Perfect Match’. “You never know, Kel, you might meet the man of your dreams. And everyone’s dating online nowadays.” When Michelle said it like that it made sense. But she had not received any messages, got any likes, or been matched by the company. Maybe it was because she put down that she liked theme-park rides, football, and video games? That might have put people off. Michelle was certain of it, and had said she should change her profile, putting down that she liked going to clubs, drinking, travelling, and meeting new people. But Kerry had declined. “That’s not me though”, she told her friend.

That evening as she sat at the computer in her room, Kerry was surprised to find a message appear from ‘Perfect Match’. it was a suggested match, and she excitedly logged into her account. He seemed nice enough. Thirty-three, wearing a nice suit, and a bit sporty in the other photos. He didn’t smoke or drink, liked football, and described his style as ‘Casual’, with ‘T-shirts and denims’ as his ‘Signature Look’. His location was perfect too, only twelve miles away. The doorbell sounded as she read the profile again. Mum let Michelle in, and she ran up to Kerry’s room. She reeked of cheap perfume, and her skirt was so short, it looked ridiculous. “Any chance of a lift to Huckleberry’s, Kel? I’ve got a hot date, and Sandra next door is minding the kids. You could pick up a pizza on the way back. I know how much you love a pizza”

She glanced at the PC, as Kerry got her shoes on. “What’s this, a match? Told you it was worth trying”.
Kerry walked over, smiling. “Just came in tonight. He seems nice, likes football, bit sporty, and around the right age. Doesn’t live far away either. I might send him a message later”. Michelle read down the screen, then scrolled back up to the top again. She turned to Kerry with a huge grin on her face. “Come on Kel, really? You absolutely positively are not going out with someone called Malcolm! What were you thinking of? Come on girl, delete that, and get your car keys. I’m already late”.

Blogger’s Books: Jack Eason

Jack is a writer and local blogger from my part of the country. He has a great new book out, and I am happy to feature it on this blog. Most of us know the date 1066 well, as the time of the Norman Conquest, and The Battle of Hastings. King Harold killed by an arrow in his eye, the Bayeux Tapestry, and the end of Anglo-Saxon rule in England.

But we rarely consider the events leading up to that drama, and that is what Jack has done, in his novel ‘Autumn 1066: The End Of Anglo-Saxon Dominance’. Jack takes the reader back to those times with his characters, and details of the hard life lived in this country. For anyone interested in history, especially the murky history of the 11th century, this looks like a great read indeed.

The book has received some excellent reviews on Amazon, and is available at a very good price too. Here’s a link.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Autumn-1066-Anglo-Saxon-dominance-ended/dp/1546685308/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

And for anyone interested to learn more about Jack, here is his own short biography.

Jack Eason lived in New Zealand for forty-two years until 2000 when he returned to his birthplace in England. As far as he is concerned he will always consider himself to be a Kiwi. After military service in the 1960’s, he travelled the world, visiting exotic lands and making many friends. Now in his mid-sixties he is content to write and travel via the Internet. Besides writing novels and short stories, he contributes to his own blog “Have We Had Help?” Some of his short stories and numerous articles appear in the No: 1 online E-zine “Angie’s DIARY”. His literary interests include science fiction, history, both ancient and modern, and humorous tales like those written by his fellow writer Derek Haines, such as “HAL”. He lives in semi-retirement in his home town surrounded by his favourite books, ranging from historical fact to science fiction. His literary icons are J.R.R Tolkien, George Orwell, Arthur C Clarke and John Wyndham.

And this is a link to his own blog, where you can find out a lot more about his work.
https://havewehadhelp.wordpress.com/

Please check out the link to Jack’s new book, and see if it is something you would like to buy and read.

Published Bloggers

This is an open invitation to any blogger in this small community. Do you follow my blogs, or make regular comments? Are you one of those who never fails to add a ‘Like’? If so, then I have a genuine offer for you. If you publish a book, whether a novel, or non-fiction, I will feature it on this blog, as well as Twitter, Linkedin, and Google +.

This is not a time-limited offer, and will be open to you every time you publish. Please send me a link to your book, along with any sales links, free offers, or electronic versions. Feel free to include a small bio, if you so wish. I will give your book (or series) its own post, and add all the links supplied too. Please limit photos though, so as not to use up my space allowance.

Whether you have sold lots of copies, or are still struggling to make that first sale, I think you will agree that it cannot do any harm to get more exposure, even from a relatively tiny blog like this one. I think we all need to help each other in this great community, so either post a comment with your links, or send me an email to petejohnson50@yahoo.com

There is nothing in this for me, I hasten to add. No hidden agenda, no ulterior motive, just trying to help.

Please note. If you are NOT a part of this community, or you are seeking to sell a service, or product, then don’t even bother.

Blogger’s Books: Julie C. Round

Always happy to promote the work of fellow bloggers, today I feature former teacher, Julie C. Round.
From her home in Southern England, Julie writes stories about local life in Sussex, and the people who live there. She has published three books in the ‘Lane’ trilogy; ‘Lane’s End’, ‘Never Run Away’, and ‘Never Pretend’. Her latest venture is a romantic novel set in the 1960s, ‘A Lesson For The Teacher’.

Here are some links.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Never-Pretend/dp/0955724279/

As well as writing, Julie is a public speaker at her local W. I., and has helped to raise funds for a riding school for the disabled. Please check out the links, and see if her books are something you might like to buy and read. And here is a link to her own sites. http://juliecround.com/

https://www.juliecround.co.uk/

The New Mattress

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1390 words.

Val and Terry were watching a late-night film, when they saw the advertisement in the commercial break.

A free mattress, any size, delivered to your door within two days. Nothing to pay at all, and free to return if you were not happy with it. The company are looking for testers for their new design, so giving them away free, to anyone who applied. Just call the number on the screen, and leave your details.

Terry snorted. “That has to be a con, I guarantee it. Who gives away anything these days?”

Val nodded. “True, but we could certainly do with a new mattress. Our one is ten years old, and it’s going flat on my side.”

“Well I for one am not falling for it”. Terry settled his feet on the sofa as the film came back on, having already forgotten the ‘free offer’.

The next afternoon, Val arrived home from her part-time job at 2 pm. She made a cup of tea, and settled down in front of the TV to watch her favourite quiz programme. During the break, she saw the advertisement again. This time, she not only noted down the telephone number, but also the website details. After the quiz, she checked the website on her laptop. It seemed genuine enough to her, like any normal site. There were the usual reviews from happy customers, and just the occasional moaner, talking about how they wouldn’t take away the old mattress, when they delivered the free one. But nobody even suggested it was a con, and not one said they had been asked for any money. You could apply for the free mattress online too, just choose the size, and how firm you wanted it. Val bookmarked the site, then closed her laptop, and went into the kitchen to start preparing dinner.

As they were eating later that evening, Terry suddenly looked up, seeming to remember something. “Oh, you know that bloke Don, from the warehouse? I’ve mentioned him before, always talks too much. Well, it seems like he got one of those free mattresses. Says it’s great, a king-size, well made, and very comfortable. Only trouble is, he is now stuck with the old one, as they don’t take them away.”

Val smiled. “So, not a con then? Did they ask Don for any money, anything at all.”
Terry shrugged. “Seems not. Don says it’s for testing purposes, but you get to keep it, which is just as well, as they could hardly sell it after. All you have to do is fill in a survey they send you. Don says he knows loads of people who have got them already. They even do small ones for kids, single size, all sorts.”
“I looked at the website today”, Val said after swallowing a mouthful of meat pie. “Seemed OK to me. What do you reckon, shall we order one while they’re still available?”
Terry put down his knife and fork, his plate almost clean. “Might as well, I suppose.”

Within a week, everyone they knew had a new free mattress. The delivery lorry was always around, and all their friends, family and neighbours were talking about the crazy new offer. It didn’t seem possible how any company could give away all those mattresses without going broke. There were now so many old ones needing collection, that men with pick-up trucks were knocking on doors, offering to take them to the dump, for a modest fee. It made the national news, such was the excitement. The company attracted the attention of an investigative reporter, who was sure it was a scam. But after being invited to tour the factory, and being granted an interview with the respectable grey-haired managing director, he could find nothing to criticise. The man was adamant that the free testing would establish the reputation of his company, and enable them to become the market leader, They had factored in the losses, and decided to use this unusual marketing strategy.

The fuss soon died down of course. Everyone in the town stopped talking about their new mattresses, all except the woman opposite Val and Terry, Mrs Noakes. She couldn’t believe her bad luck. Just one week before the advertisement appeared on television, she had taken delivery of a new mattress that she had paid over £1,000 for. She was probably the only person who hadn’t taken up the offer of a free one. She was not about to get rid of her expensive purchase, after all.

Val loved the new mattress, and went on about how comfortable it was, and why she liked it so much more than the old one. Terry was unimpressed though. “Just a mattress, what’s the big deal?” He was secretly pleased to have got it for nothing though.

Three months went by, and Terry began to notice something lumpy on his side of the mattress. Val found him pushing against it one night. “There’s something not right here, Val. I can definitely feel a lump, when I turn over. I reckon a spring’s gone or something. So much for the free offer.”
Val sighed, and walked around to push it, to see for herself. “It’s just settling in love, I don’t know what you are going on about.” Val had felt something, but she wasn’t sure what it was, and not about to give her husband the satisfaction of being right.

It was almost six months to the day it had been delivered, when Val finally had to admit to herself that there was something wrong with the mattress. When she had woken up that morning, she could feel something sharp digging into her side. After she wiggled around for a while, it had gone, and she got up to get ready for work. Waiting for the bus, she felt unsettled. Maybe Terry was right, and the offer had been too good to be true. She would check in the bank to see how their savings were doing, and perhaps order a replacement from Bedmaster, that big shop on the new trading estate. When that survey form finally arrived in the post, she would give the free mattress a bad review, that’s for sure.

When Terry got home from work that evening, he looked smug. “Told you that free offer was rubbish. Don and all the blokes from work are complaining about the beds feeling lumpy or sharp. Everyone’s moaning, you want to hear it. And to think we paid someone £15 to get rid of a perfectly good one.”
Val didn’t really want to tell him, but it was the same at her company too. “Rachel has phoned the mattress company, and they suggested turning the mattress over, and sleeping on the other side.”
“Terry stood up. “OK then, lets do that, give it one last chance.”

It was much heavier than they had both imagined, and it took the two of them all their effort to get the thing off the bed, and over on one side. The bedroom wasn’t large, and they had to do an awkward shuffle to tip it over, and get the reverse side into position. Once it was slid back onto the base, Terry pointed at the uneven surface. “See, no better on that side.”

Val heard a ripping sound, followed by a piercing scream the like she could never have imagined. The scream was coming from Terry. Something had burst out of the mattress, something shiny and blue-black, half man, half insect. Huge pincer-like jaws were clamped around Terry’s neck, and a hissing sound was coming from the creature, like steam escaping from a pot that was boiling over. Blood was pouring down over Terry’s chest, and six claw-like arms held him tight. Val ran for the door, and almost fell down the stairs, she was moving so fast. Her heart was beating rapidly, and her brain whirring, as she tried to take in the scene she had just witnessed. She burst through the street door in her stockinged feet, running into the middle of the road, her mouth opening and closing with the repetitive scream.

All around, similar cries and screams could be heard coming from every house. All except one.
Looking across to Mrs Noakes’, Val could see her at the window, smiling.
Standing next to her, was a respectable grey haired man.

Sonia

This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1160 words.

Sonia brushed her teeth for the full two minutes. She had an app on her mobile phone that connected to the electric toothbrush by bluetooth, and told her exactly when to stop. After brushing, she reached for the spray can of cleaner, and a disposable cloth. The sink was then cleaned thoroughly, before being dried with a second cloth. She then cleaned the toothbrush with a third cloth, before replacing it on the charging unit. Brush head facing out, of course.

Sonia planned to go out today. That had meant getting up very early, to allow plenty of time to prepare.

In the kitchen, the long row of switches by the sockets were all switched off. She switched one of them down to turn it on, then picked up the kettle, preparing to boil some water for her morning coffee. Running the water at the sink for just long enough to be sure it was clear of any pipe residue, she filled it to the quarter mark, as shown by the gauge at the side. Then she swirled the water around inside, and emptied it out, repeating the process before switching it on. She checked that the blue light had come on, so she knew it was beginning to boil.

Filling the kettle had caused some tiny droplets to splash onto the stainless steel surround of the sink. Sonia took a cloth from the cupboard underneath, carefully rubbing at the marks, until the surface gleamed once again. When the kettle boiled, she made her cup of instant coffee, standing at the sink to drink it slowly, rather than create the chance of any spills on the floor. It took a long time for the coffee to cool, and she drank it down quickly as soon as she could. She then washed the spoon and cup, dried them on a kitchen towel, and replaced them in the correct sections of her unit. The kettle had to be emptied of course, then shaken carefully, to remove all drops of water left inside. That done, she reached over to the socket switch, and clicked it to off.

On her way up to the bedroom to get dressed, she suddenly stopped. Turning to go back into the kitchen, she looked along the row of switches once again. She flicked each one down to on, them slowly pushed each one back to off. With no chance of leaving one accidentally activated, she was happy to continue with getting dressed for the day.

In the bedroom, she examined the clothing options. The dresses and jackets, skirts and tops. On the right hand side of the large double wardrobe, she looked at the black and grey selection. Darkest on the left, going down to light grey at the far right. The left hand side held the lighter coloured clothes, running from pure white on the inside rail, through to beige and brown at the front. Sonia decided that a grey dress and jacket would be in order this morning, taking out a matching combination, before closing the door, and locking it carefully with the small chrome key. Walking over to a tall chest of drawers, she opened the top one, where she knew the black underwear would be found. Bras on the right, panties on the left. Each matching pair laid side by side of course, to avoid having to put on any that didn’t go together. Underwear chosen, she laid the dress and jacket on the bed, before walking across to a low cupboard on the far side of the room.

Inside, her shoes were stored carefully, each pair in its own shoe bag. A small plastic window in each provided a view of the shoes inside, to save opening each bag to check. She decided on some matt-black flats. Taking them from the bag, she reached inside the left shoe to find the microfibre cloth she knew would be there. Using it to buff the shoes free of any dust, she replaced it in the bag, zipped it up, and put it back into the cupboard. Sliding out a fitted drawer above the shoes, she inspected the tightly rolled pairs of tights, each in a small box section of the drawer. They were arranged in colour order, the darkest pairs at the front, light colours at the back. Then each colour was arranged by thickness. Warm woolen tights further back, then ribbed or opaques, moving to sheer at the front. Sonia selected some barely black tights, and took some white cotton gloves from their own section. She would wear those when putting on the tights, to avoid getting any runs or snags.

Finally dressed and ready, she checked the contents of her small shoulder bag. She yawned as she did so. It already seemed like a long day, and she still hadn’t left the house. Examining the inside of the bag, she mentally ticked off the contents. Wallet and cards, mobile phone, tissues, compact mirror and lipstick, folding hairbrush, a ballpoint pen, just in case, and the house keys. She wan’t sure, so emptied out the bag onto the bed, and carefully replaced every item in order. When the bag was full, she checked through again. Just to be certain.

Sonia looked at her reflection in the hallway mirror, adjusting the shoulder strap of the bag so it sat just right above her left arm. She had one last look around the house, and turned to open the door. Once outside, she retrieved the keys from the bag, and began to lock up. The main lock had to turn twice to the right, with a secondary lower lock requiring just one turn, from the larger of the two keys. She used the larger key first, listening for the click as the lock secured. Changing to the normal door-key, she rotated it twice in the lock. Once both were done, she pushed hard against the door, just to make sure it was secure.

She was sure there was some give in it, so had no option but to unlock both, and repeat the process. Finally satisfied, she turned to walk along the path to the gate. But as her hand touched the latch, a frown came over her face. Something was niggling in the back of her mind. Sonia turned around, and unlocking both locks once more, she walked back into the house, carefully hanging her bag on a hook in the hallway. Back in the kitchen, she checked the row of socket switches. They all seemed to be off, but just to make sure, she switched them all on again, before turning off each one individually. She then noticed a water droplet at the side of the sink, and reached for a disposable cloth to mop it up.

Standing in her kitchen, Sonia blew out her cheeks. It was going to be a long day indeed.