A Good Son

by Karen J Mossman

 

I was at Pedro’s house and we were making out on the sofa. My head was back, my neck stretched in pleasure, my eyes flicked open and there was his mother looking through the window.

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I don’t think any of us recovered from that as I made a quick exit. Now as I lie in my bed, I feared I was drowning. My eyes wouldn’t open, not that I want them to. Carefully I poked out my tongue, jiggled it about and was rewarded with the strong taste of chocolate. Hmmm! My senses came alive as it rose up my neck until it covered my entire head. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth, I would drown. But how could I resist chocolate? Easter my favourite time of year. As my tongue ventured out again, I expected to feel the luxurious velvety creaminess, but instead, my eyes snapped open and it was all a dream. I was nose-to-nose in bed with Pedro and his brown eyes were looking at me.

“Good morning, Cassie!” he said. “Happy Easter!”

He brought his hand up and perched on his finger was a fluffy yellow chick. Not a real one, of course. Its wired feet were wrapped around his finger. He bobbed it a couple of times.

As I focused on it and then him, his eyes flicked sideways. There on the dressing table was a huge chocolate egg with a big red bow.

I shrieked and leapt out of bed, pulling down my short nightdress as I went. Grabbing the egg, I kissed it. I loved Easter! Pedro was now sitting up bare-chested with an amused expression on his handsome face. Remembering my manners, I skipped back and sat on him, thanking him personally for my special gift.

Just as we were getting into it, his phone rang and sighing I fell back against the pillow. “I have to take this,” he said, stabbing the button with his finger. “Hello, Mother.”

Once more she had come between us, she was constantly ringing, usually at the most inopportune moments. Actually, she didn’t even need inopportune moments to do that. She just rang.

“Can you bring home some milk?” “What are you doing? “When will you be back?” It was always the same. I was sick of his mum. Apart from that day, where I did a quick hop, skip and jump out of the front door, I hadn’t met her, and I already didn’t like her.

-o-

I am a clairvoyant, and there are some aspects of my gift I don’t like. One of them is suicide. So, when the mum of a victim wanted me to accompany her to the place where her daughter died, I already had misgivings. That’s another problem, I find it hard to say no especially when someone is distressed.

The circumstances of this were not pleasant, not that any suicide is. Jess Turner, a girl who seemed to have a lot to live for had ended her life horrifically. It had been in all the papers, I remember sitting in the Dandelion Café reading about it over a cup of coffee.

Jess, whose pretty face had stared up at me from the photograph, wasn’t much older than I was. She had one child, a husband, and loving family – and a dark secret. One day she took herself off to the local park, sat on a bench, doused herself in petrol, and lit a match.

Calling it a tragedy doesn’t do it justice. I wasn’t sure I wanted to communicate with such a troubled and demented soul. You had to be demented to do something like that. I’m sure there were easier ways to die.

So why her mum wanted to come to this place, was beyond me. I met her after work at the park gates; it was already dusk, and the sky was a dark leaden colour. I didn’t know her but guessed she was the lady clutching a flower.

“Cassie?” She came forward to meet me.

“Hello, you must be Sandra.”

“Yes. Thank you for agreeing to come.”

“What would you like me to do? You know I can’t promise anything, don’t you?”

She nodded as we walked together down the path. “I know, but I have to try. I’ve brought this along.” She dug into her pocket and pulled out a hair bobble. “This is hers and she wore it the last time I saw her.”

I looked at it but didn’t take it. “Okay, let’s wait till we get there. Do you know where it is?”

“Not really,” she said putting the bobble back in her pocket. I had a vision of us wandering around in the park after dark trying to find this bench.

-o-.

Back with Pedro, our relationship had taken took a worrying turn. “My mother wants to meet you,” he announced one day while we were making ourselves a drink in my kitchen.

My stomach did a flip. “Why?”

“Why not? You’re my girlfriend, and you can’t hide from her forever.”

“I can,” I said filling two cups with tea and taking them to the sofa. My flat, above a shop, was small, with a lounge and a kitchen to one side. Another door led to the bedroom, and a small bathroom.

“She wants to meet you properly.” He slurped his drink and then placed it on the table before sitting on the sofa. “Cassie, we’ve been seeing each other for over a month. I’ve met your brother, so it’s only fair you meet her.”

“I have met her,” I said sitting next to him.

“I mean properly, not just a wave of your hand as you disappear.”

“Pedro, darling, I don’t think I could look her in the eye,” I said staring at him.

He laughed, “Do you think she’s never had sex? How do you think me and my sister were born?”

I slapped his thigh. “That’s not what I meant. You’re a mummy’s boy, Pedro, and I’m just competition.”

He looked indignant. “I am not!”

“Yes, you are. How many other twenty-eight-year-olds do you know still living with their mums?”

“A lot. It’s practical. Especially since Chantelle disappeared. Anyway, she wants you to come for dinner and I said yes.”

“Oh, Pedro! You didn’t! Why didn’t you ask me first?” I folded my arms as if protecting myself from his words.

“I just did.”

“Except that you’ve already committed me.”

“Oh, stop being a grump!”

I stuck my bottom lip out childishly. I had every reason to be a grump because I didn’t have a choice.

Chantelle was his twin sister who had disappeared. That’s how we linked up in the first place. He wanted me to help find her but I couldn’t.

-o-

It wasn’t difficult to find the place of Jess’s suicide as they’d cordoned off the area with police tape. The actual bench had been removed, but the blackened tarmac remained. There were a lot of flowers, with a variety of messages.

‘Miss you so much.’ ‘I’m sorry this happened.’ ‘You’ll be forever in my heart.’ Every one of them heart-breaking. I tried to keep my eyes averted and not read too many of them. I didn’t want to feel their grief.

Sandra lay down her flower and then dug into her pocket for the hair bobble. I took it and as soon as it touched my skin, I was consumed with feelings of guilt. Not only did the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, goose bumps flooded my arms and shoulders. I felt a piercing heat burn my bones. So much so, I almost lost balance. Sandra’s hand touched my arm, and I grabbed her wrist to steady myself.

Unable to speak, I nodded as the spirit of Jess filled me. Her last seconds of life were horrific. The moment she lit the flame, she panicked as the scorching heat became unbearable. She tried to beat it out, but it spread quickly. Her screaming filled the air, and I tightened my grip on Sandra’s wrist trying to endure it. Her pain became mine, and the terrible secret she’d tried to keep came pouring out. The secret itself was not so bad, at least not bad enough to kill herself for.

In the last few moments of life she had felt a deep sense of regret, not for what she’d done, but for this dreadful end she’d assumed would be was her only way out.

There was no time for tears or escape, one moment she was Jess and the next she was burned embers and bone fragments.

I opened my eyes and was crying as Sandra looked at me with alarm.

“What did you see? What happened?” She asked worriedly.

I couldn’t tell her how I watched her daughter burn in agony. “She was so ashamed,” I said, wiping my face and bringing myself back under control.

“Did she say anything?”

“I picked up on her addiction to other men,” I said tactfully.

Sandra’s face paled. “I know about that. She didn’t have to kill herself for it,” she said in a voice that sounded like a grumble. “What else did she say?”

“At the last minute, she regretted her action.”

“Yes?” she said expecting more.

I looked back at the charcoal-coloured ground and at the trees behind. The birds sang their goodnight melody, and I sighed. “Such a beautiful place to have witnessed such a sad ending.”

“But…but, did she say anything else? Mention anything at all?” Sandra persisted.

I turned to look at her, the hair bobble still twirling around my fingers. “What were you expecting?”

“I wanted her to tell me where she hid the rest of her Grandfather’s money. He left it all to her in his will, but we don’t know what she did with it. I was hoping…” She trailed off, seeing the look on my face.

I handed her back the bobble. “I think we’re done here,” I told her, as the night air turned chilly. There were no ghosts here.

-o-

Pedro’s mum held out her hand. “Hello, my dear, nice to meet you at last. Do come in.” Her red hair was back-combed, and she wore a lot of makeup with dark red lipstick, red nails and a pair of twisted gold hooped earrings. I wondered if she was trying to recapture her youth, or if she was making a statement to prove she wasn’t old yet.

I could feel the blush rising up my neck at the thought of her seeing me in the throes of an orgasm.

“Pedro, mijito,” she greeted, a Spanish word of endearment meaning my little son. “There is wine in the kitchen, go and fetch it while Cassie and I get to know one another. Oh, and turn down the oven while you’re there.”

She took my hand and led me into a back room. It was decorated with Spanish culture in mind. “You will have an apéritif before dinner, won’t you?” She said it in such a way it was difficult to refuse.

“Now, tell me all about you and what you can see.”

Really? “W-what would you like to know?” I asked not wishing to tell her anything. Where was Pedro?

“Well, you see ghosts, don’t you? Pedro has told me about it, and I want to hear it from you. I’m so fascinated.”

“Erm, well, only when they want me to, the ghosts I mean.”

“Ah yes, perhaps if I give you something of Chantelle’s?”

Here we go. “Mrs. Parslow-”

“Please, call me Amia.”

“I can’t tell you if Chantelle is still alive if that’s what you are asking.”

Just then Pedro came back. “Mother leave her alone. You promised you wouldn’t.”

“Well,” she said, taking the bottle of wine as he put three glasses on the table. “It seemed like a good opportunity.” Then she looked at the third glass. “Aren’t you driving later?” she asked him.

“Yes, I’m just having the one.”

“No, put it back. We’ll have no drunk drivers here.”

Amazingly Pedro returned the glass to the kitchen. Just like a good mummy’s boy.

Dinner wasn’t much better as Mrs. Parslow continued issuing instructions or contradicting whatever he said. After we finished eating, Pedro gave an appreciative burp.

“Manners,” she scolded.

“Sorry, Mother.”

“Pour Cassie some more wine,” she told him, and he rose to his feet.

“No, it’s fine, I don’t want any more.”

“Coffee then, anyone?”

I didn’t want coffee either; I wanted out of there. I’d had enough. I don’t know who was worse, him or his bloody mother!

“Could I just have some water?” I asked. “I have the beginnings of a headache.”

“Oh no,” Mrs. Parslow said dramatically. “Get her some tablets while you’re up, Pedro.”

“No, it’s okay,” I blurted. “I’ve got some special ones at home, I’ll take those.” Pedro was staring at me.

“What kind are those, love?” Mrs. Parslow asked. Before I could reply she glared at Pedro. “Stop gawping and get the girl some water.” He turned and left the room.

“Oh, just some the doctor gave me,” I said shaking my head and getting up. “I really should go.”

“Have your water first,” she reminded me.

“I will, thank you. Is the kitchen this way?” Pedro could get my coat at the same time.

I entered the room just as he turned holding the glass of water. “Oh! Are you going?”

“Yes, thank you for a nice meal,” I said taking it and drinking half in one gulp.

“I’ll get your coat then,” he said as I ignored the puzzled glance he gave me.

As I turned to leave, I caught sight of something familiar on the sideboard. It was a huge chocolate Easter egg with a big red bow. Exactly the same as mine.

The end

This story is taken from a collection of short stories featuring Cassie.

The Adventures of Cassidy Newbold

Or a full length story in The Ghost on the Stairs

 

 

 

Churches and Ouija Boards

Dad was a religious man and enjoyed going to church, he also loved the social aspect of it. As a child we as a family went to church every Sunday. Beibng with everyone there made it feel like a family or a community that we fitted into and enjoyed the company of.

In the church hall we went to barn dances, attended shows, and musicals, in which we starred in. There were jumble sales to organise and attend, and I went to the youth club and guides in the hall.

Mum and Dad went to social evenings at different people’s houses. They even went to Benidorm with the minister and his wife. I used to baby sit their children.

The Rose Queen was a great annual event. My sister was Rosebud Queen at one time, and I was a lady in waiting to the Rose Queen hersef. Happy days.

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That’s me in the black and white photo on the far right. I recall having a boyfriend who was a biker and and I bit of a bad boy. I adored him but was hugely embarrassed to be doing this. I think my parents volunteered me. He never found out about it and at that time it was never the person I wanted to be.

We eventually moved away and although Mum and Dad went to other churches, they never quite got the same friendship and social events they had there.

I went to see The Exorcist when it first came out and it terrified me, so much so it put me off horror films for life.

In 2000 Dad got septicaemia and almost died. When he recovered he said he saw a tunnel and he was being urged through it by his mum who was waiting for him. Later he retracted that saying it was the drugs that made him say it. I think he experienced something but it went against what he believed in, so he denied it.

He lived for another ten years, and when he was told he only had a few days left to live, he was so brave. He accepted it was his time to go and to this day I wonder where he is, where he thinks he is, as its hard to accept him not being a conscious mind somewhere.

I’ve never forgotten him telling me about Ouija boards and although I don’t recall the full conversation, it inspired a story called They Came For Him.

There is an interesting article about Ouija boards here if you would like to read it. Meanwhile, They Came for Him is about a girl who goes back to a friends house to play with a Ouija board. What she experiences is will affect her for the rest of her life.

Here is a small extract from the story. If you want to share your experiences, I would be interested to here them.


‘Dad was now running in my direction. His face filled with fear. For one horrible, horrible second, our eyes met before he passed right through me. For that brief moment, I felt his core and spirit. It was part of me again. When he was gone, I felt bereft, like something had been torn away.

Immediately my skin turned ice cold. A raw blackness filled me. For a second, I couldn’t breathe, and then it was gone. I spun around and saw the spectre sweep dad into the road and under the wheels of a passing truck.’

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I don’t like creepy things, do you?

Horror and paranormal is not something I read or watch. I get spooked easily and have a very active imagination. As I teenager I would be plagued by nightmares for weeks. As I grew up I knew to stay away from anything like that.

These two subjects are very big in the book world and there are plenty of people who love a good horror film. Personally I can’t understand why a perfectly sensible and normal person enjoys being scared or frightened. If that’s you, perhaps you could explain what drives you, I’d really like to know.

I wrote a story called Embers of Webster Street and it was about a girl dealing with her mum who suffered from dementia. It’s a difficult subject seeing someone you love forgetting things, and ultimate not always recognising you.

My Nana showed signed of it for years before it was recognised. We thought she was just a bit batty. She was a joker, liked to have a laugh, and I remember what day she was trying to get out of the car, stumbling or struggling a little and we laughed. She asked her if we were laughing at her, we stopped when we realised it was a serious question. Normally, she would have laughed too, and it was at that point I knew something had changed.

My auntie, her daughter, took her in when she could no longer care for herself. Eventually she was admitted to hospital and my sister and I went to visit. By this time she was no longer our Nana, just a shell of a person who couldn’t even speak. It was the strangest thing because she looked like Nana, she had the same eyes, nose and mouth that we knew so well. She was a funny lady, always talking, always joking and yet the woman in front of us stared with blank eyes. It was heart-breaking.

So when I wrote Embers of Webster Street, this was my main topic, only my pen took on a life of its own. It was supposed to tell the story of Jen, who feels tremendous guilt over having to put her mum in a home.  But my pen introduced the ghosts of all the people who had lived in the family home. How her twin sister didn’t see them and  and how her mum couldn’t accept it.

It turned out to be my first paranormal story.

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Steps of a Killer

Screen Shot 2019-08-04 at 16.24.36Hampstead Heath is beautiful in the early morning sunlight. The dew sparkled on the grass giving it a magical appeal. Where I stood, the ground was elevated and I could see the city. People were waking or heading off to work. It was just a normal day for them.

For a moment, I looked over at the trees and breathed deeply. I could feel her. Exhaling, I took another breath and my feet moved in her footsteps. Briefly, my eyes closed as I advanced. This was where she was, where she walked, stumbled and broke into a run. Her feet became mine as I moved with her towards the trees.

I entered a pathway surrounded by trees and knew beyond a doubt this is where she was killed.

My heart is thumped. My breath was jagged and the adrenaline is surged through my veins as I entered a pathway surrounded by trees. Beyond doubt I knew this wass where she was killed.

I become her as a sob escaped me. I felt him following behind. Moving quickly, I stumbled, my head whiped around and his shadow attacked me. Crying out, I threw my arms forward hoping to knock him away. Instead we rolled together on the ground. Me and a shadow from the past.

We came to a stop having hit an obstacle. A shaft of sunlight hits the trees and a beam of light illuminated his face.

Later, I sit alone in the Danilion café sipping my drink and staring out of the window. The high street is full of shoppers. They carry their bulging bags and have no idea a killer could be amongst them. He probably looked like an average man on his way to do his business, to the pub for a drink, or to meet friends. They don’t know what he did. Or the life he took for his personal gratification.

My fingers worked the fabric in my hand, a bit of cloth that came from an evidence bag.

I felt the girl in my core. Her hopes and dreams for a future she will never have. Poor girl. Poor, poor girl.

Coldness enveloped me and for a second everything went silent. I took a sharp intake of breath – he was here! I felt him strongly.

My mind returned to the café and the surrounding people come back into focus. “Excuse me? Is anyone using this chair?” My blood runs cold. It’s the face of the man I grappled with in the forest.

I shook my head, too stunned to speak. He moved the chair to a different table and joins an older man. They chat and I stared at his profile.

His forehead jutted out a little and his hair is side parted, his nose was sharp and long, and he had a slight double chin.

How can he sit there looking like any normal guy?

Pulling out my phone, I selected Seb’s name and listened to it ring. Seb was my brother and a police detective.

“Cassie,” he answered.

“I’ve got him,” I state.

“What? Where?”

“Right here. I’m looking at him.” I was staring at the side of his head, unable to take my eyes from him, unable to fathom how normal he looked when he carries such a terrible secret. I suppose I expected him to look the monster he is.

“Where Cassie? Where are you?”

“The Dandelion café.”

“Okay, I’m on my way.” The phone went dead.

The man’s companion gets up and I hear him say, “Thanks for the coffee.” My eyes burned into the side of the killer’s head. He glances around as he raised the cup to his mouth.

My blood boiled. How dare he just sit there and act normally! He thinks no one knows what he had done but he is wrong. I know! I couldn’t help myself as I stood and moved over to his table to sat in the empty seat. He looked surprised as I said nothing.

“Can I help you?” he asked sounding like a regular guy. Normal voice open expression, friendly even.

Seb was going to be annoyed. He says I’m a loose cannon and unable to contain my feelings. He’s right. I shouldn’t be taking risks like this.

“I know,” I said quietly.

He stareed at me and says, “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”

I wish I could throw the fabric I still have clutched in my fist at him, asking if he remembers it, but because of where it came from, I can’t.

“Yes, you do. I can see it in your eyes.”

He continued to stare, and I could hear the sound of him breathing. “I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”

“No, I haven’t. I know who you are, or rather what you are.”

His Adam’s apple bobs. “And what’s that?”

I looked around. “Do you want me to say it out loud?”

He leaned forward and I flinched as my back pressed into the chair. In a whisper, he said, “You’re crazy, I don’t know you.”

As his breath washed over me, I realised she wasn’t the first one he’s killed.

The shock of his evil breath made me rise to my feet. I shouldn’t have confronted him. He stood up too, scraping his chair on the floor.

Glancing out of the window I urged Seb to hurry. The man gives me a hard stare and strides out the door.

Damn! I rushed after him while putting the phone to my ear and pressed redial.

Seb’s voice comes through and I heard he is on hands-free. His blues and twos echoed down the phone and in the distance, as he approached.

“Can you still see him?” he asked after I explained.

“No, he’s gone. Where are you?”

“Two minutes. I’ll be two minutes. Stay there,” he said urgently, and hung up.

Moving away from the doorway, I looked up and down the high street, stopping sideways to look at the reflections in the shop windows hoping to spot him.

I felt his presence.

Spinning around, he was right behind me. Something sharp pressed against my skin.

“Keep walking,” he commanded. His touch consumed me. My psyche flooded and I saw everything he had done. How those poor girls suffered! I couldn’t do anything except walk with him. I knew beyond a doubt he would plunge the knife without conscience and disappear into the crowd before I even hit the floor.

Where the hell was Seb?

He walked me into an alleyway, and out of sight behind a large dustbin.

Seb! The sirens approached.

The blade was against my throat and his other ha nd was pulling at my skirt and underwear.

“How did you know?” His fetid breath covered my face.

“I know everything,” I told him as the blade broke the skin and I panicked.

“You know nothing!” he hissed.

“I know if you don’t let go, that man over there will kill you.”

He laughed, but still checked as Seb came skidding over. Grabbing him by the neck of his jacket, he threw him to the floor. With a knee in his back, Seb cuffed him.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

I pushed my clothes back into position and wiped the trickle of blood from my neck, Seb yelled at me again. “Yes!” I retorted, and he talked into his radio.

People gathered, wondering what was going on. They shouted in our direction, aiming phones. I tried to keep my face hidden. Seb yelled at them to stay back.

The man, the killer, is struggling on the ground trying to break loose. Seb was having trouble holding on to him. I couldn’t do anything to help as the guy swung round and pulled Seb with him. More sirens got louder as Seb fought to keep a hold on him.

Relief flooded through me as cops spilled into the alleyway. They relieved Seb of his prisoner and he strode towards me.

“You bloody fool!” he sid moving my hand from my neck, shaking his head. “Get that looked at. God, Cass, what the hell were you thinking?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling shaken.

The killer threws us a strange look as they carted him off. My brother, Seb, and I are used to those looks. People often look at us strangely because we look so alike

“At least you’ve got him,” I said as we walked back up to the road.

“Have to link him with the crime yet.”

“Him attacking me will give you time to do that.”

“Don’t tell me my job,” he snapped, and I knew I’m wasn’t off the hook yet, although, he rarely stays mad for long.

An ambulance pulled up and I was glad to get inside, away from the curious eyes and stares. It is just a scratch and a plaster was all that is needed.

Seb drove me home and I took the tongue-lashing, as is par for the course. You see, Seb and I are twins, identical, and it’s unusual for a girl and a boy to be as much alike as we are.

He was a seeker, he always finds what he’s looking for, especially when it’s me. He can zone in on where I am, so I never get lost. Seb has no psychic power, but we work well as a team.

The End

 

This is the first story in The Adventures of Cassidy Newbold. It is available to download for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Also featuring Cassie is The Haunting

 

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My Week in Pictures

by Karen J Mossman

Today is chill out Sunday. A day to sit back and relax, which is what I did. This made me think of the all the things I’d achieved last week.

 

My Week-1

Besides writing, I love crafts and the top row of the picture shows containers made from painted recycled baked beans tins. With a little decoration and a cross stitch picture, they look totally different.

I also played around with pom-poms and made this cool little owl.

Next to that are flowers in a pot made from crocheted daisies.

The pink knitting is actually a multicoloured wool where it changes colour the more you knit. I saw this cute baby hat that seemed quick and easy to make, so started it last night.

I walk my dogs every day and if we go to the park we come across this beautiful palamino horse. Last year, I was calling one of the dogs back, when the horse came running over. Now I make sure I have a carrot with me, so I can give him a shout and and stroke him, too.

Two of my Electric Eclectic books came out in paperback. Distant Time and Down by the River. I’m really looking forward to receiving my copies.

And lastly I have a new Electric Eclectic book coming out. The Magic of Stories has been republished under the EE banner, and is full of short stories and poetry with a new cover and even more content. It will have a slightly different launch to that we have done before. I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

What about your week? What have you achieved or done, we’d love to know

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.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Magic of Stories cover (Jon_s MacBook Air)