Vicky Newham


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Fifty Two Lives – by Vicky Newham

I shall ride a bus today.

Nothing remarkable in that. I’ve done it every day for the last twelve years. Along Woburn Place, through Bloomsbury towards Holborn.

Today I shall get off the bus before my stop and carry my survivor guilt into the tree-lined gardens of Russell Square, where the ornate fountain spurts life’s water over the same ground on which people collapsed ten years ago, weighted with inconsolable grief and desperate for news.

I shall bask in the agonising beauty of the flower beds where spring has died and summer now blooms. Where purple foxgloves boast their vibrancy, and scarlet poppies bob in the breeze. I’ll visit the young oak tree, planted on the spot where mourners gathered to place floral tributes, and will pore over each word on the memorial plaque.

Today petals will fall in the Whispering Gallery of St Paul’s Cathedral to commemorate the fifty two lives and all those affected.

Each life, as delicate as a feather, which the wind carried into the path of evil.

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Vicky Newham © 2015


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The Trap – flash fiction

I’m turning into my mother.

It hits me as I lean over the bath and sprinkle talc between damp toes. A shiver of dread accompanies the realisation.

‘I’m going upstairs to wash my feet,’ she’d say, and then would return ten minutes later, lipstick refreshed, hair smoothed into place, and a dab of Penhaligon’s Bluebell behind the ears.

I know each step of the routine. Lolled on the rug in her dressing room dozens of times, pretending not to watch while all the time taking in each intricate gesture and the order in which they’re performed. The side to side lip movement to distribute colour. Not too vigorous, just enough. Then blot.

And here I am, carrying out the same rituals, in the same order, to collect my thoughts and recalibrate before day slides into evening.

You’ll be home soon, crackling with excitement about your trip, people met, sights seen. And you’ll inquire kindly, ‘How was your week?’

And I’ll wither inside and squeeze out, ‘Fine, thanks,’ when what I really want to say is, ‘I’ve turned into my bloody mother.’

As she looks back at me from the oval mirror, the one that always sat on her dressing table, heaviness pulls like emotional gravity.

And I scruff up my hair and wipe my mouth clean. Pull on jeans and flip-flops.

I am not my mother. I am me.

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Vicky Newham © 2015


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My Flashbang 2015 entries: ‘Sinker’ and ‘Mercy’

A few people have asked if they could read my two Flashbang entries, so here they are. Both were longlisted. ‘Mercy’ was then shortlisted and won 3rd prize. This is such a fabulous competition, with very generous prizes, and anything that encourages a bit of flashing gets my vote!

SINKER

I’d planned it meticulously. The virus would spread on your laptop and you’d need the technicians. I would allocate myself the job and plant the images, each one selected to make the judge’s pupils dilate.

You, the most un-computer savvy person in the company, the one who just happened to have nabbed the guy I’d been warming up for the last two years. Oh, I’d seen you, swishing that blonde hair of yours with its split ends, throwing out that hyena laugh.

And I’d watched him fall hook, line and bloody sinker.

But he wouldn’t want you for long. I knew him. Unlike you.

I’d emailed my concerns to the CEO. He’d be onto the police in a flash.

Ah. Here they are now.

‘Ms Harris? I’m arresting you for installing indecent …’ The words were a blur. What …?

You’d only gone and installed tracking software, hadn’t you?


MERCY

He’d asked for freesias. ‘They were Jean’s favourite,’ he said.

In the vase by the bed, the buds loosen and release their delicate aroma.

He’s already half asleep. His body, barely a bump under the covers. Eye sockets hollowed out and cheek bones protruding.

‘No-one important,’ was how he described himself. ‘Not famous or special.’ A simple life, of love and loss: fish paste sandwiches eaten on the beach in the wind; an afternoon movie and night-time drive; the death of his wife.

Except – he was no ordinary man. He’d survived the war but was no match for this disease.

Six o’clock he’d requested, the same time he was born.

I glance at my watch and check everything’s in place. Increase the dose into the cannula. And clutching his frail hand, with skin gathered round joints, I sit with him and wait.

And say farewell to my beloved dad.

‘Mercy’ is dedicated to my lovely father, who, sadly, suffered – but I didn’t murder him. Honest.

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Vicky Newham © 2015


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The room on the left – flash fiction

Ruby rolls the sole of each foot on the stair carpet, ears pinned for warning signs. Inside her sock, each millimetre of skin has to touch the fluffy surface so she can delay her progress. It’s always like this now. Scared to stay but dreading the walls of her bedroom.

Some days it’s a slammed door. Others, it’s the tone in his voice, the ‘aar’ of ‘darling’ oozing contempt. And the relentless taunts of her mother, about the life she could have had, the life she should have had.

The items at the side of the stairs collect dust: the torch to show visitors out, toilet roll for the bathroom, the mended radio. They aren’t taken to their destinations or even seen anymore. And no-one ever visits.

Ruby pulls herself up on the bannisters, another game she plays with herself, a fireman climbing a pole. Or an Olympic gymnast swinging on bars. The girlie name plaque emblazons her bedroom door. The ‘keep out’ sign, both erected by a different father, when he smiled and laughed and took them for walks with the dog.

She slides down onto the carpet, and the threadbare rug, joining her friends: her pens and pencils and her chunky pad. And the plastic pony from Auntie Mary.

Downstairs it’s gone quiet. She wasn’t listening but hears anyway.

And in the corner, the tap still drips.

Ruby closes her eyes. Connects with her heart’s wish. May Mummy and Daddy be happy again.

And may I feel safe.

Vicky Newham © 2015


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Waiting for the past: flash fiction

 

‘’Ere you are, love! Another coffee?’

The waitress plonks the chipped mug down on the cluttered table, slopping liquid on his paperwork. She appears oblivious, picks up the old cup and walks off. Muttering under his breath, Danny grabs a handful of wafer-thin napkins and dabs at the spreading pool of milky liquid on the plastic tablecloth.

He snatches another look at his watch, and his cheek muscles twitch. Swipes the touch screen of his phone with his index finger. Nothing. Eyes peeled on the door, he glances up each time the mini wind-chimes announce an arrival. Where is she? She’s late now. Has she been held up? Changed her mind?

He opens his novel at the book mark. The third time in an hour. Frustrated with having to keep re-reading the same sentence, he closes the book and lounges back in the plastic chair, gently rubbing the two day stubble on his chin with his fingertips. Should he have made more of an effort? A haircut perhaps?

When they spoke on the phone, she hadn’t been convinced. Wasn’t it better sometimes to let sleeping dogs lie? He’d pleaded of course and she’d relented. But that was two weeks ago. The lady at the agency had emphasised the need to have low expectations. But how could he? After all this time.

‘You’ve got to protect yourself,’ she said. ‘Don’t think that this is going to be everything you’ve always wanted. It might lead no-where. It’s been a long time for you both.’ Her sing-song-y voice had floated round the room.

How many times before had she said the same thing? And how often had the outcome been positive?

‘Sometimes people in this situation agree to meet but change their mind. Get scared and don’t turn up. But Danny was sure that she would. She’d promised.

Ding ding. Danny sees her come in. Short, dark hair, she’d said. A pink top. Age about right. She clocks him. In the corner. Panic spreads over her face like a rash. She turns back for the door. Danny’s heart sinks. He’s about to jump up and shout out. Then she changes her mind again. Approaches his table. Her eyes dart, her outstretched hand shakes. Blotches creep up her neck.

‘Danny?’

He flickers a smile and leaps up. The mug goes flying. Thirty six years he’s waited. His whole life. To fill in the gaps about who he is, and why she gave him up all those years ago. ‘Mum,’ he stammers. ‘I’m so pleased you came. I knew you would.’

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(I wrote this piece a couple of years ago. Found it on my old PC)(Can’t seem to get proper formatting on WordPress)

Vicky Newham © 2013