By David Stevens.
This is a simple short tale with a strange flavor and a few surprises along the way. My apologies for any editing errors but as you will be aware my books benefit from a team of dedicated editors, these free short stories do not. Enjoy
For more information stories etc see http://www.short-fiction.co.uk or twitter at DS_books
Jim Blakely had been married for fifteen years, two months and ten days; at least he thought it was ten days. In that time she, his wife, had done nothing but moan and complain, at least in his eyes. All because he liked to spend a few rare hours down the boozer with his mates from work. She had his bloody money, what there was of it. There were always clothes and food for her and the kids, what more did she want from him?
She, when he got home would no doubt start her nagging and moaning, because he would smell slightly of booze. She would imply that he didn’t care, that he was some sort of neglectful monster. Me a monster he thought, that’s a joke. Once she had told a mate’s wife that he hit her, implying that he was some sort of wife beating animal! That thought caused a shiver to travel up his spine, as he remembered the injuries which he had inflicted on her. Only once or twice, well it was deserved, he rationalized to himself.
Susannah Blakely sat on her bed alone, clutching a cold ice-filled cloth, which she held tight to her jaw. James had come home from work in one of his moods and bang, he had slapped her across the face. He then stormed out, without even eating his dinner, probably heading for the pub, she reasoned to herself. Both of her children were thankfully safely tucked up in bed, sleeping peacefully she hoped. Stephanie and Jonathon, she nine and he seven were only now beginning to realise that their kind loving father had a vicious and dark side to him.
At least he had never touched the kids; that was a point in his favour. He was a kind gentle man, most of the time and even with his violence she would no doubt forgive him, once more. Her jaw hurt and she new that there would be a bright black and red bruise on her face in the morning. Once again she would have to stay in her home, a prisoner for at least the next few days. His violence had long since become a prison sentence for her, but she loved him all the same. One day her subconscious whispered to her, he would hit the children. ‘No never, he loves them Too’! Came her reply.
Susannah had lost count of the lies that she had told to explain away her bruises, everything from walking into a door, to falling down the stairs. Now she preferred to stay in her home, rather than lie still more.
WALES, LLANDUDNO. JULY 2006.
Tears filled and over flowed from Susannah Blakely’s eyes as she walked alone, briskly, striding out through the sunset light of a fading day. Her husband had hit her and then casually walked out. She had heard him bragging in the lounge of their lodgings as she had departed into the night. The other voice had an American lilt to it, she thought, though she had not been able to distinguish the accent clearly. Probably he was some idiot tourist that James had found to listen to his tall tales, and corny jokes, while his wife cried alone somewhere forgotten.
She looked old; the cracked mirror in the en-suite bathroom had told her so. Her eye had already begun to swell when she had looked, carefully she had applied some makeup and leaving her kids safe in bed, she had gone to see Mrs Jones, their landlady. Hiding her left side as much as possible she had asked Mrs Jones to listen out for her kids as she needed a breath of fresh air.
Normally Mrs Jones would have refused, but she sensed that peace and fresh air would mean a lot to this dowdy woman, so she had smiled and said yes. Still smiling but to herself, she watched as her boarder departed. With her make-up plastered on failing to cover that fast expanding bruise, and her husband getting drunk in the lounge bar. Mrs Jones met all sorts, and she prided herself on her psychoanalyzing talents as practiced by most, if not all land ladies. This woman had trouble, man trouble and of the worst kind, she decided.
Street after street, blurred in Susannah Blakely’s mind as she walked parallel to the sea, around the hill called the Great Orm. There was a toll road running around the Orm, it was closed but she walked onto it anyway. Below her, she could hear the pounding of distant waves as they battered at the coastline, above stretched the cliffs and then the Great Orm.
Walking fast now, oblivious to all she climbed, almost passing a little church yard before turning sharply and entering in through a metal swing gate. Not being religious, she would later wonder why she had entered through that narrow steel swing gate, but she had.
To her right stood a stone carved wheel, a memorial to a person that she didn’t know, yet it fascinated her. Shadows flitted as she approached and there on the floor something glittered, having a brilliance undeserved in the twilight. Bending almost automatically her jaw throbbing as she did, her fingers entwined about a thin decorative chain made of gold. Swinging from the precious metal links, looking out of place, was a battered amulet, set with stones, some of which were missing.
Before she had managed to stand upright a voice floated through her mind, at the same time she watched, as a small apparently harmless but beautiful globe of spinning light erupted from the centre most stone, to hover before her eyes.
“Reach in,” the voice commanded. “Reach in and grasp what should be yours, take hold and keep all that there is within. Reach in, reach in,” it demanded of her, but she was just too much of a coward, at least in her own mind, to obey.
Startled and confused by the strange mental voice, but attracted by the jewel encrusted beauty, she slipped the amulet into her jean’s pocket. Surprisingly the pain in her face had passed; even her tooth, which James had loosened last week, seemed to now be firm. All of her tears had passed away and for the first time in a while, she smiled, a genuine smile, which lit up her eyes and brightened her face. Life still has some pleasantness to it, she thought, fingering the pocketed piece of jewellry.
James was out cold, lost in a drunken stupor when she let herself into their room. Still smiling, she slipped from her clothes, changing into a long passion killing night-dress and climbed into bed. “Goodnight.” She whispered to nobody in particular, more out of habit than with a reason,
“Good night.” Came a reply, emanating from over near her jeans, soothing this time not scary at all.
AT HOME OCTOBER 2006.
Lightning fast for such a big man he struck her, sprawling her across the table, scattering plates, cups and his evening meal! There had been no warning, no reason as far as she could see, infact she had not even said a word, other than, ‘hello darling,’ as he had walked through their front door. For whatever reason he had returned home, hit her and now he had left her sprawled across their table but crying.
Slam went the front door as he pulled it harshly closed, once more he had left her; something in her mind switched from passive victim to survivor mode. This time she would leave him, she would really go, but even then she knew that she wouldn’t! Tomorrow he would be sorry, apologetic and happy, begging her forgiveness, blaming all manner of things for his violence. She like the fool she was, would say, ‘there there, its all right, it was my fault, I drove you to it, don’t worry darling,’ just like she always did.
No! Not this time she vowed as she climbed their narrow stairs, by God not this time! Opening her bedroom door she reached down the suit case, and began to throw her clothes into it. Almost as a last thought she pulled open her private knicker draw, reaching beneath the cotton material until she clasped the paper wrapped amulet, she had found.
Open in her palm she watched as the small multi-coloured ball of mystical light formed and hovered. No voice she noted, no voice demanded her to reach in and take, probably because she had already decided to, he had left her with no choice she was now different, stronger, more capable of becoming the survivor she dreamed repeatedly of becoming.
Flip went her stomach like a pancake in the air; flash went her brain as a tirade of vivid kaleidoscopic light exploded within her thoughts. Around her everything blurred and faded to nothing and then she arrived. Voices floated towards her as she stood motionless infront of a grave stone, set within a private grave yard. Carved in inch high letters, clearly visible in the hot noon day heat were
the words .
BELOVED HUSBAND & FATHER
DIED DECEMBER 5, 2006.
She read the dreamed of words, but she did not understand! Held rigidly in her fingers were a bunch of flowers, obviously for this, her husband’s grave. Bending down she placed them casually at the base of the black stone and wondered.
Looking about herself she spied a familiar face approaching. Mrs Jones, she smiled as she drew near, muttering of her feelings concerning Susannah’s husband’s sudden and unexpected, tragic death. That taxi driver should never have been working; he should never have taken that last fare, She said.
Memories flooded Susannah’s thoughts at the un-expected telephone call which she had received while staying with her children at her mothers. She remembered the reason for her visit home; she had wanted to avoid him, whilst letting the injuries to her face and stomach heal. She remembered the kindly voice of the Police Officer, as he explained to her that her husband had been tragically killed in a car accident. It was only later that she had learned of the circumstances.
Thank God she had taken out a Life Insurance Policy, one with a triple indemnity clause, just in case he died as a fare paying passenger. She had somewhere in her mind decided to engineer his death, to end her torment and the future torment of her kids, before it began for them in earnest. Thinking back, the taxi driver had removed the fear and the need for her to kill him herself, she had not realised how hard it would be to create the perfect murder. She of course would have been a prime suspect if he had just died, but being at her mother’s and with the kids, forty miles away and with witnesses, had placed her completely in the clear, as regards to his suspicious ( at least to the insurers ) death!
Jonathon with a child’s normal lack of tact came tearing around the oblong tombstone to their left, laughing as he ran, his sister hard on his heels.
“Mum, Mum,” he called as he raced into her arms. “They tried to give me the birthday bumps, but I escaped them”. She smiled down at him and congratulated his escape, adding that ten bumps could hurt. His friends waited, laughing near by, still slightly awed at knowing a real writer, and a famous one at that!
Her deceased husband’s insurers had paid up the two hundred and fifty thousand pounds life insurance, but they had tried to contest the triple indemnity. Her solicitor had quickly dispelled any doubts about their ability and liability and they had paid. Her total pay out for the death of a wife beater had been a comfort providing seven hundred & fifty thousand pounds.
Some months after the funeral she had financed a partnership, which was proving to be very successful, and profitable as well, supplying industrial machinery to both the catering and the cleaning trades. She had very little to do with the business, it being run for her on a day to day basis by her partners.
She had moved to Landudno, North Wales, she had even paid for a memorial stone to be place in the church yard on the Great Orm. So that she could remember her husband, for though he had been a dangerous bastard to her, he had been a good provider as well. Thanks to him and her murderous ideas, she was financially secure and a well respected business woman and now author!
Life had become very boring, being all alone and feeling useless while the kids were at full time school, so to fill up her hours she had written a book. Not she thought, a very good book, but at least she had done it! That first attempt succeeded only in amassing a huge collection of refusals, but un-deterred, she had written another! Even its title made her squirm still, she had called it ‘The VOYEUR OF TIME’ and it had been an instantaneous success, overnight, much to her amassment she had become an instant best selling author.
Heat pulsed within her clenched fist as the amulet came once more to life. “Time’s passing” it whispered to her. Lights exploded behind her eyes, daylight faded; drab familiar fixtures came into view, slowly solidifying. She was in her home, the swelling where he had hit her had completely vanished, but her mind was to firmly fixed on other thoughts to care about that.
October the fifth, two thousand and six had been a red letter day in Susannah Blakely’s life; she had instigated a two hundred and fifty thousand pound life insurance policy with triple accident indemnity covering her husband. Four weeks later after yet another beating she went home to her mother’s. She intended to stay there while she recovered from his latest assault; at least the children were with her and safe from him, she remembered her dream only as it occurred for real in her life.
The Grave Stone stood proud and erect, etched with his name and the date of his death, and of course her personal message!
BELOVED HUSBAND & FATHER
DIED DECEMBER 5, 2006.
She felt cold standing high up that hill looking at his memorial, then she spotted Mrs Jones approaching her. They spoke quietly, almost reverently of her tragedy, both new that neither was fooling the other but they both played the game. They had both known the man for what he had been, his wife by personal experience, she by instinct and observation.
Two children careered around an upright tomb, laughing as they charged towards her. Briefly, she had a strange inexplicable feeling of de-ja-vu, she casually fingered the amulet which hung on its chain about her neck. Memories flooded her thoughts; she remembered her walk up the Orm. She pictured herself enviously viewing the large white house, her house now. Wishing at that time that she was brave enough to leave him, but knowing that she wasn’t. Now he was dead and her life had changed completely and for the better.
Inexplicably she had risen early the following morning, driven from her bed by a compelling desire to dispose of the amulet. She couldn’t think why. But what the hell. After all it wasn’t a part of her new life, but a piece of her old. She drove to a small
seaside resort, and parked her car. Walking towards the steel railings which separated her from the beach, ten feet below, she walked along the line of those railings to a slope that led down to a dock. From there, striding out across the extended dock’s, wooden planks, walking along side of the beached boats (beached because the tide was out) resting scattered about in their man made harbour. She carefully counted each of the wooden planks she crossed. Thirty-one had passed beneath her when she had halted; carefully she placed the glittering amulet on the thirty-second board and turned away from it, she departed without glancing back or understanding why it needed to be put exactly there.
Sitting in a pizza parlor, drinking coffee and watching the tide come in; floating the beached boats she changed her mind. Crossing the coast road she approached the steel railings, looking along the board hoping to see her amulet. At the far end of the wooden dock a single tourist laden fishing boat had tied up to disembark its fare paying passengers.
One caught her attention, a slight built woman, loaded down with a ton of fishing kit, boxes of un-used bait, and a sandwich bag, struggling as she disembarked. Her husband followed her, laughing with an American accented man, ignoring the struggling woman and her load. He laughed and bragged his way past his wife, ignoring her when she tripped over one of the rod-bags. She fell hard as Susannah Blakely watched with her fingers and hand outstretched.
For a brief part of a second Susannah watched a brilliant flash of light appear and then everything around her froze. The lady had vanished before her eyes! All about her people were still, each frozen in a comedic parody of some demented waxwork’s mannequin maker’s idea of real life. Some about her were static, balancing in a precarious half-step, one little girl across the road had actually halted in mid-air, her leap frozen. Ten or perhaps sixty seconds passed and then she, (the woman) reappeared, and life carried on as before, people moved again, voices once more filled the air, the little girl landed happily, laughing.
No one had noticed that in an apparent split second, the woman had fallen, risen, and re-secured her load. No one noticed the sparkle in her eyes or the new bearing in her walk, except that is, for Susannah Blakely with her knowing smile.