Published!!!

My short story: A Conversation with Death has been published by the Henshaw Press. It was an honour to work with such talented authors. So greatful to Henshaw Press for immortalising my words in print.

See below for a snapshot and please support by getting yourself a copy at Amazon: Henshaw Two. 


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Short Story: A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson.

Image result for a plate of cookies

A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson.

Cecelia glanced at the time it was almost time for Theo to come home, Theo, short for Theodore, short for Theodore Asante, she didn’t know if he had a middle name. All she knew was that he had the same slightly uplifted brown eyes of her daughter. The daughter who the police had urged her to be declared officially dead when she’d gone missing almost three decades ago.

She glanced out the window as Theo parked on the street and got out of his new car, a hybrid of some kind, she had heard one of her neighbours commenting on it, said he worked for the UN, was very environmental, all Cecelia knew was that from the first moment she had seen him his smile had triggered a memory and even though her friends told her she was being stupid, she couldn’t let it go, his eyes, those were her daughter’s eyes.

She had wanted to go over there so many times, invite him to the neighbourhood, apologise for the one and only time she had seen him, and had been tongue tied. He had been part of their neighbourhood for almost three months and she had been waiting for an opportunity, today finally she had one, a package had been delivered and she had all but rugby tackled the delivery man, who had looked like he was debating whether to drop the parcel off to Father John or Imam Yousef who were always the natural choices for undeliverable items.

Now she waited patiently as Theo walked into his house, then back out again several minutes later, his gaze on his cellular device. He knocked and Cecelia went to the door after a few moments, making sure the smell of cookies was prevalent throughout the house; her daughter had loved chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, always dark chocolate never milk.

She opened the door and her voice deserted her, as Theo glanced at her, an exact copy of her daughters beautiful brown eyes.

“Mrs Vandervu?” Theo said waving a hand in front of her face a small smile on his lips

“Please call me Cecelia, and do come in Theodore,” she said finally finding her voice.

“Sure,” he walked in and looked around, “this place smells delicious,” he said his gaze going to the cookies she had strategically placed on the counter, the part that could be seen from the front room.

“Please help yourself!” Cecelia said delighted. “Chocolate chip oatmeal,”

He walked past his package and made a beeline for them.

“Delicious,” he said as he ate one and reached for another.

“Your favourite?”

“My favourite is actually blueberry like my mum; my dad loves chocolate, not dark though,”

“Does your mum like dark?” Cecelia said eagerly.

Theo shrugged; he was very tall, well built, most likely from his father.

“Did you paint these?” He asked looking at the water colours hanging on the walls.

“Yes, my daughter and I used to love to paint together,”

“My dad is into art, my mum prefers her books,”

Cecelia nodded and noticing that he had finished his cookies and was eyeing his parcel rushed to ask him more questions.

“Does your mum like spaghetti with garlic sauce and sprinkles of cheese?”

Theo raised an eyebrow but answered anyway, “No she can’t actually eat cheese, lactose intolerant.”

“What about watching movies on mute and guessing what the actors say?”

“My mum would hate something like that!” Theo said laughing.

Cecelia was undeterred and kept firing questions at him but the more she asked the less she wanted to know. Finally she ran out of questions.

“Thank you for humouring me Theodore,” Cecelia said unable to keep back the tears that had sprang to her eyes.

“Erm, you welcome Mrs Va – I mean Cecelia,” He said slowly, “look I can come by and help out with something’s if you want, I mainly work at home anyway.”

“No, that’s fine, take care now,” she said attempting to usher him out.

He hesitated at the door, his eyes so like her daughters, similar, but not the same, blinked slowly before he nodded and left.

Cecelia burst into tears, the pain of losing her daughter overwhelming her, it felt like the first time she had found out Monroe had gone missing whiles kayaking, the grief more than she could bear. She spent the next few days in bed, her head pounding, her eyes watering every time she saw Theodore.

Her friends came around to cheer her up, but it didn’t work, and she told them that they had been right; she shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up.

Almost a week later a knock came at her door.

“Cecelia? Mrs Vandervu? It’s me Theo please open up, I really need your help,” he said slowly.

Cecelia stood there wiping her eyes before setting her shoulders back, this young man may not be her daughter’s child but he was a good man, and if he needed her help she would help him. She opened the door.

“Please come in, is there anything I can help you with?” She said softly.

“Those chocolate cookies, my girlfriend loves them, do you think you could show me how to make them, I have some ingredients,” he said gesturing to his backpack.

Cecelia smiled, “of course, follow me.”

Despite his eyes still triggering painful memories every time he looked at her in a certain way, she spent the rest of the evening with Theo, he was kind, just the kind of man her daughter would have raised.

She had just taken the cookies out of the oven when his phone rang, he was using the toilet and she glanced down at the screen.

She almost dropped the cookies – an image of her daughter, of Monroe, older, but still the same stared up at her, she touched the screen with shaking fingers. Tears in her eyes.

The phone stopped ringing just as Theo came back; Cecelia had the phone in her hands.

“Mrs Vandervu?” He said hesitantly.

“My…my daughter,” she wordlessly went into her bedroom and took the last picture she had taken of Monroe, she showed him a picture of Monroe and he jumped.

“That’s, that looks like…” his hands went to her eyes.

“It is your mum, my daughter,” Cecelia said.

“You’re my grandmother?” Theo asked his voice breaking.

Words failing her again, Cecelia nodded and embraced him.

 

 

 

A kid in your grade whom you don’t know very well shows up at your house one day to tell you something important. What does he say?

I open the door and standing there looking directly at me is Hershel, from my class, the quiet kid at the back who doesn’t really like to make eye contact with anyone.

I wonder if is he is lost and I’m about to close the door when he speaks.

“Good evening Riley, may I come in?” His voice is very deep for a twelve year old, most people make fun of him for it, or they used to, I haven’t actually heard him speak for almost half a year.

His voice startles me and I almost close the door anyway, except I don’t, but I can’t just invite him in either, he could be crazy, it’s always the quiet ones, that’s a saying for a reason.

I debate for a moment as he just stares at the ground, he has got really curly hair, it’s dark brown at the roots and almost blonde at the tips, he even has blonde highlights. It’s quite feminine hair, I never realised, maybe it’s the voice that threw me.

“Come in, but don’t touch anything,” I caution, before leading him up to my bedroom, Hershel is quiet, too quiet, I don’t even hear his footsteps behind me, freaky.

I sit on my desk and he just stands, eyes on the floor.

“I have something to tell you,” he says quietly.

I wait for him to continue.

“Go on,” I say.

I wait some more.

“Tell me,” I command.

“I remember that when Miss Brent died you spoke at the assembly, my dog has just died can you please do the same?” He asks.

I am speechless, not only do I not know Hershel, I didn’t even know he had a dog, certainly I didn’t know the dog well enough to write him an epitaph.

I want to refuse but I don’t because I like to think I am a good person which is how I ended up standing in front of a grave on Saturday morning, speaking about a dog I never even met before.

Hershel is quiet, but I can tell he is sad.

When I finish he just stares at the grave, then he walks away, I follow him, into his mansion, because he is rich, like famous person rich, given a tour of his house, that rich.

We walk into wealth and he just stands there at the threshold, during the tour I saw a gaming room, I want to go there but Hershel is silent.

Then the maid comes up to us with a lovely bouquet of flowers that would fill up my whole house, she tries to give them to Hershel but he is just staring at the floor again.

I take them and thank her, before reading the note out loud.

“We will send a replacement, love Mum and Dad,” the words are out of my mouth before I even realise what I am saying, I re-read it appalled, and I carefully put the note down.

“You may go now,” Hershel says looking at me directly.

“You can come with me, my mum is not a chef, but she’s making spaghetti and meat balls, I don’t have a pet but I have a little sister, she’s almost two and she’s basically an animal,” I say tucking a braid behind my ear as I take my bike out of the shed.

“You do not have to be nice to me because –”

“Because you lost your pet and your parents are mean, yeah I do, come on it will make me feel better.” I say grabbing his forearm and dragging him along, it’s awkward with my bike, and I scratch my leg but I don’t let go.

“You do not have to drag me, if it will make you feel better then I will come.” He says going into the shed to take out his own bicycle.

I laugh, “Was that an actual joke? I thought you didn’t even know what it was.”

Hershel smiles as both get on our bikes and ride back to my house.

 

 

 

Short Story: A Conversation with Death

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Alyssa’s eyes fluttered closed, she couldn’t take the argument’s anymore she just wanted to sleep, was that so difficult for them to understand?

A warm hand on her shoulder had her eyes opening again.

“It’s you,” she breathed with a smile.

A nod of a dark head, shrouded in darkness his features weren’t easy to distinguish, but she knew this man, trusted him, with her life, which was ironic really, considering who he was.

“You are still decided then.” It was a question but like everything he said it sounded like a statement, an absolute truth.

Alyssa sat up and nodded eagerly, the people around her bed ignorant of her actions, still arguing and reasoning amongst themselves, over her. Her opinion wasn’t sought, it didn’t matter to them what she thought.

“Please,” Alyssa pleaded.

A slow shake of his head, sending his dark hood shifting slightly, even though the room was brightly lit, he stood in darkness, it clung to him like the robes he was wearing.

“Why do you dress like that still? I’m not afraid of you.” Alyssa said tilting her head to the side. She had seen him wear casual clothes, but he was back to his robes again as though he wanted to remind her who he was.

“But you should be,” he said quietly.

“I’m not, I’m ready –”

“You are not, you think you are, but you are not. You are too young to understand that; you will miss out on things, you have not even realised you will miss.” He said.

Alyssa just stared at him her face stubborn.

He held out his hand.

“Come with me,” he said.

Alyssa eagerly complied; stepping out of her body came naturally to her now, like it no longer belonged to her. She looked down at the stranger, hooked up to the life support machines, surrounded by her family and the best Doctors and Nurses she had ever known, but still it was easy to step away and leave them all. It was far easier for her to take his hand.

He took her to a house she knew too well, a bedroom she hadn’t seen for almost a year. It hadn’t changed; a picture that her sister had brought to the hospital was here in her room before she had gotten really sick. Her bed never as neat as her sister’s had her teddy bears assembled on her bed waiting for her return.

“Why have you brought me here?” She asked him a catch in her throat as she slowly touched the light pink walls, she remembered having an argument with her sister over the choice, they had settled on painting two sides of their room yellow and the other two sides pink.

“I want to show you, all you will leave behind.”

Alyssa gasped as her sister stepped into the room. She looked happier than Alyssa had seen her in a long time. At thirteen Penelope was two years older and being tall always looked more mature. Alyssa took a step back as she, or rather a projection of her walked into the room. It was strange seeing herself so vibrant and full of life. Alyssa’s projection and Penelope’s began painting their nails.

Alyssa’s eyes shimmered as she looked away at the scene; so normal and yet something she had been longing for.

The scene shifted, Penelope and Alyssa’s projection were older in their mid-to late teens. They were chatting excitedly as they made their way downstairs. Alyssa followed the duo as the doorbell rang. The house was different, the pictures on the wall depicting the passage of a life she couldn’t know. She stopped short at the sight of her parents, they looked exactly the same, except Dad’s hair was greyer. Mum whispered something in Dad’s ear a smile on her lips as Dad narrowed his eyes at a boy who looked to be sixteen; he was shifting from one foot to the other.

Alyssa glanced at her companion.

“The first boy you ever love.” He explained.

The scene shifted again and she was graduating, she looked so different, the hair she had always struggled to grow, had been cut very short almost pixie, but it suited her older face; she’d even pierced the top of her ear. The older version of her smiled as she went to hug her sister and her parents who were applauding and beaming at her.

Alyssa wiped tears out of her eyes at the image.

“I don’t want to see anymore.” Alyssa said, the tears wouldn’t stop as she kept wiping her face over and over again.

“One more.” He said.

The scene shifted and it was her and her sister’s bedroom again, except everything was different, the walls were painted a dark plum and a deep purple, even as they grew older they would always disagree on the colours. The shelves were empty; boxes lay around everywhere as though they were moving. An older version of both of them lay on separate beds but they had both closed the divide by reaching out their hands to each other.

“Ally?” Penelope said softly.

“Yeah?” Alyssa’s projection said.

“Even if we are miles apart, promise me that we will always find our way to each other?” Penelope asked.

“Always,” Alyssa’s projection responded.

The scene shifted and she was standing in the bedroom again, the one she had left behind.

“Why are you doing this?” She asked.

“You are too young to die.” He responded.

“You have taken younger, why are you hesitating?” She asked.

“Because you have a choice to live, take it.” It was as close to a plea she had ever heard him make.

Alyssa shook her head.

“Let me show you something.” She reached out for his hand, “take me back.”

Suddenly they were back at the hospital again and her broken body was before them, her parents were still arguing with the doctors and Penelope was sat in the corner, doing her homework, but every so often she would look up.

“Listen to them,” Alyssa said softly.

“I know what I said but I can’t bear to give up on her, I want to keep her on life support for as long as possible!” Mum said angrily.

The Doctor sighed.

“That’s fine Marianne, it really is, but Ally will still be in pain, we are talking about multiple organ failure, she’ll be in constant pain until the end, if she doesn’t want to prolong things –”

“She’s eleven for Christ sakes! What does she know about a decision like this?!” Mum said.

“We will not take any action without your consent, but –”

“You’re damn right you won’t!” Mum said and she glared at Dad who hadn’t yet spoken.

“We won’t, but,” Doctor Anthony said slowly, “please re-consider, think about it from her point of view –”

“I am, and she is a child!”

“For a child to even be considering this option, says something about her mind-set, she’s spoken with the therapist –”

“I don’t care whose she’s spoken with, who in their right mind would sign off a child on their decision to die?” Mum said glaring at Wilson, the therapist, in disgust.

“We don’t want to upset you anymore,” Doctor Anthony said placidly and she and the other Doctors left the room.

Mum burst into tears as she turned to Dad, and Alyssa watched them with a lump in her throat and a heavy feeling in her chest. She looked up, but her companion was staring at her parents with a sad look in his eyes.

“See how much pain I cause them, and I’ll only cause them more and more, even after I’m gone I’ll cause them pain, so why should I prolong things any more than I have to. Every day I will be in pain, and they’ll be miserable watching me in pain. I can put an end to this right now, right here, I can choose, I can die and set them free.”

“You are too young, to speak so easily of death.” He said turning to her.

“I wouldn’t speak to death if death didn’t speak back.” She said.

She could already feel the pull of her body again; she had been away from it for too long.

“Think about it,” she asked him, as she slipped once more into her body.

“I will if you will.” He said before he vanished.

The monitors began beeping as soon as Alyssa fully merged with her body. She didn’t know how she could forget this level of pain, she gasped for breath even as the tubes fed her oxygen, was in agony even though the medicine numbed out her body. She felt pressure on both her hands and she slowly opened eyes, it was funny how much such a small movement cost her, when she had walked and talked so easily in spirit form.

“Penny?” She asked softly, her vocal cords raw and rough from abuse and disuse.

“I’m here,” Penelope said from the foot of her bed, she was blinking rapidly and Alyssa felt herself beginning to cry before she stopped herself.

“Mum,”

More pressure on her left hand.

“I’m here baby, I’m here,” Mum said, her voice thick with emotion.

“Dad?” Alyssa tried to turn her head, but the movement was too painful and she stopped as she felt a tear slip down her face.

“Shh, don’t move Ally, I’m here.” Dad said softly kissing her right hand and he pressed something on the machine so it would give her another dose of medication.

“Please, please, I can’t do this anymore,” she paused as she took in a ragged breath, “you have to let me go, please let me go.” She pleaded, and she felt the tears rolling down her face.

“Don’t ask that of us Ally, you don’t know what you are saying.” Mum said crying.

Alyssa looked at Dad, after weeks of asking, they had both agreed with her yesterday.

“How can I let you go?” He asked, tears in his eyes.

“I understand,” Penelope said slowly, “I don’t accept it, but I understand.” She wiped furiously at her face.

Mum began to cry harder.

“You have to fight Ally, you have to fight this.” Dad said squeezing her hand a little harder.

“I have, and I’m tired, so tired. Please, I don’t want to fight anymore, I just want to rest.” Alyssa said slowly, her speech was slurred as she felt the effects of the increased dose.

“We want more time.” Dad said.

Alyssa tried to shake her head but her eyes were closing as the medicine overtook her compulsion to stay awake.

*

Alyssa came awake slowly to the sound of hushed but urgent voices.

“Just let me just hold her in peace.” Mum said.

“I know you do, but I can’t watch her dying before she actually dies.” Dad said sadly.

Alyssa tried to open her eyes to tell them to stop.

“She’s only a child, she…she can survive.” Mum said desperately.

“Stop this, she’s dying and,” Dad cleared his throat, “she wants to die, and as hard as it is for me to even consider, I have to let her go.”

“No, no, I need more time.” Mum said.

“We always knew we were living on borrowed time, eleven years, the Doctors didn’t think we’d even have one. Her sickle cell has ravaged her enough, we were only burrowing her from heaven, but we have to give her back.” Dad said.

Alyssa felt herself drift into unconsciousness.

*

Alyssa woke up again, she felt oddly peaceful as she opened her eyes and she saw the dark figure at the door.

“You’ve come for me?” She asked hopefully.

A slow nod.

“Say goodbye.” He said softly.

“I love you and thank you” she said looking at Mum, Dad, the doctors and nurses then finally at Penelope.

There were tears everywhere.

Alyssa smiled as she felt her eyes flutter close.

 

 

Short Story: So I accidentally kidnapped my teacher part 10

Sharlene smirked.

“How stupid do you think I am?” She said sarcastically.

Jamal mumbled something and she shot him a look.

“Well whatever, you lot want to act like half-wits, that’s fine by me. You were right, I should go.” Sharlene said walking towards the door.

“Wait Shar!” George said still panting.

“Let her go!” Jamal said angrily, standing up straight. “She’s been nothing but trouble.”

“Can you help us?” Drew said, sounding a little scared.

Sharlene looked at Drew for a long moment before rolling her eyes.

“Why should I?” She said quietly.

“Because we need your help, we could get into really big trouble, like prison.” Drew whispered back.

“O’ for goodness sakes Drew!” George said exasperated. “That’s why I don’t tell you anything, you can’t keep your big mouth shut!”

“Well it’s not his fault, Shiner shouldn’t even be here.” Jamal said.

They all started arguing at the same time; Jamal adamant that Sharlene leave the house immediately. George angry that Drew was about to reveal his secret and Sharlene angry at the way Jamal was treating her and angry that George wasn’t trying to defend her. Drew was mumbling something under his breath.

“All right! That’s enough!” Drew shouted.

They all jumped as they looked at him.

“Jesus Drew, you scared me!” Jamal said, jumping a foot.

“Sharlene, you know what’s happened don’t you? So can you please just help us?” Drew said calmly but firmly.

Sharlene blinked, looking at Drew in surprise.

“I want Jamal to apologise to me first.” She said turning to face Jamal.

Jamal glared at her.

“Jamal please just apologise, and Shar, your right, we need your help, so I’m sorry as well.” George said earnestly.

It was getting late and he was scared that everyone would have to go home soon, still leaving him with his problem downstairs.

Sharlene turned to George with a small smile and nodded once before turning back to Jamal.

Jamal glared at her. “Fine, I’m sorry, but only because we need your help.”

“That’s hardly an apology, but yeah.” She took a deep breath and said. “You’re not in any trouble George.”

“I knew she couldn’t help us!” Jamal said at once. “She’s just been playing us. What else do expect from Shiner.”

“If I can finish,” Sharlene said coldly, “Miss Levy came into your house without you inviting her in right?”

George nodded slowly, wondering how she knew. “She just barged in, saying she wanted to see my parents, even though I told they weren’t in.”

“Well that’s unlawful entry.” Drew said speaking up, a small smile on his face.

Sharlene smiled. “Exactly, and you haven’t bound her arms or her legs, she’s in your house, staying in your house on her own free will.”

“If anything she’s kidnapped you!” Drew said suddenly.

Sharlene beamed at him. “Well I wouldn’t go that far, but she’s basically a squatter, you have every right to call the police and remove her from your property.”

The sudden relief that George felt made him giddy, he wasn’t going to prison.

“Damn Shiner,” Jamal breathed, “thank you.”

Sharlene looked at him a smug look on her face. “You can thank me, by not calling me Shiner.”

“Okay, Sharlene then.” Jamal said reluctantly smiling at her.

“You didn’t kidnap anyone George.” Sharlene said as she confidently opened the basement door.

“Wait!” George said, “Miss Levy’s going to tell everyone that my parents left me home alone.”

“So that’s why you think you kidnapped her.” Jamal said, “I was wondering why you felt guilty. Your so annoying George, kidnap, you couldn’t kidnap a fly.”

George gave him a look.

“Open the basement door Sharlene, and get Miss Levy out of here, and I want an apology from here for scaring us all, she should know better than that.” Jamal said laughing.

“I want compensation,” Drew said walking towards the basement.

George laughed feeling completely relieved as Sharlene smiled at him.

Short Story: So…I accidentally kidnapped my teacher part 8

George looked over at the handbag. “We need to think of something.”

“No, you need to tell me why you still haven’t let Miss Levy go.” Jamal countered.

George looked away, he couldn’t say.

“George, kidnapping is serious, I know you’re not stupid…so what did Miss Levy see or what did she catch you doing.” Jamal smirked.

“Nothing.” George said at once.

“Yeah well nothing is probably tied up downstairs. A basement, seriously? You might as well be some crazy serial killer.” Jamal said edging towards the door that led to the basement.

George grabbed his hand.

“I said not to discuss anything!” Drew complained walking back into the room.

“We’re not discussing, we’re seeing. George is going to take us downstairs to see Miss Levy.” Jamal said decisively.

Drew’s eye lit up.
“You can’t see her, I don’t want –” George began.

“How’ve you kept her quiet all this time?” Jamal interrupted looking at George suspiciously.

George shifted from one foot to the other.

“O my God you haven’t killed her have you?” Drew said looking around fearfully.

Jamal’s eyes grew wide as he gasped and took a step back. “You’ve killed her haven’t you?!”

“No I haven’t, she’s very much alive!” George protested trying to keep his voice quiet. “Look, what happened was –”

“George let us see her right now!” Jamal demanded.

George sighed in resignation. “Alright fine, but don’t make any noise.”

Jamal and Drew exchanged looks as the trio quietly approached the basement door.

George turned the handle slowly.

They were plunged into darkness.

Short Story: So…I accidentally kidnapped my teacher part 6

“How stupid do you think I am?” Sharlene said, her arms crossed, her expression bored.

“Look Shar, I’m really erm –”

Sharlene suddenly pushed the door forward with such force that all three boys suddenly fell back.

“O you look really sick.” Sharlene said sarcastically as she glanced at them all. She stepped over the threshold and closed the door behind her.

“Look I get it, parents out, so you’re having a party, I don’t care, but my parents start asking me questions if I go back home now, you guys can get back to whatever you were doing. I’ll hang out in the kitchen for an hour, everyone wins.”

“Actually, not everyone wins, we don’t want you here.” Jamal said. “So get moving Shiner.”

“Last I checked this was George’s house, George?” Sharlene said expectantly.

George sighed, he liked Sharlene he really did, but at times she didn’t help herself, no one really liked her at school, and even though she insisted that’s how she liked it, George knew she didn’t, he liked her, but he really needed Jamal’s help and he didn’t want to drag someone else into his criminal activities especially someone he liked.

“Look Shar, I do want you to stay but –”

“Then it’s settled, I’ll be in the kitchen.” She said before turning and walking towards the kitchen.

“I don’t like her.” Jamal said staring after Sharlene with a look of disgust.

“She’s not that bad.” George defended half-heartedly.

Jamal narrowed his eyes, then shrugged as they all walked towards the living room.

“Andrew, this butter looks disgusting, can you get rid of it, I would touch it but I don’t want to catch anything – o and George why is Miss Levy’s bag here?” Sharlene said from the kitchen.

All three boys stopped and looked at each other.

“Tell her to leave right now!” Jamal mouthed.

George, his heart racing looked up, just as Sharlene came into the hallway, holding Miss Levy’s black bag.

“How do you know whose bag that is?” Jamal said coolly.

Sharlene gave him a bored look. “Her initials genius,” she turned the bag around where the letters, EL were itched into the bag in gold. “Her first name is Elizabeth.”