Helen Midgley likes to think of herself as a cross between Dawn French and Kate Moss. She has been in the witness protection programme for a number of years and once lived in Brighton as a bearded mechanic called Dave! Her current incarnation is as a part-time Journalism & Media tutor at a small FE College in Yorkshire. She has survived cancer, dandruff and athlete’s foot and has a penchant for black humour and red wine.
Her first story was a humorous autobiographical short on her journey with Cervical Cancer ‘Walking with the Beast’. A magazine picked up the story and serialised the piece. This led to a couple of other shorts and articles being published. She is currently working on her first novel, very very slowly……..
He glanced at his watch impatiently. It was 11:15 and the train was late, again. The ticking time piece was like kindling, igniting the pain in his head, feeding it. He shifted on the bench trying to dislodge the numb ache in his backside. Lifting an ankle he drew a couple of circles anticlockwise, dropped it, and did the same with the other. Then stretched his legs back down on the concrete, heels together and toes pointed north. A single light illuminated the platform giving an eerie glow to the empty station. Something stopped him. He heard a noise. He lifted his head, twisting it slightly and jerked it back the other way. He scanned across at the platform opposite. Then he spotted her, a child in a red woollen hat, not more than five or six. He could hear her singing. It was faint and he couldn’t quite catch it.
He glanced at his watch impatiently. It was 11.15. It can’t be, it must have stopped. He looked back at the child. Who was she with at this time of night? Nobody else appeared. His headache shifted up a gear. He scanned back across at the empty platform, still no-one else. The girl kept singing, he could just make it out. A melancholy tune floated across the tracks “Ring a Ring of Roses, pocket full of poses, tissue tissue, all fall down”. He shivered.
He glanced at his watch impatiently. It was 11:15. He shivered again. His eyes fixed tightly on the red woollen hat. His blood went cold as the tune grew louder. His hands went clammy and his heart pounded in his chest. He could feel it expanding, violently beating. The pounding so intense he could hear it. An intensifying rumble filling his ears and still his eyes fixed tightly on the red woollen hat. The four horse men of the apocalypse came rumbling into earshot as the 11:05 to Bagshott flew into the station. He ran to the doors, threw himself in and sat down, shaking. The train moved off.
He glanced at his watch impatiently. It was 11:16…………….
The car pulled away quickly, narrowly avoiding next door’s stationary Range Rover. Why her loud and garish neighbour, needed a Range Rover was hard to fathom. Especially considering she only left the house once a week for a wash and set and the occasional trip to Sainsburys. Perhaps a throw back from her years as a TA instructor Kate imagined, although she hadn’t actually asked her. Kate suddenly pictured a large framed, buxom 70yr old in her starched kit and equally tight knickers straddling a machine gun ready for action, she laughed out loud. It was just those thoughts that made seeing her own car turning the corner and out of sight that bit easier to handle. She stood for a few seconds scratching at a small mark on the window. Then realised the mark was actually on the outside and cursed the so called window cleaner, who she couldn’t remember actually seeing except for when he called for his money. No 1 on the things to do list; leave the mark and see when it goes! Definite candidate for Frost, ahh No 2 for the list; Source Open University Course in Criminology.
Why did it hurt so much? Seeing his half finished tea left on the table, his empty glass propped hazardously against the corner of the plate. The shouting had stopped. Kate should have felt relief but she could only feel the emptiness. The mounting fear that she was now alone. Did she do the right thing? Did he feel any pain? (Metaphorically speaking now, honestly). She stood and started to scrape the last remnants of his meal into the bin – was this how it was going to be now? Scraping away the past, the knife noisily scratching at the last few beans stuck to the plate. No 3 for the list; buy new bin bags. “I’ll wash up in a minute” she thought, as she sat down again wondering what to do next.
She was mulling over the earlier events when the piercing shrill of the door bell startled her upright and onto her feet. Instinctively straightening her hair and adjusting her underwear, she walked towards the door. No 4 on the list; never buy thongs again. She opened the door and forcing a smile she didn’t feel, came face to face, well actually face to chest, with a very small, slightly paunched chap who greeted her with a wink. Needless to say she was instantly thrown and momentarily speechless, No 5 on the list; remember to read that article on first impressions. Sensing her unease he broke the silence “£3.75 Mrs”. What for, Kate thought. A sandwich, a copy of Big Issue, donation for endangered Pandas? Turns out it was for the windows!
Sat back down on the settee but still couldn’t settle. The TV was on but even Corrie couldn’t sustain her interest. Picking up a magazine and flicking through the pages she was caught for a few minutes by a new pic of Posh & Becks queuing outside Argos. She quickly put it back down, and reached for the remote. Why there was never anything you wanted to watch or hadn’t at least seen twice before? She knew it was only a distraction, stopping her from thinking about what happened. What was he doing now? How far had he got? Maybe she’d do the washing up, she hated looking at it, sat there playing with her, “you know you want me”, “I’m dirty” “The waters lovely” OK OK I give in her subconscious screamed, ohh but wait Posh & Becks are in Comet now, “I’ll just read this”. No 6 on the list: check out printing ink at Comet;
The phone rang; first quietly, seemingly harmless then rising to a thunderous drone, calling her to it. Who would it be, was it him? It was too late for selling, too early for that sloshed friend who’d been dumped outside “The Happy Haddock”. If it was him, how should she react? Should she stay calm? Act as if she wasn’t bothered, pretending she was in control. If she didn’t answer it, would he ring back? She hesitantly picked up the phone. Trying to follow those deep breathing exercises she recently read about “Hello”. It was him. Alleluia. He was ok and wanted to talk. “Hi Mum, Dads dropped me at Sams, he’s on his way back, see you in the morning” So that was it, short and sweet, his first sleepover. The pain started to ease, the emptiness subsided and then a sudden realisation hit, “Damn, I’d better finish the washing up” she knew her hubby would be bringing back a bottle. Kate’s mind frantically raced as she tried to remember the last time she’d shaved her legs. “You never know” Kate mischievously thought, “I could be on a promise if I play my cards right” after all we do have the house to ourselves!
P.S. No 7 on the list; buy notepad to make a to do list.
- Misty by Helen Midgley (neverendingstorydepository.wordpress.com)
- The Wedding Dress (neverendingstorydepository.wordpress.com)