Congratulations to all our winners!
1st= Rachel Collier
Clean Linen, Dirty Linen
Salvaged wrappings topple out of the linen closet - a crowd of shrewdly detached tissue-paper, foil and gloss.
I feel for the first ledge and find a secure footing on the soft flannelette to my right; my left foot slides on Mother’s satin pillowslips. Reaching for the top shelf with my fingers, I momentarily position my toes on the second ledge, before hauling myself up.
It’s a snug hideout, cushioned by the mending pile; fragrant with the mothballs that lavish the ivory Christening gown, one shelf below. The wool box sits beside me, crammed with odds and ends in assorted ply, only suitable for mending or Peggy squares.
The box also contains Mother's needles and hooks; stout, skinny, long, circular. My precious French knitting doll, with her lengthy sleeping bag, naps, carefully tucked-in beneath the scraps.
“Absolutely NOT,” my Mother’s voice echoes down the hall.
I snatch up my doll and a hook and begin working carefully, winding and twisting; lifting the lower loops over the nails, over and over again. I’m building up a rhythm when suddenly something smashes.
My Mother’s voice is emphatic: “Only the FIRST born – that’s the rule. This is NOT your first born though is it?”
I crane my neck (an ‘eldest and only’) to spy in-between where door meets mount. Aunt Susan looks straight at Mother and says: “You better not ruin this for me Ava.”
I grab the top of the door with my finger-tips and pull. The salvaged wrappings crumple.
When the front gate bangs, my index-finger accidently slips on a nail head; the blood trickles down between the boards.
On the day of the Christening Aunt Susan is suitably radiant; my Mother is remarkably quiet; and the heirloom gown - curiously white.
1st= Rita Shelley
Jeff had suggested the movie. Usually they just talked for hours.
Even as shadows lengthened, the pavement radiated the day’s heat. They passed block after block of once-grand buildings with stone lions and courtyards.
City kids, they welcomed the long walk to the theatre away from their cramped apartments. Jeff, 14, read insatiably. He oscillated between stuttering and delivering speeches like an orator twice his age. Cynthia never tired of listening. She, too, was 14.
Jeff had just read “The Birds” and was curious how Hitchcock dealt with the story. Jeff was paying. For once he had money. The butcher had finally paid him for the deliveries he made after school.
"Is this a date?" Cynthia wondered silently. "Do I want it to be?"
The lobby was almost empty. Corn popped seductively but they chose Bonbons, chocolate-covered ice-cream balls, heaven in a box. The walls of the auditorium were painted with vines and ancient statues. Stars twinkled on the ceiling. Cynthia shivered with the overzealous air conditioning and Hitchcock’s terrifying scenes.
Jeff was so close Cynthia could smell the detergent in his shirt. She wondered if he might take her hand. Maybe she would take his? But all hands remained frozen in place.
They walked into a wall of steamy heat as they exited the theatre.
"I hope we don’t see any birds," said Cynthia, almost joking.
"I won’t be around tomorrow."
"Helping your mum with the shopping?"
"There’s a new girl in my class. I promised I’d help her with chemistry."
3rd: Claire Matravers
"Oh, come on!" Steve thumped the steering wheel as we snail-paced along the country road in heavy traffic.
"What's the hurry?" I asked, holiday mode kicking in. "We've got all day."
"BUM," Tony yelled in triumph from the back. He was looking for three letter words on number plates.
"JAW, HUG." Stephanie, his younger sister was not to be outdone.
The pace was becoming tedious even for me, and I was glad when we reached the motorway. There, Steve was able to put his foot down and drive at the speed limit.
"Wow," he said, glancing in the rear view mirror, "look what's coming up behind us. What I wouldn't give for one of those ... "
A BMW sports car glided past us in the fast lane.
"D-B-L-Oh-seven," Tony said, reading the number plate.
"That's Phil from work! He thinks he's James Bond in his Z3." There was a note of envy in Steve's voice.
The speedster wove in and out of the traffic, passing everything in sight.
"Nice car." I watched it accelerate into the distance. "But you couldn't fit two kids and a pile of luggage in that, could you?"
"True." Steve sounded wistful.
Would he rather have the car than his family? I kept my thoughts to myself.
A police car screamed past, lights and sirens going.
"It's probably after Phil!" Steve sounded gleeful. It was closely followed by another one. "And that one too." When an ambulance sped by, equally noisy, he didn't say a word.
The traffic started to slow. We crawled past the emergency vehicles. The wrecked car lay in the ditch. All we could see of it were the wheels in the air. And the number plate.
"D-B-L-Oh-seven," Tony said in a small voice. In the ensuing silence, Steve reached for my hand.
4th: Anna Williams
Size Does Matter
She'd always been reluctant to date a man shorter than her. So awkward to be looking down at him when they talked. Would she always have to wear flat shoes? She'd hate that. Stilettos and platforms were her passion. And what if she went to put her arm round his waist and it ended up round his shoulders? Totally embarrassing! It just wouldn't be right.
He was talking to her boss one day when she entered the lunch room and they invited her to join them. She was introduced to John. He was short, but had warm eyes and a lovely smile. She felt the flare of attraction. When her boss left, she and John chatted over lunch. She decided she really liked him. Perhaps it wasn't so bad that he was short. She'd make the best of the situation. Even if it came to wearing flats and stooping a bit when they were together.
She took a deep breath and asked him if they could meet for dinner one night.
“Oh, I'm sorry. Are you seeing someone?”
“No, it's not that. I don't mean to sound rude but I never date anyone taller than myself. It simply wouldn't feel right.”