Tuesday 10 May 2016

Flash fiction - The Crossword

Morning. Another long break I know, but this morning all my work is done and I have a break at home alone to get a story out. So I've linked up with the lovely folks at Studio 30+ again. I used the prompt humiliating

The Crossword

It was still humiliating, Derrick thought, as he stepped out of the tabac. For over thirty-five years he had made this town his home. The butcher, the grocer, the laundry lady, even the mayor accepted his well learnt and practised French with graciousness and without sarcasm. And yet every morning, in the simplest of exchanges over a packet of cigarettes and a newspaper, the man in the tabac replied in English, as crisp and smooth as a tennis lawn.
                Derrick walked across the square to his favourite café. Inside the smell of freshly ground coffee and the remnants of last night’s menu greeted him. He took a seat by the window. Jean Pierre waved at him from behind the bar. Breakfast would be on its way shortly.
                He opened the paper. Train strikes planned over the long weekend. Cars stolen by pretend hitchhikers in the south. A new production of Hamlet touring. Laws to be changed regarding dog ownership. He turned to the crossword and got to work.
                His pencil was nibbled, was tapped. He scribbled. It was a short, stubby, well-worn and well-travelled pencil. This was its 1000 crossword. He should savour it. Derrick leaned back, stretched out his legs, sipping his coffee and pondering number 19 down.
                Out in the square delivery vans beeped to the shop owners and tardy teenagers flopped past wanting any distraction to stop them from going to school. Derrick remembered what it was like and smiled. He licked croissant crumbs from his mouth and signalled for another.
                The door opened as Derrick was filling in 19 down. He listened to the exchange at the bar and the voice made him look over. It was the man from the tabac. He had never seen him in here. He put down his pencil and listened. His pencil rolled off the paper and onto the floor.
                The tabac owner’s daughter was seeing the café owner’s son and he wasn’t happy about how late they were staying out. They needed to agree for them to both be home by 11 each night. Jean Pierre shrugged, but agreed. The tabac owner pressed him, wanting him to agree again. Jean Pierre did so. The tabac owner sighed, thanked him and turned to leave. He noticed Derrick.
                “Hello,” he said briskly as if he was going to pass, but he stopped at Derrick’s table and looked down at it. “Oh. You do the crossword I see?” He stared at the paper, scrutinising Derrick’s answers.
                Derrick said nothing and watched him.
                The man from the tabac stepped back and looked at him. “I see you speak French then. How very bizarre I never knew!” His tight face slipped open for a second with a smile. “Au revoir Monsieur.” He turned and left the café.
                Derrick sat, stunned. He let the feeling wash over him and he soaked up his little win. The man from the tabac finally understood. Tomorrow morning would be different. This deserved a little celebration. He ordered a cognac with another coffee.
                Back to the crossword.

                He searched and searched, but he never found his pencil. 

Friday 11 December 2015


It’s not a word that I ever thought would become part of me. There are lots of other words that I had readily accepted as part of my life: death, grief, cancer, failure, pain. Words that fill us with dread. But miscarriage isn’t one I saw becoming part of my landscape, part of my history. Part of me.

And it’s a part of me that is being lost. Right now. Waves of pain crash into an emptying void where, just three days ago, bright hopes lay. I cannot sleep and so I write this.

Utter hopelessness was my first reaction. I am a doer. When the doctor shook her head and said “Oh dear” I wanted there to be something I could do. But there wasn’t, and there isn’t and so I am losing this little life, living through this process as nature decides and my body responds.

I am OK with that decision. Nature has its reasons and I understand that it is for the best. But it is a decision of such sorrow. It is a decision where light and laughter and fun and wild times of a growing family are snatched away before you had the chance to see them properly. It is a decision which is an aggressive attack on me as a woman; a decision which rips out what it means to be female. I can no longer nurture or protect that little life as I should.  

And it is a decision I have no answers to. There can be no whys because there are no answers.

Just silence.

So we hold hands and we savour every drop of our beautiful young son, so full of life and love and curiosity and mayhem that being with him you can forget, just for a minute, the dark hole of loss happening right now. We are lucky to have him. We are grateful that he came first, before this, so that we know the possibilities when nature is on our side.

And we wait. We wait for the storm to pass and peace to descend. We know it will, eventually, after the swells of sadness. And then the sun will rise over tranquil waters and we will keep sailing forwards. Together.

Because that is all you can do.

I have had lots of love and support from friends and family for which I am extremely grateful. Also, reading the information here has helped tremendously:  http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/

Thursday 29 January 2015

Flash fiction - An Open Window

After two months I've happily found a little space and time to write today as the snow falls, not so softly, past my window on the river. Baby sleeps and chirps to himself alongside the pitter patter of my typing. I've linked up this week with Julia's Place and her 100WCGU write. The prompt is ... the suitcase lay open ... Thanks for reading. Comments welcome! 

An Open Window

The suitcase lay open, like an invitation. Like a white flag. 

How could he possibly choose between what to take and what to leave behind? Everything in the room was meaningless. His heart lurched as he grabbed at clothes and books. His hands touched his things, but he felt nothing stuffing them into the tiny space his whole word had become. 

He knew they were coming, but the bangs on the door startled him anyway. He sprang towards the window, stuffing himself through with his case, his foot knocking the photo of Dora, her face forever etched on his heart. 

100 words
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Saturday 29 November 2014

Flash fiction - Almost The Last Letter

I am just in time for the deadline over at Studio 30+ this week, with this bit of flash fiction using a prompt from Katy's writing last week: "chills". See what you think. Thanks for reading! Click on the icon below to read more entries. 

Almost The Last Letter

Dear Editor, 

My whole professional life I have been bound by ethics and cloaked in my own trustworthiness. 

But now I am not. I want to reveal those I have harboured in the name of my profession, in the name of science, in the name of what's right. 

For it has been brutally wrong. 

Joanne Cardew, Patient 3682, is a bully. She has systematically emotionally trampled each one of her children so they are mere shadows strewn across our streets. I know this because she came to me in the guise of bettering herself. All she wanted was excuses to stitch into her so on her own deathbed she could say it wasn't her fault. To her children I say, it was. Your mother was never right. Let her vanish and, please, come into the sun. 

Reginald Cross, Patient 0081, should be in prison. A long time ago he was party to something so cruel I get chills thinking about it even now. And he does too, let it be known. But that does not escape the fact that every deed he does trying to undo that fateful day gets him no further away from the tragedy that pumps through his veins. His only completion is justice, and regrettably it is only now, with this letter, I can offer it from whoever is out there that can make it happen. 

Jemima Anne Forsythe, Patient 2003, is a liar. Everything she does, everything she says, simply builds up her house of cards. If you are in her life, you are not alone. There are hundreds like you, being used, discarded, reinvented. She feels nothing except for the tales that spin off her wickedly shiny tongue. One day, hopefully soon, it will all come tumbling down and she will be swallowed by her own vicious inventions, trodden into nothing because when there is not even one truth to cling to, there is no real existence. 

I have more but my writing wavers and I am tired. As our maker knocks soon on my own door, I will save my energy and write again tomorrow. 

Very best, 
Dr Virginia Whiticker.

Thursday 20 November 2014

Haikus - Dandelions

In the early morning when my baby just wants to play by himself and laugh at the fact his hands are attached to him and can find things, I sit half asleep and write some lines for the writers' posse over at Studio 30 Plus. Ideas pour, but I am tired, so I will just leave these two poems, using one of the prompts this week: dandelions. View more by others by clicking on the icon below. Thanks for reading.


They stand poised but burnt,
Like old dandelions, war
Scarred in a new world.


A summer moon hangs
On fields of dandelions
Where no one has stepped.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Flash fiction - Afterwards

Time has changed its meaning for me recently. This time, right now, is precious because I don't know when I'll get it again. So, get those words on the page (furiously! furiously!) and on we go. Here's this week's write for the wonders over at Studio 30+ who kindly used my writing from last week - Newborn - to source their prompts: 'chamber of secrets' and/or 'stars'. I went for the double whammy this time. 


“When we are old, will we still love each other?”

“Of course, only more.”

They were sixteen when they had had that conversation, laying in the sand dunes, under the stars, high on life. Now, some sixty-odd years later, they held hands against her life’s setting sun and she asked him again.

He looked over at her. Her eyes were still roaming and sparkling and as curious as they had been at birth. His friend. His confident. Later, his lover, his love. His wife. Mother of his children, grandmother of their children. He briefly wondered how much more wonderful could a person be before answering,

“Of course, only more.”

Despite the enormous pressure of the pain from all corners of her body, she grinned, wildly and openly. Laughing hurt, but smiles could be a good measure of their time. One more smile. He always had that to go for.

“Darling, what do you think will happen. Afterwards?”

He looked out over the fields stretching past their bedroom window. He thought of his return to the world out there, alone. Though this room had been stifling at times during the past weeks, it was their last space together, their comfort, their chamber of secrets. Yes, it was also the end of her life, but he took great comfort in the fact it was he and he alone who was passing her on. No doctors, no smiling strangers.

“You will wait for me in a place where, when I go, I will know exactly where to find you.”

“You romantic, you.” Another smile.

“No? Then tell me, where are you going?”

“Nowhere. I’ll stay and haunt the house. I’ll be in the teacups and the bathroom taps and the pots in the shed.”

He laughed. “Still nagging me no doubt?”

The last smile. “Of course, only more.”

Thursday 30 October 2014


In the quiet space when my baby is asleep I have a moment to reconnect to all that was before. So, here I am again, writing a little for the grand folks over at Studio 30+ with one of their prompts, "best hidden away". Forgive me for changing its punctuation!

Please click HERE to be taken to some great writers, who are way more regular than me!


You were my best, hidden away for nine months in a chamber of secrets, dark to the stars. Like an unfurling pink petal you rose from depths I knew not I had; unflinching at this world, a conqueror, and smooth as sea worn pebbles. You, so rounded, so complete, so nestled into your role: you, my love, are the bridge between then and now.