You, Me & a Bit of We – Excerpts 7-12

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.

4pm – Marathon to Perfection by Margaret Gracie / Lily by Hettie Ashwin / At the Edge of the Mattress by Annemaria Cooper / That Loving Feeling by Sharon Birch / To Light A Candle by Heidi Gilhooly / Odds by Sarah Evans


Marathon to Perfection by Margaret Gracie
IT begins with praise. Random. Parcelled out. A few words for a pretty drawing. Strangers commenting on your dress, your hair, the way you always say please and thank you. A feeling sprouts inside—warm, moist, the opposite of hunger. You feel closer to the sky.

Praise becomes your drug of choice. You seek it out from everyone: neighbours, teachers, family and friends. You listen carefully for signs of displeasure. Take note. Change your behaviour by degrees; approval is your true north…

Lily by Hettie Ashwin
IF you saw her in the daylight you’d probably say she was old. Old and ugly. You might even wince a little, a small screwing up of your nose and the slight shrug of your shoulders. No one could blame you and there would be no need to feel guilty. Because, after all, she is old and she is ugly. Everyone thought so; you were just going that one step further.

But she is a night owl. A person who only lives in the shadows of darkness. A person who, once the sun has set, comes alive. You’ve seen her before at the bar—or others just like her—and your heart beat a little faster. The makeup, fancy clothes and witty talk. Attracted like a moth to a flame, you loved them and if you were honest with yourself, you wanted to be just like them…

At the Edge of the Mattress by Annemaria Cooper
YOU lie at the edge of the mattress, defeated, foetal. Hanging on, suspended in the sorrow of darkness. Heavy and pendulous, the teardrop won’t wait. It falls onto the cotton. You hold your breath. He can’t know you’re awake. Did he hear it fall?

Your nose is running but you can’t reach for a tissue. That will tell him you’re awake. From the pit of your stomach you control the faux sleep. Your lips are dry, a cork is swelling in your throat, but you are in control. You have to be. He isn’t asleep yet…

That Loving Feeling by Sharon Birch
YOU don’t know what to do. Everything he does irritates you and grates on your nerves. You hate yourself for being so mean, for responding with nastiness, but you can’t seem to help it. You try to take it back, so you smile at him.

You feel sorry for him, for the situation. Sympathy makes you make love to him. He thinks that it’s all right now and his eagerness makes your guilt rise like bile.

You try to keep it light and the next day you crack some jokes and smile at him again. Inside, the pounding headache that is your life throbs louder. You have that sickly migraine feeling that won’t go away with two aspirin…

To Light A Candle by Heidi Gilhooly
A glimpse. That’s all it takes to remind you, to take you back. Sitting at a window table at the café, you see him. The tall, lean stature. The straight nose and full lips that you can imagine curling into a smile that spreads right into his dark eyes. The skin the shade of the darkest granite.

You frown, glance at your papers and look up again. The man is gone. But instead of getting up to leave, you order another coffee.

Your thoughts travel back five years, to a rainy April morning when you were drinking your first cup of coffee of the day. You were in an African country known for its natural beauty and political unrest. You had travelled there with Glamorous to prepare a swimwear promotion. Somewhat hung-over, you had little interest in the other occupants of the hotel restaurant. Suddenly, a man shouted in English…

‘Put your hands up in the air!’

You were faced by three masked men.

‘Yes. You too, lady,’ he added pointing a rifle at you.

You remember raising your hands and slowly getting up to stand when instructed to do so. The room was eerily silent as you and your fellow hotel guests realised your lives depended on not making any wrong moves. Even the irritating American woman from CNN stopped her incessant chatter…

Odds by Sarah Evans
IT is odd, being you.

Your steam-smeared image gazes back from the bathroom mirror as you reflect. A typical ejaculate contains ten million spermatozoa, once you’ve excluded the dead, the malformed and those swimming backwards. You only ever had a one in ten million chance. And that’s before you think it might not have been the right time of month, or she might’ve been on the Pill, or they might not have been in the mood. More than half of zygotes self-abort anyway.

The odds are against you.

‘You in there for the night, Caro?’ your brother calls. You don’t grace him with an answer.

Instead, you slant your head one way then the other, taking in the fullness of your lips and wondering if the colour is too glossy bright. Your lined, mascaraed, blue-shadowed eyes narrow in scrutiny. You think how strange it is that you only ever see your face in reflection, slightly warped and dimmed, somewhat posed and watchful.

The doorbell chimes. Time, which seemed as foamed up as the scented bubbles slopping over the bath you lingered in earlier, pricks to nothing.

‘Just a minute,’ you shout. Details can’t be scrimped: a feathering of silvery dust across your blushed cheekbones; an extra, good-luck spray of Pure Poison; a final head twist while your toes tighten round the rim of the bath as you check the size of your bum in your condom tight dress…


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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