Bookings are now open for my three 2020 residential writing retreats, co-tutored with RNA Chair Alison May. Details can be found here.
You can read the stories online by following the links below, or you can download the free ebook of all the stories here.
She took a deep breath. The crisp morning air tasted faintly of eucalyptus leaves, still damp with dew. It wouldn’t take long for the sun to burn that away, leaving behind the taste of red dust and dry earth. The taste of the Australian outback. The taste of home. In the distance, a kookaburra laughed to welcome the day. To welcome Bec back to Farwell Creek.
Lani gave a little cry, and her fingers tightened convulsively around the nurse’s hand.
“Is this it?” she asked, holding her distended stomach with her other hand.
Fay nodded. “I think so.”
Jenny looked up from the litter of bills and bank statements on the table. Eight year old Ben was standing in the doorway quivering with excitement.
“What did you say?”
“I saw a spaceship crash in the allotments.”
The queue for the pizza stall was endless; at least that’s how it felt to Ryan. It also wasn’t moving. He had been standing in the same spot for what seemed like hours, as people pushed their way past him, moving down the hill towards the stage. He was hungry. He was hot. And he wanted to be anywhere in the world except at this stupid music festival.
“Jimmy Choo. Very nice.”
“Well, what do you expect me to say?”
Sarah heard the girls giggling as she opened the office door. The students huddled at the end of the corridor had been in her office a few minutes ago to collect some papers for their Year 9 history class. Whatever was amusing them, she was certain it wasn’t history notes.
The girls were so intent on what they were doing, they didn’t hear her approach.
The camera was older than Liz – by a long stretch. The sign above the shop window grandly promised ‘Antiques and Objets D’art’. Second-hand goods might be a more accurate description. The unkind would call it junk, but the camera caught her attention and held it.
The brown leather case was a little scuffed but otherwise the old Kodak looked in good order. As a professional photographer, Liz could almost convince herself she had a good reason to look at the camera. It wasn’t just an excuse to avoid the next shop window.
Faded window shutters hung at sad angles. Cracks scarred the faded paint. Dust coated the floors. Once upon a time, it had been a marvellous thing, crafted with care and pride and love, but now the doll’s house was old and shabby.
“This won’t bring much,” the trader thought, setting it on the ground. Even for a car boot sale, it was pretty tatty. Still, a couple of pounds was better than nothing. As with all the leftover rubbish from his antiques shop, he’d take whatever he could get.
Ellie touched the accelerator, and pulled the car forward another few inches. Then she braked and waited, staring through the windscreen at the threatening sky. How many days since she last saw the sun? Curse the English weather! Those pretty Christmas cards with cheerful robins on white frosted branches were false advertising. All she had seen was rain, sleet and more rain.
I enjoy working weeknights. The pub’s quiet and I’ve got time to chat. The weeknight regulars aren’t big drinkers. They’re here for the company as much as the beer. There’s usually a guest or two. A long way from home, they don’t mind some company.
This particular night, old Mr and Mrs Fahey were chatting about someone’s wedding anniversary. He always has a half of bitter. She’s a G&T. There’s not much a person could tell them about wedding anniversaries. They’ve had 51. Proud of it they are, and rightly so.
A huge black and yellow banner welcomed them to the town’s second annual beer festival. The familiar hall was strangely dressed for the event – in scaffolding and metal barrels. Makeshift bars lined the walls, the crowd moving around them in a slow dance. And above all, the pungent odour of malt and hops.
Norma cast a hopeful glance at the faces, but none were familiar. Leather jackets abounded, as did beards and jeans. They were mostly men, these tasters of the brewers art. Here and there, a flash of lipstick or the flick of hair testified to a woman’s presence.
A cascade of joyous images filled her mind. The towering beauty of a brightly decorated tree, gaily wrapped presents piled beneath it; her brothers’ laughter as they tried out their new toys; the special treats saved for her as the youngest.
Clare saw the first dragon as she crossed the Severn River. It was on a bridge pylon. It wasn’t breathing fire at passing motorists, as a dragon should. No. It was a painted dragon, welcoming her to Wales.
The second dragon was in the pub where she stopped for lunch. This was a brewer’s dragon, advertising the local ale. She tried half a pint. It was good beer.
From her seat in the rickety wooden grandstand, Carol watched the winner trot very sedately around the arena. Once safely through the gate, Joanne Harper’s control vanished. She flung herself to the ground and wrapped her arms around her pony’s neck. A smiling woman, her mother, received a quick hug too, but the pony got most of the little girl’s kisses, because the pony was the best thing in the whole world!
“Please! Just five more minutes,” she prayed, turning her weary feet toward home. Pat hunched her shoulders, not against the looming rain, but against the crowd of people pouring out of the station behind her. Taking a tighter grip on her shopping, she allowed herself to be swept along.
Loves Me, Loves Me Not is an anthology of short stories celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
I’m absolutely thrilled to be included, with my award winning story “Waiting for A Wish”.
This is the only story not available on the this web site or in the ebook, but click on the title to learn more about the anthology and the RNA.
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