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


At the weekends I will be sharing some of the stories from my collections and also new stories that have not been published before… I hope you will enjoy.

Vanessa – In a Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hello, is anyone there?’

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

©Sally Cronin 2015

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

One of the recent reviews for the collection

Jaye Marie and Anita Dawes January 6th 2021

Reading Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, Sally Cronin’s new book, was time well spent, a breath of fresh air in a what has become a very stale world.

Each beautifully written story and the interwoven poems reminded me of what life is really like, far away from all the sadness and disappointments that 2020 has dumped on us all.

I loved all the stories, but I know that some of them will be remembered better than the others. These are the ones that struck a familiar chord with me personally.

Like The Wedding Day, with its wonderful message of hope.

The sadness of Long-Lost Love and the revenge of Gaffer Tape, so satisfying!

My favourite must be The Nanny, I needed tissues for this one!

I can thoroughly recommend this book as the perfect escape from life and all of its problems!

Read the reviews and buy the collection for £3.50: Amazon UK – And $4.65 : Amazon US

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

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed the story.. .Sally.

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name?- Francis – Forging New Bonds 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.

Francis – Forging new bonds

Francis Baxter checked into the hotel in the middle of Chamonix on the Friday night and tired from his long journey headed off to bed and slept for ten hours straight.

He woke to find the sun streaming in through the windows of his suite and a craving for several cups of strong coffee. He showered and sat in the extremely fluffy bath robe supplied by the exclusive hotel and waited for room service to send up his breakfast. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn’t want to think about Chrissie back home in Houston or Dane and Shannon finishing off their semester before heading home for the Easter holidays. He hadn’t informed anyone, not even his business partner of twenty years, where he was going; he had not switched on his mobile since landing in Geneva yesterday.

Unfortunately denial did not stop the rush of thoughts and emotions that had been triggered two days ago when Chrissie has asked for a divorce. Their discussion that had developed into a full-blown argument replayed in his head over and over. Her accusation that he was more interested in his work and making money than their marriage, and that she no longer loved him had established itself front and centre in his mind; he had not seen that coming.

He knew that he was ambitious and he and Richard, his partner, worked long hours keeping their accountancy business afloat in these uncertain times. Yes, they played golf at the weekends but it was their way of unwinding after a long week. He admitted to himself that there were too many dinners in the city with major clients but they required constant attention.

The fact was that without the business they would not have the big house, fancy cars and vacations. He had thought that Chrissie was content with the trappings that came with his job; he was furious with himself for missing all the signs and taking so much for granted.

There was a discreet knock on the door and Francis walked over to admit the uniformed waiter who wheeled in a laden trolley. Having slipped the young guy a generous tip, Francis settled down at the table and contemplated his breakfast. Suddenly he had little appetite so sipped his strong black coffee and flicked through one of the local guides that were spread out in front of him.

The truth was that he knew this area quite well as he had lived here as a child with his French mother and American father who was an artist. They had moved to the United States when he was twelve years old which is why, when faced with this bombshell he had chosen to run as far as he could; to somewhere he still considered his home. A picture captured his attention as he automatically turned the pages in the glossy brochure. It was of a place that he remembered from his childhood when he and his parents would take long treks at the weekend up the sides of the surrounding mountains. His father would carry the rucksack containing their lunch which always consisted of a fresh baked baguette from the local cafe along with fresh tomatoes and a tub of rich homemade mayonnaise. They would find a perch above the valley and the three of them would break the bread into chunks, add a dollop of mayo, a couple of slices of the bright red tomato and it tasted heavenly.

This reminded him that he was actually hungry right now. He decided to tuck into the now cooling omelette and croissant; he was going to need some fuel for the walk he now planned to take.

Francis opened his suit carrier which he had hurriedly thrown random clothes into and realised that he was not equipped for hiking. He pulled on some jeans and a sweat shirt and headed downstairs and out into the main street. The shops didn’t open until later in the morning, but he spent his time well, window shopping and popping into a bakery for another coffee and some supplies for his hike. He returned to one of the sports outfitters that he had scoped out earlier and bought some jeans, boots, parka and a rucksack. He also picked up a detailed guide to the trails, not trusting his memory completely, and a water bottle. He returned to the hotel and quickly changed into his new clothes. At the last minute he added his mobile phone to the essentials in his rucksack for safety reasons and headed down the corridor to the elevator.

Two hours later, after realising how out of shape he was, Francis breathlessly reached his destination. The roar of the torrent of water that rushed down the mountainside from the spring melt filled the air and the scent of pine was strong in his nostrils. Memories flooded back of a different time when every spare moment that he had was filled with activities like this. His parents always seemed to be there beside him hiking, skiing and sledding down moonlit slopes close to the town. He remembered drinking hot chocolate around the fire at a local inn and being included even when there were adult guests around the big kitchen table for fondue. What he could not remember was the last time that he, Chrissie and the kids had spent any time together or even enjoyed a family meal.

He viewed the narrow footbridge across the gorge that he needed to cross to reach the small building clinging to the rock face on the other side of the raging river. It had carried thousands across safely over the hundreds of years that it had existed but a little hesitantly he walked over watching the flood waters racing beneath him.

Francis knew what to expect as he opened the door into the little chapel but was still unprepared for the wave of emotion that swept through him. Sunlight fought to gain entry into the tiny space through small windows fashioned into the thick outer wall. The faint rays illuminated the walls of stone and the shrine at its heart. Francis walked slowly inside and stood for a moment with his head bowed. Around him in the cracks in the walls, hundreds of small slips of paper caught the light. They were the prayers and supplications of people across time that had needed guidance and restoration of faith. Townspeople had walked up from the valley and travellers through the passes had stopped for a brief respite and comfort. Their combined presence had created a vortex of emotion and the hair on the back of Francis’s neck stood on end.

He had never been a religious man but he knew that this place was a spiritual oasis where all could regain their strength and sense of purpose. He remained for a few minutes longer and then gently closing the door behind him he walked back across the bridge. Gradually the feelings that had been triggered so forcefully subsided and in their place came clarity.

He walked down the trail until he reached a point overlooking the town. He sat on a warm rock and opened his rucksack. He broke the baguette into four pieces and liberally spread fresh mayonnaise on each piece before adding a thick slice of tomato with a little salt. He ate his simple meal as he contemplated his next move.

Satisfied now in body and soul he picked up his mobile and switched it back on. Ignoring all the texts and messages waiting for him; he made two calls. The first to Chrissie that lasted a long time and ended with his satisfied smile; the second that was equally lengthy to his business partner. He packed up the remains of his lunch and headed back down into the town where he spent the next few hours visiting chalet rental offices

For the first time in years, Francis felt that he was where he belonged and a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders. Chrissie would be arriving tomorrow and then next week Dane and Shannon would join them. It was time to repair those bonds that had been broken and to forge new ones that were stronger and would last a lifetime.

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? – Alexander – Defender of Men 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.

Alexander – Defender of Men

When Joyce Briggs was sixteen years old, her boyfriend at the time Ernie Winterbottom, took her to the cinema to see the latest epic to hit the silver screen which was Alexander the Great with Richard Burton. His aim was twofold. To impress the curvy Joyce with his intellectual prowess by choosing a film that was a bit la-di-dah, and to get her into the back seats of the cinema for a bit of you-know-what!

What Ernie did not take into account was that Joyce was besotted with Richard Burton. The sight of him in his armour as the great Alexander, not to mention his bare knees, had her more of a quiver than the prospect of a kiss and a cuddle with a spotty Herbert of a lad. In fact she barely acknowledged Ernie’s presence throughout the action packed two hours and twenty-three minutes. Not only did he not get to snuggle against her ample proportions in the back seat, she talked non-stop all the way home on the top of the bus despite his best efforts to silence her with desperate kisses.

Finally, they arrived at the door of the flat that she shared with her widowed mum and he was just about to turn away and wend his lonely way home when she fluttered her eyelashes at him.

‘Me mum’s away at my gran’s for the night,’ she puckered her lips at him suggestively. ‘Do you fancy coming in for a cuppa?’ Thankful that the evening had not been entirely wasted, Ernie was in the flat as quick as a ferret up a drainpipe.

Nine months later to the night, Joyce Winterbottom welcomed her son into the world and announced to the rather reluctant and bemused young father, that he would be called Alexander Richard Winterbottom.

Over the following years Alex, as he liked to be called, often contemplated the fact that he was not living up to his mum’s lofty expectations of his illustrious name. Those few friends that he had at his first school, shortened Alex even further to Al, but it was his surname that was to his main cross to bear. He was physically rather puny and the resident school bullies referred to him as Frosty Bum as they nicked his lunch money.

At home it was a different story as Joyce regaled him with the legendary tales of his namesake she had discovered in a book from the library. To be kind to his mum; Alex did his very best to look enthusiastic. Even at an early age, he had a sneaky feeling that he could not compete with the legend of the great man, who conquered half the bleeding world before breakfast over 2000 years previously.

His dad had done a bunk when Alex was three years old and Joyce had lavished all her attention on her beloved Alexander/Burton substitute. Times were hard, but after a while, she met a plumber called Percy Shufflebottom when he came to fix a leaky pipe. After a few months of courtship they had set up home in his semi-detached house; with the now five year old Alex in tow. Percy was a kind and considerate man and had been a good partner to his mum and step-dad to Alex. When Joyce eventually managed to get a divorce from the elusive Ernie, it left the couple free to tie the knot in the local registry office. At the time, Alex was offered the opportunity to change his name from Winterbottom to Shufflebottom. At eleven years old, Alex knew that moving into secondary school with his current surname would be tough enough, so declined the offer.

Five years later and Alex had grown to a decent height but was still on the runty side. However, he had excelled at sports including long-distance running and football. He was not a duffer but preferred the physical activities rather than sitting in a classroom. After consultation with the headmaster and his mum when he was sixteen, it was decided that he would get an apprenticeship with a local garage.

So here he was aged twenty and sitting in his pride and joy, a rebuilt Morris Minor, wondering if he would ever get the grease stains from under his fingernails. The rain was pelting down the windscreen and the inside of the car fogged up. He and his mate Stan had been out to the pub and had fancied some chips and curry sauce on the way home. It would stink up the car but to be fair he was not really bothered. In fact he found he was not particularly bothered about anything these days. He worked hard; lived in a bedsit a few streets from the garage and went round to his mum’s on a Sunday for a good feed. But if he was being honest; essentially he just existed.

He wiped the inside of the windscreen with a cloth and looked over at the chippie to see what was holding Stan up. He couldn’t see clearly because of the pouring rain and the dim street lighting, so he got out of the car, locking the door behind him. He joined the back of the queue which stretched out the door of the cafe and several feet up the pavement. People huddled under their umbrellas and Alex tried to see around them to find out where Stan was in the line. As he did so his eyes were drawn to a large poster in the office window next to him.

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It was December of 1982 and Joyce and Percy waited anxiously in their immaculate living room. Only used for special occasions; it was decorated with the Christmas tree that Percy had picked up at the market and streamers stretched across from each corner of the room. Percy clasped one of his wife’s hands as the other fingered her string of pearls around her plump neck.

‘Don’t worry love, he’ll be here soon,’ he soothed his nervous wife. The clock on the mantelpiece chimed and they both looked across at it for the tenth time in the last hour.

Finally, they heard a car draw up outside and voices talking in the street. Joyce heaved herself out of her chair and pushed past Percy to get into the hall… She tentatively released the catch on the lock and opened the door to face the visitor standing there.

She had not seen her son for two years and she looked at him in wonder. He had filled out a great deal since joining the Royal Navy six years before. He looked so impressive in his new Petty Officer uniform with his cap tucked under his arm. She put her hand to her mouth and then launched herself at him sobbing as he put his strong arms around her.

Behind them Percy looked on proudly. Alexander might not be his son by birth but he was bloody proud all the same. They had waited for days to find out if the lad was safe. Like the parents of those on both sides of the short conflict; they had been glued to the news on the television every night. Huddled on the sofa together, they watched anxiously as naval and land battles had been fought so far away in the Falklands. It had been absolutely terrifying when Alex’s ship had been hit several times in an air attack.

They were finally told that the lad had been slightly wounded but would be on his way home on leave in time for Christmas. Tears filled Alex’s eyes, as the two people he loved most in the world, each took a hand and led him into the festively decorated living-room. For a moment or two he stood looking around at the streamers and welcoming banners, overwhelmed by their love and thoughtfulness.

Joyce smoothed her hand over her son’s gold braid on the sleeve of his uniform and looked up at his handsome face.

She laughed delightedly. ‘Well I never love; you look just like Richard Burton….’

©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 – Usher – Taking things for granted by Sally Cronin


Welcome to the first of the short stories from What’s in a Name Volume Two.. This story is about Usher…Taking things for granted.

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.’

©sallycronin 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

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name Volume II – Norman – An Old Soldier


Welcome to the second of the short stories from my collection What’s in a Name Volume II. Today an old soldier despairs at the growing desolation of the estate that he lives on.

Norman – An Old Soldier

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recently however there had been new sounds and they drowned out the childish laughter. Teenagers from a neighbouring estate were prowling the stairwells and communal areas of the blocks nearest to them, but away from family and possible consequences in their own neighbourhood. His own block had taken on a seedy and unwholesome appearance with evidence of night-time drinking and drug taking on the landings and underground garage. The local residence association had contacted the police and there had been a begrudging response which included one or two more cars patrolling at night, but no arrests were made. The council representative had said that they were powerless to provide security with cutbacks to essential services already.

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

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

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

He acknowledged them silently with a nod.

‘Atten… Shun’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin

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

My latest book, released on September 24th, Tales from the Irish Garden,has received some recent reviews

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

Sally Cronin brings us back to the magical garden of tales, now transported to Ireland, moved from it’s former home in Spain. Here we are taken into the lives of mystical characters of old and new, with their busy lives taking place under the Magnolia tree, kept under the watchful eye of the Storyteller, and the reign of Queen Filigree.

The author shares with us, delicious descriptions of royal parties with kings and queens – be they Queen Bees or royalty, and prepared delicacies by a 3 Wizard Star chef, complete with healthy ingredients, snuck in by Cronin with her vast knowledge as a nutritional therapist.

Some of these characters in the Irish garden emigrated from Book 1 – Tales from the Garden and new ones have joined in. The stories are broken down and told in seasons, depicting characters and their stories of hardships and incidence coming full circle where despite the conflicts, there are happy endings with life lessons to take from. Jeremy, the timid donkey is back with his arch enemy Gerard, once again feeling threatened by any other male near his female heifer friends. And with the help of Jeremy’s mother Fiona, and the Storytellers’s aid, a plot was hatched to spare Jeremy from being bullied by the macho Gerard. We also encounter a May/December romance and relationship that works between the older Queen Filigree and the handsome young Prince Ronan. (Having access to the fountain of youth to maintain her youth and beauty didn’t hurt!) We’ll also experience the evil that jealousy can bring forth as when the evil Magnus turns newlyweds Eddie and Dorothy (the Storyteller’s daughter) into foxes, and mice who look after those in need.

Whether human or animal, everyone in the garden ultimately learns to get along and pulls together when danger approaches. Many great life lessons to be taken in this charming book for all ages alike. With kindness and compassion evil always loses out. #Recommended. 

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/

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name Volume II – Martha- The System Administrator


Welcome to the first of this weekend’s short stories taken from my collection What’s in a Name Volumen II.  The first story is about Martha.. who is a personal assistant who goes above and beyond for her boss.

Martha – The System Administrator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I may have done something that should help.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©Sally Cronin

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

My latest book, released on September 24th, Tales from the Irish Garden,has received some recent reviews

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

Sally Cronin brings us back to the magical garden of tales, now transported to Ireland, moved from it’s former home in Spain. Here we are taken into the lives of mystical characters of old and new, with their busy lives taking place under the Magnolia tree, kept under the watchful eye of the Storyteller, and the reign of Queen Filigree.

The author shares with us, delicious descriptions of royal parties with kings and queens – be they Queen Bees or royalty, and prepared delicacies by a 3 Wizard Star chef, complete with healthy ingredients, snuck in by Cronin with her vast knowledge as a nutritional therapist.

Some of these characters in the Irish garden emigrated from Book 1 – Tales from the Garden and new ones have joined in. The stories are broken down and told in seasons, depicting characters and their stories of hardships and incidence coming full circle where despite the conflicts, there are happy endings with life lessons to take from. Jeremy, the timid donkey is back with his arch enemy Gerard, once again feeling threatened by any other male near his female heifer friends. And with the help of Jeremy’s mother Fiona, and the Storytellers’s aid, a plot was hatched to spare Jeremy from being bullied by the macho Gerard. We also encounter a May/December romance and relationship that works between the older Queen Filigree and the handsome young Prince Ronan. (Having access to the fountain of youth to maintain her youth and beauty didn’t hurt!) We’ll also experience the evil that jealousy can bring forth as when the evil Magnus turns newlyweds Eddie and Dorothy (the Storyteller’s daughter) into foxes, and mice who look after those in need.

Whether human or animal, everyone in the garden ultimately learns to get along and pulls together when danger approaches. Many great life lessons to be taken in this charming book for all ages alike. With kindness and compassion evil always loses out. #Recommended. 

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/

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Fionnuala – The Swan by Sally Cronin


This weekend I am sharing two more stories from the first volume of What’s in a Name – both begin with the letter ‘F’ and the first is about a young woman who overcomes bullying to become a member of the police force.

Fionnuala – The Swan by Sally Cronin

Fionnuala Garvin was pinned to the wall of the toilet block. Her small hands were pressed back onto the cold red brick as her shoulders were firmly clamped beneath the stubby fingers attached to grubby hurtful hands. The pain from this mauling was excrutiating, as her white blonde hair was trapped beneath the vicious fingers and her scalp felt like it was on fire. With her fragile swan-like neck, slight frame and skinny legs she did not look twelve years old and right now she wished she was back in primary school where life had been so much kinder.

Her lower lip trembled,and she tried not to cry as the onslaught continued, unseen by the teacher on monitor duty in the playground. This was Ciaran Walsh’s favourite spot for tormenting the younger children, and extorting their lunch from them, and today he was in an even worse mood than usual. Not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer, at fifteen he was failing a number of subjects. Just this morning he had been sentenced to a week of detention for failing to hand in an essay for his history class. He was looking to take out his rage on someone.

Fionnuala or Nola as she was known to her friends was terrified. Normally there would have been two rounds of cheese sandwiches and an apple in the satchel now lying at her feet, but today she had forgotten to pick the brown paper bag up from the counter in the kitchen at home. Without these essential bargaining chips, she was going to be in for a hiding.

Ciaran’s breath smelled rank and his stained teeth offered plenty of evidence of what he had eaten for breakfast and lack of an acquaintance with a toothbrush. He brought his cavernous mouth close to Nola’s terrified face and spat out his demands.

‘Fionnuala Garvin. You are mine and I own you. Give me your lunch now or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue’. He sneered viciously and pressed further into her body.

Just then large hands descended on Nola’s attacker’s upper arms, and he was virtually lifted into the air, and shoved back out into the playground. Ciaran steadied himself and poised for a counter attack but stopped abruptly in his tracks. He looked up into the eyes of a tall and well-built senior from sixth year and knew that he would be hard pressed to better him in a straight fight. The older boy stood protectively in front of Nola and with a quick check to make sure his young charge was not hurt in any way, he turned back to Ciaran who was still mulling over his options.

‘Ciaran Walsh I know how to find you and it won’t be just me next time, you need to get your sorry act together. Get back to class and I will be watching your every move from now on; just feck off.’

The disgruntled bully turned and nonchalantly headed off back into school and tried to ignore the smirks on the faces of the bystanders who had witnessed the altercation. Unfortunately as he reached the steps leading up to the main entrance, he tripped and almost fell; gales of laughter followed him as he hurried through the wide blue doors.

Meanwhile Nola’s rescuer put a consoling arm around her shoulders and steered her towards her classmates. They had remained huddled together awaiting the outcome of this daily assault on any of their members foolish enough to get separated from the pack.

‘Listen to me,’ the tall lad addressed the white-faced group. ‘My name is Patrick Flanagan and you must come and tell me if this happens again. He smiled at his new devotees. ‘My friends and I will do our best to keep that one out of trouble in the future.’ He left unaware of the admiring glances and excited whispers behind him.

Ten years later Nola checked herself in the mirror before heading downstairs; she never grew tired of seeing herself in her Garda uniform. Following her training she had been posted to this town in the heart of a farming community and after a year in the job she could honestly say that there was little she did not enjoy. She went downstairs following the aroma of scrambled eggs on toast with a rasher of bacon that her husband Patrick had laid on the table. He turned from the cooker with his own plate and they sat across from each other eating leisurely and enjoying this rare breakfast together. He was a doctor at a hospital in the nearby city and their shift patterns did not always allow for regular meals; when they did manage to get time it was precious.

He kissed her goodbye and watched her through the kitchen window as she backed her car out of the drive. He had some time before his shift started, and as he cleared the breakfast crockery away he reflected on what a lucky man he was. Who could have thought that the little blonde waif that he had rescued that day in the playground, would end up becoming his wife.

He was very proud of her and knew that she had passed every examination and physical test with flying colours. That did not however stop him from worrying about her safety, especially as he saw the results of violence associated with crime on a far too regular basis.

The object of his thoughts was not unaware of her husband’s concerns, and that drove Nola to even more excellence when it came to training and attention to detail. She had two hours before her shift began and she was headed to a physical training session with her partner on the force. He might be a great friend to both she and Patrick, but once they hit that mat they would fight hard for the win.

Dressed in her sweat pants and t-shirt, Nola faced off against her partner. They circled each other waiting for the slightest move that would indicate an attack. Although taller and broader than Nola, her opponent was light on his feet and his muscled body moved agilely across the mat.

Seeing what he perceived as an opening; he reached out and managed to place a hand on Nola’s shoulder. The next thing he knew he was on his back with one arm held upright; his hand bent forward in a tight grip.

Nola leant forward close to the face of her partner who was grinning up at her with his killer smile; the one that had the girls falling at his own feet.

‘Ciaran Walsh, you are mine and I own you. Buy me lunch or I will pinch your arms until they are black and blue.’

©Sally Cronin 2015

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

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

Smorgasbord Short Stories – What’s in a Name? – Elaine – A Shining Light by Sally Cronin


This weekend I am sharing two more stories from the first volume of What’s in a Name – both begin with the letter ‘E’ and the first is a story about a woman who is saving up a secret to share with her husband on his birthday.

Elaine – A Shining Light

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 her of his 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 darling,’ 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 little longer until it was time for him to blow out his birthday candles.

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.

©Sally Cronin 2015

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

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