by Helen Chambers
The face of tomorrow slides away from my grasp, like catching a glass rainbow on a tablecloth. Tuesday? Wednesday? I expect you told me, but the cobwebs in my brain tangle the connections. In bright shafts of sunlight, I recall the hiss and flick of grasses scratching on my boots. We walk and willow trees dip their fingers into the river where the blue sky and our reflections are trapped gazing back at us. I am warm, too warm and I try to take off my shawl, but the others push it back on my shoulders.
I’m singing, with the others, crowded together, too hot. That song – you’ll know its name. You watch us. They say I mustn’t wave. I must pretend I don’t know you. So silly. Just sing. I know all the words. I was something then. I sang solos, proud and alone, with a strong voice. I have to stand behind the others now and I can’t see.
No more singing, that’s sad. I’m too hot. You take off my shawl, tuck my hand under your arm. Perhaps this is where the man’s daughter leaves. He looks old and sad. My daughter went. Lying in her pram watching the sun fluttering through the leaves. Tiny fingers, big round eyes.
You look old and sad. Did your daughter leave too?
Helen Chambers is a short story and flash fiction writer from North East Essex, UK, who dreams up ideas whilst out walking by the river. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Essex and she won the Fish Short Story prize in 2018. Helen has several publications, many of which you can read on her blog: https://helenchamberswriter.wordpress.com
by Helen Chambers
Here, rain splatters on the windows and seeps cold around my ankles. The dark is spreading and the light is departing. People slump in front of screens and turn their backs away from the weather.
There, we walked with a spring in our step and our hearts on our sleeves, and opened our faces and minds to the sun, watching each other in its golden glow. Channeling its energy, we lived summer outdoors like the elements.
Here, life trudges alone with a chill and a shiver, winds whip me round corners, desiccated leaves scrape my face. I cannot bear to stay indoors, but the cold drives me in.
There, we slept out under a light show of stars and meteors, watched sunsets, smelt honeysuckle and tasted salt spray.
Here, damp leaf-mould muffles my steps, and your words turn to dust.
I want to turn the clock back.
Helen Chambers gets creative inspiration when out walking (usually with her head in the clouds) and from her involvement in local writing groups and an Open-Air Shakespeare acting company. Since leaving teaching, she has been awarded an MA in Creative Writing by the University of Essex (2016), has won the Fish Short Story Prize (2018), the Felixstowe Short Story Prize (2016) and the Hysteria Flash Fiction Prize (2014). When she can remember her password, she blogs at helenchamberswriter.wordpress.com
by Helen Chambers
“Make a choice. Me or her.” So he left me, the bastard.
I couldn’t stand up straight for days, I was winded. Pains in my chest, my lungs wouldn’t work.
The next weekend he turned up with snapped stems in a plastic wrap for me, said it was all they had. I was sore: red-eyed and sleepless, but he looked fresh as a daisy. He watched while I tried to arrange them into something pretty, and he smiled, but he was all twitchy. He couldn’t sit still. I followed him outside and leaned against the tree trunk while he carefully cut each and every bloom in the garden, all my summer bulbs, not a thing left behind. He asked for ribbon and tissue paper and made them up into a massive bouquet. I laughed, thinking it was mine.
He told me we could be the best of friends but took it to her. The stench of my hatred overwhelmed me and I changed the locks.
A year later, he phoned me. Said he was lonely and missed me. I didn’t say, but I missed him too. We met for coffee, but when he said, ’I usually sit over there,’ I knew it was with her.
In the winter he tried again. We sipped the liquid warmth of mulled wine. Outside it snowed, and he slid his arm round my shoulders, fluid and smooth. ‘Stay,’ I murmured.
Helen Chambers previously won the Hysteria Flash Fiction prize and The Felixstowe Short Story prize, and has been shortlisted in a number of competitions. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Essex and blogs occasionally at wivenhoewriters.blogspot.co.uk