Week 48

Glistening silver streaks weaved around and around like a sparkly snake climbing towards the heavens, while beads of blue and purple were hung loosely amongst the green spikes with clear baubles perched delicately on its tips.
Christmas had arrived at the Williams household, but not everyone was there to celebrate the festive season.
A small ceremony was taking place in the backyard where the children openly wept and the adults’ faces grew red trying to keep their tears hidden.
A small box was placed into the ground with a lone sunflower dropped on top. A short karakia was spoken, the first of the dirt shifted, and a final farewell said.
The twinkling of stars were hidden above the glow of fairy lights as the family eventually moved back inside.
A small dish on the kitchen floor sat empty, but no one made to remove it. Instead they tried to settle into their usual places around the dining table and on the couch. Few words were spoken, none of meaning. But arms of comfort were freely available and taken advantage of.
Finally the children were ushered to bed and the adults had a moment to themselves. Presents were brought out of hiding places, wrapped, and placed under the tree, but one was taken away.
A small and poorly wrapped parcel that jingled when it was moved was put high on a shelf, not to be forgotten, but for now unrequired.

Week 42

They’d waited until after the wedding to combine their families into one home; Sheryl, with her two daughters, and Mark, with his one. The girls all knew each other from school, but it was clear from the beginning that they would never be the best of friends.
While a pretty girl, Sheryl considered Mark’s daughter to be spoiled and entitled. Cindy had lost her mother at a young age and therefore had been doted on more than the average child.
Her own children, Geraldine and Rachel, had never known their father. They imagined him to be a Prince from a far away land, and while she had indulged this fantasy, she had been strict with all other aspects of their lives.
She was tough on home work, encouraged them to get involved in extra curriculum activities, and had banned boys from their home. Sheryl was keen to raise Cindy the same way.
Shortly after the move to their new home she told them that they would need to each do chores in order to earn pocket money. Mark wasn’t keen to have the girls work, joking that it was “hard labour”, but Sheryl convinced him that it would earn them some life experience, and likely bring the girls closer together.
It didn’t.
Instead, her daughters thought Cindy only put in half the effort that they did, and Sheryl tended to agree. Once she even caught Mark finishing Cindy’s chores!
Cindy had the worst attitude of any teenager she knew.
And it only got worse after Mark passed away. Car crash. On their one year anniversary.
Understandably, Cindy was devastated. Sheryl held it together for the family, and tried to continue on, but she found it harder and harder to relate to this young girl who locked herself away in her room.
When, at the end of the year, she heard there was going to be a Royal Ball, Sheryl saw it as an opportunity to finally unite her broken family, and bring Cindy out of her shell.
“There is to be a Royal Ball this autumn,” she announced at dinner. Her own girls grinned and started bouncing in their seats. They chatted over the top of each other about the rumours, and what sort of dress they should wear, and how to do their hair…
“However,” Sheryl interrupted them, “I have some conditions before I allow anyone to go.”
She emphasised the word ‘anyone’ and let her words hang in the air.
The bouncing stopped, and Cindy, who had simply continued eating at first, finally paused to look up.
Sheryl caught her eye before continuing. “We are to create a full list of chores, to get this house looking its best. I expect each member of this family to complete their chores if they expect to go.”
“But mum!” Geraldine protested. “Everyone over 16 is invited. We have to be there. It’s unfair if we’re not, and-“
Sheryl held up on finger to stop her talking and nodded. “If all the chores are completed, then there will be no reason for you not to go.”
Sheryl looked around the table to see that they each received the message and when she was satisfied, she retired for the night, leaving the girls to collect their thoughts, and their plates.
The days rushed by quickly, and while Sheryl saw great enthusiasm from her daughters regarding the approaching autumn celebration, she saw no such interest from Cindy.
When the big day finally arrived, there was only one person that still had chores remaining. Sheryl saw her watching from the kitchen window as the rest of them climbed into the car, heading to the Royal Ball, while Cindy stayed behind.
Geraldine and Rachel looked beautiful in their gowns. They shone more radiant than most as they danced throughout the night. Sheryl was so pleased that even though she couldn’t do any more with Cindy, at least she had two wonderful daughters instead.
She was not so pleased, however, when she saw a girl who looked a lot like Cindy enter the Royal Ball, shortly before midnight.
The dress was like silver, her hair like silk ribbons. Sheryl was not sure where Cindy had obtained help to get her looking so… so… stunning… or how she had come to be at the Royal Ball, but rules are rules, and she was determined to send her home again.
As Sheryl attempted to cross the dance floor through twirling couples and giggling teenagers, someone else got to Cindy first.
Handsome, rich, and powerful, the young man had been nicknamed Charming, and Sheryl was not sure she liked the way the two flirted together so quickly.
They began to dance before Sheryl reached them, so she watched as closely as she could instead. Did Cindy know this Charming man before tonight? And just how did she get here?
Sheryl wanted to talk to this troubled step-daughter of hers tonight. She made a second attempt to cross the dance floor, but found the man without a dance partner when she saw him next. She scanned the room but could see no sign of Cindy.
Betrayed. Lied to. Disrespected. Sheryl felt these and more as she drove her loyal daughters home. She didn’t burden Geraldine or Rachel with the tale of Cindy’s deceit, instead she complimented them on her dancing and quizzed them on the boys they had danced with.
When they returned to the house she confirmed Cindy was in her bed and decided to deal with her in the morning. However, the opportunity never came.
The young man had knocked on their front door at first light, and it seemed Cindy, for a change, was attending to her morning chores, meaning that she was the only one up.
The two had chatted for some time before Sheryl awoke and found them cosy in the living room. Cindy already had her bags packed and stuck around only long enough to say her goodbyes to them all before running off into the sunset with her Charming.
While Sheryl had loved the girl’s father with all her heart, she felt she would always remember Cinderella as her wicked step-daughter.

Week 25

The world is so unfair. There’s so much injustice in it.

First up, my neighbour gets arrested on suspicion of burglary, even though he had an airtight alibi. Next, my best friend gets picked up for the same job, when he was innocent too!

And now, because I’m an “associate” of them both, the cops want to interview me.

No way. What’s the trouble? I’m their alibi. I know they’re both innocent but the police don’t want to believe it. Even my dad thinks they’re involved, and therefore I am too.

The truth is, we were all at Liam’s place – my neighbour – watching some stupid movies with unbelievable stunts. You know the type, the ones that are so impossible and unlikely, and yet seem so plausible and incredible at the time.

Well, we were there all day – about six hours – watching the original, the sequel and then the third movie they really shouldn’t have made.

And I know that I should talk to the cops, but I also know they’ve already made their minds up.

It doesn’t matter what I say, and how many one-liners I repeat from the flicks. We’ll all end up in court and that’ll be the end of any decent career.

Not that I know exactly what I want to do at the moment, but hey, that’s not the point, is it?

So instead, I’m hanging out at my mum’s grave and suddenly wishing I’d helped dad with his deliveries instead of going over to Liam’s.

Dad reckons he was back around midday and that we weren’t there, but we were! The curtains were closed because the sun was hitting the TV and ruining a movie that was more than capable of ruining itself. And anyway, surely he would’ve heard the explosions and gun fire since we had the TV so loud.

I’m watching the sunset and feeling ice settle on my bones. It’s time to move. I can’t stay here all night. Can’t go home, either.

As I stand, it looks like I don’t have to worry about figuring out a place to sleep, because I can see the glow of blue and red from in the carpark. Two men in blue are already walking towards me and there’s nowhere I can run to, not that I probably could when I’m this cold.

I shake my head. They won’t believe me. If they haven’t believed the others, why would they believe me?

One of them tells me I need to come down to the station, but he’s not acting aggressive, not putting me in handcuffs. The other one looks half bored.

Something doesn’t feel right, but I let them lead me to the car.

They’re so casual about it all, you’d think they were just taking me home instead of downtown.

I expect to see dad waiting for me as we walk in, but he’s not here. They lead me down the hallway to the left, the way I came last year when I had to ID the guy who stole dad’s car.

Again, it doesn’t feel right.

As I’m taken through another set of doors and then motioned through to a small room, I realise I’m not here as a suspect.