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The Threadbare Girl – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s smaller short story collection (just 93 stories instead of 250!), The Story A Day May Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

The Threadbare Girl

It’s the two clocks she finds the most comforting. Both beat a different tune, started with batteries within a few seconds of each other. Alternating like an analogue tennis match.

Of course she doesn’t need two, it being such a small room and she’s not going anywhere so really she doesn’t even need one. But they keep her company. The only noise in her existence. Except for people going to work, then home. Car doors, house doors, the shouting in between. There’s no-one for her to shout at. About. Not that she would anyway. She’s too calm for that.

She only knows the seasons by the temperature of the room. With her body playing tricks on her, that’s not even accurate. She hears the radiators kick in around the house but hers isn’t working.

It’s the sun she misses the most. She sees chinks of it but it’s not the same. She can’t see the whole; her favourite fruit, high up in the sky. Burning into the skins of those allowed out. Playing, talking, oblivious to the freedom they take for granted.

She’s brought food every now and then, when he remembers. Sober enough to recall he’s not alone.

For the first few weeks she thought she’d be rescued, familiar hands picking her up, arms wrapping round her like Christmas paper, but the stranger’s arms have become familiar.

Sometimes she sits in the old empty bath; it cools her after he’s been. She needs it some times more than others, depending on what he’s expected of her.

She’s thought about drowning, but water’s a friend and a friend wouldn’t do that to her. He tells her they’re friends, special friends, and she smiles so he believes it. He’s nicer to her when she smiles so it’s an expression she’s learned to wear, glued in place as soon as she hears footsteps.

He’s told her his name is John but she doesn’t think it’s real. None of it is. It’s a three-year-long dream that loving hands will wake her up from.

He buys her clothes, always a size too small like he wants her to stay a child, as does she. “They grow up so fast,” her grandfather had said and when she sees him again she wants to be exactly the same. The tomboy who wouldn’t be seen dead in pink, but now wonders if she will be.

Everything about the room is childlike, like it was bought with her in mind; pretty pictures, toys to play with – only they’ve never been touched. She wishes she were a toy.

Her smile snaps in place as the stairs creak. She hears the bolt and the door hinges complain. She’d tried that once.

Her smile’s still in place as the arms reach out to her. She’s frozen to the spot, near the bath, in her pink and purple cotton summer dress.

The hands recoil as they touch her skin as if electrocuted by the cold.

*

“Good God, Ted!” The woman in the black trouser suit looked up at her colleague.

“You only need to look at her, Amanda, to know she’s freezing,” the older man added, scanning the room: a toilet, bath and cot, too small for a child her age. “Where’s she been sleeping?”

“I’m not sure she has,” Amanda replied.

Knowing how long the girl had been missing, Amanda battled with what to say to her. She wasn’t trained for this.

As if reading her mind, Ted crouched beside her.

The girl flinched.

“It’s OK love,” Ted whispered, stood up slowly and backed away.

Amanda looked at her. Her clothes, too sheer for the time of year, were threadbare like the room she’d been kept in. “Charlie, you’re going to be fine. You’re safe now.” She knew that was the best thing to say. No point in asking her if she was alright. Even the strongest person in her position wouldn’t be alright. And she looked as thin as a wafer and just as fragile.

“Where is he?” Charlie mouthed.

Amanda looked at Ted. He shrugged his shoulders. “We don’t know,” she answered honestly.

Charlie’s eyes widened.

“It’s OK, we have someone outside watching,” Amanda lied.

Ted looked at his watch. “We should be quick.”

Charlie yelped.

“It’s OK,” Amanda repeated. “Take your time.” She removed her jacket and went to put it round Charlie’s shoulders but she recoiled. “Please,” Amanda said softly. “You’re cold. Too cold. This will make you feel better.”

Those were words Charlie had heard before, many times. After he had been with her, he’d given her some hot chocolate and told her everything would be fine, he’d make her feel better.

She frowned. She did feel a little better; that it wasn’t him, but she didn’t know them either.

“Your parents sent us to find you, Charlie,” Ted said. “They’re worried about you. They want you home.”

Charlie shook her head. He had said that. That her parents had sent him to collect her from school. But he hadn’t known her name. They knew her name. Her real name. She’d told him to call her Olivia, her sister. He’d said it was beautiful and he’d been happy. But then he’d found out her real name and got angry. Beat her. But that was a long time ago and there was nothing to prove that now. No scars on the outside.

She closed her eyes and nodded. At least she’d be with a woman. And women didn’t do bad things to little girls.

“OK, let’s go,” Ted said gently.

Amanda put her jacket around Charlie, it swamping her, then placed an arm around the girl’s shoulders, and escorted her out of the cellar, following Ted up the stairs, past the door with the squeaky hinges, into a kitchen that Charlie had never seen.

She yelped again as the sunlight hit her eyes.

“Got your sunglasses on you, Amanda?” Ted asked.

Amanda went to dip into her handbag.

“No, please,” Charlie begged, releasing Amanda’s grip. “I want to see it, to see it all. Where he lives, where I’ve been living for…”

“We’ll talk about that later, Charlie,” Ted interrupted. “We just need to get you…”

Charlie stopped walking and stared at the hall they were now standing in, then back at the kitchen. Immaculate. It was all perfect. Her grandfather had called her ‘immaculate’. Miss Perfection. Then told her how her parents had waited so long to have her. Her and Olivia. The other half of her egg. That had made her laugh. She’d wanted to have eggs for breakfast for the rest of the week. Share them with Olivia. To make up for stealing her half before she was born.

She had her back to the front door when they heard the key.

Amanda grabbed Charlie’s hand and pulled her behind her, behind the front door as it opened, leaving the two men to stare at each other.

Ted instinctively went for the inside of his jacket, for the gun that hadn’t lain there for over ten years.

John’s eyes followed Ted’s hand and he launched his bags of shopping at him, one of them knocking him off balance.

Charlie screamed and John swung round. “Olivia! What are you doing?”

Amanda, still obscuring most of Charlie, looked over at Ted who nodded.

“John,” Amanda said calmly, “Charlie needs to come with us.”

“That’s not Charlie!” he hissed. “She’s Olivia.”

“OK John,” she said, despite knowing that not to be the case. “You need to let Olivia go, let her come with us.”

“Never!” he snarled. “She’s mine!”

With John distracted, Ted crept up behind him until a floorboard in the 1930’s house gave him away and John twisted back round so the men’s faces were now inches apart.

Charlie tugged on Amanda’s hand and took off the suit jacket. Remembering what he had done to her to get her there, Charlie whispered in Amanda’s ear. With the two men not moving, she knew she had little time. She took the jacket and holding one shoulder in each fist, lunged at John throwing the jacket over his head, pressing down as hard as she could.

With John dropping to his knees, Ted pounced, bearing down on him while Amanda retrieved the mobile phone from her handbag.

“Yes, hello. Police please, and ambulance. 12 Atkinson Street. Please hurry. Thank you.”

Charlie shivered as she leaned against the radiator watching the two private detectives restrain the man she’d known as ‘John’, the man who’d been her father figure for the past three years, the ‘best friend’ in Olivia’s absence, who’d made her hot chocolate not quite like her mother used to make it.

As the radiator kicked into life, she remembered what it felt like, to feel it as well as hear it, feel the warmth she’d been missing, inside and out.

###

Ghost – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s smaller short story collection (just 93 stories instead of 250!), The Story A Day May Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

Ghost (second person viewpoint story)

As you rattle the charity tin, you sense something non-metal; a button you reckon.

Then a man walks up to you with a coloured piece of paper in his hand, an off-red you think, but it’s small so you can’t quite see. He folds it into a sliver, small enough for the slot on the top of your tin. He does it slowly, not to show off but out of reverence, but it lets you see what it is. A fifty pound note. He doesn’t particularly look as if he can afford it but he gives it as if it recompenses for something he’s earned, something non-monetary, something sacred.

“Thank you,” you beam, hoping to catch his glance which is still staring at the tin. It reminds you of the scene from Ghost where Whoopi Goldberg unwillingly gives some nuns a huge cheque, only this chap isn’t unwilling, just deep in thought. You look either side of him and smile in case there’s a female Patrick Swayze encouraging him to part with his hard-earned money.

The man just nods, turns and leaves, and you imagine his ‘ghost’ walking beside him, telling him he’s done the right thing, that the money is better off in there, the exact words you’re failing to recall. Only this isn’t four million dollars. But, you guess, to some it may as well be. To those it’s going to, that’s exactly what it is.

The tin’s getting full so you walk to your fellow volunteer, Angie, a few shops down, and tell her you’re going to pop back to HQ for an empty one. It’s a 5-minute drive so you know she won’t be alone for long.

As you pull up, you spot Simon, the only paid member of staff, walking into the building. You catch up with him as he heads for the office and swap “hello”s.

He puts his container on the desk and empties it out. You watch the coins roll into a controlled heap and a couple of notes flutter; a blue five, a brown ten. You’re not one to score points but you know you’ve done better.

Holding out your container, you ask, “Can I swap this for an empty one please?”

“I’m sorry, they’re all out,” he says. “You could have mine but I’m heading back. Won’t take me a second to empty yours though.”

“Sure,” you say and watch him cut the cable ties holding the lid in place. He smiles as your coins pile out next to his, and they remind you of the Henry Mountains that one time you visited the States.

“Oh look,” he says, pulling at the fifty pound note. “It’s a cheque.”

“Really?” you say as he unfolds it, “I could have sworn…”

“Oh!”

Your heart sinks and imagine it being for £5 instead of £50. “Oh, well…”

“No, you don’t understand. It’s a cheque for…”

“Yes?” you say, hoping for a figure near the fifty.

“Two million, four hundred and seventy five thousand pounds.”

“Please don’t exaggerate Simon,” you say but he smiles and holds out his hand. What you thought was a £50 note really is a cheque. A very pretty off-red cheque from The Patrick Swayze Foundation UK Fund. A cheque worth, doing a quick calculation in your head, about four million dollars.

###

May The Fourth Be With You – short fiction by MorgEn Bailey

The following piece of flash fiction is from Morgen’s smaller short story collection (just 93 stories instead of 250!), The Story A Day May Collection, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon  and Morgen’s online store where you can not only instantly download the collection but also purchase the paperback dedicated to you or as a present! We hope you enjoy this story…

May The Fourth Be With You

“Half a pound?” Sonya looked into Wendy’s eyes as the older woman wrote the figure on to Sonya’s card.

“Well, yes, but half a pound is still progress. You’ve not gained so there’s no dreaded circle on your card and you’re only four pounds away from another silver star.”

“But half a pound. I’ve been SO good this week.” To Sonya, shifting half a pound a week was as bad as not having lost anything. £4 to lose half a pound, not exactly fair.

“Don’t worry,” Wendy soothed. “Everyone has weeks like this. Be just as good this week and you’ll probably lose more next Monday night.”

 

So Sonya had. Everything with more than a reasonable amount of fat went; her favourite crisps, no takeaways or ready meals, just meat, vegetables and fish. She was positively glowing with pride by the end of the weekend.

“Nothing! Seriously? Nothing?”

Wendy shook her head. “I’m sorry Sonya but I’m sure next week…”

Sonya took back her card when offered and rejoined the group. She sat in silence while Wendy gave her talk then plodded back to her car.

 

Walking into her hall, her tabby cat strolled to greet her.

“Nothing tonight Buttons. Absolutely nothing!”

Taking that as lack of food, Buttons plodded back into the kitchen and out the cat flap, leaving Sonya to sit on the sofa and watch TV until it was time for bed. Buttons re-emerged, ate the offered food then joined Sonya upstairs.

 

As she walked home from work the next day, she went past, as she did every afternoon, Gregory’s Bakery. Sitting solitary in the window, a pack of four Chelsea buns called her name. Sonya decided that she’d be doing the shop a favour by buying them so they could close up and go home. So she handed over her £1.50 and carried the bagged buns reverently out of the shop and towards the park.

Sitting on a bench by the lake, she carefully removed the pack, folded the paper bag and tucked it into her handbag. “Waste not want not,” she said.

Pulling apart one of the sealed ends of the pack, she put her nose closely to the two buns nearest the opening and inhaled. Fruit and sugar. Sickly but heavenly.

She then stared at the buns. “Well, I’m not going to eat you all.” So pulling the biggest of the front two out of the plastic wrapper, she started stripping it into small pieces and threw them, one by one, into the water causing a rugby-type avine scrum. Spotting a smaller bird missing out, she stood up, tucking the pack under her left arm and threw the remaining pieces of the first bun out to the runt which managed to devour some of it before being enveloped by its larger rivals.

With a smile on her face, Sonya turned round to walk back to the bench when one of the handlebars of a bicycle bumped into her arm knocking the pack to the ground. The second bun flew out and landed on the grass by the bench.

“Watch out!” the cyclist yelled as he whizzed by.

All Sonya could do was growl at him as he disappeared into the distance.

“Never mind,” she said to herself. “Two left. Two more than I should have but it’s only Tuesday. I can work it off. Walk faster. Go the long way to and from work.”

So grass-covered bun number two was ripped into shreds and went the same way as its predecessor.

Sitting down and facing the lake, she pulled out the third bun and was lifting it up to her mouth when she heard barking from her right. She turned round to see a particularly gorgeous-looking Jack Russell-cross heading in her direction. “Ahh…” she said, as it bounded towards her but then screamed as it leapt up at her, grabbing bun number three from her hand. “No!” she and the dog’s owner shouted in unison.

“Maisy!”

Sonya looked from her empty hand to the teenage girl who was now trying to prise the bun from the dog’s mouth.

“It’s OK,” Sonya said mournfully. “Let her have it. It’s fine. I have another one.”

The girl let go of the now-soggy bun and the dog trotted off, head held high, before slumping to the ground, releasing the bun and eating it at her leisure.

“I’m so sorry,” the girl said. “I’d give you some money but I’m only here to walk the…”

“It’s fine, really. These things happen. I shouldn’t be so greedy and if she’s hungry then…”

“Well, not really. She’s just had her supper but ‘an ever open door’ as my mum says.”

Maisy then reappeared, licking her lips and nudged Sonya’s empty right hand.

“Was that nice?” she asked the dog. Maisy barked and walked back to the girl.

“Sorry, again,” the girl said before putting Maisy on her lead and walking her out of the park.

Sonya looked down at the bag containing the remaining bun. “At least I still have you. And only having you will taste all the sweeter.”

She was then conscious of someone standing next to her; almost next to her, next to the bin to be precise, rooting through it. Staring at the dishevelled man Sonya guessed to be in his sixties, she looked at bun number four then back at the man. “Are you hungry?” she asked. “Sorry, silly question.”

The man just stared back at her.

“Do you like…? Another silly question. Here…” Sonya offered him the final Chelsea bun.

With a whiter smile than Sonya had been expecting, the man took the bag, removed the bun from it and dropped the packet into the bin. Whispering a “thank you” before carefully unravelling the bun, he slowly put the first edge into his mouth and sighed, as if he could hardly remember the last time he’d tasted anything so good.

Sonya wanted to say something else to him but he turned and wandered off in the direction of the bandstand. She then spotted another man, similar in stature but slightly older, sitting on one of the concrete steps. The first man, with bun in hand, sat down next to his friend and peeled another edge from the bun, handing it to him and smiled as he ate it just as reverently.

Sonya watched as the two men finished the bun and sat chatting. Wishing she had something else to offer them, she got up and walked home.

 

The following Monday, as she stepped on the scales, she thought, please… another half pound, half pound, half pound.

“Four pounds! Well done, Sonya. Another silver star on your card.”

Sonya beamed as the other women in the queue clapped and she thought, ‘four pounds; one for each bun, and I don’t miss them at all.’

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