Wednesday, 16 October 2013


Even Caravaggio fled in the end.
Haunted always by his demons of temper, drink and love, he fled the corridors of his own creativity. Forced into an exile of his own choosing, he thought he would eventually feel peace. Floating one day down a river, he asked himself, who am I in retreat from?
At first he said his creditors, then he said the guardians of the peace, but he had to admit it was from himself. He, who turned the world again by brush and paint, turning enemies into lovers, and lovers who betrayed became dead lovers. Why should he justify his actions? He, so childlike in his assumptions, easily denying responsibility, so when he asked himself how does the child fare, he smiles his mysterious smile and retorts “the flying book lands where it is taken by the wind”.
Caravaggio is bent double in the boat, he is hiding, he is laughing, he is a conundrum of infinite possibilities, and he will always give you colour, bestiality and build a reliquary from a yellow umbrella.
The tree canopy along the river bank is turning from green to withering bronze, marooned by the waters of time, trees full of wisdom: they know the winking stars hold no price and cannot be copied.
Caravaggio, emerging sleepy eyed, bearded and with a feather in his teeth, cannot help but feel optimistic, gleeful even. All things bring him love.

The copyright of this post belongs to Valerie Anne Rule


The bond was sealed in our blood.
We came into this world as conjoined twins and that proved an alley of love that kissed my life over and over again.
Other sisters could never trump our rare story, as we tended towards a thug like defence. A physical and emotional bond, volatile and extreme was written into our history before time began. A desolation in the stars.
Before the operation to separate us, irritation and hysterical love stalked me. Gloria’s little ingratiating habits, collecting the offal the butcher threw out, saying that it was good for us. Forever tying and re tying her shoelaces so that my nose touched the dirt in the street. But then there was our secret language and a nurturing symbiosis which gave her beauty and me truth.
She became a famed model, trailing her anorexia and her plastic surgery like the star she was with all her satellites gathered adoringly about her person.
I, the ugly sister, became a reclusive writer of historical fiction, shunning the publicity and knowing everyone really just wanted to get to Gloria through me.
But surely I must be competing against her, you may ask?
Just now my book about the suffragettes is due to be published and as I look at the author photograph inside the dust cover, I smile at my eye patch with the green sequins, the purple feather in my limp hair. Yes, an alley of blood brought me forth and indignation still flames my cheeks where she once lay.
In the photograph I stand beneath a chapel arch.
The photographer himself is being photographed.
Gloria always wants to be in on the act.
She, the willowy thug with the beautiful eyes and the crinkle to her lips. Me, the ugly one with the brain and the brawn. Her life is full of sugar baskets found under trees where no digging is needed. My life, like a museum of curios filled with dusty objects from our former, conjoined life together. Little did I know then that these curios were treasures. Memories of love and faith and defiance.
Now, I sit here alone, reciting some of our secret words: suffragette, suffocate, submissive, swallow, sequin, sister.
They bring me comfort.

The copyright of this post belongs to Valerie Rule

Monday, 14 October 2013


Rachel sat gazing into the mirror. She was meant to be getting ready for her act, the burlesque number for all those drunk, leery old men out there. Her crown sat on the dressing table, ready to perch in her hairspray-stiff bouffant. She was Queen of tack. She looked out on her sad subjects from the secret carnage of her heart, and smiled.
In the films, of course, there would be someone to rescue her. A loaded Richard Gere type, ostensibly life-hardened, but with a deep, pulsing love for the real her, under the burlesque outfit and beyond the graffitied-on smile. He would be willing to brave all kinds of dangers – pimps, punters and her flat-mate Carolyn with P.M.T, just to find her and whisk her away. Such was his purpose in life.
The trouble is, she thought, she wasn’t sure that there was a real her, any more. She looked into the prism of her memories and saw a refracted nothing. A trick of the light. Her present was only fallout from the past.
But there was the red box. There wasn’t much in it, after a year of saving, but it was something. And, of course, what was hidden in the secret compartment: the letter, emanating its dangerous scent beneath the layers of velvet.
And still she gazed, pensive, frozen, staring into the ghost of her eyes until her vision blurred, merged, a myriad of dancing light, the shadows of angels.
“Oi, Rachel babe! You’re on!”

The copyright of this post belongs to Alison Stickings 19.9.13.

The Necklace

There was no escape. Emma sang along to U.2’s ‘With or Without You’ and meant every word.
He was poison in her veins, a dark lust in her blood, a bright stain across her life. His danger had drawn her, a stranger down a dark alley promising riches. The safety of his embrace had kept her.
“You are in a pickle.” Said her sensible friend Jenny.
“Got any advice for me?”
“The same advice as I’ve been giving you for the last three years.” Jenny laid a hand on Emma’s arm. “Ditch him.”
“I can’t.”
She couldn’t. It wasn’t like she hadn’t tried. Every so often the tension would build to screaming point and she would let him have it. He was selfish. He only wanted her for one thing. She was just a bit of recreation for him, a break from his boring, frigid wife. And, by the way, if his wife really meant so little to him, why did she still call the shots? A mistress’ standard complaints; a cloned tirade.
Then she would say: “That’s it. I’ve had it. Find yourself another girlfriend” and he would calmly take her in his arms and whisper words of adoration, of a future he would carve out for them both, if she would just trust him a little longer... Of faraway places and long nights of peace, a time to love one another without interruption, ration or shame. And he would kiss the trail of her tears. Only you, my darling. Please don’t leave me. Only you.
With such words he kept her. Then he promised to make it up to her in some way, taking her out to dinner or sneaking her off for a weekend away
and she would forget all the reasons why she couldn’t live with herself any more. The healing whispers of skin on skin drawing her back into his enchanted world, where no-one would ever find them. Safe in this world, there was no place for the ‘little things’, the trail of clues that lead to the inescapable fact that there was no place for her in his real life. That their enchanted world would one day melt away to nothing under the burning sun of their daily betrayal.
“He’s using you.” Said Jenny.
“He’s not. He loves me. Look at this beautiful necklace he just bought me.”
“Evidence of ownership.”
“Actually,” she said defensively, “it was a birthday present.”
“Your birthday was a month ago. Don’t tell me, he forgot it until you casually dropped it into conversation.”
She didn’t answer.
Forgotten birthdays, cancelled dates, times interrupted by phone calls: “Sorry, darling. I’ve got to get back. Fiona wants my input on picking out new curtains for the lounge.” The ‘too much information’ of his domestic life; she was used to it all. The little things.
Still, it was a beautiful necklace. She looked at it now, a silver locket, Victorian-looking, encrusted with marcasite and garnets.
“That must have cost a bit!” She exclaimed when he had given it to her, on their last weekend away - after she had, as Jenny guessed, dropped hints about her missed birthday. “Where did you get it?”
“Never you mind, darling.”
It would be too cheesy to put a photo of the two of them in it, of course. Not to mention indiscreet. Perhaps she didn’t need a photo – the locket itself surely proved that he loved her, didn’t it? Something so beautiful...
Jenny said she should give him an ultimatum. “Tell him: it’s her or me.”
“I wouldn’t do that to him.”
“No, you wouldn’t do that to yourself, because you think he would probably choose her. Am I right?”
“No. You’re not.”
Jenny looked at her sadly. “Husbands never leave their wives for their girlfriends, you know that. So, pre-empt it. Leave him. You’re worth more than his crap, Emma.”
Jenny was wrong about him. He loved her, not his wife; he told her so all the time. But she couldn’t help being curious about Fiona, the wife she had never met, her unseen nemesis. The woman who pulled her strings from afar. She had a picture in her head, a comforting one, of someone frumpy, a couple of stone overweight, ugly glasses and sensible shoes... But, somewhere in her subconscious, she knew this was the wrong picture. Had she seen her before?
Then she remembered. He had given her a card the Christmas before they got together, when he was still just the boss she had a crush on. It featured a photograph of him with his family, wife and two boys, smiling with smug contentment at her: We’ve got each other. What have you got?
Emma rifled through her dressing table drawer, home of everything pointless she couldn’t bring herself to throw away. Old love letters. Orders of Service for weddings. Nauseating Christmas cards.
She found it. There he was with his boys, Jonathon and Callum, who were grinning like they’d sprinkled methamphetamine on their cornflakes instead of sugar. And there was Fiona.
She was beautiful. Blond and elegant, her blue eyes sparkling into the camera, a perfectly manicured hand placed territorially on her husband’s shoulder.
Emma stared at the photo and his real life stared back at her accusingly. There’s no place for you here.
She looked more closely. Around Fiona’s elegant neck hung a silver locket, garnets and marcasite, mock-Victorian and very familiar...
The phone rang. It was him.
“Hello, darling! Fiona’s taking the kids to her mother’s, later. Shall I come over?”
Her heart trembled at the sound of his voice, an echo of emotion. Then she heard her own voice, cool and controlled:
“Sorry, I’m busy tonight. I’m doing some internet research to find out how much I can get for a rather nice silver locket some cheapskate gave me when he forgot my birthday.” She crumpled up the card she was still holding in her hand. “One previous owner.”

The copyright of this post belongs to Alison Stickings. 22.9.13

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Coming to Life

I was bewildered. Only a minute ago I had been dust. Other than that, nothing. But now i was something... something special, I knew it. Love had made me ... and there I was floating around in my mother's tummy. I knew nothing but yet everything was around me. I started to get frustrated. I wanted to show people who I am, but yet I knew not how. I plunged into darkness determined to live my life, to show people who I am in my real heart. But I myself did not know that...yet. Suddenly a saw a gap of air. My heart rose but I did not show my feelings. I crept towards it but my feet did not move and all of a sudden there I was squinting at the sudden hit of blinding light and sharp cold air... But i was in my mother's arms. I knew this was where I belonged.

The copyright of this post belongs to Xantippe Rose