Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Prince Charming by Sally Cronin


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories from time to time… I hope you will enjoy..

Today I am  sharing a story  from the What’s in the Name? collection about a beautiful princess being married off to the the most eligible bachelor available, much to her dismay!

Prince Charming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Feb 07, 2021 Mae Clair rated it five stars

This is an entertaining collection of short stories with several poems scattered throughout. The book is grouped into topics such as Technology, Animal Magic, and Connections (to name a few) with stories and poems related to their header topics appearing underneath. It’s cleverly presented and cleverly written. All of the stories are winners but there were some that really stood out for me, including The Weekly Shopping, The Nanny, The Scratch Card, and The Night Shift.

In The Weekly Shopping we get a taste of what ordering groceries might be like with when we come to rely too much on technology. It’s both hilariously funny and worrisome at the same time. I loved the argument related to the cat!

In The Nanny, a young couple discover who is watching over their baby at night. The Scratch Card left me with a lump in my throat at the generosity of others, and The Night Shift made me appreciate the special love pets have for their owners and the kindness of those who appreciate that bond.

These stories are heartwarming and touching, with scattered poetry further enriching the sections. A lovely collection and a quick read, the stories will lodge in your heart and linger.

Read the reviews and buy the collection: Amazon UK – And : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2021

Smorgasbord Christmas Archives -What’s in Name? – Kenneth – A Love for Life by Sally Cronin


I am going to be sharing some of my short stories over the next week as I take a short break from blogging. I intend to catch up on my reading and reviewing but I will be in and out to respond to comments and check on things…Happy Holidays.

Kenneth – A Love for Life

Kenneth Fitzgerald looked across the crowded ballroom at the woman that he had loved for a lifetime.

Georgina was surrounded by attentive male admirers, and was holding court as she always did, with elegance and grace. He watched as she tilted her head to one side to listen to the young man sitting next to her, cupping her hand delicately behind her ear, to better hear his comments over the sound of the band.

The handsome companion was her grandson Timothy, and even at first glance you could see the resemblance; the same blue eyes, golden hair colour and a long refined nose. Georgie was 90 years old and yet her beauty was undiminished. Kenneth knew he was biased. He remembered his stunned reaction to meeting her for the first time over 70 years ago, in this same ballroom on New Year’s Eve 1935.

Georgina Crowley was the daughter of a millionaire financier who had managed to survive the Wall Street crash in 1929, by converting his wealth in previous years, into a renowned art collection. Malcolm Crowley was an astute businessman and had never squandered his money on the trappings of wealth. He had also salted away cash and jewellery on his various international travels, providing a comfortable buffer for the family, and those that had worked for him loyally over the last thirty years.

He was as canny with his three children as he was with his wealth. His two sons had followed him into the firm after studying for business degrees, and Georgina had also been encouraged to go to college, where she was now training to be a teacher. Malcolm firmly believed that all his children should have skills that could support them, should the financial climate not improve significantly in his lifetime. That is not to say that his youngest child did not also enjoy the benefits of being part of a wealthy family. Georgina was known to have exquisite taste, and her slim figure was the perfect shape to model the latest fashions. To be fair, many of the designs were copied from the leading fashion magazines, and recreated on her treasured Singer sewing machine

Kenneth brought himself back to the present and felt his heart pounding in his chest. It was the same every year, when he remembered that first New Year’s Eve, when he had fallen madly in love at first sight with Georgina Crowley. It had not been a one-sided infatuation, and at that first touch of her delicate hand in his own, he had felt a tremor that caused him to look up into her face. Her pink lips had parted in surprise and her smile dazzled him.

They had danced all night circling the floor; perfectly matched in their love of the foxtrot and quickstep. The other party goers had moved to one side to watch this golden couple as they seamlessly moved from one dance to another, and Malcolm Crowley paused in his discussions with a group of men, to watch his daughter’s delight in this young man’s embrace.

Kenneth had wanted to kiss those pink lips at midnight but was aware of the scrutiny from those around them. He had whispered in Georgina’s ear as they waltzed to the final tune of the old year.

‘Shall we slip away at midnight and find some moon and starlight?’

She had looked into his eyes and smiled, nodding her head in agreement.

As the clock struck midnight, Georgina rushed to her parents at their table and kissed and hugged them both. In the ensuing rush as the other guests did likewise, the two of them had slipped out of the large double doors at the end of the ballroom and Kenneth had guided her to his car parked along the drive. He grabbed a blanket from the back seat of the roadster and placed it around Georgina’s shoulders before helping her into the front seat. He raced around to the other side of the car and within minutes they were roaring down the hill from the house into the dark night.

Kenneth drove carefully as the road was slick with ice and he was aware that he was responsible for a very precious cargo. Although it was a cold night he knew just the place to take Georgina on this magical occasion. A spot high above the city, where the lights and sounds of New Year’s Eve would provide a backdrop for their first kiss.

He looked across at Georgina as she clasped the plaid blanket around her bare shoulders, and smiled at her obvious delight at this adventure. His eyes were only off the road for seconds, but it was still long enough for him to miss the broken down car around a curve in the road.

He regained consciousness and raised his hand to his forehead; it came away wet and sticky. He wiped blood from his eyes and tried to move his body. Finally he was able to push himself into a sitting position against the upturned roadster and he desperately looked for Georgina. The moon came out from behind a cloud and he took a sharp intake of breath as he saw her crumpled form by the rear bumper of the car. He crawled across and managed to pull her crushed and lifeless body into his arms… his heart was pounding in his chest and he tried to wake her by touching her face and calling her name. After several minutes he rested his head back against the car and he knew that she was gone.

‘Please, please do not take her … it is my fault and it should be me… take me… please take me and save her.’

On New Year’s Day, Georgie asked her youngest grandson to drive her to the cemetery. She came here often to visit her husband’s grave. Phillip had been a wonderful man and she had grown to love him during the long summer of 1942. They had twin sons born in 1944 but tragically Phillip had been killed in the last weeks of the war. He had been brought home and buried in the Crowley family plot close by her house and their sons. She still missed his loving kindness. However, she admitted to herself that it was a different kind of love to the one that has swept her off her feet that magical New Year’s Eve in 1935.

Whilst her grandson watched from the car, Georgina spent some minutes at Phillip’s monument. Then walking carefully, leaning on her stick, she moved down the icy path until she stopped before another gravestone. Tears gathered in her pale blue eyes as she read the inscription.

Kenneth Fitzgerald

Beloved son and brother.

1910 – 1935 Killed in an automobile accident.

It was 70 years ago, and yet every New Year’s Day, Georgie relived those dreadful first moments when she had woken in the hospital. She had a dreadful headache but thankfully didn’t seem to have any other major injuries. Her mother and father were sitting by her bedside and Malcolm gently took her hand in his. Her first words were asking for Kenneth, and she still remembered the look of anguish on her father’s face as he braced himself to tell her the news.

She touched the top of the headstone and smiled to herself. He had been there again last night at the family ball, watching from the shadows as he had done every year, and she had felt that same giddy feeling as that first New Year’s Eve. She suspected that this time however it was more likely that her medication was no longer effective in keeping her failing heart beating.

She felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up into the smiling face of her grandson.

‘Time to go Gran… It is getting cold and I need to get you back home.’

Georgie took his arm and they moved carefully up the path. She turned for one last look at Kenneth’s grave.

She whispered to herself. ‘Next year my love, next year we will dance again on New Year’s Eve.’

©Sally Cronin

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the early reviews for the book

Jane Sturgeon 5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully warm and loving collection of stories and poems… Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 December 2020

I loved Cronin’s latest collection of stories and poems woven around life, love, loss, kindness, companionship, furry buddies and connections to spirit. She writes tales where we can all find glimpses of ourselves and the mixture that life offers. DNA brought tears to my eyes, as did The Wedding Day and The Date is delightful. The Duchess poem is a loving tribute, as is the Garden Birds. The Weekly Shopping List is a salutary tale. To create this wonderful warm collection given all that has transpired this year is a triumph and another bright feather in Cronin’s loving and richly decorated author’s hat.

Available for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

 

Smorgasbord Christmas Archives – What’s in a Name? – Grace – The Gift by Sally Cronin


I am going to be sharing some of my short stories over the next week as I take a short break from blogging. I intend to catch up on my reading and reviewing but I will be in and out to respond to comments and check on things…Happy Holidays.

There are names that have been passed down through thousands of years which have powerful and deep-rooted meaning to their bearers. Other names have been adopted from other languages, cultures and from the big screen. They all have one thing in common. They are with us from birth until the grave and they are how we are known to everyone that we meet. This story is slightly out of season but I hope you don’t mind.

Grace – The Gift

It was Grace’s fifth birthday and the staff at the council run orphanage had made sure that there was an iced cake for tea and some small wrapped presents beside the plastic yellow plate. The children sat at tables for ten boys and ten girls, and meal times were expected to be conducted in silence. This rule was however broken on birthdays, when all fifty children would stand up and sing Happy Birthday enthusiastically in the hopes of receiving a thin slice of the oblong sponge cake.

Grace sat in silence as the noise erupted around her and gently fingered the blue and white wrapping paper on the nearest present to her. From the shape she could see that it was a book. It would not be new; a hand me down from one of the older children. Still, in this home of abandoned children, a gift was always treasured. A tear rolled down her flushed cheeks and slid into the corners of her mouth. She wiped them away hurriedly; being a cry baby was frowned upon. Gratefulness for the charity that put a roof over your head and food on the table in front of you was drummed into the children from a very early age.

The energetic rendering of the song ended and there was a scrapping of wooden chair legs as all fifty children sat down at once. Silence resumed as slices of bread and butter were grabbed and placed onto plates with well-scrubbed hands. There were four small dishes of jam around each table and the youngest children would wait their turn knowing that receiving a small spoonful would be an unusual bonus. One of the serving ladies, a local girl called Alice, took away the oblong iced sponge cake to be cut into thin slices. After Grace had been served one of the pieces; the large platter moved around the dining hall watched eagerly by fifty pairs of eyes.

Picking at the cake with trembling fingers, Grace managed to eat a few morsels before a coughing fit overtook her. The matron came across and slapped the child firmly on her back and offered her the beaker of diluted orange juice.

‘Come on girl, buck up,’ the stout grey-haired woman looked down at her sternly. ‘There is many a child here who would be delighted to have these treats’

Grace tried her best to smile knowing that being labelled ungrateful brought consequences and having been disciplined twice recently she was in no hurry to repeat the experience. It was not seen as cruelty, to stand a child in a corner for an hour at a time, or to send them to bed without even this meagre supper. Grace had felt the pangs of hunger more than once since her best friend Hope had left the orphanage.

The thought of her friend waving goodbye as she had left in her smart new tartan coat, made Grace catch her breath. To stop herself crying she pinched her arm as hard as possible. She hoped that Hope had not forgotten her now that she had a real mummy and daddy. The two girls had been brought to the orphanage within days of each other at only six weeks old in the winter of 1953; as toddlers they had become inseparable. They were so very different that no-one could mistake them for sisters. Grace had straight red hair that frizzed at the slightest dampness and freckles sprinkled her nose and cheeks. She grew rapidly into a gangly five year old whilst Hope, with her curly blonde hair and blue eyes, remained petite and doll-like.

It was always hoped that the babies who arrived at the orphanage would be adopted into a good home. Although there had been some interest initially, by the time the two girls reached four years old it was becoming more and more unlikely that this would happen.

However, a few months ago a couple had arrived and immediately taken to Hope and started the proceedings to adopt her. The two small girls had known nothing but this regimented environment, and never imagined that one day they might be separated so devastatingly.

The matron rang the large brass bell on her table. The children stood ready to file out to the games room for an hour before bedtime at seven o’clock. Grace trailed behind the other girls from her table clasping her three gifts; as yet unopened. As the older boys played with some wooden toys in the corner, some of the smaller children clustered around Grace and begged her to open the presents. As expected there was a dog-eared picture book of fairy stories which was passed around and admired. One of the other packages contained a small packet of sherbet sweets that were eagerly sampled, and in the third was a woollen scarf in a bright red colour. Grateful for its warmth, Grace wrapped around her neck and sat until bedtime looking at the pictures in her new book.

Grace had barely eaten since her birthday, and the head teacher at the primary school in the village, had rung matron to say that the child was becoming more and more withdrawn. Although strict and somewhat fierce looking, the matron was not an intentionally unkind woman and she called in the doctor from the local surgery.

He was a gruff looking man with a shaggy mane of greying hair. The children adored him because he always arrived with pockets filled with boiled sweets. He sat on the edge of Grace’s bed and having examined her carefully, he took her little hand in his.

‘Well little Grace what a pickle we are in,’ he smiled down at the solemn child. ‘It is nearly Christmas, and you will miss all the fun if you don’t start eating soon as you will have to stay in bed.’

The child turned her head away and whispered into her pillow. ‘I only want Hope to come back home for Christmas.’

The doctor returned downstairs and met with matron behind the closed door of her office.

Reluctantly at his request she made a phone call and proceeded to have a lengthy discussion with the person on the end of the line.

Having left instructions that Grace was to be fed every two to three hours with some chicken broth and a little toast and jelly if she would eat it, Doctor Baxter left to continue his rounds. He promised to return on Christmas Eve in three days to see how the patient was doing and also to carry out his annual duties as Father Christmas at the children’s party.

Grace did sip a little of the broth and nibbled at the toast, and three days later she was carried downstairs and sat on a chair near to the Christmas tree. The children had made all the decorations, and what they might have lacked in expertise, they had made up for in bright colours and glitter. Fairy lights flickered through the branches of the tree that had been donated by the villagers, along with a present for every child, in a sack placed by a big red arm chair. The presents were to be distributed before they would sit down to unusually overflowing platefuls of sandwiches, jelly and and as a very special treat, Christmas cake. The boys and girls were not sure what they were looking forward to most.

Hearing tyres on the gravel of the drive the children rushed to the windows of the dining hall and started clutching each other in excitement. Santa Claus sat in the back of a large open topped black car, and when the vehicle stopped; he opened the door and stepped out to wave to them all. They were so focused on his progress as he walked to the front door that the three other passengers in the vehicle went unnoticed.

Ten minutes later Santa was sat in his large comfortable chair. The children came up one by one to sit on his knee, and were given a present wrapped in festive paper, tied with either a blue or pink ribbon. Grace watched the proceedings quietly on the side lines until there was just one present left. Alice put down the jug of juice that she was serving to the children, and came over, picking Grace up and depositing her gently on Santa’s lap. The white faced child glanced up into a pair of twinkling eyes that looked vaguely familiar, but it was difficult to tell who was behind the big white bushy beard.

He leant down and whispered in her ear. ‘I hear that you would like something very special for Christmas, is that right little girl?’ he winked at her. ‘I hope that I’ve brought you what you wished for.’

At that moment Grace’s eyes were drawn to three people who had suddenly appeared at Santa’s shoulder. For a moment she froze in place, then pushing herself off his knee, she wrapped her arms around the small blonde girl standing in front of a smiling man and woman.

The two girls remained huddled in each other’s arms sobbing uncontrollably until the woman knelt down beside them and wiped their faces with a clean white handkerchief. Satisfied that she had managed to stop the flood of tears, she reached out and took each of their hands in her own.

‘Hope has missed you dreadfully Grace and we have heard so much about you,’ she smiled at the bewildered Grace. ‘We were all hoping that you would like to come and live with us too; as Hope’s sister.’

An hour later the group of adults watched as the two girls sat side by side at a table. They were talking non-stop except when selecting and eating another sandwich or a piece of cake. Even matron could not hold back a smile at the change in Grace now that she was reunited with her soul mate. As for Santa, he scratched his face behind the itchy beard and wished that he could capture this moment for ever.

Happy Christmas Grace…

© Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

My latest short story collection is Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet.

About the collection

Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.

The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.

Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.

One of the early reviews for the book

Dec 12, 2020 D.G. Kaye rated it Five Stars

I was eagerly looking forward to Sally Cronin’s latest book of short stories that take us in and to other places and time. And although each story is individual to itself, as with all of Cronin’s stories, they share a common theme – kindness, humility and the human condition.

Cronin writes stories about everyday humans, situations, love, loss, courage and hope. Several of the stories end or begin with an accompanying poem which reflects on the tone of the story. The author has an innate gift for syllabic poetry – especially the Cinquain.

I love the title of this book because, as it implies, such as in life we enjoy the sweet moments, but must also endure the bitter sometimes in life. The book reads like an anthology, encompassing stories that warm our hearts, as well as a few surprise stories with a futuristic edge – that may not really be so far in the future.

Just a sampling of a few of my favorites in this book are:

The Weekly Shopping – The first of the stories to grab our attention where Barbara encounters what many of us feel nowadays – Big Brother watching our every move. But how far is far enough?

Winning Streak – “They say you can’t buy happiness, but you will be surprised by the power of a fiver in the hands of the right people.” This poem alludes to two of Cronin’s stories about luck, below.

The Scratch Card – following circumstances after Elsie Thompson wins $20 on a scratch card, and we discover how much those meager winnings hugely touch a few people’s lives as ‘pay it forward’ progresses.

The Charity Shop – have you ever had the good fortune to find a sweet cheap deal in a charity shop? Find out what Mary Jane picked up for a ‘fiver’ and how it changed many other lives.

The Date – Elsie Windsor buys a raffle ticket, hoping to win the tin of biscuits and wins a lot more than she could even imagine. At age 95, Elsie is not too old to feel young again.

Friday Night – An empowering little tale about Lizzie who learns her value and takes back her power.

Gaffer Tape – More Karma, and a bit of sweet deserved revenge when Jennifer has taken back her power and teaches her husband a well-needed lesson.

The Florist – It’s never too late for dreams to come true, even when you think love has passed you by.

Sally Cronin is known for her books that go straight to the heart, so if you enjoy feel good stories for a lift, you will surely enjoy this latest book of heartfelt stories.

Available for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

You can find out about my other books and their most recent reviews: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

 

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


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

Vanessa – In a Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hello, is anyone there?’

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

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

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


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

Theresa – The Checkout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She shrugged his hand off and took a deep breath.

‘She doesn’t like me.’

‘Who doesn’t like you?’

‘The woman in that checkout.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

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


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

Sonia – In search of Prince Charming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

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Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Rosemary – The First Date by Sally Cronin


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

Rosemary – The First Date

Rosemary viewed her face in the mirror. She sighed as she observed the crow’s feet at the corner of her eyes. They said it was a sign of character and a sunny personality; crease lines from a life of laughter. That could be said to be true of most of the last twenty-five years of marriage to Malcolm. Rarely did a day go by that he had not teased her into a smile or offered up a pun that made her laugh despite the corniness.

It was not just the laughter that they had shared, but passions for theatre, the cinema, books and exotic foods. There was so little that they disagreed about over the years. Rosemary struggled to remember any real arguments that had intruded into the happiness that wrapped around them like a comforting blanket.

They had travelled far and wide across all the continents taking advantage of his generous salary and the occasional business trips that she accompanied him on. The scents and sights of Africa and India had thrilled them as they held hands and watched glorious sunsets. The rugged terrain of Alaska and the Rockies had tested their stamina and the deep blue colour of the Pacific Ocean had beguiled them. A storehouse of experiences all accompanied by love and laughter and a sense that it would last forever. They had never had children unfortunately, but Malcolm claimed to be happy to just have her all to himself.

But suddenly all that love and laughter was gone and the years together faded into wisps of elusive memory as each day passed. Those friends that she had confided in about her grief and emptiness had offered advice and support for the last six months. They all assured her that was time to face the future head on. She needed to accept that she could not wallow in this self-pity and denial any longer.

She had laughed to herself when she first saw the website that Molly had pointed out to her one morning as they shared coffee in the village just after Christmas. An online dating agency that proudly boasted a near perfect record of finding your soul mate; that one person meant just for you. Molly had been on the site for nearly a year and she had certainly pushed the boundaries of those claims to the limit; she had kept their small circle of mutual friends very entertained with her experiences.

She had brought up the site on her laptop and Rosemary had sat beside her, browsing the various enticements offered by the men posting. Her eye had been immediately drawn to one post that Molly had marked. She read the words to herself, and then again aloud to fully understand what she was seeing. She had believed for so long that Malcolm was the one and only perfect match for her that she was shocked and intrigued at the same time.

Single, tall, fun loving and handsome 55 years old seeks long term relationship with attractive female 30 – 45 years old. Must have a good sense of humour, enjoy the theatre, cinema, fine dining and travelling to exotic locations. Located in London but willing to travel to meet. Box Number 1596

She had looked over at Molly to share her amazement and found her staring down at her hands cupped around the coffee cup.

‘Is something the matter Molly?’ Rosemary was unused to Molly being subdued and quiet.

Slowly Molly looked up from her cappuccino and smiled fondly at her friend.

‘I was going to meet this guy for dinner but changed my mind when I saw him sitting at the table in the restaurant,” she paused and looked through the cafe window as if trying to choose her words carefully. “I know how much you still love Malcolm, but I think that it is time that you faced the reality of your situation and look to the future.’

Molly tapped the advertisement on the screen with her immaculately manicured nail. ‘You need to arrange to meet this man and confront your fear of losing everything you have treasured from the past.’

The two women parted company outside the cafe and Rosemary drove home to the empty house that she had shared with Malcolm for so many years. It was far too big for the two of them especially when he was away on business trips alone, leaving her for several weeks at a time. She had hoped at one point to fill the rooms with children’s laughter, but somehow it was never the right time for one reason or another.

Rosemary knew that Molly was right. She could no longer hide away from life; she needed to face the future whatever it held. She rang her friend’s mobile number and asked her to come over the next morning to help her upload a profile to the site to enable her to respond to the advertisement.

So here she was, getting ready for her first date in over twenty-five years with a man called Andrew. When her own profile had been activated, she had replied to the box number in his advertisement and over the next week they had exchanged a number of emails via the site. Although he was eager to know more about her, Rosemary had been reticent to offer her personal email address, or too much information until she met him face to face.

She had changed her mind several times about what to wear for this first encounter, finally deciding to wear a new dress she had bought on a whim a few weeks ago. Malcolm had always insisted she looked perfect in pastel colours and this daring emerald green number would have certainly provoked some comment. She had also been to a new hairdresser this morning and requested a radical new look. Gone was the long brunette hair that Malcolm said suited her best; in its stead was a sleek blonde shoulder length bob.

Finally she stood in front of the long mirror in their bedroom and viewed the transformation. Rosemary took several moments to get used to the new image and then smiled as she decided that she liked it. Picking up a colourful floral scarf to put around her shoulders and grabbing her handbag, she walked down to the kitchen to order a taxi.

She deliberately arrived at the restaurant fifteen minutes early and was shown to a discreet table in the corner. Rosemary could not remember when she had been this nervous and sipped the water provided by the waiter when he left the two menus. She kept glancing at the door of the restaurant apprehensively. She knew that Andrew would have to ask directions to the table as he would not recognise her, particularly in the dimly lit room. On the table to the right of her place setting was a bulky envelope. Andrew in one of his recent emails had suggested that she might bring some photographs of the places that she had visited on her trips and that he would do likewise. A talking point to break the ice.

Closing her eyes she took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves. When she opened them again she saw a tall, good looking man standing in the entrance to the dining area. He managed to get the attention of one of the waiters who then pointed out Rosemary sitting in the corner table. He walked confidently across with a warm smile on his face until he stood in front of her. Andrew looked into her eyes and he gasped.

‘Hello Malcolm.’ Rosemary attempted to keep the quiver out of her voice. ‘I see that you are not at the New York head office after all this week. Please sit down as we have a great deal to talk about.’

Taken aback by his usually complacent wife’s new look and the rigid set of her mouth, he complied ungraciously; flinging his coat on the back of one of the chairs. She pushed the envelope across the table towards him and as his fingers closed over the bulky package she smiled sadly.

‘Perhaps we should start by discussing these divorce papers.’

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

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Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Owen – Face to Face by Sally Cronin


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

Owen – Face to Face by Sally Cronin

The old woman sat in the armchair in the dark. There was no need for light as she was blind. The disease had slowly eroded her vision, and then on a day when sun streamed through the open curtains; she lost sight of all that she loved.

She could hear her daughter Mary; clattering around in the kitchen preparing the tea tray with the best cups and a fresh baked chocolate sponge. The day had finally arrived when she would meet her great-grandson Owen. Her oldest daughter had gone to Australia forty years ago and she and her family lived in Sydney. Jennifer had returned a number of times to the UK, and on the last visit five years ago, she had brought a photograph of the youngest member of the family, four year old Owen, which was put in a silver frame on the mantelpiece.

Her eyesight was deteriorating at that time but she had managed to trace the lines of his dear little face with her fingers and smiled at the resemblance to her late husband Cliff. That same quirky grin and sparkling blue eyes that brought back such bittersweet memories.

Even though she could no longer see the photograph, the image remained in her mind and on winter days when the wind howled about the house, she imagined him on the beach near his home building sand castles.

The doorbell chimed and she listened as her daughter raced to the front door. There was laughter and exclamations of welcome and she imagined the crowded hall filled with her family. She tensed in the chair and held her breath as the door to the sitting room was flung open and she heard the click of the light switch.

‘Mum, they’re here,’ Mary announced excitedly.

She felt movement close to her and a faint smell of chocolate as a small warm hand clasped her own. She breathed out and smiled as she turned in towards the warmth of the cheek against her skin.

‘Hello Granny, I’m Owen,’ the strong young voice declared.

‘How do you do Owen,’ tears bathed her sightless eyes. ‘I have waited so long to meet you in person.’

Gently Owen took her hands, placing them side by side on his forehead. As she felt the springy curls under her fingers; small hands guided her palms down and across her great-grandson’s face.

She laughed as she touched the widely spaced eye-brows, the gentle swell of eyelids with the fluttering of their lashes. Beneath her fingers she traced the contours of the boy’s nose and recognised the shape as one belonging to Cliff. She continued down over the full lips and cupped the slightly squared chin in her left hand whilst placing her right over his beating heart.

The boy laughed delightedly and she smiled at the sound.

‘Now you have seen me in 3D Granny… do you recognise me?’

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

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Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Martha – The System Administrator by Sally Cronin


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

Martha – The System Administrator

Jennifer stood in the middle of the lift and stared at her black leather pumps. She noticed a scuff on the left side of the toe of the right shoe, realising that she had kicked the full waste basket a little harder than she thought at the time. She was weary and unusually tearful. It had been a tough week all round with particularly hard advertising revenue to achieve, but it had ended on the sourest note of all.

She managed a team of fifty telephone sales canvassers who sold high end car and luxury property advertising for the national online paper she worked for. These days both those markets were tough going. It seemed that people were hanging onto high ticket items waiting for a rise in demand for both.

However, her boss who lived in his ivory tower of an office on the top floor of the building; still insisted on increasing her targets for revenue on a monthly basis, dismissive about the state of the market. Despite creative campaigns and offers, she was finding it more and more difficult to satisfy his demands.

Her guys worked their socks off and she knew that they did so for their generous salaries and commission. She also knew that they did their very best to achieve the targets that she asked of them, even though they might groan when she wrote them on their sales board in the office. When they hit their daily and weekly revenues, they always included her in their trip to the pub for a celebratory pint, and on tough days, most would stay late to pick up an extra car or property advert to make up the numbers.

The doors to the lift opened and she wearily made her way across the cement floor to where her company car was parked. She had to admit that she could not complain about her hybrid Turing which was a perk given to sales managers once they had been in the job for five years or longer. She had inherited the vehicle from one of the senior executives when he retired a month ago and she loved all its special add on features and programming. At this very moment it was about the only thing about the job apart from her team that she did love.

She saw that the car was already idling and that there was the faint sound of music coming from the open passenger side window. She smiled and knew that the day was just about to get a little better. She touched the keypad in her hand and the boot lid opened so she could store her briefcase away. She went around to the driver’s side and slid into the leather seat and rested her head back against the comforting upholstery.

‘Bad day love?’ The calming tones of the other occupant of the car made her open her eyes.

‘The worst Martha, the worst.’ Jennifer reached across and turned the music down a notch. ‘Beaumont came into the office before everyone left, and gave us his usual Friday afternoon lecture about how we were not achieving our targets, and that the team were obviously neither motivated nor managed well enough to do the job.’

She paused as her eyes welled up with more tears and sat silently for a moment. ‘He then turned to me and told me to be in his office first thing Monday morning and then stormed out.’

As she bit her lip, she felt warm lightly scented air move across her face and body calming her down. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose before pushing the buttons on her pathfinder to take them home.

As the car exited the underground garage she checked right and left before nudging the accelerator to join the line of traffic headed in the direction out of the city. She switched the car to auto but kept her hands lightly on the wheel.

‘That was most unfair of him Jennifer and very unprofessional,’ Martha spoke quietly in her ear. ‘That is a deliberate tactic to make you worry all weekend about your job and your team’s security, and my advice is to put it out of your mind completely however hard that might be.’

‘I know Martha,’ Jennifer kept an eye on the busy Friday evening traffic at the same time as acknowledging the truth of her companion’s words.

‘This car and your unexpected friendship are about the only thing keeping me in the job at the moment,’ she smiled ruefully. ‘Of course that is not entirely true, I love my team and I can’t bear the thought of them being left in the hands of that narcissistic jumped up jerk.’

‘I may have done something that should help.’

Without taking her eyes off the road, Jennifer stiffened with surprise. Martha would never do anything against the rules; she was by nature very rigid and predictable and this was a complete shock.

‘What are you talking about Martha, what have you done?’

There was a moment’s pause. ‘As system administrator, I have access to the emails sent throughout the company, and I read Beaumont’s this morning. I found several from the chairman of the board of directors insisting that he had to cut at least £200,000 from this year’s staff budget.’

Shocked and now even more worried, Jennifer gripped the steering wheel; despite having no need to except in an emergency. ‘Oh no Martha, if they find out they will terminate you.’

Martha continued. ‘Well actually I am afraid I did a little more than that.’

‘Oh my friend that is so dangerous. I don’t want anything to happen to you because of my problems.’

‘Don’t worry; Beaumont will be in no position to do anything to me or to you and your team by Monday morning.’

This was serious, and seeing a gap in the parked cars to her left, Jennifer indicated and pulled in. Now she could focus on what her friend was saying.

‘Tell me everything Martha and don’t leave anything out.’

‘I replied to the chairman’s emails on Beaumont’s behalf after he left this evening, resigning effective immediately. His reasoning being that he is paid £250,000 per year plus various benefits that amounted to over £400,000. He stated that this would prevent any need for a staffing reduction for the next two years, enabling the market to improve and also current sales targets to remain in place. He also recommended that you become Sales Director with a salary increase and that you be given the freedom to manage your team as you see fit to achieve those targets.’

Jennifer found it difficult to take this all in and was absolutely speechless that this mild mannered entity, who only wished everyone well, should have come up with such a Machiavellian plan.

‘But Martha, they will simply refuse to accept his resignation and worse still they might investigate his email and find out you tampered with it.’

‘Jennifer I designed the system and know how to cover my tracks very well. I also took out a little insurance policy that will encourage the board to accept his resignation without question.’

This was now becoming surreal and Jennifer shook her head from side to side in amazement.

‘I’m waiting Martha…don’t keep me in suspense.’

‘I checked Beaumont’s personal text messages on his company phone and discovered that he has been having an affair with the head of human resources; who is also married incidentally. Unfortunately one of those texts will arrive on the Chairman’s phone by the time he gets his first cup of coffee on his desk on Monday. A scandal at the moment is the last thing the company needs; Beaumont’s resignation will be seen as a blessing.

Jennifer was finding it very difficult to get her head around this seemingly well thought out solution to her dilemma, but then realised that it was already underway, and nothing that she could do at this point could change that.

Making sure that she was clear to join the decreasing traffic out of the city she instructed the car to indicate and proceed homeward. She rested her hands lightly on the steering wheel as it made necessary slight adjustments.

‘Please say you are not angry with me.’ Martha sounded contrite and Jennifer took a deep breath. ‘No, I am not angry with you Martha, although you have overstepped the bounds of your job specification. I know it was done because you’re my friend.’ She paused and tried to be as clear as possible.

‘You must never put yourself in danger of termination like this again. Please promise me that they will never discover how involved you have become with me and my team. We rely on your essential assistance to help us achieve those major targets week after week.’

As the car entered the drive to Jennifer’s home, and before she switched off the ignition she waited for a response. ‘I promise Jennifer.’

The front door opened and her husband stood in the doorway framed by the light from the hall. Jennifer retrieved her briefcase from the back of the car and walked into his comforting embrace.

‘How was your day love, did you end the week better than it started.’ James looked down at his wife.

She smiled at him and they wandered arm and arm into the kitchen where a delicious aroma filled the air.

‘You are not going to believe this, but you know that our system administrator is the latest A.I. technology called Martha… well it seems that she is a little more intelligent than we expected!

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

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Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Norman – An Old Soldier by Sally Cronin


In a senior moment I scheduled two stories to go out today… Norman was clearly impatient instead of waiting until tomorrow…Ah well… I hope you don’t mind….

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

Norman – An Old Soldier

Norman carried his plate carefully across to the gingham covered table under the window, setting it down next to his cup of tea that had been as carefully transported a few minutes before. He could not walk without his stick and had to adapt his routine to fit around this inconvenience. He steadied himself on the back of the wooden chair and deposited his walking aid up against the window sill. He turned himself around and sat down heavily with a sigh of relief.

He assaulted the still steaming cup of tea with four spoons of sugar and smiled wryly at the silence that accompanied this act of rebellion. If Ruby had been sitting opposite him there would have been hell to pay. He closed his eyes and willed the disobedient tear to cease its descent down his cheek. He sniffed and reached for the butter.

His flat was in an anonymous looking block on a small estate that had been built in the 1990s. He had moved here begrudgingly from their little terrace house that had been home for fifty years. The council were going to knock the late Victorian homes down and make way for a modern housing project. As a widower without any living family, he did not qualify for one of the new three-bedroomed semi-detached houses. They had moved his bits of furniture and treasured belongings to the flat, but the money that they paid him for the compulsory purchase of the house was still sitting in a bank account untouched.

He managed his simple needs on his state and army pension, only glancing briefly at the monthly statements that showed a steadily increasing balance, before throwing them in a drawer in the sideboard.

There had been an effort by his previous neighbours to fight the compulsory purchase. He had watched the protests in the street dispassionately, ignoring the knocks on his door from those soliciting his support. Ruby had only just died and a part of him had as well. He had been numb at the time and also strangely voiceless, but he had looked upon the resultant pay out as blood money. As he looked around the small room that had never seen a visitor, he realised how much he had relied on Ruby and the community spirit in his old neighbourhood.

Norman’s flat was on the second floor of the building and thankfully the lift was in operation most of the time. He couldn’t manage the one flight of stairs now even with the stick; resenting this as evidence of his further decline. During the day the building had always been reasonably quiet and he barely noticed the passing of the hours. That is until he would hear the sound of the children returning from school and diving straight into the playground at the front of the flats. He usually opened his windows and sat with a cup of tea, enjoying their shrieks and laughter. It reminded him of his own dead son when he was that age; long before he joined the army and went to Iraq.

Recently however there had been new sounds and they drowned out the childish laughter. Teenagers from a neighbouring estate were prowling the stairwells and communal areas of the blocks nearest to them, but away from family and possible consequences in their own neighbourhood. His own block had taken on a seedy and unwholesome appearance with evidence of night-time drinking and drug taking on the landings and underground garage.

The local residence association had contacted the police and there had been a begrudging response which included one or two more cars patrolling at night, but no arrests were made. The council representative had said that they were powerless to provide security with cutbacks to essential services already.

The residents now rarely went out at night unless absolutely essential; locking their doors and windows and turning their televisions up louder to cover the noises of anarchy on their doorstep. Children no longer played on the swings as aggressive teenagers took over the playground in the central area as a gathering point in the afternoons, jobless and bored. Graffiti began to spread across the walls of the ground floor and up the stairs; Norman shook his head at the hatred and violence it depicted. He had never felt so powerless in his life.

It was Wednesday and Norman always went down to the legion for a pint and bite of lunch. It was his only interaction with others during the week, except for the cashiers at the local supermarket. He laid out his suit on the bed and found a shirt that was crisply ironed. He would wear his regimental tie today and give his black shoes an extra polish. He needed to look his best for what lay ahead.

An hour later he made his way through the swing doors of the legion and walked past the walls covered with photographs of those who had served and passed away. One day his image would join them and younger men would mentally salute him as they walked into the bar. But he was not there yet, and grasping his stick firmly, he straightened his back and walked briskly through the tables of men talking quietly in this place that linked them to their years of service. Some looked up and said… ‘Morning Sergeant Major.’

He acknowledged them silently with a nod.

‘Atten… Shun’

At the barked command thirty pairs of eyes swivelled to the front of the room and automatically several stood to attention. As Norman’s stern gaze descended on the other men, they too stood to join their comrades.

‘You have all served your country bravely, but now you, like me sit silently by and watch as an enemy infiltrates our way of life. The people we fought for are under attack and barricaded into their homes afraid to breathe in the fresh air and walk unmolested.’

Several men nodded and Norman could read their body language as he had thousands of soldiers before. They too had lost their purpose and it was time to give them their pride back.

Later that afternoon the children arrived home from school and were ushered straight into their flats on the different levels of the apartment block. A few stray elderly residents also made their way back from shopping and packed into the lifts that would distribute them over several floors. The block was preparing for the daily invasion of the gang.

They were not disappointed, and as the warm sun hit the playground it began to fill with the dross from the neighbouring estate, laughing and throwing their rubbish on the ground. When dusk fell they would start working their way through the block with their spray paints and drug paraphernalia; turning this community into a no go area for decent people.

Suddenly one the group caught sight of movement coming from the direction of the main road. He shushed his mates and one by one they went silent. They watched as an old man walking with a stick marched up the street with determination. He was followed by at least thirty men in rows, also marching in time. They wore suits and looked proudly to the front where their leader preceded them. Some of the youths began pointing and laughing but a tall, older boy told them to be quiet.

The marching men arrived in front of the block of flats and turned sharply to face the playground. Norman took three steps closer and placed both his hands over the head of his stick. He looked to his right as two large vans marked with the name of an industrial cleaning company pulled up to the kerb.

He turned and addressed the youths now waiting expectantly and looking at each other in stunned silence.

‘These men behind me have fought in wars around the world and are all trained killers. They will now be patrolling our estate day and night in teams of three and have orders to treat any they find defacing the walls, using drugs or threatening the residents as terrorists, which is what you are.’

Norman paused and behind him he heard the snap of boots on the road surface as a number of the men took three steps forward and stood with their arms folded menacingly.

Sergeant Major Norman Smith pointed at the two vans. ‘These contractors will now clean the graffiti off the walls and remove your filth from the stairs and hallways. You will now pick up all your rubbish you have dropped and put it into the bins provided. You will then leave this estate and not return again. These men behind me are just a handful of those at my disposal and any ideas you might have of bringing reinforcements to assist you will be met with severe repercussions.’

The youth who the others followed, looked at the old man and smiled slightly as he shook his head. He pointed to the others to pick up their discarded cartons and soda bottles, which they did reluctantly. He glared at some and gave others a sharp word. He knew there were other soft targets out there. Perhaps not as convenient to his estate, but this one was no longer worth the hassle. Hoods up and hands in pockets, the youths turned and began to saunter nonchalantly out of the far exit of the playground.

As they did so Norman heard doors begin to open on the sunlit walkways behind him and voices as people tried to find out what was going on. He glanced behind him as the cleaning crews began unloading equipment from the back of the vans. He had finally found something to use that blood money for in a way that he could live with.

Applause broke out on the walkways, and as the last of the youths sauntered off down the road, a mother ventured out of the safety of the building holding her two children’s hands. They broke away from her and raced into the playground shouting and laughing.

Soon others left the surrounding blocks and came to speak to Norman and their new protectors. As he watched the exchanges between the former soldiers and the liberated residents he saw how they carried themselves now with pride and purpose.

It was good to be back on the front line again.

©Sally Cronin 2015

I hope that you have enjoyed this story and as always look forward to your feedback. Thanks Sally

You can find recent reviews for my latest release and other books: Sally’s books and reviews 2019/2020

Amazon £3.50 :Amazon UK

Amazon US $4.53Amazon US