Welcome to the fifty-third in the series: 5pm Fiction.
Late April 2011 I discovered http://StoryADay.org and the project that is to write 31 stories in 31 days. Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, knows how passionate I am about short stories so my clichéd eyes lit up at this new marvel. And just a few days later there I was, breathing life into new characters. This went on to become (with some editing of course) my 31-story collection eBook Story A Day May 2011.
I was nearing completion of the 2012 project when I decided that I didn’t want to stop at the end of May so 5PM Fiction was born. I put a load of prompts on the 5PM Fiction page and today’s was to write a story starting ‘As the hand clasped around her waist…’. Here is my 582-worder.
The one she’d bought the dress for
As the hand clasped around her waist, Jess wriggled in vain to escape.
The music slowed, the lights dimmed, and Jess smiled politely at Norman Felsham, the school nerd, who 20 years on, looked little different; glasses as thick as double-glazing, cress from the hours-old triangular sandwiches poking out from between his tobacco-stained teeth. He was the last person Jess wanted to slow dance with but his sad expression made it hard for her to leave.
“No name badge,” Norman said.
“No, it wouldn’t stick.”
Jess kept her gaze on his eyes to avoid his mouth. “Thanks. It’s new. A one-off.”
“Suits you,” Norman said, pulling her even closer.
The three or four minutes of ‘Three Times a Lady’ was made all the less bearable by Norman singing loudly, and out of tune. Everyone else had stopped dancing and now stared at Jess.
Before she could say she had to go, the music changed, the lights went up. Norman pushed her away before pulling her back in again, curling her into his chest.
Thrusting out his right hand, he then lead Jess into a tango and strutted across the room.
As Jess sped past her old classmates, she spotted the one she’d wanted to see, the only one she’d missed, the one she’d bought the dress for… Tom Harper, all six feet four of him, still with the sportsman physique and all-year tan.
He smiled at her and nodded.
As she mouthed a “help!”, he shook his head, the smile turning into a laugh, but then stood in their way, forcing Norman to stop.
“May I cut in?” Tom asked him.
Norman frowned. “Well…”
“It’s only fair,” Jess piped up.
“Very well,” Norman conceded.
As Tom took Norman’s place and Jess’ hands in his, she noticed his wedding ring. “You’re married!” she said before she could help herself.
Tom looked at the wide platinum band then over to the corner of the room. “Yeah, Sam’s in the toilet. Nice dress, by the way.”
“Thank you, it’s new,” Jess said with as little enthusiasm as she’d shown Norman.
As she and Tom danced, Jess looked towards the toilets waiting for his wife to appear.
Just as the song was ending, a stunning brunette appeared and Jess’s heart sank further. She was as beautiful as Jess had expected but she’d seen her before, in the dress shop, the assistant who’d shown her the dress, said how much it suited her. Jess hadn’t been sure until Norman had complimented her and then when Tom had said the same, she’d known it was the right choice. Until Sam had appeared… wearing exactly the same dress, only a couple of sizes smaller.
Jess and Tom stopped dancing and as Sam crossed the room, Jess noticed behind her a tall dark-haired man also walking towards them. Jess stood up a little straighter, put her shoulders back and smiled. ‘Keep coming,’ she thought, “don’t stop, don’t veer off, be single.” He didn’t look like anyone she’d gone to school with, a year above perhaps.
Then ‘Sam’ waved at someone Jess didn’t recognise and walked to the side of the room.
Jess turned to Tom who was still looking ahead and smiling. She turned back and only saw the man, then it all fell into place.
“Hi, darling,” Tom said as he reached them, “I’d like you to meet… sorry, your name was?”
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.