Ten-minute thriller! “Who the hell are you?”

Do we ever really know who we are…

                        or how others perceive us?

  If you knock on the door of the supernatural…

                                  who will answer it?

       Biased probabilities say; you will answer it yourself…

 

“Who the hell are you?”

 

Does our conscience really speak to us? Are most of us guided by the simplicity of the truth? Do those that conceal injustice ever feel bad about it? Is it easier or harder to store a lie that once meant well? Or is it more difficult to withhold the truth, when somebody who deserved something gets it… But that thing turns out to be death…

The smell of jasmine blossom wafted like the wind was saturated with its perfume. A darting wind. A heavier smell when its gusts washed past your face. The entire street was full of backyard vines, all crisscrossing their way from neighbour’s fence, to neighbour’s fence. It was always the same in November, here at Kingfisher Bay, in Queensland’s south-east. The hamlet of houses, yet to be taken by the greedy developers, had water views of the Pacific from most of its streets, those that didn’t had lots that were far larger, and still extremely nice, with a one-minute stroll to the beach. The sort of scene any raconteur could describe for hour upon hour. The townspeople refused to sell out to any builder for fear of commercialisation of their paradise. It was 1991 and here, on the east coast of Australia, it is summer. Hence the full-bodied jasmine blooms.

A resident for forty-two years, Rosemary-Ann Sunlark had known most of the residents somehow, at some time, somewhere or another. She had seen babies born, people get married – people leave and arrive. She knew all the stories and had been there whenever her friends’ passed away. Rosemary-Ann knew the truth behind the murder of schoolteacher, Jackson Silverspade, going back twelve years. She had kept her mouth shut to protect his daughter from evil. It seemed somehow right, to allow Silverspade’s cancer-ridden brother to take the rap. He’d very nobly volunteered. A long involved drama right in the middle of the small town-let, which at that time provided the residency for one-hundred and thirty-two houses, most quite small. Rosemary-Ann had been born at Kingfisher Bay herself, just prior to the 1950’s. During the 1970’s, when young and toasty-hot, the black-haired stunner would walk with a strut, not a walk. A strut. She glided along with the poise of a panther, with its tail high. Her trim figure making light work out of the atmosphere. The limited men of the town followed her everywhere, to get a glimpse of her sexy walk. They all asked her out but she teased them all with almost kisses and scantily-clad clothing. Never committing to any of the men in or around town. She eventually met and married a man from outside. Her strut, once used as a lure, became more of a prance. Her hair is not so black anymore. It’s been this same salty mist since as long as she could remember, now. Time had moved on. The village has expanded to one-hundred and fifty-one now, plus an extension to the town’s shopping mall.

Inside her house, at 17 Honeythief Road, Rosemary-Ann edged past her hallway mirror. She hadn’t opened the curtains or folded back the bed or even put the kettle on yet. The light in the hallway was only being provided by a small shard, streaming through a crack, made by the tall window’s offline drape, which was behind her. She paused at her reflection in the poor light, happy to see herself looking better than she’d expected. Rosemary-Ann was still wearing her nightie. She thought; I’ll start with this one behind me, meaning the curtains.

Rosemary-Ann turned and reached for the divide in the brocaded pair. As they parted and the sunlight poured in, a flash seemed to go off in the hallway. She had never been glancing over her shoulder before, to notice how bright it became when the rays hit the glass. She smiled, thinking; The things you learn.

Rosemary-Ann could now clearly see her head-to-pelvis reflection in the morning’s best hue.

“Do you like what you see?” she said, then frowned, thinking; I didn’t say that… She did.

She took a step closer and said, “What?”

“Do you like what you see?” Again both she and her reflection said. Only, to Rosemary-Ann it felt like she was the image and it was speaking.

Her answers, she was controlling. “Sure, I can’t complain. Pity about Brian… but, what can I do about it now? Are you my conscience talking, or something?”

“Oh, If only it was quite that simple!” said the reflection. Rosemary-Ann lip-sinking perfectly. “Come a little closer and we can talk some more. It’s been a while.”

She took two more paces forward, duplicated perfectly by her own image. She smiled from nervousness, as much as anything. Her mind racing; I have heard about crazy wild situations out there – people hearing voices, etc. But this was unexplainable.

She noticed on closer inspection that the image in the mirror did not have a perfectly clear outline. It appeared to be fuzzy, almost like a double-image. Rosemary-Ann began a fifteen-minute conversation with herself about all kinds of things she had done in the past. Naturally, because it was her in the mirror, she knew all her own answers. However, some made her angry. She finished and stormed off with: “Right …so, in that case, I shall probably see you tomorrow!” She remained away from the hallway for the rest of the day. Rosemary-Ann could hear sobbing when she sat to watch her favourite TV show that evening. She felt invaded.

Forced to leave by the hallway door to go shopping, the following day, Rosemary-Ann could not help herself and took a peek at the mirror as she passed by with her back turned to it. The mirror stopped her in her tracks with; “Not like you to turn your back on someone. Especially yourself!”

She immediately turned to face the mirror properly. “I haven’t got much time this morning.” She raised her handbag, convincingly. “Shopping, you know. Busy life. Find a man or something…”

Her image forced her to smile at that one ─ as if it weren’t true or something. Then fired back with an odd question. “Don’t you think it is time to let me out of here?”

“Excuse me?”

“If you confess to all of those things that we both know you were responsible for…” Her hands were firm on her hips now. “I can escape from being trapped in here!”

“Who the hell are you?” barked the middle-aged well-proportioned widow.

“I’m here because of everything that happened twelve years ago.”

“What do you mean, trapped?”

“You probably don’t believe in the forces of fruition. Do you?” Her reflection’s voice had become severe and she looked even younger today than ever before. “It is this power which controls a soul’s destiny. Now speak the truth about Jackson Silverspade, so that I can be set free. Yes, I am you but I am trapped inside this mirror. I have been in here for twelve years. Have you not noticed how much younger than you, I am?”

“I probably just need glasses now. What am I talking to you for?” She slammed the door behind her, in a huff, and pranced off in the direction of the mall.

Rosemary-Ann maintained wearing her darkest sunglasses all the way into her kitchen, to avoid confrontation with the mirror. She placed the four grocery bags down on the cottage-style bench and began singing to herself to break the silence. A day in the garden would make her forget the silly things she said to herself this morning. Flowers would brighten her home. The well-meaning woman with a skeleton in her closet was moving around her house like she was on a cushion of air. Her footfalls, so light they barely raised the dust. She went out quietly.

That evening, as a film came to its closure, she heard the mirror calling her name. But it wasn’t her usual name. She was being called Rosepetal-Ann. This was the name that Jackson Silverspade had given to her when they had a two-year love affair. Again she heard the name and covered her mouth with her hand to stop saying it. She rushed around to confront the mirror. Her self-questioning more than healthy at this very second. “Why are you using that horrible name?” Her sanity beginning to be put through the mill.

“You don’t feel right because Silverspade’s brother, Charlie spent three years in a prison hospital before eventually succumbing to cancer. You should have told them, Rosepetal-Ann!” The mirror’s voice venomous and meaningful.

“Who knew he would last that long? It seemed the best for everyone concerned. Charlie was most adamant.” Her reply, monkish and uncharacteristically austere.

“There is also Brian to consider. How could you possibly live a lie like that and for that long? Oh, but he got what was coming to him. Didn’t he?” Her reflection’s eyes, locked in trans-like fashion, anchored her with a refusal to break the stare.

“Serves him right. Live like a weakling, die like a…”

“Exactly! Go and yell it in the streets, Rosepetal-Ann!”

“No! And you can’t make me!” She picked up a vase and flung its flowers to the floor. The cerulean blue, no-hard-feelings present from Jackson, was Czechoslovakian glass. The object twinkled, poised to throw.

“Don’t even think of it!” She shouted to herself, the vase trembling. “If you smash the mirror, I will die in here. I will never be set free…”

“Why should I care if you are free or not? You’re never nice to me!” Her arm struggled to propel the vase forwards.

“Please! I beg of you. Please don’t smash my mirror. It is where I live and where we can talk.”

“ALRIGHT!” she shrieked. Rosemary-Ann placed the vase back on the travertine table and began picking up the flowers. A mess had been made by the water from the vase on the tiles. She went away and fell asleep.

The next morning she had decided to go and see some of her friends in the village. Folks from the good old days – without opinions based on rumours from the past. Deep-seated relationships built from years of loyalty. The girls at the tennis club would be a great place to start. So what if she hadn’t shown her face around there for a year or two? They would always make an old friend welcome. Perhaps tell the odd truth to some here and there. Get it off her chest… so to speak.

So, a beeline was hastily made for the quaint Kingfisher Bay Tennis Centre, ignoring the ghost in the mirror completely on her way out. Her fairy-steps silent in her tennis shoes, her heart growing excited about the discovery of a new slant to her personality, now that she was at peace with her reflection. Rosemary-Ann walked like the wind, no tennis racquet in her hand. The jasmine wafted, the buzz of activity around the people could just be heard amidst the sound of balls being struck. Back-and-forth across the net, they hurtled. She went inside. They were all there. A huge greeting smile flashed across her face. But nobody listened to her stories. Had they all forgotten? Didn’t they care anymore? She sat right down beside her oldest friend, Marjorie Baker, and told her about her affair with Silverspade. She told her how, when threatened with; ‘Leave your wife for me, Jackson, or else, I might kill you!’ Jackson just laughed at her. No response from Marjorie. She turned to Phillip Hedin-glover and told him she had always wanted to have an affair with him. He didn’t even care. Rosemary-Ann spun in her seat and launched a conversation at Stacey McKenzie’s exposed earlobe. “Yes, it was a pity about Brian, because all his family was from across the border in New South Wales. Having to drive quite that much. Still, if only he had been less accident prone. I’m quite surprised they didn’t think it could have been murder!” Stacey erupted into laughter, for some reason. Even after opening up a can of rude old worms, to her so-called besties, Rosemary-Ann felt completely ignored. She watched a few games and remembered what it felt like to smash one past the opponent’s outstretched racquet. Then, volley one down the line for thirty – love. The chatter after competitions, about who beat whom, and why. How the boys all loved her short white dress and asked her for a game. She soon left. Somehow the townspeople did not quite seem the way they used to. She felt alone here for the first time in her life. Rosemary-Ann walked the long way home, via the central public gardens and across the little bridge, which spans the gorge. Many marriage proposals have been made on the little timber structure, with its gorgeous weathered old planks and handrail. The dramatic view over the crashing waves adds excitement to every second spent standing on it. It was the spot where Brian had asked her. Many memories rushed back; I have to talk to the mirror…

She whisked away like a startled deer and made haste for 17 Honeythief Road. A nice pot of tea will fix everything. Across the park, through the village square. Down the road, past the school she attended every primary year at. Weave between the gates of the alleyway behind the restaurant. This street backs onto hers. Nearly there.

“Ghost in the mirror! Ghost in the mirror!” she shouted, bursting through her front door. “We have to talk.” Her head was erupting with a million questions.

Rosemary-Ann didn’t have to open the front door, because it was already open. First, she stared into the mirror, the whole purpose for rushing back. There was no reflection. She went right up close, face against the glass. Her fingers splayed, one hand high, the other hand low. Her breath was not fogging up the mirror. “Mirror! Tell me what has happened?”

She backed away and stared, willing an explanation. She had not even noticed what was on the floor, just metres away. Her eyes were trained hard on the mirror but she was nowhere to be seen. She suddenly heard her own voice coming from deep within the glass. Her reflection started to materialize. Very transparent and with its usual double outline. She said, “Too late, Rosepetal-Ann.”

By itself, the mirror shattered into a million tiny pieces. Rosemary-Ann averts her gaze and finally sees what is on the floor. She sees her time is spent. She sees her own dead body with paramedics working feverishly. She sees that they are too late and she had died of a heart attack, on that first morning, when she met the mirror ghost.  The flash she saw when the curtain opened was the brain’s view of cardiac arrest.  Water still lay on the floor from the vase which was obliterated. It was still morning. She had visited the club as a ghost. No wonder they did not see her. She asked herself; were the conversations with her reflection, before or after she had died?

But, did she or didn’t she commit murder?

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Another ten-minute thriller! “Mister Imperative”

I hope you are ready for this week’s story…

   I love a good hurry story, don’t you?

Hot-blooded egos… places to go, people to see,

appointments to be kept, deadlines to meet!!!

But, at what cost???

“Mister Imperative”

“Never get you ambitions confused with your capabilities!” say the cautious. “Always aim higher than your target!” encourage the wise. “You snooze… you lose!” inspire the eager. You be the judge on which best fits this quirky little storyline…

The time was 7.15 am. The place was Gold Coast Queensland. The date was 19th March 2008. An early morning storm had funnelled its way through the state’s south-east corner. No serious damage ─ just a couple of ghost gums down, the remanence of flash-flooding, and the odd sheet of dislodged corrugated iron roofing sheet still flapping against wherever it had landed. Apart from these expected fragments of collateral damage, the drizzling had begun to subside, thus the busy week-day could resume as normal. It was warm but still overcast. The still-wet roads glistened. Early-morning suburban coffee shop owners had set up their beckoning-signs, along with the outside furniture. Excited, pavement-hustling commuters started to infiltrate their way from the dry-comfort of their kitchens to their cars and bus shelters. One such commuter was Terry Skylark-Smith. At this exact moment, he stood in his rented house’s kitchen gulping down the strong cup of instant coffee he had made to cure last night’s mild hangover. ‘Imperative Terry’ his mates all used to call him – because everything he pursued was attacked at full-throttle.

Terry was very proud of his hyphenated surname. “Got a touch of class about it!” he would often be heard saying, when new acquaintances bothered to make the inquiry. His current girlfriend, Layla Vanstone, had already left for work at six. She was a nurse. Thirty-two-year-old Terry, a qualified computer systems analyst had fallen victim to a company downsize situation, received a small payout for his five years of loyal service, and hit the dole queue with alarming dissatisfaction. In his eyes, he figured himself to be one of the best in the business. A resource of compelling magnitude to any firm lucky enough to inaugurate his services, whose previous lucrative positions had all surfaced through word-of-mouth recommendation. At this point in time, things had dried-up somewhat. Still suffering the consequences of the Global Financial Crisis, Australia, like most economies, was reeling on the slow road to recovery. Nevertheless, he knew the importance of being gainfully employed, therefore had buried himself deeply amongst the scant echelons of career opportunities on offer on the job search websites. Never one to stoop to the lowly stigma of being kept by a woman, Terry had secured an interview at 8.00 am sharp, at Elphinstone and Montgomery, a trusted financial planning corporation. He knew that there would be the usual Noah’s Ark queue of applicants lining-up outside the enrolling officer’s door, so a good impression must precede his stupefying qualifications, in order to land the position. Terry had spoken in person the previous day with Gustave Elphinstone, the son and now chief human resources person at the huge company. “As you are more than aware young man, things are the tightest they’ve been for decades, especially for an investment firm such as ours,” he’d stipulated, in his unique honey-soaked timbre. “If you are as worthy as your resume speaks, you have a good shot with us. I don’t have to tell you how important it is for us to secure the dedications of the correct person for the job.”

Gustave’s gracious and direct, but punctual, manner mirrored Terry’s own. Armed with his good-looks and outrageously-priced Amani suit, imperative Mr Skylark-Smith rode with a master-class surfboarder style on a wave of confidence, he knew he would win the jostle against all the other applicants. He glanced at his cellphone after texting; wish me luck, to Layla, only noticing there and then, quite how late he’d left it to make the close-to-peak-hour trip into Ashmore. His house was at Currumbin Waters, usually a good forty minutes at best to get to the growing business mecca, near Surfers Paradise. The astute-minded systems analyser had asked for the earliest appointment possible, hoping to beat the extra clog created by the school kid’s traffic. Terry was a very competent driver. He had to be. The Gold Coast’s M1 is one of the premier traffic-choked highways in the entire state. Wrestling with the busy motorway’s early-morning mayhem had become but mere gravy on his meal during the previous five years spent working for his previous employer. He knew all the craftiest techniques to get the upper hand on all the mobile chicanes out there (one of his favourite sayings). Terry exploited these practices to their maximum.

He downed his coffee, grabbed his jacket and slender briefcase, swiped the car keys from the hallway table, and scurried to his awaiting scarlet-coloured 2006 BMW 5 series. Need a good run, he thought to himself, inserting the motivational self-speak audio disc into its slot. Before he had even made it to the arterial road, the pleasant sounds of Marjorie Pullman’s positive mantras were filling his ears with annotations on how to be the best you that you can be. As luck would have it, Terry, carried on the sturdy back of belief of the voice’s reassuring affirmations, whisked his way towards the main carriageway ahead of time. His smile widened, adventurous mind picturing the cover-girl looks of Marjorie Pullman, whose arousing velvety voice pitted perfectly with her beauty, whom he had seen speak live at the Convention Centre six months prior. He blended onto the three-lane M1 and immediately crossed into the fast lane. The usual procession of tradesman’s utility trucks and white vans littered his path, their rattling ladders and toolboxes blanketed by Pullman’s downy intonations. Ducking and weaving ─ weaving and ducking, Terry interlaced past them with the seasoned precision of a rally-driver, the speed-limit was one-hundred kilometres-per-hour, and he was entitled to it. At last it thinned-out a little allowing one hand to grasp the wheel, the other grooming his blue-black hair.  A string of caravan hauling holiday-makers crawling along in the far left lane posed no problem.

Until he glanced at his fuel gauge…

“Oh no!” the hurrying driver said out loud, noticing his car was about to attempt to get there on mere fumes. “Damn bloody hell. I knew I should have checked yesterday. What are we gonna do Marjorie?” he asked, half-expecting the wizard-of-success to supply an easy answer. Do I risk it or stop for petrol? Cost me ten minutes at least! His thoughts angered, doing the calculation.

A service station waved a tempting arrowed sign in his vision about two-hundred metres ahead. He optimistically guesstimated, deciding to speed past its entrance ─ the bowsers looking at him like an oasis in the Sahara. Suddenly the rows of tail-lights up ahead began to illuminate. “Darn it. Brake lights!” Most of the vehicles he had flown past began to drift back past him at the logjam. Some drivers even grinning at him. They had observed his unmistakable scarlet blur shoot past five or ten kilometres back. The BMW’s digital dashboard clock now read 7.40 am. Skylark-Smith knew that there was a carpark out front of Elphinstone and Montgomery, but he also knew how far he still had to go. The time and distance simply weren’t going to add up. Another fact he was fully aware of was that crawling traffic made his car a good deal thirstier. He wanted this job. He simply had to get there. He came to a standstill. Pressure began to mount in his head. His pulse raced with rage. The steering wheel became a drum. He hated this and no longer cared about Marjorie bloody Pullman!

A brilliant move not yet needed, was the old driving up the emergency-stopping lane. He knew this section had a fairly broad one. Terry squeezed his car in between a pairing of nose-to-tail angry motorists, nearly scraping their vehicles to get by. He manoeuvred out to the shoulder of bitumen and planted it. His grin returned as he pulled up behind a like-minded Harley-Davidson rider ─ the impatient pair coasting past dozens of frustrated faces. An even bigger smile swept across his face upon seeing the reason for this delay up ahead. The police were attending a crash. In front of it was clear sailing. His illegal manoeuvre had to be thwarted. Terry quickly ducked back in to blend with the gradually-accelerating exasperated mob. He zigzagged his getaway-path to leave them in his wake. In the process, his car clipped the front of another commuter, focussed Terry never even noticed. The angry driver watched the headlamp and indicator of her quaint little lime-green sedan tumble past her side window. She shook a fist but Terry was gone, swerving through the traffic and honking his horn, there was some serious time to be made up. The BMW was up to about seventy at least. The turnoff was only about five kilometres away now, but the dashboard clock reading 7.52 am glared him in the face like a ‘YOU HAVE JUST LOST YOUR BIG CHANCE SPORT’ neon sign. Its digits seemed to be moving swifter than he was. Again it began to bottleneck on the approach to his turnoff. Back down to a low-gear crawl, he was trapped in the wrong lane. His heart began to hammer…

Gustave Elphinstone sat at his pure white desk waiting, wondering and rehearsing his questions, but not panicking. He was fully-aware of peak-hour and its problems. He liked the sound of this Terry Skylark-Smith fellow, who had ticked every box, and had pencilled him in for the role. The interview felt like a formality, but company protocol still needed to be adhered to. As far as he was concerned the position was his to lose. The two had hit it off on the telephone. All he wanted was a reliable, well-mannered, capable person. Suddenly his phone rang. He answered. “Human resources section, Gustave Elphinstone speaking. How may I assist you?”

“Mr Elphinstone, I must apologise. It is Terry Skylark-Smith here. You know the usual, sir. The M1 is going to make me late. Please keep my seat warm. Shan’t be too long!” He spoke in a rehearsed apologetic voice, which displayed all the inflexions of grief.

“Not a problem, Terry. Thank you for letting me know. I can’t expect you to control the influences of other drivers. Just the influences of our computer systems. Hey what?” he joked, to settle the future employee’s nerves.

“Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down! I’m probably about ten minutes away, depending.”

“If the car park is full, take my spot. It is on the far left. I came in early with Sir Frank Montgomery to prepare for the interviews. You’ll see my name-plaque near the rose garden. Bye.”

“Thank you sir. Bye.” Terry grinned. He knew he was in!

Marjorie Pullman was back through his speakers once more. She calmed the final ten minutes of his eventful trip. At last, he had made it. The impressive building loomed before him. Research had demonstrated the firm’s success and it was showing here. Terry fed his flashy vehicle into the plaque-marked spot as Gustave had asked. He stared at the fuel gauge and clasped his hands together as if thanking by prayer. His eyes turned left. Montgomery’s gold Rolls-Royce dwarfed his red car, plummeting the would-be big-shot back to Earth. Next, his eyes spun right to notice the empty space marked with a plaque of its own stating Chief Financial Advisor. “Must be where the other Rolls sits, huh Marjorie? I’ll bet the three of them sit in a row here. Probably gold silver and…”

Imperative Terry didn’t guess the last colour. Instead, the quaint little lime-green sedan, now with only one eye coasted past and filled the spot. A mousey, little, bespectacled woman wearing a business suit climbed out. I guess they all came in with the boss. Must be one of the other applicants… he thought to himself. But said, “Hello miss. Going for the job are you?”

She didn’t answer the question straight away, instead, asking him one. “Excuse me,” she hesitated, sounding like she was about to ask for a piece of stale cheese. “Are you aware that your car collided with mine on the way here, young man?” She pointed at the missing headlamp.

Terry pulled on his Amani Jacket, laughing. “Don’t be daft lady. You can’t pin that old one on me! That could have happened anytime or anywhere. Nice try, by the way, I admire your spirit, toots! But you probably just don’t know who you are talking to now. Do you?” He cockily flicked his head and straightened his tie. “Good luck with your interview. You’re going to need it!” He pressed his bleeper to lock the doors and strode off. Her pointy-faced head dropped.

After sitting and waiting beside six other nervous-looking candidates for no more than three minutes, a tubby middle-aged woman called him into Gustave Elphinstone’s office. It had been barely enough time to get his text-message away to Layla, saying; the job’s all mine! The big white desk looked like the landing-deck of an American aircraft carrier. Terry’s jaw dropped like an anvil. Behind it was Gustave’s smiling face and a mousey woman wearing glasses and a Judy Montgomery: Chief Financial Advisor logoed broach pin. She said. “Yeah, you never know who you are talking to. Do you Mr Skylark-Smith. Next please!”

“The Secret Letters” – the next ten-minute thriller!

 Well, I hope you are enjoying your weekly read…

   Thrillers come in many forms:

      Espionage, murder, conspiracy, whodunnit and romance.

         Romance? Packs a powerful punch sometimes!!!

 

“The Secret Letters”

 

Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser. It’s not necessarily the size of the prize which determines the outcome. More importantly, it’s how we play the game that counts. “Hogwash!” declare the ones who lose. “You really believe that old cliché?” question the ones who are victorious. “Absolutely!” triumph those who enjoy life’s magnificent ride. “You never know what’s around the next bend.” Quote the optimistic aspirants. Well, let’s see what unfolds…

Vera Discordia had abandoned high school prematurely, her personality make-up simply not cushioning well with the discipline required to achieve competent grades. Her disappointed mother, vesting to the acceptance of her only daughter about to sashay through a career path of meagre paying jobs, simply gave up. What her mother had failed to realize, was that attractive Vera imitated her lackadaisical mum’s every personification. The family house had been a disregarded disastrous mess for years, with laziness presiding strongly, in order for television soap-opera’s to rule the entertainment roost. The Discordia family home in Bridlington, a lower-class suburb of Brisbane became far too compact for two grown-up female shirkers to reside under the same roof. She soon moved into a flat of her own.

With no realistic hint of a career in sight, long-legged buxom Vera decided her only option was to marry a man of high income but low vision, and utilise a string of pregnancies to lock him into a lifetime of mundane routine, which could sustain her in the comforts she so richly deserved. A fruitful qualifying process encouraged a steady procession of unadorned-looking hopefuls to woo and swoon their way into her boudoir. The keen individuals were practically tripping over their own feet to taste the sweetness of Vera’s accomplished bedroom skills. Her only other skill remained in her uncanny ability to segregate the pack from one another’s notice, in order to juggle her week’s expectant brigade of aspirants. On the odd occasion when a risky overlap did occur, Vera cleverly waved good-bye, shouting words to the tone of; ‘Thank you for cleaning my windows, Sam! Same again next month!’ The satisfied but unaware individual would keep walking toward her gate with a shake of his head, nodding a polite hello to the oncoming male passer-by.

For months her highly congested sex-life flourished without a decent contender. Her filament of potentials glowed a disappointing quality of luminescence. All earned a similarly pathetic income to herself ─ most lying to her face until after the fact, in which case they were not offered a return application. Vera was exceedingly fulfilled with sex ─ but somewhat empty of hope…

Up until honest and unassuming Harvey Purstians, a hard-working electrician whose gifted good-looks were fading with each hair that parted ways with his rapidly smoothing head. It was adding ten years to him and he knew it. Harvey couldn’t believe his luck when he reached home-base after just two expensive restaurant meals, which he’d happily swallowed the bill for. Smitten with the blonde after just three weeks, the shy tradesman dropped her off in his white van, leaving in her hand a small square fuzzy case. “Not tonight Vera,” he appealed. “Got a huge day tomorrow. Will you…”

“Of course I will!” She hugged, pressing her firm bosom against him for a double reassurance.

Fifteen years and five children later, the Purstians’ household was awash with dirty laundry, uncleared dinner plates, and over a decade’s worth of dust rested upon every horizontal surface. Vera had not learned any lessons from Harvey, who never complained. She had burned-out her third TV set by this time and was busily working away on the fourth. As fastidious as a one-man ant colony, Harvey could be seen well into the evenings beavering his way around the house straightening things up. Alas, it was a losing battle, he simply could not keep up with the extra load of housework adding to his already long day. On his side of the wardrobe the polished shoes, all lined-up like sleeping soldiers reflected a stark contrast to Vera’s, stacked precariously up in bonfire fashion. His neatly-ironed shirts butted-up together above the row of pressed slacks folded over hangers on the rail directly below. Beside them, her dresses, knotted in balls of fabric could hardly be discerned from her blouses and pantsuits occupying the over-stuffed shelving. The three-drawer bedside table housing his neatly folded underpants in the top, perfectly aligned, colour-coded and tucked one inside the other socks in the second, and a plethora of monogrammed H U P handkerchiefs (the U stood for Ungears ─ his father’s first name) in the bottom, mirrored hers. But only in external appearance, minus the dust layer and coffee mug rings. Within Vera’s three drawers was a mishmash of clean and dirty bras and knickers, twisted amongst her stockings and now seldom-worn lingerie. She never went near his side, and he daren’t venture into her drawers for fear of what might come out.

Their five offspring looked forward to school, the three older girls even staying on for extra tuition to avoid the filth of their home. The two young boys, figuring it was pretty cool to have a mother whose surroundings rivalled their own apocalyptic bedroom, kept their schedule. It was common for the clean washing to remain on the clothesline for days until Harvey would retrieve it late in the evening. Dysfunction prevailed and heads turned the other way to keep things peaceful. Foolish Vera couldn’t care less. She had won the partner of her dreams and he was keeping her in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed. The torrent of twice-a-day steamy love which had magnetised them together at the start of their relationship had evaporated, however, her curvaceous figure remained sharp, as did her pretty facial features and long blond locks. Now manager of his own company, at a rented workshop, with a staff of four tradies and an attractive brunette secretary, the quietly-spoken electrician went about his business of making an above average income to support his clan. Late in the evenings he would drag his weary feet through the front door then remove his shoes, only to collect a shallow peck on the cheek for his efforts. He would immediately shower, then over some idle chat he would eat his evening meal on his lap to a background of reality TV and bickering youngsters. After which, Harvey would wash the dishes and retire to his office to catch up on his small company’s income tax bookwork. Often, when in there, he would sit reflecting back on his exciting life.

It was mid-morning on a Wednesday. Super-bitch Vera suddenly became bored with the reruns of ‘Days of our Lives’ and in a frantic upheaval of guilt, decided to tidy her half of their bedroom. She hummed away as if second-naturedly going about her chores. Standing back to admire her handiwork, the once-bombshell noticed something odd about Harvey’s bottom drawer.

“That won’t do,” she muttered, noticing it was protruding open more than an inch. “Poor old bugger, must have been really tired last night.” She pictured his now forty-year-old handsome face with its garnish of crow’s feet creeping into the sides of his Caribbean-blue eyes.

Vera slid the drawer halfway out to press down on the wads of monogrammed cotton, all perfectly folded into quarters, in an effort to allow the drawer to shut fully.

When suddenly she saw them…

She frowned with a quiz, before lifting the handkerchiefs onto the unmade bed. Layered halfway between the white squares was a stack of pink envelopes. On the front of each was gracefully inscribed the name Dily Velp. It was clearly her husband’s handwriting. Vera knew that the name of Harvey’s shapely secretary, equipped with her own high-calibre of efficiency and orderly acumen, was Delores but was oblivious to her surname. In a rage, she seized the thick handful of beautifully inscribed envelopes and spread them across the sheets. A flick of her eyes counted thirty-five. Her blood began to boil. Her breathing intensified. Her eyes, at first wide like a mouse’s, squeezed to become slits. Her fingers began to tremble. Was it guilt? Or was it jealousy? What was she feeling at this moment?

Vera picked one up and thrust it to her chest while staring at the blank cream bedroom wall. Next, she glanced at her fierce reflection in the wardrobe mirror, then down at the name, her flared nostrils collecting the scent of her own favourite perfume at the short distance. Without creasing the paper, she slid out a three-page love-letter and commenced to read it. Starting at the top with Dear Dily, the letter flowed a magnificent appraisement of affection with a poetic appeal. The perfume burned deeply into her air-passages, as one after another, she flurried through the beautifully worded paraphrases of lust and desire. She read twelve separate letters. Vivid descriptions of love-making and passionate kisses idling across the pale pink pages in wispy lettering enraged her jealousy. She wanted to set fire to the bed she shared with this betraying womaniser and torch his inscriptions of wilful yearning along with it ─ but needed to keep the evidence to shame him.

She dismissed any guilt, believing her tutorial to the incompetent balding twenty-five-year-old as a smorgasbord of intercourse he would never have received without her. After all, it bore them five precious young ones, didn’t it? What more could he want? Her emotion couldn’t be jealousy, because he was totally in the wrong here! No, this was disdain in her veins. That philandering bastard!

Her heart was fuming and all she could think of was how many more were there? The sent ones that she couldn’t read! Vera tucked each poisonous promise back into its rectangular shroud and planned her divorce. What would be the outcome? How much would she get? Who would have custody? Again she stared at her sorry reflection but wasn’t liking what she saw…

When Harvey plodded in that night, Vera thrust the letters at his face. “Explain this you cheating arsehole!” she shrilled, as all bar one, fell to the floor tiles.

“Oh, you found them,” he answered dimly ─ eyes looking to the floor at the scattered pink mess at his feet. “I was going to tell you all about them when I thought you would be ready…”

Appetite whet for revenge, she cut him off sharply, grumbling a barrage of incendiary remarks. “I give you the best years of my life! Tolerate your boring electrical conversations! I have beared your children, yet managed to keep myself attractive for you to look at! Never even looked sideways at another man… and believe me, there’s been offers out there! Perhaps I haven’t been the best housewife in the world. But you’re alive at least. Well, aren’t you?”

Vera’s veins were fully swollen, she looked mean as a snake!

“Sure honey,” he limped back, feeling kicked in the groin. “What’s this all about, anyway?”

“What’s this all about?” she yelled, waving the solitary last letter still between her fingers. She briefly paused before impaling him again. “I know our romance has stalled momentarily. But this sought of disgusting behaviour was not on my radar when we got married! What is she to you Harvey?”

He forced a sheepish grin. “Shhh, the children, dear. Did you read any?”

“Of course I did Einstein! Never mind them. What do you reckon I am going on about?” Vera pulled the love-letter from its envelope as if she was drawing a six-shooter from its holster. She flicked its pages open in front of his face. “Now, before we discuss our divorce. Who is Dily Velp you prick?”

Poor Harvey was feeling like a rabbit cornered by a fox. His eyebrows became angled at the top and his bottom lip protruded. He took the incriminating-looking communiqué from between her crimson nail-polished fingers, glanced at his own revealing handwriting and spoke softly. “Dear is obvious. D is Darling. I means me. L stands for Love. Y, of course, is you dear. V is for Vera. E remember is for Enid, your second name. L is Lucy, your third Christian name. And P stands for Purstians, your current surname. I wrote them all for you over the last ten years but thought you might laugh at my corny mushy eroticisms. I didn’t mean to upset you, sweetheart.” His expression was priceless.

Vera’s mouth fell agape like a sideshow-alley clown awaiting its next ping-pong ball…