Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? Zoe – Looking to the Future 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.

Zoe – Looking to the Future

Madame Zoe looked at the screen in front of her and watched the teenage girl in the waiting room. She was her next client and looked nervous; as many did who came to consult the renowned fortune teller, in her little oasis in the back streets of the town.

These few minutes observing her next client were important before meeting them for the first time. Were they nervous, excited, and worried? That gave her some clues as to what direction their consultation might go. Added to the extensive report that her assistant Marjorie had compiled, this allowed Madame Zoe to tailor her reading to each specific client needs with outstanding results.

For example the young woman waiting for her fortune and fate to be revealed was called Sandra Johnson, and was twenty years old. She worked at a solicitor’s office in the main street, and was currently in a relationship with a young mechanic called Steve. Unfortunately this union of three years was going through a tough patch, as Steve had been fooling around with Tracy; one of Sandra’s closest friends.

Since her 18th birthday, the girl had been trying to find her birth mother. Unfortunately, it would appear that the official agency were finding it difficult to track her down, to get consent to reveal her whereabouts, to her long lost daughter. All that the girl had to go on was her mother’s name, which was Linda Watkins, and that she had been 16 years old at the time of her birth. Sandra had been adopted very soon after this and was brought up by her new parents in a village a few miles away. Seemingly this had been a very happy arrangement, but unfortunately her adoptive mother had died recently; obviously caused much sadness. And probably prompting Sandra’s search for her birth mother.

Madame Zoe adjusted her turban and creamed her hands with Shea butter; one of her little indulgences. When you are holding the hands of others, in an attempt to read their futures, it was important that your own looked their best. Sandra had booked a half-hour appointment. This length of time warranted the assistance of the crystal ball, currently residing on its gold trestle beneath a blue silk square.

What the client would not be able to see however, was the discreet screen resting on Madame Zoe’s knees, with all the relevant information that she needed to provide a satisfying and remarkable experience for this young woman.

At the tinkle of the bell over the inner door, Marjorie, who had been wafting incense across the waiting room, crossed over to Sandra and offered her hand. The girl stood and looked around nervously, as if about to bolt for the street door, but at Marjorie’s insistence she followed her through into the inner sanctum. There she was invited to take the chair across from Madame Zoe, whose hands stretched across the blue velvet cloth, palms upward in welcome.

‘Hello my dear,’ the gentle and soothing tones caused Sandra to straighten up in her chair. Zoe extended her well-buttered hand; taking the girl’s thin and cold palm in hers.

‘I understand that you seek some answers to very important questions today, but I would like to spend a few minutes sharing the thoughts and feelings that I am receiving from you.’ She paused for effect and waited for the girl to respond.

‘Okay, if you feel that is what we should do first.’ Sandra was visibly shaking, and for just a moment, the fortune teller felt a smidgeon of remorse for the scam she was pulling. But business was business and she had her reputation for accuracy to uphold.

‘My dear, I feel that you are going through a difficult time in your love life, and I see the letter S seems to be on your mind. Do you know someone with a name that begins with S?’

Sandra gasped and nodded her head in bemused agreement.

‘Sadly, I feel that this person has behaved very badly, and that the relationship has come to an end. Would I be right about that?’

Again the girl nodded and Zoe smiled sweetly as she stroked the back of her hand.

For a moment or two Madame Zoe stared intently into Sandra’s palm and then groaned theatrically.

‘Ah, yes I see that you have been betrayed by a friend whose name begins with a J… No wait… I am wrong it is a T.

There was a satisfying gasp at the mention of the letter T and it was clear that there was another relationship that was over.

‘I also feel that you work in a place that might be involved in legal matters,’ she held up one finger of her free hand to prevent any interruption.

‘Perhaps a police station, no don’t tell me… I think it might be a solicitor’s office, am I correct?’

By this time Sandra was hooked and it was now time to reveal most important element of today’s reading.

Claiming back her hand from the girl, Zoe lifted the blue silk square to reveal the glass orb beneath. Sandra’s eyes were riveted on this piece of fortune telling magic that she had been told about by some of her girlfriends. They had assured her that Madame Zoe seemed to have a window into their lives and had seen many things that they had only confided in to friends. They had assured her they always left their appointments safe in the knowledge that love would find them, and fortune was theirs for the taking..

After a few minutes of silence as Madame Zoe sought to pad out the half hour, she raised a solemn face to stare into the wide-eyed Sandra’s face.

Now confident that she had the girls complete attention, she delivered her next question in a fateful tone.

‘My dear child, I sense that you seek another, who is not a man but a family member long lost to you.’ You could have heard a pin drop. She continued.

‘There is someone from your past that you have barely met, but you are desperate to reconnect to.’ Both of her hands cradled the crystal ball in front of her as she searched its depths.

‘You look for your mother.’ With that Sandra clasped a hand over her mouth; tears filling her eyes. Absolutely stunned she stared at the exotic creature in front of her.

‘I have her name on the tip of my tongue… Now let me see it begins with an L…Yes that’s right, her name is Linda, is that correct my dear? Sandra nodded eagerly and waited with bated breath for the next pronouncement.

‘I see that this woman has changed her surname more than once, and I see her living in Manchester, in a house with the number 15.’

With this Madame Zoe appeared to go into a trance. Sandra looked on in concern as she desperately waited for the woman to resume her revelations. She was about to interrupt, but Zoe raised her hand in a gesture to remain silent.

Sandra couldn’t see that the mystic in front of her was consulting her hidden screen; waiting while Marjorie typed further information into the computer behind the reception desk.

Finally the silence was broken and with a smile of relief, Madame Zoe announced with a flourish.

‘Your mother’s surname is Baxter and she is looking forward to meeting you very much.’ With that she collapsed against the back of the chair, and smiling weakly at her now very emotional client, waved her away from the table.

Sandra didn’t know whether to hug or kiss this strange looking, all-seeing woman, but sensing that it would be unwelcome, she retreated through the door into the reception area. Marjorie was waiting behind the desk and while Sandra wiped her eyes and composed herself, the assistant prepared the bill for this momentous session.

Without looking at the cost, which was nearly a week’s wages, Sandra handed over her credit card and gratefully tapped in her pin number.

‘Please thank Madame Zoe for me, she is amazing, and I will pass on her information to all my friends… Thank you, thank you.’ With that the smiling girl opened the door to the shop and headed off into her future.

After making sure that Sandra had gone, Marjorie locked the door and put the closed sign up for lunch and headed back into the consulting room. There she found Zoe divested of both turban and wig with her feet up on one of the velvet chairs.

‘Well done Marjorie… all that Facebook chit chat between her and her mates was gold dust, but that was a stroke of genius hacking into the adoption agency. What a coincidence that the girl’s mother had been in touch after their letters finally reached her. The girl should get their message informing her of her mother’s name and address tomorrow and that will really seal the deal.’

Marjorie put two plates down on the table and settled herself into the vacated client’s chair. ‘It will soon be time to put our charges up Mum,’ she smiled across the table as she helped herself to a ham and cheese sandwich.

‘Once the word gets around on Facebook about this latest prediction we are going to be overrun… Tenerife here we come.’

‘Her mother laughed and then shook her head… No… I don’t think so pet… I see Hawaii in our futures.’

©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

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Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Yves – Be careful what you wish for! 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.

Yves – Be careful what you wish for!

Yves Bertrand spoke English impeccably with a sexy French accent. When romancing a beautiful woman he used anything and everything in his arsenal. He was now in his late thirties, and had spent the last twenty years acquiring an encyclopedic knowledge of the trivia of the world. The vast majority of middle-aged women that he honoured with his attention were delighted at his acerbic wit and ability to name the world’s most influential fashion designers. Not to mention his knowledge of the latest season’s ‘must have’ shoes and handbags.

The majority of the women were divorcees or widows with time on their hands and money in their accounts. Their generosity had financed his activities and allowed him to buy a spectacular villa in the Greek islands. Along with a substantial amount tucked away in off shore accounts, Yves had sufficient to fund his early retirement; which he had decided would be at the age of forty.

With only a year to go before his income would be reliant on bank interest rates; Yves decided that this summer on the French Riviera would have to be exceptionally profitable. He consulted with the various concierges of the top hotels who were on his payroll. It was money well spent and within days, Yves received a coded text message to his burner phone, indicating that there was a big fish ready to be reeled in.

A lesser man would have felt guilty about the methods used to part vulnerable older women from their cash, but Yves believed in giving value for money and his conquests seldom went away without happy memories. He had to admit however that it was becoming more difficult to play the role of amorous partner without some form of enhancement, and there were days when he wished he might retire sooner than the end of the season.

He received this particular text from the concierge at a luxuriously appointed hotel owned by a Saudi Prince, newly opened and a magnet for this season’s divorcees. The penthouse suite had been rented for a month by a mysterious guest who would be occupying the opulent accommodations on her own. This was indeed promising and Yves selected his most recent acquisition from his wardrobe; congratulating himself on his foresight in buying the expensive but eye-catching dinner jacket. An hour later and dressed to kill, Yves walked casually into the hotel’s garden restaurant and slipped the manager a suitably high valued bank note. He was whisked elegantly between the tables and the guests dipping into their caviar and duck breasts, and was seated at a table opposite a woman eating alone.

Surreptitiously, Yves peered over and around his menu at his target. She was stunning he had to admit. In her mid-forties perhaps; but possibly a little older. He would need to inspect her skin more closely to find the tell-tale signs of any cosmetic surgery. Long dark hair cascaded around her shoulders and her lightly tanned arms rested gently on the table in front of her. A waiter arrived and placed a covered plate in front of the attractive diner, and with a flourish, lifted the lid to reveal a whole lobster with a salad garnish. Delicately the woman picked up her fork and began to eat the white and succulent flesh. Yves found it very seductive and smiled to himself. Perhaps this summer was going to be more enjoyable than he had anticipated.

At that moment the woman looked up from her lobster and stared right back at Yves with stunningly green eyes, penetrating deep into his soul. He fought against the wave of desire that swept through him with devastating effect. But he was already lost, and for the first time in his life, Yves Bertrand was in love with someone other than himself.

As a waiter hovered at his shoulder to take his order, the woman lifted her hand and beckoned Yves across to join her. He rose from his chair and arriving by her side, picked up the elegantly outstretched hand, kissing the jasmine scented skin at the base of the wrist. The woman smiled at him knowingly and he pulled out the chair beside her and sat down.

He barely remembered ordering the same dish as his new conquest. He was too busy thanking his lucky stars that this last summer was going to be the most delectable of his professional career.

Three weeks later as Yves and Christina lay side by side in the palatial king-sized bed in her suite, he reflected on his good fortune. He turned his head to watch her as she slept, exhausted by his amorous skills of last night. He smiled to himself and began formulating his new plan in his head. He had discovered that Christina was the 45 year old widow of a multi-billionaire who had collapsed suddenly at the age of seventy on the golf course. Although there had been three other wives and numerous children, he had left his newly acquired wife over fifty million along with a wonderful home in Monaco. She had been devastated to lose this wonderful man after only eighteen months of marriage and she had sobbed in Yves arms as she recounted her unspeakable loss on the second night of their acquaintance.

Yves in turn had admitted to owning a stunning villa in Greece. He still felt unwilling to admit to the magnitude of his bank holdings, but hinted at a generous income from a family trust fund. This had reassured Christina that she was in the company of a man of substance; unlike some of the admirers she had encountered in the last few months. She had relaxed into a sensual and delightful relationship that she hoped would last longer than the original month she had planned on staying.

Two days before her departure back to Monaco, Yves asked Christina a question that he had sworn would not pass his lips. Her acceptance, accompanied by tears and a substantial amount of kissing, elevated his emotions to previously unimagined heights. A hurried wedding was planned, and it was decided that Christina would sell her Monaco home and they would live in the villa in Greece, until such time as they could buy a more opulent property together.

Yves could not believe his good fortune. Not only had he found a beautiful companion for his retirement, but she was bringing with her a fortune that far outstripped his own few millions.

The sun shone as the two of them left the registry office with their witnesses trailing behind. Two passing tourists had been well paid for their services and had been only too happy to accept the invitation. The jubilant couple returned to the hotel and picked up Christina’s several pieces of luggage. Within hours they were on their way to Greece and the love nest that waited for them.

Yves new wife suggested that it might be prudent for her to make a will to ensure that there be no challenge from her step-children should the unthinkable happen to her, and a local lawyer complied with her wishes. The document, leaving everything to Yves was signed and witnessed and placed in the safe of the villa. Yves at this point felt that he should of course reciprocate and detailed all his various bank accounts in his own will, leaving everything to his beautiful wife. She was grateful for his consideration, and told him how happy she was that they were so fortunate to have found each other.

The next six months were spent in blissful indolence and even the thought of selling the villa and buying another was temporarily shelved. They loved their home’s cool marble interior and the sloping garden that went down to the beach and sunlit sea. Their happiness was complete.

Then out of the blue tragedy struck. Yves was enjoying his morning swim a few hundred feet from the beach, when he felt a gripping pain in his chest and found himself unable to breathe. He lifted his hand to try and get the attention of Christina as she sat on the sand reading a book waiting for him to finish his swim. For a moment before he slipped beneath the waves, he thought he saw her smile and lift her hand to wave at him, but those images, like his last breath, were gone within seconds.

A year later when all the paperwork had been completed, Christina sat at the table on the terrace where she and Yves had enjoyed their breakfasts in the sunshine. In a metal waste bin sat a neat stack of shredded paper. Striking a match, Christina dropped it into the pile, watching it catch light. As she observed her old life go up in flames, she stroked the file of new documents in her name that gave her ownership of the villa, and the small fortune in the off shore bank accounts.

She had been down to her last 100,000 dollars when she had booked that hotel suite. But with her looks beginning to fade she knew this was probably the last summer of her professional career. There had been no husband, just a succession of much older men that she had nursed in the last years of their lives. Some had been more than generous in their wills to their devoted nurse; little knowing that their end had been hastened by rejuvenating potions. Over the years she would find new victims by spending the summer in one of the less expensive hotels along this stretch of the coast, but dining at the more luxurious accommodations. Like Yves she had paid the concierges well for their information. Most knew of Yves and his activities and suspected that he had earned substantially on the basis of their information. They also rather resented his success with the ladies and they were looking forward to him receiving some of his own medicine. And at the end of the day, a beautiful woman’s money bought a little more loyalty than his.

However, Christina regretted that the handsome and attentive Yves had to pay the ultimate price for their love. But she could not afford for him to find out that her house in Monaco and her fifty million was fictitious. He had begun to suggest that they sell this villa and go to live in tax exile in Monaco. The final nail in his coffin was his announcement two days before he died, that he had booked flights leaving in a week so that they could check out properties.

She could remain in this beautiful villa now, living in luxury for the rest of her life. She would miss Yves but knew that there were plenty of young men who would find her mature beauty alluring and possibly lucrative. She might have retired from her professional life as a nurse and murderer, but there was plenty of scope for some innocent fun.

©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

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


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

Xenia – Beloved

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

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

But one summer only my father made the journey, to stay just a week to bury his beloved mother, with her silver backed hair brush and a small bottle of almond oil resting in her hands.
That was ten years ago and I have been saving up her name to give to you, my first child.

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

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

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

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

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

My two beloved Xenias…..

©Sally Cronin 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 $4.53: Amazon US

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


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

Walter – Lost and Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©sally cronin

©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

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


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

Usher – Taking things for granted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Surprise.’

©Sally Cronin 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 $4.53: Amazon US

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Patrick – Love in a Time of War 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.

Patrick – Love in a Time of War

The first time Patrick Walsh saw her, was as he wended his way slowly down the hill between the slow moving trucks on his motorbike. The road was lined with women and old men who were handing out hastily cut sandwiches and mugs of tea to the men in the trucks, whose outstretched hands gratefully received these simple acts of kindness. It was clear from the their faces that they found the peaceful summer skies overhead, and clamour of women’s voices, a much needed reminder of home and safety.

He knew where they had come from, as for the last six days he had been flying over them as they had scrambled into small boats to be ferried out to the larger naval vessels waiting to take them to safety. He and his squadron had been a part of the massive air defence operation over the coast of Northern France. Thousands of soldiers had been pouring off the beaches having gathered over the last few days from the surrounding countryside; exposed and being attacked by superior German forces.

On the last run today his spitfire had received a direct hit to the cockpit from a persistent Messerschmitt Me 109; luckily missing his head by inches apart from a cut over his eye, earning him a few hours respite. His plane would be ready to fly first thing in the morning. The ground crews at all fighter squadrons were working around the clock to get pilots back in the air until the evacuation from the French coast was complete.

As he carefully maneuvered between the trucks he responded to the shouts from the men above him with a small wave. He knew that their good natured jibes were aimed at his uniform and the wings that it displayed, and that their friendly ribbing was their way of showing gratitude. He decided that it would be easier to wait until the convoy had passed to continue into the village square. He dismounted, standing by the hedge to watch the villagers as they persisted in their need to comfort these dispirited men with tea and offerings of food.

She stood out from the crowd of women. Tall with long red hair tied back with an emerald green ribbon, she was dressed in overalls and wore heavy boots. She had a natural elegance as she darted between an older woman, holding a tea tray piled with jam sandwiches, and the trucks. Despite the men’s exhaustion, eager hands grasped the food, winking and flirting with the prettiest thing they had seen for a long while.

Patrick leaned back against the saddle of his bike and let himself enjoy this brief moment of humanity that was so rare today. He had been flying since the first weeks of the war and his squadron had suffered huge losses; particularly in the last few weeks as they had provided air cover for the retreating British forces.

They had been warned that far worse was to come as the enemy amassed both fighters and bombers for an all-out offensive on the country. Having already lost many friends, Patrick knew that it was only a matter of time before he became a statistic.

Some of his fellow pilots and aircrew decided that they would live as hard as they fought. There were plenty of pretty girls around the station that were delighted to dance the night away and bring some laughter and sometimes love into the young men’s lives. He had seen the results of these whirlwind romances at the Saturday night dance in the village hall. As the airmen arrived in an ever changing group of young men, expectant faces would be watching the door and it was not unusual to see a girl being led away in tears by her friends.

Patrick loved to dance but gently refused the invitations to take to the floor and over the last few months he had become regarded as something of a misery. His friends gave up on their attempts to persuade him that he should live for the moment, and with a wry smile he listened to the chat up lines that were guaranteed to pull the heartstrings of a pretty girl.

But now as he watched the red head flying back and forth and smiling up at the men in the trucks, he felt an overwhelming urge to hold her in his arms and waltz around a dance floor. He shook his head and reminded himself that it would only lead to heartbreak for her, and he couldn’t bear the thought of those beautiful green eyes filling with tears.

An hour later the last truck in the convoy disappeared through the village square and out of sight. There would be more coming through from the coast, and Patrick watched as the crowd of villagers gathered up their cups and trays and disappeared back into their homes. They would prepare more from their meagre rations for the next wave of returning soldiers and be waiting for them by the roadside. He remained by the hedge until the red headed girl had linked arms with her mother and entered her house before riding down to the square.

‘Patrick, are you awake my friend?’ The voice of his Polish friend Jakub intruded into his daydream about dancing with his stunning red head.

‘Just about, do you want to go to the Black Swan for a beer? He sat up and rested his head in his hands and tried to bring his mind back to reality.

He looked around the Nissen hut that was their home, taking in the four empty cots that waited for the new arrivals. They would be mostly teenagers with only a few hours flying solo, and none of them in combat. He was only twenty-four, but he felt like an old man compared to the fresh faced and eager boys that would come through that door tomorrow.

It was now August and the skies were filled with formations of enemy bombers most nights. His plane was grounded again having the undercarriage repaired after a problem on his last landing. His mechanic said he had the ‘luck of the Irish’. Patrick was well aware that he was now one of only a handful of pilots remaining from the original group a year ago; he knew that his luck was bound to run out sooner or later.

There was just one thing that he needed tonight, and that was the sight of Red, and she would be helping out her dad behind the bar at the Black Swan.

Two hours later he and Jakub sat quietly at a corner table with their glasses of beer. One beer was the limit as both of them would be back in the skies tomorrow; a cockpit was no place for lack of concentration.

Jakub was married and expecting his first child and was happy to sit quietly in the warm and welcoming atmosphere thinking about his next leave in a week’s time. Patrick however spent his time watching Red as she served customers and laughed with the regulars. That laugh was in his head and was added to all the other pieces of her that he carried with him as he flew missions. The thought of those green eyes helped dispel the voice of the other constant companion that was by his side each time he buckled himself into the cockpit. Her presence in his heart and mind had helped him control his fear; bringing the realisation that he was experiencing the very emotion he had desperately wanted to avoid; he was in love.

Over the weeks since that first day on the hill, there had been moments in the pub, when he would catch her eye and they would both smile then look away. By sitting at the bar when he popped in alone, he had gathered more information about her. She wasn’t called Red of course, but Georgina and Georgie to her friends. She didn’t seem to have a boyfriend amongst the regulars who frequented the pub, and one day he overheard that she had been engaged to a soldier who had been killed within weeks of the war starting.

He would watch as she gently refused all attempts by eager young warriors to take her on a date, realising that her heart had already been broken. This reinforced his resolve not to give in to the growing need to tell Georgie of his feelings; convinced it would only bring her further sorrow.

Through the rest of the summer months missions intensified, with both daylight and night bombing raids on the docks and major cities; almost bringing the country to its knees. In the October the tide began to turn, but not without the loss of thousands of fighter pilots and bomber air crews. It was then that Patrick’s luck ran out as he limped home with a badly damaged plane and shrapnel injuries in his chest and arm.

Patrick fought to stay conscious as the plane shuddered and bucked as he flew using his one good hand. Blood from a head wound almost blinded him, but as he saw the runway rushing up to meet him, he managed to bring the nose around and head for the grass to the side. The last thing that he thought about as the world went black was Georgie’s face and laugh.

A month later Patrick got one of the pilots to drop him off at the Black Swan and he walked into the early evening quiet of the bar. He had just received his new orders on his return from the hospital. From Monday he would be moving into an intelligence role where his experience in combat could be put to use. He was making a good recovery, but the extensive injuries to his arm meant the end of his flying career; now he would be ensuring that he kept others safe in the skies. In one way he felt that he was abandoning those that he regarded as family in their close knit squadron, but he also knew that it offered him the opportunity to fulfil a dream that was equally important.

Georgie was polishing glasses and looked up to greet the new customer with her usual smile but instead she took a deep breath. As he moved closer Patrick could see that there were tears in her glorious green eyes. Georgie stepped out from behind the bar and walked towards him, glancing at his arm in its sling and the scar that was etched into his forehead. She stood in front of him and neither spoke for a moment until he reached out his good arm to take her hand.

‘Is there any chance that you might let me take you to the dance tomorrow night?’

She smiled through her tears. ‘How are you going to be able to dance with only one free arm?’

He pulled her into him and looked down at the lips that he had imagined kissing so many times in the last few months.

‘Don’t worry Red… I’ll manage just fine.’

©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 $4.53: Amazon US

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? Eric – Just Making Do 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.

Eric – Just Making Do

Eric stood in front of the mirror and for a moment deliberately avoided putting his glasses on. All he could see was a blur and therefore could just about pass muster. Behind him he could feel the presence of his wife Billie and knew what she was going to say.

‘Eric, love you have let yourself go,’ there would be disappointment in her voice.

He slipped his spectacles on and his image immediately appeared all too clearly. He did a quick head to toe scrutiny. Muddy red hair streaked with grey, too long about the ears and hanging over the neck of his dressing gown. Three days’ worth of beard as he only shaved once a week when going to the supermarket for the shopping. His tatty t-shirt that he wore over his ancient pyjama bottoms sported faded lettering that read Grateful Dead; his slippers had a hole where his big toe poked through.

Yes, Billie would have definitely gone to town on him.

He debated whether to pull the bedroom curtains or not and decided to leave them for two very good reasons. Firstly, letting daylight in would illuminate the state of the room which was a shambles, and secondly, it might signal to Mrs Green across the road that he was alive and would welcome her advances.

He left the drapes undisturbed and shuffled out onto the landing and down the stairs to the chilly hall. Damn, he had left the kitchen window open again. He wasn’t bothered by burglars since there was little of value to be taken except for his photograph album, and that was safely locked away behind the big seascape on the dining room wall. The safe also held a few precious mementos such as the leather box that contained Billie’s few bits of good jewellery; her bling as she called it. Her engagement and wedding rings, some earrings she had inherited from her mother and a watch that he had splashed out on for their 25th wedding anniversary.

He wandered into the kitchen and put the kettle on and measured out some oats into a bowl with some water. He stuck that in the microwave and closed the offending window that had let the cold night air into the house. Three pings announced that his porridge was ready and he threw a teabag into a mug of boiling water. There was a few inches of milk in the bottle in the fridge and he poured some over the oats and into the mug. That left enough for a coffee later, but having forgotten to put the item on his list three days ago; it looked like he would have to venture forth after all to the shop on the corner.

He carefully carried the bowl and mug into the dining room and stopped dead. There, sat on one of the dining-room chairs was a cat. A ginger and black cat to be exact and it was looking at him expectantly. Eric nearly dropped the bowl and tea on the floor and just managed to reach the table and lay them down before slopping hot liquid all over his hands.

His visitor remained impassive and kept eye contact, which rather disconcerted Eric who was not used to animals, especially cats. Billie had been allergic to them and since they had travelled a great deal, particularly when he had retired from the police force, there had never been an opportunity to bring one into their home.

The cat was virtually the first visitor to the house in the year since his wife had died. One or two of the neighbours had popped in with shepherd’s pie or offers to come to Sunday lunch, but after several polite rejections of both food and invitations they had given up on him.

Except of course for Widow Twanky across the road who was looking for husband number four. Perhaps his having been a copper had a bearing on the lack of neighbourly communication. There was no doubt that they liked having one on the street as a deterrent to some of the criminal fraternity, but socialising was quite another thing. You never know what guilty secret might slip out after a couple of glasses of wine.

His friends from the force had tried to encourage him out of his self-imposed exile too, with telephone calls asking him to join them at their old watering hole, The Bugle. He just couldn’t face their sympathy or the awkward silences in the middle of a busy night in the pub. Eric was also terrified that he would embarrass himself by blubbering into his beer at the first kind word.

Since the cat was making no move to vacate the chair he usually sat on; he moved to the other side of the table and placed his now cooling porridge in front of him. The creature was still giving him the once over and then offered its opinion in the form of an elongated meow that sounded rather unflattering. Eric raised his hand to his shaggy head and tried to smooth his hair into place. He felt very disconcerted by the direct gaze of his uninvited guest and thought perhaps an offer of some of his porridge might divert its attention.

There was a saucer on the table under a dead house plant that looked reasonably clean and he carefully poured a little of the lukewarm porridge with its milky topping onto the china. He laid it down in front of the cat and watched to see if this would be acceptable. With impeccable manners it delicately placed two front paws on the table and gently lapped at the offering; still keeping both eyes firmly on its host. Eric shrugged and proceeded to eat his breakfast and drink his tea, also keeping eye contact with his feline intruder.

Several days passed and Eric got into the habit of leaving the kitchen window open each night. Every morning he would poke his head around the door to the dining room and sure enough his new companion would be waiting on the chair expectantly.

In the first two or three days the cat would leave its designated chair and disappear into the kitchen after consuming its own bowl of porridge. Eric could hear the faint sound of paws on the marble surface; followed by the sound of a slight scramble as it left through the open window. He was surprised to feel a sense of loss.

It was not long before the visitor, who Eric had named Doris, was dropping off the chair and crossing to the sofa where she would settle herself in to sleep away the morning. She might pop out of the window from time to time but always returned to the warm patch she had fashioned for herself. Eric had established by careful scrutiny that Doris was indeed a girl and that he had not insulted some tetchy tomcat; within a few days she would lift her head when he called her name.

Eric found himself shaving every morning as he needed to go out more often to buy fresh milk and also tins of cat food. He began to open the curtains in his bedroom and the washing machine began to hum in the background more often. Doris would sit in a patch of sunlight in any of the rooms that he happened to be in, and gradually over the next month, both man and house came back to life. A visit to the barbers and a rifle through the sale items in the supermarket had resulted in some new clothes,slippers and also a couple of pairs of pyjamas.

They lived together but remained aloof. It was to be six weeks before Doris approached him as he sat leafing through his photograph album on the other end of the sofa where she normally lay. He tentatively put out his hand and stroked the top of her head and then down her sleek back which she obligingly arched. She nudged closer and he placed his arm around her. He was amazed by the loudness of the delighted purr that vibrated in her chest.

He looked back down at the album open to the photographs of his and Billie’s wedding day forty five years ago. It was the sixties and his long red hair hung down to his shoulders; his lovely Billie who had only been twenty at the time had sparkled in her cream dress and fake fur cape. She used to call him her Viking warrior, and would tell him as they lay in each other’s arms at night, how safe he made her feel.

Tears filled his eyes and they dropped onto the plastic film that protected the photos. Some splashed onto the hand that was holding his warm companion close to him and he felt her rough tongue lick the moisture away. He smiled down at her and then gently wiped the tears from the album. Billie’s last words to him had been to beg him to find happiness again one day and not to live alone. He took his arm from around Doris; closed the album firmly and placed it on the table beside the sofa.

‘How do you fancy a bit of tuna for supper Doris?’ He rubbed a tender spot beneath her chin.

‘Then I have to pop out for a couple of hours to meet some old work mates down the pub.’

© Sally Cronin

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

 

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? Volume 2 – ‘Zoe’ – Looking to the Future by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the last of the short stories from What’s in a Name – Volume 2. The last letter of the alphabet ‘Z’.

Zoe – Looking to the Future

Madame Zoe looked at the screen in front of her and watched the teenage girl in the waiting room. She was her next client and looked nervous; as many did who came to consult the renowned fortune teller, in her little oasis in the back streets of the town.

These few minutes observing her next client were important before meeting them for the first time. Were they nervous, excited, and worried? That gave her some clues as to what direction their consultation might go. Added to the extensive report that her assistant Marjorie had compiled, this allowed Madame Zoe to tailor her reading to each specific client needs with outstanding results.

For example the young woman waiting for her fortune and fate to be revealed was called Sandra Johnson, and was twenty years old. She worked at a solicitor’s office in the main street, and was currently in a relationship with a young mechanic called Steve. Unfortunately this union of three years was going through a tough patch, as Steve had been fooling around with Tracy; one of Sandra’s closest friends.

Since her 18th birthday, the girl had been trying to find her birth mother. Unfortunately, it would appear that the official agency were finding it difficult to track her down, to get consent to reveal her whereabouts, to her long lost daughter. All that the girl had to go on was her mother’s name, which was Linda Watkins, and that she had been 16 years old at the time of her birth. Sandra had been adopted very soon after this and was brought up by her new parents in a village a few miles away. Seemingly this had been a very happy arrangement, but unfortunately her adoptive mother had died recently; obviously caused much sadness. And probably prompting Sandra’s search for her birth mother.

Madame Zoe adjusted her turban and creamed her hands with Shea butter; one of her little indulgences. When you are holding the hands of others, in an attempt to read their futures, it was important that your own looked their best. Sandra had booked a half-hour appointment. This length of time warranted the assistance of the crystal ball, currently residing on its gold trestle beneath a blue silk square.

What the client would not be able to see however, was the discreet screen resting on Madame Zoe’s knees, with all the relevant information that she needed to provide a satisfying and remarkable experience for this young woman.

At the tinkle of the bell over the inner door, Marjorie, who had been wafting incense across the waiting room, crossed over to Sandra and offered her hand. The girl stood and looked around nervously, as if about to bolt for the street door, but at Marjorie’s insistence she followed her through into the inner sanctum. There she was invited to take the chair across from Madame Zoe, whose hands stretched across the blue velvet cloth, palms upward in welcome.

‘Hello my dear,’ the gentle and soothing tones caused Sandra to straighten up in her chair. Zoe extended her well-buttered hand; taking the girl’s thin and cold palm in hers.

‘I understand that you seek some answers to very important questions today, but I would like to spend a few minutes sharing the thoughts and feelings that I am receiving from you.’ She paused for effect and waited for the girl to respond.

‘Okay, if you feel that is what we should do first,’ Sandra was visibly shaking, and for just a moment, the fortune teller felt a smidgeon of remorse for the scam she was pulling. But business was business and she had her reputation for accuracy to uphold.

‘My dear, I feel that you are going through a difficult time in your love life, and I see the letter S seems to be on your mind. Do you know someone with a name that begins with S?’

Sandra gasped and nodded her head in bemused agreement.

‘Sadly, I feel that this person has behaved very badly, and that the relationship has come to an end. Would I be right about that?’

Again the girl nodded and Zoe smiled sweetly as she stroked the back of her hand.

For a moment or two Madame Zoe stared intently into Sandra’s palm and then groaned theatrically.

‘Ah, yes I see that you have been betrayed by a friend whose name begins with a J… No wait… I am wrong it is a T.

There was a satisfying gasp at the mention of the letter T and it was clear that there was another relationship that was over.

‘I also feel that you work in a place that might be involved in legal matters,’ she held up one finger of her free hand to prevent any interruption.

‘Perhaps a police station, no don’t tell me… I think it might be a solicitor’s office, am I correct?’

By this time Sandra was hooked and it was now time to reveal most important element of today’s reading.

Claiming back her hand from the girl, Zoe lifted the blue silk square to reveal the glass orb beneath. Sandra’s eyes were riveted on this piece of fortune telling magic that she had been told about by some of her girlfriends. They had assured her that Madame Zoe seemed to have a window into their lives and had seen many things that they had only confided in to friends. They had assured her they always left their appointments safe in the knowledge that love would find them, and fortune was theirs for the taking..

After a few minutes of silence as Madame Zoe sought to pad out the half hour, she raised a solemn face to stare into the wide-eyed Sandra’s face.

Now confident that she had the girls complete attention, she delivered her next question in a fateful tone.

‘My dear child, I sense that you seek another, who is not a man but a family member long lost to you.’ You could have heard a pin drop. She continued.

‘There is someone from your past that you have barely met, but you are desperate to reconnect to.’ Both of her hands cradled the crystal ball in front of her as she searched its depths.

‘You look for your mother.’ With that Sandra clasped a hand over her mouth; tears filling her eyes. Absolutely stunned she stared at the exotic creature in front of her.

‘I have her name on the tip of my tongue… Now let me see it begins with an L…Yes that’s right, her name is Linda, is that correct my dear? Sandra nodded eagerly and waited with bated breath for the next pronouncement.

‘I see that this woman has changed her surname more than once, and I see her living in Manchester, in a house with the number 15.’

With this Madame Zoe appeared to go into a trance. Sandra looked on in concern as she desperately waited for the woman to resume her revelations. She was about to interrupt, but Zoe raised her hand in a gesture to remain silent.

Sandra couldn’t see that the mystic in front of her was consulting her hidden screen; waiting while Marjorie typed further information into the computer behind the reception desk.

Finally the silence was broken and with a smile of relief, Madame Zoe announced with a flourish.

‘Your mother’s surname is Baxter and she is looking forward to meeting you very much.’ With that she collapsed against the back of the chair, and smiling weakly at her now very emotional client, waved her away from the table.

Sandra didn’t know whether to hug or kiss this strange looking, all-seeing woman, but sensing that it would be unwelcome, she retreated through the door into the reception area. Marjorie was waiting behind the desk and while Sandra wiped her eyes and composed herself, the assistant prepared the bill for this momentous session.

Without looking at the cost, which was nearly a week’s wages, Sandra handed over her credit card and gratefully tapped in her pin number.

‘Please thank Madame Zoe for me, she is amazing, and I will pass on her information to all my friends… Thank you, thank you.’ With that the smiling girl opened the door to the shop and headed off into her future.

After making sure that Sandra had gone, Marjorie locked the door and put the closed sign up for lunch and headed back into the consulting room. There she found Zoe divested of both turban and wig with her feet up on one of the velvet chairs.

‘Well done Marjorie… all that Facebook chit chat between her and her mates was gold dust, but that was a stroke of genius hacking into the adoption agency. What a coincidence that the girl’s mother had been in touch after their letters finally reached her. The girl should get their message informing her of her mother’s name and address tomorrow and that will really seal the deal.’

Marjorie put two plates down on the table and settled herself into the vacated client’s chair. ‘It will soon be time to put our charges up Mum,’ she smiled across the table as she helped herself to a ham and cheese sandwich.

‘Once the word gets around on Facebook about this latest prediction we are going to be overrun… Tenerife here we come.’

‘Her mother laughed and then shook her head… No… I don’t think so pet… I see Hawaii in our futures.’

©Sally Cronin

This story is from What’s in a Name volume 2 – which is also available in a combined print edition from me directly. The collection has recently received a wonderful review.

About What’s in a Name? Volume 2

Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.

Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.

Meet Queenie and Rosemary who have both lost their husbands and must face a very different future. One that will take courage and the use of new technology.

Sonia is an entitled princess whose father has reached the end of his tether and Theresa has to deal with a bully in the checkout. Usher is an arrogant narcissist with a docile wife and is used to getting his own way and Vanessa worries about the future of her relationship with her teenage son.

Walter is a loner and is happy with just his dog for company, Xenia is the long awaited first baby of a young couple. Yves is a dashing romeo who has the tables turned on him unexpectedly and Zoe… Well she can see into the future.

In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.

There is also a bonus story at the end of the book – The Village Square – September 1939.

One of the recent reviews for the collection

on November 21, 2018

This second volume continues where the first book left off. The first story begins with “Kenneth,” and the rest of the stories flow through to “Zoe.” The author includes a bonus story at the end called, “The Village Square.”Prepare to be transported into the lives of the many personalities, Sally Cronin creates, inspired by a first name only. Each person’s name has a different tale to tell or life to lead, all carefully constructed to draw the reader into their experiences. Linking the stories together are the themes of romance and family. Need I say more?

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5 Reader Engagement: 5 Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars

 You can read the reviews and buy the Kindle of What’s in Name- Volume Two: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0748MLZ1W/

and on Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Name-Stories-Life-Romance-ebook/dp/B0748MLZ1W

The combined print edition of Volume’s One and Two is available directly from sally.cronin@moyhill.com..

Other print books on request and you can find out more about them and their most recent reviews in my directory. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018

I hope you have enjoyed today’s story, and the last in Volume 2 is tomorrow.. thanks Sally

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


Here is the second story of the weekend from What’s in a Name Volume Two – Vanessa… a mother with a dilemma.

Vanessa – In a Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hello, is anyone there?’

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

©Sally Cronin 2017

My latest book, Tales from the Irish Garden,has received some recent reviews and I am very grateful as the reviews played a very large part in getting my books into some bookstores locally.

About Tales from the Irish Garden

The queen of Magia and her court have fled their sun filled Spanish homeland and the palace beneath the magnolia tree. Arriving on the backs of geese and swans, they seek sanctuary in the magic garden of The Storyteller who welcomes them to the Emerald Island, a place where rain is almost a daily feature.

Grateful for their safe haven and the generosity of their host, the queen and her courtiers embrace their new surroundings with delight. As the seasons change throughout the year, they come into contact with many of the human and animal inhabitants of the garden and the surrounding forest, all of whom have a story to tell.

This is a magical fairy story infused with fantasy and romance, as well as opportunities for mischief in the company of goblins, witches and Lerpersians. Suitable for ages 10 to 100 years old…..

One of the recent reviews for the book

Tales from the Irish Garden is a magical book of stories of the queen of Magia as she is uprooted from her beloved home in Spain under the large magnolia tree to find a new home in the green and lush Emerald Isle. She must ensure the safety of all her subjects and precious statues as she prepares to make the move to their new home.

There is fantasy, romance, magical fairies, Lerpersians, and goblins who make these stories rich and fascinating. As I read along I found myself cheering on the queen and her entourage as they travel the long distance and finally arrive to settle down in their new surroundings.

The author has incorporated the personalities of her beloved father-in-law and mother into these characters of the storyteller and the queen. She has created a beautiful book of memories at the same time of her lovely home in Spain and her now new home in Ireland. She puts all her love and feelings into her stories making them even more meaningful to the reader. She is a consummate storyteller who has a talent to draw her readers into the tales and make them believe in magic and the world of fairies.

I highly recommend this exceptionally entertaining read. If you love this book as much as I do you will also love all Sally Cronin’s other lovely books.

Read the reviews and buy the book Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

And Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Irish-Garden-Sally-Cronin-ebook/dp/B07HMXTFKG

Here is a selection of my other books… an amazing gif designed by Paul Andruss… thanks Paul

You can find details of all my books in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed this short story… always enjoy your feedback Thanks Sally