Georgie'd had enough of Isla Farnsworth at the Corden Nursing Home, always bragging about having outlived so many younger residents. And then she'd start criticising.
"You should drink lots of water instead of all that alcohol your granddaughter sneaks in for you," she'd admonish. "You wouldn't wash the outside of your body with whiskey, so why wash the inside with that poison?"
"Live by the sword... " Georgie muttered, plunging the ice stake into Isla's heart as she slept.
By the time her body was discovered, the ice had melted and dried. The police searched in vain for a murder weapon.
Bella glared disdainfully at Stuart's back. Why wasn't he more sensitive to her needs? Everything had to be when and how he decided, as if he considered himself more important than her.
Ha! She was far superior to him. It wasn't fair that he made all the decisions in their relationship.
On some level, Bella knew that once her life was over she would return in a different form. If she came back as a human, she would be able to open a can of cat food for herself whenever she liked, and even use a spoon to eat it.
The advertisement read: Nineteen year old girl, attractive, kind, generous. Will do anything to please her man.
That's what Janet's granddaughter had been like. And men just used and abused her... one after the other.
Janet made an appointment for another man to meet 'the girl' in the park by the trees. She had allowed a couple of the men to be stood up, judging them to be decent. But most looked cocky, sure they were about to score a slave in every way.
In gardener's garb, wheelbarrow and tarpaulin at her side, Janet waited with a chloroform soaked rag.
What's the point? It seems only yesterday that I was young and vivacious, yet tomorrow is another day closer to the end of my life. I must pause... relax... reassess what life is all about.
I can't envision eons back or imagine centuries into the future. But apparently I once had a great-great grandfather, and supposedly I'll have great-great grandchildren at some stage. Now I feel like the middle child. I smile.
I am a being of the present with a responsibility to live well. One day my great-great grandchildren may stop and think, 'What's the point?'
And they'll know.
They're going on about all the pain I've suffered, as if I'm not in the room. Funny how they only started to care after the huge payout I got from the supermarket. An olive oil puddle in the aisle had caused me to slip and fall heavily.
My normally selfish granddaughter, Jemmie, allowed a tear to slide down her cheek. "Poor Grandma," she whispered to my son.
"You can talk to me!" I snapped. "I'm bedridden, not senile!"
I was shocked to realise my son's answer didn't chill me to the bone. "Yes, Jemmie, it's a blessing she's gone."
Wild waters rage ferociously over the rocks far below. A feeling of unsteadiness surges through me, causing me to sway. I had always thought vertigo came from a fear of falling from a great height, but it must be something else. How could I be be scared of falling when my intention is to jump?
My heart thuds painfully and my stomach churns.
Just do it! I command myself.
I take a deep breath and jump. As I hurtle through space, I shut my eyes tight, which makes me miss much of the thrilling excitement of my first bungee jump.
Sexy Susie exited Callum's office, giving Bernice a 'why bother?' look as she passed.
â€śYou can go in, Bernice,â€ť Callum's secretary said.
Callum scrutinised her application. "I'm sorry, Bernice," he said, "but although you're qualified, Susie has the innovation, initiative and analytical skills I need. But thanks for applying."
"I'll put in a complaint," Bernice huffed, hoisting her massive bulk out of the chair.
Callum sighed. "Yes, I was afraid you would."
"Discrimination in this day and age," Bernice complained, leaning on her walking stick and hobbling to the door. "Hiring someone just because she's more intelligent than me!"
Olivia placed her daisy chain onto Ellie's bridal veil.
"I hope he's kind and gentle with you tonight," she said, "you know - after the wedding."
"You've been reading too many historical novels.â€ť Ellie chuckled. â€śJason has always treated me with kindness and respect, and he won't change his romantic ways just because we're married."
"Men will always be men," Olivia warned, "but remember you'll always have a home back here."
Ellie smiled. "Serenity House is lovely," she said, "but for now we had better get to the Chapel before Jason falls asleep on his walking frame waiting for me."
â€śYou expect me to do everything around the house. I never get time to rest. You never take me out.â€ť
Who says nagging never got a woman anywhere? Graeme knew the only way to peace was to give in to her demands.
â€śI'll do the dishes tomorrow,â€ť he said, backing out of the driveway.
â€śGood.â€ť She smiled stonily, smoothing her only good dress.
Graeme parked at romantic Lovers' Lookout â€¦ and threw her off the cliff.
â€śHave a good rest,â€ť he said. â€śAnd now you can't say that I never take you out. I just did.â€ť
Captain Xador fled from his hiding place behind the tree, escaping back to his spaceship.
"Close the hatches," he yelled as soon as he was inside. He charged up to the flight deck. "Take off!â€ť he ordered. â€śNow!"
Once they were safely beyond Earth's atmosphere, the pilot turned to his boss. "What happened out there?" he asked.
â€śThey're a race of savages.â€ť Captain Xador slumped in his chair. "I heard a mother-creature pronounce to her child-creature, 'You're making my blood boil! When your father gets home he's going to skin you alive!' "
"How ghoulish." The pilot shuddered, increasing speed.
Ben gazed out the window at the others playing.
"Yes, you are different," I explained gently, "because you were adopted. But you're as much a part of this family as the others."
He cuddled into me. I wasn't sure whether his dark eyes were sad or accepting.
â€śLook at it this way,â€ť I continued. â€śWe chose you and brought you home because you're so beautiful, and we knew you would fit in perfectly. We all love you.â€ť
He seemed happy with that and went outside to play with the others. One dog amongst the numerous offspring of the family cat.
Terry watched the factory girls from the back of the carriage. Chatting and giggling, they never noticed him.
He fancied the cute redhead with dimples, so the following morning he presented her with a red rose. It was the oohs and aahs of the other girls that made him realise he had many options. By the end of the week, they were watching him eagerly, wondering who would be today's lucky recipient.
He decided he'd ask out the busty blonde. Then he saw the Facebook post.
"Place your bets, girls. Who'll get the rose from the loser train guy tomorrow?"
Elizabeth was sleep-deprived but a couple of cups of strong coffee made her feel better.
She ate her bacon and eggs in the garden, watching the sunrise as the last of her next-door neighbours staggered inside, finally calling it a night.
At last, all was quiet â€“ but not for long. Elizabeth orientated her speakers toward her neighbours' bedroom windows and began blasting out a Shostakovich CD. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra did a wonderful job of the angry music, although she found it rather energising.
It was even louder than the heavy metal that had kept her awake all night.
I waited until my man left Maylene's apartment and then lurked for another hour until she went out. When she returned home, she didn't notice that the tiny peep-hole in the door was now minus its glass lens.
Sure enough, she checked when I rang her doorbell. I thrust my knitting needle through the hole.
I'm out of prison now, but I'll be back soon because my man is still with that one-eyed woman. I'm looking forward to when she next uses her eye-drops in her remaining eye. Acid is potent stuff.
Maylene should've kept her eyes off my man.
With guns trained on the newsagent and his customers, the man and girl backed out the door. They charged around the corner to where the car was parked, motor running. Taking off at high speed, they didn't speak until they reached home.
"I was pretty scared," young Troy said, as he removed his wig. "And I'm looking forward to getting out of this stupid dress. Can we live like normal people now?"
"You did well today, son, and I'm proud of you." Brenda peeled off her bald head and removed her moustache. "We'll be ready to do a bank soon."
â€śFor the last time, who stole my fob-watch?â€ť Mr Gilpiggam boomed.
The children glanced around at each other.
â€śIt was me,â€ť Boris said finally.
â€śThanks, Boris,â€ť his older brother said, clapping him on the shoulder, â€śbut I took it, Father. We were hungry.â€ť
â€śJust because I'm a girl,â€ť Hilda declared, â€śdoesn't mean I can't face up to my punishment. It was me, Daddy.â€ť
â€śMe, me!â€ť Two-year-old Samuel jumped up and down on stumpy legs.
Mrs Gilpiggam appeared in the doorway. â€śI found it behind the dresser, dear.â€ť She smiled at her wonderful children, pleased she had decided against pawning it.
The written word is my lifeblood. I am always available to help writers produce their best. I don't require payment, just appreciation. If writers treat me with respect, I can help them be better understood, and also make their dialogue flow better by reducing unnatural over-enunciation. This is my life's purpose.
Recently, I saw a sports article in which the writer said, â€śIf the Bulldogs don't pull up their socks and improve their game, its only a matter of time before the Cat's claim victory.â€ť
My dream is that one day, I, the humble apostrophe, will be used correctly world-wide.
Jemma filled Drew's every waking thought and he knew he had to have her. He was nervous about making a move on an older woman of nineteen, but he would give it a go.
Jemma laughed in his face. "Why would I sleep with Drippy Drew when I have the choice of a dozen guys?"
After school, while Jemma was still at work, Drew raided his father's tool shed and broke into her apartment. By the time he left, after messing with the washers on every tap, he was satisfied that tonight Jemma would be sleeping with a dozen drips.
She takes me to bed, holding me close as if she never wants to let me go. Deftly, she guides me around her body. When she is ready to drift into sleep, I am snuggled up against her back. I feel loved and needed.
An hour later, she has a major change of heart. I find myself kicked viciously out of bed, landing with a thud on the cold, hard floor. But the next evening she acts as if it never happened. She loves me again.
It's the same every night. Such is the lot of a hot water bottle.
"Do I have the right number?" a woman's voice asked. "I was wanting to speak to my son, Ewen."
"He's in the Games Room," Sallie said. "I'll get him for you." She returned to the bedroom and handed Ewen the phone.
"Sallie's family must be well off to have a games room," his mother said, "but I thought you went to her place to study, not for entertainment."
"I am studying," Ewen said, scrutinising Sallie's naked form intently. "And yes, Mum, I'll pick up milk on the way home."
"Back to our horizontal entertainment." Sallie giggled as he hung up.
Danny had bedded every girl on the island â€“ except the beautiful and elusive Roselle. With his holiday ending on Saturday, time was running out. He got lucky at the village store, scoring an invitation to her bungalow for dinner on Friday night.
â€śUnless you get a better offer," she challenged, only half-joking.
"Wild horses couldn't keep me away," he promised smoothly.
On Friday night, he decided to walk along the beach to Roselle's place. He didn't hear the hooves on the soft sand until the herd of wild horses was almost upon him.
Roselle got lucky, remaining unbedded by Danny.
As her ex-boyfriend and former best friend walked down the church path, Jade showered them with confetti. She smiled as sweetly as she could when the happy couple looked her way. Nathan responded with a thank-you-for-understanding smile, but Zoe could not quite disguise her triumphant smirk.
They approached the wedding car, and Jade threw her last handful. A lot of work had gone into making that confetti. Last night, she had written a long letter to the two of them before decimating it with the hole-punch. Now, her deluge of hatred rained down on their happiness like a toxic curse.
Even the grey drizzle of Saturday afternoon couldn't dampen Maree's mood. There was nothing so satisfying as having all the washing and housework completely up to date. She looked around, delighting in the tidiness, sparkle and gleam of her home.
She sank into an armchair with a hot cup of tea but before she had a chance to swallow her first sip, the car pulled into the driveway. Oh no! Her mechanic husband had finished work at the garage and had picked up the boys from their muddy rugby practice already!
The door burst open and the filth-ridden invasion began.
Although he was now utterly broke, Ned was strangely proud of his son. He would have thought Ollie too simple-minded to take the money and run away to begin a new life.
Days later, Ollie returned.
"Where've you been?" Ned was pleased to see him, despite his betrayal.
"Down river," Ollie said. "I fell in while I was burying your money in the bank."
Ned laughed, thinking back to when Ollie and the money had disappeared. He had pulled his life's savings from under the mattress and said, "this money has to go into the bank as soon as possible."
He was gorgeous but I had to be strong. Ever since my husband died I've been so lonely and vulnerable.
"I'm sorry but you're too young for me." I didn't add that I'd like nothing more than to take him home.
I walked away but couldn't resist looking back over my shoulder. Sure enough, he was watching me and I knew he expected me to change my mind. He was right. After a quick look around at his competition, I went back.
"Come on," I said, smiling. "I really wanted a watchdog, but it has to be you, little puppy."
Proud of and thankful for her perfect figure, Alice was always keen to help others improve their appearance, especially when she could see they were making an effort. So when she overhead someone say to the man serving behind the counter at a takeaway shop, "The Diet Coke's not working," she took a quick assessment of the heavily overweight woman.
"What are you eating along with the Diet Coke?" Alice asked, helpfully. "Maybe that's the problem."
"The problem is," the woman pronounced haughtily, "that I want a Diet Coke, but there appears to be a problem with the drinks machine."
Once the Representatives of the Planets were assembled around the table, the President spoke.
"It is time for intergalactic war to cease," he said. "From the top down, we must demand that our planet members live harmoniously with one another. There will be severe punishment for those who disobey."
"Excuse me, sir." A middle-aged woman cleared her throat. "Wouldn't it be better to start at the other end? If families were nice to each other and each other's families, maybe it would spread through the ranks."
"Nice idea, Earth One," the President said, "but highly impractical. Harmony must be enforced."
Wendy drafted an email to Mayor Hewson, an old widower about to retire, asking him to intervene in the plan for a block of flats proposed to be built between her place and the park. She didn't hold much hope as Council's main interest was in increasing rates revenue.
She emailed her request to her sister first to check for errors and eloquence. It came back approved.
What she didn't notice as she hit Send to the mayor, was that she had forgotten to remove the 'Love and Kisses' meant for her sister.
Wendy kept her view of the park.
The evening was soft and misty. Gaslight silhouetted Amelia's form as she pulled the hood of her cloak over her eyes. Every now and then, she looked up to assess the suitability of passing men. They had to be young, muscular and good-looking, just like Albert.
She chose a client, took his money, and they fornicated wildly in the alleyway. If only she and Albert had been permitted to marry, she would not have had to resort to this way of life.
On the way home to her filthy rich, grossly ugly husband, she tossed the money to a beggar.
"Fare thee well, fair damsel." The knight clunked away with his chicken sandwich.
"Travel safe, kind sir," I called.
A man with a dagger protruding from his chest staggered in.
"Sandwich?" I asked, but he continued over-acting fear and eye-rolling with a pillar-to-post action from old westerns.
"Ok," I laughed. "You practice dying while I fill the camera crew orders."
I'd made three sandwiches when I heard him hit the floor. Grinning, I moved around the counter to help him up. It was as I gazed on his still form that I realised â€“ I hadn't seen this actor before.
As planned, half a dozen people saw me pick up the gun from the props table. In the wings, I surreptitiously exchanged the bullets for those in my pocket. I would not be searched.
My darling kissed me passionately before striding into the spotlight for his final performance.
On cue, I stormed onto the stage, firing and yelling, "Die, you murderous villain!"
He dropped to the floor. Slowly, realisation dawned. He looked up at me.
"Why?" he whispered.
"Sorry, darling," I whispered back. "I couldn't do it. Now you'll have to go to jail â€“ but I'll wait for you."
Yesterday I helped Granddad in the garden, today I took Gran's old dog for a walk, tomorrow I will help my mother do the housework. Every day, I'll do something on the list and when I get to the end, I'll start again.
If only Gran had lived just a little longer. My mind drifts back to when she lay in bed, the family gathered around her. She took a shuddering breath and signalled for me to come closer.
"Shelly, I want you to do something for me," she whispered. "Promise me that after I'm gone ... you willâ€”"
Then she died.
Claudia Haverstrop, mystery writer extraordinaire yet to be discovered. I take my time, looking in turn at each person around the table. Eight pairs of eyes are riveted on me, waiting expectantly.
"The way I see it," I say, dragging out every word, building tension, creating suspense, "is that there may be a profit,"â€” dramatic pauseâ€” "or there may be a loss."
"Facts and figures, Miss Haverstrop!" The company accountant thunders. "Last warning! You had better separate reality from fiction if you wish to keep your day job."
That's it! Next story will include an extremely murdered accountant.
We eat beside the fire in a comfortable silence. I watch as the flames light up his face, highlighting his rugged features.
Once again I find myself infused by the notion that I do not belong here. But I will not voice these thoughts to him again; I learned long ago that he simply doesn't understand. None of them do. Gazing deep into the fire, I conjure up images of a better world.
Eventually, suppressing a sigh, I cast him an enquiring glance. He grunts. I follow him as he picks up his club and lumbers to the cave.
He stood in the doorway riveted by her black-clad figure, designed to lure and control. Candles cast spooky shadows around the room, the eerie light of the moon adding to the menacing atmosphere. Her lips and fingernails matched the thorny, blood-red roses she was placing on the table.
She breathed in the fragrance of velvet red roses, thankful that she had spent half the day at the beauty salon. Glowing candlelight bestowed a romantic ambience, enhanced by a soft flow of moonlight. Sensing him in the room, she turned.
Don't smile, he thought, imagining fangs dripping with blood.
I responded to the lawyer's beady look with blue-eyed innocence.
"So you were instructed to deliver the envelope to a mysteriously unknown identity? Please explain how."
"I had to enter the library at midday and place the envelope between pages 23 and 24 of the fifth book on the bottom shelf of the last aisle. The book was called, Sheridan's Close," I added confidently. I'd been to the library that day to make sure there was no flaw in my plan.
"Curious," said the lawyer to the jury, "since pages 23 and 24 of all books occupy a single leaf."
Growing up with an alcoholic mother and absent father, Simon had never felt nurtured. Every day was filled with hunger and the fight to survive. Holidays were impossible dreams.
But for the past few weeks he had been happy. Chas had been helping him work out and he was the fittest and healthiest he had ever been. He was well fed and had a warm bed at night.
At the gate he turned and waved to Chas and his other new friends, resolving to find a way to come back. Next time, he decided, he would rob the petrol station.
"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do ..." Bill and Barb, singing cheerfully, pedalled their tandem bicycle along High Street.
"I'm half crazy, all for the love of you ..." They smiled and waved to people as they passed.
Some laughed and smiled back but others were more interested in the commotion beginning across the street. Two police cars, lights flashing, had pulled up haphazardly outside the bank. The officers were stopping cars and gathering people together for questioning.
They paid little attention to the old couple as they disappeared around the corner on their getaway bike.
"Beautiful, blonde married woman, 32, seeks tall, sexy man for discreet assignations.
No public appearances; this affair will be conducted entirely behind closed doors.
I enjoy preparing candlelit dinners, my speciality being grilled steak with all the trimmings. Sensual orchestral music playing in the background will get us in the mood.
I have my own little flat, far away from the family home, where we could meet for our mutual enjoyment. Please respond if you are interested in a physical relationship only."
There, that should draw my husband into my web for his just desserts. Now to find a flat.
Four year old Gemma awoke to a new day. She felt happy but couldn't remember why. Then it came back; all those presents.
She scrambled to the end of her bed to look down on her toy box. Sure enough, her new new doll, books and puzzles were still there. She crept downstairs to the hallway. Parked near the door was her shiny red tricycle.
Gemma couldn't wait to start riding again but first, there was something she had to do. She found her mother in the kitchen.
"Mummy", she said, "that was the best Christmas in my whole life".
Howling winds shudder the panes of the drawing-room windows.
Gently, through the sleeves of my blouse, I touch the bruises patterned by Clifford's strong fingers. My hip throbs with pain.
Suddenly, pounding begins on the door causing me to start, my eyes to widen. I cross the room and open the door a crack.
Clifford thrusts the door wide, imposing his presence into the room. He grabs my arms; I wince--bruises upon bruises. He shoves me aside; my hip hits the telephone table. Oh, please let this be the last time.
"Cut!" the director calls. "Let's try it again."
One by one, then thousands at a time, the stars went out.
Cumulus clouds crept up on the moon, intent on smothering her luminous beauty. Mission accomplished, they unleashed their torrential burden onto the world below.
A howling gale swooped on the rain, whipping icy needles into all who dared venture outside. Trees lashed furiously at each other. The river burst its banks, flooding the village. Lightning cracked, thunder roared, power failed. Animals and humans alike scurried for shelter.
I didn't want to say it but it must be said ...
... It was a dark and stormy night.
The day he came to town, my world changed from pastels to vividly bright colours. Just looking at him spreads warmth and comfort through me.
He's the one. I love him and I will be brave. I don't know when or where it will end--I only know it must begin.
I walk up the path to his front door and enter without knocking. Silently, I climb the stairs and stand in the doorway of his bedroom.
"Tyler," I say, "d'you want to be my best friend?"
"Nah," he replies, without looking up from his lego, "you're just a girl."
Have you ever had that feeling that you've forgotten something important?
As Karl takes me to greater heights, something niggles at the back of my mind. I hope I'm not beginning to lose it! A fairground fortune-teller told me last week that I will have a long life but I doubt that it would be much fun if I were to become forgetful and decrepit.
Back to the exhilaration of the present moment; I'll think about it later.
"Now!" Karl yells.
Just as I let go I see the look of horror on Karl's face.
Aaaaaarrgghh--forgot my parachute!
It's a year since the accident but this is only my first visit to the cemetery. Why? Because a grave is merely a resting place for old bones, not a home for a soul.
Funerals are becalming for farewells, however remembrance of life and love abides always in the heart and mind.
I stare desolately at the headstone, feeling empty; he is not here.
Suddenly, a spreading warmth begins deep inside me and I know he is close. I feel his presence--and then I see him.
Oh look! He's brought roses for my grave.
It's now or never. I could turn and flee before anyone realised what was happening.
Would the people let me escape, aiding me with a path as if they were the walls of the Red Sea? Would they close in behind me, preventing him from following? Or would they capture me and drag me back to face my fate.
My attention returns to the two men standing close to me. The next words I hear will change my life forever.
I relax, I smile. I am ready.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife", the minister intones.
Does Janey Malone deserve a man like Mike?
Mike was my only love. For as far back as I could remember I had adored him, at first across the school desks, then through the awkward teen years and finally in the marriage bed.
We watched other marriages fall apart but were secure in the knowledge that caring for each other was a joy, not a chore. Love, laughter, trust and consideration held us together, even in sad times.
Then came his mid-life crisis and with it came Janey Malone. She's a cow; she deserves him!
I sat across from the pub, playing my flute, waiting. A poor woman threw coins into my hat; I wanted to pay her back a hundred-fold.
He staggered out of the pub, he who had driven my sister to suicide and moved on to torment another. How many others wanted revenge on this scumbag but had neither courage nor means?
He reached my side of the street. Barely missing a note, I swapped my flute for the poisoned dart bamboo and blew with all my might. He fell.
I finished the tune and walked away, tapping my white stick.
I placed a protective arm over my gently rounded belly and looked up at my partner. Richard waited patiently, one eyebrow raised slightly, hope evident in his questioning gaze. Generally, Richard was kind and caring but he didn't seem to realise the gravity of the situation; that the decision we made today would affect all of our tomorrows.
Ultimately, it was up to me.
I fancied I felt a gentle kick from inside -- but it was too soon. Still, I took it as a sign.
"Sorry, darling," I said, "but I want to call him Oliver -- not Mortimer."