Resigned to Staying

The mobile purred. A sleepy finger reached out and pressed answer.

“Thought I’d phone in this week’s postcard from afar.”

“Lee, I can barely hear you. You sound like you’re croaking it in a drainpipe.”

“Only line in town, boss.”

“Only time for one take, even then we’ll barely make the deadline. Gimme a second to start the recorder.”

A pause.

“Okay, Lee. 1-2-3-go.”

“I’m calling from a fire-engine red telephone booth. With ocean views. Mirror blue sea as far as the eye can see. Capped by iced-cream waves lapping at the shore.

My backdrop is soaring granite-walled mountains that fill the horizon, capped with marbled white snow all year around.

Beyond the phone booth, between me and the sea is a stone-edged jetty where the fishing dinghies tie up of a night. Full to the gunwales with today’s catch of slapping fish glistening in the sunset.

But this paradise is totally isolated. No satellite. No internet. Just a solitary phone booth overlooking the sea.

When I told the locals, I was a travel blogger, they bought me drinks at the local while falling about laughing. When I convinced them, they were most helpful. They directed my now lightened steps to this phone booth.

But not before opening up the markets just for me. A special evening session. Fish arrayed in booths: smoked, seared and sealed. Garnished by plates of the gathered local cuisine. I could share the recipes but that would save you the effort of making the trip. Beautifully locally brewed beers and wine to die for. And for dessert : marshmallows toasted on a stick and smeared with sweet cream.

‘Marvellous,’ I said. And told the locals of my predicament. And my decision. And again they were most kind and hospitable.

I thought of writing in this episode but the stamps and postmark would give the location away. Even if I crossed out the return address. No postcards either. Same reason.

Sorry about that.

You’ll have to make you own when you get here. If you can find me.

No holiday snaps. So no selfies either. Even if they had mobile reception: which they don’t.

Otherwise you’d geolocate me and this place would be filled with tourists crowding the locals out. Sorry about that.

So here I am, final tourist in town, pockets full of change, phoning in this poddy. This is Lee, signing off for now. And forever.”

After the Wedding

Their fingers kept fumbling at my tie. And I kept trying to wave them away.

Are you finished? I asked. They shook their heads.

Over, under then thread the two between: Windsor knot finally done.

It was then I lost it. One lifted my feet, the other my arms and lowered me in.

Leave me alone, I said. I have a wedding to go to.

They drew back as if electrocuted.

Leave him, I heard one whisper. They always come back, said the other. All we need to do is wait. After all, it’s only until next week.

I didn’t care for that. I was shaved, showered, shampooed and perfectly suited.

Where else could I go?

And I flew. I mean flew. I have never made such good time in this life.

And perfect timing too. I arrived at the same time as the wedding party.

I could see them in my mind’s eye.

Shuffling up the steps to the reception : heads bowed, murmuring softly, so softly I couldn’t hear them.

First, The Bride. Josie looking beautiful but somewhat bent, bedraggled and pale.

Bridesmaids, cloned far too alike in that garish pink chiffon that will never ever go with anything else.

Finally the groomsmen, black-suited, white shirts but black ties and arm bands donned in defiance.

I slipped easily into my place. And no one noticed.

Even when the speeches began. Although the laughter could have been a little more inhibited. Lighten up everyone, this is a wedding, I said. That joke didn’t fly.

Even the best man. John with the standard recitation of pranks and pitfalls.

He paused too much I thought. Kept ducking down for another drink. And gasping and gulping between words. Buck up mate, it will all be over soon, I said.

Everyone kept smiling and nodding politely even his rather off-colour dad jokes.

The underestimated maid of honour speech. Kim: tall, wan and white faced, blond coiffured hair suffused by pink chiffon. She began. It was the usual reminiscence of girlfriends’ past : her and Josie, Josie and her, both friends together and forever,

“Until three days ago,” she said and stopped. Too late now. She is going to change her speech. It didn’t matter in the end. Her voice broke and Josie flew to her and comforted her.

Josie. The bride, Stood. Paused. Waited until every eye is upon her. Including mine. And I knew she knew it.

“Set me as a seal upon my heart, for love is strong,” she paused. “Stronger. Than death.”

“Passionate love,” I continued. “As relenting.” She paused. “Never relenting. As the grave.”

Instead I glanced at everyone at the reception. Stilled, hushed and silenced, now, heads bowed low.

I reach up and grab her arm. And my grip misses as she sits.

I stood. I looked. And the words left me. For the reception was in truth empty. I woke up. I had a funeral to go to. Mine.

You’re back, one of the attendants said.

Yes, I said, I’m ready. To begin my wait. After all, I had a wedding to go to.

The Beckoning

Five minutes? Or five months? I can’t be sure of time anymore. All I can do is listen from afar.

“I don’t know why I’m even telling you this,” she says. To the stranger over the phone.

At last it has begun. Though it is over for me.

Her hovering over me in the bedroom. Closing the curtains again and shrouding me in endless twilight.

I can see my waxen face reflecting the light from her eyes as she leans close. “Is there anything you need?” she is asking.

I hear my whispered breathing stop. Now no longer interrupted by my interminable whistle. Which bloody well annoyed her like metal scraping a frypan. Now I can’t even comfort her in that anymore.

I see her running for Dad. Down the stairs into the lounge room. Him still and silent. Him joining me temporarily in his state of suspended animation.

“So again it fell upon me,” she continues to her stranger.

I remember the phone calls. First the ambulance. I saw them brisk but unhurried. Felt them lay their gentle hands on me. Saw them again shake their heads. And her face falling apart.

Her calling relatives. Screaming at them for not posting on Facebook. There’s plenty of time for that, I thought at the time. Yell it all out at the funeral, I say. But of course, I’m silent now.

Until two weeks later. When Dad joined me. She found him caught mid-breath, remote still clutched in his clawed hand waiting for the next show. Waiting for the cup of tea, just like I used to make. That she never could of course.

As she tells the stranger on the phone.

And her life full of laid-back lawyers, bone-picking relatives and real estate agents all wanting their part. While I listened near but too far away to be of comfort.

“I didn’t even know what probate was,” she yells into the phone.

“Me neither,” he replies.

And I’m with her again. Leafing through photo albums, scrolling through social media posts, she sits cross-legged surrounded by stale clothes and dusted furniture. Every so often, she picks up a keepsake, holds it close, bows her head and weeps. As she tells her stranger.

“I’m still finding out who I am,” she says. “After all the years, I spent caring for them.”

The stranger nods. “It sounds cliched,” he says, “but there must be some silver lining in all of this.”

I see my daughter look down. I hear her breath. And as she speaks I see a new light in her eyes.

“I can never replace them,” she says. “But I can live a life that honours them.”

“That’s why we’re here,” the stranger replies.

She puts the phone down. It has begun.

And all I can do is agree and disappear.

Meeting the Mother in Law

In the middle of Australia’s same sex marriage plebiscite,  a hair colourist has a heart-felt awakening.

“Meeting the Mother-in-Law,” the nail-polish label said. She held it up. And it suited her. Although it didn’t quite match her hair.

I looked away and resumed lipstick scrabbling. I was happy caching my favourite shades: Dark Plum, Faded Pink, Pale Honey. But I could feel her eyes on me. Waiting.

We were completely alone in the cosmetic section of David Jones : Melbourne’s largest department store. White counters and mirrors. By now we should have been surrounded by  cosmetic consultants immaculately made-up and coiffured whispering in seductive tones.

She tapped me on the shoulder. I jumped back a half step.

“Excuse me,” she said, “Would this suit me?”

I smiled. I nodded. Then I thought: I know her. I’ve seen her before somewhere but I don’t know where. Maybe on TV as an extra in a commercial.

“Do you think you could get me the matching nail polish?”

I shook my head. “I don’t work here,” I said softly.

Time stopped. We looked at each other, waiting for the other one to speak. This is the first time, I thought.

“Although it does suit you,” I said turning professional. “You’re an Autumn. Green eyes, fair-pale complexion.” She was a photograph brought to life; one I would never dare touch up. Apart from the hair.

She smiled and her eyes caught mine and it was all I could do not to disappear.

“Thank you,” she replied.  “You’re a stylist, aren’t you?”

“No. I’m a hair colourist. Or at least I’m studying to be one.”

We swapped introductions: Tennille meet Ally, Ally meet Tennille. And before she left I managed to give her my business card. And I tried to think nothing of it. Which wasn’t easy . Because every minute afterward drifted for days.

A week later, I was checking the salon appointment book. The usual regulars same time same day same shade of grey: blue, purple, pink rinses. And another name, familiar yet unfamiliar. Could it be? I felt a twitch : like static electricity.

All that day I was a child again waiting for Christmas midnight so I could open the presents. I rushed through the rinses from Toorak and South Yarra gabbling agreement as they poured out the trivial tribulations to me.

Except for one subject: the upcoming vote: Australia was deciding whether same-sex couples should marry. Nearly all of them were against it.

Except for one old biddy who whispered, “You know it isn’t right.”

I suppressed a sigh. Not another one, I thought.

“Everybody should be with the one they love.”

“Yes,” I said more strongly than I expected. Up until then, I’d ignored the media cacophony. Too many people arguing and calling each other names. Besides I had to keep up my classes: four days a week.

Then Ally appeared. I felt a small spark go through me. I took a deep breath and turned professional. Make the customer comfortable.

But it went all weird. We’re trained to get the customer talking. We even practice it in class: role plays listening to each other during the customer service module.

But I told Ally everything. About home: a one pub town in central Victoria. My move to Melbourne. The little bed-sit in Fitzroy. Coffee even how the weather is different.

She laughed at that. Her laugh was like bellbirds in spring. Instant joy to anyone who heard it. And that smile that made dimples in her cheeks. Which drew my eyes to her mouth. I didn’t know why then.

And as her eyes danced, she asked me, “What do you think I do?”

“You’re a social worker,” I blurted out. Another laugh.

“You’re psychic aren’t you?”

I shook my head and explained. It was a game I played with my clients: matching their occupation to what they wore. Usually it was easy: pensioners, well-off retirees, executives were obvious. But some were more challenging: except social workers who dressed dowdily to fit in with their clients. Although I’d never tell Ally that.

“So how did you know?”

“The pashmina,” I replied.

“Our insignia,” she laughed again.

“And what does this social worker do?” I asked.


She dropped her voice.

“They need to be listened to. It’s important that everyone can be heard.”

I felt a thrill of electricity pass through me. She’s opening up to me. Really listening.

“Like customer service training?” I ventured.

“It’s more than that,” she replied. “They need to feel that we’re standing where they are.”

I nodded.

“Like you, I’m still learning. I’m studying a Master of Counselling. Four days a week.”

“And out-of-hours?” I ventured.

She dropped her voice and whispered. “I’m an activist.”

And then it knocked me on the head. That’s where I’d seen her before. On TV. Campaign for Yes advertisement. Spokeswoman for Same Sex Marriage.

“And you?” she asked.

“I’ve already decided,” I said.

“Like most everyone else in this area,” she replied.

“But quietly,” I said. “Otherwise my friends and relatives won’t ever talk to me again.”

She nodded knowingly.

Which meant she must be…but she didn’t say. And despite that, that was the moment I fell for her.

I tried to stop myself. I’m a girl, I said. She’s not a boy. Thank God for that, I thought and laughed to myself.

Relating to boys was like talking to prisoners through a glass wall: fear, anger, revenge: all the symptoms of misogyny.  But all boys felt awkward, fumbling and overbearing. Unlike girls. Only thing was I had done nothing about it.

She became my regular client and secret love. Every few weeks, I’d practice what I’d learned on her. And it was fun. She was open to new ideas and easy to work with. I felt like she was my forever client.

She’d tell me about her studies. She didn’t treat me like a dumb hairdresser. More like a professor or a tutor: an equal. And any dumb questions I had, like the psychology she explained. I learned from me. And applied it to my more difficult clients.

As Ally said, “If we could all listen, really listen to each other, we’d understand and there might be peace.” Which described how I felt when I was with her.

Still I kept telling myself: this is only a friendship. You’re overfeeling things I said. Until I found myself replaying her words in my head. Seeing her face in my dreams. Hearing her laugh. That smile, those dimples and that mouth. And her hair: now red, vibrant and defiant: a perfect match for Meeting the Mother-in-Law: the lipstick and nail polish she always wore.

But any time I asked her about her private life, she answered, “I haven’t got one.”

“And you?” Ally asked back.

I shook my head. That night after class I went home and cried. She and I were going nowhere.

The following day, I thought, I’ll put off her next appointment. I’ll set her up with one of the other girls. Maybe Muriel: she’s more experienced than me. But I couldn’t even pick up the pen to change the appointment. And when I did, the phone rang.

“Yarra Hair,” I said. It was Ally.

“Tennile, I need your help,” she said. “An emergency appointment.”

I pencilled her in the book.

Friday night and the last appointment.

“Tennile,” she said as she made to leave, “I feel so dowdy. None of my outfits suit me. I look like a business casual slacktivist. I need your help. Will you go shopping with me?”

I nodded a little glumly as I locked up the salon. She had a date and needed my help, I thought.

“We need to apply what you’ve learned on me,” she said provocatively.

And I did. Dress ups with my best friend. We wafted through Melbourne’s high couture establishments: trying on and swapping outfits. And I made sure I used everything I had learned from her to eventually convince her: as an Autumn she looked fabulous in russet red or olive green. Not the washed-out whites, greys and mousy browns she tended to favour, I added.

And loaded down with shopping, she said to me, “What about a drink?”

I agreed and we lugged our shopping four flights of stairs to a silent bar somewhere in Swanston Street. Her and me squashed in a booth drinking cocktails while an acoustic guitar strummed love.

“Now we can share secrets,” she began. I caught my breath. She had set all this up, so she can administer the shock.

“You first,” I said hesitantly.

“You know I’m gay,” she began.

“I..I thought you might have been. But you don’t look…”

Ally laughed. “I’m straight-passing. Often have to turn down unwanted…”

And this was the shock? I should’ve drawn myself back. But inside I was secretly delighted. My beautiful counsellor was finally opening to me. Perhaps what she had taught me had finally found a use. And the peace that came with that was the perfect calm.

“Unlike me.”

“I’m sure there are many men who would love to get together with you.”

“Talking to guys is like yelling through glass. My lips move but they can’t hear anything. In the end I gave it away.”

“Took a vow?” she said leaning closer to me.

“Gave up awkward,” I replied.

“Like now?” she was even closer.

“No,” I said softly leaning in.

It was then the music stopped and the barman stopped by.

“We’re closing up,” he said.

“But..but this is Melbourne,” Ally replied.

“Sorry love.”

And with that we found ourselves on the street calling an Uber home.

Hers came first.

So, it was on the corner of Swanston and Collins Street, she said goodbye.

“What about the weekend?” I asked. She shook her head.

“I have to go.” And then she leant forward and kissed me goodnight. I made sure I kissed her back.

“Yes, Yes, we won, we won!” The day of the vote and we were clustered in front of the TV while the results rolled in.

New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania all voted Yes. Even Queensland!

Champagne corks popped. Popcorn scattered. And then Ally disappeared.

To the bathroom, I suppose. But I wasn’t prepared for the surprise she had for me when she returned.

For she started waving her fingers concert-pianist style, eyes shining. All I could see was a red blur.

“What’s this, Tenille?”

“Umm, new nail polish,” I said.

She nodded, smiling, hopping from one foot to another. Until she stood still.

I looked down at her fingernails. Red, defiant and vibrant: Meeting the Mother-in-Law.

I reached forward and took both her hands in mine.

“Let’s do this,” she said. And we did.

Arthur and The Pearl

“I must beg you. A moment if you please. For I have travelled far. “

He looked up and nodded at me. Then went back to staring into the looking-glass. I could see his reflection in it. But I couldn’t see mine. That was to be expected. I’m sure I would become inured to that. In time. 

Pen and paper beside him. That much I could understand. A desk, yes that was familiar too. Papers scattered around him. Books lying open. Him lolling in a leather chair : a king in a monastic cell. 

I stared although I didn’t need to. I twisted both of my hands together. One went through the other. Indeed the habits of a lifetime are difficult to break. But there’s time enough for that. 

This was no mirror. It was a window. With writing. 

Which moved as his hands did. I looked down. He had writing underneath his hands. Each time his hands moved the writing appeared in the window. What sorcery is this? His hands writing in a window.

Then the memory returned to me. I still hadn’t yet mastered yet the skill of recalling my past. That would come too.
Wooden carved letters covered with ink…used for printing cloth.

This man is a printer : a maker of books. He presses letters and ink appears on a window.  But how do the letters get to the window?

The question was unanswerable. So impossible to contemplate that I stopped myself. I was daydreaming again which of course is the best refuge of a prisoner. 

 But how do they get from the window? I was forgetting my mission. 

“If you please…” I began.

He looked up and waved me away like  King John dismissing a fly. And his fingers tapped the writing. 

I breathed. I laughed. But neither made any sound. I held my breath.

“Arthur of Brittany,” the window wrote.  My brother’s name. 

I sigh. After my journey, if nothing else came of this at least I have arrived at the correct moment. 

My dear lost younger brother : a sure and future king. Taken away so cruelly. With the truth hidden from history. 

He kept pressing the letters oblivious to my presence. 
I gasped. 
And Lo! It is like the end of the World! When the Last Book is finally opened and the words of all that has happened spring forth. For the window is a mirror. It answers him with words and pictures and maps. 
Why in this man’s mirror, is the answer, it seems to all my questions and prayers. Perhaps the last part of my quest. Yes this stooped, grey, window watching man has the key to my history. 
But he notices me not.  A Princess, a Duchess too, a noblewoman : one word from me, one flick of my finger would call him to order. One who history has overlooked and consigned to a silent grave. One whose one solitary wish now granted momentarily is to avenge my brother’s death, reveal the truth and arraign the murderer. Though humbled by my imprisonment, I held fast to the truth. Even in my last, my wishes which were respected, in my internment at an abbey whose patron saint was the son slayed by a false king. 
But the man bent over his slate of letters only looking up to reflect upon the magic mirror, is too engrossed to be swayed by me. I know his pose, for it too is mine. The poise of a scholar, forever bound to seek knowledge until life releases one from it. 
“I beg you,” I importune him. He cannot hear me.
I take another deep breath. I will give up this habit I promise if he grants my request. 
Then I realise. Of course he cannot see me. For his gaze would have not left me : it was not for naught that I was titled the Pearl.
He folds his arms. He embraces himself briefly. It becomes clearer to me now. For he can feel the chill that I bring. 
He reaches down for another book from the floor. He almost shoulders me. I am too quick. I move away and next I return : standing beside him.
He opens the book. He thumbs page after page. I see it. The name leaps off the page.
Him: William de Broase. The man whose history ran in time with ours. The man who knows. But never told.  
I stifle my scream of joy. Even though he cannot hear me, I have so little time. For if he doesn’t find out the truth Arthur will remain unknown and his real murderer unpunished. 
He returns to the window. I squint to see more closely. Indeed human habits remain hard to break. 
Perhaps this was how Merlin foresaw the future. Even though it is an ancient legend. Even though in this new world, I cannot prove even that. Though this mirror certainly shows more the past than the present. 
The mirror traces what happened to us. Mirabeau in France. 
It was so unexpected. One moment, my brother and I were encamped in our lodgings, awaiting the final battle that would deliver the castle to us. 
And Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine : the most prized hostage of all. The usurper King John’s mother. And our aunt. With her in our keeping, we would redeem my brother’s true inheritance and birthright : the rightful King of England. 
Overnight, Arthur’s men had breached the outer castle walls. With the morning dawn, with fire and sword, they were assaulting the keep. In truth, we were within a door’s splinter of victory. Until the sunrise found us thwarted. 
We hardly heard them.  Soft step King John’s army surrounded us.  They could not have ridden that quickly. They were more than a week’s ride away. Yet they were upon us. 
The guards were taken. As the usurper’s men entered our tent, Arthur had no time to draw his sword. All of us were taken and the siege of Mirabeau lifted. There was not even time to conclude the morning’s repast. 
Two hundred knights, Arthur and myself all separated. I was sent to England under close guard. John’s men moved me from castle after castle until I finally alighted at Corfe Castle : where I witnessed first hand the usurper’s cruelty.
And I never saw or heard my brother again. All I heard were the whispers of his death. From my brother himself. But the written record is untrue. And with his forbearance and blessings, I have taken it upon myself having gained a spiritual boon to regain his inheritance. 
Although he has happened on the clues. Perhaps if I wait, he will be guided by my presence and find out the truth. For I can do but nothing else.
I am transfixed as his window tells the story. For the murder of my brother Arthur centres upon this man and the king he served. 
Arthur’s imprisonment. King John’s orders to pluck out my brother’s eyes and castrate him. The words written so long ago are still too heavy a burden to bear. I shrug my cheeks as the tears come yet again, Yet the king’s chamberlain, Hubert de Burgh defied the orders. De Burgh let it be known that my brother was dead and in regret announced that he was alive. “Yes, yes,” I say as I sigh my tears away,”all of this is known. But the stone of the cherry still remains unbitten.”
Through this looking glass, I discern but indistinctly. King John’s return and attempt to placate my brother. Arthur, who could blame him after being treated so ill, defies the usurper. King John in his anger, as I saw with my own eyes, orders the imprisonment of twenty two knights in Corfe Castle. Arthur still defiant still imprisoned now at Rouen refuses to concede. And so, Prince John, I can barely call him King after this, orders them starved to death.
I brush away my tears. I can see their faces in front of me.  Noble knights and lords of Normandy, Anjou and Brittany. Loyal kinsmen who had laid down their lives for Arthur and for me. And now had been captured and killed dishonorably. I know that I could call them and they would come. But they are not needed now. Their work is done and now they slumber in peace. It is best left that way, I’m told. 
All of this is known to William de Broase. But history has kept the truth silent. Until now. 
The man at the desk swears. I smile. I laugh out loud in relief. Yes indeed there are words that do not change throughout the ages. He inclines his head as if to hear better. 
“I know,” I say. He looks up in surprise as if my cold whisper has caressed his bare neck. He begins the search for Arthur’s murderer. 
He types the traitor’s name : William de Broase. Arthur’s captor and our betrayer. 
The one that knew who killed my brother.  Yet de Broase was absent when the crime was committed. 
If I had blood in my veins it would be molten gold, if I had voice I would be screaming, 
For the falsehoods appear. I nod knowingly: unknown to my witness. De Broase was here and he was there. But he was never at Rouen when Arthur died. 
In fury I lash out. The letters click and the writing in the window changes.
My historian hits another letter. The writing disappears. 
I’m far too swift for him. Each time he presses a letter, I make it disappear. Then far too quickly for him to intervene, I press my own.
Maud de Broase and William de Broase and Corfe Castle and King John appears on the window. He sits there transfixed. He must think that the magic window has been bewitched. 
He swears again and I feel his exasperation as he lifts all of the letters. I feel his anger leave him. He puts down the letters as he stares at the window. 
Words and pictures and maps fill the window once more. 
Maud de Broase’s accusation against Prince John that he killed Arthur of Brittany. His imprisonment of her and her son William in Corfe Castle until both starved to death. Her husband’s inaction. Her husband’s knowledge of the true murderer of Arthur of Brittany. Her husband’s revelation of the truth.
I waft away from him. There are others to attend to. I have all the time in the next world. 

Laughably Ever After

“Dr Twinkle?”


“Do you do weekend emergency out calls?”

“Nope. Only weekdays. And only to the Kid’s hospital. Why?”

“I need a doctor for a party.”

“Have you tried datingdoctors.Com?

“A clown doctor,” I replied.

“And how did you get my name?” she asked.

“You tried clown ties on me. In the kid’s hospital foyer.”

I heard her smile.

“Andrew isn’t it?” Her voice softened.

“None fitted,” I continued, “Though the colours matched.” 

Light laughter at that. “Nice try,” she said. 

“And you’re at the party now?” She asked.

“My daughter’s,” I whispered. 

I heard her smile over the phone.

“You’re the trainer?”

“Now a disaster manager.”

“What seems to be the medical emergency?”

“Kaylaur’s balloon party,” I sighed, “Balloons, helium, the clown ran away…”

“To the circus…” she replied.

It was then Kaylaur tapped me on the shoulder. 

“Daddy,” she said, “Why are you calling a doctor? We need a clown.”

Murmurs from the girls crowded around.

I smiled. “Dr Twinkle is a clown doctor. Would you like that?”

“Yes,” said Kaylaur.

Stifled giggles now from Dr Twinkle.

“Hmm, possible case of mass child hysteria.”

“And chronic parental guilt syndrome too,” I replied.

“Hmm, looks like your party needs a humour infusion.”

“So, you’ll come?


“I’ll text you my address. And I almost forgot…You can make balloon animals?”

“That’s my specialty. I can bend and twist them into any shape you want.”

I had to catch my breath at that. Luckily no one noticed how flushed I was when I hung up. 

“We have a clown,” I said.

Everyone cheered and clapped and stomped.

And that’s how Dr Twinkle saved Kaylaur’s birthday. She stayed afterwards to ensure I made a full recovery. And that’s how we lived laughably ever after.

Book Meet

Buff notebook, fine point pen.

A grubby dog-eared novel more well-read than me.

“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville. I’d already made sure they had a spare.

All I had to do was wait. I kept my head down. The only sound I could hear was the scratching of my pen on paper.  I was meant to be making notes. But I was making doodles that only a shrink could understand. 

Every so often I reached out, pinched a page between my fingernails. I had to. My hands were too wet. Each time I would shake my fingers and palms free of sweat. And every so often the pen would slip out of my hand. 

I tried not to listen to my breathing.  

He’d already missed the first meet. If he didn’t make this one, the fallback, we’d have to put out an alert. 

I’d chosen my position carefully. Chair and table backed by a reflective glass window. So I couldn’t be seen from the street.

Bookshelves to my left where pensioners glided like ghosts leaving everything untouched.

In front of me, teenagers at reception jostled, emptying and refilling backpacks. 

Another quick look. No nameless face caught my eye and stared that microsecond too long.

No couples speaking with mismatched gestures and words. No one hanging around looking falsely lost waiting that minute too long. 

There’s nothing to worry about, I thought.

Besides there’s no need nowadays. That was my cue. I looked up. There was a black globe glowering at me from the ceiling. CCTV. 

I smiled to myself. It didn’t matter anyway. What we were about to do was so innocuous, so innocent that it couldn’t possibly arouse suspicion.

Unless he doesn’t turn up. Or makes a scene and botches the meet. 

I quickly looked at my watch.  Your time starts now, I said to my nameless contact. A twelve minute window to make the meet. 

A few eternal moments later, I heard soft footsteps. I kept my head down.  

A rustle of paper announces my visitor. “Excuse me,” his voice purrs, “was this seat ever occupied?” 

Perfect. The game is on. 

“Not by me,” I muttered back. 

Swiftly I see my notebook moved. And replaced by a beige A4 spiral notebook. 

Wait a moment, I thought. That’s the confirmation? 

Then Moby Dick disappeared. Replaced by Jane Eyre. A copy in worse shape than mine : Charlotte Bronte with a broken spine. 

Too late for outs now, I thought. Even if he’s sky written his intention in mile-high capital letters. 

I swapped back both notebook and novel. No deal pal.

 I heard the sharp rasp of his breath.

His copies disappeared.

His footsteps quickened and faded away. 

Beep-beep-beep. The librarians picked him up before he could ever escape.

One for Each Pot….

“One for each person,” she thought she heard.

“And one for the pot,” the whispered reply.

Yes she thought. You again.

She turned her head away, the easier not to hear.She stood on tiptoe, stretched up and opened the kitchen cupboard. 

“I could’ve done that for you,” he said.

She shook herself off. She reached high, levered up a saucer, scrabbled at a cup, caught it before it slid off the hook and brought all gently down to the bench. 

Again? She thought.

“One for each person.”

“And one for the pot,” his whispered reply.

No, she mouthed silently.

She lifted open the percolator, turned on the tap and filled it.

One cup. she said to herself.

She opened the coffee bag. Carefully spooned out enough coffee. For her. 

“One for each person,” he whispered.

Not Again? She thought. Surely he would know by now.

“And none for the pot,” she said to herself.

She turned on the stove. 

Then she felt his tap on her shoulder. Cold.

She slammed the percolator down and caught it just in time. She whirled. She brandished the percolator at him.

”Give it up will you,” she said aloud. 

Clitter-clatter, she heard.Not that rattle, she thought. 
The cupboard doors sprung open.

She dodged and deftly ducked her head underneath.

She turned and shook her head again.

Another cup and saucer floated to the bench. 

Not the bloody teapot, she thought. 

An ugly squat misshapen John Bull teapot rose, circled and landed like a dragonfly on the bench. 

“One for each person,” he whispered.

“And this one is for the pot,” she finished.

She snatched up the tea pot and turned to face the cupboard.

“One…”, he began.

But before he could say or do anything, she turned back.

She stepped away from him. She stamped the garbage bin foot lever.

And in one movement, threw the teapot in.

“Plenty of tea on the other side,” she said as it shattered.