SHORT STORY PAGE


Zeta May is a woman in her mid-twenties, trapped within the complexities of her own troubled mind.
A traumatic accident dramatically shaped her early childhood, and yet the memory of what happened that day, eludes her.
Angie knows, and Angie realizes that it's time to tell the truth.
We meet Zeta as she stands at her bedroom window watching a young family move into the cottage next door.
She resents the new neighbours, and she doesn't like Ray, the father.
Something in his whole demeanour makes her feel uneasy.
Is Zeta intuitive, or losing her tentative grip and reality?
Zeta is teetering on the edge of a world that, for her, is about to implode.
In this story, narrated by Zeta, we travel with her through a decade in her extraordinary life.
A decade that neither she, nor you, the reader, could have ever predicted.
Lies & Revelations is a gripping and compelling novel looking at emotional extremes, moral dilemmas, love, deceit, and, the not so simple, twists of fate.
A NOVEL BY THE SAME AUTHOR, CLICK THIS LINK.
EVIE AND ME 
 
A call, quite out of the blue, totally unexpected.
Hi Lydia, it's me, Evie, remember?”
She was just being sarcastic. How could I forget Evie, my completely insane sister?
I'm ten years younger than Evie.
There's just the two of us, no other sisters or brothers.
Well, there was one, a brother, Jake. He had been two years younger than Evie when he drowned. It happened the day after his third birthday party.
Evie and Jake had been playing with their fishing nets by the stream opposite the holiday cottage. A deep fast moving stream which met with the sea just half a mile further down.
It only took a few minutes distraction to precipitate the event which fragmented and haunted my parent's lives from that day on.
Mum had been keeping an eye on Evie and Jake from the kitchen window as she washed the breakfast dishes, then the farmer knocked on the door with some milk and eggs.
When the farmer left, mum returned to take up her watching post at the window.
Something was wrong, Evie was standing there alone.
So she rushed across the lane to see where Jake was.
Evie was just staring downstream and mum followed her gaze.
She caught sight of his little blond head bobbing just above the water.
Dad was walking back up from the cove with the mackerel he had bought.
He's in the water Roy, he's in the water!” Mum had screamed.
Then, when she looked back at the stream, she could no longer see Jake.
They both ran along the bank trying to catch a glimpse of his tiny figure.
Dad spotted the yellow T-shirt caught up in weeds and branches.
So he waded in.
While mum ran up to the farmer's house to call an ambulance dad had tried to resuscitate Jake.
It was too late.
Mum never really forgave herself for having looked away for those vital few minutes, and dad never forgave her either.
We rarely talked about it, but I did ask mum once how Evie had coped after seeing something so shocking, so young.
Mum said that it had been hard to tell. At first, Evie had just looked dazed, as if she was sleepwalking, and had been unable to talk.
Dad drove mum and Evie back home to Bristol two days later in silence.
The summer term began and mum sent Evie back to school so that there might be
some normality and structure to her days.
Of course, mum and dads lives were shattered, shrouded in the unspoken misery, full of, “if only”, and so many, “whys?”
By the time I was born their marriage was over.
Dad moved up country to live with his parents in Manchester, leaving me, mum, and Evie, in Bristol.
We rarely saw him after that.
Every now and then he would visit. Once he took me to the swings in the park. It was awkward though, we were strangers really.
Maybe it was more than Jake's death which destroyed the marriage, maybe Evie, the way she was, helped drive dad away, I don't know.
Had she always been so hard to be around, even as a small child, or did she evolved into the volatile, tumultuous person she became after I was born?
All I know is, she was hell to live with.
I felt really sorry for mum. They were always fighting. Anything and everything seemed to antagonise Evie.
By fifteen she was hurtling downhill without any brakes. Always playing truant from school, hanging out with older boys, taking drugs.
She never spent any time with me.
Even though she could have looked after me if mum wanted to go out, mum would get Ginny from down the road to come over.
As far as Evie was concerned I didn't exist.
I can't remember a single day when some kind of Evie related drama didn't kick off.
One time, just before she flounced out of the kitchen after rowing with mum, she just grabbed hold of a pan of spaghetti sauce and chucked it on the floor.
Christ what a mess. It took ages to clean it all up.
I must have been about seven.
So mum took me to the chip shop. She even bought some for Evie.
I wouldn't have bothered. The chips went cold anyway, Evie was off out again by the time we got back.
I hated her, and it's a truly appalling thing to admit, but I so often wished that Evie who had fallen into the stream rather than Jake.
I could have had a lovely older brother instead of this nightmare of a sister.
***
Anyway, she's just rung up to say that she's on the train and will be at my place in a couple of hours.
Why? What's going on? I haven't even seen her in two years, and I don't want to either.
There has been no prior warning.
I'm in my last year at Uni. I told her, I'm busy Evie, I'm up to my eyes in work.
It's just one night she insisted.
Worse still, she expects to stay here!
I said, I'm in a flat share, there are three other people and we don't have a spare room.
Evie insisted the sofa was fine.
So, despite my protestations, she's going to be turning up within the hour.
I could have told her point blank that I didn't want her to visit me, though, if I'm honest, I've always been scared of Evie.
I can't express the joy I felt when, at seventeen, she moved away and into a bedsit in Brighton. It felt like mum and I could breathe again.
She would still come home every two months or so, looking wan and malnourished.
As time passed the hostility abated and a dark moodiness took its place
During these visits, she would spend most of the time in her old room listening to maudlin music, or sleeping, even when it was sunny outside.
At dinner she would sit there pushing her food around, hardly eating anything, and making any kind of conversation was really awkward.
Mum's questions about her life in Brighton were generally answered with a single curt monosyllabic reply.
Is your flat nice Evie?.
Hovel.
Have you made some good friends down there?
No.
What's your job like?
Crap.
Evie was working as a waitress in a burger bar.
Sometimes she might sit and watch a sitcom or a film with us, she never laughed though, however funny it was.
I was always glad when she left and it felt like we could relax and breath again.
One time we didn't see or hear from her for nearly six months and I had to stay at my friend Tina's while mum went down to Brighton to check up on her.
Mum came back a few days later looking anxious and defeated.
She had tried to persuade Evie to come back with her.
Evie refused though, and there was nothing mum could do.
Apparently, her weight had dropped dramatically and there were cuts and bruises on her body.
Mum cared, but I didn't.
I remember the time Evie locked herself in the bathroom, and just left the tap on until all the water seeped through the floorboards and through our kitchen ceiling.
Mum had to smash the door open with a hammer and then found her lying in the bath, her head submerged under the water.
Evie was alright though. Well, physically, she hadn't drowned, mentally she was a total headcase.
***
So, I'm sitting here dreading her arrival and I don't know what to expect. I'm twenty-
two now so that makes her thirty-two and the distance between us is far greater than those ten years.
I've warned the other girls in the house about my sister, they're all heading out for the evening.
When the doorbell rang I initially froze, though my instinct was to run and hide.
After three long persistent rings, I let her in.
She was hardly recognisable, the whole Gothic look had gone. The ankle length black skirt had been replaced with a simple pair of jeans, and the thick wool jumper she always wore (even in the summer), had been swapped for a pale grey sweatshirt.
Her hair still looked a bit mad, though it was no longer waist length and dyed red. Now it was crudely bleached and cut short.
We didn't hug, it would have seemed so unnatural.
What a dump!
Were the first words Evie uttered.
Then
Only joking, it's a nice house, far tidier than my place.
How strange to hear those words from Evie, “only joking”, I couldn't recall her ever having joked about anything.
She was carrying a small rucksack which she flung on the sofa.
I offered coffee and a sandwich.
She didn't want either.
I'm not hungry and I've bought us some wine, she declared.
Who was this woman? I thought
You do drink, don't you? asked Evie, registering the surprise on my face.
We sat at the kitchen table and Evie clinked her glass with mine.
It was hard to know what to say.
Are you still living in Brighton? I asked, in an attempt to ignite some conversation. Though I half expected her reply to be a simple, “Yeah”, forcing me to rack my brains for another conversational gambit.
Mostly, but I've just been to Cornwall. I stayed in that cottage, you know, where mum and dad took me and Jake when he was three. Where it all happened.
This struck me as a really odd thing to do. Why there of all places, and doing what? I wondered.
What, you rented out the same cottage?
No, it was empty, so I broke in and just spent one night there, she said, as if there was nothing at all weird or wrong about breaking and entering someone else's house.
Then she changed the subject.
So Lyd, you're going to leave Bristol Uni with a science degree? I'm pretty impressed. I was useless at school, never could concentrate, not you though. Always did your homework, never got into any trouble, not like me. I guess I was quite a handful.
That's one way of putting it, I thought. Total psycho would be a more accurate description.
By thirteen, Evie was bunking off school most days to meet up with her fellow rebels down at that grubby old cafe on Tuffley Road.
We always knew when she had been hanging out there because her clothes reeked of cannabis.
They had a counsellor at the school and Evie was instructed to see her twice a week.
No one could save Evie though, she was just too self-destructive.
I asked her if she was still waitressing.
Yea, mostly, it's not a bad gig, good tips if you show enough cleavage and wear a short skirt, she said, with a wry grin.
I couldn't tell if she was joking or not, probably, I've never seen Evie in a short skirt and she doesn't have any cleavage.
I'd bought us two frozen pizzas for dinner.
Oh, Pizza, great, just as long as they don't have any meat on them, I'm vegetarian now, she said.
They were double pepperoni so I suggested that we just took the meat off her one.
Evie laughed at this.
Hearing her laugh was weird.
We seemed to have drained the bottle of wine quite quickly so Evie insisted on going out to the off-license. She returned with another bottle and some rolling tobacco.
Then she asked if it was alright to smoke in the flat, and even though I told her that I would prefer it if she didn't, Evie set about rolling one up anyway.
We exchanged small talk for a while and I put the pizzas in the oven.
How's mum? Do you see her much?” asked Evie, filling my glass.
Yea, sure, most day's I go round and see her.
You've always been so close, the two of you, mum and I never had that.
Hardly surprising I thought, considering the contempt with which you treated her.
What about dad? Do you ever contact him?
I told her I didn't.
He wasn't a father to me Evie, I explained, by the time I arrived on the scene dad was no longer around. You knew him though, you were ten when he left.
I asked her to tell me what he had been like back then.
Evie said that after Jake died dad became very moody and when he wasn't working at the office he spent most of his time in his study.
We never really did anything together Lyd, she said, he was pretty withdrawn. Occasionally he would help me with my homework, or sit and watch a programme with me and mum, if it was about science or something. You must take after him in that respect, you know, the interest in science. He didn't shout or express anger very often but me and mum felt we had to tiptoe around him, hide in the background. It was weird.
That's what we had to do with you, I thought.
What were they like when they were together?”
Oh, mum was incredibly subservient. Maybe it was because she blamed herself for Jakes death, and dad had mentally tried and convicted both of us.
You think dad blamed you? I asked, surprised.
Evie said that she had heard him and mum talking one time, through the bedroom wall.
He was expressing his confusion as to why I didn't cry out or scream when Jake had slipped. He thought it odd that I hadn't run straight to mum to tell her what had happened.
What had mum said?
Oh, something along the lines of, how I was only five years old, and who can question the reaction of a child so young to such and awful event.
For a moment we both fell silent, then Evie continued.
Deep down Lydia, I don't doubt they both wondered why I had just been standing there, watching, as Jake floated away.
Maybe it was odd, I thought, and I wanted to ask Evie to explain, I couldn't though, it would sound like an accusation, a criticism.
You know, mum will never stop blaming herself. I said.
I know Lydia, that's why she put up with dads silent insipid punishment.
This surprised me. I hadn't known that Evie felt that strongly about our father.
Then she became agitated, and I recognised a sudden and familiar mood change.
Why didn't she get angry Lyd? Just once in a while. Why did she always have to be such a bloody victim? She let dad sap the lifeblood from her, make her feel ultimately responsible for something so agonisingly tragic, as if she wasn't in enough pain.
For the first time, Evie sounded as if she was defending, rather than attacking mum, and I found myself blurting out my own accusation.
You were hard on her too Evie. You were awful to her, and me really.
Evie sipped her wine and looked down at the table. Then she made an entirely unexpected apology.
I know Lydia. Maybe I just wanted mum to get angry, to stop being so stoic, to lose control and release all that pent-up emotion.
This didn't make any sense.
Why make it harder for her, for us? You would never babysit so mum could go out, or take me to the park. We didn't even walk as far as the corner shop together to buy sweets?
Now I needed to control my own anger.
Evie just smiled weakly.
I wanted to Lyd, honestly.
Well, why didn't you?
Because mum wouldn't let me. Whenever I suggested taking you anywhere, even to the local shops, she would come up with some feeble excuse as to why it was best if
I didn't. Either you weren't feeling too well, or, as she was going out anyway, you might as well go with her, that sort of thing. I don't know how she managed to make up so many ludicrous explanations as to why I shouldn't take you to one place or another. Even when I was old enough to babysit mum insisted on getting Ginny in. Paying her when I would happily have sat at home for nothing.”
I found this hard to believe.
Why would mum do that?
Because after what happened to Jake mum couldn't trust me. She wouldn't admit it, but it was obvious.
All because you were with Jake, that one time when he fell?
Ah, but did he fall or was he pushed? Evie said theatrically. I had behaved like a spoiled brat that morning. Jake had been given a small play tent for his birthday, yet when I had asked for a Wendy house for Christmas they hadn't bought me one. Jake was the favourite, the baby, they doted on him, they didn't love me as much. That's what I had screamed at them in my furry, just half an hour before he had drowned.
Then Evie paused for effect and stared hard into my eyes.
I felt sick, shocked, speechless.
Evie was suddenly laughing.
Oh, Lyd, you should see your face, you think I might be telling the truth. That I would have pushed my brother into the water and watched him drown because I was jealous of him. Well, you see, that's the point I'm making here. I suspect that very thought passed through both mum and dads head from time to time, and if you think
about it, mums insistence that I was never left alone with you sort of confirms that belief.
So I had to ask, I just had to ask her straight out.
Why Evie? Why didn't you cry out, scream for help?
I couldn't remember Lyd, that was the trouble, those details were missing. That's why I went to the cottage. I thought that maybe if I went back I would see us there again, me and Jake, see what happened, and I did Lyd, I remembered. I had only become aware that Jake was in the river at almost exactly the same time as mum. The farmer had turned up with his dog, and I was terrified of dogs, I'd been bitten by one when I was just two years old. So I turned around, I was watching it, scared that it might start barking and run towards me. Then the farmer left and his dog followed. I turned back and Jake wasn't there. Mum was suddenly beside me and we both saw him being carried downstream. Oh Lyd, I can't even find the words to express how that felt.
Then for the first time, I witnessed Evie fall apart in front of me, the harsh persona melted away and she sobbed like a child.
It must have been awful for Evie, to think that her parents actually suspected her of something so wicked? How could she then believe that they loved her?
Evie finally stopped crying and just sat there looking drained and spent of all emotion.
I asked her.
Do you know that for sure Evie? Are you certain they thought you had pushed Jake? Did they ever speak to you about it?”
Evie said that they had asked her what had happened and all she could say was that she didn't know, she hadn't seen.
You do know it was in no way your fault Evie, don't you? I said.
Yes Lyd, I do, I do now, it was no one's fault, it was an accident, but that doesn't change anything.
Then Evie tried to lighten the mood. She wanted to know more about me, my friends, whether I had a boyfriend, how I spent time when I wasn't studying. What plans I had for when I left Bristol University.
Before I knew it, it was midnight and Evie said that she was ready to get some sleep.
I brought in a duvet and some pillows and then went over and hugged her before saying goodnight, which no longer seemed like such a strange and unnatural gesture.
She kissed me on the cheek so tenderly and whispered, ”Sorry.”
Which broke my heart, I felt a sudden overwhelming sense of loss for what might have been, the relationship we could have had If mum and dad had only been united in their grief, if there hadn't been such a need for blame.
The next morning Evie had gone.
There was a note on the table.
It just said
Had to go, have plans, wish me luck!
I had expected to see her there, in the living room. I'd envisaged us having breakfast together and talking some more.
The note left me feeling bereft and hollow.
When would I hear from Evie again, how would I contact her? Was she still at her old address?
A week later Evie called again.
She'd got the job she had applied for, working for an Italian restaurant in Clifton. I knew the one she meant, me and my friends used to eat there sometimes. It was a really cool place and always busy.
That's why she had been in Bristol, she was moving back.
We had a second chance.
The End




Pest Control

I really can't stand my neighbour.
She has the most appallingly loud parties outside on her patio nearly every weekend.
She shows absolutely no consideration for the residents of this street.
It's not a large patio, in truth, it's more of a backyard. Just a slab of concrete, really.
It amazes me how many people seem to gather out there of a Friday night. Or is it only a few very noisy individuals managing to create the impression Glastonbury Festival has just relocated?
Of course, they all get totally wasted, often drinking until the early hours of the morning. Then they hear the road sweeper driving past and somehow that, finally, alerts them to the fact that a new day has just dawned.
I doubt that any of them hold down regular jobs.
Admittedly, I am at present unemployed myself, or rather, between jobs.
What's the point though? Do I really want to be working seven hours a day, five days a week, just to pay my ex-wife child support and maintenance?
I'd end up with hardly enough money to cover my rent while she gets to live it up at my expense.
One thing's for sure, I shan't be declaring my part-time painting and decorating work to the Social Security Office. That extra income is all that's keeping me afloat.
Anyway, I digress.
Apart from forcing me to listen to her truly appalling music collection, which is always turned up to the highest possible volume.
She has recently purchased a bloody chiminea.
You know, one of those patio heaters, the sort you chuck coal or wood into. The result of this being, that once lit, large clouds of thick billowing smoke drift up into the night sky and in through my open window.
Why leave the window open? You may ask. Would it not be best to close it at such times? Well, no, it wouldn't be best. I need air in the room, some kind of ventilation. It's a good job I don't suffer from Asthma, although I did have a chest infection the other week and I hold her entirely responsible.
Not only that, her friends, apart from being a bunch of barely functioning alcoholics, are all heavy smokers. The toxic fumes from their cigarettes are poisoning the very air I breathe. Only the other day I read that cigarettes contain over four hundred chemicals, including forty-three which are carcinogenic. These include carbon monoxide, arsenic and formaldehyde. If I get cancer I shall know who to blame.
That woman will literally be the death of me.
There is no respite due to bad weather either.
They just go and erect a gazebo to shelter them from the rain. It's maddening!
I'm sure I've prematurely aged since I moved in here.
Without wishing to sound vain or egotistical, I would describe myself as your quintessential tall dark and handsome alpha-male.
Now when I look in the mirror all I can see is a man worn down by severe sleep deprivation.
There are dark circles under my eyes and for the first time ever I have noticed some grey hairs.
I mean, bloody hell, I'm only in my thirties. I won't be forty until next year.
On one occasion, someone turned up with a guitar, for goodness sake!
They all started singing along while he strummed 'Yellow Submarine'. I hate 'Yellow Submarine'. I hate 'House of the Rising Sun' too, which was another tune he knew how to play badly.
She has the most irritatingly high-pitched laugh.
I can only describe it as ear-piercing.
In fact, it's the endless laughter from the lot of them that really gets me down. Everything just isn't that funny. It's so insane!
One evening I was so frustrated I decided to call the police. My peace was being disturbed and the noise level was totally unacceptable.
Initially, I was delighted when two policemen turned up within half an hour of my call,
and, as my window was open, I could clearly hear most of the ensuing conversation.
What a jolly exchange of pleasantries that turned out to be.
It seemed that one of the policemen was on familiar terms with my neighbour. Not through previous misdemeanour's, oh no! He knew her because she happened to be great friends with his wife who, as then became apparent, was actually out there forming part of the merry throng. After a series of inaudible mutterings I just managed to catch the words, noise, and, keep it down. Then the police left.
For a whole ten minutes the atmosphere seemed slightly subdued and then the racket, just as loud as before, started up again.
You're not going to believe what happened next though!
As I went to get in my car the following morning for a quick shop for supplies, I found a man clamping one of the wheels.
The previous day I had been delighted when I drove past my flat and noticed that there was a free parking space right outside. Usually, I can't park anywhere near the building and end up streets away.
Anyway, there aren't any yellow lines or notices, so, I was pretty angry and confused
Apparently, this guy had been contracted by the police to clamp and impound my car!
Why? How on earth can that be? You may well ask.
Well, it turns out that our local constabulary considers this to be a reasonable measure to take in response to unpaid road tax!
I just couldn't believe it, and all my protestations got me absolutely nowhere.
So, big deal, my tax is three months out of date! It was hardly crime of the century for Christ sake!
It took me days and a great deal of money, I can tell you, to get that bloody car back.
The first time I went to the pound, after enduring a long and tedious bus ride, I was told that I needed to show them my logbook.
As I am not inclined to carry my logbook around with me on a regular basis I had no choice but to return to the flat.
I looked just everywhere for it and eventually found it under a pile of unpaid bills.
Then I got back to the pound and this time the guy there tells me that I need to show identification. Proof of my name and address, a utility bill or something.
I mean, effing hell, why didn't they tell me that in the first instance!
So, then I had to go all the way back home again on the bus!
Honestly, my blood pressure was through the roof by the time I returned to the car pound brandishing my council tax demand to verify my name and address.
Then I'm hit with another bombshell. This bloke hands me some massive bill for the surety and impound fee!
At least I didn't have to go back on the bus and get my chequebook.
My credit card was in my wallet, and yes, American Express would do nicely thank you very much!
I knew that bloody neighbours policeman friend was bound to be behind this calculated and malicious persecution. He must have noticed my out of date tax disc the evening they turned up after my telephone call.
Now that I think back, I can recall some childish sniggering taking place between her and the officers.
After that, I decided to make any future complaint via the regular channels.
I started to keep a diary of the times and dates of these disturbances. Then I sent it to the Environmental Health Officer, along with a tape recording I had made.
I had spent months compiling the evidence and now, I've been informed, the council have mislaid the audio proof.
Really, I thought, or, could the Environmental Health Officers voice actually be one of those recorded on that very tape?
It's driven me to extremes, I can tell you. Behaviour I would not have thought I was capable of.
Once, in retaliation, I even turned my own stereo up so loud it must have reverberated from one end of the street to the other. Certainly, a lot more lights went on and the woman over the way started shouting, although I don't know if it was aimed at me or them.
Then I decided to just go crazy and chuck a large bucket of my own urine out of my bedroom window and over into her patio. I had built up quite a quantity over a matter of days, just peeing in the bucket rather than the toilet. I couldn't stop laughing thinking about how they would react to being soaked in my golden shower. Unfortunately, my fluids failed to reach their designated target.
Instead, it just fell into the garden of the flat below and all their nasturtiums have now died.
Luckily, the couple who live there were both away at the time. It would have been very difficult to explain my actions.
So, I constructed a rather cleverly designed trebuchet style devise. With this, I could lob things more accurately into her backyard, when she wasn't looking.
I know this might sound quite immature, and, thinking back, I'm not sure I wasn't on the verge of a mini-breakdown by that point.
It helped though, taking action, having a plan. It gave me a sense of control over the whole situation, and I found it quite therapeutic.
First, I found a rotting rat outside the restaurant opposite and used my new invention to catapult it over her wall.
In the park, the following day, I was lucky enough to stumble upon the maggot-infested carcass of a dead squirrel.
The trouble was, searching for dead rodents and birds was fairly time-consuming.
Also, people tend to give you some funny looks when they come across you bagging the remains of dead rodents and road-kill.
For this reason, I decided to start saving my leftovers instead. Pizza crusts, half-eaten yoghurts, chunks of Stilton cheese, that sort of thing. I would put them in a plastic bag under the sink and when they were rancid enough, over onto her patio they would go.
Ha! I thought, the rats will find their own way into your yard from now on.
I don't know what she made of this, or whether she was aware that I was responsible.
Then, one Friday night, I thought, to hell with the lot of them, I'm going out clubbing. Which was something I hadn't done in years.
When I was married I was happy to stay in with the wife and kids. We only really socialised when she invited her friends over for dinner.
My ex-wife, Alisha, was always popular. I first saw her at the secondary school Christmas party. There she was, laughing away with a group of what I used to call, 'the cool kids'. At that time I thought she was really something. Alisha was very petite, just like a beautiful delicate doll. She had fabulous long dark auburn hair, perfect skin and the most adorable big brown eyes.
I really don't know why I had that affair with her friend Helen. She was a right bitch really. Mucked up my marriage and then went back to her boyfriend.
Not that I'm sorry. It's great to be free and single, playing the field again. Who wants to be stuck with one woman all their life?
So, anyway, I swaggered into the club, and although I say it myself, I think I looking pretty sharp in my Kurt Geiger shades, black skinny jeans and Che Guevara T-shirt. The first thing I do is, I go over to the bar and hit on this really sassy hot young blonde.
It wasn't long before we were heading back to mine for a nightcap.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the pile of rotting foodstuffs that I had been nurturing in the cupboard for the benefit of the neighbour.
The kitchen now had the odour of the inside of an unwashed dustbin and just as I was pouring her a large glass of Chardonnay, this bloody great cockroach scurries across the floor, right in front of her.
Then I turn around to pick up my wine and there's another one floating around in it!
Talk about hysterical! You would think she had just caught sight of a tarantula or something.
Needless to say, sassy blonde exited tout suite!
Over the following weeks, I noticed that these two cockroaches had not been lone invaders. There were now quite a few of them and they had taken up residence in my flat.
This was a worrying development.
My landlord was due to turn up for the six monthly flat check and this infestation was unlikely to impress.
I purchased a variety of products that promised to eliminate my ever increasing cockroach community.
Absolute waste of money, nothing worked.
I did some online research to identify this particular breed of cockroaches so that I could find out the best way to kill them off. Turns out that they were German, not the Asian, or American variety, no, I had been invaded by the Germans!
When the landlord turned up. I tried to shift the blame. I told him that they must be coming in from next door, said my neighbour was a real slut and mentioned the fact that she had recently had a problem with rats. I suggested he went next door and insist on inspecting her patio.
So, he goes around there to see her.
Then, after about half an hour he comes back here in a real mood.
He tells me her house is extremely clean, tidy, and cockroach free.
He says she was a very charming woman and that now he feels he has made a complete fool of himself by going in there ranting on about rats and German cockroaches.
Anyway, the upshot is, I have to find somewhere else to live because the landlord now needs to bring in a pest control company to tackle the infestation.
Then he plans to re-decorate and put the rent up.
I won't be able to afford a higher rent, that's for sure.
I'm going to have to move back in with my mother for a while. I really can't think of anywhere else to go.
I thought it might be amusing to collect some of the cockroaches before I left, and then put them in a box ready to release through her letterbox, as the perfect parting gesture.
However, during my online research, I discovered that these grubby little insects can be the cause of salmonella, dysentery and gastroenteritis.
Now, as much as I despise my neighbour, who also happens to be Alisha, my bloody ex-wife (I don't know if I mentioned that), and would happily see her suffer from any, or preferably, all three of these infections. Our two young sons live next door with her, and I'm not going to risk making them really ill just because she doesn't know how to behave!
I suppose it's ironic really. I only moved in next door to aggravate her.



THE CHEF'S SPECIAL
The overwhelming sensation of joy and excitement that swept through me as I entered the grand foyer of The Bodringham Park Estate Hotel and Spa, was immense.
What a weekend this was going to be.
The online description had promised, a magnificent Country house with both heritage and luxury effortlessly combined. The opportunity to fine dine in a contemporary and stylish restaurant on cuisine prepared, dans la maison, by it's internationally renowned Michelin star Chef. Guests could enjoy the indoor heated pool and pamper themselves with a range of spa and well-being treatments.
Not only that.
If the mood took me, I could ride through the four hundred acres of parkland on horseback with the wind in my hair, or get lost in the famous Bodringham maze.
This all sounded wonderful. However, wind in my hair and getting lost was not what I had signed up for.
I was here to perfect my skills and master new techniques by partaking in the intensive two day Seafood cookery course.
As well as creating the perfect seasonal seafood dishes and learning how to rustle up a delicious fish starter, my meal would then be paired with a complementary glass of wine.
For two whole days I would reside in this world. A world of elegance and exclusivity.
Bring it on! I thought.
The children have grown up and left, and my husband had swiftly followed, lured to pastures new by the charms of his young secretary.
I know, how cliché!
Don't worry Ruby.” My mother had said. “You're a very attractive woman with much to look forward to. Get out there now and enjoy your new found freedom.”
So here I am, free, single, and in search of self improvement.
***
My hotel room did not disappoint, fabulously furnished and inclusive of everything one might expect from a five star establishment such as this.
By the time I had unpacked, it was about half past three in the afternoon. As the course didn't start until the following day I decided to go for a quick dip in the pool and possibly book a facial.
I was delighted to find that only one other person had ventured into the pool and spa area to take the plunge.
My companion swimmer was a woman called Jean. About my age I would guess, maybe slightly younger, mid forties perhaps. She had a soft featured pretty face, shoulder length hair dyed blonde, and a plump, though shapely, figure.
Jean and I hit it off immediately.
Jean, like me, had recently waved goodbye to a long and tired marriage.
After exchanging life stories, we agreed to meet up again, at six thirty, in the hotels lounge bar to celebrated our arrival with a shared bottle of champagne.
It then seemed only proper to try out some of the great Franchot Bouchard's cuisine, and we made for the restaurant.
***
I met the other four guests taking part on the seafood course the following morning at breakfast.
There were two other women.
One in her thirties called Felicity, who wanted to learn new cooking skills in order to impress her boss when he next came to dinner, and Sophia, a French teacher in her late forties, who confessed to an addiction for life skill enhancing mini breaks (Last weekend she had been on a hat making course somewhere in Kent).
There were two men.
A retired tax man called Harvey, probably in his mid sixties. Harvey was obviously a man who enjoyed food, a fact made apparent by his extraordinarily large frame, which must have been carrying a surplus of a least seven stone.
Peter, on the other hand, was a thirty year old estate agent with ambitions to open his own restaurant .
We were all handed crisp white aprons bearing the Bodringham logo and stood awaiting the entrance of our hallowed teacher.
Chef, as we were asked to call him, strode through the kitchen with all the confidence of man fully aware of his God like status in the culinary world.
Tall, imposing and truly handsome, we were all in awe.
As Franchot scanned the room to assess his subjects I felt my hands start to shake, and experienced a sudden increase in heart rate as his gaze met mine.
What beautiful deep brown eyes he had, their intensity only further enhanced by his majestic head of silvery hair.
We were asked to pair up at one of the tables, and Jean and I hastily secured our pitch.
My hands were still unsteady as Jean and I watched this master Chef in action. It was enthralling to observe such swift ability as he extracted the internals of a trout, skinned a lemon sole, and filleted a large halibut. Truly mesmerising was how Jean described his performance.
After showing Felicity and Peter how to prepare their prawns, Franchot drifted over to our area to demonstrate, once again, how to fillet a fish. Brandishing a suitably sharp knife, Chef confidently plunged it into the stomach of our trout and swiftly sliced it open from tail to gills. He then ripped out the intestines with a flourish, before boning it, chopping off its tail, decapitating its head, and finally, skinning it.
You make it look so easy Chef.”
Purred Jean gazing up into his face with an expression I can only describe as childlike hero worship.
Chef's features seemed to soften as he looked down into Jeans large adoring blue eyes.
Shall I show you again?” He offered obligingly.
This time he sidled up close to Jean, took hold of her right hand and made a careful insertion. Together they sliced the trout from one end to the other.
After completion Jean became rather flustered and giggly and I begun to wonder if my initial feelings of comradeship with this woman had been misguided.
Chef then turned to me and asked me to pull out the innards.
I did, what I thought, was a decent job of this unsavoury task.
Chef was not happy, he became quite irritable and started muttering something in French.
Merde, I understood, the rest I didn't.
Then Jean started conversing with him in his native tongue, and gave me a translation of exactly what he had said during their verbal exchange.
Chef says he is not happy, you have left some entrails behind, even though he has already demonstrated the procedure twice. He says he is wondering whether you have attention deficit disorder or something, though I suspect he was just being sarcastic.
Chef then leant over Jean and once again took her hand. Together they sliced off her trout's head and then it's tail.
Skinning the fish was my task.
This really is quite tricky. However, once again, I felt I had achieved what was required.
With renewed confidence I looked into Franchot's face for signs of approval, and possibly, a flicker of admiration.
Neither expression was apparent.
A further exchange between Chef and Jean ensued .
She then informed me, that according to Chef, I had taken off too much of the fish meat, and that I was an extremely sloppy worker who lacked quite basic cookery skills.
Mr Bouchard then abandoned us and wandered over to the tax man, who had partnered up with Sophia.
They were busily hacking away at a lobster.
As the day progressed Franchot wandered from table to table offering his advise and expressing his dissatisfaction with our efforts, particularly mine.
I'm ashamed to admit that by the time we had had our lunch and complimentary glass of wine, I was beginning to feel slightly teary, and twice made a dash to the wash room for some deep breathing exercises.
I had so wanted to shine, to impress, and make this incredibly gorgeous and charismatic French man look at me in the same way as he did Jean, who it seemed, by the end of the day, owned the title, teachers pet.
Sensing my rather subdued spirits, Jean told me that I really shouldn't take Chef's derogatory comments to heart.
He's a perfectionist,” She insisted, “nothing will ever match up to his high standards.”
Well, I thought begrudgingly, you seem to be matching up to his exacting requirements.
By the time Chef returned to taste my smoked salmon, crab, and watercress tureen, I was a woman on the edge.
When he then paused, looked theatrically around the room and declared it a triumph, I nearly fainted.
Instead, a flood of tears cascaded from my eyes with unbridled joy and relief.
Franchot then announced the days lessons over.
Jean suggested we immediately made our way to the bar to enjoy a large gin and tonic.
Isn't he amazing!” Exclaimed Jean.”Just ludicrously handsome”
I can't say I noticed,” I lied,”I found him something of a bully if truth be told.”
Jean insisted that he was perhaps more masterful than bullying.
Sophia and Harvey were already deep in conversation at the far end of the bar,
whereas Felicity and Peter were nowhere to be seen.
Jean and I sat down with our double gins and Jean divulged that she was absolutely head over heels with Franchot, and that if he was to make a play for her, she would simply not be able to resist his advances.
I too suspected that Franchot might have expectations of some boudoir action with Jean prior to her departure on Sunday. A possibility that rather miffed me, and only increased the hollow empty feeling I now harboured in the pit of my stomach
Franchot arrived unexpectedly half an hour later and, after greeting Sophia and Harvey, came over to us and sat down.
Bonsior madame's may I enjoy your company for a short while, the sous Chef is busy with 'is preparations and I 'ave a few precious minutes to spare.”
This was the point where Jean began to lose control of her senses and started to behave like a love struck, overly flirtatious teenager.
Franchot ordered a bottle of something called Pessac Leognan to be sent over from the bar, informing us that it was the best white wine of the Bordeaux region and we really should try it.
Unfortunately, Jeans nerves were getting the better of her, and she gulped down the first glass before Franchot or I had hardly had a chance to savour it's rich bouquet.
It was not long before she was helping herself to the Pessac and proclaiming it a really lovely full bodied wine with, grapey undertones and a hint of musk.
I then began to suspect that my new found friend had possibly watched the film 'Basic Instincts' rather too many times, as she started to cross and uncross her legs in a fashion that was in no way reminiscent of the famous scene staring Sharon Stone.
Whilst she was theatrically waving her arms around, two buttons of her blouse burst under the strain, revealing her lacy red bra.
Seemingly unaware, Jean demanded another bottle of the white stuff.
Franchot looked horrified, but obliged.
A second bottle arrived, Jean poured herself another glass, drained it in minutes and then stood up, insisting she needed the powder room, before passing out.
Franchot hailed for a member of the hotel staff to assist. With their help, I made sure Jean was safely ensconced in her hotel room and carefully placed on the bed in the recovery position.
Rather than return to the bar I retired to my own room. As I looked out on the charming view of the estate I caught sight of Peter and Felicity galloping passed, their hair most certainly ruffled and windswept.
***
Day two was something of a disaster all round.
Peter and Felicity were a no show. Boiling up fish heads to make stock had obviously lost it's lustre. Either that, or they had actually got lost.
As I had peered out of my window at the lush dewy lawn that morning I'm sure I had seen Peter and Felicity running and laughing with gaiety towards the maze.
On the other hand, a certain distance and frostiness had developed between Sophia and Harvey. Sophie had been given the room only two doors up from my own and I had overheard an angry exchange between herself and a man, probably Harvey, late that evening.
I caught only a few words, lecherous, being one, and creep, being the other.
Jean arrived last, looking extremely pale and generally out of sorts.
The attraction Franchot had displayed towards her the previous day was no longer in evidence.
Surveying the depleted and unenthusiastic crew before him, Chef's mood darkened and he delivered the mornings teachings with what can only be described as ill concealed contempt, shouting clipped instructions at us while waving his fish knife around in a quite threatening manner.
With dampened enthusiasm I set about prepping a haddock. Jean wasn't up to filleting so I allocated her the task of taking the fish offal over to the waste disposal bin on the other side of the kitchen.
By midday Franchot's incessant shouting proved too much for a rather jaded Jean, and she could take no more.
Tearing off her apron, she then informed Franchot that she intended to return to her hotel room, where she wouldn't have to listen to the incessant rantings of a mad, megalomaniacal cook. As she reached the exit she threw one final insult in Chefs direction, declaring that the, Pate De Maison, we had eaten in the restaurant on our first night, was seriously lacking in seasoning. Then she slammed the door.
There was nothing but silence in the kitchen for a few minutes post departure.
Franchot, suddenly blind with furry, stormed off In pursuit, no doubt with the intention of exchanging a few choice words of his own.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the simple task of walking as far as the waste disposal, without slopping half the fish innards on the floor, had proved too challenging for Jean in her delicate condition.
Franchot slipped on some haddock scraps and lost his footing.
Sophia, Harvey, and I, at the sound of Chefs head hitting the slate floor with a resounding thud, ran to assist.
The last time I saw Franchot was as the paramedics were piling him into the back of an ambulance.
Of course, we all demanded a refund, and that evening over a, 'hair-of-the-dog-that-bit-her', Jean and I decided that we would spend our reclaimed money on another weekend away. Sophia had told us about a really good creative writing course she had been on at a hotel in Berkshire.
***
Our first task, at the creative writing course in Berkishire, was to compose a short story of no more than two to three thousand words.
Write about something you have actual knowledge and experienced of, suggested our tutor.
So I have, this is it.
Should anyone be interested, I feel obliged to inform you that the Bodringham Park Estate Hotel and Spa no longer offer all inclusive cookery course weekends.

The End
If you enjoyed these two stories, then you will love these two books by the same author.
CLICK HERE Hungary For Adventure
 
Divorced, and finding life rather dull, Tiffany decides to make a move.
One that will take her to Hungary with a man she has only recently met on an internet dating site.
The rest of the family think she's lost the plot.
Who leaves their cosy life in a leafy Dorset village to venture out over the border on into unknown territory?
Eva certainly wouldn't, and neither would the rest of the family.
Head of which, is the mother.
Since the (not considered very tragic), death of her husband, she's taken up oil painting and is now carving quite a respected niche for herself in the art-world at large.
Eva lives in the same town as the mother, whilst the others, Sherri, Tamara and Sebastian, have relocated to other counties, still quite near, yet reassuringly, far away.
Does this Klaus fellow that Tiffs has run off with turn out to be a thoroughly decent chap, or will family need to cobble together a rescue mission?
Who will be around the table on Christmas day, and who might be in accident and emergency?
Can a cat be genuinely evil?
Are comedy socks really that funny?
What happened between Harvey, Nelson, and the angel?
What shocking revelation precedes a big hush, hush, undercover mission and who are the family members that find themselves exposed in the national press?
In a family with a penchant for the extreme, there's always going to be an element of farce.
Join this very funny romp through a year in the life of the Pettigrews, and those unfortunate enough to be in their radar.
So, you want front page news coverage?
Then you need to put on a show.
In this case, a fashion show.
With much to organise and excitement mounting, we follow Eva, the owner of a small town boutique, through the highs (and a fair amount of lows), as she works her way from booking the venue, right through to the final performance.
It's a comedy of errors.
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What do the papers say when the stardust settles?
Read all about it!