Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 10th – 16th October 2021 – Crows, Robins, Diana Ross, Relationships, Stories, Reviews, Health and Humour


Welcome to the round up of posts that you might have missed on Smorgasbord this week.

I hope all is well with you. Quite a bit going on around here with spare parts for the wood burner, tiles to replace cracked ones and other bits and pieces arriving daily. We are still waiting on those who will be installing topsoil, lawn, fixing said wood burner and chimney sweeping but early days yet… no fixed day or week was mentioned in negotiations! When we can ‘fit you in’ seems to be the common phrase you wait patiently.  David will be fixing the tiles himself during the redecoration process so no mystery there.

An earlier photo of Charlie

We believe that Charlie has been back in the garden. We noticed a crow, slightly bigger which is to be expected, but with the same mottled grey markings foraging under the bird feeder, accompanied by a friend. He still has trouble flying but managed to clear the hedge and perch on a telephone line. What made us think it was Charlie was that he wiped his beak from side to side on the line. Because his beak was damaged he did that after eating so we are hoping it was him.

Other than that I am making progress on the writing front and you can read an example in the post that Jane Risdon kindly shared this week…with an excerpt from the next collection.

I was the guest of author Jane Risdon who shared my short story, Miss Lloyd’s Robin, from the new collection due out at the end of the year… I hope you will head over to read.. Thanks to Jane for also showcasing Life is Like a Mosaic…

Guest of author Jane Risdon with a short story

This week William Price King, D.G. Kaye and Daniel Kemp contributed their expertise in the form of music, relationships and humour… they are amazing. Thanks to you for dropping in and the support during the week.. it keeps me motivated.

On with the show

Chart Hits 1980 Part One – Christopher Cross, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Queen

D. G. Kaye Explores the Realms of Relationships – October 2021 – No Contact – The Breaking Point

Walter – Lost and Alone by Sally Cronin

What’s in a Name? – Xenia – Beloved by Sally Cronin

#TankaProse – The Hunter’s Moon by Sally Cronin Posted

New Review #Fantasy #Adventure – The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D.Wallace Peach

Memories, Music and Movies – 1966 – Manfred Mann, kittens and Georgy Girl

Podcast – Turning Back the Clock – The Hormone Factor Part Two – by Sally Cronin

Women’s Health – The Heart and Stress by Sally Cronin

Weekly Grocery Shopping List by Nutrient – Part Two – Vitamin C to K2 by Sally Cronin

#Finance – Absolutely Necessary Expenses by Sharon Marchisello

#FlashFiction The Last Ride of the Night by D.L. Finn

Do You Know What To Do When One Of Your Blog Posts Gets Reblogged? Hugh W. Roberts

#Offer Marcia Meara, #Teaching Pete Springer, #Writers D.G. Kaye, #RoundUp Carol Taylor, #Halloween John Howell.

Thursday October 14th 2021 – #Humour Joy Lennick, #Interview Terry Tyler, #Booklaunch Mae Clair with Joan Hall.

Smorgasbord Children’s Reading Room – Book Review – Drystan the Dragon and Friends Series, Book 6: Dragana Helps a Fairy by Janice Spina

New Author on the Shelves – #Portugal – #Memoir – Another Day in Paradise by Karen Telling

New Book on the Shelves – #Paranormal, #UrbanFantasy, #Shortstories -Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair

#Reviews – #Menopause D.G. Kaye, #Mennonite Marian Longenecker Beaman, #Comingofage Bette A. Stevens

#History #NorthernIreland Jane Buckley, #Mystery James J. Cudney, #SouthernCulture Claire Fullerton

#History #JewishFiction Eva Hnizdo, #Fantasy Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, #Poetry Balroop Singh

October 12th 2021 -Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Funny Bone and Famous Last Words

October 14th 2021 – Another Open Mic Night with author Daniel Kemp – Recovery Time and Lost in Translation

 

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you have enjoyed the week… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Xenia – Beloved by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Xenia – Beloved

Your name is Xenia, after your Greek grandmother, whose wrinkled complexion smelt of roses and almond oil. I remember the hot summers of our visits as we played on the rocks beneath her stone house; working up an appetite for the platters of goat’s cheese, olives and warm bread. The loaves were taken straight from the wood stove; handled carefully with well-worn hessian rags, and served up on the rough wooden table in her wild garden. I remember being fascinated by her hands as they sliced thick warm chunks with an ancient serrated bread knife. They were blackened from nearly 80 years in the sun, with dark-rimmed nails from digging into the soil for home grown vegetables.

She was still a beautiful woman, who loved to have her long black and grey hair gently brushed in the twilight; sipping delicately from her glass of rose pink wine. Happy sighs filled the scented air; encouraging continued effort. We dreaded her tears as we left to catch the ferry at the end of summer, with her whispered goodbyes and pleas for us to return again the next year, remaining in our minds for weeks afterwards.

But one summer only my father made the journey, to stay just a week to bury his beloved mother, with her silver backed hair brush and a small bottle of almond oil resting in her hands.

That was ten years ago and I have been saving up her name to give to you, my first child.

From the moment I knew that I was carrying you in my womb, I felt certain that you would be a girl and worthy of this much loved name. As the months passed, and I felt that first movement beneath my hand, I began to talk to you of your name and the woman who owned it with such grace. Sometimes when I listened to music playing softly in the background, I would feel a flutter, as if you were dancing in time to the tune. I would imagine Xenia, swaying and clapping her hands in delight, lost in the gentle songs that my father played on his guitar after our evening meal. I knew she would be so happy that I had named you after her.

My time with my grandmother was too short, but I had saved up the stories to tell you, as well as photographs we took during those summers. I would tell you those tales as we rocked, still joined together, in the chair in the newly painted nursery. I promised to show you the embarrassing snaps of your mother when a girl, dressed in her bathing suit with face filled with sticky baklava. I imagined taking you back to Greece to see where you came from, and to visit Xenia’s grave to lay some blossom, and to show her how beautiful you are. I was certain that your hair would be raven black and that you would love almonds.

Your father laughed at me as I waddled around the house in search of more feta cheese and pickled onions. He said that there must be two of you, or that you were really a big bouncing boy; destined to be a rugby player. He would lay his head on my stomach and listen to your heartbeat; loving it when you kicked against his hand. We had chosen not to know the gender of our baby. I already knew it was a girl to be called Xenia, and your father just wanted a baby who was healthy that we would love.

I knew the moment you had gone. All was still where you had been so active. I thought you must be sleeping, and lay in the hospital bed resting, waiting for that kick and ripple, telling me you wanted my attention. But the cold gel, and pressure of the machine in a doctor’s hand, broke the spell. Your father and I held each other as we cried at our loss.

The love I feel for you will not diminish or change throughout my life. It comforts me to imagine you holding the hand of your great-grandmother, as you twirl to the music of a guitar. I see you eating baklava with sticky fingers, and her washing your hands and face lovingly, with rose scented water. I know that you are safe now, and that one day, we will meet face to face, and I will recognise you as the child of my heart. One day the three of us will sit in that wild garden, and laugh in the sunshine.

My two beloved Xenias…..

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me again for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Walter – Lost and Alone by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Walter – Lost and Alone

Somebody mentioned that they had heard that his name was Walter. He was a funny old duck who said little, giving you a discouraging look if you passed the time of day, or suggested sitting with him in the pub. He would nurse his pint of beer, the only one he would have for the two hours he visited The Crown each Friday, and he spent that time staring at the door as if waiting for someone he knew.

With his scruffy appearance and lack of hygiene it was difficult to determine Walter’s age. Some said he was in his 80s but others thought he might be even older than that. He didn’t bother anyone, although the landlord would have liked a little more custom from him over the two hours. However it would not be good for business to be seen ejecting a frail old man; despite his musty odour. That was until he ambled in one day with his stick in one hand and a filthy mongrel on a lead in the other.

Bill, who had run The Crown for twenty years, didn’t have a problem with dogs coming into the public bar, but this one felt the need to cock his leg against the first table leg he came across, marking his territory. Diplomacy was required, and being the summer months, Bill suggested that Walter and his new companion take their business outside to the beer garden, where there was a very nice table facing the back door to the pub.

Walter gave Bill one of his looks and led the scruffy mongrel outside and parked himself; indicating that he required his usual pint to be brought to him. Resigned but happy that this matter had been resolved peacefully, Bill brought out the pint and commented that it was on the house. He received a curt nod in return and shaking his head in exasperation he returned to the bar where his staff were mopping up the offending yellow puddle with some bleach.

Bill was a good man and he made enquiries of other locals as to where Walter lived, and if they knew of his circumstances. It was thought that he rented a small terrace house two streets over, and some commented that they had seen him in the corner shop and post office from time to time, collecting his pension and buying a few staples such as bread and jam.

Thankfully the weather was dry for the next few weeks and Walter and his new friend would now enter the beer garden from the side; sitting at their table waiting for the requisite pint to be delivered. The old man would carefully count out some silver and copper coins to the exact amount of the pint, to indicate that he was intent on not accepting it for free.

Bill noticed a slight difference in Walter’s appearance, and in fact the dog looked a little more nourished and cleaner than during his first visits. He wondered who was having a good influence over whom in this partnership; suspecting the dog was responsible. The pub had a thriving food business and there were always scraps left after lunch. Bill began taking out a bowl of these bits of meat and vegetables; putting them down under the table much to the delight of the dog who dived right in. Walter said nothing but he did offer a brief nod before Bill returned inside to the bar.

The weather began to turn into autumn and Bill knew that it was going to start getting too cold for the old man to sit outside. And sure enough the following Friday Walter walked into the bar with his dog and sat down at his usual table. This time the dog behaved itself and lay down by his owner’s feet. By now there had been a marked improvement in the scruffiness of both man and beast and Bill resigned himself to their presence in the bar. He smiled to himself as he pulled the pint of beer, thinking that the old boy was to be admired for his tenacity and spirit.

Regulars to the bar began stopping to talk to the dog who responded politely whilst leaning back against Walter’s legs. Soon patrons were slipping the odd piece of steak or chicken to the animal who took the offered tidbit daintily, licking the proffered fingers. Although Walter had tidied himself up considerably, he still looked too scrawny, and Bill came up with a plan. As Walter was getting up to leave he handed him a carrier bag with some cartons inside.

‘Something for the old dog over the weekend Walter,’ he smiled at the stony face in front of him. ‘Just some leftovers from lunch that will only go to waste.’

With a quick nod, Walter took the bag and with the dog eagerly nosing the plastic, they walked out the door and into the wintery weather.

On the following Friday, Bill’s mother, a spritely 85 year old arrived for her annual two weekly visit. Ethel had left the town some twenty years ago to live with her sister in Margate, but she loved coming back to the pub she and her husband had run for 40 years, taking it over from her parents when they retired. The place held happy memories and apart from Bill, she had brought up four other children in the small flat above the bar. They were all dispersed around the country, but they would all take the opportunity to visit whilst she was here to have a family party.

Ethel had been born in the main bedroom upstairs along with a twin brother. He had not wanted to stay in the town or follow his father into the family business. He had chosen to leave instead. Joining the army in 1952 and being deployed to Korea shortly afterwards. As she sat on the edge of the bed in that same bedroom, she ran her fingers over the black and white photograph of the two of them sitting at a table in the back garden. Her brother Donald had a pint in front of him and his arms around her shoulders. They were laughing and playing around for the camera, a gift to their father for his birthday. That was the last time she had seen Donald. They had a few letters during the next year but they revealed little but basic daily life in the army. After the war ended in 1953 they waited to hear about his next leave but nothing arrived.

Eventually Ethel’s father contacted his regiment only to discover that Donald had received a medical discharge three months before and that they had no forwarding address.

The family had searched for him everywhere and even got a private detective involved. Eventually, after two years, they found out that he had immigrated to Australia where all efforts to find him proved futile. It broke their hearts and they spent the rest of their lives wondering what had happened to him.

Ethel sighed as she remembered those tough days. Of course so much more was known about PTSD these days, and the doctors she had spoken to felt that was probably the reason for him shunning his family. Sorrowfully she placed the photograph back on the dresser and prepared to go and greet some of the old regulars who were coming in to join her in a drink.

Sure enough, when she arrived in the bar, there was a warm welcome from her old friends. Bill looked on smiling as he saw his mother embracing the people she had grown up with and served for all those years. The door opened and in walked Walter and his dog, clearly unsettled by the crowd of people gathered in their path and the noisy celebrations going on. He looked like he was about to turn around and leave, but Bill knew that both he and the dog would probably go hungry over the weekend without their normal leftovers. He stepped out from behind the bar and circled around the group greeting his mother; clearing the path to Walter’s usual table. Hesitantly the man and dog navigated their way across the room and sat down warily; the dog leaning protectively against Walter’s leg.

At that moment the crowd parted and Bill saw his mother smiling across at the three of them. Then she grabbed the arm of one of the people next to her and looked as if she was about to faint. Bill rushed across and grabbed a bar stool for her to sit on.

‘Mum, whatever’s the matter, don’t you feel well?’ He put his arm around Ethel’s shoulders, but she pushed him gently away and pointed across the bar.

‘That’s Walter and his dog Mum, you don’t know him. He has only been coming in for the last few months.’ He followed Ethel’s gaze and was amazed to see Walter on his feet, tears pouring down his face into his newly trimmed beard.

As the crowd of people moved back, the old man with his dog at his side, walked slowly across the carpet to stand before Bill and his mother.

‘I came to see you but you had gone and I thought you were dead.’ The regulars looked at each other in astonishment at the first complete sentence they had heard from Walter.

Ethel moved away from the protective arms of her son, and reaching out a trembling hand, she gently touched the front of Walter’s wrinkled jacket.

‘Oh Donald, you have come home love, you have come home.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me next week for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 3rd – 9th October 2021 – James Bond, 1979 Hits, Green Kitchen, Stories, Book Reviews, Bloggers, Health and Humour


Welcome to the round up of post you might have missed during the week here on Smorgasbord.

We have been busy enough around here with final end of summer jobs in the garden… more topsoil and the turf coming in next week to complete the lawn work in the front of the house.. and then we finish the back in the next month. They need to be done before we put the house on the market next year and then we can start on the redecoration inside… it is five years since we did the last round and it needs freshening up.

We have been talking about where we go next, it will still be in Ireland and we are leaning towards the coast between Wexford and Waterford giving us access to both of them but still in a rural or coastal location if possible. The motorway that now goes all the way from Dublin to Wexford is to be extended on to Waterford in the next few years and that will make it very much easier to travel that southern coast.

My mother’s family originate from a small hamlet called Ballinacura in cork. Having managed last year to gain access to some records from the 1820s, it looks like the men in the family were pilots who would row out to ships and bring them into harbour. They also worked on the river.. When we move we are going to explore further in person which is much more effective. David’s family moved to Waterford from Cork and so we both have our origins there.

Just a note about the next couple of months. I am in writing mode at the moment and so I am scheduling non time sensitive posts out two weeks or so. If you are in the Cafe and Bookstore and have a new book due to be released.. either on pre-order or available in the next month or so, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com so I can put a date in the diary to share the news.

 

We went to see No Time To Die the latest Bond film on Wednesday. It is a long film 2hour 45 minutes but it is action packed and the time flew by. It was certainly a great send off for Daniel Craig as James Bond and tied off quite a few loose ends with some surprises along the way. We had recently rewatched Spectre and this film picks up where the story left off . I still think Skyfall was the best of his films but can recommend this to all Bond fans and it will be interesting who picks up the 007 designation next.  Here is the official trailer courtesy of James Bond 007  

Gwen Plano shared her reviews for three poetry collections in a lovely feature this week and I was in great company with Elizabeth Gauffreau and Colleen Chesebro...

I hope you will pop over to read Gwen’s reviews: Gwen Plano – Reviews for Colleen, Liz and Sally

This week William Price King, Carol Taylor and D.G. Kaye have done an amazing job with their contributions and so grateful to everyone who has visited, liked, commented and shared the posts.

And congratulations to contributor to the laughter series Malcolm Allen and his long term partner Sarah who married earlier in the week. Here is a lovely photograph of the occasion.

On with the show

Chart Hits 1979 Part Two – Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, Earth Wind and Fire, Abba and Dire Straits

Carol Taylor’s Green Kitchen – October 2021 – Yeast Free Raisin and Cinnamon bread, Hair Conditioner, Fabric softener, World Food Day

Usher Taking Things for Granted

Vanessa – In a Dilemma

1965 – Lancashire – The Sound of Music – Something Good and The Lonely Goatherd

Turning Back the Clock – The Hormone Factor Part One – by Sally Cronin

#Anthology – The Shadows We Breathe (volume 1) Edited by Sarah Brentyn and contributing authors

New Review #Memoir – Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary by Pamela S. Wight

Book Reviews Rewind – #Children’s #Adventure – Felix Finds Out by Elizabeth Merry

September Recap – #Children Dawn Doig, #Dogs Andrew Cotter, #Fantasy Richard Dee, #Poetry Annette Rochelle Aben, #Murder #Mystery Sharon Marchisello

Weekly Grocery Shopping List by Nutrient – Part One – Vitamins A – B by Sally Cronin

Meet My Best Friend San by D.G. Kaye

The amazing Jennie Fitzkee who delights us with her stories from her classroom came to the attention of the producers of the Kelly Clarkson Show and that began a wonderful adventure with the culmination in Jennie’s appearance on the show.

Jennie Fitzkee is a guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show..

How To Write The Perfect Titles For All Your Blog Posts #BloggingTips by Hugh W. Roberts

#Writing and our #Health by D.L. Finn… on Story Empire

#Finance -Squeeze the Most out of Your Money – Part 1 by Sharon Marchisello

Tuesday October 5th 2021- #Connections Jane Sturgeon, #Cats Nikki Fries, #Food Carol Taylor, #Launch Chris Hall and Elizabeth Gauffreau, #Revews Diana Peach

Thursday 7th October 2021 – #Haunting Rebecca Budd, #Reviews Sandra Cox, #Interview Melanie Stewart with Sharon Marchisello, #Update and #Llamas Mary Smith, #OracleCards D.G. Kaye

Old Dog Tray by Sarah Taylor

New Author on the Shelves – #Historical #Witchcraft – Bitter Magic by Nancy Kilgore

Word Weaving #1: A Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse – The Moons of Autumn. – Colleen Chesebro and other Poets

#Reviews – #Fantasy M.J. Mallon, #Poetry Elizabeth Gauffreau, #Suspense Joan Hall

#Reviews – #Fantasy Yvette Calliero, #Romance #Mystery Mae Clair, #western #romance Sandra Cox

Smorgasbord Laughter Lines Extra Rewind- Courtroom funnies host Sally Cronin

October 7th 2020 – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Baked Beans and Great Expectations

 

Thanks for dropping in today and hope you have enjoyed the posts.. please join me again next week… Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Vanessa – In a Dilemma by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Vanessa – In a Dilemma

Vanessa cradled the cooling mug of tea between her hands and debated getting up and putting the central heating on early. It was just after six o’clock, and having had a sleepless night, she was feeling colder than this spring morning warranted.

She was waiting for the national bulletin to finish and the local report to come on. The images from the top news story last night were still playing in her mind; as they had done as she tried to fall asleep in the early hours. She usually lay awake waiting for her son Jack to get home, but even when she heard him open the front door and creep up the stairs, she had failed to find comfort in his safe return.

The local news report began and she turned up the volume on the remote just a fraction, as she didn’t want to wake Jack yet. The announcer repeated the basic facts about the assault and murder of a fifteen year old girl; now named as Tracy Martin two nights ago. A photograph of a young beautiful girl with long blonde hair, smiling happily into the camera, flashed up on screen.

They also replayed the CCTV footage from last night of the victim in the company of a group of young people, walking through the precinct two hours before her body had been found.

This was followed by additional footage they had just received; captured an hour afterwards, showing Tracy walking arm in arm with a young male. The couple had disappeared into an alley behind a restaurant. The camera had picked up the man leaving twenty minutes later but no sign of his companion. It was impossible to see his features as his grey hoodie was pulled up over his head, but as the cameras tracked his progress along the main street, it was clear that he had a slight limp as he favoured his left leg.

As a mother she could only imagine how this young girl’s devastated parents must be feeling this morning. Since Jack’s father died ten years ago she had felt the weight of being a single parent, and the responsibility of being both mother and father. He was an only child, and she had tried to make sure that he was not spoilt, and that he understood the value of the important things in life, such as hard work, kindness and responsibility.

She felt she had done a pretty good job, and the thought of losing him was unthinkable. She played back in her mind the events of the last year, and how she had felt Jack pulling away from her. At first she had accepted that it was normal for a young man to want to distance himself from his mum, and make a life for himself with friends. But now, as she contemplated the devastating loss that this young girl’s family were facing, she knew that she had to take action.

As the report finished, with a request from the police for any witnesses to come forward with information to a dedicated incident telephone number, Vanessa put down her now cold tea, heading into the hall and up the stairs.

She pushed open the door as quietly as possible to her son’s bedroom. She could hear his steady breathing as she crossed over to stand by his bedside. At nearly twenty he still retained his boyish face, and with his blonde hair across his forehead and long eyelashes, he looked young and vulnerable. The sweet natured boy she loved so much. She sat on the chair against the wall and watched her son as he slept; seemingly oblivious to the world and its potential evil.

How many nights had the parents of Tracy Martin sat and watched their daughter sleep in an attempt to keep her safe from that same evil? She wiped the tears from her cheeks as she imagined their sorrow and anger at what had happened to their child.

Slowly she stood and crossed to the laundry basket filled to the brim with her son’s washing. She picked up his discarded sweatshirt thrown casually on the top of the other clothes and held it close to her chest inhaling his familiar scent. She replaced it on top of the basket and carried it carefully through the door; pulling it closed behind her. Satisfied that she had not woken her son, Vanessa headed downstairs, placing the washing in the hall next to Jack’s sneakers, which he had kicked off before creeping upstairs.

It was now nearly seven, and it would not be long before the houses in the street would be filled with light, as families prepared breakfast before heading out to school and to jobs. She went into the kitchen and pulled the door shut behind her; reaching for her mobile phone on the counter. She dialled the number that she had written down an hour ago, and waited for an answer at the other end.

She clung to the phone desperately and tried to find the courage that she knew she would need for the outcome of this conversation. She had been gifted this night with her son, and that was something that Tracy’s parents had not been given.

She relived the moment when she had recognised her son in the grainy video they had broadcast last night, as he had walked at the edge of the group in the precinct. She had intended to ask him about it when he woke up this morning, and to break the news to him that one of his young friends was dead.

But that was before she saw the second video of Tracy and her companion this morning, entering the alley, and then the footage of the man leaving alone and limping along the street. A limp caused by a broken leg from falling out of a tree seven years ago. An indistinct figure of a man that only a mother would recognise.

In the dark Jack had clearly not realised that his grey hoodie had several strands of long blonde hair attached to it when he threw it in the laundry basket that night, nor that his sneakers by the front door, had what looked like drops of blood across the laces.

With tears rolling down her cheeks, she realised that a man was talking to her at the other end of the line.

‘Hello, is anyone there?’

‘Yes, I have some information about the attack on Tracy Martin two nights ago.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me next week for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Usher -Taking things for granted by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Usher – Taking things for granted

Usher Matthews was a good looking man. Tall, with jet black hair inherited from his Italian grandfather, he could charm the birds out of the trees… or out of a nightclub and into the back of his car which was as flash as he was. The life and soul of any party, he would splash the cash and whilst the fairer sex adored him, males clustered around him on the off chance some of his luck with the girls might rub off.

He had fallen into the estate agency business through sheer luck when he left school. His best friend’s father owned several offices in the surrounding county and he offered Usher the opportunity to join the firm along with his son as a trainee. His friend soon discovered that he was unable to come out from under his friend’s shadow, leaving to join the army, but Usher was born for the job. He worked his way up to branch manager in an exclusive area by his mid-twenties, and as a salesman he excelled. Sometimes his unsuspecting clients would wonder why they ended up with the house they did. Good old Usher always popped round and reinforced all the positives about the property they might have overlooked even when the back wall of the house subsided.

Usher rarely took any of his expanding group of acquaintances home to the modest terrace house where he was brought up. To be honest, his parents, who were quite shy and retiring, had no idea how they had produced this charismatic son of theirs. His father privately wondered if he had not been switched at birth; especially on the rare occasion he joined Usher down the pub for a pint. He would sit there quietly sipping his beer and watch as people gathered to bask in the radiance that emanated from his offspring.

More and more he refused his son’s infrequent invitations. Eventually he and his equally mystified wife sold their home and moved to Bognor Regis to retire. Usher barely noticed their departure and would phone once in a while and threaten to come down for a weekend. His parents soon realised that these promises were empty, resigning themselves to the fact that their son was far too involved in his own life to be bothered about them.

Whilst apparently an open book as far as the world was concerned, there were a couple of things that Usher liked to conceal from people. One was his pathological fear of snakes that did not enhance his macho and gym-toned public persona. At five years old his well-meaning parents had bought him a Jack-in-the box type toy for his birthday. He had screamed like a girl when a two foot and very life-like banded snake had launched itself at him from the stupid thing.

The other secret was his little gambling habit. He did love those horses but unfortunately they did not love him. This had not been too bad when property was selling like hotcakes, but with the downturn, his commission was as extinct as a Dodo. This little matter was resolved by the charm offensive, seduction and marriage to Rebecca, the daughter of a multi-millionaire retailer who gave them a rather nice cash settlement on their wedding day. Just in time, as recently the account with his bookie had plummeted deeply into the red. Their frequent telephone conversations had become downright hostile.

Apart from the gambling there were also some other side activities that Usher kept from his wife who would look at him adoringly when he walked through the door each evening. She seemed to accept that he needed to work late a couple of evenings a week, taking potential clients to dinner or showing properties in the longer summer evenings. He was careful to make sure that he didn’t bring home evidence of his dalliances, thinking himself rather clever at having his cake and eating it.

His wife was pretty enough he supposed, but he also thought she was not very bright. He did however appreciate the generous monthly allowance that her father paid into his daughter’s bank account which he offered to manage for her. She had agreed readily enough, and to his knowledge never bothered to check her bank balance. Usher decided to do a little mining into the account and gradually syphoned off thousands of pounds to cover his debts over the next few months. To celebrate he suggested that he and Rebecca head off to Thailand for a second honeymoon.

They stayed at the best hotel close to the sandy white beach where the calm waters invited the visitors in for swimming and water sports. For the more adventurous, deep sea snorkeling was on offer, and surprisingly the normally reserved Rebecca, took to the activity like a duck to water. She headed off with one of the undersea guides every day for several hours returning exhausted and full praise for her guide’s patient tutelage.

Usher was a little miffed if he was honest at not being the centre of attention. He got a bit bored lying by the pool and sipping a selection of exotic drinks off the cocktail menu. He spent some time flirting with some of the younger bikini clad sun worshippers; knowing that he would be unlikely to get away with anything more in these restricted confines.

At the start of the second week Rebecca suggested that he might come with her out to a small reef just a five minute swim off shore. Taken by surprise by her rather seductive smile and the sight of her now bronzed body in her bikini he nodded his agreement. He donned his mask and after some tips from Rebecca on how to breathe and dive with his apparatus, they headed away from the beach.

He had to admit it was pretty stunning seeing all the brightly coloured fish and coral life and he relaxed into the adventure. Suddenly, his wife appeared right in front of him with her hand behind her back. She gestured to him to rise to the surface.

They both removed their masks and as the warm water lapped around his neck he saw Rebecca’s gloved hand reach out towards him rapidly. He felt an excruciating pain in his neck and looked down to see the brightly coloured, writhing body of a snake. As his vision blurred he screamed like a girl and stared at his wife treading water calmly.

As his eyes met Rebecca’s cold and steady gaze, she mouthed just one word.

‘Surprise.’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me next week for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – 26th September – 2nd October 2021 – Autumn, James Bond, Donna Summer, Podcast, Book reviews, Stories, Health and Humour


Welcome to the round up of posts you might have missed this week on Smorgasbord.

Welcome to October, and we certainly got there fast. I nearly knocked over the display of tins of Quality Street and Heroes ready for Halloween yesterday in the store, and it will be a permanent fixture now as it will remain there until after Christmas…

Autumn has swept in with a vengeance with high winds and lashing rain but the lawn is lovely and green. The birds are better than the weather forecast as they gather on roof and in the tree by the garden shed and make a racket at feeding time.. The last few days they have gone through almost double the normal rations and I have come to recognise that bad stuff is coming in.. and sure enough it did.

Some excitement in the coming week. I am having my flu jab on Monday so that I have that extra bit of protection when Ireland opens up fully (more or less) on 22nd October. With two years since most people had a flu jab it is expected to be a bumper year and whilst I shall be retaining my mask throughout the winter months, nothing like a little bit more insurance.

And secondly we will have our first trip to the cinema in two years later in the week to see the latest Jame Bond movie.. mixed reviews in the press but having watched every single one again during lockdown, and some of them were pretty corny… I am sure we shall enjoy very much. We will be masked, have had to book seats in advance so that everyone is socially distanced. No hanky panky in the back row then!  I will review of course.

The new series of Posts from Your Archives begins this Monday, kicked off my blog guru Hugh W. Roberts.. delighted to have some great bloggers signed up already.. look forward to hearing from you.

Before I share the posts from the week, a quick thank you to the wonderful contributors who spend a great deal of time putting together posts for us all to enjoy.. This week William Price King, D.G. Kaye and Daniel Kemp.

Thanks very much for your support and visits… I love to hear from you and I am grateful for all the shares on social media…

This week I was the guest of Rebecca Budd on the Tea, Toast and Trivia podcast and it was all about short stories.. and I read one of mine from Flights of Fancy – A New Beginning..

Head over with a cup of tea or coffee (or a margarita) and listen to our chat and the story: Rebecca Budd and Sally Cronin on short stories.

Chart Hits 1979 Part One – Donna Summer, The Doobie Brothers, Gloria Gaynor, Rod Stewart

Sonia – In Search of Prince Charming by Sally Cronin

Theresa at the Checkout

Memories, Music and Movies – 1964 – West Side Story – Maria – Tonight

#Paranormal #Thriller – Pre-Order Blood Mark by JP Mclean

New Review #Family # Murder #Mystery – Going Home by Sharon Marchisello

Smorgasbord Book Review Rewind – #WWI – #Historical – Sheep On The Somme: A World War I Picture and Poetry Book by Frank Prem

Smorgasbord Book Reviews Rewind – #Dystopian #Scifi – Megacity (Operation Galton Book 3) by Terry Tyler

Interview Size Matters (Especially when you weigh 330lbs) by Sally Cronin with Kelli Brett The Main Ingredient

Smorgasbord Podcast – Poetry and Flash Fiction – A celebration of Autumn – by Sally Cronin

Women’s Health Month – Cardiovascular Disease – Heart Attacks and Strokes by Sally Cronin

Women’s Health Month – The Heart – Connecting the Dots by D.G. Kaye

#Romance #Revenge – A Broken Promise – A Hunger by Jan Sikes

Tuesday 28th September 2021 – #OnlineSafety Jacqui Murray, #NurseryRhymes Robbie Cheadle, ‘Quotes John W. Howell, #Literacy D.G. Kaye, #Peaches Dorothy New Vintage Kitchen

Thursday 30th September 2021 – #Reviews D.L Finn, #Statistics Jim Borden, #Facebook Pete Springer, #Spotlight D.G. Kaye with Stevie Turner, #Pavlova Eat Dessert First Greece

#Poetry B.C. Byron, #NewMexico Darlene Foster

New Author on the Shelves – #History #JewishFiction – Why Didn’t They Leave? by Eva Hnizdo

New Book on the Shelves – #History #NorthernIreland – Stones Corner Volume Two – Darkness by Jane Buckley

New Author on the Shelves – #Historical #Music Beautiful Dreamer: A Fictional Biography of Stephen Foster by Sarah Taylor

#Romance Linda Bradley, #Anthology Sarah Brentyn, #Family Judith Barrow

#Vaudeville Elizabeth Gauffreau, #Scifi #Crime Natalie Cammaratta, #Poetry Colleen M. Chesebro

#Reviews – #Memoir Cynthia S. Reyes, #Poetry Harmony Kent, #Contemporary Anne Goodwin

September 28th 2021 -Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Windows and Magic

September 30th 2021 – Host Sally Cronin – What do you mean I can’t park here?

 

October 1st 2021 – Another Open Mic Night with author Daniel Kemp – Take the Bus and Wildlife..

 

Thanks very much for joining me this week and I hope you have a great weekend…Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind– What’s in a Name? – Theresa – At the Checkout by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Theresa – The Checkout

‘Come on let’s whip into that lane over there.’

‘No, I am fine here, look the line is moving already.’

‘Are you kidding me?’ He glared at her in frustration. ‘We are going to be here till Christmas at this rate and the game starts in twenty minutes.’

She shrugged her shoulders. ‘It’s only football for goodness sake, just be patient.’

‘Patient, patient!’ Hands in pockets he made a face.

‘I came shopping with you didn’t I? He put a hand on her shoulder.

‘Come on Theresa, please we only have three items and that line is much shorter.’

She shrugged his hand off and took a deep breath.

‘She doesn’t like me.’

‘Who doesn’t like you?’

‘The woman in that checkout.’

‘Excuse me!’ He looked at her in disbelief. ‘What are you talking about?’

I have been through that checkout several times when I was in a hurry and each time she has made rude comments.’

‘Love, you’re losing it babe, big time.’ She glared at him.

‘Okay last time I went through that checkout with a pizza and ice-cream; she said that she could see why I was fat.’

‘You must have imagined it doll.’ Laughingly he grabbed her waist fondly. ‘I love every inch of you and you are not fat just cuddly.’

‘Alright, I’ll prove it to you.’ She turned and stomped off to the now empty check-out and waved the first item, which happened to be a packet of fish fingers, under the scanner.

A slightly metallic female voice spat out of the speaker. ‘Oh my, still picking the fat options I see.’

Theresa turned to her husband and gave him a glare…. ‘Well, do you believe me now?’

‘It must be a wind up… Candid Camera or one of those stupid programmes. Put another item through.’

Theresa put the two other items under the scanner one by one. The voice smugly pronounced. ‘That will be four pounds and eleven pence and half a stone madam.’

Fuming Theresa put her debit card into the reader and completed the transaction. She threw the offending items into her bag for life.

‘Okay Theresa let me have a go.’ Her husband picked up some gum from the stand next to the checkout and passed it under the scanner.

‘Hello handsome,’ spoke a silky sexy voice. ‘What are you doing for the rest of my life?’

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Mar 19, 2018 D. Peach rated it five stars it was amazing

I read the first volume of What’s in a Name and was eager to give the second a try. Volume 2 is a collection of short stories that picks up when the first ended, covering names starting with K through Z (Kenneth through Zoe). Cronin includes a bonus short story for a collection coming out later in 2018.

This is a quick read that I breezed through in a few hours, sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Many of the stories have older characters, covering a range of topics from heartwarming reunions, grief and loss, recovered dignity, and romantic love beyond the grave. There’s also a bit of happily ever after and match-making, as well as some swindling, and a taste of well-deserved murder! The variety is highly entertaining and kept me engaged throughout.

Cronin is a master storyteller and I recommend this collection (both volumes) to readers of all ages.

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me tomorrow for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Authors in the Sun – #Romance #Revenge – A Broken Promise – A Hunger by Jan Sikes


When I worked on radio in the south of Spain I presented and recorded four series of Authors in the Sun showcasing local writers and their short stories. I ran a series here on the blog in 2017 which was much enjoyed and showed off the skills of some amazing writers.

There have been some wonderful stories shared in this summer’s series, and I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have.

Today a story about love and revenge….

A Broken Promise – A Hunger by Jan Sikes

Image by Catherine Stovall from Pixabay

Emily poured a fresh cup of coffee, and for the hundredth time, strolled to the end of the sturdy wooden dock her money had built. Where was he?

Perhaps he’d been involved in an accident.

She sipped the hot coffee and scanned the brilliant blue tranquil lake, searching intently for any sign of a boat, a ripple, a sound.

A pang of guilt crawled up her spine.

Leaving a note was a piss-poor way of saying goodbye. But the thought of a confrontation and one more fight with Malcolm was more than she could handle. By noon, after he’d left for work that morning, she’d retrieved her packed suitcase from the back of the closet, left her keys and checkbook, along with a note by the door where he wouldn’t miss it.

As she turned out the lights, she gave one last backward glance at her life, then tossed her suitcase in the backseat of her Mercedes and drove away.

It hadn’t been hard to walk away from a twenty-year marriage. Strangely enough, it had been one of the most natural things she’d ever done.

She’d skipped and twirled across the front porch like a giddy school girl when she’d arrived at Levi’s cabin. The truth was, she’d been there many times over the past few months.

It was there they’d made plans for her to make her escape from a loveless marriage, for the two of them to be together forever.

Lying in the circle of his strong, tanned arms, Emily found her center. He made her feel like a beautiful goddess, and when they made love, the earth tilted on its axis.

Minutes ticked by and turned into hours. She sighed deeply and tugged her cashmere sweater closer. Despite the warmth it provided, she shivered.

“Where are you, Levi?” Unable to sit still, she left the comfort of the cabin and paced the length of the dock that stretched out over the water. The sun’s rays cast an orange glow across the still water, almost as if the lake had caught fire.

Levi had never stood her up, but he should have been here hours ago.

She checked her cell phone for the umpteenth time.

Malcolm would be home from work by now. How would he react to the note? She could picture him sinking into his favorite chair and dropping his head in his hands. Well, she’d set them both free, and he should thank her.

“Levi will be here,” she said to no one. “He just got hung up somewhere.”

The first time she’d laid eyes on Levi, desire stronger than anything she’d ever felt swept the length of her body, leaving her knees weak and the sweet spot between her legs moist.

It had been a rare girl’s night out.

Malcolm had grumbled that she’d failed to fix him dinner. And while she should have felt some remorse, she’d tossed a TV dinner in his direction and headed out the door.

The crowded club was the perfect backdrop for Levi to stroll onto the stage and serenade the ladies.

He was a gorgeous specimen of a man. Long legs, tapered waist, bulging biceps, and the most striking blue eyes she’d ever seen. And when a lock of his wavy brown hair fell over those mystifying eyes, women swooned.

She wanted him.

That had been three months ago.

Now she’d walked away from her stable life. The home she’d built with Malcolm meant nothing anymore. She’d trade it all a hundred times over to be with this tanned god who made her feel alive.

The sun began to drop below the horizon, and she turned back toward the cabin.

“Surely, he’ll be here soon,” she told the birds. “He promised.”

Minutes ticked away.

Emily wrapped a soft blanket around her shoulders and lay on the sofa. Her eyes took in every detail of the love nest where she’d spent many blissful hours.

A lump of forboding formed in the pit of her stomach.

Something had happened.

Maybe he’d gotten cold feet. Or, perhaps he’d met someone else younger, prettier, and richer.

Emily thought back over every conversation, searching for a clue.

She tried for the umpteenth time to call him. It went straight to voice mail.

What to do now?

Bitter bile rose in her throat as stark reality took over.

What a fool she’d been to believe she’d found her one true love — to think she mattered to him.

While her life crumbled around her, she squared her shoulders and walked the length of the dock one last time.

A plunge into the deep waters would end it all.

Her cell phone buzzed, and she grabbed it with shaking hands.

The text lit up the screen.

―Sorry.

That was all she got? What a piece of work!

She turned and sprinted down the length of the dock.
Inside the cabin, she grabbed her suitcase, and without bothering to turn off the lights, she hurried to her car.

She sat for a long minute, staring hard at the cabin. A red can of gasoline on one corner of the porch caught her eye.

She jumped from the car, doused the dried wood, lit a match, and drove away without hesitation.

By the time firefighters showed up at the remote location, there would be nothing left but smoldering ash, just like her life.

And while a tiny spark of satisfaction settled in the center of her chest, it didn’t make up for the weight of guilt. Her foolish hunger for something more had destroyed everything she valued.

Where would she go? What would she do? She couldn’t return home. Malcolm deserved better.

Tears streamed down her cheeks as she pictured her lovely home.

She drove on, not caring where she went.

One thing was for sure. Never again would she believe an empty promise.

©Jan Sikes 2021

My thanks to Jan for sharing this story of misplaced trust and revenge…. I know she would love your feedback.

A small selection of books by Jan Sikes

A recent review for Jonah

D. W. Peach 4.0 out of 5 stars A tale about personal growth  Reviewed in the United States on August 20, 2021

Jonah had a choice: prison or abandonment on an island. He opts for the island and finds himself in an inhospitable environment that he’s not sure he’ll survive. Then Titus shows up, an unusual boy with webbed fingers and glowing eyes who offers hope and a way out if Jonah is willing to change his life.

This short story, in some ways, works as an allegory for the process of finding self-acceptance, integrity, fellowship, and redemption. It relies heavily on the books The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, and The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford, both which Jonah studies while trapped on the island.

Magic also comes into play, perhaps allegorical for the real “magical” transformation that comes with self-discovery and owning one’s choices. Overall, the story worked and kept my attention with its unique setting and relatable characters. Recommended to readers who enjoy allegories and a fictional overview of the steps leading to personal growth.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And : Amazon UK – Website: Jan SikesGoodreads: Jan on Goodreads – Twitter: @rijanjks

About Jan Sikes

Jan Sikes is an award-winning Texas author who has been called a wordsmith by her peers. She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. You simply can’t make this stuff up. It all happened. She chose to create fictitious characters to tell the story through, and they bring the intricately woven tale to life in an entertaining way. She released a series of music CDs to accompany the four biographical fiction books and then published a book of poetry and art to complete the story circle.

And now that the story is told, this author can’t find a way to put down the pen. She continues to write fiction and has published many short stories with a series of novels waiting in the wings. She is a member of Authors Marketing Guild, The Writer’s League of Texas, the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB (RRBC), the RAVE WRITER’S INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHOR (RWISA), sits on the RWISA Executive Council and hosts a monthly RAVE WAVES blog talk radio show, ASPIRE TO INSPIRE.

Smorgasbord Short Stories Rewind – What’s in a Name? – Sonia – In Search of Prince Charming by Sally Cronin


There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet.

I hope that those of you who read the stories before will not mind the rewind

Sonia – In search of Prince Charming.

Sonia looked through the lead glass window of her bedroom, and watched as her three brothers disappeared into the distant forest. The dark trees swallowed them in an instant, and closing her eyes she imagined she was beside them; riding Anica her white filly. How she loved the trails through the dark woods that suddenly opened into sun dappled glades of wild flowers and mushrooms. But her father had banned her from accompanying her carefree brothers, decreeing that it was time at seventeen to adopt a more ladylike and regal demeanour.

Tears filled her eyes at the memory of her last discussion with her father this morning; standing before him in the cold and intimidating throne room.

‘Sonia my child,’ her father scratched his balding head. ‘It is time to forget childish ways and prepare yourself for your marriage to Prince Aleksander on New Year’s Eve.’ Glaring at her from beneath his bushy eyebrows he continued, ‘I will not listen to your complaining and disobedience any longer; is that understood?’

He contemplated his only daughter, and remembered his wife’s wise words on how to deal with their wilful youngest child.

‘You must remember that the security of our kingdom depends on an advantageous union with all of our neighbours. Your brothers are promised to princesses on three corners of our realm, and when you marry the heir to Pokova to the north, we will have peace and prosperity for the future.’

He sighed and steeled his heart as watched her crestfallen beautiful face. ‘Your mother and I did not meet until our wedding day and we have had a most happy union, being also blessed with you and your brothers. We are royalty, and arranged marriages are as much part of our lives as your silk dresses and other privileges’.

Sonia bit her lip and silenced her response. She had been attempting to persuade her parents for the last two months that she could not marry a man that she had not met, and had not even seen a likeness of. Her shoulders slumped wearily and she curtsied to her father, asking permission to go to her rooms. The king waved her away in frustration and watched as the dispirited girl left the chamber.

Petar, Jakov and Henrik would be gone for several hours and she resigned herself to sitting in the window alcove and watching the palace staff going about their preparations for the grand feast tomorrow. The courtyard and kitchen gardens were bustling with activity. The cook and his assistants were unpacking tradesmen’s carts and gathering vegetables to accompany roast venison and turkey. In the distance she could see the giant farm horses pulling the cart holding the majestic tree harvested from the dense forest and destined for the ballroom.

Prince Aleksander was due to arrive today, but protocol demanded that she wait until she was formally introduced to him at the ball. Her brothers had met him at the annual boar hunt in the summer, and she had pestered them to tell her more about him.

Unfortunately her three brothers loved to tease her and refused to talk about the prince at all; making faces at each other in merriment. A thought struck her and she gasped at the possible reason for their silence. He must be ugly, she thought, or perhaps stupid or had a nasty temper. Her nervousness only increased and she clasped her arms around her body in despair.

As she looked out of the window a flash of movement caught her eye. From the cobbled stable yard came a tall blonde man leading a jet black stallion. He was wearing a loose white shirt and leather jerkin, but it didn’t conceal the fact that he was very muscular as well as handsome. Feeling a little flushed, Sonia wondered why she had not seen this groom before. She also wondered why she had not heard the normally observant chamber maids gossiping about the new addition to the staff.

She watched as the man and horse moved gracefully down to the paddock, and she opened the window so that she could see more clearly. The cold winter air rushed into the room but pulling her shawl closer about her shoulders, she settled down to watch the proceedings.

The man released the horse and moved to the centre of the round paddock. He flicked a fine whip onto the sawdust behind the horse, which responded by trotting around the outside of the ring… Another flick and the stallion turned and moved in the opposite direction. The elegance of both man and beast were magnificent; totally absorbing Sonia in the performance. After several minutes, the man dropped the whip to his side and turned to walk towards the gate… The horse stopped in his tracks and followed, gently nudging his shoulder to gain the groom’s attention. At the gate the man pivoted and placed his right hand at the top of horse’s forehead; leaning into him. They stood for several minutes; man and beast as one.

Sonia caught her breath and stuck her head out of the window, better to capture this intense and beautiful moment. The groom turned away from the horse and as he did so he looked up. He saw Sonia inelegantly hanging out of the window and smiled; even from this distance it was devastatingly effective. She ducked back inside and slammed the window shut. The impudence of the man, and to crown it all, this was just the sort of behaviour that her father had been so critical of.

That evening her mother knocked on her door and ushered through two maids with laden trays. She had also brought the palace seamstress who carried a linen wrapped garment over her arm. Sonia loved her beautiful mother and hoped that over their supper she might be able to win her over to her side.

She had heard her brothers arrive back an hour earlier, clattering into the courtyard and calling for Anton the head groom to come and collect their horses.. As they had noisily run up the steps to the main entrance of the palace, Sonia had been tempted to peek out of the window to see if Anton had anyone assisting him. But she had dismissed this foolishness. Tomorrow she would be betrothed, and married on New Year’s Eve. She must put all these romantic notions from her mind. However, part of her wished with all her might that she could be just a simple maid, who could dream of love and marriage with that devastatingly attractive but unobtainable man.

Her mother eventually left Sonia’s chambers having remained resolute on the upcoming marriage. But she had smiled at her daughter’s determined efforts, whilst reminding her that she had a royal duty to obey her father. Hanging on the front of the door to Sonia’s dressing room was a very beautiful pale blue dress. The ball gown was edged with matching satin and violet flowers draped across one shoulder down to the slender waist. However, even this sensational garment did little to lift her mood as she contemplated how tomorrow would change her life forever.

Early the next evening the guests for the Christmas ball began to arrive in their carriages. Whilst waiting to dress, Sonia kept watch from the window hoping to catch sight of the groom as the horses were led away. Her maid assisted her into her ball gown, and gently tucked in an odd strand of jet black hair which had drifted from the elaborate upswept style. Sonia stood in front of her full length mirror and despite appreciating that she looked every inch a princess, she felt coldness deep in her heart. She had to face the fact that she would never know the kind of love that other girls were privileged to receive. Her father had won, and very soon she would be leaving the palace and going to a strange land, far away from those who had loved and protected her until this moment.

Sonia carefully descended the red carpet of the curved staircase, eyeing the clusters of guests in an attempt to identify the man she was going to be spending the rest of her life with. Most were known to her, and as she moved between them they smiled and bowed. She saw that her father was at the end of the throne room with her mother, three brothers and a tall stranger with his back to the room.

Her father looked up and saw her, beckoning her over and touching the stranger on his shoulder. As Sonia reached the group, the elegantly dressed man turned and she looked into startling blue eyes. She gasped as she recognised the shaggy blonde hair and the broad shoulders, blushing to the roots of her hair.

‘Your Highness, may I introduce my daughter, Princess Sonia.’

Her father took her right hand and placed it into the large palm of the man in front of her.

‘Sonia meet your betrothed, Prince Aleksander of Pokova.’

Breathlessly Sonia looked down at his broad and sun-tanned hand.

A deep voice broke into her scattered thoughts. ‘I believe we have glimpsed each other before Princess.’

She looked up into his smiling face and her lips trembled as she fumbled for a response.

Sensing her discomfort, Prince Aleksander continued, ‘ I was working with Kyros this afternoon when you noticed us. He is my betrothal present to you and I hope you will ride him back to Pokova with me after our wedding.’

Sonia’s beaming smile and gentle squeeze of his hand gave him his answer, and as he led her off to the dance floor for their first waltz, she heard her father behind her.
‘Somebody get me a brandy… A very large brandy’.

©Sally Cronin 2017

One of the reviews for the collection

Nov 21, 2018 Colleen Chesebro rated it five stars it was amazing

This second volume continues where the first book left off. The first story begins with “Kenneth,” and the rest of the stories flow through to “Zoe.” The author includes a bonus story at the end called, “The Village Square.”

Prepare to be transported into the lives of the many personalities, Sally Cronin creates, inspired by a first name only. Each person’s name has a different tale to tell or life to lead, all carefully constructed to draw the reader into their experiences. Linking the stories together are the themes of romance and family. Need I say more?

I’m a great fan of short stories and find them some of the most satisfying bedtime reading there is. But, this book offered more than that. Sally Cronin writes in such a way that she evokes a range of emotions from the reader.

On numerous occasions, I couldn’t help but cheer or cry for several of the characters. The writing touched my heart.

Many of the stories are filled with plenty of sudden developments that will leave you guessing. Some, I couldn’t even attempt to guess the ending, which I found to be a special gift to the reader. Each story is character driven, and the author skillfully reels you in until a satisfying end is reached.

My favorite story was called, Queenie, who after the death of her husband, finds her way forward by taking on a project that matters most to her – her granddaughter’s happiness. Queenie’s granddaughter, Penny, is a psychiatrist and unmarried.

Nana (Queenie) decides that she must help her find a husband before she is called to her husband’s side in the great beyond. Of course, there are plenty of shenanigans that take place, but the underlying truths that unfold touched me deeply. This is the author’s style – she allows you to feel her stories.

The “What’s in a Name,” two book series, has proved to be one of my most favorite short story compilations. I’ll reread these stories, and greet them like long lost friends. Believe me; there’s something here for everyone!

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: :Sally’s books and reviews

I hope you will join me next week for the next story in the collection… thanks Sally.