Freedom – a short story

Kate saw the truth spread out before her in the obituary pages as she travelled home on the tube. They were all the same. The names were different but they were all the same. And one day her name would appear between those pages above the same words.
‘I feel trapped!’ she told Chris that night after dinner.
‘I don’t understand what it is you want Kate? I just don’t understand why you’re not happy anymore.’
She tossed the plates into the dishwasher.
‘Can we just sit down and talk about this.’ Chris carried over the empty wine glasses. She pushed him out of the way and flung them in with the plates.
‘Talk! That’s all we do and we never get anywhere’
‘Argue more like.’
‘Why can’t you understand? I want to go places. I want to do things.’
‘We went to Antigua last month. I can take some more time off, we can go wherever you like.’
‘That’s not what I mean.’
‘Do you even know what you want? You wanted a career in the city, we moved to the city. You wanted to get married, we got married. You wanted this house, we bought this house. I have spent the last six years giving you what you want and now it sounds like you don’t want it.’
‘I’ve worked just has hard as you for everything we have!’
‘I know you have Kate. We wouldn’t be where we are now if it wasn’t for you.’ He grasped both her hands. ‘You are the most beautiful and talented woman I know. I just want you to be happy.’
‘I just want to be free. Free of everything.’ She pulled her hands free and picked up a pan. It went the same way as the other dishes. ‘I’m going to quit my job.’
‘Okay. Maybe I could slow down a bit too. We’ve both been so caught up with work we don’t spend any time together.’
She tried to smile as Chris hugged her but he didn’t understand. He understood the day she moved out.
Kate rapped the side of her paper coffee cup with her finger nails. Seven years hadn’t changed Chris; he still couldn’t arrive on time. She flicked open the magazine she’d picked up at the airport. Her image stared back at her in a double page article, her boat Freedom was moored in the background and Cheryl, the chairwoman from the Eco World Foundation, had her arm around her and a big smile on her face.
‘Adventurer Kate Ross sailed across the pacific in record time to raise awareness for the environment and raises £1 million’ read the opening paragraph. The rest of the article outlined Kate’s other adventures and her upcoming book. Cheryl had wanted more about the Foundation in the article but the magazine editor wanted a story about a Kate’s life changing experiences.
‘Kate you look terrific.’
She looked up from the magazine at Chris. He looked older, there were shadows under his eyes and he had put on weight.
‘Thanks’ she said ‘You look well too.’
‘I’m sorry I’m late. Didn’t get much sleep last night. Is this all your stuff?’ He picked up a battered suitcase which contained all her possessions.
‘Look if this is too much trouble I can book into a hotel.’ She tossed the coffee cup at a rubbish bin and missed. Chris picked it up and dropped it into recycling as they left the airport.
‘It’s not a problem. It was a surprise to hear from you after so long.’
‘It was a surprise for me too. I had no idea you owned a farm. It was Cheryl who suggested I take a break in the country for some peace and quiet.’
‘You’ll need some of that after spending three months at sea.’
They’d had little contact since the break up. Chris had written a couple of times but she had never read or replied to his letters. He’d been very generous over the divorce and she’d used the money to buy Freedom.
‘Maybe it would be better if I went to a hotel.’ What if he thought she wanted to get back together?
‘You’re more than welcome to stay. It’s not a problem. And Terri’s dying to meet you.’
‘So long as it’s not putting you out.’
‘It’s no trouble. We’re not busy this time of year so I’ve put you in the best lodge, you’ll have all the privacy you need.’
‘Who’s Terri.’
‘My partner in crime’
‘It must have been a big change moving from the city to running your own farm.’ Wasn’t Terri the geek from accounts or was it the guy from the golf club. She couldn’t picture either mucking out the farm yard. Maybe he was a silent partner, propping up the business when it ran on bad times. Chris loaded her bags into the back of the Landover.
‘Not really. I spent most of my summers on my uncle’s farm so it was like coming home. And Terri’s brother has the cottage next door. You’ll meet them tonight.
‘What happened to the TVR.’
‘Not practical anymore’ He threw a couple of crisp bags of the front seat and a trainer into the back. ‘Sorry about the mess.’
She swept a few crumbs off the seat before climbing in and belting up. They drove along in silence until they left the motorway and were driving along country roads.
‘It must have been lonely all that time at sea’
‘Sometimes. But I liked it. It was peaceful. You must find life in the country quiet.’
‘I wish. But I prefer the noise of the country to the city. Always have.’
‘Noisy livestock?’
‘Yeah you should hear the rumpus the cabbages make during harvest! It’s an organic fruit and veg farm. We’ve got a few chickens and the dogs but that’s about all. Don’t worry I’ll keep the dogs tied up while you’re about.’
‘I never got round to thanking you Chris. The money has been a big help.’
He shrugged.
‘The Foundation really appreciated it.’
They turned off the road down a farm track.
‘It was your money as well as mine. We both worked for it. I had enough for what I needed.’
‘ Chris I hope we can still be friends. I know it was hard for you and I’m sorry if I hurt you.’
The car pulled up outside a ramshackle farmhouse
‘You did hurt me Kate. Then I realised you were right. You were trapped, we both were. But you were the one with the courage to set us both free. We were both unhappy Kate,’
He smiled and looked younger, like when she had first met him. He carried her bags to one of the renovated barns at the back of the house.
‘You’ll probably want to rest after your flight. When you’re ready come up to the house.’
‘Thank you Chris’ she leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
‘Get some sleep you look tired.’
Kate unpacked her things. She wouldn’t stay. He was obviously still in love with her. She lay down on the bed but tossed and turned until she finally gave in and went up to the house. Chris was sat at the kitchen table, a mug of tea in one hand and a pile of paperwork in front of him.
‘You’re up. I’ll put the kettle on.’
‘Chris I..’
‘Darling I’m home’ the front door slammed. ‘Have you picked up your other missus yet.’
The kitchen door was flung open and a heavily pregnant woman waddled in.
‘This is Terri, my wife. Just ignore her she’s rude to everyone.’
‘This is your wife?’
‘Hello Kate. Is the guest house okay? Do you have everything you need. This idiot wanted to book you in down the road. It’s nice enough place but what was the point when we have the room and you must be sick of living in hotels.’
‘ Yes everything’s fine.’
‘Chris, Gary said something about the lettuce thingy. He wants you to call him.’
‘Oh god I hope its not slugs.’
Terri waited until Chris left the kitchen before turning to Kate.
‘Look I just want to say its fine. I know its completely over between you and Chris. You are two completely different people. It’s no wonder it didn’t work out between you. He admires what you’ve done with your life. We all do. I mean, you’ve given up everything and dedicated your life to good causes. But if you feel uncomfortable staying here I understand if you want to go to a hotel. I just thought you might like being around friends after spending so much time alone.’
‘It’s fine. I’d like to stay with you.’
Kate helped Terri make dinner but halfway through the meal she excused herself and went back to the barn. She sat outside listening to the family bicker and laugh through the rest of the evening. The next morning she packed her bags and said goodbye.

Beloved -flash fiction

My wife is unhappy. I try to talk to her but it’s no use. She went for a walk today, so I joined her. The sun is shining but it’s cold, autumn leaves are falling. We walked silently through the park together and up the hill past the little church. I put my arm about her waist. She pulls her coat closer together and shakes me off. She stops walking and the tears flow.
‘Charlotte’ I whisper softly.
She doesn’t hear me. Through bitter salt tears she reads the epitaph on the tombstone.
‘Here Lies Henry. Beloved Husband of Charlotte.’

I wrote this piece ages ago for a 100 word flash fiction competition and it got shortlisted. There was no theme but I wanted to try a ghost story.

Springs Alarm

Soft light caresses my eyelids
I stir, a deep sigh
Warmth kisses my cheek
I stretch, open my eyes
Music lifts my soul
Singing, a robin, a sparrow?
I rise, pull back the curtain
Sunlight floods the room

Misty dew caresses the green
Life stirs, deep under the earth
Warmth kisses the trees
Bark stretches, buds open
Bird music, blossom singing
Sap is rising, winters curtain is lifted
Life floods the garden

The alarm, mechanical tinkling
No need, I’m awake

Audio Books vs Print Books

Recently I moved house so I’ve had no broadband connection for the last two weeks. Because I use a free app to stream audiobooks I used up my remaining mobile phone data, bought another 1GB and used that up during one afternoon listening to a The Lone Star Ranger by Zane Grey. Distraught at not being able to listen to a book while I went about my daily chores I took half an hour off in the garden with a printed book and a cup of tea. Was it more enjoyable to take time out and read a book or listen to someone else reading it while I worked? Its a question I’ve been pondering over the last few days.

When reading a printed book there is nothing between the author and you, the author has written the text and you are the interpreter. When listening to an audio book the authors ideas and words are being interpreted by the reader and expressed through their tones and expressions of voice. Sometimes this is a good thing, especially when it comes to creating a mood, culture or period setting.

I’ve struggled to read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I found some of the characters annoying. I tried listening to several audio version with no success until I found one read by Karen Savage, she brought the characters to life with a variety of comical voices. I’ve experienced similar with Raymond Chandler, his use of slang words has left me baffled at times but listening to his book read by someone who sounds eerily like Humphrey Bogart (swoon) has me hooked.

Unfortunately some readers just can’t cut it or maybe some books are not meant to be read out loud. My latest book craze is westerns but I’m undecided if I’m a fan. The short stories I’ve read I liked, but the novels I’ve listened to are sometimes annoying. Possibly I don’t like Texan accents.

While audio books are convenient, taking time out to read is more satisfying. Audio books can demonstrate a different view of a book, one you may not have seen. But you are using your second most sensitive sense, smell being the first. Sound can influence your mood and enjoyment so even the most well written book can be rendered terrible by an unpleasant voice.

I’m still undecided. I like the convenience of audio books but I can appreciate an authors voice through reading with my own eyes. Which do you prefer? Have you ever had a good book ruined by a bad reader?

Never judge a book by its cover?

It’s an old saying, it’s applied to many situations, but does anyone take this good piece of advice? Our first judgement is always based on sight, until we can explore the ‘object’ of our interest further. Even if our other senses first experience the ‘object’ we still form a mental picture in our mind. Imagine the smell of freshly baking bread on a Sunday morning, a golden loaf crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. But what if there is something unexpected inside the loaf? Disappointed, upset and angry that life has cheated you out of an enjoyable breakfast you wouldn’t eat bread for a while.

With the increase of self published novels and ebooks, authors need to make the right first impression with the right book cover for their novel, something which stands out, grabs the ebook reading populace while still conveying the essence of the story. A friend of mine recently read a self published novel which he had chosen because of the front cover, a woman waving a sword above her head. He thought it was an action-packed vampire story, it turned out to be more a love/drama vampire romp. He was disappointed because it was not what he had expected, and although he did not rate the book as bad, his disappointment reflected in his review. Self publishing authors need to pay as much attention to their book cover as they do to the blurb and the book itself, otherwise they may attract the wrong readers.

But sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the essence of your story in one image. I did an interesting writing exercise with my local group this week. We each wrote a single sentence to sum up a short story we had been working on, another member then read the story and wrote a sentence which they thought summed up the story. The result was surprising for me, my ‘reader’ saw the story in a very different way. This was a short story of 1500 words with three characters, a full novel with all its complexities is open to many interpretations.

Writing, Dieting and Exorcise

I have organised my day so that I have half an hour to spare before breakfast. More if I can drag myself out of bed earlier. I’ve made sure this is spare time, so no housework, no work, no facebook. The purpose was to take a walk every morning to improve my fitness and hopefully lose weight. After two weeks my legs stopped aching, but I’m waking up with a headache and I’ve gained 2lbs in weight. My sister reckons tree pollen in the park is causing my headaches but I’m not sure if that can happen in winter. My mum says the 2lbs is just fat turning to muscle, her previous theories about puppy fat doesn’t work anymore because I’m getting too old.

I didn’t go for a walk on Sunday as that meant getting dressed and I was very cosy on my PJs, so I laboriously wrote 500 words of a short story. Over the course of the day my headache disappeared and I didn’t appear to gain any more weight. This morning I erased the 500 words and laboriously wrote another 500 words. Tomorrow I shall probably repeat this chain of events.

I could spend the extra half an hour catching up on my beauty sleep as my other two activities appear to be fruitless if I wasn’t being haunted. It’s the usual stuff, creaking floorboards, rattling pipes, doors banging in the night and the occasional groan. I fear an exorcism would have no effect as these manifestations are not caused by any spectral visitation but by my insomniac relatives. Then again…

ghost funny

New Year New Me?

New Year new me! Isn’t that what we all promise. To live a better life, eat better, work better, do everything better. Well this year I’ve made no new year resolutions, there seems little point as by twelve o’clock I’ve broken every one, all except the ‘ I will not have midnight snacks’, but that can be rectified as soon the hour hand takes a full turn. So instead of looking forward into 2015, divination is very tricky and nerve racking, I shall look back over 2014, much easier to do.

I gained a stone in weight, I am totally out of shape but otherwise I appear to be healthy and haven’t suffered from any lengthy colds or bugs. So we will call it evens.

My social life is less then none existent, partly due to bereavement and family illnesses. But my friends are still there when I do call, I’ve rekindled some old friendships and I’ve made a couple of new ones. So I think that’s a plus.

My sister found a brilliant new hairdresser. My thick, unruly hair often resembles a bramble thicket caught in a tornado so I was nominated Guinea pig. The hairdresser was a man and straight but we won’t hold that against him. The cut was perfect, my hair fell in bouncy curls with no effort on my part. Unfortunately on my next visit I asked for something a bit more specific instead of letting him do is thing. Had he been a woman or gay, he would have ignored my request. As it was he wanted to keep me happy. The result was what I asked for, but I am not happy. This little episode says everything you need to know about relationships between men and women. I’m willing to forgive his transgression and booked another appointment in the spring. Verdict is out at the moment.

Its been an unusual year for writing. I haven’t achieved the things I expected to, but other opportunities have arisen. I keep suffering from writers block but I’ve managed to write regular blogs, once a month, and people appear to be reading them. I’m writing regular articles for an online magazine, Bibliophilia. I didn’t do NaNoWriMo this year or start editing previous novels or write much fiction. It doesn’t matter because I can call myself a writer and not feel a phoney. Another plus.

Two out of four is not so bad. Its been a mixed year, my Grandmothers death has affected me deeply and in turn has effected all areas of my life. Unseen opportunities have arisen. I can’t say I’m optimistic about 2015.

2014 was full of the unexpected, some good, some bad, but the events of last year have been life changing for me. If there is one thing I’m taking with me into the new year its the knowledge that the unexpected can happen, there is only so much I can foresee, there are only so many plans I can. The best I can do this year is deal with troubles when they happen, seize opportunities when they arise, keep living, loving and writing, and maybe try to lose a little weight. I’ll finish this cake first.

NaNoWriMo The Finale

Another NaNo November is coming to an end and unlike most Wrimos, I am not at burnout, probably because I quit after week one. I have instead been follow the progress of other writers and all their joys and woes. What I have noticed, now that its all over, is a lot of writers looking back over their monthly marathon of writing and thinking ‘what complete utter rubbish’. But the Writer is ever an optimistic creature and many believe they can salvage at least 20000 words from their expedition. For myself, even though I bailed out, I have also achieved something this year.

Some writers condemn NaNoWriMo as a waste of energy. How can anyone possible write a decent 50000 word first draft in 30 days. I really don’t know if it is possible, but NaNoWriMo is more then just writing a novel. A writer once told me that if I seriously wanted to be a writer then I would have to write everyday, my heart sank. So I signed up for my first attempt at NaNoWrimo alone, I don’t think I lasted a week, all inspiration dried up and with it my self confidence as a writer. It prompted me to join a writing course because I wasn’t giving up.

The following year I signed up again, this time I joined the regional forum and took part in events. The result was success of a sort. I had a 50000 word novel which was at best terrible but I had managed to write something everyday. I felt like a proper writer. And as a bonus I now have a circle of writing friends who are helpful and supportive. I didn’t keep up the writing though and my scribbling slowed down to once every two weeks.

This year I signed up again, determined to do better then last year and have something worth editing. So I planned out my novel first, from beginning to end, something I’ve never done before. Unfortunately I never got past the first chapter, because of personal circumstances I had to quit. But I have the outline for a good novel now, not just a vague idea. And I haven’t been idle during November. I’ve written a couple of articles for a magazine, done some more research for another novel, started a short story and I’ve been keeping up my blogs. I’ve probably written about 30000 words in total.

So NaNoWriMo is more then just writing a novel, it can also be a learning curve if you want to learn a lesson, which lessons you learn is up to you. For me, I’ve learned a few things.

Lesson 1, Learn Your Craft, it helps to have some idea about how to write.

Lesson 2, Don’t Go it Alone, family and friends are a great support but only other writers know the hell you go through when your MCs eyes are suddenly the wrong colour.

Lesson 3, Know When to Quit, my novel wasn’t ready to be written this month and I wasn’t ready to write it. I will keep it a while longer and continue with my other WIP.

And the writer who implied I wasn’t serious about writing because I didn’t write every single day, well he was wrong. I am a writer.

Week 3 NaNoWriMo

We are now entering the final week of NaNoWriMo. I have not written anything more of my novel since deciding to quit. I have written some other stuff so I’m not worried. I just don’t think I’m ready to write this particular story so I will shelve it for a while and hopefully like all good things, (wine, brandy, cheese) it will slowly mature in my brain into something rich and full flavoured.

It’s about this time when wrimos find out if they have made it, or are going to make it to 50K. It’s also about this time that their inspiration dries up, their muse goes on holiday, they become immune to caffeine. I’m not going to give any advice, after all I quit 2 weeks ago, but I will say this. You’ve made it this far, further then most, whatever goal you have set yourself, you can make it. If not, then you can always let your story mature in your brain for a while and pick up the pieces another year. There are no rules against doing a rewrite.