Dear Diary

Yay, it is time for Paula’s Tuesday Story! I’m sorry, this is another one where I didn’t quite “get” the middle image. Am I supposed to recognise these people? I feel I should, but I don’t. But hopefully, an okay story anyhow. Images today are:

I was alone. When Simon got his big promotion, we had to move, didn’t we? I had already made my vows.

He, at least, seems to be settling in nicely. This new role seems to suit him. And I have it so easy, don’t I? I stay home all day, just look after our two-year-old, throw some food onto the table every evening. A cushy number, right?

Sure, I’m not getting out much, but this is a new city, a new continent, even. I miss my family, I’d like to be a little closer to mom and dad. And, it would be good to have babysitters every now and again, to get a break. But this was a big promotion. Stand by your man, right?

And in fairness, Simon has tried to help. He introduced me to Maggie, the wife of a colleague, another ex-pat. She seems nice, seems to have integrated, but then she has been here a while longer. I will get there, too. It’ll come.

I’m less sure about Maggie’s friends, though. Many of them are also ex-pats. They have a luncheon clud every fortnight. Last week, Maggie invited me.

It was kinda weird – grown women… There was one woman, she has been here forever, they all seemed to swarm around her – the queen bee. Once, she was obviously the star attraction. Now, she probably gets by on reputation. Painted pretty, immaculately made up, but no disguising those icy eyes. Pleasant, but every time we spoke, she was playing games with me, toying with me.

I don’t know if I’ll go again. I don’t know if I’ll be invited again. I don’t want to disappoint Simon.

I miss mom.

The Ugly Duckling

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“What’s the matter, lad?”, said Grandad. It was clear that young Joey had something on his mind. But they could speak to eash other, always could. Through all those teenage fights with parents, grandad was there. Grandad communicated with him.

“I’m sorry, grandad, it’s okay”, shrugged Joey, but feeling grandad’s warm arm around his shoulders, he gave way. “Look, lad, I can tell a mile away that there’s something wrong. Why don’t you come out to the loft with me and you can tell me all about it?”

The chill in the aire gave Grandad the isolation he desired. “Come on then, lad, let’s be havin’ it”. “I’m just so fed up with it, grandad. Why can’t I find anyone good? They all seem to last two minutes.” Some delicate probing told Grandad that Joey had just split up with his latest girlfriend.

“You know what you need?” Joey looked up with interest. “There’s nowt so irresistable as a man who can dance. Trust me, lad, the girls can never resist ’em.

While somewhat dubious – Grandad’s dating tips were fifty years old – Joey figured that he had nothing to lose. He started taking lessons. To his surprise, the idea of a girlfriend was pushed onto the backburner. Joey actually enjoyed the experience.

Nine months later, he was helping Grandad once again. He slipped it in – “The Dance School is having its annual awards this Saturday night, followed by a ball. I think I might be up for the Novice award.” Grandad replied simply, “Knock ’em dead”.

On Saturday, Joey did, in fact, win Best Newcomer. One of the reasons, they said, was the growth in confidence that the instructor had witnessed. At the ball afterwards, there was no shortage of congratulation. He even had Jo come up and say a few words. A member of the same class, Jo’s beauty and strawberry blonde bob stood her out from the crowd. He had noticed her immediately, but had never been sufficiently courageous even to breathe in her general direction.

“Thanks, Jo”, he blushed, and displaying his new-found confidence could not resist adding, “would you like to dance?”

National Security

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“Order, Order”. Like an impatient headmaster, the Speaker of the parliament rapped his gavel onto the lectern. His audience quietened deferentially. When he had complete silence, he continued:

“The next item on todays agenda is the CC Bill. As you all know, this bill is of such a sensitive nature, that I move that we sit this item behind closed doors. I move that all members of the public be removed from the chamber.”

“Second”, cried a supportive voice.

The votes counted, the house voted unanimously to sit in closed session. There were murmurings as those in the Public Gallery were commanded to leave the chamber. When the last one had left, the Speaker used his gavel once again, to command silence.

Amid a packed house which was breathless in anticipation, the Speaker turned to the Prime Minister and urged, “Come on then, Harry, let’s have those cupcakes”.

From Darjeeling With Love

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You have played your last hand, Mister Bond. For now it it time…

for tea.

The Sound of Squishing

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To the casual onlooker, it was a strange scene. There she was, tied to the rail tracks.

Suddenly, she started screaming, like a cat in a fight, like a demented Austrian nun. It was as though her world was about to end. But… there was no train in sight.

The woman struggled and screamed until, obviously satisfied, a voice rang out “CUT”. The voice then added, “We can shoot the train later”.

Meanwhile, an extra helped the actress back up to her feet, and she dusted herself off. “Was that okay?”, she asked calmly.

Curtains

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So, this was it. This was how it would all end. Not alien invasions, not deadly viruses, or bacteria, but plants. The species had first been discovered on an uninhabited island in the Caribbean, where it was rampant.

When it was brought onto the mainland, it had been rampant. The strain was known to be carnivorous so, when some was discovered in the wild, there was panic.

But there was more. People’s pets started disappearing, then people themselves. Starting in Japan, some seedlings found their way across the ocean into Asia and it took only five years before it entered Africa. When it was discovered that airborne spores could travel on the wind, like dandelions, nowhere was safe.

In thirty years, the plant had taken over, and humans were limited to a very few outposts. Once proud buildings decayed and crumbled. The only safe places were subterranean – the plant needed light, but humans could not live entirely underground. An elite regiment of people – called “runners” came into being, who would venture above ground, when necessary.

Cara was one such runner, but Cara had made a mistake. In unfamiliar territory, a left rather than a right, and she was tired, hungry and the light was failing. She decided to hide out in an old ruin – it had once been somebody’s beautiful house – until daybreak, when she should be able to get her bearings. In the meantime, she hoped that the plant would not pick up her scent. Jumpy, she thought she saw it behind every shadow, and she could not sleep, so she stood still, her adrenalin seeing her through.

Having stood like a statue for the last two hours before dawn, Cara decided it was time to make a break for it. But as she tried to make that first move, something had hold of her leg. As she stumbled, the last thing she saw before hitting her head was the foliage wound around her ankle.

First Crush

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Russell had had a crush on Alex since the first moment he’d walked into the coffee shop. There she was, behind the counter, smiling. Perfection personified.

He’d started going there, after school, more often. He had found out their rota, so he knew when she would be working. They chatted, of course, but never more than small talk.

He really liked her; she was pleasant enough back to him but… what if she was just doing her job? Being nice to the customers? Besides, what could she possibly see in him? Even *he* realised that he didn’t really fit in with his school-friends, and there had been a void since best-friend Joey had moved away, two years ago.

And so, he left it. Afraid of the rejection, he’d said nothing. For six months.

The issue was forced when he heard, through a co-worker, that Alex was leaving. She was the same age, and over the months Russell had learned that she was from a single-parent family, that there was not much spare cash floating about, and that she spent her every spare moment studying for some scholarship. She had simply found a better-paying job across town.

Russell flitted for two weeks. By the time of Alex’s last week, he had just about convinced himself that it was now or never. That if he did not say something now, that he would never get another chance. So what if she said no? Besides, if she said no, she’d soon be gone, he’d never need to agonise over her again.

At the end of her last day, Russell took his empty cup over to the counter, where Alex was wiping up. More small talk. An awkward pause. “Uhhh…. Alex?”, he began, “yeah?” came the smile back. Another pause. “I know you get really busy,”, he gave her a get out, “but, I was wondering…would you maybe like to hang out with me sometime? When you’re free?”

Alex stopped, froze. The hesitation was agony.

Then she broke into a wide smile once again. “I’d love that.”

On the way home, Russell was ten feet tall. Oh, yeah, I’ve hit the jackpot. *I’m* the King of the Jungle!

A Day At The Races

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This was fun, he thought. He had never watched live horseracing before, so when his latest belle suggested they go to The Curragh for the day to watch her father’s horse run, why not? The promise of a champagne picnic had simply sweetened the deal.

“Molly’s Folly?”, he repeated. “What race is it in?”

“Oh, dad said she was not running until 4:15. We’ve got hours yet. I tell you what, why don’t we have some fun and place some bets in the meantime?”

So they spent the next twenty minutes studying form. Had Padraig been there on his own, it would have been quicker – he could just about tell the front of a horse from its rear, but Aisling had been around horses her whole life. Having made their choice, a good each way bet, whatever that was, Aisling sent him off to place the bet.

“£20 on Grandpa’s Winter Woolies, please” as he reached the bookie. “Is that to win?” came the response. Padraig was baffled – of course it’s to bloody win! Would he really be placing a bet on a horse to lose? Thinking on his feet, the bet was made and he returned to Aisling.

At racetime, they turned their attention to the track. “Which one is ours?” he asked. “The guy with the gold sash”, came the response. The jockey was wearing a colourful maroon shirt, with a striking gold diagonal on it. Padraig watched him disappear into the stall, and a minute later they were off.

“They’ll be a few minutes, yet”, warned Aisling, as they jumped the first hurdle. The race is over two miles, so get comfortable.

With a mile to go, they were both glued to events on the track. Padraig couldn’t believe it – Winter Woollies was right up there, in a clutch of four horses. His first race, and already he had picked a winner. Coming up to the last hurdle. they were too close to call.

They saw a horse come crashing down, but which horse?

Padraig showed visible disappointment as he realised that his rider was no longer to be seen in amongst the three running horses.

And learned a valuable lesson – it ain’t over ’til it’s over.