I’m thrilled to invite Viki Allerston back to my Guest Writer Spot. A few weeks ago, she appeared on this page, with her highly entertaining story, Bad Boy Boris. From all the wonderful comments, you thoroughly enjoyed her story. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her latest story every bit as much.
If you’d like to know more about Viki, here’s a little bit about her in her own words:
‘I have been telling and writing short stories most of my life and have had a degree of success. Then I started a ‘Writers Bureau’ course for article writing and quickly had two articles accepted in a leading magazine. Their cheques paid for the course!
‘But my first love is writing stories and in order to get back into doing that I have started the ‘Writers Bureau’ fiction course. Esther is my tutor. I also started a novel a few years ago. Life changes got in the way and it was shelved for a long time. But those characters still walk beside me, demanding their story be told. I owe them that and want to finish it.
‘I am often asked where my ideas come from. Quite simply they are all around. Eaves-dropping on buses and in supermarkets, chatting to strangers or just visually noting little incidents helps a lot.
‘By returning to a structured course, my enthusiasm has reignited.’
It was the telltale brown stain on the white cuff that started the trouble.
`Oh, Mum, the whole class saw Kylie spill that stuff in science and make this stain,’ wailed Rose, `now everyone will know my blouse isn’t new and I’m wearing her cast-off.’
The fact that most of the class would be in the same situation was lost on her. A neat darn on a pre-worn navy sweater or small patch on a dark skirt was one thing but as there was considerable snobbery amongst the twelve-year olds, the thought of such a glaring advertisement was appalling.
`Tough, you’ve got two blouses and the other’s in the wash,’ snapped Mum. `Now get a move on, you’ll be in trouble for being late for school, then you’ll really have something to whinge about.’
Kylie smirked, tossing back her long blonde hair and gazing at herself sideways in the hall mirror, tucking her crisp new blouse in tightly. She was wearing a bra for the first time (padded out with tissues) and wanted to be sure everyone would notice. Once Mum was out of hearing, she hissed,
`My cast-offs are good enough for you, Second-hand Rose, couldn’t even have a birthday of your own could you? You had to share mine.’
That’s why people think we’re twins and because I’m as big as you,’ Rose retorted, happy in the knowledge that it annoyed Kylie to have them lumped together like that.
`C’mon, I’m not waiting for you and missing the bus,’ Kylie snarled. ‘And don’t forget to walk on the other side of the road. I don’t want people to see me with my kid sister tagging along.’
Rose stuck out her bottom lip. As if she’d want to walk with her horrid sister anyway. The daughter of a lorry driver with a wife elsewhere, Kylie had regular visits from her Dad when he was in town. He would stay the night, give Mum money to clothe his girl and then make a fuss of her. Rose, the result of a wild party to celebrate the freedom from carrying and breast-feeding Kylie, hence exactly a year’s difference in their ages, had no known father. It was no wonder she loathed her half-sister.
Jason, born the following year, with his coffee skin and tight black curls, was the result of a one-night stand with the bouncer at the Laughing Parrot. Of a placid nature, he did not mind that his clothes had been worn by at least two cousins before him and could never understand why Rose resented it so much. His huge brown eyes now wandered from one sister to the other, vaguely following the argument as he munched his way through his third piece of toast.
Stomping upstairs, Rose shut herself in the bathroom with the intention of making everyone wait for the necessary comforts before they left the house. She lay on the floor, and folded back the threadbare rug. Through a hole in the floorboards, which conveniently lined up with a hole just above the kitchen dresser, Rose spied on her siblings as they rummaged through the clutter to find their school things.
This had been Rose’s secret find; her window on the Adult World. It was through this hole Rose had heard Mum telling her neighbour the reason her middle child had been called Rosemary was because during the pregnancy she had had a craving for roast lamb with rosemary. Although she did not really understand the joke, Rose had decided it could not be a nice reason, by the way the two women laughed about it and consequently she hated her name.
Kylie was panicking now, searching for the homework she had left on the hall table the night before. Only Rose knew it was hidden under the settee cushion.
`Serves her right, the rotten ratbag,’ muttered Rose, laughing to herself. Her satisfaction increased as Jason bellowed through the keyhole.
`Cummon out, I need the loo, you’ve bin ages.’
With deliberate slowness to make him wait a few minutes more, Rose replaced the rug, sticking out her tongue as she sauntered past him. But joy was short lived; she was disappointed to discover that Mum had found the missing homework and that Kylie would not be in trouble at school after all.
`Tisn’t fair’, she thought angrily, `nothing rotten ever happens to her or Jason. Only to me.’
‘Rose,’ said Mum that evening, `I want you to go to your auntie’s and give her back the fiver I borrowed last week.’
`Aw, Mum, it’s always me,’ wailed Rose, `make Kylie go.’
`She’s going to her friend’s for tea,’ Mum answered, glancing at the clock, `not only will you do as you’re told, but you’ll take Jason with you. Now the two of you, get a move on.’
Rose noted a second sly glance at the clock. Mum obviously wanted them all out of the house. Why?
Upstairs Rose grabbed Jason’s arm.
`You go on your own, I’m staying here.’
`But Mum said….. Ow, that hurt,’ he shrieked as his sister yanked his curls.
`Go on your own, or I’ll tell the man next door it was you who scratched his car with your bike.’
The threat was enough for Jason and with bad grace he scuttled off. From the secrecy of the bathroom spy-hole, Rose kept vigil over the kitchen and was soon rewarded by the sight of the arrival of the neighbour, Sue.
`Come in,’ said Mum eagerly ‘I’ve got rid of the kids for a while. Kylie’s at her friend’s and I’ve sent the others on an errand. Let’s have a look at it.’
Sue held a hanger aloft, gently easing off the plastic dustcover emblazoned with the name of a well-known catalogue, revealing a flash of bright pink. Both gazed with admiration at the dress that hung there.
`Oh!’ breathed Mum, `it’s gorgeous. She’ll love it. I know she’ll think it the best birthday present ever. And I’ve got just one more instalment to pay you before June 28th then my account’s cleared. I’d better hide it in my wardrobe before they all get back.’
The bathroom spy wriggled in her hiding place, one eye straining to see more of the dress through the hole but without success. She bit her lip in frustration as the two women moved out of her view.
Half an hour later Jason found his sister sitting sullenly on her bed.
`You should’ve come too, Auntie gave me biscuits.’
Hating the sight of his smug face as his little pink tongue licked the remaining sugared evidence from his lips, Rose turned to the wall.
All night, she tossed and turned, the tantalising glimpse of the dress in her mind. When she did sleep, it was only to dream of Princess Kylie pirouetting in pink. By morning Rose was hot, pale and feverish.
`Oh, Rose, pet, you look awful’, said Mum, feeling her forehead. `I think you’d better stay in bed. I’ve got to go into work this morning, but I’ll get Sue to pop in and keep an eye on you. Kylie can take a note to school.’
After Sue had fussed over her, settled her, promising to return in half an hour, Rose clambered out of bed. Rummaging through Mum’s wardrobe she found two bulky carrier bags. Inside the first were books, the `Twilight’ series by Stephenie Meyer. The girls had drooled over them in Waterstones. The second was a set of matching petticoat and panties from Primark. Very grown-up, but the delight of that paled at the thought of Kylie’s dress.
`Just as I thought,’ she muttered, `boring old books and knickers for me, and as usual, something glamorous for Kylie.’
The dress hung from the rail above, its dustcover now wrapped in birthday paper. She lifted it down and gently unpicked the selotape and eased the paper back. The dress was gorgeous. A bright pink Lycra shift, with narrow straps tied with bows on the shoulder. Five diamante buttons adorning its front, twinkled mockingly at her in the rays of the June sunlight that streamed through the window.
In a fit of pique, Rose tugged at the top one. It came away and flew through the air, hitting the window with a loud `ping’. Rose giggled and tugged the second. That hit the wardrobe. Ping. Three more. Ping, ping, ping. Rose laughed. She retrieved the buttons and in her own room, posted them between two floorboards, adding to the little mountain of Kylie’s pens, bookmarks and hair-slides that had `vanished’ over the last couple of years. She returned to the dress.
Even denuded of its buttons, it was still pretty. Rage started as worm inside her and taking the scissors from Mum’s workbasket she made a dozen snips around the hem. Snip, snip, snip. The worm suddenly became a serpent and she chopped the dress almost to its full length. Chop, chop, chop. It was soon a sorry mess hanging limply from its hanger.
Light-headed with happiness, Rose eased the dustcover and the paper down, re-sealed the selotape and replaced it on the rail. As Sue called `Cooee, it’s only me’ up the stairs, Rose was back under her duvet.
`Thanks for keeping an eye on Rose this morning,’ said Mum later, pouring Sue a glass of supermarket wine, `I really thought she was going down with something but owing the catalogue people that final instalment, I just couldn’t afford to take time off and lose pay.’
`No problem,’ replied Sue slurping loudly, `but I think it was an amazingly sudden recovery.’
`I’ve never been able to afford to give my kids much,’ chatted Mum refilling her own glass, `and it’s the girls’ birthdays on the 28th. But with this overtime I’ve been able to buy books and pretty undies for Kylie, and Rose will get her first-ever new dress. Can’t wait to see her face.’
If you’d like to see your work in my Guest Writer Spot, please contact me here or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I accept stories, poems, articles – in fact, anything and everything. All you have to do is make sure your prose is no longer than 2000 words and your poems no more than 40 lines.