A Story I Wrote About #Cyberbullying for #AntibullyingWeek

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My stepson Joe is like my husband Warrick in so many ways, both in looks, mannerisms and personality. Joe’s a little taller, but otherwise, I sometimes scare myself when I almost fling my arms around Joe instead of Rick. I feel like I know my stepson as well as I know Rick so there’s a definite possibility something is wrong.

One of the things Joe and Rick share is the uncanny ability to seem unthreatening and it’s something which makes them both popular guys. Don’t get me wrong – my husband, a former police detective, could no doubt kill a man with his bare hands if pushed – but he wouldn’t, and he doesn’t appear capable of that, either. They’re my boys – well, just two of my boys actually, because I have twin boys as well – and yes, I know my boys. So, yes, my life is pretty much a big whole lot of boydom.

God!

Anyway, it’s the shared floppy hair, you see. Since Joe shelved his football career he grew out the crew cut and now he wears his curls even longer than his dad’s. People see Joe coming a mile off. Six-two. Wide shoulders. Big, brown eyes. The widest smile you’ve ever seen. Dimples. God, those dimples. Some girl is going to fall flat on her face right in front of him one of these days.

I have to sigh.

Unfortunately the twins are looking more and more like me every day. They’ll be fairer, probably moodier (like me) and I think Charlie might be a dancer, like me, too. He prances. I never thought a toddler would prance. But he does. He bounces over any obstacle you put in front of him. So… maybe he’s meant for hurdling, not dancing. I don’t know.

Anyway. I am obviously rattling around my own head here because I am worried about Joe, my popular six-foot, sixteen year old who recently started acting different. I can’t put my finger on it. But he’s different.

I don’t like different.

Different usually means not good… or something big’s going on. I know Joe all too well, like I know Warrick, remember?

We’re all sat around the dinner table and I don’t even give a monkeys that Charlie and Harry have most of their food in their eyes. I’m watching Joe.

“Dinner okay?” I ask generally.

Rick, with his curls tied back in a low ponytail, looks up at me from beneath tired eyes. He’s still wearing his football shorts and shirt, having just played five-a-side after a day at the community centre he runs.

“It’s great, Jules,” he says, his eyes going side to side, like he’s picked up on something about my tone – and recognises I’m acting sketchy. “Your sausage and mash is the best. I’ll shower as soon as I’m done. Sorry if I stink.”

His nose wrinkles and he knows too. He bloody knows. Why won’t he address this? What the fuck is going on under my roof?

Rage simmers beneath my skin and I have to remember, my rage is not a good thing. It’s not a good thing. Get a grip Jules.

Joe is shovelling his food with his head down which he never does. He at least sometimes tries to muck about with his brothers or he might tell us about his day. He’d normally come out with some joke or recant a daft tale of teenage love gone wrong. A little bit of goss about one of my colleagues, perhaps… (I teach at the same school Joe’s at, you see.)

“Everything alright, Joe?”

He looks up and I think I almost see him shaking. He stares past me and flushes slightly. All I get is a slight nod of the head, then he looks down into his food.

The shovelling recommences and within seconds, he’s eaten a couple of sausages in just a few bites. I look at Rick who tells me with his eyes that his son will have indigestion later on.

Joe jumps up from his seat and lightning-fast, puts his empty plate in the dishwasher, grabs a yoghurt from the fridge and chases upstairs away from us – or rather me, the questioning stepmother.

Charlie and Harry are oblivious, trying to drop bits of broccoli on the floor so they won’t have to eat it. The gravy, they suck from their spoons, and the mash appears to have been used as a hairstyling product.

“Something has got into that kid, Rick.”

He sits, fork paused over his food, waiting for me to say something more. He pulls a bit of sausage skin from between his teeth and gives me the ‘it’s probably a man thing’ look.

“I won’t leave it,” I warn.

“I trust him. He’ll sort it out himself.”

“I trust him, too. It’s everyone else I don’t trust.”

“Jules, you can’t just…” He pauses, sighing, delivering me those soft, pleading eyes of his I cannot resist. “…he’s a lad and he’s almost a man. Shit’s gonna happen. Sometimes you have got to let him get on with it.”

I almost throw down my cutlery but think better of it. Charlie and Harry are finally putting sausage in their mouths and if they only have sausage, at least they’re having something. I will not distract them from eating solid foods. So I turn myself away from the twins who are sitting either side of me, alongside one another in their highchairs, and put my hand up against my face to shield them from my fury.

“There is something fucking wrong,” I mutter, or rather, try to mutter.

Rick gives me a soothing smile, one side of his mouth turned up ever so slightly.

“Jules, he’ll tell us when he’s ready.”

“Yeah, like he was gonna tell us about having underage sex. Until I caught him!”

Shaking his head, he puts his fork down, his appetite diminished now too. “Jules, please.”

“I know we are through with all that and he knows better about all that now, you know? But as you well know Rick, my instincts have proven very powerful in the past.”

“Let’s just give him a bit of time to fess up and if he doesn’t, okay… we’ll start probing him. Right now, he might just need some time before he tells us what’s wrong. It could be something as simple as heartbreak or a bad test. It’s not been easy for him this year. Going from GCSEs to A levels is a massive jump.”

I scowl. “He got seven A stars and four A’s at GCSE, are you fucking kidding me?” I just mouthed the fucking.

Rick goes silent, which he knows I hate. Help me vent the rage – or go silent and enrage it. He just doesn’t want me to go off on one about this.

“Rick,” I say between almost clenched teeth, “he’s one of the most popular boys in school and he’s not himself. This isn’t him. He’s normally full of life. He’s normally the one waking me up in the morning. He’s been late for his paper round almost every day for the past two weeks. I’ve had to answer the madwoman at the paper shop when she calls every morning.”

“Hey Jules, people have bad times in life,” he says, reaching across the table to use the twins’ bibs to mop their chops slightly.

“Don’t divert, Rick. You know something’s wrong.”

He turns his deep brown, almost black, eyes onto mine and gives me a deadly serious look. “I acknowledge that. The thing is, we still need to give him time.”

Fuming, I toss what’s left of my half-eaten dinner in the bin and leave the room, heading upstairs for the study. I have a ton of books to mark and they might be the only thing that will take my mind off this.

 

Rick crawls into bed with me at about eleven, freshly showered, his hair slightly damp. After bathing and reading the twins their bedtime story, he got called out to an incident at the community centre, where a real fight broke out during one of the evening’s mixed martial arts classes. Something about a man and his girlfriend’s ex having fisticuffs. He’s only just had chance for that shower and looks exhausted.

Out of the corner of my eye, I sense him look across at me. I’m reading a book by the light of my bedside lamp.

“Have you calmed down a bit?”

“Yes.”

“But you won’t let it go?”

“No.”

“Well, I never expected you would. That’s not you.”

I look across at him, beyond weary, his eyes full of love. I toss my book onto the nightstand and switch off the lamp. Shifting across to his side, I roll into him, resting my cheek on his chest. All my worries and fears fade away the moment I’m in his arms.

“I love you, baby,” he whispers.

“I love you, so much.”

Sleep finds us too easily.

 

***

 

“So he finally acknowledged something is wrong, but he didn’t suggest you should do anything about it?” My colleague Ruby is stood with me in the English office the morning after, scanning me for telltale signs of rage.

“He flat out said we should leave it until Joe is ready to tell us what’s going on.”

“Oh dear.” She reads my exasperation. “Listen… Jules. Joe is his son.”

I flash her my eyes. Has she forgotten about the things Joe and me have been through together? He’s as much my son as my twins are. I care about Joe just the same.

“Ruby.” I turn myself fully towards her, putting my cup of tea on the worktop, my hands free to make sweeping movements to enforce my passion on this. “It’s something in my gut, telling me there’s something wrong. I don’t know, but when it comes to kids, I just–”

She steps forward and holds my hand. “I know. You’re right back there, to the day you got battered and left all alone, in the dark. I know you want to protect him from the same things that happened to you.”

I focus on her eyes, which are watering. She feels my pain, even though she’s never had to deal with the same pain herself.

“Jules,” she whispers, softly stroking the back of my hand, “Joe is different. He’s Warrick’s son for a start and he’s definitely tougher than you imagine. I think Warrick’s right. I think he’ll tell you when the time’s right. He knows you’re there for him.”

“This is the thing,” I say fast, “he knows we’re here for him, and he’s still not telling us. He knows we’re not judgy, he knows that.”

“Give it another week, maybe?”

I throw my head back, groaning. “Torture.”

“One week.”

I smile wryly. “Rubes, you know how many cheesecakes I can eat in a week, right?”

“Unfortunately I do, and I also know that while you’ll maybe put on a pound, I’d put on a couple of stone comfort eating in the same manner as you.”

I pick my teacup off the counter, anticipating the bell for the first lesson, which I’m taking today.

“You and Rick had better have cheesecake for me at every fucking stop this week,” I grumble, and walk away.

As I take the corridor, I try to wriggle the anxiety out of my heavy shoulders and neck, but it’s not working.

Deep, deep, deep breaths, I remind myself, sucking in vital oxygen, trying to remember my breathing exercises of old.

Walking into a classroom full of kids, there’s suddenly nothing else to think about other than controlling thirty teenagers for the next two hours.

 

Dinnertime is no different today. Joe’s being quiet over his pasta and salad. Warrick’s knackered. The twins are lobbing pasta shells at one another and I’m focusing on the baked, New York-style cheesecake waiting for me in the fridge.

“Frrrr–” A sort of grumble erupts from me and the boys all look at me. I was going to say something mad like flipping tell me what is wrong Joe! but I guess, I stopped myself.

“Jules?”

“Something stuck in my throat,” I excuse myself, reaching for a glass of water.

Joe finishes his meal and excuses himself from the table before I can even think of another way to broach this. Once his son’s locked himself away upstairs, Warrick gives me a look and I say nothing. What is there to say?

I promised Ruby I would give this a week…

 

It’s the next day – my day off – and I’m twiddling my thumbs. The house is empty. Warrick’s dad came round half an hour ago to collect the twins so he and Wendy can take them to the park for an hour. They do this for me every week which is kind of them. Usually when I’ve got this time free, I go get my hair done or my nails or I sit and eat a full cheesecake while I watch Dancing with the Stars on ITV2.

Today, I can’t concentrate on anything. It took balls for me to tell Warrick that I think something is wrong – but he shot me down. I feel like I’m coping with the weight of this all alone. How can he be so cool about everything?

“Fuck it,” I mutter to myself, heading upstairs.

I stand on the threshold of Joe’s bedroom, knowing full well I am about to invade his private territory, but I do so anyway. I’m desperate for answers.

His room, like a habitat of its own, seems like a growth on our otherwise spotless house. He keeps the blackout blinds shut at all times, maybe fearing the neighbours will see how filthy he keeps the place and start to judge him – which is silly, because our neighbours haven’t got any windows facing this side of our property. A detached house, we’re very private here. Maybe he’s a nocturnal creature then, someone who needs the submergence of this dank pit whenever he gets home, absorbing the dark so he can re-mutate or something.

(I’ve definitely been watching far too many of Rick’s sci-fi movies lately.)

“What’s going on with you Joe?”

I step gingerly through the mess on the floor. Shirts and trousers, shorts and socks, splattered everywhere. It’s not like he’s ever been clean, but…

I decide to do the usual checks. I look under the pillow, mattress, bed; back of the wardrobe; sock drawer, pants drawer… nothing.

Checking his desk drawers… nothing. No drugs, no vast amounts of drug-dealing cash. No contraband anything. Not even a jammy can of Carling, saved for a later date.

Looking at his desktop, I spot his laptop, left slightly open – the lid like he closed it in a hurry and didn’t press it all the way down.

Opening the laptop, an artful Windows screensaver lights up the gloomy room and the screen asks for a password.

Password!

We should have banned passwords altogether when we let him move in with us.

“Oh god,” I mutter, seating myself behind his desk. “Think Jules, think.”

I try a few things, like his ex-girlfriend’s name, his brothers’, his mum’s name… his granddad. His favourite football team.

It could be anything!

He wouldn’t write it down, I don’t think. So, what would he do? He’s a teenager – brain like a sieve when it comes to small details – he would definitely pick something simple. A band name. I don’t know.

I try a few more hits before the computer asks me if I need help.

Scared, I now don’t know if Joe’s going to realise I’ve been trying to break into his computer.

Sweating, and feeling guilty as sin, I know I have the house to myself for the next hour or two but I still can’t help feeling SO GUILTY. He would be mortified if he found out about me doing this. I’m already mortified.

Taking some deep breaths, I tell the computer I don’t need any help and I shut it all down, closing the lid – leaving it slightly ajar, the same as he had it.

Hopefully the room looks exactly as it did before I entered, and I leave it all behind, knowing the only way I’m going to find out what’s wrong is if I can gain access to that computer.

Downstairs I open my Chromebook on the kitchen counter and with a cup of tea brewing by my side, I go to Facebook, which I don’t use. Rick uses it for the community centre but we don’t have personal accounts on there because, well, basically… we’re grown-ups.

It tells me I need a username and password. Going to Google, I type in: “Joe Jones” and “Hull” and “Facebook” and it doesn’t take many looks through the search results for me to find our Joe Jones.

“God, this world ain’t safe,” I say to no-one.

I click on his profile but because I’m not logged in, I can only see a few images and a small amount of information.

Clicking through some of the images shown, I see a girl called Reema has been tagged in a couple of the more recent images. She’s a stunning Asian girl with eyes bigger than my head, flawless skin and a bone structure to die for. I wonder…

He hasn’t said anything to Rick lately, but maybe he has got a new girlfriend…

Reema, eh… my thoughts trail off.

I take the bag out of my brewed cup of tea and dash back upstairs.

Screen lit up again, I type in:

Reema.

Reemaisgorgeous.

Reemaissexy.

IloveReema…

Jackpot! Ding. Ding. Ding.

I’m in.

Firstly, I check Facebook.

I go through his messages and find nothing except a couple of exchanges between him and Reema, discussing their crap psychology teacher.

“Come on, Joe.”

I check his search history and roll my eyes. Just like his dad. There’s nothing much more there than websites about healthy shakes, building muscle density, the odd Tumblr search for pages with loads of boobs and a couple of hits on websites about psychology. He wants to be a psychologist to help people like his mother, who’s a manic depressive.

I’m about to give up hope that there’s nothing much more than a painful teenage crush going on here when I notice he has a number of unread messages in Outlook.

Should I? Should I?

God, this is bad. I am bad. I am really bad.

My imagination has been running wild… when this could be just a matter of Joe having the hots for a super-hot girl called Reema.

IloveReema.

Maybe they’ve been exchanging hot emails… email sex. But why? He has a phone. He could sext if he wanted to. God… sext. Is that even a word? Bloody hell. I have twin boys. What will I be like when they’re Joe’s age? Probably worse…

“Fuck it.”

I double click on the Outlook icon and his emails open. Scanning the unread emails, I am surprised by both the sender details and the subject headings. I’m even more surprised by my reaction when I open the emails and read them…

 

***

 

“What have you done?” Ruby peers at me, suspicious.

I stir my tea, avoiding her eyes. I decide I haven’t done anything wrong and therefore, I muster all my might to reply innocently, “Nothing. I am doing what you said. I’m giving it a week. Two cheesecakes suffered fatal collisions with my fork in the process, but we’re good, as the kids say. I’m giving Joe time to come clean.”

“I can read you a mile off. You’ve been up to something.”

“I honestly haven’t.” I turn and act my arse off, keeping eye contact without a blip of guilt or shame or admission in my eyes.

Yeah right…

“As long as you know what you’re doing,” she mumbles, leaving the room.

I watch her back as she walks away and give myself a moment or two to think about that. Do I know what I’m doing?

Hell, no.

Since sneaking a look at his emails, I haven’t figured out how to cut off the cyber bully Joe’s been on the receiving end of ­– without Joe realising that I hacked into his emails.

I also don’t want the cyber bully to know that I know. Because if they know that I know – they know that I know what they think of me.

Yes – the content of the emails was all about me.

I am apparently Joe’s fit stepmother, a MILF, and apparently I’m going to get raped on my way home one night. Kids think they’re being cute, don’t they? They don’t realise they could actually face jail for this shit.

So… no, I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do.

 

Teatime again. Joe’s already dashed off to his room.

“I need to contact my aunt, Kim.”

Warrick turns from loading the dishwasher to stare at me as I mop the twins’ heads and try to feign innocence.

“Why?”

“Family thing.”

“Family thing?” He briefly shakes his head in confusion.

“Yep.”

“You know, people don’t contact Kim. She contacts them.”

Kim is my late mother’s sister, a detective of detectives turned rogue, on the run for taking matters into her own hands. She would know exactly how to deal with a cyber bully.

“How do I make her contact me, then?”

He thinks for a moment, lips pursed, eyes crossed. God, I love him.

“You can’t. Although… maybe I know something.”

“What? What?”

He folds his arms. “What am I gonna get for this something?”

Looking cocky, he needn’t even ask, I’m already planning on jumping him later.

“That thing you like with the thing, if you want?”

He raises his eyebrows, smirking. “That thing I like with the thing, eh?”

“God, are you two talking code for sex, again?” Joe walks in, stroppy. “Bleugh. Cold bucket of water! Yuck! Off to Rupert’s house. Back before curfew.”

The whirlwind he is, he leaves without giving us chance to say a word. We hear his bike rattling outside the backdoor and the side gate shut as he leaves. I suppose he has his mobile if anything happens.

God, I hope he isn’t planning on confronting the bully… not that he could. They used weird email addresses without real names. I checked Joe’s list of blocked accounts and it was already 30+ long meaning he keeps blocking that twerp and they keep sending with different accounts. Maybe he’s asked around, but…

“So, are we talking the thing where you do the thing and I do the thing, and then we get thingy?” Warrick guffaws.

“We’re pretty much gonna do all the things, yeah. If you slip me a bit of info, darling. Or maybe that’ll be later.”

He sets the dishwasher running and kisses the boys’ heads before kissing mine. His eyes sparkling, he says, “She visits your mother’s grave, every year, on the anniversary. She said if I ever needed to… that’s how I’d find her.”

I frown. I never visit the grave. It’s too hard.

The funeral was a day of pain, deeper than six-feet under, deeper than the sea. The skies crowded me with their darkness, their heavy cumulonimbus sitting heavier on my shoulders than seemed possible. A walking brick viewed her coffin that day, a child carrying the weight of the world. I can never go back to that day.

The thought of it all already giving me palpitations, I reach for my water and stroke at the back of my neck, taking deep breaths. Warrick’s by my side instantly, holding my hand, caressing my face.

Through scratchy breaths, I manage, “I hacked his laptop and he’s receiving horrible emails and I want Kim to find out who sent the mails. There. I’m a bad person. I’m horrible! I hate myself!”

Tears fall. My togetherness ruptures. I’m hardly held by a thread most days, but Warrick stitches me up constantly. He’s my utter, utter rock – my solace.

“I know what’s going on… he told me weeks ago.”

I glare. “What?”

“We’re just trying to protect you.”

“But–but–”

He nods slowly, holding my hand. “We were afraid you would see through us. We’re crap at lying to you, evidently.”

I take some more water and a few more deep breaths.

Looking down at my lap, I manage to say through a throat full of frogs, “It’s next month, the anniversary. Will you go find her for me? Please.”

“There’s really no need. We could just go to the police with this. The threats are of an aggressive nature. If you want, that’s what we could do. We just didn’t want you to see the content.”

I smile. “It’s just some absolute ne’er-do-well who can’t get to me any other way, so they’re using Joe to get to me.”

“It doesn’t matter who it is, it’s wrong. It could be anyone sending him those emails. He’s changed his address a dozen times. The idiot always finds out about his change of address.”

“It must be someone from the school, yeah? Some friend of friend who knows his email address? He probably gives out his address to people he works on projects and presentations with or whatever.” I shake my head. “I can’t believe you’ve both been sitting on this without me.”

“Jules, this is a hate crime. Everything about it is hateful. It’s just plain nasty. We didn’t know what to do–”

Warrick scratches the back of his head, which is usually code for, I’m sorry or I just don’t want to get into this.

I take a deep breath, feeling like it’s my fault, and it’s not fair… and we shouldn’t be going through this.

Reluctantly, I mumble, “Call the police.”

 

***

 

Detective Wainwright sits in front of us a week later, a cup of tea in front of him. He’s sat in his own armchair while Warrick and I share the sofa and Joe stands by the door lintel behind us, arms folded, a demeanour of ‘get me out of here’ written all over his face.

“First off,” the cop says, taking a sip and putting his cup back down again, “we’re really grateful you came forward. Often the culprit gives up and moves onto someone else and the process repeats, so in telling us what’s been happening,” the copper looks at Joe, “you’re not only helping your family, but your community too. You have no idea how many people come to us with petty quibbles about bad words said on Facebook… wasting our time. This was obviously of the malicious variety. Given that some of the emails contained porn and made sexually aggressive threats… we acted as quickly as we could.”

“So, what have you found out anyway?” Warrick asks, tense alongside me, his hands held tight together.

“One of the email providers the wrongdoer was using told us where the offender had logged in from.” The copper opens his notepad. “It’s an address in Hull. We have the suspect in custody and a statement is being taken. They will be shown some of the evidence we’ve gathered. In my experience, once someone like this gets found out so to speak, the reality sets in and they usually confess. It’s really a brave thing you did in coming forward, Joe. This sort of thing carries on otherwise. They will be released but I expect a court date.”

“Who was it?” I say, in a sort of outburst, my nerves frayed by all this.

Who the hell thinks they can hurt our Joe?

Who?

“I can’t say just yet.” The copper gives Rick the eye, as if he thinks I’m not coping with all of this. I just want to know who’s been trying to hurt our family.

“It’s her life that got threatened,” Warrick gently tells Detective Wainwright.

“Okay. The household we’re investigating does happen to be the home of a pupil in Joe’s year.”

“We guessed that,” Joe mumbles, “I mean, who else could get my email address? I changed it bloody fifty times.”

I roll my shoulders, trying to sound brave. “I really don’t know who I upset this badly.”

Sure, I’ve dealt with aggravated parents in the past. Kids name-calling, as kids do. I’ve dealt with a few nastier things, like Hetty ­– a former star pupil of mine – confessing she’d been abused by her mother. I’ve dealt with a parent asking for a retest when their kid didn’t get an A in a course paper – but a second examiner from another school gave the kid the exact same grade. It’s difficult when parents want their kid to do well, but they can’t face the fact that nobody’s perfect. My mind’s wandering because I do teach a lot of the gifted set… and…

“Boy or girl?” I ask the man.

“Girl.”

“Oh.”

It could really be anyone. I couldn’t guess.

“I’ll be in touch. Thanks once again.” Warrick shows Wainwright out, a few words exchanged about the state of the Force at the moment – and then the man’s gone.

Warrick returns to the room. “I wonder who the bloody hell it is.”

“Couldn’t give a fuck.” I smile, leaving the room to head upstairs and check on the twins.

 

As I watch the twins sleeping, their chubby arms outstretched, their little nostrils flaring with heavy breaths, tummies fluttering up and down, I think about the bullies who hurt me when I was young. I’d just lost my mother and I was vulnerable and people knew it. Nasty people knew it. Ever since, I’ve protected myself from harm by being untouchable. Even now in my thirties, after all I’ve been through in life, and even with Warrick’s resounding love – I still try to keep myself from harm by not really putting myself out there. I don’t need to be popular, I don’t need to tell everyone my sob story, I don’t need to roll into work everyday with a hangover to be liked or for people to find me funny. I just turn up, do my job well, love my kids and my husband. I don’t want pity. I’m happy, but the person messaging Joe obviously doesn’t like it that beneath my stern demeanour, I’m obviously happy. I like to dress nicely. I fancy I’m attractive. I wear big statement pieces of jewellery because they’re colourful and life needs a bit of colour. I fancy I’m tall and have a body my husband likes. I fancy I don’t care what other people think – and certain people don’t like that. Immature people. Silly people. Lonely people. Unhappy people.

“You okay?” Warrick asks in a whisper, tiptoeing over to me. He joins me on the thick cream carpet of the nursery, sitting beside me.

“It’s about control,” I murmur, resting my head on his shoulder. “When you can’t control an immovable object, this is sometimes what happens, unfortunately.”

“There’s no point in putting any logic to this. Whichever little bitch did this, she’s going to get what’s coming to her.”

I turn to look into the fiery eyes of my possessive, protective husband. “Wanna do some stuff tonight?”

“Hell yeah.”

He helps me up and we stand, facing each other.

I can’t help but wonder about my childhood bullies, occasionally. Did karma get them eventually? Who knows? I expect they never had to pay for what they did to me.

I also expect they’ve never known what it’s like to look into the eyes of another person and know – absolutely and completely – that you were their true beginning and you will be theirs until the end. Bullies probably don’t have the capacity to really give themselves to one person; to let their guard down with just one person, who’s as sensitive as you are, beneath.

“I love your mind,” I tell him, “and I love your thingy.”

We laugh, heading out of the room.

“Joe’s just gone out,” he mutters, and we’re running to our bedroom together in no time.

*END*

**The story of how Jules and Warrick met can be read in Angel AvenueJules isn’t always a likeable character but her story is one I see all too often. BULLYING AFFECTS PEOPLE FOR YEARS AFTERWARDS.**

The short story you’ve just read features in an anthology of anti-bullying themed short stories called BREAK THE CYCLE which is available to purchase on AMAZON US and AMAZON UK and is a non-profit book.

An Excerpt from Break the Cycle… 3 days to go!

cameronExcerpt:-

I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe in hauntings, in the lingering insidious presence of something malignant. Spectres of endless doubt, old thoughts as oppressive as any vengeful wraith. I believe in parasites, prodding, cold and primal, stirring distant failures and shames that strike when the mind relaxes, or into nightmares that will wake you, febrile and slick with sweat.

All of these dark creatures are no more complicated than old memories, and I believe in them like I believe the earth is round.

I believe because I knew a bully.

My Bully.

He singled me out for reasons that were his own. I didn’t like the things he liked, and I liked things he did not. I didn’t look like he looked; I was thin, lean and pale, where he was pug-nosed, stout and peppered with freckles. I was clever, and he was not. That’s not a brag, or an indictment. I largely saw school as a means to an end, and worked, and even enjoyed it, whereas he saw it as an unfortunate mandate. He sat at the back of the few classes we shared, those that weren’t banded by ability, and he sniggered and railed against the simplest of tasks. That was when he sat at the back at all. Often he’d be relocated, or absent, or serving a period of exclusion for wrongs that didn’t involve me. His presence wasn’t pervasive, but when it was there, it was ever a threat.

He played a slow game, and his moves were often uncoordinated, without much forethought, simple lashings-out, like the first, where he struck from behind while I stood peeing at the trough and cracked my head against the wall’s peeling paint, stumbling, exposed, breaking my fall with a hand into the gully of warm amber and weak disinfectant.  I scrubbed for five minutes before I returned to class. Then it was verbal, insults that barbed my physicality, or lack thereof: the gangling frame, the hair too curly for his tastes, a tiny hereditary kink in the shape of my right ear lobe, unnoticeable until it’s noticed, then mined for meagre gold.

It was always there during PE.

The PE changing rooms were a twice-weekly hell, a timetabled trip to ten-minutes of judgment and punishment for crimes you couldn’t control. Who had muscles, who had hair? Whose puppy fat hadn’t yet hardened? Whose nipples were too big or too small? Who wore expensive underwear and whose came from the catalogue? Pushing, shoving, tweaking and whipping. Walls lined with awkward flesh changing outfits as quickly as possible, desperate to do it without being noticed.

Before the lesson, a crucible of scrutiny. After the session, a litany of faults. Backslapping for the winners, lambasting for the losers.

“You’re too dry,” My Bully said in the changing room one day. He crossed the room to tell me, leaning in suddenly. It was loud enough for a pocket of his cronies to hear, and they sneered and cackled like well-trained vultures. I pulled down my red tee-shirt quickly, exponentially more self-aware. Did he mean my skin? Did I have flakes and lesions on my back I’d never noticed? But he peeled away quickly and lumbered into the adjoining toilet area, positioning himself at the trough.

Too many possibilities went through my head. A repeat of being pushed against the wall while I peed, stumbling clumsily into the trough. Him thundering back through with a cup of his own piss to douse me with. Him finishing up and hauling me in and pushing my face down into the steel channel flowing with yellow froth. I hopped myself into my trainers as I left the room and followed my friends to the field for football . . .

*-*-*-*-*

Break the Cycle is an anti-bullying anthology of 14 stories by 14 different authors. Each story features a different scenario.

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Pre-order the e-Book:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Pre-order the paperback direct from SML (UK ONLY):

Google Form

Paperbacks will also be available direct from Amazon nearer the time.

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An Excerpt from Break the Cycle… 4 days to go!!

andy
Excerpt:-

lullaby

 

I remember the day you were sent to us.

Soft and etched with the strokes of heaven’s brush.

I remember when you first did open your eyes to the world.

My heart beats again to recall it.

My finger around yours.

Your soft hair against my cheeks.

That first wondrous sound you made, you called out to me.

Your mother.

My son.

Shush, now, beautiful boy.

I gathered you in my arms, whole.

Your senses were awakened for the first time, and I saw it.

I had to touch every single feature.

I blessed your nose, your ears, your mouth.

You yawned. The commonplace was divine.

You spoke in another language.

I was determined to understand every sound you made.

I warmed you, delicate and firm.

Time was irrelevant. It was wholly stretched out in front of us.

I sang to you, I know not what.

The song of all mothers. A soothing hum, a lilting melody.

Shush, now, my sweet angel.

Crying is good, tell me all your fears.

This world is endless. The darkness and light are there.

I will bend my knee and look at you. Hold my gaze.

Your eyes are drooping.

Let me speak to you of fairy tales, the dreamer’s passion.

Ride upon my shoulders and scream in delight to the heavens.

I will give you the sleep of peace.

You stand before me, taller and taller.

Asking me questions to which I have no response.

Go and seize the world.

All is ahead. My love will uphold you.

*-*-*-*-*

Break the Cycle is an anti-bullying anthology of 14 stories by 14 different authors. Each story features a different scenario.

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Pre-order the e-Book:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Pre-order the paperback direct from SML (UK ONLY):

Google Form

Paperbacks will also be available direct from Amazon nearer the time.

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An Excerpt from Break the Cycle… 8 days to go!

murielExcerpt:-

From the moment you are born to the moment you take your last breath, you are judged.

No matter your age, gender, sexual preferences or race people will talk about you in a negative way any chance they get.

That’s how it’s always been and that’s how it always will be.

It depends on how you choose to let it affect you that will make the difference.

For the most of your life, people will have negative things to say to you and for the most part, you will be oblivious to those talks. That’s the best case scenario. The problem starts when you are made aware of what was said. Either, by the person themselves or by someone else who was made aware of it. That can be the beginning of a lot of drama. Can you trust the person who reported it to you? Can you trust the person who’s been talking shit about you? Who to trust? You just have to deal with that reality.

What happens when people take things too far?

What happens when you take it too far?

Because let’s face it, sometimes you will be the one talking shit about someone. Don’t lie to yourself, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it at some point in our lives. I’m sure you’re doing it every single day watching your favorite TV show. We’re built that way. We all judge and that’s okay, as long as we don’t hurt others. You could just keep it to yourself but more often than not, it’s brought out in the daylight and that’s when shit is stirred.

Those judging looks you give a passer by in the street. Even though you don’t voice it, you’re still judging them and it can hurt as much as those words you could say. You’re still judging a living being and if that person sees it, sees that judging look, they can be affected by it in more ways than one. It can ruin someone’s day and make them feel shit about themselves and could send them down a dangerous path. You never know what someone has been or is going through.

Then there are people who aren’t afraid to voice their opinion to someone else’s face. That alone could be acceptable if it’s something constructive and not said in a way to hurt the person but to help them make themselves feel better. But what happens when they are being nasty about it, when they start picking at every single little detail that they don’t like about that certain person. There’s the physical abuse too. What will physically hurting someone bring you?

Emotional and physical abuse is not okay, in any way, shape or form. There’s no rights, only wrongs. People should love each other and not try to destroy each other.

Bullying is not just talking shit about someone and to their face. It’s a wide spread variety of different nasty ways used to make someone feel bad about themselves.

Bullying is deadly. It has been the cause of one too many suicides. It’s an ongoing battle that will sadly never stop. It affects and can affect anybody. Young or old; black or white; rich or poor; male or female; no one is safe from the sadistic mind of a bully.

For the most part, the bully has been bullied in the past and thinks it’s perfectly normal to do it back to someone else and replicates what they were put through in an effort to make themselves feel better. Other times the bully is just a twisted person who enjoys causing pain, whether it be physical or emotional, and watch others suffer.

I once was the victim of bullies. It dates back to twenty years ago and lasted only a couple of months, but it’s still affecting me to this day. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. I have no tolerance for people’s bullshit and I’ll voice my opinion when such things happen. I’ve seen so many psychologists over the years that half of the ones in town probably know my story by now. It’s still as hard as it was back then to tell it all over again. Nobody likes to be put through the roughest time in their life all over again for someone else to listen to them, ask uncomfortable questions and get a pat on the back and hear it’ll be okay.

People affected by this kind of harassment need more than just a pat on the back. They need support and to actually know that people are there for them, to help them get over it and to get better.

It all started when I was six . . .

*-*-*-*-*

Break the Cycle is an anti-bullying anthology of 14 stories by 14 different authors. Each story features a different scenario.

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Pre-order the e-Book:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Pre-order the paperback direct from SML (UK ONLY):

Google Form

Paperbacks will also be available direct from Amazon nearer the time.

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They Loved, a short story

What follows is a short story of less than 1,000 words which I wrote for a charity anthology last year, called FRAMED. Here it is for your reading pleasure and/or pain. Thanks to Lisa Fulham for asking me to write this.

***

She waited on a padded, velvet bench.

When she emailed him that morning asking him to see her at the gallery where they had first met, he called back immediately. She told him nothing, only to meet her at six pm, knowing he would have left work by then.

Now, she waited.

Waited.

Shoes shuffled along the slick, waxed, wooden floors, sounding louder than they really were. Whispers. Breaths. Beats of the heart, even—they all sounded louder now.

A different sound broke her mindless inner chatter. His weight creaked the seat.

“Hi Anne.”

“Hey, Glenn. How’re you doing?”

“Not bad. Can’t complain.”

They both looked ahead, not wanting to look at one another. She couldn’t help but glance at his wedding finger. No replacement, not yet, she thought.

“You must be wondering if I’ve lost my marbles?” she began.

The last time they saw one another, they were hovering over the grave of their only child.

Ten years ago, Glenn turned his head for a moment at their favourite fishing lake and six year old Max slipped into the water. It was never explained how he fell in. It happened in the blink of an eye. The investigators had ruled his death accidental and the reeds had trapped Max underwater, long enough to swell his lungs with water, and take his life.

The couple hadn’t spoken since. He just packed his bags and went, too ashamed of what he’d done to her.

“Thought had crossed my mind,” Glenn said, wiping his index finger under his nose. Outside it was a rain-soaked November day.

“I need to tell you something,” she explained, her voice changing so he knew it was serious.

Glenn turned his head and feeling his gaze on her, she turned to look at him. He still had brilliant green eyes. The colour of magic, almost.

She reached for her nerve and swallowed. “I’m dying.”

He sat for a moment, numb, unresponsive. As it began to sink in, he replied, “You’re sick?”

“Yep. I have been for three years. I had treatment after treatment. Nothing’s worked.”

She caught him trying to catch a look at her ring finger, too, but she was wearing leather gloves. All her beauty had gone, slipped away. She was wearing a wig and her bones were empty, her soul drained, her sight not what it once was.

“How long?” he asked, his voice shallow. For a man not yet fifty, he looked ancient in that moment.

“Few weeks. They tried to put me in respite but I refused. I want to die at home, with my things, and my dignity intact. I’ll do what needs to be done before they make me a sad case.”

He gazed at the photograph on the wall in front of them. A girl in a blue dress could be seen stepping into a forest through one mirror, and stepping out of a beach scene through another. He wondered why she had chosen to seat herself in front of this picture. Out of all the images in the place, she chose this one.

Quickly he realised she hadn’t changed much—the woman feeling everything, still denying all who tried to show they cared.

“I’m sorry, of course. I don’t know what I can do, however? We’ve been apart for so long now.”

She took a deep breath and her weak, empty lungs strained against the gallery’s air-con.

“My book royalties…” She twisted at her coat material with her gloves and tried to find the courage to say the rest. “…there’s nobody else I want to give them to. My mum and dad are dead, my child died, my friends all hate me and abandoned me long ago. I wanted to tell you that they will come to you. It’s been arranged already. It’s done. I just wanted you to know, in person. I wanted to ask you to accept them with my absolute and utter blessing. There is nobody else I can think of who deserves them.”

His eyes squeezed tight shut and he couldn’t take it. His lungs collapsed, like hers were, from drawing on that cigarette she loved just a little more than her body could take. She gave up smoking for him, and for their child, but when they were gone the white stick was her only friend, only companion. Now, it had killed her.

He bent forward, head in his hands. He never anticipated this. Never. She’d not forgotten him, either. He started shaking and didn’t know when it would stop. Years of hidden, buried pain flooded his eyes and dripped, snaking down the sides of his face to the floor.

Glenn got himself together and his natural reaction was to reach for her, take her in his arms and pull her tight into his embrace. The rush of emotions was exquisite, the sting of regret a full-body ache, swamping him from head to toe. He’d loved her so much.

His lips began tracing the beauty of her face, along her jaw line, across her emaciated cheekbones and finally, to her lips. His tongue touched hers, one final time.

Forgiveness.

Nothing ever forgotten.

“It’s the same girl, the same one. Wherever you put her, she’s still the same person,” she explained, gesturing at the photo, and he nodded, “but that’s bullshit.”

“I always loved that about you.” Her ability to be real, to see the grit in a fairytale, even.

They had their overdue goodbye, their full stop. Underscore.

They gave her six months to live. She’d hung on for three years.

“Glenn, I’m sorry.”

There, in his arms, she took her last, lingering, most life-affirming breath.

***

It may interest you to know that in the writing of this story, I was influenced by real life tragedies which have happened to people in my life. Please donate what you can to Cancer Charities whenever you get chance. xx

“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #13 – Rebecca Sherwin

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But I’ll Try…

They say I’m doing well.

I’m doing well.

Well. 

What does that even mean? I looked it up: “in a good or satisfactory way,” or “in good health; free or recovered from illness”. I don’t want to be just good or satisfactory, and I’m not.

I’m not free, and I haven’t recovered. So no, I’m not doing well.

I want to be different. I want to do things the way the books told me. I want to feel the way he does, smile like he does. I want to have the same excitement I see in his eyes when he wakes up in the middle of the night and does the things I should be doing…while I stare at the foot of the bed and wonder what I did wrong. I want to love her, and I do. I just don’t like her. I don’t like what she’s done to me, even though he says he loves me as much as he always has. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. I’m too tired to care, too tired to fall asleep but too exhausted to do my new job. Thinking about it makes me cry. Thinking of nothing makes me cry. I cry all the time, until my eyes burn, my throat is sore and my head throbs with guilt. Sometimes I get angry and shout at him, but he’s still here. He holds me while I push him away, until I’m too tired to fight and fall into his arms. When she cries I leave the room; it hurts to be around her, and it hurts to be away from her. The world wasn’t supposed to be this dark; this wasn’t what we planned and it isn’t what we want. He’ll leave me eventually, when he realises there’s no future for us; when I can’t fix myself and can’t explain what’s wrong. Why I feel this way. Hopeless. I feel hopeless. Helpless. I feel helpless. Well. I don’t feel it. I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t feel so heavy, so lost, a stranger in my own body.

“Hey,” he says, stroking our daughter’s hair as I stare through him and let the tears fall freely.

I look down at our baby, swathed in pink and lying in the arms of the woman who can’t bring herself to be the mother she deserves. She has his eyes – big and wide and full of life. I’m glad she got them from him; they’re what I fell in love with when I first met him. Her nose is a little button, her lips full with a little pout…and she has a little patch of fair hair on the top of her head – the same colour as mine. Everything about her is little. Innocent and pure and… ours.

It’s the first time I’ve held her in a week. Since I’d last had her in my arms and thought about ending my own life because I couldn’t bear the guilt of not wanting to hold her.

I don’t want to leave them.

I don’t want to be unwell, failing to cope and unstable.

I want us to be a family.

“You’re doing well.”

I’m not. We both know that.

But I’ll try.

With the stab of indifference rippling through me, I kissed her smooth forehead, closing my eyes and whispering my wish against her skin.

“I’m doing well.”

Rebecca Sherwin © 2016

author bio

Rebecca is a London born and bred mother, writer and psychology student. She is the author of summer romance, Second Chance Hero, and the psychological romantic-suspense series, Twisted. An avid reader and lover of stories that keep you guessing, Rebecca writes tales that will challenge your perceptions and toy with your emotions. Rebecca’s stories invite you to open your mind and dig deeper into the meanings of the lives of each and every character you meet. She entices you into their world – to feel with them, to grow with them, to love with them. She asks you to become a part of them and allow them to become a part of you. Rebecca would like to express her thanks to everyone who reads her stories, and would love to hear from you!

http://rebeccasherwin.com/

Twitter: @RRSherwin

FB: http://www.facebook.com/rebeccasherwinauthor

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Thank you so much for taking part Ms. Sherwin!

To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]

To find out what “They Say I’m Doing Well” is all about, [click here]

 

“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop 12 – Charlotte Hart

they say i'm well banner

One step at a time.

Fine.

That’s what he said yesterday, my dad that is, he said I was doing fine. In fact that’s what they all say lately, the other family members. Either that or something like “You’re doing really well, honey.”

I’m not. I haven’t been doing really well for a long time. It’s been so long that I can’t even remember what doing well feels like. And whose damn opinion of doing really well should I trust anyway? Certainly not my dad’s. He who must be obeyed is probably the last person in the world who should offer any kind of judgement on people’s behaviour. What would he know about crippling nonsensical emotions? He’s the one who ran off with that slut of a woman to help himself after it all happened, pretty much killing mum at the same time. She might still be hanging around, but she also might as well be dead in reality. She just sits there and stares blankly at the telly every day, occasionally moving to pour more vodka, maybe a splash of tonic if she’s feeling frivolous.

Frivolous? What a fucking word. As if anyone here’s done anything frivolous in the last three years. Even I just do the same as her now. Rock backward and forward like my life is nothing more than this chair in this repulsive little flat that I own. I hate it. I hate the flowery walls and the beige carpet, and the horrendous stench that encroaches ever more with each passing hour, souring an already vile existence. I hate the visions of torment around every corner, the never-ending taste of disgust that floods my soul each time I remember, and the constant nagging reminder of what was.

I hate me.

“Please don’t. Please don’t give in. Please don’t. I love you, Danielle. There’s so much more out there yet. Just take my hand. It’s okay, we’ll make it better. One step at a time, you and me.”

It’s all I hear every fucking day. It goes round and round like an all-consuming torture while I sit here and gaze at his photo. I just rock in the hope I can remember something other than that. Please God, let me feel something other than the unending anguish of this guilt filled hatred.

And I can smell him, why can I still smell him? He’s everywhere. And it was his fault. Why did he do it? It should have been me that went over. It was me, my choice. Why did he have to be so stupid? I told him to let go, told him to just leave and let me get on with it, but he wouldn’t listen. He just kept chanting those fucking words and telling me he loved me, just kept holding on so tight that I couldn’t get him off me and then it was too late. And he was so bright and shiny, so beautifully unaffected by everything that is horrid and despicable in this world. Nothing in his 18 year old mind worked like mine. Nothing fazed him or made him think he was unworthy. He didn’t drown himself in drugs or taint his very existence with the vapid air of depravity and indulgence, like me. He was good and kind and decent and so very handsome. He should be here with a family and babies, and two point four fucking dogs and a mortgage. Instead he’s six feet under, and his will left his death payment to me.

So I could always be safe, apparently. Secure.

I stare over at mum sitting there in her drab dressing gown that hasn’t been washed for god knows how long. That skinks too. It smells like vomit and decades of disgust, all aimed at me. Rightly so. I’m a pointless waste of human life. There was no reason for me to be here before, so there certainly isn’t now. I don’t even know what I’m doing trying to forget anymore. I should just get on with it again. This flat’s high enough. In fact it’s higher than the bridge was. Not quite such a nice view, but what does that matter? Hell won’t be very nice either, will it? Although it’s what I deserve, regardless. At least I know he’s not there. He’ll be with the angels. They’ll probably be waiting on him hand and foot, and hopefully contemplating sending him back down here so he can heal people. Or at the very least show the world what men should be like.

“Ben?”

That’s the other thing that happens constantly. Mum saying his name as if she can smell him too. Ben, Ben, Ben. Mind you, her permanently alcohol induced fog probably means she sees all kinds of hallucinations. Thankfully for her they’re not the reality that I see every time I close my eyes. She wasn’t there to witness his blue eyes filled with love as he pushed me backwards away from him. I see them falling away from me every single moment of this godforsaken life, and no matter how much I lunge for him, I can’t grab him back to me. I can’t stop him falling. I even find myself sitting here sometimes with my hands outstretched still reaching for him. Dr Jones says that’s normal, and that I shouldn’t worry about it, that I should just keep taking the myriad of pills he delivers weekly and try to get on with my life.

It’ll get easier, Danielle. It’s not your fault. It was an accident.”

How about, fuck you, Dr Jones? It wasn’t an accident, it was all me. I killed him. If I hadn’t tried to jump, he wouldn’t have tried to save me. This is all my fault. And mum and dad covering the trail for me, as they always did, doesn’t make it right. I’m a killer, a murderer, a monster.

“I’m not having both my children taken from me.”

That’s what she near silently screamed at my dad when we walked to the police station. Then they’d lied, and made me lie too, made me tell the men in blue uniforms that it had been Ben that jumped, that I couldn’t reach him in time. Lies, all lies.

Just like this pitiful apparent survival.

My eyes search the room for something, anything. I don’t know what I’m looking for. I never do. An answer maybe? Eventually they find it, the window. I’ll just finish it now. It’s pretty simple. I’ll just finish what I started and then this fucking hollow space inside me will disappear and I won’t have to listen to his words haunting me daily. Mum won’t even notice, and if she does she’ll probably be thankful. My weary body rouses itself at the thought and stretches its feet forward to touch the beige carpet as I push on the armrests. Five minutes is all it’ll take for me to switch off the need to bother living. That’s all. There’s nothing worth living for anyway. Nobody really wants me here. They all blame me, and they’re right too as well.

It should have been me.

The sun blinds me as I quietly open the curtains and stare into the daylight. Is it daytime? Most of the time I don’t know what day of the week it is let alone the time. Too many drugs overloading an already confused mind. That’s what dad says, as if he knows all the fucking answers.

I gaze down at some kids in the snow throwing snowballs and laughing about something which causes my lips to attempt a smile of some sort. It feels odd, as if my mouth is uncomfortable with the movement. I suppose it is after all this time, but nevertheless the merriment of the bunch of Christmas revellers is enough to make it stay there for a while as I watch.

There’s so much more out there yet.”

That’s him again, still trying to cover me in his optimism. Even now he’s trying to show me the way. That a younger brother had the foresight and empathy to try is unbelievable really. But try he did, still does, even from the grave.

“Please don’t give in.”

He never gave into anything. He was always the one up front, leading the pack. Full of buoyancy and self-assurance with his blonde hair ruffling in the breeze and his gangly legs propelling him forward, always forward.

“We’ll make it better, Danielle. Just take my hand.”

And I wish I could. I wish he was still here so I could grab hold of it and absorb that energy from him again, that boundless enthusiasm that he seemed to own somehow. If I could just see a way through this endless maze of chaos and drudgery in my mind then maybe I’d have a chance of honouring his wishes. Perhaps there would be a way of me saying sorry somehow and moving on, or at least trying to make him proud and prove there was a reason for his stupid heroics.

“Please don’t give in. I love you.”

Love.

Is that good enough reason? That he loved me? It so should be. Love should be the reason for everything. It should wrench at your insides and tell you to be stronger, to hold on longer, to push past all the hurdles and forge a path forward. I should do that. I know I should because it’s what he would want from me. He’d be appalled by this grey velour tracksuit and dowdy appearance. He’d be forcing me to eat some food and then refusing to allow me to throw it all up again.

He’d say, “Get your arse in gear, Danny. We’ve got a world to conquer.” And he’d mean it too. He’d also probably slap me and then chase me into the bedroom to force the issue until I’d swing my hands up in the air and nod an exasperated “Okay,” in response, again.

I can still hear that from him now as I stare out into this offering of freedom, calculating how long it will take for these kids to leave, but they play on, running around and giggling at each other. So young, so full of promise and joy. There’s nothing holding them back or stifling how much they can enjoy their fun and abandonment. They’re just pure and true.

Just like him.

“Okay,” I mouth to myself, still watching as a young boy pummels a girl with endless rounds of snow. She laughs in response and ends up on the floor covered in the white fluffy stuff.

Christmas. It was his favourite time of year, he would have had me out there with those kids by now, probably dowsing me in as much of the cold stuff as he could manage just so that he could force hot chocolate on me when we got in. More calorie intake, as always.

Ben.

Tea. I need a cup of tea. Maybe a cup of tea will help me make it to the next day, and then tomorrow I can think about maybe changing these clothes. Perhaps going to the shops or cleaning a bit.

“One step at a time.”

Okay, Ben. One step at a time.

Charlotte E Hart © 2016

author bio

Charlotte E Hart is a smut peddler of the tallest order and she’s a little crazy – that’s why we love her!

On Twitter: @CharlotteEHart1

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteEHart.author

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Thank you so much for taking part Charlotte E!

To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]

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“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #11 – Lisa Fulham

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New Year, New Me.

The first of January. A new start, a new me, but where am I supposed to put the old me?

Cracking the spine on my new diary with pen in hand I begin my yearly ritual of listing the things I want to achieve, but as my ballpoint hits the page I have a moment of anxiety; I don’t even know what I want for lunch so how can I write a list of things I want to achieve over the next twelve months? In frustration I pick up last year’s diary which was so important to me only yesterday but now feels like a lead brick weighing me down; listed in these pages I see nothing but failures which is highlighted most when I turn to the first page and see last year’s wish list.

The few small things I managed to achieve I crossed out to the point you can’t read what was there as an act of pure joy at having completed something . . . anything. I can’t even remember what those things were even though they clearly brought me a sense of accomplishment at the time. Glaring back at me between the sparse scribbles is everything I failed to do.

  • Take a night course in photography

I’d talked myself out of this one pretty early in the year because who would I take pictures of? It’s not as though I’m a social butterfly who people want to hang out with all the time and there’s only so many pictures of landscapes and buildings a person can take before it’s just seen as sad.

  • Lose a stone in weight

I at least started this one and managed to lose seven pounds. I was half way to my goal when Jon—my boyfriend of two years—dumped me and cake became my solace.

  • Complete a charity run

This one was vetoed due to not losing the weight. No one wants to see a fat girl run.

  • Book a trip to Bali

After Jon left there really wasn’t much point in booking the trip. There was no way I could travel all that way alone, I wouldn’t have made it onto the plane before my anxiety kicked in and that’s if I survived the horrors of holiday clothes shopping. Picking out a one piece while everyone around you decides if they want matching tops and bottoms to their bikinis, or if vogue was right and mix and matching was the way to go this season. Not exactly my idea of a good time.

The more I looked at the list the angrier I became with myself. Seeing in black and white everything you didn’t do isn’t the best feeling in the world, but when you’re a masochist like me you can’t help but keep reliving the pain of disappointment while constantly slicing the knife across your already torn and bleeding heart. Hours slip by as I read page after page about this woman I don’t know; her handwriting is just like mine, but I refuse to believe the words she writes are mine.

The pages of January and February are mostly filled with tiny victories in the diet and exercise area, mixed with uncertainty as to why Jon was becoming distant and unsupportive of the new me I was trying to achieve.

In March I found out why, he didn’t love me. He told me no one would be able to love someone who hid behind a fake illness like depression. He said I just didn’t want to be happy and he wouldn’t allow me to drag him down too so he left. Reading the thoughts and feelings I had during those months bring tears streaming down my face. How could I have ever allowed one person to make me feel so worthless?

Throughout April I seem to have been numb and there’s no evidence of attempting anything on my list of dreams for the year. In fact, I barely wrote in my diary at all and the few pages I did weren’t easy to read through the tear stains.

May was the month my mum marched me to the doctors because I wasn’t coping with life. I wasn’t dealing with my thoughts and emotions and I certainly wasn’t living . . . I was simply alive and present in body alone. Reading back makes me ashamed of myself. The hate and abuse I pushed onto my own mum for doing nothing other than love me and want me to be well makes me sick to my stomach and once again the list of dreams were ignored which is ironic as my doctor had told me I needed to focus on myself.

I make a mental note to spend tomorrow with mum and to let her know I love her always and apologise for the way I treated her back then.

During June and July I took my meds, went to work and moved back into my mum’s house so she could take care of me. What I wrote was that the world could get fucked and I was reverting back to being a small child who needed her mummy to tuck her in at night to keep the bad dreams away.

June and July were slightly dramatic months for me.

August saw me take a trip, not to Bali and not on my own, but a trip none the less. A few friends and I went to Paris for the weekend. Reading the apprehension I felt beforehand brings the feelings crashing through my body once again and for a moment my chest is tight and my breathing shallow, I don’t think I can continue this trip down memory lane, but I know I have to. I don’t know why, but I know looking back on the year gone by is what I need to do to be able to look to the year ahead.

The trip was one I’d always wanted to take, but had thought I would take it with Jon and we would explore the most romantic city in the world together.

Reading the fun the girls and I had while there brought me my first smile from the pages of last year. Seeing the Louvre, The Mona Lisa, The Eiffel Tower and losing myself in the gothic beauty of Notre Dame were a turning point for me; they reminded me there was a world out there and it was mine for the taking. The medication helped me not get too excited, the last thing I needed was to set my sights too high; I was all too familiar with the fall which could and inevitably would follow. My most vivid and profound memory of the trip though was adding my padlock to the hoards of others on the Pont Des Arts or bridge of love as it is more commonly known.

Surrounded by lovers holding hands and making promises to each other I crouched down and made a promise to my heart—never again would I give it to someone unworthy, someone who would not fight to protect it and rather than throw my key in the river, I brought it home and stuck it in my diary.

Fingering the outline of the key the promise I made slips from my lips “One day I’ll come back here with someone who loves me for my ugly parts, the parts I only show him and we’ll unlock you again.”

September always feels like a new start, something probably instilled in me from my school days and last September was no different. My every day routine became just that . . . routine. Things I found hard only four weeks before such as get out of bed or meet up with friends I managed without anxiety. I no longer worried if I made arrangements with friends they would cancel or that it would be one of the days I refused to get out of bed. I could go shopping in the local supermarket instead of driving twenty miles to the next town just to be sure I wouldn’t bump into Jon and fall apart.

It was also the month people began to comment on how well they thought I was coping with life. I think having that kind of external validation was something I needed to be able to see the change in myself.

October and November I decided to get back on track with my diet and fitness. I joined a swimming club, running club and dance class. I almost chickened out on the dance class because of my weight, the fact that I couldn’t dance and I also had no partner, but my never wavering wall of support or mum as she prefers to be called refused to let me quit before I started and she came with me—trust me, seeing a fifty-five year old woman attempt street dancing will have you laughing off the pounds if nothing else. After a few lessons it had become one of my favourite ways to spend my time, the class was fun and I was partnered with a guy called Joe. He was a little younger than me, really fit and a great dancer; he wasn’t so bad on the eyes either.

The dance school hosted a Halloween show and even the beginners like me who had only just realised they had a left and a right foot were involved; because Joe was my partner and he was an experienced dancer we had a dance where we were the leads. We practised every night to get me up to par and each practise session ended later than the last. The night before the show Joe asked me if he could take me out for a drink, at first I thought he meant the whole cast were going and he wanted me to tag along, that was until he kissed me. The page for the thirty-first of October was filled with a flyer for the show and the rose Joe had given me as I walked out of the girl’s changing room.

December read like a love struck teenager wrote the entries, but the truth is I’m still learning a lot about Joe and myself as individuals—he calls us a couple, I call us love buddies.

Having relived the past year in just a few hours I realise how tired it’s made me, the year drained me for twelve months and I just let it take the first few hours of the New Year which lies before me.

I hear Joe walk into the bedroom, I think he’s been doing it a few times while I’ve been reading, but he knows when I need space and respects me enough to give it to me. Looking up at him I know no matter what the year ahead has in store, the lessons I’ve learned with this man will help me steer clear of my darker parts or at least know if I visit them, they cannot keep me for as long as they once did.

Cracking open my new diary once again I write without hesitation.

My goals for the year ahead

  • Live
  • Love
  • Learn
  • Laugh

My friends and family say I’m doing well, but I’m doing so much better than well, I’m doing strong and focused and MINDful. For the first time in my life I’m listening to the warning bells my mind and body send me. I’m learning to live within my own limitations and knowing that having limitations does not make me weak, it makes me human. I now see that asking for help is the strongest thing I can do while living with depression. I know anxiety can always appear without a moment’s hesitation, but I also know the breathing exercises I need to do to fight it.

Am I fixed? No, I don’t believe I was broken. I’m just wired differently to others.

I do have a new me stepping into the world this year, but where do I put the old me? I keep her inside of me because she is the greatest person to teach me things about myself.

Lisa Fulham © 2016

author bio

I am an explorer of words. I love to create new people and see what adventures they can go on, but most of all I love to write. My words are my passion. 2015 saw me attend my first book signing and I am pleased to announce I will be attending a Leeds signing in 2016 too. Please check out my blog for all my latest news and work

Blog http://lisafulham298.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @lisa298

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“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #10 – HA Robinson

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As long as the numbers on the scales keep going up and the smile on my face is convincing enough, “doing well” is what they see.

They can fill me with their chemicals and pump me out into the world with my jaw-aching from the strain of holding that smile in place, and they never need to know about the demon that roars to life in my mind each and every time I open my eyes to a new day. They don’t need to know that where I once saw the world in a myriad of bright, enticing colours that sung to my soul like the most beautiful music, now all I see are increasingly bleak shades of grey. The once vibrant gold of a sunflower, stretching itself up and up towards its namesake, now just pales into yet another dull, lifeless shade.

The sun is blazing in the sky. I can feel its heat against my skin, yet somehow, I still shiver with a cold that seems to run bone deep, as though I’ll never be warm again. The light dusting of hair that covers my pale skin is meant to be one of my body’s new defences against the cold, so why is it that no matter how many layers I wear, how much time I spend soaking up the heatwave they say is creating unprecedented temperatures, even for August, I still can’t shake the ice that seems to have lodged itself deep inside me?

The park is busy, the way it always is when the sunshine drags the pasty skinned inhabitants of the town outside for some much needed Vitamin D. There are children squealing with happiness as they run through the fountain jets that spurt cool water into the air. A dog barks with pure joy as it leaps to catch a Frisbee thrown for it by its smiling master. Footballs fly, ice creams melt, people laugh, and the world continues to turn. People are happy, people are sad, people are angry, confused or excited. Everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by a myriad of emotions, yet I can’t relate to a single one of them.

I can’t feel anything.

If I’m being honest with myself, I’m not even sure that I want to. Feeling is a little too much like caring, and no good can come from either. So, I sit on a bench, instinct bringing my knees up to my chest in an attempt to make myself as small as I can possibly be. I’m there, I’m present at the heart of a whole park full of humanity at its most… human, yet I’m not a part of any of it. Not really.

With each scene of serene happiness that passes before me – every perfect couple who walk by holding hands, every family with gorgeous, cherubic children, every group of teenagers playing football or giggling while watching them – more fragments of the ice inside me slither their way into my stomach, cutting at it like knives. I embrace the pain they cause. At least it proves that I’m still alive – just the way that the gnawing hunger I crave keeps me focused on reality. I control that pain. I choose when to force it to cut deeper and when to give in to it. With every pained yawn my stomach lets off and every stabbing pain that shoots through my entire mid-section, I take back another sliver of control.

Control is good. Control is comforting, predictable, reliable. And it all flies out of the window the moment I see him. My eyes are drawn to him the moment he sets foot in the park, like they’re a compass needle and he is magnetic north. He might as well be. He is different to everybody else in that park. They all fade into the grayscale monochrome my world seems to have descended into. But he stands out like the sun shining in the middle of the darkest night. He seems to be lit up from behind, his golden hair almost glowing as his speculative gaze scans across the park, looking for something. I desperately want that something to be me, yet the thought that it might be terrifies me more than I can begin to understand.

I curl just a little deeper into myself, my knuckles white with the strain of holding my legs firmly in place against me. But I can’t force my eyes to shift from him, no matter how hard I try to return them to the ground.

I haven’t seen him since before… Before everything went from simple and easy to confusing and scary. I want to see him closer. I want his warmth to suffuse itself through me the way that it used to when the world was still beautiful and the flowers were still bright and cheery, yet I’m afraid of it. I’m running out of time to drag my eyes away. His gaze is sweeping closer and closer, and my heart rate kicks up a gear, thundering in my chest as my hands go clammy and begin to shake.

I can’t even blink. And then his piercing green eyes find me and they stop their perusal. They stop and he takes one step towards me. I can’t help the way that the corner of my mouth turns up just the tiniest bit, but it seems to encourage him. Steps two, three and four are faster, taken with more confidence, and with each movement of his feet towards me, that twitch of my lips grows into something more. The hairs on my arms prickle to attention as I slowly fall into his shadow. My eyes finally fall from his eyes and drift to his scruffy trainers, the blue Nike tick almost completely faded now. I can see the new signs of wear that have set in since the last time I saw him, and for some unfathomable reason, that smile I have no control over grows. I try to bury it against my knees but I know he’s seen. He never misses a thing. I love and hate him for that.

I can feel his intense green gaze burning into the back of my head where my thinning, ragged hair provides almost no shield against his power over me.

My heart lurches into my empty stomach like a stone when those trainers move. He’s going to walk away without even speaking. Just as I deserve. I should say something, acknowledge him with something more than just a curl of the lips. He deserves so much more than that, but it’s been so long since I had a conversation with anybody that wasn’t a nurse, a psychologist or a parent that I’m not sure I even remember how.

I hold my breath high in my chest, feeling it burn there as I wait for him to leave. It bursts out from me in a surprised yelp when instead of walking away, he sits down on the bench beside me, not too close, but just near enough that I can feel his warmth against my goosepimpled arms.

I don’t move my stare from the spot his trainers occupied only a moment ago, but I can see his denim clad legs from the corner of my eye and I feel his hand landing on the warm black painted wood beside me, the very edge of his little finger brushing against my leggings, as though he’s as afraid of touching me as I am of letting him.

“Hey.” His voice is the same rich caramel I remember, and I want desperately to relent my grip on my legs and turn to face him. But that control that’s become somehow monumentally necessary for my survival keeps me firmly in place.

I allow the silence to stretch out for five seconds, counting each one slowly in my mind before replying. “Hey…”

I can hear the smile in his voice when he speaks again, and his finger shifts, brushing a little more firmly against my leg, sending sunshine coursing through me. “How… How are you?”

The uncertainty in his otherwise smooth tone is my undoing. My hands drop from my legs before I can stop them, and the right one falls instantly to his. My fingers ghost over his, absorbing some of the familiar heat before he turns his hand palm up and curls his fingers around mine.

I glance down at them and smile at the sight of them together – his tan against my pale, his strength against my delicate, his warmth against my cold. Without conscious thought, I find myself shifting just a fraction of an inch along the bench, closer to him.

I gift him with the fullest smile I can muster when I finally look up into his face again, my hand squeezing his. With him there is no control. There never was and there probably never will be. All there is, is that all-encompassing warmth, absolute knowledge of safety, and the sensation of falling over and over again.

My shoulder brushes against his as I lean in and whisper, “They say I’m doing well.”

HA Robinson © 2016
author bio

H. A. Robinson is a jet-setting billionaire with a home on each continent, who spends her free time saving kittens from trees and babies from burning buildings. A graduate of Hogwarts and a frequent visitor to Narnia, she drinks coffee in Central Perk and tames dragons on Westeros. In her dreams… In reality, she’s a support worker living in a small town in Cheshire, who would almost always choose fantasy over reality. She’s been an obsessive reader from the moment she picked up her first Enid Blyton book, more years ago than she cares to admit, and enjoys nothing more than getting lost in new worlds and adventures from the minds of all the amazing authors out there. She’s had the voices of characters in her head for as long as she can remember, and puts them down on paper in order to convince herself and the men in white coats that she isn’t crazy.

https://www.facebook.com/HARobinsonAuthor/

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Thank you so much for taking part Ms. Robinson!

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“They Say I’m Doing Well” Blog Tour – Stop #9 – Victoria L. James

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Harold was fascinated with the veins in his hands. Each morning, he would wake up, listening to the sound of his bones creaking as he dragged his weary body out of bed, and then he would go and sit in his chair by the window. No words were spoken. No thoughts were in his mind. He was blank, quiet and empty until the moment he let his bony bottom fall against the old pink cushioned chair. Harold would place his hands out on his lap and simply look down to study them.

It had become a fascination of his.

An odd fascination, of that he was well aware. At ninety-four years old, Harold knew that his days were limited. Family would come and go from the nursing home. They would help him brush the hair on his head where his stiff muscles would no longer allow him to reach. They would chat to him about the news, their voices taking on a similar tone to that people adopt when they speak to babies. They’d talk about the weather or the small garden that surrounded his current residence. They’d walk in with smiles stretched high into their cheeks, just never quite high enough for those smiles to reach their eyes. They’d pretend they wanted to be there, like Harold couldn’t see right through them or every false compliment they gave him.

Not that it mattered to him. He was grateful for any effort at all, given the fact that the majority of the poor beggars in that home didn’t have a soul they could rely on to visit. He was lucky to have a family who cared, a family who pretended they wanted to be there, just to make him feel a little better.

Yet, no matter what the days had in store for him, he always made a point to sit in his chair and study the thick, squishy veins that now sat prominently under his speckled skin.

When did they appear? he thought to himself. One minute he had been youthful, walking around town with a girl on each arm. Then he met Thea and in the blink of an eye, he was a father to four boys, a grandfather to nine grandchildren and he spent the majority of his time digging out weeds from his beloved garden.

Never once, though, in all his life prior to his entry to the nursing home, had he registered the moment that those big blue veins had started to rise under his skin.

It was a sign of age that taunted him daily, even in his sleep. It took him back to his youth where Harold could remember sitting on his grandpa’s knee, tracing his fingers over the thick veins of his grandpa’s hand, and every night he would ask the same question:

“Why do they stick out so much? Tell me again, gramps.”

His grandfather would place a sad smile on his face and answer, “It’s because my veins are so full of life, Harold. I’ve lived so long, they’re full to bursting now.”

“Bursting?” Harold would gasp in surprise, as though he hadn’t already heard the story a hundred times before.

“What happens when they do burst?”

His grandfather would sigh and try to hide the sadness in his voice, but Harold always saw it there in his eyes. “I go to another world to live another life with new veins that are empty, waiting to be filled.”

“Can I go with you?”

“No, child. I’m afraid you can’t. You have to stay here and fill your own body up with a lifetime full of memories first.”

“But that will take forever,” Harold cried.

“Hopefully.” His grandfather smiled.

It was just another day, and as Harold stared down at his hands on that cold, frosty morning, he felt his heart beat harder against his frail chest once again. He felt his fingers ache from the temperatures. He felt the rush of blood to his head when the panic started to take over, but as always, he remained still. Frozen. A little bit numb to the life that he was fortunate to have still beating through him.

Eventually, the door creaked open and the nurse walked in, her voice booming, cutting through the silence.

“Good morning, Harold,” she called out to him.

He didn’t look up. He knew that the nurse wasn’t looking his way or expecting an answer. It was the same thing they did every morning. They would waltz through the door, their eyes aimed high at the ceiling so they didn’t have to stare misery in the face. As long as they could pretend that Harold was fine, he was fine and their job was done.

Turning his hands over, he began to study his palms, and he allowed himself to think of all the wonderful, magical things he’d held in them.

The first time he touched his wife beneath her blouse and the shiver that ran through her body.

The first time he traced the length of her spine right before they made love.

The first time he held her hand as her new husband.

The first time he held his firstborn child, Zach, worrying suddenly how weak he seemed with the weight of his world now in his grip.

The first time he cleaned his child’s play wounds.

The last time he brushed his mother’s hair back from her face before he kissed her forehead and said goodbye when she died.

The last time the pad of his thumb brushed over his darling Thea’s lips.

The last time his hands had been able to get a solid grip on the trowel he loved to spend so much time with in the garden.

So many firsts. Too many, they were uncountable.

So many lasts. Too many, they were unforgettable.

But my God, what a life he had had. What a life he had held on to with a white-knuckle grip, and how blessed he had been. How blessed he was that, even though they failed to show him their love the way they used to, his family still cared. They still showed up. They still tried.

A small smile tried to tug on one corner of Harold’s mouth, but he quickly twitched his lips and remained straight faced. He had no desire for the nurse to see any kind of relief on his face and hang around. Small talk and polite conversation were no longer his forte.

Still, she appeared before him soon enough and she went about her usual checks, fussing, brushing his hair away from his face, trying to move all the ornaments that sat proudly like memory trophies on his window ledge.

“It’s a nice day, isn’t it, Harold? The air is very crisp.”

He thought about how horrible the day was and how the low temperatures made him feel as though he was the Tin Man from that film Thea used to watch all the time.

Daring to peek up from under his bushy, overgrown eyebrows, he glanced the nurse’s way. It was the one he neither cared for or despised, so he quickly looked back down at his hands again.

“Always so full of conversation,” she said through an obvious smile as she walked over to his bed and began to straighten out his pillows and sheets. “That’s alright by me. I know you’re not a morning person. You remind me of my husband. He doesn’t speak to anyone until it’s after lunch and he’s had at least four cups of coffee.” She laughed, more to herself than with him, and carried on with her business.

Harold’s lips parted to protest and a small scowl formed on his forehead. He wanted to tell her that the mornings were his favourite time of day. He wanted to tell her that when he first woke up, he was reflective. He was as optimistic as he was going to be for at least another twenty-four hours. He wanted to share memories of him and Thea drinking cups of tea in their conservatory, the two of them watching the sun slowly rise before their children woke up and demanded their attention. But before he let himself slip, he pressed his lips back together and continued to stare down at those ridiculously prominent veins on his hands.

The nurse moved closer, and without looking up, Harold knew it was time for his daily medication. The bottle of pills rattled in her hand as she unscrewed the cap and placed his dose on the small table in front of him. Then she quickly made her way to the bathroom to get him a half-filled glass of water before she returned and held the drink out in front of him.

His hand shook as he reached up, but she was patient as she waited for him to gain the strength he needed to lift the pills and the water to his mouth. They stuck in his throat like sandy rocks, but he didn’t flinch or show her his discomfort. Once he had finished, Harold looked up at her through wide, helpless eyes and waited for her to say what they always said.

Her soft smile turned into a bright grin as she took the glass from him and tilted her head to the side. “You’re doing well, Harold. You’re doing really well.”

With that, she took off out of the room, reminding him before she left that he only needed to call for them if he required help.

Once the silence surrounded him again, he turned his head to look at the other fascination in his life.

His wife.

Thea was there. She was always there. Sitting opposite him with a smile on her ghostly face, her eyes alive with that twinkle she had always reserved for him and him alone. He saw her every day. He felt her every second. But he never let anyone know. It terrified him that they might make him take more pills to stop the hallucinations, and Harold knew that if they took his Thea away from him ever again, he wouldn’t have the strength to live for another moment longer.

She was beautiful as she sat quietly in front of him. The Thea that visited him these days was younger than he was – young enough to be his daughter. Her rich, red hair was in thick, bouncy curls, and she was wearing that lovely light blue dress that fell just below her knees and hugged her waist. It was the outfit she’d worn on one of their very first dates and had always been a favourite of his.

She never spoke. He wasn’t even sure that she could, but he loved the fact that she listened so intently, her unspoken words somehow guiding him through the last days of his life.

Allowing himself to smile for the first time that morning, relieved that he could keep his promise for another day – the promise of always giving his best smiles to her until the day he died – Harold blew out a shaky breath and spoke quietly.

“They say I’m doing well, Thea,” he began, his fingers curling into his palms as he felt the rush of blood surge through his cold veins. “But they don’t know how ready I am to be with you now.”

Thea blinked slowly, her smile never fading as she gave him a small, sympathetic nod of her head.

“They say I’m doing well,” he repeated in a whisper. “But I think deep down, they must know that I’m not.”

His wife’s head fell to the side as she stared into his eyes, unleashing her magic on him just like she had done all those years ago.

Harold wished he could rush over there, sweep her up into his arms and press his lips against hers. He wished he could drop her down on the bed, curl around her small, familiar body and fall asleep with her in his arms. He wished he could hear her laugh, or even her cry, just one more time.

He wished and he wished and he wished and he wished until wishing became breathing and breathing became painful once again.

“Get your dancing shoes ready, my darling,” he croaked in another whisper. “When I meet you in heaven, we’re never sitting down again. We’re going to dance for eternity.”

Then he smiled brightly as Thea’s eyes lit up with excitement, and before he knew it, he was laughing that charming laugh he used to own forty years ago, and his wife’s cheeks were blushing, despite their lack of warmth.

Harold’s grandpa had been right all those years ago. His veins were full to the brim now, and that was why they were sat proudly under his skin. He had so many memories… so much love, so much light, so much happiness, it was only a matter of time now before they burst on him.

And he found that, despite his fears, he couldn’t wait for that to happen after all.

Victoria L. James © 2016

author bio

Victoria L. James is a teenage girl stuck in a thirty-something year-old’s body. Living somewhere ‘oop north’ in England, she has had a strong passion for words and stories going as far back as she can remember, which she credits to her grandmother and her love of reading anything that was on sale and cheap from the local market stall. Never once did she think she would release a novel, though. At best, she thought her love of language and her ability to create stories in her mind would provide her with a ‘get out of jail free’ card whenever she messed up and her parents were mad at her during her teenage years… and when even that didn’t work out, she thought she was pretty much done for.

When an opportunity presented itself for her to take a back seat from paid working life for a few years, she knew straight away that she had to try and write about a few of these worlds she’d come up with along the way, and quieten all the voices in her head without racking up a heavy psychiatry bill for the pleasure.

Wearing her heart on her sleeve and trying to lighten her friends’ and family’s lives with naff, and more often than not, badly-timed, nineties jokes, she has yet to learn the art of knowing when to shut up. Which is another reason writing became a passion of hers. With pen and paper, there are no limits.

A firm believer in never quitting, with a ridiculous obsession for all things Rocky, she hopes that one day she writes a story that will inspire at least one person out there to keep on going if they’re struggling. Other than that, she’s just a regular old converse wearing, corona sipping, English version of Chandler Bing, who loves and adores her family more than life itself. Oh, and she also has two cats. Every writer has to mention their cats, right?

http://www.victorialjames.blogspot.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/VictoriaLJamesAuthor

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Thank you so much for taking part Victoria!

To see the full list of authors taking part in this month-long blog tour, [click here]

To find out what “They Say I’m Doing Well” is all about, [click here]