Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving.

Poll closed Oct 13, 2008.
  1. hellomoto - Matter Over Mind

    1 vote(s)
  2. Thagryn-Sylrand - A deadly secret

    0 vote(s)
  3. Catchymonkey - Ignorance is Bliss

    3 vote(s)
  4. aphonos - Under Control

    0 vote(s)
  5. Scattercat - Pass

    1 vote(s)
  6. amb42625 - Discovered

    0 vote(s)
  7. Tweek - The Secret Life of Eddie Trigg

    5 vote(s)
  8. The Freshmaker - All Things Considered

    3 vote(s)
  9. sweepy - Murderer

    0 vote(s)
  10. NateDoggy - Last Chance

    0 vote(s)
  11. yellowm&M - Rain

    2 vote(s)
  12. surreal5335 - My haunting past

    1 vote(s)
  13. DarrenW - Neil Till

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest (29) Theme: A Dark Secret

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Oct 1, 2008.

    Short Story Contest (29) Voting Theme: A Dark Secret

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned.

    Voting will end 13th October 2008 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not strictly in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    hellomoto - Matter Over Mind

    The human body. The most incredible thing that has ever existed; that will ever exist.

    The skeleton. The foundation – walls and all – of the body; the foundation of the most incredible thing that has ever existed or ever will exist. Consisting of two hundred and six bones. Two hundred and six walls in a mansion.

    The muscles. The electrical side of the body. Movement to the most incredible thing ever – now not a mansion, but a giant limo.

    And of course, the brain. The control centre of everything – of everything in the most incredible thing ever. Two hundred million neurons, controlling what is no longer a limo, but an entire world. A living, breeding, moving, thinking world.

    Obviously, the human body is a brilliant thing.

    On the other hand, however, is the human mind.

    A completely different entity. The bearer of our scariest, happiest, worst, best dreams.
    The mind is the ability to do anything, to be anything.

    A famous sporting star, a wartime hero, an accountant -the mind decides.

    Death, murder, adultery, theft, all sinister, ominous thoughts – or in the worse case, actions. Thoughts – works of the mind. Actions, works of thoughts.

    Everything begins with a thought. The first men on the moon – without the work of the many scientists that developed the technology to fly, to leave the Earth even, the first men on the men would be just a figment of our imagination - a thought. Same goes with the creation of electricity, the car, the wheel. None of these things just existed. They were created, after once being a dream, a hope, an imagination. In other words a thought.

    The nuclear bomb began with a thought as well. So did almost every means of murder. By no means is the mind a wonderful thing – like the body. The mind is where evil is born. Where our darkest, deepest secrets linger.

    Ben had a darkest, deepest secret. And now, unfortunately, he would have to un-earth it – un-mind it.
    “Why Dad, why are they here?” the small girl beside him asked.

    The small, innocent girl beside him – that loved him and cared for him. He loved her as well, more than anything else. Much more than her mother. He rubbed the puzzled girl’s dark brown hair - maybe for the last time.

    “Mr. Pillers!” a man outside called, “come out with your hands up!”

    “Why do they want you to come out Daddy? I’m scared,”

    She held on tightly to his waist, staring anxiously into his eyes.

    “Because I have done a good thing, that they think is bad honey,”

    “Mr. Pillers!”

    “Why do they think it is bad Daddy?”

    He felt a large tear trickle out of his eyes, and roll slowly down his cheek.
    “They just do, honey, but remember, I love you, your daddy loves you,”

    “I am giving you one last chance, sir, come out with your hands up!”

    “Daddy, why are you crying?”

    “Goodbye,” he managed to say as his face erupted in a river of salty tears, “Goodbye,”

    He stepped forward, pushing the large door in front of him open. Sunlight blazed into the dim room, he turned to see his daughter staring confused towards him.

    One last time, “I love you,”

    The mind and body are each other’s downfall. One day your body will stop working, and with it your mind’s death.

    This day, as a bullet’s loud bang erupted into the air, and a man fell to the ground in front of his daughter, dead, the mind existed – and with it, the body’s death.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Thagryn-Sylrand - A deadly secret

    Michael stopped in front of his house knowing his family was fast asleep. It was two in the morning, but he did not feel like sleeping. Slowly he walked up the steps, slipped the key into the door and turned the handle. Inside it was a pleasant change from the unwelcoming frigid cold of the city in winter. Closing the door, he shrugged off his coat and threw it on the couch; he would get it later.

    Michael went over to the coffee table and picked up the remote, he then plopped himself down on the chair and turned on the television. The news was on and he quickly changed the channel. Hours passed and it was finally morning, he waited for the familiar sound of his wife’s footsteps coming down the stairs. When they did he waited for her to talk.

    “Where were you?” she said in a stern voice, almost offended.

    “At work, as usual.”

    “Until two in the morning?”

    “I had a lot of things to take care of.”

    “Like what? This is starting to become a pattern and I want it to stop.”

    “Honey I…”

    “You know you have to sons who look up to you and you don’t even come home for supper. By the time you are home they are asleep and you only see them for two minutes before you head off to work again. How do you think they feel?” The conversation was over and she left him sitting on the chair to think about what he had just heard.

    From the kitchen could be heard the sounds of breakfast being made, but the way the dishes clunked together anyone could tell that his wife was angry. Soon his kids came down the stairs and they went over to Michael and hugged him and told him about what they had down the day before. His wife then called that breakfast was ready in a falsely cheerful voice. Sitting down at the kitchen table they were served a meal of eggs and bacon which they ate in silence. The Saturday sky looked as though it would treat the people of the city with nice weather despite the blizzards they had gotten the days before. When Michael was done he left the table and went back to the chair and turned the TV on.

    He browsed through the channels and when it came to the morning news the anchor could be heard saying: A man was shot last night around twelve o’clock. Investigators are... Michael turned the channel once again but his wife told him to change it back. Reluctantly he changed it back to the news and once the story was done his wife spoke up.

    “Scary people. Though I’m not surprised, that man was getting on a lot of people’s wrong side.”

    Just then Michael’s pager beeped. It read: Under the Carlton monument at twelve noon.

    “I have to go.”

    “Where? You don’t have to work on a Saturday, do you?” The anger started to rise in her voice.

    “I’ll try to be back early, I have to go.”

    “No you don’t”

    “You don’t understand!”

    He pulled on his black frock coat and left, slamming his door on the way out, leaving his wife in tears. The black Lincoln continental waited for him in the driveway and he pulled out taking his time as twelve o’clock wasn’t for an hour. He pulled up beside Carlton park and waited for the delivery. Finally he saw a man carrying a suitcase who went up to the monument and placed it out of view below the statue. Michael waited for the man to leave before opening the door to go retrieve the package. He waited until no one was looking and picked it up, bringing it back to the car. Opening it up there was a phone whose receiver was attached to the suitcase. There was also a portfolio which contained many pictures of one man and a wad of cash. Next to the portfolio there was a gun and beside it were a silencer and a clip. Knowing what to do, Michael picked up the phone and dialled 472. A recorded message played.

    You have been chosen for the task of assassinating Arthur Hunt. He has interrupted our business affairs, but that is of no concern to you. He can be found on 204 Tyler street, make quick work of him.

    Michael drove, not even thinking about the job, he would rather not to. As he drove up to the first block of Tyler street he drove a couple blocks past it, not wanting to take any chances. He took the gun, loaded a clip, screwed on the silencer and put it in his coat pocket. Getting out of the car he walked, snow crunching under his feet. When he got to the house he breathed deep. He then walked briskly picking up speed and drew the gun and kicked the door in. Arthur was playing monopoly with what looked to be his wife and their daughter. The wife screamed and ducked but their toddler looked confused. Michael raised his gun and looked into Arthur’s eyes.

    “Don’t shoo…”

    The silenced weapon kicked back as the gun shot sounded like a click. Michael knew he had killed him and put the gun back in his coat and walked away from the house, not wishing to draw attention to himself. Then he felt sick, not like his other kills, this man had a family. He had killed him in front of his own kid. He got in his Lincoln and drove with out a purpose. He didn’t want to go home, he didn’t want to see his family, how could he even be worth a family? Michael found a place where he could dispose of the suitcase. He even threw the money out with it, he had enough from his other kills. Finally he decided to go home, pale and sweating.

    He got to his house and waited a good fifteen minutes before getting out of his car. He went to the door and paused before entering. At first he didn’t see it but then he heard a muffled scream. His wife and his sons were gagged and bound. Then a man came into view. He was holding a revolver, Michael wished he hadn’t thrown out the gun.

    “You killed my brother.” Looking at the man’s face he recognized that he looked similar to one of his victims. Michael then watched as the gun slowly came up to face level. “Now it’s your turn.”
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Catchymonkey - Ignorance is Bliss

    Laura jumped up as John walked through the door and immediately tears filled her eyes as she ran forward and pulled him into a tight embrace. He wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist and hugged her back. They stood in the embrace for many minutes before Laura stood back and wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand and told him how worried she had been.

    She asked with a sniffle if he was hurt, and John assured her with a smile that he wasn’t.
    Laura burst into tears again and John pulled her into another hug.

    The bank at which John worked had been robbed earlier that day, and when the suspects got desperate to escape they took a hostage. John was that hostage. The police waited, guns pointing as the robbers grabbed John around the neck and dragged him to their getaway car. They jumped inside, throwing John to the ground and sped off, half of the police officers jumped into their own cars while the others ran to John. It was a scary experience, but he survived.

    A few days later a package came through the door for John. Laura picked it up and looked at it curiously. Deciding it was none of her business, she took it up to the room she and John shared and handed it to him. He thanked her with a kiss and she went back down the stairs leaving John peace to get dressed.

    He turned to the package lying on the bed and opened it. Inside was a note, a note which read; ‘You make a great hostage, John. Here is your reward.” Sitting under the note was many other notes. Green notes, and large bundles of them. John smiled to himself and placed the package in his sock drawer, deciding he would hide it better after work.

    Needless to say, Laura was more than a little surprised when John came home with a gift for her. A brand new Porsche was sitting in the driveway, still shiny with its showroom gleam. She gasped and hugged him and screamed, and did all three at the same time. John smiled, both at her and to himself, glad for his little secret in the sock drawer. Laura jumped in and took the new car for a test drive as John went inside to eat the dinner she had prepared for him that night.

    Later that night as John was asleep in front of the television, Laura took the clean laundry up to their room and opened John’s sock drawer to fill it with clean socks. She saw the package and the money that lay inside and instantly knew where the new Porsche had come from. She closed the drawer slowly and put away all of the other things in their rightful place as she thought about what to do. After much careful thought it was decided. She didn’t know where the money had come from, and she didn’t want to know. Like they say, ignorance is bliss.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    aphonos - Under Control

    Helen stared into the mirror and wondered what went wrong.

    Oh, there were little things, of course. Her mother was controlling. Her father was distant. She’d had a few awkward dalliances in high school, a failed marriage to a self-absorbed, overgrown child who’d left her for another man. Nothing that was out of the ordinary. Nothing that could explain why...

    She blinked, the harsh lights over the bathroom sink illuminating her skin, unforgiving. Every wrinkle, every pore, each hair that needed tweezing or bleaching was there to see. Once she’d have called herself beautiful. Once she would have said she was smart, or successful, or funny. Now she needed Botox.

    Helen opened the medicine cabinet and began pulling out the ingredients of her morning ritual. First came the washes and unguents that claimed to do the impossible. “We’ll turn back the clock!” they said in their boutiques at Neiman Marcus. “Close your pores! You’ll look like a teenager again, you ugly old hag!” She listened, and she bought. Of course, she had to wear makeup as well; Helen spent enough on makeup each year to feed countless small children in developing countries.

    She didn’t care about them, those nameless souls that her conscience (if it worked) should have been telling her to feed. But she cared that she didn’t, which made it worse. She pretended to care that she was selfish, and wasting thousands on a lost cause - herself. She pretended to be happy-go-lucky, effortless, not at all obsessed. It couldn’t be farther from the truth.

    Hair next. A sleek black comb with teeth that reminded her of stiletto heels was laid on the counter. Six hair clips, for drying. Two hair rollers. A tortoiseshell hairbrush and a futuristic hair dryer completed the hardware array; that didn’t count the consumables, the mousse, calming spritz, shine, putty, and hairspray that kept her straight hair straighter.

    Helen looked deep into the mirror once more, leaning in close to inspect for flaws. A thicker patch of makeup. Lipstick on teeth, liner out of line. An hour on hair. Another forty-five on makeup. And Helen wasn’t even dressed yet.

    There had been a time - a short, blissful time - when she truly, honestly didn’t care. Back when it was her fellow Phi Sigs that were envious, watching Helen move through the group with her own personal style, a smile that dazzled and long blonde hair that dusted the round swell of her perfect buttocks. All she did was wash her face and shower, brush and towel dry her hair. There wasn’t any morning ritual. She didn’t spend more time at the gym than she did at home. She was young, and she was beautiful.

    So was Richard. Richard, who swept her off her feet. Richard, who complemented her in every way and gave her a daughter. Richard, who called her an ugly whore who’d let herself go, and ran off to **** some pretty young thing without so much as a goodbye. The alimony she’d squeezed out of him almost made up for it. Or that’s what she told everybody, anyway.

    It wasn’t until Helen passed the bathroom mirror one last time that she realized she was crying. And ruining her hard work, which made her cry all the more. Suddenly, she felt like she couldn’t do it, couldn’t face the day, even though all she had to do was stop in at the office for two hours. Everybody was going to LOOK at her, and they would SEE that she was HORRIBLE, and UGLY, and FAT...

    Helen’s tears had given way to sobbing and an empty pain in her chest that forced her to suck down lungful after lungful of perfumed and powdered air. Her hair was askew, there was a run in her nylons, and her manicure had chipped when she slid down to the floor under the weight of her insecurities. All was ruined - ruined! - and still she couldn’t stop. It was cathartic, in a way. But it wasn’t the answer. That was bottled up in the medicine cabinet, behind that damned mirror. The problem... and the solution.

    Manic energy welled up inside of Helen, filling the emptiness. She had to clean herself up... change her nylons, brush her hair, make an emergency appointment for a manicure. She had to keep everybody else from seeing her terrible weakness. She had to keep her madness inside, because she was the only one who felt pressure as keenly as she did, who couldn’t stand loss like a real woman. Because she was weak.

    Xanax. Valium. Prozac. Paxil. Tryptan. OxyContin. Zyprexa. Adderall and Ritalin. Only the Paxil was in her name, that bitter little pill that grabbed her brain in a vise-grip and shook it whenever she forgot to give it due deference. The rest were from doctors and “friends,” free samples and fake prescriptions. She didn’t care that a doctor, a real one, hadn’t given her advice and instructions on how to use what she had. They would only think she was weak if she told them what was really wrong, how chewed up and raw she was on the inside, beneath her crumbling shell. Helen swallowed them all, indiscriminately.

    Five minutes later the haze overtook her, and Helen became human once more.

    * * *

    The bar was noisy, in a way particular to upscale martini bars. The hum of subdued conversation, the rattle and hum of countless cellular phones, and a constant clink-clank noise from the many glasses fought for dominance with the acid jazz piped in by management. It was noisy, and Helen was self-conscious - everybody was watching, after all. And her friends would be judging. They all weathered their divorces without any pain, didn’t waste their lives in front of the bathroom mirror, didn’t drug themselves into oblivion every morning so they could function like a human being. None of her uncertainty shone through, though, as she approached the table where her fellow Phi Sigs, now her friends and coworkers, had gathered for happy hour.

    Four women turned to Helen as she approached. Four collagen-injected sets of lips formed tight smiles, and eight be-lashed, mascaraed, eyes widened in feigned delight. Their minds all formed the same thought, the one secret that nobody else could ever know.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Scattercat - Pass

    "It's not what you think, sir," said Jojo, cringing away as though he expected a blow. The boy's eyes were wide, white against his skin. "I swear, honest, I din't mean nothin' by it!"

    "That's as may be, son," I said, keeping my voice low and paternal. "But you done stolen from the store, from Mister Jacobs."

    "I was gonna give it back, honest, sir!" sobbed the youth. "I jes' wanted to show Myrtle, sir, she's my girl, sir, and she do love pretty things like that. I only took it outside, sir."

    "You trifled in a white man's property, boy!" I allowed my anger to show through. The child had no idea what he'd done. He'd been born after the War. He'd never been bought and sold. He hadn't seen what they'd do to a black boy that was a thief. "That was a hanging crime, not long ago. Still is, if they catch you at it and you got nobody to speak up for you. As is, it'll mean a whipping, at least."

    "Please, Massah Stern, sir, please don't tell nobody!" Tears were rolling down his face now, his cheeks still showing the cherubic roundness of childhood. He'd only been working in the store for a week, and wouldn't be old enough to be any use for a year or more. "Please, sir, you know I's honest! You know I wouldn't steal nothin'! You remember when I shined your shoes, sir, an' you done give me an extra penny, an' I run down after you down the whole street, sir, an' give it back? Please, sir, don't let 'em hang me! Don't let 'em whup me! My pappy got whupped once, and his back was all tore up fer a month so's he couldn't even sit down proper after workin' all day, an' he said the flies'd come around for the smell o' blood an' the sweat'd sting like the Devil himself!"

    "Jojo," I said, closing my eyes. I empathized with the boy, I really did, but he had to learn the ways of the world. He had to learn how to act properly. If he talked back to Mr. Jacobs the way he talked to me, he'd be whipped three times around the square before the day was out. It was probably my fault; I was always too lenient with the servants.

    I sighed. I couldn't do it. I'd have to risk it. "Jojo, just run on into the back and fetch a switch. I'll give you a swat myself and tell Mr. Jacobs you've been properly whipped."

    The boy's eyes shone with relief and gratitude. He'd had spankings before, Lord knew, from his long-suffering mother. He could handle another one; better than he could handle the knotted leather whip on his child's back, at least. He scampered off, heading into the woods to break off a slender branch. Not too slender, he knew, or I'd send him back for another one. No good mollycoddling the boy.

    "Joseph," I said, using his full name. That caught his attention, and he froze. "Make sure you wince every now and then and clutch at your back for the next week or two, else Mr. Jacobs might think I didn't do a good enough job."

    "Yessuh," chirped Jojo. He disappeared out the door, his dark skin fading into the shadows under the trees almost instantly.

    I watched him go, my hands gripping each other so tightly the knuckles were white.

    Later, Mr. Jacobs collared me in the accounts room, working on tallying up the day's sales. "Fine job you're doing with that little colored boy," he said warmly, clapping me on the back. "You've almost made him a good worker. And that other fellow of your, the great big brute who looks like he'd as soon rip your throat out as glance at you? Why, that boy's about as docile as a lamb! I lay all the credit at your feet, Mister Stern. You've got a real knack with the coloreds."

    "Thank you, Mr. Jacobs," I murmured, trying to keep my attention ostentatiously on the account book.

    "T'cha! Call me Sean, my friend," he laughed. "You're always so deferential! Might be that's why you're such a good master to the negros. You show them how it's to be done, eh? That boy talked back to me the other day, and I thought for sure I'd have to have him whipped before the week was out. But now he's quiet as a church mouse. A little taste of the lash always puts them right in line, eh?" he said, with a conspiratorial wink.

    I closed my eyes and marshaled my patience. "That it does, Sean," I agreed politely. I made a show of looking out the window. "Lord have mercy! It's getting late."

    Mr. Jacobs glanced uninterestedly at the setting sun. "I suppose it is," he said.

    "I'd best get these accounts totaled up before I go," I said, looking concerned. "It's a shame we can't train a colored boy to do the math for us, isn't it?"

    Mr. Jacobs chuckled. "Now that there is a funny idea, John. As well give a bear a needle and tell it to sew your wife a fancy dress!" He roared with laughter. I laughed along. "I'll leave you to it, John," he said earnestly. "But come by my house afterwards. We'll have a drink, and you can meet Eliza."

    "I'll look forward to it. Uh, Sean," I added hastily, forcing my mouth into a smile.

    He waved farewell and was gone, leaving me to lock up the store after him. I looked down at the ledger. Ink had dripped from my pen while I spoke; my hands were now dappled with black spots, and a great smear across the page. I set the pen back in the inkwell and hung my head. The ink stood out on my pale skin, two-toned, as though it was a mark, a sign announcing my secret to the world. Some of the preachers said the dark skin was the curse of Cain, the mark God had put on him for the murder of his brother. I wondered what it meant if my skin was so pallid and wan, so unlike my grandmother's. Was the curse being lifted away? Or was it just retreating inside, where I had to hide it, to keep it from showing?

    No one could know. I'd danced with their daughters and eaten at their tables. They would want revenge. I'd be beaten, burned, lynched. I had to keep my mask in place, or lose everything.

    I pretended I couldn't hear the muffled sobbing of the little boy who huddled behind the store, clutching his bruised skin. I drew a line across the page in the ledger, a break, starting fresh. I wiped the black ink from my white skin, and worked on in the fading light.
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    amb42625 - Discovered

    Discovered. The word pounded through her head as she scanned the remainder of the email, her mind barely registering the words on her computer screen. His wife knew. It goes without saying that the email was not very pleasant, to be truthful it was harsh and vindictive. Kat couldn’t blame her, she knew she would have reacted the same if it were her husband.

    Casually, Kat clicked the “forward” button above the email. Dnewman@gmail.com; she typed in the address line. Pausing, she considered what to type in order to introduce this interesting email. Discovered. She clicked “send” and settled back in her chair to consider what had just happened.

    Elena knew about Kat and Daniel. Kat was convinced that the two of them had been very good about keeping their secret, so how could this have happened? Only a select few of her friends at the office knew about the affair, and she was certain that none of them would have betrayed her. The only one who knew about their secret email addresses was Anna, and that girl didn’t have the brains to make something like this happen. It didn’t make sense at all.

    Leave my husband alone.

    Harsh words, but then again it was a well-known fact that Elena was not a nice person. She had driven Daniel into Kat’s arms through her incessant nagging and mistrust. If she was going to blame Daniel for things he wasn’t doing, he may as well get the pleasure of doing them, correct?

    Her computer chimed to alert her to an incoming email. She read the three lines quickly, heart beating rapidly.

    She told Fletcher.
    She isn’t letting me out of her sight; I will be very late to work today.
    I love you.

    Fletcher was their boss, and him knowing about them meant serious trouble. Kat thought she had seen Fletcher give her a strange look earlier. Now she was angry. How dare that woman put them in this position? Daniel could lose his job, did she think of that? Of course not, all she thought about was her own revenge. Let’s see how she feels when her husband gets fired because of this, Kat thought vindictively. She took it back instantly; the last thing she wanted was for Daniel to lose his job. She knew if they no longer worked together, they would never see each other again. Not to mention she could lose her job too.

    Kat flicked back to Elena’s email. Should she reply? She paused and considered it for a moment before clicking the reply button. She could at least type something. She didn’t have to send it.

    Dear Inadequate Housewife, she began. After a moment’s consideration, she deleted “Inadequate Housewife” and replaced it with “Elena”. She then highlighted “Dear” and deleted it also.

    I find your email distasteful and rude. If you knew how to take care of your husband properly, we would not be communicating right now. Please think of that before emailing me in the future.

    She giggled to herself as she read it again. Perhaps it was a bit juvenile, but it was fun nonetheless. The mouse hovered over the “send” button. Kat closed her eyes and clicked. It was done. She panicked.

    What had she done? What if Elena had no proof of her and Daniel’s affair? Did that email seal her fate? Had she ruined her and Daniel’s chance at love?

    Oh yes, she loved him. It took her by surprise when she realized it several months ago. She had thought she would never love anyone but her husband, but when he turned out to be a controlling prick all of her feelings had dissipated. It was then that Daniel entered her life. He had been caring and nearly perfect, and Kat was swept off her feet.

    She didn’t love him at first, but she knew from the beginning that they were going to be very happy together. He had a way of making her dullest days seem like the brightest moments. All he had to do was look at her and her insides turned to mush.

    She knew it was wrong to be with Daniel while they were both married but a part of her didn’t care. A part of her felt whole only when they were together. She loved her husband in a way, but she realized when she met Daniel that she loved her husbands security and comfort more than she loved him as a person.

    She planned to leave her husband for Daniel, and he had said that he would leave Elena for her. It was hard for her to make the break from her husband because she knew that it meant giving up all his security, possibly for someone who may not even follow through on his promise by leaving his wife. What if she left her husband, and Daniel didn’t leave Elena? Where would she be then? What if he did leave Elena, but turned out to be just as controlling and emotionally underdeveloped as her husband?

    There were so many “what-if’s” that ran through her mind every day, but the sight of Daniel washed them away completely. She could almost forget that she might be ruining her life by loving him. When he held her in his arms, she knew that they would be together always. He would leave Elena, Kat would leave her husband, and they would live happily ever after. No tattle-tale clingy wife was going to keep Daniel and Kat apart.

    Several hours later as Kat aimlessly poked at her game of computer Solitaire, Daniel Newman walked in the door. After a quick glance around to make sure there was no one around to see, Daniel swept Kat into his arms and held her tightly.

    “I’m so sorry, love,” he whispered, his lips brushing lightly against her ear.

    Kat smiled up at him, knowing when she stared into his brown eyes that wherever life took them, regardless of the troubles they faced, they would always pull through. Others may look down on them for what they did, call them names, and hate them, but they would always love each other, and that was all she needed.
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Tweek - The Secret Life of Eddie Trigg

    Eddie Trigg took a long hard look at himself in his bathroom mirror. He plugged the bathroom sink and turned on the cold tap, watching the beard hairs from his earlier shave slowly build up around the waters edge as it steadily rose. He turned the tap off, cupped his hands into the water, and splashed them over his face. He met the gaze of his bloodshot eyes in the mirror and mentally questioned himself for the hundredth time that day. His questioning never got him anywhere. All he really wanted was to justify his actions in some way, look for a scapegoat, but he knew deep down there was no excusing what he was doing. His internal interrogations merely kept the problems at the forefront of his mind, which, in his opinion, was where they needed to be. His actions were bad enough, if his conscience didn’t incessantly berate him for it throughout the day, then how much lower would that mean he’d sunk.

    Eddie dried his face, fastened the buttons on his chequered blue shirt, and tucked them into his khakis as he made his way to the bathroom door. It was Wednesday night, quiz night in The Butchers Tavern. It was Eddie’s excuse to get out of the house, and had been for the past two months. His wife, Karen, had argued with him about it the first time, now she barely registered him leaving. They’d been happily married for twenty-two years, unhappily married for one. Their eldest son, Mike, was twenty-one years old and in his final year of University. He’d pretty much stopped visiting the past year. He made the mandatory Christmas and birthday visits, but both Eddie and Karen could see it was begrudgingly. Frankly, he didn’t blame his son for keeping his distance, if anything he was jealous of his freedom to escape it all.

    Their second, and youngest child, was Becka. She’d turned seventeen a few weeks ago, but had been nothing but trouble since she’d become a teenager. She’d been arrested for shoplifiting and being drunk in a public place before the age of fifteen. When questioned about her behaviour, she’d fly into a rage about how her parents were losers, who lived in a sh**ty house in a sh**ty neighbourhood because they weren’t smart enough to afford anything better. She blamed the shoplifting on her parents’ inability to afford anything nice; she got drunk simply because she liked it, and that was that. She’d been stealing from them regularly up until six months ago. Eddie suspected she was into drugs, but since the stealing had stopped the suspicions became more sinister. Karen had noticed she was wearing expensive clothing more frequently. Eddie, being a man, hadn’t noticed, but since he’d been told he began weighing up the possibilities. She could be shoplifting again; she could be dating a dating a drug dealer; or, heaven forbid, she could be dealing herself. She certainly wasn’t paying for them out of the ten pound a week pocket money they were giving her. Neither Eddie nor Karen knew what to do about. The strain of dealing with their daughter had put their relationship at breaking point.

    Eddie made his way downstairs, making sure to avoid eye contact with the family photos hung on the walls. The happiness radiating from them couldn’t be a more stark contrast with how his home life had been the past year. He slipped on his brown loafers at the foot of the stairs, and made his way into the kitchen where Karen sat on the worktop next to the sink. She took a long, final drag of the cigarette she was smoking, and extinguished it under the cold tap. He know longer knew how many she smoked a day. She’d been on ten a day since they met; judging by the dense cloud of smoke that now hung in mid air, she’d had this many since he’d been in the shower.

    ‘It’s quiz night tonight, I shouldn’t be home later than eleven’ Eddie said, picking his jacket off the hook behind the kitchen door. ‘Where’s Becka?’

    ‘She said she was going out to a friend’s place, and that she’d be back by midnight. But to answer your question, I don’t know!’ She lit another cigarette, sidled down from the worktop, and filled the kettle with water. Eddie noticed her hands shaking as she held the kettle under the tap. The large quantities of caffeine and nicotine weren’t helping her anxiety, but he held back from passing comment.

    ‘Well, if you need me, I have my mobile with me,’ said Eddie, knowing full well that she wouldn’t ring. They’d barely spoken more than a few sentences to each other in a year, she was hardly likely to ring him up and ask him to bring home some milk. Eddie made his way back out the back door, leaving his wife at home watching the kettle boil, a single tear running down her cheek.

    He opened the door to his Ford Escort, turned on the ignition, and pulled out the space he’d taken up in the street. The black paintwork was littered with bumps and scratches, the driver’s side wing mirror was smashed, and most recently, the exhaust pipe had become loose, occasionally scraping against the floor mid transit leaving a trail of sparks in its wake. Becka had passed a drunken comment recently about how the car perfectly befitted someone of Eddie’s financial status. Her belittling tone never surprised him; she thought she was destined to do better. He questioned her once about how she planned to do better, since she didn’t have a job and wasn’t in college. After the argument that followed he didn’t question her about it again.

    Eddie traversed the speed bumps leading out of his street, driving in the centre of the road to minimise any additional damage to his exhaust. He waited at the t-junction for a gap in the traffic, and took a right down the main road through his village. It was only seven o’clock, and the nights were rapidly drawing in. The sun was setting behind the endless rows of council houses to his right, its brightness obstructing his visibility of the road ahead. Neglecting to pull over, he reached into his cluttered glove compartment, pulled out a pair of fake Ray Ban sunglasses, and put them on. He didn’t like to show too much of his face where he was going anyway. He continued down the road until he saw a sign for the Butchers Tavern, indicating he could get great food all day, every day, just 100 yards ahead on the left hand side. He continued on for 150 yards until he came to a roundabout. He took the third exit, signposted Docks.

    He hated himself for lying to his wife, and hated himself even more for doing what he was doing. Nowadays, when he looked in the mirror he wouldn’t recognise the man standing before him as Eddie Trigg. The problems at home had detached him somewhat from the world outside his family. Now he even felt a stranger to himself.

    He continued on down the road towards the docks, and thought about his wife. He knew that the last time they were truly happy was before Becka started causing trouble. He knew this to be true, but he genuinely couldn’t remember the feeling of happiness. He hadn’t hugged or kissed his wife once in the past year, wasn’t sure if they’d even touched. They’d taken up single beds a year ago; by this time sex had long been forgotten. Eddie didn’t know how to rectify the situation. The only pertinent issue to talk about was Becka’s behaviour, but agreeing on a course of action to take always led to arguments. Eddie wanted his daughter out of the house for what she was doing to her mother, but Karen had continually disagreed. While Eddie thought evicting their daughter would force her to grow up, all Karen wanted was her daughter under their roof where they could keep an eye on her.

    With the stress of trying to control Becka, Karen had aged ten years in the past two. Her once flowing black locks had thinned considerably, leaving the grey hairs and split ends to dominate. The fine lines on her face and neck had become more prominent, the darkness under her eyes deepened every passing day. Her teeth had become nicotine stained through excessive smoking, and she’d developed a cough that could be heard through the thin bedroom walls most of the night. They’d argued incessantly since Becka had turned fourteen, she’d managed to divide them in a way neither though possible. Despite their seemingly innate inability to agree over Becka, they never went to sleep angry with one another. At first, anyway. Eddie still couldn’t put a finger on what had changed, but the coldness they now showed each other suffocated him. He’d take back those years of arguing any day over what it was like now. If you argued, that meant you cared, he often thought. Since they’d stopped arguing, Eddie had lost hope.

    Eddie pulled up in a lay-by 400 yards short of his destination, and took a deep breath. The dockland area he was approaching was no longer the hive of industrial activity it once was. It operated at roughly quarter its capacity. Rumours had been circulating for years that it was to be completely shut down, the occasional tea and coffee imports were the only thing left justifying its presence. The lay-by Eddie had chosen had an elevated view of most of the docklands area. From where he sat he could see clearly that the majority of roads and buildings that still serviced the area were in a poor state of repair, those that were no longer in use probably should have been cordoned off and condemned.

    Eddie had pulled over at the start of the main arterial road running through the docks. It was founded on enormous reinforced concrete columns, that tapered in length and became increasingly slender as the road steadily declined to dock level. He pulled out of the lay-by and started the descent toward the docks. Before the security gate approached, he indicated left and pulled off onto a slip road that gradually bought him back on himself and under the road he’d driven. The stretch of road he found himself on was, as he usually found, pretty much free of vehicular traffic. He could see another car roughly 50 yards ahead. It looked expensive, Eddie reckoned on a Mercedes. Like Eddie, the Merc was driving slightly slower than walking pace.

    To his left, set back about 20 yards the road, were a row of buildings that appeared, from the facade at least, completely derelict. During the 80’s, the buildings homed thriving businesses. Bars, restaurants, and hotels lined the street, forming the docklands so-called leisure complex, a place where tired sailors could unwind after a long journey. When the ships stopped coming into the docks, the businesses struggled to make a profit, and slowly but surely went out of business. The hotels, long since abandoned, still housed local vagrants and runaways. The only legitimate enterprise open for business was a solitary bar at the start of the strip. The local biker gang who’d adopted it as their clubhouse.

    The area still thrived, of course, only the people turning a profit nowadays weren’t likely to be declaring their income to the Inland Revenue. Local police had bigger problems to deal with than the crooked entrepreneurs operating out of the docks. The occasional bust let them know they weren’t operating with impunity, however the risk-to-gain ratio still highly favoured the crooks. Drug dealers offered a convenient drive through service that had proved especially popular with students and wealthy businessmen. The homeless population of the run down hotels also had habits that needed feeding, though needless to say drive through service was not required. During the busy periods prostitutes lined the streets, offering cheap thrills to anyone who wound down their window. The vast expanse of the docks afforded the punters some modicum of privacy for their money. The girls knew all the quiet spots the site had to offer. The only real passion killer was the occasional wandering vagrant paying more than a passing interest to the cars interior.

    Eddie noticed the Merc ahead of him pulling up to the kerb where a young homeless guy stood. The guy was dressed in a filthy pair of blue jeans and a tattered green corduroy jacket. Eddie watched as he made his way around the Merc to the driver’s side window. There was a brief conversation, then an exchange; drugs, Eddie reckoned. Whilst the anonymous Merc driver may have been after a few grams of cocaine for a party, the dealer hadn’t exactly fitted Eddie’s stereotypical image of people in that line of work. Not that Eddie would have known, the closest he’d come to taking drugs was when he was 13 years old. A friend had told him that if you took an aspirin with coca-cola you’d get high. He’d even chickened out of that. Eddie had no interest in drugs.

    Eddie continued his slow trawl of the dockside kerb. In a few hours the street would be lined with working girls soliciting for business. Drug dealers and pimps would be scattered intermittently, but it was the girls who dominated. Eddie reached across and wound down the passenger side window, ready for the girls he could see ahead of him. They’d been stood in groups prior to his approach, but spaced out and formed a line ready for their prospective client to make his choice. The girls in view were spread out over about 50 yards. They probably all worked for the same pimp, which meant that they wouldn’t bother with the hard sell that was required at peak times. From what Eddie knew, money went straight to the pimp who paid the girls at the end of their shift. He wasn’t sure if pay was performance related.

    Eddie pulled over next to the first girl on the street. She was tall, at least 5’10”, and in her early twenties. Eddie stooped down over the handbrake so he could get a better view of her face. Her pale complexion perfectly suited the thick black hair that fell to her shoulders. He quickly banished the comparison to his wife at that age. She wore a red duffel coat that came midway up her bare thighs. Her black knee high leather boots had a heel that someone of her height didn’t need. She smiled at him.

    “Hey honey, what you after?” She swiftly undid two large black buttons that were holding her coat together, and revealed the lacy black lingerie she had on underneath. She shifted her weight to her left leg, pulled back the coat on the opposite side, and left Eddie mesmerised by the curves leading from her thighs up to her full busty chest. “You can do more than look if you got the cash hun! What’s it gonna be, I’m getting cold?”

    Eddie composed himself. “What can I get for forty?”

    “Twenty minutes, whatever you want, just no kissing!”

    “Fine, get in,” said Eddie, pulling out the forty quid he had tucked in his back pocket.

    “Whoa, hold your horses there hun, gotta pay my boss first. Hand us the cash and I’ll be back in a sec!” Eddie handed over the notes, and watched as the nameless stranger he just paid walked off in the direction of an alleyway adjacent to the biker’s clubhouse. She momentarily disappeared into the shadows before re-emerging empty handed. She sauntered back to the car, occasionally looking over her shoulder at the alleyway. “Ok hun, we’re set to go. I know a quiet place a couple of hundred yards away. It’s there or nothing I’m afraid, my boss likes to know where his girls are!”

    “That’s fine, jump in.” She opened the passenger side door and sat herself down next to Eddie. She’d fastened one of the buttons on her coat back up, obstructing his view of what was underneath.

    “If you carry on up this road, there’s a left hand turn after about a hundred yards. I’ll show you where, don’t worry. It’s an old storage area, we’ll get plenty of privacy in there. What’s your name hun?”

    “Erm, Eddie.” He wasn’t used to being asked his name, and instantly regretted not lying to her. “How about you?”

    “Call me Roxy,” she said, keeping her gaze fixed firmly on the road. “It’s left here.” Eddie took the turn through a wrought iron gate. The former storage area was 100m square, secured on all sides by an eight foot brick wall lined with barbed wire. “How about pulling over between those two storage containers,” said Roxy, pointing to a couple of nondescript industrial storage units. Eddie didn’t notice the two men securing the gate behind him as he parked up the car.

    Eddie leant over and to place his hand on Roxy’s thigh, only to have it swatted away. “You’re under arrest!” said Roxy, digging her badge out of her pocket.

    Eddie looked at her incredulously, “What the hell for?”

    “What do you think?” She flashed him her badge as an unmarked police car pulled in behind him, blocking his exit. She opened her door and motioned to the plain clothes policeman who got out of the car. “Read him his rights!”

    “You’re pretty good at this game,” said the policeman with a grin on his face, “sure you aint done this before?”

    “F*ck you, just do your job and read him his rights, I’m not in the mood!”

    Eddie sat there, frozen with fear. He was half dragged him from the driver’s seat, asked to turn around, and had his hands cuffed behind his back. All he could hear was his own heartbeat pounding in his ears as the officer read him his rights and marched him over to a waiting police van. As the officer helped him into the back of the van, Eddie wondered what the hell he’d been thinking. Why on earth wasn’t he at home trying to sort things out with his wife instead of spending money he couldn’t afford on cheap hookers? He sat down in the back of the crowded van and sobbed.

    He thought about Karen. He missed her, and what they’d had together. He didn’t know how she would take this if she found out. He thought about her hands shaking as she filled the kettle earlier in the evening. She was already so fragile, how would she take this news? The guilt tugged at his chest. The burden of the secret life he’d been living lifted slightly as the tears streamed down his face. He vowed to try and make things right with his wife, never to keep secrets from her again. He thought she would leave him, and knew he had no right to try and stop her if she did. Either way, she needed to know the truth. No more secrets.

    Eddie kept his face to the floor, unwilling to acknowledge the others who’d been caught in the bust. The silence of the van was broken by a young girl who called out across the van.


    He didn’t need to look up to know who it was, he recognised the voice immediately. Eddie wasn’t the only one with secrets.
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    The Freshmaker - All Things Considered

    “Why do you keep looking away?” This was pure bull****, and Greg knew it. She was in his bed, wearing nothing but her underwear. It was supposed to be platonic, she said. They were just friends, she kept telling him.

    “For one, my breath still smells like guacamole,” she said. She was lying on her belly, propped up on her elbows, her head tilted forward and away from him. Backlit by the streetlamp shining through the window, the fine layer of fuzz on the nape of her neck shone like a gold outline. He reached out a hand and traced the ivy pattern of her tattoo down her arm.

    Tessa had come over to cook him dinner in his new apartment, and to watch a movie. As the movie played through, and the DVD menu looped over and over again, they talked and talked and didn’t notice that it had gotten to 4am. She said at first that she would crash on the couch. Only a few minutes passed before he received a text message saying, “Would it be wrong of me to crawl into bed with you?”

    “For two, I keep finding it really difficult not to kiss you,” she said. She looked at him with a sad smile, and he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. Her small, fragile body was so easy to manipulate.

    “I can justify this,” she said. “Platonic cuddling. It’s nothing more than a prolonged hug, right?” She wiggled onto her other side to face him. She traced the line of his jaw with the tip of her nose, saying, “I couldn’t justify a kiss. That would be cheating no matter what way you look at it.”

    He wished that he could beat the Nice Guy into submission and just ravish her. She didn’t know how lucky she was. Any other man would be taking advantage of this situation. A couple I-Love-Yous and I-Respect-Yous, and she would do whatever he wanted. Because when it came down to it, women could justify any act of infidelity if the guy gave them enough of an ego boost.

    “I don’t want you to do anything that you would regret,” he said. He rested his chin on the top of her head. The smell of her hair was familiar and comforting and intoxicating.

    He could see the sky outside beginning to lighten. That sour feeling of dread spread across his stomach. Daylight would come, and she would leave. She would go back to that damn boyfriend of hers.

    She rolled onto her back. He laid his hand on the soft, flat surface of her belly. She absently draped an arm across her breasts, more out of propriety than shyness. He already knew her whole body, anyway, down to her appendectomy scar and the birthmark on the inside of her thigh.

    “Ever see one of those home planetariums?” she asked. “One of those would be great for in here.”

    He’d had her before. It had been last summer, after that damn boyfriend of hers had cheated on and dumped her. Greg had been Tessa’s crying shoulder, and the nights of watching movies and eating Ben and Jerry’s on her couch had quickly turned into more. He couldn’t believe how much passion could exist in a girl who was normally so calm and unconcerned. It both scared and thrilled him. He would remember those nights for the rest of his life.

    Eventually, the bastard decided that he wanted her back. At first, she refused. He wore her down, though, with flowers and favors and smooth words. Greg hadn’t said much about it. Above all, he wanted to keep her friendship, even though his heart was screaming that she was wrong.

    Tonight, although he couldn’t believe his luck, he also cursed it. He’d just been getting comfortable with the “just friends” arrangement.

    “Will this be a one-time thing?” he asked. “I don’t want it to be, but if it has to be, I can live with that.”

    “I don’t know,” she sighed. “Mark will be home tomorrow night. If the Chicago project is finished already, he won’t have to leave for a while.” She turned to him and ran her fingers through his hair, which made him groan and hug her closer.

    “Tess, I need to know,” he said. He knew he was about to ruin this perfect moment, but he couldn’t not ask. Almost against his will, he continued. “How do you really feel about me? I mean, I know we’re just supposed to be friends, but this--” He squeezed her waist for emphasis. "--this definitely raises some questions.”

    She pressed her face into the pillow, and for a moment he was worried that she was going to cry. Then she said, “That’s a really complicated question, Greg.”

    “I just need to know where I stand,” he prodded. “I thought I knew, but obviously I don’t.”

    “Okay,” she started, breathing deeply. “Honestly, I’m confused about all of it. I like you a lot. Love may be too strong of a word, but not by much.” She paused and looked out the window, where the sky was beginning to turn pink. “The thing is, I really love Mark. Sometimes I wish that I could combine the things I love about you and the things I love about him, and make one wonderful person that I can be satisfied to spend my whole life with. But I can’t. So there you go.”

    They were silent for a while. She took his hand in hers and traced patterns on his palm with her index finger. The dark shapes in the room were beginning to give up their anonymity as daylight crept in.

    “Well, there’s a couple options,” Greg mused. “We can carry on a passionate affair behind your boyfriend’s back. Or we can forget about him and try our own relationship. Or we can go back about our normal lives, pretending that this never happened. All of those options involve one or more people getting hurt.”

    Tessa sat up. “See,” she said, “I wasn’t going to think about this. I was going to enjoy being close to you for a night, and leave it at that. Why do you have to make me think?”

    “You don’t think that this deserves some thought? And do you think I care so little that I could let you lie in my arms all night and not question what it meant?” Greg was getting frustrated. “I never stopped caring for you, not for a second! I even cared too much for you to tell you that your boyfriend is a douchebag who never deserved the forgiveness you gave him! I see the things you do for him, and I think how grateful I would be to have a girl who cared half that much about me. And then I hear about how he treats you, and it makes me want to beat him in the head until he realizes how ****ing lucky he is!”

    She didn’t know just how true that last statement was. Greg kept an aluminum bat in the trunk of his car, in hopes that Mark would screw up bad enough to justify the use of it.

    “Mark is a good guy,” Tessa said quietly, drawing her knees up to her chest and hugging them. “He knows he screwed up, and he won’t do it again. I know this. He’s not perfect, but he makes me happy.” She rested her forehead on her knees, and a sob escaped from her lips. “Oh my god. If he knew I was here, he would be devastated. I’m no better than he is, am I?”

    “I thought you said that you could justify this,” Greg said, a little coldly.

    “Maybe we haven’t done anything physical, but the feelings are there.” She sniffled. “We might as well just **** and be done with it.”

    “Are you saying that you want to have sex?”

    Tessa scoffed, and put her feet on the floor. “I should go,” she said.

    Greg pushed himself off the bed, and stood in front of her with his hands on her shoulders. “No, wait,” he said. “Listen. I don’t want sex. I want you. If it’s true, what you say you feel about me, then don’t you think that deserves some attention? Don’t you think that I deserve a chance?”

    She let herself sit back down on the bed. “Let’s just say that I was to break up with Mark today. I wouldn’t be in any shape to rush into another relationship. I care about you too much to let you be my rebound. I don’t want to hurt you like that again.”

    “I can wait until you’re ready.”

    She looked up at him, and there were tears in her eyes. “I can’t do it, Greg. I can’t hurt him like that.” She stood up, and began to gather her clothes off the floor. He didn’t do anything to stop her.

    “You know what really kills me?” he said as she buttoned her pants. “He’ll never know about any of this. He’ll never realize the pain of someone he loves loving someone else.” Tessa said nothing, but nodded in agreement.

    He walked her to the door, and opened it for her. He said, “I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you that you’re making a huge mistake.” She turned and looked up at him. Tears were still rolling silently down her face, and his heart skipped because she looked more beautiful than ever. She leaned up and kissed him softly on the mouth, then turned and ran down the hall.

    He tasted her tears on his lips. He locked his door, and went back to bed to sleep off his depression.


    Something was wrong with Tessa, Mark thought that night when he came home. She had dark smudges under her eyes, and hadn’t even kissed him hello when he came in.

    “I’m fine, baby,” she insisted. “I fell asleep reading a book, and I just woke up a little bit ago. I’m really happy you’re home.” She smiled, and it seemed genuine. Women would be women, he guessed. It probably had something to do with hormones or something.

    They had dinner, and chatted. She was quiet through most of it, nodding as he talked about the building he was helping design in Chicago. “We didn’t get as much done as we hoped,” he said, “So I’ll have to go back on Thursday.” She looked up and frowned. “It’s okay, though,” he explained. “I’m off until then, so we’ll get to spend plenty of time together.”

    After dinner, they went to the bedroom and made love. Tessa was a little more aggressive than usual, but Mark chalked that up to their time apart, and enjoyed the ride.

    When they collapsed onto the pillows, spent, he allowed himself to bask in the afterglow for a little while. After a few minutes, he got up. “I need to check my e-mail before I fall asleep. I’ll be right back.” He kissed Tessa, who was already beginning to drift off.

    The computer in his study was always on. He wasn’t worried about Tessa snooping. Even though he’d cheated once before, he knew that she trusted him completely. He brought up his inbox. There was a lot of spam, a credit card statement, and an e-mail from his colleague Lisa. It had the subject line, “Good job!”

    You did some really great work this week. We couldn’t have completed the project without you. The clients were so impressed, I know they’ll come back to us when they decide to open their next office.
    I booked us a room at the same hotel for this weekend. I can’t wait to spend time with you away from work. If you think last night was fun, wait until you get a taste of me when I’m not worn out and drained from a day on the job!
    I stopped a Victoria’s secret on my way home today. I think you’ll be very pleased.
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    sweepy - Murderer

    The old church bells knelled mournfully in the sharp, cold, winter air.

    The crows that had roosted in the bell tower cawed their annoyance, flapping out and around the small rural church, spiralling down to the grey graveyard below. In the centre of the graveyard a huddle of villagers stood, hunched up against the cold. All wore their best Sunday clothes, their hats in their hands and looked silently to an open grave, like a gash in the frozen earth, and the coffin beside it.

    At the head of the coffin stood an old priest, reading from a little brown book in a reedy voice, his breath steaming in the cold air. To the left of the priest stood a woman, her greying hair in a tight bun and dressed all in black, she sobbed brokenly into a handkerchief. A young woman stood beside her, her arm consolingly round her shoulder but she too had tears in her eyes.

    The priest finished and two burly men came forward, carefully lifting the long coffin into the freshly dug grave. The woman gave a low cry as with a scrunch, the first of the dirt was thrown on top. The priest murmured something, touching the cross pendant at his chest, then turned to the grief stricken woman and together he and the young woman lead her back towards the church.

    The rest of the crowd now dispersed, murmuring quietly between themselves, until only the two men who shovelled the mud were left.
    And a man. He stood a little way off leaning against an old yew tree. A long, black, travelling cloak was wrapped around his lean frame and a wide brimmed, leather hat hid his eyes. He watched the men until they too finished and slowly made their way back to the church. Then he straightened and walked slowly across to the new grave, the frozen grass crunching beneath his feet.

    The newly cut letters stood out starkly on the grey headstone. ‘Kenneth Harper loved much, gone too soon’. The cloaked man stood there, then slowly reached up and pulled off his hat. Long brown hair, in tangled disarray, fell to his shoulders. A scar showed red across his check, stark against his pale face. His dark eyes, tearless yet sombre, looked down upon the grave.
    He sighed and pulled a small leather bag from his belt, placing it carefully beside the headstone. He stood there a while longer in the quiet, cold of the graveyard. From the village beyond he could faintly hear singing. He closed his eyes.

    Then suddenly there was a shout from the direction of the church. He started and looked up, men had appeared outside the church. He swiftly pulled his hat over his eyes and turned away, hastening into the trees at the end of the graveyard.

    He paused beneath craggy, bare branched oak and looked back. One of the burly men had reached the grave and was frowning around. The old woman with the grey bun had come back outside the church. Her eyes were still puffy although the tears had stopped, her back bent as if with the weight of her grief and the cloaked man felt his heart twist with guilt. He had a mad urge to leap out and confess all. Unburden the terrible secret he carried. But he mustn’t, he couldn’t.

    The burly man turned, hearing slight noise, and jogged round some straggly bushes to an old blasted oak tree, but when he got there, the place was deserted.
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    vasafaxa - An Unusually Awkward Smile

    She saw how the bus would hit the side of her body first. Then each fragment of bone would dissolve into her blood which in turn would seep into the pavement, like a flower blooming in elapsed time. Her viscera would be like oil in the gutter, all rain bowed and almost beautiful. One day she thought that someone might write a pop song about it, clever and diminutive, because this image was always vignetted and half-remembered. Instead she remembered George’s face: an unusually awkward smile.

    George was her boyfriend. He smiled well, but his limbs were confused and his lips even more so. When they weren’t looking at each other they talked about stock returns and re-runs. She didn't want to break up with him and she didn't know why. She did know that they met at a bus stop. This was their only “date”, and they never constructed it on purpose, but somehow both lonely and tired their hands ended up holding each other. Occasionally they would meet at each other’s apartments and at one Christmas George needed someone to bring home and she agreed. Now they only met at the bus stop.

    They both knew that after the turkey basting incident it was over, but whenever the words sprang out of her lips she couldn’t help but imaging herself on the pavement, the bus looming over her like a recalcitrant line-backer. She thought about avoiding the bus stop all together, but what would people think if she started driving? She couldn't afford to drive when she started taking the bus, but she told everyone that it was the green thing to do. Although no one in her office liked her, they now gave her the same kind of grudging respect they gave Nancy the vegan. Her boss even asked her which were the best kinds of solar panels to install. Now that, she thought fondly, was respect.

    The bus pulled into the stop, spewing dark black gassed up into the sky like what the visualization player might show if you listened to a very long fart instead of electronica. She saw George from behind it, and she smiled: an unusually awkward smile.

    "Hey," he yelled, and her innereye’s brow quirked.

    "Hey," she said. "Do you want to sit in the back today?"

    "Yeah," he coughed, emerging from the fumes. His hair was cut and his eyes were polished. "I mean," stiffly pressed tenderness in his voice, his words ironed by his mother probably, "we have to talk."

    "Really," she said. She didn't think it would feel like this, like being hit by a bus, albeit a very small one, the kind that picks up disabled schoolchildren. "About what?"

    "You know," he said "you know this isn't working, I know this isn't working, hell even the Turkey knows this isn't working." He shrugged his shoulders unhelpfully. It was perhaps the wittiest thing he had ever said, and if it weren’t for the smell of sewage leaking up from open sewer grates she might have kissed him.

    But when she thought about it again mentioning the turkey was really not appropriate, the poor thing. "I think you should ride another bus then George."

    He had more speech prepared, and she could smell it, like a pizza that had been on the counter for more than a week. He gave a painfully awkward smile, and she instinctively closed her eyes. But there was no fissure in bone, or blood. Odd, she thought, then again I am on the sidewalk.

    "Fine," he said, not even looking at her face. He turned around, raised one hand in a sarcastic goodbye, and was hit by a bus.

    Next year someone will ask her “What happened to George?” she will give an unusually awkward smile and turn the topic to solar panels, or talk about her new boyfriend Steven whom she met at the airport, they are, after all, thinking of getting married.
  12. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    NateDoggy - Last Chance

    The man with dark brown hair died fire red on top came home to a small one story brick house in the middle of Parma, driving up his driveway in his black and white Dodge Stratus. The bass blasted as Ludacris rapped about his idea of politics and the presidential election. The car shook under the heavy bass and the trunk where the deep sub was located rattled loudly. The man was nearly thirty years old and had owned the same car since he was 17 years old.

    It was past 2am and his family would be sleeping, but since it was Friday he figured it wouldn’t be a problem with his girlfriend if he woke up the girls, they almost never got to see him, he was always busy working, trying to give them the life he never had. The aftermarket headlights shone on the door that allowed access to the house from inside the garage, if it wasn’t weird enough that the garage door was left open, and his girlfriends Toyota Supra was not in the garage, it was eerie to see the door inside the garage hanging wide open. He knew something was wrong. He slammed on the brakes, not even pulling the car into the garage fully as he hopped out of the Stratus, and ran inside the site alarmed him immediately.

    His house, normally kept clean and beautiful was a wreck. Clothes had been chucked all over the place. Couches, chairs and tables flipped over, expensive glass chandeliers, and priceless family heirlooms destroyed on the floor. He was shocked as he realized nothing had been stolen, but it was than that reality hit like a ton of falling bricks. It was stunningly quiet in a house that was always full of activity, as Doctor Seuss would say, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The fear built slowly in his gut, and he felt like he was going to throw up as he rounded the corner and entered the room his two daughters shared. Blood was splattered against everything, the walls stained as hands smeared down them to the floor where two bodies lay crumpled, blood gushing from bullet wounds on the chest, arms and legs. He ran to his two youngest daughters, grabbing them and weeping, tears pouring down his face. He was surprised to find that both of them were still breathing, but it was heavy and labored. Based on the condition of the girls, he knew he had to act quickly, and even then their chance of survival was slim. He grabbed the girls, and rushed them out to his Stratus, he had no time to call the police. He searched the rest of the house as well, but his oldest daughter, and his wife, was nowhere to be seen. He closed the door behind him, started up the car and peeled out of the driveway, burning rubber all the way to the hospital. He ran every stop light, every stop sign, and didn’t even stop when a cop tried to pull him over. He got to the hospital, the nurses at the front desk noticing how distraught he was, as he rushed inside followed by two cops, hands on their Tasers.

    “You have to help me,” he cried pointing to the Dodge outside sitting in the fire lane right outside the emergency room doors. “My two youngest daughters are dying, these girls are my angels, and they are everything to me. Please help.”

    “Slow down sir,” the police said as the nurses rushed outside to the car. “It’s going to be okay breathe a little sir, they are safe now.” The girls were placed onto stretchers and rushed into the ER, the nurses barking orders that nobody except the doctors quite understood. “Please sit down, we need you to tell us exactly what happened,” the two officers said after taking one look at the girls.

    “I don’t know, I work late and I almost never get to see my little angels. So on Friday and Saturday nights I come home after work, wake up my baby girls, and play with them until I leave for work at 4 in the afternoon.” He sighed looking at the doors to the ER, he wanted to get in and see his daughters, but he knew he had to wait. He was never very patient, and this was even more stressful, and painful. “I rushed home like I always do, and thought it very strange that both the garage door and the door that leads inside my house from the garage were hanging wide open when I arrived so I rushed inside to find my house completely trashed. I figured it must have been a robbery, but realized that except for my girlfriend’s car, nothing was missing. Than I noticed that it was awkwardly quiet, it’s never silent in my house not even at night. That’s when I began to fear for my family’s safety. Makenna and Allison were lying in a puddle of blood in their bedroom, riddled with bullets. My wife and oldest daughter are missing completely; I have no clue where they are.”

    “Any clue who might have wanted to attack you, or your family sir?” the cops questioned seriously. They didn’t suspect him, at least not at this point. He was clearly distraught, and if he had murdered his family why would he bring them to the hospital, it just didn’t match up.

    “It’s no use lying to you,” he responded, looking the two directly in the eyes. “I’m a street thug, what they call a goon, and that’s how I make my living. Any number of people could want me dead, but that’s the only life I have ever known, I didn’t want my children to be taken away from me, or to live in poverty forever, that’s not a good life I had to go through it.”

    “What exactly is a goon?”

    “Well sirs, that’s kind of complicated. It’s my dirty little, deep, dark secret actually,” he sighed. “If I tell you any number of gangsters I have worked for will be trying to send their best to kill me, but this has gone too far. I’m a professional master of fear, essentially a G wants his money, or wants someone dead or scared. They hire people like me, the bounty hunters of the hood. Our job is not to actually hurt or kill someone, but we stalk them, we scare them, we make them wish we had killed them.”

    “Well sir,” the cops replied sentimentally. “Chances are you are going to be hearing from us again, but we will drop your speeding ticket. You won’t have to worry about anything until after your baby girls are doing better, we have kids of our own, I can’t imagine how hard this is for you.

    The thug sat in the waiting room, baggy jeans hanging from his waste, an Ecko hoodie three sizes to big, a black flat-rimmed Saints hat sitting loosely on his head. It’d been twenty excruciating hours; a nurse rushing back and forth in the very busy ER trying to make sure everyone was taken care of. Finally the surgeon came out and walked towards the thug.

    “Hello mister…”

    “Watson, but just call me Nate,” he said trying to read the surgeon and get a feel for what was about to be said. The surgeon showed no emotion. “Let’s just cut to the chase doctor, how are the girls?”

    “Well Nate,” the surgeon said grinning. “They are stable, and awake. They want to see you. Luckily no major damage was done by any of the bullets, a guardian angel was watching over your daughters tonight.”

    “Can I go see them please?”

    “Please, follow me; you are very important to these two. We wouldn’t want to keep them waiting; all they talked about since awaking was you.”

    The two walked down long corridors, and narrow halls into a room filled with the soft hum of medical equipment, and the purr of the machines keeping the girls from going into shock.

    “All the equipment is purely precautionary; they should be able to go home in three to five days after we make sure everything checks out. We have to keep them here for observation for several days to make sure there are no lasting affects from the gunshot wounds, anything we might have missed. I’m going to leave you three alone.” He smiled leaving the room, and closing the door behind him. The cops greeted him outside.

    “No,” the surgeon said before the cops even questioned him. “The girls are to close to him, and you can feel the care and love in the room, he had nothing to do with this attack now leave him alone.”

    Inside the room the man began to cry walking over to the girls and forcing a smile. He stood between the two beds and just stared at the girls for a couple minutes. Makenna the younger of the two girls was only eight years old, and had taken the brunt of the attack. The older girl was Allison, she was eleven, but both were way too young for this to ever happen to them, even in the hood. What kind of person would ever even think about shooting two elementary school kids, no matter what their father had done? No matter what secrets he locked away.

    “Daddy,” Makenna said holding her hands in the air, begging for a hug. She had the cutest face, her brown hair flowed down to her shoulders, and her deep green eyes burned with the same passion, and arrogant attitude that her father was known for. “Who were those guys, they said they knew you. They said that this was for all the mistakes you made, and that you would pay for everything you did wrong.”

    “Yeah,” he said walking over and giving her a light hug, being careful not to hurt her, she was in enough pain. She was shivering violently, and as he touched her he realized just how cold she was. He took of his extremely oversized hoodie, lifting her head off the pillow and putting the hoodie over her, it was so large it covered up her whole body when she straightened it out, looking more like a dress than a shirt. It covered up all the IV’s and wires going into her skin. She was so cute, and he began to tear up again. “They are horrible, horrible people. Daddy has a dirty little secret, and these were the guys who daddy trusted to keep those secrets. Your daddy messed up bad, and it caused you two to be brutally attacked, your daddy is the reason your hurt right now. I’m so sorry; I never wanted this to happen.”

    “Daddy, don’t say that don’t be sorry at all,” Allison said smiling at her dad, as their eyes met. “Your not the one who pulled the trigger, this isn’t your fault.” Allison had blonde hair down to her shoulders, and blue eyes, filled with deep caring, loving emotion.

    “Look, girls, I am a goon, I get paid to ruin people’s lives, and so they tried to ruin mine too. I don’t deserve the angels that god has blessed me with, in you two. Hell I don’t deserve anything I have in this world or the next. I’ve lived alongside some of the worst criminals in Cleveland, and even the United States, and I’ve willingly worked with them to help try to get my family out of the hood. I should have followed a real dream, not BS’d myself into believing this would save my family. You should hate me, and my secrets.”

    “No daddy,” Makenna said holding her father tight on the bed. “Never.”

    They sat in silence, than suddenly Allison looked around in fear. “Where’s mommy and Ashley,” she blurted out, just as her dad and Makenna were falling asleep on the bed.

    “I don’t know,” he said tears pouring down his face again. “But, I know the secrets of the hood, and I will find them. We will find them.”
  13. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    yellowm&M - Rain

    Rain. It fell outside the window; pattered on the roof, and soaked into the ground. Rain. Falling from the sky just like the day that tortures her every minute of every day. That day leaves her gasping for breath in the crushing darkness of pain, pain of such magnitude that no physical wound on earth could ever even compare. Pain so intense that she knows she can never escape it-pain that never fades, forever pressed white-hot against her in the darkness.

    She stares out the window, entranced by the bitter rain. The rain seems to sharpen her already razor sharp memories. Memories that she tries to repress burst forth and pierce her heart and mind, drawing silent tears from her eyes. She hears again the terror in his voice as he tried to protect her, his mute shrieks of pain as they were tortured, his uncontained scream as the final blow was cast, his dying breath, the whispered “I love you” minutes before they entered the cave, the feel of his limp body in her arms, his last labored breath, the sound of her anguished wail echoing around her, the feel of his cold hand laying in hers, the feel of his lips on hers before they entered the chamber, his eyes staring into hers, telling her that he loved her before he died…

    Tears course silently down her cheeks now; the terrible pain, sorrow, and guilt washing over her in waves. She doesn’t bother to wipe away the tears, she no longer feels them; she does not try to find a ray of happiness-the dark blanket of sorrow and pain is far too heavy for her to lift for even the slightest ray of happiness.

    “Marie? Marie darling.” She does not turn to greet the voice; she just keeps staring out at the rain. A door shuts and quiet footsteps cross the room. They stop inches behind her; she still does not turn. Gently someone places their hand on her shoulder. Finally she turns her head to look at the person behind her.

    The woman looks motherly, with a kind face and soft features, her graying brown hair pulled into a loose bun at the nape of her neck. Her brown eyes are sad, and as she looks into them, Marie is filled with even more pain, more sorrow, but mostly more guilt. She cannot bear to look in those eyes anymore, as if it is not bad enough to deal with her own pain and horror; she now is faced with agony over the pain she has caused this woman.

    Her eyes, which had emptied of their tears only moments ago, now, fill with more hot tears, obscuring her vision and overflowing onto her cheeks, The woman pulls Marie’s head against her chest and gently strokes her hair, murmuring words of comfort. She allows herself to be comforted, even though she knows she doesn’t deserve it.

    Finally her sobs quiet and she pulls her head back to look up at the motherly woman. The pain seems intensified in those brown eyes, and she seems to be trying to hold back tears of her own. Marie swipes at her cheeks as more tears threaten to fall. The woman sees.

    “Honey, it’s ok to keep crying. I know how much you miss him,” her voice breaks. “I miss him too.” Marie just shakes her head, the pain of losing him is only part of the reason she is crying. She cannot stand to look into those eyes, so full of warmth and compassion and pain, knowing that she could have prevented all the pain they both feel, and wondering for the millionth time why she didn’t. She cannot fathom why she could have saved him and she didn’t; she loved-loves-him more than life itself. Her confusion only adds to her pain.

    “It’s my fault, all my fault” Marie whispers.

    “No dear, of course it’s not your fault.” Marie simply looks at her with a pained expression. She buries her face in her hands, she cannot keep looking at those eyes, those eyes that should hate her, but instead are filled with motherly love for her.
    “Marie, you cannot blame yourself, you couldn’t have saved him anymore than I could have.” Marie gives a bitter laugh-if only she knew…

    “Honey, I know you loved him-“

    “I loved him with all my heart.”

    “I know how much you are suffering, probably more than me…” her voice broke again, “And I also know that my son loved you more than anything in the world. He would have done anything to save your life. My son loved you so much more than his own life.” Marie gazed up at her, her eyes filling with tears again. “He loved you, Marie, he loved you.” That was all it took, Marie broke down again. How could she hear those words knowing that it was her fault that he was dead, her fault that she had left a mother without a child, her fault that she was in so much pain. How ironic that is should be she who takes away the most important thing in her own life.

    His mother gently rubs her hair again, murmuring more word of comfort. Marie finds she cannot stand it anymore; she cannot stand being comforted when she should be hated.

    “Stop, don’t, if only you knew…” she pulls her head away, as his mother looks confused.

    “If only I knew what honey?”

    “It IS my fault.”

    “No it’s not, you cannot blame yourself for being there with him, you could not have saved him.” She shakes her head slowly, tears continually pouring down her cheeks.

    “What is it honey?”

    “I knew,” she whispers, “I knew that he would not come out of that cave.” His mother only looks confused. “I knew he would die.”

    The only sound is the rain pattering on the roof.
  14. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    surreal5335 - My haunting past

    Even after all these years I still see the images in full color. The events that took place follow me in my mind wherever I go. Engraved, burned, deep in my furthest recesses for immediate playback in full color and sound, willingly… and other times unwillingly.

    Such a profound impact this brief period of time made on me, that not only see her in my memories, but also my dreams as well. From time to time I will see her walking a long side me, secretly running off with me, and then disappear from me.

    My dream once dealt a story so vivid and clear that it was obviously trying to make a point to me. One directed to my conscious being, telling me what I deep down felt and desired regarding my past and her.

    Just like how she came to me on a loud and thunderous plane in my past, she made her appearance into my dream after a tornado touched down, stirring up quite a commotion.
    Quickly the two of us became inseparable, and always sought each other out. Even despite my previous commitments with a current relationship, I could not shake my overwhelming interests for her.

    One point I meant to follow her into a room, when I walked in, she was nowhere to be found. While wondering where she might be hiding my girlfriend opened the door and came up to me holding, embracing, and showing her affections to me. While she is hugging me, I then notice out of the corner of my eye my haunting past peeking out from behind a closet door smiling at me. I make a motion to my lips with one finger to remind her to stay hidden and undetected; I don’t want my girlfriend to find out my other desires. I don’t want to hurt her; she is so good to me and shouldn’t have to deal with this.

    Upon finding out that my past has to leave again for a while, I wish her fair well and look forward to seeing her again. I soon meet up with my girlfriend and begin walking away feeling the pain of separation shoot through my body again (The same one I first felt after dropping her off at the airport so long ago). As my girlfriend and I walk away, another tornado forms, touches down and creates havoc amongst the area. I suddenly turn around to run back and help the people that might have been hurt by the disaster. Everyone is fine, everyone except my beloved past. She is nowhere to be found, just disappeared.

    I know this dream was speaking to me and my feelings about her. My nostalgia of what things used to be like, and how they are now: a deep dark secret. It’s not a horrible secret, that I feel makes me a bad person. I have never stepped outside my boundaries during any relationship I’ve been in, even this one. With that said, I do keep this forbidden secret to myself away from my girlfriend’s eyes, because I am haunted by the past of my first true love.
  15. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    DarrenW - Neil Till

    Neil Till stood over Lucy’s bed and watched her chest rise and fall in rhythm with the electronic beep of the life-support machine and had never felt so helpless. Her skin had taken on a more pallid colour over the last few hours and he knew that the end was coming. It was just a matter of time.
    "I'm here" he croaked, reaching out and squeezing her cool clammy hand "hold on my angel".
    His words felt empty and pointless and a wave of nausea washed over him, threatening to breach the emotional flood barriers he had erected in an attempt to stay strong for Lucy's sake. When it was all over, he thought to himself, then he would let the tidal wave of grief and self-pity consume him. Then he would allow himself to become numb. "But not yet" he muttered to himself.
    A warm hand on his shoulder brought him into sharp focus, and he gathered his senses. "Why don't you take a break for a while?" offered Dr Hankin, the Physician with whom Lucy's young life was now entrusted "I'll let you know if there is any change".
    Neil hadn't heard or seen him enter, probably because he was in a world of his own, and probably because he was so tired his senses were failing him, like Lucy’s heart.
    "You mean deterioration" replied Neil, a little too curtly. He followed up quickly with, "I'm sorry".
    Dr Hankin waved it away "No apology necessary. But we must retain hope, for Lucy's sake". Dr Hankin looked into his eyes and Neil saw nothing but warmth and compassion for a fellow human and once again he felt the floodgates bulge. He swallowed it down. "Maybe your'e right. I'll be in the canteen, if you need me".

    The canteen was sparsely furnished with moulded plastic chairs, weathered by the heavy souls of people just like him. Neil noted that all the chairs were bolted to the floor and smiled to himself. These walls must see a lot of anger and rage. Despite it being the middle of the night, 2.48 a.m. according to Neil's cheap Casio, the canteen still retained the smell of cooked breakfast from the morning before. No one was serving, so Neil bought a strong black coffee from the vending machine, added three sugars, and chose a seat by the window, overlooking the car park below.

    He heard the ambulance before he saw it. A dull siren, proceeding louder until it came over the horizon of the hospital approach road, like an angel spreading light over darkness. It screeched to a halt as the hospital doors flew open to receive the patient. There was a whir of activity as the ambulance crew slid the trolley from the back of the vehicle and passed over control of the patient’s fate to the hospital staff. Neil saw a distressed couple emerge from the back of the ambulance, consoling each other. They looked about Neil’s age, probably parents he thought. Then his mind raced. Parents would indicate a child on that trolley. And a child meant a potential heart and….

    Suddenly, and without any storm warning, the floodgates of his heart began to leak. He caught a reflection of himself in the windowpane. A broken, disheveled man, utterly spent with exhaustion who was quite openly wishing death upon another child. He put his head in his arms, closed his eyes and bit his lip until he could taste the acrid fresh blood in his mouth. Rain started to spit at the window, and, almost in unison with his emotions, it began to lash harder, until all Neil could hear was the drumming of water on the window as he finally let the tidal wave consume him. His head felt heavier than a bowling ball and eventually, against his will, he closed his eyes.

    He awoke with a start, knocking the cold coffee over the table and scrambling to focus on his watch. He had slept for nearly three hours. Dr Hankin was stood next to him. For a few seconds, Neil couldn’t gather up enough mental capacity to understand what it was that he was seeing in Dr Hankin’s expression. Then the fog lifted and he saw it clearly for what it was.
    A faint glimmer of hope.

    Dr Hankin sat down and mopped at the spilt coffee with a handful of napkins, until they had turned a dark brown. “About two hours ago, a twelve year old boy died in theatre”. Neil looked down guiltily, and Dr Hankin noticed.
    Dr Hankin held Neil’s gaze tightly “There was nothing we could have done for him. We tried, of course, but he had been gone for several minutes before the ambulance had even arrived. Car accident”. He trailed off, the words enough for Neil to conjure his own image and understand the severity.
    “Is it a match?” Neil asked hesitantly
    “It’s close enough”, said Dr Hankin “certainly close enough to be worth a try. Lucy is failing badly and, having spoken to the cardiovascular team, they are prepared to do the transplant if..”..Neil felt dizzy with happiness. A chance, that’s all that he was asking for. And now Lucy had that.

    Dr Hankin’s expression changed in an instant from hope to despair “If” he continued, “the parents will sign the consent forms”.
    Neil felt the rug of his life being tugged from underneath him once again and reeled back in his chair “They won’t give consent?” he said desperately.
    Dr Hankin shook his head and suddenly took on the look of a man who was distinctly uncomfortable with what he was about to say. Neil caught his gaze and sensed the great discomfort he was witnessing. “What is it?” Neil asked.

    Dr Hankin leaned forward in his chair. He had given bad news so many times over the years to so many people, and he always felt in control. It was his medical training. He loved people, personalities, and all of the emotions that make us what we are. But when it came to explaining death, he reverted to seeing people as machinery. Sometimes you could fix them, sometimes you couldn’t. But this was harder than anything he had ever had to say, or likely ever would.

    “The boy was a card-carrying donor” said Dr Hankin
    Neil was confused and made no effort to hide it “Isn’t that a good thing?” His confusion was bordering on frustration and anger
    “Yes, it is” said Dr Hankin “but the parent’s still have the right to choose whether the donation takes place”
    Neil felt his anger boiling over “So they’ve just upped and decided that they don’t want to help anyone” he cried, slamming his hand against the window, causing it to shudder in its pane.
    Dr Hankin knew how his next words were going to sound. He reverted to machinery mode as the only way to get the words out “Actually. They are keen to donate. In fact, I brought the father of the boy to meet you as he was so keen to bring some good from his boy’s death.” Neil looked up exasperated “Why didn’t you wake me?”. Dr Hankin continued, “ I didn’t get the opportunity. The father took one look at you, turned and walked away.”,

    Confusion reigned in Neil’s mind. He felt like dementia had suddenly taken over him and twenty years of slow mental deterioration had blitzed his mind in three seconds. He struggled desperately for comprehension. “Why?”

    Dr Hankin stood and placed the sodden napkins in the empty cup, reached into his pocket and handed Neil a scrap of paper. “The mother gave me this. He released his grip “Whatever your decision”, he said “do it quickly”.

    Neil watched Dr Hankin leave the canteen and felt his hands tremble on the piece of paper he held in front of him. The piece of paper that evidently contained some question he would have to answer, some position he would have to adopt, some demand he would have to meet. Whatever it was, he would do it. Whatever it cost, he would pay it. For Lucy to have a chance.

    Neil rubbed his temple and unfolded the note, and stared down at the words.

    As he read them, he knew that his daughter was now lost, bound to die within hours. His life, over to him, would now exist only for other people. He knew that the rest of his life would be spent as an empty shell, waiting for his body to expire. The pilot flame of hope that he had been nurturing and carefully protecting for months had now been extinguished and in its place, only darkness.

    Neil stood, and looked out of the window as the sun rose above the horizon, a deep red spreading over the base of the sky. He took a deep breath and walked out of the canteen to spend the last few hours of his daughter’s life by her side. One day he would explain. One day, when they met again in another life, he would tell her why he couldn’t keep her on Earth, why he could not do what the note demanded. Why he could not share his dark secret with anyone. For anything.
  16. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Note: I have removed the entry Elephant Shoes due to inappropriate sexual content.

    Also: vasafaxa's entry, An Unusually Awkward Smile, has been disqualifed because it violates the rule:
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