Category Archives: Friday fiction

Friday fiction: Part 2 of The Journey (The Dakota Duels trilogy)

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with part two of a 1st chapter competition entry – this time it’s young adult fiction.

The Journey (The Dakota Duels Trilogy) – Part 2 (final)

 The train flashed into daylight and Hannah could see her cell. Her fingers moving fast, she tracked her calls, searching for the number. Nothing. Caller ID withheld.

            She thought of the voice – a river, a bolder. It sounded like her father, Isaac, her father, leader of The Order, leader of their group of Christian followers, the group who had been chosen by God, who were the divine righteous ones, who would one day see The Plan God had for them, for all, even for the sinners, the doubters, the non-Christian ones who spat and scorned.  Pressing together her lips, she slipped off her shawl and, folding it four times, she placed it on the table. Outside the Dakota terrain washed by, a watercolour of trucks, land, outhouses, fields appearing like a mirage through the sun. Picking up a discarded pamphlet, Hannah fanned her face, thinking, when her cell vibrated. A text. Bolting, she grabbed the phone and scanned the message.  She felt her mouth drain dry. Four words. Leaning sideways, she glanced up and down the carriage, then back to her cell. Four words: They are watching you.

Her pulse fast, her palms sweating, Hannah opened her rucksack and, seizing the parcel, rammed all her belongings into the bag and zipped it shut. In the seat ahead, a man turned and smiled. Hannah froze. The four words flashed across her eyes. Suddenly, everyone, she felt, was looking at her. This was crazy. Seconds, minutes passed and as her final destination came nearer, she tried to slow her breathing.

            ‘Devil’s Lake next stop,’ announced the tanoy.

            Her cell shrilled. She stared at it. It shrilled again. Hand shaking, she took the call. ‘Hannah!’ the voice shot. ‘It’s Noah. Don’t hang up. The man, the Pilgrim Director you are to meet, he is not who he seems. You are not who you seem. Don’t go with him. When the train pulls in, run, run far. I will contact you when it is clear.’

            ‘But-’

            The line cut and the train creaked to a halt. She’d arrived. Leaping up, Hannah tried to think fast. Should she listen to him, this Noah? Stumbling forward, she kept her head down, shivering until she heard the whoosh of the door and felt the heavy heat surge in. Disembarking, she stepped on to the platform, pops of sweat trickling down her back. Within three seconds she caught sight of the Pilgrim Director, and, smiling, she began to walk towards him when something made her stop. He was flanked by two unfamiliar men. They are watching you. Something wasn’t right. Truth, she suddenly thought, the ugly truth. Without warning, the two men sped up. Hannah’s breath quickened. Ahead, the Director lost his smile and strode towards her. Noah. Who was he?  Should she run? What was wrong? Turning, she bumped into a passenger, but instead of helping her, he gripped hard.

            ‘Let go!’ she yelled, ripping away from him, her rucksack flying to the ground. Just as she grabbed it, she spotted them, the men, running now towards her. Scrambling upright, she spied the exit and without looking back, she ran as fast as she could.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  I’m on holiday at the moment and will post more fiction when I get back. Have a great weekend!

 

Friday fiction: Part 1 of The Journey (The Dakota Duels trilogy)

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with part one of a 1st chapter competition entry – this time it’s young adult fiction.

The Journey (The Dakota Duels Trilogy) – Part 1

Earlier, life had been lighter. Getting on the train at Fargo was fraught, but then it always was when the sun hit 34 degrees and your skirt stuck to your legs like glue after you’d been sat squashed on a bus with no air conditioning for five hours.  Peeling a hair from her mouth, she yawned and flipped open her cell. No messages. She sighed and gazed out of the window.  The Empire Builder. What a strange name for a train. Stretching out her hand she patted the seat to check if the parcel was still there. The envelope rustled under her palm and, reassured, she resumed her gazing. South Dakota was the only state in North America without an Amtrak train service, and for the life of her she couldn’t understand why.

            ‘It is the way it is, Hannah,’ her mother had said to her at the roadside as she prepared to board. ‘After the bus, the train will take you on to North Dakota.’

            Hannah frowned. ‘But why me? Why now?’

            Her mother, a whisper of a woman, reached up and adjusted Hannah’s collar so the white starch circled her neck in the way it was expected. ‘Now, now. We’ve been over this. Your father needs you. You are 18 now, a woman, and as such The Order requires you to make the journey to the annual pilgrimage early, cast your eye on the eligible men.’ Hannah blushed. ‘And besides,’ her mother continued, picking a speck of dust from her daughter’s skirt, ‘you need to deliver the parcel from your father to the Pilgrim Director. Remember your name, Hannah. Remember what it means.’

            ‘Grace of God, mama.’

            ‘Good.’

            Hannah chewed on her lip. ‘Why can’t he mail it?’

            Her mother smiled. ‘Because it is too important.’

            ‘And he trusts me?’

            She nodded. ‘He trusts you.’

 As the train sped forward, Hannah let her eyelids droop, the jostle of the carriage and the crank of the air-conditioning lulling her to sleep.  Around 3p.m. her cell shrilled. Waking with a start, Hannah blinked, then grabbing the phone, she picked up.

            ‘Hello?’

            ‘Hannah?’

            ‘Yes. Hello?’

            ‘My name is Noah…I’m your-’

            The line crackled. ‘I’m sorry,’ said Hannah, one finger in her ear, ‘you’re breaking up.’

            ‘I’m Noah,’ came the voice again.

            Noah? Hannah frowned.  ‘I’m sorry, but, I don’t know a-’

Without warning, what sounded like a gunshot blasted through the line. Hannah jerked up. ‘Hello?’

 ‘Hannah, listen!’ tore the voice. ‘I’m your brother. They’re coming for us. You’ve got to-’

            The carriage suddenly went black and the signal cut. Overhead the lights flickered as the train shot through a tunnel. Hannah’s heart banged against her chest. Brother? He said brother. But why? She had no brothers, church colleagues, yes, families she had grown up with since birth, but no brothers.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Part two is out next Friday. Have a great weekend!

 

Friday fact or fiction: How to wear shoes in Paris…

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fact’, with another of my travel articles for The Guardian newspaper.

Paris – the city of love and sore feet…

‘Shoes?’ says hubbie. ‘But we’re off to Paris. The city of love,’ he cried. ‘Look, Mister,’ I say.’ If we’re going to wander around Paris, love or not, I’m going to require suitable footwear.’

And with that, grateful that we weren’t flying pay-as-you-carry, we set off on our 4-day, 10th anniversary break to Paris. With the weather predicted 24-7 sunshine, we decided to see the city by foot. Having done the tourist sights 5 years before, this time we wanted to potter through the side streets of Paris thankful that: a) we had no kids to entertain; and b) we had no bunions (yet).

Arriving at 4-star Les Jardins du Marais, we high-fived each other when we saw our room (i.e. large – Parisian hotel rooms are notoriously petite). Having jumped on the huge bed and checked out the marbled bathroom, I took one whiff of the heat from the window, opted for Birkenstocks (comfort!) and off we set. Walking around the district of Marais was bliss. A warren of cafes, high-end shops and museums, it was once the place of the Royal residence and is now, as we discovered while on our third cafe noir of the day, the centre of the Parisian gay scene. Oh yes, for the first time since parenthood, we felt hip. Donning our shades, we crossed the Seine into the Latin Quarter, bustling with Sorbonne students and tortured artist types, where we stopped for a petite bierre followed by some second-hand French book purchasing. ‘But you can’t speak French,’ I said to hubbie. Handing the man the Euros, he said, ‘They’ll look good on the coffee table.’ Hmmm, good point. We ended the day with swollen ankles and tapas at a Spanish restaurant, Caves Saint Gilles, frequented by locals where the chef was grumpy, the food cheap but good, and not a Laboutin in sight.

The next three days were a sun-soaked meander of walking and Metro rides. We ambled through the expensive streets of St.Germain (think Gucci, Armani), had our breath taken away in the Opera district (by two things: one, the view of the Opera National as you come out of the metro station – wow; and two, coffees at 9 Euros a pop in the Cafe de la Paix.), wandered the Champs Elysees by night (busy but exhilarating), gawped at the Pompidou centre, and relaxed in the enchanting Jardin de Luxembourg. Our anniversary meal (pre-booked on-line) was at Le Petit Bordelais, a restaurant run by Michelin-starred, and jolly friendly, Phillipe Penecote (choose the ‘Degustation’ menu with wine – yum). My pearl shoe clips fell off on the walk back, but with the Eiffel tower lit up behind us, the last scent of summer in the night air – and French wine in my system – it didn’t matter. I turned and gave hubbie a kiss. ‘What was that for?’ he asked. I linked his arm. ‘The city of love, right?’ He grinned. ‘Shall we head back?’ I nodded. ‘Please. My feet are killing me.’

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**

Friday fact or fiction: A travel article for The Guardian on a spot of French cricket…

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fact’, with my travel article for The Guardian newspaper competition. *I accidentally posted this on Monday. Don’t quite know how. Either way, hope you still enjoy. I am going to check my fingers for butter right now…*

French cricket, but not in the USA…

Boyhood’s a funny thing. When my husband was a boy, he used to play French Cricket. If you’re saying, ‘French what now?’ – a quick synopsis. Player one stands still with a tennis racket by their legs while the fielding team chuck a tennis ball at them with the aim of trying hit the racket-holder’s legs. You hit the target, you’re up next to hold the racket, and so on. Not a cricket bat in sight, but you get the idea. Well, with school out for another summer, it was French cricket and other assorted childhood memories that were on our minds as we arrived tired but buoyant at our gite in the Brittany village of Lintivic.

Cottage
Our gite in France – we hid round the back…

Magically named “Little Orchard”, we smiled as we parked under a plum tree to see grape vines draping the windows and a farmer puffing on a Gauloise, batting away flies in the adjoining field. This was France circa 1950. At the sight of all the grapes, our 8-year old shrieked, ‘Ooo, can we eat them?’ While the 6-year old took one look at the apple trees, and piped up, ‘Cool! Grenades.’ Oh to be a tomboy. As I cracked open a bottle Brittany cider left as a welcoming present by the gite-owners, and checked out the 18th century fire hearth and open-plan living area (so clean!), hubbie sighed as he gazed through the window. I took a swig and narrowed my eyes. ‘Pelted with a plum already?’  He shook his head as he took his glass. ‘No,’ he said, his arm levitating forward. ‘Look.’

 I followed his eye line and stopped. The garden, all ours, was almost as big as a football pitch, with a pool, also ours, tucked in its sidelines, blue water winking in the sun. ‘Wow’, I said, wondering where the inflatables were. ‘The girls will love that.’ But, as I began the search for swimming cossies, my husband simply grinned and said, ‘French cricket.’

 Games with tennis rackets were just the start of our two-week trip back to childhood. The gite garden was stocked full of delights such as petanque (tricky), football (mum as goalie – ouch), badminton (monopolised by us grown-ups) and hoops (a kid winner), to name a few. Five minutes drive away was the zip-wire Adventure Forest in Camors, suitable for even the 6-year old, who promptly declared it ‘awesome’. And it was. We hit the 3km beaches in Carnac,  ideal for rock pooling, and the town of Auray, with its hilled streets and sweeping river that caused our 8-year old to declare –whilst scoffing Moules Frites, a Brittany classic- France to be her favourite because, and I quote, ‘it’s looks nice, has good music and good food.’ Well said. Perhaps apart from the music.

Such a blast to our childhood past did we have, that we’re now planning a road trip up the Californian coast, to which the girls asked, ‘Do they play French Cricket there?’ Hmmm. French cricket in the USA? Pass me the racket.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Next Friday I’ll be posting another Guardian travel-writing piece of mine. Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**

Friday Fiction post: Our family holiday to France

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fact’, with my article written for The Guardian Travel writing competion… 

Boyhood’s a funny thing. When my husband was a boy, he used to play French Cricket. If you’re saying, ‘French what now?’ – a quick synopsis. Player one stands still with a tennis racket by their legs while the fielding team chuck a tennis ball at them with the aim of trying hit the racket-holder’s legs. You hit the target, you’re up next to hold the racket, and so on. Not a cricket bat in sight, but you get the idea. Well, with school out for another summer, it was French cricket and other assorted childhood memories that were on our minds as we arrived tired but buoyant at our gite in the Brittany village of Lintivic.

Magically named “Little Orchard”, we smiled as we parked under a plum tree to see grape vines draping the windows and a farmer puffing on a Gauloise, batting away flies in the adjoining field. This was France circa 1950. At the sight of all the grapes, our 8-year old shrieked, ‘Ooo, can we eat them?’ While the 6-year old took one look at the apple trees, and piped up, ‘Cool! Grenades.’ Oh to be a tomboy. As I cracked open a bottle Brittany cider left as a welcoming present by the gite-owners, and checked out the 18th century fire hearth and open-plan living area (so clean!), hubbie sighed as he gazed through the window. I took a swig and narrowed my eyes. ‘Pelted with a plum already?’  He shook his head as he took his glass. ‘No,’ he said, his arm levitating forward. ‘Look.’

            I followed his eye line and stopped. The garden, all ours, was almost as big as a football pitch, with a pool, also ours, tucked in its sidelines, blue water winking in the sun. ‘Wow’, I said, wondering where the inflatables were. ‘The girls will love that.’ But, as I began the search for swimming cossies, my husband simply grinned and said, ‘French cricket.’

            Games with tennis rackets were just the start of our two-week trip back to childhood. The gite garden was stocked full of delights such as petanque (tricky), football (mum as goalie – ouch), badminton (monopolised by us grown-ups) and hoops (a kid winner), to name a few. Five minutes drive away was the zip-wire Adventure Forest in Camors, suitable for even the 6-year old, who promptly declared it ‘awesome’. And it was. We hit the 3km beaches in Carnac,  ideal for rock pooling, and the town of Auray, with its hilled streets and sweeping river that caused our 8-year old to declare –whilst scoffing Moules Frites, a Brittany classic- France to be her favourite because, and I quote, ‘it’s looks nice, has good music and good food.’ Well said. Perhaps apart from the music.

            Such a blast to our childhood past did we have, that we’re now planning a road trip up the Californian coast, to which the girls asked, ‘Do they play French Cricket there?’ Hmmm. French cricket in the USA? Pass me the racket.

 © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading! I’ll be posting another travel writing article next week.   Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**

Friday Fiction: Final part of my short story, ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with the final part of my  short story, ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’…

 

The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn – Part Five (final)

With the snow melting on the peaks of Snowdonia, on Tuesday 8th May, 1945, two years after the death of her friend and one week after the diagnosis of her Father’s cancer, Megan and her family listened as Winston Churchill stood with King George to announce Victory in Europe and the war with Germany over. Gethan, safe home to Wales soon after, carrying letters from Megan in his hands and shrapnel from Fritz in his buttocks, got down on one knee and, declaring he was the luckiest man alive, promptly proposed. The date set for four weeks’ time, her Mother fashioned Megan’s wedding outfit from a pair of curtains to create a jacket and skirt worthy of a Welshman’s daughter. With their entire ration coupons pooled – for, even with the war over, provisions were still sparse, the ravaged land still recovering from the beating – the wedding food and drink was ordered.  Yet, as happens when one light burns bright, another began to fade. And so it was that, on the morning of her wedding, a late June day when the Irish Sea lapped the shore and the gulls flocked at the scent of fresh crabs, Megan Quinn’s Father passed away. Megan being young and in love with her betrothed, wavered on the outcome of the day, wondering as to whether she should continue with the ceremony, a union her Father was so delighted to see. But, mindful of what was expected of her, Megan’s sense of duty overtook and, with the soft cries of her Mother’s grief still fresh in her ears, Megan, with Gethan by her side, took the decision to call off the day, informing the priest that his services would now be required for an entirely different family occasion.

Three weeks after her Father’s passing, in a registry office in Mold with just her mother, Dorothy and Gethan’s parents present, Megan Quinn became Megan Evans. The wedding breakfast was a simple affair of cucumber sandwiches and tea in the parlour followed by a bus ride to Llanberis to Gethan’s home, now Megan’s also, where she would, for the next 10 years, share a roof with her husband’s ailing parents, two chickens and an oil lamp.

As the years passed and the seasons shifted, Megan went on to have three miscarriages, one healthy son and the funeral arrangements of two parents-in-law. Yet, life was kind. Gethan brought in a weekly wage from splitting slates, and Megan gained employment in the town bakery, a job that treated their only son upon his daily return from school to an assortment of buns, pastries and breads. The house of Gethan’s parents, now theirs by will and testament, was a source of great comfort to Megan, such joy did she find in its simple walls and open fire. But to their boy, Ewan, a child of a different generation, one who had not known the suffering and sacrifice of his parent’s youth, the house became a symbol of time stood still, and Ewan wanted to move, discover and explore. So, as he reached 19 years of age, Megan, with Gethan holding her hand, found herself waving off her son as he sat on a bus bound for Cirencester, taking him to his new life of  a building apprenticeship, and into, as time would show, the arms of a pretty, kind Cotswold girl, and marriage.

While Megan continued happy at the bakery, her beloved Gethan was beginning to die. Years of breathing in slate dust had ravaged his lungs and now, at the age of 52, Megan found herself nursing him in his bed, his breath heavy with emphysema and exhaustion. The news, one day, from Cirencester that Ewan’s new wife was expecting their first child, lifted Gethan’s determination to hang on, certain was he that he could keep himself alive long enough to see the sweet softness of his first grandchild. But, two weeks before what was to be the birth of a baby girl, hair black as coal, lungs loud with screams, Gethan Evans passed away at home in his wife’s arms.

Two years after the death of his Father, Ewan and his wife would go on to have another child, this time a baby boy. To Megan’s joy and sorrow, they named him Gethan Ewan, a name that would prove to be wisely chosen as the boy, when he grew to be a man, displayed the same strength of character and inner calm that his grandfather had always possessed.

As the older generations do, Megan watched as her grandchildren grew, married and produced great-grand children. This now being a new century, the year 2000 hailed for Megan bewildering new technologies, and it was a period that saw her move, at the age of 76, from her marital home, still with its outside lavatory, to a new bungalow with a warden, an inside bathroom and central heating. When her hands were too shaky to write, Megan would use the telephone to keep in touch with her grandchildren and her now new great-grandchildren. Each time they made the lengthy journey to come and stay with her, she found herself delighted and  would revel in holding the babies, in tickling the toddlers, in cooking and fussing over them all, singing to them, after a whiskey night cap or two, tales of when she was a girl in the War.

As her great-grandchildren toddled on, so Megan grew old.  The day the stroke hit her she had been into the town to share a coffee with old friends, proud of the fact that, at the age of 92, she could still walk down the lane unaided, free to breathe in the clear mountain air she so loved. The warden discovered Megan the next morning, still in her armchair, her bladder having emptied upon it, her jaw having drooped, her left arm having ceased to work.

For the first few weeks following the stroke, Megan spent her time recuperating at a hospital by the coast, the salt of the Irish Sea so close she swore she could sometimes taste it. But, as happens with illness, Megan’s body slowly began to crumble, doctors detecting the onset of Alzheimer’s at the base of her brain, a condition made worse by the discovery of a lump in her breast, an operation performed to remove it ravaging her immune system more. With her body shutting down, Megan found herself transferred to a residential home in Llanberis, a move that left her confused, the Alzheimer’s shaking up the memories of her life like a pack of cards, leaving them to fall in disarray.  Family would come and visit often, great-grand children bringing tales of school and class assemblies, Ewan, now 62, bringing a look of worry and sadness. Many of the residents at the home, Megan would find, liked to complain about their lot, about the beds, the TV, the food. But not Megan. Instead, she would go on to live her days in the home and make the best she could of her confusion, her new-found incontinence and of her one remaining breast; and when  it got bad, she would say nothing at all about it, letting the silence do the talking for her. For, towards the end of her quiet life, just as towards the beginning, Megan Evans (nee Quinn) never made a fuss.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  If you missed some parts of the story, you can catch it all by clicking on the tag “The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn”, (see the left-hand bar)or link to the Friday fact or fiction category. Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**

Friday Fiction post: Part 4 of short story, ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with part four of my new short story, ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’…

 

The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn – Part Four

That night, as the bombs routinely rained down on Liverpool, one of the Luftwaffe happened to misfire and instead of striking the city, for the first time, they struck Mold. The cold light of the morning revealed that the recipient of the accidental bomb was the military hospital on the outskirts of the town, the very same hospital in which Megan’s sister Dorothy had been working that night. It sent the Quinn family into panic. The bomb, Megan’s Father learned from the Vicar, had been a direct hit with many dead and injured, and as the day inched forward, no news came. It was only when morning stepped into afternoon, that Megan, home with her Mother and aunts making pots of tea to calm nerves, heard the shout from her Father, sat, as he had been all day, on watch by the back gate from where his beloved Dorothy had left some 36 hours earlier. ‘Dorothy! Dorothy!’ he shouted. Megan dropped the teapot and ran out. ‘Thank you, Lord,’ she cried, because, there, charred and shivering, stood her sister – she was finally home.

Once bathed and wrapped, after a journey that saw her walk some 22 miles covered in dust and entrails, Dorothy revealed how she had been saved. She had that night, it transpired, stepped outside during a quiet period of her shift and walked the two hundred yards to the copse of oaks that stood guard by entrance of the hospital grounds, and it was here she stood when the bomb hit. Holding her hand, their Father asked Dorothy why she chose the copse of oaks in particular to stand by. Drawing in a breath, Dorothy said, ‘I was smoking a cigarette, Dad. I’m so, so sorry.’ With breaths held and all eyes upon him, how Megan’s father responded that day would go on to make her smile with fondness for him long after cancer took his life. ‘Dorothy,’ he said, taking her hands, ‘if going out for a smoke was what kept you alive then you can puff on a thousand cigarettes as far as I am concerned, my girl!’

Dorothy Quinn never did return to nursing, her love for it still alight but her fingers, as it turned out, quite literally, burned. The Government, in need of desk clerks and administrators for their local councils on account of keeping the nation organised in wartime, recruited Dorothy to take care of their work programmes, a job that Dorothy Quinn would inhabit throughout her spinsterhood until her death in 1989, upon when Megan ensured her sister tombstone read: May you now be heaven’s nurse.

Three months following the bombing of Mold the British Army called up Gethan to their ranks. To the march of boots on cobblestone, once more, Megan found herself in the familiar position of having to keep calm and carry on, and, with the train carriage waiting at the platform, she kissed her beloved Gethan goodbye, praying then and every night after for God and a strong trench to keep him safe.

The routine of daily life kept Megan’s mind occupied in Gethan’s absence. In particular, an invite to visit Nancy in the coming weeks once Nancy’s baby was born became Megan’s temporary life buoy.  But the visit was not to work out. One week before Nancy was due, the Luftwaffe bombed Liverpool in one of its most savage attacks, and so, when Megan’s visit to Nancy finally came, it was to attend Nancy’s funeral.  With the air heavy and the clouds black, the service, a Catholic affair, was held in Liverpool, and when Megan arrived on the train she witnessed the rows upon rows of coffins that lined the community halls, the piles of rubble strewn with bricks and sticks and body parts, creating an image that would remain seared on Megan’s brain forever. It was in this landscape that Megan, in a black blouse and skirt made by her mother, arrived at a house five streets from Nancy’s now rubble-reduced terrace. In the parlour, the funeral gathering was in full flow, women weeping, faces shrouded by lace and weariness; men sipping whiskey, staring at the walls; children, limbs scratched and grey, tugging at skirts. As Megan soon discovered, Nancy was housed in a coffin in the adjoining room, and, as was the custom at a Catholic funeral, as Megan walked through the door she was greeted by the open coffin, Nancy dressed in her wedding gown, casket open, the body shrouded in a light film of brick dust. Immediately, Megan’s eyes were drawn to Nancy’s belly. It was flat. Of course, Megan thought, she lost the baby. Without warning, Megan, slapping her palm to her mouth, found herself having to streak from the parlour, and, darting into the back yard, located a bucket in to which she immediately wretched. Mouth dabbed, it was only upon return to the house to give her condolences and goodbyes to the parents that Megan plucked up the courage to enquire after Nancy’s unborn baby. ‘It were a girl,’ was all Nancy’s mother could say before collapsing to the ground to be comforted by the priest. Six months later to the day, whilst sat at home reading a letter from Gethan, Megan would hear the news that Nancy’s husband, David, had been killed in action, a grenade claiming his heart that was already broken.

 

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Part 5 of The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn will be out on next Friday’s Fact or Fiction post.  Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**

Friday Fiction post: Part 3 of ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’

It’s “Friday Fact or Fiction”,  where I write a little something for the weekend for you to read, be it fact or, um, fiction. This week, it’s ‘fiction’, with the third part of my new short story, ‘The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn’…

 

The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn – Part Three

Beneath the mist drifting in from the Irish Sea and the spring sunshine that melted the Snowdonian peaks, life in the town of Mold gradually adapted to the wartime routine. Like other towns, the community of Mold took to placing their previous lives, loves and habits into a hut for deep hibernation until such a time that the War was over, provisions were plentiful and life could once more blossom. Megan, her hair now cut into a shoulder-length blonde wave, her head taller than most of the young men who had left for the trenches of France, found life making bombs bearable by befriending a girl equally tall and answering to the name of Nancy. Sensing a kindred spirit in the other, the two would regularly talk their way home after a day’s work, sometimes so wrapped up their conversations that they would barely make it back before blackout. As time ticked on, Megan and Nancy would discuss boys, work, parents, babies, weddings, the future, but, from time to time, during these chats, Megan would find her mind wandering on to teaching and a tear would break free, at which point Nancy would pause, pass Megan a tissue and let the silence speak for them.

When their daily talks on the return from work moved on to babies, Megan soon discovered that for Nancy, the notion of having a baby girl of her own filled Nancy with so much light that Megan supposed that the Luftwaffe would be able to see it shine even behind the heavy blackout curtains. Eager for her friend to find happiness, upon this baby-talk, Megan would link Nancy’s arm, her fingers black with oil, and skipping along the lane would say, ‘You will have your very own baby girl, my Nancy, you will!’

            As the seasons changed, that day came sooner than either of them imagined. Indeed, the day Nancy met her future husband – he just 18 and awaiting conscription, she just 17 and awaiting love – was the day Megan found Gethan Ewan Evans. Gethan Evans was a Welsh country boy of her same 16 years, and would go on to mend Megan’s heart with a love that was to complete her for the rest of her days. Gethan’s parents, years infirmed from various ailments, lived at the heel of Mount Snowdon, their home built with sweat and stone in the age when there was a war not against Germany’s dictators, but against England’s Princes and Kings. It was to be a place that, in five years time, would become their marital home, a marriage that would occur after gentle courting was done.

            It was during the first flush of their courting days, days which saw dragonflies dart along the mountain pass, that Gethan’s own dreams of becoming a Doctor were ended by his parents’ respective heart conditions, his role as only child requiring him to leave his studies and, returning to the family home, tend to his Mother and Father. And so it was that Megan found herself courting a 16-year-old boy from Llanberis, Snowdonia, who once dreamed of becoming a Doctor and now spent every day black as soot working in the Slate Mine splitting great slabs of the stone with a chisel and a hammer. ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’, the posters in the town would announce as Megan and Gethan walked, arms linked, at the end of another hard day, sunlight fading, sneaking in a stroll before curfew. Keep Calm And Carry On.

            As Megan soon discovered, keeping calm was a notion that came easy to Gethan Evans. It was, by now, early spring, a time when the daffodil buds swayed by the roadside and the gentle air of the St. David’s Day song breathed a welcome warmth following the frozen winter symphony. For several months, Megan and Gethan had been meeting with their now betrothed friends Nancy and David Williams. David Williams, a man of now 19 years, had at last received his regiment instructions that he was to journey to France in one week to fight Hitler’s army with a bayonet and the pride of God, King and country as his armoury. The home of the young Williams couple was now David’s birth city of Liverpool, and Nancy, her belly now 32 weeks swollen, was contently installed there, playing house with David’s mother and father, and as happy as she had wished for during those first fevered talks with Megan on their way home from building bombs.

On this particular spring evening, in a rare chance for the couples to meet, an evening of dance was enjoyed at Mold Town Hall, the quartet joining arms afterwards to walk to the local fish and chip shop for a supper treat before the Normandy trenches came calling. Sitting on the step eating flakes of batter, it was custom for the four to observe the comings and goings of the customers of the public house opposite, a place where men went to drink and forget, to fight and remember. On this night, the group watched as one man, cap sideways, cheeks rudded and pocked, staggered from the entrance, legs splayed like a new born colt, breath loud with whiskey and ale. Megan, her eyesight as clear as a mountain spring, recognised the fellow immediately to be her Uncle Aled. Concerned for her Uncle, Megan felt a panic shoot up within her, for to be so drunk on a street in Mold, or indeed anywhere for that matter at that time, was deeply frowned upon, even if there was a War on. Yet, while Megan was panicking, Gethan upon hearing the news from her, was a lake of calm, and, holding out a hand on the end of his strong shoulder sculptured in the mines of Llanberis, helped her stand and said, ‘It will all be fine. You’ll see.’ And so it was. For at that very moment the air raid signal screamed. The group, startled, remained just long enough to witness Uncle Aled snap to a stand, the jelly of the drunk no longer about him, and, running to the fire shed, they witnessed as he rang the bell, shouting for his fellow voluntary fire fighters to emerge from their homes and prepare to protect the town.

Copyright © Nikki Owen 2012

Thanks for reading!  Part 4 of The Quiet Life of Megan Quinn will be out on next Friday’s Fact or Fiction post.  Have a lovely weekend.

**Look out for  my “Media Monday” post on, um, Monday. A short, sharp snippet on the latest writing & publishing news…**