Stories by Sarah

Crossed

Izzy didn’t believe in luck, until that cat crossed her path.

She had always been certain that events in her life were the direct result of her own decision making and efforts.

But that cat. That damned cat.

It changed everything.

Izzy had always been in control. Self-assured. Confident. She was a fortress, impenetrable and locked up tight. She didn’t let anyone or anything in, and she didn’t want to.

Which was what was so annoying about the whole situation. In one split second this cat had undermined everything she’d worked for. Just like that.

She glanced resentfully at the small obsidian mass of fur, contentedly purring on the passenger seat of her car. He didn’t even seem to realise, nor care, that he’d had such a close call. Nine lives down to eight now.

Her eyes darted back to the road again, as she gripped the steering wheel tensely. No, no, no, her subconscious chanted.

Only a couple more blocks, she reasoned. Then this would be someone else’s problem.

She whirled her vehicle into the drive of the animal shelter, breathing a sigh of relief a she flipped off the engine.

“Right hairball,” she stated firmly to the cat, “time to go.” She unbuckled her seatbelt and reached over to grab him.

She gently lifted his warm, silky body. He really was very cute. Maybe…

Nope! she thought. Let’s go.

She snuggled the cat close to her chest, lifting the flap of her jacket over the top to keep him warm. After all, it was cold out.

Izzy crunched her way up the gravel pathway, trying to determine where the entrance was. She stepped up onto the verandah and tried the first door.

Locked.

She wandered slowly along to the next. “Welcome to the RSPCA” she read on the small plaque.

Ahh, she sighed. Here we go. She pulled the handle but was met with more resistance. It too, was locked.

She swore under her breath as she took in the sign, “Opening Hours 7:30 – 5pm”.

Flicking her wrist, Izzy observed the time 5:07pm on her watch. Seriously?! she thought.

She pondered what to do next. Maybe, she could just leave him on the doorstep? No, that wouldn’t work – he’d just wander off; maybe back onto the road again. Was there an after hours number to call? Her eyes scoured the colourful signage for more information, but to no avail.

“Looks like you’re out of luck bud,” she said to the cat.

He looked up at her with his spooky yellow eyes, challenging her otherwise.

“Well you can’t come with me!” she objected.

The cat opened his mouth, and yawned.

At this, she laughed.

“Honestly, you don’t want me to be in charge here.”

But the cat’s gaze was unwavering.

“I look after myself, not others. It’s not personal, it’s just how I am,” she babbled.

The cat blinked.

She was beginning to see, there was no point arguing.

“Well, I guess, if it’s only for one night,” she conceded.

At that, the cat snuggled back into her chest and began to purr. Mission accomplished, he seemed to be saying.

Izzy’s heart melted and knew right then, that that cat wouldn’t be going anywhere. He was undeniably, all hers.

It was Lucky indeed, who showed Izzy what she didn’t even know she was missing.

By Sarah ©2021

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – August 13, 2021

Stories by Sarah

August

August approached in a golden sweltering haze. The customary way she entered a room, really.

Her hair fanned out around her shoulders as she sped across the floor. The glower in her speckled hazel eyes alerted me, this was not a social visit.

Drawing a deep breath, I forced a smile and said, “My darling! What a surprise, and delight.”

“Oh cut the crap,’ August retorted.

“Why, now. There’s no need for hostility August,” I crooned.

“Spare me the platitudes,” she scoffed. “I’m not in the mood.”

“Yes. Ok, yes, That I can see. So why not tell me the problem?”

“You know very well you icy bastard.” She was positively radiating rage. The heat of her anger danced a trickle of sweat down my forehead.

Well, she had me there.

I did know; I just wasn’t sure why it was always such a problem. Better to beg forgiveness now, I conceded. Make it easier for next time.

“August, honey – you know how this works.”

“But it’s so unfair!” she whined. “People like me! People crave me. I make their lives so much happier. Happier than her, anyway. What does she have that I don’t?” she demanded.

Without waiting for a reply, she continued.

“Honestly, all I want is a few more days. A week. Two, max.”

“August, I’m sorry. I am. But it’s just not possible. You’ve had 31 days, and that’s more than some. Think about poor February for instance.”

This caused her to pause, so I went on, seizing the momentum.

“It’s not like you won’t have another chance; and you can build up your energy again – shine bigger! Brighter than ever! Eleven months is nothing in the big scheme of things. Give your fans time to miss you, and I assure you, you will be adored even more,” I promised.

Her eyes softened, and she smiled.

“I guess,” she said, ruefully, “I mean September is such a hot mess, how could they not adore me?”

“That’s right,” I soothed. “You’re so right beautiful August. They call it “the fall” for a reason – how could she live up to you? Now chin up. You’ve got your last day to enjoy!”

August beamed as she air kissed each of my cheeks goodbye. It was true. Bathing in her sunshine was glorious.

After she had gone, I sighed and leant back heavily into my chair. My temples throbbed from a headache that was developing and I needed a drink.

That had been a close call with August. And it didn’t make it any easier knowing I now had September to deal with.

My job wasn’t easy. Nope. Not at all. But as they say, “Time stands still for no-one.

By Sarah ©2021

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – July 30, 2021

Other, Poetry by Sarah

Someday

Someday, this will
be over. Still
remembered ’til,
(like some) half-felt.

Fading nightmare.
Sorry affair.
Public declare
their hand’s been dealt.

True misery.
This malady,
a parody
of life withheld.

So many ’til,
the final kill.
Sad total bill,
its trophy pelt.

A lesson learned,
as tides are turned.
‘Til next time burned,
memories melt.

By Sarah ©2020

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday, May 22nd 2020; and also, Saturday Mix – Lucky Dip, 16 May 2020

Author’s Note: This poem was inspired by the COVID-19 Pandemic, in hope we will never forget, and learn from this experience, in preparedness for next time. A warning we need to heed. The poetry form is one I have never used before – Rhupunt.

Rhupunt is a Welsh poetry form. Here are the guidelines:

▪ The form can be broken down into lines or stanzas
▪ Each line or stanza contains 3 to 5 sections
▪ Each section has 4 syllables
▪ All but the final section rhyme with each other
▪ The final section of each line or stanza rhymes with the final section of the other lines or stanzas

Stories by Sarah

Spin

The sky looked like ink, no stars, just black; that’s how it began. 

Shelley took a deep breath as she waited for the curtains to open. Braced for the notes that would signal her cue, a hush fell over the audience as the first tentative strains of music swirled through the theatre.

She stretched and eased herself into the well-rehearsed moves. Her form gliding effortlessly across the stage. As the crescendo approached, she began to spin.

This was why she’d become a dancer. With each turn, she felt she could truly fly.

By Sarah ©2019

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday: May 24, 2019; and also, Sammi Scribbles, Weekend Writing Prompt, #107 – Spin

Stories by Sarah

Typo

The neon glow enveloped the city built by and for corporations.

It was late and Sandra sat alone in the cavernous office. Pounding the keyboard furiously she tried to finish the never-ending paperwork her boss delighted in giving her.

Bastard, she thought. He actually enjoyed the power, dictating when she could leave and knowing it was her weekend with her daughter.

Her email pinged.

She despaired as she saw yet another assignment.

Gazing out at the city lights, Sandra contemplated her reply. His eminence wouldn’t like it, but life was too short.

Smiling, she typed two words.

“I quit”.

By Sarah ©2019

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday: March 29, 2019; and also, Carrot Ranch, March 28: Flash Fiction Challenge. Prompt – In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that uses the word eminence. It’s a rich word full of different meanings. Explore how it sounds or how you might play with it. Go where the prompt leads!

Scribblings by Sarah

F – urrowed

“Well I think it’s funny!”

Mum furrowed her brow, disagreeing. “You make me sound like a bad parent.”

“It’s not your fault your daughter’s speech delay replaces tr- with f-“. Mischievously, I turned to my sister, “Hey Katie, say “truck”…

By Sarah ©2019

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – January 28th, 2019

Sammi Scribbles, Weekend Writing Prompt #90 – Furrowed

Scribblings by Sarah

‘Til Death Do Us Part

The funeral went by in a waltz of shiny cars, black suits, and choreographed tears.  

She dipped her hat, concealing her face, and heaving her chest, imitating sobs. Glancing furtively around her, she slipped away from the graveside and chuckled to herself. No one had noticed she was not in the coffin.

She stole one last look at her husband, and realised, she was finally free of him…

Til death do us part, she thought ironically, and walked away.

By Sarah ©2018

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday: November 9th, 2018

Free Verse, Poetry by Sarah

Summer Died That Night

Summer died that night.
She gasped her last,
as the sun dipped below the horizon
and slipped beneath the blackened soil.
Her eyelids fluttered closed as
crickets began their enchanting song.
She knew no one would remember her,
They were already turned; looking forward –
Bracing themselves for what was to come.
As the first leaf let go and plummeted to the ground,
Autumn announced her arrival, and
Summer died that night.

By Sarah ©2018

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday: August 31st, 2018

Stories by Sarah

Bobbie Jo

Bobbie Jo wouldn’t know class if it crawled into her knockoff Prada and went home with her. 

Mandy shook her perfectly poised platinum bob and made a “tsk” sound. She would have to speak to someone about the lax staff, letting someone of that caliber into the country club. Anyone who lacks such decorum should hardly be allowed past the front door step!

I mean, really! she thought, haughtily. What next?

She turned, picked up her real Prada and stormed elegantly out of the venue. After all, she had a plane to catch.

————————

She arrived at the airport, and directed her driver to the private hangars. She was looking forward to travelling on her own jet, and not having to deal with the nuisance of other passengers.

I mean, really! she thought, haughtily, When one had a financial position such as she, why not?

She primly collected her overnight bag and business suit, resting on its hanger in a sleek protective bag, and handed them to the steward.

Her stiletto heels clinked on the metal steps as she climbed into the small, but perfectly formed Learjet.

She clipped her seatbelt loosely around her hips, sighed contentedly and leaned back in her seat. Mandy pressed the service button. She deserved a champagne.

The steward brought her a delicate glass of Moët and Chandon. She took a sip and analysed the fine little bubbles, softly popping as they reached the top of the chilled glass. She realised the steward was still standing there.

I mean, really! she thought haughtily. Wanting a tip already?

“Uh, ma’am?” the steward began, nervously. “Um..well..”

“Yes?” she probed, becoming irritated.

“Well, ma’am, I just need to let you know, there’s been a slight change in the plans for our flight.”

Mandy sat straight up in her seat.

“What? What change?” she snapped. She could not be late for this meeting!

The steward continued, “Our regular pilot, Captain Blake, has fallen ill, so I’ve been advised to let you know, there will be a replacement filling in for him.”

“Oh, fine. No problem,” Mandy said, relieved. Why was this idiot even bothering her with such details? she wondered. I mean, really! She didn’t need to know such trivial matters.

“Anyway, Captain Beaumont just wanted me to let you know,” the steward continued, before wandering off down the aisle.

Beaumont? Captain Beaumont? Mandy thought hard. Why was that name so familiar?

As the pieces fell into place, Mandy was horrified as Captain Bobbie Jo Beaumont, entered the cabin, waggling her fingers at her, and giving her a knowing grin…

By Sarah ©2018

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday: July 6th, 2018 and Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, Saturday Mix – Double Take, 7 July 2018. Words: hangar/hanger and lax/lacks

Stories by Sarah

Buck

The video footage was grainy, but Taylor recognized them easily. 

That was definitely a male, and a female, collecting her mail. She furrowed her brows, trying to make sense of it all.

She had known something was up. She hadn’t received any mail for weeks now. Which was unusual. I mean, there were always bills! she thought.

So her friend Jess had suggested she set up a trail camera. It was easy enough.

The first bit of footage she’d reviewed, had captured a wayward moose. That in itself was an interesting theory. She’d imagined it, carrying her post away and reading it in the comfort of, well, wherever it was mooses (or was it meese?) live.

But this. This was something else altogether. She strained her eyes, confirming the identifying features she knew so well.

The moussed hair was a dead giveaway. Nathan was never one to leave his vanity behind. What Taylor couldn’t understand was why his new girlfriend was part of it. She didn’t even know her!

Or at least, that’s what she thought.

The footage continued and the girlfriend turned around. Giving Taylor no doubt, as to who it was.

Jess wiggled her fingers and gave the camera a cheeky smile.

Taylor was furious! Jess had mentioned she had started a new business on eBay. She’d just never clarified what. Taylor looked at the packaging of the trail camera, and the final pieces fell into place.

Seems eBayer cash4jess81, would do anything to make a buck!

By Sarah ©2018

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – June 8th, 2018 and Saturday Mix – Double Take, 9 June 2018

Stories by Sarah

Guard Dog

“The thieves took everything except the dog.” Sally noted.

She looked around the room, taking in the upended furniture, open drawers and general disarray. It was a far cry from the usual meticulousness, that was characteristic of her home. They had taken anything of value.

She surveyed the missing items, creating a catalogue in her mind:

– the brand new LCD/LED television and DVD player,
– the BOSE surround sound stereo system,
– the Versace dinnerware set she’d received as a wedding gift,
– her treasured Christofle silverware, and
– various Waterford crystal pieces.

They’d even taken the ornate urn with her mother’s ashes! They must have mistaken it for a vase or jar, she supposed.

A hot ball of anger began to well deep within her. She turned to the mutt who was lying in his usual spot in the armchair.

“This is all your fault!” she screamed. “Where were you when we needed you?”

He stared back at her, his eyes unblinking at the accusation.

Her husband stepped up behind her, and gently laid a hand on her shoulder.

“Oh, Sal,” he comforted, “I know you’re upset, but being angry at Buster won’t help things.”

He spun her around and searched her face, begging her to be reasonable, “After all, it was your idea to get the taxidermy done, instead of getting a new dog.”

“I know, I know,” Sally sobbed. “I just miss him so much. He was the best guard dog ever.”

By Sarah ©2018

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Image credit Jordan Madrid via Unsplash

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – May 25th, 2018

Other, Poetry by Sarah

Close

His smile was like some kind of magic.”
That’s what she’d said when they’d first met.
He’d chosen to cling to that,
even though they were through.
Thought him gone; moved on,
never knowing
how close he
really
was.

By Sarah ©2018

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – April 27th, 2018; and also, Olivante Poetry, #NaPoWriMo 2018 – Image 28

Stories by Sarah

The Dance Lesson

The dance lessons were not working.

He’d been attending for a whole month now and failed to catch the eye of the beautiful red head. What’s the point? he wondered. He’d tried every move he’d been taught. Showing off whenever he’d had the chance. He’d even tried to engage her as his partner, attempting eye contact but to no avail. She always chose the squat, sweaty man. He just didn’t get it.

She was so lithe, so graceful. She fairly glided across the floor. The man was clumsy and awkward, and so much older than her. What did she see in him? he stewed.

Sighing, he collected his towel, and packed his dance shoes into his shoulder bag. Maybe he’d give it one more week. He thought of the creamy curve of her neck, the gentle way she held her frame. He wanted her to slip into his strong arms and nestle there for the entirety of at least one lesson.

Rather than dash away, as he had during the previous weeks, he decided to loiter; lag behind and see if he could intercept her departure and make his case.

He busied himself tying his street shoes and fussing with his sweatshirt, all the while monitoring her movements out of his periphery.

His jaw clenched as she clasped the older man’s hand fervently and left the floor. The man led her to her own bag before letting go; pressing her arm firmly and heading back towards the instructor.

It was now or never! he thought, seizing his opportunity.

He strode over to where she sat. She appeared lost in thought, her gaze unfocused. He smiled and waved at her, with no response.

Great! She’s ignoring me, he chided himself despairingly. But he’d committed himself now, so he persisted.

Smiling again, he spoke, “Hi. I’m Simon. You were amazing out there tonight.”

Her head lifted, and she smiled. Her perfectly white teeth and blue eyes shimmering in the soft lighting of the wings.

“Thanks,” she replied, bashfully.

Did he detect a blush creeping up her cheeks?

“I love to dance,” she continued, “but…it’s so hard for me, you know…”

Her voice trailed off and she looked away.

Confused, he sat down beside her.

“You know…what?” he probed gently.

“Alicia?” a gruff voice interrupted. “You ok?”

He lifted his head and saw the older man standing over them. Like a cat. Protective; ready to pounce.

She nodded, “I’m fine dad.”

Ahhh, dad! he realised, pleased.

“Well, good. Ah, here you go,” her father replied, guiding a small white stick into her hands.

“I’ve got to go,” she told him.

“Will I see you next week?” he implored, still not comprehending the situation.

She laughed. A musical tinkle, that made his heart sing.

“I guess you will see me,” she stated matter-of-factly, “but I may not see you!”

And with that she unfolded her cane and tapped her way out of the room, no longer dependent on her father’s arms.

He watched her leave and was more determined than ever.

Next week, he knew he would be the one to guide her around that room.

By Sarah ©2018

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Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: Daily Post Daily Prompt – awkward; and also, Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – April 13th, 2018

Stories by Sarah

Cold Case

The words blurred into one another, every yellowed page like the one before.    

Hank couldn’t read any more of the officer’s detailed scrawl. It was a 120 page report and his fatigue, both physical and mental, was preventing him from analysing another word.

What was the point of it all? he wondered. It’s not like I’ll ever find anything that hasn’t been poured over 100 times before already!

Working Cold Cases was the worst. Frustrated, Hank closed the file from 1982, and pushed it aside.

Lifting his weary frame from the chair, he grabbed his coffee mug and sloped over to bench where the brew that Matilda had put on for him earlier that day, still sat warming. Bless my wife, he thought.

As he began to pour the acrid smelling brown liquid, he suddenly stopped, slammed his mug down and turned back, looking at the table, in disbelief. Brown spots sloshed across the counter but Hank did not notice. He was already lifting the file and scanning the cover, searching frantically for what he had missed before.

In the bottom right hand corner, neatly printed in the officer’s familiar hand were two codes:

‘HR01382’
‘OP01382’

Hank began to smile. He knew what those codes meant. A hair and blood sample taken from the scene was still locked up, safe and sound, preserved in evidence.

Of course, the samples had been no good back in 1982, but this canny young officer, had thought perhaps that one day, they might be of use. And with the DNA technology they had today, they certainly would be. It was just the break they needed to finally prove their prime suspect’s guilt and Hank couldn’t wait to lock the bastard away, once and for all.

He checked the officer’s name again and said out loud, ‘Officer Neil Bromley, I could KISS you!’

 

By Sarah ©2018

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Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: Daily Post Daily Post – frantic; and also, Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – March 2nd, 2018

Stories by Sarah

The Dollhouse

“I don’t care what you do with it, I just want it gone,” Alex said, pointing at the dollhouse.  

It was an ugly thing, by all accounts. The Victorian style was usually so decorative. But this was grotesque – asymmetrical wraparound porches, gingerbread trim, gabled roofs, and lairy colours.

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked suspiciously, “Apart from the obvious,” I added, gesturing to the fascade.

“Nothing,” Alex said. “It was left to me by my Aunt Clara. Silly old coot. What do I want with a dollhouse? Even the executor was laughing. Seriously, a grown man and a dollhouse!”

“She must’ve wanted you to have it for some reason,” I pressed, “I mean, I can take it. Lacey will love it. But are you sure?”

“Take it,” he insisted, “Aunt Clara really lost it. When she promised me her house, I never dreamt this was what she meant! Silly old coot,” he repeated.

So I took it.

Lacey, as I anticipated, squealed with delight. She threw open the doors and starting playing immediately. I was pleased she liked it.

Lacey hadn’t been playing long when she called out. I hoped she hadn’t tired of it already!

I entered her bedroom, and noticed her arm down one of the chimneys.

“Lace…” I began.

“Something’s in here,” she said, pulling out a piece of paper.

I read the contents, revealing what it was. I smiled, holding the deed to Clara’s mansion. “Looks like Alex is going to have that house after all.”

By Sarah ©2018

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Image credit Pinterest

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – February 16th, 2018; and also, Sammi Scribbles, Weekend Writing Prompt, #42 – Revelation. Prose Challenge – In words or less, write a story about the uncovering of a secret.

Free Verse, Poetry by Sarah

Against Ruddy Clouds

The skyscraper towered
reflective against the ruddy clouds.
Steely and rigid
Like a sentry standing proud.

People, like ants scuttled
and scattered at its feet.
Bustling and busy
upon the urban street.

No matter, to the skyscraper,
Watching; holding strong
Knew they’d all find their place
before too long.

The mouth of the building
swallowed people off to work.
Offices, homes and cafes
all held in its berth.

For many years it stood
the tallest of them all.
An icon in a city
that continued to sprawl.

But then construction started
On a brand new building site
Reaching ever skyward
With even greater height.

With new architecture
and more grander in scale,
the old skyscraper’s light,
soon began to pale.

Now derelict and abandoned
Its fate was decided.
No one could enter – ‘Unsafe!’
the signs outside confided.

The men rigged up explosives
Strategically on each floor,
Until the morning came,
when last sunshine at its door.

The skyscraper tumbled
lost in the ruddy clouds.
The dust and debris would now
Forever be its shroud.

By Sarah ©2018

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Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: Daily Post Daily Prompt – swallow; and also, Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – February 2nd, 2018.

Stories by Sarah

The Ruins

I found myself in the ruins again.

I wasn’t quite sure how I’d gotten here. I seemed to be drawn to this place and when taking my morning walk, always ended up amidst the ruins. I knew it was banned. That I shouldn’t be here. The area was roped off with signs declaring ‘Danger. Unsafe buildings. Area closed.’

Yet, somehow, I was always standing on the other side of that rope, like someone with a backstage pass for their favourite band. Just standing there. Mesmerized by the buildings and memories of a place that once was.

Perturbed, I started to make my way back to the trail when I caught a scent of something foul. My nose wrinkled in disgust and I gagged, covering my mouth one hand. The odour was vile, yet somehow familiar. It tickled at the back of my mind as I tried to place it.

Suddenly, I was sent flying as I tripped on something. A small, sharp rock that had tumbled from the ruins. I landed hard. The breath knocked out of my chest, and my palms and knees grazed along the ground, before I finally came to a stop.

Shaken, I lay there for a second. Mentally checking my body for any serious injuries, and realising with a sigh of relief, just my pride and a few bruises.

I gathered myself up and decided this was the last time I would allow myself to visit the ruins. It was too dangerous, this place.

The smell continued to engulf me as I made my way home and finally I recognised the stench. It was the smell of the ruins themselves. Just like the other ruins, I’d experienced in my life. The smell of deceit. Of disappointment and mistrust. Of hurt and betrayal. And I knew they would keep knocking me down if I continued to allow myself to come here.

I steeled my mind and left the ruins behind. They were not worth a cent more of my time.

By Sarah ©2018

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – January 19th, 2018; and also Saturday Mix, Double Take , 20 January 2018, Homophones – band (a musical group), banned (forbidden), cent (one hundredth of a dollar), scent (an aroma), sent (dispatched)

Stories by Sarah

Death by Roses

Death by Roses, she thought, Death by Roses. What kind of a name for a perfume was that anyway?!

She reigned in her thoughts and tried to focus on the array before her. It didn’t help that the rows upon rows of delicate little bottles stood behind locked glass doors. She strained to see the names and brands, but ‘Death by Roses’ continued to elude her.

Exasperated, she finally decided to ask someone. If she didn’t get the right one, Heaven help her! What would be a minor catastrophe for most, would become a major catastrophe for her sister. Drama queen! she raged internally, while externally, she smiled, and asked the overly quiffed, but pleasant enough looking sales assistant, for, well…assistance.

“It’s right over here,” the girl indicated, with a sweep of her carefully painted fingernails.

Following her, the girl reached for a key attached to a stretchy chain on her pants.

“We have to keep these cabinets locked,” she stated apologetically, “you know, for the, um, shoplifters.” She lowered her voice as she uttered the last word, unnecessarily, as surely, the shoplifters wouldn’t care.

She picked up a small, blush coloured bottle. It was elaborately shaped into a rose; quite exquisite really. However, in contrast to the pretty pale glass was a black, thorned stem that wrapped around the bottle, culminating in a large thorn that formed the cap. How had she missed it? she wondered. It was altogether, a grotesque juxtaposition of a bottle. And aptly named. The black stem appeared to be choking the rose.

“It’s one of our most popular fragrances,” the sales assistance continued, “would you like to try it?”

“Er, no, thanks. It’s a gift.”

The girl beamed, “Oh wonderful! A present! Shall I have it gift wrapped for you then?”

“Yes please,” she replied, feeling grateful that she didn’t have to attend to that tedious task as well. Her sister would appreciate the professional touch, rather than her own clumsy fingers struggling with sticky tape and awkwardly presenting the perfume in a misshapen, mess of wrapping paper.


Finally making an exit from the crowded shopping mall, she breathed a sigh of relief that the last of her Christmas shopping was done.

Until, she realised she couldn’t remember which entrance she had parked her car. Dammit! she cursed. Why hadn’t she been paying attention?

She began trawling through her memory; trying to recall landmarks, colours, shops, anything that would help her. She walked and walked, row after row. She was positive it was in this area. Maybe it had been stolen, she thought, dreading the idea.

Frustrated, and not knowing what else to do, she went to the concierge desk to ask for help.

“Have you checked the other levels?” the young man suggested, “this happens quite a bit, you know.”

Of course! Stupid!

“No. I’ll do that now, thank you,” she replied sheepishly.

At this rate, she would miss her family’s Christmas Eve celebrations altogether! Starting to panic a little, she trekked to the floor above, and searched the car park once more. Still, no car.

However, on the third level, there it was. She sighed. Her trusty, red sedan, was patiently waiting, right where she had left it.

Tossing her packages in the back, she opened the door and jumped in. She hastily put the key in the ignition, threw the car into reverse and hurried out of the car park. She winced as her tyres screeched on the glossy grey concrete.


“You’re late!” her sister pointed out as she opened the door.

“Nice to see you too, sis,” she retorted sarcastically. “Sorry, it’s been a day. You know?”

“Yes, I know,” her sister conceded, “Christmas Eve is always crazy. I don’t know why you leave these things to the last minute!”

Because I work two jobs and only get one day off a fortnight, she thought, through gritted teeth. Deciding to ignore the admonishment, she laughed nervously, said nothing and walked through the door, to join the rest of her family.

The minute she saw her mother, father, grandparents and brother, she immediately relaxed. They rushed to greet her and as they hugged and kissed, she thought, what a prickly rose her sister was. Indeed, it was a fitting choice for her perfume.

They had waited for her, and hadn’t eaten yet, so the family convened to the table, said grace and commenced their Christmas Eve traditions. They ate roast turkey, complete with all the trimmings, drank lots of wine and all pretended they couldn’t possibly fit in dessert, before giving into protestations from the host. They talked and talked and caught up on all that was news in each other’s lives. They reminisced and spoke of friends and family no longer here. They spoke of good times and of bad, but also how they’d banded together to get through. This is what Christmas is about, she thought happily.

Next, they moved to the lounge room for the family Kris Kringle. As they started to give and receive gifts, butterflies began to dance in her stomach. She hoped her sister would be pleased. She held her breath as her sister grasped the small package in her hands.

“What beautiful wrapping!” she exclaimed. “Did you do this yourself?”

“Yes,” she found herself lying. She hated how her sister knew that she hadn’t.

“Ooooooh! Death by Roses!!!” she squealed excitedly. “How did you know?”

Rolling her eyes, she gave her mother a look, and smiled, “Just a hunch. Glad you like it.”

Her sister quickly extracted the thorn covered bottle and uncapped the lid. She squirted and sprayed liberally, her wrists and neck, before rushing around the room and spraying everyone else.

“Isn’t this scent divine? Just to die for!” she gushed.

Feeling pleased her sister loved her gift, she didn’t notice at first. It was subtle. A rushing of red to her face, and quickening of her pulse. She thought it may be the wine.

But then the coughing started, and the tightening of her throat. Just like when she was younger. Her eyes began to swell and bug in her face. Her lips began to tingle, and welts appeared on her skin.

She heard her mother scream, and then someone else say, “I thought she’d grown out of her anaphylaxis!”

Just before the world went black, she had one last fleeting thought…

Death by Roses, she thought, Death by Roses.

By Sarah ©2017

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Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: Daily Post Daily Prompt – awkwardelaborateblushgrasp; and also, Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – December 8th, 2017 and Saturday Mix, Opposing Forces – 9 December 2017

Poetry by Sarah, Shadorma

The Girls

Below them,
the dark streets beckoned
with crimson
light. Then he
asked her price and the slap bounced
off tired brick walls.

‘Just because
I work here, doesn’t
mean I work
the corners,’
she replied. ‘Someone has to
look after the girls.’

By Sarah @2017

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Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – November 24th, 2017

Free Verse, Month Of Mini Writing Challenges 2017, Poetry by Sarah

Crossroads

I cannot rest when the moon is full,
its wintery presence keeps me wakeful.

Playful shadows dance across the wall,
Illuminated by pale ghostly light on this,
All Hallows’ eve.

Despite locked door, I quake in my bed,
Shivering, hoping, I’ve remembered the chain.

Is it real or faux fear that chases me this night?
I brace myself for the unknown darkness.

Drawing deep within the covers, I create a pen around myself,
A distant bell dings, worming into my sanctuary, calling my name.

My conscience rebels because at the bottom of all this,
is just a crossroads between madness and truth.

By Sarah ©2017


Prompt: The Sunday Whirl, Wordle 318;


Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – September 29th 2017; and also, Sammi Cox, A Month Of Mini Writing Challenges, Day 30 – final challenge!, Task: Write a spooky poem in 13 lines for Halloween.

Free Verse, Poetry by Sarah

No Tea Today

“Well, I didn’t want tea anyway.” 
and no, I don’t, want you to stay.

Please, will you just go away!
Leave me to wallow in my way.

(That’s what I do, when my mood is grey)
It’s best to keep yourself at bay,

Lest that I should make you pay.
Well-meaning helpers make good prey;

A target at which to aim my spray!
The best of intentions cannot sway,

What heaviness upon my shoulders weigh.
Instead, I’ll  wait for sunshine’s ray,

To lead this present bleakness astray.
But for now…Come what may.

By Sarah ©2017

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – September 15th 2017

Stories by Sarah

The Cabin


When Sahi returned to The Ridge, there was nothing left but charred wood jutting from the snow. She couldn’t believe it had gone up so fast. She had raced down to the village to raise the alarm, as soon as she’d seen the flames licking at the roof. However, by the time the volunteer fire brigade had arrived on scene, it was already too late. The cabin was gone.

She wiped away a tear as she thought of all the memories those walls had held. The cabin had been her grandfather’s; “built from the ground up with my own two hands” he used to say. She had been coming here for as long as could remember. Her mother had grown up here; her aunts and uncles too. It had been a happy home back then, and later, a holiday retreat for children, grandchildren and friends alike.

Sahi remembered the special sleepovers where Grandma Alice would transform their tired sofa into a cosy double bed for her sister and her. They would whisper to each other late into the night, before one of her grandparents would eventually threaten to ‘redden their bums’ with the wooden spoon, if they didn’t shut up and go to sleep. You could spank children back then and not incite the furore of today, Sahi thought. The discipline hadn’t hurt her and she recalled with a smile the time she’d had the ominous spoon broken on her behind. It had looked much like the splintered remains in front of her.

She was sorry it had come to this. But after her grandfather had passed away, the fighting about who was the rightful owner of the cabin, was tearing the family apart. His will had stated that they were to decide amongst themselves.

Well, Sahi had decided, that if she couldn’t have it, no one would. She tucked the matches deeper into her pocket, as the rest of her family arrived at the ruins of the cabin.

By Sarah ©2017

Prompt: Daily Post Daily Prompt, believe; and also, Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – September 1st 2017

Stories by Sarah

Shafted

After the accident, unease grew like a mold in the corners of his mind.
Or perhaps it was more like moss – the spongy type that covered the sides of the shaft where he lay. He was an idiot.

The number one bushie’s* rule when heading out for a bush walk: let someone know where you are going. And he hadn’t done it! He was an experienced bushwalker and knew better. Damn, he’d hiked some of the toughest treks in Australia on his own – the Stirling Ranges Ridge Walk, Tasmanian Overland Trail, Mt Bogong; just to name a few. Even though he preferred solitary hikes, he was always prepared, always cautious and always checked in with someone once he’d arrived. Except this time. He pictured his pack sitting at the top of the hole, and cursed.

He’d thought today’s hike would be easy and had been looking forward to the chance to explore the old gold mining area. The Lake Sambell-Lake Kerferd Walking Trail followed a path from Lake Sambell, Beechworth to Lake Kerferd (the town’s water supply). He had walked along Spring and Hurdle Creeks, and had been having fun looking into the many disused mine shafts along the trail.

The mine shafts had been covered with wire mesh, and he had been unable to see much into them, past one or two metres. Just as he was longing for more, he’d seen the sign “Uncovered mine shafts – stay on the designated path” and like a fool, he’d been captivated by the thrill of perhaps, getting into one. He hadn’t had to walk too far off the trail either before he discovered a beauty. The mouth of the shaft was wide and rocky and he was positive he would be able to climb down; especially if he secured himself with some rope. Taking off his pack, he had no sooner unzipped the bag to pull out the length he had with him, when the sides of the shaft gave way and he had bounced and tumbled, all the way to the bottom.

He wriggled, trying to make himself comfortable and whimpered as his left leg screamed with pain. He was sure it was broken, especially with the unnatural angle at which it stretched out before him. He looked up, trying to work out how far down he’d fallen. It was far enough that the broad daylight above, seemed no more than a torch beam.

He was lucky to be alive really. Or was he? he thought, bleakly. No one knew he was here. No one would have expected him to disobey the signs and wander off. He knew from the history of the area that there were thousands of disused mines. Even if they did know he’d been walking this trail, they may never find him.

His unease, gave way to panic. With his leg useless, he couldn’t even try and climb out. He had no food, no water, no phone. All that – lay above him; in his pack. If by some chance, other hikers saw his bag, they may not be so foolhardy as to leave the trail and investigate further. They would pass him by.

How long can I survive down here? he wondered, as a wave of hopelessness washed over him.

He screamed desperately for help, but his cries were muted by the earth and damp surrounding him. He may as well have been screaming in a vacuum. His hands clenched at the gritty soil beneath them and he threw a clump at the wall in frustration. As the eerie silence of the shaft, closed in around him, the gravity of his predicament settled upon him. He squeezed his eyes shut, lay back and waited.

Waited for rescue and waited for death.

Whichever came first.

By Sarah ©2017

* bushie – Australian slang. someone who lives in the bush; person who lives in rural Australia;




Image credits By Sarah ©2017

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – August 18th 2017; Daily Post Daily Prompt – exploreprefer,  solitary disobey

Free Verse, Poetry by Sarah

A Little Diner Affair

Dinah worked whatever paid rent, 
careers were reserved for the ‘burbs
She didn’t always like the jobs,
Especially ones working kerbs.

She hoped one day she’d make it,
She believed it in her mind.
But no matter how hard she tried,
People didn’t accept her kind.

Like stubbing a toe when already broke,
Life kept kicking her hard.
Her spirit stayed strong, never wavering,
Biding time to play her card.

For all those years, she squirrelled away,
A little here and there.
It wasn’t much, but Dinah bought
A little diner affair.

And when those folks who’d snubbed her,
Wanted coffee at her door,
She turned them away and Dinah said,
“Not bad huh? For a whore!”

For Dinah’s diner catered only,
for a very special few,
who battle life doing what they must,
just to make it through.

She took whatever they could pay,
And sometimes that was nought.
It mattered not, for she knew so well,
The struggles that they fought.

It wasn’t about the money.
It wasn’t about the glory.
She just believed everyone deserved,
A chance to change their story.

By Sarah ©2017


Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday – August 4th 2017

Stories by Sarah

All Tied Up

Being tied to a chair was about as unpleasant as he imagined.

One minute he’d been out enjoying the sunshine, feeling the wind ruffle through the grass around him.

Next, he’d been snatched away, driven for miles and then forced into a cold, cold room…and a room filled with strangers nonetheless! And he hadn’t liked the look of them either – not one bit! They were an odd assortment. Tall, short, thin, chunky, groomed, scruffy…and all different colours too.

He had been wondering what on earth was going on when suddenly, the door to the room had opened and a friendly looking, round-faced woman entered.

Surely she’s not my captor? he’d thought to himself. She seems too nice, too ‘homey’.

He had no sooner completed the thought than she’d grabbed him. Hard.

Her chubby fingers had dug into his skin and without a word, she’d thrown him against a couple of the strangers.

She’d grabbed some rope, bound them together and tied them to the chair, plonking them unceremoniously next to others who were bound just like them.

Yep, he thought again, Being tied to a chair was about as unpleasant as he imagined. 

Now, just get on with the damn wedding will you?

 

By Sarah ©2017


Image credit Pixabay

Prompt: Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie, First Line Friday 09.06.17