• Family

    The Banana Incident

    ‘I am not spending money on a cinema screen. It’s not happening,’ Hugo said, marching up the muddy, beaten track toward another kissing gate. ‘Hugo, calm down, I’m just saying…’ Kate grabbed a water bottle from his rucksack. ‘Slow down!’ ‘I won’t do it,’ he reiterated, not slowing down at all. ‘Dad, it’s freezing!’ Jack moaned, trudging behind his parents. ‘I told you to wear a hat,’ Kate huffed. ‘It’s hardly much bigger than our one now anyway.’ ‘It’s six inches bigger! We don’t need a 50-inch TV.’ ‘We don’t need a bean to cup machine either, but…’ ‘Uh, we do actually.’ Hugo glanced at the coffee-stained OS map. ‘It…

  • Family

    You Made It

    ‘What about Christmas Day?’ she asked. ‘It’s tomorrow.’ A blast of white air escaped my mouth like I had a puncture. ‘I won’t make it,’ I winced as I said it, bashing the side of the lorry with my fist. ‘I’m sorry. They needed the extra work, and you know how desperate we are for the extra money. It’s so icy, and the traffic…’ ‘Don’t drive dangerously, Liam.’ Cars sped past on the main road. Jaguars and leopards after their warm dinners. They’d be home in time for Christmas. The bitter wind moaned through the trees behind me, and a horn shrieked at a car that had its main beams on. …

  • Family

    The Ugliest Christmas Jumper

    It was the ugliest one I’d seen by far. Elf-green wool with HOHOHO in white bordering the arms and torso, and…I am not even kidding…tiny ball balls sewn onto the fabric in the shape of a Christmas tree. She had made it herself. Gran had made it especially for me. She didn’t hate me either. She liked me. She thought this would make the best present ever. I mean…there’s a Specsavers advert right there! But I loved Gran. I couldn’t have not worn it on Christmas Day. Except, I had also planned to meet Jon’s parents for the first time that afternoon. Yes, the first time ever. Ever. And of course, I wasn’t going to…

  • Family,  Romance

    Love in Action

    Winter was the hardest on her. The dark, cold mornings, the dark, cold afternoons. And we had just added two more babies to our not-so-little family. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be a dad to four kids. That wasn’t the plan. We wanted two. But then we thought just one more. And the fourth arrived alongside that third. Twins. It was Lex that did it all. Kept us all alive. Kept us all motivated. She was the star. She was the workhorse. With a husband that worked in London all week and barely got to kiss her goodnight by the time one foot was in the…

  • Childhood,  Family

    Fairy Princess

    When I was five, it was just Daddy and me. He didn’t walk in the door with bags of sweets anymore. He had to pick me up from school every day instead. He had no sweets with him. He didn’t slurp up spaghetti with me anymore. He had to cook fish fingers and chips for us every day instead. He didn’t slurp anything up. He didn’t play I Spy with me when we skipped through the park anymore. He had to answer his phone instead. He didn’t skip. When he shouted at people, I dreamt I was a fairy princess, floating high in the sky above the pink clouds, in…

  • Childhood,  Family,  Friendship

    First Class

    ‘How long?’ I breathed down the phone. ‘Weeks,’ Martin’s voice choked back. The day after, at four o’clock in the afternoon, I popped around to the red-bricked house next door. Jenny was setting the table, and the smell of home-cooked cottage pie filled the air. She kindly put a teapot on for us while young Sophie played with her ice blue princess castle. ‘Does she…’ I asked, narrowing my eyes. Jenny shook her head. ‘We need to. But I just…’ Her cup shook against her saucer. ‘Let me help,’ I offered, placing my aged hand over hers. Her skin was so young. ‘How?’ Her eyes were lost, strong, and full…

  • Childhood,  Dreams,  Family,  Friendship

    Just a Toy

    Fourteen foster homes in fourteen years. Every year, a new home. There was always something. Not the right fit, just a temporary thing, they had to relocate immediately, too much of a strain on the family, behavioural issues, it’s just not working out. No room for error, no room for failure. One big mistake, and I was gone. And at fourteen years old, it was not hard to make one big mistake. I was expelled on the second day of my new school with my thirteenth foster family. On the third, I was gone. By that point, I couldn’t imagine ever becoming a piece in that well-known puzzle we know…

  • Dreams,  Family,  Romance

    My Mary

    Clad in sooty black leather, my Mary roared about the seaside village from the unripe age of sixteen. When she rode, her vanilla hair whipped out of her helmet, which she only wore because her father demanded it, her slick smile grew ten inches, and that jacket she wore burnt under the relentless sun like a lump of hot coal. She was a lioness. And the village folk didn’t take kindly to it. They harrumphed and tutted. My Mary heard the whisperings, but it didn’t bother her a jot.  And then she met me. An awkward, gangly fellow who resembled more of a dizzy flamingo than a strapping lion. But…

  • Childhood,  Family

    The Begonias

    ‘Mum, can we go now?’ Samuel groaned, tugging his mum’s Gillet as she perused a selection of begonias. ‘Almost, darling.’ She read a tag. Samuel rolled his eyes and watched a man who looked like a goat fill his trolley with spiky plants. There were plants everywhere, and everyone thought the world of them! His mum thought more highly of them than her own son. What could a plant do that he couldn’t? Talk back maybe. ‘Mum, it’s been hours,’ he tried again. ‘Samuel, please,’ she snipped like a pair of pruning shears. ‘Excuse me!’ she called over to an assistant to talk through the begonias who had become her…

  • Family

    Our Last

    The warm weight of her head against my rising and falling chest, her deep breathing in and out, her lead body as still as a starry night sky. My lips sticking against her hot, fine hair, her lashes beautifully trimming her dainty lids, her matchstick thumb resting against her cherry bottom lip. My precious two-year-old, exhausted, vulnerable, sleeping soundly on well-trodden ground, as once was the norm, probably for the very last time.