I see through your lies, that gilded façade you show to the world. You wish to conceal the emptiness you feel by your cheerful smile and plans for joyful times when your lover returns.
Being the object of pity would be more than you could bear, so you convince yourself of his undying love; that he did not wed the heiress he met in Saint-Tropez.
What will it take to mend your broken heart and shattered dreams? Gaze through the splintered wound and there will be me, waiting here for you to see.
I wrote this very short piece of flash fiction in response to the photo below that my daughter Louise had taken at the meadow she visits and photographs throughout the year. It may seem a strange story from a picture of an old bench, but it was the idea of it being broken/damaged that made me think, and I could see how the idea could well apply to a person – human emotions being what they are.
Evaline Rawston flicked on her favourite CD and sank into a comfortable chair, closing her eyes as Madame Butterfly’s soprano soared. Memories of her final performance at the Theatre Royale flooded back: such applauds; such ovation. So many friends with promises of keeping in touch…
Two years had passed since her glorious, thirty-year career had ended. Her throat could have taken no more. Time to cease the hours of rehearsal and gruelling performances, before her voice completely failed. The heyday of her life was over; the fiery sun of summer set. No friends had flocked to her door. Autumn had hurried in fast, and once the mellowing colours had faded, years of cold, wintry loneliness and regret would follow.
For twenty years Geoffrey had wanted Evaline to marry him, but she had always put her career first, imagined he’d wait until she was ready. News of his leaving hit her like a hammer blow; six short months before she’d retired. How she missed his deep, soft voice, his gentle touch.
Beyond the window, October sunlight played on the ambers and golds. She loved this old house with its beautiful garden, drew comfort from its ever-changing moods. But even they could not lessen the loneliness she felt.
‘Miss Rawston, there’s a gentleman at the door. Says you know him.’
‘Really?’ Evaline smiled at her young housekeeper. ‘Then you’d better show him in.’
‘Evaline, my dear, how are you?’ Geoffrey asked as he entered the room.
Evaline gestured to an armchair opposite her own. ‘Much better for seeing you. I’ve thought about you often since we parted, and wondered if we might resume our relationship one day.’
Geoffrey smiled and wandered over to stare out the window. ‘It’s certainly been a long time, my dear, and a lot of water has flowed under my particular bridge since then… as, I imagine it has under yours.’
‘Evaline stared at his straight back, admiring the cut of his dark Gucci suit. ‘Life goes on,’ she replied, ‘though I’d hoped to be happier in my retirement. If truth be told, I’ve never been so lonely.’
Geoffrey returned to take the proffered seat. ‘My dear lady, you have no one to blame for that but yourself. Think of all those years when you pushed everyone away, wanting no one in your life other than your adoring audience.’
‘But you always stood by me, Geoffrey. You, at least, understood–’
‘Or so you chose to believe. I can’t recall you ever asking me how I felt. As the years passed by, I came to realise I meant nothing to you, other than as a pair of listening ears for your ever-mounting complaints and constant worries of failure. Did you ever stop to think that I, too, might need someone to help me through the difficult time when my dear sister died, or when my company teetered on the brink of collapse?’
Geoffrey shook his head. ‘No need to answer that, Evaline, I saw your shallowness years ago. But, as they say, we can’t always choose who we fall in love with and, believe me, I loved you dearly for a very long time. Once I met Bronwyn everything changed. She has loved me and cared for my needs as much as I have for hers these past two years.’
Momentarily choked for words as her tears threatened to flow, Evaline stared out of the window. But the solace she sought in autumn’s warmth was masked by the coldness pervading the room. ‘Then tell me, Geoffrey, why are you here? Was it your intention to witness how low I’ve fallen so you could share with your friends what a sad old woman I’ve become?’
‘No, my dear, I could never do that, if only because of how much you once meant to me. I’ve merely come to bid you goodbye and wish you well. Bronwyn and I have been married for the past three months and next week we fly out to start a new life in Australia. We don’t intend to return, but we take many fond memories with us.’
Geoffrey took Evaline’s hand. ‘So, it’s farewell, my dear. Do try to get out and socialise a little, perhaps meet some new friends. It’s the only way I survived when you rejected my proposal for the dozenth time. “There are plenty more fish in the sea”, a close friend told me, and I’m thankful to have netted the very best of them.’
Too emotional to speak, Evaline watched the housekeeper escorting Geoffrey to the door. She switched on her favourite CD and sank into her comfortable chair, her tears flowing freely as she listened to the desolate tones of Madame Butterfly.
Daryn stared at his reflection in the puddle, not for the first time wondering why he never seemed to fit in. He looked quite ordinary in the puddle and couldn’t understand why he felt this way. At school he was, somehow, different to the other kids, and spent much of his time on his own. At home all he wanted to do was sit in his room and write stories about heroes who saved people from evil giants, witches, or rampaging beasts.
In all of his stories, people worked together, a social response to attacks on their homes. Daryn was the outsider who rode in to dispose of the threat. But he never actually became one of those people, always staying on the outside, looking in.
‘You’ll feel different as you get older,’ Daryn’s Dad said, without taking his eyes from the newspaper he was reading.
‘That’s right,’ Mum added. ‘In the next few years the shyness will go away and you’ll make plenty of friends.’
Daryn often wondered how getting older would make any difference. He knew he wasn’t just shy, he simply felt uncomfortable being around people. Intended words formed readily in his head, but seemed to dissolve into nothing before they reached his mouth.
The puddle was changing, oily colours spreading across its surface, and with it, Daryn’s thoughts cleared. He saw himself as an adult, looking suave and confident in his expensive dark suit. The odd thing was, he was surrounded by people, all waiting for him to sign the books they held in their hands. On closer inspection he could see the author’s name on the covers: Daryn Tomlinson…
‘That’s me!’ he gasped, ‘I’m an author, a successful one, too.’
As an author, Daryn would soon be back at his desk, writing his next best-seller, away from the people he could not relate to. Being on the outside looking in suited him down to the ground.
It was Sunday when Minnie found the hat, just sitting there amongst the daisies and dandelions as though it was part of the parkland scenery. She stared at it, unsure whether she should move it at all, but the hat piqued her interest so she stooped to retrieve it.
On the grass beneath not a single flower grew, which Minnie thought to be rather odd – although it gave a modicum of credence to the idea that the hat was part of the park. The flowers must have been there for a few weeks, at least. But being a sensible girl of sixteen, Minnie dismissed the thought.
Yet still, she wondered… It was a pretty sunhat, and must have drawn the attention of more than a few ladies as they passed by, twirling their fancy parasols. She placed it firmly on her head, loving the feel of its comforting closeness.
I could do anything with this hat on, she told herself. I am invincible. I could swim to the bottom of the sea, or fly down from one of those tall hotel buildings and soar along the Promenade over all of those day-trippers. That would give them something to talk about.
‘What a good idea. Why don’t you try it out?’ a voice inside her head suggested.
Minnie took the lift up to the rooftop restaurant of The Savoy, the tallest hotel in the seaside town, ordered a glass of freshly made lemonade and seated herself on the balcony. The view of the Promenade was splendid and she thought about what she would do once she’d finished her drink.
‘Your hat looks perfectly lovely,’ an elderly lady remarked coming to stand beside Minnie’s table, her parasol in hand. ‘The odd thing is,’ she continued, adjusting her fine silk gown before sitting down, quite uninvited, ‘it looks identical to one a young woman was wearing in here just a few days ago.’
Minnie shrugged. ‘I know nothing about that. I found this one in the park and decided to try it on. Then I came up here for a nice cold drink.’ She paused, absently gazing down at the embroidered tablecloth and wishing this interfering busybody would go away so she could get on with her plans.
But the lady simply smiled and kept up her annoying prattle. ‘The reason I mention this, my dear, is because that particular young lady seemed intent upon doing a very foolish thing. If I hadn’t reached the balcony in time, she would have jumped right off. She really thought she could fly – and I don’t need to tell you how that would have ended.’
Minnie stared at this lady, who was still shaking her head and tutting at such a terrible thought. She looked very sweet, though rather la-di-da to an ordinary working girl from Blackpool. Yet Minnie had the feeling that this old lady could see right into her head. She glanced at the balcony wall. ‘Yes, that would have been a very nasty way to die,’ she said, removing the hat from her head and laying it on the tabletop. ‘I wonder what possessed the girl to do such a thing?’
The old lady flashed that infuriatingly honeyed smile again. ‘I think you know the answer to that as well as I do, my dear. And between you and me, I shall have strong words with my granddaughter for leaving the hat lying around. Cassandra really must test her magic elsewhere in future.’ She heaved a deep sigh, a small frown creasing her already wrinkled brow. ‘But you know what some witches are like… too fond of making mischief and practising their powers on people. She’s not a bad witch, just a little immature, and she must remember to try out her spells on her mice before inflicting them on people. I spent years perfecting my own but, like most young people, Cassandra wants everything done today.
‘I’ll take the hat back to her now, shall I?’ she asked, proffering a white-gloved hand.
Having no answers to any of this, Minnie handed the lady the lovely sunhat and watched as she turned to walk away and disappear into thin air.
Minnie strolled casually over to the balcony wall, admiring the view in the warm, May sunshine and smiling at the thought that the old fusspot had no idea of the hat’s true powers. Having it perched on her head for a mere few moments had been enough to make Minnie’s confidence soar.
‘Go on then,’ the voice in her head urged. ‘You haven’t come all the way up here for nothing.’
‘No, I haven’t,’ Minnie replied, heaving herself up and teetering on the wall’s upper edge. ‘It’s a good day for flying.’
Picture prompt of the hat is courtesy of Pixabay
This post was partly inspired by the image above, but also from my many visits to Blackpool over the years. I can’t say Blackpool is my favourite seaside resort in the UK. Having been ‘born and bred’ in Southport, a little further south on the Lancashire coast than Blackpool, naturally I’m somewhat biased. But when all’s said and done, Blackpool does have that famous tower… This nice, colourful image is also from Pixabay:
I wrote a blog post about Blackpool four years ago here but our visit at that time was on a grey day in late February. Needless to say, the seaside town was keeping itself well under wraps at the time.
It’s been far too long since I wrote a post and I’ve really missed doing so. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way, and/or other things must take precedence. Last year was not a good year for my family. We had so many illnesses to deal with, some of them worryingly serious. All in all, I got little writing done at all, either on my books or my blog. So this year has been a mad rush to get Book 3 of my Sons of Kings series finished, edited and formatted and published on Amazon. And, at last, this is it:
It was uploaded onto Amazon a couple of weeks ago, so I can now start to relax a little and get back to writing a few blog posts. Well, that’s the plan… On the other hand, Book 3 didn’t finish either of my protagonists’ stories, so I am now writing Book 4. My trilogy has become a series (or perhaps a quadrilogy).
All three of my Sons of Kings books will be 99p/$0.99 until July 31st. After that, Book 1 (Shadow of the Raven) will be 99p for a little longer, Book 2 (Pit of Vipers) will be $1.99 and Book 3 (Wyvern of Wessex) will be $2.99, the usual price for each of the three books.
My book of short stories and flash fiction pieces will be still at its usual price of £1.49/$1.97. Amazon won’t allow it to be any lower because of the number of coloured images I’ve included. I had intended this book to be permanently 99p!
Just to let you know that the eBook version of my flash fiction / very short stories book, A Dash of Flash, will be free on Amazon until Sunday, July 16.
Many of the 85 stories have been published on my blog but several were written just for the book. Almost two-thirds of the stories are accompanied by colourful images, although they are not the prompts provided by the challenges.
Honest reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads would be SO MUCH appreciated. I’d also love to hear what you think! These are snippets from the reviews I’ve had so far:
a unique collection of short stories…something for everyone
so many delightful characters and plot situations all in the small space called flash fiction. This book is a joy to read, the stories brief, interesting, and cleverly composed
I loved the variety of stories. This, together with the ultra-short length of the stories, really keep your attention.
Links to my book on Amazon are in the side bar to the right ————–> then up a bit –^
The first time Emily saw the outhouse at the bottom of the rambling, overgrown garden, she was entranced by the colourful foliage bedecking its red brick walls. Her family had only recently moved into this old house and investigating it thoroughly was irresistible to an inquisitive girl of twelve.
‘The one covered in Virginia Creeper?’ Dad asked, glancing over the rim of his teacup when she’d asked about it last night. ‘It was the gardener’s domain years ago. An ancestor of mine was gardener here before the Great War. He was sent to the Western Front and is buried out there in Flanders.’
This was all news to Emily, but interesting all the same. She wondered whether that was the reason Dad had wanted this place so badly, especially as it was very run down and needed a lot of work doing on it. Until now she’d thought Dad wanted the house because it was big, and cheap for the size. Mum was expecting again, and a family of eight would need a lot of bedrooms.
‘If you look inside, you’ll see some really old tools,’ Dad added as an afterthought.
‘Make sure you don’t touch anything,’ Mum warned, bouncing Emily’s youngest brother, Stevie, on her lap before standing to take him up to bed. ‘Tools can be sharp.’
Straight after breakfast, Emily headed out into the early September sunshine, pushing the dismal thought of school next week to the back of her mind. She flipped the latch on the old door and stepped inside.
A young man wearing a flat cap was humming to himself as he hung a variety of rusting rakes along a wall. ‘Hello, Emily love,’ he said. ‘I’d hoped you’d pop in today. ‘Your dad said you might.’
‘He did? When did he tell you that? Who are you, anyway? Are you one of the workmen come to repair all the windows?’
‘I’m your great-great-great-grandad. Now there’s a mouthful for you to get your tongue round. I’m the gardener your dad told you about last night and my name’s George. I’d seen you having a look round yesterday, so I thought I’d best introduce myself next time you came.’
Emily suddenly smiled. ‘But you’re, uh, dead…aren’t you?’ He nodded. ‘So you must be a ghost! I’ve always wanted my very own ghost. Can I come and see you every day…and can I just call you Grandad? And I’d love to know what it’s like to be a ghost. And, if you can remember, can you tell me what it was like in this house before the Great War?’
‘All in good time, Emily. We’ll have some years to talk now we’re acquainted. I can tell you a lot about many things – and yes, just Grandad will do nicely. But please don’t ask about what happened in France the day I died, ’cos I don’t rightly remember after I went over the top.
Emily had no idea what he meant by ‘over the top’, but she’d look it up later on. ‘That’s all right, Grandad. I wouldn’t think anyone would like to remember their own death. We’ll talk about nice things, I promise. So, tell me, what it’s like to stay young-looking forever … and how long have you’ve been talking to my dad … did you know him when a little boy … and why have you grown Virginia Creeper all over the outhouse walls?’
Grandad suddenly laughed. ‘You’re just like your dad was at your age. He couldn’t keep quiet for a moment, either. I’ll answer one of your questions, Emily, but then I need to rest for a while. I grow Virginia Creeper because it reminds me of my beautiful wife – your great-great-great grandma. Her name was Virginia, you see, and she had lovely red hair. So whenever I see the plant at this time of year, I feel she’s still with me.’
Emily felt a sudden lump in her throat. ‘That’s such a sad but very romantic story, Grandad. Thank you for telling me.’
‘Right then,’ Grandad said. ‘I’m very glad to have met you, Emily, but I really need to rest now. Come back to see me tomorrow and we’ll chat some more.’
Emily watched her grandad fade away then hurried back to the house. She’d spend some time searching the Internet for information about the Great War and ‘going over the top’. Then she’d look up all about growing Virginia Creeper. So tomorrow, if Grandad mentioned them, she’d have no need to ask so many questions and tire him out.
But there was one question that continued to pique Emily’s curiosity and she sighed, knowing she wasn’t likely to find the answer on the Internet. Tomorrow, she’d simply have to ask Grandad why he couldn’t meet up with Grandma now that they were both dead.
This is a story I wrote over a year ago as one of the longer ones for my book ‘A Dash of Flash’.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a flat cap is, here’s an image from Wikipedia with a little bit of information about what one actually is – also from Wikipedia.
“A flat cap is a rounded cap with a small stiff brim in front. The hat is also known as a cabbie cap, longshoreman’s cap, cloth cap, scally cap, Wigens cap, ivy cap, derby hat, jeff cap, duffer cap, duckbill cap, driving cap, bicycle cap, Irish cap, Newsboy cap, Crook cap, Joao’s hat, Sixpence, or a Paddy cap. In Scotland it is known as a bunnet, in Wales as a Dai cap, and in New Zealand, as a cheese-cutter.”
“The style can be traced back to the 14th century in Northern England, when it was more likely to be called a “bonnet”, which term was replaced by “cap” before about 1700, except in Scotland, where it continues to be referred to as a ‘bunnet’.”
My husband, who’s as ‘Northern’ as can be, being a Yorkshireman, wouldn’t dream of gardening without his flat cap on his head.
Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writer is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or take 25. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.
‘I’ll go ahead of you,’ Alf insisted as they waited to board the pleasure-cruiser, ‘so I can help you across the gangplank. Don’t want you overboard, especially in December.’
Edna scowled and stepped in front of him as the queue moved aboard. ‘I might be getting on, but I’m not incapable,’ she retorted, eyeing the roped-off steps to the open-air upper deck. ‘I wanted to sit up there … better views.’
‘Too cold,’ Alf replied, pushing her inside towards two vacant seats. ‘Get in first, next to the window, Edna. Views’ll be good and we’ll be nice and warm – not like them idiots Christmas shopping out in the city.’
‘Which is where I’d be if you hadn’t booked this cruise!’
Edna grumbled on until they disembarked, when her face lit up. ‘Now let’s get to the more enjoyable job of shopping.’
Alf sighed. Edna had made it impossible for him to see the sights, and now he’d be dragged round the crowded shops, loaded up with bulging bags…
His grumbling continued until they got home.
Word Count: 175
If you’d like to read other stories, or add a story yourself, click the little blue frog.
A Dash of Flash: A Collection of Very Short Stories
My third book is something quite different. It is a collection of 85 flash fiction pieces / very short stories, ranging from 100 to 1,000 words. Over 50 of the stories are illustrated, giving the text a bright and cheery feel. Here’s a brief description of the book:
A Dash of Flashis an eclectic mix of stories with both contemporary and historical settings, plus a few fairy tales and ghost stories added for good measure.
Step inside and join the many and varied characters at their times of joy or sorrow, remorse or loss. Laugh at their foibles, commiserate with their grief and indulge with them as they reminisce. Or simply smile at the fantasy of the tale.
Glimpse them all for but a mere flash in time…
5 star reviews of A Dash of Flash:
Thoroughly enjoyed these (very) short stories! This is the first collection of flash fiction I’ve read. I loved the variety of stories. This, together with the ultra-short length of the stories, really keep your attention. This is a perfect collection for people who have short attention spans (like most of us these days, myself included)! Most of the stories have enticing images accompanying them – these really set the stage for each piece – and are a clever addition. I found each story (‘The Double Crosser’, my favorite) to be well-written and very engaging. Five stars & looking forward to more flash fiction! … Amazonian, Amazon.com
This is a stunningly diverse collection of yarns, a mix of pathos, sorrow, joy and retribution. I enjoyed every one ~ Maureen Turner, Amazon.co.uk
“A Dash Of Flash: A Collection of Very Short Stories” is a work I highly recommend for anyone who likes the delight and brevity of the interesting, cleverly written short story. This assortment of flash fiction by author Millie Thom fits that bill … Millie Thom’s writing style is strong, her storytelling expertise wonderful, and her marvelous imagination and sense of humor brings to life so many delightful characters and plot situations all in the small space called flash fiction. This book is a joy to read, the stories brief, interesting, and cleverly composed ~ J.R. Cotner, Amazon.com
I happily spent two afternoons in the company of this miscellany of imaginative vignettes, eavesdropping on conversations and peeping through keyholes. I chuckled as a bikini top floated out to sea, marvelled at the beat of a fairy’s wing and nodded approvingly as I read a story that was written without using the letter ‘e’. Millie Thom has an engaging writing style and employs literary technique to good effect, using ambiguity, colloquialisms, metaphors and misdirection to amplify each dénouement. Pleasingly, she is a graduate of the ‘show and not tell’ school of writing and therefore trusts the reader to fill in the blanks. As well as subtle paradoxes, there is pathos-a-plenty to be found, but poignancy, wistfulness and whimsy take centre stage. The author’s tastes are wide-ranging; anything from mythical kings to alien spaceships takes her fancy. Overall, a most enjoyable read. Highly recommended! ~ K, Amazon.co.uk