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Short Stories

 Here we are, I moved here a few short stories I wrote for blog challenges or competitions. 

I didn’t write much though because in one of the first classes I attended, Short fiction workshop it was, my teacher suggested me to use my imagination to write novels. My short stories, she said, are too packed of action, there is too much going on, and that’s why they always look unfinished. 

I agreed with her. And since then I concentrated on my fantasy world!

Anyway here you have a few of them!

I hope you enjoy them.

Only for my master

 

Finally, after centuries I’ll have her back, my dear Deirdre …

I love her, she has to be mine this time. After so long I’ll have her all for me.  I have always been a gentleman. She was another’s man’s wife before. But now she’s not.

I have been looking for that beautiful silky dark hair and those sapphire eyes. There are plenty like her but nobody is my Deirdre. They don’t have the same perfume, the same taste, the same flavour.

“Oh sorry” he said bending immediately to the ground to help the girl pick her books up.

“Why don’t you pay attention? I’m in hurry!” she said without even looking at him. She hurriedly gathered all her stuff and walked on her way, hair dancing on her back.

“Hey, sorry, you forgot this” he called her. She was already too far to hear him.

She’s mine, I want her.

***

“Sorry” he whispered.

The Ilac library was a nice place to study, quieter than the university one, so crowded with noisy and talkative friends.

The girl rose her eyes from the book and looked annoyed at the person who interrupted her studying, staring into his eyes.

She’s still perfect, even with those angry eyes.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“My name is Aidan” he answered with a deep voice.

“Ok Aidan, I’m studying, I have to finish this essay …” she began speaking fast.

“I just want to give you this” he said, passing her a little diary.

“Oh…thanks” and after a while “So, you are the one who knocked me to the ground the other day!” she said. She took the diary and looked at it closely to check that everything was fine.

“I’m sorry…I called you back but you ran away”

“I was in late for my le….wait a minute” she closed her eyes like two blue fissures. “Were you following me?”

“No! Well, yes. I had to if I wanted to give it back!” he smiled. He then began to walk slowly towards the exit.

“Hey, Aidan” she called him back. He turned again to see her smiling face. “Thanks” she said blushing.

I want her, she’s mine.

Everything will come, I just need to wait.

***

“Dee, don’t you think you drank too much tonight?”

“No, don’t worry! I’m fine” Dee said and walking quite steady on her high shoes she went on with her friend. They exited the Temple Bar pub, crowded with people as always.

“Let’s call a taxi”

“No, you call it, if you want. I’m going to get the bus from O’Connell Street” Dee said. “Ciara, no worries, right? I’ll see you tomorrow”

Dee went away, the fizzy night air and the drizzling rain helped her to recover a bit “It will be a miracle tomorrow if I don’t fall asleep at work”. The essay was done, she could relax now.

She walked through an alley, passed by the Spanish restaurant and covered her nose from the smell coming from within. “Ok, maybe I’ve drank too much” she said to herself.

When she reached the quay she noticed that it was crowded even this late at night. She felt less guilty and smiled to herself.

She walked on the other side of Ha’penny Bridge and it was then that she noticed a familiar figure.

“Ai…” she was about to call Aidan, the nice guy who brought her back the notebook. She stopped as she saw him with another girl. The two seemed very intimate, walking together, their body so close; she seemed almost leaning on him. “Well, I think they’ll have fun tonight!” and smiling again she went on.

She thought she would have liked to meet him again as he was really good looking, with his dark long hair and his emeralds green eyes. His lips were thin and soft even at sight and his thin face, maybe a little too pale, was sexy anyway.

She felt a grasp at the top of her stomach “Come on, I still have to thank him for the notebook!”  she thought and giggling went on.

***

I’m not strong enough but I want her anyway. She’ll be mine this time.

Walking in the night he reached the library again. He was sure she was there.

“Dee? Right?” he asked.

“Aidan, hi…” she said a bit awkwardly. She immediately pulled the chair next to her and emptied of her scarf and bag. “Do you want to sit?” she asked.

He smiled and sat next to her.

“What are you studying?”

“Not much, to be honest. I think I drank too much yesterday and I’ve worked today so I’m more staring the empty pages!” she smiled looking into his eyes.

After a while of staring at each other and of embarrassing silence he asked

“Why don’t we go out for a dinner once?”

“Tonight? Yes, I don’t have anything else on” she said. She was looking in his eyes trying to resist and hoping he wouldn’t realise how eager she felt.

“Yes, let’s do tonight then” he said and looked in front of him lowering his eyes.

They left the Ilac shopping centre, the library was closing, the shopping centre was closed already, and only the shiny shop windows reflected the Christmas decorations.

“Oh you see, those boots are exactly what I want” Dee said pulling him next to the window, she pointed with her tiny finger at the pair she meant but then she seemed to stare at the glass instead.

“Dee?” he asked.

“Yes, ok. I’m ok!” she said looking in his face and moving her eyes quickly like she was studying his features. “Shall we go?”

They went to Taste of Emilia, Italian food and a couple of bottles of red wine.

“You see, it’s just the wine that is really having the better of me!” Dee said. She was smiling lost in her thoughts. She was studying Aidan’s profile.

I want her now. I don’t care if I’m not ready. I just want her.

“Why don’t we go for a walk?” Aidan asked.

“So you still speak! Well, yes, it would be a great idea!”

They crossed the Ha’penny bridge, the night was cold and with the excuse of the chilled breeze she went closer to him. He was cold too.

They crossed the road, they climbed the few steps to enter in the narrow alley heading towards Temple Bar. Under the arch was darker than usual, Dee seemed to walk with effort and kept looking around her, the ceiling in particular.

“Sorry…” a voice came from behind them.

Dee turned to the voice and saw a short, hunchbacked old lady. She had a woollen shawl on her shoulders and yellow hat on her white hair.

“Sorry, love…can I ask you a favour?” the old lady asked.

Dee looked at Aidan who kept walking for a while and then stopped waiting a bit further, he was looking at his shoes. Dee looked into the old lady’s watery eyes, she thought they looked yellow, but that could have been the wine.

“Yes?”

“Can I use your mobile?”

“Pardon?”

“Can I use your mobile?” the old woman insisted “I need to know how my sister is…she’s in the hospital and has got a surgery”

“Well…”

“Please!” the old lady said again with her cobwebby face.

“All right” Dee said and handed her the mobile.

The old lady wrenched the mobile off her hands with a small jump and ran inside the dim lit door behind her, covering the telephone with one hand she started to speak.

Dee went over to get her mobile, she looked at Aidan seeking for help but she was surprised to see he was talking on the phone too and he was crying.

Looking inside, Dee could see a big waste bag on one side, from where a pungent smell was coming from.

“Hello?” she tried to get the lady’s attention, but she just make a sign to wait. She was talking in a language Dee couldn’t get, or maybe not, maybe she was just talking fast.

“Did you put the money in my account?” that’s the only words she could get and then “I don’t care, you do that immediately…blood? A-ah…..ok, this is the last time if you don’t pay…”

Dee was nervous now and looking to her right hand side she noticed a narrow stone stairs with a small wooden door at the top.

“Listen, sorry” Dee tried to get the lady’s attention for a second time. “I really have to go” than she turned to the door and yelled “Please, Aidan help me here”

Nobody appeared. She heard a noise behind her and when she turned she saw a horrible sight. In the old lady’s place there was an evil creature, her rotten skin was of a brownish colour.

Dee walked backwards but in doing so she hit the bag which fell on the ground, an arm coming out from the opening. She screamed and fell on the ground, her legs trembling.

“Help! Aidan! Help!” Dee cried.

“No, honey, Aidan has already finished with you and most of all, he’s not invited…”

Dee looked at her, crying and trying to push her filthy hands back.

“Ah, it must be really you this time. Another girl would have already fainted” the creature smiled “Don’t you worry, you won’t die anyway…you’re for the master …he’s waiting for you” she said nodding towards the small door.

Dee struggled with all her strength but then lost her senses…. The monster dragged her up the stairs.

Yes, she’s coming. This time she’ll be mine for ever…

The golden ornament

“But I want it! It says ‘buy me, you’ll be beautiful’!” wailed Linda.

“You’re already beautiful without it, honey”

Not far from their Japanese style pension there was a second hand shop which sold typical geisha dresses and garments. Linda with her nose glued to the window kept saying to her mother

“I want that golden ornament!”

“You’ve already bought a lot of stuff in Shijuku yesterday during our trip!”

“Yes, exactly what the boys say in school!”

“Don’t mind them right now!” laughed the mother.

Linda was upset because she absolutely wanted that ornament. The golden stick ending in a goldfish shape was irresistible. She spent hours glued to the shop window. She just wanted it and even stopped to eat. She became even more obedient than she already was, just to have her ornament. In her mind it was already her property! Her mother just couldn’t stand it anymore and considering she had no reason not to, she decided to buy her ornament.

It was in Kyoto that everything happened, in the historic heart of the city that cannot be said to be as modern as Tokyo is. Although you could find some modern hits everything was wrapped up with an ancient solemn mysticism that made you lose the sense of  reality.

“Oh that is really a good deal, ma’am!” said the vendor. He seemed almost relieved to be getting rid of the item. “It belonged, as the little sign says, to the great Geisha Rokujo. She was already famous at thirteen”.

That was the end of the conversation. He didn’t seem willing to add anything more. Linda was really happy now. She seemed satisfied, she felt more self confident too.

From that evening she didn’t take off the geisha ornament from her dark red hair. She spent a huge part of the day just staring at her image in the mirror. And after a couple of days nobody could persuade her to move from her reflection. Her mum started worrying again, she heard her muttering something in front of the mirror

“I’m wonderful! There is no other girl as good-looking as me! They’ll eat their words back! The fools!”

Linda also started to send back the dishes untouched.

Her mother was worried more and more as the days passed by. She heard her saying weird things, like

“They thought I was just one of the failed maiko serving geisha! But they were wrong. I’m already the best geisha in Kyoto! And I’ll soon be presented to court!”

She seemed to have a kind of dark veil on her eyes. They seemed to stare afar. A place and a time that nobody could reach.

Linda’s mother was quite sure that everything was due to the ornament she was wearing. She always heard about Japanese traditions and superstitions and how the Japanese, even nowadays, can live hand in hand with the old folklore! She also tried to sneak in Linda’s bedroom, now she absolutely required one for herself only, to try in the darkness to take the ornament off her hair. It was then that a shadow even darker than the night itself overwhelmed her. She didn’t know what it was but felt an awful pressure on her chest like she couldn’t breathe anymore.

She withdrew her hand from her daughter’s head and at the same time with her pale fingers, the dark shadow withdrew itself. She could breathe again and closed the sandy coloured sliding paper door.

She decided then, to go to the shop again and ask for explanations.

The owner of the place apparently wasn’t there and the girl left in the shop spoke only Japanese. Linda’s mother didn’t know what to do. She just wandered around the old Kyoto, through geisha quarters, until she ended up in a small cemetery. Even in death Japanese were all the same and tidy. All those thin gravestones gave the idea of a wide stone forest from where a thin fluffy smoke strings were rising here and there in the blue evening sky.

There was an old lady not far from there, washing a gravestone throwing gently some water with a wooden pipe shaped scoop.

Linda’s mother followed her for no specific reason. She just felt the figure of the lady with her white hair tied on a big bump so reassuring.

Only after she realized she was in a temple. Everything was made of wood painted in gold, white and red. A gigantic Buddha statue was in the middle. The place was dark but not scary.

Suddenly she heard a voice talking in Japanese. It was a young priest addressing her. She just knew the words necessary to tell him she didn’t understand him. He knew a bit of English so he was able to talk to her. He was well informed about Kyoto history, traditions and folklore. He gave her the bad news she feared.

She asked if he knew who Rokujo was. He said that Rokujo was sadly famous in Heian period for both her beauty and for her story.

She was sold to a tea house when she was only five and completed her geisha training surprisingly fast, becoming the most well known and requested geisha in all the banquets, at only 13. It was said that even the emperor wanted to enjoy her services. She was due to serve at court at the end of the year. But two weeks before, she was found dead on the bank of a river. Her favourite ornament, with the goldfish at the end, stuck in her breast.

“Oh my god” shrieked Linda’s mother “It’s the very same ornament I bought for my daughter”

“But it couldn’t be the same ma’am” said smiling the priest.

“I don’t know, but ever since she wore it she behaved strangely and she speaks in front of the mirror continuously. She’s not herself anymore!” and started to cry, face in her hands.

After few minutes of silence the priest, with a grave tone, said

“I’m afraid that if it is what I’m thinking it is, we should fulfil Rokujo’s will before her spirit could permanently damage your daughter. Only then will she be free from her!”

“And do you really think I can go to the emperor and say that my daughter is possessed by the spirit of a geisha who was supposed to serve his ancestors centuries ago?” she gave a faint smile for the nonsense she just spoke.

“No, but you can fool her! I know you’ll find a way”

That wasn’t a great help for the poor mother but she solved to go back to the pension and try to find a way to sort everything out.

She stepped behind Linda’s door and kneeled on the wooden floor that gave on the inner garden.

“Linda it’s your mother, I’m coming in”

“You’re not allowed in, woman! You picked the wrong room”

There was a thick silence for a while and then she tried again

“Lady Rokujo I’m here to bring you to the palace. May I help you?”

“No, wait me at the entrance and call a rickshaw.”

The important and cold voice coming from across the paper door wasn’t her daughter’s anymore.

She was lucky enough that, in the historic part of Kyoto, the time seemed frozen. She called a rickshaw and gave the driver the instructions.

Linda appeared on the threshold. She was absolutely beautiful. Her mother didn’t know where she managed to get that rich kimono. It was night blue with a sunset scene painted on the bottom, an orange obi was fastened around her waist. Her ornament was keeping her hair up. She was glorious.

For a brief moment the mother felt proud of her gorgeous daughter. Then she realized she wasn’t Linda anymore.

They took the rickshaw and headed to their destination. They took the street that ran beside the river.

Linda shivered

“Is everything all right?” asked the mother and without waiting for an answer she just pushed her out of the rickshaw. The driver immediately stopped shouting something the lady didn’t understand.

She jumped on the street, following the daughter, who landed heavily on the grassy bank below.

As a result of the impact the ornament came out of her hair, now spread around her head like a peacock tail.

The setting sun rendered the sky pink and orange. And some of the childish colour began appearing again on Linda’s cheeks. She was alive and now fast asleep. Her mother left her place beside her just for just a few seconds.

She reached for the ornament and smashed it with her foot.

“You’re free now from all your vanity” she believed she heard a wailing from the broken golden object.

Snowflake

Once upon a time there was a woman living alone in a small house outside the village. She lived by herself as her husband died years before and her children, now adults, left the house to live on their own.

Outside the house there was a small vegetable garden where the old woman grew potatoes, carrots and a few other vegetables. She never had guests. Once a week she went to the village and bought at the grocers shop what she needed to go on for a few days.

She was leading a humble life and as the years passed by she became used to living alone and not talking with anybody. Everybody in the village knew her story, but nobody ever visited her because she became a selfish, grumpy bad old lady.

The truth was that she felt sick and tired, but nobody wanted to stay with her, not even her own children. She felt very sad about that but she didn’t know what to do to reverse the situation. She was too proud to tell people she was sorry and that she needed help and company.

It was a winter night the one we are talking about. It was the coldest night the old lady had had that year, so far. She had her humble supper and prepared to go to bed. She gave a last look outside, the snow started to fall. She watched the small and regular snowflakes floating light in the air and fall gently on the windowsill.

“Oh, small snowflake, I wish you were alive so at least you would speak with me!” she said. She felt sadder than ever in that moment and she went to bed.

Right then, in the silent night, a magical thing happened. One of the snowflakes started to move and grew little by little. Two little hands and two little feet popped out from the round shape and after awhile a head  came out from the top, like a small little person was putting on  a small snow white sweater. His head was white, like the rest of his body, but two shiny silver eyes were  looking around.

He saw the window and then realized why he was there. He then passed under the rather invisible passage under the window flattening himself and went in the kitchen.

“Oh, poor old lady” he said and snapping his little thumb and the middle finger he conjured a warm pink quilt he laid on the old lady’s bed and then left on the table the breakfast ready for the morning.

When the old lady woke up early as usual, she felt incredibly warm and it seemed to her that her arthritis was much better. She immediately noticed the new quilt “Oh, and where did this come from?” she asked to herself.

She got up and shivered a bit. The house was deadly cold. She wore her night gown and went to the small kitchen to warm up a bit of water for her morning tea. She didn’t realize immediately that something happened but then after a couple of minutes she saw the table covered by a rich breakfast. There was milk, chocolate, bread, butter and jam, and also a cake.

She thought she was still asleep and pinched her arm “Ouch!” she said rubbing her skin. She looked around puzzled but then the hunger won and she sat at the table and gulped everything quickly finding the food delicious.

“I’m glad you like it!” said the little fairy who sat on the window sill, unnoticed so far.  The old lady turned her head and stared at the little white creature motionless.

“Who are you?” she asked after few seconds.

“I’m a snow fairy! My name is Snowy!” he said laughing. The old lady didn’t answer a word. She didn’t know whether to believe what her eyes were seeing or not.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“Because you said you needed help!”

“I didn’t!”

“Oh yes, you did! Yesterday evening, before you went to bed”

“Oh, so you are late!” she snapped and kept eating.

“I don’t think so!”  Snowy answered “If it had been too late I couldn’t have heard you!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I heard you, because there is still hope!”

“What for?”

“For you! You’ll never be alone again! I’ll help you!”

“Doing what?”

“Getting some company and your children back!”

“Nonsense” the old lady closed the dialogue and sipped her milk.

Snowy didn’t reply anything for he knew that arguing wouldn’t bring any good.

After she finished her meal the old lady went around the house doing her morning housework. Snowy sat on the window sill all morning.

“Are you going to sit there for long?” snapped the old lady.

“Until I’ll be of any help!” he answered.

“So, off you go!” she said.

“Oh, you know it’s not true!” protested Snowflakes.

Talking to herself something indistinguishable the lady went to the garden to see if the snow had left something the night before but she wasn’t able to find a thing she could use for a humble lunch. She turned her back to the garden and went back for to her kitchen. The stove and the cupboard were empty so she decided to go to the village and buy at least some bread.

“Where are you going?” asked Snowy.

“This is not your business!” she answered. She put her mended shawl on and went out. Snowy smiled and followed her floating in the air.

“Now, what?” she asked cold.

“I’m coming with you!”

“Whatever” she said and sped up.

She arrived at Tom’s, the grocery store. It was early in the morning so she was the first customer.

“Good morning!” said Tom. The old lady didn’t answer and started to look around. Tom didn’t mind, he was used to it. “A loaf of bread and 3 eggs” she ordered.

“Well, we have some fresh cheese that just arrived from the main town, if you want to try it! I’ll make a good price for you!” Tom tried to do some conversation as usual.

“No” cut the lady sharply and tossed some coins on the counter. She knew they were enough for her items. Then she turned her back and went straight for the exit.

“Good bye and thank you!” said Tom anyway, sure not to receive any answer.

“Good bye” said a voice sounding like the lady. Tom was surprised and stared at the lady’s back disappearing behind the wall.

Once out of the shop the old lady asked “Why did you say that?”

“Why not?” Snowy asked back without answer.

“Because nobody needs such stupid little sentences!” snapped her.

“But yes! Everybody does”

“Nonsense” and with this she sped up.

As if she hadn’t said anything every person they met on the way back was greeted by Snowy using the old lady’s voice. She felt angry and almost embarrassed. A group of children were making a snow man. When they saw the old lady they ran away in fear “The witch, the witch!” they yelled.

“You see? You see how they see me?! So, mind your business and leave me alone!” said the old lady to Snowy. He was sadder than ever because he knew that the old lady was a good person and that the events of her life turned her in an awful nag. Therefore he decided to change his strategy “I don’t have much time” he said to himself and looked up. The clouds were still plum coloured.

Originally he meant to comfort the lady but now he thought that it was much better be tough like she was, even more than her, to make her understand the danger she was in. He caught up with her on the way and asked “Do you know that your heart is dying?”

“So what? All the better! Nobody will miss me!” she answered.

“Are you sure? And don’t you care that you will die?”

“No.”

“You’re lying stupid woman!” he said.

There was a pause, she didn’t expect such an answer, so Snowy used her surprise to push on the matter. “To be precise you’re not dying, you’re ending up in a worse way!” the old lady, still silent, walked fast towards her hut. “You’re heart is becoming an ice stone. It’s freezing and you won’t feel anything anymore if you keep going on like this!”

“I…don’t care” said the lady, not so snappy this time.

“You see? You do!” said Snowy “I can feel it”

She didn’t reply anything to this and Snowy thought that it was enough for the moment.

She had her humble supper in the evening and then went to bed. Snowy layed on the window sill where there was still snow to keep him cold. That night it snowed again but the old lady didn’t feel the cold thanks to her new quilt.

When Snowy woke up in the morning  he decided to make all the food inside the house disappear. When the lady woke up that morning the only thing she found for her breakfast was a cup of tea and a piece of bread.

“Why? Are you offended?” she asked the fairy.

“No, but considering that you don’t care about your situation, I won’t care either!” he said.

“Nobody asked you to do that in first place!”

“Yes, I know. But just think what about what you had yesterday and what you’re having today. That could explain the difference between having feelings and not having them!” he tried to demonstrate to her. The old lady stared at him and after a while asked “How do you know my heart is not already frozen?”

“Because if it had been frozen I couldn’t have heard your wish!” and after a while “So you can change your situation!”

“I’m too old” protested the woman.

“This is not an excuse! Nobody is too old to change or to do the right thing!”

The old lady didn’t answer but her face seemed less grumpy than before.

She went to the village again that afternoon as Snowy had made everything disappear from the cupboard again. Like the day before, Snowy greeted Tom for her and all the people that they met on the way home. But this time the old lady didn’t complain.

This went on for a couple days more. By the end of the week the villagers started to look at the old lady a bit more curiously and even a faint smile appeared on her lips full of wrinkles.

The next day Snowy didn’t make things disappear but the old lady decided to go to the village anyway. Tom was surprised when she asked for the bread because she added “Please Tom”. So he felt he could ask “How are you? How’s it going?” partly fearing the answer.

“Not bad!” she answered. It wasn’t a lot but still a huge change.

After that day little by little the old lady started to exchange a few words with Tom and soon the rumours spread through the village that the old lady who lived outside of the village was changing.

The winter was almost over and one night Snowy said

“The winter is almost at an end, so I’ll have to leave soon”. The old lady was sad because she was used to having his company now. She was used to talking to him in the evening. Now she felt better she had to admit. So much better she decided to bake some chocolate cookies and give them to the kids on her way back from the village the next day. From that day on they didn’t run away anymore. Besides, some of them started to show up at the old lady’s place from time to time and they always got a cup of hot chocolate.

So the days kept passing by and the old lady kept following Snowy’s advice until a warmer night, sat as usual on the window sill he said:

“The spring is almost here! I think we’ll part soon” and he gave her a faint smile. He looked tired.

“No, don’t go away. I’m so used to you now, don’t leave me alone!”

“But you won’t be alone anymore! You’re a different person now! That’s the proof that if you want you can change! The important thing is wanting to! You did a great job! And I expect that your children will turn up soon!”

“And do you know when are you leaving?”

“Not exactly, but I feel a bit warmer now, so I guess it will be tomorrow morning!”

The old lady decided to stay up that night to keep company to Snowy who looked more and more tired.

After a night chilly but warmer and warmer as the dawn came closer, the sun started to appear behind the hills. After a couple of hours the sun shone gloriously and poor Snowy started to melt. The old lady began to cry. Her tears disappeared after rolling down her cheeks. It didn’t take long.

After a while just a little puddle of melted ice remained on the window sill. The old lady cried out all the ice left around her heart and it went away with Snowy leaving a warm and happier spring ahead for her.

From that moment she lived many years more, surrounded by friends and her children that heard the news and came back to her.

Marian and Grace

That evening after work Marian was going back home at 5 as usual, following the well known shortcut. It’d take only five minutes’ walk. Suddenly she saw something she shouldn’t have seen. Two men with black dresses and hoods were coming out from a house climbing over the wall around the garden. They were dragging  two huge sacks full of God knows what!

She was scared and just closed her eyes in fear, not knowing what to do but hoping she wouldn’t have been seen.

Marian was a 22 year old ordinary girl. Blond untidy hair always tied behind her neck. Blue eyes always hidden by heavy framed glasses. She didn’t need them but they were a good way to cover herself. She worked in a supermarket as a cashier. It was a local one, so she saw the same people every day.

Likewise every day she worked 8 to 5 shift, every day walked the same way to work, every day eat the same meals. Her life was a routine but it couldn’t be different anyway. It had always been like this due to her problem. She didn’t like talking about that, she just decided for the easiest way: boring life, no friends, usual things that let her live unnoticed.

The funny thing was that this life she decided for herself wasn’t the one she would have ever wished for her! But she thought that she was too old to change her attitude. At that age you’re not even at the half way through, we all know that, but she didn’t or maybe she refused to see it.

***

Grace was one of the best and well known bounty hunters the police had always worked with. The city where she lived wasn’t big, but for some reason there were a huge number of small criminals that tried to get their portion of wealth. Loads of rich people of the metropolis moved there to live in peace. She just wanted to assure those criminals to the justice. Grace was tall and slim, with beautiful long golden hair. She walked like a cat.

The police had been working with her for three years already but they just knew her name. Nobody knew exactly who she was, where she came from, how old she was. No information whatsoever! She seemed to appear from nowhere.

That night, as usual, she was patrolling the old area of the city, full of rich houses. It was at dusk she happened to see two thieves coming out from a rich house.

She also saw a woman kneeling on the ground but she seemed fine, so she thought she would have taken care of her later. When she turned to her a second time anyway she was gone.

She decided than to concentrate on the two criminals instead “Hey, you two! What the hell are you doing? And where do you think you are going?” and she jumped on the edge of the wall punching the closest one.

The man fell on the ground. His partner managed to run away with his sack.

“Hey freeze there!” yelled Grace.

The neighbour’s dog started barking and the light in the house was lit. As a result of all this noise also the owners of the robbed house woke up and a man came out the front door

“What the hell is going on here?”

“You call the police, I’ll fetch the other one! Tell them that Grace was here” and then she jumped down the wall and run after the second man. He was pretty fast but she reached him and grabbed the sack, pulling it towards the ground. The thief lost his balance and fell on the floor. It was then that Grace punched him in the face and after a short fight she won and tighten him up with a rope she got around her waist.

She dragged him back to the house and gave back to the owners the stolen booty.

She run away before the police arrived.

Happy she saved the justice again she went back home and fell asleep immediately.

***

Marian woke up the morning after in her own bed.

“Oh no, it happened again! Someone brought me home!” she checked ad usual around her neck to see if everything was fine.

The little card with her address written on it and the spare key was there.

Marian had suffered narcolepsy since she was a child, that’s why she preferred to stay away from friend and social life. Although the few people she knew didn’t agree on this she kept on this way.

“I’d love to” she would say “But I don’t want to be judged as a freak! No thanks!”

“And what if a criminal or a bad person finds you asleep on the ground? They could just get the key and rob your apartment!”

“Oh what, my collection of Bruce Lee films? Yes, it would be a real deal!” she used to answer.

Nobody could make her change her mind and after a while they gave up. On the other hand she was really active as a person. She was interested in everything that she would have liked to do, like martial arts or physics or science in general. On paper she was a genius with a great knowledge of self defence!

Nobody better than her knew that there was a huge difference between what you want to do and what you can do, but we all know that sometimes we’re too strict with ourselves.

That morning as usual Marian had her breakfast and went to work. There was two police cars parked in front of the house from where she saw the two criminals climbing out the night before. “So, they got caught! Excellent! Maybe one of the agents brought me home! Good for me!” we cannot say she couldn’t see the positive side of everything anyway.

She arrived in work and like every day she had time left for a coffee with Beth, her manager, before the supermarket was open.

“You see? That Grace caught two criminals again last night! She’s really a brave  girl! They say she’s gorgeous as well! And they’re right!” said Beth.

“How can you say they’re right?! Nobody has ever seen her! We trust Jack’s word! I know he’s a nice guy but he just comes here for breakfast every morning, we don’t know what kind of guy he is!”

“He’s alright!” smiled Beth. And in front of Marian’s wonder she changed the subject “Well, but you can tell yourself! Look, someone managed to take a picture of her last night! Let’s hope she doesn’t find this guy, she would kill him! I expect there was a reason why she didn’t want to be seen by people!”

Marian followed Beth’s words but at the same time felt mesmerized by the picture. Grace was for sure a beautiful woman and she seemed so self confident. She would have liked to be like her. Definitely.

“And you know what?” said Beth taking the newspaper from Marian’s face again studying the photo “This woman could be very similar to someone I know if only she decided to be more open to the world and take care of herself a bit more!” and she stared her face with a grin.

“Who?! Do I know her? Is she one of the customers?” asked Marian.

Beth just hit her gently on the head with the rolled newspaper and went away shaking her head.

That day while serving the customers Marian was absent. She thought it would have been great to be like Grace but it was like wishing the impossible.

She was serving Mr. Fisher when she noticed two guys moving in a strange way inside the supermarket. She followed them with her eyes and saw they seemed to put things in their pockets. She dropped her eyes on the floor and pretended she didn’t see anything. But then just glanced at the morning newspaper and remembered Beth’s words; she wanted to try to behave differently for once. She finished serving Mr. Fisher and then pretended to go in the back office. She wasn’t very brave but at least she wanted to call the police. That would be an improvement for her. She went toward the back passing in the last line of shelves and reached the door.

It was then that she heard “Freeze all of you! And give me all the money there is in your till!”  one of the two guys yelled at Beth. She looked above to see in the panoramic mirror what was going on and saw one of the robbers brandishing a knife. Then she saw all dark “No, not now!” she whispered to herself and nothing anymore.

***

Grace was up early that morning for her personal training and after running she stopped at the little supermarket in her block. She was having a coffee at the machine when two hooded guys stopped in front of the counter and yelled

“Freeze all of you! And give me all the money there is in your till!”

She put the cup of coffee down and moved at the back of the supermarket to reach the end of the line where the two villains were. Agile as a cat she walked up to the line to get the two.

When she was close enough she jumped at the back of the closest one. But the second guy was ready and attacked her with the knife. After a long struggle Grace was wounded on the right forearm but the two robbers were on the ground stunned.

“You call the police ma’am!” she ordered Beth “And don’t stare at me like this. They’re stunned, not dead!” she urged. She realized that everybody was staring at her in surprise. She decided to ignore them. She thought that her photo on the newspaper she saw entering the supermarket condemned her to be more known that she hoped.

“Do you have a toilet somewhere?” she asked Beth holding her arm. Beth just pointed the back office without saying anything.

“Call the police! At once!” she repeated and went towards the bathroom.

***

Marian woke up on the couch inside the back office. She looked at the watch. It was already 6 in the evening.

“Great! What a miserable show I gave of myself!” she told herself.

“Why if I can ask?” Beth asked.

Marian didn’t notice her till that moment.

“Because I stupidly fell asleep when you needed me most” she paused almost afraid to ask “And did those two guys rob a lot?”

Beth just stared at her and said automatically “They didn’t get a cent! All thanks to Grace!”

“Was she here?” she asked surprised and a bit disappointed she missed her.

“Yes and she was great! She was hurt in her right forearm but I’m sure she’s fine”

“How can you say that? Why didn’t you ask her how she was, and if she needed any help!?” Beth didn’t answer anything, was it really like she thought it was? She took Marian’s arm and said “Are you ok? Do you need any help?”

Marian kept staring in Beth’s eyes not understanding what she meant “Of course I’m ok! I’ve just had one of my sleepy spells!” and she withdraw her arm from Beth’s hand. It was then that she felt pain.

“What the hell… Did I hurt myself falling asleep!?”

“Are you more stupid that I thought? Look in that mirror!” asked Beth answering with a question. She took slowly the elastic band away from Marian’s hair and took off her glasses. Marian let her do that, she was understanding little by little. And she was excited and scared at the same time, her heart was beating fast.

It was her. It had always been her. Now she knew.

Ghost’s trick

“We are so similar, Lillian, like two drops of water coming from the same spring! I’ve always known that, but you’ll find out and you remember my words when you turn 20!”

That was something that her grandmother used to tell Lillian when she was really young. She didn’t understand what she was talking about, she just used to reply “Grandma, it’s impossible, we’re too different, you have loads of wrinkles and I don’t have them!”

“You’ll see honey” she used to answer.

Then when Lillian was ten her grandma died and she felt like a part of her was going away forever.  Everybody said that this happened because she was a really sensitive girl.

She didn’t know why that day she was thinking of this particular episode of her life. She was on her way to work and the weather was awful. So windy and dark. It was actually 7 in the morning but everything was pitch black. The streets were empty and the solitary light was reflecting its dull orange shadow on the ground.

Lillian thought it would have been really better to stay home, in her warm bed that morning, but she had to open that bar. She’d been working there for so long that she couldn’t stay home. She adjusted her scarf, straightened the collar of her coat and dived in to the cold dark.

She loved opening the bar in the summer, for the sunlight woke her up really early in the morning and it was nice to have a stroll in the mild sun, but during the winter it was a torment. “Well, we’re already in January, so it’s almost over” she repeated to herself every time she was due to open.

That morning was particularly windy and dark. She hoped that the weather would turn a bit better later on, because she was going to meet her friends in town to celebrate her 20th birthday. That was probably the reason why she thought about the episode of her childhood.

The bar where Lillian worked was at the top floor of a 8 storey building. It was made entirely by glass, so it was possible to see everything around. Lillian loved this characteristic because she was able to see a different panorama every day and imagine what the little people down in the streets were thinking of the rain or the sun.

The lift arrived at the 8th floor and when the sliding door opened she was hit in the face by a sharp cold wind “Oh Lord!” she exclaimed shivering.

The bar was still dark and all around it was dim. She felt strange and scared for some reason and she run behind the counter to turn the lights on. “Oh, that’s better!” she said and looked outside. Everything was still in the darkness. There were just few shadows moving around. They were probably workers still asleep on their way to work.

She suddenly heard a bang, coming from downstairs, where the storage room was. She jumped on the spot scared and then froze. She wasn’t exactly a brave woman. But then the wind blew stronger and the emergency door trembled. The wind howled more and more insistently for few seconds. Lillian felt a bit more relieved. She thought that maybe someone hadn’t closed the door downstairs properly the night before.

She tried to warm her arms up massaging them and then decided to go down and have a look. She found out that actually the door was open and was going to slam again. “You scared me, stupid door!”. Sometimes she would talk to objects, which every now and then seemed to answer. The door creaked. To her it seemed to moan disappointedly.

Lillian was about to go inside and check that all the windows in the storage room were closed when she heard some steps on the floor above. “Oh no, I’ve always told Jim to not let the people in before 8.30. That man, I’ll kill him sooner or later!” and she ran up to check who was there.

When she stepped on the floor, anyway, she didn’t see anybody. “Oh, maybe I’ve made a mistake! The weather is so bad that I thought I heard something”. She thought it was a weird day.

She started to open the bar anyway, turned the music on and raised the volume up to not listen the howling of the wind outside. She cleaned the coffee machine and sliced the lemons and oranges for cocktails, singing.

“Lillian!” a voice called suddenly.

“Yes?!” she turned immediately, almost cutting her fingers. This time again she didn’t spot anybody. She began to feel worried and scared. “Maybe I’m just tired!” she tried to convince herself, but still she thought that the day wasn’t a normal one. She felt for some reason sad and a bit nostalgic.

The sky outside was clearing, but a dense layer of fog, that made the city look more creepy than before, just fell slowly. It seemed colder as well.

There was some smoke coming out from a chimney not far from there. Staring at the gray string Lillian thought she saw it was bending in a heart shape. She looked at that fluffy shape and for some reason started to cry. At the very same time it started raining, like the sky was reflecting her feeling. “It’s a very strange day this one” she said to herself.

“No, it’s not weird, it’s just myself and you my dear!” said a soft and sweet voice coming from afar.

Lillian wasn’t scared this time. She felt a soft warm pressure on her shoulder and when she turned back she saw the transparent floating image of her grandmother. “Happy 20th birthday my love!” and then she dissolved into nothing. Grandma had always had a strange sense of humour, she remembered. Lillian gave a faint smile and just curled up on the floor and put her face in her hands.

Now outside a heavy rain was falling.

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