You, Me & a Bit of We – Excerpts 31-36

Celebrate National Short Story Day on 21 December 2013!

Join us today from 3-9pm!

As the afternoon sun fades and the longest night of the year rolls in, we’ll be posting a series of excerpts from our recent short story collection, You, Me & a Bit of We. So grab a cup of tea, coffee, or cocoa, slip into your jimjams (or PJs depending on which side of the Atlantic you hail from) and get ready to hunker down and dig in to some exciting new short stories! Here’s the list of the 42 stories coming up. There will be six excerpts posted on the hour, from 3-9pm.

8pm – A Hospital in Latin America by Julia Hones / True Love by Diane Lefer / Your Famous Pink Raincoat by Susan F Giles / Don’t Break my Heart by Charlotte Comley / Our Relationship with Thieves by Kati N Hendry / Lost to the Rising Tide by Kim Bannerman


A Hospital in Latin America by Julia Hones
It was close to midnight. I had just sat down to finish my progress notes when there was a gentle knock on the door.

‘Excuse me, Dr Parella. Ana would like to talk to you,’ Gladys whispered, leaning through the open door.

‘I saw her less than half an hour ago.’ Tired, I wanted to finish my notes.

‘I know, but she’s really worried and insisted that she talk to you.’

‘Okay, I’ll be there soon.’ I put down my pen.

The white hospital light seemed dim as I walked along the gloomy corridor to Ana’s room. The weight of exhaustion pressed on my shoulders and back; my eyelids felt heavy. I knew it was a transitory state, the calm that preceded the storm of adrenaline that would make me feel invincible, ready to face anything.
Ana shared her room with three other patients. Turning on the light would wake the others, but I had no choice. I didn’t want to have a conversation in the dark and risk stumbling upon something.

Ana was sitting on her bed, holding a picture, her back against the pillows. She smiled at me.

‘Dr Parella, when can I go home? I meant to ask you earlier, but you were in such a hurry,’ she said softly.

‘You were admitted today because of your asthma. We need to see how you respond to treatment. I can’t give you an answer right now.’

‘I miss my child. I hate to be away from her,’ Ana said, her eyes on the picture. I would find it difficult to forget the expression on her moonlike face…

True Love by Diane Lefer
If you are a cynic, as I am, criticized for looking at fellow humans with contempt—arguing, instead of all this mandated compassion, how about some rigor for a change?—you will understand these stories must be true as goodness is beyond my power to imagine.

Love Story #1

The night I slept with Ellis wasn’t sexual—that would have been child abuse. His mother had thrown him out or was otherwise unavailable. He was persona non grata in the neighbourhood, suspect in burglaries up and down the block. He was using drugs. I didn’t trust him. I said he could sleep on my couch. After all, there was nothing in my apartment worth stealing.

We ended up in my bed that night, fully clothed, when we were each too overwhelmed by our respective insomniac terrors to be alone. His teeth were chattering and so were mine…

Your Famous Pink Raincoat by Susan F Giles
When you walk into the carriage a moment passes where I almost smile. There is a sense of occasion that surrounds a coincidence this unfortunate that it twists in my heart and feels like luck. Then I catch your eye, just for a second, and I remember. I turn to the window, pretend to watch the fields bleeding past, and focus on the pink blur of your reflection as you take a seat across the aisle.

I am surprised that your pink coat still fits, that it’s still in one piece. It was old when we met ten years ago, and it wasn’t expensive; it was impressive it lasted as long as we did. That it outlasted us, proved more robust than our happiness, is kind of insulting.

Definitely upsetting.

We are standing at the bar. I notice you immediately. Even in the hot, dense crowd it is hard to miss your hair, the thick auburn cloud swept away from your face with an emerald band. I want to smile, to move closer, but there is no space. The bodies surrounding us are crushing: behind, beside, against. There is a surge, a heavy man forcing his way through, and the edge of the bar digs into my chest, under my ribs, and I can feel my breath catching, escaping. Flecks of black, silver, dance in my vision and I am falling.

You are a stranger when you catch me. You scream at the barman for water, for help. I may be a short, light woman, but so are you, and you can’t get me through the crowd…

Don’t Break my Heart by Charlotte Comley
Pale white belly fat hangs over black lace thongs. Orange peel thighs abound, and large saggy breasts balance on rotund tums. Men with spots on their backs and grey chest hair walk around the room. How can anyone find this exciting? My husband’s palm is sweating and he gives me the toothy grin that I’d once, at nineteen, found attractive, but at forty-nine, I’m beginning to hate. His hand leaves mine as he greets Fiona Davis. The woman handles food for a living, and I sometimes fantasise about reporting her to the grocery store where she works. I’m sure they wouldn’t want her on the bacon counter if they knew how she spent her weekends. Even naked she smells slightly of ham.

I ignore Reggie’s smile. Every week he tries to slide his way over to me. And even though I know my husband is just as keen as he is, I hold Reggie directly responsible, him and his stupid lock-ins and stories, putting ideas into my husband’s stupid head. Thirty years of marriage, two children and one little grave. We were still together. Some say we had married too young, but until eight months ago I was happy. I was worried about the credit card bills and the kids, but happy.

I watch dispassionately as my husband pushes his tongue down Fiona’s throat. She is older than me, fatter than me, smells of bacon, yet he is here with her…

Our Relationship with Thieves by Kati N Hendry
I came over once because we knew the twins were stealing from us and wanted proof. They’d stolen a deck of cards printed with Alice in Wonderland pictures and some pink seashells from Jen and Layla.

The others were scared to go under false pretences, even though you were their uncle and they knew you a lot better than I did. I was the oldest so I was the brave one. Besides, I thought the twins had something of mine—a gold ring my mom had bought me when I turned ten. It was pure gold, beautiful, huge for my chubby middle finger. And my sister was missing a heavy chain necklace, a present from her boyfriend. That made the twins’ actions a felony, and made our response more than justified.

I geared up for the mission, which meant I took the unusual action of putting on shoes, and headed to your house. I knocked and waited for you to appear at the door.

‘Hi, Martin! I was wondering—well, hoping—’ I looked around the porch behind you, lost the nerve to look at your face. ‘See, I was bored, and I don’t have any cool toys to play with so I wanted to—’

My face was scorching, like a stove eye. This was strange; I didn’t usually talk to adults. I wasn’t precocious in the slightest. And I was humiliated by the lie that I played with toys. I never played with toys. Honestly, who does that? We ran around the woods and played pretend ninjas or spies or made salads out of grass and pecans and muscadines and tree bark. Besides, I would never play with anything those sissy little twins owned…

Lost to the Rising Tide by Kim Bannerman
November storms rearranged the shoals and left the beach changed, but with December came iron skies, flat waters, and a fog that softened the fir trees into grey felt features. A calm afternoon before the next front arrived.

Tracy and I wandered the shore, seeking treasures. We were nine and the best of friends. She was tall, lanky, with straight brown hair the colour of eel grass. She lived down the beach from me, and the coastline was our kingdom.

And what interesting gifts our winter sea gave us: bright blue buckets, swept overboard from passing trawlers; curious trash from Japan; swirling moon snail shells as big as a fist. We spent every afternoon this way and I thought that afternoon would be no different than the rest.

But I was wrong. I was studying a seagull bone, oblivious to the tears in her eyes…


If you enjoyed these excerpts why not check out the paperback or Kindle edition of You, Me & a Bit of We?


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