as destiny intended short story, book cover

As Destiny Intended

As destiny intended, a translucent glimmer embodied the night and the stars became shrouded in uncertainty; if her fate were to become her nemesis, she would accept it rather than force the hand of luck. The doom and gloom of solitude, her circumstance never intentional; her purposive desire merely fell on delusional imps. She could not change the way she felt about any of them. Why should she even consider anything less than what destiny intended?

Anna stood for a moment in a kind of trance; six whole years, her bedroom had been her sanctuary, a shrine almost. She thought of her father, unshaven and smiling with a coffee in his hand, with a worried mischievous hint of wonder. She thought of how he struggled to build the small loft conversion above the two-bed semi on Ravenswood Lane. ‘Tis all for yuh,’ he would say, drawing the sweat from his brow with his forearm, ‘A wee palace, all of yuh own.

She knew there was something wrong with the look in his eyes. ‘If — only,’ she sighed, sitting down at the end of her bed. The argument with her mother made her question her faith in destiny. Maybe it was time for her to move out. It might be what fate intended anyway, she supposed.

After all, Isabella, her younger sister, had found fortune; kismet had shone fondly on her. Her younger sister was unaware of the constant comparison she had to endure. Her mother’s determination to make sure she too would be tied, bound and, chastised in marriage.

Paul Rose! For heavens sakes.’ She cried.

A proper little mummies boy; she moaned to herself, afraid of his own shadow. How could she even think it would be okay. Paul, bloody Rose, she repeated as the argument slowly stole her mind once again.  Admittedly she was not the prettiest of things, of which she did not need reminding. ‘O’ Isabella. Of course, Isabella was far more glamorous. She knew what she wanted in life.

Anna felt the emptiness, loneliness and missed her father’s warm, loving smile. She thought of him taking each day as it came, enjoying each blessed day even if it were raining. It momentarily gave her relief in a smile.

The minute her mother remarried, she broke her promise; things had changed; everything had changed since her father’s death. There was a sense of urgency, frustration almost, which made them feel as if they were in the way, until — Isabella, tired of the constant arguing, eloped with a man twice her age. ‘O’ how she remembered that day, ‘Sickly Imp,’ a nickname she had bestowed upon her stepfather, finally got told to shut it and keep his nose out of something that did not concern him.

It must have been the last time her mother comforted her in a heart-wrenching display of despair. First, mother had pulled her tight to her bosom; then they cried for hours, mourning the loss of her father, together. Then they giggled in fits of remembrance before finally making a pact, never to allow anyone or anything to come between them ever again. There was a desperate raw need in her mother that very night, one she would never forget. It made her feel wanted, needed.

as destiny intended mystery romance, cover for short story

As Destiny Intended

As for precious little Isabella, Richard Latimore, the man she eloped with, was already married. After a six-month spending spree across the country, Isabella had exhausted his finances to the point he wept in shame and admitted everything. Isabella had laughed in his face and called him every vile word she could think of before, opening the hotel door to Nick, who immediately took her in his arms and kissed her in a way to enrage Richard further. Nick Robinson was a young man she met on the night she ran away, whilst waiting for Richard at Tanner’s Palace, a cafe situated on the outskirts of town. He knew Richard very well and told her everything about the little weasel.

Isabella had no intention of returning home; she was determined to make the bastard suffer. Unlike herself, Isabella was not just beautiful; she was bright and strong-willed. And boy did he suffer the consequences of her deliberate allure of necessity, bags, jewellery and even the latest iPhone. All of this whilst taunting him into thinking that she would give herself to him freely once they were married, and at the same time tempting him into thinking she was on the absolute brink of giving herself completely, out of wedlock.

Hope! My dear Anna, is like a rope, you just need to know when to tug it.‘ Isabella had laughed.

Anna pondered on what she had meant by it. Then, in a deep diminishing sigh, she resigned herself to the fact her sister would always reap the riches of karma, no matter what she did. She was one in a million, and she was looking forward to finally seeing her again.

Now, three years after running away, Isabella was finally getting married, too, Nick. Mother could not be more excited and to have been asked to assist with the wedding preparations. It was as though Isabella could do no wrong, despite her running away and nearly causing her mother to have a heart attack, not to mention the sleepless nights that followed, month after month, without a single word.

Her mother truly believed Isabella was a victim of Mr Richard Latimore. He had subsequently hit the tabloids after committing several acts of fraud and indecent exposure. His lawyer had pleaded it was due to a mental breakdown caused by financial difficulties he had endured for several years. But, as destiny intended, Anna surmised, what else could it have been? It was not a coincidence.

‘O’ well, she sighed; theres no point in going over the past and stood up. The crux of which she was adamant was that she would most definitely not be entertaining Paul Rose.

Tis yours.

“Oh, where art thou tentative heart of whom I seek?”

A quick note by the Author:

As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. However, there is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.

Thank you for your interest, Andrew.

a worried look of concern

As Destiny Intended

 Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

Imagery

The featured image for As Destiny Intended is a collage by justanemotion.com

The photo of a boy was by Puplicdomainpictures.

Illustrations, including fancy page break, was by Annaliseart.

The Embers Of A Lifetime

The embers of a lifetime lay burning at my feet, memories of those I had learned to love fading slowly before me. They had given me so much strength a reason to fight. Yet, there was nobody to come home to, to hold my flesh and bone, to make me feel alive again. Only the calm waters of the brook could awaken my nightmare, for part of me still felt unsure of whether or not; I still lay on the battlefield, staring up into the abyss.

A lifetime of toil, nor riches nor fame, a mere peasant boy, “Alex, was thy name.”

It all began on Dreary Lane, home of servant girls governed by a Mrs Geraldine Fanshaw. The place was born from need; farm-labourers in haste had built four timber-framed dwellings from the remains of an old barn. These hardworking farmhands later moved to Church Street into more suitable accommodation. Then came the construction of Harmony Way, and a gang of heavily built Irish labourers moved into these crudely built shacks.

Once Harmony Ways construction was complete, the new owners of these prestigious properties required domestic servants. Dreary Lane then became home to the Fanshaw girls. These were girls considered unsuitable for living in the servant quarters, many of whom were under sixteen.

At the very end, where an evergreen mass had weaved its way up through the boards and onto the old pantile roof, I was born to a young servant girl called Connie. In the very beginning, my life was in the balance. Mrs Fanshaw stood downstairs clutching a pillow, waiting.

It would not be the first time she had to protect the Fanshaw girls’ reputation.

 

 

The Embers Of A Lifetime  

Without hope, friendships slowly emerged from times long since past.

The Embers Of Lifetime expressing loss, memories and a burning emotion of the past

It was Nancy who assisted with my birth and, who kindly gave me thy name. Her orders were made very clear; as soon as I was born, she was to take me straight down to Fanshaw.  Her instructions were not to allow Connie to hold me, not even for one second; It would be better that way.

Nancy, who was now seventeen, had endured the agony of having her child taken from birth, and she was determined to try and save me. So it came as a huge surprise when a silent, little angel was born alongside me, fast asleep.

My mother lay sobbing, aware of what was to happen to me, staring at the broken window pane. Nancy put her hand softly on her shoulder, but she ignored her. It was a matter of life and death; Fanshaw was waiting. Nancy, quickly placed me in a pouch she had sewn earlier under her dress and left my little sister lying on the bed.

It’s dead! Miss — It’s bloody dead!” She screamed glancing over at Connie, then rushed down the stairs.

Fanshaw had rushed to the foot of the stairs, still clutching the pillow and looked up in horror as Nancy came bounding down towards her. Immediately Fanshaw reached out and caught her by the shoulders.  Nancy had forced tears to her eyes and began to act hysterical, repeating over and over again, ‘The bloody thing’s dead, Miss.’ It was then that Fanshaw slapped her, demanding that she calm down.

Nancy belched in her face as if she were going to be sick, then covered her mouth and pulled free to make her escape outside. She hesitated at the small green picket fence to make sure Fanshaw would not follow her; again, she began belching, pretending to be sick. Fanshaw stared at her briefly, then turned and went up the stairs. Nancy then rushed down to the brook, her heart pounding, unsure whether I was alive or dead. Once she had reached the small stream, she immediately tried to rub life into me.

It was the sweetest sound she had ever heard, and her tears became as natural as my will to live.

‘Oh, yer little beauty, you.’ She whispered holding me tight to her chest.

 

A quick note by the Author:

As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work; there is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.

Thank you for your interest, Andrew.

a worried look of concern

 

The Embers Of A Lifetime

 Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021

Imagery

The Embers Of A Lifetime is a collage made from two unique original images by Alexas and Olichel.

Photo of a boy by Puplicdomainpictures.

Illustrations by Annaliseart.

 

 

 

Hannah short story book cover by A I Moffat

Hannah

Hannah is a short story by the exciting new author A I Moffat, who conjures up the worry and heartache of being a mother.  Hannah Jones has a chance to rekindle the close relationship she once shared with her daughter by Charlotte’s arrival, her daughters closest friend.  A short story of intrigue which captures the imagination.

Hannah

By A I Moffat

Hannah Jones was kneeling in front of the fire when she heard the girls open the front door, her head tilted slightly to one side. A warm faint smile grew as she listened to them. She thought of how time had flown and, felt a sense of pride in having watched over them for so many years. They had reached an age to be more than capable of making their own decisions in life. However, she was finding it difficult to prevent herself from interfering in her daughter’s life.

Their once-close relationship had taken a turn for the worst, and she was now afraid of losing the ability to talk as friends rather than a mother to her child. This fear made her realise she had made a mistake in allowing her own feelings and possibly her own desire to influence her actions. She now strongly regretted ever interfering and feared she might never be able to restore the intimate relationship she once shared with her only child.

Hannah short story book cover by A I Moffat

Charlotte was the first to transform the gloom into life, she went straight to her and instantly fell to her knees beside her, ‘Hello, mother oh — I’ve missed you.’ Instantly she threw her arm around her and kissed her cheek. ‘Gosh, it’s so cold out there tonight.’ She shivered into her.

‘Yes, well you can’t expect anything else at this time of year.’ Hannah Jones chuckled, whilst with a firm hand, she rubbed Charlotte’s arm. ‘How was your journey?’

‘Tiresome mother, you know I’m sure men only have one thing on their minds.’

‘Oh, Charlotte, you will wear such glamorous clothes, what else can you expect.’ She smiled and pulled her close to her. ‘You’re a sight for saw eyes anyway, that’s for sure.’

Emily leaned over and kissed her mother’s other cheek, ‘Sorry we’re a bit, late mum, we stopped at Potters for a coffee on the way up.’

‘I guessed you had, and how is Lara and Mrs Ramsey?’

‘Lara’s off with a stinking cold again, and Mrs Ramsey is still complaining about being quiet, but she said to send you her regards.’

It was strange, but a relief, that in the presence of Charlotte her daughter was behaving more like her usual self, unlike the previous two weeks where she seemed to distance herself from her, sneaking in and out like a church mouse. She saw it as an opportunity to rekindle that close intimate relationship with her daughter.

Emily had positioned herself on the edge of the fireside chair; she sat leaning against the arm toward the fire staring directly into the flames, when her mother asked, ‘How are you feeling today, Emily?’

It was not something her mother would normally ask, unless she had complained of feeling unwell in the first instance. Emily remained silent, unsure of where it might be leading.

‘Only, Trevor phoned today, he wanted to know how you were, and whether or not you would be going back to work on Monday.’ For a few seconds before she continued, she waited, ‘I told him you were feeling much better and was intending to start back again, on Monday.’

‘Thanks.’

‘It’s not my business to interfere. What you do with your life now is up to you. I don’t even want to know why you haven’t been at work, for the past two weeks or even where you have been. I want you to know that— I am always here for you, Emily and, always will be.’ With compunction, Hannah Jones turned to Charlotte and smiled, ‘Well, I think its best that I go and see to your tea, before it spoils.’

Charlotte, managed to bring a small weak smile to her face, her attention was quick to return to Emily, as Hannah stood up.

After Emily’s mother had left the room, it was Charlotte who broke the silence between them in a quiet, discreet raised voice, ‘Holly Shit! Emily! What was that all about?’

‘Nothing, we just ain’t been getting on lately.’

‘I can see that, but what about this business at work. I didn’t even know you hadn’t been going into work.’

‘Oh, Charlotte, I’m sorry. I better go sort things out with her.’

Her mother was standing at the sink; she went over and stood at her side, a moment of silent unity passed before she said, ‘Mum . . . I’m really sorry.’

In that split second, Hannah Jones closed her eyes with relief and thanked God at the same time, but she maintained her composure, prevented herself from showing her weak and unconditional love that she had of late found so unbearable to live with.

‘Mum— please. I don’t understand what’s happened to me; I can’t do this on my own. Please— Mu—mum.’

‘Well, that’s what I’m here for—’ She was unable to suppress her innermost feeling, her wanting, any longer and took her daughter in her arms, tight to her chest.

Charlotte had replenished the fire and was sitting patiently in the fireside chair, when she heard a sudden tapping sound coming from the front door; she was a little hesitant and not completely sure, whether or not somebody was actually at the door, and rather than disturb Emily or her mother she went to check.

Nobody was there; when she was closing the door, she noticed a box on the doorstep. She took a look around to see if anybody was in the street, then lifted it and took it inside; it was an open box wrapped in rustic oak leaves and inside was a single red rose laid on a bed of pale blue forget-me-nots.

Hannah had heard the front door close and rushed out of the kitchen, she was a little startled to find Charlotte looking at her in amazement, ‘What is it, Charlotte?’

‘It’s just so beautiful mother.’ Her gaze instantly fell back to the box; she was now cradled in her arms. ‘They just left it on your doorstep.’

‘Oh, My God, it isn’t?’ On impulse she covered her face in her hands, with her eyes still fixed on Charlotte, she slowly allowed her line of sight to become clearer, ‘You have got to be joking Charlotte, it can’t be.’

Charlotte lifted her head, her expression puzzled, ‘It isn’t— what?’

With apprehension Mrs Jones forced herself to look inside the box, ‘It’s just a rose?

‘Yes, but isn’t it beautiful?’

Mrs Jones sighed with relief, ‘For goodness sakes, you frightened the life out of me for a minute— Yes, it’s lovely.’

Emily had rushed out to see what all the commotion was, ‘What is it, mum?’ She leaned over the side of her mother, ‘Oh— My God!’

Hannah then watched her closely as she offered to take the box from Charlotte; it was done with such delicacy that her mother could hardly believe her eyes, especially after the way she had fought so hard against any such notion, of her and Steve getting back together again. She was not going to be complacent this time and, bit her lip. She merely indicated to Charlotte to follow her into the kitchen.

Emily had taken the rose over to the fire, once again she sat on the edge of the fireside chair, but this time she gazed down into the box and felt its warmth growing inside her, it felt as if he were with her, as it had all day.

‘Oh, Charlotte I just can’t believe it, you know I was beginning to think that boy didn’t have a romantic bone in his body.’ She paused a second and turned the dial-up on the cooker. ‘And to think I had just about lost my patience with Stephen Maguire, who’d have believed it.’

‘It’s very romantic, that’s one thing for sure, but—’

‘You know all the trouble that boy caused in this family over the past month; I tell you Charlotte, I had really reached the end with him. I’ve done your favourite, steak and kidney pie. It shouldn’t be much longer. You wouldn’t mind just peeling the potatoes, there already in the sink. Oh Charlotte, I can’t tell you how pleased I am your finally— here.’

Hannah was unable to suppress the emotion that had been boiling up inside her for so long. She had missed Charlotte immensely, she had always considered her as being part of her family as if she were her own, this mixture of emotion and in the presence of someone, she was able to trust and cared so much about, had allowed her to feel a sense easement, allowing her to let go finally.

Charlotte instantly put her arm around her, ‘Oh mother, please, everything will be alright; you just wait and see.’

‘I’m not sure Charlotte, I can’t take much more, at times I can’t talk sense to her, it’s like she’s in a different world that— I can’t seem to reach. Oh, Charlotte, I only want, what’s best for her.’

‘I know, you do mother, she’ll be fine.’

‘It’s her father you know, him and me arguing all the time, that’s what’s made her like this. I know it. She doesn’t let things out like she use to, she bottles them all up inside. Hardly ever talks to me these days.’ She shook her head lightly in despair. ‘It’s the drink you know; it brings out the worst in a man; he never use to drink; he was always such a kind and caring man.’

‘I know mother. Come on let’s get those spuds scrubbed, and pick their blooming eyes out.’

Hannah smiled, ‘Your one in a million Charlotte, yes lets.’

‘Mmm, I can smell that steak and kidney pie.’ And I’m absolutely starving.’

‘It won’t be much longer, did you not have something on your way down?’

Charlotte shook her head, ‘Well, I’m trying to lose a few pounds.’

‘You’re always trying to lose them; I doubt you ever had them in the first place, just look at you. You know Brian will be absolutely furious if they get back together. He reckons he’s never liked the boy. And after he cancelled the engagement, well —. He’ll not have his name mentioned in the house. He reckons that’s why he took up drinking in the first place, because he couldn’t stand the sight of the boy, sitting there with his daughter like he owned the place. He did use a few stronger words mind.’

‘Oh, mother you mustn’t go worrying about it, he’s probably just looking for any excuse, to get down to the stupid pub. That’s what they like.’

‘Listen to you all grown up, Miss Charlotte Harrison.’ She flicked some water over her arm, and they both laughed. ‘Yes, your right, no use worrying we just got to get on with the hand we’re given.’

‘Well, I think we’ve just about blinded the lot of them Charlotte.’

‘Yes, I think your right. Ooh, you a get a certain sense of satisfaction from sticking it in and twisting it around.’ She smiled wickedly. ‘Come on; let’s show these little blighters what a ring fire really feels like.’

‘She-devils, that’s what we are,’ Charlotte cackled. ‘Doesn’t it feel just great?’

‘Yes.’ She cackled back, ‘Thank you, Charlotte. ‘You’d better go and see if Emily’s alright, and then get unpacked. I’ve put some fresh towels over the rail on the top of the landing.’

Charlotte cackled a thank you.

Charlotte knelt in front of Emily; her hand gently covered hers, she looked up into her gaze and smiled softly. ‘He must love you so much, and it must have taken him ages.’

A few seconds of silence passed between them, then Emily replied, ‘I know. And that’s what makes it, so difficult.’

‘Oh, shit! Em, Steve didn’t send you the rose, did he?

‘No, you see Charlotte some things are far too big, to fit inside their own little box.’

‘Oh, Emi, you’ve fallen in love with him, haven’t you?

‘I think so.’

Charlotte was suddenly lost in thought. She kept repeating to herself over and over again; mother doesn’t know. She looked up at Emily, her eyes waiting, but she could not find an immediate answer. No matter which way she turned things, nothing seemed to fit, and always the same answer sprang to mind. She needed more time, time to think, yes she thought, time must be the answer. ‘Well!’ She exclaimed, scratching her head. ‘Let’s get that thing in some water, before it dies.’

Emily’s eyes opened wide, ‘Yes, and I know just the vase to use.’ She smiled, bringing her shoulders up in a twitch of elation.

Instantly they both stood up, went into the kitchen. Emily turned to Charlotte and asked, ‘Will you take care of it? While I get the vase.’

Charlotte went to grab it, but after seeing the look in Emily’s eyes, it was with empathy; she allowed her to lower the rose gently into her hands.

‘Mum, where’s that vase that looks like a fruit dish?’

‘A fruit dish! Emily for goodness sakes, there’s a vase under the sink.’

‘No, I can’t find it; I need a tall dainty one.’

‘Right at the back there should be a small— flared vase, use that and you’d better hurry, because I’ll be ready to serve up in a minute.’

‘I’ve got it! Thanks, mum.’

Hannah Jones looked over at Charlotte and smiled, it was a mere glimpse, but somehow she felt life was finally returning to the house. In these few days, she was determined, to rekindle her bond with Emily. She would not let the rose or her desire to make Steve a permanent family member come between her and her daughter ever again. She had acted recklessly, had said things that she didn’t mean, purely out of disappointment for her own wanting and desire. If anyone could break the bitter stance her daughter had now adopted towards her, it was Charlotte, and this opportunity that had excited her before seemed to have been restored.

‘You two had better go and freshen up, ready for your tea before it gets spoilt.’

The conversation at the dinner table was mostly local gossip; it seemed no one wanted to approach the subject of Stephen Maguire, least of all Mrs Jones. If his name were to be mentioned, she had already made up her mind, and it would not be of her doing.

Charlotte had enjoyed hearing all about her old school friends, and the local individuals she had known throughout her childhood. She had also avoided his name, and it had seemed the meal would be bought to a conclusion, without even touching the subject.

Emily was fully aware they had acted with prudence, and was grateful for the respite, yet unfortunately made the mistake of comparing Steve with the exploits of a David Bates who had recently cheated on his wife, of sixteen years a Miss Susan Fraser.

At first, there was an unbearable silence. It seemed impenetrable but for the grace of Charlotte who was quick to reveal the character of her new boyfriend, and where he had taken her on their very first date, an ice skating rink.

 

Next short story

 

 

Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

A Short Story

A short story is essentially a short prose of creative writing intended to captivate the reader into one single theme. To cut a long story short, they are an invented story to capture the readers’ attention—immediately. These brief fictional pieces of creative literature can transform the reader’s mood.

Short Stories are regarded in the publishing world as fictional narratives. An author will often thrust the main character into trouble immediately, to capture the readers’ interest. A sense of curiosity will gradually lead them through a variety of unforeseen circumstances until finally, the story begins to unfold. The best short stories can have you in suspense right to the very end—before—revealing the—outcome.

A short example of a short story

 

 

A Short Story

Emelia had not quite finished reading a short story, when her parents called for her to come at once, ‘What is it?’ She asked, throwing the book on top of an organised row of novels.

‘It’s Paul—’ her mother cried up to her, ‘he’s had a nasty accident.’

‘An—accident?’ Emelia repeated anxiously running down the stairs.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin, was not at all amused by the scruffy paperback being thrown upon her, and instantly complained, ‘How dare you disturb me from trying to sleep.’

‘O, I’m so, so sorry,’ replied the Short story.

‘You don’t belong up here with us novels, you know?’ The Awakening retorted.

‘Oh—?’

‘Well, you’re merely a short fictional piece of nonsense—aren’t you?’ She said shuffling uncomfortably from the weight of him.

Then the Silence of the lambs by Thomas Harris, quietly growled and threatened to eat the short story, if he did not quieten down.

Short story was not feeling very well and wriggled uncomfortably, ‘It’s not my fault.’

Honestly! could you just keep still—do you not realise how long I’ve been trying to fall asleep?’ Snapped the Awakening.

‘Insomnia,’ growled the Silence of the lambs. ‘Cursed she is, by the hand that created her.’

‘Well, at least I’m not a cannibalistic hardback!’

‘Look, I’m sorry—but I’m sure I won’t be here much longer,’ interrupted Short story.

‘Not, if I can get hold of your flimsy, sp–sp–sp–sp . . . little papers, you won’t,’ hissed the Silence of the lambs.

Suddenly the door flew open, and Emelia rushed in, grabbed the short story and rushed back out again, leaving the door wide open.

Later that evening, when Emelia was sitting in front of the fire, reading the short story, to her brother Paul, who was nursing a broken leg she noticed holes in the corner of the pages.

Paul was amazed such a book existed and exclaimed, ‘You must throw it straight into the fire, it’s full of bookworm.’

Emelia, shuddered with dread and instantly threw the book into the fire.

The Awakening slowly over time fell into a profound deep sleep, and not one sound was ever heard again from the Silence of the lambs—ever.

 

illustration of a little girl to say finish

Next short story

Original short story by AI Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

 

 

 

 

Charlotte a short story of friendship, book cover, free short story

Charlotte

Billy laughed as he cycled about her on his bike, ‘You look nice.’

 

 

Billy laughed, as he cycled about her on his bike, ‘You look nice.’

She smiled weakly from behind the collar of her coat.

‘You – gonna’ town?’

Emily just shook her head and gazed across the small village square where the sudden rush of excited school children had now evaporated into a sullen, still time of day.

‘Where is yer goin’ then?’

She remained silent, not wanting to encourage the boy.

‘Me Da’s takin’ me,’ the boy started, then did a complete circle on his bike before stopping right in front of her, ‘On, Monday.’

‘Is he?’

‘Yes— Monday,’ he replied, looking a little confused.

Emily, could not help feeling sorry for the boy; he was an unfortunate child whose father had fled the village long before he was born. She knew he was referring to Mr Richards, a large older man who had always lived on his own.

Suddenly the boy lifted his scruffy head of tangled brown hair and laughed, ‘You look nice.

She watched as he immediately twitched with some restless urge; his face tightened, then he was off, cutting across the village square with his mumblings.

Emily breathed a sigh of relief but then instantly cringed as the boy recklessly tore across the main road— without looking.

A few moments passed where her thoughts drifted to the enormity of her situation. Charlotte was her only hope; she was adamant her best friend would know what she should do for the best.

Charlotte a short story of friendship, book cover, free short story

 

—x—

The old clock tower struggled to pass the half-hour mark; she still had fifteen more minutes to wait. Then, she noticed Laurel and Hardy, a name given to two older women by the children in the village.

She had never really noticed it until now, but there was an uncanny resemblance. They did not wear bowler hats; instead, they — wore black berets. One was taller than the other, who was, in fact, overweight. It seemed now to amuse her slightly. Each of them wore matching black overcoats, and from a distance, you could easily mistake them for men in their tightly wrapped long coats.

She watched as the two women hurried across the road, then began to make their way towards her. The tall woman was busy talking; the other just nodded now and then. Emily impatiently glanced up at the clock tower again. Only a mere four minutes had passed. Her gaze followed the ageing zig-zags of red bricks until the black wrought-iron fence ceiled in the columns. It was like a little square prison, she surmised.

‘It won’t be long now — dear.’

At first, Emily turned, thinking the woman was talking to her, but the taller woman was just attempting to console her friend.

After a few, almost hypnotic seconds of waiting, the taller woman turned to her friend and said, ‘You wouldn’t believe what little Davy Thomson did in the Co-op?’

Emily just caught her in the corner of her eye, glancing her over before she continued.

‘Well, I couldn’t believe it — with my own eye’s — I ask yer.’ she shook her head, ‘In the middle of the Co-op — of all places! Well, I just couldn’t believe it.’

‘Yes — ah-huh, ah-huh,’ nodded her friend, ‘— yes?’

‘You know where they keep the sugar and tins of plumbed tomatoes, right in the middle aisle — opposite the creamed rice on the middle shelf. Well, that’s where he stood. Screaming he was at his mother,’ she nodded. ‘Couldn’t get what he wanted, that’ll be it. Well — I ask yer? I couldn’t believe it. He just stood there and the next thing,’ she paused a second. ‘It must be running late then Dorothy.’

‘Yes, yes — ah-huh, ah-huh,’ her friend nodded again.

‘As I was saying — do you know what that little so and so did? He stood there right in front of her, and well — Oh Dorothy, I couldn’t believe it — with me’ own eyes an all. I’m tellin’ yer. He pulled down his trousers and — you’ll never guess what he did? That’s our bus now, Dorothy.’

‘Yes, yes — ah-huh, ah-huh,’ frantically her friend nodded until in the loud hiss of the bus she practically shouted, ‘Yes — s?’

Emily found herself on the brink of laughter; if not for her curiosity, she would not have been able to contain herself. She watched as each of them struggled with the first step onto the bus, both carefully assisting the other. It made her realise how much she had missed her closest friend, Charlotte.

Once the bus had pulled away, her attention flicked here and there, from one sound to another as she became more anxious. Then a sudden gust of oak leaves swirled up around her, only to settle at her side. That’s when it suddenly dawned on her; she already knew what she wanted, but — how could he forgive her?

—x—

Finally, a coach swung down onto the square. Emily found herself moving from one side to another, trying to anticipate precisely where it would stop. Her eyes narrowed as the driver brought the vehicle to an abrupt halt, in exactly the place she was standing in the first instance.

After an initial hiss of air, the door finally opened, and the driver turned to a sudden burst of repetitive clicking and clacking as Charlotte rushed down the aisle to greet her.

Emily’s face teetered on laughter when she saw her friend almost fall onto the bottom step; both her hands were full, one laden at her side with a small suitcase and the other held high with glamorous designer bags. Yet, she still managed to maintain some degree of elegance about her.

‘Emily!’ She gasped, ‘You just wouldn’t believe what sort of a journey I’ve had. Her eyes glanced back at the driver, disapprovingly, ‘to endure.’

She quickly helped her friend down off the bus with a smile, ‘You look amazing.’

‘Oh, do I — no thanks to my journey.’ Charlotte gave one final glance back at the driver, ‘that’s for sure.’ Immediately, she placed the small grey suitcase on the path and stretched out her arms; Emily embraced her friend without hesitation. Charlotte almost instantly took a step back. ‘My goodness, I’d swear there’s nothing left of you,’ she smiled.

Emily always felt a little embarrassed when her friend acted as a mother would to her child. Unlike Charlotte, she had always struggled to put weight on a much larger frame and often complained that she needed to lose a few extra pounds. Still, her size seemed to suit her maternal characteristics, which Emily found so endearing.

Charlotte took a deep breath, ‘Oh, just look at you, I just can’t believe he dropped you,’ she smiled sadly and pulled her close again, ‘How’s mother taken it?’

‘Oh, you know, mother, not very well.’ Emily replied, gently disentangling herself from the embrace, ‘It’s all she keeps going on about.’

‘Yes, I can imagine.’

Emily lifted the suitcase, ‘she’s looking forward to seeing you, though.’

‘It’s been a while, hasn’t it?’

‘Yes, but you’re here now, and that’s all that matters,’ Emily lifted the small suitcase,’ ‘How’s your family?’

‘All good, but never mind them. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I just can’t wait to tell you all about my latest penguin. Come on. I’m gasping for a coffee.’

In unison, they both laughed, ‘Let’s go— p-p-p- pick up a penguin.’ Charlotte offered Emily her arm, and together they began to walk across the square. ‘You’ve not forgotten then?’

‘No, how could I ever forget.’

The image of her friend’s first boyfriend, Ben, was one she would never forget.

Charlotte had described her first night with him in a way the image was etched in her mind forever. The very notion of the boy with a Mohawk haircut and the sides of his head dyed white was so vivid Charlotte didn’t need to mimic his begging beeps, as well.

‘I’m telling you, Emi — seriously, that’s what it sounded like — they’re all the same, never found one that didn’t make the same blinking noise.’

‘You’re just so cruel; I thought he was lovely — I wonder if he’s still a punk rocker or ever settled down.’

‘I know — actually, he was quite cute, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, and besides, it’s the only bit of enjoyment I ever got from him.’ She thought for a minute. ‘You know, I did hear he joined the navy. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he wanted to get back home.’

‘Charlotte! — I’ll be wetting myself if you don’t stop it.’

‘Well, it’s certainly brought some colour back into your cheeks. I’ve never seen you so down; it’s like you’re carrying the whole world on your shoulders. They’re not worth it, Emi.’ She stopped and looked Emily straight in the eye, ‘Steve must either need his eyes testing or needs some serious medical attention; you’re stunning.’

—x—

When they reached the corner of Sydney Street, Emily hesitated before crossing the road, ‘I’m glad you’re here, Charlotte, there’s something I’ve been dying to tell you — which I couldn’t tell you on the phone.’

‘Well, that’s why I’ve travelled, all this way.’ She paused after noticing a tiny glint in Emily’s eye. ‘You’re joking . . . the wedding is back on again, after all?’

‘No — well, I don’t know — it’s all a bit complicated, that’s why I needed you here.’ She went to cross the road, but Charlotte held her back.

‘Hang on a minute. There’s something else, isn’t there? That you haven’t told me — ’

‘Oh, Charlotte, it’s much, much more than that — I’m pregnant.’

‘What! And that bastard called the engagement off? You wait till I get my hands on that stinking little penguin. I’m going to make him — ’

‘He doesn’t know.’ Emily was quick to cut in.

‘He soon will do, by the time — I’ve.’

‘Charlotte — Please,’ she pulled at her friend’s arm to follow, ‘I will explain everything later — but not in the street.’

Charlotte took a glance around her, ‘I’m sorry, Em, I just couldn’t help myself.’

Emily laughed. ‘It’s OK; they probably think you’ve just got a thing about stupid little penguins.’

When they reached Potters, an old fashioned tea shop, a little bell rang just above the door as they entered; directly in front of them was old Mr Taylor sitting in his wheelchair, who had a devilish look of excitement on his face. His wife behind him seemed a little agitated as she smiled lamely and continued to manipulate the wheelchair past the last two remaining tables. Mr Taylor grinned from ear to ear as the girls were forced back out into the street.  Mrs Taylor smiled in gratitude once she got the wheelchair out through the narrow doorway, and the old- man just flicked the peak of his cap with his hand.

Charlotte instantly leaned over and whispered in Emily’s ear, ‘You know, I’m sure that little old git was sniggering,’ She tugged her arm, ‘come — on.’

They made their way over to a table in the corner, next to the window. Charlotte glanced over to the back of the shop, she had hoped to see Lara, but it was Mrs Ramsey, the proprietor who was making her way down the narrow aisle of empty tables, towards them.

Mrs Ramsey was a short and rather stout lady. However, she was a kind, caring individual who had offered Lara a place to stay after her parents had decided to move to London. At eighteen and her brother studying at Cambridge University. Lara chose to remain in the village close to all her friends. Mrs Ramsey had never married and, after caring for her mother until she died, at the ripe old age of ninety-five, had inherited the large detached house, which stood adjacent to the entrance leading down to the old rectory.

Mrs Ramsey could not hide her delight in seeing the girls and smiled warmly, ‘What a lovely surprise, and I was just thinking to myself — I might as well close early. Well, I haven’t seen you two for some time — how are you both?’

‘Yes, fine, thank you, Mrs Ramsey,’ Charlotte replied while taking off her coat. ‘And you?’

‘Can’t complain, dear, been a little bit quiet of late, but I’m sure things will pick up, now the weather is improving, we’ve had nothing but rain for the past week — never mind.’

‘Well, it’s most definitely feeling a lot colder.’ Charlotte replied and then inquired, ‘How’s Lara?’

‘Oh, she’s off at the moment, dear, with one of those frightful colds. I swear it’s the worst thing about this job; you seem to pick up everything that’s going — dear. I’m almost certain she picked it up off little Davy Thomson. His mother should be ashamed of herself — bringing him out in this weather without him having hardly a stitch to wear — I ask you!’

‘Well, I hope she feels better soon. It’s just her brother asked me to give her this.’ Charlotte pulled out a neatly wrapped, brown rectangular package from one of her bags and handed it to Mrs Ramsey.

‘Thank you — dear. I’ll give it to Lara as soon as I get home. I’m sure it will make her feel much better.’ She then pushed the package into the pouch of her apron, then lifted her head, and inquired, ‘Are you still enjoying university, dear?’

 ‘Sort of, I guess, just finding it a little hard with the amount of studying that’s involved,’ Charlotte smiled.

‘Yes, well, I’m sure it will be well worth it in the end — dear. How long will you be staying this time, dear?’

‘Oh, not long, just for the weekend, Mrs Ramsey.’

‘That’s nice, dear. Well, I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do. No doubt, you’ll want your usual coffee then?’

Emily smiled and pulled out her chair, ‘Yes, please, that would be lovely.’

Mrs Ramsey immediately leaned over and gathered the unwanted cutlery off the table. ‘There you are. I’ll be right back in just a few ticks — with your coffees.’

Once they had sat down, Charlotte immediately leaned across the table and asked, ‘Are you sure you’re pregnant?’

Emily closed her eyes before she answered with a heavy sigh, ‘Yes, I’m sure.’

‘Oh, Emi, why don’t you just get an abortion?

Emily’s face suddenly hardened as she snapped back, ‘No — It’s not the baby Charlotte.’ It caused Charlotte to sink back slightly into her chair. In an instant, her expression then seemed to soften as Emily stretched out her arm and offered her hand, ‘Oh, it’s all a bloody mess. I’ve made a mess of everything.’

Charlotte accepted her hand and leaned over the table, then gently she sealed the entwined promise with a kiss.

‘Well, I must say you can tell you two have certainly missed each other.’ Mrs Ramsey interrupted. ‘Come on — make some room.’ she smiled.

They turned, looked up at Mrs Ramsey, then almost at the same time began tittering as their eyes met again across the table.

Mrs Ramsey looked down at them fondly as she placed the coffee cups down, ‘I hope you two find the time to drink them.’ She smiled, ‘In-between all that catching up.’

Emily sighed and found herself relaxing into the shop’s ambience, which she had enjoyed so often in the past. With her old school friend for company, it began to make her feel as though all her innermost fears were gradually subsiding as she felt a sense of ease.

Charlotte quickly began to raid the sugar bowl, ‘You know I’ve missed these little sugar lumps, nowadays all I seem to get are those pathetic little sachets.’ She popped one into her mouth and then looked over at Emily and asked politely and correctly, ‘One lump or two — me, lady?’

‘Just one — please.’ Emily pulled herself up with a smile; her friend had not changed one little bit, she thought.

Charlotte held her cup with both hands and bought it up close to her mouth, allowing her elbows to rest on the table; she looked out of the window then back towards her friend, lightly blowing over the rim of the cup, ‘How’s mother, really?’

Emily had assumed the same posture at the table, ‘She’s fine, honestly. I’ve been avoiding her a bit, I guess — but you know, she just keeps going on and on about it. You know what she’s like.’

‘Is she excited — about being a grandmother?’

‘I’ve not told her yet — Charlotte, please don’t look at me like that; it’s because she will spoil any chance of Steve and me getting back together again, that’s why.’

‘Is . . . Steve, the father?’

‘Yes, of course, but you know what my mum’s like, with Steve, she treats him as though he was her son. She tells him everything before I get the chance.’ She turned, looked through the window and across the street, ‘I just couldn’t bear the thought of Steve wanting me back because he felt he had no choice, you know, doing what everyone expects of him. The right thing and all. I don’t want anyone’s pity and especially not his.’

‘Yes, I understand, but surely your mum would understand that too — how far gone are you now, anyway?’

‘Three months, but I only found out last week.’

‘Last week! Emily, what on earth have you been doing? You should have realised well before then.’ Charlotte shook her head in disbelief, ‘I just can’t understand this — so am I — the first person you’ve told?’

‘Yes — well — no — not exactly.’

‘Not exactly, well, who else knows? And what about Steve, is he still dating that floozy — what’s her name — Mary Lewis, Is he?’

‘I’m not sure — he keeps phoning me, but I haven’t spoken to him yet. Me’ mum said that he is missing me and is sorry. He admitted to her that he had made a big mistake and now really regrets it. And Lara told me she had heard that Mary had finished with him, but I don’t know if that’s true or whether he’s still seeing her.’

‘Crikey’s and I thought living in the country was dull. Why haven’t you spoken to him? Don’t you want him back?’

‘I suppose, but, I’m not sure anymore — I mean, well, you know, I don’t think I could ever trust him, ever again, and maybe if it weren’t for my baby, I wouldn’t. Oh, Charlotte, I just don’t know.’

‘The other week, you told me you would do anything to get him back, and now when you find out you’re carrying his child, you’re not sure? Emily, he has even been calling you and telling mother he wants you back.’ Her eyes opened wide in some way to emphasise the obvious. ‘Do you still love him?’

‘Yes, I think so. But, oh — Charlotte, I don’t know anymore. Maybe it’s because I have a part of him growing inside me now, which I know I love so very — very much. It’s just so hard to explain, but every time I think of him, I see her, the bitch laughing at me.

Charlotte smiled, took another sip of her coffee and placed the cup on the table. ‘You know, a few years back, I went through a similar thing Emi, and I understand entirely, except I wasn’t pregnant. You’ve got to think of the baby as well, and you’ll get over all that — in time, I’m sure of it, especially when the baby is born.

‘It’s not quite as straightforward as all that — and there’s something else —’

Charlotte cut in, ‘Oh, Emi, you take everything far too seriously. He probably just got cold feet being so close to the wedding and all. It will probably never happen again. But, you know it’s a big commitment, marriage.’

Emily drooped her head slightly, ‘Charlotte, please — there’s someone else.’

Charlotte stared at her in disbelief, her mouth opened to speak, but she remained silent. It was the first time she felt lost for words. A few seconds passed, and the only thing that came to mind was penguins. ‘It’s not Ben, is it?’

Emily instantly smiled and lifted her head, ‘No —’

Charlotte sighed and smiled warmly, ‘You know it’s not the end of the world, and just look at you, it’s not surprising; you’re beautiful Emi, and there’s bound to be thousands of those pesky little penguins, begging to get a date with you.’

‘Oh, Charlotte — I don’t know what I’d do without you; you always have a funny way of putting everything into its own, little box.’

‘Look, it’s getting late, and I’m sure Mrs Ramsey can lip-read,’ She glanced over at the shop counter, where Mrs Ramsey was standing, ‘See, she’s writing everything down as we speak. It’ll be all around town by morning. So come on, let’s drink up and see mother, she’ll be waiting, and then later, you can tell me all about this new — mysterious man.’ Charlotte pushed her chair back slightly and reached for her handbag. ‘It’s certainly been worth the train fare, that’s for sure.’

Emily lifted her cup, amused by her friend’s ability to make light of the situation and make her feel more optimistic that everything would eventually fall into place. Although even now, she found herself in some kind of trance, as though she somehow could not feel or hold onto anything her friend said. It was as if nothing seemed to matter, like floating through space and time. Suddenly it began to dawn on her that she had not stopped thinking about Joe, and funnily, it seemed as if he was always there — by her side.

—x—

Charlotte noticed the sudden glazed look in Emily’s eyes and muttered, ‘Aye, away with the fairies,’ She turned and looked over at Mrs Ramsey, who was putting the sweet delicacies from behind the glass shop display back into their boxes. Immediately Charlotte lifted herself and went over to the shop counter.

‘It’s been so lovely, dear, to have seen you both again,’ Mrs Ramsey smiled as she straightened herself up, ‘Oh, Charlotte, I’m sure I’m getting older by the minute.’ She wiped her brow, then sighed with slight exhaustion and smiled. ‘How is Emily? I couldn’t believe it when I heard — you know.’ She shook her head lightly and drew in a deep breath, ‘Well, if ever there was a wedding you could have been sure of, it was theirs. Shocked, I tell you, shocked. The poor girl must be beside herself.’ She paused for a few seconds. ‘That’s one pound and fifty pence, please, Charlotte.’

‘Thank you.’ Charlotte immediately handed her two crisp one-pound notes.

Over the ching of the cash register opening, Mrs Ramsey thanked her but then continued to say, ‘Heaven knows what he must have been thinking. I’m just so glad she has such a good friend like you to support her, dear. Lord knows what she’d have done otherwise.’ She handed Charlotte her change, pushed the cash register closed, then smiled.

Charlotte returned the smile, ‘Thank you, Mrs Ramsey, she seems to be coping very well, and I’m sure it will all sort itself out.’

‘Oh, I’m so glad to hear that, dear.’ She looked with pity at Emily sitting there all on her own. ‘She’s such a lovely young lady, and she deserves so much more — Oh — Charlotte, please forgive me. I just can’t help it. It brings tears to me’ eyes.’ She pulled her handkerchief out from her apron and then nodded with a straight smile.

Charlotte took a deep breath, smiled, and turned, ‘Please, don’t worry, Mrs Ramsey, everything will be just fine. She’s in good hands now. ’

‘Yes, yes — God bless you, dear.’

‘Emi, come on, let’s go — Em — Em.’ She persisted in a low, urgent tone, deliberately knocking the table as she pulled her coat up over the back of the chair.

It was as though Emily had not realised she had drifted off into a world of her own; she lifted herself out of the chair and immediately put on her coat.

Charlotte ushered her towards the door, ‘Goodbye, Mrs Ramsey.’ She waved and then held the door open for Emily, who said her goodbye in a more sedate manner. A cold evening breeze washed over them from the open doorway.

‘You’re both, more than welcome,’ Mrs Ramsey replied as she came up behind them. ‘Ooh, hasn’t it turned quite chilly all of a sudden? I’ll be locking up behind you, it’s a bit early, but I doubt there’ll be many folks out on a night like this.’

Charlotte smiled, watching Mrs Ramsey shake whilst rubbing her hands together in front of her. Then, after allowing her to take the weight of the door, she promptly replied, ‘Goodnight, Mrs Ramsey.’

“I hope you both have a lovely evening and don’t forget to give my regards to your parents.” She watched them with pride, as if they were her own, “Now mind how you go —”

Instantly they locked arms and continued down the street. ‘Well! Now I know why I prefer living in Cambridge,’ Charlotte was quick to declare. ‘Everyone knows everyone else’s business, down here. You can’t keep anything a secret, even if you tried.’

Emily turned and looked at her a little fearful, ‘I hope — you’re wrong about that, Charlotte.’

Charlotte looked across at Emily and laughed. ‘Sorry, Emi, I forgot.’

‘It’s not the fact I’m pregnant; I’m worried about.’

With intrigue, Charlotte looked at her friend with the cold autumn breeze against her face. The sudden need to seek shelter seemed to dampen her curiosity. She quickly pushed her head forward and encouraged Emily to quicken her pace.

Next short story

 

 

Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

Book cover illustration source Futurials.

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

C

By A Mere Accident, Book Cover

By A Mere Accident

By A Mere Accident – was first published in 1904 by the author E Nesbit, an English author and poet best known for her children’s books such as; The Railway Children, The Story Of The Treasure Seekers, and The Woodbegoods.  A consequential utterance caused by a mere accident could change his life forever. Although a questionable chance encounter leads to a dramatic change of events, this short story has a definite twist. With the addition of some illustrations, and only a few – slight – changes to enhance a more modern reading experience, we hope you enjoy this short but delightful tale.

By A Mere Accident

Her fresh, fair face glowed like a pink rose between the dark lustre of her sables and the frame of soft hair which repeated, with the softness of an echo, the sables’ colouring of mingled brown and black. The white, wintry sunshine struck through the railway carriage window and made jewels of her blue, Irish eyes. Railway rug and Gladstone, muff, and handbag were grouped about her. On the blue cushion at her side lay a sheaf of papers and reviews freshly reaped from the bookstall. On her green cloth lap lay a great bunch of violets.

By A Mere Accident, book cover

“They will be companions,” said the man who stood at the carriage door. “Don’t let them talk too much, or they will bore you.”

“Could violets possibly bore one?”

“These might if they did their duty and spoke of me.”

She laughed, but she did not look at him.

“Your boxes are all right, and your bicycle’s in the van at the back, and here is your ticket. You are sure you prefer solitude? Your aunt will regret having allowed me to see you off, and your mother will tell me that I ought to have secured for you the travelling companionship of at least one tabby.”

“I prefer the violets.”

Here the guard locked the carriage door, the man stood leaning his arms on the window, and passengers passing along the crowded platform scowled at the possessive set of his shoulders.

A jar, a whistle, a flag waved, and the train began to shudder and to move. The man kissed the smoothly gloved hand that lay on the window and drew back. As he did so, another man came up the platform running with great strides, caught at the handle of the door, shook it, and as it resisted, leapt on the step of the carriage, amid the shouts of porters, and was borne out of the station clinging to the carriage door.

“The door’s locked,” she said from within.

The man on the step thrust a bag through the window on to the seat and felt in his pocket. Then he moved a couple of feet past the carriage door, unlocked it with a railway key, stepped into the carriage, and closed the door after him.

“That was a near thing!” he said. And now, for the first time, the fellow-travellers looked in each other’s face.

His mouth grew stern. The pink faded from her face, and a greenish pallor crept up to the blue eyes.

You!” she said.

He looked at her critically — raised his hat without speaking, and busied himself with the straps of his bag. From this, he took a book and in it read sedulously, never raising his eyes.

She watched him by stolen glances, always met by the defence of his drooping lids. The lids were broad and white, and she knew well what manner of eyes they covered. Eyes mocking, disdainful, yet capable of a rare tenderness — besides which the consistent kindness, the open worship of other eyes seemed hardly worth the having. A handsome man for the rest — big and broad-shouldered, and with the masterful air beloved of dogs and servants and women.

Grown bolder, she watched him now no more by fleet, snatched instants, but steadily, as the train rattled and swung in its gathering speed. She looked at the firm hands that held the book. A year ago, those hands had held hers; she trembled at the memory of their touch. She looked at his lips — firm, smooth, pale lips, set in a thin line. A year ago those lips . . .

It was at this moment that he raised his eyes and looked at her. A hot blush covered her face and ears, and neck. He looked at her for one brief instant — a faint amusement in his half-closed eyes — and resumed his reading.

“Oh, don’t read!” she said desperately. “The train doesn’t stop for hours. Surely you won’t keep three hours’ silence with an old acquaintance just because . . .”

He laid down the book at once.

“I beg your pardon,” he said courteously. “You were so well provided with travelling companions that I feared to force the conversation of another on you.”

His glance rested on her papers for an instant and — for a longer instant — on the violets.

She laid the flowers on the cushion beside her.

“I am going to be married on Monday,” she said abruptly.

“Christmas Day,” he said, smiling. “A thousand congratulations. A curious day, though, to have chosen.”

He chose it,” she said, “and I could not . . . “

He chose it? He makes the most of his privileges. And so you are to be Mrs. . . . ?”

“I am to be Lady Leamington,” she said.

“You are going to marry him?” The scorn in his voice stung her like a whip.

She raised her head proudly.

“I consider myself extremely fortunate,” she said and took up the Nineteenth Century.

And now it was he who watched her, with a gaze so fixed that she felt it in every nerve. Suddenly he shrugged his shoulders and moved to the seat opposite hers. She drew back her skirt as if from contamination. Then he spoke.

“Of all the virtues, I have always supposed reticence to be the most admirable, as it is the rarest. I have striven to practice it. Therefore, when you broke off our engagement, I did not seek to justify myself. Pride may have been for something in my silence also — I scorn to deny it. I own that my pride suffered when I found that you could throw me away at the first word from a stranger.”

She made a movement to speak, but he went on: “It was foolish, I admit; but, you see, I thought you loved me. It would be best if you made allowance for the other delusions that followed on that. The point is that I was not going to defend myself since you — who ought to have defended me — if you had loved me, I mean, of course — set yourself as my accuser. But that’s all over, thank God! I can now feel a sincere, if slight, interest in your welfare — as an old friend, and I think I ought to tell you the unpleasant truth about Lord Leamington, your fortunate bridegroom.”

“I wish you wouldn’t talk like a book,” she said. “If you want to abuse my future husband, do it in plain English.”

“I will,” he said. “He told you that he found a girl in my rooms at midnight and that her arms were around my neck. You asked me if this were true. I admitted it. You asked for no explanation, and I gave none.”

No explanation,” she began angrily, “could have . . . “

“No — I know, but now it is different. I can’t let an old friend marry that man in ignorance of the facts. He had arranged to call for me at twelve; I had an article to finish, and we were going on to the Somersets’ ball. At about a quarter to twelve, I opened the door to a knock. It was not Leamington, but this girl. I knew her very slightly. She had lost her last train to Putney, Peckham, or somewhere — would I help her? It was like a scene in a play, don’t you know. I was Discretion absolute — left the door open — gave her wine and biscuits and proposed to charter a homeward cab for her. Then came Leamington’s step on the stair, and at that, as at a signal, she flung her arms around my neck. I should feel like a hairdresser’s apprentice telling you this, but I know now why it was done. It was Leamington’s last cast for you, and he threw the double six, confound him!”

She looked at him with shining eyes.

“Is this true?” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“You never asked me.”

“It is only your word against his . . . “

“After a few years of married life, you will be better able to judge of their relative values,” he said, leaning back in his corner.

She lifted the violets to her face — the cool freshness of them was like a child’s kiss.

“Charles,” she said softly and threw the violets out at the open window.

He smiled. “So he did give you the violets? And you believe my word, and not his.”

“Charles,” she said again and reached out a timid hand towards him.

His face grew stiff and set.

“You understand my motives?” he said coldly. “I could not see any old friend married to a liar and a blackguard without a word of warning.”

“I was only — I wanted to shake hands with my old friend — to show that he forgives me.” She hardly knew what she was saying.

He touched her hand for a moment and let it drop.

“There is nothing to forgive,” he said. “I had almost forgotten the circumstance till your face reminded me of it.”

“You are cruel,” she said, “and not even polite. Why haven’t you punished him?”

“I punched his head,” he said coolly. “One does not go further on such slight quarrels.”

“You are positively insulting,” she said.

“I think I meant to be. I beg your pardon. You should be flattered. Correctly analyzed, my rudeness should show you that my vanity still suffers at the touch of a careless hand.”

She looked appealingly at him and presently spoke . . .

“Charles, couldn’t you forgive me? Don’t you love me at all now?”

He smiled kindly at her. “My dear lady, all is forgiven — and forgotten!”

She turned her head to the window so that he should not see her eyes. With a shriek and a rumble, the train passed into a tunnel. The roar of it rang in her ears, and the tears ran down her face on to the sables. Two shrieks from the engine — the train quivered and shook with the sudden stress of the brakes. Then came another shriek, a crash — and — the biggest accident of the year, as the Northern express ran full into the slow local rear lights.

The first-class carriage where pride and love had fought lay battered and overturned on the up-fine. The deafening noise of steam, the clamour of voices, the wailing of children, the cries of women rang out in the arch of the tunnel. But in the first-class carriage, there was silence and darkness, for, with the shock, all the lights had gone out.

Presently in the darkness, a match spurted. He raised himself on one elbow and tried to drag his other arm from under the wood that imprisoned it. The arm was tightly wedged, and he felt that it was broken. He lit another match, his teeth set in agony, and looked around for her. She was lying quite near him, yet not within reach, all twisted up, a heap of dark cloth and furs. Her eyes were closed, and there was blood on the ghastly white of her face.

“My darling! My darling!” he cried, and with that, he tore at his imprisoned arm to free it — that he might get to her — fought and tore till from sheer pain he went out of life.

When the sufferers were drawn out of the wreck one by one, he and she were among the last to be released. He regained his consciousness in the anguish of that release.

They bound up his arm and her head, and, clinging to each other, they tottered out of the tunnel by the light of the torches and climbed into the relief train. It was crowded with pale, bandaged faces and limbs swathed in white.

“I shall get out at the first station,” he said, and his voice was coldly polite. “By the way, I didn’t quite understand. Does your wedding take place on Christmas morning?”

She leaned a little against his uninjured shoulder, and so closely was the carriage packed that he could not draw away.

“If you wish it,” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” he questioned courteously.

“Oh, hush!” she whispered. “You cannot go on pretending any more now. When you thought I was dead, you called me your darling. Do you remember?”

“You are mistaken,” he said, but she answered with eyes that laughed at him from under the white bandage.

“Don’t scowl at me. I am not a bit afraid of you. Nothing matters now. I know that you love me. You will see — I shall have everything my own way. Dear, put the naughty, black dog up the chimney; I have no pride now — I am going to be your darling . . . “

Under the sables, her hand, in its torn, grimy glove, slipped into his. He clasped it and: “You have exorcised the devil,” he said softly, and her fingers clung to his.

“Say it, again — now you know that I am not dead.”

So he whispered in her ear in that crowded carriage the most banal of love’s banalities: “My darling!” and then, for a time, they spoke no more.

It was at the first stopping-place that he said: “I had better come home with you and explain to your people the immutable nature of our intentions.”

“Yes,” she said.

“And you must telegraph to Lord Leamington. Writing won’t do — a wire the moment the offices are open.”

“Yes.”

“And — my darling — Christmas Day is a very – good day to be married on . . . “

“Yes. . . “

“Yes, what?”

“Yes, my darling!”

 

Original short story by E. Nesbit

Retold by A Moffat

Illustration by ArtTower

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

 

 

Illustrations & Photography

My greatest appreciation to ArtTower for the first image of a beautiful lady.

 

 

A Touch Of Love

A Touch Of Love is a short story by A I Moffat, who conjures up the innocence of a young boy who struggles to understand why reality should come in the way of his affections. Emily soon becomes increasingly concerned that she has made a dreadful mistake yet finds herself drawn to his innocence time and time again. Just a touch of love has awoken a child who lived in an imaginary world of his own, afraid of allowing his real depth to be exposed. An illustrated short story of intrigue which captures the imagination. We hope you enjoy a touch of love.

‘I’m not sure -’ she hesitated.

The boy lay at her side with his back to her, plucking the long blades of grass in front of him, then flicking them to one side. Not one thing, he pondered had he said or done all day had pleased her, now he just wanted to be free of her constant; what-ifs and his apparent inability to understand.

‘Joe!’ She insisted.

Childish, he thought, must be her favourite word. ‘Yes! I heard you,’ he sighed, flicking the next blade of grass straight up into the air, ‘sure about what?’

‘Well, you know— ’ she glanced over him, ‘about us!

Us! – He repeated to himself whilst shaking his head, ‘you mean – me!’ he mumbled.

As if she had not made that perfectly obvious, the boy frowned. Now it just seemed like the only thing that mattered to her was what everyone else thought; how could Charlotte know what to do for the best? His eyes slowly fell into her imaginary embrace, the absolute warmth of her he so desperately yearned.

Again the girl persisted, ‘Joe!

His eyes half opened, then fell heavily before bursting into a vacant stare as he pondered what she expected him to say. In frustration, he grabbed a large tuft of grass and pulled it straight from the sodden earth.

Emily sat quietly, staring in patience at her thoughts closely entwined within her clasp; with each unfolding finger came another uncertain notion.

Suddenly the boy rose to his feet, clutching the sodden clump in his hand until he was standing directly over her.

‘What are you doing?’ She asked in a disapproving tone.

The boy just smiled menacingly down at her.

Emily’s eyes tightened, ‘I’m— being serious.’

Nothing!’ The boy snapped, allowing himself to collapse at her feet.

Emily leaned forward and reached out to him; at first, he resisted, then his head turned slightly into her palm, and he kissed it gently. ‘I’m sorry— Joe, but I’m just so— tired and frightened.’

‘Me too,’ he murmured, leaning into her, ‘of losing you.’ Instantly he allowed his head to slip from her palm onto her lap.

‘Oh – Joe, you’re not losing me . . . ’

He felt her pity drop into an ever-increasing void, where once her words gave so much meaning. Again his eyes tightened to deafen the pain of reality and become submerged in the warmth of her embrace.

Again and again, he heard her distant torment of reason until finally, it shattered his delusion of any hope. Now only a sorceress maintained some degree of resistance as he lay craving her affection.

‘. . .  And what about your poor mum?’ Emily insisted, ‘She will be devastated to find out – you had kept it a secret – from her,’

The beautiful sky blue eyes of the sorceress had suddenly faded into that of his mother, who now wielded a sword: Just – Do It! he screamed from within.

At times it was true. He felt it was wrong and was afraid of what she might do if ever she found out; he didn’t care about his dad, sister, or even brother, especially not Steve. Anyway, it was all over, and there was nothing he could do. He was going to die right there in her lap. Finally! He thought he would be free from the torment of his forbidden desire.

‘Steve might accuse you of abduction or trying to steal his child.’

Abduction!  He found himself repeating over and over again.

Joe! Did you hear what I said?’

It was hopeless; she just wouldn’t let him be, all day he thought and not once had she allowed him to search the comfort of her. She was throwing him to the wolves, and he didn’t need to be twenty-one to understand that. His eyes lifted slowly, burdened by reality and her constant infliction. ‘Yes!’ He exclaimed, lifting his head, ‘You’re worried about my family,’ he smiled briefly in defeat.

‘Oh . . . Joe,’ her eyes flickered. ‘But – what if Steve was to find out?’

What was it that had changed from one day to the next? He thought as he stared straight into her eyes. He shrugged, ‘Doesn’t matter, and besides, he finished with you – remember.

Her eyes slightly fell from him, ‘But are you sure – this is what you want, Joe?’

The boy leaned slightly in towards her, ‘Abduction, for goodness sakes,’ he tittered, pushing down hard against the tree stump until he was back on his feet. He looked down at her with a vague smile; it was no use for her to expect him to make it any easier; he just couldn’t; it would be like cutting his own throat.

Emily looked up as he turned and pushed his hands deep into the pockets of his trench coat. She smiled lightly as he stubbornly kicked out at the long blades of grass in front of him until he reached the edge of the brook. It was just the boys wanting Emily was sure of it, which made him so stubborn, so blind. She loved him with all of her heart, but there could never be a future for them, especially not now. Her smile faded with a nagging necessity to at least try and make him understand.

‘What a complete mess I’ve made of things,’ she called over to him.

‘I know – but – I,’ he stammered, ‘Well I thought you said . . . ’

‘I do, Joe, but – I’m frightened,’ she paused in thought. ‘So frightened, and it’s just so complicated. I do love you more than I ever loved him, but he’s the father and

‘And  – ’ Joe cut in, ‘I’m just a silly mistake that should never have happened.’  He turned to face her, ‘But it did, and I  – ’ his head fell, ‘love – you.’

A touch of Love Page 2

A quick note by the Author:

As a writer, the greatest reward is knowing the enjoyment a reader gets from his work. There is always that feeling of uncertainty until he receives a review. Your comments are of great importance in helping me improve my skill and improve your enjoyment. Your comments will be much appreciated and be of great value.

Thank you for your interest, Andrew.

a worried look of concern

A Touch Of Love

 Original short story by A I Moffat

Illustrations by justanemotion.com

©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2020

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Imagery

The first image of a beautiful girl is by Arttower.

Photo of a boy at the end was by Puplicdomainpictures.