Skeletons (2)

Earlier this week, I responded to Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge. The original prompt is here, and my initial response is here.

I quite liked the story I came up with so I thought I’d write a continuation of it. Even after this one, I can see more parts are possible, but I’m flying by the seat of my pants – there’s no grand plan and I don’t know what’s coming next.

“You made it, then? Good to see you, buddy. Ready for the big day?”

The last thing Pat had expected was a two-hour phone call from Mark last night. But, with much cajoling and a tiny amount of strong-arm, Pat had successfully calmed Mark’s nerves. He could do far worse than Laura, after all. And Mark had at least turned up today. Now to find out what sort of state he was in.

“I need a stiff drink”, was as much as Mark could muster right now.

At that time of day, the bar was quiet, and Pat quickly bought two small brandies before ushering Mark to a table.

“I mean, what made her call last night, of all nights?”

“Did she know when you were getting married?”

“She said not.”

“Then can’t you just put it down to coincidence?”

In lieu of a response, Mark merely grunted, dissatisfied. All the call had done was reopen old wounds. He emptied his glass in a single gulp. “I need another.”

He felt Pat’s hand on his arm. “Sorry, buddy, but that was your one drink. You have somewhere you need to be, and I intend to get you there sober.”

And Pat was good to his word, shepherding Mark to the waiting room in the registry office, fifteen minutes before the appointed time. Taking the last opportunity to speak privately, Pat whispered, “When Laura gets here, she doesn’t need to know anything about this, right? Nothing you could say would help.”

No sooner had Pat uttered those words when the door opened to reveal his parents, followed shortly afterwards by Laura herself, and best friend Amy. She looked resplendent in a cream blouse and crimson formal dress, her favourite brooch, an heirloom from her grandmother, pinned to her lapel. Made up perfectly, Mark had never seen Laura look so pretty.

“Hi, Mark, you’re looking sharp. I like that suit.” They had made a pact not to see each other’s intended attire beforehand, and he and Pat had bought their matching, light grey morning suits two weeks before. Leaning in to kiss his cheek, she muttered, “Hmm, you smell good, too. And not too much booze”, she added approvingly.

“Thanks, babes. I thought I should probably stay sober for this”, Mark smiled.

“No second thoughts?”

“None”, lied Mark. “Let’s do this.”

Half an hour later, the pair emerged from the registry office, a married couple. They enjoyed a small celebration at the Chesterton Court, an ancient, plush hotel only ten minutes from the registry office, before returning to Mark’s – their – apartment together, to pack for the honeymoon. A delicious ten days exploring the kasbahs of Marrakesh.

A world away from here, thought Mark, as he unbuttoned his coat, finally having warmed himself from the cold drizzle outside. He was contemplating ordering another hot chocolate, maybe even another piece of that delicious flapjack, when the chair opposite moved. Looking up, Mark realised that his guest had finally arrived.

“Hi, Mark, I’m sorry I’m late.”

“Hi, no worries”. he assured. as he stood to greet her properly, “I’m just glad you made it at all. What would you like to drink, Toni?”

Smoke… Fire

For Fandango’s Story Starter #11, where we build something around the following phrase:

Peeking through the window, her surprise turned to horror when…
Continue reading “Smoke… Fire”

Skeletons in the Cupboard

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #135, where we write about the image below, from

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

Mark was setting out his clothes for tomorrow’s nuptials. Girlfriend Laura was at a low-key hen night at a pizzeria in town. She would then observe tradition by spending the night at a friend’s apartment, not seeing Mark again until the wedding itself.

He had the evening planned. First, prepare his clothing for the big day. Then, a long, hot, relaxing soak in the tub, which, yes, might include a facial. Lastly, an early night, his last as a bachelor. Mark was far too long in the tooth for stag nights, and in any case, he would be meeting best friend and witness Pat at The Feathers at lunchtime, to garner some Dutch Courage before the main event.

He had just finished ironing his shirt, carefully avoiding disturbing Mog the cat, who was regally curled up, asleep, in the centre of their bed, when he heard the phone ring. The landline. Who was that? The only person who ever called him on that number was his mum, and he would be seeing her tomorrow at the registry office anyway. A last-minute pep talk, perhaps?

He allowed the machine to answer. From behind the closed door of the bedroom he heard a female voice. It was muffled, but Mark could tell it was not mum’s. He opened the door, so that he might properly hear the message.

“Mark? It’s me. Are you there?”

A soft, melancholy voice.

“Fuck!”, cursed Mark, aloud but to no-one, as he instantly recognised Toni’s caramel voice. Unmistakeable.

Mark’s mind raced. He looked down at the sharply creased suit, and her voice reminded him that he had ventured down this path once before. Almost.

Jeez, he thought, as she instantly took him back all of seven years. They had been an item, Mark and Toni. Furthermore, she had been the one. They were less than a month from their own wedding, before she bolted.

As if to serve as a reminder, at that moment Mog flew past, evidently not sleepy enough to ignore the possibility of a treat as Mark stepped towards the kitchen. The grand old Mog, whom Toni and he had picked up from the shelter, the first of their intended offspring. And Mog had lived with Mark ever since, even happily adopting Laura when she came to live at the apartment.

There had been women since Toni, not least Laura, but by then, Mark had learned to protect himself. He had only given so much of himself to the relationship.

But Toni got the lot.

Laura. He thought of Laura. One of a kind, an exceptional human being, a woman he had grown to love in the three years they had been together. In Laura, he had seen a good wife, someone who would be a good mother, a good partner. But she wasn’t Toni.

By the time Laura arrived on the scene, Mark had given up on thunderbolts.

“I heard you were getting married…”, continued the voice. Then a sniff. Or, perhaps a sob?

Walk away, just like she did. His initial reaction was to just allow her to leave the message. He knew Toni was having doubts, but when she ran, Mark had been crushed. He had not thought it was possible that anybody, let alone someone who professed their love, would do this. Since she fled, he had tried to compartmentalise her, to lock his thoughts away, never again to be aired.

It was a year before he dated again.

Now, he turned back toward the bedroom.

“I just wanted to w…” The voice hesitated, and it let out another sniff.

But wasn’t that what he had promised? That he would always be there if she needed him? After she had contacted him, almost six months after their intended wedding night, now living a healthy distance from him, and embarking on a new life? Was that not exactly what he had said to her? Mark stalled, standing motionless in the hallway.

“I just wanted to wish you luck…”

And besides, maybe she was calling to wish him luck?

“Toni? Is that you?”

“Oh, Hi Mark. I thought you might be out.”

September’s Hundred-Word Story

Do you remember I’ve responded to the Hundred Word Story challenge a couple of times? I didn’t respond in August but I’m still looking at the challenge and thought September’s image looked worth writing.

“We visit your mother every bloody week! I’ve had enough – this week, I’m staying home”. Zeus hammers his clenched fist onto the dining table.

“You’re my husband… We’re a couple… I want us to go together.”, retorts Hera, unwilling to budge.

After a moment’s thought, Zeus proposes, “I can see there’s only one solution here”, before flouncing angrily from the room. A pregnant pause, before he bellows, “You coming? I’m waiting.”

“Boys”, sighs Hera, as she eventually follows.

Next door, Zeus counts down. “Ready… set… GO!”, he commands, as the pair grip their controllers and the game of Scalextric begins.

[100 Words]

I haven’t submitted anything yet. I figure I’ll sit on it and ponder any edits, as there’s still three weeks until the end of the month.

But it just kinda tickled me, that the gods would settle an argument by playing “Scalextric”… with real trucks! Especially as from what I am just reading about Hera, she seems a bit of a henpecker, doesn’t she?

High Roller

For Fandango’s Story Starter #10, where we build something around the following phrase:

My hair stood on end, a shiver raced down my spine, and a lump came to my throat when I…
Continue reading “High Roller”


For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #134, where we write about the image below, from Pinterest.

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

Chris wore a smug expression on his unshaven face, and no wonder. For today, his new Alexxxa 6000 had been delivered. For the first time, Amazon had pulled out the stops, to deliver an adult-specific version of its smart device. A real leap in artificial intelligence, Chris had secured one of the first production models, and though she had cost him four months’ salary, he was convinced she wasa sound investment.

His clammy hands trembled as he meticulously unwrapped the large package, being careful not to cause any damage – he wanted it to be in A1 condition when he finally got to use it.

When, at last, he was done, Chris set his new Alexxxa down to charge, for the 6000 was the first rechargeable model, which did not need to be permanently tethered to the wall. She could be recharged simply by placing the discreetly concealed contacts in the proximity of a charging plate.

While Alexxxa still showed red, Chris had time to kill, and he shuffled through to the kitchen to prepare his favourite sandwich, pastrami on rye. His long, dark, greasy hair flopped over his eyes as he sliced the pickled cucumber, momentarily obscuring his vision.

Returning to the lounge, he had just finished the last morsel of sandwich when he noticed Alexxxa turn to green. The moment of truth.

Wiping his bristly mouth, Chris impatiently cleared his throat.

“Alexxxa, tell me about the weather for tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow in London it will be mostly sunny, with an overnight low of 10°, and an expected high of 25°. There is a 0-5% chance of rain.”

So far, so good, but Chris had greater plans for Alexxxa.

“Alexxxa”, he croaked in trepidation, hardly daring to believe that his wildest dreams were about to come true. Waiting half a second, he continued, “go and fit your raunchy head, then get undressed and wait for me in bed.”

As an afterthought, Chris added “Oh. And Alexa? Set an alarm for when you are ready.”

There was a tiny hint of self-satisfaction on Chris’s voice as he removed his track suit bottoms.

As a Brick

For Fandango’s Story Starter #8, where we build something around the following phrase:

I don’t think you sufficiently appreciate…
Continue reading “As a Brick”

Ill-gotten Gains

For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #133, where we write about the image below, from sasint at Pixabay.

A picture containing grass, outdoor, nature, smoke

Description automatically generated

Nothing was moving in the heat. Even the mosquitos had sensed the slim pickings and were taking a break. Ajay and Johar were lounging idly in the shadiest corner of the town square.

“I’m bored”, complained Ajay, symbolically allowing his arm to flop down heavily to the ground.

Johar momentarily raised his head. “I know. There’s nothing to do, I hate this place. But make the most of it. In two weeks, we will be back in school, and I was warned. This year will be  tough.”

Continue reading “Ill-gotten Gains”