Archive by Author

first kiss by jadamthwaite

4 Apr

Her laughter broke the silence
like a glass bauble.
He swept it into a pile on the desk
and counted the pieces as she ghosted

behind the shelving with a book.
The phone bill, the essay, the clattering
of wet beads outside the library
all halted like stopwatches in her eyes:

chestnut sparrows’ caps
and crunchy leaves; hot fudge,
brazil nuts and rabbits.
She smiled suddenly –

– awkwardly – and he
caught the pieces of his silence
in both hands; blew them
between the shelves in a kiss.

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better safe than sorry by jadamthwaite

28 Mar

“You did what?”

Lorraine shrugged. “What? It’s not like I’m ever going to see him again.”

“Yeah, but…” Paula shook her head. “I can’t believe you sometimes.”

She leaned against the cold, blue metal of the swings’ frame and dug her hands into her pockets. Lorraine gave both kids a firm push and stepped back as they swung forwards, shrieking and sticking their stubby legs out like oars.

Lorraine and Paula had met at a playgroup at the church hall when the older two were little. That first day, Lorraine had brought her own mug and a sandwich bag full of biscuits, which she’d whipped out when a plate of custard creams was offered round the mums. Paula had warmed to her immediately. She admired her transparency, her willingness to say whatever she felt regardless of who she might offend.

“That guy’s here again,” Lorraine said suddenly.

Paula raised an eyebrow. “What guy?”

That guy. The one over there in the red shirt. He’s been in here every day this week.”

Paula looked over her shoulder at the man slumped on the bench.

“Maybe he’s got kids,” she said, looking round the park for stray children.

“He hasn’t.” Lorraine said flatly. “I’ve seen him come in. He doesn’t have kids with him.”

Paula waved at her daughter who giggled ecstatically every time the swing flew backwards. She looked back towards the man, at his hunched shoulders and stained shirt. A greasy cap of dark hair dripped across his forehead as he stared ahead at the kids on the roundabout.

“Maybe he just needs to sit down,” she said doubtfully.

Lorraine snorted. “There’s benches all over the green. Why would you come into the kiddie’s park just to sit down?”

Paula shrugged. There was no logical reason.

“Maybe we should call the police,” Lorraine said, fastening the pink toggles on her coat and fishing her daughter’s jacket out of the pushchair. “You just don’t know what he’s going to do, do you?”

Paula watched him carefully. He was staring at the boys playing Tag. She watched her own son tangled in the mess of gangling legs and flailing arms and glanced back at the man uneasily. She felt her skin prickle.

“How long’s he been here anyway?” Lorraine asked, lifting Carly out of the swing and bundling her into a pale pink fleece.

Paula shrugged absently, stretching her arms out towards her son as he hurtled towards her.

“Hold this?” he said. Niall wiped his nose on his sleeve and stuffed his coat into her arms. He leant forwards on his knees to catch his breath then charged back to the game.

Paula shook her head. “Never have boys,” she laughed.

Lorraine smiled. “I wouldn’t dream of it!”

She strapped Carly into her pushchair and wiped her hands with a baby-wipe, grimacing at the grubby marks across her fingers.

Paula looked back at Red-Shirt. He tapped his foot frantically and stared vacantly at the children.

Lorraine wheeled the pushchair backwards. “Be careful, alright? Don’t let Niall stay on and play here if you’re leaving, will you?”

Paula glanced at Red-Shirt and flicked her scarf over her shoulder. She shuddered. “I’m not leaving him,” she said firmly.

Lorraine nodded. “Well, we’re off then. Take care, alright?”

She strapped Carly into her push chair.

“REBECCA!” she hollered over her shoulder, pushing Carly towards the blue gate.

Lorraine’s oldest daughter swung down from the monkey bars like a trapeze artist. “Coming!” she called as she chased after her mum, who clanged the gate shut behind them.

Paula lifted Leila out of the swing and whizzed her through the air. She giggled happily.

“Let’s go and see what those boys are up to,” Paula said, setting her daughter on the ground so that she could totter over to her brother. She glanced at Red-Shirt and quickly caught Leila’s hand before she could get too far without her.

“Niall!” she called as he raced past her. “Five more minutes, okay sweetie?”

Niall stopped running and held his hands up to signal to the others that he was off-limits.

“Can’t I stay?”

“Not today, no.”

“Oh Mu-um!”

“Five minutes, alright?” she said firmly.

She watched him think about arguing, decide there wasn’t much point, and race back into the game. She glanced back at Red-Shirt who watched the boys charge across the rubber ground, leaping into the splashes of blue around the playground equipment, where they were safe from whoever was on.

Paula fumbled in her handbag. Lorraine was right. It just wasn’t worth the risk. She fished her phone out from between her wallet and her diary and pressed the nine three times. She waited, her eyes flickering from Niall to Leila to Red-Shirt.

“Police please,” she said quietly.

Better safe than sorry.

*

Links to Catching Breath

the silence by jadamthwaite

21 Mar

“I’d like to dispel a few myths about death. The first being that it is not the end. Not that I am any great expert. I’ve only been dead a week.” Marie steps down from the low stage. “But it is – absolutely and unequivocally – the end.” She stops in front of a small woman with tight white curls and a lavender jumper. “Your life,” she says, shaping the dough of the words with her hands, “will end.”

– Phht!

Sheila pushes the button angrily and Marie flickers off the screen.

“How dare they? Do they think it’s not hard enough without putting her all over every bloody channel all the time?” Sheila flings the remote into the sofa cushions. “And that film of all films.”

Jack reaches for her hand. They stare at their reflections in the empty screen.

“Remember when she auditioned for that one?” Jack says.

Sheila nods.

They lean into the numb silence, their hands entwined like woven straw. The TV stares blankly into the room.

“Remember her first real audition?” Sheila says. Her voice is hoarse and crunchy.

Jack has to smile. “Yeah… she was only a kid. Still used her own name back then.”

“And they made her hug that boy!

Jack clucks with laughter. “Bless her. She did it though, didn’t she?”

“That’s our Marie. Made of steel, that one.” A thin smile trickles across Sheila’s lips. She locks her eyes on the pile of folded newspapers on the coffee table.

The silence flops over them again.

Sheila dabs an embroidered handkerchief beneath her eyes and Jack runs his thumb across the thick, blue lettering on his mug. “BEST DAD,” it says. He remembers his fortieth birthday, nine year old Marie springing into the bedroom with a cup of pale tea and a clumsy bacon sandwich. She made him put his glasses on before he drank the tea so that he would notice the mug.

“Most people don’t get to see their kids on TV, do they?” Jack murmurs. “I s’pose we’re lucky.”

“It’s never her,” Sheila says flatly. “It’s always just a character.”

She keeps her eyes on the headline at the top of the pile: Actress Marcia Mayville Dies, Aged 42.

On the mantelpiece, an antique brass carriage clock clicks loudly to itself. Sheila’s eyes melt into the pictures around it: Marie’s first day at school, Marie before an awards ceremony, Marie holding a snake at the zoo…

Sheila looks up at Jack, her eyes wild and wet. “Do you think we could just pretend that she’s away on a job? Can’t we just pretend she’s not really dead? Just for today.”

A heavy tear spills from Jack’s eye. “Yes,” he says softly. “Yes, let’s do that. Just for today.”

He covers the newspaper with a cushion. Sheila picks up the remote and fires it at the television.

– Phht!

“Death,” Marie was saying, clasping her hands on the ledge of a solid lectern, “is the end of every part of your life that made it worth living. It’s like watching a film with the sound off or eating an ice cream without tasting it. All of your senses are silent. Death is silence.”

the code by jadamthwaite

14 Mar

Adam hunched over. His back was tense, a bolder on the edge of an avalanche. He scratched his pencil frantically against the paper, dark numbers flying across the page like shrapnel.

Millie studied the display about Ancient Egypt on the other side of the hall. The border was slightly skewed and the staples gleamed in occasional flickers of sunlight. She glanced at Adam out the corner of her eye. There was a fine line when he was like this. She needed to stay with him but she couldn’t intrude. She had to let him ride it out, lock himself away from the world until the world was a place he could cope with again.

It always happened after lunch. The playground was busy with footballs and stalked by a flock of dinner ladies in pale yellow tabards. It was the optimum place for disaster. The noise today didn’t help. The council had started strimming the hedges that bordered the school: the first sign of summer. In every classroom distracted eyes were sneaking glances at the bright spring sunshine that bounced playfully into the field and flooded across the tarmac like lemon squash.

Adam had traipsed indoors with his hands over his ears, his face hot and angry as he tried to scrunch out the noise. Millie had seen the war going on behind his eyes and swept him away to their usual spot in the corner of the hall, where they would sit on the raked staging until he could face the classroom again.

Millie had been Adam’s assistant since he’d first come up to the junior school. Just out of university, she’d been intending to train as a teacher after a year, but a year had turned into three and now she didn’t have the heart to leave him. She liked Adam and she enjoyed the challenge of his Asperger’s, the constant search for new ways to help him.

She used to give him patterns in situations like this, thick black swirls waiting for bright colours to fill them. That had worked for a while – it still worked occasionally – but everything had its day. The best thing now was a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. He would add and divide endlessly, occasionally pausing to trace the round, red end of the pencil across his lips until he was relaxed and ready to face the problem.

Millie watched him work. She liked noticing when he relaxed his shoulders and lifted his head, when the frightened-rabbit stare disappeared from his eyes.

Millie heaved herself back against the wall and hugged her knees to her chest. She liked these moments of quiet too. A dark blond flop of fringe fell over Adam’s forehead as he raised his head slightly from the paper.

“Miss,” he said, slowly running the smooth end of the pencil across his bottom lip.

Millie looked at him.

“Yes?”

“I just discovered something.”

Millie raised an eyebrow. “Did you?”

Adam smacked his pencil against the paper triumphantly. His voice was quick and eager. “Pick five two-digit numbers next to each other,” he said.

“Er… okay… seventy one, seventy two, seventy three, seventy four and seventy five.”

“Right…” Adam wrote the numbers down in a column and added them carefully.

“Three hundred and sixty five.” He looked up at her for confirmation. She nodded, still totalling the numbers in her head.

“Well, if you find the middle number – so seventy three in this case – and times it by ten – which is seven hundred and thirty – and then divide it by two, you get the same number that you get when you add all five numbers together.”

“Three hundred and sixty five?”

“Yeah.” He showed her the calculation on the paper.

“Wow! So that works for other numbers too?”

Adam nodded excitedly. “Look!” He held up the paper, scattered with tests of his theory.

“That’s pretty cool, Adam,” she told him. “How did you work that out?”

Adam shrugged. “I just… did…”

“What happens if you do it with numbers higher than a hundred?” she asked. He needed more calming time and Millie knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the challenge.

He furrowed his eyebrows and swooped back down to the paper.

Millie traced the pale lines of sunlight as they trickled across the floor from the high windows around the hall. They spotlighted the scuffs and smudges on the polished wood. The tall climbing frames generally referred to as The Apparatus lurked against the wall, these days rarely coaxed out of their furtive stances.

“It doesn’t work,” Adam said, the pencil at his lips again.

“Interesting,” she said. “Maths is funny isn’t it?”

Adam shrugged. “It kind of makes sense though.”

“I suppose it does. Now. Are you ready to tell me what happened outside?”

Adam looked down. “I kicked Jacob. And I hit Kamal.”

Millie waited. Adam tapped a repetitive rhythm on his lips with the pencil and stared, unblinking, at a sliver of sunlight on the Egypt display. His eyes reminded Millie of hazelnuts.

“And I told Amy she was stupid,” he said glumly.

“And what do you think you need to do now?”

“Say sorry?”

Millie nodded. “It’s not as hard as you think. We have to walk past Amy and Jacob when we go back to class. You can tap them on the shoulder and say ‘I’m sorry.’ Okay?”

Adam nodded.

“And then how about I ask Kamal to come into the hall? Then you can say the same thing to him and you can show him the number trick. I’m sure he’ll think it’s really cool.”

Adam grinned. “It is a cool trick.”

She waited a beat; let him steel himself for the next step.

“Ready?”

Adam heaved a deep breath and slowly clambered to his feet.

Millie slipped her phone out of her pocket and followed him into the corridor. I get it now, Dad, she texted. I just discovered the beauty of maths.

*

Links to Three

biscuit by jadamthwaite

7 Mar

A fruit fly scuttled round the ochre-green flowers, rubbing its feet through ceramic pollen. Lisa squinted at the oranged grouting between the tiles. She’d only cleaned them last week. She pulled her knees up to her chin and watched the fly closely, stealing herself to open the thin foil package.

The walk had been daunting enough. She hadn’t passed a shop window without catching sight of her stomach pushing her top out, a soft woollen speed bump in the middle of her body. Lisa knew she couldn’t possibly be showing yet. But she’d felt the heavy weight round her middle bearing down on her hips like a lead-filled life belt. She’d felt eyes hot on her skin as she scuttled, warm-cheeked, towards the chemist, pulling her coat away from her to tent her body. In every direction, there’d been children, pushchairs, harassed mothers…

Lisa looked down at the instructions on the floor beside her. The bath mat was imprinted with the damp outlines of James’ toes. The booklet fluttered as she lifted it, her hand trembling softly. Pass under urine stream… wait for one minute… alternatively fill a clean, dry container with urine… Lisa looked around the narrow bathroom at the sink, the windowsill, the bath: toothbrushes… soap… a basket of sun-yellowed bath pearls… flannels… shampoo… three candles in mottled green glasses…. bubble bath… She looked at the small lilac puddle in the bottom of the bottle. That’d do.

Lisa hovered over the toilet seat, awkwardly holding the purple lid beneath her like a milking bucket. She was reminded of family holidays, the frequent toilet stops when she and her sister would squat on the dried banks of a lay-by, their dresses scrunched into ruffled nests in their laps.

– Shit, this one will have to have a sister… or a brother… you can’t just have one, can you?

A hot trickle ran over her fingers.

– Fuck. No one ever mentions this bit.

Lisa balanced the lid on the plughole, shuffling her knickers up with one hand. She stooped over the bath to wash her hands, lathering them frantically with a slippery bar of soap.

She checked the instructions again and tore open the foil package: white plastic with a pink cap, pretty and clean and feminine. She grimaced. It should be an angry red with a foreboding black lid. This was not a pretty pink kind of a moment. This was ugly and messy. She was holed up in a poky green bathroom with a cup of urine and a plastic stick that determined her future. This was not the time for sugary pastels.

And what if it was positive? Then what? They had no plan for this. Lisa felt the panic rising in her throat and overflowing down her back.

– We’d have to get a cot and nappies and a car seat…

Lisa’s mind was racing. She’d have to organise nurseries and birthday parties… and swimming lessons, he’d have to have swimming lessons.

– Could be a girl, Lisa thought suddenly. – What would I do with a girl? Christ, I’m not ready for this.

There was a proper order to this kind of thing. Lisa had always felt that.

– And what about names? We had enough trouble with the damn cat.

Sasha was named after James’ family dog, a lumbering black Labrador with a lazy eye and a waggy tail. They could hardly use this system again. Lisa’s first pet had been a neurotic long-haired hamster named Biscuit.

– What kind of kid is called Biscuit?

Lisa breathed deeply and picked up the bubble bath lid. She dunked the cotton tip.

– One elephant. Two elephants. Three elephants. Four elephants.

The fruit fly crossed her face in the mirror, its gossamer wings twitching in the shallow breeze of her breath.

– Seven elephants. Eight elephants.

Lisa’s forehead was hot and damp, her throat as dry as limestone.

– Nine elephants. Ten elephants.

She clicked the cap back on the test and emptied the lid into the plughole. She checked her watch and laid the test on the windowsill. She squirted bathroom cleaner around the sink and swished a tatty pink jay cloth under the hot water, scrubbing toothpaste and soap scum from the olive porcelain.

She checked her watch.

The second hand flickered slowly.

A minute was a long time.

55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.

Lisa stared at the white plastic stick.

Maybe she should give it a bit longer.

She took a nervous breath, swallowing the nauseous feeling like the last mouthful of an unpleasant drink. She picked the test up and glanced at the two oval windows. A blue line… and…

… an empty window.

Lisa breathed out heavily. The fly whirled upwards and found a high spot on the frosted glass.

Not pregnant.

Lisa stared at the test. Soft waves of relief lapped across her spine.

– But what if this is the 0.1% chance that it’s not accurate?

She slid it back into the foil wrapping.

– Why did I miss a period if I’m not pregnant?

She tucked the test inside a toilet roll tube nestled in the bin.

Lisa sat on the side of the bath, eyes fixed firmly on the bin. She wondered if Biscuit would have been a boy or a girl, what colour eyes it might have had…

Sasha’s tail flicked past the window as she stalked the sill outside.

– I wonder how she’d be with a baby…

three by jadamthwaite

28 Feb

“Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live on the ceiling.”

“What?”

Sam is chopping onions. He crunches clumsily through the moon-white bulbs, shattering small shards against the knife.

Millie is lying on her back in the middle of the floor. Her pink furry slippers are pressed against the back of a kitchen chair and her eyes crawl around the ceiling thoughtfully.

“Sometimes I think about what it would be like to live on the ceiling,” she repeats slowly. “It’s just like the floor but emptier and upside down. There’s no mess… and no school… or homework.”

“But wouldn’t you have to go to school on the school ceiling if you lived up there?”

Millie thinks about this.

“No… Because if you lived on the ceiling you wouldn’t be able to get to school, would you? You’d have to walk through the sky and that’s impossible.”

“It’s quite impossible to walk on the ceiling.”

“Da-ad…”

Sam sweeps the onion into an untidy heap on the edge of the chopping board.

“Speaking of homework…” he says.

Sam scatters the onion into a pan of hot yellow oil and watches as the bubbles flicker and sizzle. His reflection stares back at him from the glass cooker-top, his hair flopping loosely over his forehead, a dirty mix of mouse and grey. Around his eyes, lightning-fork creases stretch out across his skin. Behind him he can see Millie’s pink feet climbing the back of the chair.

She sighs heavily.

“Mum never makes me do my homework on a Friday.”

Sam raises his eyebrows. He’s not being drawn into this one. He gives the spoon three heavy whacks against the side of the pan.

“Have you practiced your tables? What is it this week?”

Millie groans loudly. And then, not sure if Sam’s heard, she groans again. Louder.

Sam waits.

“Threes,” she says eventually through a sulky sigh.

Sam reaches for a lump of salami and grins.

“Threes! The threes are great. I like the threes,” he tells her.

“How can you like the threes?” she huffs.

“Because…” Sam hesitates. He knows she isn’t going to get this. “Because if the sum of a number’s digits is divisible by three then so is the number.” He shrugs. “It’s neat.”

Millie stares at him. He shrugs again and thumps the salami down onto the chopping board.

“One times three is?” he sings at her.

“Da-ad…”

Sam saws the salami with a long knife and thinks about Laura’s insistence that Millie should be a good speller. Well, if she’s going to be a good English student she’s damn well going to be good at maths too. Sam sometimes worries that Millie will become a different person to the one she would have been if he and Laura had stayed together. Maybe she’d have been more enthusiastic about maths for a start…

“Well?” he says firmly, staring at the pink feet in the cooker top.

Millie sighs. “Three. Obviously.”

“Two times three is?”

“Six.”

“Three times three is?”

“Nine. Dad, do we have to do this now?”

Sam pushes the salami off the chopping board and into the pan. He gives it a rough stir with the curry-stained wooden spoon and wonders, briefly, if he’s being unfair. Then he thinks of Laura and her spelling tests. Anyway, a good knowledge of one’s multiplication tables is essential.

“Four times three is?”

Millie flings her legs down and springs up from the floor. She leans moodily against the wallpaper and folds her arms. Sam has been able to see the teenager in her since the day she was born. He’ll be interested to see what the difference will be when she actually does hit adolescence.

“Twelve,” Millie grumbles.

“Five times three is?”

“Fifteen.”

Sam sometimes wonders if he’d prefer to teach maths to kids, if it wouldn’t be more satisfying to lay those early foundations ready for other people to build on rather than climbing all the time, researching, investigating endlessly. One of his students tutors primary children on a Saturday. Maybe he’d consider doing the same if Saturday wasn’t his Millie Day.

“Six times three is?”

“Eighteen.”

“Seven times three is?”

“Ninety eight.”

Sam turns around and looks into his daughter’s eyes. She has them peeled like blue satsumas and they stare at him, unblinking and wide.

“Be serious,” Sam says sternly.

“I am being serious,” Millie retorts. “It’s ninety eight.”

“Seven times three is?” he asks again firmly.

Millie gives in reluctantly. She breathes out slowly.

“Twenty one.”

Sam smiles.

“Good. Eight times three is?”

He turns back to the chopping board and reaches for a pepper.

“I don’t like green peppers,” she moans, peering round his shoulder.

“If you like red pepper then you like green pepper,” Sam says, but he swaps it for a red one all the same.

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“Eight times three…”

“Oh. Twenty four.”

“Nine times three is?”

Sam slices the pepper quickly. He doesn’t really miss Laura. But Millie… God, he’d almost have stayed with Laura just to be there every night: to say goodnight… to read her stories… to cook her dinner… He wonders if he’s had enough input, if there’d have been more of him inside her if the three of them could have stuck together.

“Twenty eight.”

“Twenty…?”

“Twenty eigh… twenty seven.”

Sam nods.

“And ten times three is?”

“Thirty.”

Sam spins around and points the knife across the kitchen at Millie.

“Thirty divided by ten?”

Millie rolls her eyes.

“Stop now!”

She stares at her father. He stares back, his knife held in the air like a conductor’s baton. His eyes are wide and his scruffy eyebrows arch like hairy bridges.

Millie sighs, the smallest hint of a smile twitching at the corner of her mouth.

“Three.”

cobwebs by jadamthwaite

21 Feb

“Good Lord, I can skip!” Alfred chuckled as he sprang down the hallway, the silver of his hair flashing past the mirror. He gripped the wooden banister with both hands and swung himself over the bottom of the stairs to the sitting room doorway.

“Here, Mags, you won’t believe this!” he beamed, brimming with excitement.

His wife sat stiffly under a thick woollen blanket in the corner. She didn’t look up from the paper.

“Bloody women,” he muttered. “Wouldn’t even notice if I did a bloody handstand.”

Alfred considered this for a moment.

Could he do a handstand?

He wandered into the kitchen where there was a large pool of empty space. He looked around doubtfully then flung himself onto his hands, his gnarled fingers gripping the floor as though they were sixty years younger. Alfred laughed shrilly and swung his legs back down. Brilliant! He leapt up and spread his hands out in front of him, his eyes following the broken grey veins worming beneath his skin to his swollen knuckles. He shook his head, barely believing it.

Alfred looked round the kitchen, tightened his lips and rolled up the sleeves of his cardigan. There was no way that Margaret would ever give in and get a cleaner. He’d better get on with it.

The kitchen was sprinkled with Margaret’s toast crumbs and careless sloshes of coffee. Alfred swept the table with his hands, reaching as far as he could before darting round to approach it from a different angle. He bounded across to the counter where Margaret had left her teaspoon like an abandoned ship. He stopped still for a moment and stared at it, lost and dripping murky stains onto the work surface. He hated the way age stopped you from caring. Young Margaret wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving a dirty teaspoon out like that.

Alfred flung the spoon into the washing up bowl and whisked a chair out from beneath the table. He fished a tall, rainbow coloured duster from the depths of the cupboard and jumped onto the chair. He grinned as it creaked and wobbled. Alfred stretched up and waved the soft feathers through the cobwebs on the ceiling.

The feather duster reminded him of candyfloss. He remembered standing with Margaret on a Blackpool pier as vicious winds snapped around them, whipping strands of spun sugar into their faces. Margaret had said she felt like a pink sugar mouse.

Alfred smiled.

He paused sharply.

He could hear the soft crackle of her voice rising and falling in the other room. Was she talking to herself? Alfred wrinkled his brow and strained to listen… ah yes: her stories. She’d started telling stories to that rickety old tape recorder. Alfred’s lips sprang into a proud smile. That was his Mags: not to be defeated by a bit of arthritis.

Alfred hopped down from the chair and went to listen to his wife’s story. She was staring fiercely at the ceiling. He wasn’t sure whether she was talking to the tape or the spider above her head. He gazed fondly at the woman who still wore the thin gold band he’d spent all those months saving up for. He remembered how she gripped his hand when he slid it onto her finger, how her eyes had glittered when she looked up at him.

“I love you, girl,” he told her quietly.

Margaret chuckled to herself and stopped the tape recorder. She stared sadly at the ceiling and thumped her stick on the carpet. “Chance’d be a fine thing, eh?” she said to the spider.

Alfred smiled at her.

He hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath and jumped as high as he could, fingers stretching towards the spider. He felt a heavy tingle as his fingertips brushed against the small body and rushed through the air.

The spider tumbled down on a thin silken thread.

Margaret laughed.

“Well I’ll be,” she said softly. “If only my Alf could’ve seen that!”

Alfred watched her eyes dip beneath shallow tears and crept over to her side.

“I did, love. I did.” He squeezed his wife tightly. He could feel the shape of her shoulders squashed against his arm, the bristle of her cardigan tickling his hands. He breathed in the soft smell of lavender. Her heartbeat thudded through him like a tired elephant.

Alfred felt his own eyes fill. He reached up to brush the tears away but they weren’t there. He couldn’t cry anymore. He was like the air.

Margaret pressed a weary hand through his thigh to grip onto the arm of the chair. With her free hand, she reached for her stick, smashed it through his foot and pulled herself up heavily.

She had no idea he was there.

*

Links to Margaret and the Spider

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