‘Amazing’

‘Amazing!’ I said, my voice the epitome of excitement.

‘I know, Han! I’m so excited about this. The team seems great and they invited me out for lunch today. I said no though because I’m just so busy.’

I looked down at the McDonald’s I had visited over the road from work. I could have taken it back to the office, but I couldn’t bear to spend a single second longer with my colleagues than I had to already.

‘Oh Candice that’s fantastic. I’m actually just quickly grabbing some food and then going back to the office. I just can’t stay away!’ This could not be further from the truth.

‘Me neither!’ We both laugh.

‘And how is Gerard?’ Candice asks.

‘Fantastic, we’re great thank you!’ Complete lies. He hadn’t spoken to me for 11 days.

‘It’s so great that’s it’s working out for both of us isn’t it! Oh, sorry Hannah I’m going to have to go, the boss has just come in and she wants to drag me into this really important meeting. Can I call you next week some time?’

My gut lurched. I hadn’t been in an important meeting in my entire working career. ‘Sure thing, I’ve actually got to rush off anyway, got a few vital deadlines coming up!’

‘Fab, I’ll call you next week.’ She hung up. I put down the phone and viciously bit into my burger.

Over on the other side of London, Candice looked miserably at her soup, before glancing around the empty office. It was nice to finally have a chance of competing with Hannah’s amazing life. It was a shame that it was almost all lies.

 

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‘That’s great baby, keep doing that. Oh yeah, push out your breasts a bit more? Great, amazing, perfect these shots are looking great. You’re gorgeous. What’s that? Just have a drink you’ll be fine. Now turn away from the camera and look over your shoulder at me, I wanna see that butt! Baby no, have you been following the eating plan we gave you? There’s only so much we can photoshop sweetheart, and you’re pushing it. In fact, I think we’re done here. Andrew, we got anyone else on the list?’

‘5ft 11, 7 stone 8 pound brunette, cup size D.’

‘Perfect, bring that one in. Sandra, honey? You can make your own way out.’

Death in the family

I held my mother’s hand. I have always thought that a mother is the epitome of warmth. I thought how strange it was that her fingers lay hard and cold in my palm.

‘Mother?’ I whispered, brushing her hair from her eyes.

She didn’t answer. Her mouth was slack and her eyes stared above her.

‘It’s time, Molly. You must leave.’ My father led me from the room and shut the door. I pressed my ear against the wood.

20 years later, I have still never been so sure of anything, as I was that my father uttered the words: ‘Thank God.’

Tiana’s House

Burning down my family home was never something I intended to do. It just sort of happened. I sat in the field opposite and watched the flames lick at my windowpane, melting the white plastic and colouring the brick a crumbly black. I sighed and leaned back onto my palms. My mum and dad sat beside me, silently watching the fire. All of us were transfixed.

Every crackle and flick of fire seemed to ease our pain and soothe our clenched muscles. My sister had died, but the house still resonated with the echoes of her laugh and the image of her silly dances. Her closed door represented an emptiness that we couldn’t fill, and her presence was a dark shadow that weighed upon each of us.

It hadn’t seemed enough to move. She would still be there; the ghost of her would move around that house forevermore, it seemed. It would be wrong to sell, wrong to allow a stranger to live in the room where she had slept, where she had died. So, instead of lighting the candle in the lounge, as per my mum’s request, I set light to the curtain. I looked to see my parents’ reaction, and all I saw was relief. We had calmly gathered our vital items; purses, phones and photo albums, and we’d left to watch our house burn.

The window to my sister’s room was filled with dark smoke and orange flames. We all watched it intently. Suddenly, the roof above her room crumpled, and it disappeared into a mass of smoke.

I found my mum’s hand, and I squeezed it tightly. ‘Goodbye Tiana,’ I whisper, as tears of pain and relief run down my face.

 

Spare change

Rain started to pour. Tom watched it splatter on the pavement, dripping into existing puddles, running down the sides of cars parked on the street. People walked past quickly, their backs hunched against the onslaught of rain splattering into their faces and drenching their woolen jumpers. The sky rumbled above, its twisted face a mass of grey and black clouds.

Hours later it was still raining. Tom had started to get a bit wet now. The front of the store had provided some protection from the weather, but the direction of the wind had now changed, and the little droplets had started to splatter on his hair and face. He supposed he should find somewhere else to sit, but he stayed sat where he was anyway. The majority of people had gone home now. Only a few cars remained on the street, and most shops had their metal shutters pulled down.

Tom saw a woman in the distance on his side of the road. As she got closer, he became nervous. She was very pretty, exactly the type of girl that Tom would go for under different circumstances. He didn’t want to have to speak to her; he felt embarrassed. But he will anyway.

‘Any spare change please?’ He held out his hat.

She didn’t even look at him. Sitting back against the shop wall, Tom stared at the rain dripping into the puddles once again.

Be home soon

I walked past the church. I was nearly halfway home. My ears still rang from the booming bass that filled the nightclub, and my steps felt slightly wobbly.

It had gotten dark now, and streetlamps flickered at me amidst the thick, black cloak of night. My heels clipped sharply against the pavement as I walked, my steps getting quicker as I got colder. I wrapped my arms around myself for warmth as I passed through a patch of thick fog.

I heard steps behind me and I walk quicker, the noise of my shoes seeming louder to me than they had before. I turn around, and see someone tall, wearing a short brown jacket and a beanie appear under one of the streetlamps. They quickly walk through the lit area, and dissolve into darkness. My breath quickens, and I walk faster still. Had the person behind me sped up? It was probably my imagination, but I turned down Parkins Road; a different road to the one I would usually take, in the hopes that whoever it was would carry on along May Street. I head down Parkins Road; and let go of the breath I didn’t know I was holding, as I see the person behind me carry on along May Street.

Fumbling in my bag, I find my phone, and press the ‘messages’ button as soon as I see the screen glow. I quickly text my housemate. ‘Be home soon. x’. She probably wouldn’t be up, but I didn’t see the harm in texting anyway. I carry on walking down Parkins Road, feeling a lot calmer. I reach the end of the road, and I go to turn left. Having made the slight detour, I now needed to get back on track. I’d be home soon, thank God.

***

GRUESOME MURDER ON TYNE CRESCENT

22 year old Penny was brutally murdered last night on Tyne Crescent. She was killed with four stab wounds to the stomach and chest.

It is believed that at approximately 2am, Penny left Gerry’s Nightclub in West Norton to get home, however believing she would not be able to get a taxi at such late notice, she decided to walk the 20 minutes it would take for her to get home. Her friend, Michael, stated that he walked with her up until the edge of town, however his house was in a different direction, at which point, they went their separate ways.

At around 2:10am, Penny was seen walking along May Street by a resident living in one of the houses on the street:

‘I’d just got up for a glass of milk to help me sleep, when I saw a young girl walking along the road. Behind her was a tall man, wearing some kind of hat, I think. I went upstairs after that, I didn’t think anything of it.’

It is then believed that Penny took a detour home to avoid the man behind, as she was found at 5:30am on the paths connecting Parkins Road and Tyne Crescent. The police have yet to make an official statement.