Carrying out Father’s Bucket List by Rachel Hilton

Carrying out Father’s Bucket List by Rachel Hilton

Jodi pulled her car to a halt outside her father’s house with a feeling of trepidation creeping over her.  The house loomed in front of her, the Gothic style with its narrow, tall peaked roofs, decorative stones and many columns and arches appeared no more welcoming than when she’d been a child living here.

 She looked across and saw Quinn’s car was already here.  Quinn was her younger brother who had been living god only knows where recently.  It was a good job he always had a topped up pay as you go mobile phone – she couldn’t contact him any other way.

As she walked to the heavy wooden front door she took a deep breath and knocked using the ugly doorknocker she’d always despised.  Waiting, waiting, waiting, no one answered the door so she tried the handle whilst calling “Hello”.  Nothing, but as she entered the house she knew someone was there.  She heard a noise from the back of the house but steadily gazed around.  Everything was as she remembered it even down to the portrait of her father hanging halfway up the giant staircase.  She truly hated that picture; he just looked so pompous, pretty much like his everyday life really.

She passed the office where her father had set desks up for her and Quinn to study and do homework.  Their father had quite often locked them in this room when they were younger to keep them out of his way.  Jodi had found reading and writing more difficult than most children as she was dyslexic and had experienced major problems with words as a child.

Her mother had been so patient, happily spending time helping her daughter overcome her learning difficulties.  Jodi had missed her terribly since the divorce.  Her father had agreed to the divorce but the children had, unfortunately, had to stay with him. 

She carried on further into the house calling “Hello” again.  She heard a reply from Quinn, “In here, by the pool.”  He sounded strange, not the usual Quinn.  It could be the room distorting his voice, she thought.  She hurried through to the extension where the pool was and stopped short with an audible gasp.

Her father was in the pool, in the deep end but not swimming.  He was face down in the water, not moving.  Sheer terror bolted through her body.  “Oh my god, do something, help him Quinn.”  “I can’t swim,” came the reply.  “Neither can I, what can we do?” she wailed frantically.

“He’s gone Jodi, he’s gone.  He fell, he slipped on the tiles, he fell, he hit his head and then fell into the water, the deep end.”  As her legs gave way, Quinn caught her and went silent.  “What are we going to do?” Jodi asked.  “Do we call the police, an ambulance, what?”  “No, none of them.”  Quinn’s cold reply shocked Jodi.  She turned to face him; she wanted to see his face, his eyes.  “What do you mean?  We have to do something!” 

“No, we don’t.  He demands our presence here today, again without any explanation as to why and…..

“Quinn, stop, for once I know why.  He called yesterday from his solicitors; he’d changed his will.  Everything you were inheriting he willed to me, to teach you a lesson, from the deeds to this house to the ownership of his business.  Except he never wanted me to inherit anything, he intended to change it back in a week, a month, whenever you fell back in line.  He told me so.  That’s what he wanted to talk to you about today.  Bit late now though I suppose.”  Jodi surprised herself at how cold she now sounded.

“What?  Why?  That should all have come to me; I’m his son and heir, what’s going on?”  Jodi held her tongue until Quinn had finished his outburst.

“You were ‘bumming around’ as he put it and he thought it the only way to teach you a lesson.”  Quinn went to open his mouth again but Jodi stopped him.  “Quinn, shut up and listen.  I never agreed to this, I didn’t want anything from him.  He feigned the title of philanthropist to the outside world while being nothing but a miserable bully at home while we were growing up.  He never hit Mum but he psychologically abused her.  She was a shell of her former self when she was finally able to leave him and move away where he couldn’t control her, that was when he finally accepted it was over.” 

Quinn was astounded.  “I never knew, Jodi, I never knew.”  “You were young Quinn; she wanted it kept from you as we were having to stay here.  It was too late for me, I’d seen it all – he knew I had lost respect for him but you doted on him, as all little boys do with their dads.”

 “I wasn’t that little, I was 12 when she left.”  “Yes, but you were away at school most of the time, I was here, at the local college.”  Quinn looked past her, out the big glass window.  “Did you blame him for the break up, her leaving?”  He asked.  “Honest answer, yes I did Quinn.”  “You never said anything Jodi.”  “I couldn’t, but why do you think I moved out after she left?  She moved as far away as she could, I don’t know if you know but she’s recently settled in Barbados.  I dearly wanted you to come with me but you were too young.  He would never have let you come with me anyway.  I think he saw himself in you.  Until this past year I think he had the highest respect for you but that faltered when you decided to leave your job with the company and go travelling.”

“I didn’t want to be tied without having seen a little of the world, he knew that Jodi.”  “Yes, I knew it too, but that’s not our main problem right now is it?”  She said while gazing at the pool. 

“I know exactly what we do!” exclaimed Quinn.  “We go, we leave, we do nothing.  He was perfectly fine today when we called in to see him, we talked about the Solicitor, the Will and everything, and I agreed to go back to work for him.  We left him as he wanted to change and have a relaxing swim.  The cleaners can find him.  They come in once a fortnight and he told me before he fell that they were here yesterday.  So his body will have been in the water the better part of two weeks before he’s found – and we are each other’s alibis.  What do you think?”  He looked over at her tentatively.

“Then what?”  She smiled weakly at him.  Quinn was soon back in full flow.  “We wait till the cleaners raise the alarm, we wait till everything is cut and dry, so to speak, and then we organise a funeral service.”

“You know what I was thinking?”  Jodi said, “When we were younger he always wanted to do a parachute jump, it was on something he called his bucket list, but he was either too lazy or fat to do one.  Well, I’ve seen it advertised where a loved one can be cremated but instead of being buried or chucked in the sea or whatever, the ashes can be taken up in a plane and a skydiver empties the urn on the way down.  What do you think?”  “Yes, that sounds perfect” agreed Quinn “as so does both of us as joint partners in the house, the business and everything else, if you are willing to share your inheritance with me?”  “Yes, that’s the only way I could see it working now, just promise you won’t disappear from the company to go travelling again, unless it’s with me and going to visit Mum.”

Bucket list by Kevin Murphy

Kevin’s response to the ‘Bucket List’ trigger:
Bucket List:
‘I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told’… is one of my mantras. My mother was incredibly practical, perhaps out of necessity as my father was not; perhaps from the make do and mend attitude of the war; perhaps because her father was a shoe mender – the inter war years being a busy time, but also one where customers did not return to collect the shoes he had repaired because they could not pay.
My mother got permission to start work not at the statutory accepted end of her 14th school year, but the Monday after her October birthday, just two weeks after war was declared in 1939. For decades after her father died in 1956 (from his Great War wounds – gassing) we had one of his lasts in our cellar.$_35.JPGThis had use right into the eighties – a trade secret to stop heels rubbing – gently hammer out the leather to stretch it.
One of our most famous family stories is about the time my Father got my sister and me to surprise Mother, who would normally wallpaper all by herself, by papering the hall ceiling for her while she was out at mass. All of us on ladders, he at one end, passed to Ces in the middle who passed it to me at the other end. We had difficulty making it stick in the stretches between us. It slowly drooped at one or two points and gradually, oh so gradually, gathered pace until it effectively dressed Ces atop her ladder. She was intrepid though. She did not let go her hand. She did let go of something else. At first the giggle … led to tears of laughter … before she eventually wet herself.
When Ma returned there was a six inch patch of paper in the middle of the hall ceiling, a twelve inch puddle on the hall carpet, and a wasted roll of the wallpaper we could little afford in a corner.
I do try to do all the jobs. Laying a hedge I swung the billhook back and caught the back of my head. Only the dufflecoat hood saved serious injury. I’ve electrocuted myself fixing the washer, and broken a finger dropping a car axle onto it. Though the list of fixables did reduce over the years, I persevere, I am intrepid. I’ve fixed the flat screen TV in the last year … but now I am a bit of a ‘Gunner’ and the list of things I’m gunner fix is getting longer again.
There is no need to fix. I am no longer a poor boy. Money in the bank making negative interest. My kids deny it when I sing ‘I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. ‘
There’s a hole in my bucket dear Kevin,
I’ll fix it dear Diane…

‘Dirty deeds done good’, by Kevin Murphy

‘Dirty deeds done good’, by Kevin Murphy

Jack choked on his mead as he heard a commotion in the outer office. He swept the nucklebones off the table and indicated the mead flagon to Harold, and the goblets to Ned. They slipped their playthings out of view as Jack sat back into his ample leather chair.

There was a scream from outside. The door banged open and three roundheads rattled in. The captain stood up to the desk.

The guardsmen blocked a swift exit with stamped feet and crossed lances. Not that anyone had legs to run with.

Jack’s nonchalant grin greeted the glare. He sucked his teeth.

‘Smells like a whorehouse in here,’ snapped the captain.

Jack sniffed. ‘I wouldn’t know.’


Jack looked around.

The captain, slapped a handbill on the table. ‘Is this your handiwork?’ he said.

Jack struggled up from his slouch and peered at the object which appeared to be causing some offence. ‘No sir.’

‘No sir! No sir?’

‘Prin’ers ’andiwork, sir. Nice ain’t it?’

The captain narrowed his eyes and took a noisy breath through flared nostrils.

‘Ow,  I gets ye, sir,’ said Jack, ‘ye sort a means is the rats my ’andiwork, but er…you gid me that job … so ye kinda threw me at first.’

‘Stand up when I speak to you!’

Jack wriggled in his boots. His voice changed. ‘I am sir.’

The Captain looked back at his smirking men. He stroked his chin and said, ‘of course, just the man for the job. Ferreting the vermin out.’  He turned and jutted his chin into Jack’s face. ‘But you haven’t, have you?’

‘Well your boys pretty well cleaned up round ’ere. Not left me a lot to go at.’

‘When did you last see your Master?’

‘Now, that’s another question I knows you knows the answer to, sir,’ said Jack drawing his left cheek off his teeth. ‘It were you dragged him and the Missis out, what, free month ago?’

The Captains eyes were now a squinting slit. Through gritted teeth he hissed. His looked to his gloved fists as he clenched them and banged them down on the desk. ‘He was sprung, you insolent slob. You know he was sprung!’

Jack stood back a little, almost falling into the chair, then up onto his tiptoes. His face blanched. He cleared his throat. ‘Do I?’

‘Do I? Do I?’

Jack wasn’t trying to be facetious. Try offended, Jack. ‘Well I don’t know sir. Who…?’

The captain looked at Jack’s two henchmen one at each side of the ‘desk’ … table. They didn’t look like they could hench much. ‘Stand up!’ he bawled, ‘both of you. Get over there with your master.’ He stood back between his two men and three faced three.

The Captain drew his gauntlet across his mouth looking steadily into each man’s eyes in turn, before addressing the sentries.

‘Like looking into the eyes of fish in a barrel – long dead. Smell like them too, I’ll be bound.’

Nobody laughed.

‘Are you trying to tell me that we let you keep your room in the manor house, and the Squire has not been back to…?’

‘Very kind of you, it were. Nice it is too … having it to ourselves…’

Our selves? Our?’

Jack shuddered. ‘Well yeah. Not these two, like. Missis an’ me sir. Me and Missis. Dint expect me to live there and her back in the cottage?’

‘But I did expect you to do something for the privilege, Horner! This is a damned Royalist hotspot. Veritable nest of Papist vipers.’ He stabbed the handbill. ‘What’s that say?’ He said pointing to ‘RATS, LICE, VERMIN’.

Jack looked at the captain. ‘Dirty deeds done good, sir.’

The Captain double checked and glanced at a sentry, who smirked out of the window.

‘It – says – rats, lice and vermin…’

‘That too sir, yeah.’

‘Dirty deeds, not done…!’ he growled. ‘Not done, are they?

‘Run off our feet ain’t we boys?’ He elbowed Harold to stop scratching his arse. ‘Printer done a great job and everyone callin’ on us to … look at that,’ he said shoving his rat-bitten hand under the Captain’s nose.

The officer slapped it away. ‘For us who are paying handsomely.’

‘We got some good leads, for you, ain’t we boys?’

They were all nodding like donkeys.

‘Just need to get a … well don’t want to send you in after any wild gooses. That’s our job. But, we will get you some sitting ducks ..’ He looked to his men ‘…this time next week. How’s that?’

The Captain took off his gauntlets.

Jack wondered if that meant either business, him in the rat trap, or the soldiers were going to get comfy. He glanced hopefully at a full flagon on the shelf behind the door.

‘That Manor house you are living in: you do know it could be yours?’

Jack thought it already was. That was the deal. He had given them seven houses – well the deeds he had found in the pie – and Lord Frederick had agreed terms. Keeping one was only fair. Did the Captain know? Did he care? He wheedled, ‘His Lordship … enjoyed the pie I took him?’ He waggled his head. ‘Not got indigestion, now I hope – Lord Frederick, I mean.’

That seemed to hit the spot. The Captain stood back, looked at his gloves and put one back on. He raised an ungloved finger very close to Jack’s nose.

Jack looked disdainfully at it, as it slowly retreated.

‘A week, Horner! Seven days. Same day next week – that’s Thursday, but morning, not late afternoon. You had the wits to look into that pie, and to bring it to his Lordship. You might not be able to read the word ‘deeds’, but you know what a Deed is.’ He stopped to ensure a reasonable tone, before continuing. He tapped the lose gauntlet on the table. ‘His Lordship appreciated you bringing him those other six…’ he looked all round and coughed ‘… but if it had been me, I would have you for spoiling the pie in the first place…’

‘What and take the pie where it was sent, eh? To one his nibs Royalist cronies, Eh? Eh? I ask you? That what Lord Fred…’

‘Calm down man. Of course not. Let’s be reasonable.’ He coughed. ‘Lord Frederick, is a fair a reasonable man and well … we don’t want that good nature being taken advantage of now, do we?’

Jack was beginning to relax.

‘You and me, Jack?’ He let the stress sink in. ‘That Manor is yours. Yes. The deeds from the … pie … are for keeps. His Lordship did indeed … if you’ll excuse the joke … enjoy the pie. He drew himself up to his full height and raised his voice, just a little, ‘but he is busy about the Parliament’s business, and you must be also.’

‘I realise what you are saying Captain, I need to deliver some of my Master’s friends, if I am to … enjoy my slice of the pie … and live in peace. Yessir.’

The Captain leaned in. ‘You pulled out a real plum, there Jack, and don’t we know it? But there is a reason why his Lordship let you keep it. Have some nice juice for me next Thursday, else I’ll leave with you just the stone. He indicated the door to the sentries and they turned out.

Jack’s mouth hung open.

The captain’s round-head helmet flashed sunlight from the street as he turned in the doorway and shouted ‘That’s a good boy.’

Jack clapped his hands, ‘Gives me the pip, that bastard’, but he cackled and pointed to the new flagon.

‘Yes indeed lads, what a good boy am I.’


SURPRISE! A CORNISH ADVENTURE by Margaret Moreton 19.1.17

A handful of postcards, tossed onto our table – one surfaced and faced me, – it said “Cornish Adventure”. It spoke to me and demanded of me the revelation of tales untold…it strangely allied itself to surprise too, so …

Our Cornish Adventure began in Market Bosworth in 1958, with John’s appointment to the headship of Tolgus County Secondary School – a newly created school in Redruth. Building was still in progress and the opening was proposed for Easter 1959. So, on January 1st 1059 we said goodbye to Market Bosworth , our home and the familiar and took a leap in the dark – into completely unknown territory and for a ground-breaking new task. John took our car, with treasures not committed to storage and I, with a good friend, took our daughters [aged 2 years and 3 months respectively] by train. Anything that happened to me on that opening day, had to be a surprise. Although my mind was buzzing with immediate relevancies, there was an emptiness there – a readiness and a wondering for what was to come. I anticipated the unfamiliar, a strangeness and yes, surprises.

Crisis at Birmingham station. We needed to change trains from Snow Hill to New Street. In those days, there were porters in plenty and one kind soul took Anna, in a Moses basket, and told us to follow him. We did, but we lost him; near panic on both sides; reunited, there was joy unconfined – on both sides!

As the train rumbled on to the S.W, the meaning of adventure became a reality. What was to come, for surely an adventure is the unknown which will befall. There was a complete blank sheet ahead of us – no friends there; no family there and a school just 3/4 built to be equipped and staffed. All this with a very basic Cornish cottage – as yet unseen and in the middle of a field, to call home. Journey’s end, at Redruth station, with rain whistling horizontally, driven by a wind that cut to our very bones, I felt lost. Adventure? Surprise was the word foremost in my mind!

We did survive; we slowly began to integrate. It was not easy – we were the only non-Cornish family in the village and known as “they up-country folk”. Even our speech was different – not just accents but vocabulary too. We traded in the village shop [I asked for bread-cakes, they sold me splits] We went to the village church and John joined the local golf club.

Slowly, the school was nearing completion and John received a cheque from County Hall for £25,000.00, with which to equip this brand new, much talked of, establishment. The trust which that bespoke and the freedom it gave was immense. It heavily underlined the responsibility that was forever at the forefront of planning. Would it happen today? I doubt it. But psychologically it was a very clever, if normal move. “You will be judged by the results” it said. The spirit of adventure was rampant.

Rugby was very much to the fore in the Cornishman’s way of life. Supporters and well-wishers were vehement in their opinions and many a pound changed hands on a result. The P.E master at Tolgus school [appointed by John!] played number ten for Penzance and the school caretaker [appointed by John!] played for Redruth. He also helped coach the school’s rugby team, to well-deserved success. They both became stalwart friends.

The sea, of course played a great part in our life in Cornwall. After all we were a family of Midlanders and went to the sea-side once a year – if we were lucky. From our windows, high above the shore, we could see and watch the sea whenever we chose. It’s many moods and displays were always sights for comment and reflection. The sheer fathomlessness of ifs depths was at once magnificent and yet eerie and foreboding. There was adventure in the visions it encapsulated. What did it hold and where could it take one? One day, relaxing on the beach, we became aware of a man calling urgently to a swimmer. We wondered why, for all seemed calm enough and then we spotted a dorsal fin breaking the water. An all-time speed record was surely broken when the swimmer also saw it! It was a shark and it beached itself. What a phenomenon and what an interest. Willing hands kept it watered until ropes were found and it was towed back into the waters. That day was reported as “the day of the shark” and it opened the eyes of the children who came after school to see it. Truly, an unlikely adventure – but what it taught them.

The harbour in Portreath, in those far-off days, was functional as a harbour for business. Men went to sea from ifs shelter, to fish for their livelihoods and their boats were part of the back-drop there. Boats also came into harbour, on a regular basis, from South Wales, delivering coal, which every household needed. For those boats, entering that tiny harbour through ifs narrow entrance required skill and expertise of a high order. On a bad day, when seas were rough, they perforce must anchor outside the harbour and wait. Watching such manoeuvrings one marvelled at the sheer abilities possessed!

All that glorious, shiny Welsh coal was unloaded by hand onto the harbour floor and then reloaded by Donald Williams onto his cart for delivery throughout the village. That little pony earned many a carrot from grateful home-owners. He was rounding off what was a necessary adventure from a coal mine in South Wales, across often turbulent seas to a tiny harbour on the Cornish coast. Handling the coal, Donald always wore black – a trilby; a sweater; trousers and a leather apron – and a black face to match! On Friday’s and Saturday’s, scrubbed and polished and in his white he delivered meat for the local butcher. On Sunday*!, in pressed and tidy serge suit, he sang base in the chapel choir and on Monday’s – his day off, he visited Mary in the cottage at the end of the terrace! Bless him he’s long gone to a well-earned rest!

Though we made many seriously good friends, words often singled us out from the Cornish. “Oh, she’s west country” someone would say about a Cornish friend. “Of course she is” I would say, “she’s Cornish.” but to the Cornishmen, west country meant land south of Penzance! Again, one fine day, I thought I would take the girls through the woods to lllogan. I asked a friend about a safe route, “Oh, you just stick on the tram which goes by the stile and you’ll be safe.” There were 2 buses to Portreath each day, but a tram?? I was nonplussed. Much laughter and discussion later, I learned that a tram was an age-old track into the wood, a path to you and me!

My first acquaintance with a very old Cornish idiom caused John’s eye-brows to arch…His golfing partner had come home with him after a match and his greeting to me was “How now Margaret! You fit my lover?” Explanations quickly ensued and it was established that in Cornwall ‘lover’ was a special, endearing and familiar word, expressing affection and respect! Learning all these many more words was a real adventure. Could we use them or would that be presumption? That we understood them was necessary. Better for us to offer some of our Midland idioms in exchange and thus present an amiable and understanding front.

One day, when in the nearly-ready new school, I met the Director of Education who was there with John. “Do you know the Cornish, Mrs M?” he asked me. “I’ll tell you – they are 1/2 an inch of moss on top and all granite underneath.” How right and accurate he was. When you recognise granite as immovable, rock-solid and sound, you have the indigenous native Cornishman, who smiles happily and is as welcoming and soft as the moss, but who holds the granite in reserve to deal with any and all eventualities.

I’m glad I knew Cornwall when I did – then it was real and true to itself. It has an ambience of ifs own and was so very proud of it’s difference. I am not surprised at the dilution of that ambience; that erstwhile way of life has gone. It has become a modern holiday resort and the butt of an overwhelming wash of modernity. In the UK then it was far-flung and distant and it was an adventure to go there. I was surprised and stunned as I came up, close and personal to it, by the overwhelming beauty and power of the sea. I was surprised by the singularly lush, verdant vigour of the wild flora. I was surprised by the so often ethereal quality of the light – a photographer’s dream… all this and much more made Cornwall a place of charm, of intense interest, of adventure and surprises.


Well I suppose it’s a job by Michael Keeble

Well I suppose it’s a job

I know there are a lot of people that don’t have a job at all and are reliant on handouts from wherever they can get it, but at this time of the year working in the warehouse is just madness.  I bet you think that we have one of those warehouses where everything is sorted on conveyors and things; packages flying at high speed and diverting by size and barcode ready to be delivered to the right place by the right person.  Well think again.  For a start we only have one delivery driver and he’s the boss.  He won’t let us have any of this labour saving equipment.  He says “We’ve managed to do without it all the years I’ve been doing this job so we can manage for a few more years until I can’t do it any more”.  What does he know, he doesn’t have to sort the stuff into regions and loads, he just does the deliveries.  Us guys in the warehouse reckon that the delivery bit is the best bit; at least you would see places, but we never see anything in the windowless warehouse, and at this time of the year it is a full 24 hour shift without any breaks.  
“We have an obligation to get this stuff out” he says “our reputation depends on it.”  

His reputation depends on it, he means. No one even knows we exist.  But he’s the boss so we do what we are told.

He’s all loaded up ready for the first delivery, but we’re still rushing around getting all the stuff ready for the next one.  He’ll have delivered that first one in about half an hour – I have to give him that, he’s quick and never makes a mistake (or so he says), but he’ll want the next one ready to load as soon as he gets back, and he’ll want it loaded in less than ten minutes.  It’s bad enough while he’s out, but as soon as he is back it is utter bedlam.  He just sits there on his fat backside while we warehouse guys scurry around at top speed loading him up.  As soon as he’s full he’s off again and we rush around getting the next load ready.  

He’s not a bad boss I suppose, and he’s no spring chicken.  I wonder how he keeps going.  Of course if he didn’t, we wouldn’t bother.  Sometimes I find myself hoping that he won’t come back for a new load so that I can get a rest, but he comes back every time without fail.  To be fair to him by about halfway through the shift he looks absolutely exhausted but as soon as we have loaded, he is back out delivering.

Once we have loaded the last batch and he’s left, we all creep off to the nice warm beds that he provides for us, and  pretty much fall asleep immediately.  When the boss gets back he must be at least as exhausted as us, but he always performs one more important task before he too gets some sleep.  He never accepts any help, telling us that we should rest.  Not until he has rubbed down each of the reindeer, fed and bedded them down does he finally allow himself to sleep.

SNAPPED by Pete Brammer

Trigger – Fair – Flash fiction from Pete

SNAPPED by Pete Brammer

At the end of a ‘Caterpillar Ride’ at the fair, the canvas roof peeled over to reveal a dead body slumped in the seat. The police were duly alerted by the fair owner, who was visibly shocked, at the discovery.

On their arrival, the police closed

Caterpillar ride at Hull Fair 2014

down everything and stopped anyone from leaving.

CID Inspector Calvin Jones had been placed in charge of the case.

Unbelievably, it took him only a couple of hours to solve the murder, thanks to a torn photograph of the killer leaving the ride, taken by a young lady who had been too frightened to go on herself.

The friends of the girl, on joining her, had snatched the Polaroid picture out of her hands and tore it up, because they considered it unflattering.

Arthur Duncan Clark was found guilty at Leeds Assizes and ended his life swinging from a set of gallows within the prison.

Story fictional.
Picture © Copyright Ian S and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Then and Now by Angela O’Connor

Angela’s response to the trigger ‘then’.

Then and Now by Angela O’Connor

The party starts at 9pm. It’s 7.45 already, I haven’t washed my hair! Panic sets in. 15 minutes to wash, about 20 to dry then make-up, shit I don’t even know what I’ll wear.

‘Just put on that wool jersey tunic, you know the green one, or what do you call it “sage”. It’s got a great neckline if you know what I mean. Throw those new cream trousers on that you came home with yesterday.’

‘What about shoes?’

‘Mmm, ah yes these strappy bronze sandals, you haven’t worn them since last summer, at our party, go on they’re sexy. Perfect, you look gorgeous darling’. The smile in Steve’s voice was reassuring.

‘Thank-you, you are too kind. It’s just, well, I haven’t been out in ages. And look at the time now!’

‘Look, you have to calm down Georgie, it doesn’t matter if we’re late, sorry, you’re late. People are people, all of them our friends. Anyway, don’t they say it’s fashionable to be late.’

The words ‘true, very true’, massaged my mind as I gave myself the once over in our unforgiving full length mirror. It would have to do. I tried to remember when smiling came easily, gone, gone like my joy. I really need to change the wattage in this room.

I arrived at 9.38pm, late but fashionably so. So, with customary bottle of wine, a dry white from New Zealand, I sauntered up the driveway following the fairy lights, acting as my luminary guides.

Classic Phil Collins was playing with gleeful streams of laughter bursting out at regular beats. Surprisingly, I felt at ease – calm almost.

‘Ah Georgie, you’re here, it’s so good to see you! Let me take your things for you’.

‘This is for you Anne, happy birthday’.

‘Thanks, Georgie, my favourite white, from the Marlborough region, you are a good mate. How are you anyway?’

‘Good, yeah a lot better, thanks. I’ve even managed to stop the meds’.

‘Wonderful, that’s great news … baby steps. It’s been a horrible year, but am so very happy you made it tonight. You have to start interacting again babe. Look, help yourself to anything, everyone is here, I’ve got to rescue some vol-au-vents from the oven’. Anne leaves after a quick kiss and embrace.

An hour has passed and I’m standing, by myself, at the French doors gazing into the party at the party goers. Observing them but not being one. Detached and weary is how I feel, even in a great neckline! I want to leave. Then I feel you near me, you whisper in my ear ‘I’m sorry I left you, left us, too early but remember my love, I’m with you, always’.

I dry my tears and join the others, the music has changed.