audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, relationships, short story

Made For You

White dresses on white hangers against a white background.
Charisse Kenion via Unsplash

It’s always been considered bad luck to make your own wedding dress. It implies a life of want if you can’t outsource such an important task, or maybe a life of never-ending work. That means a steady procession of happy brides-to-be in my bridal shop. These days I leave the actual stitching to my dedicated and skilful seamstresses. I prefer to interact with my customers and bask in their excited energy, spilled without any thought to the cost.

Being married isn’t essential in this business, but it definitely helps. My engagement ring is not just a symbol of love, it’s one and a half carats of trust. Brides love to buy their wedding dress from someone who understands their mindset after all. And the man who gave me his promise is six feet of wonderful who loves me dearly. Sometimes I pinch myself, because how did I get so lucky?

My last customer of the day is radiant. Accompanied by her mother, Rosalind wants only the best. They haven’t set a date yet but she can’t wait to start looking. I pull eight gowns and she looks truly wonderful in all of them.

While Rosalind gets dressed her mother and I chat, the usual about luck and love and soulmates. A photo of them smiling together is proudly produced. Rosalind’s mother wipes away happy tears. Look, they’re made for each other. I look, and I can’t breathe. I lock and bolt the door after they’re gone but it’s too late.

Somewhere along the line, I missed something.

The day I leave, I pack everything except my shears. I take great care of my dressmaking tools even though I don’t use them often, because keeping a sharp edge is essential to a clean cut. His jackets will look normal at first glance, until he pulls them and finds sleeves removed and linings slashed.

When I reach the last one, his favourite Italian wool suit, I can’t bring myself to vandalise its exquisite workmanship. I know how much work it takes to construct something so beautiful. Instead I leave parting gifts; my wedding ring on the counter – and raw eggs smashed in each of the suit pockets.

We shared everything. Soon he too will discover something rotten hiding in the dark.


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audio, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Don’t Look Now

window woman_ken wyatt
Ken Wyatt via Unsplash

She’s always there, staring out of her front window. When I herd my children into the car for the school run or come home late from work, her gaze follows me. I’ve learned not to look because her answering smile is borderline creepy.

Sometimes her constant scrutiny angers me. I want to scream obscenities, smash the window, drag her outside. I want to get right in her face and tell her to get a life that’s not mine. However, polite society frowns on that kind of behaviour, not to mention it’s a bad example for the kids. So I swallow it all down with a gin and tonic on Friday night.

When the sale board appears outside her house I grin. No more weird old neighbour, probably been hauled off to a nursing home to stare out of a new window at the world going by without her. Of course I’m much too busy to think that far ahead but I’m absolutely certain that won’t be my future. Gotta keep moving. Don’t slow down, then those troublesome thoughts can’t catch up.

I silence it all, swallow it all with another gin and tonic every Friday night.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 31 – Ripe

red apples fruit juicy
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Listen here: 

Susannah loved autumn. Trees shifted from dull green to vibrant yellow and warm amber, before catching fire in a blaze of triumphant red. Traffic-stopping colours begged her to pause and marvel at the culmination of a season’s growth.

She’d done her part earlier by hanging codling moth traps, feeding, and carefully pruning. But the real work of growing belonged to the trees that produced a harvest with or without her help.

It seemed a pity to dissect this bounty. Still, slicing through the scarlet skin and crisp flesh revealed buried treasure. When fruit ripened to its maturity, it released the seeds of its regeneration.

Smiling at the memory and anticipation of her grandkids’ demands for more, Susannah baked her apples into fragrant pies.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 30 – Catch

 

boat moon_photo-graphe
Image by photo-graphe via pixabay

Listen:

Fishermen were prone to exaggeration. Long weeks at sea did strange things to a man’s mind, and he’d start seeing things. Night fishing might bring him face to face with things he couldn’t quite explain. The feeling of being watched, or the sense of something moving unseen below the surface.

Every fisherman accepted the unflinching right of the sea to bestow life or death upon those who dared venture from the safety of dry land. No wonder they drank.

Bryn thought all those stories were tall tales told over too many jugs of ale. Unusually for a fisherman he dismissed superstition. He taught himself first to swim, then to dive for crabs. In his free time he played a flute made from a piece of red coral he found on the sea bed.

One night he rose, unable to sleep, and took his small boat out. A fat white moon reflected in small ripples on the water, and he gazed at it for a while. There was no reason to cast his net, but he did anyway. A moment later something tugged at the floats.

Bryn hauled in his catch, spellbound by shining silver eyes and pearly skin, blue hair floating around her waist. He leaned closer and she wound her arms around his neck.

“Come with me,” she sang. “I answer your call.”

When his boat washed ashore days later everyone assumed he’d drowned. He should not have learned to swim, they said. He didn’t show proper respect to the sea. But afterwards some who fished on the night of the full moon swore they heard music, coming from below the waves.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, relationships, short story

Inktober 28 – Ride

woman facing ferris wheel while making heart hand sign
Photo by Garon Piceli on Pexels.com

listen:

Despite everything, Jo couldn’t help but feel excited. She’d come to the amusement park with four friends, hoping to forget about Ben. So far it was working, though she missed having Molly by her side to share inside jokes and angry rants about her ex. They giggled through the haunted house and ate way too many sugary treats. She even won a bright blue bear at the shooting range all by herself.

When they reached the front of the line for the Ferris wheel, Jo hung back at first. Then she swallowed hard, took a deep breath and got into the last car. She should be strong enough to conquer her fear.

The car rose and she was too fascinated watching the people below to remember she was alone. Her friends were laughing, paired off in the cars ahead. Jo laughed too, until she spotted them. Far below Ben and Molly walked hand in hand, then stopped to share a lingering kiss. Right out in the open, where anyone could see. Like they hadn’t a care in the world.

Jo stared down at the couple, her knuckles white around soft blue fur. Her heart slipped its moorings and fell to earth. From such a height, it was bound to shatter.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry

Inktober 23 – Ancient

olive tree sunset_TeeFarm
Image by Teefarm via pixabay.com

listen:

I am that tree

blasted by vengeful lightning
gnarled limbs tortured by gales
weeping garlanded cloud lichen
wrapped in sighing mists
grey with memory.

But when seasons change
my roots sink deeper, kissing bedrock.
Fruitless branches sway and hold fast
remember ripened glories.
Sculpted by time’s angry knife
blooming green defiance

I endure.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 22 – Ghost

washington-dc_David Mark
Image by David Mark via pixabay

listen:

I walked down a street that seemed much bigger in my memory. Where were the dangers our mothers warned us about? It was a perfectly ordinary row of houses. Small front gardens were tucked behind hedges in every stage of growth from tight restriction to careless abandon.

I stopped outside the wildest hedge of all, overgrown and formless. Branches glossy with recent rain reached damp fingers towards me. A faint scent of unseen roses blew past. The pale green front door was peeling and the windows were blank. Still, your voice drifted down to me.

“You’re early!”

“You’re late.” I tapped my watch in mock anger but my lips betrayed me. “As usual.”

“Sorry, wait for me.” You flashed that unforgettably brilliant smile, and vanished.

Alone again, I turned my collar up against light but persistent drizzle. Suddenly colder, I wished past and present would unite into the future you promised before we slipped through each other’s fingers, and were lost.

Wait for me.

That’s what you always said. And I did.

I came back, but all I found were ghosts whispering in the wind.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 21 – Treasure

rose-treasure chest_Pezibear
Image by Pezibear via pixabay

listen:

“Are we in the right place?”

“Yes, definitely.”

“Am I getting close yet?”

“Go a little further north… and you’re nearly there.”

“How about…here?”

Her back arched. “Oh yes,” she sighed. “You found the spot.”


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 20 – Tread

hide_Sandra Karuna
Image by Sandra Karuna via pixabay

listen:

I can hear them downstairs, but I don’t think they’ll find me.

Daddy and me played hide and seek a lot. At first he would stamp on every stair so I could hear him coming, but later on he’d sneak so, so quietly. When I found this spot and stayed hidden for ages, he was very proud. He hugged me and gave me chocolate. He said I was his good boy, his clever boy.

So when he shouted Danny run and hide right now I did. My nose itches but I mustn’t sneeze or give myself away. It’s dark and too small in here but it’s not time to come out, not yet.

I can hear heavy boots on the stairs. My heart beats so, so fast. Tramp, tramp, tramp. Here they come. My eyes are wet. Please go away. I breathe fast, quiet as I can. Please, please.

Yes! The footsteps are leaving but now I can hear Max barking. He doesn’t like strangers. I’ll stay hidden until they’re gone.

Then the barking stops.

“Good boy, clever boy,” a man’s voice says. “Go find Danny.”


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 19 – Sling

island heart_Jonny Lindner
Image by Jonny Lindner via pixabay

Aimée hung her head and sighed. Where had it all gone wrong? She’d tried to be a cosmopolitan woman, and when that didn’t work she took refuge in sex on the beach next to a blue lagoon. That was possibly unwise and in any case ultimately unfulfilling. Manhattan was hardly any better.

Damn all men, and damn one man in particular with his easy smile and warm, gentle hands. She couldn’t forget and she refused to cry.

Though a couple of painkillers helped a little, there was one more thing she could try that might cradle her broken body and ease her suffering. She raised a shaky hand.

“Bartender!” Aimée spoke slowly, carefully. “One Singapore Sling, please.”


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