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amreading, amwriting, aromas, attraction, beach, blue, boat, dreams, Flash Fiction, loss, lost places, love, memories, nourishment, publications, sand, Sea, sea people, seafood, SickLit Magazine, soulmates, writerscommunity
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Thank you very much for reading. 🙂
I’m honoured to be back at the Punk Noir Magazine. Many thanks to author Paul D Brazill. 😍
Sandy had a fetish about men’s shirts, especially white ones. French cuffs and cufflinks as additional attractions, she hunted males wearing elegant bespoke suits, lately hard to find. Not fond of the current fashion trends, she loathed modern jackets which looked as though their owners had outgrown them. Why did men want tight outfits? Didn’t they understand generously cut pieces made them look more masculine? Body clinging clothes were for women to accentuate their figures. Men needed to look like men.
Her secret fetish was the period shirts musketeers wore, the ones without buttons, loosely styled to tuck inside their breeches. Having discovered an Italian company that manufactured them, she’d ordered half a dozen to try them on her lovers. If the relationship lasted more than a night, she asked them to wear one and watched them parade before her as the pirates and highlanders of the…
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This happened so fast, I didn’t have the chance to write an introduction. Many thanks to author Paul D. Brazill and Punk Noir Magazine for accepting my story, which ıs both “Punk” and “Noir” but I did not know how to submit it. So, I asked my friend, author Mick Rose, and he lead me. Thank you Mick Rose .
Desirée is a fragment of my imagination. I never know where these characters come from. I guess their stories need to be told.
Thank you very much for reading. 🙂
I met my old friend Tom at an all-night bar I’d never been to before. He’d said, “Come before midnight on Friday, and we’ll drink and talk till we drop dead.” I found him sitting at a table for two, opposite the mahogany long-bar. Relishing an expensive malt, we chatted about work, women, and adventures since we last saw each other a year ago. The place was packed with trendy women and men, all eyeing each other and looking for a good catch.
Shortly after midnight, a rare beauty walked in and the spotlight of every eye lit her like an actress on stage. The other women disappeared into the void, as her stilettos clacked against the wooden floor in tune with the beat of the soft music. Dressed in black, fishnet tights, a leather mini-skirt, and a shawl wrapped around her, she strolled towards the only empty seat at…
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The drinking duck is the AVI of The Rye Whiskey Review.
Many thanks to The Rye Whiskey Review for including my flash fiction story, Exodus. So now I’m officially a Whiskey person! Cheers! 🙂
As the website is on Blogspot, I can’t re-blog it. So, I’ll just post the first paragraph here and then the link to the story.
He walked into the bar, and set the room on fire. A magnet that pulled me into his dark eyes. I tried to look away, but his gaze held me captive and stripped me bare. A force I could not resist. A friend mouthed something, yet I had become deaf and blind to anything except his presence. Surrendering to the magical glow and the current that washed me to his shore, I became his satellite.
Continue reading here:
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:
I boarded the plane and settled into my aisle seat, after saying “Hi,” to the young woman sitting next to me.
She turned her misty gaze from the window, to greet me, and resumed her dreamy state.
The engines began to roar as the plane taxied down the runway. Without averting her eyes from the window, she began to sob, her shoulders shaking. The loud sounds from the turbines muffling her voice. From the corner of my eye, I saw tears rolling down her face, wetting her t-shirt. I’m not a nosy person, but I thought she needed help, yet didn’t know how to. Ignore it or try to communicate?
“Here tissues,” I said and offered her a pack from my handbag.
“Thank you,” she replied and took them, without looking in my direction. She wiped her nose and face, and continued to cry until we were high up in the clouds.
“Drinks,” the stewardess asked. I opted for a glass of wine and asked her if she’d like some.
“Something strong,” she muttered, turning her distraught gaze at me.
I passed her a miniature bottle of Scotch and a glass filled with ice. She opened the bottle, poured it in and began to sip.
“Did that help?”
“A little,” she said and cocked her head.”Sorry, for being a nuisance.”
“Not at all. I’m sorry if you feel I’m intruding. I just can’t bear to see tears on such a beautiful, young face. It must have been bad. You need not explain.”
“It was. A big heartache.”
“Hmm, life is full of them, unfortunately. So, shall we say cheers and try to make it better?”
“Cheers, though it doesn’t feel so. I’m just going numb now.”
“Nothing wrong with that. Numb is good. Takes the pain away.”
“Hope it lasts. Have you had heartaches?”
“When I first fell in love, my head in the clouds, I used to get angry at my mother for not understanding my feelings regarding my choice of boyfriend. She said to me ‘You’re not the first one in the world to fall in love. We all have.’ So, at my age, probably around your mother’s, I’ll add to that. We all fall in love and suffer.”
“Is that so?”
“But of course. A heartache is the most common ailment in the world. There is no immediate cure. It only heals with time. Naturally, there are exceptions. Some people find the right partner and manage to keep the flame going all their lives.”
“Not even when I thought I was wiser. My mother was right about my first boyfriend, but the heart doesn’t have a compass showing you right the way. It has its own magnetism which cannot be explained. After my teenage flop, in my twenties, I thought I made the right choice, but that didn’t work either. I think I have the tendency to attract heartaches. Wrong choices.”
I did. By the time we arrived at our destination, she knew more about my love life than those closest to me. I did not exaggerate. Just told her the truth, over many drinks.
She picked up her luggage from the carousel, waved to me, and walked away. I stared after the deja vu of my youth, a brief encounter, and prayed for her to be strong. I knew nothing about her, not even her name. Yet, I sensed sharing something mutual perhaps would help her deal with the pain.
The X Factor
Notting Hill, London
Scarlett gazed at Frank, lying next to her in bed. His tousled hair covered part of his face, eyelids framed by dark curly lashes fluttered in sleep. She stroked his hair. He opened his eyes and looked into hers.
“Good morning,” he said, yawned and stretched, and kissed her on the mouth.
Scarlet sighed and held his hand. “Why do you always disappear?”
“Because I’m a spy.”
“Liar, if you were, you wouldn’t tell me.”
“True, but it could be possible — the X-Factor.”
“There’s something spooky about you. I can’t put my finger on it, but you go away for a long time, never call, then you surface and ask me out.”
“I told you. My job requires me to travel.”
“Why don’t you call when you’re away?”
“What’s the point? I won’t be able to see you.”
“Is that what this is about? Spend the evening together, make love, and vanish afterwards. You never tell me you’re leaving town. Last time you were gone for three months.”
“I never know in advance. Once I get new contract, I have to leave immediately. IT matters can’t wait.”
“Are you married, with a family in another country?”
“No. You already asked that.”
“Come here,” she said and wrapped her arms around him. “Promise to be with me on Valentine’s Day.”
“I’ll try.” He caressed her ivory skin, partly veiled by her flaming locks and held her chin. Looking into her green eyes, he crooned. “I love you, Scarlett.”
The Y Factor
Bullseye arrived at Fiumicino Airport and took a taxi to Via Veneto. He checked into the hotel, and looked out the window of his room, which faced the American Embassy. He changed into casual clothes and trainers, and went out for a long walk. After dining at Cafe de Paris, he returned to his room. He made a few calls to set up the meeting for the next day, before settling in for an early night.
Next morning, he drove a rented car to a small town outside Rome. The Alfa Romeo parked at a convenient spot, he took a racket bag out of the boot and headed for Giorgio’s shop. In fluent Italian, he spoke to the salesgirl. “Buongiorno, signorina, ho un appuntamento con Giorgio.”
The girl phoned the boss. “He’s waiting for you, sir. This way, please.” She led him up the stairs to her manager’s office.
Bullseye entered the room and shook hands with Giorgio. He sat in a pressed leather chair, its ornate legs akin to the paws of lions, chewing on a cigar. “Long time, no see. Come va?”
“Fine, thanks. Do you have the merchandise?”
“If you have the cash?”
“It’s all here,” Bullseye said, pointing to the bag.
“Va bene.” Giorgio rested his cigar in an ashtray on his desk, pulled himself up from the chair, and stepped across to the door, which he locked. Stepping back across the room, he approached a reproduction of Botticelli’s Venus, swung it away from the wall, and reached in to the safe set in the wall cavity behind. After keying in the combination, he opened the door, took out a bulky parcel, and laid it on the table.
Bullseye unwrapped the package and examined the contents. He assembled the pieces, looked through the lens, and turned to Giorgio. “Untraceable?”
“Completely. Abandoned terrorist stuff, with the bullets.”
“Hope it justifies the price.”
“All good things come at a price.”
Bullseye dismantled the gun and wrapped the cloth around the pieces. He stacked the bundles of cash from his bag on the desk. Giorgio counted the money and locked the bundles of notes in the safe.
“Ci vediamo,” he said to Giorgio as they shook hands.
Bullseye drove back to the hotel. The racket bag placed safely in the wardrobe, he grabbed his camera and wandered passed designated places on the streets of Rome. Each night, he downloaded the photos taken onto his laptop and magnified them to highlight the details. Late at night, he assembled the gun, crept to the window, and peered through the lens.
The day of the grand reception at the American Embassy arrived. Sitting at the open window in his darkened room, he watched the approaching cars, checked number plates and focused on the guests. The procession at the gate made them the perfect, slow-moving targets. The limo he anticipated appeared and stopped behind a car, dropping off dignitaries in formal eveningwear. The Mercedes with the CD plates moved forward. The target stepped out, talking to the man accompanying him. They paused at the gate, for the security check. Bullseye aimed at the man’s head and fired the first shot. The target jolted, but before he collapsed to the ground, Bullseye fired another shot into his chest.
Hand steady and breath imperceptible, he closed the window, dismantled the gun, and placed it inside the racket bag. He picked up his holdall, left the room, took the lift to the lobby, and checked out at reception. In the underground car park, he dumped the bags in the boot of his Alfa and drove into the side street by the exit. In the rear view mirror, he could see the flashing lights of police cars by the entrance of the embassy.
Lugano, only six-hundred and fifty kilometres away, he cruised the Alfa at a moderate speed of 80 km/h. Under the cover of darkness, Bullseye dropped the gun and the bullets in a convenient lake that lay just before the Swiss border. Flashing a fake passport at the border control, he drove into Switzerland and headed for Zurich airport. His vehicle left at the arranged agency, he boarded a flight to London, using his British identity papers.
The Love Factor
Notting Hill, London
Scarlett awoke on Valentine’s Day with a solitary question in her head. Will he or won’t he show up? Preoccupied with this thought throughout the day, she attempted to pass the time in the evening by watching the X-Factor on TV.
At 8:31pm the door bell rang. Her heart leapt when she saw his smiling face through the peep hole. She opened the door and her eyes misted at the huge bouquet of red roses he held out to her. In his other hand, two bottles of Dom Perignon. Speechless, Scarlett took the flowers, as he stepped into her flat. The bottles and the bouquet placed onto the table, she embraced him and sobbed, burying her face in his chest.
“Hey, don’t cry. Look at me.”
“I … I’m over the moon, thank you for coming,” she said, gazing into his eyes.
They kissed. He reached for the champagne bottle and popped the cork. As the fizz rushed out, Scarlett squealed. He poured the golden liquid into two flutes.
“Cheers, my Scarlett Valentine.”
As the bliss of each other’s company warmed their hearts, he extracted a small box from his pocket. He lifted the lid and held it to her. An emerald-cut solitaire gleamed at Scarlett. Her eyes widened as he took it out and slipped it on her finger. She admired the exquisite stone and lifted her eyes.
“Oh, my God, really?”
“Yes, really, my Valentine.”
“You mean it, seriously?”
“Seriously, one of these days we’ll go off together and settle down somewhere remote. I’m getting tired of travelling.”
The Fate Factor
Tired of his job, Bullseye wanted out, but wasn’t sure whether his past would follow him. The last contract he had accepted was his most profitable. Shooting prominent politicians was not everyone’s game. Great skill and experience was required to escape the scrutiny of the CIA, MI6, FSB, MOSSAD, and INTERPOL. Tempted to accept one last assignment, he viewed it as something that would bolster his retirement pot. Never having to worry where his next dollar would come from meant he could live care free.
Doubts filled his mind. Could he? He had more money than he could possibly spend in a lifetime. In possession of countless identities equivalent to those of the residents of a small village, he could hop from country to country. Passports, language, appearance, and profession changed, he could cross many borders with ease. Though he made certain no trace of him was ever left behind, he did not take the worldwide intelligence agencies lightly.
He simply wanted a life with Scarlett, the woman who had stolen his heart. He no longer wished to lie to her, or be without her for long periods. He had already made her a promise and slipped a solitaire diamond on her finger during a Valentine’s Day rendezvous. He could take her to Toscana, but Italy was not safe, and the Adriatic, too risky. The Pacific was also eliminated as a threat as he could be easily exposed. His gut feeling indicated Central or South America. Costa Rica? He could buy protection there.
The trigger pulled, a bullet penetrated the victim’s skull, leaving their brains to spatter the air. Bullseye vacated his elevated position. He jumped into his car and drove to Switzerland from France, changing his passport at the border. Hire car ditched, he procured another once in the neutral country.
Taking refuge at a Swiss mountain resort, he called Scarlett on the mobile he’d given her. “Pack light, pick up your passport and meet me in Vienna in two days. Tickets, funds, and details will follow. Don’t try to call me until then. I love you.”
Disguised as an American tourist, wearing a baseball cap, a colourful t-shirt over jeans and a camera around his neck, he left the Swiss village and drove to the German border. In Munich, he changed the car again and entered Austria as a German Catholic priest. On the outskirts of Vienna, his contact met him with a different vehicle. At home, taking on the appearance of a middle-aged English Professor, he stepped into the lobby of Hotel Sacher, and headed for the Café.
In the opulent decor of the Café, Scarlett’s red hair blended into the colour of the fabric on the walls and upholstery. Forking the generous slice of Sachertorte in front of her, she raised her head and smiled when their eyes met. “Very appealing. Silver hair suits you, my love.”
He kissed her and sat down.
“Enjoy your cake and coffee. Then we’ll be leaving.”
“This is more delicious than Fortnum’s, but I couldn’t possibly finish it. Would you like a taste?”
He nodded and ordered a coffee to complement the dessert.
Scarlett knew not to ask questions. She had trained herself over the years. After sharing the rich chocolate cake, they left.
Bullseye drove them to Budapest, changing passports at the border and again at the departure point of the airport. They flew to Frankfurt, and onwards to Mexico City.
By the time they landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, Bullseye and Scarlett had used several identities and disguises. She arrived as a brunette with a stylish short cut. He portrayed a Scandinavian with corn-silk hair.
They drove to the Gulf of Papagayo on the Pacific coast. He had rented a luxury villa in the hills. Bullseye never invested in property or cars. He believed in cash, the majority of which he kept in bank vaults scattered across a dozen countries.
Surrounded by high walls, monitored by security cameras and full-time staff, the property would provide a safe haven. Scarlett was delighted with the panoramic views of the bay and the amenities of the house. Designed by a renowned architect and decorated with exclusive taste, the indoor living area and the grounds displayed an exquisite selection of furniture and fittings.
A week later, Bullseye took Scarlett to a hacienda where their wedding took place in a small church. She wore a white dress and his wedding present, an emerald pendant necklace that matched the colour of her eyes. Finally her dreams had come true.
He sorted his business at the Bank, and showed her the contents of his safe in the vaults. Cash in hard currencies, gold bars, and several passports for both of them. Joint accounts and authorized signatures allowed Scarlett to access their assets in case of an emergency.
That evening, while sipping drinks on the viewing deck above the infinity pool, Scarlett gave him a mischievous look.
“So, I was right all the time. You are — were, a spy.”
“It’s best you know nothing.”
“Hmm, what’s your real name, Frank?”
“I’ve forgotten it. I have so many, call me anything you like.”
“You are my love.”
“You are my love, too.” He smiled and held her hand.
“Maybe I should call you by a different name every day.”
They hired a boat and sailed around the bay, enjoying fishing, water-skiing, or wind-surfing. Life was good. Bullseye counted each day as a gift. The number of days they spent together had now surpassed the number of lives he had taken. Scarlett took photos, painted watercolour sketches of the exotic views and the colourful flowers in the area.
While celebrating their first wedding anniversary on the terrace, Bullseye strolled over to the edge with a champagne glass in his hand. He stopped to admire the view.
Scarlett watched him, her heart beating with the excitement of the news she would be giving him as a present. She stroked her belly.
A crimson sunset painted the sky, his silhouette ethereal against the colours. He turned and smiled to her, raising his glass. A cool breeze ruffled his hair. He jolted and collapsed like an empty sack, the glass in his hand shattering on the tiles.
Scarlett rushed to him, dropped to her knees and hugged him as the blood oozing from his chest stained her white dress in patterns of haphazard batik. She sobbed and screamed in silence, rocking back and forth, her arms clenched around him.
She stared at the solitaire diamond on her finger and swore to remain solitaire.
Jack Vetriano, A kind of Loving
Photo prompt: Jack Vetriano paintings
Bernard visited the flea market every Sunday and looked for objects to add to his collections, or something interesting to start a new one. Seeing a display of old-fashioned mannequins at one of his favourite stalls, he stopped and studied them, imagining what he could do with them. He negotiated the price for four, and carried them to his station-wagon, one by one, taking great care. They were a treasure, rare samples from the 50’s, made of wood.
Bernard installed the mannequins in the basement of his house, which he’d turned into a nostalgic bar, after his mother died. Not that he was a drinker, but he liked the idea of people socializing under the influence, telling each other their secrets, or meeting someone new. This was something he envied, yet his shyness prevented him from making friends. As soon as someone began to chat to him about something other than work, a hot flush would creep over his face. He’d begin to stutter, and lost for words, escape to find solace in the privacy of his home.
A hard-working mechanical engineer in a manufacturing firm, Bernard had attained the rank of manager, though he knew he couldn’t move any higher due to his lack of social skills. When he inherited the family house, he had gutted the basement and reproduced the model of a bar he visited on the Internet. Wood panelling, decorated with bevelled mirrors behind the racks of bottles, and in front of it, a mahogany counter with matching stools. He bought a bottle of every alcoholic beverage existing in a bar’s inventory, along with glasses and accessories. Every Friday night, he prepared a cocktail recipe from a famous barman. He sat on a stool and watched his image reflected in one of the mirrors. Yet, he was still alone, in the midst of silence. The introduction of a LED TV screen fixed to the wall solved the problem. Bernard watched people from another world, and music videos providing sound. He listened to sensual women singing songs and wearing next to nothing.
The mannequins presented Bernard with the opportunity to create something more intimate. Not so fond of their bare bodies, he decided clothes might give them a kind of reality and ordered sexy dresses to make them more enticing. He embraced his new friends with passion, yet felt a tinge of disappointment when they did not respond.
A few weeks later, he thought about giving them more personality. He spent his weekends searching for heads with the choice of eyes, wigs, and flexible body parts. The task of fitting them took all his spare time, and in the small hours of each morning, he stumbled to his bedroom. Once he mastered one, Bernard moved onto the next. A month later he had created his beloved possessions. Natasha, the Slavic beauty with blue eyes and long, blonde hair. Anita, the Scandinavian, whose fizzy red hair framed green eyes. Carla, the Italian, with hazel eyes and cascading brown locks, sitting next to Manuela, the Spanish seductress whose dark gaze and short cropped black hair promised an exciting adventure.
Bernard sat at the head of the table, and with the grace of a butler, served wine and small portions of the exotic dish he’d prepared to his alluring companions. He raised his glass and said, “Bon appétit, mesdames.”
The girls looked real. Almost. He had arranged their postures, manicured hands or elbows resting on the table, their heads facing him, and hair swept in sync with their pose. Bernard took photos. Drank his wine, as well as theirs, and cleared the table after finishing his meal. The Friday night dinner parties kept him busy for a few weeks until they became boring, and he felt the need for more animation from his guests.
Bernard changed their costumes, gave them whips, chains, and chokers. He drank more wine and ate more food than he normally did. He could feel their hands on his body. Maybe something would happen now.
Monica, the Office Manager, entered the house with two police officers. They searched downstairs and upstairs, and found neatly arranged rooms, but no sign of Bernard. Coming down to the hall, one of the officers saw the door leading to the basement. He pushed it open and descending the lit staircase, gawked when he witnessed the scene at Bernard’s bar. Chained to the chair, at the head of the table, a leather bondage choker had been pulled tight around Bernard’s neck. His swollen tongue sticking out, head hanging at an angle, decomposition had already disfigured his face.
Monica screamed and covered her mouth as the policeman shouted, “You’re compromising the crime scene!”
She staggered to the bar and poured a finger of whiskey into a tumbler. Perched on a stool, she downed the drink, and scanned the fetish clothes, wigs, and accessories scattered around the room. She gulped and turned to the officers. “I don’t understand. Bernard was a very nice man.”
The Forensic Team found no fingerprints, other than Bernard’s and Monica’s on the glass and the whiskey bottle. They examined the photos on Bernard’s mobile. The mannequins in the pictures had curiously disappeared, having left their clothes and wigs behind.
PS. Please don’t ask me how these paragraphs are indented. I have no idea. I just uploaded an edited version and this is how it came up. WordPress has its moments!
A blank page, that’s how Jeff felt. Lonely, abandoned and unfulfilled. There had to be something more than the physical love in brief relationships that led nowhere. He hadn’t found the magic told in books or heard in songs to fill the page with words.
The house seemed empty without his mother. He’d lost her to cancer a year ago. A widow who had brought him up with love and affection, but a tight grip on discipline and manners. He didn’t remember his father who had died of a heart-attack when he was four. Only the images from photos in his mother’s album. A stranger called ‘dad’.
Throughout his education, he achieved good grades, a degree in computer sciences, and had begun a career as a programmer. Science, sports, and a keen interest in arts were the highlights of his preferred pastimes. He kept away from politics and daily headlines. His mates, mostly married, with kids, teased him on a being a confirmed bachelor at the age of thirty-five.
Yet, his single status came with rewards. He was the sought after guest at dinner parties to balance the number of the male and female invitees. Sometimes he would have a fling with an attractive blonde in the party, other times he would return home on his own.
On one of these occasions, when his eyes landed on a brunette sitting at the far side of the long table, something ticked inside him. Pushing the dark locks away from her face, she seemed to be engrossed in a heated conversation with the guy sitting next to her. He tried to read the movements of her cherry lips as her animated hand gestures accentuated the many rings on her fingers. Then, she had turned around and when their eyes met, she had smiled to him. He smiled back.
After dinner, he followed the trail of her spicy perfume into the lounge and at the first opportunity introduced himself . “Hi, I’m Jeff, friend of Allison.”
Dark eyes lined with kohl perused him. She beamed, perfect ivory teeth peeking between full lips. “Nice to meet you, Jeff. I’m Monsoon.”
“The artist? How delightful. I love your paintings and the exotic name that complements them.”
“I was born in the Far East, hence the name and the subject matter.”
“Do you live here, now?”
“For many years, but I do visit the Orient, occasionally, to find new inspiration.”
“What is the latest theme?”
“Bali, the Hindu paradise.”
“I’ve never been there. Are you with someone? Can I refill your glass?”
“I’m with an old friend, I’d love another drink.”
They talked the entire evening at the end of which she took him to her studio apartment and to her bed, after slipping off the colourful sarong wrapped around her slim figure.
When Jeff woke up, he was in love, with the artist, the mysterious female lying fast asleep next to him and everything that made up her world.
What Jeff didn’t know about Monsoon was that she was a political activist, a human rights defender in countries where such violations peaked. Indonesia being one of them. A few months later, he took a sabbatical and followed her to Bali, where Monsoon had rented a house by the sea.
Life was perfect until she joined demonstrations on behalf of Amnesty International. She was arrested for disturbing the peace on the island and taken into custody.
Jeff was devastated. He hired lawyers to defend her, yet the authorities were strict and ruthless against protesters who were jailed under primitive conditions. Three months later, when he was finally able to obtain a pass to visit her in prison, he could not believe his eyes. She had lost weight and bruises on her bare arms showed the extent of the circumstances she was confined under.
Her lively eyes clouded with dark circles around them, she gazed at him. “Jeff, you must let go. Go back and live your life. I’ll be here for a while. This is not the first offence I’ve committed in this country. They’re digging up all the information back in Jakarta where I organized many demonstrations in the past. They might relocate me there. It will be a long trial if there is ever one.”
“I will not, my love,” Jeff said, adamant. “I’ll be wherever you are, until they set you free. It’s not like they’ll give you life sentence. I’ll wait.”
“What about your job? You can’t ruin your career and stay here indeterminately.”
“I’m a computer programmer. I can find a job anywhere in the world, working freelance. All the global companies are here. Don’t you worry about that. If necessary, I’ll sell my house in England.”
“This makes me sad, Jeff. I’ve been nothing but trouble to you. I’ve run over your life like a hurricane, destroying your peace. Please, forget all this and make a new start.”
“I can’t, Monsoon. You taught me love, filled my life with that warm breeze, and the soothing rain that comes afterwards. The winds can be fierce at times and the torrential rain can cause floods, but I’m strong enough. I’ll endure the pain.”
He held her hand and brought it to his lips. “Marry me, Monsoon, even the wildest storms subside in time.”