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I’ve started a new monthly category today where the first 50 bloggers who respond can share their short stories (less than 2000 words please) or poetry, and it won’t cost you a penny!  The stories or poems can be on any subject, but please keep them reasonably family friendly.  The first InLinkz link-up begins on 1st October. At the end of every month I will pick my favourite one to share on my newsletter and on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  I look forward to reading your efforts.  Please click on the blue button below to add your story/poem, or leave a link in the ‘comments’.  It’s time to get scribbling – I’ll be reading your stories throughout October…

PLEASE CAN YOU ADD THE LINK TO YOUR STORY VIA THE BLUE BUTTON BELOW, OTHERWISE I MIGHT NOT SEE IT.   THANKS.

I’ve written a story below to get the ball rolling:

A KIND OF HEALING, BY STEVIE TURNER

Copyright © Stevie Turner 2017

CHAPTER 1  – 1972

If she keeps her eyes downcast and slinks into the first chair by the door, she doesn’t have to look at him sitting triumphantly puffing on a cigarette in the opposite corner.  Leah holds her favourite book close to her chest like a shield with one hand, and wipes her eyes with the other before entering the room.  Silently she sits down and opens her book at the first chapter, making sure her long black hair falls like two impenetrable curtains down either side of her face.

“So…is it going to be a fortnight of sulking now?”

The gloating tone of her father’s voice indicates that he’s spoiling for another fight.  Leah decides to egg him on.

“Hopefully, yeah.  Maybe I can stretch it out to three weeks or even a month.”

She hears her mother exhale sharply on entering the room.

“You two are getting on my nerves.”  Mary Scott walks over to the TV and switches it on. “I’m tired of being piggy-in-the-middle all the time.  Ben, for God’s sake give it a rest.”

“Well, no daughter of mine is going out wearing shorts barely covering her arse.”

Leah feels her anger quickly rising to boiling point, and for her mother’s sake stands up to leave the room, but cannot resist sending a parting shot to the hated figure in the corner.

“You’ve made your point Dad, and they’re hotpants by the way.  It’s nineteen seventy two now – everyone’s wearing them.”

“Except you.” Ben Scott draws sharply on his cigarette. “You look like you’re on the game, and you can wipe all that shit off your face as well.”

She gives the door a hearty slam and runs upstairs, still hearing her mother’s conciliatory words placating and soothing any ruffled feathers.  She knows that sooner or later she will be getting a little visitor.

***

“Leah, can I come in?”

She imagines her mother hopping from foot to foot with worry outside the door, and gives a sigh.

“Yeah.”

She hears the door open but continues to lie face down on the bed, powerless.   Feeling the mattress dip a little as her mother sits down, she shuffles over to one side.

“He’s looking out for you.  You’re only fifteen.  You haven’t learned the ways of the world yet.”

Her muffled reply comes from somewhere in the pillow.

“How am I going to learn them if he keeps stopping me seeing my friends?  Have I got to go out wearing a sack from head to toe?”

“Don’t be silly.”  Mary gives a chuckle. “You can go out, but just not in the hotpants.  I know Sandra wears them, but that’s up to her parents.”

Leah pummels the pillow with both fists.

“It’s just not fair!”

“It doesn’t seem fair now, but as I’ve told you before, boys your age are only after one thing and you don’t want to give out the wrong signals.”

In her heart, Leah knows the message her mother is subtly trying to impart makes much sense, but her urge to be accepted into Liz and Sandra’s clique is gnawing away at her soul.

“Okay, I’ll take them off and put on some jeans.  Then can I go to the party?  I’ll walk with Liz, it’s not far.”

The mattress rises again as her mother stands up.

“Yes, alright.  Dad will pick you up though at half past ten.”

She knows it’s no use arguing the point.

“Thanks Mum.”

On hearing the bedroom door click shut, Leah jumps off the bed, takes off the contentious hotpants, and stuffs them into her rucksack together with her favourite eyeshadow, blusher and lipstick.  She feels guilty going against her father’s wishes, but reluctantly considers the alternative of being the only girl dressed in jeans and somehow knows she is doing the right thing.  Clothed from neck to ankle and with a make-up free visage, she stands in the doorway of the front room and sighs with impatience to be free.

“I’m off then.”

She sees her father turn his head to look her up and down.

“I’ll be outside Sandra’s place at ten thirty on the dot.”

“I know you will, Dad.”  Leah swings her rucksack onto her shoulder. “See you later. Bye Mum.”

Her mother smiles at her before turning back to the TV.

“Cheerio.”

The evening is still warm as Leah lets herself out and walks down the driveway.  She waves to Liz, swinging on her garden gate at the end of the street. Liz runs towards her clad in bright yellow hotpants over a full-sleeved white blouse, and her favourite six inch high platform boots.

“Hurry up, the party started an hour ago!”

Leah’s step quickens to a run.

“Yeah I know, but you haven’t got a dad like mine.  I’ll have to get changed at Sandra’s.  You’re so bloody lucky!  I’ve got to go home again at half past ten!”

As they hurry, their footsteps echo on the pavement.  Liz’s words gush out in short bursts.

“I’ve got some … make-up … you can use.”

Leah shakes her head and tries to stop her rucksack banging against her back.

“Ta, but I sneaked some out.”

Liz looks over her shoulder at Leah and grins.

“Good for you!”

***

The front door is wide open, and the sound of T.Rex blasts out into the street.  The girls run upstairs to the bathroom and lock the door, where Leah throws out a number of items of make-up from her rucksack and drapes a pair of turquoise hotpants lovingly over the side of the bath.

“Can you do my make-up Liz? You’re better at it than me. I’ll get changed in a minute.”

Leah closes her eyes, feels the fluttering of an eyeshadow brush across her lids, and relishes a satisfying moment of triumph.  As long as the ‘shit’ is all scraped off her face before ten thirty and the hotpants safely stowed away in her bag, then fortunately her father will be none the wiser.

***

She is enjoying herself.  Sandra and the gang look approvingly at her as they dance maniacally together in their own special clique.  Towards ten fifteen somebody shouts out to slow the music down, and The Carpenters’ Goodbye to Love starts up on the stereo.  Leah finds herself clasped rather pleasingly in the sweaty arms of Adie Bartholomew, whose wandering hands are clasping her buttocks and the embroidered hem of her hotpants.  She flashes a grin at Liz, similarly ensconced on the dance floor with Richie Penhaligon.  Liz taps her watch, and Leah’s heart sinks on realising her perfect evening soon needs to come to an abrupt end.

“I’ve got to go.” She sighs to Adie. “I’m going upstairs to change.  My dad’ll kill me if he sees me like this.”

“I’ll help!” Adie gives a leer. “I’m excellent at taking off clothes.”

“Bugger off.” Leah wriggles out of his grasp. “Thanks for the dance.”

“Want to go to the pictures next weekend? We can catch the number eight bus outside the school; it stops right opposite the Odeon.”

She tries to keep a neutral expression on hearing that the best looking boy in the room is asking to take her to the cinema.  Leah sighs and imagines her father’s reaction.

“Sure.” She nods. “Come round to sixteen Cherry Orchard Road on Saturday, but make sure you’re wearing a suit of armour and a shield.”

She tries not to grin at Adie’s perplexed look.

“You’ll find out.”  She shrugs.

CHAPTER 2  –  2012

A waft of boiled cabbage assails her nostrils as the front door opens.  Leah gives her best smile to the healthcare assistant, whose name ‘Mandy’ is plastered on a large badge adorning her chest

“Hi.  I’m here to see Ben Scott.”

Mandy looks Leah up and down with undisguised suspicion.

“And you are…?”

“His daughter.”  Leah tries to stare Mandy out. “I did phone to say I was coming.”

“No-one passed the information to me.” Mandy shrugs and opens the door a bit further. “Come in.  He might be asleep though. He’s not long finished lunch.”

She follows Mandy up a flight of stairs to a light, airy room where her father sits slumped in a chair by the window, his head nodding, in and out of sleep.

“He’s full of beef suet pudding.” Mandy chuckles. “You won’t get much out of him for a while.”

Mandy leaves the room and Leah sits on the end of her father’s bed and stares at the stranger she has not seen for thirty five years.  Age has taken its toll on the once solidly built ex-rugby player.  His hair is sparse and uncombed, and his arms in their short-sleeved shirt are withered, with thick blue veins criss-crossing paper thin skin.  For a moment she wonders whether this is somebody else’s father, but then catches the shrunken tattoo bearing her name and that of her mother and brother embedded on his forearm.

“Dad?”  Leah’s voice comes out as a whisper. “It’s Leah.”

There is no response save a yawn and a gentle snore.

She gets up from the bed, moves over to the window, and taps her father lightly on the arm.

“It’s me, Dad.  Leah…I’ve come for a visit.”

The old man is out for the count.

***

Adie comes out into the hallway to greet her as she turns her key in the lock.

“How was the old bugger? Off with the fairies?”

She shakes her head.

“Not sure.  He was asleep.  I’ll go back tomorrow.”

“Why bother?  Adie shrugs. “They’ve already told you he doesn’t recognise anyone.”

Leah hangs up her bag, turns towards Adie, and runs both hands through her greying hair.

“I need to make my peace with him.  He’s eighty seven years old. Who knows how long he’s got left?”

“After what he did to us?”  Adie exhales forcefully. “Tried his best all those years to keep us apart?

Leah walks past her husband and into the kitchen.  She switches on the kettle and takes some milk out of the fridge

“My conscience will be clear though.  At the moment, it’s not.”

“You’re wasting your time.”  Adie reaches into a cupboard for some mugs. “Give it up.”

“I can’t.” Leah sighs. “I need to sleep easy in my bed.”

***

He still wears the same shirt, but a little more stained than on the previous day.  Leah notices with relief that her father is awake, and that he has turned his head to see who is walking towards him.

“Hello Dad.  It’s Leah.  I came to see you yesterday, but you were asleep.”

There is no smile of recognition.  She watches as his lips struggle to form the right words.

“They all wore red jumpers.”

She bites the inside of her mouth to stop herself from crying.

“Who wore them, Dad?”

“When’s the train coming?”

Stubborn tears prick the back of her eyes with the realisation that she has left it too late for a reconciliation.  She gives her father a hug, takes one gnarled hand, and squeezes his fingers.

“Wait here with me.  The train will be along in a minute.”

He focuses ice-blue eyes on her that she knows so well, and flashes her a smile.

“Okay.”

THE END

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