Over this weekend, I’m delighted to share with you the top three stories of the Year-end Special Competition at the Flash Fiction Group I host on Scribblers.
The prompt was The End and The Beginning, with a 1000 word limit.
Here’s story Number 2 by Author Jennie Ensor:
Photo by Raymond Hui on Unsplash
The End and The Beginning
‘Carl’, Catherine murmured, gazing at the dust jacket of Volume Four of Carl O. Nystrom’s distinctly autobiographical series of novels. She could change her name to Carla, perhaps. ‘Catherine’ was such a mouthful. And everyone spelt it wrong, with an ‘K’ instead of a ‘C’ or an ‘a’ instead of the middle ‘e’.
Come on, Catherine. This Carl thing is getting out of hand. A famous author with millions of adoring fans isn’t going to interested in you.
The author talk at the South Bank was tomorrow. Should she still go? It would only feed her… infatuation. That’s what it was, wasn’t it? She sighed and went downstairs.
‘You’re looking very nice this evening.’
Catherine considered her husband’s remark while crunching into a notquitecooked potato. Tom didn’t usually comment on her appearance these days, didn’t seem to notice her at all, in fact. But any pleasure at his having praised her appearance was immediately quashed by a profound regret at Tom’s limited vocabulary.
Very nice. Was that the grand total of her husband’s feelings for her? Carl would never have used such words to a woman he loved. He would have chosen with care, sensitivity and aplomb from his vast literary hoard.
She studied the decidedly fleshy droop of her husband’s face. Carl, as she had seen in his spot on Meet The Author, had a well-toned body (from various athletic pursuits, she imagined) and wayward wavy hair that hung around his shoulders in that scrumptiously bohemian manner. Unlike Tom, Carl wouldn’t scoff ice-cream straight from the tub during ad breaks, or stop cycling to work because he was worried about getting run over.
Her seat was closer than she’d expected. The sight of Mr Nystrom produced a pleasurable shiver, as if someone had traced a cool fingertip along her inner thigh. There he was, not ten metres away, his oh-so-expressive face crowned with a glorious tangle of blonde hair. She longed to be even closer so she could see his eyes properly.
Carl was seated on a L-shaped sofa behind a coffee table. This intimate cubbyhole felt oddly surreal, as if she were stepping into his living room.
‘Hello… Carl. I’m so glad to meet you at last. I’ve read all your books.’
His eyes were a mesmeric blue. Blood rushed to her cheeks, leaving her legs to fend for themselves. She swayed. He sprang up, catching her arm.
‘Come sit a moment.’
She almost fell onto the sofa.
‘How would you like me to sign?’
‘Put “To Carla”’.
‘That’s a coincidence.’
‘Isn’t it?’ She felt her eyes pulled into his; the dizziness returned. ‘You’re different to how I thought you’d be.’
‘Your eyes. They’re so… penetrating. And your body – I never realised how muscular you were.’ No, you can’t say that.
‘Thank you, Carla. You have a lovely body too.’ He put a hand just above her knee. If only this moment would last forever. But her time in the spotlight was ending – she hadn’t even taken a photo.
From the signing queue, a pointed cough. Carl removed his hand.
‘Do you mind if I take a photo of us?’ Catherine took her phone out of her bag. ‘Oh no. There’s no battery.’ What a dork. She’d meant to charge it at the hairdresser’s.
‘I’ll use mine,’ Carl offered, withdrawing a phone from his pocket.
Without thinking, she smiled and tilted her head towards his.
‘I’ll send it to you later. What’s your number?’
She wrote it down.
‘So, did you enjoy the interview?’
‘I didn’t think much of the questions, actually. I would have asked different ones.’
Do you sleep naked at night? What do you do to arouse a woman?
‘What colour is your cat?’
‘In your house in Sweden. I thought you had one. A cat, I mean.’
‘Ah!’ His face crinkled. ‘Sheba. She’s white with a black ring on her tail. She takes advantage though.’
‘Cats do, don’t they? What’s your house like?’
‘Big, modern. Very Swedish.’
‘How lovely.’ She stood, reluctantly. ‘It was wonderful to meet you, Carl.’
‘And you, Carla.’ He stood too, leaning towards her. For a crazy moment she thought he was going to kiss her.
Uncharacteristically, Tom came into the hall to meet her. ‘How did it go, love?’
‘You’ve changed your hair. You look… like you used to dress for me.’ Tom disappeared into the living room.
Catherine fled into the kitchen, then put her phone on to charge. What was she doing? Did she want her marriage to sink like a weighted corpse into the nearest river?
She was pouring two glasses of water when her phone beeped. She pounced on it.
Hello Carly, here’s your photo. Hope you enjoy the book. My fondest wishes, Carl
Thanks Carl, I am so grateful for this. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the book!
She hesitated, then added three kissing cat-face emojis.
For days, while snuggled under the duvet with Volume 5, or in the classroom struggling to convey the concept of irrational numbers to less-than-attentive teenagers, Catherine thought about Carl. She imagined him in his Swedish house, stroking the cat.
Inside her, a constant battle took place. She was determined to forget him, make the most of the life she had. The other half of her wanted to become engulfed by a liaison to rival any literary romance.
It arrived just before midnight, a week after the book event while Tom snored gently beside her. She reached over to switch off her phone, then saw the message.
Hello Carla, my apologies for this sudden interruption at such a late hour. The truth is – and I quake as I tap these words – I can’t stop thinking about you. I wish to see again, soon. Could visit me in Gothenburg? Your humble scribbler, C
The famous author wanted to see her! She sat staring at the screen, re-reading the words. Before she could change her mind, her fingers replied.
Yes, yes, yes! Oh please, yes!
Jennie Ensor is a regular contributor to the Flash Fiction thread at Scribblers. She is the author of Blind Side, a psychological thriller published by Unbound.
BLIND SIDE by Jennie Ensor
Paperback edition available from your local bookshop (UK only), including Waterstones, Blackwell’s, Daunt Books and independent booksellers
If you wish to take a look at the other great stories of the Year-End Special, here’s the link to the thread:
Or better still, come and join our bi-monthly Flash Fiction thread at Scribblers. Newcomers are always welcome. Here’s the link to the current thread: