Embers of Webster Street

by Karen J Mossman

 

Walking up to the front door, I was about to press the buzzer when the warden appeared. “Your mum’s not herself today, Jennifer.”

“What’s happened?” I asked following her down the corridor to mum’s flat.

“She’s telling everyone John’s coming.”

I pursed my lips, “John’s, my dad. He won’t be coming.”

“That’s what I thought.” She said, pushing open Mum’s door. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”

“Thanks, Megan.”

Mum’s flat was small, a bedroom and bathroom led off the lounge which also incorporated the kitchen. I still felt guilty living in our family home while she lived here.

Mum, wearing a pink sweater with a stain on the front and black slacks was holding a photo of Jessica and me.

“Ah, there you are,” she said, as Jessica came in behind me and sat on the arm of the sofa.

She was stroking the photo with her thumb. “My girls.” She murmured and looked up at me. “Your dad will be here soon.”

I glanced at Jessica who was watching Mum closely. “Mum, dad won’t be coming.” I told her. “Why don’t I make us a cup of tea, instead?”

“Yes,” she said putting down the photograph. “That will be nice. Get an extra cup out, just in case he comes.”

I said nothing as I moved around the kitchen filling the kettle and putting tea bags in the pot.

We sat around the table like we used to, and Mum poured the tea.

“Do you see Dad at all?” she asked.

“I don’t know what you mean.” I stirred my tea. Jessica looked at me and back to Mum.

“Your dad and I said you’d grow out of it, but you haven’t, have you?” I sighed and looked at Jessica.

When I was a child, I talked to people they couldn’t see. Jessica, who didn’t laugh often, thought it was funny until she realised I was serious. She and I were like two halves, she the introvert and me extrovert.

“Who are they and what do you say to them?” She once asked while we were doing puzzles in the front room.

“They’re people who’ve lived and died in this house.” I said, not looking up.

“Aren’t you afraid of them?” Her blue eyes and blonde hair were the mirror image of me.

“No, and you shouldn’t be either.”

“What do they look like?” she asked.

I thought for a moment. “I can’t always tell. I don’t really see them individually.”

She screwed up her eyes in that funny way she has. “What do you mean? I thought you could see them?”

It was hard to describe. “I can, but I see shadows, I suppose; wisps of people doing what they’ve always done when they lived here. I don’t even know if they’re aware of each other.”

Jessica and I had been born in the house on Webster Street and had lived there all our lives. The shadows had been there for longer than we had.

“Wow!” Jessica seemed transfixed as she looked around the room trying to see what I saw. “Cool, you better not tell Mum and Dad, though. They’ll think you’re silly.”

I never did, which was why Mum’s question lingered in the air. Jessica looked glum.

“You haven’t grown out of it, have you, Jennifer?” Mum repeated.

I couldn’t discuss it with her and especially not now. “Mum…”

“We knew you were different but didn’t know what to do about it.” She was having one of her lucid moments and it made my heart ache. “You were the only one who didn’t cry at your dad’s funeral.”

Without thinking, I said. “That’s because he was standing next to you.” Jessica put her head in her hands and groaned.

“You can’t do this!” Mum shrilled, getting to her feet and knocking over the dining chair. “I’ll get Jessica to stay with me. She was always the nicer one, now get out!”

There was no reasoning with her when she went off on one like this. It would end up with us all being upset if I tried. So, I left and went down to find Megan, who was sitting in her office chatting to a Home Help. I tapped on the door to get their attention and they turned to look at me.

“Sorry to interrupt, but I can’t reason with her and it’s best just to walk away. Will you keep an eye on her? She should calm down now I’ve gone.”

The Home Help looked sympathetic and Megan said, “Of course. I’ll pop down there in a minute to see if she’s okay.”

I nodded, “Thanks. Give me a ring if there are any problems.”

“She’ll be fine, I’m sure.” Megan said with a smile.

It wasn’t far to walk home, that’s why I liked the accommodation Mum was in, convenient to get to day or night. I put my head down and with hands in my pocket tried not to think of the how it always hurt when she did that. I wanted my mum back, and that would never happen now. Even her lucid moments were getting less.

I didn’t notice the car till the horn blared and Tom, my boyfriend got out. I say boyfriend and although I liked him, it was hard being in a relationship when Mum was this difficult. Tom was a good man who didn’t push me and was always supportive.

Three years ago, I dialled 999 when Dad fell off a ladder hitting his head on the paving stones. He died instantly, and Tom was one of the first police officers on the scene.

Mum, who already lived her life in profound shock, went downhill from there.

Tom got out of the passenger door. “Jen?”

“Oh hello, I was miles away. I’ve just been to see Mum. She’s had another turn.”

He walked with me and the car crawled alongside us driven by his colleague. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I know it’s upsetting. She can’t help it now. I think it’s time to make that phone call, don’t you?”

I knew in my heart of hearts I needed to ring Social Services and have them assess her again. But even though her lucid moments were getting less, they always made me hesitate. “I know you’re right.” I said giving him a half-hearted smile. “It’s just so…” I trailed off.

“Difficult,” he finished for me.

“Yes. I know I have to face it sooner rather than later.” We stopped at my garden gate. “I just feel so guilty all the time.”

Tom put his hand on my arm and said, “I know you do and you really shouldn’t. It’s not your fault, Jen. You did the right thing for her and you must do it again. Make that phone call.”

Tom was so always so wise. “I know.”

Tom turned to his partner in the car. “Des, I’m going to walk Jen inside.”

“I’m fine, honestly.” I told them looking at Des as well. I didn’t want to get them in trouble.

“He had a curry last night, so yeah, it’ll give me a break.” Des quipped.

“Ignore him,” Tom said, and I smiled.

There was always banter between those two and they often made me laugh even when I didn’t want to. We walked up the path to the from door.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” I relented, as he seemed intent on coming in.

“Never say no to a cuppa. You know me.”

I put the key in the lock. “Well, your daft mate better come as well.”

Des didn’t need telling twice, and I knew they would take it as an opportunity to skive. Tom went straight up to use the toilet and Des lingered in the hall talking on his phone.

I went through to the kitchen, put my coat over the chair, and filled the kettle trying not to think about what Mum had said when Jessica appeared.

“Don’t say anything, favourite child,” I told her, forcing a smile. It wasn’t Jess’s fault, poor love.

As Des came into the kitchen and Tom down the stairs, Jessica retreated.

“So, what happened this time?” asked Tom, leaning against the table.

“Just the usual really. You know what she’s like.”

Des looked out into the back garden, “My nan was like that, normal one minute, unreasonable the next. We never knew what mood she would be in.”

“It’s more than that, Des,” said Tom as I put the bags in the teapot and filled it with hot water.

“Oh, I know, I was just saying. I sympathise with you, Jen. I know what it’s like.”

“Let’s go out tonight?” Tom suggested.

“Oh! I’d love to, thanks for asking,” said Des and I laughed. Tom picked up a tea towel and threw it at him before turning back to me.

“Ignore him. We could try that new Italian place on the high street.”

“Desranos?”

“Yes, that’s the one. It would be good to get your mind on something else for a change, what do you say?”

I nodded. “Yes, okay.”

“I take it I’m not invited, then?” said Des.

“No!” Tom and I said at the same time and grinned.

“Seriously though.” said Des. “I went the other week, and it was nice. The food’s really good.”

I handed them the tea, and we all stood in the kitchen drinking when their radio burst into life. They had a shout and quickly left. I emptied their tea down the sink just as Jessica came back into the room.

“I know,” I said, as she always knew what I was thinking. “I shouldn’t commit to a relationship when he doesn’t know about this?” I swept my hands around the ghostly images. “And there’s Mum, she needs me even if she doesn’t always know it.”

Jessica remained impassive as I turned away and washed the cups.

A couple of days later Mum walked in through the back door.

“What are you doing here?” I gasped, abandoning the meat I was frying.

“I want to see Jessica and I want to see John!” she demanded.

She went into the front room where Jessica was sitting. “So! You’re keeping secrets from me, are you?”

“Mum! Please!”

“And where’s John, where’s your dad?”

“I can’t just bring him back like that. You shouldn’t be here. How did you get out?”

“I walked, how do you think? Anyway, I heard you telling Jessica that you could summon anybody, and I want to see John.”

“I know you do, but I was a child then. It’s not like that now. They need to be left alone.”

She was poking around the room, peering behind the sofa and curtains. “They? Who are they? Where are they?”

“Nobody’s here, Mum.” I said, trying to be patient, but she wouldn’t listen.

“Yes, they are. They’re always here.” She carried on looking determined to find something. “You said that. I heard you say it.”

I looked at Jessica, and she wore that haunted guilty look.

Running out of the room she said. “I’ll find them. I will, I’ll find them.” As she went upstairs, I was just about to follow her when I smelled burning. The meat!

The frying pan had caught fire and ignited the curtains. Panicking, I threw a tea towel over it, but it caught fire too. Thick smoke billowed and engulfed the kitchen forcing me out into the hallway.

It happened so fast and Mum was upstairs! I covered my mouth and nose with my arm and tried not to cough.

“Mum! Mum!” I screamed expecting her to appear.

I was just about to go after her when I was grabbed around the waist. I’d hardly registered someone kicking down the door as they pulled me outside.

“My mum! My mum!” I screamed, but they didn’t listen as the flames headed for the stairs.

Within minutes a fire engine had arrived, and everything became chaotic and surreal. Water hoses spurted at the windows and fireman with breathing apparatus went inside. They put ladders against the upstairs window and I watched with horror as they headed up.

People gathered round to watch and as I sobbed, I could see faint shadows in the windows. Thick smoke poured out of them, and flames licked the gutters through the broken glass.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 10.57.19They brought Mum out, and it was too late. Once I had been checked over for smoke inhalation, Tom took me back to his house as I had nowhere else to go.

The following day I insisted on going back to see the embers of Webster Street. My family home was burnt to the ground.

His arm was around me as I stood and sobbed. “I don’t understand why you need to see this. You’re only torturing yourself.”

One day I would tell him although I’m not sure he’d understand. I took a final look at Mum, who for the first time looked happy. Dad, his arm around her protectively had the twinkle back in his eyes. Finally, standing next to them was Jessica, my depressive, suicidal sister.

This is just one of the stories in The Magic of Stories book. It is available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited. Or to buy from all good book stores.

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The Magic of Stories cover (Jon_s MacBook Air)

What is Flash Fiction? It’s this…

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction.

Fewer words often tell a better story, I think.  So I’ve had a play about with words.

Addicted to Love

I love…..

I loved……

I cried……..

I saw, I took, I loved and I lost.

That sums it up really.  He was handsome and kind and when he asked me out, I said yes. I took the love he offered. It was good, really good. I drank from him and I waded through a pool of caresses and kisses. I indulged, I supped, I enjoyed.

I became dependant, possessive, needful and addicted. It was too much. No good shutting the door after the horse’s bolted, Granny said. It was one of herf avourite saying and its pity I didn’t listen.

How do you wean yourself from addiction? Time will heal, says Granny and this time I’m trying to listen. It’s hard and it hurts. I’ve cried, I’ve yearned and I’ve learnt.

This was a compilation of shorts I wrote a few years ago.

Albert

Albert loved to watch the children play in the school yard. Their voices filled hish eart with happiness, but someone reported him as suspicious. Now all Albert watches is trains.

This was a dream I had, so not all of it makes completele sense. But I think you will get the gist of it. It stuck in my mind because of the shock of what happened at the end. It felt so real.

And The Ship Went Down

I’d gone with a small group of tourists back in time. We were observers and everything around us was in black and white.  Just like a film except that we were there.

In the corridor people had spilled out of cabins shouting and pushing to get out. They couldn’t see us as we stood watching like observers.

A woman shouted above the noise, “It’s all right we;re going on again.” Just for a moment the panic subsided and then I realised we weren’t going on, we were going down, and at the same time I realised it, so did they. The ship was sinking!

The panic and bedlam rose up again. People began falling as the ship tilted. Among them were children who were getting trampled in the panic.  I could hear each individual scream and it was horrific.

We scrambled to the back of the ship and stood waiting.  I could see land not too far off as it tilted and the sea was further away. There was no question of jumping, it was like contemplating jumping off a cliff.

With awful suddenness we realised something had gone wrong, we were going down with it, and the water the rushing towards us, “I don’t like this, I want to go,” I shouted above the noise.  This was too real, not what I expected at all!

We began to sing the code word, Red Tomato, Red Tomato, Red Tomato, and nothing happened. The wind rushed in my ears and the people in my party started singing, “We are English, We are English.”  Did that matter? What was that for?

Apart the abject terror, there was no time to panic as water rushed up my legs and over my head. I will swim, I thought, soon as I’m under the water, I shall swim away, and back up to the surface.

I didn’t count on the whoosh, and of sucking sensation that sent me turning and spinning.  Then I stopped and was floating. I waited for the pain that goes with drowning. I looked across the murky water to see other people who had been sucked down too. Inthat tiny millisecond I realised I didn’t know which way was up and I wasn’t going to get to the surface. Then my breath ran out. I had no choise but to breath in and fully expected it to be sea water. It wasn’t. It was fresh air. I was alive! My eyes opened and it was a dream….only a dream…

Cooking

When I withdrew the knife, I smiled.

This would be better.

I liked to cook in the kitchen, especially on my own.

It was when I got to the sink I realised the knife still had his blood on it.

Torture

A pulse was beating in my temple which exploded into a full blown headache as I saw them come for me. I was taken down a white walled corridor as my stomach churned. I felt sick.

A light above me flickered as hysteria bubbled inside. The door opened and he was standing there waiting for me, a glint in his eyes. I didn’t want to look at the cold, sharp instruments lying on the table. I could smell fear in the room as the blood rushed through my veins and pounded in my ears. For a moment, I thought I was going to faint.

I’d seen others coming out, their faces as white as the walls.  Somewherea tap dripped. The bright light above was aimed like a spotlight illuminating the area of kill. Oh god!

Hands were on my shoulders making me lay back and terror consumed me. I caught the sight of ametal hook and broke out into a cold sweat.

A hush descended the room, the only sound was my breathing. A sweet sickly smell swept though my nostrils as goose bumps marched down from my shoulders.

Thank god they had changed it to 12 monthly appointments, as I couldn’tgo through this every time I needed a dentist check up.

The Mistake

I’m 30 and I’m single. Is that unusual? I don’t really care because I am happy with who I am.

I’m Christina; I live alone with my cat, Henry. I’ve had plenty of boyfriends and have a good social life. I love men and always have, but haven’t found the one to settle down with.

Life was good, I have a good job and my own my flat, but last weekend my life turned upside down.

It’s hard to put into words and I’m struggling to come to terms with what happened. My whole life has been thrown into disarray. I don’t know who I am any more. My self-confidence has plummeted.

You see I went to a party. My friend dropped out at the last minute and I decided to go on my own. Lots of people were there and I always find it interesting meeting new people. I’m waffling; I know I am waffling, putting off the moment I have to tell you.

You see, I kissed another woman.

There, I’ve said it. It was a full blown necking session with wandering hands. Every time I think about it, my stomach flips and I go cold. I love men. How could I do that?

I feel sick, indeed I have been sick. I’m not a lesbian, I’ve never thought of another woman that way. I love men. I love everything about them. I love sex – with a man. I’m repulsed at the thought of sex with another woman simply because I’m not gay.

So why did I end up kissing another woman? I don’t know. She liked me. She made all the moves. At first Ithought she was being attentive and naively thought she found me interesting. When she began touching me, I didn’t think anything of it. When I realised she being over affectionate, I knew I’d drank too much, and because I lwas enjoying it. Before I knew what was happening, we were outside. She was smiling at me in a way that was disconcerting. Then she began kissing me, it was passionate, it was nice, my eyes were closed. Then I opened them.

I expected to see a handsome hunk, instead there was a pretty women. I felt let down, and cheated.

My friend told me to chalk it up to experience. She said it happens to most people at some point in their lives. At least, she said, you know who you are now.

But then I always did. I love men.

I See Things

I am a normal ordinary person, or I would like to think that I am. I’ve lived in our house for 18 years and was brought up by a loving family. I’ve never had any problems. That was until recently. Now I see things.

I don’t particularly believe in ghosts. I’ve never seen one, at least I don’t think of what I see as ghosts. If they aren’t, what are they?

Well, they are small, dark blobs I see from the corner of my eyes. Suddenly they run across the room or they run up the walls. When I turn my head to look properly, they’ve gone, escaping to wherever it is they are running to.

Sometimes I think things live in this house, things we never knew were here and living along side us.  Now I know they are here, I worry. Where are they when I can’t see them?  Why do they dash everywhere and why can’t I see them as they really are?

I hear them at night too, as I lie awake in the dark. I can’t describe the soundt hey make but it is there and muffled in the silence. Where are they in the darkness? Are they crawling up the walls and dashing across the floor? It makes me shiver, and worry as to who else is living in our house with us.

Night Time Cuddles

“Do you know I love you very much,” he whispered.

“That’s very nice.”

“Very nice? What kind of an answer is that?”

“I’m just saying, that’s all.”

“You never say nice things to me.”

“Yes, I do.”

“When?

“Well, erm, I told you that jumper looked nice.”

“I’d just bought it.”

“Yes, well, I say other things too.”

“Like what?”

“I thanked you for washing up, didn’t I?”

“That doesn’t count.”

She giggled and snuggled closer.

“You’re a crazy woman, you know that?”

“That’s why you love me.”

“I do. Very much. Now go to sleep.”

Treachery

Mrs Horseface was very angry and I hung my heard.

“Somebody better own up or you are all going to be punished.”

Keeping my head bowed, I moved my eyes to Charlie on the right and Ian and Shaun on the left.

“It was her, miss,” said Charlie.

I looked up sharply in time to see the other boys nod in agreement.

Mrs Horseface turned to me and I shrunk from her stare.

“Right, get out, you three.”

And my so-called friends, didn’t need telling twice. They shot out of the door as I hunched my shoulders.

“You better explain yourself, right now Sophie Clark.”

“Erm, I’m sorry Mrs Horsley, I…I….”

“Yes? I am waiting.”

“I…well, you see….”

“Spit it out,”

“It was Charlie, he made me do it, said as my Dad was a gardener and I should pull them up.”

“Do you realise they were only planted in the spring and they were going to flower in this autumn? They’re not going to flower now, are they?”

“No Miss.”

“I shall be writing to your mother and father.”

“Oh, no, please don’t do that, miss. I shall put them back.”

“Hold out your hands.”

Reluctantly I did.

My hands were smarting so much when I came out of her office, but that didn’t stop me punching Charlie on the nose.

Like these? Some and more are featured in The Magic of Stories book. It’s on offer at 99p/c and free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

The Magic of Stories cover (Jon_s MacBook Air)

 

 

Playing the Game

Play the Game is a book by Karen J Mossman and it has a great story.

“He couldn’t take responsibility for me as it was tough looking after himself.”

Blue Girl

This is Stella talking about her dad. All she ever wanted was his love again, but he never recovered from the shock that tore their family apart.

Someone had to be strong and Stella took on that role, always living in hope that her dad would come back to her.

Meanwhile Stella’s own life was non existent as she fought to pay the bills and keep them afloat.

That was until she met Kelly. Taking refuge from the cold in a hotel, there he was and they struck up a conversation.

Dating was never on her horizon and the thought scared her and she almost backed out.

But she went, and knew she had to keep her dad a secret. She never guessed Kelly had a secret of his own.

She found out from the cruel girls as work. Just another way to mock her.

Can Kelly and Stella make it through their secrets?

Read Play the Game to find out!

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Play the Game is an Electric Eclectic novelette and can be read in one sitting. All books are just £1/$1/€1

Lonely Girl

 

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