Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? Volume Two – Kenneth by Sally Cronin

New Year’s Eve by Sally Cronin

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. Even 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 melee, as the other guests did likewise, the two of them had slipped out of the large double doors at the end of the ballroom. 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 together on New Year’s Eve.’

©sallycronin 2016

I hope that you have enjoyed this story from What’s in a Name Volume Two.. Both volumes are now available in print in the UK and Ireland.. But they are also available separately in Ebook.


You can read the reviews and buy the books

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Amazon India:


More reviews can be found on Goodreads:

Thank you for dropping in and Happy New Year… see you in 2018…


Odd Jobs and Characters – Hotel in Wales – Senior Receptionist – A Ghostly Arrival

Last week, as a guest of Robbie and Michael Cheadle,  I shared stories about my job in the boarding school as housekeeper/caterer and how I cooked over 3000 meals a week during term time.

You can find all the previous posts to date in this directory.

The story continues as I move across the country to take up the role of senior receptionist at a gothic hotel in the middle of the Snowdonia national park.

Hotel Senior Receptionist – Ghostly arrival and a quick promotion!

I received a phone call from some old friends on the Isle of Wight that gave me cause for concern. You have probably gathered by now that my separation and divorce proceedings were not always amicable and in fact they now became downright hostile. My friends ran a pub on the island, and my former husband had been in, having had rather a lot to drink, had demanded they tell him where I was. He told the assembled company that he was planning on tracking me down and having a confrontation. I was not unduly concerned and  my friends assured me that they had not revealed my whereabouts. However, I was in a school with 140 children and staff and lived in the grounds, and had no desire to involve them in my personal circumstances. I gave my notice that day; grabbed the nearest copy of The Lady Magazine, and looked for a job as far away from the south of England as I could get.

I found an advertisement for a senior receptionist for a seasonal hotel in Wales that was just about to open for Easter. I sent my details, and the requested photograph, and waited to see if I would get an interview. Instead, within a week, I had a letter offering me the position with a start date three days after the end of term. I packed up my belongings into a couple of suitcases and got rid of anything that I couldn’t carry. I then prepared to go up to London by train and head off across the country for nearly 300 miles.

In those days of no Internet, and a long haul by road, I reckoned that I was probably going to be fairly safe from repercussions, especially as only my family and solicitor knew where I was.

I had been given a timetable for the trains showing the changes I would have to make in order to reach my destination, and I was glad that my two bags were not too heavy. Four trains later, I sat on the platform of a country station, waiting for my last connection. The train was late, and it was already dark before it shunted alongside the platform. I struggled into a carriage that I presume had been in service since the war, possibly not the last one, and sat on the worn, velvet covered seat waiting for departure. I waited and waited, and was about to stick my head out of the carriage door, when we chugged into motion. It was now ten at night and I was concerned that the promised taxi that was supposed to collect me at Barmouth, and take me to the hotel, would not be waiting for me.

Half an hour later we pulled into what can only be described as a halt. It consisted of a wooden platform about ten inches off the ground and a leap of faith was required to exit the carriage with two suitcases, and no injuries. I must have been the only passenger for Barmouth, for no sooner had I slammed the door of the train behind me, than it was off, lurching into the darkness.  I had apparently arrived at my destination, but was alone, and in the dark, with absolutely no idea where I was going or who I was going too.

Those were the days before mobile telephones, and to be honest, from what little I could see around me, there was little evidence that even the telegraph had reached this remote spot. I sat down on the sturdier of my two cases and ran through some basic Girl Guide survival tactics. As I had been drummed out of the brownies at the age of seven (for jumping out at boy cubs from behind gravestones) my knowledge of field crafts was sadly lacking, so I decided to stay in place for a while and see what transpired. After all where else was I going to go? I shivered despite the warm overcoat I was wearing. The night was cold, and a thin mist was swirling around the end of the platform. All the books I had read about North Wales had been based on the 5th century with tribal raiding parties and witchcraft. All the tales now came back to me; I clasped my arms around my body anxiously; on the verge of panic.

This feeling of impending doom was given a boost when suddenly out of the mist an apparition appeared. At least seven feet tall, and dressed in a black cloak, it swirled towards me rapidly. I shot up and backed behind my cases; despite the fact they would have been of little protection against a werewolf. A deep voice suddenly cut through my fanciful imagination.

‘You’re late girl, I’ve been waiting hours, where have you been for goodness sake?’

I could not tell if the booming voice was male or female. On closer examination, I realised that my original estimate of the figure being seven foot high was a slight exaggeration, but not by much. A scarf was unwound from around the throat of my new acquaintance, and I saw that it was indeed a woman; with very stern looking features.

Before I could utter a word my suitcases were whipped up, one in each of her hands, and she set of marching into the darkness. I had very little choice but to follow as I watched my worldly possessions disappearing into the night.

I found myself in a car park next to a taxi, and my bags were thrown unceremoniously into the back; my companion disappearing around to the driver’s side. I gingerly opened the passenger door, wondering what I had let myself in for. At least the interior of the vehicle was warm, and I was grateful when the engine started first time. My driver announced that it would take about 15 minutes to get to the hotel, and with that, we were off, quite smoothly too, much to my pleasant surprise.

Our journey was silent. I did make an attempt at small talk but only received grunts in reply. Eventually, I gave up and concentrated instead on hanging onto both dashboard and armrests as we careered around narrow country lanes. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later the taxi drove through two large pillars and up a slope. In the dim glow of the headlights, I could just make out a building looming out of the mist, and we came to a stop outside what appeared to be the main entrance. I let out my breath, which it seemed I had been holding since we left the railway station, and hurriedly opened the door, before we could take off again.

My driver got out and deposited my two suitcases by the door and then left me standing in the mist as she drove off into the night.

There were some lights either side of the entrance, and by their dim glow, I could make out double wooden doors. By now I was three hours late, and it looked like everyone had gone to bed. I had little choice. It was either stay out here in the freezing cold or ring the bell that hung on the wall at the side of the doors. I crunched across the gravel and up the stone steps, summoning what little courage I had left. I pulled the rope hanging beneath the bell and swung it from side to side. I nearly jumped out of my skin as a loud clanging rang through the night. It was loud enough to waken the dead! Sure enough, within seconds, lights went on in the hall. They reflected through the glass at the top of the door and, if anything, added even more gloom to the atmosphere.

The door creaked open slowly and my mouth went dry. By this time, I was fully convinced that Frankenstein’s monster was going to loom into view and carry me off to some attic, never to be seen again.

In fact I was greeted by the warm smile of the manager of the hotel who had kindly stayed behind to make sure that I arrived safely. He carried my suitcase down the side of the hotel to a small flat that was already occupied the new assistant manager who had come down from the Lake District a couple of days earlier. With arrangements to meet in the morning to go over my duties, the manager left and I sat down with a welcome cup of tea and made my first friend in the new job.

Sadly, after a few weeks, she felt that the job and the location were not for her and she returned to the Lake District where she opened a very successful B&B. Whilst I was very sad to see her go, I found myself promoted to Assistant Manager and so began my adventures in the depths of one of the most stunning national parks in the UK. It was hard work, but great fun, and I have never been so skinny with the long hours and my new pursuit of hiking on my days off (perhaps I should apply for a similar job again!).

And, down the road, my work would lead to me meeting a very special man who swept me off my feet.

You can read more about those adventures please on Lyn Horner’s blog next week.

Thank you for joining me on my journey.  I met so many fascinating people that they have been had starring roles in my stories every since. The reason for this blog tour is to promote my new short story collection… now in print as a combined Volume One and Two, and available very shortly on Amazon.

All the previous posts in the series can be found in this directory with links to my host’s blog


About Sally Cronin

My name is Sally Cronin and after working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition.

I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.

My latest book – What’s in a Name? – Volume Two.

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.

My other books

All books are available Amazon author page:

You can connect to Sally


Cuentos de Smorgasbord – Diana de Sally Cronin – Traducción de Olga Nunez Miret

I have been considering having some of my books translated into Spanish for some time and luckily the supportive Olga Nunez Miret is an excellent person to take on the job in her role as professional translator. This story is from What’s in a Name and if all things go to plan it will be included in a Spanish anthology in aid of victims of Domestic Violence.

Olga will be working on Tales from the Garden in the near future and I look forward to sharing the book to those living in Spanish speaking countries.

Me disculpo por mi español

Espero que disfruten la historia de Diana

DIANA de Sally Cronin

Diana Grace era la única hija de unos padres mayores que se vieron sorprendidos muy agradablemente cuando descubrieron que después de quince años de casados un bebé estaba por fin de camino. Su padre era profesor de música y su madre psiquiatra y Diana había crecido en un hogar repleto de amor y risas.

No queriendo que su niña fuera la típica hija única, sus padres se aseguraron de que entendiera que los éxitos y el dinero solo se consiguen gracias al trabajo duro. Diana había empezado repartiendo periódicos de niña y de ahí pasó a trabajar en una panadería del barrio como aprendiz de vendedora mientras estudiaba en el instituto y luego en la universidad. A pesar de que la situación económica de sus padres era acomodada, insistieron en que contribuyera una parte de su paga para su mantenimiento y ella estaba orgullosa de darles esas pocas libras cada semana.

Ser una chica lista y extrovertida le abrió muchas puertas a Diana y, después de licenciarse en Filología inglesa, le ofrecieron un trabajo de asistente del director de una enorme librería en Oxford. Eso la llevó a mudarse de casa de sus padres a una casa compartida con tres chicas jóvenes que, como ella, empezaban sus vidas profesionales lejos de casa.

Los dos años siguientes pasaron rápidamente para Diana, mientras ella disfrutaba de su trabajo y también de una vida social ajetreada con el grupo de amigos íntimos que se había creado a su alrededor. Siguió yendo a visitar a sus padres por lo menos una vez al mes y ellos la vieron convertirse en una vibrante y bella mujer.

Un buen día Diana levantó la mirada del mostrador donde estaba comprobando una partida de libros nuevos y se encontró mirándole a la cara a un hombre muy atractivo. Alto, pelo oscuro que caía con gracia natural sobre su amplia frente, con unos labios gruesos y sonrientes, y un hoyuelo en su firme barbilla.

Se dio cuenta de que se lo había quedado mirando fijamente y recobró la compostura con rapidez.

—Buenos días, ¿puedo ayudarle en algo? —Diana colocó las manos delante de ella en el mostrador, de forma profesional, o al menos eso esperaba.

—Hola. Busco una copia de Grandes esperanzas para el cumpleaños de mi sobrino. ¿Tienen una edición reciente en stock?

Como si se hubiese dado cuenta de su turbación, el hombre inclinó la cabeza hacia un lado y la miró directamente a los ojos.

El romance que siguió podría describirse como un torbellino, ya que Diana se vio arrastrada por una pasión y una certeza que solo había conocido en los libros. En tan solo seis semanas lo llevó a su casa a conocer a sus padres y tres meses después se casaron en una iglesia que estaba a tan solo un corto paseo de la casa de sus padres. Se convirtió en la señora de Simon Forester y se pasó mucho tiempo repitiendo su nuevo nombre varias veces al día para que no se le olvidase su buena suerte.

Simon era banquero de inversiones y trabajaba en Londres. Ya tenía un piso en la zona de los Docklands y, después de la boda, Diana se trasladó allí con sus numerosas cajas de libros, su música y los regalos de boda. En un éxtasis de felicidad, y a pesar de tener que separarse de sus mejores amigos, se puso a buscar trabajo y encontró una librería en Holborn que necesitaba una encargada.

El torbellino no se detuvo ya que la vida social que el trabajo de Simon conllevaba era rápida y adictiva. Adoraba a su guapo marido y en secreto disfrutaba de las miradas que las otras mujeres les dirigían cuando entraban en una habitación. Si alguna queja tenía Diana, muy menor, era que sus padres nunca parecieron tomarle afecto a Simon. Cuando iban a visitarlos, un fin de semana o en alguna ocasión especial, siempre había tensiones que la preocupaban.

Fue justamente después de su tercer aniversario de bodas cuando apareció una grieta en su matrimonio. Diana pensó que su cena de celebración sería el momento más apropiado para contarle a Simon que iban a tener un bebé y que estaba embarazada de dos meses.

Él depositó su copa de vino, muy cuidadosamente, sobre el blanco mantel y posó sus fríos ojos sobre su cara, excitada y radiante.

—¿Cómo dejaste que pasara eso? —le escupió, mientras ella se quedaba boquiabierta ante su reacción.

Tiró la servilleta bruscamente sobre la mesa y llamó al camarero, exigiéndole la cuenta. Agarrándola del brazo con excesiva fuerza, la obligó a salir a marcha ligera del restaurante hacia su coche.

Un silencio gélido descendió sobre su matrimonio, con Simon trabajando muchas horas y negándose rotundamente a hablar del bebé. Al final, desesperada, Diana lo arrinconó en una ocasión en que llegó a altas horas de la mañana, claramente bebido, y le preguntó qué quería que hiciera.

Tras un momento de silencio, él se giró hacia ella y por un instante Diana entrevió el destello de su sonrisa de siempre, pero sin nada de su encanto.

Diana estaba tumbada sobre la cama y el dolor le irradiaba desde la pierna por todo el cuerpo hasta unirse a su pulsátil dolor de cabeza. Podía oír sollozos y alguien le estaba estrujando la mano que colgaba sin fuerzas a su costado. Cuando sus párpados se abrieron sintió como un aliento caliente subía por su brazo hasta su cuello y se acercaba a su oído.

—Si dices una sola palabra, me aseguraré de terminar el trabajo la próxima vez —. A ella la hizo estremecer la amenaza que se desprendía de su voz—. Te mareaste y te caíste escaleras abajo delante del piso, ¿te enteras, idiota de mierda?

Aterrorizada, Diana forcejeó, intentando liberar su brazo de su agarre y entonces sonó otra voz desde el pie de la cama.

—Es hora de que deje que su esposa descanse, Sr. Forrester y usted también tiene aspecto de necesitar dormir un poco— el tono decidido de la enfermera dejaba claro que eso no era una petición y Simon se levantó y le dio unas palmaditas en el brazo a Diana.

—Muy bien, querida. Nos vemos por la mañana —. Él se giró hacia la enfermera y le dedicó la mejor de sus sonrisas—. Cuide de ellos por mí, enfermera. Lo son todo para mí—. Con eso, pasó rozando junto a la enfermera y salió de la sala.

La enfermera se dirigió a la cabecera de la cama y apoyó una mano amable sobre el hombro de Diana.

—Tienes muchos morados y una conmoción pero por suerte caíste de lado. Tienes la barriga magullada, pero el bebé está bien y es muy fuerte, así que intenta no preocuparte—. Mientras seguía con sus comprobaciones, la enfermera miró a Diana a la cara, llena de moretones —. Sabes que si necesitas ayuda de cualquier tipo hay personas a las que podemos llamar —se quedó callada un segundo —. Has sufrido una caída muy desagradable y no sería bueno para ti o para tu bebé si eso volviese a pasar.

Colocó el botón de llamada en la mano de Diana y, satisfecha al haber hecho todo lo que podía, de momento, se dirigió al otro extremo de la sala para hablar con el médico. El analgésico le estaba empezando a hacer efecto, y aunque algo adormilada, Diana sabía que este era el momento para pensar y actuar con claridad. No era solo ella quien necesitaba protección sino también su niño por nacer. Nunca antes en su vida había sentido ira pero ahora se dio cuenta de que la opresión en su pecho y cabeza no eran tan solo resultado del empujón escaleras abajo que le había dado Simon delante de su piso. Era una necesidad profundamente arraigada e instintiva de proteger a su niño que aún no había nacido.

A la mañana siguiente, después de que los llamara por la noche la enfermera encargada de la sala, los padres de Diana estaban sentados al lado de su cama, cogiéndole las manos y hablando en voz baja. La puerta de la sala se abrió de golpe y Simon marchó dando zancadas por el suelo de mármol con un ramo de rosas rojas y dedicándoles sonrisas a las enfermeras al pasar. Miró hacia adelante y al ver a los padres de Diana la sonrisa se le congeló en los labios.

Al acercarse, notó que un hombre que había estado ligeramente oculto por las cortinas se dirigía al pie de la cama de Diana. Simon miró de refilón a su esposa, que estaba sentada apoyándose en la almohada, y se enfrentó a una frialdad y firmeza que no había visto nunca antes en la cara de su hasta entonces dócil mujer.

Oyó unos pasos que se acercaban resueltamente a su espalda y las rosas cayeron al suelo cuando le agarraron violentamente por los brazos y se los sujetaron por detrás.

Forcejeando con sus aprehensores se giró para confrontar al hombre de gesto serio frente a él.

—Simon Forester. Le arresto…

©SallyCronin 2016

Translated by Olga Nunez Miret

Olga Núñez Miret is a doctor, a psychiatrist, a student (of American Literature, with a Doctorate and all to prove the point, of Criminology, and of books and people in general), she writes, translates (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and although born in Barcelona, Spain, has lived in the UK for many years. She’s always loved books and is thrilled at the prospect of helping good stories reach more readers all around the world. She publishes a bilingual blog ( ) where she shares book reviews, advice, talks about books (hers and others) and about things she discovers and enjoys.

Olga has translated her own books into Spanish of course and she has also translated some excellent Spanish books into English and you can find out more here.

Books in Spanish or English by Olga Nunez Miret

To buy her books and to reach Olga through social media here are her links

Amazon –
Goodreads –

Audio books

Social Media

Website –
Facebook –

Gracias por tu visita. Espero que hayas disfrutado la historia.

Smorgasbord Short Story Festival – 9th -12th June – Elaine by Sally Cronin

To end the festival I have one of the stories from What’s in a Name volume one. Elaine is looking forward to a very special celebration with her husband and neighbour.

ELAINE by Sally Cronin

Elaine lay under the warmth of the duvet and her hand crept across the mattress to touch her husband’s hand. Not enough to wake him but just a gentle touch to remind him of her presence. Jack’s even breathing and gentle snore was comforting and Elaine smiled to herself, savouring the delicious secret that she was desperate to reveal.

She had been saving up the news until today as a gift for Jack’s birthday. They had been married for two years and she knew that his greatest wish was for them to have a baby. His large family had already provided his parents with six grandchildren and whilst he might not talk about his desire for a family; he wanted to hold their child in his arms almost as much as she did. She had remembered the look on his face when she had thought that she might be pregnant but it had turned out to be a false alarm.

This is why she had waited until she was absolutely sure; today would be the perfect time to reveal the secret.

Jack stirred beside her she turned her face in anticipation of his usual morning kiss on her brow and lips.

‘Good morning my lovely,’ he gently stroked some stray hairs out of her eyes. ‘How are you today?

Elaine smiled at him lovingly and touched the tip of his beautiful nose. ‘Happy birthday my darling,’ and she leant over to kiss his mouth.

Over breakfast they discussed the final details of the birthday party that afternoon. Jack’s family lived too far away to attend but he had asked one of their neighbours from down the street to join them. Jessica was always in and out and would pop in for coffee most mornings when Jack was at work. Sometimes she would also bring her children in at the weekend and they had a wonderful time playing scrabble and cards.

Elaine had butterflies in her stomach as the urge to blurt out her special secret became too much to bear. It had to be the right moment, when Jack was cutting his birthday cake that Jessica had kindly made for him. She was a much better baker that she was and it looked amazing.

Jack had been in the navy when they met and on top of the white and blue cake, a figure in a sailor’s uniform posed with an anchor. Elaine bet the inside of the cake would be delicious and would taste all the better when she announced her news.

After a quick sandwich for lunch and whilst Jack tidied the living room ready for the party, Elaine popped upstairs quietly to their bedroom and sat at the dressing table. She smiled to herself as she viewed her reflection in the mirror. There was no doubt about it; her skin had a definite glow. Artfully she brushed her blonde hair into a smooth bob and applied her makeup carefully. Not too much, but just enough to enhance her youthful beauty. Laid out on the bed were three outfits and Elaine was having problems deciding which to wear.

Jack would always laugh about her preparations for an evening out. He knew she would try on all the options a couple of times before making her final choice.

This kept her busy for the next half hour and eventually she headed downstairs in her favourite cream dress with pearls at her neck and in the lobes of her ears. Jack took her hands and stepped back for a better look.

‘You look stunningly beautiful sweetheart,’ he gently straightened the string of pearls around her neck; they had been his wedding present to her.

Elaine almost gave the secret away at that point but held the temptation in check. Her plan was perfect and she must wait a few more hours until his birthday cake was cut.

Jack left her sat in the lounge surrounded by plates of neatly cut sandwiches and a pile of festive napkins. In the corner on a cabinet sat the cake surrounded by the birthday cards that had arrived over the last two or three days.

Just then the doorbell rang and it startled Elaine as the sound intruded into her secret daydreams. She pushed herself out of the chair and headed for the hall. Jack was coming down the stairs and held out his hand to her.

‘Don’t worry love I’ll get it,’ and he opened the door to find their three guests on the doorstep.

In they came, bearing brightly coloured bags of gifts and contributions to the birthday tea. There was much hugging and chatter as overcoats were dispensed with and they all headed into the living room. Jack and Jessica took the food she had brought into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Sophie and Ben, who were in their early teens, entertained Elaine with tales of their antics at school during the week.

The food disappeared rapidly and two pots of tea later it was time to cut the cake. This was Elaine’s moment and she stood up to join Jack at the cabinet as he prepared to slice into the blue and white icing.

‘Darling, I have a very special birthday present for you,’ she held out the envelope that clearly contained rather bulky contents. Jack smiled at her eager face and proceeded to open the envelope carefully. He drew out the birthday card that had a huge heart on the front and carefully opened it to reveal the surprise. In his hand were a pair of knitted baby booties decorated with white satin ribbon.

Tears formed in the corners of his eyes as he pulled Elaine to him. ‘Thank you darling for the best birthday present I have ever received.’ Over her shoulder he smiled at their guests and they nodded and smiled in return.

Jessica’s children helped clear away the plates and carried them into the kitchen whilst their mother sat on the sofa holding Elaine’s hand. ‘That is wonderful news and I am so happy for the both of you.’ she smiled gently at the woman at her side. ‘We can talk about it on Monday when I pop in for coffee and we’ll get the baby knitting patterns out to look at.’

An hour later and Jessica kissed Elaine on the forehead and gently stroked her cheek. She headed off to the hall and gathered up the coats and handed them out to Sophie and Ben. When she reached the front door, she turned once more and gave Jack a warm hug and whispered in his ear. ‘It was a wonderful birthday tea Dad and I will come in as usual on Monday when you go out to do the shopping.’

Jack went back into the lounge and stood for a moment looking at his wife, sitting calmly watching the flames flickering in the fireplace. The outfit that Elaine had finally chosen was her wedding dress, and she looked as radiant today as she had forty years ago. He sat beside her and gently moved some stray silver hairs from her forehead and took her face in his hands. He looked into her sparkling blue eyes that no longer recognised her daughter or grandchildren.

The most precious birthday present he had received today, was that his beautiful Elaine still knew him, and that even in the darkness, her light continued to shine brightly.

©sallycronin2016 What’s in a Name. At a special price

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Thank you very much for dropping in and I hope you have enjoyed the short stories over the last few days. Sally

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name – Volume Two – You get to pick the story!

I have just spent the last week finishing off the stories for What’s in a Name! Volume Two and this has resulted in a number of stories that I have not posted to the blog.

In this volume the theme of the stories is slightly different in that they reflect a name that will be remembered for one reason or another because of their actions. Also because there were 16 letters in the alphabet left, there is only one story per letter.

However, there is a bonus story at the end of the book to make up for it.

I will post one of the new stories next week and I thought I would leave the choice of which one to you from these letters.

Q…    V…     W….    X….   Y…    Z

The letter with the most mentions is the winner and I will post next Tuesday

Details for all my books including links to discounted copies can be found here.