Southern Belle: Part Two. A Story For Dani concludes

This is a fictional story, with some regular readers in mind. It is inspired by the ludicrous names that many authors choose for their characters, and written especially for this blogger, Dani. Though hard to believe, all the character names used in this story are actual names used in novels, and in some cases, the names of the authors too. If you intend reading it, you might first want to read part one.

There were so many cars in the driveway leading up to the De Vere mansion, Dani and Blythe decided to pay off the cabby, and walk the rest of the way. It was obvious everyone who was anyone was going to be inside, they could tell that from the expensive limousines queuing bumper-to-bumper. As they got close to the door, a pencil-thin young woman emerged from one of cars, draped in a dress with a long trail, that made her look like a mermaid. As she spotted Blythe, she let out an ear-piercing squeal of delight, and the whiteness of her teeth shone in the fading light. After lightly hugging Blythe, so as not to spoil her coiffure, she glanced over at Dani, raising her eyebrows. Blythe grinned, and made the introductions. “Misty, this my my old friend, and first love, Dani. Dani, meet Misty Mount, she’s one of the best-known southern belles in Charleston”.

Misty grinned, not knowing what to say. Finally, she extended a hand. “First love, why how quaint, I’m sure.” Misty turned in the direction of the door. Looking back over her shoulder, she added, “Maybe see you inside later, I must rush. I’m meeting my beau. Do you know the fabulous Timothee De Fombelle? He’s so rich, darling, he even has more money than my daddy”. Inside the house, Dani and Blythe helped themselves to some champagne, served in the finest crystal glasses by flunky-dressed waiters. Blythe turned to Dani and kissed her softly. “Come on honey, let’s explore”. Even in such a large house, the rooms felt crowded; people milling around making small talk, quietly criticising each other’s clothes, and muttering about who had put on weight, or who was too thin. Dani heard a booming voice behind, as they made for the conservatory. “Why Blythe Sol, can that really be you?” The girls turned, to be confronted by a hulking figure of a man, someone who took going to the gym to the next level, undoubtedly. He ran his hand through thick straw-coloured hair, and thrust his brick-like chin forward as he smiled. Blythe recognised him immediately. ” Hi Nick. Dani, this is Nick Gorgeous. Nick, meet Dani, my partner, at least for tonight”. That stopped the big man in his tracks. “My pleasure ma’am, and great to see you again, Blythe”. With that, he glanced around the room. “Oh my, there’s Robert Le Donjon, I must ask him something, sorry ladies”. He headed off, leaving Dani stifling a fit of giggles. “Is that really his name?”, she asked her friend. Blythe grinned. “I know, unbelievable, but that is his real name.”

Dalton Kipper reluctantly hauled his bulk from the car. It was no good, he would have to get closer to get a good photograph, long lens or not. He decided that he would stand around close to the conservatory, pretend to be a guest, if challenged. “At least I will get myself a nice look-see at some of those pretty girls”, he mumbled to himself between laboured breaths. In the ballroom, Baron Wickshire, (who is really the famous international con-man, Bastian Urso) wondered why he couldn’t lay eyes on Lola Dodge. After all, she was the reason he had set the whole thing up, hoping to swindle her out of her fortune, by getting her to invest in a property scam. He caught the eye of Talon Steel, who was standing on the other side of the throng. Steel had his arms around two local gold-diggers, Andee Trakes, and Rouen Rivroche. Those sexy young tramps had no idea what was going on, and Steel had just brought them along as eye candy. Steel was a famous star of porn movies, and his rippling torso and huge manhood were well-known in all fifty states. But that was just a sideline. His real job was as a mob enforcer, and he had been loaned out to protect Urso, who had promised a big cut to The Family.

Bastian furrowed his brow, and Talon shook his head in reply. It was clear he didn’t know where Lola was, either.

Blythe leaned in close, and whispered to Dani. “You look so hot, I must have you now. Let’s lose this crowd, and find a bedroom”. Dani nodded her agreement, and they headed up the back stairs to the first floor. Blythe tried the first door, surprised to see Lola Dodge sitting on the huge bed, with Dax Janner standing next to her, holding his phone. “Get out! Room occupied” Lola shouted, and Blythe closed the door quickly. She looked at Dani, and held a finger up to her lips, indicating silence. With that, she leaned in hard against the door to listen, and Dani followed her example. They could hear Dax’s conversation clearly, though they had no idea who he was talking to. “That’s right, he’s here. But be careful, he has protection. Some mob tough guy, Talon Steel. Yes that’s right, you can guarantee he will have a gun. As agreed, the price is a hundred grand for me to point him out to your guys. Leave the money in the post box of Lola Dodge, at the Dodge Mansion, Wisteria Drive. How long before they get here? OK ten minutes then.” Dax had obviously hung up. “It’s on, Lola darling. We have to get back down to the party, ready to point him out.”

Dani grabbed Blythe’s hand, and whispered close to her ear. “No time for sex now honey, I’ve had an idea.” The girls went back down the stairs, and left the house at the side, close to the conservatory. They passed a fat, crumpled-looking man, trying in vain to conceal a large camera. “Evening ladies”, he wheezed, as they hurried past. Blythe walked over to one of the parking valets, standing next to some keys hung on a stand. She smiled and said, “Do you have some tape of something? I think the hem of my dress is going to drop”. As she spoke, she raised her dress almost level with her groin, flashing her thighs, and the lacy edge of her panties. The young valet’s eyes goggled at the sight, and he didn’t even notice Dani, as she quietly retrieved a set of keys from the stand. She was careful to take one with a maker’s fob, clearly marked Porsche. It was easy enough to find the parked car by pressing the fob button and seeing which car had the familiar flicker of lights, and clunking sound as the doors unlocked. Blythe joined her in the parking area, the hapless valet still inside somewhere, searching for tape. As Dani drove off at top speed, she almost collided with two black vans that were heading for the house.

The two vans came to a halt outside, and six tough-looking men emerged from the back of each one. They were wearing black clothes, and carrying automatic weapons. The young valet emerged smiling, clutching a roll of Scotch tape. He was just about to say, “Sorry gentlemen, you can’t park there” as a hail of bullets cut him down, and he fell back against the steps. The twelve men rushed into the house, ignoring all the women who were now screaming, just looking around at the men. Outside at the back, Dalton Kipper perked up. He knew the sound of gunfire when he heard it, and he switched on the camera, to be ready. In the ballroom, there was blind panic. Well-dressed women kicked off their heels to be able to run, and some hid under tables, knocking over trays of drinks and snacks. Instinctively, Talon Steel grabbed the pistol inside his coat, but already knew it was too late. One of the Russians emptied a magazine of bullets at him, catching the screaming Andee Trakes and Rouen Rivroche in the same burst that killed Talon.

Nick Gorgeous had rolled under a side table as son as the firing started. He pulled the cloth cover down to conceal his presence, and held his breath. Robert Le Donjon, who had been talking to Nick, walked toward the men, holding his hands up, and smiling. “Gentlemen, please. There must be some mista…”. He never finished his sentence, and stared down at the holes that had appeared in his chest.
Bastian Urso made a run for the conservatory, his only chance of escape. Seeing him go, Dax Janner, who was shielding Lola with his body, called to the men. “I’m your guy, Dax. There he goes”. Dax pointed to the back of Urso’s head as the sprinting man made it through the open doors of the conservatory. Unfortunately for Dax, the men he spoke to didn’t understand English, and just carried on firing. Their bullets went through the surprised Dax, and on into Lola. They both fell dead to the floor. One of the Russians had got the idea though, and shouted to the others, who joined him in a chase through the gardens. Urso was out of breath, and tried to hide under the rim of a huge fountain. But his panting gave him away. A big man pressed the hot barrel of an assault rifle against his head, and grinned. He growled, “Mr Kamarov says hello” as he fired.

Dalton Kipper was pressed as flat to the wall as his bulk would allow. Fortunately, the black-dressed men ignored him, as they ran back to the waiting vans. He puffed his way into the conservatory, and let his eyes wander around the scene. Bodies lay all over the place, and there was blood spattered up the walls too. A dazed-looking man with straw-coloured hair rolled out from under a table, screaming “Don’t shoot” as he clapped eyes on Kipper. Dalton clicked away, his camera on motor-drive. He wasn’t going to get his payday for fingering Urso, but he could make a pretty penny from selling photos of this carnage, he reckoned.

In Wisteria Drive, the stolen Porsche pulled up outside the grand gates leading to the home of Lola Dodge. “You go to the post box, while I turn the car round”. Dani suggested. Blythe jumped from the car, and ran across to the box. Dani saw her in the headlights, as she retrieved a bulky package from the box, and turned smiling, giving a thumbs-up. Her smile evaporated as Dani stepped on the gas, driving over Blythe without hesitation. Before getting out of the car, Dani reversed it slowly over her former lover, just to make sure, hearing the satisfying sound as her skull cracked under the weight. The package was intact, and did indeed feel like it contained $100,000.

Dani leaned forward, looking into Blythe’s dead eyes as she spoke.
“Bye Honey. You were good, but not that good. And you should have kept in touch.”


A lovely bouquet

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1420 words.

Patty had always loved nice flowers. She couldn’t really afford them, but she always tried to have some around the house, even a tiny bunch. She would arrange them just so, and change the water daily. Keep them away from the heaters, and try to get them to live as long as possible. When she was a little girl, her Dad used to buy her Mum flowers on special occasions, and Patty loved to see Mum’s face light up with delight, as she unwrapped them from the cellophane. But that was a long time ago, and Mum and Dad were gone now, leaving Patty to struggle to maintain the house, holding down two jobs to make ends meet.

After arriving home from her work, she got ready for the evening shift at the supermarket. They provided a uniform of sorts, so she left on the red and black striped jumper that she had worn all day. Nobody would know, and they wouldn’t see much of it under the overall anyway. It was one of the few warm things she had to wear under her coat, and she knew only too well that the other women at the office noticed that she wore it a lot. Working from seven until eleven every night on top of the clerical job was so tiring, but it had to be done, and it wasn’t as if she had anything else to do. But it never seemed to get her in front. There was still so little money at the end of the month, she often cried herself to sleep, imagining having to sell the old house.

The next morning, she slept late and had no time for a shower, or any breakfast. She pulled on some clothes from the washing bin. They would have to do another day. Rushing out of the front door, she almost fell over the huge bunch of flowers propped against it. Despite being so late, she had to stop and look at them. It was such a lovely bouquet, she couldn’t bear to leave it there. She was sure it had to be a mistake. Nobody would be leaving flowers worth a day’s pay for her, that was for sure. She found her biggest vase in the hall cupboard, and ran the water until it was cold enough to prop the bunch into. She would sort it out later. Maybe a neighbour would come looking for them, when she got home.

Mr Cunningham had been really unkind. She was hardly ever late, and yet there he was, standing by her desk, ready to lecture her in front of the others. “Not good enough, Patricia”. To hell with him. She stayed late to make up the twenty minutes, so by the time she got home, she didn’t have long before she had to leave again, to be at the supermarket by seven. But she could not ignore those lovely flowers. There was no card with the bouquet, and no note from a neighbour claiming them either. She arranged them beautifully, folding the striped cellophane wrapper carefully, and placing it in a drawer. Just in case somebody called round to ask for them.

The next morning, she left home early, determined not to give Cunningham the satisfaction of telling her off again. Propped against the door was another lovely bunch of flowers, wrapped just like the last ones. She ran a hand through her barely-combed hair. Could it be that she had a secret admirer? Even the thought of that made her laugh out loud. Who would admire her? Most of her hair was grey now, and it had been a long time since she could afford to buy make-up, or dress nice. It must be a wrong address thing. Someone was sending flowers to a sweetheart, and she was getting them instead. With no time to find another vase, Patty dropped the bouquet into the kitchen sink, and ran some water over the stems before leaving for work.

By the end of the month, Patty had twelve arrangements still going. The scent of all the flowers filled her house with a wonderful aroma, and the sight of them made going into every room a real pleasure. She had had to buy eight new vases, just to cope with all of the bouquets, and that had made a real dent in her salary. But the flowers were worth it, at least to Patty. When the gas bill arrived that week, she knew she would not be able to pay it. She turned the heating off, and sat in her coat, admiring the wonderful blooms. When money got even tighter, she resorted to taking the date-expired sandwiches she removed from the displays in the supermarket. After a while, she even began to enjoy eating them.

Winter took a grip on the city, but Patty didn’t mind. The flowers kept coming, and lasted longer in the cold, especially with no heaters on. She had stopped caring about where they came from, or who should have been getting them. She had just decided to enjoy them, as it was high time something nice happened in her life.

Patrolman Kenney banged his gloves together to try to get some warmth into his hands. He had caught the call, and now it looked like he would be here for a long time. The grey car reversed into the only space left, and Kenney was pleased to see two detectives emerge from it, wrapped in heavy overcoats and scarves. Riley walked up to him. He was holding a coffee cup with both hands, more to warm them, than for drinking. “What you got, Kenney?” His tone was flat, it had been a long day. The patrolman hoped he might be able to hand off the job, he just had to make it sound more than it was. As the second detective walked past him into the house, Kenney tried to sound excited, but it wasn’t easy.
“Some old bird, dead in a chair. Looks to have had maybe a heart attack, or she might have frozen to death, for all I know. There’s no heat in that big old house, not a thing”. Riley looked decidedly unimpressed. “So why us, why did you call it in?” Kenney smiled. “You’ll see”.

Inside, Riley saw Esposito peering at the woman’s face. He was a family man, like all Italians, and he had a thing about old ladies. Worried about them, stuff like that. Riley cast his eyes around the large living room. His partner smiled at the Irishman’s open mouth. On every available space, there was a vase of flowers, all the blooms mostly long dead. On units, side-tables, window ledges, even all over the floor. The old lady hardly had room for the chair she was sitting in. Esposito put on some latex gloves, and scooped up a big pile of papers from under the chair. Riley raised an eyebrow, and his partner said, “All bills, all overdue”. This ones not for us, Max”, said Riley, shaking his head. “Just a dead old lady with a thing about flowers, and no money”.

Esposito thought for a moment. “But who sent the flowers? Maybe there’s something behind all this after all”. He pointed to a half-open drawer nearby. It was bulging with carefully-folded sheets of patterned cellophane “I recognise this wrapping, same shop where I get Lila’s flowers. You know, the one near the big supermarket. I’ll go check it out while you finish up here”.

The florist was just closing up when the dark-haired man in the padded coat tapped on the glass door. She called out, “Sorry, we’re closed”. The man pressed a gold badge against the glass. “Detective Esposito, Homicide. I have some questions”. The woman opened the door, wondering what he could want. He showed her the bundle of cellophane wrappers with the pink and blue stripes. “Can you tell me about someone who buys lots of flowers here. And I mean lots. I’m talking maybe a hundred, or even more than that. They must run to fifty, maybe seventy-five dollars a bunch. I’m guessing they are bought for a woman around sixty years old. Maybe her son, or an ex-husband?” The florist didn’t really need much time to think.

“Oh no, nobody like that. But I do have one regular customer who buys such expensive bouquets. She’s a nice lady, doesn’t say much. And she usually wears a red and black striped jumper”.

The Magic Pages: A story for Kim

This is a fictional short story, written especially for the lovely lady and great blogger, Kim. For any of you who follow her site By Hook Or By Book, you will know of her love for literature, libraries, and Pomeranian dogs. You will also be aware of the difficulties she faces, and her woes over the Trump presidency. This story is just for her, but I hope it will bring some joy to anyone who reads it.

Kim’s last day at the library was a far from happy occasion. Leaving behind her beloved books, her friends and colleagues, and most of all those thousands of children she had introduced to wonderful literature over the years. She had watched their discovery, fostered their love of language, and looked on as they gasped at amazing illustrations, and fantastic new worlds to explore. There was sadness and tears amid the celebration of her dedication, and the love she had given through her librarian skills.
But all those years of reading had taken their toll, and her health was not what it once was. Too many headaches, too painful, too often. She reluctantly decided she had to go, but her heart had never been heavier as she walked through the door for that last time.

Waiting outside, she saw the group she knew so well. The children of her Reading Club, trying to smile through the tears as they watched their friend leaving. Jay walked up to her, holding a notebook. She held it up to Kim, with a pen clasped in her small hand. “Write your wishes in this book, and we will make them come true, we promise.” Kim smiled down at the girl, and took the book and pen. On each page, she wrote a wish, using capital letters, and signing each page with a big heart design, and the letter ‘K’. She handed it back to Jay, and with a smile, simply said “Thank You”.

The kids took the book to where they liked to gather, in the clearing at the edge of the woods. Danielle took the book, and opened it. She read aloud to the rest. “Page One. I wish that I will always love books and reading.” She passed it to Michel, and he read aloud too. “Page Two. I wish that I will have so many friends that I could never meet them all”. Sophie and Rafael read the next page together. “Page Three”. I wish that the pain in my head would go away, and never come back”. Yesha could hardly read her page for crying, but she did her best. “Page Four. I wish that all my library children will never forget me, and always love books and reading.” Deanna and Robbie held the book together, and looked at each other, to see who would speak first. “Page Five. I wish that I will always read books, and tell the world about them too”. Laura, Vinnie, and Diane leaned over, and turned the next page. “Page Six. I wish that there will always be libraries, and they will have lots of books for children to enjoy”. Little Pete and Jay shared the last wish. “Page Seven. I hope that I will see my beloved dog again one day.”

The next day after school, they gathered again. Michel had a plastic bag, and Rafael had brought his father’s trowel. They dug a hole big enough to take the book wrapped in the plastic bag. Nice and deep, and marked with a special flat stone that Robbie had found nearby. Danielle spoke up. “Tomorrow, we will come back, and choose a page. We will wish for the wish on that page to happen, and know that it will. We must always be together, and stand by that pledge. Are we all agreed?” The rest of the group nodded seriously, nobody was smiling.

Soon after, Kim was sitting at home, thinking what to do. Now she no longer had to go to work, she had to do something with her time, as well as reading. “I know what I will do, I will start a blog about books, and spread my love of literature around the world, to people everywhere. Hopefully, they will become my friends too”. In the clearing by the woods, Michel tore up page two, and they all watched as he scattered the tiny pieces into the wind. Then they buried the book again, for another day.

Some time later, Kim finished reading her latest book, and took a while to think to herself. Finally, she spoke aloud, “I am always going to love books and reading, I just know it”. In the clearing, the children opened their eyes in time to watch Danielle scatter the pieces of Page One. Little Pete looked up, smiling. “Wishing this hard is tiring. Let’s go and get some ice cream”.

Kim often thought about the Reading Group, as the months passed by. She knew in her heart that all the children she had ever encouraged would always love books and reading. The rest watched, as Yesha tore up Page Four. This time there were no tears, she was smiling as she threw the pieces into the wind.

In the local paper, there was news of a new library opening. The first for years. The article said that books were making a comeback, and that children were reading as much as ever, if not more. The editorial concluded, “It is our contention that libraries will always need to exist, and that children especially should be catered for.” In the clearing, the smiling trio of Laura, Vinnie, and Diane each held one third of Page Six, before flinging the pieces into the air.

After two days of severe pain, Kim was tiring of the most recent migraine. It was hard enough to open her eyes, let alone read, and she was unable to enjoy writing her blog too. She decided to take a short nap, and was very pleased to wake up that afternoon, to discover the headache was gone. Back near the woods, Sophie and Rafael spoke to the others. They felt their wishing had not really worked, not as much as they had hoped. Everyone agreed that they should not tear up that page, but would come back to it another day. They put the book back into its bag, and buried it back in the hole.

The blog was going great guns by now. There were hundreds of followers, and the community extended all around the world. That made Kim very happy indeed, and she realised that she could still impart her love of literature, despite no longer being in her old job. Deanna and Robbie were pleased. They tore up Page Five, gazing up into the trees as the pieces swirled around.

Sitting quietly at home one day, shut in by the heavy winter snow, Kim looked at the framed photo of her beloved Pom. She smiled to herself, realising that in her heart, she knew she would see her little dog again, one day. Kneeling by the hole, Little Pete and Jay tore up Page Seven, throwing the small pieces out onto the snow-covered ground. The rest of the group looked at each other. “We still have Page Three” said Sophie, looking perplexed. Danielle reassured her. “We will come back to Page Three again and again until that wish is granted, have no fear”.

As Jay buried the book that afternoon, Little Pete muttered. “But what about the other pages, the ones with no wishes written on them?” Danielle and Michel exchanged a glance, and nodded to each other. She turned to Little Pete and told him, “They are for the wishes yet to come. We will know what they are when they are wished for, and we will come back until they are granted”.

The group walked away, thinking to themselves. None of them said any more. They just smiled.

Southern Belle: A story for Dani

This is a fictional short story with just a few readers in mind. Anyone who knows about Dani’s book blog will be aware of the interaction in the comments there, and how the names of some characters in modern novels never fail to make me crack up laughing.

I promised a story based around some of those, and here it is.

For everyone else, it is probably best to skip this, and read something else instead.

Dalton Kipper was something of a caricature, even he would admit that. A private eye of the old school, the sort that once only appeared in black and white films, and generally got the girl. But Dalton was long past getting any girls. His paunch connected to the steering wheel, and years of bad food and heavy drinking had made it hard for him to walk more than a few steps. It was hot in the car, but he didn’t want to run the engine to use the air-conditioning, and attract any unwanted attention. So he lit another cigarette, and tolerated the sweat pouring down his face from his round and very bald head.

The linen suit was crumpled from the hours sat in the car, and looked more like an old dish-rag than the once smart outfit it had been. Dalton raised the new camera, peering into the telephoto lens. He had the back windows of the big house in range, so would easily get the shots he required.

Dani had made her own dress. It had taken some time, but if she said so herself, she looked like a princess, with the perfect make-up, and hair just so. She didn’t go out so much these days, especially in the heat of a South Carolina summer, but this big social occasion was just too good to miss. Some English aristocrat had rented the old De Vere plantation for the summer, and had announced a big party, an old-fashioned good old Southern Ball. The Eighth Baron of Wickshire was known to be a real ladies’ man, and was reputed to be very rich, as well as handsome. Dani had been invited by her old flame, Blythe Sol, her big girl-crush from High School, who she hadn’t seen in years. Two young women arriving as a couple was sure to cause a stir, and Dani was excited by that prospect. The creaky air-conditioner in her bedroom was just about keeping the room cool, and she decided to wait in there until the cab arrived, still fanning herself with grandma’s old ivory fan, to stop her make-up running.

Lola Dodge was the epitome of a southern belle. Part of the landed gentry of the area, she could trace her family back to old Septimus Dodge, the famous Confederate general, and before that too. When her parents had died in a mysterious boating accident near Myrtle Beach, young Lola became a rich heiress, and the toast of Charleston society too. The word was that Baron Wickshire had set his cap on her, and organised the party just to get to know her. But Dani knew Lola’s secret, her passionate relationship with former jail-bird and all round bad boy, Dax Janner. Dax was a bad as he was handsome, and didn’t care who knew. Some said he was a drug dealer, others marked him down as an armed robber, but all the women who had ever met him had found themselves falling for his ice-blue eyes, and square jaw. Nobody really had any idea what he actually did. His reputation had followed him from his days in juvenile prison, mainly for fighting and busting up bars.

Kipper mopped his face with a soiled handkerchief, and took a big swallow from his hip-flask. Cheap bourbon was the best, as far he was concerned. No need to pay for famous names. Old Dalton knew a lot more than those saps arriving in their limousines for the party. This limey Baron was nothing of the kind. He was a grifter, a shill, a con-man of the highest order. His real name was Bastian Urso, and he hailed from some place in Europe with a name that Dalton couldn’t even pronounce. He was wanted all over, but managed to elude police forces everywhere he went. He was that good, at least he thought so.

But he had upset one man too many, and there was now a contract out on him from some Russian guy. Dalton had heard the word, and decided to do some digging. If he got a photo of the so-called Baron, he would get a great payday from the Russian, once he gave them the address of the old De Vere plantation house where they could find him.

But Dalton didn’t know everything. Dax had also heard about the reward on Urso, and had his own suspicions about the phony Baron. If he could get the guy alone, he would make the call, and get the payoff. He knew he could get into the party easy enough, as Lola was besotted with him, and wouldn’t dream of asking anyone else to be her plus one. She had even bought Dax a smart new tuxedo, and got her driver to collect him in the limousine. All he had to do was wait for the right moment, and the Russians would send some guys to do the deed, and pay him the cash. Besides, if this foreigner thought he could pull the wool over Lola’s eyes, he was very wrong indeed. She was no easy mark, just ask her parents.

The cabbie tooted his horn outside Dani’s house. She grabbed her evening bag, and scampered down the porch steps, eager to get out of the heat, and into the air-conditioned taxi. Once inside, she snuggled up to Blythe on the back seat. They held hands like the old days, and giggled together. All those years apart just melted away, and it was just like High School again. Dani could hardly contain herself.

It was going to be an interesting night…

An unexpected parcel

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1200 words.

Diane had enjoyed the walk home from the station that evening. The cherry-blossom trees along the avenue were all in bloom, and the fading light of the setting sun made everything appear slightly out of focus. She was looking forward to a quiet night at home. The weekend had been a busy one, and the back to work day on that Monday was as hectic as usual.

As she approached her front door, she was taken aback by a huge parcel at the top of the steps. Almost as tall as her, and just as wide too. She checked the label on the side. Definitely her name and address, not something delivered in error. There was no other information on the label, and the packaging was only marked with a large black arrow, pointing straight up. Diane squeezed past, and opened the front door. Putting her bag down and taking off her jacket, she estimated the size of the parcel, relative to the opening. It would just fit, she reckoned. Pushing a hand against the top, she was pleasantly surprised to find it was not too heavy. No need to ask for help from Mr Embury, her next-door neighbour.

Tipping the big box toward her, Diane was able to drag it into the hallway quite easily, with just a slight bump as it came over the doorstop. Once the door was closed, she kicked off her high-heels, and gave the box a shake. No sounds of rattling, nothing moving around inside. She felt quite excited. Sure that she had ordered nothing herself, she could only assume that this was a gift. Perhaps the sender would have enclosed a card, or their name at least. In the kitchen, she got her sharpest small knife from the block, and returned to the hallway. Carefully cutting the tape around the edges, she began to peel back the cardboard packaging, until there was a large pile of it propped against the door behind her.

Viewing the unwrapped contents, Diane had to admit to a great deal of disappointment. Inside the parcel was another box. Just an unattractive plywood box, unadorned, and smelling rather musty. The top had a hinged lid, so she opened it. To look inside meant having to tip the box again, so she opened the front door, and put the cardboard in the recycling bin outside, to make room. Holding the lid open, she pulled it forward, and peered inside. It was empty. She reached around behind awkwardly, and switched on the light in the hallway. Even with better illumination, nothing could be seen inside. Diane was frustrated. Was it some sort of joke? She couldn’t think of anyone who would do something like that, and now she was stuck with a big empty wooden box filling her hall, and no way of disposing of it.

After changing out of her smart work clothes and eating a much-needed dinner, it occurred to her to call some friends, and see if they might have sent her this thing. Maybe the company had forgot to include the contents? There might be a second delivery, when they discovered their mistake. Six phone calls later, and she was none the wiser. None of her close friends had sent her anything, they had all assured her. In desperation, she rang her sister, Irene. They hadn’t spoken since Simon’s wedding, and maybe this was some sort of peace offering. Irene was cold and dismissive. “Why on earth would I send you anything? I still haven’t forgotten what happened at Simon’s wedding”. That was all she said, before hanging up.

Diane had a shower, and got ready for bed. There were lots of meetings tomorrow, and she needed an early night. She would sort the box out another time. Mr Embury would be pleased to help, she was sure. He might even find some use for the wood, as he was always making something or other. Although it wasn’t even ten, she slipped under the covers, looking forward to a good sleep.

It was the smell that made her wake up. Musty, damp, unfamiliar. The bed felt hard, and she couldn’t move easily. As she opened her eyes, it was still dark, so she reached for the switch of the bedside lamp. Her arm scraped against something, and could move it no further. The surface against her arm was rough and scratchy, nothing like the soft covers of her bedding. Her legs were slightly bent, and she couldn’t straighten them. It took a few moments to come around fully, but Diane soon realised something was very wrong. She pushed with all her strength, but could not free herself. Adjusting to the darkness, she could hardly believe her eyes. She was in that box, she was certain of that.

Closing her eyes for a moment, she found herself smiling. It was a dream, that was all. When she opened her eyes, she would be back in her nice bed, and ready to get back to sleep. It always made her smile, just how real a dream could feel. Eyes open, she started to really panic. She was still in the box, still smelling that musty odour. Trying to calm herself, Diane remembered how light the box had been. She stopped trying to think about how she had come to be inside it, and started to concentrate on getting out of it. Bracing her hands and feet against the sides, she pushed with all her might. When that didn’t work, she started to kick and punch it instead. Nothing. It didn’t give, and if anything felt harder and more solid than before.

Feeling around in the darkness, she tried the edges and the hinge with her nails. But she knew that was unlikely to work, as they were false tips, and had all soon broken off. Diane turned her attention to the smaller bottom of the box, kicking with all her might, her feet striking the wood together. A sharp pain told her that splinters were getting into the soles of her feet, and the bottom of the box was holding firm. So she started to yell for help. Her voice sounded dull inside there, echoing off of the wood. Mr Embury would never hear her. He was in his late seventies, and could just about hear a face to face conversation.

It was starting to get uncomfortably hot in there too, and she could feel the sweat from her exertions in the hair on her neck. Perhaps if she rolled from side to side, she could break the box. Worth a try. All that achieved were more splinters, this time in her arms and hands. No matter how hard she tried to roll, there was no movement at all. Diane started to scream, hoping the high pitch would alert her neighbour. But it was a vain hope, and soon gave her a headache, as well as a raging thirst.

Fighting against the panic that she feared would overwhelm her, she tried to calm herself down by talking out loud. “Come on girl. Think. Calm down and think. You Can do this”.

But she couldn’t think of anything.

Isn’t she lovely?

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

Ellie draped the shopping bags over the handles of the buggy, and struggled out of the shop doorway. Little Charlotte was crying again, it was all she ever seemed to do. The nurse had said it was wind, and had recommended breast feeding for the umpteenth time, but Ellie had just nodded, and used the bottle after the busybody had left. She started to wheel the buggy toward the car, pushing against the handles to balance the weight. Something was niggling at the back of her mind, and it suddenly lit up like a lamp in her head. She had forgotten Stu’s lottery ticket. It was a huge jackpot this week too. He would go mad if she came home without it.

Ellie turned around and went back to the shop. The lottery machine was close to the front, next to the checkout. She would just pop in quickly and get the ticket, still be able to see the buggy through the window. No need to struggle getting it in and out again. There was only a small queue at the till, it wouldn’t take long. She could see the baby, and hear her crying too.
“Lucky Dip for tonight please”, she asked the bored-looking spotty boy.
“£2 please”. His reply was flat, like the voice of a robot.
Ellie fumbled in her purse for the right change. No need to split a £10 note, she knew she had enough in coins. The boy handed over the ticket, and she zipped it into a side pocket, to keep it safe.
At least Charlotte had stopped crying.

It wasn’t cold that afternoon, but Pamela was wearing a long coat, with the fur-trimmed hood raised. Just a black anorak, nothing special. She had been wandering around the shops for a couple of hours now, and was getting weary. But you never know, so maybe stay just a bit longer, she told herself.
The crying attracted her attention, and she quickened her pace, pulling the hood tight against her head. The unattended buggy was plain to see outside the general store, and the poor baby was screaming its little heart out. Pamela stopped next to it, bending as if to adjust her shoe. It took just a second to scoop the baby from inside, and clutch it to her chest using only her left hand. The crying stopped immediately, the little tot must have been content to be picked up.

At first, Ellie thought that the buggy had tipped over, perhaps pulled over by the weight of the shopping bags. She ran out of the shop doorway, righting it by letting the bags fall to the ground. It was empty, Charlotte was gone. Her mind raced, and she did stupid things without thinking. She called her daughter’s name, as if the baby was capable of walking off to peruse the nearby shops. Then she began to run around in circles, head pounding, mouth dry, hoping to find that little Charlotte had rolled across the paved area, and would be discovered lying somewhere, unharmed. When there was no sign of her anywhere, Ellie started to scream.

By then, Pamela was already in her car. She hadn’t parked in the main car park of course, that would have CCTV covering it. But in the service road behind the delivery entrance parking was not only free, but unobserved. The little baby was in the child seat in the back, happily gurgling away. Already prepared, Pamela had stored nappies, spare clothes, and milk behind her driver’s seat, and filled the car with petrol. Only one mile to the motorway, then less than two hours to drive the ninety-six miles to her home.

Ellie was still rambling when the police arrived. The spotty boy had run from behind the counter, alerted by the terrible screams, but he had been unable to calm the hysterical woman, and all attempts to reassure her had been met with shouting and abuse. As the two policemen tried to make some sense out of what had happened, Pamela was already six miles north on the motorway, driving very carefully on the inside lane. More police arrived, and arranged blue and white tape around the shopping precinct. They called an ambulance to attend Ellie, who was now completely hysterical. All the local shops and car park security were having their CCTV footage examined, and the situation was declared a major incident, with senior officers summoned to initiate a widespread search. The press and local TV stations were informed, and a description of the baby and what she was wearing was circulated.

Pamela was at the far end of a car park on the motorway services as that was happening. She was changing the baby’s nappy in the car, using the opportunity to also change her clothes to the white ones she had stored behind her seat, and give her some milk from the bottle she had prepared. It was a little cold, but would do for now. Tucked back into the child seat, little Charlotte seemed happy enough, and smiled at the kindly lady who cared for her so attentively. “I’m going to call you Amanda, Mandy for short”. Pamela grinned at the baby as she said it.

Stu arrived at the hospital, red-faced and furious. He had been stopped twice in his car on the way, at police roadblocks looking for someone with a baby in the car. Ellie had been given something to calm her down, and extended a hand as she saw Stu arrive by her trolley in the emergency department. But he was in no mood to take it, and instead fired questions at her, getting more annoyed as she just shook her head in answer to each one, tears flowing down her face, dripping from her jaw onto the blanket. A policewoman next to the bed took Ellie’s hand instead, and asked Stu to calm down. “Please lower your voice, stop swearing, and think of the other patients”, she suggested firmly. One of the senior policemen appeared, and his female colleague looked up expectantly. He caught the glance and shook his head.

Pamela was home well before dark. She didn’t know anyone in this town, and the rented house she had taken six months earlier had a good degree of privacy. As she carried the baby from the car to the door, an elderly lady left the house next door, smiling at Pamela as she walked up the path. She must be a visitor, thought Pamela. The old man next door was a widower, and lived alone. Spotting the baby, the old lady approached. “Boy or girl?” she asked softly. Pamela beamed. “My little girl, Amanda, I call her Mandy for short. I’m going to love and cherish her, and never let her out of my sight.”

The old woman touched Charlotte’s chubby cheek. “Isn’t she lovely”, she said with a smile.

True Love

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1800 words.

Dean unlocked the door to the spare room. Walking inside always made him catch his breath, as the anticipation overwhelmed him. Opening the large holdall, he removed the items slowly, one by one. As he arranged them on the desk at the back, he let his fingers caress them briefly.

His work completed, he retreated a few paces, to gaze at them.
A plastic fruit container, with a black plastic spoon inside it.
An empty cardboard box that had contained breakfast cereal.
A worn pair of tights, with a large hole in the toe.
A handful of smudged facial wipes, smeared with last night’s make-up.

He dragged a stool over, and sat down on it, to better admire his bounty.
To most people, those who knew no better, this was just rubbish, stolen from a bin.
But Dean knew better.

The fruit had been eaten by her, the spoon in her hand and mouth. Her soft lips had caressed that spoon each time a mouthful was eaten.
She had held the cereal box with slender fingers, shaking her breakfast into a white bowl.
The torn tights had been wrapped around shapely legs and full hips. They still smelled of her.
Those discarded wipes had removed the make-up that made her eyes so alluring, and it was there to see.

He glanced at the wall above the desk. More than two hundred photos surrounding the main one, which measured three feet by four. A full head shot, that candid glance captured as she left work over a year ago. Dean had his favourites of course. He had always thought she looked her best in work clothes, and the pinstripe business suit was her signature look, undoubtedly.
He decided to treat himself that morning. Opening the right-hand drawer under the desk, he removed the shoe, one of his most treasured possessions. It was nothing exceptional; a left shoe, black leather, size five. The leather was scuffed on one side, and the four-inch heel had snapped off. But her dainty foot had been inside it, and the impression of that foot was plain to see.

Checking his watch, Dean realised it was time to get ready for work. Delivering parcels was hard work, and poorly paid, but it gave him an excuse to drive past Amelia’s house every day without attracting attention. It also enabled him to approach her front door; appearing to make a delivery, but in reality searching through the bin placed to one side. Besides, after the court case, and being fired from the firm, it was pretty much the only job he could get now. Perhaps the best perk of this delivery job was that he could park his truck opposite where she worked, taking photos through the windows at the back. Just another mainstream delivery company’s truck, nobody thought anything of it.

Amelia was the only woman he had ever truly loved. When she came to work at the company, he knew instinctively that they had connected. She always smiled at him, blushed when he spoke to her, crossed her legs seductively as they chatted, listened attentively as he showed her the ropes of the office routine. He left it a full month before asking her out on a date. She had of course accepted, as he was sure she would. After an enjoyable dinner, she had invited him into her house for coffee, and he knew what would happen. The lovemaking was sensual and complete. She was perfect in every way, just as he had known she would be. He had left after that, her fingers caressing his face as they kissed goodnight at the door. Dean had never been happier in his life.

The next day at the office, Amelia’s attitude was cool and rather distant. He had tried to get her alone during the day, but never managed it. Calls to her mobile phone went unanswered, and repeated text messages were ignored. He even sent her a few emails on the work system, suggesting another date, or perhaps a weekend away at the coast. They were marked unread. The day after that, she was not at work. He asked where she was, but her female colleague claimed not to know. The woman looked shifty and awkward. Dean was sure she was keeping something from him. Not wanting to cause any concern around the workplace, he took a taxi to Amelia’s house after work. There was no reply, so he waited outside, sitting on the low wall at the front. When she had still not returned by midnight, he called another cab, and went home.

But he couldn’t sleep that night, as he was worried about her. So he sent a few more text messages, and made some more calls to her phone. Nothing. Just the same answerphone message, and no reply to the texts. After a shower and a change of clothes early that morning, Dean took another taxi to Amelia’s house. He told the driver to wait, and sat in the back watching her door. Just before 8 am, she emerged, dressed in that lovely pinstripe business suit. Dean jumped out of the taxi and walked across to her, smiling warmly. She looked flustered, concerned. He was confused.

The conversation did not go at all as he had predicted it would. Her speech seemed to be prepared in advance, and poured out of her without pause. She had enjoyed the date. He was a nice guy. She wasn’t looking for a relationship. The sex was OK, but just sex. She had lots of friends, and quite a few boyfriends too. She did not want to complicate things at work. Her social life was busy. She wanted to get her career on track. It had been nice, but that was it. He had to leave her alone now. They were the main points that Dean remembered, anyway. He was speechless, but decent enough to climb back into the cab, and head home. He rang in sick that morning, for the first time in nine years.

Alone in his apartment, Dean thought about what Amelia had said. He knew she hadn’t meant it of course. It had all been too much for her. She was scared of the love she felt for him, and had made up all that stuff to keep him at arm’s length, until she was ready. He knew the signals. Time to wait, be patient, let her come to her senses. But in the meantime, he would let her know he understood. He sent her a text explaining that she would realise the truth soon, and that he would be waiting for her when she did. In case she didn’t see the text, he also left a message on her phone, and sent an email to her work address too. She would discover what a kind and understanding man he was, and how much he really loved her.

Dean didn’t feel it was right for him to go back to the office just yet, so persuaded his doctor to sign him off sick with work-related stress. That gave him time to make sure Amelia was really OK. He hired a car, and drove past her house a few times a day, to be sure she was at home, and safe. In case there was a problem with her phone or computer, he wrote some nice love letters, and posted them through her door. But he still sent the texts and emails, just in case. He also bought a new camera, one with a really big zoom lens. Using that, he was able to take some photos of her as she left work, or when she stepped outside her house to place things in the bin. When he guessed she was gone for the day, he looked through that bin, marvelling at the things she had thrown out. A nice blue dress, the zip stuck. A shoe with a broken heel. Where was the other one? Underwear that looked brand new, even an expensive leather jacket, apparently undamaged. He started to collect those things. If he couldn’t have Amelia for now, he would have things that were once in contact with her.

The letter arrived by special delivery. He had to sign for it. Despite reading it three times, he could still not believe his eyes. It was an injunction, authorised by a court. He was not to communicate with Amelia Kirkpatrick. He was not to go within one hundred yards of her person, or her home or place of work. He was not to send her letters, text messages, or try to telephone her. Dean knew there must be some mistake. She loved him, and he loved her. One of her friends must have put her up to it, perhaps another man who desired her, and was jealous. He rang her immediately, and left a message. In case she didn’t get that, he sent a couple of texts telling her not to worry. They would be together soon. When he got no reply, he drove his hired car to the company, and waited for her to come out of work. But as she saw him approaching, she ran back inside, getting the security guards to deny him entry.

The court case was brief. He had broken the injunction, according to them. Her lawyer produced a list of text messages, claiming over seven hundred had been sent in one week. Then there were the four hundred emails, and over one hundred messages on her phone. They must have been exaggerating, he was sure of that. He was spared incarceration, but told that if he broke the injunction again, he would certainly face a prison sentence. Dean didn’t even recognise the man they described in court, and was sure it was all a huge mistake. But he would do as he was told, he promised them. He would bide his time. The following day he received another letter, this time from his employers. He was dismissed for gross misconduct. One month’s pay, and his access card to the building was cancelled. If he wanted anything from his desk, it would be delivered to his home. That was it. Sixteen years of hard work, all gone.

After work that evening, Dean was tired. He had delivered more parcels than he could remember, and was glad to get home. In the spare room, he laid out his treasures on the single bed. The blue dress, with the underwear placed on top of it. He carefully arranged the torn tights, legs protruding from the hem of the dress. Taking the broken shoe, he placed the left foot of the leg of the tights inside it. From a narrow drawer, he retrieved a life-size photo of Amelia’s face, and added it just above the opening of the neck of the dress.

Perching on the edge of the stool next to the bed, he beheld the lovely Amelia, in all her glory.