Tag Archives: FICTION

21 Minutes

“Can you keep a secret?” She looked up from where her head nestled in the crook of his arm, nothing above them but blue sky and fluffy, white clouds. 

“Of course I can” he snorted in reply, “you can tell me anything”. He brushed a stray hair of hers from his stubble and stretched out on the blanket, adjusting his legs, crossed at the ankle.

“I mean, like a proper secret. Not like, oh I’m scared of the dark or I once stole pic n’ mix from the shop as a kid.” She bit her lip but kept her head bowed.

“Alright, I’ll bite. Go on. You have to tell me now.” He sat up, propped up on his elbows with a bemused smile on his face. She sat up to face him, long legs curled to one side, and looped her hair behind her ear. Suddenly looking serious, she fiddled with the hem of her dress.

“It’s just that, I’ve done something, well, something happened. It was an accident and I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt, of course I didn’t, you know I’m a massive Jessie and I hate the thought of pain or anyone being upset.” The words tumbled out in a torrent, she looked at him with pleading eyes, knowing she had to go through with it now.

“What do you mean, what happened?” He sat upright, looking puzzled. “You can tell me anything, Nat, tell me what happened. Are you in trouble?” He reached out for her hand, she let his fingers entwine with hers. An act of solidarity, which she was certain would vanish once he knew what she was capable of.

“It happened last night. I was running late and I had to get back for Emma watching the kids. I’d been chatting to Clare after the class and time got away. It was dark but I was still pumped from the class but I knew I could jog back through the park and make up the lost time. It was stupid I know. I know it’s not safe.”

“What the hell happened Nat, are you okay?” He moved closer, holding both her hands now. “Jesus, just tell me.”

Tears came thick and fast now. Rolling down her cheeks as she choked out the details of the attack. “I saw him leaning against a bench by the lake, just up from the play park. I must have been huffing because he saw me jogging right into his path before I was close.

“It was dark but I knew he’d seen me.” She lowered her head again. Not able to look Ben in the eye.

“Oh God Nat, did he touch you? I swear to god if I find out he laid a fucking finger on you again, I’ll kill him. I’ll tear him apart.” Ben, her dependable Ben, was up on his knees, holding her shoulders now. Pulling her into his arms and against his chest.

“He didn’t touch me, Ben. He didn’t get the chance.” She whispered.

“I know you shouldn’t have to avoid certain places Nat, it’s not fair to live your life like that, but avoiding the park in the pitch-black would be a good start. You’re only just building up your confidence again and…” She cut off his exasperated pleas.

“He didn’t get chance to hurt me, Ben, because I got to him first.”

 

 

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Compound

“Look, I’m just having a few money problems, okay? I will pay for the room, I swear.” The man leaned over the table towards the bored-looking copper. 

“Skipping the hotel is the least of your worries, mate.” The sergeant replied. 

“On arrest, you were found to have this envelope in your possession. It contained a number of photographs. Can you tell me what these are?” The officer fanned out the photographs of the compound across the table. 

“No comment” The man replied. “Any sign of my solicitor?” He knew his solicitor would do everything in his power to avoid having to deal with him, but it was worth a shot. Stalling the questioning process was his only option. At least until he got his story straight. 

Wishing he’d managed to sleep, he rubbed his hands over his face. 

“It would be a hell of a lot easier if you just answer the questions. Are they yours?” The officer pressed. 

“No comment.” The man replied. Just sit tight. He needed more time to think. 

“Alright, we’ll do it your way. Interview terminated at 13:07.” The officer gathered up the papers and left. 

The man held his head in his hands. They knew something. Tracing him down to the hotel so quickly proved that. The photos proved nothing, just a group of buildings. No easily identifiable signs, vehicles, or people. But it was guarded, the camera masts and secure gates and armed guards showed it was a place of interest. 

He could murder a coffee. Not the best turn of phrase, given his current situation. The door to the interview room opened abruptly and he was ushered back down into the custody cell. 

A cold, weak cup of coffee came through the door hatch an hour later with the news that his solicitor was en route. The man lay down on the thin, blue mat and closed his eyes. 

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Unholy

Getting by on half a Kinder Bueno for breakfast isn’t ideal, but Ellie had forgotten the last time she ate anything normal before midday.

Coffee, chocolate, and the endless supply of biscuits on offer in the newsroom kept her going most days. It also kept her waistline expanding. As she walked towards the Town Hall, she wondered if that was the root of Nick’s problem? Maybe she should make more effort to get some exercise and knock Greggs in the head for a few weeks?

“I don’t see why we have to have these meetings at this unholy hour.” a councilor complained to Ellie as he ambled into the meeting room laded down with files. She smiled and shrugged. Is 9am really that early? Or had all the daily grind of council bureaucracy gotten too much? She suspected the latter for this time-served civil servant. 

“Ellie!” 

The City Mayor, Anna Carvell caught Ellie’s attention and strode over with a broad, photographer-pleasing smile. 

“Lovely to see you again, thank you for coming down. I know these weekly meetings are pretty hard going but it’s important our constituents know we’re dedicated to discussing the issues that matter to them.” Spoken like a true pro. That entire spiel was straight out of PR 101. 

“Good morning Anna, it’s a pleasure really. Like you said, it’s all about the readership.” Ellie was about to take her seat when Anna stepped closer. 

“Will you be covering the press conference at the training ground this afternoon?” Anna tried to keep her tone light, but Ellie could tell there was something there. 

“Yes, of course. I’m hoping for some good news for Daley, that was a horrendous tackle.” Ellie had seen the challenge with her own eyes and gasped along with the press box as the right-back crumpled to the floor in the dying seconds of last Saturday’s game. 

“Yes me too, but I hear the recovery is going well. I’ll see you there.” With that Anna took her seat, shaking hands and offering smiles to everyone around the room. 

Why is she going to the press conference? Ellie wondered. It was no secret that the city mayor was a blue and was regularly seen in hospitality at home games. But the slog up to the remote training ground was an unusual diary booking for the Mayor. 

“Ellie took out her laptop, set up the voice recorder app, and readied her pen and paper to take notes, her stomach rumbling.  

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Breakfast

Naomi was bitterly regretting not eating that croissant for breakfast. Counting down the last few minutes until the end of the exam, her head was banging and as expected the test paper was a blur of words.

She knew this stuff, she just couldn’t summon the knowledge. She wrote her name and the date – apparently, you get a mark for that. 

Mr. Duffy signaled the end of the exam and teachers began to collect the papers in. She felt a hand on her shoulder as Mrs. Rhodes picked up her paper, looking down at her disappointed.

At the first opportunity, Naomi got up from her seat and walked quickly to retrieve her bag. Chloe was quicker and linked her arm through Naomi’s with a squeeze.

“So, come on then. What happened with you and Ben?” she whispered as the students filed out of the main hall. 

“Chlo, don’t start. Nothing happened, we’re mates, I’ve told you a million times. And no, he’s not in the friend zone, he doesn’t like me like that.”

“Alright, don’t get all mardy about it. He’s fit though, isn’t he?” Chloe grinning, glancing over at Ben who stood awkwardly outside the main school reception.

“Behave, he’s just a really good mate. We’re like brother and sister, just into the same things and obviously, we work the match, that’s it.” Naomi’s headache was worsening and Chloe was being more annoying than usual. 

“What you up to now anyway? Wanna come into town? I’ve got an H&M gift card I want to use.” Chloe said as she lined up her phone camera to take a post-exam selfie. 

“I don’t feel very well. I’m just going to walk home.” Naomi started towards Ben. 

“Ohhhhh, walking home with Ben are we?” Chloe teased. 

“Whatever, Chlo” Naomi managed a smile for Ben who fell into step alongside her and headed out of the school gates. 

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Magic

What am I supposed to do, perform bloody magic? He thought as he lay in bed. The hotel room was a depressing beige with moth holes in the blackout curtains covering the balcony window.

Not that there was much of a view, the barren car park, and the back of Sainsburys. 8am and the sun shone into the drab room like bullet holes. The thought made his chest ache.

An envelope lay on the bedside table. He’d turned it over in his hands a hundred times during the night. He’d sleep much easier once it was delivered instead of sitting there, like a ticking time bomb. The issue was delivering it. He couldn’t let it out of his sight and so a courier of any kind was out of the question. But the two of them couldn’t be seen together.

It had been 17 days since he’d made contact. It was too soon to involve the police. Stick to his orders, report back, and get paid. Money was an issue. Let the client decide on how to proceed, just get paid, and move on.

His thoughts whirred. Surveillance at a designated drop off point may be the only option. The phone rang on the desk. He leaped up like he’d been electrocuted. Throwing on his jeans, shoes, and shirt, he pulled his phone charger from the plug socket, grabbed the envelope and his jacket, and quietly slid open the balcony door.

“Shit” Stuffing the iphone charger cable into his pocket he realised the plug was still in the socket, covered with his fingerprints. Hitting the ground from the first-floor balcony stung the soles of his feet. He rounded the corner, attempting to button his shirt and look as normal as possible when he heard the crackle of the police radios. Envelope in hand, he ran.

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Perplexed

“Honestly, people never cease to amaze me, mum. He’s just never going to change, is he?” Ellie huffed down the phone to her mum.

“If I hadn’t have seen the odd photo Elle, I wouldn’t believe he existed the way you two carry on. He doesn’t deserve you, I told you that when he didn’t bother to send you flowers on Valentine’s Day.” Her mum replied. Holding a grudge was a family trait.

“Oh anyway, I’ve told him that actions speak louder than words. I can’t be doing with this anymore. I’d almost rather be back on Tinder you know.” Ellie thought about redownloading the online dating app, again.

She’d deleted it after a few weeks of dating Nick, and had toyed with the idea of checking whether the grass really was greener. A friend had spotted Nick on the app a year or so later when he was away with work and they’d been arguing. It crushed Ellie. 

Maybe she’d give him one last chance. “Right, I’d better get going, I’m covering the council meeting at 9, will give you a buzz tonight.” Ellie rang off and packed up her day bag.

Life as a journalist is a slog, but no two days are ever the same. It’s what kept Ellie in the job. One day it’s match reporting from the press box or interviewing footballers, the next it’s charity bake sales, next it’s documenting military veterans stories and there were the late-night calls to crime scene, fire or bomb scares.

Today was a run of the mill council meeting at the Town Hall. Laptop, pen, pad, and a Kinder Bueno should do it. She picked up the note Nick had left on the kitchen worktop, and folded it into her pocket making a mental note to text him later.

The long, unpredictable hours left Ellie’s personal life lacking. The on/off thing with Nick was once full of promise. But her erratic work life, his all-encompassing job and study schedule, made actual dates sporadic at best.

Friends had long given up asking to meet Nick. The time they got together was sacred to Ellie and she was reluctant to share him. Although after almost two and a half years, their tiny social bubble seemed odd.

Add to that a lack of any family introduction on either side and Ellie was often left feeling perplexed as to who and what they were? They hook up, they have dinner, they go for cocktails, they have fun, they stay over, they go their separate ways.

Why was she so obsessed with labels? Anyway, the note said he needed to talk and that’s never ended well.

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The Sound of Silence

The phone alarm signaled the start of the day at 7. Naomi knew she shouldn’t keep her phone charging and stashed under her pillow, but it was never out of reach.

Even through the cracked screen, a 15-minute trawl through Facebook and that fit
footballer’s Instagram story had become a morning ritual. Having the bedroom next to the family bathroom was a curse if you ever fancied a lie in.

The shower ran with a squeak as Naomi’s mum got ready for work. The hairdryer and kitchen radio would soon follow. The bin men were making a racket outside and already Naomi’s phone was beeping with constant messages from the WhatsApp group after last night’s drama. That could wait.

She went through the motions, got dressed, brushed her teeth, appeased her mum by
grabbing a croissant from the kitchen and waved it with a half-arsed shout of goodbye as she shut the front door.

The exams weren’t going well, too little too late. Feeling the panic rise in her throat, she fished out her earpods, hit shuffle, and dumped the croissant in the wheelie bin.
As much as she liked Mrs. Rhodes, the last thing Naomi needed this morning was another
pep talk, the last one hadn’t gotten her through more than half of yesterday’s physics paper with any confidence.

“Morning Nomi, you got this okay, just remember…”

“Yep, I hear you miss.” Naomi took out her ear pods and shrugged her off mid-sentence.

At least arriving early meant she could get into the exam hall before having to deal with Chloe and the barrage of questions about disappearing with Ben last night.

Naomi dropped her bag at the back of the hall and walked down the neat rows of exam desks. Sitting close to the window, she stared out at the passing traffic on the ring road. As the test paper was laid on the desk in front of her, the panic began to set it.

Enveloped by the sound of silence, Naomi breathed deeply and put her head on the desk.

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Hurtle

Looking up from the funny cat video playing on her phone, Ellie was too late to move out of the path of the man hurtling towards her.

Followed closely by three pissed off looking coppers, the man, in a state of undress, launched her into the shop shutters, sending her iphone, bag, and half-eaten Kinder Bueno flying across the pavement.

“Oi, Jesus, what was that all about?”

Ellie asked no one in particular. An elderly lady tried in vain to help her up.

“This place has gone to the dogs love, always police about nowadays”.
Another bystander, a teenage girl in uniform handed Ellie her bag.

“Thanks”.

Ellie dusted off her coat and skirt and picked up her iphone, leaving the last of chocolate for the pigeons.

“No worries” the girl replied, “Wonder what he’s been up to?”
“I don’t know but I hope they catch him, knobhead has smashed my screen” Ellie showed
her the shattered glass.
The teen rolled her eyes and flashed her own cracked screen.

“Welcome to the club,” she said as she wandered off in the direction of the library.
Sirens wailed down the high street and came to a screeching halt at the far end, by the post office. Ellie could just make out two police officers manhandling the runaway into the van before slamming the doors and driving off.

“Good” she thought, her elbow throbbing.
The flow of people went back to their day. Traffic noise picked up, buses, taxis, people
returned to the queue in the coffee shop and women pushing buggies went by, en route to the park. Kneeling down to check her bag, Ellie noticed what she thought was a pen, just a foot or two across from where she fell into the shutters. It must have come out of her bag.

Crouching across, she picked it up. It was a flash drive. An old school looking one at that. Anyone could’ve dropped it but there was no way Ellie wasn’t plugging it straight into her laptop to check what was on it. She dropped it into her pocket and joined the queue at the coffee shop.

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For Your Eyes Only

Lockdown has actually unlocked some interesting new pastimes for me including sewing non-surgical face masks and having a crack at writing erotica. A mixed bag you might say.

It’s day 81 since Coronavirus put paid to my next career move and I’ve found myself trying on a number of new roles. First up is teacher. With three school-age children at home for the foreseeable future, I wasn’t about to let up on the learning routine. Luckily my eldest is a superstar and has managed her work and timetable like a boss.

For the younger two, I’ve constructed tick lists of worksheets, art projects, practical skills, and fun science experiments and baking.  We’ve also enjoyed kick back days in the garden, riding bikes, playing on the Switch and ipads too. All in (just about) equal measure.

I’ve officially mastered banana bread and apple crumble. So that’s the baker box ticked too. Other roles I’ve assumed include film critic, artist, interior designed, engineer, mechanic, photographer, maid, cook, dancer, scorekeeper, delivery woman, and last but not least, writer of erotica. Yep, I said it.

Writing has paid my bills for some time now, but I’m talking what’s on guides, features, and news stories about celebs and communities doing amazing things. I’ve read a fair few books during lockdown and got talking to a friend about why Fifty Shades is much better in the written word than on screen. Despite the kick-off about the use of language when describing the kinky sex between the two main characters. Writing erotica is pretty challenging if you’re trying to avoid getting too poetic with the words.

I thought I’d give it a go. It’s different from my usual writing prompts and well, there’s only so much banana bread a girl can make (and consume).

So, I’ve got 1703 words of pure lust on offer. I won’t post it here, because it’s a free and open platform that anyone can access. This particular body of work isn’t suitable for those age 18 and under. We all know the internet is a big old junkyard, I just don’t want to add anything to the ‘easily accessible’ pile.

If you’d like to read it and offer some feedback, email me, Katereillyjames@gmail.com and I’ll send it over.

Look forward to hearing from you!

 

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Domino

If you were the wife of a highly successful, Premier League footballer, and a delivery guy was asking you to sign for a package addressed to an unfamiliar name, of course, you’d turn it away.

That’s what was going through my head, as I stood there, suspended in time and space on the 14:12 intercity service. The train was just a few hundred meters from the station. I’ve always been one of those travellers who get up early. It drives my boyfriend mad. The pilot puts the wheels on the tarmac and I’m already unlocking my seatbelt and making a move for the overhead storage. So impatient.

Holding on to the handrail, I had been willing the train to move faster, as standing in such close proximity to the onboard toilet was making me feel sick. Schoolgirl error, I should’ve moved back to the other end of the coach.

That random conversation with my boyfriend about a minor, actually humorous incident at work had stuck in my mind. Like when I can’t figure out the next step on my daily sudoku and I zone out, staring into the distance. My mind often snaps back to random snippets of conversation.

That one time an old boss lost his rag in the car because I claimed my favourite song of all time happened to be the same as his. He said I was wrong, I was just trying to fit in and be cool, I should have the confidence to be myself. There was an awful silence in the car while the song rang out on the radio. It’s still my favourite song.

Another conversation my brain likes to regurgitate, was with my Dad. He’d asked me to go Christmas shopping with him, in particular for a jewelry charm for my stepmother, to mark the birth of her first grandchild. Sounds pretty normal, apart from the fact I’m a mum of three. Apparently my children didn’t count. That one stung, so I kind of understand why that stick out. But the package story?

I think I remember the heat on my face at this point, or maybe the shunt first.

The guy stood next to me had a black Nike backpack on both shoulders. Two-strappin’ as my fourteen year old would say. I remember this clearly because I liked it and Googled to see how much they are.

He flew toward me from the train coach door, the backpack connecting with my face with such force, I was told afterward that it broke my nose. I’ll probably never know what he was carrying, but it felt like bricks.

The impact started a sort of domino effect as I reeled backward into someone else, eager to depart the packed train. Next came the shattering of glass, and then, the darkness.

The crumbs on the worktop slowly came into focus. A sudden pang of embarrassment. I should’ve done a better job of cleaning up before Joyce got here. I doubt she’ll judge me given that she’s here to help, not hinder.

“Is there anything you want me to jot down, anything at all” Joyce asked patiently. I shook my head. She began to gather up her notebook and papers, I could feel her pity as she smiled and patted my arm.

“We can try again next week. Remember, there are no rules here. All at your own pace, in the meantime, try to write down any thoughts or notes you might want to chat about and I’ll see you on Thursday, same time?”

“Sure” I replied, and added an absentminded “Thanks, Joyce”.

The woman was being paid to sit and listen to me talk about the trauma. Trauma, God I hate that word. Incident is another one that gives me goosebumps now. So does survivor. I sat with my guilt, in comfortable silence, long after Joan had left. A blank notebook in front of me. Physically unable to pick up the pen and write down the thoughts racing about in my head.

It’s like I’m waiting for the swell to calm. I keep picturing Niagara Falls. The memories, pictures, sounds, feelings, all flowing rapidly over the edge, fighting for position. I’m up there on the edge, amongst it all when I want to be upstream, where the water flows quietly.

I picture myself standing on the riverbank, the sun warm on my face. I close my eyes. I can hear the water running by and I am calm. I can stand there all day.

Until the heat gets more intense, it’s burning. I open my eyes, look down at the water. At a package floating by, tied with string, no, wires. Lots of wires. The sun stings my face, I cover my face with my hands, they’re covered in blood and then, the darkness.

 

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