So here it is... an extract from the first short story from Twelve, the collection of short fiction I'm writing and publishing as the year 2015 progresses, one story at a time. The first story is called The Pink Flowers and is the sequel to the first short story I ever published, See the Amalfi Coast. If you haven't read that story, I highly recommend you do. You can get it for free on Amazon or by signing up to my newsletter. (If you've already subscribed but missed your chance to read it, please email me - hello AT asthebirdfliesblog DOT com and I'll send it to you ASAP).
UPDATE: The Pink Flowers is now available for download on Amazon. Enjoy!
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A bit more information about the story...
A year has passed since Martin and his wife returned from their holiday in Naples and a lot has happened. You join the story as his wife and Martin's children try to piece back together a life that is missing a man who was larger than life. His wife does what she can to deal with her grief by trying to cheer herself up with a special new pink-flowered plant in the garden, and by keeping busy tidying up loose ends including the garden shed her husband left in a mess and a stack of his library books that are long overdue. But when the pink flowers in the garden start to fade and she finds a series of letters left behind by her husband, there is no ignoring her grief or the things Martin now wishes her to do...
Behind me in the back seat, Zara starts singing a song I don’t recognise about sleeping bunnies. However, by the time we get to the library I’m singing with her though she tells me off when I can’t do the ears with my hands.
It’s been more than a month since I was last here. I don’t think it was courage I needed to return, just a reason. I haven’t read a book myself in years and I don’t really know where to start. Stacie tells me I should try Fifty Shades of Grey, but I’ve heard enough about that book to know it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t want to read the mysteries I used to; I can’t even watch TV shows about crime anymore. There always seems to be too much death. That, or I start to think about that boy with the knife in Naples.
Sally is at the desk in another T-shirt that is stretched to its capacity. She has a warm smile on her face, and I can tell that she recognises me.
“Hello, there,” she says. “And who’s this?”
Zara introduces herself. I don’t know where she gets her confidence from sometimes.
I ask Sally if I could have that library card now, and one for my granddaughter.
“Of course! Let me get you some forms,” and she shuffles off, the denim of her jeans rubbing together making an almost high pitched sound.
Zara’s hand pulls out of the grip of mine and she moves over to shake a plastic dog with a coin opening on top of his head. It’s a money collection point for the Guide Dogs.
“Granddad’s dog!” Zara says, holding the dog’s head. Confused, I move over to her.
“The money goes in here,” she tells me. “Granddad used to give me money to put in here.”
I place a couple of pennies in her small hand and she squeals when she hears the tinkle of each one hitting the puddle of coins at the bottom. I ask her where she used to do this with Granddad but she just strokes the dog’s hard head, saying “good boy,” to it. Martin never liked dogs much. None of it makes any sense.
As I fill in the form, I ask Sally if Martin ever brought Zara to the library with him. I don’t remember him ever saying that was what he was going to do.
“No, I don’t think so. I’d remember a little face like that,” Sally says smiling at Zara so broadly her cheeks push up into her eyes. “I think he was always alone. Apart from a list of books he wanted me to help him find. You know, I think he liked to challenge me a bit. He was always very happy to hear that I’d have to order a book in from Leeds for him. Not everyone is like that. Most people hate having to wait.”
I tell Sally that that sounds like Martin and it makes me blush as I then pull out a folded piece of paper from my handbag but she just smiles. I ask her if she’s got any of these books.
“Hmm, let’s have a look,” she moves over to her computer and says the words she types in with one finger. “‘Brighten up your life with Bougainvillea’, that’s a hard word to spell, isn’t it? ‘Growing Bougainvillea’… No, sorry. We don’t have those in. I could see if Leeds or Bradford have got them?”
I tell her it’s okay and I begin to fold up the list.
“Wait, just a minute. Let me search for ‘Bougainvillea’ on its own.” She keeps pronouncing it ‘boo-gain-vill-ier’. It’s probably how I would say it too if I hadn’t heard Gus tell me the name before I’d read it.
“Now, we do have a book that has a section on bougainvillea. It’s called ‘The Mediterranean Gardener’. Why don’t you try that?” She finds a pen and writes down a collection of letters and numbers. “That’s the row number, and the location. Look for the sign that says ‘House & Garden’. If you can’t find it, come back and I’ll give you a hand. Now, before you go, there is something else…”
Sally walks away again, through the door at the back of the small office I can see behind the desk. She emerges a few moments later with a plastic shopping bag full of books. I recognise their pyramid shape instantly.
“I think you need to take these books back,” she says. “That’s why I was hoping you’d pop by again. We only had Martin’s mobile number you see and I didn’t want to call that. I’ll leave them here while you find the gardening books you need, and some for the little one too, but I think you need to go home and look through these books before I check them back in to our system.”
My frown sticks as I question her and then silently myself. What’s wrong with the books?
“Let’s just say, I think you’ll enjoy reading them,” says Sally.
“Come on, Nanna,” Zara pulls at my arm.
Before I can ask any more questions she leads me into a room full of books.
Find out what happens next by reading the rest of the story.
I hope you find The Pink Flowers touching, heart-warming and romantic as that's what it is to me. It was a true pleasure to write the story and to revisit characters that much to my surprise were eagerly waiting for me to pick them up again and tell their story.
Next month, something romantic for Valentine's Day... of course.
Frances M. Thompson
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