An Extraordinary Fellow

We’ve gone to The Mills for the weekend. There’s chicken pie in the oven. See you Sunday xxx

She removed the note from the door and folded it, before putting it into one of the exercise books under her arm. It was from her parents; they would always leave notes for her with a small corner poking out of the letterbox, just to make sure she didn’t miss them.

Whenever she read one of their notes, she thought about how much easier a mobile phone would make their life and hers.

*

She resented the concept of homework, but she knew that she was more likely to pass school if she put in more hours.

The television was turned off and the music was at a minimal volume. The front-room’s primary light was off; the corner-lamp illuminated her surroundings.

Her solace was shattered by a piercing double-thud from the front door.

She wasn’t told to expect anybody.

She put down her pen and stood. As she peered around the living-room door, her cautious side told her that the chain’s on and to leave it and they’ll go away.

At twenty-five minutes to midnight, there wasn’t a lot that could convince her to open it.

*

She sat down on her sofa with her legs pulled to her chest and wondered who’d want to bother her on a Friday night.

The corner of her eye convinced her that someone peered at her from behind the curtain. Her head shot to its direction and she could see nothing unusual.

Seeking confirmation that her imagination was getting the better of her, she approached the curtains. She pulled them back to nothing but the front window, and the taxidermied hawk perched on the stone sill.

She re-closed the curtains and sat on the sofa; she felt that continuing with her homework would be the best thing to occupy her mind.

*

Something stood from behind her and loomed over her as she wrote.

*

She thought she felt a brush against the top of her head; she rose and looked behind the sofa.

She found nothing, but the absence didn’t alleviate her unease. Perhaps, she thought, tea would help.

As the kettle boiled, she texted her boyfriend.

Hope you’re having a nice time. I keep hearing some strange noises around the house, reckon you can stop by for a bit on your way home? X

Mum and Dad were tidy, and they had left the house in spotless condition. She wiped the sideboards, straightened the spice rack, moved the fruit bowl from the sideboard to the table, and wiped the sideboards again; she felt like she needed to keep her mind occupied, even if that meant cleaning to a higher standard than is necessary.

*

Something walked to and stood in the doorframe and stared at her.

*

She filled her mug with water from the kettle and picked it up; she thought she could feel a presence behind her. She turned around.

*

As something raised its left hand and curled its fingers into an almost-wave, she dropped the kettle and mug. The mug smashed and covered the floor in the first stage of tea.

*

She looked back up to see nothing in front of her. As fast as she could, she bolted for her bedroom. As soon as she reached it, she slammed the door behind her and dived under her duvet.

*

Terror commandeered her body; inescapable distress inhabited her mind.

Her bedroom door exploded with the same double-thud that invited her outside.

The door creaked open and he crept in.

There wasn’t a piece of his skin that showed. At the end of his brown long sleeves were black-and-white striped cuffs; at the end of them were a pair of white gloves covered with red stains. He was dressed in calico dungarees, the thighs of which were also covered with red stains. His boots were the most menacing piece of attire and it looked like his choice of footwear was made with function in mind.

His collar matched the stripes of his cuffs and his hair was such a vibrant red that it was as if he was engulfed by a mane of embers.

White paint covered his face and neck. Black paint covered the area around his eyes.

Red around his mouth.

He inched towards her bed and slithered on top of her.

*

She pulled back the duvet and stared into his black eyes.

She knew him.

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Manufactured Paradise

I am a ghost.

Walking alone in public reminds me what I probably look like. They avoid eye contact; they don’t want to see me.

They think I’m homeless. Well, I am. But I’m not houseless. Almost.

I turn off the main road and here I am, here is the street where I’ve made many memories.

I’d lived in this place my entire life but I couldn’t keep up with the repayments a few years back so I got evicted. Nobody moved in the house after me; they stopped seeming to care about it so I moved back in a few months ago. I’m not there completely legally; it’s somewhere between stolen rent and squatting.

Things are tough at the moment. My main problem is getting through the day without some sort of something. I have my favourites, but most things will do.

Everything else is a distant second and third.

I pull myself over the fence and navigate the mess of a garden. It’s no later than five, but it’s winter so it’s getting dark. It’s cold, too; just not cold enough for me to see my breath.

I pull myself up and through the broken kitchen window and crawl along the sideboard. The glass on my knees has become such a regular thing that it’s pretty much painless now.

I find my feet and walk to the light switch. I try to press it multiple times but nothing happens, before I remember hearing the whispers that they were going to shut off everything to here.

I don’t know what to do; I’ve got no electricity, probably no gas or water, and, most importantly of all of life’s necessities, I’ve got no ticket.

Or, have I?

I may have left a small rock somewhere. I don’t think it’s in the kitchen; it may be somewhere in the living room. I lift the cushions from both sofas and it isn’t there; it isn’t in any cupboards or drawers; I open up every single DVD case I own and it isn’t in any of them; and it isn’t hiding in any of the room’s corners.

I sit on the sofa that’s seen better days.

I look through the mess of magazines and printed media on the floor; I find what I’m looking for wrapped in tissue paper, and I find my journal. I open a random page and move my finger as it hovers over it. I put my finger down and open my eyes.

I suggested a week in Milan; Lily suggested some kind of spa break. Cynthia laughed at us both and it immediately dawned on me the ridiculousness of our ideas. She asked us if we fancied doing something a little more “out there” and I wondered what she was pushing us towards. As soon as we said yes, she told us that she had organised a crazy few days packed with white-water rafting, rock climbing, abseiling, mountaineering, paint balling, bungee jumping, all topped off with a skydive.

That’s Cynthia.

My pipe lays on the arm of my chair and I feel as though it’s asking for my acquaintance. As I think about how much I’ve waited for this all day, and how different it will all feel in a few seconds, my lighter is doing nothing. I think the flint is gone because it won’t spark at all. I’ll be lucky to find another now; I was very lucky to even find one, functional or not.

Sadness kicks me one more time as I remember that I also don’t have a working stove that I could use. I’m not even sure how lighting a pipe on a stove would work, but it’d be nice to have the choice.

I throw the pipe and lighter on the floor, and throw myself back onto the sofa. Deflated and nearly defeated, I start to wonder what to do to pass the time. At least it’s a treat every time I’m reminded of just how good being horizontal feels.

Another venture down memory lane might be good. Another random page. Another random paragraph.

I visited Cynthia today.

Another Cynthia story.

We arrived a few minutes before 7pm; the nurses were kind enough to let us sit around her just in time for her waking up for her evening medication.

It’s probably just about Cynthia in this part of my journal. Writing my thoughts seemed to be the only non-consumable thing that made life bearable.

The first thing I clocked when we got to her bedside was a familiar potent aroma, before I noticed the fresh posy of lavender on her cabinet. She loves that flower and I’m reminded of her whenever I smell it.

I haven’t been able to smell lavender since Cynthia died.

I need to stop thinking about her. I miss her.

Maybe writing in my journal might help. I turn to a fresh page, and put pen to paper.

Nothing.

I expect nothing less.

Well, my pen won’t write. It physically won’t write. If it could, it might write about how I’ve been feeling today.

It’s been a weird one. Most days have been weird ones since I went cold turkey. I did okay, for a while, at least.

It was the sleepless nights that got me. The days weren’t too bad after a few weeks. They were bearable, and some were, dare I say, enjoyable.

If I wasn’t wide-eyed in bed until sunrise, I was having some dark nights.

I didn’t have to look far to find something to plug the new gap. I’m content with my choice because it’s easier to smoke, so it’s a bit more convenient than a needle.

“Convenient” is an odd word, all thing considered.

It’s never agreed with me; some of my worst times have been carried by that. I don’t know if it’s too powerful for my body, or too intense for my mind. Probably a bit of both.

Last night I went for a walk; last night I met Daria, Adam, and the rest of those that sleep under Eastbourne Bridge; last night my mind was blown, almost literally.

They were passing a pipe of it round. Of course they were; it’s the easiest thing to get.

When Daria passed me the pipe, I knew I shouldn’t. My mind said no and my body said no. I inhaled.

The next thing I remember was waking up sometime this evening. Well, late afternoon and almost evening. The sky was half-dark; I looked around to see every one of my circle of acquaintances fast asleep, but I could still hear the noise of the real world above.

I decided not to wake anyone as I had no real need to. I found my shoes and headed straight here. That was probably about four. And that’s today. That’s my day. Not an eventful day, but a day.

The ceiling needs a clean. The lampshade needs a clean. I tuck my chin to observe my surroundings; my interlinked hands not daring to move from the back of my head. I look around the room and, if nothing else, the sight of this mess reminds me that I’m home.

The whole place needs a clean. And more.

I let my head fall back onto the armrest, and my eyelids soften into their respective counterparts.

The sofa is my temporary salvation, and I’d melt into it if I could.

I approach the edge of sleep, when a jolt of awakening races through my body.

I don’t want to open my eyes but I know somebody is standing in the doorway behind me.

I can’t see them.

I can hear their tiny movements.

I can smell lavender.

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Quiet And Peace

The remains of the sun’s life lingered in the twilit sky; the structure was enveloped by a cloud of no hue.

A ghost train was not normally known to be one of the crown jewels of a funfair. The Midnight Hour pulled people from the furthest stretches of land, and drew some from across the ocean. It was mostly black, except for faded images of ghosts. There were no witches, or zombies, or werewolves, or mummies. Even Frankenstein’s monster himself was nowhere to be seen.

‘It’s two tokens each. Four in a cart,’ said the ticket-master.

‘Four people, please,’ said Harriet.

‘Are you scared of lights? Or are you scared of dark?’

It felt like he was neither here nor there; he was unnerving, and being within five metres of him forced discomfort and apprehension. The abrupt cutting of conversational corners was contradicted by his flowing enunciation and tone of voice; his shadowing presence by his wacky top-hat and monocle; his jewel-encrusted cane and three-piece dinner-suit by a brawny frame that looked just shy of seven feet. He was a manifestation of The Midnight Hour’s spirit.

Harriet paused, almost as if in disbelief at the impromptu poetry. ‘Perfect,’ she said as she re-counted the eight tokens in her hands. She put them on the counter and pushed them to the ticket-master.

His stare shifted between counting the tokens and analysing the three friends that stood behind her.

‘Right,’ he said as he stepped out of the booth, ‘be seated.’ He gestured towards the cart.

‘I haven’t been on a ghost train since I was about seven,’ said Bobby as he sat in the front.

‘Really?!,’ said Harriet, taking her seat at the back.

‘I don’t think I’ve ever been on one,’ said Joseph, as he sat next to Bobby.

‘This better be as good as you say it is,’ said Rob, as he took the remaining seat next to Harriet.

‘It’s nothing crazy and it’s not super thrilling; it’s just a bit of silly fun. You’ll love it,’ she said.

The ticket-master pulled down the cart’s two lap-bars. ‘We don’t want you running away, do we?’ He half-smiled at Harriet.

‘Why does a ghost train need safety restraints?’ said Joseph.

The ticket-master reached into the booth and pulled the lever; the cart started to crawl.

‘Mind yourselves,’ he said.

The cart continued through along the track through the main doors; The Midnight Hour had begun its passage.

*

In a heartbeat, darkness consumed every wave of light. Less than two minutes after the cart started moving, it stopped. The ride’s sounds stopped, and silence thickened the air like a toxic fume.

‘Well, this is fun,’ said Harriet.

‘CAN YOU HEAR ME?’ a voice from the outside called; it was muffled and muted, but the words were just about intelligible.

‘YEAH, FINE,’ Joseph replied, ‘WE’VE BROKEN DOWN.’

‘YEAH, THE POWER IN THIS END OF THE PARK HAS GONE. JUST STAY SEATED AND WE’LL HAVE YOU OUT IN FIVE MINUTES.’

‘COOL, THANK YOU.’

‘You never forget your first time,’ said Bobby.

‘Apparently so,’ said Joseph.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Harriet, ‘not too great, is it?’

‘It’s alright, just one of them things,’ said Rob.

‘We’d better get our tokens back,’ said Joseph.

‘Yeah, and find something that won’t break down,’ said Bobby.

‘Have any of you been in a hall of mirrors?’ said Harriet.

The conversation was forced to a halt by three consecutive loud thuds from outside. ‘WE’LL GET YOU OUT SHORTLY,’ someone else called.

‘YEAH, WE KNOW. THANKS,’ Joseph called back.

‘FIVE MINUTES.’

‘YES. THANKS.’

The persistent silence created a void once again; it was peculiar that no sounds seeped in from outside.

When those on the other side stopped shouting through and banging the walls, it was like the ride was on a mountaintop and there wasn’t a soul around for tens of miles. A pin could fall in the furthest corner of the room, and it would be as resounding as a jumbo’s jet. The quiet was comforting and none of them felt forced to shatter it with small-talk. They each had a mobile phone, so time could be killed if they chose to do so; instead, they embraced the situation.

Harriet thought about how content she was; fairgrounds were her favourite place to be. A similar awe was felt by Bobby, and his internal-voice couldn’t help but chuckle at his predicament. Joseph and Rob were old friends that hadn’t seen one-another in over a year. Joseph had moved overseas for work and he had now come home to visit family and friends. They also saw the humorous side of their reunion.

Bobby’s whelp broke the silence.

‘Bobby?…Bobby?’ said Rob.

There was no response.

Joseph tapped Bobby on the arm.

‘He’s not moving’, said Joseph.

‘Can you hear breathing?’ said Harriet.

They all silenced themselves. ‘I’m not sure,’ said Joseph, ‘let me check his pulse.’

As Joseph put his hand on Bobby’s neck, he gasped in petrification.

‘What?’ said Rob.

‘Blood. I think it’s blood. A lot of blood,’ said Joseph.

Joseph got out his phone and turned the light on. He shone it on Bobby to seek confirmation of his suspicion.

He turned the light off as quickly as he turned it on. Rob wanted to scream for help; he couldn’t see the blood itself from where he was sat, but he could see the red glow of light that surrounded Bobby under the light. He gathered his last few fragments of will that hadn’t been ravaged by terror. As he started to exhale, his volume increased at the speed of sound, but he didn’t scream for help; he managed a-fraction-of-a-second of a shriek before the darkness was blackened by a brief silence.

‘Rob?’, said Joseph.

Rob made no subsequent noises.

‘What do we do?’ said Harriet. Both Harriet and Joseph were frozen and neither could turn any way but forward.

Joseph lifted Bobby’s arms and removed the bar from their laps. ‘We have to run,’ he whispered.

‘Now?’

‘Now.’

‘But what about the safety bars?’

‘Electric’s gone. Lift it.’

‘I know, but I can’t lift Rob’s arms.’

‘In a couple of seconds,’ whispered Joseph, ‘I’ll shine a light back there, I’ll lift his arms. As soon as I do, you get out the cart. I’ll run for the door; run as fast as you can behind me and don’t stop running.’

‘Okay.’

‘Light’s going on in three.’

Harriet opened her eyes.

‘Two.’

She inhaled as much air as she could through her nose.

‘One.’

Joseph turned on his light. He shone it towards a dead Rob and a Harriet who looked to be bleeding heavily. He noticed that her bar was raised; he was momentarily perplexed.

Harriet screeched at the top of her voice.

The light was caught by something shiny in her hand and it commanded his sight.

The last thing he saw was Harriet’s smirk, and the last thing he thought about was how much she wanted them all to go on the ghost train.

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Burning The Midnight Oil

She buttered the toast and thought about tomorrow. It was unusual for her to eat so close to bedtime.

Tea and toast and shower; teeth and tired and bed.

Dreams of neverland and foreverland. Aesthetic symphonies and auditory feasts; stranger than perfection for as far as the senses could sense.

She wrote seven pages of rubbish about a rock; there was a party in the jungle and everyone was invited. There was a second party – a party that could only be reached by boat. A party at sea, almost; the Gardens of Eden.

There was a sitting man who looked like he was enjoying life more than anybody else ever could.

England. Holland. England. Canada. England.

Sunrise. It felt beautiful; iron faces and golf-ball eyes.

She enquired as to where the music was coming from. The apple was eaten; she was happy to be going home and not to the third.

Her thoughts stopped dead; she felt her body follow. She thought she felt her body follow.

She was in a room that she recognised from childhood, and she was sat on the end of the bed with her feet touching the floor, next to a friend she knew from previous years in her life, but later than childhood. Another friend from the same chapter of her life entered the room, and the sitting friend stood to greet the standing friend with a hug.

She couldn’t move. She couldn’t move in her dream, and her thoughts couldn’t move in her reality.

‘Go to sleep if you need to,’ said the friend who stood first.

At the seventh hour, the bells rang and she awoke to the world.

Shower and toast and teeth.

With a step of her spring, she strolled under the sun’s spark like she was the first and last person to possess life.

A day like today wasn’t as good as tomorrow, yet a day like today was better.

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The Living Dead

‘Yeah, it’s good to get out once in a while.’

She takes a mouthful from her glass of wine and gently nods her head in agreement.

‘Even if it’s just for a meal,’ I say, before taking a sip of my beer.

‘”Just”?’

‘Well, no, not that. I’ve been looking forward to this for as long as I can remember.’

‘I’m starving. Perhaps we should have got a starter.’ It’s like her fingers are independent of the rest of her body as they impatiently start to score a symphony of tapping on the table.

‘Perhaps. Do you think the kids are alright?’

‘They’ll be fine, you know they will.’

‘But it’s been….’

‘…years since we’ve been apart from them,’ she says, ‘and they’ll be fine.’

‘If you could be any animal in the world,’ I say, noticing her hint at rolling her eyes, ‘what would you be and why?’

‘A dodo.’

‘Why?’

‘Deaf as a dodo,’ she says.

‘Dead. As dead as a dodo.’ I smile at her.

‘Dead; deaf; I’d rather be either than small-talking.’

I feel my smile dissolve in a heartbeat.

‘Come on, you know I’m only messing,’ she says. She looks over my shoulder and picks up her knife and fork.

‘I know.’ I find my smile. ‘I love you.’

‘Aw,’ she says, as she looks into my eyes, ‘me too.’

‘I’ve got one East Side Burger with chips. I think it’s a double, too,’ says the waitress.

‘That’ll be mine, please,’ I say.

She puts my meal on the table in front of me and recites the other half of our order, ‘For you, carbonara with extra chicken and extra garlic bread?’

‘Please.’

She asks us if he can get us anything else and I say no.

There’s nothing anybody could get us that could make right now better. My chest feels like it’ll burst with the burning that pierces it whenever we lock eyes.

I pick at my chips. I look up from my plate and watch, just marvel, at the woman sitting opposite me.

She makes me live, and she makes me feel like every second before now never mattered and every second that will follow won’t matter.

Tagliatelle, spaghetti, linguine. She’s never been able to twirl it around a fork so she cuts it all up into pieces; it’s the cutest thing.

I appreciate that we get to be together like we used to; I like that I get to see a side of her that she rarely shows; I get to see the old her, even if the moment is fleeting.

I pick my burger up and sink my teeth into it.

‘For heaven’s sake; why do you insist on selecting the messiest meal from the menu?’

I put my burger down on my plate; she hands me her napkin and I wipe the dripping egg yolk from my chin. I quickly chew and swallow the half-bite.

‘I’m sorry,’ I say, as I wipe my hands.

‘It’s fine. What are you like, eh?’

‘I think I should wash my face’. I lift the yolk-encrusted napkin off my lap and lay it on the table next to my plate. ‘Why do they only give us one each? Optimistic.’

She gulps the remainder of her glass before starting to pour another. ‘Don’t you be long,’ she says.

I push my chair away from the table and stand. ‘Or what, eh?’ I attempt to eradicate the tension by inviting her into a light-hearted exchange.

‘Or, if I finish mine before you’re back, I will make a start on yours.’ She looks at my meal. She’s not accepting my invitation. Or is she?

I take my phone out of my pocket to look at the time.

‘Leave that here if you want,’ she says.

She removes her eyes from the food and ours meet once again.

Without hesitation, I put my phone on the table. I head for the bathroom.

I love all food, but I’ve never had a favourite cuisine. I like it here; there’s a bar, there’s a restaurant, there’s a menu with a little piece of everything.

There aren’t a whole lot of people out tonight. I like it like that.

A man holds the door open for me as he leaves the toilet.

‘Thank you. Cheers,’ I say.

He nods in acknowledgement.

There’s nobody else in the toilets. As I look at myself in the mirror and proceed to wash the rapidly-drying remnants of yolk from my face, I feel that that’s for the better.

On the surface, I can’t help the anxiety I feel for leaving the children with a babysitter.

I know they’ll be okay, and I’ll cherish the handful of hours we can be away from them for. Not just for me, though. I’m happy because of the time that she and the children can spend apart.

I look at my face in the mirror; I’ve done a top-notch job on the clean-up.

I wipe the excess water away with paper towels and dispose of them. I pass my hands under the dryer.

As I finish and take a final look in the mirror, my mind’s attention is drawn to the pace with which she is glugging wine, and to the night that lies ahead.

‘She doesn’t mean it,’ I say, as I look through the face that stares back at me.

I open the door and make my way back to the table.

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Violets Are Blue

He threw back his double-scotch and pulled down his eye-mask. He adjusted the inflatable pillow around his neck, put on his headphones, and his forty winks began.

The plane was flying over the Atlantic Ocean.

He didn’t mind flying over land because he knew that if something went wrong with the plane, there was an almost total certainty that everyone inside would die as soon as they touched the ground. His rational mind told him that the survival rate was probably about the same were the plane to fly into the ocean; his emotional mind wouldn’t allow him to think about anything other than his fall being cushioned, and how he’d be forced to tread water until dehydration and exhaustion took hold, and how he’d experience three of the most painful minutes any person could.

Whiskey and sleep were his only friends thirty kilometres above sea-level.

A haze started to fill his head as he distanced his mind from the cabin. He bolstered his sanity with classical music. He flew to places beyond the world he was physically in. He flew to places higher than the plane could reach. He dreamed a dream of land.

He dreamed a dream of time gone by. He dreamed of the town centre a walk of three hours away. Greetings cards and glow-sticks; wearing the outfit of a broken superhero, he met a girl from the garden of Eden.

His mind started to wake; his eyelids refused to follow suit.

He drifted to a world where the halls were abandoned and communication transcended time.

Before he could dream the girl of his dreams, the captain’s voice brought him back; she asked the passengers to put on their seat-belts to prepare for landing. She told them that they may experience some slight turbulence, but it was nothing to worry about.

He’d been on a short trip for work. He wasn’t ever overjoyed by his job, but he knew he couldn’t complain about life. With air in his lungs and light in his eyes, he loved every second of what he acknowledged as a gift. He was in love with the world and he was forever eager to find its treasures. His job permitted him to frequently traverse a different part of the globe; all bought and paid for.

The only thing that haunted him was the unstable romantic waters he had to tread. His schedule didn’t permit exclusive ties and consequently he was often tormented by the invasive and stubborn demon of loneliness.

Open relationships were the answer to the question. Another gift he was the recipient of was the habit of crossing paths with women that were happy with the unconventional arrangement.

Abby was his present interest; he couldn’t wait to get home to her house. He craved being curled up in bed with her, binge-watching mediocre films and drinking mulled wine. It was the early evening in mid-winter; it was the most perfect time of year to crawl into her bed with her and not leave until the blanket of darkness outside lifted.

She was a few years his junior, but he never would have thought it. He was a financially wealthy businessman living life at break-neck speed; she was an artist that had spent most of her adult years surviving. She was an introvert, a thinker, and an artist. She was a dreamer.

She was everything he wasn’t and she was his lover.

He often forgot how to see beauty, but she could always jog his memory.

Like every woman he’d given more than a month of his life to, she sent his head and his heart into battle with one-another. His heart told him about how perfect she was, and that they’d live happily ever after if they could; his head reminded him that she isn’t the first, and probably won’t be the last woman that woke him in such a way.

He wanted her. He missed her. He needed her.

He got off the plane, left the airport, and got a taxi to Abby’s house.

The driver filled the void in his vehicle with mandatory small-talk. He asked what he did for a living, where he’d been, what for, and other questions that were programmed into taxi drivers working on airport collections.

He played his part in the conversation with a mechanical charm, as if his responses were recited but only he knew. His mind was elsewhere, allowing nothing but the thought of Abby and the physical connection they would soon be sharing to pass through it. The taxi pulled up outside her house.

After using the copy of her key that she had given him, he closed the front door quietly after he entered. He turned on the central heating as he crept along the hallway and to the kitchen. As soon as he saw her, he was powerless to oppose the inevitable burst of passion that commandeered his body.

Not much could change in a handful of days and not much did; familiarity was the comfort blanket he needed to warm him now and again.

His lips pressed against hers, and he was reminded of the first time he kissed her; he was a firm believer in absence making the heart grow fonder. He lifted her in his arms and carried her upstairs.

His trip was only for a few days and he didn’t have much time for the pursuit of pleasure, so he was sure to show Abby just how much he had missed her. He couldn’t even wait long enough to take off his clothes; fortunately, she was only wearing her nightdress. He laid her onto her bed and lowered himself onto and in her; he nestled into her neck and anchored his fingers in her hair.

He was almost in love with her wavy mane of red locks; he adored the way it caught the sunlight and radiated a colour that was somewhere between gold and bronze, but a thousand times more precious.

He rolled onto his back and pulled her on top. With a reserved intensity, he squeezed her thighs and pushed himself further into her as an audible moan fell out of his mouth. His hands traversed upwards across her curves; his fingertips became re-acquainted with her skin.

He gripped her upper arms as if it was their first night with one-another and her head fell back as if she was trying to throw it off her shoulders; the outline of her body and mass of hair caught the street light as it trickled through the thin opening of her curtains.

She rolled off him and into his arms.

Abby’s scent filled the room and he felt like he couldn’t ever be happier than he was in that moment.

Her head rested on his chest and moved vertically with his breathing; it was difficult for him to not form a bond with her when they could so effortlessly transition from such intensity to unadulterated stillness. She was his best of both worlds. It was an inner-turmoil that experience had given him the tools to handle.

He knew he’d have to return to the grind in the morning. He wanted to spend the rest of his life in her bed exploring her physicality and whispering grandiose promises in her ear. He wanted to be lost in her sea and then be beached on the paradise that most would never be able to find.

He lifted her head and gave her his lips. He was on her before long, almost with an unconscious determination to outdo their previous embrace.

He drifted to a world where his ego was abandoned and his love transcended time. Elated higher than ecstasy, he remembered why none of it mattered when he was with her.

She fell next to him and their limbs tangled together.

Near-silence thickened the air around them. The only thing that hung in the darkness was the sound of his breathing.

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A Lot More Perfect

There’s an old anecdote: A father once told his son about how he shared his own life with the most beautiful woman in the world. The son didn’t believe such a thing existed until he himself married the most beautiful woman in the world.

That’s kind of how I feel about Jessica. Well, we aren’t married and that’s out of choice; not to put down the idea of marriage, it was just never for us.

Today is Sunday. We like Sundays. Sundays are quiet. Sundays are peaceful.

If ever there was a personification of perfection, she is surely it. I love sharing breakfast-time with her on a fresh morning. I can hear the children playing in their bedroom as she finishes her cereal and begins to peel her orange.

Love is a peculiar feeling. Love persuades you to develop the deepest infatuation for an event as mundane as the peeling of an orange. Love turns a house – or bungalow – into a home. Love makes you feel like you’re part of something.

Jessica is a little shorter than average, and a lot more perfect. She’s slim in all of the right places, and full in all of the right places, too. Her hair is a metamorphic mane; an abundant depth of auburn locks.

Every detail of her face looks like it was carefully planned, created, and constructed by the most skilled craftsman in the world. Her eyes are the depths of brown; a map is a necessity to navigate her seas.

It seems that time does fly when you’re having fun. It was just shy of a year ago that our relationship began. I’ve never been one for living out clichés but it was love at first sight. I fell hard. It wasn’t long before I moved in and she became the focal point of my life, the only thing in my life in many ways.

Life is good now. I feel like I’ve reached a place where I’m comfortable, whilst every day is still a new adventure. It’s a difficult balance to achieve so when you achieve it with somebody you love dearly, there’s nothing quite like it.

I didn’t think I’d adapt to somebody else’s children, but the world has been fun with them around. Jessica never talks about their father and I never ask. It’s just Jessica, me, Jake, Stacey, Telford the dog, and a yet-unnamed goldfish.

We live a content and relaxed life. Jessica fills the cupboards with the best food, although I’ve had to start telling myself to stop eating so much. I like to share my food with Telford; I love him and I love all animals, but I don’t think he even likes me.

Today is a lazy day. Jessica will drop Jake off at football practice and she’ll take Stacey for some retail therapy whilst he’s there. Jake doesn’t like anybody he knows to watch him when it isn’t a proper game, and shopping is their Sunday thing. It’s good, because it gives me a bit of time for some unwinding.

I’ll have a spot of breakfast, a shower, and then brush my teeth, being careful to fully clean up after myself. I’ll catch up on a little bit of telly, too. I love her, but we seem to massively clash when it comes to some of our tastes. I can’t really watch anything when she’s around.

I can’t see myself ever getting bored of Jessica. It’s oddly comforting that her absence makes me feel so low, it reminds me that I’m human. Emotions are good, even the negative ones. The bad ones aren’t bad. I like them, in a bittersweet way. And I like that the time apart makes me appreciate her presence even more when she is around. But I don’t think I’m clingy; space is important.

It’s quite difficult at times. I don’t know if it’s right to class her as an addiction or anything, but I do have to battle my craving for her with rationality; head over heart and all that. There is only so much of me that I can allow.

Too much thinking can hurt my mind, but a long walk is one of the best ways to clear cognitive clutter. Although, this mid-December chill is constantly getting the better of me. I guess that’s just one of the costs of Christmas season; the uninviting and sometimes unforgiving weather outside offers a nicely distinct contrast to the warmth of home and family.

Evenings are my favourite. She has this routine of putting the children to bed, then indulging in a mug of camomile in front of the fire. I like to lay and watch her drink it; the slurping noise that she makes when she thinks nobody else is around is enough to drive any person insane, but it gets me going.

I best make the most of it. I wonder when she’ll get the ceiling fixed.

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