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Oh, Baby!

Oh, Baby!

Oh, Baby!

By Susan Browne © Susan Browne 2018

 

Ciara was expecting something more exotic for her online dream guy to work at than driving buses. However, the idea grows on her.

It turns out that the rugged faced Dub I have been stalking on social media for the past month is a bus driver. His profile speaks more of an engineer; lecturer; travel photographer; detective perhaps.

I still think his posts are brilliant and that he must be very smart. I accidentally liked one once, but usually I just quietly admire him, not commenting or interacting with him. My friends say I’m an idiot. I’m just shy I guess.

Nan says ‘you should never judge a book by its cover,’ as we sit here in the bus station having mushroom colored tea in thin paper cups. I’m not sure what she means, but I can’t ask her because she’s speaking too loudly and I know he could walk by at any moment. I still experience a giddiness at seeing him, even with the Bus Eireann uniform.

‘You could always ask him out on a date. What’s the harm in that?’ Nan smiles, triumphant. Her chihuahua, Baby, looks at me with his cute black eyes and appears to nod in agreement.

‘Nan, I can’t just ask him out on a date,’ I hiss.

‘You are so old-fashioned. In my day..’

‘Your day?’ I say, trying to imagine what Nan might have been getting up to in her day and then abandon the thought with a shudder.

My face reddens as he strolls right past us again.

‘I think he likes you,’ she says, using her outdoor voice.

He suddenly doubles back on himself and trips over Baby’s lead. Baby yelps with fright and hides under Nan’s chair as the bus driver falls to the white and green tiled floor.

‘Oh my God, are you okay?’ I say.

‘Plant Power Girl?’ He untangles himself from the lead and pats Baby gently, who sniffs him and then licks his hand.

He actually knows who I am. ‘Dara Redford?’

Baby, having made a quick recovery starts humping his ankle.

Nan says ‘This is my granddaughter, Ciara. She is at uni doing a Masters in.. what is it again, Love?’

‘Social Studies,’ Dara shrugs. ‘I saw it on your page.’

Wait, this guy actually reads my stuff. Looks at my profile. Creepy.

‘Well, it’s nice to see you in real life,’ I say, trying to sound aloof.

He strokes Baby’s head while ushering him off his leg, with expert panache. ‘I’d love to see you in real life again. Want to meet me for dinner sometime?’

‘I’ve loads of study to do,’ I blather.

‘No problem. Sorry for tripping over your lovely dog. Have a safe journey if you are traveling today.’

He tips his cap which I find a little cringy, but it makes me reconsider the Bus Eireann uniform. I like the hat and the shape of him as he walks away.

Nan looks at me with that stare she is so good at. ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth, Ciara.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘I mean why the bejeezus didn’t you say yes? He’s an absolute ride.’

‘Delete that expression from your vocabulary right now.’

‘I’m just saying, I would,’ she grins, wickedly.

‘And that! Disgusting.’

‘I just want you to be happy. He looks a nice chap. Go after him.’

Our bus to Dublin is being driven by our own Dara Redford. As we board, he doesn’t make any eye contact with me. I want so much to say something funny, but the moment is lost, and I work my way to the back of the bus with Nan and Baby following behind me.

As we approach Dublin, he makes an announcement that we will be arriving soon, and I go onto his profile and send him a message.

Are you free Friday night for meet up in Galway? Sorry. Awkward with my Nan there.

I hit send and feel my blood pressure rise through the roof of the bus. Before I can say anything to him, Dara has hopped off and is retrieving passengers’ bags from underneath.

***

It’s been three full days of checking my phone and Dara’s profile about thirty times an hour. I am now content about the bus driver detail. I’ve even idly followed Bus Eireann’s page. I’m beyond smitten, and now he’s replied:

How about fish and chips at Spanish Arch at 7?

I wait all of four minutes so as not to appear too keen: I’m vegan, so I’ll bring my own. See you there xxx. The kisses were by accident. Mortifying.

It’s quarter past seven, and my nose is stinging.

‘Sorry I’m late. Shopping took longer than I thought.’

‘Shopping?’

He unfurls a smart, striped picnic blanket, and produces two very impressive looking salads from my favourite deli.

‘You’re so good. Thank you.’

I sit and eat, self consciously. Just then a miniature dog runs up and licks my hands. ‘Baby! What are you doing here?’ I expect nan is nearby spying somewhere.

Baby is not very impressed by the salad and looks down at the swans as though he is the boss.

 Dara turns to me and puts his strong hand on the side of my face, looks into my eyes with those deep blue lagoons and long lashes. I lean a millisecond closer and breathe him into every cell of my body. He says in his Colin Farrell accent: ‘can I be extremely forward and ask if it’s okay to kiss you right now?’

I reply by kissing him first. The whole world disappears around us.

Next, on cue, Baby starts gyrating on his leg. Nan’s head appears close to mine and says ‘don’t mind me. Want me to get you some proper food, Lovey? No need to eat that salad stuff just cause she is, there’ll be nothing left of you.’

About this Story: This story was written in response to a flash fiction challenge run by NYC Midnight, where I had 48 hours to write a 1000 word story.

The Prompt: Genre = romantic comedy, location = a bus station; object = a chihuahua.

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Must be Talking to an Angel

Must be Talking to an Angel

Must be Talking to an Angel

By Susan Browne © Susan Browne 2012 and 2018

Angel Story. Published by Woman’s Way Magazine, Ireland February 20th, 2012. 

Marilyn gripped her mug of tea as her friend Annabel continued with zest. ‘You should read the book after me. And since I have started reading it I have had lots of angel signs. I keep finding white feathers, hearing songs about angels on the radio and I know it’s them. Of course, it was probably happening all along I just didn’t notice.’

Marylin watched her as she spoke. She did look different. She had a glow that wasn’t there before. But something about what she was talking about seemed to create a knot in Marilyn’s stomach and transported her back into a classroom where she was about six.

She allowed herself to drift away from her friend and into the memory for a look around. The children were all listening intently. She couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying, but she sensed it was somehow connected to what Annabel was telling her.

‘Well, what do you think? I’ll be finished by this evening. I could drop it over.’

‘Okay,’ she sighed heavily.

‘What’s wrong? You love reading.’

‘I don’t know, Annabel. All this angel stuff. It’s not really for me.’

Annabel looked at her, crestfallen. Marilyn tried to make amends. ‘It’s certainly suiting you though. Just look at you; you’re radiant.’

‘I know. I feel a hundred times better. My life is changing in a way I can’t explain.’

That night Marilyn dreamed of being back in the classroom. She could smell the little pile of fresh pencil shavings carefully discarded in her inkwell as she tried to rub black marks off her fingers.

Miss Kelly was pointing at chalked letters on the blackboard. Little Marilyn watched colours dance and swirl around her. She saw a figure of light standing close to her, glowing and watching on lovingly. The golden form looked over at Marilyn and smiled. Then she demonstrated breathing slowly in and out, pointing at Miss Kelly. Marilyn’s mouth opened and the words simply tumbled out, ‘Miss Kelly I think your angel says you must stop and take a breath.’

The class went quiet and thirty-six eyes turned to face Marily. Miss Kelly’s angel seemed to flinch.

‘What did you say?’ the teachers face turned crimson and the colours around her turned into an ugly grey mist. Miss Kelly stormed over and cracked a wooden ruler across her little hands. The hurt and confusion she felt were much worse than the physical pain. Miss Kelly was her favourite teacher. She woke out of her dream and quietly got out of bed, reading the time as only 4:44. She wept as she relived the incident, trying to make sense of it. She made herself a hot drink and did some tidying before her body demanded she get back into bed. Immediately she slipped into another dream. This time Miss Kelly was an older woman dressed in a green jacket. Miss Kelly was apologising to her profusely. The dream was so clear.

‘It’s alright,’ she kept telling her, embarrassed.

‘I would love to make it up to you. What a beautiful child, telling me my angel’s message. How cruel I was.’ Marilyn saw her angel again, laughing and rejoicing, shining and spinning around her. She was also aware of her own angel embracing her with golden light.

‘I forgive you Miss Kelly,’ and she did.

When Marilyn awoke the next morning she had the urge to ring her friend Annabel straight away to tell her about the dream but something stopped her. It was just a dream after all. On her drive to work she turned on the radio only to hear the lines ‘must be talking to an angel,’ by The Eurythmics. It made her laugh. ‘So maybe there are angels,’ she smiled. She remembered to buy some sugar at the last minute and stopped at a different shop than usual. She joined the queue and gasped as Miss Kelly joined after her. She hadn’t seen her in years but was stunned to see her wearing the same green jacket that she had worn in the dream. The retired teacher gave her a warm smile.

‘You’re Marilyn, aren’t you?’ she said.

‘Yes Miss Kelly,’ she said.

‘Please call me Margaret. Can I talk to you for a minute?’ she said after a pause.

Marilyn agreed, feeling apprehensive as they walked out of the shop together.

‘Here is okay,’ she said. ‘I just wanted to thank you.’

‘What for?’ asked Marilyn.

‘I know this might sound a little strange, but I’ve always believed something you said to me when you were a child made me stop smoking. I was very hard on you when you said it, because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I used to smoke sixty a day, I had terrible chest problems, and my mother was the same and died young because of it. I grieved terribly for her. But what you said made me stop immediately. I never smoked since. I am deeply indebted to you.’

‘Wow. That’s quite amazing,’ said Marilyn.

‘Can you still see angels?’ she asked.

Marilyn’s face reddened. Then she realised there was no need to feel afraid. ‘I did in my dream last night.’

‘Well I often see them these days, and your angel says there is a book you ought to read,’ she grinned. The light twinkled in her eyes. ‘I’m so delighted I met you,’ she said, and waved as she walked away.

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A Woman Much Like Me

A Woman Much Like Me

A Woman Much Like Me

By Susan Browne © Susan Browne 2005 and 2018

About this story: This was published by Woman’s Way Magazine, Ireland October 26, 2005. Set in Goa, India, which is one of my favourite places. 

Una could feel the heat immediately as she stepped off the plane and made her way down the steep metal stairs. A sense of euphoria bubbled up inside her. The sun embraced her body, warming her bones and lifting her spirits. She thought of Garrett and said under her breath, ‘can you feel that, Garrett? Isn’t it marvellous?’

‘Look, Mum, there’s the terminal over there. Will we have to walk?’ a little boy said to his mother who was trying to carry about five pieces of luggage and not really listening.

‘I think we will have to walk. You’d better help your mam with all that stuff,’ said Una. He looked up at her in surprise, but her warm smile reassured him.

Una started walking. She couldn’t stop smiling. ‘We’re here. In Goan paradise at last,’ she whispered, looking down at her two swollen feet bulging out of her beige sandals.

The airport had been modernised since she and Garrett had come, and things were very efficient this time. The taxi ride took half an hour. She just stared out of the open window at the strangely familiar sun-scorched scenery. The palms clung together in forests, and then they straggled out across fields, some with crops and some barren and daunting.

‘Are you travelling alone?’ the taxi driver asked her after a while.

‘Well, I lost my husband last year. But we planned to retire out here. And I think he’s sitting right here beside me if you know what I mean,’ Una grinned as she was sure she was right. She stroked the crucifix pendant that she wore for reassurance. She was sure this was all quite plausible. She did not notice the frown on the driver’s forehead. Or his inability to reply. It wasn’t her problem. She had arrived.

All the arrangements had been made with Mr Atal whilst Garrett was still alive. And she had been in regular contact since. The girls thought she had gone mad. They even tried to talk her out of it. But she was so sure. So determined. One day they spoke harsh words to her: ‘Mum, you’ve gone crazy. It’s a normal grief reaction,  but you have to see it for what it is. You’re an old woman; you won’t survive in India on your own.’ She had lain awake that night fighting off the terror they and other well-meaning friends had instilled in her. Una had wept until they took pity on her and tried to approve and be happy for her. ‘I know the place like the back of my hand; it’s like a second home,’ she had insisted.

She sensed she might be an embarrassment to them. But Una didn’t feel old. And now she was here, out of the grey, drizzly November of Ireland, she felt even less so. Mrs Atal was there to greet her. She had flowers for her on a string, like a Hawaiian necklace. She hugged her and told her she was ever so sorry about Garrett. ‘You’ll be okay. We are nearby. I will send friends to help you settle in,’ she looked the old Irish woman up and down. Her grey hair was still the same length, in big awkward curls, and her face was red and shiny in the heat. She had lost a little weight, but her face was still plump and pleasant. She wore a coloured silk blouse that had been purchased there and was showing its age.

‘You’re so kind,’ Una squeezed her face and gave her a kiss. Mrs Atal looked a little embarrassed but remained warm. She showed her around the house that Una remembered so well. It had been changed a little. Celtified. Garrett had stated what decor and facilities they would need and it had all been arranged for them. It was still very India though. Kashmir rugs that they had bought three years ago had been aired and thrown across the tile floors. The bed had a good mosquito net around it. The bathroom was now wheelchair friendly; this had been the most expensive job of all. You just never know, Garrett had said as she had sighed about all the money it was costing.

‘You just never know indeed, Garrett,’ she said quietly.

‘Pardon,’ said Mrs Atal.

‘Oh nothing, Pet, I’m just mumbling on to myself.’

‘You must miss him, Una. I think you are a very brave woman,’ Mrs Atal turned to face her.

‘Thanks, Love, I don’t know if I’m really all that brave at all.’

‘You are, you are wonderful,’ she smiled, and then looked away quickly in case Una should squeeze her face again. That minute her mobile phone rang.

‘Oooooh things change don’t they? Everywhere you go… There was none of them the last time we were here,’ said Una.

Mrs Atal smiled politely and answered the call. She spoke quickly in her own language. Una had seen this before. It looked as though she might be having an argument and then suddenly the tone would change and it would all seem friendly again. She would try to guess at what the words meant. Mrs Atal was not long on the phone. ‘My husband wants you to join us for dinner. Would you like this?’

‘Of course I will. I’d be delighted,’ Una laughed.

‘That’s good. I’ll pick you up at five. Is that okay?’

‘That’ll be just grand,’ said Una.

‘Do you need anything before I go? I bought you some bottled water for drinking.’

‘You’re as good as gold, Mina, as good as gold.’

After Mrs Atal had gone, Una realised that she was here for the first time without Garrett. Even though she felt he was here in spirit she missed his physical presence, and someone to talk to. She looked down at her flowers, which were already starting to wilt with the heat of the day and the warmth of her body. ‘I’ll go and have a shower before I unpack, Garrett,’ she said, and carefully peeled off the necklace.

You do that, love, she imagined him saying.

‘It’ll be too late to go to the beach now; I’ll wait until morning, shall I?’

Yeah, better off. It’ll be dark by the time you leave the Atal’s house. 

Unpacking was strange. None of his socks and shorts to sort through. She wished she had brought them along anyway. She put her hand into the empty suitcase and smelled. Trying to get a smell of him. Sun cream that had spilt years ago filled her with memories.

Oh, feck that bloody suncream! Look at that, Una! My best feckin’ shirt!

‘Don’t worry love. I’ll sort it when we get home,’ she said to the case. ‘Home… but now this is home. This is our home now, Garrett. I’ll have to see if I can sort it here,’ and she laughed to herself. She laughed until she curled up into a little ball on the floor and began to cry.

Dinner at the Atal’s was lovely. Their son was back from the States on holidays and his wife had a strong American accent. Una enjoyed knowing more than she about the place. Her parents were from Delhi and she had never been here before. She was beautiful and elegant. But not as elegant as Mrs Atal, even though she was twenty years younger. Mr Atal kept looking at Una, as though he was afraid she might burst into tears at any moment. But Una felt happy here. She loved the company and the local food. She just wondered how she would face her lovely house all alone tonight. And tomorrow, and the next day.

On the beach the next day Una remembered she must phone the girls. It was too early now. They were five hours behind. There were more bars and restaurants on the beach this time. Lots of bodies, young and old, were sauntering by. She shook her head firmly at the beach sellers who offered their produce, then kicked off her sandals and walked into the sea. The Indian women kept covered up, even in the water. Yet the Westerners bared all, ignoring the stares. ‘Nobody would stare at me,’ Una said to the sea, and laughed at the idea of stripping down to her swimsuit. ‘Not today thanks, I’ll take this sun one step at a time.’ Just then she noticed another Caucasian woman that looked her own age. She had seen her and was wading towards her.

‘Good morning,’ she said in a European accent.

‘Morning. Lovely isn’t it?’

‘Yes, it’s very beautiful. Have you been here long?’ she asked kindly, for Una was snow white in colour and had obviously just arrived.

‘No, only got here yesterday. How about you?’

‘I am here for one month. I am thinking of living here for the rest of my life.’

‘Me too. I have a house just a minute inland.’

‘I am renting but wish to buy too. I was supposed to be coming with my husband, but he died a few years ago. So now its just me’ the lady smiled bashfully.

‘Really? You are brave. But then I guess that makes me brave too.’

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Disrupting Places

Disrupting Places

Disrupting Places

By Susan Browne ©Susan Browne 2006 and 2018

Short Story set in North Kerry. Inspired by seeing an extension being built. Came first place in 2006 Ballydonoghue Parish Magazine Writing Competition, North Kerry, Ireland. Written in North Kerry colloquial language. 

‘I couldn’t sleep after all that at all,’ she said, pouring more milk into my tea.

‘Because of the holes in the yard?’

‘Not just holes – deep trenches. Cut out of the ground. Ones deep enough to bury a horse in. Stretching this way and that.’

‘The foundations of your extension?’

‘Yes. It kept me awake.’

‘That’s nuts. Why would it keep you awake? Just excited, I s’pose.’

‘Excited yes, but scared too. Scared that it might be disturbing old spirits.’

I pulled me tea over to myself, for fear she’s put even more milk into it.

‘The old spinster that lived in the house before us mightn’t like it. Us rooting around and all that. And those that lived before her, that lived on this patch of land. They might be bothered. Those who lived as far back as when you didn’t wear shoes and central heating was your stomach after the dinner.’ Her eyes shone.

‘Sure extensions are going on every day in North Kerry. And as far as I know no spirits have come bothering people yet.’

‘But how do you know?’ she said. She was right of course. Spirits may not simply arrive in their Sunday best and say ‘Hello, you have caused me great upset by building on your new conservatory. ‘They might do subtle things.’

‘Subtle things like what?’ I asked.

‘Well just hanging around in a dissatisfied manner.’

This made me smile so I had to turn away a little. My imagination is fairly vivid, you see. ‘But what about the existing house?’ I said. ‘That’s only built since the seventies. Wouldn’t that have upset a few spirits that weren’t quite as old back then but older than the seventies people all the same?’

She said ‘Yeah but they’ve had time to adjust by now. This is a new… ahh… disfigurement. A new wound. She used her hands for emphasis. ‘Now how can I explain it? Have you ever been into a new building and found it uncanny that just months before the place you are standing would have been in thin air? And beneath you the mud and whatever grew and lived there are now suddenly drowned by concrete?’ She briefly mimicked a person drowning. My mouth opened and closed.

‘Like the new building in the hospital. It’s like it doesn’t quite belong there yet. The air and the space there just hasn’t had chance to accept the change.’

‘Ah now you’re really doing the dog on it,’ I said.

This time she smiled. But I knew out of coyness and not irony. I knew she was really serious; and being kind of an agreeable person I had to agree a little. I mean none of us really know.

‘Now the walls are up,’ she said, ‘it’s not so bad. When we get living in there, happily so please God, we will start to make the place exist.’

‘As ye imprint yourselves on the space and air and time and stuff?’

‘Now you’re talking.’

I stuck my nose into my mug and finished my tea. I left the scone till after, knowing it would be divine. From the new bakers in town. The one that might be upsetting the old clothes shop spirits, since we were on such matters.

‘I hope the tea will taste as nice in there.’

‘What do you mean?’ she said.

‘Well if the spirits were upset then they could put a bad taste into it.’

‘Really? I never thought of that.’

Then neither of us knew who was codding who.

‘But Mary,’ I said, ‘how do you know they’d be troubled by it all anyhow? They might only be delighted of the change.’

She wrinkled up her nose before considering it. ‘Well that’s true too of course. But then you never think of that when you wake in the darkest hours of the night.’

‘No then, you don’t I suppose.’

THE END

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The First Dance

The First Dance

The First Dance

by Susan Browne

© Susan Browne 2001 & 2018, all rights reserved.

Genre: Romance

About this story: This was written in 2000 and published in 2001 by Woman’s Way Magazine, Ireland. It was a particularly exciting milestone for me, being my first ever published story!

It had been a tough few months for Siobhan, but a new job signalled a new beginning – unless she blew her chance.

Siobhan was excited for the first time in ages. I was a funny feeling, she felt like a teenager finding her freedom and found herself giggling at silly things. She felt… happy. Claire was giving her peculiar looks underneath a rock-hard face pack. This only made Siobhan giggle even more as Claire’s face wrinkled and cracked.

“This is like Christmas. You’ve enough makeup here to open a small market stall!” Siobhan exclaimed, rummaging through boxes and small bags.

“Siobhan, calm down, you’re making me nervous,” Claire said slowly, keeping her face as motionless as she could.

Siobhan ignored her and turned up the radio. “Time for another drink,” she announced, marching towards the kitchen.

“Not for me, I’m still on my first, believe it or not,” Claire replied.

Siobhan had had a tough month. Her boyfriend of two years had ended their relationship, telling her that they weren’t going anywhere, whatever that was supposed to mean. She suspected he has been seeing someone else but had no proof. Claire had worried about her. She wouldn’t phone, hardly wanted to go out. Then she got a new job, starting next Monday. Her ‘dream-job’ she’d called it. It had given her self-esteem a kick start and they were going to celebrate her success, even though Claire didn’t really approve of her buying a £100 outfit for tonight, courtesy of the Visa card.

Siobhan finally had the dress on. She looked truly stunning with her auburn hair tied loosely above her head and long tousled bits dangling down, framing her pretty face. Claire’s mouth dropped when she saw Siobhan.

“Wow, girl! I have to hand it to you. You look like a film star.” She sighed as she looked down at her own outfit, dreary in comparison.

The party mood was certainly catching, and Claire found herself changing outfits several more times than usual. She lavished make up on her face and applied more body glitter to her neck and shoulders. It was as though the two were off on a hot date. Claire looked over guiltily at the photo of her and Martin, her fiancé. Still, what would he care if she wanted to dress up? He was having a great time on holiday with the lads. Probably out clubbing every night. A pang of jealousy swept over her and the shorter of the two skirts won out.

“Well I don’t know about you but I’m ready,” announced Siobhan, checking the full-length mirror for the last time. Claire’s flatmate had promised them a lift into the city centre. That would save them bothering with buses and taxis.

“So am I. Wait here and I’ll give Angela a shout,” said Claire.

Before long the car was in the city centre. “Where do you want dropping?” asked Angela.

“O’Callaghan’s will do fine,” said Claire, looking at Siobhan for any hint of protest. There was none. For weeks Siobhan avoided O’Callaghan’s because it was where she had met Robert. Claire was glad she didn’t care. It was her own favourite pub. But she was pleased that they didn’t see Robert in there, whether Siobhan would have minded or not. It might just have been enough to tip the apple cart.

The two friends didn’t see anybody they knew and soon moved onto a night club. They chatted quietly in the queue, eavesdropping on other conversations. There were four girls in front of them, very young looking. “God, I feel like an old granny,” Claire whispered. “You watch, they won’t even make it past the door.”

Sure enough, the girls were refused entry. They walked off looking very sorry for themselves. Claire and Siobhan couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Evening ladies,” said one of the bouncers as he ushered them in. The girls smiled smugly.

“Can’t be too bad to be a granny,” breathed Siobhan.

Claire queued at the cloakroom while Siobhan went off to get the drinks. A double gin and tonic for Claire, and a very large cocktail for herself.

Poor Claire was still in the cloakroom queue by the time half of Siobhan’s cocktail had disappeared. She waited for Claire by a door, spotting a very good looking young man in the process. She glanced over coyly. He caught her eye, looking for a moment, then carried on walking. She wasn’t giving up that easily. She dashed up to Claire to tell her the news. Claire was just putting the coats in.

“Quick, oh perfect, he’s on the dance floor. Come on, I’ll go and test out my charms.”

Claire watched her friend saunter over to the dance floor and gradually work her way around until she was in sight of the man who caught her eye. She got closer until there was direct eye contact. The cocktail had gone straight to Siobhan’s head and it made her feel brazen. She flung an arm around his neck and danced close to him. Then teasingly turned her back on him. When she turned around again she noticed a sheepish smile on his face. A woman came storming up towards the two of them and pounced on Siobhan.

“Excuse me, I think you’d better find your own fella to be draping yourself all over. He’s mine, now get lost!” she snarled. Siobhan blushed and turned to Claire for help. Claire was busy chatting to someone she knew and hadn’t seen any of it. She explained, and Claire thought it was hilarious, which helped Siobhan to see the funny side. But that was the last man she approached that night.

Monday morning came around quickly, Siobhan had bought the lovely outfit she’d seen, and the boots. Nevertheless, she felt nervous going into work. Like a girl starting school for the first time, not knowing anybody. Damien Moriarty welcomed her in warmly, and made her a sup of tea.

“The assistant manager, Carol will be in shortly,” he said. “She’ll be showing you around the office. She’s very nice, don’t look so worried.”

“Right so, thanks for the tea. I’ll wait here will I?” asked Siobhan.

“Yup. I have to go unfortunately, but you’ll be fine. She’ll be in to you in just a minute. Bye now.” Off he went.

Siobhan felt so nervous. Suddenly she heard another door in the corridor close. Footsteps. The office door swung open. To Siobhan’s horror it appeared that Carol was the girl in the nightclub whose boyfriend she had taken a liking to. Carol smiled, and then examined her closely.

‘Don’t recognise me, please don’t recognise me,’ Siobhan chanted over and over in her mind.

“weren’t you in.. it is you, isn’t it?” Carol asked, a smile dancing across her lips.

“I’m afraid so, listen I’m really sorry about that,” Siobhan stuttered. Carol laughed out loud. She laughed until tears came into her eyes. Siobhan wondered if she should just leave.

“No really, I’m the one who should be apologising. Cormac isn’t my boyfriend at all. He’s my first cousin, we’re good friends. I had a bet with him that I’d ruin every chance he had to get a woman. He was so angry about that. He really liked you. But he couldn’t find you afterwards. I really ought to introduce the two of you.. that’s if you want me to.”

Siobhan realised she’d been holding her breath. “Yes, that would be really nice, yes please.”

“Great, we’ll discuss it over lunch. Now let me show you the layout of the place before we both forget exactly where we are.”

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The Seer

The Seer

The Seer
by Susan Browne

© Susan Browne, 2016 and 2018 all rights reserved

Flash Fiction Ghost Story. John is struggling to move on, and his girlfriend Jeanette isn’t helping. He finds one of her friends supportive, as she has a very unique perceptive ability, and a way of communicating with other realms.

‘I love you to the moon and back, don’t ever leave me John,’ she says, and flings an arm out over me. Her love spills out all over the floor and the walls and the bedclothes, like the blood of someone all shot up.  She is wearing that lace black tiny slip that doesn’t cover much. Long curled auburn hair spreading out over both pillows and over her shoulders. Eyes closed, biting her lip.

I’d love to give her one. But there’s nothing left to give.

My clothes are in a pile ready. A bottle of water, and my gloves.

‘Off you go, so,’ she said. Always encouraging me to train hard, pushing me towards my dreams. And off I go. Out of our flat, onto the street, grimy from holiday-makers and slovenly locals from the night before. Chip papers, pizza boxes, cans. Outside the gym the neon sign reads ‘open’ and has the same flickering body builder lifting weights over his head.

I go downstairs to the basement where the ring and the bags are. Patcheen is there training already, sweat flying out of him. He’ll fight that fight now. It was going to be me. I don’t resent him. He swings again and again. I want to show him how to develop his left hook. But he can’t see me. I move in between him and the bag, letting his fists go through me over and over. He thinks that someone has come in and put the aircon on. I made the air cold.

‘Hello?’ he calls. ‘Rory?’

No answer. So he keeps going. I like that he can feel me.

The ball is hovering nearby. It changes to a distasteful swamp green/brown colour. The ball follows me everywhere. I have no idea what it is. It doesn’t talk back, it just changes colour and shape.

I can see things now that I never knew were here. Pockets of grey that follow people around. Some of them are spirits, cling-ons. These have crazy long hands and claws. They don’t look human. Patcheen has this grey cloud over the middle of his back. It moves with him.

Then there’s the alco’s, that lay in wait for another drink. They hang around bars and around drinkers. Hold on till the person is drunk, and then lodge in them. Tasting and unfurling. I tried to pull one out one day. He hit me so hard I thought I was dead all over again.

‘Mind your own business, hero,’ he laughed, showing yellowed rotten teeth. The girl, a tourist, lay there on the grass. Her eyes rolled over to white. It was ages before anyone found her.

Sparkles – silver and gold, bounce out of happy people. They fill up the room sometimes and even help the people with the grey stuff. It’s like a Disney movie when that happens. It’s a weird thing, being able to see all this shit. Kind of interesting. But I know I don’t belong here. All of us that linger are lost. We don’t fit any more.

Later I am back home again. Jeanette has a friend over. Trisha. Jeanette has gone to make coffee, so it’s just me and her. The TV is on silent, some chat show flicks across the screen. She is watching that, then she looks over. Her eyes fix on me. She blinks, then looks at me again.

‘Can you see me?’

She smiles. I know she can. I don’t have a body, but the seers can distinguish your old body outline, and some of your features. The sensers channel information about you, and have a knowing about you. They are both rare enough, so far anyway.

‘Can you let me know that you can see me for sure. It’s so fucking lonely.’

‘I see you John.’

‘I want to go. But she won’t let me. I don’t want to hurt her, but I don’t belong in this place. Tell her she needs to let me go.’

‘I can’t tell her that, she wouldn’t listen and it would upset her too much.’

‘If you don’t tell her..’ I was about to threaten her, tell her I’d mess up her head, and then I watch as she just smiles and closes her eyes. There’s a weird feeling in the room. Then all these angels. Gold. Then a massive blue angel with a white sword. Michael. The ball is unravelling. It’s no longer a ball. It’s an angel too. It makes me want to cry, but I don’t have any eyes or tears.

Jeanette shrieks from the kitchen and Trisha goes to her. They are on the tiled floor. Jeanette is crying, Trisha’s hugging her. They rock back and forth. I look at Archangel Michael, and his eyes are like pools of sapphire. He points to her and I see another massive angel wrapping his wings around her.

‘Let’s go now,’ he says.

‘I can’t leave her.’

He gets his sword and cuts a grey cord that I see now tethering me to Jeanette. It shrivels up and disappears. She lets out a loud sob and takes a deep breath as though a great pain is just leaving her.

‘Now you can.’

‘Will she be okay?’

‘Of course. Look at all the help she has.’

I don’t know if I believe him, but I follow him. A feeling of peace comes over me, followed by euphoria.

I see the place on the street where I got hit by the truck. I see the bystanders doing all they can. The bawling kid that someone should have taken away somewhere. The paramedics, the body bag on the trolley being zipped up. Jeanette screaming. Like its happening right now. But I am risen above it. There are all these angels there. The ball is my guardian angel, and it is beside me always.

My baby. She’ll see when she gets here.

About this Story: This story was a response to a writing prompt for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge in July 2016, and it successfully made it through to the next round. 

The Prompt: Genre = ghost story, location = a boxing ring; object = a neon sign.

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