Since I have just received a lovely review for Flights of Fancy, which was my first short story collection published in 2009 in paperback and audio with a later ebook edition. The stories were written over twenty years and scribbled down on odd pieces of paper… Over the next few weeks I shall be sharing the stories on Saturday and Sunday.
If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on email@example.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.
Getting Away With Murder
On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman. She made me do it. For over fifteen years, she had made my very life, a misery and a mockery. This woman had bullied and forced me into behaviour that had made me ashamed, fearful for my life and sanity. She jeopardized my health and destroyed my self-esteem.
As I stand before you, I freely admit to this killing. I realise that this is my chance to have my say, to explain and to acknowledge this deed of mine. Firstly, let me say, that given the chance, I would kill her all over again. I can show you no remorse or guilt. I cannot stand before you with head bowed and accept your condemnation. It was self-defence in every sense of the word.
This woman came into my life one dreary, wet Irish day, when the clouds met the horizon in a solid sheet of grey. I usually came to the beach when I felt a bit down, sometimes the water washed away my blues, but today the chill wind simply intensified my mood. I didn’t even notice her approaching me. One minute I was alone, and the next she was beside me.
“You look a little sad dear, is there anything I can do to help?”
I looked at her and saw a homely, motherly type of woman, with a gentle, slightly worried look on her face.
“I’m fine, thank you.” I replied, trying to smile warmly, as if I didn’t have a care in the world.
How come then, ten minutes later, I find myself at a table at the almost deserted seaside café, pouring my heart out to this complete stranger? My husband loved me whatever weight I was, but I knew that others were not so forgiving. I dragged up baggage from my past and held onto it defiantly; determined not to let go of the weight of it. Self-pity flowed like hot lava from my mouth, and she sat quietly, listening intently and nodding her head from time to time.
When I think back, she said very little. She didn’t even tell me her name at that time; I used her like an absorbent sponge, soaking up my misery. All she did was push the plate of fresh cream cakes towards me, urging me to take another; that I would feel better if I did.
We met time and time again, sometimes in cafes or restaurants, and as we got to know each other, in my own home. I kept her a secret from everyone. After all she was my friend and nobody else’s. She understood me, and at first I welcomed the comfort she brought me in the form of chocolate and cakes; sweet things that took away the bitterness that was beginning to grow inside about myself.
Soon I could add being fat to my list of woes. I tried several times to tell her that I didn’t want to eat her sugary offerings, but my will was weak and I always succumbed as she sat there smiling benignly at me. One day I realised that my clothes no longer fitted. My husband began hinting gently, that perhaps for my health’s sake, I should lose some weight, and why didn’t I join a slimming club or perhaps take up more exercise?
I reinforced my defensive position and turned instead to my special friend. I would moan to her, shouting about how unfair it all was. It was my body anyway. She would pat my hand, comfort me, and make me feel safe and loved. She loved me however fat I was getting. She was my friend, the one who never criticised me, or made me feel an outcast.
Over the next fifteen years, she became an even better friend, although there were times when I rejected her and asked not to come around anymore. I told her that I needed to try and lose some weight, make new friends and stand on my own two feet. It would only last for a few weeks. Something would upset me. There would be an emotional crisis, an imagined slight, or a comment from someone about losing weight. I would weaken and call her to come around; knowing that she never came empty-handed.
My secret relationship with her went from strength to strength. She was there whenever I needed her. Late in the night when the urge for a kind word and sweet comfort would overcome me, I would call for her to come around and bring her treats. I lied to my husband and family and pretended that I was eating only the best of foods; that I never touched anything fattening. I certainly never mentioned the chocolate or cream cakes that I shared with my special friend daily. Secretly I would buy my own supplies and would tell outrageous lies to the disbelieving, skinny women behind the pastry counters.
‘Oh, the family is coming over this afternoon for tea, will you ever let me have six of those big chocolate éclairs.’ Or wonderful nights of nights, Halloween, the bliss of a legitimate excuse to buy ten pounds of chocolate bars; never destined to see the inside of a child.
When I was forty-three, after an enduring friendship throughout all those years, our relationship was put to the test. I became ill, tired and listless with nosebleeds and pains in my chest. I went to the doctor who put me through the shame of standing on that infernal machine that always seemed to multiply my weight by three. I stood down, expecting the usual lecture, but was met with a resigned and serious look from my family physician. An hour later, I was standing on my beach, looking at the clouds meeting the horizon and remembering my first meeting with my best friend all those years ago.
I had been told the stark truth of my situation. I would die if I didn’t lose weight. My blood pressure was through the roof and my heart was on the point of bursting. It was lose weight or die. Soon. The ultimatum that I had been given reverberated through my numb brain. My friend was coming to see me, she would be at home now, with a batch of newly baked scones, strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream. I couldn’t turn my back on her friendship.
How could I survive without her sweet temptations? She would never accept a friendship that was so empty of comfort and sweetness. I had a choice, and I knew that it was mine to make alone. She wouldn’t go willingly. I had tried so many times to break off our relationship, but every time, one way or another, she slipped back into my life within a very short space of time.
There was only one solution. If she wouldn’t go voluntarily, then I would have to kill her. But I was not sure that I was strong enough to do this face to face. I didn’t have the courage. I would have to find a way to infiltrate her defenses; alter her perceptions and remove her hold on my life by terminating her own if necessary. It would be a shock to my system, after so many years, to be suddenly bereft of this companion of mine. Did I have the survival instinct to kill this woman before she killed me?
That night, we really fought for the very first time. Sure we had quarrelled and parted company for the odd week or even month, but this time it was a physical, mental and emotional battle of monumental proportions. I argued, she cajoled, holding out her hands filled with chocolate bars and promises. I refused and turned my back; she came up and laid her hands on my shoulders.
“You are mine and you must never, ever forget that.”
For the first time I sensed malice and threat in her voice and her manner.
Her hands moved to my neck and I felt them caress my skin as they closed around my throat. I couldn’t breathe and felt my strength and will ebbing from me. I turned and using all my considerable weight, I throw her away from me. She landed in a heap on the floor, staring at me open-mouthed; I lifted the lamp above my head and smashed it towards her.
She looked surprisingly small suddenly, shrivelled and lifeless. I opened the front door and turned to pick up her remains and laid her in the trunk of the car. Slamming the lid, I headed towards my refuge at the beach where I carried my burden of guilt, shame and fear to the water’s edge. I walked forward and stood up to my knees in the cold, dark green water and watched as my nemesis floated away out into the Irish Sea. She slowly bobbed around, this way and that, until she settled on a direction. I turned my back on her lifeless form and trudged up the sand to my car.
Over the next two years I walked that beach every day – shedding my weight and slowly my guilt and my neurosis. No trace of the woman. She just disappeared. Slowly I came back from the brink and every day I would get stronger and stronger. It was as if she had sapped the very life from me during those fifteen years. Taking away my will, forcing me into behaviours that were alien to the woman I had once been. What had begun as a sweet and innocent relationship, had turned sour and harmful in every way possible.
That is why today, I am standing before you. I am fit and healthy with a positive outlook on life. No longer under a sentence of death, I emerged the victor, lighter in body and heart, with hope for a future that suddenly seemed filled with promise and opportunity. There was no doubt that I had lost some of myself. I had killed that part of me that had driven me to the brink. I had killed the woman inside of me that would have taken me to the grave with her without tasting the real sweetness of life.
So no, I will not plead guilty, nor will I feel remorse. I stand before this mirror in all my glory and am proud that I got away with murder.
©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009
One of the recent reviews for the collection.
When I picked this one up, I had no idea what to expect. I’ve read a few other books by Sally Cronin, but I knew these were going to be much different (in a good way). Ms. Cronin has published a collection of ~10 short stories and a novella, ranging in style from murder to fantasy, revenge to humor. I loved all of the stories and will struggle to decide which ones to include in my review…
To begin with, the book kicks off with the main character saying, “On my forty-third birthday, I murdered a woman.” Okay… we’re in for something dark and funny. What a great tale! In some ways, it’s very telling about society, and in others, it’s a little shocking. I found myself wondering whether the guilty party should be punished or not. It’s wonderful when a writer can prompt that question. I also worried she might’ve been describing my mindset on a number of occasions. Oops!
From there, we jump into a woman mourning a loss. She kinda/sorta visits her husband and dog, and it will make you get a little sappy. Afterward, I devoured a few tales about marriage, war, love, and a talking parrot who knew exactly how to motivate a woman to leave her ne’er-do-well husband. One thing is for sure; this collection shows the author’s range in developing memorable characters, kooky plots, and a touch of sentimentality in each and every relationship we develop throughout life.
The one I want to touch on the most is the final story, the novella about a group of women around~80ish who live together in a senior’s complex. Unfortunately, a rough family moves in nearby, and things begin to go downhill. Drugs, theft, abuse… then it leads to murder. The surviving women in the group want revenge, thus plotting out how to rid themselves of the two ruthlessly mean parents and their five children who descended upon the town. Some of the kids cannot be saved and must be made to disappear. Others might survive foster care. It truly was a fun story, and I focused on the humor element, as those Jackson’s needed to be taught a lesson!
Cronin has a clear and strong writing style. By incorporating personal experiences and emotions into her characters, she’s made various types of people come to life. Whether it’s struggling with weight loss, interpreting people’s impressions of you, or stopping yourself from doing the things you want to do but shouldn’t do, the cast in each of these stories reminded me of many events in our lives. The girl who steals our boyfriend… the guy who treats his wife poorly… the daughter who can’t recognize her mother isn’t just an elderly woman… the lady struggling to keep the weight off… or the guy misses his wife. It’s all there, and as a whole, this represents so many wonderful and pain-filled stages of life. Now we can laugh or cry together about them.
I definitely recommend reading this book for its levity, ability to watch others get revenge (without you going to jail), and perhaps some motivation to make changes in your own life. What a great collection.
If you would like to browse my other Ebooks.. you can find their reviews https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin
Thanks for dropping in and as always your feedback is very welcome. And if you would like a full copy of the book now, just email me with your required format. Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org