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(A flash fiction for Friday Flash and a reworked version of yesterday’s post: ‘Too Shiny for a Ladybird’.)

Well it all started when he phoned me and asked me to go to the clinic with him.
‘But I’m not your wife anymore, Dougie,’ I told him.
‘I know,’ he said, ‘but it’s you I want. You were always so good at, you know, the hand-holding. So reassuring and … well… you know – maternal.’ And then he said, ‘Please, love. I don’t want her.’

Yes, okay. I know. So three years after the divorce I was still misreading the signs. Some of us see our future all mapped out and find it difficult to take another path. What can I say?
I hadn’t stopped loving him, you see. I suppose I was still processing what had happened – what he’d done to me.

‘…it’s you I want… I don’t want her…’ That’s what he’d said.

It sounds so stupid, now I’m telling you about it.

Sheena…God… She was furious when she found out I’d gone to the appointment with him. Accused him of being unfaithful and moved out. Just like that. After three years. But, you know, I think I did her a favour really. She was that quick to leave… Makes you wonder… Dougie said she was too “feminine” and fragile” to cope with all the stress. Not like me. He said I was…. What was it he called me? …“Sturdy.” Yes that was it.

Of course, everyone else said what a fool I was and how I was reading too much into it – just seeing what I wanted to see. But I saw a sick man and a commitment. That wasn’t what I wanted to see.
And I did stop loving him… Eventually.

When the pain got too much he would call out for her. And he called me – Well… You don’t need to know what he called me.

When I saw what he and his “little princess” had done to my rose garden, to make way for gravel and decking… It was like a stab to the heart. The pink emulsion over my William Morris wallpaper – well, it was insulting. Just the blatant disregard for anything I had done. It was all such a waste. I imagined Sheena laughing as they ripped out my Victorian oak kitchen and replaced it with soulless modern stuff.
Out with the old, in with the new, huh?

She never came back. Never visited. Not even on his fiftieth birthday. But she didn’t divorce him and he didn’t want her too either. No, she just kept spending his money and then got the rest, you know…

I’ll give Sheena credit, though. It must have been a very expensive headstone. See how it gleams in the sun? I’ve never seen anything so shiny. Apart from Sheena’s cheeks, that is. She has this polishing thing done and then covers her face in some sparkly iridescent pink stuff. She likes giving me make-up tips. I think she feels sorry for me or something.

Of course they’re not from me, these flowers, they’re from her. Sheena is the beloved wife, etched in marble for all eternity, after all – and the one spending Dougie’s last few pounds on shiny stuff, not me.

Do you want a lift somewhere? Mine’s that old 1950’s Aston Martin over there. You like it? Yes I do too. Needs work and a new paint job, but I find the subtler, matte look quite endearing. Sheena never liked the old cars, made Dougie drive her around in a new thing, so when she found that in the garage under a blanket she asked me to take it off her hands.

Really? That much? Gosh – you do surprise me.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Rachel, it is so interesting reading both versions. Your revised one works very well and reads much more fluently. It’s funny, because the things that I wasn’t sure about in the first version have gone! The ladybird for example and the longer description of the head stone. I also like the way she is talking to someone. Is it someone she’s met in the cemetary?
    Great story anyway.


    • Thank you, Justin. Lovely to hear from you again. Yes, I was imagining her talking to someone new in a cemetery.


  2. alisonwells #

    Hi Rachel, I find it difficult to do a microanalysis without the two side by side because overall the second is much stronger although there was a feeling about the first that I liked and I’m trying to pinpoint what that was. I think I like the ‘They said…’ Retort ‘They said’ retort format as it was very immediate and personal and I liked the phrasing of the He said I was more solid, reliable paragraph in the first one more. The William Morris wallpaper line I absolutely adored.

    I was glad to see you changed the ending of the first one, I didn’t think we needed the new man and pregnancy, it was a step too far. Was a bit confused by the car and the talking to someone at the end of this one. I think you could have even made it a tiny flash and ended at the word ‘shiny’ when talking about the gravestones. And perhaps you could have had a magpie in the background. I think that you actually made the point of your story well in the earlier paragraphs and perhaps (like me in my writing) you are afraid the reader won’t get it, so provided an extra example in terms of the old car that wasn’t actually necessary. I think the story works well from the beginning and the hospital example is the core piece that says everything. This was a really interesting exercise, thank you!


    • Thank you, Alison and thanks for taking the time to read both versions.
      I umm-ed and ah-ed about the ‘They said…’ bit and thought it would work for an internal monologue. So when I decided it would materialise that she was talking to someone, it didn’t seem to fit. Obviously getting rid of the stranger in the graveyard would change all that.
      I’m really interested in your comments about the end. Not just in relation to this piece but in general. I do often feel obliged to search for a ‘satisfying’ ending for the sake of the reader even though I personally am quite fond of endings that don’t end. This is where I feel writing can do so much more than films (if you see what I mean?!) I think this will remain a hugely contentious issue among readers and writers and it will never be possible to satisfy everyone. Some people feel they deserve a happy or complete feeling as a reward for reading. I don’t. Should it be perhaps a question of trying to meet the expectation of the story and end confidently so that – like it or not – the reader will accept the ending given because it works or fits?
      I don’t feel I have failed if I don’t please everyone (I quite often include painful emotions in my writing so have already alienated the feel-good seekers) but I do feel I have failed if I don’t please myself and my imagined ideal reader.
      Thanks again, Alison


  3. alisonwells #

    Yes I am totally with you on the non-satisfying tied up endings. I think it makes the reader immediately mull over and revisit the story in their mind and then the layers we have carefully put in all along will inform the reader as to the conclusion THEY draw. 🙂 I do like films with endings a little bit in the middle as well.


  4. Loved this — I have been called ‘sturdy’ before, so for me a very funny, resonant story and lots between the lines.


  5. Deborah Rickard #

    What a great idean, Rachel. I preferred the second version; both the content and the flow. An interesting exercise – thanks for sharing it.


    • Thanks. I felt as if I was making the right decisions. It will be interesting to come back and look at one day



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