Flights of Fancy Short Story Collection – Serialisation – Free Book Offer – The Sewing Circle Part Two by Sally Cronin


If you would like to read Flights of Fancy in one sitting rather than each week, please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com and just let me know if you would like it in Kindle or Epub format. No strings attached.

In part one of the story, we were introduced to the members of the sewing circle, a close knit group of women in their 80s living on an estate in London. Unfortunately a criminal element was taking over the stairwells of the buildings and one member of the sewing circle was a victim of their violence…

The Sewing Circle Part Two.

By the time the police and ambulance arrived on the scene, Darren Jackson was on the back of his cousin’s motorbike and halfway to his aunt’s house on the edge of Epping Forest. He was celebrating his elevation to hardened criminal by replaying the incident repeatedly as he clasped his cousin around his waist. Little did he realise that like his father before him, he had botched a job.

The Jackson family were well known by the police and it was not long before Sharon’s sister found a number of coppers on her doorstep with a warrant. They found a newly scrubbed Darren wearing his cousin’s clothes and smirking as his alibi was established by his extended family — and a few of their mates for good measure. Without forensic evidence and with their only witness lying in the mortuary at a South London hospital the investigation stalled.

Everyone knew however, who had murdered their beloved Flo and even families on the Redgrave who had never spoken to the old lady, stopped at Betty’s flat with shop-bought cakes and sympathy. The other members of the sewing circle sat in vigil with their distraught friend as she repeatedly relived finding Flo in that crumpled heap in the dark.

The police officer in charge of the investigation came from the area and knew both the Redgrave and the Jacksons well. He could only promise that he would not close the case but would watch and wait for Darren to return to his mother’s flat and get back with his little gang again. The detective was convinced that Darren would be unable to keep his mouth shut and would end up boasting about his first major excursion into his father’s violent world. When he did, the detective was sure that his informants in the area would find out and they would get Darren eventually.

The members of the sewing circle were united in their grief and spent the next week together in Betty’s flat, from early morning until late at night. The funeral was eventually arranged by Flo’s extended family and her close friends were all included at every stage. On the afternoon of the service, the sun shone in defiance and the five friends left Betty’s flat together walking proudly towards the waiting black cab that Flo’s family had laid on. They were all smartly dressed, wearing their best hats in honour of the occasion. The service was lovely and the five elderly women held hands as they watched the hearse taking Flo to the crematorium glide sedately pass them outside the church.

After the tea at a local pub, Flo’s eldest son took them home personally in his people carrier and walked them to the door of Betty’s flat.

“My mum would have wanted you to have first pick of her special things, so why don’t I come back tomorrow morning and you can come up with me and choose something to remember her by.” With a hug for them all, he left and the five filed into Betty’s kitchen to drink more tea and to reminisce into the night about their lost friend.

The next afternoon, instead of sitting around completing sewing projects, the women sat quietly as each held a memento in their laps. The objects were neither expensive nor necessarily attractive but they all reminded the women of some different aspect of Flo’s personality. Big Sal cradled a little ceramic dog that had obviously been lovingly handled over the years.

“Flo bought this when her little Yorkie died,” she wiped a tear from her cheek. “She was a feisty one that Flo and I bet if she was here she would have a thing or two to say about those bastard Jacksons.”

Sylvia examined her manicured nails and then looked up at the rest of the circle.

“I know if it had been one of us Flo would have marched up to that Sharon Jackson and given her one over the head with her brolly.”

The thought of the tiny Flo giving slovenly Sharon a good slapping made her friends laugh and within minutes they started to throw in other suggestions of what evil might befall the Jackson clan. As the proposed retribution became more and more virulent, the laughter died away and slowly the five women began to look at each other in silence.

Big Sal picked up her copious black handbag and extracted a pencil and a piece of paper. On the back of an old shopping list she jotted down some of the ideas already mentioned and sat hand poised to record any more.

Maggie Baxter, who was proudly conversant with the entire Bible, clapped her hands and grabbed everyone’s attention.

“Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.”

Maggie smiled at them all. “That book of Leviticus was sure clear about making those poor Israelites pay and I guess what was good enough for them is good enough for those Jackson’s”

Mary Jones who was the frailest of the group looked worriedly at her friends.

“But what can we do, we are only a few old ladies and those Jacksons have a big family and they are all thugs and thieves.”

Big Sal reached over and patted her hand gently.

“Don’t worry love; I think we can bank on a few recruits from the other residents and what we don’t have in brawn we will make up for in brains.”

Sylvia sat silently, wiping the odd tear from her heavily made up face. What the other members of the sewing circle did not know was that Flo and Sylvia shared a secret from the past that made this violent loss even more poignant.

In her twenties, Sylvia had been vibrantly attractive and had met and married Davy Ross, a minor name in the East End. He had worked for Mike Mitchell who ran an extensive extortion and prostitution racket in the fifties and sixties and Davy was known for his temper and his ability to collect money with menaces.

Unfortunately, for Sylvia, Davy liked to take his work home with him and she spent quite a bit of time in the casualty department of the local hospital having ‘bumped into’ fixed objects in her home. Friends tried to persuade her to leave him but Sylvia knew that he would find her and kill her if she left.

A job had been planned at a large high street bank and at the last minute, a member of the gang got nicked and a replacement had to be found. Mike Mitchell who had masterminded the job recruited Davy into the team, a little reluctantly bearing in mind his unpredictable temper. He was right to be concerned as the night watchman at the bank ended up getting more of a hiding than he might have done with the original set up. Unfortunately for Davy, the guard survived and was able to give the police an accurate description of his assailant. Davy knew the score and accepted his ten years inside without grassing up either the other members of the gang or his boss, who honoured the unspoken code of the East End by making sure Sylvia was taken care of.

Sylvia knew that with good behaviour, her violent husband might be out in five or six years but she hoped that his own basic nature would guarantee that he would not be able to keep his fists to himself for that long. She had originally trained as a hairdresser and she opened a little shop close to her home and began to live a new life.

Flo was one of her regular customers and being from the area was fully aware of Sylvia’s past troubles, although they were never mentioned. Neither were the increasingly frequent visits to the shop by Mike Mitchell, who was crossing the bounds of the accepted code of behaviour by fancying the wife of one of his own men, who was serving time for one of his jobs.

Sylvia was wary at first, as she knew the man’s reputation, but he was good looking and charming and began to show her a life that she did not know existed. Fancy restaurants and weekends in the country; away from the prying eyes of the East End, and Mike’s wife; definitely clouded her judgement and she found herself falling in love with the mobster.

Their affair lasted two years and in that time, Sylvia neither wrote nor visited Davy in prison despite his constant demands. Unfortunately, nature stepped in and Sylvia found herself telling Mike that he was going to be a father in seven months’ time. This fact did not overly please him as he already had four children and a wife who would take him to the cleaners if she found out. Despite being a hard man, Mike loved his family and had to convince Sylvia that if she kept the child it would have to remain a secret. Not only that, but Davy was not going to be happy about finding out, which would be very dangerous for both Sylvia and the child.

This proved to be the case when a woman who lived in Sylvia’s street decided to inform her husband on a prison visit of the local gossip and the possibility that Sylvia was expecting. The man got a broken jaw for his trouble when he passed the information onto Davy and within days, a message was passed to the outside.

Sylvia was locking up her hairdressers for the night when two men grabbed her from behind and dragged her into a nearby alley. Two hours later Flo was passing on her way to the Bingo hall when she heard what she thought sounded like a frightened kitten in the narrow gap between the buildings. She ventured a little way into the darkness and saw an arm protruding from behind a heap of rubbish bags. She rushed forward, completely oblivious to her own safety and found Sylvia curled up holding her stomach with one arm as she bled across the dirty cobblestones.

Flo rushed back into the street and got a man to go to the nearest phone box and call for the police and ambulance before returning to cradle Sylvia’s head in her lap while they waited for help. She went with her to the hospital and was by her bedside when she regained consciousness after her operation. Sylvia suffered a broken nose and arm, crushed pelvis, fractured skull – and had lost her baby. As she looked down into the bruised and battered face, Flo knew that this was not the end. That Davy was not going to let it rest and would no doubt finish the job when he finally got out of prison.

Mike Mitchell was also aware that this beating was just an installment and it was really no surprise to anyone that a week later Davy Ross unfortunately slipped on some soap in the shower and banged his head. He was dead when the guards found him. Sylvia was notified as she lay in her hospital bed coming to terms with not only the loss of her baby but also the fact that Mike Mitchell could now never come near her again in case he was implicated in her husband’s death.

Flo understood, being the mother of so many children herself and having lost one or two in early pregnancy, how Sylvia must be feeling and she was with her when the doctors told her that due to the beating she had received she would never be able to have any more children in the future. Over the next few years, Flo and Sylvia became close friends but the events surrounding the beating and death of Davy were never discussed again.

Even the other members of the sewing circle were unaware of the shared past of two of their closest friends and although they knew that Flo and Sylvia went back a long way they were taken by surprise at the level of grief that Sylvia experienced. She had cried for two days, refusing to leave her flat or even get dressed in one of her elegant but out-dated suits. She finally appeared at Betty’s flat and sat silently as mourners came and went with their offerings. Eventually her friends gave up trying to get her to talk but took it in turns to sit holding her hand and leaning in so that she could feel their comfort.

As a memento of her beloved friend, Sylvia had chosen a pale yellow silk scarf that Flo had worn often. She now ran the scarf through her fingers time after time before looking around at the others as they sat quietly remembering their friend.

“It would be lovely to see the Jacksons brought down and all sorts of evil things done to them but we have to be realistic about what we can do ourselves.” She sighed wearily as her friends listened intently.

“The younger kids are not to blame but they should not be with that mother of theirs, they deserve a chance to live a decent life.” She paused and looked down at the scarf wound through her fingers.

“Sharon Jackson and that son of hers deserve everything they get and we need to make sure that they never do this to anyone else again.” She gave a tight smile.

“We have to get to Archie Jackson inside and feed him a story about Sharon and he will take care of her for us.” Her friends listened in fascination as Sylvia displayed a side of her they had never even imagined before. “After that he needs taking care off so that he can have nothing more to do with his kids as they grow up.”

“As for that Darren, he is past redeeming and needs to be got rid of like any other vermin on the estate and we have to get him to do the job on himself.”

The others looked at each other and realised that if they were to undertake this revenge on the Jacksons they were reverting to the old life that they had known as teenagers and young women living in the East End. They knew that if they didn’t do something then the Jacksons would continue to terrorise this estate and any others they moved to.

The key was to cut the head off the clan in the form of Sharon Jackson. Without her around, and Archie taken care of in prison, the younger members of the family would be put into care and unlikely though it seemed, that might give them a chance of a better life than remaining with their mother and father. Darren however had to go, as they knew, without any doubt, that he had cold bloodedly killed Flo. He now had power and he would use it against people for the rest of his life.

The next morning the rumours started within the various communities around the estate. Sharon Jackson was having an affair with a police officer from the narcotic division. Nobody suspected that the whispers that infested the bingo hall, corner shop, post office and surgery waiting room were started by five old women as they went about their business. Those who dealt drugs on the estate were understandably nervous and tried to find out more information without much success. This only served to make them even more paranoid and soon the rumour mill was working overtime on the stairways until it reached the ears of Sharon Jackson.

She was furious but did not have the intelligence to work out how to combat the growing tide of speculation and false accusations about her. The one thing she did have was a healthy respect for her husband’s fists and as the days passed she became increasingly terrified that word would reach Archie. Even though he was banged up inside she knew he had a long reach and time was not on her side.

She was definitely right about that one. A week after the gossip started, Sylvia Ross left the estate and took a taxi to the Docklands. In a wine bar there, she met with an elderly man who despite his walking stick still strode confidently across the floor to the table where she sat, beautifully dressed and made-up.

An hour later Sylvia left and returned to a meeting at Betty’s flat. She said little but she nodded to Big Sal and they both knew that the toughest part of their plan was in play.

Three weeks later Sharon Jackson went missing. A concerned elderly woman rang the social services and mentioned that there were four young children living alone in a flat in Grange House. By the end of the day, with no sign of their mother, the police had been informed and the children were taken into temporary care. Darren, who was still at his aunt’s house in Epping Forest, was alerted by one of his gang members and he got his cousin to bring him home on his bike where he let himself into the now deserted flat.

He was not bothered by losing his entire family in the slightest. He now had the freedom to live and do as he pleased even though Sharon’s idea of parenting had been relaxed to say the least. He could get up when he wanted, eat what and when he liked and best of all he could drink his favourite tipple, vodka, all day without his mother sharing the contents of the bottle. His friends all came round to sample the delights of the new gang headquarters and the neighbours were subjected to noisy parties into the small hours and harassment on the walkways and stairs.

The social services came round but their hands were tied as Darren had turned sixteen while away at his aunts and could not be persuaded to give up his freedom and go into some form of care. The council promised to re-house the boy, as he could not remain in a three bed roomed flat on his own, but were not sure how quickly this would happen. On the fourth day, two large men in suits appeared and the residents on that landing assumed that they were from the council, who had been called that morning with further complaints and requests for assistance.

The two men knocked on the door to the Jackson’s flat and one of Darren’s mates, on his way out to collect more vodka, inadvertently opened it and admitted them into the confined hall. He took one look at their faces and hurriedly left, glancing nervously over his shoulder as he ran down the landing. Within minutes he was followed by the rest of the gang, one of them nursing his right ear and trying to hold back unmanly tears.

The neighbours on each side of the flat listened with ears pressed to their lounge walls but they could not hear a word. They were beginning to doubt that the two men were from the council after all and their suspicions were confirmed when sounds of a more physical nature were heard from the Jackson’s living room.

Twenty minutes later, the two men left, carefully closing the door of the flat behind them. All was silent and the neighbours on either side settled down to enjoy their after lunch television programmes and a well-deserved nap.

Several hours later, just as they were preparing their supper, the neighbours heard someone falling around inside the Jacksons’ flat. It sounded as though furniture and ornaments were being knocked over and then a crash as something heavy such as a television smashed to the floor. Not wishing to get involved in anything to do with the family, the police were not called and anyway after half an hour, the front door was opened. On both sides of the flat, curtains were twitched and eyes followed the progress of the figure that emerged onto the landing.

It was an astonishing sight. It was Darren, but barely recognisable as he stumbled in high-heeled shoes, drunkenly down the landing. He was wearing a tight satin dress, fishnet tights and he was wearing make-up and jewellery. The neighbours found themselves tittering and laughing at the spectacle as Darren staggered towards the stairs. A man returning from work stood one of the stairwells, transfixed by the vision before him. Darren stared glassily back at him and then grabbing the handrail almost slid to the bottom of the steps. He didn’t  even appear to see the man in front of him and tottering on his stilettos he swung around the corner and down the next flight.

Unfortunately for Darren, he was inexperienced in the management of high heels and as he reached the top of the last flight of stairs leading to the car park, he slipped and fell untidily to the bottom landing in a crumpled heap.

He lay motionless as a crowd of residents clustered around him. One daring soul prodded the supine body with the toe of his shoe and then leapt back as the body began to twitch and jerk before going rigid and collapsing back onto the dusty surface of the pavement.

The post mortem showed that Darren had a great deal of alcohol in his system as well as a considerable amount of recreational drugs. No one else was suspected in his death although the residents of the estate had their own ideas. Darren’s gang were not bothered by the nature of Darren’s death, but were mortified to think that their leader, and the terror of the neighbourhood, was secretly a lover of fine clothes, high heels, make up and jewellery. Those gang members that lived on other estates were never seen again and those that remained on the Redgrave kept a very low profile. Some even went as far as to go to school on a regular basis and one graduated to college where he trained as a social worker.

A month after Sharon’s disappearance and Darren’s death, Archie Jackson apparently slipped on a bar of soap in the prison shower and hit his head on the tiles. His death was ruled as accidental by the authorities.

The sewing circle continued to meet although they were not only missing the lovely Flo but Sylvia too on some occasions. In the weeks following their successful campaign, she could be seen getting into an elegant black car one or two mornings a week. One day as the friends sat around working on their latest projects, she looked up and smiled at them gently.

“I have some news.” They all turned to her expectantly.

“I am getting married.” She announced to her open-mouthed audience.

“It’s someone I have known for years, a widower living in Chingford. He has got a lovely house and he says it is too big and empty for him on his own.”

She drew a handful of envelopes out of her handbag and distributed them around the stunned women.

“I hope you will all come to the wedding, and be my bridesmaids, and when we get back from honeymoon I would like you to come out to me every week for our meetings as I don’t want to give them up.”

Big Sal who was sitting next to Sylvia grabbed her in her ample embrace and kissed her resoundingly on her powdered cheek.

“You just try and stop us you sly old floozy. Perhaps you can set us all up with mates of his at the wedding? We could all do with a bit of a fling!”

The others all laughed and Betty rushed to the kitchen for the sherry bottle and five glasses.

As they toasted the future Mrs Mitchell, they also raised their glasses to their beloved friend Flo and prayed that she could now rest in peace.

©Sally Cronin 2009
One of the recent reviews for the collection.

James J. Cudney Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin October 2019: 5 of 5 stars

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/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

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.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy – Albert, The Perfect Candidate by Sally Cronin


It is time for the final story from my collection Flights of Fancy.. Next weekend I will start sharing Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story which I hope you will enjoy.

Albert, The Perfect Candidate by Sally Cronin

On Friday night, Albert sat in the white walled room, his eyes closed against the glare from the fluorescent lighting and his hands over his ears to shut out the infernal racket from the wall-mounted television. He did not have to watch the screen to see what images it displayed. Twenty-four hours a day, it brought the fear and disasters of the world into each room in every house and workplace around the country. Terrorism, financial and natural catastrophes and of course superbugs were all guaranteed to make the headlines. He shook his head. Where did all the ‘good news’ stories go?

His mobile telephone had rung several times in the last hour and he knew that it was Marjorie, his partner, no doubt reminding him for the fiftieth time that he must not be late for dinner.

He opened his eyes, switched off his phone and thought about the pile of folders still unopened on his desk. There was also an e-mail from his boss demanding that he should be in his office first thing on Monday morning. Why do they do that? Under normal circumstances Albert would have spent the whole weekend desperately worried in case he was going to be fired. He had every reason to be stressed out anyway – he was late with this month’s mortgage payments, his doctor had told him his cholesterol and blood pressure were through the roof and his blood sugar was not far behind.

He didn’t need the doctor to tell him he was six stone overweight, needed to give up smoking and drinking and was a candidate for a heart attack. He only had to look at his face in the mirror every morning to see that he fell neatly into the 95% of the population who suffered from a lifestyle induced health crisis.

Everyone he knew amongst family and friends was equally unfit. Most of them were on pills of one sort or another and it seemed that once you were put on medication you were on it for life. Sure, most of the major diseases had been eradicated in the last fifty years, but it was easier and quicker to give you tablets to control your blood pressure and cholesterol than go to all the trouble of showing you how to change your lifestyle.

Anyway, what pleasure was there in life if you couldn’t eat a whole pizza with a bottle of wine two or three nights a week? Besides Albert hated fruit and vegetables. Who needed to stand out in a crowd? When all your friends and family and even your doctor were fat and unhealthy too, why change? Still, he wished he could remember a time when he had felt well enough to get up in the mornings.

He looked around him and smiled wryly. At least in one very important aspect he had been extremely successful. He was a perfect example of modern man and this was precisely what they had wanted. All his financial problems would be solved now that he had been accepted into the programme. Marjorie would be well taken care of should the worst happen, and best of all, he was contracted not to make any improvements to his lifestyle for the duration of his lifetime. Bring on the Pizza!

Animal testing had finally become redundant. Eventually it became impossible to recreate, in animals, the levels of physical, mental and emotional stress that humans suffered after prolonged exposure to their modern lifestyle and diet. Scientists could no longer manipulate the gap between species to obtain reliable test subjects without compromising the safety of human trials. Medical records were accessed, and from the millions of suitable candidates, the most qualified specimens were recruited.

The door opened and two lab technicians wearing masks and surgical scrubs walked in wheeling a trolley containing medical instruments.

“Hi Albert,” one of them smiled at him. “This is not going to hurt a bit.”

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Other short story anthologies.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy – The Sewing Circle Part Two by Sally Cronin


Welcome to Part two of this novella. In the previous chapter we met the members of the Sewing Circle and discovered that their happy retirement was marred by the presence on one particularly disruptive family on the estate.

Part one of the story: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/smorgasbord-short-stories-flights-of-fancy-the-sewing-circle-part-one-by-sally-cronin/

One Wednesday evening Flo Miles won over £500 on the bingo. She was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to share her news with her closest friends in the sewing circle. One of her bingo pals owned a mobile phone, and with great delight, Flo called Betty to tell her the news. What she didn’t know was that Sharon Jackson and her sister were sitting right behind her, and had made note of the substantial win.

Betty suggested that her friend come round for a sherry to celebrate. Flo decided to call it a night and get a taxi back to the estate straight away. She left the bingo hall, looking up and down the street for one of the cabs that normally parked outside. Unfortunately, there was still two hours to go of the evening bingo session, and the usual line of cars was not to be seen.

Flo was so elated by her win, she decided she wouldn’t hang about any longer, and would walk the short distance home, something she had done many times. She was blissfully unaware that at precisely the same time, Sharon Jackson was on her mobile phone, setting Flo up for another surprise tonight.

Despite being on probation, Sharon’s eldest son Darren had made little effort to control his violent and anti-social behaviour. When his mother had rung him, he was hanging out on one of the stairwells with two of his mates from his previous address. They had been drinking vodka and smoking shoplifted cigarettes as they sat on the steps leading to the top landing; fired up and ready for trouble.

Darren snapped shut his mobile phone and looked at his mates. “Mum says some old bitch has just won over five big ones at the bingo and is on her way home.” He smiled evilly showing brown discoloured teeth. “She says I can have half if I get the cash without being seen! Anyone fancy a laugh?”

With his two mates in tow, Darren scurried rat-like down the darkened stairs to the parking area below. Flo was just entering the estate from the main road, trying to move as quickly as possible in and out of the shadows, lurking outside the reach of the street lamps. She was looking warily around her but held her head up high, marching determinedly in the direction of the flats.

As she approached the entrance to Betty’s block, she had to pass some dumpsters on her left and failed to notice the movement in the darkened recesses between the bins. Suddenly a hand was clamped over her mouth and her bag, which was held tightly under her arm, was ripped away. She struggled as she fought for breath and she found herself on the ground feeling the jagged gravel through her clothing. Her eyes widened as she put her hands up to try and pry loose the hand around her mouth, and she looked pleadingly up into the hard eyes of her attacker, who she recognised immediately.

Darren knew that the old bitch had made him and he had a decision to make. Should he do a runner with his mates, with the bag, and wait for the coppers to catch up with him? He was already on probation, but this would certainly get him inside some juvenile detention centre. On the other hand, he could finish the job here and now. He held his hand tightly cupped over Flo’s nose and mouth, pressing down steadily as her struggles weakened and finally stopped. Satisfied that he had eliminated his victim, and witness to his crime, he slid back into the shadows where his friends waited in breathless admiration.

Betty laid out the sherry glasses and some special crisps that she had bought for the next sewing circle meeting. After half an hour, she became worried that Flo had still not appeared and crossed to her lounge window overlooking the parking lot. At first, she saw little but as her eyes adjusted to the dark outside, she noticed a heap of what appeared to be clothing lying by the dumpsters. For some reason a feeling of dread clutched at her heart, and she rushed to the phone to call Big Sal who lived two floors up from her.

“Sal, can you come down, I think something has happened to Flo and I don’t want to go outside alone.”

Within minutes Sal was at the door, and the two elderly women cautiously walked hand in hand towards the dark shape lying motionless on the ground. As they got closer they saw a hand, palm up stretched pleadingly in their direction. Hearts beating rapidly they drew closer and looked down at the frail face of their beloved friend. Betty immediately knelt down and touched Flo’s face.

“She’s still breathing Sal. Quickly, go and call an ambulance from my flat while I stay with her.”

She handed her keys to Sal who hesitated for a moment tears pouring down her face. “Hurry Sal, don’t worry I will be fine.”

As Sal hurried inside, Betty cradled Flo’s head in her lap and leaned as close as she could to her motionless friend. As she bent forward, she thought she heard a whisper coming from the bruised lips.

“Flo, it’s me Betty, what is it love?” She gently stroked Flo’s forehead.

“Jackson……boy…..” With that, Flo breathed softly and for the last time.

By the time the police and ambulance arrived on the scene, Darren Jackson was on the back of his cousin’s motorbike; halfway to his aunt’s house on the edge of Epping Forest. He was celebrating his elevation to hardened criminal by replaying the incident repeatedly as he clasped his cousin around his waist. Little did he realise that like his father before him, he had botched a job.

The Jackson family were well known by the police, and it was not long before Sharon’s sister found a number of coppers on her doorstep with a warrant. They found a newly scrubbed Darren, wearing his cousin’s clothes, and smirking as his alibi was established by his extended family; and a few of their mates for good measure. Without forensic evidence, and with their only witness lying in the mortuary at a South London hospital, the investigation stalled.

Everyone knew who had murdered their beloved Flo, and even families on the Redgrave who had never spoken to the old lady, stopped at Betty’s flat with shop-bought cakes and sympathy. The other members of the sewing circle sat in vigil with their distraught friend as she repeatedly relived finding Flo in that crumpled heap in the dark.

The police officer in charge of the investigation came from the area and knew both the Redgrave and the Jacksons well. He could only promise that he would not close the case but would watch and wait for Darren to return to his mother’s flat and get back with his little gang again. The detective was convinced that Darren would be unable to keep his mouth shut, and would end up boasting about his first major excursion into his father’s violent world. When he did, the detective was sure that his informants in the area would find out, and they would get Darren eventually.

The members of the sewing circle were united in their grief and spent the next week together in Betty’s flat, from early morning until late at night. The funeral was eventually arranged by Flo’s extended family and her close friends were all included at every stage. On the afternoon of the service, the sun shone in defiance and the five friends left Betty’s flat together walking proudly towards the waiting black cab that Flo’s family had laid on. They were all smartly dressed, wearing their best hats in honour of the occasion. The service was lovely and the five elderly women held hands as they watched the hearse taking Flo to the crematorium glide sedately pass them outside the church.

After the tea at a local pub, Flo’s eldest son took them home personally in his people carrier walking them to the door of Betty’s flat.

“My mum would have wanted you to have first pick of her special things, so why don’t I come back tomorrow morning, and you can come up with me and choose something to remember her by.” With a hug for them all, he left and the five filed into Betty’s kitchen to drink more tea and to reminisce into the night about their lost friend.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Other short story anthologies.

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Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.

Flights of Fancy Anthology – Psychic Parrot by Sally Cronin


As I dive into the magical world of the Kingdom of Magia for the sequel to Tales from the Garden I will be peppering the blog with the odd short story from the other collections. This is a bit of fluff… about love or an avian kind.

THE PSYCHIC PARROT by Sally Cronin

I wasn’t sure how I was going to break the news to my husband Simon that I had managed to add another dent to my car. Living in Spain had many advantages — such as the glorious weather, but the roads were not the safest, and parking had its dangers too.

My car was only three months old and already there were scrape marks down one side, two dents in one of the rear doors and this morning I had been involved in an accident with another car. It was not my fault; I was driving slowly down the exit lane from the supermarket when a blue Seat shot out of a side parking area straight into the front passenger door. The impact had jerked me into the steering wheel and I had banged my head on the side window.

The young man driving the Seat had reversed and driven off without stopping leaving me shaking and clutching my head tightly in both hands. Luckily, a lovely couple stopped and came round to my side of the car and helped me out into the blazing mid-day sun. I have only lived in Madrid for a few months and my Spanish is still embarrassingly limited but the man spoke some English and insisted that the police and an ambulance were called immediately. The woman had made a note of the other car’s number plate and they offered to act as witnesses to the accident.

The police and the paramedics arrived within minutes of each other and I sat in the back of the ambulance being examined while the car was checked by the police officers. I don’t know what was more upsetting, my pounding headache or the prospect of Simon’s anger and recriminations. He had been more than scathing about my two previous encounters; one with a concrete post in a parking garage and the other with the metal side of our gate.  I dreaded his reaction to what was turning into a major incident.

The car was drivable but the paramedics wanted me to go to hospital, as they were concerned about my head injury. The police moved my car under some covered parking and handed my keys and handbag to me before driving off with promises of contact when they had found the hit-and-run driver. I thanked the kind couple who had offered me so much assistance and they gave me their card with a request for an update when I felt up to it.

At that moment, I felt like death – my head pounded and the heat seemed to have leached every, last ounce of energy from my bruised body. I lay back on the stretcher and heard the siren wailing above me as we manoeuvred through the busy motorway traffic.

—000—

To be honest I have no idea how I ended up here on my terrace, looking over the garden. The last thing that I remember is wishing that the infernal wailing sound would stop so that my head would be clear enough to come up with a plausible story for the new damage to the car. Simon hates being the centre of attention and he was not going to like the fact that the police were now involved and that word might get back to the Spanish company that he worked for, as an accountant.

My head still ached but I can only assume that they must have given me some painkillers when I got to the hospital. Perhaps they had called Simon and he brought me home, but if that was the case where was he now and how did I get out here onto the terrace?

Wouldn’t he have put me to bed or at least on one of the sofas in the lounge?

I have to say that it was rather pleasant lying out here on a lounger with my feet up even if my head and body still felt painful and lifeless. I couldn’t seem to move my hands or my feet and a dreadful thought occurred to me as I realised that perhaps I was paralysed, but dismissed this as ridiculous. If that were the case then I would still be in hospital under medical care.

I could just about move my neck, which seemed to be trapped in a rigid muscular spasm. My eyes scanned the long terrace on the side of the house and I looked into the garden through the dark metal fencing. A movement caught my eye halfway along the railings and a grey object started moving sideways along the metal. At first, the image was blurred and I could feel fear building up in my chest as it shuffled closer. Within a couple of moments my eyes managed to focus and to my astonishment I found myself staring into a piercingly bright eye surrounded by pearly white skin.

I am not an expert on birds but even I could recognise a parrot when I saw one. The bird cocked its head to one side and we examined each other carefully. I have to say that it looked much more attractive than I felt. A mixture of dark and pearl grey feathers covered its body and in contrast to the white skin around the eyes, the black beak looked almost menacing.

I must have been holding my breath as I suddenly felt as though I was suffocating and frighteningly I heard strange voices speaking in Spanish in my already aching head. The urgency in the voices rose to a crescendo and then faded back down again as I let out a breath, releasing the tension in my body. I felt myself slipping away into sleep and I welcomed the sensation; I knew the pain would be gone and I would not have to explain myself to Simon. I almost smiled with relief as I drifted away closing my eyes against the glare of the light streaming through the railings onto my sun bed. I had not noticed how bright the light was but the strange thing was that the light was getting stronger rather than fading as I slipped into sleep.

“Wake up, wake up.” A forceful voice shook me out of my peaceful descent into rest.
My eyes shot open and I found myself staring right into the parrot’s face as it sat on my chest. I panicked as I couldn’t move to defend myself and I was convinced that this bird was going to peck my eyes out or worse, without me being able to doing anything to prevent it.

“Don’t panic, it’s alright. But don’t go to sleep. Okay!” The voice sounded rather cultured and somewhat familiar and I relaxed a little as the intent behind the words managed to calm my fears.

“You and I need to have a chat and you can’t listen to me if you are asleep.” I realised that the parrot was trying to hold a conversation with me but I found it very difficult to grasp the reality of the situation. How could I be lying on my terrace with a grey parrot on my chest giving me orders about whether I should go to sleep or not.

I managed to open my mouth and croak in its direction. “You’re not real are you?” I tried to focus on the fact that it might be a wind-up toy that Simon had brought home for a practical joke. This I dismissed as unlikely bearing in mind his total lack of a sense of humour.

“I am very real Susan and I need you to concentrate because I am going to help you.”
I blinked my eyes wearily as this was simply not acceptable. I just wanted to close my eyelids and drift off peacefully to sleep.

“Susan, open your eyes and pay attention.” The bird snapped at me as it moved impatiently around on my breasts. It paced back and forth, rocking its head and making hissing sounds under its breath.

“You always do this when there is a problem, run away, hide your feelings rather than confront issues. And look where it has got you.” My eyes jerked open and I stared at a parrot who dared to tell me how ineffectual I was. It was bad enough that I had a husband who constantly criticised and belittled me; I certainly did not need a vermin ridden avian to have a go at me too.

“Don’t get in a huff, just because you know it’s true,” The bird walked right up to my face and glared at me. “You have allowed that husband of yours to get away with bullying you for years now and here you are about to disappear without telling him how you feel.”

It was hard to feel righteous anger at the bird’s words, as I knew, deep in my bruised chest, that it was speaking the truth.

“How do you know all this,” I croaked quietly.

“I am a psychic African Grey Parrot and I can read your mind! You have got one you know.”

I was finding it incredibly difficult to take all of this in and could only assume that they had given me some form of hallucinogenic drugs at the hospital. That would explain everything and all I needed to do was relax and go along with everything that happened, because it was an illusion.

“It is not a hallucination,” the parrot continued, “in fact this is one of the most important moments of your life and you need to experience everything.”

“You have spent the last fifteen years of your life with a man who not only belittles you at every opportunity but has also been unfaithful on several occasions.”

I gasped expelling the breath from my body as I felt two incredible shocks thunder through my chest.

“That is simply not true, Simon loves me he would never do that to me.” My whispered denials fell on deaf ears.”

“You know it’s true but you have shut your eyes to his infidelity and the way he treats you because he has made you feel worthless,” the parrot continued as it walked back and forth across my chest.

“You used to be so bright and enthusiastic, so full of life. But he has sucked you dry until you are now lying here helpless and unwilling to help yourself.”

I wanted to get up and punch this obnoxious bird’s lights out. I couldn’t remember when I had felt so enraged and indignant. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed my body to respond.

“That’s it, show me what you’ve got, haven’t felt as alive as this for a while have you?”

I could sense through my tightly clenched eyelids that there was a presence up very close and personal. I opened my eyes and found myself drawn deep down into the bright face in front of me.

“Keep fighting Susan, great things are waiting for you and you will miss out on a wonderful life if you go to sleep. I will be here and we are going to do all the things that you have wanted to do, but never dared, as soon as you are on your feet again.” With that, the parrot flew away from my chest and swooped over the railings and into the garden.

As it left, I could just hear its voice on the hot afternoon air. “Don’t let me down Susan, open your eyes and see what a wonderful life you could have.”

“Come back, come back,” I cried as I watched the bird fly into the sun-dappled trees at the edge of the garden. Funnily enough, despite the dreadful things that the bird had said to me, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. It was as though I was saying goodbye to an old friend, someone I had known a long time ago who had returned for a brief moment.

Then I heard other voices. A Spanish man who was talking calmly and a voice I recognised raised in anger. “Señor, I really must ask you to keep your voice down as your wife is very ill. We nearly lost her twice and we are still uncertain of the extent of her head injury.” I could sense the voices moving away into the distance.

“I am sure that your wife will be able to tell you what has happened when she regains consciousness but now is not the time to try and disturb her with angry questions.”

Then all was quiet and for the first time in many years, I felt a sense of peace wash through my body. However, it was not just calmness that swept over me, but also a sense of purpose and a determination that I thought had deserted me long ago. I was not afraid to sleep now; I needed my rest as I had a great deal ahead of me.

—000—

It is just over a year later and I am lying on my lounger on the terrace of my house. It is not as large or grand as my previous home but it is all mine, as is the rather battered car parked in my driveway. I am no longer in exotic Madrid but in the picturesque village of Hamble, a stone’s throw from the river. Despite Simon’s initial blustering and his ridicule about my ability to care for myself, I had, with the help of a very efficient lawyer, negotiated sufficient funds for me to buy this modest house and provide a reasonable standard of living. I was not however, planning on being dependent on Simon for the rest of my life, as I had put several plans in motion.

I have just finished writing my first novel and it is being published in a few months. I have a new and very able personal assistant who in fact was the inspiration for the title of the book.

I looked over to the corner of the terrace where Cleo was rolling around with some toys, enthusiastically screeching in pretended anger. Suddenly she stopped and flew through the air, landing lightly on my chest.

“I told you so, I told you so.”

“Yes, you certainly did Cleo; you are a very clever parrot indeed.”

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Thank you for dropping by and I hope you enjoyed the story and your feedback is always appreciated. Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy Anthology – The Other Side of Midnight by Sally Cronin


Welcome to another story from my first collection Flights of Fancy.  A woman moves into her new cottage but there is something missing…

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THE OTHER SIDE OF HEAVEN

When Meg saw the cottage she knew that it was the one. She had visualised her dream house so many times in her head that it almost felt that she was coming home.

As soon as she had walked down the country lane that separated the property from the main road she had heard the sound of running water. A river or lake had always been a requisite when imagining her perfect home, and the sound ticked at least one of her boxes. As she rounded the bend in the lane she saw the house for the first time, its red slate roof glistening in the sunlight.

She inhaled the scent of the vibrantly coloured flowers that dominated the small front garden and she smiled at the sight of the roses that surrounded the front door. Meg stood for a moment on the cobbled path and delighted in the fresh, sweet smell whilst she ran her eyes over every inch of the front of the cottage.

Despite its age, the windows were large and you could tell that the sunlight that shone through those panes of glass would make the interior bright and welcoming. Taking a deep breath she opened the old wooden door and stepped inside.

Within a very short space of time, Meg found herself carefully unwrapping a lifetime of treasures from the boxes that sat expectantly in the various rooms in her new home. Jack as always was eager to help and despite the insistent interruptions from the collie, Meg made steady progress as she placed objects and pictures in just their right place. Surprisingly, despite working all day, she felt refreshed and excited as she walked through each room, moving furniture slightly to recreate the image that she had held in her mind for so long. Eventually, she was satisfied and she and Jack turned their attention to the garden at the back of the house that lay basking in early evening sunshine.

The dog, young and excited ran out ahead of Meg and started to race around the immaculate piece of lawn. Flowers crowded the edges around its borders, and as in the front garden, the air was filled with a heady and sweet scent. She walked to the little gate set into a hedge and opened and closed it leaving a frustrated Jack on the other side.

“Good boy, Jack. Stay there; this bit is not for dogs”.

He sat down and watched his owner with head cocked to one side. He would not move until she returned. They had been parted for too long for him to allow her out of his sight now.

For Meg this was heaven. Row upon row of fresh vegetables, a small green house where she could see ripened tomatoes hanging from their vines, and an established orchard at the end of the plot, with trees laden with fruit. For a fleeting moment she wondered why so many of the vegetables and fruit seemed out of season, but she put that down to the fact that this part of the country enjoyed a micro-climate that kept it warmer than the average.

Contentedly she retraced her steps and pushed open the gate separating the two gardens and was rewarded with an ecstatic welcome from Jack as he leapt up and licked her face.
After a simple supper, Meg and Jack sat together on the bench at the front of the house and as her hand gently stroked his head, she absorbed the sounds of the evening. In the background the music of the river accompanied the buzz of insects as they collected their final nectar of the day.

Everything was now perfect. The house waited as did Meg and Jack for that final, finishing touch. Jack had been waiting the longest. Meg had missed him so much but there had been no choice under the circumstances. As she stroked his head as it rested on her knee she knew that she had been forgiven for sending him away, but now they would be together always. However, there was someone who was still missing. Meg had no idea when Sam would arrive; all she could do when she had left was to promise that she and Jack would be there to welcome him home.

The evening moved into starlit night and as the moon rose in the sky it seemed as though time had stopped. Jack’s ears suddenly twitched and he nudged Meg’s knee. She turned her head towards the lane leading to the cottage and she stood, moving down the path to open the gate with the collie at her heels. Jack looked up at her as if asking permission.

Meg nodded and he ran ahead barking excitedly and she hurried after him just as a stooped and elderly man came into view. He was walking with a stick but when Jack reached him and jumped up and down in excitement he threw it to one side and went down on one knee to embrace the dog.

Meg slowed and took in the sight of the two beings she loved the most greeting each other. She felt young and giddy just as she had all those years ago when she had first met Sam. Then before her eyes he stood, tall and straight, the years fell away from him and she eagerly fell into his arms and held him as Jack pranced around them in delight.

Eventually, the three of them walked back to the cottage. Meg and Sam hand in hand with Jack walking carefully between them. They turned in the gate and Sam saw their home for the first time.

“I never thought, when you promised to create a place for us all in heaven, that it would be so beautiful”

Smiling, Sam picked his young wife up and carried her over the threshold followed by Jack, tail wagging and barking with encouragement.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy Anthology – Mañana, Mañana.. by Sally Cronin


Just a reminder that whilst I am at the #BloggersBash there will be a short story fest going on over here in my absence.. Details in this post.

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In this story from the collection a woman starts a new life with unexpected results...

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Mañana, Mañana.

The hot sun burnt her already tanned legs and she moved them slightly into the shade of the large umbrella overhead. She felt a small trickle of perspiration slide between her breasts and decided that it was not really that uncomfortable a sensation. In fact, it felt rather sensuous.

She looked out across the summer-bleached grass in front of the small villa and waited, her lower lip caught gently between her teeth. Any minute now, any minute now. Yes, there he was. She released her lip with a sharp intake of breath as he walked out of the water and onto the small patch of white sand at the bottom of the garden. He flicked his head and his long, wet black hair erupted into shining droplets of water in the hot air.

He was breath taking. From his arrogant, hawkish face down to his perfectly proportioned feet, he oozed masculinity. His work in the garden had honed his shoulder and chest muscles into sleek male hardness and her hands waved vaguely in the air in remembrance. His waist was small and his hips flared slightly before plunging into long muscular legs.

As he walked back up the beach towards her, she shook her head in disbelief. Just two months ago she had been sobbing her heart out in the kitchen of her luxury house in Chelmsford. Her husband of twenty years had announced, completely out of the blue, that he had just found someone else. To be honest it turned out he had not just found her, but had been enjoying her dubious company for the last five years.

If it had not been for Marjorie Hamilton, and her puncture, she would never have found out about it and would still be living in blissful ignorance. Well, perhaps blissful was a bit strong a word to use for the rather listless state of their marriage but then again she really had not had anything to compare it to. Until now!

Anyway, back to Marjorie and her puncture. After a trip to the supermarket, and with a laden boot of shopping, one of the rear tyres on her brand new car had suddenly deflated, right in the middle of the high street. Marjorie had got out and having discovered the cause of the sudden tilt to the right began to prepare her “little girl, I’m helpless look” that had worked so well for her in the past. Glancing around, in hopes of finding an available and suitably impressed gentleman, she spied Gregory Davenport at a table in the window of an Indian restaurant. This in itself was not a shocking revelation but the fact that his hand was gently cupping a chin that was definitely not his wife’s, was.

Marjorie was wearing an oiled rain hat and pulling this lower over her forehead she approached obliquely along the wall of the restaurant. Gregory had his back to her and she had a very good view of his companion. Shockingly, she recognised the chin that was being rapturously held by Gregory’s hand. It was Melanie Blake, her own next-door neighbour, a divorcee and supposed best friend to Gregory’s wife Elizabeth.

Marjorie had backed up the high street towards her car where she found a policeman about to write a ticket. In the ensuing pleading, begging and eventual satisfactory tyre change by the rather handsome young officer, Marjorie almost forgot the wonderfully juicy revelation she had been privy to. Almost, but not quite. By dinnertime that night the secret was out and Elizabeth Davenport had received several commiserating telephone calls.

Hence the tears in the kitchen. Gregory was gone, presumably to obtain sympathy from his paramour, now that he had been forcibly ejected from the marital home. Elizabeth had thrown the appallingly dreadful dinner service, that his mother had given them for a wedding present at his head when he had proposed that he have his cake and eat it. She now contemplated the shattered crockery and thought it rather nicely summed up her marriage.

There were some compensations. Her children were both very well adjusted and intelligent girls, at university in their first and second years. They rather flummoxed her by not being surprised at the news and Elizabeth was mortified to think that they had known about their father’s affair and had kept it to themselves. In fact, it appeared that they were not the only ones with prior knowledge, as more and more people rang to commiserate with her and to glean any further gossip that might have slipped through the normal channels.

Something else began to rankle and that was the realisation that up to now, she, Elisabeth, had participated rather vigorously in this community news machine that was now focussed on her, and she did not like it one bit.

She had been the perfect wife, looked after the children and Gregory, always making sure that their needs came first. She had not looked at another man since she had become engaged. Well, perhaps that was an exaggeration. She had looked, but she had certainly not touched. This was her reward and a lonely old age beckoned. She was forty-five years old and on the scrap heap. Well, he was going to have to pay, and first thing in the morning she would be contacting her solicitor.

Elizabeth stretched like a cat in the warm sun as she continued to follow the progress of the Adonis up the beach. There was a small wooden gate that separated the sand from the lawn of her villa. He opened it and suddenly noticed her looking in his direction. The dazzle from his white-toothed smile nearly scorched her already overheated skin.

Following her rather emotional but productive meeting with her solicitor, Elizabeth had rung her cousin Susan. Susan had been through the same life-changing situation two years ago and had been lucky enough to retain a rather basic but lovely holiday villa in the south of Spain. It was on an undeveloped part of the coastline, near a small fishing village with a couple of restaurants and a small grocery shop. There were no golf courses in the area, no tourist attractions and it was a perfect hideaway to retreat to, especially as Gregory would no doubt be desperate to speak to her when he received the first broadside from the lawyers.

It was bit laborious to get to the village but once there, Elizabeth unpacked and took to her bed. The sun-bed! Two months later and here she was, still bedridden, but it was hardly due to grief and desperation.

What her cousin had failed to tell her was that the house came with a sitting tenant. In exchange for gardening and keeping an eye on the villa in its owner’s absence, a young musician called Ramon was ensconced in the spare bedroom.

He had been out on the evening that Elizabeth arrived and so they did not collide until the next morning when they both attempted to shower at the same time. Ramon was only clothed in a very small towel and Elizabeth was just wearing a smile. Fleeing to her bedroom she only had time to hear a wonderfully rich laugh coming from the bathroom before locking her door and throwing herself on the bed and under the covers.

Two days later and they had progressed to verbal intimacy. This had not been easy as Ramon’s English was broken and Elizabeth insisted on speaking her half-remembered school French to him, as that was the only foreign language she had ever tried to learn.

That an understanding was reached was largely due to the chemistry that sprang up between them. Elizabeth felt that she was in a permanent state of shock, with stomach churning, weak-kneed anticipation every time she was near him. He, for some reason, found her fascinating and they would sit closer and closer together as they tried to communicate.

Finally, on the third day, the inevitable happened and for the first time in her life, Elizabeth Davenport visited foreign delights that she never knew existed. If she thought her husband’s affair had been a revelation it was knocked into insignificance by far more explosive forces. Life in England, the divorce and any thoughts of the future were dismissed as she threw herself whole-heartedly into this new and wonderful adventure.

As Ramon approached her across the brown grass, Elizabeth smiled at him and extended her hand towards him. She could see drops of seawater clinging to his oiled brown skin and she knew that it would take several hours to dry him thoroughly.

Elizabeth woke with a start and heard her daughter coming up behind her.

“Mum you’ve let your tea get cold again”. Jane was a good girl and Elizabeth was staying with her while she recovered from a replacement hip operation. Seventy-five years old and they had said that she would have a new lease of life, the new hip good for at least fifteen years. That was a bit optimistic but it she lived to ninety she would not have any complaints.

“Don’t worry darling, I was getting a bit hot and bothered out here in the conservatory and I think a glass of that lovely chilled Cava would be much nicer”.

As Jane went off to the kitchen, Elizabeth closed her eyes briefly to see if she could recapture that wonderful and breath-taking interlude all those years ago. It was gone but she knew that it would come back to her. She was returning to Spain soon, having made an excellent recovery. Back to the villa that she had bought from Susan with some of the proceeds from her divorce.

Of course thirty years on, apartments and hotels surrounded it, but it was still a little oasis with access to the now public beach. It had been lovingly renovated over the years and the garden was absolutely wonderful. Ramon adored growing her flowers and bringing them to her when he came home from the hotel he managed in Marbella. They had never married, but the fifteen years age difference between them had not made the slightest dent in their passion or love for each other.

Elizabeth smiled to herself. Soon she would be lying on her sunbed on the patio watching Ramon come out of the sea and across the sand towards her. Her breath caught in anticipation.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Thank you for dropping by and I hope you enjoyed.. as always your feedback is very welcome. Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy Anthology – Trust by Sally Cronin


Here is another of the stories from my first story collection.. Flights of Fancy.. This time the story of a woman and a dog who come together on a harsh Welsh mountain.

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TRUST

The house was quiet. The men had left a few minutes ago and already she felt alone. The ticking of the grandfather clock in the hall intruded into the silence. Time was passing slowly and each minute felt like an hour.

Claire stared out of the kitchen window at the gathering gloom. It would soon be dark, and she would be unable to see the mountain rising above the house, harsh but fiercely beautiful. It was this mountain that had attracted them last spring, the lower slopes covered in lush grass dotted with the cotton wool white of the ewes and their lambs. The craggy rocks of the mountaintop jutted up into a cloudless, blue sky, like sentries protecting the house beneath them. The building nestled into the hillside. A run-down farm that needed a great deal of work, but it had taken their breath away. The pleasure of the surroundings and the potential of this house, made them smile at each other in shared delight.

Tom’s first novel had been a runaway best seller. At last they could afford to move from their cramped, damp London flat and come back to these Welsh mountains where Tom had been born. He knew that he could write here, creating stories inspired by this stark splendour, and he felt Claire would come to love living here too, as much as he would. Once they had put an offer in on the property, they contacted a local builder. He spent hours with them in the house, discussing the renovations, planning the schedule, so they could move in as soon as possible. They had returned to London, full of excitement and anticipation for what their wonderful future was about to reveal.

Claire turned from the kitchen window and wandered through the now-completed house. They had kept rigidly to the plans. Used the colour schemes that had caused such argument and honoured the compromises they had reached, often after a bottle of rich, red wine. They spent hours moving furniture around; until it sat in just the perfect place. Painted patches on the walls, until they found just the perfect colour.

Tom’s study and the design he chose, was his alone. He had revelled in the planning of where to place his desk for the best light, the muted colour scheme, the lighting and the placement of all the new bookshelves. He would sit for hours in their noisy, cluttered flat, staring out of the tiny window onto the street, and Claire knew that he was hundreds of miles away, looking at a mountain, through his study window.

She now stood in that study and surveyed the completed picture. The bookcases lining the walls, the solid old desk and its comfortable, leather chair. The pictures of the sea hung around the room, favourite scenes from early childhood trips to the Welsh coast with his family. The colour he had chosen for the walls was warm, clean buttermilk. Dark blue curtains at the large window and upholstery on the sofa at the far end of the room complimented the rich, stained wood flooring. It was exactly as he had planned it, down to the last detail. Tom had simple tastes and this was reflected in the room. Claire had to be content with planning the rest of the house to fit her more flamboyant tastes. How he had loved working in his study for the last two months, preparing his latest novel for publication. How she, in turn, had loved knowing that he was in that room, a touch or gentle call away. Despite their shared anticipation of the completed project, they had not thought they could be this delighted with their new home.

She picked up the blue crystal paperweight she had given him last Christmas. As she felt the cold heaviness in her hand, the tears started to fall, unchecked down her cheeks. Tom would never be in this room again. He would never read those books that lined the walls, and never walk the mountain slopes again he loved so much. All it had taken was one mistake on a wet road. He had been late and in a hurry to get home. Had known she was waiting for him to take her out for their anniversary dinner. One mistake, one hour late, one tentative knock on the front door. She had opened it full of anticipation, to find a pair of young and concerned policemen standing quietly on her doorstep. Now she sat in Tom’s chair, crying softly and alone.

The dog lay behind the broken, stone wall on the slope above the house. Nose resting on front paws, he watched the open back door, waiting. Every evening for the last week, the woman had put down a bowl of food for him and returned inside. She knew that the stray, neglected collie would come no further than the wall, and would not come at all if she stayed, waiting for him. He sniffed the air, trying to catch the scents which normally came from the house. Tonight there was no warm smell of cooking, no gentle tap of heels on the stone floor of the kitchen.

The light began to fade; he was hungry and had become used to this welcome food each evening. He had ceased to scavenge from dustbins in the local town, much more interested in the woman’s food. But now he was puzzled. He had grown accustomed to her gentle voice calling to him, a voice that stirred memories of another time, another woman. Memories of a warm fireplace with food and companionship as gentle fingers ruffled his shiny coat. As the dark closed around him, he at last stood and moved from behind the wall.

No lights shone in the house, but the open door and the food he knew to be inside, beckoned him. Nervously, he approached the building. He was used to people who lived in houses. He had been kicked and shouted at more than once in the early days of his lonely existence, before he learned fear and distrust. But, with an instinct buried deep inside his matted chest, he knew this house was different, perhaps it was the similarity to his old home, or the gentle presence of the woman inside.

There was still no sign of the woman as the dog entered the kitchen. He stood, nose in the air, seeking for his familiar bowl of food. Then he heard a soft sound coming from deeper in the dark house. Something in the sound drew him across the stone floor and out into the hallway. Ears pricked, he turned towards the noise and padded down the passage. He peered through an open doorway, alert to any danger, poised for flight. The woman sat by the window holding a stone-like object in her hands.  He tensed, remembering past pain. She stared into the night, making soft sobbing noises, noises he had remembered his mistress making when she was sad, needing him, needing to place a soft arm around his neck and hold him close. He moved towards the woman and stood for a moment as if making a decision.

His tail wagged slightly in a long forgotten attempt at communication, and slowly he inched forward until he was standing at Claire’s side. He gently pushed his long nose under her arm and rested his head on her lap. A hand moved, creeping upwards to gently fondle the soft ears. An arm slipped around his neck and he looked up into her face.

Through her tears, Claire smiled down at the shaggy head. She felt the warmth of his coat spread slowly upward from her hand to the rest of her body. Her grief was there like a sharp pain in her chest, but she was no longer alone. Soon she would feed him and groom his matted coat, but for now this was enough.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Thank you for dropping by and hope you have enjoyed the story. Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – Flights of Fancy Anthology – Curtains by Sally Cronin


As I work away in the background I thought I would leave you some more of the stories from Flights of Fancy which was my first short story collection.. For those of you who have read before, I promise to post one of the new stories in a week or so to prove I have been writing and not fooling around.. Here is Curtains… a story of young love in World War I that had to survive separation and tragedy.

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Curtains by Sally Cronin

The curtains at the small window fluttered in the slight afternoon breeze. The doctor has told me to rest, so here I am, tucked up under the pink eiderdown, a cup of tea cooling on the bedside cabinet.

I am not ill; I have just been overdoing it a bit lately. There has been a great deal of excitement in the family, my great grandson has just got married, and I was not going to miss out on something like that. After all, I had my reputation to uphold, as the fashion doyenne of the family. Much had been made of my emerald green suit with extravagant, black, straw hat. I had heard their comments ‘Trust Sarah to stand out in a crowd’ and ‘Doesn’t she look marvellous for her age’.

No, I was definitely not going to miss the opportunity to show that there was life in the old girl yet. It was a bit depressing really, as although I am nearly ninety, I still feel like a young girl inside. I often sit and remember the old days when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Those pre-war years were so much fun. The first war had been dreadful, taking away so many young men, that those who were left behind felt the need to live life to the full. It was almost as if we knew that the good times could not last. A premonition, that was to be fulfilled far too soon in our young lives.

I must admit that it is rather cosy, lying here under the cover, letting my mind wander. The curtains dancing at the window in their silly way are quite hypnotic. If I close my eyes, they seem to change colour from pale green to a pretty, flowery pattern, very similar to the first pair that hung at the same windows over sixty-five years ago.

‘Sarah, Sarah.’ I could hear my mother’s voice calling to me up the stairs. ‘Hurry up, your cousin will be arriving at the station soon, stop admiring yourself in the mirror and come down here.’

‘I’m coming mother.’ I called down, and with a quick adjustment to my saucy new, feathered hat, and a quick admiring glance in the mirror, I raced down the stairs in a very unladylike fashion.

My mother stood in the hall, her white apron gleaming in the dim light; sleeves rolled up and flour dusting her arms. I smiled; she always managed to get a white patch of flour on the end of her nose whenever she baked.

‘Sarah, how many times have I told you to act like a lady?’ She paused, mystified as to how she had produced someone as clumsy as me. ‘You are too old to be galloping around like a carthorse, try and behave with a little more decorum please.’

From my vastly superior height, I leant down and planted a kiss on her cheek.
‘Sorry mother, I’m going right now, have we got some of your special cake for tea?’

‘Food, food, food, don’t you ever think of anything else, you will end up fat and no one will want you.’

I laughed and opened the front door, and when I reached the little white gate, I turned and waved at my mother, standing in the cottage doorway. She lifted her hand and smiled, she looked so beautiful that I raced back and gave her a hug.

‘Oh Sarah,’ she laughed, ‘get along with you.’

I ran back down the path and crossed the village square to the small railway station. I arrived just as the train was pulling in, and as I reached the platform, the train doors started to open. Not many people were getting off at our village and I excitedly scanned all the faces as they appeared. Suddenly I saw Peter, my cousin, in his smart new uniform and I ran down the platform and was swept into his arms.

‘Peter, it’s so lovely to see you, and you look so handsome.’ He hugged me tightly and breathlessly I looked over his shoulder and up into a pair of twinkling blue eyes.

‘Do I get one of those too?’ A deep voice with a soft Irish brogue said.

I blushed furiously, and disentangled myself from my cousin’s arms.

‘Sarah, I hope that your mother won’t mind, but I have brought a friend of mine from the camp for tea?’ Peter smiled.

‘This is Patrick, Patrick meet my scatter-brained cousin, Sarah.’

For some reason, as soon as Patrick took my hand, I started to tremble. I was never usually at a loss for words, but right now, I couldn’t think of one single thing to say. He just kept smiling, holding my hand and looking down at me from his great height.

I came back to the present with a little start. I realised that I was breathless; the memory of our first meeting had exactly the same effect on me now, as it had then. I felt quite light-headed and as I looked at the curtains, they seemed to change colour again to a deep rich blue.

It was my wedding night and I lay in the big bed, staring at the new dark blue curtains, made by my mother in honour of the new status of my childhood bedroom, as bridal chamber. As I lay waiting for Patrick, I tried to calm my nerves by going back over this wonderful, exciting day. My beautiful dress, the simple service in the small village church and the reception at the hall in the square. Wartime had almost been forgotten, as dashing young men in uniform twirled the pretty village girls around the dance floor.

There was no time for a honeymoon, as Patrick had to re-join his unit tomorrow. My mother and father had gone to stay with an aunt and uncle for the night, and now we were alone together. I sensed movement by the bedroom door and I realised that Patrick was standing there watching me. He had removed his shirt and as I looked at his finely muscled, strong body, I shivered.

‘Are you afraid little Sarah?’ he said softly. I nodded; I could feel the trembling of my knees beneath the covers. ‘I love you Sarah, and I want tonight to be very special for you, something for you to look back on when I leave tomorrow.’

I reached up and touched his bare arm. With my other hand, I drew back the covers and without another word, he slipped off the rest of his clothes and lay down beside me. I felt his arms go around me, he kissed my lips softly and then with more urgency. His passion enveloped me and I felt myself responding with sensations running through my body that I had never known existed. Those feelings took over, blocking out my fear. As his hands caressed me, the girl disappeared leaving a woman deeply in love.

In the morning, I lay with my head on his shoulder. The window was open and the curtains moved gently back and forth across the opening. I sighed happily and felt Patrick stir beside me. We made love again, gently, slowly, only too aware that our time together was running out. I tried desperately to put the thought of his leaving out of my mind, but a cold fear of what the future might hold in store for us began to grow inside me.

The next time we lay together in our bed it was winter, and the curtains were drawn to shut out the cold, grim day outside. Patrick had been wounded and had come home from hospital the week before. He had changed so much in the year he had been away, his blue eyes were pain filled and he had lost a great deal of weight. He would lie upstairs in our bed for hours, recovering in body, but something was terribly wrong. He would smile occasionally, and accept everything that my mother and I did for him quietly and gratefully, but as if we were strangers. At night, we would lie in bed, not touching and if I reached out my hand to him, he would gently draw away and turn over silently to face the wall.

I felt devastated, as if I had been wounded too. I didn’t know what to say or do and I finally turned to my mother for help.

‘Be patient Sarah, give him time,’ she said softly. ‘We don’t know what he has been through, apart from being wounded; he must have seen some dreadful things in the last year. Keep loving him and let him know you care.’

This particular morning, I rose quietly, knowing he would only be dozing. I went downstairs and met mother coming out of the kitchen.

‘There’s an official letter for Patrick,’ she looked at me worriedly. ‘I do hope that they don’t want him back yet, he’s just not ready.’

I walked slowly up the stairs and opened the bedroom door. Patrick turned his head towards me and saw the letter in my hand. He held out his own and I gave him the envelope but I could not bear the suspense, and I left the room and stood with my back to the door on the landing. There was a moment of silence and then I heard great, tearing sobs coming from inside the room. I couldn’t bear the strain any longer and I flung open the door and threw myself on the bed beside him. I put my arms around him and held him tightly. The sounds that he made were terrible, I could feel his hot tears on my skin and I cried with him. I caught my breath as I felt his arms take mine and put them by my side and the next thing I knew, I was crushed against him and this time it was his arms that brought comfort.

‘Sarah, darling Sarah,’ he said haltingly. ‘I don’t have to go back; I don’t have to leave you again.’

We talked a great deal that morning. It was not fear for himself, that had caused him to be so distant, only the feeling that if he didn’t touch me, love me, share things with me, it would be easier for me when he left again. He couldn’t bear the thought of leaving me with a child, knowing as he now did, that there was a distinct possibility that he might never return. As we talked all that fear was swept away and when we hesitantly made love, I felt that he had finally come home.

The blue curtains fade away, to be replaced by a bright, cheerful pair. The bedroom had been redecorated and in the corner stood a crib. I lay in bed listening to the gentle snuffling noises, which filled the room, and I had never felt so happy in my life. I heard Patrick coming up the stairs and open the door. I turned and smiled at him.

‘You’re awake then,’ he said softly. ‘Is she awake too?’

I looked at the crib that held our daughter Elizabeth. ‘Not yet, but as soon as she gets hungry, we will all know about it.’

‘Sarah, I have something to say to you.’ I looked at him and saw the bleakness in his eyes.
‘I have to go back.’ He gripped my hand tightly in his. ‘My regiment is going to be returning to France in the next few weeks and I need to go with them. They say that in the next few months we could end this war and they need every trained man they can find.’

I stared at him, hoping that this was all a bad dream.

He gently placed his finger across my lips before I could speak.

‘I have been so happy this last year, now that I have you and the baby everything is complete and I can’t bear the thought of leaving you, but please try to understand.’

The tears poured down my cheeks and I realised that I was back in the present again. The sights and sounds of the past faded away and the gentle knock on the door reminded me that I was not alone. I rubbed my wet face with a tissue.

‘Come in,’ I called, trying to control my quivering voice. My daughter Elizabeth stood in the doorway.

‘It’s four o’clock mum,’ she said. ‘I thought you might like another cup of tea before I go home.’

She looked at me carefully. ‘You still look very tired mum, are you sure you’re feeling alright, would you like me to call the doctor back again?’

‘No darling, I’m fine, just a little tired, that’s all,’ I smiled reassuringly. ‘It was all the excitement of the wedding on Saturday, it’s not every day that you see your great grandson walk up the aisle, and I must have overdone it a bit.’

Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed and took my hand in hers.

‘Actually, I was having a lovely dream,’ I looked up into her youthful looking face. ‘It’s hard to believe that it is over sixty years since your father was killed. I so wish that you could have known him.’

It is night now and Elizabeth has gone home with the promise of returning first thing in the morning. My companion, Betty has been in with a lovely cup of cocoa and gone to bed, as tired with the last few days’ activities as I was.

The window is open slightly and the curtains drawn back to reveal a clear, starry sky. I feel so tired, but somehow content, my eyelids drop and then I hear his voice as clearly, as if it was yesterday. His soft gentle tones came from the end of my bed. My eyes open suddenly; I am trembling and excited, my heart pounding in my chest.

He is there, in his uniform, looking so handsome and as strong as ever. He is smiling and his arms are outstretched towards me.

‘Sarah, darling, I’ve come to take you home with me; I have been waiting for such a long time.’

I flew into his arms, feeling them close around me. I felt so young, so alive and so safe.

Together we walked towards the window, and the fluttering floral curtains of my youth.
I took a last, long look at our bedroom and in the bed, I saw an old woman. Her eyes were closed and she was lying very still. On her face was the most beautiful smile I had ever seen.

©sallycronin Flights of Fancy 2009

Thank you very much for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed the story.. Sally

Flights of Fancy Anthology Serialisation – Getting Away with Murder – Sally Cronin


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When I asked for requests for a book of mine to share on the blog, Flights of Fancy my first short story collection came second. The stories were written at some point in the last twenty years.. This is the first in the collection.

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, and 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 did not 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 and 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 or 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 and shout about how unfair it all was, and 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 warmth and sweet comfort would overcome me and 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, and that I never touched anything fattening like the chocolate or cream cakes that I now shared with this woman daily. I started buying 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 that were 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 could not 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 would not 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 would not 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 defences, 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, as 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 and 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 and 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

Thanks for stopping by and always grateful for your feedback and your support by sharing the post.  Sally