Stolen Love

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Written in response to a prompt on https://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/resources/writing-prompts/

I was eating a ham sandwich when the ball hit the back of my head. Stars danced across my eyes and then I heard him speak for the very first time.

‘Are you ok? I’m so sorry.’ He asked. I could hear the concern in his voice.

‘I think so.’ I mumbled.

He helped me to my feet, and I looked into the most beautiful brown eyes I had ever seen. My head started to spin, and he put his arms around me.

‘Sit down again. Let me help you.’

We both sat back down on the grass, and he kept his arm around my waist as I found myself leaning into his shoulder. Everything was a blur, but I could feel the thud of his heart and the smell of freshly laundered cotton.

‘Mmmm.’ I whispered as I snuggled up closer.

He lifted my chin and looked down at me, smiled and then kissed my lips. My whole body shuddered. What was happening? He lowered me onto my back and continued to kiss me, gently at first and then more fervently as the passion began to rise and overtake both of us.

He stopped and got to his feet.

‘Come with me.’ He said as his hand reached down and lifted me up again. The feeling was totally surreal as he picked up my bag and cardigan. He took my hand and led me across the grass and out of the park gate. We didn’t speak a word; just walked until we reached his flat. We kissed in the lift on the way up to the fifth floor. He fumbled with the key in the door and pulled me inside. We didn’t make it to the bedroom. We just gave in to the passion there and then on the hall floor.

 

That was two weeks ago. At least I think it’s that long. Keeping check of the days is difficult.  I haven’t been outside since then. He’s hidden my clothes.

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In the Key of Red

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In response to a writing prompt at:  https://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/resources/writing-prompts/

I guide her hand. Letting her touch the soft, yielding petals. Making sure she doesn’t prick her fingers on the vicious thorns underneath the flowerhead. Her skin is like white tissue paper against the deep and vibrant red of her nails; the blue of her veins hiding the blood that lies thick and no longer courses through her. I can’t remember a time when she didn’t have her nails painted this way. “It gives an air of confidence even when you’re quaking inside.” She used to say. “Never let them know how you are feeling. Never show them your weak side. Look into the lights and take a bow. The camera will close in on your hands as they dance like the wind.”

Now everything about her is weak. Her hands as they grip her walking stick; her back as it bends, forcing her head down; her legs that can hardly carry her, her mind that searches frantically for the right words.

‘Who are you?’she asks every time I come and take her for a walk around the grounds.

‘It’s me, Mum. Jenny.’ It hurts when she asks. But I only have to say ‘Why can’t I go out and play?’ and she sees red, snaps back at me, as sharp as a Stanley knife. ‘You have to practice. You’ll never be a concert pianist if you don’t work hard at it. I don’t want you wasting time playing silly games with your friends.’

It hurts as much now as it did then. She could never understand it wasn’t what I dreamed of. My hands were made for caring for others. I wanted to be a nurse.

‘I have to go soon, Mum. I’m on night shift this week.’ She squeezes my hand, and her cloudy eyes look directly into mine. Her brow furrows and her lips, smudged with lipstick, pucker and gather like a drawstring purse as she tries to find the words.

‘Who are you?’she asks.

Quiet as Mice

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In response to a prompt at https://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/resources/writing-prompts/

My name is Harry. So pleased you could come today. It’s quiet back here, isn’t it? We had to be quiet as mice then. Father Andre was very kind. We weren’t the only family he hid. There were others. Hundreds. Come downstairs. I will show you.

We lay still during the day. Listened to the services. I would look forward to the organ playing and the hymns. So beautiful. Not the same sort of songs that we would normally sing during prayers, but still, so beautiful. It made it easier for a small boy to lie still when such music played. No. It’s okay. Don’t admonish him. What’s his name? Joshua. Yes, you little one. It’s very difficult to be quiet all the time, isn’t it? Imagine if you had to lie down on a cold stone floor all day. Very difficult.

The priest and some of his congregation would come at nightfall with food and water. Even take away the foul-smelling buckets for us and leave us clean ones. It didn’t take the smell away, but it made us feel a little more human for a couple of hours.

Father Andre? No. One day they beat him. Demanded he told them where we were hiding. My papa wanted to go up there and give himself up so they would stop, but the others pinned him down. Said he would be sending us all to our deaths. One man was not worth the lives of so many they said. My father cried that night. I had never seen my father cry before—I never saw him cry again.

 

 

 

We’ll Meet Again

Written in response to

https://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/resources/writing-prompts/

 

Mary tried to write, her eyes brimming. Why would they make her do this? Make all of them do this? She finished her letter that told his date and time of birth, his weight, the name she had chosen for him, and placed it in the brown envelope. She was not allowed to write her own name. Her name was a slight of the holy virgin. Henceforth, she would be known as an Abomination number 356.

Where would he go? Sister Benedict had said it was for the best. “Who would want a mother with the mark of the cross? Branded as a slut and whore in the eyes of the church. Better not to know who she is than carry that shame.”

All the girls were sniffling, trying to contain their grief, knowing what would happen if they didn’t. They had all experienced the beatings, the days in solitary.

Unable to do anything else, she wrote on the outside of the envelope, hoping her beautiful baby would realise she hadn’t let him go through choice. On the bottom right-hand corner of the envelope, she wrote in the tiniest of handwriting, A356. Maybe her son could trace her one day. Sister Benedict snatched all the envelopes and disappeared from the room.

The girls left the table and raced to the windows. Looking out at the line of cars on the driveway, they waited.

 

 

Longlisted

A few weeks ago, I spotted a competition run by Flash500 who run a quarterly flash fiction competition But they were asking for stories up to 3,000 words for their Annual short story competition. The rules said that they accepted adult stories and also stories for children. As I have had my Writing for Children module assessed and returned, I decided to enter the story I had written for Assignment 4 where I had to show a power switch between two characters. My story was called Hidden Treasure, and I was absolutely delighted when it was longlisted, HERE and although it didn’t make the shortlist which you can also see on this link now (only contained the longlist when I got the email.) I was delighted to have got this far.

The whole experience has given me the confidence to believe in myself, and I shall certainly be entering more competitions from now on. In fact, I have entered the Bristol Short Story Prize and sent off a couple of stories to The Writing Magazine.

 

Project 5 – Reading between the lines

Project 5 – page 85 -exercise two characters who know each other well.

Think of a conflict/problem between them.

1a. a married couple who cannot have children.

1b. two friends who are in love with the same person.

Put them in a situation with a third person they don’t know

1c. perhaps a supermarket checkout assistant

1d. perhaps a car salesman.

Write the dialogue in such a way that the conflict is never mentioned, but the reader can work it out.

Once you have got your draft dialogue, cut it by half. Really think about what you can take out while still leaving in ‘what’s between the lines’.

1a + 1c a married couple who can’t have children

Jan and Dave unload the shopping from the cart. The woman on the checkout looks as if she didn’t bother combing her hair this morning. It was obviously just a job to her.

‘There’s an offer on these,’ the woman says, holding up a packet of Jammy Dodgers.

‘I know,’ says Jan, ‘It takes us a while to get through a packet.’

‘It takes five minutes in our house. I usually stock up when they’re on offer. My brood can finish a packet in one session.’

‘Brilliant! How many kids have you got?’ asks Dave, ‘I’m limited to one in my lunch box. She always says I’ve got to watch my weight,’ he adds signalling at Jan with his thumb.

‘Dogs not allowed any?’ the woman asks, scanning several tins of dog food. ‘There’s cheaper brands than this, you know,’ she says to Jan.

‘My Betsy only likes this particular brand. Turns her nose up at anything else. She can be a little madam sometimes, can’t she Dave? ‘

‘Don’t I know it.’ he answers, rolling his eyes at the woman behind the till.

‘Sounds like you spoil her,’ says the woman, ‘My man won’t have animals in the house. Not with so many kids about. You can never be sure, can you?’

‘We don’t have that problem,’ says Jan, ‘Betsy rules the roost in our house. She’s enough for both of us, isn’t she Dave?’

1a + 1d a married couple who can’t have children

‘Come this way. I’ve got just the car.’ The salesman leads the happy couple, Gemma and Tim across the showroom car park to a VW Touran in dark metallic grey. He can tell they’re newly married when he spots Gemma constantly looking at the two brand new rings on her finger.

‘Oh! We’re not looking for something that size,’ says Gemma, ‘Just a small car would suit our lifestyle.’

‘I can see your way of thinking, but it’s surprising how many newlyweds get a two-seater sports job and are back within six months looking for a family car.’ He winks at both of them.

‘We’re more into a bit of speed and luxury than family,’ Steve says, slipping his arm around Gemma’s waist before wandering across the showroom floor, ‘Can we have a trial in that convertible?’

‘Course. It’s up to you. I got one of those when I got married. Lasted a couple of years before Chantelle came along and we had to part-ex for a saloon. I like the people carriers best, though. Planning for the future is good, I say, and they last for years.’ He opens the driver door for Steve, but Gemma steps forward and climbs in.

‘I like this, Steve. Spot on for country drives and picnics. Wind through the hair and all that. Perfect.’

‘I don’t drive,’ says Steve seeing the surprised look on the salesman’s face. ‘Gemma’s the speed fiend.’

‘Won’t be much room when you’ve got a tummy as it were,’ the salesman mutters, half-blushing.

‘As I said, this is perfect for two,’ Gemma snaps, getting out of the car, ‘but as you’re not interested…’

1b + 1c two friends who are in love with the same person.

‘I’ll take the red ones,’ said Bill.

‘Would you like them gift-wrapped?’ asked the florist.

‘Why are you getting red, Phil? You know she hates red flowers.’ said Jack, frowning at his friend.

‘Does she? I didn’t know that?’ Phil turned back to the florist. ‘Looks like I might have to get something else.’ He looked around at the large selection of bouquets on display.

‘Get her the pink ones.’

Phil stared at Jack. ‘How come you’re such an expert on Sophie? Did she tell you she liked pink?’

‘No…Course not. I just remember how much she went on at the flower show the other week.’ Phil looked blank.’ When she practically pushed her nose in the display on that stall. The one with all the different things made of roses. You know… teapots, cups and saucers.’

Phil hunched his shoulders, holding his hands palm up. ‘They all looked the same to me. A flower’s a flower. Was the one with that fit looking redhead standing behind?’

‘Christ, Phil. How could you look at anyone else when you’ve got someone like Sophie? You must be mad.’ Jack scowled at his best friend.

‘Hey! I love Sophie. I’ve got eyes in my head, though. You can’t help noticing a good looking girl.’

The florist coughed loudly before painting a big smile on her face. ‘Did you want these gift-wrapped?

‘Eh. Oh Yeah. Sorry. How much are they?’ Phil asked warily, rifling through his wallet.

‘For Christ’s sake. I’ll buy her the bloody things if you’re afraid of spending too much on her.’ Jack pulled his wallet out. ‘Can you tie a big silk bow around them please and use a gift box with a water well so’s they’ll keep fresh for longer.’

‘Here’s the card sir, if you’d like to write it out now.’

Jack picked up the pen, hesitated for just a moment before passing it to Phil. ‘Here. Or would you like me to write out that for you as well?’

1b + 1d two friends who are in love with the same person.

‘Whoa! Look at this for a bit of kit.’ Brad was gazing lovingly at a sporty number in pillar-box red.

‘You’re joking. Right?’ Jack laughed at his friend.

‘I don’t think so, mate. It’s perfect. Tara’ll love it.’

‘Yeah. Sure she will. Plenty of room for a baby seat in that,’ Jack said, pointing at the narrow gap between the two front seats and the boot.

‘She’ll understand. Last bit of freedom before we’re tied to a baby for the next eighteen years.’

‘She won’t even fit in the front seat in a couple of months. What happens after the baby is born? You just gonna leave her at home all day? D’you know. I sometimes wonder why such a beautiful girl got stuck with a jerk like you.’

‘C’mon mate. Don’t be like that. You’re getting to be a right bore lately.’

Project three

Project 3 -page 72-exercise

1) Choose a short story, either one you’ve written, work in progress or a story you’ve read. Match the story onto the plot template.

 

Eurotrash by Irvine Welsh (The Acid House, 1995, Vintage)

1, Life in the beginning

Euan is staying with a friend in Amsterdam while trying to get off drugs.

  1. Trigger (to the sequence of actions

Euan goes into the city centre of Amsterdam to look for work and meets Chrissie in a bar where she is apparently in a relationship with the barman, Richard. He agrees to spend a day at the seaside with them and, although he despises her, decides to steal her away from Richard.

  1. Sequence of actions

Euan starts an affair with Chrissie, but as he straightens himself out and gets a job, he leaves Chrissie. He gets his own flat and meets a girl who he likes very much, and they become a couple. One night, they meet Chrissie on the street, and she regales Euan over the way he treated her. She leaves them in a very distressed state. Euan explains his relationship with her to his new partner.

  1. Climax

Richard goes to see Euan and tells him that Chrissie has committed suicide after the way that he treated her.  He tells him that if he cared anything for her, he would attend the funeral the following week in Jersey where she came from. Euan and his girlfriend go to Jersey and discover that Chrissie is actually Christopher and has spent his whole life estranged from his family because of his sexuality.

  1. Life at the end.

Euan goes back to Amsterdam and apologises to Richard for everything he has done. Now understanding Chrissie fully he feels a great sorrow instead of despising her and realises how judgemental he has been.

 

 

2) Use a character I have created and think of a trigger relevant to your character’s life at the beginning. Drop him/her into the template and take your character through the stages 1 to 5. Once you’ve got your trigger, you’ll probably find the rest flows. Write an outline and then a draft.

Susan

1, Life in the beginning

Susan lives alone and helps to look after her grandchildren (her abusive husband Tony left her several years ago when her own children were small).

  1. Trigger (to the sequence of actions

Susan is contacted and attracted to a man (Tom), who she knew as a teenager and starts a relationship with him.

  1. Sequence of actions

Tom slowly becomes more and more possessive. He doesn’t like her spending too much time with her family, but Susan thinks that she will change him in the end. She agrees to go on a holiday with him.

  1. Climax

On the first night of the holiday, he becomes very drunk and belligerent when she wants to phone home to say they have arrived safely and says that her previous husband probably had enough reason to abuse her. She decides to telephone her family and he locks her out on the balcony.

  1. Life at the end.

Susan calls her granddaughter, but as in the past, she finds herself unable to tell her granddaughter what is happening or to ask for help.

Writing Short Fiction

I am working my way through part two of WSF so I thought I would put some of my efforts up here so that I can either, get feedback or develop the pieces as I go along or use it as a learning tool as I progress.

Page 50 – Writing yourself 1.

I found a photograph from a few years ago. I’m the one on the left. I tried to see myself as a stranger might and asked myself the question. What do you see? I was now a character. I had to imagine a young businessman passing my character in the street.

Photo:

It was fun to imagine myself as a complete stranger and trying to imagine what the character was thinking about and what would happen next.

 

Lydia paints on a bright smile, she’s trying to relax but realises she is holding on to Jenny a bit too tightly. She wonders what Jenny really thinks about her. After all, she was a good friend to Monica. Does she think what they’re doing is wrong? Peter seems relaxed enough, but they’re hardly going to turn against him after so many years of friendship. Lydia hopes the weekend passes without any uncomfortable incidents. She almost regrets coming. How can she expect them to approve when they know that Monica is at home, none the wiser. Do they feel as if they are betraying her too? What if someone recognises them and tells her?

Peter lowers the camera. ‘Lovely. You both look gorgeous.’

‘Good,’ Jenny says and wriggles out from my grip, rubbing her upper arm. ‘Now can we go and eat. I’m starving.’ She links up with Simon, and they walk ahead of us, along the little, cobbled streets of the village that lies on the edge of the tulip fields.

A young man in a suit is coming towards them. He glances at Lydia. She thinks he must know her. His eyes are looking her up and down, a whisper of a smile on his lips. He nods almost imperceptibly as he passes. She feels the compulsion to look back at him, and when she does; he is looking back at her. She frowns, wondering and then it hits her. A shiver runs down her spine as she turns away, pulling on Pete’s arm and quickening her step.

‘Let’s hurry. I’m absolutely famished,’ says Lydia, desperate to leave the man behind.

269 words

 

Page 55 exercise – Familiar strangers

  1. Familiar strangers are the people you recognise from everyday life but don’t interact with. Choose somebody, it could be the old man you see frequently at the bus stop, the young mum at the gym or the taxi driver you pass on your way to work each morning.Choose one vivid detail about this person. From one detail that strikes you, write the introduction to this character’s short story in a way that reveals much more about who they are. As you’re beginning to learn, plots can come from characters so start to think how a story might develop from this introduction. If it’s working, keep going and draft a story.

    Brian always wears a woollen Crombie, black with the collar turned up. It’s too long for his five-foot-one frame but it looks good with his black, leather gloves. He wears it when he knocks on all the doors in the village, selling poppies for The British Legion every year. He wears it to attend church with his wife every Sunday morning and he wears it to attend the coffee mornings at the village hall on the first Saturday of the month during the whole of autumn and winter.

    It was a typical November evening when Brian knocked on the door of the new couple who had just moved into the village.

    ‘Good evening,’ he said in his usual authoritative voice, looking up at the willowy young woman who answered the door. ‘I’m the designated poppy seller for the village and I wondered if I might persuade you to purchase one. Any amount you care to donate would be gratefully received.’

    ‘Ah. Yes. I’ll just get my purse,’ the young woman said and disappeared inside, almost closing the door on Brian.

    Not exactly welcoming, he thought. Still, when Sheila invites her to attend the next WI meeting, it’ll break the ice a little.

    Melanie came back to the door and unzipped her purse.

    ‘I can’t rattle my collection tin, I’m afraid,’ said Brian, coughing slightly and smiling up at her. ‘There are only notes in there at the moment.’

    Melanie raised her eyebrows and stared down at Brian. She didn’t fasten the zip on the coin pocket of her purse. In fact, she looked at the pound coin in her hand and popped it back in her purse. Brian widened his smile until Melanie drew out a fifty pence piece and popped it in the slot on the top of the collection tin. It thudded loudly as it hit the bottom. She then helped herself to a poppy from the tray that was securely fastened to a broad red ribbon and hanging around Brian’s neck.

    ‘Goodnight,’ she said and promptly closed the door in his face.

     

    ‘Well, I never,’ spluttered Brian before racing back down the path and slamming the gate behind him. He hurried to the large detached house next door. He had no idea what Bill and Jacqueline Brown would make of it but it was definitely his duty to raise their awareness of the sort of neighbours who had just moved in next door to them.

408 words

2. Now try a monologue as a way of getting to know this familiar stranger as a character. This is an excellent way to get into the head of the character. In the same way as you free write, don’t think about it too much, just write from your character’s head – as he/she waits for the bus, works out at the gym, or drives the taxi – and see what emerges.

 

Just wait until I get home and tell Sheila. Disgraceful really and to donate only fifty pence. That is not the spirit of generosity I expect from my fellow neighbours in this village. It most definitely will not do. I’m not entirely sure now that Sheila should invite the wretched woman to the next WI meeting if she was going to be this mealy-mouthed. She’d barely made any effort at all to speak to me. There’s no way Sheila should make her welcome after that.  No! I’ve a good mind to warn everyone in the village about her. I know…I’ll bring it up at the next parish council meeting.

Oh dear! She’s making me behave as abominably as she did. Perhaps I’m being a little hasty in my judgement. Now then, Brian. Have a word with yourself. Charity and all that. Must give her the benefit. It may be that she didn’t want to open her door to a stranger. I suppose that could be it. In all fairness, that’s exactly what I am to her, a stranger. She doesn’t actually know me from Adam.

That’s probably it. Still, I have to say, I didn’t like the way she looked down at me. It would have been better if she had stepped down on to the path instead of looming over me as if I was a child.

Be that as it may. I shall be charitable and forgive this first encounter. I’ll send a personal invitation to the next coffee morning in aid of the RNLI. Then we’ll see if she and her husband will deign to show their presence. Then we’ll know. Yes. Absolutely, we’ll know.

278 words

Relatively Speaking

Rob stood outside the Dog and Duck and stared at the door. The paint was chipped and he could see the dirty brown colour underneath the current grey. He’d never looked at it before, always eager to get in and greet his friends. He’d never looked at his father before either. Not that he remembered anyway. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to see him now but he deserved to know why he’d walked out on him when he was a baby, didn’t he? Why he’d never been in touch for all his twenty-five years? Rob lifted his chin up and steeled himself. Clenching his fists by his side he pushed the door open with his shoulder and marched into the familiar bar. The man was sitting by the window. His future, older face smiled back at him. It shocked him. Took the wind out of his sails. He turned his back and faced the bar.

‘A pint please Jack.’ His voice was high.

‘Sure, Rob. You ok?’ Jack spoke to Rob but looked at the man by the window.

‘Fine.  I’ll be fine.’ Rob replied. His mouth was suddenly dry.

Rob drank deeply from the pint glass before turning to face his father. He strode purposefully towards him and sat down. His father looked nervous. So he should be.

‘Hello son.’ He held his hand out. Rob ignored it. ‘It’s good to finally meet you. I’ve been waiting a long time for this.’

‘Surprised you could spare the time.’ snarled Rob. What did he expect? Open arms? Tears?

‘I don’t blame you. I’ve a lot of explaining to do if you’ll let me?’

‘You’ve got ten minutes, and then I’m gone.’ Rob couldn’t wait for it to be over. There was nothing this man could say to change things.

The Last Crush

I have been given an exercise to do where I had to use a given sentence ‘I secured the last available space’. I decided to make it present tense and an image of the London Tube came immediately to mind. I wonder what you would have written about?

 

The Last Crush

I secure the last available space as I squeeze myself onto the eight-forty-five tube from King’s Cross. I hadn’t even attempted to get on the last three. I’m late again. I won’t be late back to my empty, lonely flat tonight, though. Maybe I can talk Cath into a night out without Jack. I don’t think he likes her going out with someone single since they moved in together.

Facing the sliding doors, I hang on to the overhead strap for dear life. Gagging and desperately trying to hold my breath as the man next to me showers hot, thick garlic breath down on me. It snakes its way across my cheek and curls up my nose. Closing my eyes, I concentrate my thoughts on the day ahead. I’ll be pleased when today is over. It’s going to be a bit awkward.

How will Mr Bailey react to me handing in my notice?  I can see him clearly, standing up from his desk, eyes pleading, saying how sorry he is. How he didn’t know what had got into him. How he didn’t normally drink at the office party.

I relive, with slight revulsion, last night’s episode. He’d sobbed on my shoulder, spluttering and blowing his nose loudly. The last thing I’d expected from the strict boss who looked down his nose at all his staff. He had told me that Mildred had left him for the window cleaner. She had said that he could give her what her husband never could. I hadn’t intended to laugh but the picture of grey, stiff-lipped, Mildred Bailey being seduced and thrown down on the bed by a hunky, bare-chested window cleaner and whipped by his chamois leather, popped into my head.  He didn’t understand what she saw in him. How all the neighbours had been whispering and sniggering behind his back.

‘You’re sho b-beauuutiful when you shmile,’ he had slurred, his glass of wine slopping over onto the pristine, grey carpet. ‘Dooo you …can I…?’ Mr Bailey had grabbed my face and tried to kiss me, slobbering wet lips that missed my mouth as I jerked my head back. Saliva slipping across my chin.

No! I will say. I’m not prepared to think about it. I’ve made up my mind. It’s time to move on. I’ll clear my desk and walk away. Start again.

 

 

We’re slowing down, must be Warren Street. The doors whoosh and hiss as they open and someone almost knocks me over, trying to get off. A woman with a small suitcase on wheels yanks and pulls it past me, banging my legs. I yelp and she turns back and glares at me, daring me to say anything. Her creased face, a sunset orange, glows alongside the flames of hair streaked with red and gold. I watch her push her way through the shuffling, suited,penguin colony desperate to board. There isn’t room, a voice inside my head shouts as I close my eyes again.

Someone’s chest is pushing against my nose. I can’t breathe. Ooh, nice. A clean, sharp scent fills my squashed nostrils. A warm cotton shirt brushes soft against my cheeks. Bliss. I can’t smell Mr garlic breath anymore. A large hand joins mine in the overhead strap. It’s warm, comforting. Electricity sparks from his palm to the backs of my fingers. Tipping my head back, I look up to find a pair of large, nut-brown eyes smiling down at me. Long dark eyelashes and thick brows frame these mesmerising, fathomless eyes and below them a long narrow nose and full lips. The lips part as a pink tongue licks them. I shiver as my heart skips a beat. Olly Murs is singing in my head and I can’t shut him up.

The mouth starts to move and a rich, chocolaty voice speaks to my face. ‘Sorry. Wouldn’t normally…late you see.’

‘No problem,’ I croak.

The tube rattles along, pinning us together and I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I let my face rest back into his chest and inhale deeply.

‘Rick,’ he says, his finger stroking the back of my right hand as it still clings to the strap.

‘Sadie,’ I mumble, into the shirt. I can feel his nipple under the cotton, hard against my lips.

‘Very pleased to meet you, Sadie,’ he whispers, pushing himself closer. I feel so light-headed. What is happening to me? Me who never speaks to strangers. Me who never even kisses on a first date. Even when it’s someone, I know. ‘Where do you work?’ he asks, lifting my chin up with his free hand.

‘Green Park. Hospitality,’ I gasp. ‘You?’

‘Brixton. Marketing. Do you think we-?’

‘Yes,’ I almost shout.’ I mean…that would be nice.’ My face is burning.

The tube stops, he puts an arm around my waist and holds on tight as people push and shove their way past us. I don’t notice the vacant red seats.

The tube rattles on.

‘What time do you finish work?’ he asks.

‘In eight hours time.’

‘Very precise?’

‘My last day,’ I answer

‘Redundancy?’

‘Definitely. No further use for it.’

I watch his brow furrow as he looks down at me. ‘Pastures new?’

‘I do hope so.’

He smiles, his white teeth almost twinkle with brilliance. ‘Me too.’ he says as if he fully understands.

I return the smile. ‘My boss thought I was available. Silly man.’

‘Very silly man,’ he concurs, stroking my cheek. I lose my balance as the train slows. His arm pulls me close again and his face comes down and covers mine as he kisses me. Long, slow, delicious. I can taste his spearmint toothpaste. I barely hear the woman tut and say…’For Goodness sake!’

The tube moves on again as we hold each other close. His lips part from mine and I sigh.

‘Ah! Pastures new,’

‘Sorry?’ I whisper.

‘Pastures new, ‘ he repeats, nodding in the direction of the automated station indicator that is repeating NEXT STOP VICTORIA. I’ve missed my stop.

I grin up at him. ‘Pastures new.’