Very excited to have my story in this wonderful book of journeys.
Enjoy The 2017 Book a Break anthology – now available not just from Amazon but also other outlets
Very excited to have my story in this wonderful book of journeys.
Enjoy The 2017 Book a Break anthology – now available not just from Amazon but also other outlets
You have 1526 unopened answers to sub-conscious questions
She blinked. The corneal display altered.
You have 25 unopened emails
She blinked again.
You have 6331 saved entertainment items
‘I need to sort this out,’ she thought.
6331 entertainment items filed to memory store JC1131P
Freya pushed back the sliding window and stared through the fine mesh into a world of green AstroTurf, neatly trimmed hedges, and tree-bark borders. She thought she saw a rabbit hunkered down, its ears twitched and the breeze played with the white fur of its bobtail. Then she remembered there were no animals here.
‘I miss the birds,’ she thought.
Her corneal display appeared uninvited.
You have 2304 unopened answers to sub-conscious questions
“That’s more than anyone can deal with in one day. No one should have to deal with that.” She spoke aloud. No one replied. “I’m just trying to find out the truth. About everything.”
Freya sat on the edge of the bed. She smoothed the faux-fur blanket and watched the tracks of a darker shade appear under her fingers as she rubbed the pile the wrong way.
‘Who says it’s the wrong way? Who decides?’
The display changed again.
You have 3999 unopened answers to sub-conscious questions
She blinked repeatedly, but her eyes filled up with data.
Freya called out, “I can’t see. I’m blind. You have to help me.” She slid off the bed and curled up on the floor, foetal, her palms pressed into her eyelids. The slate tiles were hard and unforgiving against her shoulder and hip, but cool on her cheek.
“It’s ok,” she told herself, “Calm down.” She scrambled up onto all fours and crawled to the wall. She drew herself up using the wall as her guide, then she pulled herself along as she felt for the handle. The surface was uniform, grey, and smooth. Every metre or so she found a join in the surface. But no handle. She patted lightly as if she were burping a baby.
Pictures of babies scrolled across the inside of her closed eyelids; smiling baby, crying baby, laughing baby, sleeping baby, baby dressed as a flower, baby in a Santa hat.
She stopped when her shins nudged the edge of her night-stand. The water in her plastic cup rippled and sent a prism of light across the ceiling. It danced like a fairy and flitted above her from corner to corner. She watched it fly.
“Where am I?” she asked.
Location: Fracture Clinic
She felt her bones through her skin. Arms seemed fine, legs, everything moved. She touched her head and felt a stabbing pain through her eyes. ‘My head must be broken,’ she thought, ‘I’m in the best place to get better.’ But they were not her words, they belonged to someone else.
She could hear music. She had never noticed the piano in her pod before, but it seemed fitting to join in. She sat on the stool and let her fingers glide over the keys. With a feather touch she played along, lost in the moment, she swayed to the soothing melody.
You have incoming mail
The heads-up display interrupted the music.
She swivelled round on the stool and squinted through the data at the figure standing in front of her.
“Freya, you have a visitor.”
It was a woman. She could not recall her name but she had seen her before.
“You found the door,” Freya said, “I’ve been looking everywhere for that,” and she parted her lips and smiled at the woman, because that’s what she was supposed to do.
“Keep smiling,” she said as the woman took her by the arm and helped her off the stool.
“I must remember where the door is,” she said and laughed just a bit too loudly.
“The door is right there, Freya, you are not locked in. You can come out any time you please.” The woman’s voice was quiet and muffled as if she was talking from very far away.
Freya tried to move one foot in front of the other to keep up with the woman. It was difficult to walk without the confines of her pod to keep her safe. The corridor was endless, white and the bright lights hurt her eyes. In the passage, the pictures on the wall told a story of a time long gone. A ‘chocolate box’ cottage with a garden full of flowers, a white sailing boat on a Mediterranean-blue sea, a rocket in full “blast off”.
Freya stopped in front of the picture. They had all left. They had filed into a rocket like ants moving the nest and had blasted off into a cloudless sky to look for help. At least, she thought it was a rocket. It had certainly been very loud. It had definitely taken them all away.
You have no friends
Freya clenched her fists and blinked.
You are a worthless piece of shit
Freya ground her teeth and moaned. It had started. She needed to get back to her pod but the woman had a firm grip on her arm and chattered away at her side. Freya pushed her fingers into her temples and rubbed bruising circles into her skin.
You are nothing
You are nothing
You are nothing
There was only one way to stop it, when it started. She screamed at the woman until her voice broke and then pressed her forehead against the plexiglass that covered the picture. People shouted her name but they were far away. She tried to see them through her tear-filled eyes. ‘How strange to have red tears,’ she thought. She licked her lips and they tasted metallic, not salty. She felt a sharp pinch in her arm and the pain in her head started to dwindle. The corneal display pixelated and faded to
They brought you here to fix you. Your head is broken. It lolls in front of you, heavy, lifeless. You wail like a child and keen. You beg them to set you free, take you home, stop the noise. Shhhhh…
The fractures are filigree veins, infinitesimally small, not visible to the human eye. But you feel the pain of them, the tiny fissures, the membranes through which your thoughts seep, through which all the noise creeps in.
You pound on doors and scrape at windows. Like a wild and frightened stallion, you rear and buck at the world.
“Calm down, calm down, calm down,” you tell yourself, but you are just repeating words. Inside your head, the whistling tinnitus turns into a scream. Your scream.
“It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok,” you mutter.
You pace your room like a sad bear in a cage, feeling your way round the walls until you reach an obstacle and then back in the other direction.
Colours and images agitate you, light distracts you like a buzzing fly.
You keep asking questions, the same questions over and over; ‘Where is the baby in the Santa hat?’ Because you are just trying to find answers. We are all just trying to find answers.
I bought you a type-writer in the hope that you would write again. I thought perhaps the out-pouring of words would alleviate the pressure, would lance your infected brain. But you play it like a piano and fill the page with numbers. Although, it makes you sway and smile.
I came to visit yesterday. You shuffled down the corridor like a frail, old woman, clinging to the nurse. You looked confused. You seemed overwhelmed. No filters, no order, no control.
You stood in front of the painting for an age. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. It was the picture of campers sitting round a fire at the foot of a tree, which set you off. You screamed about a rocket. You screamed in the face of the unmoved nurse. Then you smashed your head against the image until blood ran down your face. The alarm went off and nurses appeared from doorways and wards like worker bees emerging from the hive. They gathered round you and held you and sedated you with a sting.
I can only wait as they try to fix your broken head. I long for the day, when like a butterfly, you will emerge from your cocoon with your damp, fragile wings, and a new countenance.
‘What’s going on?’
Status report: sedated
‘Where am I?’
Location: Fracture Clinic
‘Am I broken?’
‘Can they fix me?’
You have 5247983 unopened answers to sub-conscious questions
This is my submission for the prompt ‘Explain the series of events that ties these images together’
‘We are all passengers on the train of life.’ Jonathon sighed and crossed through the sentence. ‘Life is a train. Are you a passenger or the driver?’ He struck through that one as well. You’d think after fifty years in the business, he could come up with something a little more inspiring for his final piece.
Jonathon White had been a journalist on the Daily Global for more than thirty years. For longer than he cared to remember, he had written a critique of up and coming authors, in his column “I am Write”.
He was still reeling from the day, last month, when the pert, young editor had called him into her office to negotiate his severance package. He was to be ‘retired’ at the end of the month and was now working on his last article.
The fact is, Jonathon had spent the last three decades on a mission to berate, destroy and ridicule every new writer whose work crossed his desk. He decimated their offerings like a Bullet train through a temple. His plan had been to publish his novel on retirement but he now faced the stark realisation that this would open him to a tsunami of criticism from every literary circle.
A log shifted in the grate and he pulled his sleeves down over chilled wrists. He had decided to work from home for this one. He smoothed the page of the yellow, ruled, legal pad and pulled the lid off his fountain pen. Jonathon was old-school and still wrote everything long-hand, which he then passed to one of the young secretaries to type up for print. He picked at the callous on his middle finger as he thought, with painful regret, about Sandra. Sandy. Beautiful, sweet, kind, funny, Sandy. The secretary whose flirtations he had methodically ignored for years, until it was too late and she had left to marry an accountant from Wigan.
His pen scratched rhythmically as he filled the page with his flowery script. He was determined to mention them all. He had been so very cruel. Lately, there had been Kentish Rambler. He cringed at the things he had said about her poetry when, in truth, she could portray heart-rending sadness with such insightful finesse. He had ridiculed AUTHORity whose elegant, intelligent observations had filled Jonathon with jealous rage. Then there were all those writers he had ignored: the true coffin nail in any aspiring scribe’s career; llwinder, Artimis Blake, FirstFolio. He had even treated the people’s gentleman, Lord Matt, with utter disdain.
And then there was his nemesis: Stories from the Edge. He had systematically hounded her into silence, whilst secretly in awe of her effortless prose and masterly control of the written word.
In his penultimate piece, ‘Plotting or Pantsing? What is best for me?’ Jonathon had scoffed at the plotters for their lack of bravery or imagination and painted himself as an edgy pantser with the courage of his own convictions. More lies. Jonathon had never turned to a new sheet of paper without meticulous planning.
He wiped a rivulet of coffee up the side of his mug and sucked it off his thumb. The hairline crack in the glaze a crucifix shaped vein. Coffee. Coffee had been his friend in the dark, quiet, small hours of the night. Coffee had greeted him each morning with its ebony ripple. And now, in a perfect symmetry, it was here by his side as he penned his column’s obituary.
He was ready to pass the mantle to his successor. The fresh blood would write as Night of the Hats and was about to jump on the train and don the gold-braided hat of the driver.
Jonathon opened the drawer of his desk and lifted out the weighty tome of his novel. At 130,000 words, this was the first draft. He took the pile of paper over to the open fire and placed it on the red-hot embers. It caught and the blue dancing flames reached for freedom. He would not give anyone the pleasure.
Apologies made and credit now given where it was due, he felt it appropriate to finish the submission with a quote from the Bard himself,
‘Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue, We will make amends ere long’
He signed off ‘Jonathon White, Am I Write?’ placed the lid back on his pen and sipped the last drop of coffee from his mug. Then he stepped onto the chair and placed the rope over his head.
I came to your grave today. It was covered in crows. There were a dozen. They hopped and pecked and cawed. Bunch of hooligans. They pulled at a carcass. A rat, I think. Pests. I stayed back on the path to watch their sacrilege. The Dirty Dozen. They rearranged the green, glass chips and wiped their beaks on your gravestone. Their black, shiny feathers bristled in the breeze. Their dense, ebony eyes, remorseless.
The tall, ivy-clad trees that line the cemetery wall, echoed with birdsong like a jungle.
One for every year I’ve mourned your passing. One for every time I’ve stood at your grave. Twelve good men and true. Twelve for the number of months you served of your sentence. Twelve eyelets for the length of the laces that should have been confiscated. Twelve minutes before they found you, in your cell, hung. A dozen questions left unanswered.
I walked away from your plot and disturbed the crows who ascended in a dark, brooding cloud.
In the far corner is the Garden of Angels; a mirage of coloured balloons, soft toys, and flowers. A creche for memories. I laid a dozen white roses by the love-heart tombstone. The teddy with the pink bow had slumped to one side and I propped him up, carefully. Someone had placed a new lipstick on the plinth. On the base of the neon tube, in tiny print, was the label; ‘Bubble-gum’. In the middle of the stone heart, the grainy cameo of the smiling, strawberry-blond teenager was smudged with raindrop tears, so I cleaned it with a tissue. What I would give to place a dozen kisses on that head.
Another crow squawked from the branch above me. That’s a baker’s dozen, for the age of the child that you took away from me.
Stanley Wantsum stood in the doorway of Thanet UnderWriters and adjusted his breeches. Not usually a dedicated follower of fashion, he had been told (by his boss) in no uncertain terms, to ‘smarten up’. So, he was now supporting the new ‘breeches over hose’ look, with considerable discomfort. The cape would have to go, after a near garroting accident involving the fabric and the inn door. Twice. And then there was the hat: apple red with a peacock feather in the brim. For the sixty-seventh time that day, he blew the feather out of his left eye. It didn’t matter how many times the tailor had said “Suits you, Sir!” If he caught him, the milliner would be put in the stocks – wearing the infernal headpiece!
Stanley scuttled over the steaming cobblestones to ‘The Dog and Turkey’. He pushed open the door and breathed in the myriad of familiar aromas (all gag-inducing). The place was alive with punters at the end of a long day. Shouts, laughter and groans filled the air. The Innkeeper had already poured his drink and Stanley settled into the snug, by the fire, with a plate of dinner and a foaming jug of ale.
From under the brim of his hat, Stanley watched a transaction take place at the far end of the bar. He had watched this with alarming regularity. Two huge fellows, built like the proverbial outside facilities, were accepting (somewhat ungraciously) the Innkeeper’s takings for the week. On the odd occasion the Innkeeper had refused, he had been persuaded to re-think, when the thugs had rolled out a leather wallet on the bar, containing the severed fingers of other, less compliant folk.
When the ruffians had left, Stanley mooched over to the bar.
“Did I recognise two of Lord Acol’s men, just then?”
“Bunch of criminals,” growled Alan (for that was the Innkeeper’s name) “We have an agreement, Acol and me. Shook hands, with spit an’ everything.”
He explained that, despite paying protection money each month to Lord Acol’s men, it was from Acol’s own gang that he needed protection. Most weeks one or two of the Acol mob helped themselves to a barrel of beer or five. But, however much he complained, nothing changed. It caused less trouble to pay up each month. And he still had all his fingers.
“Alan, I meet with his lordship tomorrow to draw up business contracts. Would you allow me to try and negotiate a better deal for you?” Stanley had a plan. He pulled out a standard protection contract and asked Alan to sign at the end of the document. Unorthodox? Yes. Cunning? Very.
Alan frowned. “Trust me, I’m an UnderWriter,” said Stanley and smirked to himself because he had waited three years to say that to someone. He gathered up the paperwork and then hung his atrocious hat on a hook on the back of the front door.
“If you have cause to claim on this agreement within the next week or so, be sure to wear my hat to the offices of Thanet UnderWriters. Understood?” Alan shook his head in disbelief, but agreed.
Stanley was terrified of Lord Acol. He was an enormous, florid, rambunctious man with fingers in more pies than Sweeney Todd and an extremely unsavoury cohort. But, the next day, Stanley quickly brought up the subject of the written contract, for the Innkeeper. After the roars had subsided, he placated Acol with UnderWriter jargon. He suggested the addition of a clause, under the signatures, in tiny writing, which required some ridiculous condition to be fulfilled before any pay out was made. Like a well-trained dance master, he led Acol by the hand, with some carefully placed suggestions, to add a dress code as a clause. With minimal prompts, Acol decided on a garish piece of millinery. In tiny spider-scratch writing, Stanley added the stipulation to the bottom of the parchment.
And so, it was, to Lord Acol’s utter chagrin, that he found himself sat back in the UnderWriter’s office with the Innkeeper dressed in a large, red titfer. (Stanley noted with annoyance that the peacock feather had not tickled Alan’s eye once!) He paid Alan begrudgingly and once the Innkeeper had left, Acol launched himself at Stanley across the polished desk.
Bizarrely, with Acol’s clenched fist round his collar, rammed under his chin, Stanley found himself wondering how on earth he would get the creases out of his posh new chemise. He whispered slowly into Acol’s garlic-breath face, which was pushed up nose to nose with his,
“Might I suggest, your Lordship, that the most profitable way forward, would be to continue to collect your regular payments from the Innkeeper, but to keep your…” he paused, “…Employees… under tighter rein.” He refrained from using a word as incendiary as leash.
“That way everyone wins. You receive monthly payments and the Innkeeper will have no need to claim against the actions of your men. Let’s call it insurance.”
Lord Acol was a shrewd businessman. He released Stanley, nodded, and tapped his nose. Acol left the office hastily, since he had already cooked up a way to extract payments from many more of his ‘customers’.
Alan the Innkeeper would extol the virtues of Stanley Wantsum and his company to anyone who would listen. For weeks on end. In celebration of his hero; champion of the little man and master of small print, Alan now wore the hat as a badge of honour (and was never bothered by the feather). Daily, he could be heard proclaiming,
“You know what I love about Thanet UnderWriters? They are so…creative! Have you met Stanley…?”
This is my entry for Thanet Creative Writers Competition prompt “The thing I love most about Thanet Creative Writers.”
“There seems to be quite a bit more snow, now,” she said, “Maybe we should turn back?”
Alice thought the mountain pass was getting narrow, too. She posted another picture on Instagram and tucked her phone in her pocket. On one side of the vehicle the uneven face of the mountain rose and towered over them a stone troll sentinel. On the other side was a sheer drop to certain death in the ravine below.
Alice was living the dream. She and Jen had back-packed round the North Island and were now on the South Island heading for the famous Nevis Bungy; up the southern Alps; in a borrowed car; driven by a total stranger called Crazy Karen.
The windscreen wipers could no longer clear the heavy snow and the road had become so narrow there was only room for one car.
“Hope we don’t meet anyone coming down,” said Crazy Karen, “I don’t fancy reversing back to the last passing point.”
Alice and Jen exchanged looks. They had promised each other to be fearless risk takers on this trip; to do everything, try everything.
Then Karen saved them from the embarrassment of rescinding on their promise and announced, “I hate to wimp out ladies, but I think it we need to turn back,” and she proceeded to perform a fifty-three point turn in the road. They each held their breath as she changed gear and shunted backwards and forwards, easing the car round.
They were now widthways across the road with the rear end of the car precariously near the edge. Alice held on to the handle of the door, its worn, sharp plastic dug into her palm. Suddenly, Karen’s foot slipped on the clutch, the car jolted backwards and the rear wheels skidded off the edge of the cliff.
The girls screamed, Karen slammed on the brakes and the car stopped. They sat as still as tombstones and watched the wipers shift snow across the windscreen like icing on a cake. The banshee creak of metal was eerie in the silent snow.
“Oh God,” whispered Jen.
“I don’t want to die,” said Alice.
Karen remained silent, her leg trembled with the effort of holding down the brake pedal.
Alice carefully eased out her phone and sent a text to her Mum.
Mum + Dad. I think I’m going to die. I love you both so much. Thanks for everything. Alice xxx
Sometime between the point where time stretched and stopped, a muffled cry filtered through the snow-covered car.
Then, outside, neon coloured figures bobbed in front of the bonnet like balloons. The car lurched, the girls screamed again and grabbed at the seats. The vehicle shifted forwards onto the road as several burly bungy-jumpers heaved on the ropes they had attached to the front of the chassis. Alice, Jen, and Karen scrabbled out of the doors, collapsed into each other’s arms, and sobbed with relief.
Back at the hostel Alice was comforted by the musty smell of her own sweat in her sleeping bag and the aroma of her chamomile tea. Her phone chimed a text alert.
“Oh Christ, my poor parents. I told them I was going to die.” Alice tapped the reply with trepidation and read;
OK darling. We love you too. Safe trip. Let us know when you get there. Xxxx
Confused, she scrolled up to check the text she had sent.
“Jen, what’s the mistake I make most when writing?”
Jen glanced over and raised her eyebrows. “You never check your predictive text and end up sending utter gibberish!”
“It’s just as well this time. Look what I sent!” She passed her phone to Jen.
The text read; Mum + Dad. I think I’m going to Diego. I love you both so much. Thanks for everything. Alice xxx
The bedside lamp shines stars in her eyes and you concede to one more story. With a knowing smile, she passes you the dog-eared book. The corners are bent and the cover is sticky: this is a much-read volume. “The tiger who came to tea,” you start and she snuggles up close and puts her arm through yours.
“This is my favouritist book ever, Mummy,” she gazes at you expectantly and waits for you to fulfil your part of the nightly ritual.
“Mine too, Sophie. Are you ready?” She follows your finger as it points to the words and pictures. The tiger invites himself to tea and eats all the food in the cupboards. Then he drinks all the water in the tap and all Daddy’s beers. You glance down at her but she feigns interest in the tiger’s beautiful orange and black stripes. She turns the page. When the tiger has finished, he leaves. The story ends when there is nothing left for supper, but Daddy comes home and saves the day by taking them to a café for sausages and chips and ice cream.
“Time to sleep, now,” you say and pull the duvet up to her chin. You lean in and kiss her soft, downy cheek. You breathe in the smell of lavender shampoo from her silky, smooth hair. You stroke the tiny, brown freckle under her lip.
You both hold your breath as the key rattles in the front door and the loud curses echo round the hallway. The living room door slams against the wall, furniture scrapes and the growls crescendo.
“Has the tiger come to tea, Mummy?” she whispers.
“It sounds like it.” You smile but you know it has not reached your eyes.
“Remember, however loud he roars, you must stay in your room.”
“Has he drunk all Daddy’s beers?” She gives you that funny sideways look, daring you to lie.
“Well, if he has, he’ll say ‘thank you for my nice tea’ and leave, won’t he, just like in the book?”
You straighten the blanket and move a single hair off her forehead.
“Try to sleep now.”
“I do love the tiger who came to tea, Mummy”
“I love him too, darling, I love him too.”
With thanks to Judith Kerr for “The tiger who came to tea.” – one of mine and my children’s all-time favourite bed time reads.
This is my entry for Thanet Creative Writers prompt “My favourite book ever”
Sam liked to blend in. At school, she was the quiet one who got on with her work. She sat in the middle of the class; not up the back with the shirkers or down the front with the swots. In the middle, faceless and nameless. Her grades were average. Her school reports were copied and pasted.
On the outskirts of her town was a large company which had taken on Sam and a few of her classmates when they finished their studies. Days after leaving school, Sam was nestled behind three, free-standing screens; another anonymous body with a computer and a headset. And that suited her fine; no drama. Sam was content.
There was the occasional perk at work. She was running an errand for her supervisor. She had planned to fit the task between her break and lunch hour and was giving it her full attention as she sun-bathed on a grassy bank by the river.
That’s when she noticed the tree trunk wink. Or blink.
Sam leant up on her elbows and looked closer. She squinted and scanned the foliage, which edged the clear patch in a viridian horseshoe. It was then she spotted the man in the long grass. Or at least his outline. If she went cross-eyed, like she was looking at a Magic Eye picture, his mirage became three dimensional, as if a block of man-shaped grass had shifted. He waved. His hand moved, transparent, it was grass then sky, then grass again. Sam waved back, absently. Then, the whole river bank shimmered with movement as other figures stepped forward and their ghost-like forms undulated with the colours of their surroundings.
Sam sat and watched in awe, afraid to breathe, a twitcher with a rare bird in her sights. She could make out men, women, and children. The little ones played and distorted adult silhouettes loitered in the trees. She watched their spectre-like impressions, coalesced with the flora, move along the verge. The children huddled over a fallen bird’s nest, their hunkered outlines like puddling butterflies. The rheumy images seemed to float past and disappeared into each other, soap bubbles merging. They made no more sound than a falling petal.
The man in the grass beckoned to her but she was too nervous to move. Then he patted his chest and pointed to her side of the river – he wanted to join her. Sam shook her head. He shrugged. She wanted to scream to the world, ‘Look what I’ve found,’ but the consequences of this played out in her mind like a 1950’s horror movie; with her discoveries strapped to gurneys and loomed over by mad scientists in white coats, brandishing scalpels and probes.
“Listen,” she called to them, “The only advice I can give you all is; stay out of sight, blend in. Hide!” They stared at her but seemed unmoved.
“Just go!” She shouted. “I can’t protect you. I’m just one person. I’m nobody.”
One by one, they stepped back into the trees and Sam watched the bushes and grass flicker as they left their silent footprints through the undergrowth. For a while her eyes played tricks on her; a branch would bob in the wind; a breeze would send a ripple through the ivy leaves; the grass would shift and sigh.
Sam wondered if anyone else had seen the human chameleons and kept quiet? Perhaps naturalists kept new species a secret, all the time? But these incredible people deserved their freedom and privacy.
She trudged back to the office and settled into her blue, screened, boxed unit. She tethered herself to the headset and munched on the small packet of biscuits (‘well done for hitting target’ was written on the post-it, attached to the wrapper). They smelled like old margarine. Her coffee was cold. She looked up briefly as the big boss herded a group of shareholders past her designated space. Funny – she didn’t feel liberated by her encounter.
This is my entry for “The one piece of advice I feel qualified to give”
My dear Tony, (she writes with a pink gel pen), what a providence it was that you found me on the Internet. Writing to you has been a real tonic during my stay. I’m not one to complain, but the company in here is not of the highest calibre. It’s so nice to be able to communicate with someone as intelligent and astute as you (she inserts a smiley face – it’s the hip thing to do, these days).
I am glad you have taken my advice to divorce Deborah. You deserve much better. If I weren’t so indisposed, I’d give her a piece of my mind. And remember, kiddies need a mother: a custody battle would be expensive and time-consuming. You’re better off starting a-fresh.
Did I say thank you for the cheque? Well, thank you again. It’s very difficult sorting mother out from in here. You are my knight in shining armour. (Deborah is a fool). Another £200 should see the end of it.
She signs off, eternally grateful, Your Margaret and colours in the tiny love heart. She places the letter and envelope aside for collection and inspection.
Margaret Rutherby opens a small ledger, runs her finger down the index to find the entries that refer to Tony Smith (there are three Tonys on her books, at the moment). She writes £550 in the ‘running total’ column.
They’ll not stop me writing, she thinks, and flips open the Bond stationary pad to a new page. She writes her name and prisoner ID in the top right hand corner and begins,
My dear John…