Friday, December 1, 2017

The Proposal



The Proposal Hazel Campbell © 2017


How she imagined it

"Wakey! Wakey! It's another beautiful day in our beautiful city. Don't waste another minute of it in bed. Pull back those drapes, open that window. Look outside and rejoice. The city is alive. You – are – A – LIVE!"
   Maeve threw her pillow at the voice on the alarm clock thingy. In a delusional moment, she had recorded this as her wakeup message. She kept forgetting to delete it.
  She took a few minutes to really come awake. Another unexciting day ahead, she thought. Another day in the life of a twenty-something girl trying to get along in a tough world.     
  Lately she had started to feel uneasy when she thought how her 'twenty-something' kept edging closer to thirty. Two roads to a successful life lay ahead. Get a husband, start a family.  Or, claw her way up the corporate ladder in the advertising agency where she currently worked. When she said the ennie-meenie-moe rhyme, 'moe' always ended on the corporate ladder.
  Before going to the bathroom, she made her bed, took up the clothes she had discarded on the floor, straightened a few items on her dresser, and nodded at her image in the mirror.
  She was close to a bad hair day, she noted. If only she had one of those gadgets being advertised on cable. All you had to do was say: 'Alfie, make an appointment with the hairdresser', and it would answer: 'Appointment made'.
  One hour later, she came out of the elevator on her office floor and smiled 'good morning' at her co-workers. She always took care with how she dressed and her reward was the admiring stares of the men and the envious stares of the women in the outer office. She made her way to her shared office – assistants didn’t get solo rooms, and noted that the office cleaner had again shifted her flower vase to the right of her desk instead of the left. 
  Silly woman, she thought. Then immediately wondered if the cleaner might be a man. That's how her thinking always flowed, restlessly, new ideas quickly crowding out old ones. When would she get the chance to be a producer in the agency instead of merely a production assistant? 
  Her phone rang. No surprise — it was her BFF, Francine, from sales.  
  "You're late," she said.

  "No way. Nine on the dot." Maeve replied.
  "Have something to tell you. Lunch? Usual place?"
  "Yes. What is it? Give me a hint."
  "Nah. See you later." Francine hung up.
  The demands of her job quickly superseded her curiosity about Francine's teaser.
  Facts to check. Talent to verify. Schedules! Schedules! Schedules!
  It wasn't until she was waiting for Francine to join her in the lunch booth that she got a chance to check her personal messages.
  There was one from Kevin. Why was he texting her? She thought she would see him later, as usual.
 We need to talk  Meet me at Christophe's at 7
  How curious? They usually went to Christophe's only on special occasions, for prices were a bit steep. Today was nothing special, so why did he want to go there? Could this mean that he wanted to get serious? On their last date, he had seemed unusually happy but he had brushed aside her attempts to find out why. They had good times together, but she wasn't sure that she was ready to get serious. She wasn't even sure what getting serious could mean. What would she do if he proposed? They had been dating for some months. She liked him, a lot; but was he 'the one'?
  As soon as Francine joined her, she confided her suspicions about Kevin's text.
  "I didn't know you liked him that much," Francine said. "Marriage?"
  "I'm not sure that I do."
  "So what're you going to say, if he proposes?"
  "I don't know, yet."
  "Exactly what did he say?'
  "That we needed to talk . . ."

  "Oh no!" Francine exclaimed.
  "What?"
  "Everybody knows that any conversation which starts with – ' We need to talk' is bad news. Those are often the opening lines to the end of the relationship."
  Maeve shrugged. "We talk all the time. This has to be something very special. Then he said to meet him at Christophe's."
  "That's not a very romantic spot. Hardly the place for a romantic proposal. Too . . .open."
  "It will do. It's not very private, but the food is good and there's a dance floor and everything."
  "Hmm! I don't know," Francine mused. "But perhaps he only wants to ask you to move in with him . . . Or meet his mother – which could be the prelude to a proposal –  Or walk his dog . . . "
  "He doesn’t have a dog." Maeve sipped her drink thoughtfully.
  "Would you move in with him?"
  "No. I need something more permanent."
  "But you're not sure you want to marry him?"
  "Hmnh."
  "Are you in love with him?"
  "Good question."
  "Maeve, this is not like you. You're always so sure of everything." Francine shook her head.
  "God! Look at the time!" Maeve exclaimed. "Eat up! I don't have enough time to do my hair, but we can stop at Joyce's and pick out a dress. I don’t want to go in this office outfit and I don’t have time to go home."
  They never got around to Francine's news.
  The rest of the day passed swiftly as Maeve twisted herself into knots trying to anticipate why Kevin wanted to talk to her.
  At five minutes to seven, she alighted from the taxi in front of Christophe's. She couldn’t help feeling nervous about this date. As she passed the mirror in the lobby, she took a quick glance at her image and felt satisfied that if there was going to be a photo op, she would be looking just right in her new green dress, his favorite color.
  She had pulled back her hair in a soft bun on her nape and wore only light make-up. She knew he would like how she looked.
  The waiter showed her to the table where he was already seated.
  Oh good, she thought, remembering Francine's comment. No potential mother–in-law.
  He stood quickly at her approach, kissed her lightly on her cheek and said, "You're looking wonderful."
  So was he, she thought. Everything about him was right. Tall, handsome, his raven black hair neatly cut, always a twinkle in his eyes revealing a comfortable sense of humor.  He could keep her laughing throughout the time they spent together. She surprised herself by suddenly hoping that a proposal was really the reason for this date.
  With that foremost in her thoughts, she thoroughly enjoyed two dances before the meal was served. He was a good dancer. Christophe's famous stuffed chicken breasts made a satisfying meal and he kept the conversation light, almost frivolous. She found herself laughing a lot. At the beginning of their friendship, they had agreed not to talk about their jobs since they worked in different advertising agencies. There was a lot of rivalry in this business and their bosses would not be happy if they even knew they were dating.
  He seemed to be enjoying their time together too. No sign of the proverbial nervousness of a man about to propose.  But she knew he was very confident, extremely self-assured. He would hardly think that a woman would turn down a proposal from him. He wouldn't need to be nervous.
  As the evening wore on, she began to wonder when he would propose. She found herself looking keenly into her wine glass when it was refilled.
  "Something wrong with the cheesecake?" he asked as he watched her demolish it with the fork before tasting it.
  "No," she answered quickly, blushing when she realized what she was doing –searching for a hidden ring. How pathetic, she thought.
  "It's good, as usual," he said, savoring his. But she had lost her appetite. She grew progressively glum when nothing unusual happened, but he didn’t seem to notice. In his car on the way to her home, he turned up the radio and sang along with some oldies. He had a good voice, but unlike other times, she wished he would shut up. 
  When he stopped before her apartment, she decided to push matters. "Are you coming in? You said you wanted to talk."
  "Oh that. Yes," he said, but made no move to get out of the car. He was quiet for a bit, then, "I hope you enjoyed our date tonight I wanted it to be special so we could remember the good times we had."
  "Had?" she echoed. Her stomach tightened.
  "Maeve," he said. "I like you. I like you a lot, but something has come up."
  She didn’t say anything.
  "My boss has asked me to head a very important project. I can’t afford the distraction of a girlfriend, so . . ."
  "You're dumping me?" her voice was incredulous.
  "I wouldn’t call it that," he said. "It's just that if I am to succeed, I'll have to give it my all, every moment, every thought."
  "You're in advertising, like me. We're used to deadlines. What could be so pressing?"
  "This is a life changer," he said. His voice revealed his excitement. "The big one. If this project is successful, I'll probably be made a veepee of the agency."
  "Oh," she said. She understood competition and wanting to be the top dog, but somehow his dumping her to get on with his job made her feel very small, inferior,  unimportant, pushed aside. She wasn't used to feeling like this.
  "Suppose you were married?" The question jumped out of her mouth. "Would you dump your wife for your job?"
  "Wives are different," he said. "A wife would understand and support me. Girl friends are demanding. They use up time. They expect to be courted, and wined and dined and they need attention, which I won’t be able to give."
  "Well, marry me," she said. Then she cringed. She hadn't meant to say that. It was a risk, not calculated, not planned. It was just that she had been so anticipating a proposal. She held her breath as she waited for his answer.
  None came. The silence in the car grew as she wilted.
  What an asshole, she thought. What was I thinking? What a conceited, egotistic, self-centered, smug . . .  She ran out of words to describe him.
  "I understand," she said quietly. "I hope you don’t expect me to be waiting for when you have the time."
  "I wouldn't tie you down like that. That's why . . . "
  But she had already slammed the car door and was walking away.

********


Monday, August 7, 2017

AUNT MEEMI






Aunt Meemi
© Hazel Campbell 2017

Our community is rural, old-fashioned, close-knit, with a sprinkling of retirees – persons who had migrated to England or USA and returned to build their dream homes and live the rest of their lives in the calm and peace of home.
    Aunt Meemi and Uncle Roy were one such couple. When the need for a librarian became acute, Aunt Meemi came out of retirement, but, very few knew that she was a cancer patient. By the time we found out it was almost all over. She was at work up to six o'clock on Wednesday evening and everybody was dismayed when on Thursday morning the library remained closed – Aunt Meemi couldn't get out of bed.
    Everything then went into fast forward. She got weaker by the minute and the community went into action. All our health lore was galvanized to try to save her – 'bush' baths/sponges/body wraps and medicines. On Friday morning, a modern 'obeah' woman, with self-acclaimed miraculous dietary curative skills arrived and ensconced herself in the house. Her name was Joan.
    She immediately captured the sick room; forcing Aunt Meemi to swallow strange, mushy concoctions – What on earth is wheat grass porridge? we wondered. She issued orders as if she was a matron in a sick ward and we were intruders. Nobody knew what connection she had to the family and I guess we were too distracted by Aunt Meemi's deterioration even to ask.
    Our beloved Aunt Meemi died on Sunday morning, smiling as if she was glad to escape all the attention.
    Her homegoing church service overflowed with people, and tears, and eulogies. The only jarring note was the presence of the Intruder, Joan, who managed to get involved in the service by singing a solo with some seriously off-key high notes. I imagined Aunt Meemi chuckling – she was once the choir leader.
    Afterwards, Uncle Roy had Aunt Meemi's body cremated because he wanted to bury her ashes both here and in London, their former home.
    So, a second homegoing service was held at their hillside home to plant half of her ashes under a young lignum vitae tree. Only close family and friends were invited, but Joan was still there – nobody knew why – trying to take over. We managed to shut her out of the cooking and other arrangements, and when she tried to lead the singing, Cousin Blossom's voice was louder.
    When the men digging the hole were ready for the planting, Parson Jack called for the ashes and we looked up to see Joan, descending, open urn in hand dipping her fingers into the ashes, desecrating Aunt Meemi's remains.
    You could feel the horror and resentment moving like a Mexican wave through the gathering. But, before anybody could remonstrate, Joan tripped on a stone on the steep hillside and the urn went flying straight into the hole – ashes intact.
    "Leave!" Uncle Roy roared at Joan.
    She picked herself up and we turned our backs on her, continuing the ceremony as if nothing had happened, but something had, we all knew – Aunt Meemi had had enough.
                                                          

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This is my third story in the 12 short stories in 12 months facebook group 
Prompt — New Life. 
Word count 1000 words


A NEW LIFE
© Hazel Campbell 2017
genre sci-fi






Ingrid walked through all four rooms of the apartment taking a last look at the primeval furniture she loathed. But, in the front room, she opened the piano and rippled the keys. This was the only item which was exclusively hers; a family heirloom, five generations old. It was so old she had had to learn how to tune it herself. She knew every ivory note as if it had been specially carved for her fingers. None of the new instruments had the clean, pure sound of the old pianos. She would miss it.

That other time, when she was planning to run away from home, she was only eight. On the pavement outside her house, she started to panic when she realized that she didn't know where to go. It was the sound of her grandmother playing 'Starscape' on this piano that had lured her back inside their home.

Today, there was no music to prevent her leaving, and she had no regrets about leaving without telling Simon. Living with him had become so frustrating. She wanted to move to New Sity where life was exciting with every modern convenience and constant entertainment. But, in New Sity, crowded with all the people displaced by the third phase of global warming, every aspect of life was controlled by the Sity Council.Simon valued the freedoms of freelance work and living in the Old Quarters. Doomed for demolition sometime in the future, Old Quarters was not subject to New Sity, or any rules.

But a single person could hardly survive in New Sity, so she had continued living with him in this rundown area.  With his superior coding skills, he could have got a great job with all the perks but refused to consider New Sity Corporation's invitation for a permanent job. He would have to move when demolition time came, but she was tired of waiting. So, when the adverts for volunteers to populate the first undersea housing project started, she had immediately applied, and, having passed all the medicals, this was her departure day.

Her thoughts drifted to that morning's scene with Simon.

"I'll be working on the other side of New Sity for a few days," he said. "Will you be all right?"

She had raised her brows. "Of course," she replied. When was the last time he had shown any concern for her?

When he was leaving he had kissed her cheek. Even more unusual, but she didn't spend any time wondering about his strange behavior. Her thoughts were all on the new life awaiting her.

Looking around the room, she noticed a folded page on the floor beside the piano. She picked it up and saw that it was a printout of early information about the City beneath the Ocean project.

"Oh, God," she exclaimed. "I hope he didn't see this." She didn’t want him to know where she was going. She was taking this chance for a clean break, a new life, new adventures, new faces, new challenges. And, perhaps, a new romance.

The pip- pip- pipping of her phone warned that the carrier drone was approaching. She slammed the front door for the last time and, without looking back, attached herself to the drone and took off.

+++++++

The large, floating way station was crowded with a stream of migrants, men and women in separate areas. For perhaps the thousandth time, Ingrid tried to imagine what living under the ocean would be like, and couldn’t. The adverts said it was just like living on land; just a big city with different boundaries.

A soft, eerie mechanical voice issued orders from time to time.

"Please take off all clothing and accessories and enter the decontamination chambers to your right when you see your name."

And, after what felt like a freezing dry 'bath' – "Press the button on the wall before you for new clothing, and then exit."

The new clothing was sky blue overalls, soft and warm. Her name tag read Dirgni. This alarmed her. Nothing had been said about such a fundamental change.

A warning growl from her stomach made her look for the cafeteria sign. She pushed the button beneath the sign and a tray appeared with a small crusty pie and a large, weird, multi-colored fruit.

The taste of the pie was strange; its green filling a bit spicy but not unpleasant. "Added vitamins," her neighbor said, pointing to the rainbow streaks on the oval fruit. "Information is on your new phone." The woman smiled. The fruit's juicy, slightly lemony-tasting flesh satisfied her thirst. She had never wondered about things like food. How did they grow it? The only thing she really knew was that when they arrived at First Cificap City, thousands of feet under the ocean, they would be housed and then be free to help develop their new life. She needed to study the information on her phone.

Time passed as she sat with her sister migrants on rows of benches. Nobody spoke much. Despite the soft, swishing, meant-to-calm sound of waves filling the room, a feeling of fear fluttered in her stomach. Had she made a mistake? Was there a panic button she could press to escape?

When it was time to enter the submarine, she stumbled in the line with the other women as they descended into a compartment with seating like an old-time bus. Arrows directed the women to sit on one side. When the men entered, she looked at them with uninterested eyes, wishing they would hurry so the trip could get underway. But, a man entering the compartment caught her attention. As he made his way to the seat opposite her, she choked.  It could not be!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But, it was. Nomis dropped into his seat and stared at Dirgni, his face a mirror of the surprise and horror on hers. Neither spoke nor acknowledged the other. It was, after all, going to be a new life for both of them.
++++++++++++++

Friday, March 10, 2017

Short Story - It's Time

It's Time
Hazel Campbell © 2017





"Wake up, dear. It's too hot. Time we went in." Rachel poked her husband who was dozing in his wheelchair.
"Call Fairy," he mumbled.
She shook the bell they used to summon the caretaker, vigorously. Fairy would say she didn’t hear the bell if it only tinkled.
In the kitchen, Fairy grumbled, "A person can't get two minutes to themself. All day long they ringing that damn bell. Never mind," she consoled herself. "The house soon finish, then …"
She went to the couple who were taking their morning sunbath on the porch and pushed Neville, the husband in the wheelchair while helping his wife who walked with a stick to their bedroom. ''Anything else?" she asked.
"Some lemonade would be nice," Rachel said. "All that sun has made us thirsty."
Fairy grunted and left the room.
"She has got quite surly of late. Have you noticed, Neville?"
"Maybe, she's tired of looking after us," he replied.
"She's well paid for her services."
There was silence for a while.
"Neville, we need to talk some more about that thing we were discussing last night."
"What thing is that?"
Rachel sighed. She wished he wasn’t so forgetful. Last night they had discussed her fear of either one of them dying before the other. She couldn’t bear the thought of him leaving her, nor the thought of leaving him all alone.
"This year," she rehashed the conversation he didn’t remember, "we will both be 98. Most of our friends are gone. It's been a good life, but maybe it's time for us to go. I don’t want to continue until we can’t move or help ourselves or each other."
"Hmn," he said and she didn't know if he was following her.
"I don’t know how long our money will last."
"It should last a long time," he said, suddenly perking up at the mention of money. "We made some good investments."
Another round of silence.
"I haven't checked our bank book for some time."
"Fairy granddaughter has it."
He chuckled when he used the name they had given the caretaker shortly after she had come to work with them some years before. Her name was actually Fairy and Rachel had said, "We are too old to have a fairy godmother, so you'll be our fairy granddaughter."
And so she had turned out to be, looking after them and developing their trust to the point where she was solely in charge of withdrawals from their account to pay bills, keep the house and pay herself.
When Fairy returned with their lemonade, Rachel said, "Fairy granddaughter, please bring the bank book. We have to start planning our expenditure more carefully."
The tray with the glasses suddenly tilted and Fairy had to steady it to prevent the juice from spilling.
"It's …  it's in my other bag. I… I left it at home this morning," Fairy stammered.
"No problem. Please go home and fetch it. We'll be all right until you get back."
Fairy seemed to hesitate, so Rachel said, "Just lock the door when you leave. We’re going to take a nap now."
A few minutes later, Rachel whispered to Neville, "Did you see how she got flustered when I asked her about the bank book? I have a feeling something is wrong. Why would she have it in her bag at her house? I am going to call Cecille at the bank and ask her to check the balance. We have been careless about it."
"You said we could trust her," Neville replied.
"People change."
Rachel had to wait for her contact at the bank to call her back. By the time she finished a very disturbing conversation, Neville was asleep.
"Neville! Neville! Wake up." She shook him. "It's bad. Really bad."
"What's bad?" he asked, sleepily.
"Oh, Neville, pay attention. The girl has stolen most of our money!"
"Who has stolen our money?"
"Fairy. She has taken out a million dollars over the last six months. There's very little left."
"Call the police! Call the police!" he kept repeating.
"Calm yourself, Neville. Let me think."
After a while, she said, "Perhaps it's time to put my plan in action."
"What plan?"
"Last night when we were talking about it, you agreed it was the best plan."
"What plan?"
Rachel went to sit on the bed beside him. She held his hand as she talked.
"We're 98 years old this year. We have had a good life. We can’t expect to live much longer, and neither of wants to die and leave the other."
"What are you saying?" he asked. He looked at her through cloudy, watery eyes. He could hardly see now, but he smiled and said. "You are a beautiful woman. I'm glad I married you."
"Yes, dear," she said. "I'm glad I married you, too."
She got up and wobbled with her walking stick to the desk in the room, took up a pen and wrote on a pad. "I've written a note for the police," she said. "Listen —
"This morning we discovered that our caretaker, Fairy Gentles has stolen most of our money from the bank. When we accosted her, she threatened to kill us. If anything happens to us, you know where to look for the culprit."
"Very good, milove," Neville said. "Who is the culprit?"
Rachel shook her head, but she smiled as she folded the note and put it in an envelope.
"It's perfect. Just like that movie we watched. She won't get away with it."
The two glasses of lemonade Fairy had brought for them were still on the table, untouched. Rachel opened a drawer, took out a small packet and emptied the contents into the glasses. Then she took two capsules from a vial. Her hands shook as she pulled them apart and emptied the contents in the lemonades.
She used the straws in the glasses to slowly stir the contents until she felt certain that her additions were absorbed, then she took one and brought it to the bed.
"It's time, Neville."
"What time is it?" he asked.
"Here's your lemonade, dear."
He took the glass and slowly sipped through the straw. "Bitter," he said, making an ugly face.
"Never mind. Just drink it."
She waited until he finished, put his empty glass on the table, stirred and drank from hers quickly and returned to the bed.
Neville was lying on his back with his eyes closed. She was glad she had thought of adding the sedative; he wouldn't feel anything.
She checked that the note to the police was hidden under her pillow then lay down beside him. She snuggled up and rested her head on his shoulder, too bony now to be comfortable, but this had always been her safe place. 
He mumbled softly and she answered, her voice fading at the end, "It’s okay, dear. We're going home, together."
+++++++++
Fairy had found her husband. "They asking for the bank book. They're going to find out we thief the money! What we going to do?" she wailed.
"Stick to the plan. We were going to do it anyway," he said. "We just kill them now instead of later."
+++++++++


Monday, February 6, 2017

My Friendship Poem







  © Hazel Campbell 2016