What Cilla did next

A short story inspired by August’s Visual Verse photo prompt.

August-2019-VV

When Cilla saw the ad, she recognised the cottage she and Jason had invented. It was exactly what they had talked about owning one day, when his divorce came through. They would lie in bed, in her bed, and talk, dream, pretend. The asking price was far more than she thought they’d be able to afford, but on a whim, she phoned up about it. The estate agent told her it was probably sold, the couple who were interested wanted just one last look before they agreed on the price, but if she liked, he would squeeze her in that afternoon before they arrived. You never know, he’d said, hedging his bets.

It was perfect, old red brick with roses round the door, stone flagged floors, mature cottage garden. The visit was rushed; she was shuffled out of the kitchen door as the couple arrived ahead of time, striding in a proprietorial sort of way up to the front door, happy, smiling, enchanted. He picked a rose and handed it to his wife. She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. They didn’t see her, but Cilla saw them, and the fabricated yarn of divorce unravelled into a shoddy tissue of lies.

That was two weeks before the holiday—he had told his wife it was a business trip—a week in the Greek islands. She kept the image of his wife in her head though it made her sob in hopeless fury. She saw his gallant gesture repeating over and over, their smiling faces. It wasn’t going to be enough to confront him with his lies. She wanted to make him feel as much pain as she did.

 

Jason took her hand and showed her the island, as if he owned it. Praised the scenery, the locals, the wine. There was magic in the islands, he said. He said a lot of other things too. She talked about the house they would buy after the divorce, described the brick cottage in detail, the roses round the door, the stone flags in the kitchen and smiled to herself as he shuffled and his gaze drifted uneasily. He had wanted to eat out that first evening. She insisted on cooking at the rented apartment. Just a simple meal, she’d said, stuff from the market and a bottle of wine.

He didn’t guess, she was sure of that. He lacked the imagination, but he was worried. She smiled a lot, more than usual. She was aware of it, the euphoria going to her head more than the wine. She wanted to laugh. Afterwards, she insisted they go down to the sea. It was evening, almost dark. He probably thought it was the uneven path making him stumble, low branches making him bend almost to the ground. By the time he was running on all fours, he had no idea who he was anymore. She picked up a stick and whopped him on the back end, laughing as he squealed and trotted off in terror into the wine dark sea.

What would I give?

The dverse prompt today is a real challenge. I can write rhyming ballads like breathing, but I’ve never done a nasty one before. This ended up as sweetly sad as usual, but following Kim’s instructions, I changed the last lines and hopefully changed the tone too.

Miranda - The tempest, by John William Waterhouse

What would I give to have you with me,

To sit beneath the scented rose tree,

And watch together the rolling river,

As moonlight glitter bathes us in silver.

 

Years I would offer of this poor lifetime,

If you’d come back and promise to be mine,

But the rose is falling, fading its scent,

And you never told me where you went.

 

Your smile was so easy, your mouth ripe and red,

I thought that you loved me though you never said,

We dallied all spring till you went away,

One last kiss you gave me and bid me to stay.

 

One more day I’ll linger on this grassy bank,

For autumn is coming with mists damp and dank,

In my bones I feel I’ll not see the spring,

Weary of watching for what the tides bring.

 

Should you come back and I should be dead,

You’ll find I’m still waiting to pour on your head

The lees of the bitter cup you made me drink,

And beneath cold waves I’ll see that you sink.

Microfiction Three Line Tales: Vengeance

This is for Sonya’s Three Line Tales photo prompt. Second drone this week!

photo by Caleb Woods via Unsplash

tltweek61

They never let him do what he wanted, never listened when he spoke, decided everything for him, even what brand of trainers he wore.

Anyone watching would have said, Finally little Joey got something he asked for, lucky kid; maybe now he’ll stop whining about how everyone ignores him.

Well, they’d be wrong, and when the drone landed on the roof, his parents and his godawful brother would wish they’d paid a bit more attention to little Joey.

 

387px-Degas_La_Repasseuse_Musee_dOrsay

Walking a lifetime

charles_w-_hawthorne_-_young_man_and_woman

I walked a lifetime where you led,

Trod in the space your shoulders cleared,

A silent shade behind your light.

I walked a lifetime in your wake,

The flat black shadow of your back,

While you walked, sun upon your face.

At first I walked content to be

Demure, a modest dove, you said,

‘A woman has only her looks,’ they said.

And walking with a man like you,

Who said I was a pretty thing,

Made me blush with foolish pride.

I walked a lifetime, eyes upon

Your neck that changed to thick and red,

I knew it better than your face.

When my looks fled from lack of love,

You walked with sullen heavy tread

And only turned to stamp your foot.

Now I lag with slower steps

To watch the changing cloudy sky

And listen to the blackbirds sing.

I walked a lifetime not my own

Behind that angry roll of flesh,

Slumped and gasping now you turn,

Your hand outstretched, your rolling eye,

I walk on by.

Microfiction: Revolution

644px-le_ballon-pierre_puvis_de_chavannes-img_8274

 

After bringing war to the gates of the capital, the king, taking his heir and his most valued advisors floated in his specially commissioned Montgolfier high out of range of the guns and safely over the heads of the besieging army. The people murmured angrily. They were starving and the enemy offered no quarter, except on one condition, which the king had effectively sabotaged.

His wife watched the Montgolfier, draped in the royal colours, as it grew smaller and smaller against the sky. She had stayed with her children, the expendable ones, and the people. Not out of duty—she was a mother, not a soldier—but out of love for the babies, her own and those of all the mothers trapped in the city who would not fit in the Montgolfier. Albert had nodded solemnly when she told him of her decision, but she noticed his eyes shift anxiously to the clouds and the storm rolling in from the plains. He itched to be gone.

He was gone now. So small she couldn’t even see him. And little Albert would be cowering on the floor of the basket with his hands over his head in all probability. For a moment, the smoke from a bursting shell hid the balloon, and she held her breath. It must be close to the hills by now. The smoke cleared. The Montgolfier hung in the sky over the highest peak, low enough to…

She gripped the rifle harder and raised her hand in sign of farewell. She didn’t hear, but she saw the flash of the mortar instants before the balloon exploded. The image of a pale little boy flashed through her mind, the child she had never been allowed to love, but her eyes hardened, and she raised the rifle high.

“The rebels have him!” she shouted, and watched with bitter satisfaction the expression of utter astonishment of the troops on the walls. She waited for the wave of cheering from the people to die down before she added, “Send out an envoy to the enemy. We can give them what they want. It is time to sue for peace.”

A general stormed and blustered, but was overpowered before he could speak. Another ordered his adjutant to shoot her down, but a bullet in the back of the general’s head stayed the adjutant’s hand before he drew the pistol. She stood on the palace wall and stared across the sea of hungry people and her lips set in a determined line. They would have justice. If Albert survived the crash, he would pay for his war, her loveless life, the pale child. And she would not shed a single tear.

Microfiction #writephoto: Death hole

Sue’s photo and Lorraine’s story inspired this flash fiction for the #writephoto prompt

cave-creature

Just a hole in the ground. Out of sight, out of mind. They dump us in it when we no more use, or sick or we puppies with the wrong sire. They tie a stone to a back leg, just in case, and they drop us in. Years and years the huntsmen do it, dumping, killing slowly, easier than a bullet in the head. We saw that with the big animals, the hoof and antler animals too big for us to catch and kill. Quick. Sometimes. The life fades quick, like the night falling. Not when they drop us in the hole. Not quick, they want. Long and painful. They laugh. We hear. And we are angry.

The hole is long and narrow, windy narrow like the long windy cold animals in the grass. It comes out in the light way way far away under a hill. Other dogs help chew the rope, and then stone we have no longer. We run. We run together because the men don’t want us. It broke our hearts. No hearts we now. Only anger. We hear them with their dogs, chasing the small fast animals with the frightened hearts. We hear them, and when they come too close, their dogs run, far far away. Dogs know. Men know nothing, come crashing, looking. We wait, we wait and when close, we leap. We hear the cry the fear when they fall. We bite the fingers that scrabble at the edge. No more laughing.

Huntsmen fall down hole sometimes here, and they have no stone on their legs. But dogs make sure they don’t find the long long way out.

#writephoto microfiction: Refuge

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

cave1

Once it had been a refuge. A wall three feet thick had ringed it about, and in the winter the snow lay so deep against the gate no one could get out. Once she had lived there with her father and brothers, through the cold, hungry months of the winter, and the star-filled nights of summer. Winter and summer alike, a fire roared in the hearth, the dogs lay by the wall, and the watch kept his post on the tower.

One summer, when the gate stood lazily open, and the watch snoozed, and only the dogs kept half an eye open, they had fallen on her father’s hall. Mercenaries, between one war and the next, looking for easy pickings. She wasn’t the easiest of all, but she was no match for a dozen armed men, not when her father and her brothers lay in their blood with the dogs, and the serving men fled. So they took her and they did with her what all soldiers do with women they find. Later, when they had done, night fallen and they were sleeping, she cut the throat of their leader. They caught her and they ran her through, of course, but her spirit came home. She still waits for the band of soldiers to dare to come back to her father’s hall. Once it had been a refuge. Now it was a trap.

Skyrider

For the Daily Post prompt: Punishment, a slightly different interpretation of the fairy tale prince.

Riddaren_rider_by_John_Bauer_1914

In a fury, the prince stormed into the stables and ordered his favourite horse to be saddled, the horse that rode the sky. Grooms and stable boys fell over themselves to prepare the horse, terrified of the prince’s anger should they keep him waiting, or should he find fault with their work. The prince had barely time to tap his foot with impatience before his horse was brought out, shining and brilliant in his finest trappings. Thin-lipped and white-faced, the prince snatched the reins and, without a word, leapt into the saddle.

He dug the spurs savagely into Skyrider’s flanks, and the horse soared into the darkening sky. Already the first stars were shining; soon it would be night. Mercilessly the young prince urged his horse on, further and higher, higher and further, until the roaring wind of their flight blew white foam flecks from Skyrider’s flanks to join the waking stars. At last, his horse tiring, and when even the spurs could make him go no faster, the prince found what he had been searching for.

He reached out a jewelled gauntlet and snatched it from its velvet bed—the star of destruction. His face, white with anger, grimaced as a mirthless grin of victory spread across his face, and he balanced the star in his hand, testing its weight. When his father raised his face to the heavens and saw the red star of death streak across the sky and fall upon his palace, his city, his realm, he would regret bitterly his refusal to name his youngest son as his heir.

Microfiction #writephoto: Stone teeth

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. This story follows on from Stone Laughter

stepping-stones-ilkley

The last sound Balor heard was the tinkling of laughter from the little men, a pale imitation of his own thunderous roar. As his life flowed away, his knees buckled and he toppled, scattering the warriors with their needles of spears in a shower of bright darts. He fell, his ruined eye forever turned to the sky he would see no more, where birds flew he would no more hear. His dead weight carved a deep valley in the hills, and Eriú, taking pity on one who had once been a courageous and fearless leader, covered his bones with cool, soft earth.

On the hills where they had fallen, the warriors picked themselves up and pointed at the face, almost sunk beneath the earth, at the pit of an eye and the great gash of Balor’s mouth with its stone teeth. In jubilation they started their victory chant so their wives and children gathered in the valley below would hear.

Eriú frowned in her deep earth cave and called upon the warriors to show more respect. Not one listened, not one cared. Not until from between Balor’s dead stone teeth, the goddess poured a raging river in spate, that rushed down the valley, carrying away everything that lay in its path. In a little while, the victory chant turned to the keening of a lament.