These Streets

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These Streets

We have walked these streets arm-in-arm these past decades of marriage – arguing, laughing, living. Carried fresh bread and morning flowers up flights of worn stairs to our bolthole above the rooftops; back down to our one o’clock corner table, a stroll in the spring rain with the scent of Horse Chestnut flowers, a quick nightcap.

Now you sit huddled behind the shutters. Too cold, you say. But bravery is not the absence of fear. So sweep up the broken glass, hose down the cobbles; I will walk these streets still.

They are my streets; this is my city, my life.

MJ Lewis©2015

Thanks to our Friday Fiction host, Rochelle congratulations on the new book. Thanks also too to C.E. Ayr for the photo and to all who visit. For a hoard of stories from around the globe click here.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

wired

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

The summer of ’76: O levels, no rain for 3 months, Elton John and Kiki Dee faking it at number one.

I was going out with a gorgeous blue-eyed boy in the lower sixth; we’d lie in the dust under the apple trees for hours, kissing. But truth is, I was already fascinated by you.

I could hear your swishy skirt, feel your eyes on the back of my neck as I bent over English Lit. Paper B at my exam desk in the school gym. Two marriages, three children, several cats later – why did it take us so long?

M J Lewis©2015

This is my 100 words (not counting that title) for Friday Fictioneers hosted by the wonderful Rochelle. Thanks to Connie Meyer for the photo. Click here for more stories.

(For the youthful and the non-Brits, O levels were exams taken at age 16 in the olden days, before GCSEs.  And the lower sixth is now year 11. And Elton John…Think that’ll do.)

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Dream Girl by Miranda Lewis – Prologue

PART ONE, GIRL

Do you sleep well, all safe and sound at night? All tucked up tight, don’t let the bugs bite? I used to. I was never one of those kids who hated going up to bed, who kicked up a fuss at bath time, pleading for five more minutes.

Mind you, I didn’t always go to sleep.  Some nights I liked to read – book propped on my knees, one hand on the light switch listening for Gran’s slippered tread on the stairs. Fairy stories usually, or a comic Gran had bought with her newspaper. Or if I didn’t feel like reading I’d lie on my back and stare at the ceiling, searching for familiar faces in the patched-up plaster or humming to myself as I sailed the seas between the tiny raised islands and strange shaped continents.

No, I wasn’t afraid then, night-time noises didn’t bother me. A shout outside, the rattle of a water pipe, a buzz in my ear – they only made me feel safe and warm, a little girl tucked up tight in her narrow bed.

And when I slept, I slept well, opening my eyes to the light through the flimsy curtains, the miracle of hours passing.

Not now though, not anymore. Don’t drift off to dreamland – too many dark spaces waiting to swallow you up. Don’t even close your eyes.  Too many pictures waiting there, waiting to pull you in: candles in saucers measuring out the length of a cold dark hall; a library of old books, shelves climbing to the cobwebbed ceiling. Pull out an ancient tome and you half expect something to scuttle away into the back of the bookcase on clawed feet.

The curve of a stair twisting up into the velvet darkness, and on each step a tiny flickering flame; a bedroom cold as a cave, hidden deep within the dark house; an old wardrobe with something charred and dreadful hanging between the coats. They say people do the oddest things in fires, crawl under the sofa, hide in cupboards. Anything but save themselves. Not that you’ll read that in your local newspaper.

But don’t think of all that. Don’t even go there because it isn’t your concern, it’s not your fault. I mean all those candles. An accident waiting to happen my Gran would have said.

Don’t blame yourself Poppy. Keep right away, look after yourself, because god knows no one else is looking out for you.

Do you sleep well at night, all tucked up tight? I used to but not now, not anymore.  I lie in the darkness, eyes prickling with the effort to keep them open, heart juddering at each tiny noise. Don’t close your eyes whatever you do, too many pictures waiting behind your eyelids.

If I could stay awake always I would.

M J Lewis 2015

Dream Girl is available here in the Amazon Kindle Store (for 99p)

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While the World Dissolves Around Us

rainy-night

While the World Dissolves Around Us

He parks across from my blue front door and I turn to him. ‘Want to come in for some coffee?’  He’s so lovely, all the confidence I’ve been faking drains away. ‘Y’know, or…

But he’s shy too and his, ‘Or?’ comes out croaky. A caged bird flutters in my ribcage as he takes my hand.

Or…we strip naked and dance in the rain; we paint each other’s names in ten-metre-high letters; we sit here forever, as the street lights shatter to diamonds and the world dissolves around us.

But all I say is, ‘Or, I do have some hot chocolate.’

M J Lewis ©2015

In times of strife, take a deep breath and count to one hundred – one hundred words that is. Bit of a crazy week so far and half expected something angry to appear on the page. So what did we get – a call from the muse of love!

Many thanks firstly to Bjorn whose story supplied me with one vital two-letter word, full of possibilities. (Hope he’ll see it an inspiration rather than plagiarism.) A thank you to all who drop by and most especially to our newly liberated host, Rochelle, who also supplied the photo this week.

Click here for more rain soaked stories, where you might also notice I have come out, indeed emerged from behind my foxglove, with the same haircut only half a century on.

The Morning-Go-Round

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The Morning-Go-Round

Quick bath, slurp of tea, working face on, three pairs of shoes on the mat. Sergeant Major toddler bellows, “Now, Mummy!”  and it’s big sister to the rescue (Vest and pants already – good girl!) with silly faces, Teddy dance. Soar downstairs, post stubby legs into highchair.

Porridge spoon, percussion spoon, conducting spoon; toasty soldiers, toasty triangles, great big Mummy toast. Coats on (“Sleeves gone to Scotland, Mummy!”), strap in, brake off, big push and they’re off! Blast of autumn, scudding clouds, worried face asks, “Did we beat that clock, Mummy?” Mummy shakes her half-dry hair and laughs. “Sausage, we smashed it!”

M J Lewis©2015

To misquote a phrase, cats have owners, toddlers have staff. With my son turning twenty, this is for me a piece of historical fiction. To anyone for whom it is contemporary fiction I will say it’s exhausting, but it doesn’t last forever. Also, these quiet autumn mornings, I’ve realised that, whereas I used to think I was helping my children get ready in the morning, they were actually the ones helping me.

For a merry round of 100-word Friday fiction please try this link, on any day, including indeed Friday. Congratulations are due to Rochelle on leaving behind a job and taking up a vocation. All the best Rochelle! Thanks also to Ted Strutz for the photo.

A Lonely Turn in the Road

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A lonely turn in the road

If I could turn back time? I wouldn’t even get in the car. And if I had got in? I’d make him stop. Futile questions, pointless answers.

We were hours over the border when he started to shake. It ran out, he said. Or was it, She ran out. Afterwards, I could never be sure.

We fell apart pretty quickly after that, went our separate ways; he to his dream job in medicine. Wonder how he copes with the nightmares. Me? Alone in this empty house; abandoned surely, uninhabited? Waiting for another bleak night, at another lonely turn in the road.

M J Lewis ©2015

Here we are at another Wednesday, another Friday Fiction…It’s a long story, but for other short stories of 100 words, crossing borders and continents, click here. Thanks as ever to our host, writer and artist Rochelle and to The Reclining Gentleman for the photo.

In Search of Lost Mornings

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In Search of Lost Mornings

Often then I’d wait at the bay window, nodding with fatigue, as the soft slow light of dawn filled the street. Trees – Horse Chestnut, I think – between soot-blackened brick; pigeons dozing on sills. Then – joy! – a distant figure, the familiar lilt of his walk, distinct even at  this time of day. My father’s muffled tread on the stairs, key in the lock.

My mother calls – Who’s there?

– Just me, m’dear.

Then a wink for me – Alright Sprout? – and scuttle back to bed, my secret safe.

And all the long years following, regretting that easy melding of souls.

MJ Lewis ©2015

Sometimes my computer annoys me and sometimes it amuses me – a normal working relationship then. This week when writing a comment about Proust’s sentences – it’s what the internet is for, and cats of course – my bad typing of Proust was creatively corrected to Sprout. Well it amused me!

PS I have in no way attempted to imitate Sprout’s – sorry Proust’s – prose style, but I will save the possibility of a 100-word one-sentence FF for another time. Could be fun to try.

Thanks as always to our host Rochelle (this week also for the evocative photo) and to all who visit.

Many more tales (wise, weird and wonderful, and sometimes all three) here.

The Cupcake Factory

The Cupcake Factory

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The Cupcake Factory

Her smooth creamy voice was muffled behind the white mask. ‘So these are the controls for the ordinary ingredients – flour, sugar, egg, raising agent.’

With a sanitised gloved hand she yanked each lever.

‘But I thought…’

‘Ah, it’s all in the topping – who bothers about the actual cake? This batch is for…’ She consulted a clipboard. ‘A leaving do.  We’ll set it for Nostalgia and Bonhomie with an after-taste of…It’s your first day, you decide.’

I scanned the dials. ‘Satisfaction and Contentment? Warmth and Relaxation? No, Guilt and Paranoia.’

‘Nice one. I can see you’re going to fit right in.’

M J Lewis ©2015

Thanks to Claire Fuller for this strange photo, full of fictional potential. My daughter tells me it’s a system found in many libraries and also that it featured in an episode of the BBC’s New Tricks, where Brian narrowly escaped being crushed to death. (My daughter also demonstrated what to do if someone tries this – whoever said fiction doesn’t teach you useful life skills?)

I, however, saw a Cupcake Factory. I have fluffy confectionery on the brain this week (don’t ask!), but I will also acknowledge a huge debt to Doug’s fine story (of Solitude, Mystery, Love and Beauty) that I read earlier today and somehow just wouldn’t go away.

Thanks to our gracious Friday Fiction host, Rochelle. To find out what other treats have been cooked up around the globe click here.

The Other Side of the Moon

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The Other Side of the Moon

We are far from home.

This day my lady, like our sister the Moon, fixed a bland and pleasant countenance then, in sable and silks, rubies and pearls, she wed her prince. Have we not studied the world within and the world without, these happy years – the poets and the star-gazers, the workings of fish and fowl and beast?  My lady will know how to please her lord; he in turn will swell her belly.

And so for now I keep the long hours betwixt midnight and the dawn alone, soothing my jealous heart with reminders of her sweet promises.

M J Lewis ©2015

I’ve been reading about the common practice, across time and many cultures, of two sleeps. The idea is full of appealing possibilities, personally and fictionally.  A long night punctuated by a period of wakeful solitude or sociability, study or prayer, love or mischief (or both). As someone who sleeps at the edge of the city, with a streetlight outside my window, I long for those dark reaches of the night – a velvet darkness or a star-studded sky. Either would do. That chap Edison has a lot to answer for!

On another note, I have no idea how anyone writes Friday Fiction on a Wednesday without dreaming it first. Impossible! A speedy recovery to Rochelle and thanks to Madison Woods for the photo. So far there some shiveringly good stories.

The Esteemed Companie of Travelling Players

in-the-light The Esteemed Companie of Travelling Players, Summer 1600

Born backstage during a particularly noisy Act 2 crowd scene, my first view of the unruly audience was from between my mother’s bountiful breasts in Act 6. Not liking what I saw, I vowed to join my father in the musicians’ pit. By the age of 2 ¾ I was deemed sufficiently proficient on my chosen instrument to swell the orchestral numbers. Accompanying my father on the lute and his lumpen second-cousin on the crumhorn, I added a certain ethereal quality, tapping out tunes between scenes on variably pitched vials of sunlight, my golden curls nodding in time.

Frances/Francis du Plessey; musician to actors, kings and courtesans (The Cock and Bull, Cheapside, 1699)

All the world’s a stage and we thank Rochelle for travelling (or if she prefers traveling) to its many corners, and all on an extended Friday. And thanks also to G.L. MacMillan for the luminous photo. You have bottled the dawn!

Meanwhile in another kettle of fish entirely, down another dark psychological alleyway, Dream Girl by Miranda Lewis is available to download on Kindle in the UK and US and many other parts of the globe. If it sounds like a rose-tinted/hormone-filled love story think again. I’ll let an independently verified reviewer describe it:

Dream Girl by Miranda Lewis is a compulsive page turner. She drew me in to her strangely entangled worlds of sleepless nights and dream filled days, where the lines of reality and dreams entwine. A great read, beautifully written.