What I’ve Been Watching #2

Over the past few months I have been watching a lot of excellent t.v. shows – too many to list in this one post, so I’ve picked three of the most recent ones to share with you.

There may be SPOILERS ahead. . .

Liar

Teacher Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt) is recently single and agrees to go on a date with the father of one of her pupils, Dr Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd).

Andrew is charming, polite and very friendly. Laura invites him back to hers for a drink and to call a taxi.

The next morning she wakes up feeling groggy and with very little memory of the night before. One thing she is sure of though, is that Andrew raped her.

The police are involved, but with no evidence and Andrew’s insistance that the sex was consensual, it’s a case of he-says-she-says and the police close the case before it’s even opened.

As the weeks go on Laura behaves more and more like a deranged banshee, screaming “rapist” whenever she sees Andrew and tarnishing his name on social media sites, whereas Andrew comes across as the patient, down to earth, loving father while he trys to understand why Laura is doing this to him.

Who’s telling the truth?

It’s not long until we find out and the story takes an even darker turn.

There are many twists and turns in Liar which launches it from a regular straight forward crime mystery to something that’s posed to explore the mind of a very disturbed individual.

If you want to catch up on this intriguing show then go to the ITV Hub. Next week is the finale and it’s sure to be explosive.

Dr Foster

The second series of the acclaimed BBC drama begins two years after the events of the first. Gemma (Suranne Jones) and her son, Tom (Tom Taylor), are happily living their lives, safe in the knowledge that husband and father Simon (Bertie Carvel) is far away with his new family.

Then Gemma and her friends receive a card from Simon stating that he’s moved back to town with Kate (Jodie Comer) and their wee girl.

The shit well and truly hits the fan, then. Simon is completely obsessed with Gamma, but it’s a dangerous obsession laced with sexual attraction and hate. He turns Tom against his mother and delights in harrassing Gemma by sending her flowers with “Bitch” on the card and setting up appointments with estate agents who turn up at her home thinking she wants to sell.

He is a smug, self-involved little man and I’ve never hated a character as much as I hate him – not even Lord Voldermort or Ramsey Bolton!

Gemma’s behaviour is unhinged and very stressful to watch. Her pretentious friends are no help to her plight, but the worse thing about the whole sorry affair is that Gamma and Simon are so busy trying to destroy each other that they are blind to who their actions are really affecting . . . Tom.

I was torn over the finale. It was obviously not going to end well, but I felt is was a bit lacklustre. However, you cannot fault the performances of all the actors involved.

Tune into IPlayer to catch up.

Power

James “Ghost” St.Patrick (Omari Hardwick) is a powerful business man in New York. Not only is he owner of high-end nightclub Truth, he also runs a multi-million dollar drug operation. His partner and childhood friend Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) enjoys their lifestyle, as does his wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton), but Ghost is feeling tired and disillusioned by the whole thing, his dreams plagued by the murders he’s committed.

One night in Truth he meets his high school girlfriend Angela Valdes (Lela Loren) and the two embark on a passionate affair. What Ghost doesn’t know is that Angela is a government attorney for the FBI and is working on an investigation to uncover and take down the enigmatic druglord “Ghost”. In turn, Angela has no idea that the love of her life is, in fact, Ghost.

Meanwhile, someone is killing drug dealers and couriers on the street, with the murder of Ghost their ultimate goal. We discover that the murderer is obeying orders from Kanan (50 Cent) who is rotting in jail, put there by Ghost and Tasha.

Kanan wants revenge, but it’s a pity Fiddy’s wooden acting and mumbling dialogue makes it impossible to care what he wants. Whenever he’s on screen I tend to switch off and ask Paul what I missed.

Don’t let this put you off, though. The story is gripping, with Joseph Sikora giving an electric perform as the violent and unbalanced Tommy.

Watch all 4 seasons now on Netflix. The season 4 finale is particularly exciting.

Keep smiling x

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Kat Von D Lock-it Foundation

Hello, there! Remember me? It’s been a while, but I’m back to bring you weekly reviews, short stories, and general musings.

This week I want to tell you all about my new favourite foundation; Kat Von D Lock-it Liquid Foundation.

At this moment in time I can, without a shred of doubt, tell you that this is the best foundation I have ever used. In fact, just ignore all my previous foundation reviews, Lock-it has rendered them null and void!

Of course, this isn’t new on the market, but I only purchased it a few months ago in preparation for my best friend’s wedding. I was a bridesmaid and, as we were doing our own makeup, I wanted to ensure that I wore a foundation that, not only provided full coverage, but lasted all day.

Full disclosure, I am a rather sweaty person, with my top lip getting particularly drippy, and I am rarely seen without blotting paper at hand. Most foundations, even under a layer of setting spray, cannot withstand my . . . glistening, and simply slide off my skin, but Lock-it . . . my oh my, that foundation literally locked onto my face like the facehugger from Alien.

The formula is thick, very thick, so you must be careful when applying it. You do not need a lot. I made the mistake of slapping it on with a trowel (not literally) the first time I used it and it felt like cement on my skin. Heavy and suffocating. Finished off with a dusting of powder it turned cakey and unsightly, a common complaint on other reviews I’ve read.

But I’d spent too much money (£27 for 30ml) on it to simply abandon it at the bottom of my makeup case, so the next time I just dabbed a few dots over my entire face and blended it all in with a brush.

This time I was able to appreciate just how flawless the product made me look. My skintone was perfectly even, with blemishes and dark circles obscured. As I had only applied a thin layer this time, no product settled into the creases around my eyes and it felt weightless, almost as though I was makeup- free. Almost.

I am quite pale, but can just about take a tan when the sun is out (which isn’t often in Scotland) and the shade I wear, as seen above, is Light 48 Neutral.

As for it’s durability; well, during a day filled with five bridesmaids laughing and drinking in the morning, then rushing to get the bride to the chapel in the afternoon, followed by photographs in the rain then raucous dancing until midnight, I can put my hand on my heart and say that Lock-it served me well, without a single touch-up.

Keep smiling x

The First Night

“In local news, police are still on the hunt for the killer of 18-year-old Sophie Baker. Sophie was found brutally murdered at the home of a family she was babysitting for four weeks ago. Police believe that Sophie disturbed an intruder which resulted in her unfortunate demise.

“Sophie was a pupil at St. John’s Secondary School and due to start university in September of this year. Police ask if anyone has any information on Sophie’s murder to contact their local police station. . . now for the weather. . .”

Jessica left the canteen and headed for the cloakroom just as the rest of the backshift staff were coming up the stairs, their shift finished for the night. The woman’s cloakroom was small and there were echoes of ‘excuse me’ and ‘sorry’ as everyone grabbed for their coats and jostled to their lockers. Jessica crouched down in front of her own locker and felt a sharp kick to her buttocks. She looked up expecting to see an apologetic face and instead was met with the cheeky grin of her best friend, Karen.

“Where’ve you been, Jess? I looked for you all over the shop floor just before 10?” Karen said, shrugging on her denim jacket.

“Sorry, Karen, I swiped out a few minutes early,” Jessica replied as she pulled out her bag then slammed her locker shut, “I wanted to catch the end of the news.”

Karen pulled a face, “The news? Why – oh! That Sophie girl. They caught the killer yet?”

Jessica grabbed her jacket off its hook and shook her head, “No. police are appealing for anyone who knows anything to get in touch.”

The two girls left the cloakroom, calling ‘goodbye’ to their colleagues. They made their way along the corridor to the staff door which led them out the side of the supermarket. The entire left-hand side of the corridor was a window that allowed them to look out onto the shop floor of StarSavers, where the nightshift workers were busy setting up shop for another busy day in the retail world.

“Adam Johnson said that he heard she was found in the back garden . . . completely disembowelled.” Karen said.

Jessica rolled her eyes, “Adam Johnson’s a tit, Karen. Remember when he said he was spending the whole of last Summer in New York, but we seen him at the park – more than once – and he pretended he didn’t see us?”

Karen threw back her head and laughed, “We shouted his name and he hid behind a bush!”

“And when school started back he told us all about his ‘trip of a lifetime’ and how amazing it was to spend the 4th July in the states -”

“But Ashley Clarke called him out saying she’d seen him in the café she works in on the 4th with his parents -”

“- and she remembered because that’s her birthday!”

The two girls howled with laughter as they pushed through the staff door and stepped out into the moonlit night.

“Well,” Karen said once they’d both calmed down, “whatever happened to that poor girl, it’s brutal.”

“And scary,” Jessica put in, “She lived so nearby. Did anyone in our school know her?”

“Craig Lloyd said he touched her up at a party last year, but you know what he is.”

“Another tit.”

The car park was virtually empty, save for the cars belonging to staff. Karen fished her keys out of her bag, “You going to Mark’s house? I can give you a lift?”

“Nah, I’ve got homework to finish off so I’m just heading home.” Jessica said.

“I can take you home?”

“That’s okay.” Jessica said, “Mark wants me to phone him as I walk . . . so he knows I’m okay.”

“I can give you a lift and you’ll definitely be okay.” Karen said.

“I know . . . but . . .” Jessica said and left her sentence hanging in mid-air, hoping her friend would get the hint.

“Ah, you want to talk all lovey-dovey to him on the phone and you can’t if you’re in the car with me.” Karen said then held up her hands, “That’s okay, I get it. I’m not privy to that kind of talk. You would rather risk a masked murderer than have your best friend hear your conversation with your boyfriend. That’s fine.”

Jessica playfully shoved Karen who giggled.

“I don’t want to hear your smooch chat anyway,” Karen said, “It’ll turn my stomach.”

The staff door opened and the rest of the backshift workers poured out. The two friends said their goodbyes, with Jessica promising Karen that she would text as soon as she was home. They hugged and Karen headed to her car while Jessica turned in the other direction, heading for home.

Jessica’s home was only a 15-minute walk from StarSavers and the route took her along a well-lit main road, so she never felt unsafe or frightened, but since the murder of Sophie Baker a month ago the walk home at night had made her feel wary.

Adam Johnson’s rumour wasn’t the only one she had heard around school. A girl in her English class claimed Sophie’s body had been found inside the house and her head had been found just outside, in the middle of the road. She had also overheard someone in the school canteen describing how Sophie’s body was found with deep claw marks across her stomach and face, exposing the skull beneath.

Jessica shuddered and fished her mobile phone out of her bag. She had to talk to Mark, not just because she had promised to, but to rid her mind of these horrible thoughts.

Mark answered on the first ring, “Hi, Jess. How was work?”

It had been five months since they’d started going out and the sound of his voice still made Jessica’s stomach flutter. It was deep and soft and had a calming effect on Jessica, instantly settling her nerves whenever she heard the gentle stresses on her name.

“Work was work,” she replied, “but Karen was in so we had a laugh. What did you do tonight?”

“Not much, just played the computer for a bit. You nearly home?” Mark asked.

“Nearly.” Jessica said as she rushed across the road. Very few cars ever drove past at this time of night, but habit forced her to hurry across.

“Oh, listen, I’ve got good news,” Mark said, sounding excited, “Mum and dad have booked a holiday for a week in June.”

Jessica slowed her pace as she realised with disappointment that this would mean she wouldn’t see him for a whole week. Not wanting to voice her dismay or sound like a needy girlfriend she said, “That’ll be fun. When are you going?”

Mark laughed, low and silky, “I’m not going, just mum and dad.”

“Oh.” Jessica said with a smile, her pace quickening as her mood instantly lifted, “That’s good.”

“Yes, it is because it means you can stay over.”

Jessica felt a rush of excitement shoot through her body. For the past month now they had been discussing sex, with Mark reassuring her that he was more than willing to wait until she was ready. Jessica had assured him that she was more than ready, but finding some alone time was their biggest problem.

Mark’s parents were always home and, although it was just Jessica and her mum, who worked nights as a nurse, her neighbour would always pop in unannounced whenever her mum was working, just to check on her. She couldn’t risk being caught with Mark, the embarrassment would be enough to send Jessica to an early grave.

“Ooh,” Jessica squealed, turning onto her street, “I think that’s the best news I’ve ever had.”

Mark chuckled down the phone.

“I can just tell mum that I’m staying overnight with Karen.” Jessica said, “She’d cover for me.”

“Excellent. I can’t wait.” Mark replied, “You coming round to mine tomorrow?”

“Yeah. Mum’ll be sleeping all day cos she’s working tonight so it’ll be best if I’m out the house to give her peace.” Jessica said. She could see her house now, the single light on in the living room. Jessica’s mum always left it on for when Jessica came home from work. A beacon of safety.

“Cool, we can hang out here or go into town.” Mark said, then added, “Actually, I’ve got a lot of homework to finish so I’d better do that.”

“I’ll try not to distract you.”

“You can help me.”

“Ha! Chance will be a fine thing!”

“Aww, come on. It’s Chemistry, your favourite subject.”

“We’ll see,” Jessica said as she pushed open her front gate. The familiar squeak prompted Mark to ask if that was her home.

“Yep, just unlocking the front door now.” Jessica said and as she opened the door she was instantly greeted with the shrill yapping of a Yorkshire Terrier.

“Alfie’s happy to see you I hear.” Mark chuckled.

Jessica bent down and picked up the small dog. Alfie squirmed in her arm as he tried to lick her face.

“He’s always happy to see me.” Jessica laughed as Alfie covered her cheek in slobbers, “I’d better go and give him some affection.”

“Save some for me for tomorrow.”

“Will do.”

“Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Jessica hung up and dropped her phone back into her bag then let her back slip off her shoulder and fall onto the couch. Still carrying Alfie, she went into the kitchen and flicked on the light. As usual, there was a note from her mother propped up in front of the kettle, along with a ten-pond-note.

Jess,
There’s half a lasagne in the oven for your dinner. It’s not nice. Liz next door handed it in, so when you see her be sure to tell her you loved it. It was her first attempt. God knows
what she did to it, it tastes like vomit. Mines went in the bin and yours belongs there, too. Here’s a tenner, order something in. I’ll be home around half 7. See you in
the morning.
Mum.

P.S. remember to take Alfie out. His wee legs will probably be crossed when you get in.

Jessica pocketed the tenner before putting Alfie down. She bent down and pulled open the oven door. Inside was a ceramic dish with half a cold lasagne in it. She took it out and gave it a tentative sniff.

It didn’t smell bad, but she trusted her mother’s judgement. She took the dish over to the bin and tipped the lasagne inside.

“Thanks, Liz, but no thanks.” She said, and placed the dish in the sink. She looked down at Alfie who was standing at her feet, wagging tail thumping against her calves, “Do you need to go out, wee guy? Want to go out?”

The wagging grew faster and Alfie let out a little yap. He turned and dashed off to the alcove at the far end of the kitchen where his lead was kept. Chuckling at the small dog’s enthusiasm, Jessica followed, plucked the lead from a hook on the wall and clipped it onto Alfie’s collar.

“Just a quick one, mind,” Jessica said as Alfie pulled her to the back door, “I want to order a Golden Wok before it closes at 12.”

The pair headed out into the back garden. Jessica closed the back door, but left it unlocked. They were only going to the park behind her house, and wouldn’t be any longer than 15 minutes, what could happen in that time?

Jessica and Alfie went through the gate at the back of the garden and crossed the dirt path that separated the houses on Jessica’s street from the small park behind them . . . well, they say park, but it’s really an old running track that’s surrounded by thick trees and overgrown vegetation. Jessica’s mum said that it belonged to a local high school that once stood where StarSavers now is. Once the supermarket company brought the land, twenty years ago, they knocked down the school, but the council just left the running track to ruin. Now it was used by dogwalkers and joggers.

The small gate leading into the park had long since fallen off and disappeared, now thorny bushes formed an entrance way. There Jessica let Alfie off the lead and he dashed over to where the ring of trees began and sniffed around until he found the one worthy of him relieving himself on.

Jessica made her way over to the running track knowing that Alfie would follow once he was done. They would circle the track twice then head back. Jessica couldn’t wait to order some Chow Mein then settle down with a movie. Homework could wait.

Alfie came trotting over and fell in pace at her side. Clouds drifted across the full moon, blocking out the only light there was. There were no lamps in the park and it could be oppressively dark and creepy at night, but Jessica had been coming here that often she didn’t get scared anymore. This was a safe area and there had never been any reports of any kind of attack in the park.

Her mind drifted to Sophie Baker. Poor Sophie who’d had her skin ripped to ribbons and her throat torn out. Had she felt safe in a familiar place before she’d been killed? Had she settled down to eat some Chinese food before she was attacked? Had she left the front door unlocked after the delivery man had been and that’s how her killer had gotten in?

They were half way around their second circuit when Jessica stopped in her tracks. Alfie walked a few steps ahead then turned and looked up at her, head cocked to one side. She’d left the back door unlocked, just like she did every night she brought Alfie here. She’d done that before Sophie Baker was murdered and she’d done it these four weeks since Sophie’s death, but this was the first time the possibility that someone could be in her home right now waiting for her had occurred to her. Abruptly, she bent down and clicked Alfie’s lead back on.

“C’mon, we’re going home.” She said. She decided she would knock on Liz’s door and ask her for help searching the house for intruders.
Just as she was about to head off out the park, Alfie began to growl. Jessica froze and looked at the small dog. He was standing rigid, his hackles up, glaring fixedly at a spot in the trees ahead. Jessica followed his gaze, struggling to see anything through the thick foliage.

She gently tugged on the lead, “C’mon, Alfie, there’s nothing there.”
Alfie continued to growl, louder with every tug on the lead. Jessica had never seen him this agitated before and her heart began to pound. What had got him so worked up? It had to be another animal, but what? The only thing close to exotic animal around these parts were urban foxes and Alfie had seen plenty of them around that he now just ignored them.

This was something else.

Jessica made as if to scoop Alfie up, but stopped mid crouch. She could now see what he could see.

At the far end of the running track, just where it began to curve around to the left, glowing in the darkness of the trees, were two blazing yellow eyes. They were like nothing Jessica had ever seen before. Even from this distance she could see how they burned a bright yellow, unnatural and sickening. The ominous glow they cast into the darkness made Jessica feel revolted.

She took hold of Alfie and slowly straightened up, and as she did, the eyes followed suit. They had been roughly 3ft off the ground, seemingly belonging to a large dog, larger than any Jessica had encountered, but now they stopped at least 6ft in the air and grew smaller as though narrowed in concentration.

Jessica’s breathing came fast and shallow. She held Alfie close to her face, taking small comfort in his soft fur. Alfie continued to growl, teeth bared, tongue occasionally flicking out. They had to get out of here, had to get away before whatever was in the trees stepped out. Jessica didn’t want to see it. She didn’t know what it was, didn’t care, and she definitely didn’t want to find out.

Unfortunately, it was too late.
The yellow eyes moved closer until the creature they belonged to emerged from the darkness. Jessica couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It was shaped like a large muscular man, but completely covered in thick dark grey hair. What looked like tattered clothing hung from around its neck and waist.

Alfie stopped growling and began wriggling violently until he slipped through Jessica’s arms and fell to the ground. He immediately sprinted as fast as his tiny legs could carry him toward home, his lead trailing behind him.

The creature paid Alfie no heed and instead stepped closer to Jessica so that she could see the large pointy ears twitching on top of its head.

What better to hear you with, my dear.

It never took it’s burning eyes off her and Jessica felt the warm sensation of urine running down her left leg. This was a monster, not just some lunatic who’d overdone the testosterone hormones and steroids. What was stood before Jessica was a nightmare, and now that the clouds had drifted across the nights sky and exposed the full moon, she could see its hideous face in all its ugly glory. It had a long wide snout that ended in a shiny black nose; its lips pulled back in a greedy sneer exposing huge sharp teeth from which thick saliva hung in strings to its barrel chest.

Now, bathed in moonlight, the monster arched its broad back, stretched out its bulging arms, threw back its head and let out a haunting howl.

Jessica snapped out of her paralysis and began to move sideways towards the park gate. Her legs felt stiff, as though she was dragging them through cement; she couldn’t run, only crabwalk and watch in absolute horror as the creature’s body began to contort in a series of jerky movements and sickening crunching of bone until it was down on all fours, padding the ground and glaring at Jessica.

That was enough to get her moving.

The park gate wasn’t far, just the other side of the track, Jessica had raced Alfie to it many time and it had never taken her more than three minutes to get there. But tonight, the park seemed to stretch on for miles, all the time the gateway getting smaller and smaller the further away it seemed. Running towards it felt like running through jelly and that’s when she knew it must be a dream. Only in dreams did she feel this way whenever she was being chased, and monsters that looked like man-dogs and howled at the moon only lived in dreams. This wasn’t real. She’d fallen asleep on the couch after work and the Sophie Baker attack had caused her to have a nightmare. That was all it was. It was laughable really. And if Jessica hadn’t felt herself being dragged down onto the ground by a twenty-stone monster she would have laughed.

The beast placed one large paw on her back to prevent her from crawling away. It pressed down hard and Jessica groaned into the grass. Then, with one swipe of its paw, it turned her over so that she was facing it. This close Jessica could see it’s odd face, how it was shaped like a human but with round eyes, and a wolfs snarling snout, and one terrifying word entered her already terrified mind.

Werewolf.

With a snarl, it swiped at her face with its sharp claw, tearing her left cheek so that it hung from her face. Jessica screamed and sobbed uncontrollably as the beast swiped at her forehead, tearing off part of her scalp in the process.

Face now soaked in blood and near hysterical with pain and fear, Jessica screamed and screamed. Even when the creature was chomping down on her throat she screamed until her screams turned to gurgles and then silence.

* * *

Liz Barr was yanked out of a dreamless sleep by the sound of howling. It wasn’t little Alfie from next door – the tiny dog could barely bark let alone howl – and it didn’t sound like the Labrador that lived around the corner . . . it didn’t sound like any dog at all.

She didn’t dwell on it and before long she had fallen back asleep. Then she heard the blood curdling scream. It dragged on for what seemed like an eternity then faded out to nothing. Liz sat bolt upright in bed, clasping the covers to her chest.

Eventually, she got up and walked over to the window. She pulled back the curtains and peered out into the night. Her bedroom window looked out onto her back garden and the park beyond. The trees obscured her view of the running track, but she didn’t think the screams had come from there. In all the years she had lived here nothing bad had ever happened in that park. This was a safe place.

She thought briefly of the poor girl who had been murdered a month ago, but she immediately pushed it away. Whoever that girl’s murderer was he was long gone. You don’t commit such a heinous murder then hang around while the police are conducting a manhunt. No, he’d have left the city, maybe even skipped the country.

There was the howling, too. What kind of creature could make such a noise?

Then Liz got it. Someone was at it. Watching a horror movie with the volume cranked right up and all their windows open to scare the neighbours. Practically everyone had surround sound these days, and it would be easy enough to place the speakers near open windows and doors to share the wealth, as it were. There was a weird boy who lived a few doors down. Liz had seen him wearing black t-shirts with that movie villain who’s got knives for fingers, it was probably him.

Well, she’d just need to go to his door in the morning and have a word with his mother, Liz thought as she climbed back into bed. This was a safe and respectable area, behaviour like that just wouldn’t do.

Liz settled down into her large bed and was soon back in a dreamless slumber.

* * *

There was a click as the front door unlocked and then it was pushed open. Kathleen entered the house and locked the front door behind her. She sighed heavily and headed for the kitchen, shedding her coat and dropping it on the couch, unaware that she’d dropped it on top of Jessica’s bag.

She flicked on the kettle and prepared a cup of tea. It had been a long night in the hospital. They had been terribly short staffed and she’d been doing the work of three nurses. All she wanted now was a cup of warm tea and her bed. She had a sinking feeling that tonight would be the same so she needed as much rest as possible.

While she waited for the kettle to boil her eyes fell on the dogfood bowl in the corner. Where was Alfie? He normally came rushing down the stairs to meet Kathleen when she came home. Maybe he spent the night in Jessica’s room and couldn’t get out. She would have to go up and get him before he woke up Jessica.

Just as she was about to leave the kitchen she heard scratching and a faint whimpering coming from the back door. Furrowing her brows in confusion. Kathleen turned to the door and noticed the key was still in the lock. Kathleen took hold of the key and tried to turn it to the right, but it wouldn’t budge. She pulled down the door handle and the back door opened. It was unlocked. Why was it unlocked?

If Kathleen hadn’t been feeling anxious yet then the sight of her tiny trembling dog with his lead still attached to him made her chest constrict so tight she swayed a little on her feet.

Alfie stepped into the kitchen and nuzzled Kathleen’s leg. She picked him up and unclipped his lead. He was cold and shaking so badly that Kathleen wrapped her cardigan around him and he licked her face in gratitude.

“Where’s Jessica, Alfie?” Kathleen asked. Her voice came out as barley a whisper, as though she was afraid of what the little dog would tell her . . . if her could tell her anything.

She quickly looked out into the garden. Although it was early it was Spring and the sun had been up for hours now. The garden was awash with sunlight and there was no sign of her daughter. The back gate swung open slowly in the cool breeze.

Kathleen closed and locked the door then headed, quickly, for the stairs. Maybe Jessica was still in her bed? Maybe Alfie had run away from her when she’d taken him out last night and she couldn’t get him back so, to teach him a lesson, had left him? He’d never done anything like that before, but there was a first time for everything, right? Jessica would never have left him alone in the dark all night, but maybe he had stressed her out?

Maybe? Maybe? Maybe?

Still clutching Alfie, Kathleen ran upstairs and burst into Jessica’s room. She let out a small moan when she saw the empty bed, still made from the day before.

Kathleen’s breathing came hard and fast as she let Alfie fall to the floor and grappled in her pocket for her phone. She selected Jessica’s number and clamped the mobile to her ear, eyes closed as she waited for it to ring, mouthing, please, pick up.

A sound from downstairs caused Kathleen’s eyes to spring open. Her heart sank as she recognised the familiar tune. With Alfie close at her heels, Kathleen went back downstairs, her mobile now hanging at her side. No point listening for an answer now, she wasn’t going to get one.

She wandered into the living room following Jessica’s ringtone to the couch where she’d dumped her jacket. She moved it aside to reveal Jessica’s bag. Rummaging around inside, she fished out her daughter’s phone to see a picture of herself smiling back at herself.

Kathleen hung up, dropped both phones onto the couch and hid her face in her hands. No, no, no, this cannot be happening. Jessica had to be somewhere, there was no way something bad had happened to her. No way. She was safe. Probably still outside looking for Alfie.

A ray of hope made her heart slow down for a beat. Maybe she was right about Alfie running away? But maybe he had run away this morning and not last night? Yeah, yeah that sounded about right. And she probably told Liz next door so that Liz could let Kathleen know and save her from worry. It was all so obvious now that Kathleen let out a bark of laughter at how silly she had been. She didn’t let herself consider how early it was or how Jessica never rose from her bed before 10am on the weekend and certainly not to take the dog for a walk.

Keeping these thoughts at bay and daring to allow herself to believe the scenario she’d made up in her mind, Kathleen left her house, stepped over the small dividing hedge, and rang Liz’s doorbell. She waited 5 seconds then rang the bell again, keeping her finger on the button for a little longer than what would be considered appropriate. The door was yanked open and there stood Liz, wrapped in a housecoat, her eyes still small and puffy from sleep.

“God’s sake, Kathleen,” she said, “what’s the problem?”

“Have you seen Jessica?” Kathleen blurted, her body tense, hands wringing before her, “She’s not home and her bed hadn’t been slept in and Alfie was outside did she tell you if she’d gone out this morning to look for him I thought he might have ran away and she’s out looking for him did she tell you that?”

Liz was wide eyed now and staring at her rambling neighbour with her mouth hanging open. Jessica was missing, and from the back of her fuzzy sleep interrupted head, the memory of a girl’s screams and an unearthly howl pushed its way to the forefront of Liz’s mind. Her hands went to her mouth and she gasped in horror.

The Wife

He was dead. There was no doubt about it. The blood pool had stopped spreading, but was still roughly the size of a bathroom mat. It was going to take a lot of bleach and elbow grease to clean that up.

Mary was sitting at the kitchen table, looking down at her husband’s lifeless body. She couldn’t believe what she had done, but she didn’t regret it. It had been a long time coming. Just one more slap was all that was needed for her to take her iron and bash it over Frank’s skull. The iron had still been hot and the stench of burnt hair had invaded Mary’s nostrils, but that had merely spurred her on. Again, and again she had hit him, even when he was on his knees, gazing up at her as though he had never seen her before, she swung that iron until she thought her arm would pop out of its socket.

She fumbled around in her handbag and fished out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. She smoked in private, out of the house and as far away from it as she dared to go. Frank didn’t like her to smoke, in fact forbade her from smoking. The last time he had caught her puffing on a ciggie was two years ago, at a friend’s 50th birthday party. Mary had been having a wonderful time and was feeling pleasantly merry after a few wines that she forgot herself and lit a cigarette. She hadn’t noticed at the time, but Frank had stopped engaging with their friends at that moment and simply glowered at her for the remainder of the evening, clenching his fists so tight that his fingernails left indentations in his palms.

Once they’d returned home, Mary had opened her mouth to comment on the night, but Frank punched her mouth, smashing her lips against her teeth. Before she could recover, Frank had grabbed her hair and tossed her back against the wall. She’d slid to the floor and put a shaky hand to her mouth, it came away sticky with bright red blood. Frank crouched down in front of her and she had held up her bloody hand to ward him off. He’d snatched her wrist and squeezed it tight.

“You fucking stink of smoke,” he’d hissed, mere inches from her wincing face, “If I catch you sucking on one of those rancid sticks again, I’ll smash your mouth so bad you’ll need to suck your dinner through a straw.”

That alone should have been enough to make Mary quit there and then, but smoking was the only pleasure she had in her life. So, she waited until Frank went to work every morning, then took two buses until she was several miles away from home, at a park where she wouldn’t bump into anyone she knew, and enjoyed her one and only smoke of the day.

She pulled over her tea cup and tapped the ash from the cigarette into it. She looked back down at Frank and wondered what she was going to do with him. This hadn’t been premeditated. She didn’t have a plan, she’d just had enough.

Like every night after work, Frank had gone to the pub. He usually spent a couple of hours there then came home any time after 7pm, drunk and sometimes angry or sometimes horny. Mary hated him either way, but could deal with him when he was angry. Taking a few hits was nothing compared to the utter humiliation and pain she felt when he forced himself on her.

The first time it had happened was on their wedding night, and Mary had known from that moment that her life would never be the fairy tale that she thought it would be.

Mary had met Frank when she was 17 and working in a news agents in town. Frank would come into the shop every lunch time and buy a newspaper. He was tall, over six feet, with broad shoulders and a small waist. His hair was black and thick with curls and blue eyes stared out at Mary from a permanent furrowed brow. He was dark and brooding and Mary looked forward to his visits every day. At the beginning, he never said a word to her, simply picked up his paper, put the correct change on the counter and left. A few times Mary would try to strike up a conversation by commenting on inoffensive things such as the weather, but each time Frank would simply grunt in acknowledgment and leave.

Mary began to think that he wasn’t interested or maybe already had a girlfriend, so gave up trying to talk to him. Then, one day around six weeks after their first encounter, Frank came into the shop carrying a bunch of flowers. He placed them on the counter and fixed his piercing blue eyes on Mary. Her legs instantly turned to jelly and it was all she could do not to collapse in a heap on the floor.

“Do you want to go for dinner with me?” he asked. He was so confident in his manner that Mary was certain that this was a man who nobody said no to, and that excited her. This was a man who would get things done and would never let anything stand in his way. This was a man who would look after his own, whose children would want for nothing, and whose wife would be treated like a queen.

Although this had been completely unexpected, Mary didn’t hesitate to say yes.

After then Mary’s life had been like a dream. Frank was the perfect gentleman, the type of man every girl wants to take home to her parents. He devoted all his time to her. When he finished work at 4pm he would walk round to her shop and wait for her to finish at 5pm. Then he would either take her home or for dinner in one of the fancy restaurants that Mary had only ever dreamed of dining in. Every weekend they would have plans together. Frank would buy them theatre tickets, book seats at the cinema, make lunch or dinner reservations, whisk her away for an overnight stay in the country, or simply spend time with her and her parents.

He wanted to be with her all the time and Mary couldn’t feel more loved. This strapping, handsome man had chosen her out of all the girls in the city, and he enjoyed her company. As a young girl, Mary had always worried that she would never find a man. She had lank fair hair that couldn’t hold a curl no matter how much hairspray she used, her hips were wide and her thighs so thick that they looked like sausages in trousers and forced her to constantly wear floaty skirts, she was very pale, but with dark eyes that gave the impression that she never slept, and she was awkward in the company of others.

Boys hadn’t looked twice at her in school and her parents had stopped asking if she had a boyfriend, had probably come to accept that their socially inept daughter would die a spinster. So, when she had brought Frank home for the first time they had been so excited that he could’ve had two heads and they wouldn’t have cared.

Mary didn’t see much of her friends once Frank had come into her life. She would occasionally talk to them on the phone, but she was usually too busy with Frank. He was just so devoted to her that she never had time to go out with the girls. By the time they had been going out for six months, Mary didn’t have any interaction with her friends, but Frank was all that she needed. He often whispered into her ear as they cuddled together on the couch that it need only be the two of them, that he wanted only her in his life and no one else mattered. He made her feel so important and loved, that she never questioned him. Everything he said and did was how she lived her life now and she was deliriously happy.

One thing that she insisted upon, however, was that they wouldn’t have sex before they were married. Mary wasn’t religious, but she had some old-fashioned values, and Frank shared them. She had been nervous bringing the subject to him. As unexperienced with boys as she was, she knew that they all expected their girls to put out eventually. Frank had never tried to grope Mary, but as their relationship had developed she knew that he would be looking for something more soon.

Frank had simply taken her face in his hands, planted a soft kiss on her lips, and told her that he would wait as long as she wanted. Could this man be any more wonderful?

After a year of dating, Frank proposed. He asked Mary’s father for her hand in marriage, then took her out for a meal in the restaurant where they’d had their first date. He didn’t get down on one knee, he wasn’t ostentatious. Instead, he clasped her hands over the table, looked deep in her eyes and said:

“Mary, will you marry me?”

She cried, but softly, Frank wouldn’t want her to make a scene. He placed the ring on her finger; diamonds and emeralds (her birth stone) and she cried some more as she nodded her head vigorously. This was it. She was going to get her fairy tale. No longer did it matter that she hadn’t had a boyfriend at school, who cares that she’d lost touch with her friends? She had found her Prince Charming and they were going to be together forever.

The wedding was small, but perfect. They were married in the town hall with only close family in attendance. Mary wore a floor length white satin dress, with long floaty sleeves and high collar. Frank wore a dark grey suit and his pensive furrowed brow. Afterwards, they had dinner at a local hotel where the married couple were to stay the night. Mary had champagne for the first time ever and the bubbles went straight to her head. The fuzzy feeling wasn’t unpleasant, but she knew that if she had too much she would regret it the next day. She did notice, however, that Frank was throwing back the pints as though they were going out of fashion. His usual reserved demeanour changed to loud and raucous. He laughed with her father and his own, smoked cigars with his uncles, and charmed her mother.

She had never seen him drink before and was surprised at how much he could put away and at how much it changed him, but today was a celebration. He was obviously happy and enjoying himself.

Their room for the night was your bog standard double room, but the hotel had provided a bottle of champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries for the still celebrating couple. Mary had had enough to drink and nibbled on the fruit, whilst Frank cracked open the bottle and poured himself a large glass. He downed the drink and looked at Mary.

Her stomach did an involuntary flip. Frank wasn’t looking at her in his usual sombre way. No, he leered at her, drawing his eyes over her body in its tight dress, lingering on her breasts. It was a way he hadn’t looked at her before and it made her uncomfortable. She put down the strawberries and moved towards the bathroom, announcing that she was going to get ready for bed.

He grabbed hold of her waist.

“Come to bed just now.” He said

“I need to get my pyjamas on.” She said, heart hammering in her chest.

“You don’t need pyjamas,” Frank said and pulled her close. He smelled of cigars and lager and Mary almost gagged when her thrust his tongue into her mouth.

She pushed him away, “Let’s just go to sleep, Frank, it’s been a long day.”

Without warning Frank grabbed her face with his hand, squeezing her cheeks so hard her lips pursed.

“It’s been a long year waiting for you to spread your legs,” he sneered, “So get on that bed right fucking now.”

He shoved Mary back on the bed and clambered on top of her. He tore at her beautiful wedding dress until her bare breasts were exposed then proceeded to suck and bite them. Mary let out a shriek and Frank placed a hand over her mouth.

“You make another noise,” he whispered, “and I’ll bite off a nipple.”

He then unbuckled his trousers and yanked up her dress so that the skirt was practically covering Mary’s face. She lay there, frozen, too scared to move, too scared to make a sound as her new husband thrust himself violently inside her for the next ten minutes.

This was how Mary spent her wedding night, but it would only be the first time her husband raped her.

* * * *

For the next 35 years Mary was raped in her own home frequently. The youngest of her three sons was a product of rape, but not the only pregnancy that resulted.

When Frank had returned home from the pub tonight, he’d had that same lecherous look on his face as he’d had on their wedding night and Mary had known what was coming. And for the first time she’d decided to stop it.

He’d come for her – stinking of sweat and booze, the smell she always associated with sex. He’d tugged at her jumper and she’d shrugged him off. Then he’d stuck his hand up her skirt and pulled at her tights. She’d slapped his hand away and he’s spun her round to back-hand her across the face. Mary had fallen back against the ironing board, but managed to keep her balance. Behind her Frank had slurred abuse. Calling her ugly, useless, only good for a shag. Everything that she’d heard before. He’d beaten her down so much with his cruel words that she was numb to them now, but tonight something inside her snapped. She snatched up the hot iron and pressed it against his face.

At first Frank simply stared at her with wide eyes, then he screamed like a little boy and she yanked the iron from his face, pulling melted skin with it, then brought it crashing down on his skull. He instantly shut up and swayed a bit. Mary watched him, iron held high, and when he took a step toward her she hit him again and again until he fell to the floor.

The iron had cracked his skull open at his left temple and blood poured out onto the linoleum. His left cheek sagged and blistered, giving him the look of a comic book villain. He stared up at Mary, but didn’t see her. He was dead. She’d killed her abusive, rapist husband.

She finished the cigarette and looked up at the clock. It was only 8:40pm although Mary felt as though the whole evening had passed. She got up from her seat and stood over Frank’s body. She couldn’t leave him here on her kitchen floor, but she had no way to get rid of him. They had a car, but Frank had never allowed her to learn how to drive. He would have to stay in the house until she thought up a plan.

She looked around until her eyes settled on the cellar door. He could stay down there for the time being. She opened the door and switched on the light. The cellar was sparse, Frank had no time for clutter. All that was down there was Frank’s tools, a chest freezer, Christmas decorations, and spare dining room chairs. Mary walked over to Frank and grabbed him by his ankles. Mary might have been in her fifties and Frank over 6ft, but many a night she would have to support his drunken dead weight up the stairs to bed. The strain had taken its toll on her back over the years, but she was fit and secretly proud of her strength, no matter the reason for it.

Shuffling backwards she dragged Frank’s body over to the cellar. She backed down a few steps so that his legs were resting over the top few treads, then she moved around to his head. She didn’t want to touch his blood, but she really had no choice. Bending over she took hold of Frank’s shoulders and shimmied him forward until he was in a sitting position at the top of the stairs, and then, with an all mighty heave, Mary pushed her dead husband down the stairs. She watched as he tumbled arse over elbow all the way to the cement floor. He landed in a heap, head and an arm at an odd angle. Mary turned off the light and closed the door.

She looked down at the blood on her hands and sleeves and felt her stomach lurch. Nope, nope, don’t throw up now, she thought, you’ve still got a lot of cleaning up to do. Get that done then you can throw up in the shower.

There was a bucket, bleach and cloths under the kitchen sink and a mop in the alcove by the fridge. She fetched all these things along with paper towels. She left the bucket to fill up in the sink and scattered paper towels over the floor until the blood was mostly covered – she used these to soak up as much blood as they could before she washed the floor. Once she’d placed the bloodied towels in the bin bag she retrieved the bucket from the sink. It was filled to the brim and hot water sloshed out, soaking the front of her jumper. She squirted some bleach in then got to work mopping up the rest of the blood.

The linoleum became slippery and several times Mary had to grab the mob tight to stop from falling. Once she was finished, she emptied the bucket down the sink and poured neat bleach all over the kitchen floor. The blood was gone, it was clean, but Mary knew it had been there and no amount of cleaning would be enough to convince her that the blood was gone. Maybe she should get new linoleum? In time. Right now, she just had to ensure that there was no trace of blood anywhere.

She noticed some spots on the wall by the door and scrubbed away at them with more bleach and a scouring pad. Her eyes and nostrils burned with the strong fumes, but she welcomed its clean burn until she began to feel lightheaded and knew it was time to get fresh air. She couldn’t go outside in her blood drenched clothes so she headed upstairs to the bathroom where she stuck her head out of the window and gulped in the cool air.

It was quiet outside. The neighbours still had some lights on and Mary imagined the families all sitting together watching t.v., wee ones tucked up safe in bed, lovers in each other’s arms. Oh, how they were blissfully unaware of the horror that had taken place in Mary McDonald’s house. Not that Mary’s house was particularly pleasant on any other night, but tonight certainly exceeded the level of heinousness these four walls had witnessed over the years. And Mary didn’t feel a thing. She felt no remorse for what she had done, just revulsion at the sight of his blood. It was peculiar really, she’d seen her own blood many, many times and was never sick, but the sight of someone else’s caused her stomach to lurch. Even when her sons were little and cut their knees, it was all Mary could do not to throw up over them when cleaning them up.

She closed the window then ran the shower. Her boys; Kevin, Liam and Christopher. Horrid, selfish brutes who had looked up to their father as though he was some kind of God. She understood that small boys idolised their father, but she’d also tried to teach them compassion and kindness, but all they’d learned in this house was how to beat a woman until she was nothing more than soft putty. Soft putty that could be moulded and manipulated anyway that they wanted.

Kevin and Liam both had wives (she’d always suspected that Christopher was gay, and suppressing it was the core to his anger problems) and the few times Mary had met them had been harrowing. They were both mousy little things who hung onto their husbands every word, were at their beck and call and Mary just wanted to take hold of them and scream at them to run. Run far away and never look back. Live the life of a single woman and be happy. She wanted to tell Liam’s wife, Laura, that she wasn’t a punchbag, and no matter what Liam said, she didn’t look like a beached whale. She wanted to tell Sue, Kevin’s wife, that she wasn’t worthless, that she was smart and not a disappointment. She wanted to help these women like she’d wished someone had helped her . . . but she didn’t. Of course, she didn’t, because she was one of them. She, too, was worthless and a human punchbag, how could she possibly help anyone else when she couldn’t even help herself? She would just sit there and watch as her two eldest beasts belittled their wives in her company as her youngest laughed and joined in.

As she stood under the trickling water she wondered what she would tell them? She had a few days to worry about it. In the past Frank had gone missing for days on end on drinking binges. He was known to the local police who had stopped taking Mary’s missing person reports seriously after the third occasion. As time went on his disappearing stints went on for longer, but he always found his way back home. Mary figured she had at least five days until she’d have to involve the authorities and boys. This was plenty of time to get rid of the body. . . but how?

Once she was all washed and changed into clean pyjamas, Mary stuffed her dirty clothes into the binbag with the paper towels. She would throw this in a bin far away from her house, maybe even take it to some waste ground and burn it. For now, she left it under the kitchen sink, made herself some hot sweet tea and went to her bedroom.

She wasn’t tired and sat poker straight on the edge of the bed. Her room was covered in photographs of her family. Her, Frank and the boys when they were young at the beach, in her parents’ house, on Christmas day; her and Frank on their wedding day, and the boys with their wives on their wedding days. They looked as happy as Mary had felt on her special day. Had they been duped, too, or had they known what they were signing up for? Had they thought that they could change their man once they had become his wife?

Looking at these photographs gave Mary an idea of how to dispose of Frank’s body and, secretly, pay back her sons at the same time.

* * * *

The next day Mary got on with her usual chores. She had some bills to pay so she walked to the bank in the morning, then to the post office to post some letters. She then went to the shop and bought more bleach, bin bags, disposable aprons, washing up gloves, bread and milk and then headed home.

There was still a basket full of ironing to finish, so she erected the ironing board up in the living room and ironed as she watched day-time t.v. – something that she had never done. When it started to get dark, and Mary had finished all her chores, she took everything she’d bought at the shop – minus the bread and milk – down to the cellar. Frank was still where she’d left him – of course he was. His neck was broken, his head twisted at 180º and his glassy eyes stared lifelessly up at her.

She stepped over him and busied herself placing bin bags all over the floor. She then looped one of the disposable aprons over her head and fastened it around her wait. She was wearing leggings and a tatty old jumper, but she wanted to keep mess to a minimal. Frank’s tools were stored neatly away in a large tool box which Mary rummaged around in now until she found a pair of safety goggles and a large saw and shears. She placed these on the bin bags along with her gloves.

When Mary had woken up this morning there was a niggle at the small of her back and the tops of her arms ached. She knew this was from shifting Frank’s dead weight and furiously scrubbing the kitchen, but the hard work wasn’t over yet. She looked over at Frank now and sighed, it was time to move him again. She grabbed him by the ankles once more and slowly dragged him onto the bags. He felt heavier today and Mary’s back screamed in protest. She ignored it and vowed to take pain killers and apply a heat pack once she’d done what she had to do. Next step was to put on the goggles and gloves. She stood looking down at her dead husband. Should she strip him? It would probably be easier if he had no clothes on. After a few seconds thought, she took off the gloves and goggles and began to unbutton Frank’s shirt and unfasten his trousers. She decided to leave his vest and boxers on, she didn’t want to see his penis or pigeon chest if she could help it. She put his clothes, socks and shoes on the bottom step then put the goggles and gloves back on.

Kneeling beside the body, Mary picked up the saw and took hold of Frank’s right arm. Where to start? The wrist? Or the shoulder, just take off the whole arm? It was a bit awkward to get to so Mary opted for the elbow.

There’s no going back now, Mary thought as she placed the saw against his skin, this is it. You’re going to do this. Do it.

Mary began to saw.

* * * *

For the next four nights Mary spent her evenings cutting up her dead husband. She tried to saw his limbs as small as she could so that she could place them in plastic bags and store them in her chest freezer. There was never really much food in that freezer, it was just handy to have come Christmas time when she had no room in her fridge-freezer for the turkey and other festive foods.

Once she’d finished with Frank’s limbs she planned to move onto his organs and store them in separate bags, but she found it difficult to build up the courage to start. This part was going to be messy and Mary had already vomited in a bucket twice since starting. She had no choice, though, so she opened his torso with a large butcher’s knife and fished around inside for his liver, kidneys, heart, and whatever else she could yank out. When she’d bagged everything, and placed it all in the freezer she stopped for the night. The stench of blood and flesh was making her feel sick and her body ached. She knew she had to finish before Frank became too . . . spoiled, but her back begged for her to rest.

She cleaned herself up, popped two paracetamol in her mouth and lay down with a heat pack and hot water bottle. The first part was nearly over, soon she could move onto the second part of her plan. All she had to do was keep her nerve and get on with it.

The next two days she spent hacking up the rest of Frank’s body into chunks until she was only left with his head. His ugly, swollen putrid head. She wanted it out of her house, but there was nowhere she could take it where it wouldn’t be found. And she didn’t fancy carrying it around with her in the street. In the end, it went in the freezer with the rest of him – right at the bottom. She wasn’t done yet, though. All week she had been cleaning as she’d been working, but now she gave the whole cellar a deep clean like she had in the kitchen that first night so long ago. The bin bags with all the bloody rags and bags could get dumped in the skip down the road – she had heard her neighbour mention that it was being lifted tomorrow, so everything would be away from her and her home by the time she put part two of her plan into action. But first she was going to have a well-deserved bath and a couple more paracetamol. She had a feeling she would sleep well tonight.

* * * *

“He’s not been back since and I haven’t heard from him.”

Mary sat on the couch and watched as the male police officer scribbled what she’d been saying down on his pad. The female officer put down her tea cup and looked at Mary with a kind and sympathetic face.

“I understand that Frank’s gone missing in the past?” she said.

“Oh, yes, but not for this long,” Mary said, “I held off reporting him missing because he’s done it before, but I’m really worried now.”

Mary fidgeted with the tissue she held in her hands. She’d managed to squeeze out a few tears and noisily blew her nose for the benefit of the officers.

“Have you spoken to any of his friends or been down to his local” the female asked.

“Going to the pub was Frank’s thing. I don’t know any of his drinking mates. And I don’t know what pub he goes to, either.” This wasn’t true. Frank frequented The Black Goose which was a good twenty-minute bus ride away. Frank preferred it to his local because he shared the same sexist and misogynistic views as the rest of its clientele. There was no way Mary was going down there.

“We’ll check out the local pubs ourselves,” the female said, “If he frequents one more than the others then no doubt someone would have seen him on Sunday. In the meantime, we’ll file a missing person report. Please try not to worry, Mrs McDonald, I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

Mary thanked the officers and seen them out. She leaned her forehead against the front door and allowed herself a sigh of relief. So far so good. Parts one and two of her plan had went without a hitch, now she just had to execute part three, which she had been looking forward to the least.

In the hall bureau Mary kept her phonebook. She fished it out and looked up Liam’s number. She didn’t know any of her son’s phone numbers by heart, she didn’t call them much and they didn’t call her much. Taking a deep breath, she called Liam and waited for him to answer.

“Hello?”

It was Laura. Mary hesitated. As relieved as she felt that her son hadn’t answered, she was certain that Laura wouldn’t accept her invitation. She could hang up and try again later, but the sound of Laura’s small childlike voice as she said hello again stirred something inside of Mary and she felt she should converse with her daughter-in-law.

“Hello, Laura, it’s Mary.”

“Mary?” Laura’s small voice squeaked with surprise, “Liam’s not here.”

“That’s okay, Laura, can you pass on a message?”

“Em . . . yeah, okay.” Laura said, but didn’t sound entirely sure.

“Could you please tell him that you are both invited round to mine for dinner tomorrow night?” Mary said.

“Em. . .”

“I know it’s short notice,” Mary quickly added, “but I need to talk to all of you about Frank.”

The other end of the line was quiet and Mary waited patiently for Laura to reply. She knew the young wife was wondering if she could remember all of the message exactly and if relaying it to her husband would mean hassle for her.

“Yeah . . . yes, okay, I’ll tell him.” She finally said.

Mary sighed with relief, “Thank you, Laura. Tomorrow night at seven.”

“Okay. Bye.”

Laura hung up before Mary could reply.

One son down, two to go.

Next, she phoned Christopher who made no effort to hide his annoyance at her phone call. With grunts, sighs and monosyllabic words, he eventually agreed to dinner. Mary’s heart pounded in her chest as she dialled Kevin’s number. If Kevin wouldn’t come then Mary would have to reschedule, which meant less chance of the boys all agreeing to come together.

“Hello?”

“Kevin? It’s your Mum.”

“I know.”

“Can you and Sue come to dinner tomorrow night at seven?”

“Why?”

“Well, I haven’t seen you all in so long . . . and we need to talk about your Dad.”

Silence at the other end. Mary tensed, waiting for Kevin to ask what was wrong with Frank. She wasn’t sure what to say. She didn’t want to worry him too soon so that he ended up coming around right away, but she didn’t want to play it down either.

“What we having?” Kevin asked.

Mary had never been so pleased to have such a heartless child.

“Pies.”

“Okay. See you tomorrow.” He said then hung up.

Mary exhaled deeply. That had gone as well as she could have hoped, now she just had to pray that they would all turn up. But, there was no point in worrying about it just now. She had to get all the ingredients for dinner and start to prepare it. So, Mary put on her coat and, for the second time that week, went to the shops.

* * * *

Mary finished setting the table in the kitchen. It was nearly 7pm and, so far, she hadn’t heard from any of the boys saying they had to cancel . . . in all honesty, though, Mary’s selfish offspring just wouldn’t show up if they didn’t want to come.

Despite this, Mary had spent the rest of yesterday making homemade meat and gravy pies and three spinach and ricotta quiches. Six of the pastries were currently in the oven and potatoes and vegetables were boiling on the hob. Everything was ready, she just had to wait now.

The doorbell rang making Mary jump. She smoothed down her skirt and went to answer it. Liam, Christopher and Laura all stood in the doorway. The boys pushed their way inside without looking at their mother and Laura hung back looking uneasy.

“Come in, Laura,” Mary said, “It’s good to see you.”

Laura entered and gave Mary a tentative kiss on the cheek. Mary noticed faded bruising around the young woman’s neck.

“Kev not here yet?” Christopher called from the living room.

“No,” Mary said as she and Laura entered the room, “But I’m sure he’s coming.”

“He’d better,” Christopher said, reclining on the couch and putting his dirty boots up on the coffee table, “Wee bastard owes me 20 quid.”

Mary was curious as to why, but she knew better than to ask. She would just get a mouthful of cheek about minding her own business. Sometimes they would set her up just to verbally abuse her. Nothing made them feel bigger than seeing a stricken woman.

“He’d better fucking turn up or I’m leaving,” Liam growled and Mary felt Laura flinch beside her, “If he’s not here then I don’t see why I should be.”

Christopher laughed, loud and throaty.

“Well I . . . I need to talk to you all about your Dad,” Mary said, “so -”

“What’s the old git done now?” Christopher groaned.

“I would rather wait for Kevin -” Mary began before a knock at the door interrupted her, “Oh, that’ll be him now.”

She rushed to the door and yanked it open. There was Kevin with a face like thunder and, behind him, Sue was snivelling into a handkerchief.

“We would’ve been here earlier if it wasn’t for her.” Kevin said thrusting a thumb over his shoulder. He went straight into the living room where the three brothers greeted each other with profanity and Christopher harped on about that “20 quid”.

Mary took Sue’s arm and pulled her gently into the house. She noticed Laura watching them with large eyes, so Mary took her hand and guided both of her daughters-in-law into the kitchen

“Come, girls, let’s get dinner ready.”

* * * *

With her five guests sitting around the table, Mary busied herself pouring gravy over the meat pies. She blocked out the noise behind her; she wasn’t interested in the many “women” Christopher had shagged, she didn’t care about Liam thumping a work colleague for daring to question his authority, and she couldn’t listen to Kevin telling Sue to “stop crying like a little bitch”. She had to make sure that this meal was perfect, that the boys would find it delicious enough to take home the spare pies that Mary had in the fridge.

“God’s sake, Ma, we’re starving,” Liam cried, “Hurry the fuck up.”

Mary plastered a smile on her face, picked up two of the meat pie dishes, and turned to face everyone.

“Dinner is served.”

She gave the boys theirs first then served Sue, Laura and herself the quiche dishes.

“What is this?” Christopher asked, pushing the vegetables off his plate and onto the table with his fork.

“Meat and gravy pies,” Mary said, “Homemade.”

“Aye, but what kind of pies?”

Mary cleared her throat, “A bit of everything, really. The supermarket had loads of fresh meat reduced, so I stocked up the cellar freezer with as much as I could. There’s liver, kidneys, rump -”

“Aye, alright, Ma,” Kevin put in, “we don’t need your life story.”

Christopher erupted with laughter.

The boys all picked up their cutlery and just as they were about to dig in, Mary held up her hands.

“Be . . . before we eat, I need to tell you something about your Dad.” She said.

Kevin groaned and let his knife and fork drop on the table with a loud clatter. He turned blazing eyes on his mother and shrugged, “Well, what is it?”

“Aye, where is he?” Liam asked, as though he’d only just noticed that his Dad wasn’t there.

Mary took a deep breath, “I don’t know.”

Everyone at the table turned their gaze on Mary.

“What the fuck do you mean you don’t know?” Kevin asked.

“He didn’t come home on Sunday night.”

Everyone continued to stare at her and Mary felt herself begin to sweat. She’d held it together so far, but Kevin’s pensive stare made her feel that he could see right through her lies.

“I . . . I’ve told the police,” she continued, “they came around yesterday morning and I filed a missing person’s report. They’re going to visit all the local pubs and ask around . . . hopefully someone knows where he is.”

She trailed off and looked at her three boys in turn. Christopher wore his usual smirk that Mary had always wanted to wipe off his face, Liam looked confused and turned to Kevin, the older brother, whose lead the other two had always followed. Kevin looked angry, but he always did. Mary couldn’t tell what her sons were thinking so she continued to sit quietly as a drip of sweat ran down her spine.

Kevin heaved a deep sigh and pulled a face, “He’s fucked off before. He’ll come back . . . or maybe he won’t. Who the fuck cares? You’ve wasted the police’s time.”

“Aye,” Liam piped in, nodding, “The old bastard’s probably just on a week-long bender.”

“Or shacked up with some wrinkly tart.” Christopher said then threw his head back laughing.

Wanting to seem concerned about her husband, Mary continued, “But he’s never been gone this long. What if something’s happened to him?”

Again, Kevin shrugged, “What if? He’s old enough and ugly enough to look after himself.”

Christopher slammed his hand down on the table, making Sue and Laura jump, “Nobody would mess with Da. He’d knock them out!”

Mary thought about the hot iron melting Frank’s skin.

“You’re right,” she said and smiled, “I’m sure he’s fine.”

“Can we eat now?” Kevin asked.

Mary nodded and watched, heart hammering in her chest, as her three boys, the three children that she had borne and raised as best she could, the three sons who had bitterly disappointed her, cut into the overfilled pies that Mary had made, from scratch, the night before. The pies that were jam packed with the meat from the downstairs freezer.

Liam and Christopher shovelled the pies into their mouths, barely bothering to chew before swallowing. Laura picked at her dinner and Sue just pushed the food around her plate. Only Kevin looked thoughtful as he slowly chewed the meat. He caught his mother’s eye and Mary felt her blood run cold.

He knows.

“This actually tastes alright, Ma.” He said taking another bite.

“There’s more in the fridge for you to take home,” Mary said, then quickly added, “I don’t think Sue and Laura will like them, though. Too meaty.”

“Think they get enough meat at home.” Christopher sniggered.

Kevin was nodding, “Keep some back for Da, for when he comes back. He’ll like them.”

Looking at the lumps of meat swimming in the thick brown gravy on Kevin’s plate. Mary smiled and said;

“I’ve made plenty. He’ll be stuffed with pie when he gets home.”

What I’ve been watching #1

Since the new year there have been a lot of great shows on the telly . . . whether they’re Netflix Originals or BBC dramas, there’s no denying we’ve all been entertained since January.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months now, but I have been concentrating on my creative writing recently so the blog has been on the back burner. However, I want to get back into regular blogging and share with you some of the programmes I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and think you will, too.

The O.A.

This is a beautifully written and passionately acted Netflix Original about a girl who returns to her parents 7 years after going missing. The intriguing thing about Prairie Johnson’s return is that she has somehow regained her sight, having been blind from a young age.

Despite questions from the police and her parents, Prairie refuses to discuss how her sight became restored or what happened to her during the 7 years she was gone. What they don’t realise is that Prairie does want to tell her story, but only to a certain chosen few. Five local people, mostly high school students and each living their own anguished lives, meet with Prairie – who now refers to herself as The OA – every night to listen to her amazing and emotional tale.

I was sucked right into this show from the get go. It’s slow moving, but with so much depth and intrigue it keeps you gripped and constantly guessing as to what exactly is going on. The acting is incredible, with the writer Brit Marling taking on the role of OA, one, which is obvious from the very beginning, that she is completely invested in. OA is a complex and ethereal character that only creator Marling could bring to life.

As with any show, you know that you’ll reach an explosive – and hopefully satisfying – series finale, but I was completely blown away with The OA’s climax. It initially seemed that it had came completely out of left field, but I believe that it was always heading that way, OA and the five just didn’t realise it.

I cried uncontrollably at the end and have watched the final scene many times on YouTube, it’s incredibly powerful and moving.

If you’ve scrolled past this show on Netflix, unsure if you should devote any of your time to it, do me a favour and give it a shot. But have your hankies at the ready.

No Offence

It’s been two years since the 1st season of this exciting drama aired on Channel 4 and I had been waiting impatiently for season 2, but it was worth the wait.

The show follows the Friday Street police station and it’s unconventional detectives, particularly DC Dinah Kowalska, DS Joy Freers and, their boss, Detective Inspector Viv Deering.

Season 1 focused on the team trying to solve the murders of girls with Down’s syndrome, and was a great introduction to the predominantly female cast. DI Deering and her gang of gutsy girls are a force to be reckoned with and leave you punching the air at their awesome show of girl power.

The shocking twist at the end of Season 1 caught me totally off guard, but left me wanting more and Season 2 delivered. This time the detectives have to investigate a Manchester crime boss called Nora Attah, and with more twists and turns than a roller coaster you’re never quite sure if Nora is fully aware of the atrocities taking place within her criminal world, until the very end.

The writing and acting on this show is impeccable, and although the subject matters are very serious, the show isn’t afraid to pull out a few laughs and poke fun at its characters.

If you like police shows that are a wee bit different, then check out No Offence and let me know what you think.

The Moorside

You may all be very familiar with the case of 9 year old Shannon Matthews who dissappeared for 24 days in 2008. She was last seen outside of her school at the end of the school day, but didn’t make it home.

After a huge manhunt and lots of publicity, Shannon was found concealed under the bed in a flat owned by Michael Donovan – the uncle of Shannon’s mothers boyfriend. It later transpired that Michael and Shannon’s mother, Karen Matthews, had orchestrated the whole thing hoping to pocket thousands of pounds generated from the publicity of Shannon’s “kidnap”.

The nation was shocked and disgusted by this so-called Mother’s actions, but no more than the community where the family lived.

This BBC drama tells the story of Shannon from the point of view of all Karen Matthew’s friends and neighbours, who all rallied together to find the little girl. They searched the streets, they comforted Karen, they campaigned publicly – never wanting the country to forget poor Shannon . . . their lives revolved around Shannon Matthews and reuniting her with her poor mother, and then they had to face the sickening realisation that they had been duped.

I found this show very interesting and we’ll executed. With most true crime programmes, the focus is mainly the victim and criminal, with very little detail on those close to the people involved. The Moorside not only featured the community’s tenacious spirit in helping others, but also the fallout in being deceived so cruelly, with one couples’ marriage falling apart thanks to Karen’s lies.

It shows the ripple effect ones actions can have and how there can be no coming back from it.

Keep smiling x

March Favourites ’17

Oops, posting my March Favourites blog on the very last week of April isn’t ideal, and I am fully aware that I have been slacking this month and promise to be better next month!

Please grab yourself a drink and read on for what products I enjoyed last month.

Emite Make Up Lip and Cheek tint:

I have many different lipsticks in my makeup collection, all different shades – or variations of the same shade – but I tend not to wear lipstick on a daily basis.

I feel that it can be too heavy on my lips and I am aware that I am wearing it, which can be bothersome. However, I do like a dash of colour on my lips and that is where a lip tint is perfection.

This cheek and lip tint from the brand Emite Makeup is very lightweight without being watery.  It dries fairly quickly and, although the intensity of the shade fades over time, your lips retain a lovely plummy-red that could almost pass as natural.

I’m on the hunt for other lip tints so if you have a favourite, please let me know.

L’Oréal Volume Million Lashes Fatale:

I’m not sure if i have mentioned this before, but I am not a huge mascara fan. Most I have used in the past have irritated my eyes and I think it’s a pain to remove.

The only one I’ve liked so far is Mac Haute & Naughty Waterproof Lash mascara, but I wanted to find a decent high street mascara that’s easier on my purse to renew.

I purchased L’Oréal Volume Million Lashes Fatale mascara and am very impressed.  It makes my eyelashes look thicker, longer and darker. It can be clumpy when more than one coat is applied, but that doesn’t really bother me.

The only time I wear mascara is when I have a night out and it’s needed to finish off whichever eyelook I’m going for, and aswell as adding a dramatic flair to my look, this mascara is affordable for those of us who don’t want to fork out too much on a product they don’t use a lot of.

Clinique Superbalanced Foundation 03 Ivory:

Moving on from a high street product to a highend product. Clinique isn’t a brand I tend to buy from, but they do sell my most favourite foundation; the Superbalanced Foundation in shade 03 Ivory.

Many years ago I was gifted this and just fell in love with it.  It’s creamy yet gives a medium coverage, a little goes a long way and it leaves you skin looking flawless.  As much as I loved it, I didn’t repurchase it until a couple of years ago to use as part of my wedding makeup, due to it being pricey.

If you want to treat yourself then I highly recommend this foundation.  I may start asking for it every Christmas.

Keep smiling x

20 things about me

As you may already know, my last blog post was a short story called Only in the Night.  I don’t normally let people read my work, so it was a big deal for me to share it with you.  Luckily, it seemed to go down well and I may share another short story in a couple of weeks.

Sharing one of my stories was a bit like sharing a part of me (1, 2, 3 . . . awwww), which has now led me to write this blog post.  Don’t expect any deep confessions, this is just for fun . . . I don’t want to get into trouble with the law!

Just kidding . . .

  1. I played the saxophone for a few months in school. I always fancied myself as a bit of a Lisa Simpson, but when I had to choose between Music and Art in school . . . I chose Art, which meant I had to quit the sax. I was forced to study French which I wasn’t interested in, but had to give up something I truely enjoyed. Sometimes you have ever to wonder about the education system *shakes head.
  2. I hate avocado. I just don’t understand what the big deal is about it?
  3. I never went to any of my secondary school discos. It wasn’t me. I had no interest in going so I literally stayed in and read books.
  4. I have never been in a fight. Plenty of arguments, but never fisticuffs.
  5. I had my first kiss at age 13. And it was bleurgh!
  6. I correctly chose the Man of The Match during an Old Firm Game. I won 3rd price for guessing Chris Sutton in 2002 (or 2003, can’t remember), but never received my price! Boooo!
  7. I had a pet Dalmatian called Levi. He was fat and lazy and I loved him.
  8. I have read just about all of Stephen King’s books. He will always be the greatest.
  9. I think His Dark Materials is better than the Harry Potter series. I’m a Potterhead, but still think Philip Pullman’s work is far superior. 
  10. Queen are my favourite band. And I have a tattoo to prove it.
  11. I got my first tattoo at age 16. It’s a tramp stamp, but tasteful. 
  12. I have 5 tattoos and 10 piercings. All the piercings are in my ears.
  13. The only Valentine’s cards I have ever received are from my husband. I was a bit of a loser growing up. Maybe if I’d went to a few school discos . . .?
  14. When I was a toddler I escaped from my house and ran three streets away to the chip shop in just my nappy. I’m still a grubber.
  15. I prefer white bread to brown bread. It toasts better.
  16. My family and friends took me to Amsterdam for my hen do. And it was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had.
  17. As I write this I am watching Designated Survivor. I love Keifer Sunderland. 
  18. I could happily watch horror movies all day long. Was scared of my own shadow growing up, but have always had a morbid curiosity.
  19. I won awards for both college courses I completed. I can be a swot if I put my mind to it.
  20.  I’ve been on radio. Granted, it was a supermarket radio station, but it still counts.

    And there you have it! Twenty not-so-interesting facts about me. I could list more, but you’re probably bored already. 

    Tell me something interesting, or not-so-interesting, about you.

    Keep smiling x