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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.’

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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.’

A Dog’s Life

‘Don’t ruin this for the both of us,’ I thought, looking over at Bella. I balanced the treats on my nose as Bella looked on, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, her tail wagging ferociously. Mick kept putting more and more treats on my nose and I felt my tail begin to involuntarily shake. This was the last one. He only ever did 6, it was his favourite party trick when people came round. I waited, the smell of the treats making my mouth water.

‘Ok, you can have them,’ he said to me, and looked on proudly as I let the crunchy pieces fall to the floor and snapped them up in my jaws. Bella licked up a few too.

Mick then brought his guests into the lounge. Bella trotted in after them, and as soon as all the guests were sat, she placed herself underneath Mick’s feet. I walked in more slowly, having spent a bit more time licking the floor where the treats had been. There were about 4 of them in there, and I made the rounds, going from person to person, letting them stroke my soft head. I looked over at Bella. She was softly leaning against Mick’s legs.

I decided to get comfy. I walked around in a circle a few times before plonking myself down in the centre of the room. Mick and the other humans looked at me adoringly and I sighed loudly, letting my breathing relax me, provoking coos from my captive audience.

My ears pricked up. I had heard something at the door. I heard a growl rumble at my throat. Yes, I had definitely heard voices by the door. They might be coming in! I let out a loud bark, and Bella joined in. This might be serious! I barked again, warning the intruder that they wouldn’t make it very far.

‘Shut up Rory, shut up Bella!’ Mick roared. I carried on listening for the voices, but they seemed to have gone. I looked over at Mick. He looked angry, he didn’t understand the danger we were just in. I put my head on my paws sadly. My efforts to protect our pack were never appreciated.

You probably wouldn’t believe it, but sometimes it’s hard being a dog.

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.

 

Chinese

Sitting with the Chinese takeaway on my lap, I flicked through Netflix.

‘What do you want to watch?’

‘Anything really, maybe something funny?’

‘Alright.’ I put some How I Met Your Mother on and took a large bite out of a chicken ball.

He sat down beside me. He gave my leg a squeeze, before swirling some noodles on his fork and putting them in his mouth, chewing slowly. He swallowed, and looked at me for a few seconds.

‘I love you so much you know,’ he said.

I couldn’t remember a happier moment.

 

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.