Jeff kept his professional smile as he
showed the couple around the car dealership.
“It’s a very reasonable price,” he
said. The Ford Fusion gleamed. “Very low mileage and we include a full
service before delivery.”
India’s lips were pressed together so hard
that you couldn’t see her lipstick. “I
don’t see why I have to pay out for that
“Sweetheart, it’s my godson. He’s seventeen, he has a hobby…”
“He’s a spoiled brat.” She turned back to Jeff. “The kid is just going to take it to pieces. He hasn’t even got his licence yet…”
“He’s got his test booked…” Jason said
helplessly, taking a swift mouthful out of a small flask as India turned back
India hadn’t noticed the flask. “I have to scrape by and make do, but when it
comes to the kid he can’t say no.”
“His name’s Oliver.” Jason muttered.
India shrugged then turned to Jeff. “Honestly, something a little cheaper.”
“He should have been called Nancy.” Jason mumbled.
can see it as a project. What have
you got that needs work?”
“I wouldn’t let them call him Bill.” Jason
managed another crafty mouthful from the flask.
“You’re making less sense than usual.”
India looked at Jeff. “Anything?”
Jeff smiled. “Between you and me, there’s one vehicle we
weren’t thinking of selling at this moment,”he said with absolute truth. It was booked for the scrapyard. “It’s a fixer upper, but at a very good price.”
“What do you mean?” India followed Jeff to
where the wrecks were stored.
“It’s a nice little car.” Jeff waved a
hand at the red wreck in front of them.
“Once it’s done up it could be quite desirable. Is the lad handy?”
“He’s a good lad.” Jason said
quietly. “Good with his hands. I was thinking of taking him on as an
Jeff watched India’s hands clench into
fists and then slowly unclench. Then her
shoulders slumped. She nodded. “We’ll take it.”
“Why don’t you look it over while I sort out
the paperwork.” Jeff didn’t like leaving people alone, but today was an
exception. “I’ll be back in five
Jason slumped against the Toyota, shielding
India as she knelt next to the wheel arch and quickly felt inside. She looked up. “Keep talking to cover me,” she whispered.
“She could have called him Sikes,” Jason
said, his voice getting a little louder. “She never called him after me.”
“Hang on.” The woman struggled a little
then nodded. “I’ve got it.” She pulled out a small, tightly wrapped package. “Okay, let’s stage the argument and get out
Jeff was shuffling the paperwork on the when
he heard them shouting.
“What do you mean, he’s your son?” India
yelled. “I can’t believe it. After all these years!” She stormed over to
their car and threw herself into the driver’s seat.
“Sweetheart…” Jason scrambled into the
passenger side as the car rattled out of the yard and screeched around the
corner onto the main road.
Jeff shrugged. He may have lost a sale, but at least he
didn’t have a headache.
I didn't mean to write something that linked in with At the Sign of the White Hart but I had already started writing the next installment that fitted so well with the quotation from the Light and Shade Challenge for this week. This is the pared down version, 514 words (oops!) down from 3192 for the full version which you can find on the blog 'At the Sign of the White Hart' here or, if you're interested you can find the full story from the beginning here.
Ian followed the vague directions. He went through the door and up the stairs, along
the passage and stopped outside the fourth door on the right. Somehow this door seemed to be a much bigger
step than anything else so far. He
lowered both of his bags to the floor. He didn’t want to do this. He wanted to go back to Ann and be happy
again. He wanted time to rewind. He wanted it all to be different. Ian squared his shoulders and turned the key
in the lock.
Picking up his bags and stepping across
the threshold was one of the hardest things Ian had ever done, but he did
it. Then he gave himself a shake and
looked around. It was clean. The paint on the plain magnolia walls were
new and so was the plain beige carpet.
The cream coloured curtains were also new and still stiff as he pushed
them back a little. He had a view of a
carpark but past that he could see York’s medieval walls with the distinctive
tower of the Minster in the distance. He
checked his watch. He needed this job
and this place so much. He had to make a
He ran a quick eye over the room as he
opened his bags. The bed looked comfortable
and the new bedlinen looked clean and inviting.
The sturdy wardrobe came with a good supply of hangers and the tv was
set on a matching set of drawers. The
small table next to the light brown chair was second hand like the wardrobe and
chest of drawers but was equally as sturdy.
He found a lump in his throat.
Someone had tried to make him welcome.
A vase of daffodils sat next to the tv and a box of tissues was on the
small bedside table next to the lamp.
Ian felt a lump in his throat. This was a chance to begin again. The odds were not in his favour, but that was
no reason to give in. He hung his jacket
behind the door. The rest of his
unpacking could wait apart from one vital thing.
Ian dug into the bottom of the sports bag,
tipping his clothes carelessly on the bed.
Right at the bottom, carefully wrapped, was the most precious thing he now
had. Ann, his soon-to-be-ex-wife, had
given it to him just before he left. He
unwrapped it reverently. He took down
the print of York Minster and hung up the most important thing he had left, the
only real thing he had left, the thing he needed most. He stepped back and memorised the way it looked
with the morning sunlight glancing across the newly painted wall and over the
pink and white, shabby chic, feminine plaque.
The particle board was shaped and sanded to look like driftwood or
reclaimed fencing and there were tiny sequins framing the folksy
lettering. Ian didn’t care. Ann had given him this last thing. A piece of wall art that said HOPEin fake-faded glory. That was all that mattered.
And I hope no-one minds me mentioning this, but you can find out more about Ian in my novella 'Dinner at Dark' available at Smashwords, Amazon and all good ebook retailers. You don't, however, need to read that to be able to enjoy the stories from 'At the Sign of the White Hart' as all is explained as we go.
I wasn't meaning it to turn out like this, but it ran away with me, so below you will find the just about under 500 words version, because I ought to try if I'm setting the challenges (I don't check anyone else's). However as it turned out to be part of the rebooted 'At the Sign of the White Hart' series and the Steve Adderson story, I expanded it and added it on to both of those. For those interested, the Steve Adderson story is here, and the latest installment of 'At the Sign of the White Hart' is here. For reference, installment one is here, installment two is here, installment three is here and installment four is here. And, if you are still with me, here is the story...
Steve Adderson took a deep breath. It was a lovely, crisp spring day but the
refreshing air didn’t blow away his sense of unease. He looked at Lord Ragnar who was leaning on
the bridge parapet and looking down to the foamy river beneath. Kadogan was looking along the road to the
west at the Yorkshire Dales stretching into the distance. The hills were empty. They should be undisturbed.
“Are you sure you want to go ahead with
this?” Steve asked Lord Ragnar. The
elfen nodded. Steve looked at Kadogan
who gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head. Steve unzipped his heavy sportsbag and
started pulling out his equipment. It
was a perfect day. The breeze was light and
yesterday’s rain had filled the river.
He snapped together the portable easel and placed the mirror on it. He set the deep brass braziers with care at
either end of the bridge. The charcoal
caught quickly and the heavy incense was soon smoking. Then he pulled out the heavy rope to mark the
“Do you honestly believe that you will
break through elfen magical wards?” Lord Ragnar asked.
“Nothing is guaranteed.” Steve said as he
put the orange candle in the hurricane lantern and lit it. “But if anything can, this will. It’s the place. Feel the energy. We are between sky and water, between fire…”
Steve gestured at the smoking brazier, “and earth.” He gestured to the bank
rising up on the other side of the bridge.
“We are between the elements. As we are so undefined we have a loose tile,
a loophole, a possible chink that we may be able to use. Right, let’s start.”
The two elfen remained motionless as Steve
pulled on the currents of power and twisted it around the mirror, sending
sparking filaments out to search. Lord
Ragnar stepped back in shock as the mirror flooded with inky black but Kadogan
just froze. They could see the different
strands of magic spiralling in and out of the circle and converging on the
mirror on the easel. The images
coalesced and just for one heartbeat Steve saw Lord Ragnar change back to the
glamour of a Viking berserker that he had worn when he seized control of the
elfen of York back when it was called Jorvik and the Norseman ruled the
men. Then he was his normal self.
“I congratulate you.” Lord Ragnar bowed
formally to Steve. “It is a feat of
legend to break through the magical defence of an elfen. You recorded it?” Steve nodded.
“What are you going to do with the
recording?” Kadogan asked, his eyes averted from the mirror.
“A recording of my wife sinning with her
lover? I shall merely use it in
divorce.” Lord Ragnar turned to Steve.
“Thank you. I owe you a large
favour that will not easily be repaid.
Now I need to return to York.
There is much to do.”