Tag Archives: family

Family Tradition. Flash Fiction.

Stacy glanced up from her phone and rolled her eyes, Andrea, her mother was still butchering the corpse. “Can’t we do this later? I’m tired and I’ve stuff to do.”
Andrea paused, she pulled the knife from the body and gently rested it on the table, “do you think I enjoy doing this? That this is something I want to do? No. This is a chore, like cleaning the bathroom, no one wants to do it but it has to be done. You know the rules, maybe I’ve been too easy on you. I’ve been letting you sit back and relax while I do all the work. So, your choices are to either pick up a knife and get to work, or you can just keep me company, because if I don’t do it now, you’re going to be doing it alone later.”
Stacy shrugged, “I’ll keep you company I guess. I just don’t like interrupting you when you’re working. I’m afraid you might cut yourself or something.”
Her mother smiled at her, her teeth were bright white and slightly too large for her mouth, “don’t worry about me honey, I’ve been doing this since I was four, I’m not going to cut myself.”
Andrea went back to slicing, upstairs she heard the door slam, “your fathers home.” there was heavy thudding, “Oh and I think he brought some more meat. He’s probably going to want you to help him.” Stacy scrunched her face.
“I know you’re squeamish about it honey but you know what your father’s like. It isn’t that bad once you get used to it, you just need to practise some more.” the footsteps reached the door of the basement. Stacy stood from the stool and slipped her phone into her pocket, she grabbed an apron from a hook on a wall and quickly tied it around herself, then she grabbed the knife and moved beside her mother. The door opened and her father entered the basement, taking his time as he went down the stairs. By the time he descended and dropped it onto the ground his breathing was only slightly heavy. He stood up and let out a long breath, “Phew! He’s fatter than I thought he was. I almost broke my back trying to heft him up.” he walked over and kissed Andrea on the lips, then kissed Stacy on the forehead, “it’s always nice to see you helping your mother.” He didn’t remark on her spotless apron or her clean knife. Stacy sighed and turned, her knife cutting easily into flesh.

When they were done butchering they packed the meat up carefully, portioning out what would be eaten in the next few days and what would be frozen. Their large chest freezer was almost completely full, the sight of it sent a flood of relief through Stacy, a full freezer meant there wouldn’t be any more butchering for another couple of months. Unless her dad got the urge again of course. Stacy left the basement and headed straight for the shower, as usual, she always felt dirty afterwards and the only cure was a long, almost scalding hot shower. She stripped out of her clothes and carefully bundled them up before putting them into the special laundry basket. She tested the water with her hand and seeing it was hot enough she stepped into the spray. It wasn’t exactly pleasant work, but there were worse things out there, besides she was eighteen in another few months and her parents promised she didn’t have to continue helping if she didn’t want to, though she knew she most likely would. They had also promised that if she continued to help they’d take care of college for her, and give her a generous monthly allowance, the offer was just too good to pass up. She was the youngest of the family and the most squeamish, ever since she’d been a girl no matter what her parents had tried. It wasn’t like that for Bobby or Carol, they had no problems mucking in with the butchering whenever it was required but Stacy always felt dirty and slightly sick afterwards.

Stacy stepped from the shower and wrapped herself in a warm, fluffy towel, “Dinner is in ten sweetheart! I made spaghetti!”
“OK Mom, I’ll be down in a few!”
Stacy’s stomach rumbled, she loved spaghetti, her mother always ground the meat fresh.

Fall of a Dynasty. Flash Fiction.

Jeremy looked at the ruby red blood, the way it shone in the light. Everything in the room faded into the background, he felt his stomach do a slow, lazy flip, then darkness fell.

He woke a few minutes later, feeling nauseous and confused, there was a cold cloth on his forehead, his father and mother stood over him, his father with worry in his eyes, his mother with disgust in hers.
“I thought you’d outgrown this”
“So did I.”
His mother shook her head and walked away, his father sat on the edge of the couch, “are you feeling ok? Do you want anything?”
“No, thank you. You should go after her, try to calm her down.”
his father grimaced, “We both know I’ve never really been able to do that, she’ll calm herself.”
Jeremy closed his eyes, somewhere in the house his mother slammed a door, both of them winced. “Maybe I should go have a word with her…She still loves you you know.”
“I know.”
“It’s just she so wanted to share this with you.”
“I know dad. It’s fine.”
Jeremy could feel the thread of guilt gnawing at him, it was just a bit of blood, that was all, but every time he saw it he passed out.
His father stood, “Are you sure I can’t get you anything?”
“Yeah dad” He looked at his fathers back, he was already scurrying from the room before he had even started to answer. Jeremy sat up slowly, already he was feeling better, he didn’t know what his mother had done with the blood, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it was smeared over his sheets, or walls. It wouldn’t be the first time it happened, when he was ten she had rubbed a bloody cloth in his face in an apparent attempt to cure his phobia. There was also the time she had thrown some on him while he was in the shower, arguing that it wasn’t a big deal because “It washed off anyway.” He knew she meant well deep down, she always put him first and she always had.

Somewhere in the house he could hear his mother screeching, he couldn’t make out the words but he didn’t need to. She was comparing him to his sister, dead for almost ten years now and still the child his mother loved the most. He would never compare to her no matter what he did, even when she was alive he was always second best. She’d been killed while she had been out alone, his mother insisted it was just an accident but Jeremy knew better. She had tried to kill someone and had obviously chosen the wrong victim, though no one ever stepped forward to claim responsibility. If only he could be more like her, if only he wasn’t effected by the blood. Their mother had been proud to pass on her families traditions, the matriarch of a great dynasty and now that would all end with him. How could he pass on the traditions to his own children if he couldn’t even do them himself. It was their god given right to thin the herd, to make the world a better place, but he was just too weak to do it. He smiled bitterly, he wasn’t the only child that was too weak for the job.

The screeching died down, no doubt she was sobbing now, it always ended with sobbing. He felt the familiar twist of guilt in his stomach, it was all his fault after all. He was the problem. He stood from the couch and made his way upstairs, his head down and his shoulders hunched. He opened the door to his bedroom, half expecting the room to be covered in blood, but it was as he left it. He gently closed and locked the door, it wouldn’t keep her out, but it would make it a little harder for her to get in.

He lay in bed unable to sleep, staring into the darkness, he had escaped punishment tonight, but it would come eventually, it always did.

The Sickness. Flash Fiction.

So as I said last Wednesday there was a family situation and that was welcoming a new member to the family! My sister gave birth to an absolutely beautiful baby girl on Wednesday, which came as a surprise to everyone, including her! (the giving birth last Wednesday part, not the having a baby part!) We’ve all been running around since making sure that the Mum and Dad have everything they need in the hospital and house and of course, visiting the hospital as much as we can. Little Ailbhe (pronounced Alva) is incredibly charming and adorable, and I’m saying this as a completely unbiased third party and not as her uncle. I’m also thrilled to say that both mother and baby are doing incredibly well!

Also apologies this is up so late, the days have all blurred together and sped past, I forgot this was Friday too!

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The Sickness.

Samantha looked at the lumps on her skin, at first they had worried her but now she didn’t have the energy to be concerned. They were itchy when they first appeared, and slightly reddish, now they were the same pale colour of her skin and when she wasn’t looking at them she almost could forget they were there. She ran her hand along her arm, feeling them beneath her fingers, the lumps were warm, surprisingly so. She could see people passing outside the room through the small, barred window in the door. They had brought her in here shortly after she arrived and refused to tell her anything. So far the doctor had been in once to give her a quick examination, he didn’t seem to do much other than prod at one of the lumps with gloved hands and take her temperature. She scratched at one absentmindedly. Beyond that she hadn’t seen any doctors in the two days she’d been there. The only other person that came into her room was a small, frail looking woman who dropped off her tray of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner and took her temperature. They hadn’t even sent in someone to mop the floors of the room or to look at the bathroom. She definitely wouldn’t be coming to this hospital in the future, even the woman who came in wasn’t much help and had no answers to any of her questions. She scratched at one of the lumps again, they were starting to get itchy again. They had given her some pills in the morning, but the woman shrugged when Samantha had asked what they were, perhaps they were causing the itch as a side effect. As she scratched the bump burst open, thick, foul smelling yellow pus oozed from the wound, she tried not to gag, she looked around for the call button the frail woman had pointed out previously, she found it and pressed it.

The woman arrived a moment later, Samantha held out her arm and before she could speak the woman turned and left the room, closing the door behind her, Samantha could have sworn she heard the woman lock it too. She looked down at her arm, a thin stream of blood was flowing down her fingers and was steadily dripping onto the floor in a steady beat. As she watched something thin and black wriggled free from the wound, Samantha felt her stomach do a slow flip, she couldn’t look away as it curled around itself for a few seconds before it finally fell to the floor. It continued to squirm on the white tiles. She felt a sudden heat and wetness on her arm, she looked up and saw more of the lumps had burst, each one oozing that thick, yellow pus. The stench of it was filling the room, becoming overwhelming. The sight of so much pus and blood shocked her from her stupor, she stood and went to the door, the nurse should have been back by now, she tried the handle, but it didn’t work, the nurse had locked her in. Samantha pounded on the door and started shouting, with each thud more and more of the lumps broke open.

Half an hour later the door was unlocked with a gentle click, the door swung open slowly. The frail woman stood in the doorframe, looking at Samantha’s body. The black worms were writhing and crawling over her skin, already there were large wounds across her body where the worms had feasted. The woman started spraying Samantha’s corpse with a spray bottle, watching as the worms sizzled softly as the spray coated them. Once she had thoroughly doused the body she closed the door again. She wasn’t on clean up duty, thankfully, the stink of chemicals overwhelmed the earlier stench. Soon Samantha’s body would be incinerated, the worms burning with her. The woman locked the door, it was the only way to keep everyone safe. She felt an itch on her wrist, frantically she pulled down her glove and then breathed out a sigh when she saw flat, unblemished skin. She scratched the itch then turned from the door, there were other patients to see and the day was far from over.

Silence is Golden. Flash Fiction.

Simon lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Beside him Angela slept, occasionally she would snore softly. Despite the silence of the house he could feel it, the oppressive pressure that was always there. The house itself had become so steeped in all the noise that it exuded it, even in the quiet of night. He rolled over onto his side, the red light of the clock shone in his eyes, mocking him with the time. He took a long, slow breath, trying to relax his jaw as he did so, it was an old habit, clenching his jaw when he started getting stressed, one he had been unsuccessfully trying to break for years. After a few minutes he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. He needed some air, the room felt hot, stuffy, like it was closing in on him.

In the kitchen he felt a little better, but it was still there, the clattering of cutlery, the shattering of a glass or a plate, the whining over having to eat vegetables, that someone got more ice-cream than the other one. Everyone just constantly yelling over one another. Simon filled a glass of water with shaking hands, he drained the glass in one long gulp then he put it into the sink. He couldn’t go on like this, no one could go on like this. It wasn’t good for him and it certainly wasn’t good for them. He had tried to make things better, God knew he had tried everything he could, but they seemed resistant to change, unwilling to do anything that might better themselves. So instead he would come home from work, already tired and stressed, to be met with yelling teens, a distant, loud wife and a house that was always a mess. The kids didn’t know how good they had it, complaining with their heads buried in what ever expensive gadget his wife just had to buy for them. And she was no better herself, they had spoken maybe a hundred words to each other in the last month that weren’t related to dinner, what the children wanted, or a fight. The sad part was that of those few words, most were just passing politeness.

Simon sat at the kitchen table, his head was in his hands. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t just go back to bed then get up in the morning like everything was fine. Something had to change. They weren’t always like this. They used to be a happy family, full of love and laughter. He didn’t really know what had changed, there was nothing to pinpoint it after all. The last good time he could remember was a family trip about four years before, they had gone to a cave system nearby, though the name of it escaped him. After that everyone just seemed to get worse and worse. Always snapping at each other, baiting each other into arguments.

Simon took another drink, he didn’t know how long he had been sitting here with the bottle of rum, but it had been full when he started and he had gotten through a good quarter of the bottle. He took another glug, it was nice, having the warmth of the booze spread through his body and with it came a kind of relaxed peace. He could be in the moment, he could enjoy the silence. Outside a car alarm started, Simon winced as the noise wormed its way through his skull, it sounded like the alarm was going off inside his brain. Outside the alarm stopped but he could still hear it, and like opening a flood gates the rest of the noises came with it. He could hear the TV blaring in the sitting room as it played some mindless reality show, the radio was belting out some pop song at full volume. People were yelling all around, though he couldn’t make out what they were saying he recognised the voices. This couldn’t go on, he wouldn’t stand for it any longer.

Simon stood over the body of his daughter, the baseball bat had made short work of her skull. Blood and brains were splattered on the walls, on him. He sighed in relief as her voice died out, leaving only two.

Simon walked through the house, there was no need for anger, not now, the noise had finally stopped. The constant shouting and yelling, everyone screaming for attention at once. He breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly, he went into the sitting room and sat on the couch. There he closed his eyes and luxuriated in the calm. He was coated in blood and bits of brain, it felt sticky and tight on his skin. If only they had listened to him once every now and then, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

 

 

The Rock. Flash Fiction.

Anna sighed and pulled her jacket a little tighter, now that night was falling it was starting to get cold. She looked around again and saw nothing, this entire thing was just so stupid. They really expected her to stand out here in a field of rocks until what? One of them chose her? How could a rock choose someone? If it weren’t for her parents insistence, she would have just skipped the entire thing. She had heard stories about this place since she was a child, how it signalled adulthood, as a child it all seemed wonderful and magical, now it just seemed stupid. Anna picked up a rock at random and turned it over in her hands, feeling the cold, smooth surface. She could just take this one and leave, no one would question it and no one would know. Anna dropped the stone, she would know. Anna took a deep breath, she could find a pretty rock, after all there were plenty to choose from. At least if she chose a cool one she’d leave this place with something.

Night had fallen fully, but the moon hung heavy and bright in the sky, casting everything in silver shadows. Anna wished, again, that she knew how to build a fire without anything to start it. It wasn’t cold enough to cause worry, but a fire would make the night go a little faster. Anna had given up looking through the rocks a short time before, instead she chose to sit on a large boulder and look up at the sky, away from the light pollution of the city.

Anna woke with a start, at some point she had dozed off. Clouds had covered most of the sky and blocked the light of the moon. There was a light in the distance, small and glowing a steady blue. She watched it for a few minutes, waiting for it to move, but it stayed steady. After a moment she stood and stretched, then started walking towards the light, something about it seemed inviting. As she walked closer she saw that what ever was emitting the light was lying on the ground.

Anna looked down at the glowing rock, it was about two inches across, the light was much brighter than she expected considering the size of it. She bent down and examined it a little closer, carefully she reached out to touch it, expecting her fingers to come away coated in paint or covered in slime. The rock was smooth, dry and warm to the touch. The light flared slightly brighter as her fingers moved over its surface. She picked it up and as she held it in both hands she could feel a faint tremor fluttering through it, like the heartbeat of a bird. She closed her hand over it and felt warmth spreading through her, filling her, as Anna watched her skin took on the glow until it seemed like she was bursting with light. A few seconds later the light faded but the warmth stayed behind. Anna looked down at the rock which was still glowing, though it wasn’t as bright as before. Carefully she put the stone in her pocket, she felt tired but energised and had a strange sense of being complete, as though she had been missing something, something she hadn’t even been aware of. Anna turned from where she found the stone and started to walk towards the boulder she had dozed off on, from there she would be able to find her way back to where she had been dropped off. Her father would be waiting for her, like he promised, with a thermos of hot chocolate and together they would drive home, her rock safely tucked away in her pocket.

 

Saying Goodbye. Short Story.

John took an awkward sip of his drink. Technically he knew everyone here, but none of them well enough to actually have a conversation with. At least not without the short, painful dance of finding out who they are and what they were doing with their life. For some of the more distant relatives it was fine, after all who could keep track of everyone, but it became a bit more iffy with cousins. He knew that Sandra was in college recently, something arty perhaps? And Jacob had been fired from his last job for drinking about three years back. Though Jacob was hitting the free booze fairly hard, so perhaps what ever he had managed to learn from the event hadn’t stuck. Unless it was Jack that was fired? John shook his head and took another sip. No one had approached him to chat yet, so that was something at least. His sister, Angela, had abandoned him about twenty minutes earlier, disappearing off with another cousin they hadn’t seen in years.

it wasn’t just not really knowing anyone that was making him feel uncomfortable. Everyone seemed much to happy. Laughing and drinking, telling stories and catching up, if everyone weren’t wearing black, and there were not large photos of Grammy with wreathes underneath anyone would think it was just a family reunion. He knew Grammy wasn’t particularly liked by anyone, hell, he had been avoiding her for the past five years, but it felt disrespectful. She was a difficult woman to deal with, and John suspected she never really cared for any of them, but surely someone must be upset. She was always a source of drama, of broken promises and gifts being held over heads, but she had never done anything too heinous. When she was alive most of the people here did what she said, catering to her whims. John knew that it was all down to the fortune she had stashed away in the bank and her three large houses. Grammy had been a rich woman and everyone wanted something from her. Maybe that was how she turned so mean in the first place, the constant begging and pleading that some of the relatives did. Now that she was dead they all came out of the woodwork in the hope of getting something. John himself was only there because his mother had asked. John jumped, startled out of his thoughts by Uncle Scott’s booming laugh. John finished off his drink and stood from the table, hoping Scott hadn’t spotted him. John started moving through the crowd, weaving his way between groups. A large hand clamped down on his shoulder, “John! It’s good to see you!”
John stopped, force a smile and turned, “Uncle Scott, it’s good to see you too.”
Scott pulled John in for a hug, not noticing how John’s body remained tense. When he was released John took a slow breath. He was still wearing the same cologne, the smell of which always made John feel sick.
“Terrible day isn’t?” Scott’s cheeks were red and his eyes were shiny.
John nodded, “Yes, it really is. Still, at least she had a long life.”
“True, though I hear you wouldn’t know much about that. How long has it been since you’d seen her?”
“It was a while. I tried to get down when I heard that she was ill, but I couldn’t’ make it.”
Scott smiled sympathetically and nodded, “Yeah, I almost didn’t make it myself. I’m glad I did though, If I hadn’t I know I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.”
“Yeah.”
“So what have you been up to? I hear you’ve got a new job?”
“Yeah, it’s nice, fairly easy. I’ve less hours now, so I’ve more free time.”
John took a sip from his glass then feigned surprise that it was empty, “Oh, I better get another one. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Scott smiled and downed the rest of his drink, “So do I, c’mon we’ll brave the bar together.” As John turned he desperately scanned the crowd for someone to come help him.

The wait at the bar was two people deep when they arrived, it seemed everyone had decided to top up. John tried to slip in between two people he didn’t recognise, hoping he’d lose Scott in the crowd. Scott shouldered his way between the two, “Now Nessa, Jeremy, make way for your elders!”
John nodded as Scott talked, adding in an occasional “Oh really?” Or “Yeah” when there was a brief lull. Finally, John made it to the bar and ordered his drink, he was served first and while Scott was distracted with the barman he slipped away.

Uncle Scott wasn’t really a bad person, but something about him put John on edge. The way he was always touching people, patting them on the head or shoulder, the way he smiled, like they were sharing a secret. And of course, that damn cologne. He wasn’t the only one Uncle Scott put on edge, his father never let him or his sister be alone with him. It was never anything obvious, most people wouldn’t notice and John only suspected he did because of his own dislike of Scott. Behind him he heard another booming laugh and smiled, Scott had latched onto someone else. He glanced at his watch, what was the appropriate amount of time to stay at one of these things? He would ask Angela, but god only knew how long it would take to find her. He paused for a second then shook his head, he knew exactly where he’d find her. She’d be out back with one or two of the cousins, having a smoke. Part of him was tempted to go out and join them. It would certainly help him relax, make things a bit more bearable. He pushed the thought away, it seemed disrespectful to be getting high at a wake. He knew Grammy wouldn’t approve, but then she wouldn’t approve of the entire event. She wouldn’t want people laughing or sharing stories, she’d want them all crying, wailing, cursing god for taking her too soon. That was definitely more her style. He scanned the crowd again, spotting no one he really recognised he finished his drink then left. No one would notice his absence, after all no one really noticed his presence anyway. Besides, the tough part was over.

Outside he saw Angela and went over, he had been right, her and two others were huddled together, passing a joint around. He took a quick puff when it was passed to him, more out of politeness than any real desire to smoke. “I’m going to head back to the hotel, I’m feeing a bit drained.”
“Ok, do you want me to let mum and dad know?”
“No, they’ll only worry. I don’t think they’ll really notice I’m gone. I’ll pop around to her tomorrow and see how she’s doing.”
Angela gave him a quick hug, “we should go out for a drink while you’re here. We haven’t had a proper catch up in ages.”

“Yeah, definitely. I might have a nap then come back across later.”
“Cool, let me know. I’ll warn you away if its gotten messy. Though I don’t think I’ll be staying much longer myself.”

At his hotel room John stripped out of his suit and put on a pair of pyjama bottoms. He threw a movie onto the TV and tried to relax. It was finally over. Sure he’d have to go to a few meals over the next few days, but the worst of it was done.

Her Funeral. Short Story.

“Mom’s dead.”
No preamble, no hello.
Brian didn’t know how to feel, he had thought of this moment for years and here it was. He opened his mouth,  then closed it.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yeah, yeah i-how did it happen?” Stupid question, but he needed to know.
“The cancer came back.”
He suppressed a snort, of course.
“Was it…was it quick?”
Gemma sighed, “what do you want me to say Brian?”
“I don’t know. The truth.”
“It was quick. The doctor only found it last week, but it was more advanced than they thought. She didn’t want treatment again, doctor said it would give her another six months; maybe a year if she was lucky. She didn’t want to go through it. She wanted to go on her own terms.”
Brian found himself nodding along, even though Gemma couldn’t see him, it was just like her.
“I’m glad. That it was quick.”
“That she didn’t suffer?” He could hear the surprise in her voice.
“No. That you didn’t suffer.” Gemma had played her nurse the last time and he had a front row seat then, saw how badly it affected her, his mother draining her life force with every laboured breath and demand, day after day after day. Brian remembered his last words to her still, how could he not, “why don’t you do everyone a favour, do the decent thing for once in your life and just die already. Don’t drag it out any longer.” He regretted the words as soon as they were out, not because they were a lie, he meant every single word, but because Gemma had been there and his words had cut her deep, her face crumpling as she started to cry. He had left then and hadn’t been back.
“Gemma?”
“Yeah.”
“When’s the funeral?”
“I didn’t think you’d want to come, after…” she trailed off and Brian felt his cheeks burn with shame, he knew she was thinking of it too.
“I already said my goodbye to her, and I meant it. I want to be there for you.”
“It’s next Tuesday. I” Her voice hitched, “I’d really appreciate you being there.”
“I will be. Don’t worry. Someone has to stop Uncle Paul from doing his impressions when he’s had too much to drink.”
Gemma giggled, the laughter was high and slightly manic, he could hear the tears there, bubbling below the surface. Once the laughter had died she sniffed and wiped at her nose, “you’d better. Mom would never forgive him.”
“Maybe I’ll let him do it then.”
“Hush.” There was no malice or anger in the gentle rebuke.
“When can you make it out?”
“Sunday maybe. Monday at the latest. I’ll see what hotels have rooms.”
“No Brian, don’t,  you’re staying here, with us.”
“Are you sure?”
“Always.”
“Thanks, you’re a gem.”
“You know I hate that.”
“I know. I’ll see you Sunday,  OK? ”
“OK.  I love you.”
“Love you too gem.”
There was no response, the line went dead. Brian placed the phone in its cradle.  She was really gone. He let out a long breath, waiting for the feelings to hit him, relief, sadness, anger, but none of them came. In their place was indifference and somehow that was worse than them all.

The frustrating thing for Brian was that he could never quite explain himself when people found out he didn’t speak to his mother. Most of the time he hid it, sick of the endless questions that people quick fired at him, one after another. There was never any physical abuse, she had never raised a hand to any of them and that somehow made it worse. Perhaps if he had bruises to show or broken bones it would have been easier, but all the wounds were beneath the surface.

She had taught him that love was not unconditional, that it was something to be given and taken, that it was a weapon, a sharp blade used with expert precision to cut and hack away at anything good and decent in him. To smother any light in his life, to bring nothing but misery, darkness and guilt. In all his life he couldn’t recall a single time she had praised him without any kind of qualifier, all he ever got were snide comments and put downs. “Oh, you got a B? Well, it isn’t an A. I guess you did your best.” “It sounds pretty, but we both know you’re going to give up in a few weeks and where will you be? Out the money you spent on that stupid guitar and I’ll be out the money I spent on lessons.” He and Gemma had reacted differently to it, Brian became more defiant, he knew he would never get her approval so why even try? Gemma was the opposite, trying as hard as she could to gain the meagre scraps of her love. Their own father had tried to live with it for years until finally the weight of it all came crashing down on him and he found his escape in the form of a bullet. Brian suspected it was because his Dad knew that though life was bad now, if he divorced her she’d make the rest of his life hellish. Brian remembered telling her that he knew it was her fault that Dad had shot himself, how she had shouted “How could you say that to me? Your own mother? He was a weak man, I tried, heaven knows I tried, but he was weak.” She couldn’t see it, something in her was broken, made her unable to see, he did nothing to her, he never had, she had always done it to herself.  Every perceived wrong and injustice could all be traced back to her.

Brian dreaded the trip home, all those old, familiar faces, all the commiserations, the reassurances that she was a wonderful woman and that she’d be missed. All those people who avoided her as much as they could in life would now come out of the woodwork to mourn her death. He would do it, he had to do it for Gemma. Maybe now that it was over she’d be able to go and live her life without their mothers constant shadow hanging over her.

He settled into his old room with surprising ease, the posters had long been removed and the walls had been painted an inoffensive beige, but still, it had the feel of his room, containing thousands of memories. Gemma had hugged him when he arrived, gripping him tight like she was drowning. He had hugged her back until she pulled away and lead him inside. Chinese food was on the way already, she didn’t need to ask what he wanted, his order was always the same, he could feel it as he walked inside, everyone slipping into their old roles. The food arrived as he was upstairs putting away his suitcase. He didn’t bother unpacking, he wasn’t staying that long.

The days passed in a blur of familiar faces and suddenly he found himself standing at the edge of her grave, watching as they lowered the coffin. Part of him expected tears to come, hot and bitter, but they didn’t. He reached up to his cheek to check, lightly brushing his fingers across it as though brushing away an errant hair. As her coffin disappeared into the cold embrace of the ground he realised he had nothing left to give her, she had already taken it all long ago, leaving nothing behind. Not for her, not for anyone. Beside him Gemma cried silent tears, her hand reached out for his and gripped it tightly, he gave her hand a gentle squeeze. Finally the coffin finished its descent and it was over.

There was an endless parade of faces and stories, hugs and expressions of pity and grief. Part of him was glad for his detachment, but another part wished he could join them, feel what they felt. As the night wore on more stories were told, stories of a mother he had never met, a younger woman who was happy and loving, a woman who laughed, who danced, who told bawdy jokes at inappropriate times, a mother whom he never had the chance to know. As the stories continued his own bitterness and sadness grew, not for the woman she was when she died, but for the woman whom he had never gotten to meet. Instead he was left with a cold, uncaring harridan whose own warmth and love had been sapped out of her until she had none left to give and a need to take it from those around her. Finally the last few people left, leaving them alone in the empty house, to grieve for the woman who passed and for the lives they could have had.

The Monster at the Top of the Stairs. Short Story.

“Go on, it’s your turn.”
Bobby winced, he hated when it was his turn.

He stood slowly and moved towards the kitchen. His mother never looked away from the television, not that that was a surprise, she never moved too far from it. His brother was off out somewhere, free to roam with his friends. Not Bobby though, Bobby had to stay at home today because it was his turn. He hoped that maybe his mother would forget about it, maybe she would even do it herself, but that was a rare occurrence. In the last five years she had gone upstairs only a small handful of times. His dad had taken most of the burden onto himself, but he was at work today, so it fell to Bobby to pick up the slack.

Everything was prepared on the tray, food, water, he just needed to carry it up. That was his dad again, he always prepared the tray, tried to make it look nice. Sometimes there were flowers, or shapes made out of fruit. Bobby spotted his mothers smokes on the kitchen counter, a lighter resting on top. He picked them up and went into the sitting room, the room was still vaguely smoky, but it had been a while since her last one. He placed the cigarettes on the arm of the sofa, “Ah thanks Bobby.” She didn’t look around. One hand moved out and opened the packet, pulling out a cigarette before putting it to her dry lips. She lit it, inhaled deeply and released a cloud of smoke with a sigh. “Did you do it?”
“Not yet.”
“Get a move on, will you?”
Bobby nodded and left the room again.

In the kitchen he fussed with the tray, moving things here and there so everything was balanced, he didn’t want to drop it or trip. Finally satisfied with how everything was placed he picked it up and started to make his way down the stairs. His stomach felt heavy, a hard, burning knot inside him. He took slow breaths, forcing his hands to stay steady. His cheeks were already bright red with shame. He was old enough now that this shouldn’t be a problem, there shouldn’t be an issue. Every night he walked up these stairs to go to bed and it was always fine, there was never this horrible burning, the heat from his face seeming to bounce off the walls making everything uncomfortably hot. The hallway stretched out before him, each step taking an eternity.

He paused at her door, a light, innocuous brown, and knocked gently, there was no answer. There hadn’t been in a long time, but he still felt his shoulders relax. Gently, trying to be as quiet as possible he put down the tray in front of the door and picked up the other. Then, quickly, he scurried away, back hunched, tray clutched tightly.

In the kitchen he took slow, deep breaths. It was over for the day. It had been done. His dad would be home later, he’d take care of the evening tray. He put the dishes and bowls into the dishwasher before he slunk back into the sitting room, taking his customary place on the couch. The talk show was still going, he thought it would have been long over by now. “Is it done?”
“Yeah.”
She nodded, “You’re a good son. You know I love you right?”
“Yeah.”
Her hand reached out for the cigarette packet again. She always chain-smoked whenever there was any mention of Mona. She passed him the cigarettes, “Go on.”, still she didn’t look at him. He took one from the packet and lit it, inhaling tentatively. Immediately he started to cough, his throat dry and feeling like it was on fire. His mother shook her head, smiling. He took another puff, squinting his face as he did so. It was easier to smoke it than argue about it. The faster he smoked it the faster it would be gone. He kept watching the telly, occasionally he would glance at her to see if she was watching, but her eyes never moved from the screen. Every now and then he would raise the cigarette to his mouth and inhale slightly, filling his mouth with smoke before blowing it out. When it was finally done he got up from the couch and went into the kitchen, there he grabbed out a bottle of coke and took a swig, swishing it around his mouth to get rid of the taste.

He hated that taste, it always reminded him of Mona, of the first time he had seen her. He used to bring her tray up to her all the time, hoping for a peak of his mysterious sister, who refused to come out or leave her room. He had worn her down over years and years of pestering, of quick pleadings in the time he had. She never spoke much to him, or to anyone. Sometimes his dad would disappear into the room for hours and he could hear the dull sound of murmurs if he listened closely. He didn’t know what to expect on the day that she finally relented. He knew nothing about her, nothing but her name. Whenever he asked his dad became quiet and his mother usually yelled. Finally, Mona relented, after years of begging, just one glimpse, that was all he wanted.

She had opened the door slowly, Bobby could feel the excitement rising as more and more of the room beyond was revealed, she had a bed, that much he suspected but it was nice to have it confirmed, and a window with netting over it, so she could look out but it made it hard for others to look in, he had seen that from the back garden. The walls were bright pink with posters of bands all over them. Finally she came into view and Bobby, Bobby had started screaming. She slammed the door, and above his own screams he could hear her sobbing. His dad thundered up the stairs, yelling, shouting, screaming at Bobby to get downstairs while his mother shouted “I told her never to show them, I told her!” from her usual perch. He had been bundled downstairs, left with his mother while his dad went into the room of the monster. His mother had said nothing, she just kept watching the TV, she had passed him a cigarette, telling him it would calm his nerves. He didn’t know if she really believed that, or if she just wanted to provide an easy distraction. He had spent the next ten minutes trying to sooth his sore throat and stop the continuous coughing.

That night his father had come to him, explained that though his sister Mona looked different, and maybe even scary, she was his sister and was just like everyone else. He was told of how upset he had made her, how difficult her life was. That night he apologised through the door. It was the last time he had spoken to Mona, she had not spoken to him, nor had she opened the door since.

He hated that tray, he hated that his parents had never prepared him for it, that they let her hide away and waste her life and become the family’s dirty little secret. Most of all he hated himself, and how he had screamed.

Yearly Visit. Short Story.

Jason took a deep breath, then got out of the car. The place looked almost exactly the same, not that he expected it to have changed. He was not looking forward to this visit but it had to be done. It fell within the agreements and as long as he didn’t break it, they would leave him alone for the most part. They all knew he hated visiting, but they didn’t want to upset the uneasy alliance. He had tried running from them once, he managed to go through three days without contact, three, desperate days in which he barely had time to rest, and they still found him easily enough.

As he approached the door it opened, his mother smiled, “Welcome home honey.” She didn’t look different either, maybe a few new wrinkles here and there, she had the same hairstyle, the same glasses, hell he was reasonably sure that they were still the same clothes she wore when he was a child. He hugged her, it was brief, mechanical. She stepped back, “let me look at you” she scanned over him, then tutted, “You’re not eating enough. I can tell.”
“I’m eating plenty mom.”
“Well, I’ve a few days to fatten you up anyway. Your father is in his study. Go so hi to him and your sister, then come down to the kitchen. I’ve some food on.”
He didn’t bother asking what food, he already knew it would be a chocolate cake, made from scratch along with a cup of coffee. He had stopped pointing out he wasn’t a huge fan of chocolate after the fifth cake. It had become easier to just eat a slice rather than endure that scowl he always hated.

He climbed the stairs, skipping over the one that creaked out of habit, then knocked gently on the door to his fathers study. “Come in.”
“Hey dad.”
“Ah, Jason, did you just get in?”

Jason swallowed his retort and smiled,
“Yeah, just wanted to pop up and say hi.”

“I’m almost done here anyway, go find your sister and say hello. I’d also wager that your mother has some coffee on too.”
“I’d say you’d win. I’ll see you later dad.”
Jason closed the door over again. He never knew what his father actually did in his study. He didn’t have a job after all, and never seemed to be doing much of anything when anyone went in. Jason theorised that perhaps he just went up there to sit and be away from his wife.

Annalisa was in her bedroom, he knocked gently, “Hello Jason.”
“Hey Anna. How’s things?”
“Good. You?”
“Good. Mom has some coffee and cake on.”
“I know. I’ll be down when it’s ready.”

Annalisa’s room always freaked him out, she was twenty five and it was still painted the same pastel pink as in her childhood, bright childish flowers dotted the walls, hell even her vanity was just a larger version of the one she had as a child. She had changed her duvet, which was something. No longer was it pink with cartoon characters playing about, it was instead a white with a black design. It clashed with the rest of the room but he was glad to see the change regardless.

Jason went back down to the kitchen, where everything was clean and always smelled faintly of disinfectant. “Sit, sit, coffee will be done in a moment. Did you say hello to your father and sister?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Good.”
Jason sat at the table, already there were three plates set out. He knew, as did his mother, that his father wouldn’t actually come down for coffee and cake, no matter how many reassurances he gave. His mother busied herself about the kitchen, seemingly moving things from one place to another with no real goal other than to fuss. When the coffee was finished she brought over the pot and poured it into the mugs, she added cream and sugar to her own and Annalisa’s cup, she didn’t try to add any to Jason’s. He added a splash of cream to his coffee and took a sip. His mother went to the oven and pulled out a chocolate cake which was sitting on a plate. No doubt being kept warm in the oven until his arrival. She cut slices, thick wedges of course, and carefully put them on the plates. Jason picked up his fork and took a bite before quickly washing it down with the scalding coffee. He should have waited a few minutes, but she would get huffy if he didn’t eat some straight away. “It tastes great mom.”
She smiled at him, “Thank you, I know how much you love chocolate.” She turned to put something in the sink, Jason took the opportunity to roll his eyes.
His mother turned back, “Oh, Annalisa, just in time, as always!” Annalisa sat beside Jason and took a sip of her own coffee before eating some of the cake. “Mmm, amazing as always mom.”

She sat down across from them, “So, Jason, how has everything been?”
“Great, just started a new job, got a good bump in my pay, working less hours too.”
“Ooh, so does that mean you’ll get more chances to come for a visit.”
“I’m not sure, maybe. What about you? What have you guys been up to?”
“Well, your sister is planning on getting her drivers license, though I don’t know why she’d bother, after all she has myself or your father to drive her anywhere.”
Annalisa shrugged, “I don’t like bothering you guys for that stuff. Besides, it makes thing easier for everyone.”
“I guess. I still don’t think it’s the greatest idea, but it’s what she wants, so we’re letting her.”
Jason was surprised his mother didn’t add a “For now.”
“Have you started taking lessons yet?”
“Well, just one so far. It went pretty well I think. I mean, I didn’t crash or anything. Not that that was a real worry of course.”
“Of course.”
Jason took a sip of his coffee, then another bite of cake. If he didn’t choke down at least half of the damn thing he wouldn’t hear the end of it.

Jason splashed water onto his face, he would be fine he had already gotten through family dinner, dessert and now there was just two more days and then he would be done for another year. Hell, it wasn’t even a stressful holiday, thank god he had gotten Christmas and Thanksgiving off the table. He patted his face dry then grabbed his bag of toiletries and went to his room. It was a little creepy how it was the same way he left it when he moved out. Usually at night he ended up going on a few trips down memory lane, but he could deal with it, he always had before.

Jason was about to turn off the light when there was a gentle knock at his door. He opened it to find Annalisa standing here.
“Is everything ok?”
“Yeah, um, could we…talk?”
“…yeah…sure.” Jason stepped back and gestured for her to enter. Gently, she closed the door behind herself.
“Don’t worry, they’re asleep and they’re not going to wake up, just seems like a good precaution to take. I’ve gotten better about that stuff. I hope it makes me seem normal.”
Why?”
“Well, that’s sort of what I wanted to talk to you about. I want to leave here. I want to get out and live my own life, but I know they’re not going to let me. I need your help. I know I don’t deserve it, at all, not after how I treated you when we were kids, but I’m sorry. I honestly am. I’ve wanted to tell you that for so long but I just didn’t know how to begin to say it. I’m sorry for everything I ever told them, for all the shit they put you through. That was all my fault and I’m sorry for it.”

Annalisa was crying, tears streaming down her face, Jason wasn’t sure how to react. After a second, he hugged her, she grabbed onto him, gripping him tightly as she sobbed. He rubbed her back gently, “it’s ok, there’s no need to cry. Look, you’ve nothing to apologise for, really. I don’t blame you anymore, it’s their fault and I know that now. I know I haven’t been the nicest to you and that I’ve never really made much of an effort but, well, there’s no nice way to say it, I never really trusted you.”
She pulled out of the hug, “That’s ok, you never had any reason to. If I was you I’d be the last person I’d trust.” She wiped at her eyes, “I really would like your help getting out, but if you can’t or won’t I understand. Either way I’m going to stop helping them. I’ve already decided if you want to go you can. I won’t help them find you ever again.”

Jason sat onto his bed. That was a huge offer. He could finally get away from them. He could just go right now and if she kept her word he’d never hear from them. After all, who could blame him? Even if he didn’t help her, she had made his life an absolute hell. No. It wasn’t her fault. It was theirs. “I’m sorry. I, I need a minute to think.”
“That’s ok, I’m going to go back to my room, I’ll wait there until you’re ready. If you don’t come I’ll know the answer. No pressure either way. I’m not using it, so I won’t know, I only used it to make sure that Christine and Tom didn’t wake up.” It took Jason a few seconds to figure out who she was referring to, he couldn’t remember the last time he had heard their parents names. He nodded and she left.

First thing he needed to figure out was if she was being sincere. He didn’t think she was lying, but then who knew? But if she was, what did she have to gain? Nothing he could think of. Ok, so assuming she was being honest with him, how could they begin to work this out? She could leave with him, they could both sneak out and just drive away. They wouldn’t know until the morning, but they’d probably call the cops and try to say he kidnapped her. What if she caved when the cops came? His parents didn’t know where he lived, not really, but the cops would find out quick enough. Of course, she would know what would happen with the cops, which would be a huge help, she’d know if they’d need to run again.

When he finally forgave her, he had tried to look at things from her point of view, after all their parents basically kept her locked up. They homeschooled them both after it became apparent she had her abilities, rewarding her for telling the future, no matter what it was. He still remembered the burning anger of being punished for something he hadn’t done, something that was apparently going to be an accident anyway, but that wasn’t really her fault. Despite the praise and rewards she had always been a quiet girl, never demanding. She had tried to be friends with him, play with him. Occasionally they did, but most of the time he was still angry of what ever punishment his parents had decided to hand out. He had no privacy, he couldn’t sneak out, couldn’t even have a journal. The only reason he returned for these visits was to stop the harassment that always occurred when he stopped talking to them. But if he helped Annalisa escape, he would be taking their most powerful, if not their only, weapon. She could become her own person, she could live her life however she wanted rather than trapped in her pink room with her pink dresses. He always suspected that in their parents eyes, she was still a ten year old.

He knocked on her door gently, “Come in.”
“Ok, we’re going to do it. Pack your things, we’re going to leave tonight. You can come live with me, I’ve a spare room in my apartment and enough saved to look after you until you get onto your feet. They don’t know where I live so we should be safe. We’ll leave a note saying that we’re both safe and if you want you can ring them tomorrow morning, to prove that it was you, but after that you should keep it brief, one phone call a week at most.”
Annalisa had already started packing, “Don’t worry, once we’re gone I don’t think I ever want to talk to them again.”

Drowning. Short Story.

Chris sat at the table, drink in hand. He looked up, it was getting dark, he should turn on the lights. He took a sip of his drink, what did it matter? Wasn’t like anyone else was going to walk in on him drinking in the dark. He took another mouthful then topped off his glass. Melissa had left the day before, the kids had left this morning. None of them were coming back, Chris knew that now. All day he fought with his thoughts, trying to convince himself they would return but as the day went on, as it turned to night, he knew. He didn’t know what the kids went, probably to his mothers, god only knew where Melissa had gone, probably to go fuck one of her boyfriends. He took another drink. That had been a pleasant revelation the night before. She had come home, already a few cocktails deep and had gotten pissy when he refused to get her a bottle of wine. It was probably the first time in their marriage that he had actually heard her scream. She was always so soft spoken. Guess the façade finally slipped. She had drank some more, yelled and screamed about him, about the kids, about all the men who apparently were bigger and better than him in bed, then she stormed out of the house, wine bottle in hand.

He didn’t blame the kids for leaving. He had tried to keep Melissa somewhat quiet, but she just wouldn’t keep it down. They were old enough to understand it all. Mary probably decided they should leave, she always was the more forceful of the two. He knew he should care about where they were, but he just couldn’t bring himself to. The alcohol was numbing everything and that was the main thing. Was it selfish? Maybe, but it was the only solution he could think of. At least the only one that didn’t involve a gun.

It had frightened him, how easy it seemed. Find a gun, find her, find whatever guy she was fucking. Three bullets, that’s all he would need. Then everyone would know, everyone would see. And after all, it would be a kindness to her, she’d die doing what she loved. He snorted into his drink, the snort turning into a sob. His phone was in pieces on the floor, he had smashed it earlier, when some more texts came in. Pictures this time. He didn’t know why she was being so cruel, so vindictive. She was no longer the woman he married, no longer his wife. Something about her had changed. He didn’t know why, he didn’t really care. Nothing would excuse it. If it turned out to be an illness or a tumour, he still wouldn’t forgive her. How could he? After everything she had said, everything she had done.

The phone was ringing, it seemed like it had been for hours. It would just ring and ring and ring. He sighed and stood, pausing for a second to regain his balance, he made his way over to the phone, gently resting his hand against the wall every now and then for support.

“Hello?”
“Jesus Chris, where the hell have you been, I’ve been calling you all day.”
“Sorry my phone’s broke.”
“Well, the kids are here, came over this morning. Said you and Melissa had a fight. What the hell is going on with you two? I haven’t heard from either of you all day, did you not even wonder where my grandchildren were?”
“I figured they’d go to you and I was right. I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“…Have you been drinking?”
“Maybe one or two.”
“Christ. You remember uncle Tommy, Chris? I’m not going through that again. The kids aren’t leaving here until you sober up.”
“I’m not that drunk, I’m really not. It’s not a big deal, I’ll be around in half an hour to pick them up.”
“That you’d even suggest driving right now goes to show how drunk you really are. You turn up here in a car, at all for that matter and…I’m…I’m going to call the police.”
“Jesus, on your own son? Some mother you are.”
“To protect you. Sober up, then you can come over but not a moment before, ok? I love you, I’m-”

Chris slammed the phone down. What did she know anyway? She just wanted to keep his kids from him. Selfish bitch. Why would he even want to go to her anyway, they’d just bring him down. He stumbled back to the table and emptied his glass. He went to refill it, then took a glug out of the bottle. Fuck it. He was an alcoholic now apparently, might as well act like one.

He made his way through the house, with plenty of bangs and curses, but the bottle of booze survived and that was the important thing. He turned on the lights haphazardly as he went creating a gauntlet of spotlights and shadows. Melissa was the one that wanted that lighting. He wanted soft lighting, ambient. He had just wanted her to be happy, so he agreed to what ever damn lights she wanted. He always agreed with Melissa, she always got her way, one way or another.

He collapsed onto the couch, he was feeling tired, but there was no way in hell he was going to sleep in that bed. God only knew how many men had fucked her on it. He cradled the bottle, taking sullen swings every now and then as he dozed off. Tomorrow he would do something about it all, but that was tomorrow, for now, now he would wallow. He earned that right, didn’t he? After all he had gone through in the last twenty four hours he deserved a little me time and he would take it. Everyone else could fuck off, they didn’t know what it was like, they didn’t understand how it felt to have their wife mock everything about them, to be compared to God knew how many other guys. Tomorrow he would deal with all that bullshit, but that was tomorrow and it was still today. He took another swing and looked at the bottle, almost empty. Huh. He drained the rest and gently set the bottle down on the table. He glanced towards the kitchen, it wasn’t that far and he wasn’t that comfortable, besides, he needed a piss anyway. He stood and stumbled to the bathroom, after relieving himself he went into the kitchen, grabbed another bottle and settled in on the couch.