Friday Fictioneers – Grace Notes

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Passing Notes 200401

PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

Grace notes

Back and forth, back and forth went the rocking chair as Lizzie waited.

Her back twinged and she grimaced.

Early spring sunshine brightened the room. Lizzie could see the cheerful yellow daffodils in her yard.

She eyed the phone. Would it ring? No, her daughter had rung in the morning. She never rang twice in a day. Lizzie told herself not to be greedy.

A bird perched on the window-ledge. Lizzie wished she wasn’t deaf.

But she heard it!

Birdsong! A blackbird’s melodious tones. A thrush. A robin’s piping.

The notes tumbled over each other.

The light grew and grew.

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Friday Fictioneers – Maoz Tzur

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Maoz Tzur 200101

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Maoz Tzur

It was the last day of Hanukkah, and all eight candles of the Hanukkiah blazed in the window. We sang the Haneirot Hallalu and the Maoz Tzur, and we sat down. Papa turned on the lights.

“Can’t we keep the lights off? The candles are so pretty!” asked five-year-old Rebekah.

“The candles are for others to see and know that HaShem saved us. It would not be right to use their light for another purpose,” explained Papa, gently.

“Why?”

“Sit here and I’ll tell you.” Papa patted his lap, and Rebekah climbed up and snuggled there.

“Once upon a time…”

Inlinkz – click here to join in!

At First Sight – Part 8

Jon and Vikki fell in love the day before Vikki returned permanently to Australia, leaving Jon in London. He books a flight to visit her. Meanwhile, Vikki’s abusive former partner, Guy, has tracked her down. Vikki disappears. Jon, and her childhood sweetheart, Dan, pursue Guy. There is a showdown, in which Vikki is rescued, Guy is killed, and Jon and Dan both critically injured

At first sight 8 - Manor on High 170715

Jon’s head was aching. He couldn’t remember a worse pain, except for…his mind shied away from an explosion of agony that he couldn’t quite recall. Instead, he opened his eyes. The ceiling was white. The light hurt his eyes.

“Jonathan?”

“Dad?”

“Thank God. You’re back with us. Praise the Lord!”

“Where am I?”

“Hospital. The Royal Melbourne Hospital, to be precise.”

Jonathan closed his eyes again.

“Where’s Vikki? Is she…is she alright?”

“Yes, she’s fine. She just popped out for a bite of breakfast. She’ll be back.”

“Breakfast. I’ve been out overnight, then?”

“A bit longer than that, I’m afraid.”

Jon’s eyes opened abruptly.

“Dad! What the hell are you doing here?”

“I flew out last week when the hospital told us you might not pull through.”

Jon said nothing.

“I’ll be able to help you travel home, too.”

“I have something to do before coming home. In fact, I may not come back to the UK at all.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. There’s your PhD to finish…” James Hall’s voice faded as he looked at his son’s pale face and the turban of dressings round his head. The doctors had warned him of possible brain damage; maybe Jon wouldn’t be capable of completing his studies.

The door opened quietly. Jon looked and smiled.

“Vikki!”

“Oh, Jon, I’m so glad!” Her tears welled up, and poured down her cheeks, even as she beamed with joy. She swabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “Drat this crying. Anybody would think I was sad!”

Jonathan stretched out his arms towards her. As she moved into his embrace, the door opened.

“Now then, Mr Hall. Lie still and don’t get excited. You’re still a very sick man.” But the nurse’s face was cheerful, and her manner light.

“I’ll… er… go and phone your mother, tell her that you’re back in the land of the living.”

“Yeah.”

Little fragments of memory were flashing before Jon. He held onto Vikki’s hands.

“You’re safe!” he said. “I was so afraid of what Guy might do to you.”

Vikki frowned. “Best leave that for the moment. Some other time?”

Jon went to nod, and realised that his head was restrained. Instead, he made a circle with his thumb and forefinger, and smiled. His eyes closed, and he drifted off to sleep. He looked happy, Vikki thought.

The nurse spoke quietly to Vikki. “I know I told him to keep still, but it’s an excellent sign that he was able to move his arms. There didn’t look to be any weakness. We have to wait for the consultant’s say-so, but it looks good. You’re a lucky girl, I think.”

Vikki coloured. She gazed at Jon. What was it about him that made her desire him so much? She stroked his arm with her fingertips. The muscles were relaxed in sleep, but she could feel their tight definition. The hair on his skin was downy and fair, hardly more than a fuzz.

She looked at his face and remembered the last ten days, and the tears came again. At first the doctors had thought he would die; you could tell from their faces, and from the nurses’ refrain, “He’s receiving the best possible care,” which so often becomes, “We did all we could.”

But now he was out of danger.

The door clicked as James Hall came back into the room.

“Ah, good. He’s asleep. That’s what he needs.” He looked at Vikki, who half-nodded. “I wonder if we could talk together for a few minutes?” he asked. He held open the door. Vikki stared at him, set her lips and walked into the corridor.

“Well?”

“I wanted to talk about Jon, and his future.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to talk about the weather.”

“Vikki. Please don’t be hostile. There’s no need. We’ve both got Jon’s best interests at heart.”

“Say what you want to say.”

“Jon’s a very bright young man, you know. He has a great future. He could become a professor.”

“Your point being?”

“He needs to come back to the UK to finish his PhD. His academic network is centred in the UK. It will set back his career unless he returns and stays in England.”

“Do you suppose he doesn’t know that?”

“I’m sure he does. But I want to be confident that you understand. I’m sure you want to act in his best interests.”

“Of course I do. But I think that Jon can perfectly well decide his best interests for himself. Don’t you?”

“I’m concerned that he may not see them clearly while he’s infatuated.”

“I’d prefer to say that he’s in love. Look, Mr Hall, Jon’s big enough to make his own decisions. If he asks me to marry him, I shall say yes like a shot. And – I’ll be blunt – that is none of your business. It’s about time you recognised that he’s a man, now, not a little boy.”

“I see. Thank you for making your feelings so clear. Perhaps you’d like to rejoin him? I shall go and find something to eat. Good day to you.”

Cheeks flaming, Vikki went back into Jon. She moved quietly across to the bed, and slipped her hand into his. He didn’t wake, but his fingers closed gently around hers. She sighed, and the hostility she’d felt for Jon’s father melted away. Sitting here, with Jon safe, was all she wanted. It was a moment of perfect calm and happiness.

*       *       *       *

It had been the first day Jon had tried walking since his injury. He’d been okay; the doctors were pleased, but he was exhausted. The door clicked. He looked up, hoping the nurse had come to adjust the bed so that he could sleep, but it was Dan. Jon sat up a little straighter and greeted him cheerfully.

Dan dropped into the chair by the bed.

“Glad we did it, eh?”

Jon nodded.

“Your doing mostly, Dan. I didn’t stop him; you did.”

“Team effort, mate”

“You’re too generous.”

Dan gave him a sideways look. “Only a Pom would say that!”

Jon grinned.

“Look, I’ve got something serious to say,” went on Dan. “It’s about Vikki. I’ve seen how she’s been with you the last couple weeks.”

He paused and thought a little.

“If you ask her to marry you, she’ll say ‘Yes’, you know. I just wanted to say there’ll be no hard feelings on my part. I love her, yeah, I have done as long as I can remember, but, well, she loves you and I want her to be happy. That’s what matters. I’m a big boy. I guess I’ll get over it.”

Jon was briefly silent, then he held out his hand. Dan grasped it.

“Thank you,” said Jon.

They sat like that for several minutes, then Jon said, “I shall ask Vikki this evening. If she says yes, would you be my best man at the wedding?”

“I’d be honoured. Provided I’m not in gaol on the day.”

“Gaol?”

“Yeah. They’ve charged me with manslaughter for killing Guy. My brief reckons with the extenuating circumstances I’ll probably get a couple years.”

“But – you saved my life!”

“Yeah. That’s the extenuating bit.”

“Dan, I’m so sorry.”

“The law’s the law, I guess. I tell you what, though. I’d do it again tomorrow. We got Vikki out. You’re still alive. And Guy’s dead. Good riddance. Vikki’s told me some of what he did. He was a piece of shit. I’m bloody glad I shot the bastard.”

He looked at Jon.

“Here, you’re looking a bit peaky, mate. Do you want me to call the nurse?”

“I’m OK. First day out of bed today, that’s all.”

The door clicked open.

“Out you go now!” The nurse was brisk. Dan winked at Jon, and loped out. Jon fell asleep even before the nurse had finished reclining the head of the bed.

*       *       *       *

Jonathan Hall, newly minted PhD, sat next to Dan in the Regency Room of the Manor on High in Melbourne. In his room in Vikki’s mum’s house was the letter offering him a post at Melbourne University, together with confirmation from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that he qualified for permanent residency.

Dan was quiet, self-controlled; calmly cheerful; on parole.

Carolyn Hall sat behind her son, but her husband, James, was absent, unable to reconcile himself to Jon wedding an atheist.

The string quartet drew their music to a close at the registrar’s signal, and then struck up Pachelbel’s Canon.

Vikki entered, on her mother Margaret’s arm. She was heartbreakingly beautiful. Her honey-coloured hair was put up in a French Pleat, emphasizing her classic features. Her amber eyes seemed to glow.

Jon and Vikki exchanged vows, and rings; the registrar pronounced them man and wife.

The reception afterwards was joyful and lively, but Margaret made a moment of seclusion to speak quietly to Jon. “Do you remember what I said at the yard gate? ‘Find my girl, Jon. Bring her back to me.’ You did that, Jon, and I am eternally grateful to you and Dan”. She hugged him close for several minutes, and then added, “She’s told me things, Jon, things she’ll probably never tell you. Be gentle with her, won’t you?”

And that is where this serial stops. It would be nice to say that ‘they all lived happily ever after’, but that never happens to real people, and it doesn’t in my tale either. But whether you ever hear of what happened later will depend entirely upon the caprice of the author!

 

 

The Bridge

The rain fell on the moor in torrents, in cataracts. It spilled from a dozen tributaries into the Avon and roared down the valley like a wild beast. It tore trees from the banks, trees that had grown patiently for a hundred years, and hurtled them downstream. It smashed them like battering rams into the old bridge, but the bridge held fast and the trees wedged against it, pressed intimately against the stones by the power of the flood.
For a while the trees impeded the predatory waters, but still the deluge continued and still the beast grew. The water level upstream of the bridge rose and overtopped the flood defences. It reached the parapet of the bridge and spilled over. The wall started to bulge; for perhaps a minute soil and weeds bled from the cracks opening in it, until the massive stones exploded outwards and a huge wave surged through.
The bridge was gone.
Two days later the water still ran high, swift and muddy but with nowhere near the ferocity of the spate. The road by the river was passable with care, and Lucy was always careful. She gripped the wheel of her VW Golf, and drove slowly through the sticky, slippery mess that the river had left behind. As the crow flies, she lived two hundred yards from her work at a solicitor’s office. With the bridge gone it was nearly three miles down to the next crossing, and three miles back. Lucy wasn’t complaining about the inconvenience. Her house was just far enough up the hill to have been spared. She’d spent yesterday helping her next door neighbour shovel out the worst of the filth dumped by the flood.
There was a figure up ahead, carrying a violin case as she trudged along the road. There was a large, wet, slimy patch on her coat. She must have slipped over, Lucy realized. She stopped and wound down the window.
“I’m going down to New Bridge. Would you like a lift?”
The girl was about twenty, with long, fair hair.
“I’m ever so dirty,” she admitted.
“Oh, don’t be silly; get in. The seat will clean easily enough, and you’re soaked, you poor love. Whatever brings you out today?”
The girl climbed into the front passenger seat.
“This is ever so kind of you. I’ve got to get to the train station to catch the train to Glasgow. My first class of the new term starts at two o’clock. I thought it would be easy enough to walk the six miles round by New Bridge, but this stuff’s so gloopy and slithery. I say, I’m really sorry to be making your car dirty.”
“What are you studying?”
“Violin. I’m at the Conservatoire. I’m Emma, by the way.”
“I’m Lucy. I’m only going to New Bridge to cross the river, then I’m going back to Casterton. I can drop you at the station.”
“Oh, that would be great.”
“Do you live in Glasgow during term-time?”
“Only during the week. I’ve got a flat in Casterton, and I don’t want to lose it. I sleep in my friend’s flat in Glasgow during the week, but her boyfriend comes up from Newcastle at the weekends.”
“So you’re coming back on Friday? Would you like me to pick you up from the station?”
Emma looked apologetic. “That would be ever so kind if it isn’t too much trouble. I wasn’t looking forward to the long walk in the dark. I’ll be on the train arriving at six fifteen if that’s really alright?”
“That’ll be fine. I wouldn’t want that long walk in the dark either.”
Lucy finished at four on Fridays. She wondered whether to wait in the library, or perhaps go to the pub, but neither option appealed. She drove home, put a meal into the oven and went out again to meet the train.
It was late. Lucy had to move her car from the short stay spaces and pay a fifty pence parking charge. It was cold, and light rain blew in the blustery wind.
Emma was full of apologies.
“No problem,” reassured Lucy.
“Gosh, can’t you smell the river?” said Emma.
Lucy sniffed. “I suppose so,” she agreed. She hadn’t noticed.
As Lucy drove carefully through the darkness, she realized that Emma had dozed. “Poor girl,” she thought. And when she pulled up outside Emma’s flat and woke her up, she asked, “Have you got food for tonight?”
Emma blushed. “I’ve got some cereal.”
“Would you like to eat with me? I’ve cooked a nice chicken casserole; there’s enough for two. If you don’t come, I shall have to freeze half of it.”
“Are you sure?”
Lucy grinned. “I wouldn’t have invited you if I wasn’t sure.” She put the car into gear, and drove the quarter mile to her terraced house.
The house was warm and welcoming.
“Gosh, that smells wonderful!” exclaimed Emma.
Lucy spooned rice and chicken, fragrant with tarragon, onto the Portmeirion plates. It felt like a banquet. Emma didn’t need much encouragement to talk about her studies. She was passionate about music. Lucy was glad to listen and not talk. There was too much in her recent past that she would prefer to forget.
They ate an apple each for dessert, and then Emma said, “Would you like me to play something for you?”
“That would be lovely.”
Emma took her fiddle out of its case, tuned briefly, and played. Lucy listened. The music was both sad and happy, with a transcendent serenity. Tears rolled down Lucy’s cheeks, but she sat still and made no attempt to dry them. She turned a little away from Emma; she didn’t want her to see she was weeping and maybe stop playing. Only when the music ended did Lucy take out a handkerchief, dry her eyes and blow her nose.
Emma sat in silence.
“That was beautiful, just beautiful,” said Lucy.
“It was by Bach. I love his music.” Tentatively she stretched out a hand and rested it on Lucy’s shoulder. “You’ve been so kind,” she said. Her blue eyes were very dark. Lucy felt a warmth run through her from the touch, a sense of homecoming and a delightful security.
It became routine. Lucy would take Emma to the station every Monday, and fetch her and feed her on the Friday, and after the meal Emma would play her violin. Lucy learned that Emma was in her first year, that she had a part-time job to pay her way through college, and that she had no boyfriend. Emma hardly spoke of her parents, and Lucy didn’t ask.

It was four weeks after Lucy had met Emma that she saw him, in hard hat and hi-vis jacket, giving orders to a group of men by the wreckage of the bridge. She shrank back into a side street, out of his sight, and shuddered. What should she do? If he saw her, it would all start again. She panted. She ached from the memories. All the bruises, all the fear.
Did he know she had fled here? He must have found out somehow! What should she do? Was she going to have to run again? Quickly, while he’s still busy! She dodged up a back street and through to where her car was parked, almost in sight of the bridge. As she sank into the driver’s seat, she gasped with relief. He hadn’t seen her. Hastily, she drove out of the car park and fled home.
The next morning Lucy thought of calling in sick. But it was Friday; she had to collect Emma. She didn’t want to let Emma down. She parked at the further car park, away from the river, and walked the half-mile to her office. He might be near the bridge so she left the main road and slunk through the backstreets. Would he come into he office and catch her? She spent the day terrified.
As she drove into the station car park to meet Emma, she saw his car. She nearly turned tail and fled. She tried not to look at the car as she passed it, just in case he was inside.
“What’s wrong?” asked Emma, as soon as they met.
“Is it as obvious as that?”
“Lucy dear, you’re trembling.”
“That car over there; the blue Range Rover. Is there anybody in it?” Lucy gestured in the general direction of the car.
Emma looked. “I can’t see anyone,” she said. “Are you hiding from the driver? Is that it?”
Lucy nodded.
“There’s nobody in it. It’s alright”
Lucy shook as she engaged first gear and moved towards the car park exit. And then there he was, right in front of her, tall, red-haired, broad. She slammed on the brakes. He looked contemptuously in her direction, and then did a double-take. A grin spread over his face. He walked up to the driver’s door and pulled at the handle. The car was locked. He pantomimed that Lucy should open the door. She sat motionless, quaking with fright.
“Don’t!” said Emma. “He has no right! Drive on!”
Eyes rigidly ahead, Lucy depressed the clutch and engaged first gear. She let out the clutch with a jerk, nearly stalling the engine. There was a yell from the red-haired man. Lucy pulled out of the car park without looking at the traffic. A white van screeched to a halt, horn blaring. She didn’t notice. Emma put a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s alright, Lucy. You’re alright.”
Emma’s quiet voice broke the spell. Lucy shuddered violently for a few seconds.
“I am so sorry, Emma,” she said. “So sorry.”
“You’ve nothing to be sorry for, Lucy.”
“I just want to drive home as quickly as possible. I don’t want him following me.”
“If he follows you, I’ll call the police. Look, I’m holding my mobile ready.”
Lucy glanced across. It was true; Emma had her mobile on her lap in her left hand. She relaxed a little.
She refused to park outside her own house, choosing to leave her car two streets away. All the way from the car to the house, she was looking about her. As she opened the door, she looked up and down the street.
“Quickly, Emma, quickly,” she said as she entered. She slammed the door, locked it, bolted it. She drew the curtains. She checked the back door, even though she knew it was locked. Only then did she draw a deep breath, releasing it in a long, fluttering sigh.
Emma took her hand. “Well done,” she said. “Oh, very well done!”
“I don’t feel as though I did well. I ran.”
“He told you to stop, and you defied him. You did what you decided, not what he decided for you. You were so brave!”
“He’ll find me on Monday. He knows I’ll be working at a solicitor’s office, and there are only three in Casterton. He’ll find me.”
“Then we must have a plan.”
“Emma, this isn’t your fight. You mustn’t become involved. You don’t understand what he’s like!”
“I’m already involved. I saw how he behaved this evening, and I can guess a little bit about what he’s like.” She paused; she seemed hesitant.
“I think I’m going to have to run again. Perhaps London would be safer, I don’t know.” Lucy spoke to fill the silence.
“I’d hate that.” Emma spoke quietly. She looked at the carpet. “I want to be near you, Lucy. I want to see you every week; well, every day actually. I want to be with you.”
“Oh, Emma.” Lucy sighed.
Emma looked up, looked Lucy full in the face. Her expression was earnest, beseeching. “Will you marry me, Lucy?”
“Marry you?”
“Yes.”
Lucy sank onto the sofa. “Marry you,” she repeated. “Emma, I’m twenty-nine. How old are you?”
“Twenty. What does that matter? I love you. I shall always love you. I know that as certainly as I know the music of Bach.”
“I love you, too. That doesn’t mean it would be wise for us to marry, Emma. There are things in my past.”
“I saw some of your past this evening. If he’s the worst we have to face, then let’s do it!”
Emma approached Lucy, who reached out to her. They clasped hands.
“I wish I could. I wish I could!”
“It’s too sudden for you, isn’t it? There’s unfinished business with that man. I’ll help you deal with that, and then we’ll see.”
“Thank you. Thank you, Emma. Yes, I think that would be the best thing. But let me just say it properly…” Lucy hesitated, and when she spoke her voice was husky, “I love you, Emma.” The two women kissed, gently, and then Emma released Lucy’s hand and sat down beside her on the sofa.
“Is your boss in the office tomorrow?” asked Emma.
“Mr Abercrombie? Yes. At least, I think he is.”
“He can probably help us. He won’t want you harassed in his office, and I’m sure he’ll want to make sure you’re safe all the time. He’ll know the right people in the police to talk to about domestic violence.” Lucy nodded. After a little pause, Emma continued, “My dad used to beat my mum, that’s how I know this. And I saw the police stop him. That man who’s threatening you, he won’t want the police involved. He’s respectable. He can only hurt you if you let him. But you don’t need him any more, do you?”
Lucy shook her head. “I hate him,” she said.
It was mid-morning on Monday that the red-haired man appeared in the solicitor’s office. His right hand was bandaged.
“You shouldn’t have driven off like that.” His voice was quiet, his tone menacing. Lucy’s heart raced, and her face went white. She pressed the panic button below her desk. As the man leaned threateningly towards her, there was a noise of footsteps clattering downstairs.
“Is this the man, Lucy?”
Lucy nodded.
“Your staff member caused me personal injury last night.”
“Yes, I’ve heard what happened.” Mr Abercrombie looked over his spectacles at the bully. “In fact I’ve heard a great deal about you, Mr Brodie. I have a sworn deposition from Lucy in my files about your treatment of her during the period August 2010 to February 2016. I may say that it does you no credit, sir, no credit at all.
Now, if any harm should come to Lucy, this statement will be placed in the hands of the police. I would advise you that our local constabulary take a dim view of domestic abuse, a very dim view indeed, sir.”
Brodie puffed out his chest, and glared at Mr Abercrombie, who met his gaze calmly. “You’ve not heard the last of this,” he snarled at Lucy.
“Oh, but she has, Mr Brodie, she has. Any further harassment on your part and the police will be contacted. As will your employer, Kielder and Company.” Brodie snorted, turned on his heel and stamped out of the office.
“Well that was fun, wasn’t it?” exclaimed Mr Abercrombie. Lucy slumped forward.
“Oh my goodness! First aider!” Mr Abercrombie called for help.
Even as they moved her into the recovery position, Lucy’s eyelids flickered open.
“Don’t disturb yourself, Lucy. You passed out. We’ve rung for an ambulance. You’ll be fine, just stay calm.”
Lucy felt cold and rather sick. The first aider fetched a blanket and covered her. She snuggled it around herself as she shivered.
A paramedic first responder reached them quickly. He checked her vital signs carefully.
“Well, you look okay now. I don’t think there’s any need for a hospital visit. If there’s somebody at home, you might be more comfortable there. You had quite a shock.”
“Would you like to go home, Lucy? That was an ordeal for you, I’m afraid.” Mr Abercrombie was concerned.
Lucy nodded. Emma had taken the day off; she would be waiting for her at home.
“You’ll take a taxi, of course. You don’t want to drive after that. Oh, the company will pay, and for the taxi in tomorrow. You’re too good an employee to lose, Lucy, far too good.”
As she slumped in the back seat of the taxi, Lucy breathed deeply. It was over. The nightmare was over. Her fear had gone. She thought of Emma waiting for her and her limbs slowly suffused with warmth. She sat up straighter. The clouds parted and the sun gleamed through.

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Forbidden Fruit

Gilbert and Rhoda’s two horses grazed peacefully at the far end of the paddock. An electric fence protected the whips of hawthorn, damson, dog rose and briar that would grow into a hedge.
“Just this last jump to move into the corner with the others and then we can start to plant the fruit trees.”
Gilbert took a firm grip of one end of the structure; Rhoda took the other. “And…lift!” she called. Together they carried it easily to the hedge and put it down.
“I wish things had worked out as we planned,” said Gilbert. Rhoda took his hand and squeezed it. They both gazed at the low jumps.
“Those are the past, dear. The orchard is the future.” Although Rhoda spoke positively, she thought, ‘Maybe – maybe by relinquishing my dream I’ll make it come true.’ But she knew it wouldn’t.
Gilbert dug holes, Rhoda spread the tree roots, and Gilbert filled the holes with a mixture of soil and compost. Rhoda staked each tree carefully and watered it. They planted twelve trees, six apple trees, two cherry trees, two pear trees and two plum trees. The meadow would become an orchard and they would tend it together. It would bear fruit for them.
They stood side by side in the late afternoon sunshine, and looked at their handiwork. The new trees were well spaced, leaving them plenty of room to grow. Gilbert and Rhoda hoped to see them flourish and mature. Gilbert held Rhoda close. He kissed her tenderly on the mouth. Very gently she pushed him away. “We’d better go in,” she said. “I need to cook dinner, and you need to clean up ready for choir practice.” As they walked towards the house she slipped her hand into his.
“If the miracle happens, we can put the jumps up again,” said Gilbert.
Great Pinnerton Choral Society was a good choir, and Gilbert sang tenor with them. He was also the Secretary. His fair hair, blue eyes and athletic build had the more susceptible of the sopranos sighing over him; they knew he was safely unobtainable. Gilbert and Rhoda were a by-word for loving fidelity.
The choir was halfway through the vocal warm-up exercises when the door opened, and a man in a leather jacket entered. He made an apologetic gesture to the Musical Director, and stayed where he was until the vocal exercises were finished.
“Have you come to join us?”
The man nodded. “If you’ll have me. I’m a bass.”
“Excellent. I’ll give you a short audition in the break. Would you like to sit next to Eric in the back row?”
Eric waved a welcome. Mavis, the society’s librarian, bustled round with a score. “You can borrow this for now, but please come and see me during the interval,” she instructed.
The new arrival, dark-haired, tall and muscular, grinned at everybody. His teeth gleamed very white in his sun-tanned face. “Thanks for the welcome, folks. My name’s Brendan. I’ll hope to meet some of you later.”
Violet, the oldest soprano, nudged her neighbour and giggled sotto voce. Gilbert glanced up at Brendan as he squeezed past to reach his seat. There was an energy about the man that was simultaneously unsettling and attractive. Brendan caught his eye, patted him on the shoulder.
“Sorry for barging through.”
During the interval Gilbert went to greet Brendan; as Secretary he needed to record contact details. And, although he usually went straight home after the practice, this time he invited Brendan to join him for a beer in the Cutlers Arms.
As they started their second pints, Brendan pulled out his mobile.
“Let me show you something,” he said.
It was a video clip, an aerial view that plunged vertiginously to trees a hundred feet below. The camcorder panned through one-eighty degrees and showed a limestone cliff a mere twenty feet away, which stretched up another hundred feet above the camera.
“I shot this video in a microlight in Cheddar Gorge,” said Brendan. “You sound like an active chap, Gilbert. Have you ever flown a microlight?”
Gilbert shook his head, and laughed. “The highest I ever go above ground is when I’m hacking cross-country.”
“Ah! Hunting, shooting and fishing, eh?”
“No, just riding for pleasure. I’ve never felt the urge to kill things”
“Have you got the bottle for flying, do you think?”
“I’m not sure I can be bothered to find out.”
“Well, if you fancy giving it a try, I shall be in Kemble on Saturday. I’m a qualified instructor. I’ll take you up in tandem if you like. Give me a call; here’s my card. And now, I’d better be off. Two pints is more than enough. I’m on the bike tonight.”
He covered Gilbert’s hand briefly with his own. It was warm, dry, and calloused. “I hope I’ll hear from you.” The words were soft, almost a caress, and then Brendan was gone. Gilbert sat looking at his hand for fully twenty seconds, hearing again Brendan’s parting words, feeling again that odd, intimate, touch. Then he shook his head. He, too, should be on his way.
Come Saturday he was in Kemble, wearing both sweater and cagoul; Brendan had instructed him to come warmly dressed. He listened attentively to the induction talk, and then helped Brendan wheel the two man aircraft from the hangar onto the grass runway.
“Listen,” said Brendan. “This is important. For this first flight you are a passenger. All you must do is sit still; I’ll do everything necessary for the flight. You don’t need to try to move with me; that will only make controlling the craft more difficult. Just keep still, right?”
Gilbert nodded. “No problem.”
It was a glorious April morning, the cloudless blue sky scarred only by the contrails of airliners passing far overhead. The grass, short and even, glowed in the clear light. Brendan started the engine, which throbbed directly behind Gilbert. He felt the warmth of the sun on his shoulders, the slight cool breeze on his hands. The engine note rose in pitch and the craft began to move.
It reminded Gilbert of the first time he’d ridden a motorcycle, that sense of precarious balance, the speed of the ground passing beneath, simultaneously fast and slow. He looked up, ahead, past Brendan’s helmet. The speed was only about thirty miles an hour. And then the horizon dropped gently away and they were airborne.
They climbed slowly, in great circles. The rim of the world expanded. Gilbert saw a pigeon fly beneath them, flapping industriously from one rooftop to the next to join her mate. The wind was stronger and colder, and the fabric airfoil occasionally chattered slightly. The light of the sun perfused everything, dazzling when straight ahead, glinting off every reflective surface. Gilbert closed his eyes. He listened. He breathed the chill air. He felt. He lived.
When he opened his eyes again, he was surprised at their altitude. Cars on the motorway passed like coloured beads sliding on a thread. But even as he watched them, he realized that Brendan was taking their craft down. The engine note was quieter and less insistent. They were returning to the mundane world, with its problems and its grief. Gilbert wished that Brendan would climb again, take them ever higher until they reached the edge of the finite, the beginning of eternity.
Down they went, and now the aircraft was racing towards the runway. Fifteen feet, ten feet, they were over the grass, the wheels were spinning, five feet, a slight bump, and they were on the ground, with Brendan taxiing towards the hangar.
They stopped, dismounted. Brendan looked at Gilbert. The corners of his mouth quirked up. “Good, eh?”
Gilbert nodded. “Stunning.”
“Same time next week?”
“I’ll call you. Thank you.”
Gilbert sat in his car, motionless, his mind filled with the bigness of the sky and the closeness of Brendan. He had wanted to touch him, wanted to hold him as they flew. ‘I love Rhoda,’ he thought. ‘That’s what love is, the feelings I have for her. I can’t love Brendan.’ And once the thought had been articulated, he couldn’t rid himself of it.
Eventually he drove home, slowly, carefully, letting the concentration purge his mind, letting the morning’s scintillating images dim and dull until he could safely examine them, talk about them to Rhoda.
Of course he went the next week, and the week after. He started lessons. At first, Rhoda enjoyed his new liveliness; he had been becoming restless and frustrated. She was glad that he had this new hobby. She took advice from friends and bought him a single man aircraft ready for when he qualified to fly solo. It was the best birthday present he’d ever had.
A few weeks later, when Gilbert arrived for choir practice, he was accosted by Mavis.
“I’m a friend of yours, right?” she demanded of him.
“A very good friend, Mavis.”
“Would you mind walking me home after choir practice tonight, and having a coffee?”
“It will be my pleasure.”
During the interval, he told Brendan that he wouldn’t be able to join him in the Cutlers Arms after the practice. Brendan nodded.
“Okay.” He looked disappointed.
As Gilbert escorted Mavis, he asked whether she’d had any trouble to make her fearful of walking home on her own.
“I’m worried about you, not me,” she replied. “Let’s be discreet, and wait until we’re indoors, shall we?”
Once indoors, Gilbert accepted a biscuit and quietly took a sip of his coffee. Mavis cleared her throat.
“So what’s going on between you and Brendan?”
“That’s very blunt, Mavis. What on earth do you think is going on? Brendan and I are friends.”
“My eye. You’re inseparable. And the way you look at him. It’s not just me, Gilbert. People are gossiping.”
“I can’t be responsible for other peoples’ words. Brendan and I are friends, nothing more. We go flying together at the weekends.”
“How much time do you spend with Rhoda at the weekends?”
“Mavis, you are a dear friend, but I really don’t think it’s appropriate for you to ask me that sort of question.”
“Someone needs to ask it, Gilbert. I’m Rhoda’s friend too, remember.”
“Do you think I’m neglecting her? She seems happy about the flying.”
“We’re not talking flying here, Gilbert. Have you introduced Brendan to her?”
“I’m sorry, Mavis, I’m not prepared to be interrogated like this.”
“Hmph! I thought not. I bet you haven’t even told her about him.”
Gilbert put down his cup on the coffee table and stood up.
“Mavis. I appreciate your concern for me and for Rhoda. I take it in the spirit in which it was intended, but I have to say it is misguided. There is nothing…improper between Brendan and me.”
That weekend, in the hangar after the flight, Brendan kissed Gilbert. It was not a long kiss, a mere brushing of the lips with a warm embrace. Gilbert’s face convulsed. He pulled Brendan fiercely against him, then pushed him even more fiercely away.
“Brendan, this is impossible. I’m married.” His voice was rough.
Brendan shrugged.
“There’s little enough joy in the world, Gilbert. Grab it while you can.”
“I have joy with Rhoda.”
Softly. “I’m glad for you; but I don’t believe you.”
“Don’t do that again, Brendan. Not ever. Or I won’t be able to see you at all.”
“That might be better anyway.”
“No, wait, I didn’t mean I don’t want to see you. I do want to see you. It’s just that I don’t want to betray Rhoda. But you’ve woken me up, Brendan. Something had died, and now it’s alive again. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t see you again.”
Brendan crooked a finger.
“Come here, Gilbert. This won’t hurt you, or anybody else.”
He opened his arms. Gilbert looked at him. There was that little upward crease of the lips that he loved to see, the teasing, questioning recognition of his own identity that it implied. He slipped into the embrace, allowed Brendan to kiss him firmly. Then he stepped back.
“I must go, Brendan, I must go.”
“See you at choir practice, then. I hope you don’t get dragged off for more committee business afterwards; I enjoy our beer and chat.”
* * *
The row with Rhoda was the following Thursday. It started quietly; the worst rows often do.
“There’s a microlight festival in three weeks time, love. I thought I might go.”
“You do remember Val and Brian are coming to dinner on the fifteenth?”
“Ah. That had slipped my mind. Couldn’t we put them off?”
“I don’t want to put them off, Gilbert. I’d like to see them. I’d like us to see them together, because we haven’t done much together recently. In fact, I haven’t seen much of you at all.”
“Okay. Yes, sure. I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you.”
“You could sound a little more enthusiastic. They’re our best friends.”
“I’m sorry, love. You know what I’m like when I start something new.”
“This is different, Gilbert. You’ve been a different person since the weekend. Distant. Not unhappy, in fact sometimes you seem positively exalted. But you never seem close.”
Gilbert spread his arms, expecting Rhoda to snuggle in as she usually did. She ignored the gesture.
“You don’t seem close now, Gilbert. In fact, you seem a mile away.”
Gilbert’s pulse raced. Had Mavis been talking? Had he better say something about Brendan?
“There’s something, isn’t there, Gilbert?”
“I’m having a great deal of pleasure from flying. It…lifts me up, opens me to, I don’t know, new thoughts, new experiences.”
“Take me this Saturday. Let me share that with you.”
“I’d better check with Brendan. We…”
“Brendan! This is about Brendan, isn’t it? That must be what Sheila meant when she commented on how close the two of you seemed at choir practice! It’s not about flying, not really. What’s going on, Gilbert?”
Gilbert folded his arms.
“Nothing is ‘going on’, Rhoda. Brendan and I are good friends.”
“I don’t like it, Gilbert. I want you to stop seeing him. Go and fly from a different airfield. Take me with you. Let’s be together again. I’ll learn to fly too, and we’ll fly together.”
Gilbert froze.
“You want me to stop seeing Brendan?”
“Yes. I want you to stop seeing him altogether, before you…you do something you would regret.”
“But…he’s my best friend, Rhoda.”
“Yes. And I’m your wife.”
“Rhoda, let me try to explain. What I feel for Brendan is different from what I feel for you.”
“Oh, you feel for Brendan, do you?”
“Yes, I do.” Gilbert spoke quietly but firmly.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me that you love him?”
“I suppose, in a way, I do.”
“Have you…?”
“No. No, of course not. Of course we haven’t.”
“There’s something, though, isn’t there? Something happened at the weekend.”
“Brendan kissed me. He wanted more but I stopped him.”
“How could you, Gilbert, how could you?” Rhoda’s face worked with passion. “You’re my husband. You’re nothing to him. He doesn’t love you; I love you, I need you. Give him up – for both our sakes!”
“I don’t think I can give him up, as you put it. I think I’m in love with him.”
Rhoda was panting now, gasping for breath. “You bastard. You utter bastard. I’ve stayed with you even though you can’t give me children, the children I long for – the children I deserve!” The tears cascaded down her cheeks. Gilbert had never seen her weep before. It tore at his heart.
“My dear, my love, please stop. I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do; I feel as though I’m being washed away in a deluge.”
He reached for her, tried to make some physical contact that would tether him to reality, to the bedrock of their relationship.
She hit him.
Hard.
The marks of her fingers purpled his cheek.
She was screaming now.
“Don’t be under any illusions. If you have sex with someone else, if you betray me, I shall have my children. I shall have sex with the milkman, or the postman, or the…the vicar – whatever it takes to get pregnant. And you, Gilbert, you will raise them as your own because when that predator has finished with you – used you up – wrung you dry – you’ll come to me on your knees, and that will be my price for taking you back.”
Gilbert stood, ashen.
Rhoda took several deep breaths, calmed herself, although the tears still flowed.
“I shall have a child with Brian!”
Gilbert recoiled from her. “Val is your best friend! Would you really do that to her?”
Rhoda’s lips twisted; her eyes were hard as stone. “Val will let me, when she knows what I’ve gone through. It’s only sex, when all’s said and done.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I will tell Val and Brian that your low sperm count is why we’ve never had children. I shall tell them about your fancy-man, and throw myself on their mercy.”
Gilbert sank onto one of the kitchen chairs. He looked at the ground without seeing it.
Rhoda grabbed the kitchen roll, and mopped her face.
“Leave him, Gilbert. Ring him now. Tell him it’s finished, he’s never to see you again.”
As though hypnotized, Gilbert drew his mobile out of his pocket. He called Brendan.
“It’s over, Brendan. I’ve been thinking. I love Rhoda; I’m not going to betray her even for you.” He struggled to speak. “I’ll stay away from Kemble. Would you, please, stay away from the Choral Society?”
Gilbert imagined the little shrug that would have accompanied Brendan’s “Okay.” He thought his heart would break.
“Well, goodbye then, Brendan.”
He rang off and looked up at Rhoda.
“I really do love you,” he said.
“I know.” She reached out and touched his hair. “The pain will go, Gilbert. It will go.”
* * *
Rhoda was pregnant by Christmas. Four years later, Gilbert and Rhoda watched hand in hand as their little boy, blond, blue-eyed and the image of Gilbert, set his pony at a low jump in the orchard – and cleared it.

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A Good Day’s Work

Just the contents of my tool-bag could earn me a prison sentence. ‘Going equipped’ the police call it – and what an apt description it is. I’m equipped to force windows, pick locks, and snip wires. I even have a little electro-magnetic gizmo to neutralize some of the latest digital alarms. Not that I expect to need that this afternoon.
This is my favourite sort of property, a big, detached house at the end of the village, high hedge surrounding the garden and no alarm system. Both adults work and the kids are at school. Easy. Virtually risk-free.
I reverse my battered white van with the recycled number plates through the gate and park just inside. Nobody from the street can see past the van; it’s as good as being invisible.
Just in case, I ring the doorbell. I’m dressed as a workman, white overalls, white gloves, even a fake identity badge. No answer. Let’s get cracking then. I score along the edges of the glass pane nearest the lock, cover the glass with sticky paper and give it a sharp knock. It falls out, sweet as a nut, and leaves no jagged edges on which I could cut myself. I put my hand through, turn the handle of the Yale and the door swings open. I don’t know – some people just invite crime; no deadlock, no security bolt, nothing.
I’m not malicious in the way that I search a property, but I am thorough. Drawers out and upturned and not just to inspect the contents quickly – you’d be amazed at what people tape underneath drawers. Most of what I find is in desks and dressing tables, but every so often there’s a waterproof package in the cistern or a neat little envelope of cash in the drawer under the bed. I don’t bother to lift creaky floorboards; if you go to that much trouble you can keep your money as far as I’m concerned. Cash, jewellery, cameras, watches – small, high value items, that’s all I take
The last place that I look is always the kitchen. I check the biscuit tins and the tea caddy even though I’ve never found anything there. You can call it sentiment or superstition if you like, but my Gran in South Wales used to keep her savings in the caddy, and it would feel wrong, almost impolite, to leave without checking.
The kitchen here is at the back, and it‘s while I’m looking through the cupboards that I hear footsteps crunch across the gravel towards the front door. Crucial question number one; is it the family or neighbours? Family will come in, neighbours may not. Crucial question number two; can I get out of the back door, sprint to the van and get out of the drive without being seen clearly? I congratulate myself on my cautious habit of always parking the van facing outwards.
The footsteps have stopped. Whoever it is, they’re examining the door, realising that a burglary has taken place and wondering whether the burglar is still inside. “Indeed I am, madam,” I think to myself. The humour galvanises me, and I slide noiselessly across the kitchen towards the back door.
Hell! Two big bolts and a mortice lock. I strain up to the top bolt and try to slide it silently back. Silently! The only reason it makes no noise is because it doesn’t move. I put my full force behind it, heedless of any disturbance. It won’t budge, and I can’t get any leverage because it’s too high.
I hear somebody clear their throat. It is a young male cough, the sort that means “I’m scared stiff but I’m coming for you anyway”. Hell!
I don’t do violence, I do flight. As the footsteps stride up the hall to the kitchen, I’m on the work surface opening the catch of the window, pushing it and – it doesn’t open. It’s security bolted. I sprint for the door to the dining room, just as the kitchen door bursts open.
As I dodge through, I hear my pursuer’s steps slither as he changes direction abruptly to follow me. I sidestep through into the lounge and head across the room towards the hallway, the front door and freedom. I get as far as the middle of the room when fourteen stone of muscle takes me round the legs and I crash down, luckily falling onto a heavily padded sofa rather than the highly polished wooden floor. Even so, the impact and the fact that I stunned myself on the arm of the sofa leaves me feeling groggy and in no condition to run. I give myself a few seconds breather.
A forceful arm grabs my shoulder, and a triumphant voice snarls, “Right, let’s have a look at you then.” There’s no way I can resist and I’m turned over.
My captor’s grin of satisfaction fades rapidly.
“Ruth?” he enquires hoarsely. Oh my God, he’s a student on the same course as me. What are the odds against that?
“Alan! I didn’t know you lived in this part of the country.”
“What the hell are you doing in the house?”
“Burgling it, of course. You really ought to get your parents to upgrade their security. It was laughably easy to get in. Now, would you mind letting me sit up? This is hardly decorous. I won’t try running away, I promise.”
Alan moves away – a shame really, he’s quite cosy close to, and he smells very nice. His eyes are warm and brown. I gingerly sit up and straighten my overalls and try to tidy my hair.
“Well, you’ve put me in a tricky position haven’t you?” he grumbles.
“Oh, I don’t know. You call the police, hand me over and receive the applause I would have thought. What’s tricky about that?”
“You know perfectly well that I’m not going to do that, Ruth. How am I going to explain the busted glass in the door to my parents if I’m covering up for you?”
Alan’s such a sweetie. Six foot one, broad, athletic and tender-hearted. Pity he’s so stupid.
“Yellow pages. Glazier. They’ll do an instant job probably. Listen, if you’re letting me go, I’ll pay for the glass to be replaced.”
“Damn right you will. Hey, you didn’t – well, pinch anything before I got here did you?”
I point to the rifled drawers of the desk.
“You’ll have to give it back.”
With a show of reluctance I open my bag and take out two cameras, an iPod, a handful of jewellery and a rather nice Rolex. A pity; it would have been a good haul, at least a couple of grand even from the villain with whom I deal.
“Right, go and put it back and tidy up, while I arrange for the door to be mended. Then, would you like a cup of tea?” Tender-hearted? Daft as a brush, more like.
I’m almost as quick and neat in putting things back as I am in searching them in the first place, and it’s not long before I’ve finished. Alan solemnly hands me a cup of tea.
“Why do you do it, Ruth?” Now that the excitement of the chase is over he looks pained.
“I’ve got to pay my way through college somehow, Alan, and it beats hell out of bar work.”
“Yeah, but there’s student loans and things”. He sounds peevish.
“Start my career with a great big debt of twenty grand? Do me a favour. I bet that’s not how you’re doing it!”
“No, you’re right. My parents are being very generous. Are you really hard up, then?”
“Pretty short.”
“Look, don’t worry about the glass; I’ll sort that.” Taking candy from a kid.
“Alan, you’re a real sweetie,” I assure him earnestly, gazing into his eyes. I let my lips barely brush against his, feel the sparks fly, and pull away slowly, gently, with seeming reluctance.
“I must go now. Thank you. Thank you for being so understanding, Alan. See you next term!”
I leave him standing in a haze of endorphins, walk through the front door – still swinging open – and drive away.
I park the van in the yard – the scrapyard from which I recycle my number plates – and pull out the water-proof package. Nobody who hides things in a cistern is likely to report them missing…..
I open it neatly, and turn the contents over and over in my hands. A stack of fifty pound notes, no fewer than one hundred of them. Not such a bad day’s work after all!

Pie on Friday

They always had pie on Friday. Usually it was chicken and ham, or chicken and mushroom, using up what was left of the previous weekend’s roast. Or, if they’d splashed out and had roast beef, Cheryl would buy some steak and kidney and make the pie from that. “I like a bit of pastry with my dinner,” said Rob every Friday.
Cheryl was fed up with pie.
It was Thursday, coming up to one o’clock and the end of Cheryl’s shift on the till at the Co-op. She put the ‘Checkout closed” sign onto the belt just as he walked up with a half-full basket. It had been a difficult shift, and a difficult morning. Rush, rush, rush, too few staff, and customers complaining. But he looked friendly; she’d noticed his charming smile several times in the previous week.
“It’s alright, love. Put them on the belt.”
It only took a minute. He was very quick to pack his groceries, and had his Co-op card and credit card handy. Cheryl completed the transaction, handed over to her replacement, and set off to collect her coat; only he was in her way.
“Am I right in thinking it’s the end of your shift? Forgive me – that’s not as creepy as it sounds! – I asked your colleague.”
Cheryl laughed, and he continued, “Do you fancy joining me for a coffee? I’d like to know you better. I’m new in the town and you’re a friendly face.”
Cheryl grimaced. She was aware of two of her friends watching her sidelong. People gossiped. Then irritation got the better of her. ‘Fuck ‘em,’ she thought. ‘They can mind their own business.’ “Why not?” she replied.
They sat at an outdoor table to enjoy the early May sunshine and listen to the river. The trees on the riverbank were clothed in new green leaves, which were just stirring in the gentle breeze. At Eric’s suggestion they ordered lunch rather than coffee. As Cheryl ate her tuna salad and listened to Eric telling her about some of the countries he’d visited, she thought what an agreeable, what a civilised man he was. And his smile was, indeed, charming.
Cheryl had meant to pay her share, but Eric had settled up almost before she realised.
“Oh, let me give you the money,” she flustered, opening her purse and spilling change all over the table. Eric went down on his hands and knees and recovered two pound coins that had rolled under it.
“No, really, the pleasure was all mine, believe me. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your son, Jeremy. You must be very proud of him.”
“Yes, I am. When Rob and I went up to Cambridge last summer and saw him graduate, I think that was my best day ever.”
“Rob is your husband?”
“Yes.”
Eric gave her hand a quick squeeze and said, “I expect you need to be getting on with your day. You’ve been very kind joining me for lunch. You’re a good listener.”
“Gosh it’s half past two! You’re right – I’d better dash! Thank you so much for lunch.” Blushing, fumbling with her handbag and coat, Cheryl left Eric sitting at the table and hurried home.
There was football on the telly that evening. Cheryl cleared up after dinner, and joined Rob on the sofa.
“Can I get you a beer, love; or anything else?”
“Beer would be nice.” Rob’s eyes didn’t leave the screen. Cheryl went and poured a beer for Rob, and another for herself. She didn’t really like beer. She sat beside Rob on the sofa and snuggled up against him. Occasionally she sipped at her beer. It was too bitter for her taste. She almost spilled it when Chelsea scored and Rob erupted from his seat in delight.
At full time it was still one – nil, and Rob was cheerful. When they went to bed, Cheryl kissed him, sexily, and stroked his back in the way she knew he liked. “Sorry, love, it’s an early start tomorrow. I’ve got to finish the wiring in Southfields so as to be ready to start the Plympton job on Monday.” He was snoring within minutes.
The alarm sounded at six on Friday morning. Cheryl made Rob a cup of tea which he drank as he got dressed. As they ate breakfast together she said, “I thought I’d cook us something special this evening, Rob. Something a bit different. You love Chinese food, so I thought I’d have a go at a stir-fry.”
Rob looked at her in consternation.
“It’s Friday!” he exclaimed. “We always have pie on Friday!”