The 7 ways of the tale teller
May 23, 2013

sevenDid you think there were more? Well of course there are as many ways as people but a little bit of delving around reveals a strange and perplexing truth about storytelling – all the stories anyone ever writes are based around one or the other of the following seven themes:

1.       Overcoming the monster :dagger

Think of St George and the dragon, The War of the Worlds – and so topical now – Dracula and his gluttonous vampire army. Monsters represent our fears – dark and dank, and that we have to beat to achieve happiness. So of course that is why we are buried under a ton of vampire and werewolves  YA (young adult) fiction at the moment. What more dank and drear source of fear is there than adolescence?

 colours2. Rags to riches:

Oh easy, I hear you say – I’m getting the hang of this now. Cinderella, right? Well, yes, of course – and The Ugly Duckling, Jane Eyre, Slum Dog … it crosses all genre, cultures and  centuries. It gives credence to our belief in ourselves – we may start out mundane, poor, struggling, but we can – through hardship and trial, achieve the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and return home – bad boy done good etc. It may sound trite, but seeing the underdog triumph does us all good and gives us hope – so we love to read about it too.

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3. The quest:

Another very topical one here – Lord of the Rings is the best and most spectacular example of this – and it’s an epic journey too, but you could go for Watership Down, or Raiders of the Lost Ark as well. There must be a hero, a lure or pull to an all-important goal and thrills, spills and almost death along the way before success brings the conquering hero home again with their spoils. Uplifting, inspiring, escapism – wonderful!

4. Voyage and return:

The Wizard of Ox  – I had to have that one as it is the production my daughter is dancing in this summer, Alice in Wonderland, The Time Machine … Traveling out of everyday surroundings, the hero(ine) and the group of people traveling with them have to cope with the strangeness of another world, face shadowy threats  and make a thrilling escape back to a normality they now appreciate where they had found it boring and mundane before  – ‘there’s no place like home…’ (And of course there isn’t!)

5. Comedy:shoes too big man

Bridget Jones had us laughing all the way here and back with her, and then – if you’re a Shakespeare fan, so does The taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream etc . It’s all good clean fun where the central character is blinded to the reality of things by their ego, short-sightedness, one track mind, whereas the reader/audience sees the wider picture and the humour lies in seeing the two juxtaposed. Of course our hero(ine) sees the error of their ways and All’s Well that Ends Well but not before they’ve been led a merry dance along the way. The end result is self-knowledge and reconciliation where there was harmony and unrest.

6. Tragedy:

Ironically the same as comedy – and essentially the same as all the other story lines ultimately, where there is a problem to solve, ordeals to overcome and a journey in search of the goal – but rather sadly, the outcome will involve – for some of the characters, at least – death, destruction or disaster. And if you’re watching  a Jacobean tragedy the body count on  stage will probably be higher than the numbers in the audience (I love a bit of blood and guts!).

And finally there is…

daffodils7.  Rebirth (as one would expect after death, destruction and disaster):

Again a journey to achieve self-realisation, but the enemy is often – at least in part – from within. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Secret Garden are all based on rebirth. Often there is a direct confrontation between dark and light to achieve self-understanding and healing.

So let me think which of these I have written so far.

front cover CM

Chained Melody has to be rebirth, with an element of tragedy involved too. Someone or something has to fail, suffer or be lost in order for self-knowledge to enable the two main characters to achieve their form of happiness.

Web Web cover design - draftis dark and dire at times, and funny and lighthearted at others, but its message is all about seeing oneself and others clearly and putting that understanding together to create a whole. Two of the characters are so immersed in their own machinations they fail to see the most dangerous aspects of the whole until it is almost too late, and the other character is dark, dark, dark – confronting themself, and allowing the darkness to take over… It has elements of a tragedy too but is again a journey towards rebirth for my two dipsy daisies in it.

Then I have left to consider Falling Awake Falling awake draft cover design 2– which is definitely all about overcoming a monster – but defining the monster is as intriguing as finding out how it is overcome – or is it? And Patchwork People, which I have just started, is a quest, pure and simple.

Job done.

Web will be released in the Autumn, Falling Awake Spring 2014 and Patchwork People towards the end of 2014 (unless I get lost on the quest).

Which one of the 7 are you working on?

Follow me on twitter @Storytellerdeb

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DeborahMartin.Author

Or find me on my website: www.debbiemartin.co.uk

The Dinner Party
December 6, 2012

Christmas ain’t Christmas without a bit of a spooky tale, so here’s mine …

tableware for dinner party‘A dinner party? Can I bring a plus one?’ A frisson of something trembled in my soul.

‘Of course – do we know them?’ He just laughed. We were on the phone so I couldn’t see his expression.

‘See you later then.’ He sounded happy – certainly not how I’d expected him to be after Clem, but he’d gone and I was left wondering.

‘Was that who I thought it was?’ The voice was muffled from under the table. The owner’s prone legs were splayed across the floor, extending oddly from under the table cloth, as if a murder victim had just been hastily stuffed out of sight.

‘Yes, and he’s coming tonight.’

‘That’ll be interesting after all this time.’ The tone was sarcastic.

‘With someone.’

‘Oh.’ Silence, then more curiously, ‘who?’

‘He didn’t say.’

‘In that case it’s going to be really interesting.’ The table shook as if the murder victim’s spirit was attacking it and then both table and legs settled into stillness. I waited for the body to rise from its last resting place, but table and legs remained motionless. It made me feel queasy but I didn’t know why.

‘Are you ok under there Alex?’ I asked, suddenly worried.

‘Yeah, just thinking.’

‘Thinking?’

‘About Jay and Clem and the way they just went – you know.’ Alex didn’t need to say any more. I did know. More than Alex did, in fact; but I was keeping that to myself.

‘Yes, well if you’re done under there, we should lay up now.’

‘Yep, all done, I’ve tightened up all the screws so it shouldn’t collapse under the weight of the food – or the conversation.’ The comment ended in muffled laughter and the table shook again. The legs wriggled out from underneath it, bringing the rest of the body with them.

‘Haha! Very funny.’ I turned away and went back to the kitchen to find the wine. Tuneless whistling floated in from the dining room and I guessed the table top was being transformed for the dinner party now it was safe to sit at again. I ignored the annoying whistling and turned my attention to the wine rack. I usually relished choosing exactly the right wine but my head wasn’t on it tonight. All I could think about was the plus one Jay was bringing – and what about Clem? I checked the clock. It was already seven-thirty. They were all due at eight. I called to the table and its legs.

‘If you’re done there, can you check the oven? I’m sorting the wine.’

‘OK.’ It was louder than expected and I turned in surprise as Alex appeared in the kitchen doorway, flushed and dishevelled from the table wrestling.

‘Maybe have a bit of a tidy up too?’ I added pointedly. Good humoured laughter bubbled around the hallway.

‘Um, I see what you mean.’ The reappearing vision was sleek and immaculate. I felt imperfect and uneasy. I pushed past into the cool of the hallway, assessing which me I saw in the mirror. I wondered what Jay would make of me, five years on. Five years – had it really been so long; since Clem had happened? I was startled out of my reverie by the doorbell jangling insistently.

‘It’s for you-oo,’ came light-heartedly from the kitchen, along with the smell of perfectly cooked Beef Wellington.

‘I’ve got it,’ I called back impatiently. I opened the door, the angry angst-ridden me well hidden under the hosts charming bonhomie. ‘Ange, Mike – how are you?  Ange enveloped me in a cloud of too-strong perfume and billowing chiffon.

‘Darrrling, how are you – it’s been ages.’ She was right – for all the overdone lovey-ness, it had been the same five years of ages as since I’d seen Jay or Clem.

‘We’re good, thanks Ange.’ I disentangled myself and Mike’s less flowery and more business-like hug was a relief. ‘Come on in.’ I turned to call out to the kitchen, but Alex arrived with drinks right on cue. Eventually the storm of hello’s, hugs and darrrrlings dissipated and we moved into the warmth of the lounge, warily convivial. The bell went again and I rushed to answer it, trying to quell the jitters that it would be Jay this time. It wasn’t. Agitation overcame courtesy with the Betterware woman collecting the catalogue she’d left earlier. I flung the unwanted package at her and slammed the door in her face. Belatedly a wave of shame made me redden. I re-joined the forced conversation in the lounge, knowing the only conversationalist I wanted to bandy words with was yet to arrive, but God knew who with. Unbidden, the old jealousy consumed me. I wondered if I could even be civil to Jay’s plus one. Trying too hard to concentrate on Ange’s gushing, I almost missed the third ring, but in the visceral depths of my gut, I heard it instinctively. I was beaten to the door. Momentarily I hated Alex with a hatred I’d felt only once before but I didn’t have time to dwell on when. The lounge door burst open and before I could prepare myself, Jay was standing in front of me.

‘Hey,’ he was embracing me and I was drowning in his sharp-spiced smell, his proximity, his warmth and the desperate yearning I still felt for him. My head spun and I held onto him tightly. ‘Such a long time.’ He breathed the words into my ear and they spiralled round my head like a tornado funnelling into oblivion. In the eye of the storm, was his plus one. As my head cleared and my vision settled, she stood quietly and ominously behind him in the dark hallway. I pulled away sharply, waves of fear travelling up and down my body like electricity, sparking, shorting, sparking; killing.  Clem from Dinner party

‘Clem!’ My exclamation killed all talk in the lounge. I sensed something behind me and found the lounge conversationalists had clustered there, mixing their sweat and perfume with my dismay. Jay smiled at Clem and beckoned her in. The clamouring bodies behind me parted like the red sea for the unexpected, and mysteriously, very alive, plus one.

She passed through us, as if we didn’t exist; or maybe she didn’t exist? I was starting to doubt my own senses and sanity now. Jay just smiled enigmatically, and followed her. From my vantage point obliquely opposite I observed her apprehensively. Exactly the same as the last time I’d seen that elongated bony face, with its too large eyes, black, black hair and white skin. Now if possible, the pale complexion had become almost translucent; unhealthily waxen, as if she really wasn’t there at all – the way I’d thought it was.

‘Who’s hungry? Shall we sit for dinner?’ The jovial enquiry broke the tense silence, and the buzz of who was sitting where eased us round the table. Legs sticking angularly out from a lifeless body as it sprawled out from under the table. I found myself directly opposite Clem and Jay; the last place I wanted to be.

‘Clemmie, darrrling; where have you been hiding yourself?’ Ange didn’t wait for a reply. She rounded straight on Jay. ‘We thought it must have been a crime passionelle when she just disappeared and then you went persona non grata too.’ I watched Ange preen herself for what she considered wit. Mike wriggled further back in his seat beside her, face closed, but body expressing his discomfort. I knew what was going on behind those blank grey eyes. I’d heard him explode at her once after she’d been particularly pretentious at one of our dinner parties long ago – Christ why were we having this one?

‘Crime passionelle and Jay? Oh, Jay would never hurt a fly. He wouldn’t be the one to be involved in a crime passionelle.’ Clem smiled icily and everyone froze a degree colder. Her eyes slid back to me. Jay interjected quickly.

‘We’ve been on a bit of a tour.’ Four pairs of eyes trained on Jay and waited for more. Clem remained supremely aloof, face shadowed, tensed, dangerous; in control. ‘Clem was a little unwell so we went some places to make her better.’ He flashed a brilliant smile at her and then at me, as if including me in the secret of the places they’d been to make Clem better. That last time, I’d left her, the skin had been pale as death, the face a mask, blood pooling stickily under her head.

‘You’re looking well now.’ Mike offered it up dubiously, and Clem nodded graciously at him. Ange looked at him as if he was mad – a green-eyed stare like a cat would give its enemy. Clem looked quiet and serious. A far cry from the lascivious woman who’d tried to steal greedy kisses from me just before I’d left her broken and lifeless.

‘The starter’s mushroom pate. I hope you all like mushrooms?’ Alex was valiantly trying to break the ice patina rapidly spreading over us.

‘Magic mushrooms, darrrling?’ Ange’s trill made the rest of us cringe.

‘Oh Ange, really …’ Jay patted her arm as if she was a naughty but delightful child. She tittered and combed her hair flirtatiously at him. Clem’s eyes swivelled back to her and the dark lights in their depths terrified me. Where had they been to make her better? How could you make a dead body better? 

‘How’s things in the psycho industry then Maz?’ He was talking directly to me. I pulled myself together enough to reply.

‘Oh, mad as ever.’ The laughter was appreciative and I breathed out, avoiding Clem’s black-eyed stare, wishing I’d never visited their house that day. ‘I dream about you day and night, Maz. I want you. I know why you are always round here, always offering to help, always checking in on Jay … ’ Her hands were clawing at me, grasping, squeezing, her mouth almost on mine, her heavy breath hot on my face, stealing my own away from me… ‘You know what they say about psychiatrists don’t you?’ I might as well play my audience for all I could if it would deflect that hateful stare from me. ‘You can’t tell them from the patients …’ Raucous laughter showed it had been well received and the wine choice I’d made had been a good one – one of the highest alcohol volumes I had, and chosen specifically for that reason, but not to promote gaiety, to promote softening. Jay’s softening, Jay staying, Jay, Jay, Jay. I tried to shut down the insistent voice in my head, but it was replaced instead by Clem’s,‘Maz, Maz, Maz.’ …

The memory of that last time I’d seen her couldn’t be ejected from my thoughts now. It had taken me over body and soul. She wouldn’t leave me alone; I couldn’t wipe the slimy disgust of her saliva from my lips or escape from her burning eyes, or the threat she posed … ‘Maz, Maz, Maz.’ … ‘Get off me you stupid bitch. It’s not you I come here for, but Jay.’ I flung her forcefully away from me and her head cracked against the table edge…

‘Do psychiatrists live in the real world, or their imagination, do you think, Maz?’ Clem was coolly vicious. The conversation around us flowed on, witticism, quip, joke, flirt, ‘more wine?’ No-one else heard her low-voiced question. They weren’t meant to. Only she and I were in this discussion.

‘This is real, so of course the real world.’

‘Is it?’

‘Is it what?’

‘Is it real?’

‘Of course it is.’ I looked at the exaggerated expressions on the other dinner party guests; wide-eyed, laughing, bored, polite, exasperated. I realised they weren’t talking to us and we weren’t talking to them. There was an invisible barrier between us – like we were in another world, alongside but not touching. Clem smiled mysteriously. ‘Are you dead, or alive?’ She tilted her head quizzically and my mind rushed back to that day again. Her face collapsed in on itself as if life had imploded as her head struck the table; first the surprised look, then the blankness of death. She tumbled awkwardly to the floor and lay there. The table wobbled and then was still. Her legs stuck out angularly from the lifeless body as it sprawled half under the table. Shock turned to nausea as I turned to see Jay coming through the door to the room. Could he forgive me?

‘What do you want me to be?’ I considered the question. The real answer was neither. Alive meant either I was going insane or she was some awful thing from beyond the grave. Dead meant she was some awful thing from beyond the grave or I was already insane. ‘Or more to the point, why am I here with you, and they can’t see me?’ I looked around at the four other faces. They seemed even more distant than before.

‘What is going on?’ I hated her. Now I remembered that hatred in fine detail where I’d only remembered it dimly earlier. I wanted to address Jay, but he was across the divide with the other dinner guests. It was only Clem and me here.

‘It’s confession time, my dear. Just tell them what really happened and we’ll leave you in peace.’ I didn’t want Jay to go, but I wanted Clem to. Greedy, demanding, disgusting, hateful Clem, who’d taken my Jay and made him infatuated with her. Greedy, demanding, disgusting, hateful Clem, who’d tried to kiss and paw me when the only one I wanted to do that was Jay. Greedy, demanding, disgusting, hateful Clem, who had Jay, and didn’t even want him. ‘I won’t go away until you admit you killed me.’

‘You fell.’

‘Fell?’ Clem’s voice was sinuous like a python coiling round me.

‘You fell.’

‘Why did I fall?’

‘You just fell.’

‘I didn’t just fall. Tell them, tell them!’ Her voice rose from its soft sibilance to a harpies’ shriek. I covered my ears in agony as her banshee wail made my head split apart and the blood pooled stickily under it.

‘I pushed you, OK? I pushed you off of me, you slut, and you hit your head on the table.’ My voice reverberated around the room as the dinner party froze, forks in mid-air, glasses poised to clink, heads’ thrown back in surprise. I catapulted back through the eerie barrier from Clem’s world to my own.

‘We said to absent friends, Maz.’ Alex touched me lightly on the arm, ‘and how sad it is Clem isn’t here anymore, but we’ll toast her anyway – across the ether.’ She turned to the rest of faces round the table, all looking oddly at me, and added, ‘to Clem – RIP.’ I breathed in the smell of fruity red wine and Beef Wellington, over-perfumed women and after-shaved men. Maz from the dinner party

I looked gratefully at my wife Alex. Jay and his new girlfriend looked back.

To me she still looked exactly like Clem.

Enjoy.

I’m @StorytellerDeb on Twitter

and http://www.facebook.com/DebbieMartin.Author on Facebook.

Chained melody final cover

If you fancy longer reading in 2013, my new novel ‘Chained Melody is out on 18th January and will be available then on Amazon.

Bold, Beautiful and Brave
November 28, 2012

I have just watched the BBC 3 Documentary ‘Transsexual Teen, Beauty Queen ‘ on i-player. For those of you interested in seeing it for yourself, you have five days and counting – and it’s worth the rush because this lady is exactly the way I describe her in the title.

Watch it here whilst you can:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00w09yg

At eighteen, Jackie Green has seen more trauma, confusion, bullying and torment than most see in a life time and yet she emerges from thirteen years of nightmare confident, serene and undoubtedly beautiful. Jackie is a new generation of transgender people, although she had to make a bit of history herself to pave the way for others. She went to America to obtain hormone blockers below the age they would be prescribed in the UK, which then enabled her to make her so successful transition to a young woman. Sadly, such treatment is far more difficult to obtain in the UK, meaning that for many the onset of puberty has already allowed the bodily changes that make authenticity difficult for them as transgender people. Jackie ‘passes’ perfectly for female – no it’s not a  derogatory term, it’s a phrase many trans people use to denote someone who is so authentic in their gender role, no observer would know there had ever been an issue – and it is what all aspire to, but not so many achieve.

But Jackie is more than that, she is a real girl and that became very obvious when, on her final attempt to make it into the Miss England beauty pageant finals, she specifically didn’t tell her interviewers in the ‘personality’ round that she was transgender and give them the benefit of her back story. She was just Jackie, and judged purely as a girl against other girls in the contest.

In my research into transgender issues and whilst writing my novel following the life and transition of Will – Billie, I read many things, spoke to various people in various stages of transition and came to understand some, but barely enough of what it is to deal with this complex, challenging – and for those of us who don’t know what it feels like – confusing, condition; gender disphoria.

  Some information from the NHS website is here:

  http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Gender-dysphoria/Pages/Introduction.aspx

watch the whole video of boy to girl here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upPpNb846JE

and I have included parts of a moving plea from a US transgender website in the novel (Chained Melody – out January 18th 2013), which says this:

‘…I have had to surrender much of my life to the brutality and incomprehension of societal ignorance surrounding the phenomenon of transsexualism. That ignorance and prejudice costs lives is no new discovery, it is the bane of every age whether it shows up in war or in civil violence or in silent hatred and misunderstanding. In this case though it was my own life that has been bled away year by year in my efforts to correspond to what body may have indicated but my soul knew to be an alien fabric out of which I could never hope to weave a complete or a happy life. The only comfort I have for those lost days and years during which I was a stranger to myself frantically seeking to garb my soul in the personalities and expectations of others, is that I might be the last generation to know such pointless suffering. That is why I am writing today, to spare others lost years, lost hopes, lost lives…’

http://www.susans.org/reference/gfam3.html

What I have learned – and Jackie, and recently also Juliet Jacques, in her Guardian blog, have confirmed for me – is that anyone living through and coming out the other side of being transgender is certainly bold, beautiful and brave – whatever they look like.  Jackie, if you do compete in Miss England again next year, you have my vote!But one word of caution. Don’t think you are unfairly trading on your back story. It is what makes you a girl, but a very special girl and that story is part of what makes you special. Not because you are transgender, but because you’ve lived through the transition from male to female with grit, determination and dignity. You’ve risen above prejudice and openly been true to yourself in the face of opposition. That’s a story all in itself…

Some links of interest for anyone involved with this issue themselves or wishing to be supportive of those still struggling with it:

www.mermaidsuk.org.uk

http://www.gires.org.uk/transbullying.php (Guidance to Combating Transphobic Bullying in Schools is a publication from GIRES, the Gender Identity Research and Education Society, whose aim is to create supportive attitudes among those who can influence improvements in the lives of trans people and how they are perceived in society).

http://www.gires.org.uk/

http://www.beaumontsociety.org.uk/

http://gendertrust.org.uk/

More information about Chained Melody, it’s publication date and the location of book signings as they are agreed can be found on my website:

http://www.debbiemartin.co.uk/novels/

It is launching concurrently, and with the arrival of the ‘Living my Life’ exhibition in Bournemouth. Come and see the portraits, meet the people and chat to the author – 18th to 25th January. All details will be on the website shortly.

Follow me on Twitter @Storytellerdeb

And Like me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DebbieMartin.Author

Echoes
October 22, 2012

Have you ever been somewhere, and felt like you’ve been there before?

Or met someone and been convinced you already know them?

Or something sounds a distant chord in your memory and you’re sure you’ve spoken those words before or faced that situation in another time and place?

They are all echoes, but of what? A communal memory, a past life or merely similarities your mind perceives in an experience now that echoes shades of an experience from the past? Complicated , isn’t it; and far too many questions! So let’s take it bit by bit. Starting with memories…

There is an argument posed that we have collective memories. We’re all in reality part of one great big computer like structure which shares memories, experiences and emotions across a collective (no, not Borg-like, for all you Trekkies out there…) – a universal perception. After all we are all part of the universe as a whole… We are created out of it atom by atom, and we return to it in the same way – ‘dust to dust…’ not that I want to be too depressing first thing on a Monday morning! Could that be the reason that you are feeling this strange resonance with a place, person or situation you don’t recall ever having come across before? It’s not your memory, but someone else’s that you are sharing? That in itself brings all kinds of allusions to writing for me. Writing is a way of sharing an experience – one which you may personally not have had, but the writer has, and by picturing it in words, enables you to experience it too. The most successful and empathetic writers will take you right to the place, the moment, the intensity of the emotion as their character experiences it second by second. That, ironically, is a very real way to share a collective memory, but perhaps we are able to do that without it taking form or shape. Maybe it can be in a sense or a thought that we all have access to if we are open or perceptive enough, and that moment when you feel a sense of deja vu is precisely when your mind is receptive enough to make it happen?

Mumbo jumbo maybe, but if you think that, you will like even less my supposition that there are times and places we have experienced before, here or in another way. Our world is full of explained phenomena – black holes (1), Dark Matter (2) and other multi-dimensional possibilities (3). Could we slip sideways, forwards or backwards at any point in time without being aware of it? Or is that the rationale behind reincarnation?

Whatever your opinions, I hope I’ve made you slip-stream into other possibilities and wonder ‘if?’ even if only briefly.

I’m currently writing about a what if situation in my next novel and its interestingly taken me into looking at the era of the Salem witch trials, so perhaps a few fascinating facts and eerie reconstructions from then in my next blog – and in the meantime, to leave wondering, were you there…?

Welcome to my blog spot. I am Debbie, the Social Single, and Storyteller to anyone who wants to listen…

Come and join in my extraordinary life at

www.singlesthatmingle.co.uk

and read my stories and novels at

www.debbiemartin.co.uk

(A few notes that help:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter
  3. http://www.lhc.ac.uk/The%20Particle%20Detectives/Take%205/13686.aspx   )

Lotions, potions and nefarious poultices:
October 5, 2012

A short while ago I wrote about a magic bullet for love and how feasibly our natural hormones could be blended and  transformed into a little magic bullet to create or prolong love. To put or keep us all in the love trap. My fertile imagination immediately ran riot with the idea so now it is in the throes of transforming itself into the plot for a novel, but in the meantime a little recreational research has brought forth other interesting factors to consider.

Women are always keen on lotions and potions so I started there, only to be amazed to find that versions of the magic bullet are already on sale if you look for them. On the internet there are sites selling perfumes you can add pheromones (the little whiffs that say corrrr!) to, for a price, and lo and behold, there was oxytocin – the real ‘feel good factor’ available in a spray. Now it would seem possible for anyone to go on their first date, sprayed and splattered with the various scents which will not only make you smell good but have your date develop a taste for you too! Well, all’s fair in love and war, I suppose, but what are the motivations behind needing to trick our mate into love with us.

Lotions, potions and magic love bullets have a long and heady history. In fact they have been the subject of salacious use since the Greco-Roman world. Spells of erotic attraction and compulsion are found within Hellenic Greek papyri and archeologically on amulets dating from the 2nd century BC to the late third century AD. Magic practices even influenced the private rituals of the Gauls. During the later mediaeval period (14- 17th century) the use of ‘magic’ artfully played its part in establishing and promoting marriage where the unions had special importance. ‘Magic’ was expensive and could cause damage to the spell caster so it was restricted to use only on men and women of status. Spells were supposed to be secret, but were rarely so. On hearing they were the victim of magic, the subject very often behaved as if a spell had been cast on them whether or not it would work – hence the self-fulfilling prophecy!

Love magic has its fair share of airings in art and literature too.  It is used in the stories of ‘Heracles’, in Wagner’s opera ‘Tristan and Isolde’, Donizetti’s ‘The Elixir of Love’ (L’Elisir d’amore), and Manuel de Falla’s ballet ‘El amor brujo’ (the magic of love). Magic and potions also appear in Marlowe’s ‘Dr Faustus’, and Shakespeare has a field day with them tragically in ‘Rome and Juliet’, and comically in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Fast-forward to the modern day, and there it is again in our beloved Harry Potter’s harum scarum adventures. Taking a quote from The Tales of Beedle the Bard,

“Powerful infatuations can be induced by the skillful potioneer…”

No less than seven magic love potions are sold by Fred and George Weasley in their “WonderWitch” line of magical doo-da’s for the ladies. Unfortunately J.K. Rowling doesn’t offer too much detail about the elixirs in question so we’ll have to assume that amongst eye of newt and tail of bat, they probably also included a teensy bit of testosterone, a pooff of pheromone and ooodles of oxytocin, mixed with very vasopressic entactogens.

But why? Why do we feel the need to trap and bind a lover to our side? Are we all so convinced of our own lack of attractiveness that we have to use potions and ‘magic’ to deceive? How you see yourself, and consequently the way you behave are all very much part of the way you live your life and what you achieve in it as a result. Psychology, right? It was around very effectively even in the middle ages; remember the poor old ‘magic’ victim who thought they were under a spell and so convinced themselves of the outcome anyway?

I don’t believe that a puff of pheromone will ultimately create happiness for you. In fact steady self-belief, solid principles, good sense and a fun-loving adventurous attitude seems far more attractive to me than snorting the stuff of dreams. I think the creation of happiness is generally in our own hands, not our spray atomiser.

Happy hunting – and mind you dodge those bullets!

Follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Martin-author-and-writer/290947497649847

and on my website:

http://www.debbiemartin.co.uk/

where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are published.

Debbie Martin

Beyond the page – Sandra’s revenge
July 12, 2012

… She’d joined a class, you see. The lure had been too much and once she’d started thinking about it, she couldn’t put the thought aside, no matter how hard she tried. She’d gone during the day when he was at work or on a Saturday morning when he thought she was doing the shopping. She’d practiced hard. She’d mastered the dips and the drops, the shimmering vibrations of the body layered ontostaccatomovements of the hips as they flicked and twitched in a wicked invitation to touch, no don’t touch! The fluid undulations and rotations, mimicking the impression of riding a camel, or some other beast, as her body circled and enticed, come here, join, entwine…Slow and tantalising, wild and whirling, graceful and floating, with a myriad of veils divested, one by one as the various layers of the human psyche are divested from the loftiest and most philosophical thoughts – the cool blue veil – to the earthiness of physical desire and need – the red veil . . .

She dropped the blood red veil to the floor in a swirl. The dance had finished. She breathed heavily. Yes, she would perform well tomorrow evening.

The whole secret gave Sandra such satisfaction. And it had insidiously changed so much for her too. Just the exercise itself had made her slim down, and that weight problem that he thought she had? Well it had simply melted away, replacing her low self-esteem with a sense of admiration, for her now sleek but voluptuous body, but also for having been able to master the subtle arts of the dance. Of course he didn’t even notice the change. He saw nothing but what he expected to see in front of him and she kept up the persona for him, refusing to share even the smallest part of her new self with him. He might share the same bed with her, but his hands never touched even the top layer of the shapeless old nightie she wore so even the most intimate moment they might share didn’t betray her.

The mantra of ‘stupid , fat and useless’ which he’d instilled in her over the years was replaced with ‘lithe, skilled and able.’ So, what else could she do?  Maybe she wasn’t so useless after all. She’d looked in the ‘sits vac’ column, something she hadn’t done in years. She’d ringed the ones she tentatively wondered if she could manage and been amazedly delighted when she’d been offered a job.  She started it next week.

The next evening she had to wait for him to go out before she could leave herself. She’d already carefully packed her costume in a bag and hidden it behind the shabby brown suitcase in the wardrobe. When she arrived at the venue, the other dancers were bustling around in the dressing rooms. Marie, the class teacher fell on her breathlessly,

‘Oh Sandy, thank goodness you’re here now. I was starting to worry…You’re our star… Everything is alright, isn’t it?

Sandra smiled at her. ‘Just a little delayed.’

She slid into her costume and swiftly completed the transformation. Looking in the full length mirror, she barely recognised herself. Not fifty, fat and frumpy as she’d used to joke ruefully to her friends, but a sibilant siren, skirts slipping softly to her ankles, swishing as she slid gracefully onto the dance floor. It was a ‘hafla’, a Turkish dance party, with other troupes and classes joining in the demonstrations and the audience made up of the class members, their friends and partners. Her class was hosting it. The audience sat at tables around the dance floor, cabaret style.

As soon as she was on the dance floor she spotted him. He was sitting on the far side of a table towards one side, trying to be insignificant, yet watching the movements of the dancers with hard, hungry eyes. She felt a moment of panic as she felt his eyes slide over her. Not yet, not now, she silently prayed. The eyes stayed on her, but not out of recognition, out of desire. He shifted his position, straining forward to get a better look from his deliberately slightly obstructed view – probably cursing he’d chosen this half-hidden seat now.

She stood in position, shrouded in the seven veils of her dance, eyes masked with vibrant, sumptuous sequins and feathers so only her full mouth could be seen, curved slightly in a mysterious smile. Cool spiritual blue was the top layer, peeling down through turquoise, green, yellow, orange, cerise to deep pulsating red; the red of blood coursing through a body that was revealed in its transformation from spiritual to sensual as each layer enveloping her unfurled, coloured the room and dropped like shimmering pool to the floor; another layer of herself had been discarded. All restrictions removed. Sandra whirled and  gyrated, entreated and enticed, withdrew – and the metamorphosis happened  in front of their eyes – from a cool blue nymph to a scarlet siren, climaxing by throwing herself in abandon across the floor with a gesture that flung her body open in its’ entirety to any would be possessor – ‘take me . . .’

The room was transfixed, and so was he.

M/F

Sandra escaped to the dressing room, exhausted with the effort of portraying the emotions as much as following the right choreography. The class crowded round her, congratulating her, expressing their delight in her, and the class teacher was enraptured, holding onto her hand and grinning like a clown. The bustle swathed her in a sense of having finally arrived. Her exhaustion dissipated as their energy and enthusiasm trickled into her, until all of a sudden, the moment was now. Now was right. She allowed them to lead her back into the dance arena for a general round of applause for the whole class for having put on the show, and then she was being whisked into the crowds to say hello here, have her hand shook there, be introduced to this person or that.

‘I must introduce you to Frank,’ Mandy said, ‘you know my . . .’ Her voice trailed off, as she made a coy gesture indicating ‘my lover’ but not actually saying it. ‘He’s always a bit derogatory about belly dancing, but he won’t be able to be now he’s seen you dance.’

Sandra smiled and turned to look into the ashen face of Frank.

The chapter ended there, and Mary rested the book back into her lap. Frank – father’s name was Frank. Was the book telling her something? Had father treated mother this way? She concentrated hard on reviving the sense of her father in her mind. The way he’d stood – the sag of his shoulders mimicking the droop of his moustache, eyes dulled and defeated. Then by contrast mother sitting in her chair – this chair – ram-rod straight, cold, brushing Mary’s hair so hard she felt sore afterwards; not a soft atom in mother’s body, ever. No, fathers’ whole demeanour told her that he was unlikely to have been the aggressor. Mother on the other hand . . .

More to follow next week …

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and on my website:

www.debbie@debbiemartin.co.uk

where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are going to be published.

Debbie Martin

Beyond the page as Sandra sways …
July 5, 2012

Now it starts to get interesting for Sandra…

‘. . . Sandra glowered at him with hatred, but he didn’t see her venom. He was buried in his damn Telegraph as usual. ‘Blah, blah, blah . . .’ she mimicked him, from her hidden position behind the upheld pages, openly making mocking faces at him as she silently mouthed the words. He just continued to drone on about HIS views and HIS opinions and HIS ideas, never, once, ever, asking her about hers. And of course the weight problem came up too – it always did. He called her blubbery like a whale: and the fact that she didn’t work.

‘. . . and that really is the crux of it?’ He suddenly put the pages down flat on his lap and looked directly at her over the top of his wire – rimmed glasses. Questioning, no: he wasn’t questioning her – he never questioned. He told : he told, criticised, belittled, and shamed her. He never questioned, otherwise he might have got a very different answer to the one he got. The question was rhetorical, just saying, ‘I’m right aren’t I?’ It just didn’t have the ‘aren’t I?‘ at the end of it.

Sandra hastily re-composed her belligerent sneer to a face of polite agreement. ‘If you think so, dear’ she said meekly, not even knowing what she was agreeing with because her mind had been totally taken up with the wonderful release of baring the teeth of her frustration at him in the seconds before the question-statement was posed.

‘Hmmm’ he said, narrowing his eyes at her, not quite sure if the response was satisfactory enough, and then obviously deciding it was only Sandra – it would do. He shook the newspaper pages slightly to remove any crumples from them and withdrew behind them again. The voice was slightly muffled as it continued from behind the barrier, ‘I’ll have that tea now, but make sure it’s not too weak, and there’s only one spoon of sugar in it, oh and I don’t want that flowery mug you gave me last time. You may want to act like a char woman but I drink my tea out of a proper cup and saucer like a gentleman would.’ He didn’t even look to see if Sandra acknowledged and obeyed the command: he knew she would.

Once the tea was satisfactorily made and provided in the appropriate format, Sandra escaped to the bedroom. She left the bedroom door just ajar – so she could hear if he moved from his throne and came upstairs to see what she was doing. Not that he was likely to. His interest in her had dwindled to nothing but the odd reprimand and string of orders years ago, once the children were grown. She’d outlived her attraction to him when she no longer provided anything material in his life. He’d already looked elsewhere, anyway. She knew that. She occasionally found the odd hotel or restaurant receipt in his jacket pocket when she took it to the dry cleaners. They were careless oversights on his part which merely told her he didn’t bother to hide anything anymore. Such absolute arrogance. She didn’t know who the current one was, but she suspected it was a woman at the office. She’d noticed his enlivened tone when he’d declaimed the woman as a tart for going to a belly dance class – a belly dance class of all things!

The comment had made Sandra pick up her ears – partly because she could tell that his interest was obviously piqued and whilst Sandra had long since ceased to care about his betrayals, she was canny enough to realise that it was wise to keep track for her own self-preservation. But she had also been curious about belly dancing. It conjured up tantalising images of raven haired beauties, barely covered in diaphanous silks, bejewelled and sequined, trailing seductively over the shoulders and sexual appetites of their male audience.  She almost smelt the heady scent of desire, the mystery of decadence, the pounding beat of the drum as the dancer flicked and shook her hips and breasts to its rhythm – the rhythm of sweat and thrust and sex. She shivered slightly in excitement. That was something she hadn’t experienced in a very long while. She crept to the bedroom door and listened silently for a few minutes. There was no sound at all below. He was either still deeply immersed in the stuffy news print or he’d dozed off. Either way, she could.

She stripped her shapeless woollen top off, dragging it over her head roughly, and hastily let her tracksuit pants drop around her ankles like a puddle. Hidden carefully at the back of her wardrobe, underneath an old dress, was the outfit. It was skimpy and exciting. She slid into it, smoothing the soft transparent drape of the skirt over her hips, running her hands down to her thighs, and then swinging them slightly, luxuriating in the way the fabric fell against her bodies outline, hiding it, but revealing all. She sighed with satisfaction, wriggled her shoulders slightly in a shimmy, making her breasts rub against each other exuberantly, bubbling over the top of the tiny sequined bra. She smiled.

 

More to follow next week …

Follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Martin-author-and-writer/290947497649847

and on my website:

www.debbie@debbiemartin.co.uk

where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are going to be published.

Debbie Martin

Beyond the page – Chapter 3 starts here …
June 28, 2012

Chapter 3 starts Mary’s journey proper as she opens the book again…

 

Chapter 3

Without even realising it, exhaustion had overcome her and she had fallen asleep on the chair. Disturbing images of her father sobbing nagged in her head as she drifted, and then diffused into her dreams. Muddled scenes of men and women in shadowy and indistinct conflict flicked in front of her, one after another like the pictures in an old cinemascope. Silhouettes, posed mannequins in a staged set, one begging for – what? She didn’t know: another raising an arm – to hit or hold? A woman flinching as she anticipated a blow: and yet one more, that turned and smiled at her, swiftly turning away again, knife raised high to plunge. . . She woke with a jolt. The woman’s face was hers.      The book was in her lap again. She picked it up and rolled it over in her hands.

‘What is happening to me?’ She said it to the book itself, although she knew it was just an inanimate object, but yet it seemed to be inextricably linked to the odd experiences and memories that were swamping her, one after another. She leaned back against the chair again. It was still rough and uncompromising against her back.

‘This has got to go!’ Was she saying it to the book or the chair, she wondered ruefully. Both disturbed her in different ways – the chair because of its associations with mother – the book because, well, why the book? She fingered the scrollwork on its cover. It was fine filigree, and beautiful – she hadn’t noticed that until now. Her fingers lingered on its smooth leather. It was softer than the leather usually used to bind books. It had the softness of chamois, yet the depth of dark brown velvet with its plush pile. It fitted snugly into her hand as if it was melding with her. She realised that the ‘got to go’ was definitely for the chair. It was awful, and she wondered why she’d not got rid of it – got rid of the whole suite that actually she saw now she’d always hated – when mother had died. It rubbed against her shoulder blades and she flexed them, stretching and arching her neck to tease out the stiffness in it that sitting so upright in the chair caused. In doing so she looked directly at the door again and the thought of her sad-faced father standing hesitantly in it all those years ago upset her. What on earth had been going on between him and mother to have caused such a rift? Her imagination started to range through different scenarios – distrust, unfaithfulness, disillusionment – anger, yes anger because mother had been so brutal with him. Why was she so angry with him?

Her palm prickled and she realised she was clutching the book hard in her right hand, squeezing at it so the binding stuck to her. The continuing sense of confusion made her head feel woolly. Too many emotions were flitting through her and she felt unsteady, even though seated. The book, what was it about it? Automaton like, she flicked it open, letting it settle randomly at the start of another chapter. Chapter 9: ‘In the belly of the whale’.  Mary re-read the title and then let her eyes get drawn into the first line of the chapter…

‘. . . Sandra glowered at him with hatred, but he didn’t see her venom. He was buried in his damn Telegraph as usual. ‘Blah, blah, blah . . .’

More to follow next week …

Follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Martin-author-and-writer/290947497649847

and on my website:

www.debbie@debbiemartin.co.uk

where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are published.

Debbie Martin

Beyond the page…
June 21, 2012

and so it continues…

There was nothing near her feet – it must have fallen when she dropped the book. It wasn’t obvious on the floor close by either so she stood up and laid the book on the seat of the chair and scrabbled around carefully under it, reaching gingerly as far as she could reach. She felt nothing as far as her fingers could reach. The knife must had bounced underneath the chair, just out of her reach. She moved the chair completely to one side, sweating slightly with the exertion of pushing it because it was old and heavy – solid oak and with threadbare tapestried upholstery. The floor under the chair was bare apart from a thin layer of dust and crumbs from years of the hoover only reaching to the front of the chair, and no further.  There was still no knife to be seen. She was puzzled. It must have slipped down the side of the seat cushion then.

Playing at the back of her mind now was the fear that there was a murder weapon here, in her home – one it seemed she’d used – or had she? It was like a dream, or was it real? Whatever it was, it had been there and she’d been grasping it and it had been sticky with a dead mans’ blood and she had to find it. Her heart thumped uncomfortably in her chest and she felt the trembling rising in her again. She was afraid now. After half an hour of searching everywhere she could think of, in and around the chair, sliding her fingers carefully down the crevices in the upholstery and grimacing with disgust at the crumbs and sticky patches she encountered – this had been the chair mother had huddled in during her later years, and the accumulation of spilt meals and drinks probably accounted for the unpleasant detritus that Mary found – she admitted defeat. She plonked back into the chair and sat confused and uncertain what to do next.

It had felt so real, yet had she actually been the person acting out the drama, or had she imagined it all? Now the events that had unfolded were becoming a blur for her, just leaving the unsettling emotions she’d experienced buzzing at her like angry bees. She couldn’t even be sure of the sequence of events now – maybe there hadn’t been a knife, or had there? Had she stabbed – no, the woman – Belle –the man, or had she, or had it not happened at all? The more she tried to rationalise and document the events in her head, the more unclear they became, until eventually she wasn’t sure whether any of it had happened at all. She sunk into the chair and settled against the hard, high back of it. She was conscious of its rigidity and it was uncomfortable. Odd how, in all the years she’d sat in this chair, slyly when her mother was alive because it had always been mothers chair, and then by right when mother had died, almost like slipping into her mothers’ place without noticing, she’d never remarked on how uncomfortable it was. Now it felt hard and uncompromising against her shoulders and she shifted against it, wondering whether to move – but to where? The other chair in the room was not only similar, but also placed in the more drafty position – mother had always insisted on being out of all drafts. The settee – well that was just part of the set, and lower backed so it was not only hard and lumpy with its’ worn stuffing, but also left your head swaying around unsupported on a tired neck when you just wanted to relax. An odd thought strayed through her mind,

‘why don’t you get something much more comfortable then? She can’t stop you now…’

And she found herself agreeing with it – then pulling herself up short – now she was talking to herself too! Thinking about mother slipped her almost seamlessly into childhood memories – mother standing over her as she ate the ‘greens’ she so hated, mother brushing her hair hard with the stiff bristled brush so her scalp tingled, mother sitting prim and tight lipped on the edge of the same chair as father walked out of the door…

Now she was really shocked. When had father walked out of the door? Father – father? She couldn’t even remember him. He had died when she was very small and it had always been mother and her, in their routine. Get up, scrub her face with icy cold water because mother said you didn’t need hot water to wash in, clean her teeth, pull on her pinafore and blouse, dark wool tights – even in summer, and pull her hair neat and straight with the small white clip in one side – the only token gesture to femininity that mother had allowed.

She’d followed that routine into her teens, only varying slightly when going to work, to drop the pinafore and replace it with the skirt and blouse or skirt and jumper mother had applauded as looking ‘business-like’. Never walk around bare foot, or just in stockings – ‘you’ll catch your death’ – and everything had its place. Now father’s face was distinctly out of place, but she could picture him as clearly as if he was standing in front of her and she was mother perched on the edge of the chair as he was just walking out of the door, casting a pleading glance back at her.

Mary dredged her memories for an explanation – when was she remembering him leaving the home? Why? How old was she? Why did he look so sad? The droop of his full moustache added to the miserable expression, but his eyes were sad too, looking wistfully at…at her, no, at me – he was looking at me, not mother!   But I am mother – aren’t I? Mary concentrated hard, drawing the memory of the man back into the room, and there he was – almost as real as Belle had been.

‘You can go, I don’t want you here.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘I want you to go, Frank. I don’t want you here anymore.’

‘Are you crazy, woman? I’m your husband.’

‘Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I have to have you here – sweating and upsetting my nice clean home, wanting to paw me in bed, expecting me to cook and clean for you. I hate you – I hate all you men. You disgust me, and I don’t want Mary warped by you either. ‘

‘Warped by me? What have I done? I am her father – I haven’t done anything wrong at all. I work all day at the bakery, I come home tired and all I want is a good hot meal and some affection from the woman who calls herself my wife and I’m told I’m a disgusting pig and I ‘paw’ you – I ‘paw’ you! You’re my wife and I’ve always shown you the utmost respect.’

‘Respect – pah! It’s no respect to have to do what a man wants me to. If you don’t go I’ll say you tried to paw Mary too and then they’ll make you go.’

‘Etta, Etta – what is wrong with you? Why this hatred of me – what have I done wrong? I don’t understand?

‘I don’t want a man here – any man here. I want you to go and I shall make you go.’

‘Etta…’ his face was pinched with surprise and pain. I knew from his slack stance that he was amazed and confused by mother. I looked from his face to mother’s.

‘Alright, you can stay here but I won’t have you anywhere near me and you must stay away from Mary. You can sleep in the spare room. I will leave you a meal for when you get in, but I don’t want to spend any of my time with you. If you don’t abide by my rules I’ll say you’ve touched Mary.’ She emphasised the word ‘touched’ but as Mary noticed it, she also realised the words were almost coming from her, and she was the icy cold, cruel woman damning the sad man lingering uncertainly at the door to a life of misery here or rejection away from them.

‘I’m sorry, Etta, I can’t live like that.’

‘You always were weak, Frank.’

‘Not weak, Etta, but that is no life – nor is it for the child.’

‘The child will do what I tell her to. So will you.’ The pronunciation was chilling, because I could see in father’s face that he realised he had no choice but to accept it. He was banished – however or whatever form it took – he was banished. He repeated his sad plea,

‘Etta, I can’t live like that – and why should Mary not have her father here? What have I done wrong – I don’t understand why you hate me so.’

‘I don’t want you here.’ The tone was implacable.

‘And what will you live on?’

‘You will send me some money every month.’ The tone was flat but dictatory.

‘I will… why would I do that when you banish me like this?’ It was the first time Father’s tone had grown harsh.

‘Because if you don’t I will tell Mary you are a monster and I will tell everyone else you touched her.’

Father just stood at the door, half in, half out of the room, just as he was in our lives. He was expressionless for a moment and then he sobbed. His face crumpled and he sobbed. Mary had never seen or heard a man cry before.

 

More to follow in chpater 3 next week …

Follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Martin-author-and-writer/290947497649847

and on my website:

www.debbie@debbiemartin.co.uk

where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are published.

Debbie Martin

Marys story continues – Beyond the page …
June 14, 2012

Now it all gets a little more curious as Marys’ little story turns into a big one. Now I’ve written the first bit but eventually I’m going to ask for your assistance as you decide what might happen to Mary as her story unfolds – and I will write it!

Here’s how her story continues into Chapter 2 …

Chapter 2: Mary

The tumult of emotions still resonated within her – emotions she’d never even imagined before; the yearning of unrequited love twisted her heart uncomfortably and yet the humiliation made her shrivel  until the throb of revenge blended all the emotions into that one action –t he thrust of the knife. That had felt so good: so satisfying even as paradoxically she’d simultaneously felt the thrust of the bitter-sweet sadness of loss cut into her soul.

Nobody asked Mary questions about herself. They assumed she’d have nothing much to add to their experiences. Mary: plain, thirty-two and looking more like fifty-two. Life was a routine for Mary -it had been from the very first moments she could remember.  Mother’s routine then, but mother’s routine had become her routine as the years revolving round her mother had ingrained it in her too.

Mary stayed in her chair for a while, unsteady from the aftershocks of the first-time emotions.  Her world was unsettled. The surge of anger and the throb of passion had no place in the plod of her routine. Her stomach still churned from the anxious fear they’d instilled in her. She sat silently and still, waiting for the rolling waves in her stomach to settle, but they didn’t, and out of seemingly nowhere – just like the scene from the book had become solid around her, the unease turned dramatically into nausea, and she rushed to the bathroom, flinging the door wide as she made for the toilet, grabbing it’s rolled edge and hanging over the bowl, retching.

It reminded her of childhood tummy upsets. She’d always hated the thought of hanging her head over the toilet bowl when she felt sick as a child. Mother had issued dire warnings about touching toilet seats,

‘…covered in germs and they’ll get all over you…’ in that prim, I told you so voice that ordered Mary’s life.

She’d imagined the little army of germs mother said lived in toilets and on toilet seats – that was why you never touched them –  stomping up the incline of the bowl and swarming all over her head and face  and hands as she gripped the bowl and she was in turn gripped with the overpowering heaving of vomiting. Even as the rhythmic convulsions of her stomach resulted in of her stomach spewing  its’ contents out of her mouth, burning the back of her throat and making her eyes and nose run, so she imagined the germ army swarming over her microscopically – like a thin layer of iron filings bristling all over a magnet. After she’d been sick like that she’d always felt she wanted to scrub herself off to try to dislodge the germ fur all over her from the toilet bowl. It was no different this time even though there was no mother there to remind her…

At thirty-two she felt the same as she had at twelve, or even five, four – how young could she remember back to? The heaving sensation settled down and she sat back on her heels, away from the toilet bowl, yet still close enough to revert to hanging over it if the nausea returned. She swallowed hard, trying to soothe the rough soreness of her throat with her saliva, and swill away the acid taste left in her mouth by the vomit. She shivered with distaste but the nausea didn’t seem to be returning so she shakily stood up, flushed the toilet and held her hands under the running water from the hot tap. She squirted several sprays of liquid soap onto them and scrubbed, lathering the soap to a foaming froth, before rinsing it away, imagining a layer of germ army funnelling down the plughole, protesting and flailing as they tried to stop themselves being washed away. The incongruous picture she conjured up for herself made her giggle, but then she stifled it in mid-ripple, thinking ‘am I going mad?’  Why was she imagining armies of germs, like she had as a child? More to the point how and why had she imagined being a burlesque dancer stabbing a lover?

Mary carefully dried her hands on the rough white hand towel hanging over the edge of the bath, and cleaned her teeth. She felt better once she’d rinsed the vile after taste of the vomit from her mouth and the fresh spearmint of the toothpaste cleared her palate. She still felt unsteady so she returned to her armchair and sat down, confused and disturbed by what had engulfed her so totally for what seemed like hours, but from the time on the clock and the progress of the early evening shadows, had been no more than thirty minutes or so – only enough time to dive into a chapter in the book but no more.

She picked up the book from where it had tumbled from her lap onto the floor as she’d bolted for the bathroom. It was just as it had been when she’d settled it into the hollow of her lap and flipped the pages open – old worn leather, rough gilt edged pages, with a pattern chased just lightly into its’ leather binding. Then she remembered the knife – where was the knife that she’d been clutching? A tremor of fear fluttered through her chest – the knife that had pierced the man’s heart, and was smeared with his blood, deep red and sticky.

More next week – will she find the knife, do you think?

Follow me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Debbie-Martin-author-and-writer/290947497649847

and on my website:

www.debbie@debbiemartin.co.uk

where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are published.

Debbie Martin