Well Head Cottage – 2

Ever so slowly Jean’s nerves began to settle. When there was no more noise, her muscles relaxed and, when it became clear that the drama had past, she stepped out from the corner. She picked up the glass from the floor, lifted the edge of the curtains and peered out into the dark garden.

There was nothing and no-one to see. She stood for a while, watching, waiting, until she was sure that, whatever had been going on, was finished.

Well, that was it, her contented mood was shattered. She blew out the candles, checked the door locks and went to bed. It took a long time for sleep to come. She wasn’t afraid now it was past. Looking at it calmly, it didn’t really think that she had been in danger, and yet… Replaying in her mind, were the events in the clearing.

A gun man with an automatic weapon had crouched and fired. The noise and shock of all of that resurfaced and niggled at the edge of her memory, indistinct as it had been on the day. Lost in a fog of illness, it had been a nightmare that came back, in bits and pieces, over the following weeks. There were things she was told, things she thought she remembered. She accepted it was a part of her history, that, realistically, she would never completely forget.  She spoke aloud into the dark room, a habit she had developed when her world became so quiet after Jim died. “It’s over Jean. It was just some country thing. Nothing happened. There is nothing to worry about.” But as she turned onto her side under the duvet, she acknowledged that she had been shaken to the core.

Eventually she slept.

There was a moment of disorientation when she woke in the strange room, but it was fleeting and she smiled as she threw back the curtains to a bright morning. The grass in the little garden sparkled with dew and already the wildlife was up and about.

Drinking coffee at the table outside the back door, she replayed the events of the night before. Here, in daylight with birds chattering and complaining in the trees, the rumble of a tractor somewhere far away, and the bleating of sheep on the rise just over the narrow river, she could view it all calmly.

Whoever had been outside with a gun had been very close to the house. But, they, hadn’t threatened her, safe inside. She knew that Diana had refused permission for the hunt to cross her land, years ago. Her friend was a vegetarian and totally opposed to hunting of any sort, but, she hadn’t been to the cottage herself for almost two years, and so her influence had obviously waned.

Jean decided that she wouldn’t mention it. There wasn’t anything Diana could do from a distance and Jean felt that, in the country, then country ways had to be respected.

It had probably just been someone out lamping, luring, and shooting rabbits, and there was no point dwelling on it any longer. She took her cup back into the kitchen, collected her coat and backpack and set off to walk to Hawks Farm.

There had been a few small changes in the area. A couple of new bungalows had been built on the road into the village. The farm itself was a disappointment. It had always been neat and pretty. Flower pots had lined the path to the little shop and tea garden, and there had been chickens running loose in front of the house.

Now, it appeared neglected, the paint on the fences was dirty and peeling, the pots were filled with weeds. As Jean walked closer she could see that the tea garden was deserted. The plastic tables and chairs were piled in a corner and they were grubby and wet. Weeds had grown around the legs. They had not been put there because it was the end of the summer season, but had been stacked for a long time. She rounded the corner of the building and was swept with disappointment when she saw that the farm shop was also closed. The display counters, which stretched along the front wall, were bare and broken, the place looked dark and dishevelled.

She went nearer, peered through the glazed door. The interior was destroyed, the walls blackened, and piles of twisted debris covered the floor. The paint on the door itself was bubbled and scorched. She looked up and saw the roof was bulging inwards. The shop had burned, it was shocking.

Selfishly she muttered, “Damn it.” This would mean that she would have to shop in the village. The locals had long since succumbed to the lure of the retail park, just a short drive along the motorway, and so the nearby shops were rather dull. There was a bakery which was okay, but the tiny supermarket was very lack lustre.

She was disappointed. Visits to the farm shop had been one of the pleasures of stays in the cottage. Diana hadn’t mentioned anything about it being destroyed. If she had been forewarned she would have brought more supplies with her. She didn’t want to go to a hypermarket and, if she was staying for three weeks, she didn’t want to have to make do with the limited choice in the village.

As she turned away a figure appeared at the corner of the building. Wrapped in a blue jacket and with a woollen hat pulled over her grey hair, Doris Smart stepped across the paved path. “Can I ‘elp you?”

“Mrs Smart, Doris. How are you?” Jean moved forward with her hand outstretched. As she reached where the other woman stood, it was a struggle to keep the shock from showing in her face. It had been almost three years and in that time, this once bright, bubbly, busybody of a farmer’s wife, had lost the sparkle that once lit her bright blue eyes, her shoulders had hunched, and her once round, clear skinned face had become lined and grey.

“Oh, it’s you. Mrs Duncan. I didn’t see it was you.” Unexpectedly the voice was still strong and, as Doris Smart smiled, the ghost of the woman Jean remembered showed itself.

“Doris, it’s lovely to see you. I came to buy some things but…” Jean half turned, swept a hand towards the sad, empty shop.

“Aye, well. As you see I can’t help you I’m afraid. Sorry.”  Doris shook her head, waved a hand towards the gate, leaving Jean with no choice but to walk past her and down towards the road. Doris nodded once as she fastened the latch and then turned away to stomp back towards her front door.

With no other choice, Jean retraced her steps and walked into the village where she bought some bread and a pie for her lunch.

She would call Lesley, get her to bring some things. But, apart from the small disappointment about shopping there was a greater unease. There had been something unsettling about the feel of the farm and the change in the farmer’s wife. It was sad that the little shop had been destroyed but surely that wasn’t enough of a disaster to cause such a deterioration in the woman. She wondered if she should call Diana and ask her. Or, was she yet again poking her nose in where it might not be wanted. Lesley was coming in just a few days and there was no doubt that she would tell her to mind her own business. With a sigh Jean climbed the stairs and started to unpack her suitcases.




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Well Head Cottage

So, Do you remember Jean Duncan from The Girl in the Water?

Here she is again.

Chapter 1 

Jean Duncan took a deep breath, reached out, and unlocked the door to Well Head Cottage. When Diana Turnbull, had offered it to her for a few weeks, she had hesitated. Jean and James had been coming here for years and took their last holiday, just months before his death, in what had become a favourite place for walking, and getting away from his stressful job but where she could, if she felt like it, still work on her writing. She had thought that maybe the memories would be too painful. But, it would give her a chance to hide, out of the way, after the court cases that she had just endured. She could avoid the publicity surrounding her part in the capture of a gang of people traffickers, and the death of two young women refugees. It had been horrible and it would be good to get away from it all.

She had pushed aside her worries and accepted. There had been dozens of things just like this to face in the years since Jim died and she had learned that the best, no, the only way to deal with them was head on. There was work to do on her new novel, and she loved the cottage, so why not?

Lesley, had agreed to come, but then last-minute drama at her job had interfered. So, here she was, alone, about to step into her past, just a little bit.

It was warm in the narrow hallway, and the olfactory memory hit her like a gust of wind. Old wood, sun warmed dust, and the faint undertone of damp, and disinfectant. The local woman who looked after the place had obviously been, there was the hint of furniture polish in the mix of scents. She always left fruit from her orchards, and usually cheese and eggs from the farm shop, in the kitchen.

Jean let the atmosphere wash over her. She remembered the last time, Jim thumping about, bringing in their bags, shouting from the kitchen about getting to the pub in time for dinner, and then turning on the tap because he always had to run the water, ‘to clear the pipes’ even though he knew Mrs Smart from the farm had used the kitchen not long before.

Jean smiled, she could remember him now without the sharp stab of pain, and he would have wanted her to smile.

She went back outside. It was beginning to get dark. There was a chill in the air, but the smell of loam, and the feel of autumn was magical. She stood for a moment gazing at the purpling sky, the Welsh mountains looming grey in the distance. She enjoyed the quiet, with just the evening rustlings in the garden around her.

She was glad she had come.

Once the car was parked on the hard standing at the side of the little house, she carried her bags back inside, and dumped them in the hallway.

She had brought her sister’s case with her so that, when she came up at the weekend she could travel on the train with no luggage. She would give, Lesley the big double bedroom and take the twin at the back for herself. Some memories were still tinged with sadness and she didn’t want to feel sad.

The cottage was warm and clean, but she was surprised that there were no supplies in the fridge. It wasn’t that she had arranged it, just that it was usual. Milk, eggs, usually cheese and some veggies. Obviously, things had changed in the last couple of years. Still, she had food in a box in the car and some milk from home, which would still be fresh.  It was a tiny disappointment nothing more, and in the morning, she would go over to Hawks Farm, say hello to Doris Smart, and buy what she needed. The apples were there though, in a bowl on the kitchen table. She didn’t want apples, she wanted a big glass of red wine, something easy to eat, like, cheese on toast, and to sit and bask in the peace and quiet.

Tomorrow would be soon enough to start work. So, for this evening, she had music and a novel.  She lit candles, drank brandy, and allowed her nerves to unravel and let all the upset and distress drift away. Sitting on the settee, a blanket over her legs, warm and cosy, she could have stayed just there, just like that, forever.

The explosion of gun fire froze her in place for a moment, the glass half way to her lips. Then instinct jerked her from her seat and sent her scurrying into the corner. She had dropped the brandy glass and as she stood with her back against the wall, her heart pounding and all her nerve endings jumping with shock, she watched the amber liquid soaking into the sheepskin of the fireside rug.

There was a second sharp crack, a shout, and a flash of light, the beam of a torch, sweeping past the window. Jean was terrified. She had been involved in a shooting, too short a time ago, the pain and fear came rushing back, vague and unformed, tumbling emotions. Her mind was racing, trying to understand. Wild panic caused her to whimper into the gloom. There was the tramp of feet on the gravel drive, the rustle of bushes and just once the bark of a dog.

What the hell was going on?


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Short Story – Love is blind.

I groaned even before I opened my eyes I’ll admit it, Bloody Valentine’s day – Yay.  So, we had to start early, pratting about with stupid roses and pathetic shiny hearts scattered on the table tops.  They’d all have to be cleaned up later and we would have to do it because the cleaners had refused.

We all had to wear antlers – bloody antlers with sparkly heart shapes on em. I ask you what the hell have antlers got to do with sodding Valentine’s day – huh.  Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, Luigi had us all in for a staff talk before the lunch time service.  “You are my link with the lovers – oh for Pete’s sake.  My waiting staff are the ones who make the impression on my beautiful romantic customers, well I would have thought it was the free pudding and inclusive wine deal but, hey what do I know?  You must smile, be so very, very nice to them, make the restaurant hum with love.”  Hum with soddin love, he’s from Preston, Luigi, his name is really Les but he’s got so caught up in his pretend Italian background he makes me want to vomit.  On he went “Make sure all of the candles are lit and the glasses are sparkling yadah yadah yadah and not a word of thanks to those of us who had taken an extra shift to help out.”

So, I thought of the extra cash and the red stiletto heels I was going to buy with the bonus, I gritted my teeth and I got on with it.   It was every bit as ghastly as I thought it would be, simpering bloody girls giggling and crying and stupid arsed blokes looking smug, – Oh look at me aren’t I the cat’s pyjamas, I’m so cool, I remembered to make a booking three weeks in advance and with a bit of luck it means I’ll get my end away tonight.  Pathetic.

That was until they came in.  I saw one of the other girls jump to open the door, that was what attracted my attention.  Two older people struggling with the heavy wood and glass.  Milly showed them in and checked their names and took them to the table in the corner, one on my tables.

I grabbed the menus and gave them a minute to get themselves sorted, coats off, seats adjusted but they were making all sorts of fuss, that table is behind the pillar and I couldn’t see everything that was going on but something was.  Yes, I admit it I sighed, great just my luck a high maintenance pair.  Nothing to be done, think of the shoes, think of the shoes.

Well I took them the menus, they were holding hands and he was leaning over and kissing her on the cheek, and I mean they were old they must have been nearly fifty.  I felt like making that fingers down the throat gesture but that would have lost me my job and I thought of the shoes!

So, I got there and by now he had picked up the freebie rose and kissed it and handed it to her and she was sniffing at it, oh bloody hell, think of the shoes, think of the shoes.

Then I saw, two Labradors under the table, well behaved, tucking themselves in out of the way, both wearing yellow harnesses.  The bloke turned to me “Hi, could you be lovely and read the menu to us, do you mind?  They were still holding hands, they were both smiling and then he said “It feels so lovely in here, you can feel the love in the air.  It’s our big treat this we come every year it’s the anniversary of the day we met.  Are you all wearing those silly antlers again? The waitress last year said they were giving her a headache.”  I nodded and then realised that wouldn’t do it and so I just muttered

“Yeah, yeah sparkly antlers,” and I looked at her and at him, sitting there so – you know together somehow and so happy in spite of their problems.  I poured them some water then I told ‘em, “The tables are set with white linens, the cutlery is the heavy silver stuff that we keep for special occasions and there are silver vases with red roses in each one.”  There are little shiny hearts scattered on the tops.”  I picked a couple up and gave them one each to hold, “there are vases of lilies in the corners, I expect you can smell those?” she nodded then,” The lights are very low and candles are stood on all the window ledges in red heart shaped holders, each table has a wine bucket with white wine chilling, Shall I pour yours now before I read the menu to you?”  He nodded and reached out and just found my hand and squeezed it.

“Thank you, thank you so much. That’s the first time anyone has taken the time to tell us what it looks like.  It sounds wonderful, you have made this so very special for us, bless you.”  I think they enjoyed themselves.  I even sneaked some chicken to the guide dogs.

Yeah, I got the shoes, they rubbed a blister on my toe


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Last Chance

It was a strange weekend, it was always going to be but I hadn’t realized just how tense we would all be.  The last weekend of the summer holidays and the last days that we would all spend together.  We had done all the usual stuff of course, pledged undying friendship, expressed our love, said silly things, All for One and One for All.  We knew though if we were being brutally honest, the separation of university or work or travel changed things irrevocably.  There would be the first holiday and times now and again when we would probably all get together and go to the pub and then the meetings would become less and less frequent, one or other of the group of five would be committed somewhere else or in the middle of exams or, in the case of Dan, on a course with the bank and so this was it.

There was no discussion about where we would go, it had to be the cliff.  Since we had first gone to senior school and been given that tiny bit more freedom it had always been the cliff.  The farmer let us camp there for free providing we left it tidy and we all sort of knew that actually he kept an eye on us.  Whether our parents paid him for his trouble was never clear but it was the place of all our adventures, all our dreams and now with Alex and Tanya probably something even more “special”.  I did wonder what would happen with them most of all, they were going to the same college but would their relationship stand up to the buffeting of all the novelty and the expansion of their world, hmm, we would see.

I loved the place, the trees in the spring newly gilded, the shades in the summer deeply damp and the crisp bronzing of the autumn, it didn’t matter I loved it all.  All except for the pool.  The others had no problem with it, it was part and parcel of the time we spent there and the great dive from the top of the cliff into the deep green water was just another thing that they did, over and over.  For me though it was a torment, I was terrified of it, I couldn’t bear to even peer over the edge.  The tiny, deep swimming pond was okay, cold of course and weedy but pleasant in the high summer and even in the spring but the dive from the cliff from whence the place had its name was never pleasant, not for me. My head spun as I trod the springy grass towards the precipice and by the time that I could chance a glance down to the unbelievably small landing point below I felt physically sick.

My friends were kind, they tried to cajole me, to encourage me, to dare me even and Tanya once came up with a hare-brained double flight blindfold suggestion which thankfully was vetoed pretty damned quickly but I never did it, I never made the leap from the cliff to the pond.

This weekend was special, it had been talked about over and over, there was to be the last great leap, the jump into our future they were calling it, it had grown and grown until it was a big deal.  I had blanked it until now but I watched them psyching each other up, pushing and slapping at each other and I knew.  I had to do it, if I didn’t do this now, with my friends then it would set the tone for the rest of my life, when it’s too hard, too scary don’t do it.  Let others take the leap, sit on your butt on the grass and watch.


I almost left it too late, they were standing shoulder to shoulder on the edge, drawing in deep gulps of air to sustain them on the way down and in the water below.  “Wait, wait for me.”

They turned as one as I ran towards them.  Dan grinned and held out his hand and I snatched at it and then before I had time to think about it any more we went, over the edge, “Oh God please don’t let me die”  The thought shot through my brain as my feet left the edge of the cliff and then, oh then.  I soared out into space and all the days I didn’t and all the times I couldn’t and all the days I walked home with a drag in my step and a nub of regret in my soul were obliterated in that one brief brittle moment, in that glorious hitch in time when I flew, when I broke the grip of the earth and flew like a great sweeping gull soaring over the sparkling water, one with the air, free, a magician defying gravity.  My one tiny moment when I was more than I am and more than I ever believed I could be.

For the others it was just another jump from the cliff to the pool for me it truly was a leap into my future.



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Free on Kindle

Bone Baby 

Lily is running out of time. There is a great wrong that she needs to put right before it’s too late.

She could never have known the things that she was prepared to do – for the baby!

bone baby3


Amazon reviews:

‘A heart wrenching tale of deception and betrayal, relationships tangled in lies and confusion. Revenge the only course of action to take.’

‘An unusual but very believable story. I enjoyed this book very much and will definitely be reading more from this author.’

Superb and scary thriller. All the characters are believable, especially Lily, and the web of lies in the family makes for an interesting drama. Great read. ‘

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Best Before End – Flash fiction

You woke me, something woke me.  A change in the temperature or the tension in the mattress.  I watch in the gloom and see you standing beside the window.  Your back is to me and the moonshine kisses your shoulders.  Though I know the weight is falling from your frame I am shocked at the edges and angles that look new to me.

Still you are, frozen in the night and the silver light gleams on the cap of your hair and I see you sigh.  I hear you sigh.

I know what you are looking at, looking for.  I know that you can’t see what you need to.  You are thinking of the children, of Sam and Trish and of Bobby.  I close my eyes and behind them I can see the track of tears across your face and the pain in your eyes as you watch in the darkness.

I will take you.  It is the only thing that you have asked of me through this whole sad, ghastly, dreadful debacle.

“Take me to the children.”

I told you I would, when the roadblocks have been cleared.  When the fires in the cities have died.  We are safe here, in our haven away from the worst of the horror and the fighting.  I told you there would be time and we would go.

How many days, I can’t count them anymore, how many weeks since it began.  How long since the phones went down and the radio and television were lost.

“Take me to the children.”

I will take you I said, when the risk of infection is gone.  They will still be there, they’ll be fine.  I’ll take you when we know that we won’t die of some horrible illness.

We are still safe here, the officials who came, was it last week?  They told us that we should be safe for a while longer.  Stay at home, wait for news they told us

“Take me to the children.”  You said when they had gone on their brown horses with the guns on their backs.

I will take you, when they tell us it is safe.

Now you are moving, your body a wraith under the flimsy nightdress.  I see you turn and there is the shine of water in your eyes and the gleam of metal in your hand and I know, I know.  I don’t push up on the bed, there is no point.  Your naked feet make soft sounds as you cross the carpet and now you stand beside me.

I wait for you to speak, to ask again for your one desire.  You speak to me through the despair but the words are new, there is no request there is only resignation and I know, I know I have waited too long.

“I have seen the fire in the sky, the world is lost and it’s all too late.”

“I’ll take you.  We’ll dress and go now.  We can be there by noon.  We will be with them tomorrow.”

You shake your head and as the thunder crashes and the sky turns red I understand that I will never take you to the children.


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Revisiting an old Flash Fiction

This was from a year ago. I wrote a part 2.


So,  was complaining about a lack of inspiration. A face book friend gave me this challenge. Thanks Polly.


“It was midnight and yet another walrus was making its way down Main Street. A trail of water sizzled behind it and the town band followed in its wake, weeping quietly…”

I changed it very slightly and came up with this:


‘It was midnight and yet another walrus was making its way down Main Street. A trail of water sizzled behind it and the town band followed in its wake, it was weeping quietly…

The sky was purple, yellow and green clouds fled before a diamond studded wind.

Charlotte tied her dragon to the hitching post. She wrapped her cloak around her and strode into the middle of the road. She held up her hand, she waited. Nothing happened. The crowd were singing Yellow Submarine, the trees swayed in time and the birds danced a Pavanne along the verges.

She had to stop them. She had to let them know. It wasn’t for her. She knew that she could climb aboard Stenflo and be away in moments, away to the rainbow mountains where the danger couldn’t reach her. But here, here on Main Street the laughing children, clutching cotton candy sticks and sucking on lollipops were in mortal danger. The happy teens, hand holding, hip touching, heart hoping, teens were in danger and the elders, mostly her fear was for the elders.

Their silvered heads, their wisdomed faces and their overknuckled, work worn hands, they would make them prey. When it came it came mainly for them, for the years of knowing, the decades of learning and the centuries of loving that they carried in their hearts. It needed all of that. The Walrus knew, the mermaid on the corniche knew. Though unlike her marine brother she didn’t try to tell them. She smirked and tossed her sea green curls and with nary a final glance she dove into the harbour and Charlotte caught just the edge of her laugh as she lost herself in the waves.

She ran to the bandstand and tore up the shallow steps, she tried to take the microphone but the Town Cryer was in full flow and snatched it back and pushed her roughly aside.

She ran to the wind section who by now had formed a semi circle around the percussionists. She chose the smallest musician, a small girl child and she snatched the gleaming instrument. Raising it to her lips she blew as hard as she could blow, she called on the north wind, the tempest and the hurricane. She implored help from the whirlwind itself and she blew and the note that she made left the end of the bugle and it flew into the air, a purple storm of sound, swirling and whirling upwards ever upwards until it met the feet of heaven and cascaded back to the town as the sound of a million weeping angels.

The people gasped, they screamed, they clutched and grasped at each other. They cowered in the corners and they ran down the alleys into darkness. Only the old ones didn’t run, they didn’t flee. They knew that it was coming for them. For eons this had been foretold and they knew that the only thing they could do was to wait, and to hold onto each other and speak words of love because letting it take them was the only way to save the young.

As she remounted her dragon and swept into the sky Charlotte took one last look at Main Street, at the elders, at the wise ones. They had turned to the west, their eyes were open, their faces were calm and as it came and they gave themselves to it she heard them. They were singing.


-Part 2-

Charlotte’s eyes were full of tears. She was gutted and empty. When the moment had come she had failed them.

The dragon wheeled and soared and carried her across the moon, and in the distance, she could see the roiling of the blood red and ink black clouds, pulsing as they moved ever nearer to the singing townspeople.

She glanced back and saw that now they held hands and though there were drops of sadness on their cheeks, they stood as straight as their worn out frames would allow and smiled at one another.

It broke her heart.

Many years before the Great One had gifted her a silver whistle. He had told her that there would be but one chance to use it. When it was placed to her lips then she was calling death upon her own soul. It was her destiny and though she had carried the knowledge with her always she had hoped for longer. The Great One had told her she would know when it was time.

It was time.

She leaned down and placed a kiss on the head of her beloved, winged friend. She glanced around at the realm of heaven, sprinkled with stars and painted with grey ribbons of light cloud, and she glanced down at the mountains where the snow gleamed along the summits. She sighed. She would have liked longer.

The old people in the town had raised their voices ever louder and the song soared above the tree tops and the chimneys and the notes flew like moths into the darkness. The were singing Imagine.

Charlotte raised the silver whistle to her lips. The dragon raised its head, it’s golden eyes glinted with moisture. Earth and heaven held their breath. … …



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Another Drabble drip

Into the Light

Kirsty flew down the alley behind Mr Khan’s convenience store. There was a doorway down here she could hide in. She’d used it before when the bloody gang with Pansy at the head and the baying bitches behind her, chased her into the dark. She couldn’t face it, the spitting, the hair pulling. She pushed in, leaning against the old door, blinked away tears. Someone had tagged the wall, Stevo.

Steve. Her hero brother, dead in Afghanistan. Steve who never ran from anything, who died saving his mates. She felt him there beside her and stepped out into the light.


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Love in the Sixties

A special magical time. A great cover

Claire Plaisted - Indie Author

It is time for the cover reveal for “Only One Woman.”  This is a story set in 1968, flower power days, romance, free love.  You get the gist.

This story is about two young women and a love in their lives.  A young man called Scott.  Two different meetings, two different romances.  What will happen? Keep your eyes peeled for this wonderful up and coming book by Christina Jones & Jane Risdon.

Only One Woman

Two women, one love story.

June 1968. Renza falls head over heels for heartthrob guitarist Scott. But after a romantic summer together they are torn apart when Renza’s family moves away.

December 1968. On the night she believes to be her last, Stella meets Scott at a local dance. He’s the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and if this one night is all they have, she’ll take it.

As the final colourful year of the sixties…

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The End – a drabble

It was the birds we noticed first. We knew it would happen but when the great flight of geese didn’t return that first Spring it was chilling. The crops failed that summer. Then we had to use the stockpiles. They lasted a long time, more than ten years. Now they’ve gone. The earth is dead, it can’t support the trees and so now even the ancient ones are fading.

We can never say that we didn’t have warning but it was all talk. Not much action and so here we are. Our kind is doomed. The birds never came back.


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