Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Forest of Morgana

I turned and looked at him, like I had never seen him before. My lips still wet from his kiss. My first, and maybe his too? I didn’t know, I could pretend. He smiled and turned, running in the direction of the commotion. Please keep him safe, I prayed, to whoever had the power to do that, and raced back to the Citadel.


 I had been friends with Gilfrim as long as I could remember. He had lived in the Citadel with his mother, my lady in waiting, until he started to show Creative tendencies as he approached adolescence. His mother knew it was likely he could have turned out either way. She had never told anyone who his father was, but it had been Hal the Lord of the Creatives. On Gil’s thirteenth birthday his mother had smuggled him out of the Citadel and taken him to live with his father. She had returned to the Citadel to tell people he had run away. They would not waste resources looking for a teenage boy but they would have gone looking for the Princess’ lady in waiting. That’s me by the way, I am Princess Sulah. My father is the King and he rules over the Citadel. The Citadel is populated by the Academics and the specials; they do all the menial tasks in the Citadel. Many years ago we lived in harmony with the Creatives until the ‘Big Debate’. After that the Creatives moved into the forest and my father improved the Citadel’s defences. He was convinced his role was to protect us from their lack of discipline, their bohemian lifestyle. The Citadel was geometrically perfect above ground, but underneath in the sewers and old pipes systems there were still places where halves could meet and if you know where to look you could find a way out in to the forest. 

                                    My lady in waiting had stayed quiet for many months and would not tell me how she had smuggled Gil out. Then one day she presented me with a tapestry she had been working on. It was an intricate pattern or swirls and swishes, something my father would never have approved of. Running through all the other lines was a deep purple line and I soon realised it some sort of map. If only I could find the start point, the route would be obvious. It took me another few months to find the door I was convinced was the start point. Ironically it was hidden behind a tapestry of my father. I then had to wait another few weeks until father went to visit a neighbouring citadel before I could test my theory. That had been three years ago and Gil and I had been meeting once a month ever since.

                                    The fatefully day where my world was turned upside down and possibly changed for ever was my sixteenth birthday. I had woken early and was surprised when my father burst in to my room.

                                    ‘Happy Birthday,’ He smiled looking almost as excited as I was. ‘Today I have got lots of things planned for you. Chef is preparing your favourite for breakfast, and then the dress maker will be here to finish your dress for this evening’s ball. This afternoon we have a travelling minstrel group here to entertain you with songs and a play they have written especially for you. After that we have the ball this evening and for the first time you shall sit next to me in your mother’s chair. Queen at last.’

                                    ‘Wow, that seems like an awful lot to fit into one day,’ I smiled at my father, happy to see him so happy. I couldn’t remember my mother but I knew my father missed her terribly.

                                    ‘Right well I shall leave you to dress. I will call your maid.’

                                    ‘Will you be joining me for all this entertainment?’

                                    ‘Unfortunately not. I have to visit the next domain, but don’t worry, if I set off now I will be back in plenty of time for the banquet this evening.’

                                    As my father got up to leave my lady in waiting entered the room.

                                    ‘Ah Tamwah, a quick word about today’s festivities,’ my father said as he ushered her out of my room and closed the door behind them.

                                    I ran over to the door, the stone floor cold under my feet, hoping to hear of another surprise father had organised for my birthday.

                                    ‘She is to be kept busy all day. There is to be no sneaking out to see that good for nothing son of yours,’ my father growled at Tamwah.

                                    ‘But my liege,’ Tamwah stuttered.

                                    ‘Don’t pretend you don’t know. I am the King of this realm and I know what goes on. She is to stay in the castle today.’

                                    I couldn’t believe my ears. My father knew about me and Gil? But he had always liked Gil why should he be like that. I knew he had a strange dislike for the Creatives, but this was Gil.


Later that day father had left the castle and the dress maker finished the fitting quicker than expected, so I decided to try to appeal to Tamwah’s softer side.

                                    ‘Tamwah, I need to go and see Gil. Can you cover for me?’

                                    ‘My Lady, I cannot let you leave the castle. Not today. Your father has organised so many wonderful treats for you. Surely you want to enjoy your birthday.’

                                    ‘I do want to enjoy my birthday, but it would be so much better if I could see Gil. Just for a few minutes.’

                                    ‘Your father said you were not to leave. I cannot betray him,’ Tamwah looked frightened.

                                    ‘Look we will say that I have a headache and have gone for a lie down and must not be disturbed. I will only be gone a short while.’

                                    Tamwah looked like she might be softening. She had seen us play together as children and she knew how much he meant to me.

                                    ‘Make sure you are back before the minstrels get here. You will have to be quick.’

                                    Tamwah went to the chamber door and checked there was no one around. I quickly ran to the secret door in the next corridor. I hugged her tightly, promised to be back before the minstrels’ show and disappeared behind the tapestry.


The look on Gil’s face when I arrived at the camp was fantastic.

                                    ‘Su, oh how wonderful to see you. Everyone, Su is here and it is her birthday.’

                                    Everyone cheered and one of the women suggested they got the instruments out to play for me. The show was better than anything the minstrels could have done, and they even let me play the shakers. 

After the impromptu concert Gil and I moved away from the camp to talk in private. Then for the first time ever there was an awkward silence between us. I looked at Gil and he looked at me.

                                    ‘Su,’ Gil whispered. I placed a finger on his lips and moved towards him. He leaned down and we kissed. It was the most magical thing that had ever happen. Slowly and gently we kissed. He pulled me closer and we kissed again. He held me tight and everything felt perfect. We stayed like that for what seemed like an age. Suddenly we could hear shouting, horses galloping, dogs barking and the sound of a hunting horn. We pulled apart and Gil looked at me with panic in his eyes.

                                    ‘Su, go back as quickly as you can. I need to get back to the camp. It’s Renegades’

                                    ‘Gil, No. I’m coming with you.’

                                    ‘Don’t be stupid. You’re the King’s daughter if they get hold of you there’s no knowing what they will do. Go, go now.’

                                    I rushed off towards the tunnel entrance and as I reached the turning by the speedy brook I looked back, just at the same time as Gil did. I blew him a kiss and rushed on. As I rushed along I heard a scream from behind me and faltered for just a second. How could I leave Gil and all my friends in the forest? I knew I had to get back and convince my father to send help. I ran through the forest and then felt myself fly through the air as I missed seeing a trailing root in my hurry.


The next think I knew, I woke up with someone gentle dabbing a damp cloth on to my forehead.

                                    ‘What happened? Where am I?’ I mumbled.

                                    ‘It’s okay your highness, your safe,’ said a voice came from above. I tried to open my eyes and looked up to see an angel. The light shone from behind her and her voice was as soft and as musical as the dawn chorus, the forest choir that woke the Creatives each morning. She then moved and I realised she was Bella. Bella was the matriarch of the group of Creatives that Gil belonged to.

                                    I sat up a little too quickly and had to lie down again. The pounding in my head couldn’t be a good thing.

                                    ‘My lady, please stay still and rest. I found you near the tunnel. You must have fallen and knocked yourself out.’

                                    I slowly raised myself and took some liquid offered to me. It soothed my aches and the pounding in my head lessened almost immediately. The Creatives knew how to use the treasures of the forest to mend all human ailments.

Then I looked around and realised that I was not in the camp. We were in a small clearing I had never seen before.

                                    ‘What happened? Where are we?’

                                    ‘The Renegades attacked us. We have not seen attacks from them for many years and we had grown complacent. There was no look out and they came through at speed. They grabbed logs from the fire and set light to the tents. Luckily no one was in them. They had new fighting sticks. Two of the men ran at them and fire came out of the sticks, stopping the men.  I took the women and children and ran to the back up camp which is left over from years ago. We found you on the way through the forest and brought you with us.’

                                    ‘Have the men turned up yet?’ I asked worried about Gil.

                                    ‘Not yet.’

                                    ‘Come on then, let’s go and see.’

                                    ‘My lady, I can’t let you go back. What if the Renegades are still there?’

                                    ‘I am sure you know a way we can sneak up on the camp and check out what is going on.’ I gave her my best “I am a princess and you’ll do as I say” look.

                                    As we drew nearer the camp to be I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was no need to sneak up to see what was happening. The camp had been burned to the ground. Some piles of rags still smouldered and smoked. These must have been the tents that had just a few short hours ago had been surrounded by the sounds of joyous life and were now burnt and trampled.

                                    I looked at Bella and managed to grabbed her and lower her slowly to the ground as it all got too much for her. We held each other close and cried. We knew we had to do this here. The other women must not see us like this. We had to help them rebuild their village and their lives.

                                    I walked back to the make shift village with Bella and then left her there to organise the women so they could keep themselves and their children safe, warm and fed. I offered to take them into the Citadel but they refused. For some reason they were afraid of my father. I knew he wouldn’t let me down so I headed back to the tunnel, carefully to watch out for tree roots as I went.

                                    As I approached the tunnel I heard voices and quickly dived into the undergrowth. I nearly showed myself when I realised I could hear my father’s voice, but something in his tone made me stay hidden.

                                    ‘You have completed your task?’ My father asked the other man.

                                    ‘We have my liege. The Creatives camp has been destroyed. We have kept the men as prisoners and the women won’t last long on their own.’

                                    ‘Good, my daughter is still safely inside the Citadel so she will not know of this. Here is the payment as we agreed. Now be gone and make your camp over in Dorgan’s domain. I believe he has some work for you.’

                                    ‘Thank you, my liege, and if you should need my services again.. .’

                                    ‘I doubt that.’

                                    With that the two men departed and my father headed into the tunnels. How could he have done this? He knew how much Gil meant to me. I can’t believe he would endanger the whole tribe just to stop me seeing Gil. I turned and headed back to the camp. My father would have to learn that Gil meant more to me than anything. I was now bound with the women of Hal’s tribe. Together we would find our men and bring them back. Then I would think about what my father had done, but for now Gil needed me.


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Diary of an aspiring writer – Less is more

It has been a while since my last diary entry but I have still been posting a story each week as I promised at New Year.

I am afraid I now need to break that resolution but I am happy to do it, not because I can’t keep to it, but because I feel I am short changing my readers if I do.

One of the most important pieces of feedback that I have received from The Telegraph Creative Writing group is that they all have this image of me as a mother and career women who rushes around trying to do everything. By this they meant that a lot of my stories have a good start point but peter off or end abruptly. To try and use this feedback, this month I slowed down, rewrote the story and tried “showing” the end rather than “telling” it. The feedback I got was so much better.

The last two weeks I have posted extremely short stories to my blog just to keep to my resolution. I have not been working on editing the novel which I had hoped to have finished by the end of March and I am a little behind in my course. I have not worked on anything new that I could look at publishing and all I have been concerned about is hits to my blog. These increase every time I post a story.

So I am going to reassess, work on the novel, finish the course and try to create something that people will feel satisfied with. This process is all about learning and I think this has been a valuable lesson.

So for those of you out there who read my stories they will still keep coming, just less frequently. Hopefully this will mean the first few chapters of the book will be ready sooner and I will post them for you all to enjoy.


Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Golden Tie Pin

Every Saturday was the same. I went into town with the wife and then stood outside whilst she tried on dresses that she never bought. Very rarely she would treat herself to something but it was only on very special occasions. This particular Saturday it had been raining and I had moved to be under the cover of an old jewellery shop. I had been just glancing when I had seen it. A diamond tie pin just like the one my dad had worn. It was so beautiful and reminded me of him. I never found his when he died and everything else had either been sold or sent to the charity shop.

‘What are you up to?’ It was my wife, Shelia. She had crept up without me noticing her.

‘Look at that tie pin, it’s just like the one dad had.’

‘Wow £100, I’m afraid we can’t afford that. Look let’s head back. I got a new dress for your birthday party next week and I want to see if it goes with the shoes I have at home.’


The following Saturday, Shelia told me she had nipped into the shops on Wednesday so there was no reason to go. This was a treat for me and meant I could relax before my birthday party. As it was a big birthday we had agreed I would open all my presents once everyone was together.

That evening Shelia came down just before the first guest was due.

‘Where’s that new dress you bought last week?’

‘Oh I decided that I liked this one better,’ she smiled and spun on the spot to show it off.

‘But you only have a new dress once in a while. I thought you liked that one.’

‘Well money is a bit tight at the moment, so I decided that as I didn’t need a new dress, I would manage without. I took it back on Wednesday.’

Just then the doorbell rang and the rest of the family started to arrive. After a few drinks it came time to open the presents. The usual collection of socks and ties, only this year they all said seventy on them. Then finally Shelia handed me her present. A small box, I think I knew before I opened it. I carefully unwrapped it and opened the small velvet box. There nestled inside was the tie pin.

I looked up at her, ‘Your dress.’

She nodded and smiled.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Do as you would be done by

She looked up at her attacker and then down at the blood spreading across the white crisp shirt she always wore for work. Both her hands were clutching at her stomach, trying to stem the flow, but she knew that wouldn't help. She was starting to fade out now, she looked at him again. He was just a hobo who had been hanging around between the station and the office for the last week. She had seen him as she had bought her coffee from the street vender and walked into the office. She didn’t know why he had stabbed her. She didn't carry large amounts of money and she was just a secretary at one of the big legal firms. She hadn't thought she had any enemies. Then she saw it in his eyes and everything became clear.

'Sorry,' she whispered, as a tear trickled down her cheek. Her eyes glazed over and she was gone. The hobo was walking away before the crowds began to gather and the police arrived.



The hobo turned the corner and quickly jumped behind the wheel of a black SUV, careful to drive in the opposite direction to the hubbub he had just left. Fifteen minutes later he pulled onto the driveway and used the remote control to open the garage door. Once the car was parked and the garage door closed, he got out of the car and entered the utility room, which already had polythene sheeting on the floor. Standing in the middle of the sheeting, he carefully felt around under his hairline in the nape of his neck. Locating what he was looking for he started to pull. As he pulled a large ripping sound could be heard as his skin opened to reveal a large zip. He continued to pull until the zip was undone down to the base of his spine and he then carefully removed the hobo suit. It took another hour to package the suit in the plastic sheeting. All the time being very careful that nothing from the hobo should be left behind. Once he was convinced that the clean-up was complete he packaged the garbage into a large holdall and left it on the front seat of the SUV. He walked away from the house he had never seen before today and had no intention of ever seeing again.



The police had no reason the suspect Dave Brubeck of his wife's murder, as twenty witnesses had seen a hobo stab her in the middle of the town square. They never even questioned where he had been on that day.



The life insurance came through quickly, but that was just an added bonus. The bitch had been cheating with that jumped up arsehole of a boss. Just because Dave worked in construction and that guy was a high flying lawyer, didn't make him somehow better than Dave. But Daisy had thought so. She thought Dave didn't know about the affair, but she had realised just before she died. He had seen it in her eyes. The man who sold him the suit had said the only thing you couldn’t disguise was your eyes. Dave knew Daisy had recognised him. He had got the hobo suit off the internet, through a chat room where he had been looking for advice about what to do over his cheating bitch of a wife. $500 to buy the suit, $100,000 to have it removed. The $100,000 could be paid after any insurance monies were received. The day after Dave received his pay-out the first phone call came.

'Dave,' said the whispered voice he had heard once before. 'It's time to pay what you owe.'

'I don't know what you mean. I don't owe anyone any money.'

'Come on now Dave. You know who we are; we need to be paid for the clean-up. The suit didn’t vanish on its own.'

'No I am afraid I don't know who you are.'

'Dave, you were warned.'

'What are you going to do? Everyone knows my wife was killed by a hobo.'

'We have the suit.'

'I don't think you will be taking that to the police. And even if you did, you have no proof I wore it.'

'You have three days to pay.'

Dave had slammed down the phone. The voice had a menacing quality that Dave couldn't place. It was gravely and whispered but sounded cold, cold enough to chill you to the bone. These people didn't know where he lived, so he knew they would never track him down. Over the next three days they rang every morning before he left for work and he said the same every time.



On the fourth morning there was no phone call. Finally, thought Dave, they have got the message, they are not getting paid. He enjoyed an uninterrupted breakfast, and at his usual time left for work.

As he pulled off his drive he had to slam on the breaks as a hobo walked across the front of his car. The hobo turned and stared at him. He couldn’t place why, but he felt a chill. The hobo moved on, but at the next set of lights there was another one. Dave was sure there had never this many hobos on his drive to work; maybe he was just being extra sensitive. Finally he turned the corner and pulled into the car park at his office. He got out of the car, and turned as he heard his name. There standing in front of him was a tall hobo. The hobo lunged forward and pushed the knife he was holding deep into Dave's stomach. Dave looked at him in disbelief. Then he realised. The eyes. Daisy's lover.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Lady in the Cafe

The half empty coffee cup sat in the middle of the table. It had sat there for over an hour. I hadn’t cleaned it away yet. I was waiting for the café to empty. It was already 4pm and most of the stragglers would be gone within the next few minutes.

Finally the last ones left. I had to start cleaning around the two old ladies that always came in on a Tuesday. They came in together and had afternoon tea every week. They always seemed to have so much to talk about. I never had anyone to talk to since Cathy had died. I had left the town where the accident occurred; I couldn’t cope with the looks. I had been driving and I had walked away. Cathy had survived for forty eight hours, looked like she was on the road to recovery where a blood clot suddenly reached her brain. Within minutes she had gone, from talking to dead. In the few hours we had spoken after the accident she said she knew it wasn’t my fault, she had seen the rabbit that I swerved to miss. If only I had seen the idiot without his lights on coming the other way I wouldn’t have tried to miss the rabbit. As soon as I saw him coming I swerved back, over corrected and went straight through barrier into the field beyond. Everyone else thought I had been drunk or high. Knowing Cathy forgave me was enough, but the rest of her family and the neighbours shunned me. I couldn’t face the stares and whispers behind my back all the time, so I took the life insurance and moved to the seaside to open the café Cathy and I had always dreamed of.

That had been two years ago and the café was doing well. Even in the winter it had a steady stream of the locals. Good pricing and home cooked food always brought them in. Cathy had always complemented me on my Victoria Sponge. I had students that helped in the summer but during the winter I could pretty much manage by myself.

I had first seen the woman three weeks ago. She had come in with one of the guys from the holiday park but she didn’t look the usual type. She was dressed in a grey business suit and looked very stern. Over the following few weeks she had come in most days and had relaxed her dress style. It turned out she had made her money working for the banks but had always wanted to run a little caravan park by the coast. I had learned all of this whilst attending to their table as the discussions for the sale of the caravan park had taken place.

 I couldn’t talk to her, she was amazing, so self-assured. Today was the day they should have signed the deal but something had happened. Something had gone wrong. She had got up in the middle of the meeting and stormed out. The caravan park owner had looked at me shocked and chased after her.

Now the café was closed, as I sat down at their table my foot kicked a canvas bag on the floor.  I slowly picked up the mug and held it between cupped hands. It was cold now. She was gone, would she ever be back? I turned the mug towards me; I could see the outline of her lipstick on the side.  I slowly lifted the mug and gently placed my lips to the place where hers had been. I could taste strawberries and feel the Vaseline. It was lip balm not lipstick. The seaside wind was obviously taking its toll on her beautiful skin. I tipped the mug and slowly savoured the cold coffee she had enjoyed previously. I closed my eyes and imagined her. This was the first time I had ever thought of another woman since Cathy died and now it was going to be too late, she had left. Just then I heard the knocking. It gradually got louder and louder.

I opened my eyes and realised with a mixture of horror and joy that it was her. She pointed at the locked door and signalled to be let in. Of course the bag on the floor she must have left it behind. I slowly put the mug down and blushing went over to the door. As I opened it she grabbed my cheeks and pulled me towards her kissing me full on the lips.

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