• 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…

  • 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

    Something Bright

    ‘Mummy?’ Sophie asks, flinging our linked hands to and fro. ‘Yes?’ I answer mindlessly, strolling along the path hedged in by weather-beaten fences. Shouting pierces the atmosphere from a nearby house. ‘What is hope?’ she blurts out from under her purple bobble hat. She stares at the ground as she avoids the cracks. Where did that come from? Four-year-olds might not have the strength to throw a boomerang across a field, but they can swing a heavy-loaded question no problem. ‘Why do you ask, darling?’ Her wispy blonde hair flies in front of her wide blue eyes. ‘The man on the TV said hope when you was watching it. About…

  • Friendship

    Our School Walk

    Every morning on my way to school, I walked past the same girl. Her mummy was never with her. We never said hello. She looked the same age as me. Her eyes were stuck to the pavement like the Velcro straps on my school shoes. She had a black rucksack with holes in it, and it was never zipped up properly. Once, a pencil fell out, and my mummy picked it up to give to her. She didn’t say thank you. She looked so sad, I wondered if she had a mummy at all. One morning, it rained so hard that I thought the sky was trying to make popcorn…

  • Family

    Her Mark

    We ventured all over the village, leaving traces of her everywhere. She had left a mark on Sarah and me, but she was too young to have left her mark on the world. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair. I wanted everyone to see her, to know her, to feel the impact of her short existence. On a post in the woods, we left her old shoe. She learnt to walk there. On a jagged stone wall, we left a buttercup. She always stopped to pick them on our family walks. On a roundabout in a playground, we left her toy microphone. She said her first word on there. ‘Sing’.…

  • Childhood,  Friendship

    A Drop of Kindness

    I heard the shouting through my bedroom wall one night. It was a woman’s voice. She sounded like how my mum did when my older brother had done something stupid. I fell asleep to the sound of her slurring words. The next night, as I was drifting off, I heard a small, soft voice. It was a girl. She sounded like me. Her sad singing, like a lullaby, sent me off to sleep. Smash. Thud. Bang. I got used to the shouting and crying after a while. I thought we’d have decent neighbours when we moved like our last ones. It was all Dad’s fault. He didn’t lose his job.…

  • Family,  Romance

    Just Them Two

    Helen and cliff enjoyed the simple things in life. They woke at six every morning, read the newspaper with their breakfast, kissed each other on the cheek before leaving for work, met up for lunch in the park, the same spot as always, ate dinner together and caught up on their day, and after reading a book or watching the television, they would retire to bed. A life such as this to one eye could seem mundane, a rut they had built themselves over the years in their marriage. However, Helen and Cliff were happy. At times, they would squabble over the washing up or the wet towels discarded on…