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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Marietta



Marietta pushed open the shutters to her pretty bedroom window. Breathing in the fresh smell of mimosas and the ebbing of a damp spring morning as the sun began to warm the watered streets.  She sat, as usual on her padded stool and began to brush her long, raven hair, staring over the Venetian rooftops at the washing hanging from balconies across the way.

Tomorrow was her wedding day.  Her Mothers simple, antique white, silk shift dress hung ready on her wardrobe door. Every now and then the breeze would blow through the window and the sheer silk would float around, like the dress was dancing. Maybe her Mama’s spirit had come to wish her well. Marietta's Mother had died giving birth to her and all she had of the woman, who gave her life, was an old black and white portrait photograph, creased at the edges, of a young girl that looked like her twin.  Her Father, Enzio Agosta, was very protective of Marietta as she was his only child and the living memory of a wife he had adored. He never remarried and concentrated solely on making sure his daughter had the best life he could give her by working long and hard at one the Vineyards of the Prosecco region, of which he was a partner.   

It was at the vineyard that Enzio had found the man for Marrietta.  Hugo. A gentle, hard working soul who though 15 years his daughters senior, was a man who would treat her well and be able to provide her with stability and a family home. His daughters future was paramount.  He had brought Hugo back to the house on many evenings after work to try and grow a connection between the two. Hugo had fallen quickly for Marietta.  It was hard not to be transfixed by her beauty and demure character.  Marietta Liked Hugo.  He was sweet and kind to her but she did not feel the same intoxicating need for him as she had for Roberto.  What she had felt for him had smouldered in her loins and promised to engulf her.  Keeping a level head around him had been difficult and terrifying. Marietta’s  heart quickened as she recalled the memories. 

    Her Father had hated Roberto, a local waiter and insisted to Marietta that no good would come of a relationship with a “Farabutto” like him. She had weakened to her Fathers wishes and ended the fleeting romance and when Hugo asked for her hand in marriage, she accepted as she knew it would please her Father.  The man who had dedicated his life to her.  She wanted him to be happy as she loved him dearly and her Father knew what was best.  Hugo would give her a solid life and they would always be good friends. Something, her Father had said, was very important.  

“This is the basis from which love grows.”  He would say. 

Roberto stood in the morning shadows as he watched Marietta brushing her hair in the window as he did most days, on his way to the cafe.  He stopped under the shop canopy, rolled a cigarette and lit it, taking his first morning draw. He watched her with dark, wanting eyes as the nicotine rush hit him and made him dizzy; not unlike she had done when he’d first met her.  There was something between them that he’d never felt with other girls and he’d had his fair share.  She was one ‘ragazza calda fumare’ and though so soft and demure, he knew there was something wild wanting to come out of her.  Something for him.  When he heard she was to be wed to that lame, old guy, Hugo, he’d nearly flipped out.  He’d tried to get to her, to plead with her not to waste her life but he hadn’t been able to.  She was like a little princess, protected by her mad, crazy Father and he knew she wouldn’t defy him because she was a pleaser.

Roberto flicked his dying cigarette across the small bridge into the canal and spat out the tobacco remnants from his mouth onto the pavement.  He took a deep breath and felt the rage inside him growing again; getting stronger and threatening to overcome what little restraint he had.  

He already knew that he could not let this girl be ripped from his life. No matter what it took, there was no way on this earth he was going to let that wedding go ahead. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Lift



Bruce parked his Audi A7 on the 14th floor of the multi storey, city centre car park.  He always drove straight to the top everyday, cutting out the wait behind other drivers trying to find a spot nearer to the ground floor.  He’d already got stuck behind some woman trying to park her mini in a space the size of the Grand Canyon, stupid bint.  That had pissed him off.  He needed to be in the office earlier today.  He pressed the lift button and stepped inside.  It smelt of warm, sour urine and yesterdays exhaled fag breath.  Jesus.  He held his laptop bag away from the side panels.  Today was not going to be good.  He had to fire one of his sales guys this morning for underperforming.  He wasn’t frightened of firing people if they didn’t perform, hell, that was the nature of the job but he was aware that this lad had recently bought a new house with his girlfriend and taken on a big mortgage. Plus he would need to start interviewing for someone else to cover that area which he’d have to get Maggie, his PA organising today. He’d been sleeping with her on and off for the last year.  He couldn’t help it, the girl was such a good lay and great stress relief and she taunted him with her tight fitting blouses and huge tits. She knew what she was doing and he’d taken it.  Who wouldn’t?  But now she wanted more than that. Typical.  He wasn’t about to fuck up his 25 year marriage and have it costing him a shed load of money for the rest of his life.  Now he had Maggie playing the tortured mistress and being a moody bitch at work. He’d have to find someone else to replace her if it didn’t stop.  Knock it on the head.  The lift stopped at 9th floor and a cute blonde walked in.  Nice arse. She looked smart, confident and together.  Maybe she’d like to be his PA, Bruce thought.  She gave him a brief smile with her pretty red lips.  He could imagine that mouth somewhere else right now.

Sophie turned and pressed the ‘G’ button for the ground floor even though it was already lit to go down, it was a habit.  The business man in the corner seemed nice. He’d given her  such a lovely, friendly smile as she’d stepped inside. His aftershave was a bit overpowering but it left a sillage of expense which masked the usual foul odours in the city lift from the previous night’s party revellers.  He looked like a well paid professional.  Probably got a great job, happy life and all the things she’d once dreamed of.  Now she had an absent husband, a pair of teenage kids and barely enough money for a pint of milk.  This morning, Brendon had kicked off because his shirt wasn’t ironed and the weetabix had run out.  He’d slammed the front door so hard, one of the panes had smashed and there was glass everywhere.   No doubt she’d be getting a call from school to get him out in the next twenty minutes.  What was the point?  Her life was a mess and she was on the brink of crying. The smile from the business man had made her feel a little better. At least there were still some nice guys left in the world.
The lift doors opened at the 7th floor.  A short, balding man in an ill fitting suit stepped in and said a cheery “Good morning”.  He looked so happy and cute that Sophie wanted to hug him. She wished she could feel that joyful in the morning.

What a fucking awful suit, thought Bruce.  I’d sack him if he turned up to my office wearing that. Guy needs to sort himself out. 

Harold got in and said a bright hello to the man and woman already in the lift.  He pushed his slipping glasses up his nose and smiled at nothing in particular.  Except for the fact he was still here.  He was still coming to work until the chemotherapy started next week.  Just a couple of days to keep his mind off it and keep his brain occupied.  Besides he needed to get the other accountants up to speed, just in case.  Harold didn’t want to die. Every time he looked at his wife he could see the fear swimming in her eyes, even though she tried to hide it and it made him feel tormented and guilty. He was only 58 and since they had found the tumour on his lung 6 weeks ago, he’d already lost over 2 stone.  He could barely keep his suit trousers up.  Harold tried to be cheery. He’d read that a positive mind resulted in a healthy body and he would do anything to help prolong the time he had left.  All the things he’d taken for granted, noticed again.  The things he’d complained about, now so trivial.  Knowing you didn’t have long left made you appreciate every little detail in life.  It was like looking at the world through fresh eyes; like the eyes of a child.  The lift opened at floor 4.  A young girl in her late teens stepped inside.  She was terribly skinny; rail like and effortlessly beautiful in a pale, haunting sort of way.  Her clothes were cheap, off the peg, High street but she made them look designer.  She half smiled nervously at the floor as she walked in but made no eye contact.  

She looks like a catwalk model, Sophie thought. Wish I looked that good.

Too thin, thought Bruce, trying to search for some curves with his eyes. Needs a good dinner and a hard shag to loosen her up a bit. 

Young and beautiful and her whole life ahead of her, Harold mused, wishing he could step back in time.

Lilly didn’t look at the people in the lift.  She hated being near people.  They were probably all looking at her now and thinking how fat and disgusting she was.   She’d lost her job at the restaurant as she couldn’t bear to be near the food.  It made her sick.  The smell of it probably added calories.  She couldn’t work there anymore.  This morning she had to go in and collect her last pay slip and P45.   Her mum had tried to get her to eat 2 ounces of yoghurt for breakfast, A WHOLE TWO OUNCES.  Her mum had been soft and sweet trying to encourage her, reminding her what the doctors at hospital had said.  She just licked at the spoon and that was all. She refused to eat any more.  Even that was too much and as she tasted it, her mind kept saying “That’s going to make you even fatter if you eat it ”  Her Mother had eventually flipped out and started shouting and crying.  They’d got in the car and her Mum had cried all the way into town. She didn’t understand.  
Lilly caught the reflection of her thigh in the sheen of the metal lift panels.  She looked like a whale.  She couldn’t go into the city looking like this. She began to panic.  She started to perspire and pick at her nail beds that were already sore from yesterdays bleeding. Once the doors opened she’d run back up the 4 flights of stairs to the car and go home. 

The lift stopped at the ground floor and the passengers disembarked leaving the energy of their tainted assumptions and the stench, masked with cologne, in the box behind them. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Key




Walking back from the pub.  A good night. Secret smiles to self as recalling the evenings events.  She was hot.  Not just hot but sweet. Softer than hot. Charming.  It starts to rain, just lightly.   Fiddle with house key and mobile phone in pocket. Pull out phone and check her number.  Jenny.  It’s still there.  Smile again.  Rain gets heavier.  Pull up jacket round neck.  Can feel drips falling down spine as do so.  Damn English summertime.  The effects of seven pints of Blue Monkey making the walk seem longer but more pleasurable.   Reach The Avenue and turn left past the bungalow with the funny shaped conifers. A mile marker.  Only a few hundred yards now.  The rain makes it smell greener.   Can see home in the distance.  Asleep and shadowed apart from a dim, outside porch light.  Sleep is much needed.  Sleep and dreams.  Dreams of future possibilities.  Reach the gate and lift the latch.  House in darkness.  Fish for key in pocket. No key.  Take out phone and try again.  No key. Impossible.  Pull out pocket linings and shake thoroughly.  No key.  Undo coat and pull up and down.  Push hands into jeans pockets.  Front and back. Take out loose change.  Study coins in upturned palm. No key.  Go through whole rigmarole again including self body search.  No key.  Stress. Wet and cold.  Tired.  Retrace steps along The Avenue.  Hard to see.  One lamp post light out, faded to dull orange. Blinking.   Pull out phone and use as torch. Shine on wet pavement.  Something sparkly catches peripheral vision.  Get closer with phone in detective mode.  It’s 10 pence. Don’t even pick it up.   It’s now past midnight.  Don’t need this.  Feel in pockets again.  Check for ripped lining with forefingers.  Wipe rain from face.  Feel slightly nauseous.  Turn at bungalow and just round the corner.  No key.  Turn back round.  Decide to face the music.  Still looking.  Just incase.  Reach gate and look up at house.  Total darkness.  Lift plant pot outside door.  No key. No spare.  Try door.  Tentatively.  Locked tight.  Breathe in deep and sigh.  Dry mouth.  Knock on door.  Twice.  Nothing.  House still dormant.  Wait. Silence.  Knock again.  Louder.  Three times.   Listen. Light appears through obscure glass in door.  More light.   The shape of a father figure grows bigger.  Dread.  The sound of locks disengaging.  Clench fists in pockets.  Door opens.  He stands there in a black dressing gown.  Tired and grey faced from endless shift work. From too little sleep. From being woken. Emotionless expression. Drawn lips.  Hard to read. Easy to feel. 

“Where’s your key? ”

Friday, 11 April 2014

Judge and Critic




Look at this place, it’s a mess.  Why don’t you sort it out?  There’s dust and muck and stuff everywhere.  Why are you just sitting there?

I know, I know.  I don’t know. I’m tired.  I have no energy, no life force.  The more I look at it the more it gets me down and I just stay, sat here, waiting for a miracle that I know will never come.

You’re pathetic.  Worthless.  Why don’t you just do something with your life.  Start here.  Motivate yourself.

I’m sorry.  I’m ashamed, please don’t judge me.  It’s hard being like this.  I can’t help it.  I have no will.  I just want to sleep.  Sleep and dream. Visit the unknown.

Pull yourself together.  Get out into the world. Get some fresh air.  Join a club, a reading group, find a hobby instead of wasting your time moping around.  Going nowhere.

I’m useless, I know.  A disappointment.  I dont have any value.  I have nothing to give the world.  It’s better that I stay here.

And rot?  Vegetate? Become a drain on society? Waste your opportunity?  Get up.  Do something.  Show some grit and determination. 

I don’t have any grit and determination.  Someone stole it, long ago or I never had any.  I’ve tried to find it but it doesn’t last very long.  Fleeting  Like everything in life, it comes and goes.  There’s no solidity.

You put rocks in your own path.  You feed from your own scripted beliefs.  You need to change. 

I’ve tried. I try so hard everyday.  Don’t make me feel even more guilty than I do.  I can’t make it change.  I hit road blocks.  I get frightened.  I don’t trust anything anymore.  Please stop shouting at me.   

Go out and meet people.  Make friends.  Try and socialise with real life people.  Develop something.  That’s what people do.  People need people. You’re just fading into a hologram.   What’s wrong with you?

I do want people.  Real people, but... I’m different.  They don’t get the way I think.  I feel them judging me.  Like you.  I’m not like everyday people.  I feel vulnerable and not good enough.  People hurt you. I’d rather stay in here and think.

So you think you’re special? HA!   How about that girl?  What happened to her?  She was good for you.  

She went away.  I knew she would, so I just let her go.  I can’t give her anything.

You mean you pushed her away.  Like you do.  She got close and she cared and you slammed the door shut.  You made her go away because you made her feel worthless, like you didn’t care.  You’re a cruel man.

No, it wasn’t like that.  I really liked her but... I’m scared. Unsure.  I don’t want to invest in something that will leave me.  What’s the point?

But you crave attention and then when you get it you spit in it’s face. Instead you invest your time on mindless notions, idols and media and all things that aren’t real.  Fantasy, oblivion.  Pretend existence.  You’re weak.

Those things can’t hurt me. They give me input.  They give me a life because I don’t have one.  Why do you hate me so much?  Please go away.  

You could have done so much with your life.  So much raw talent.  Such innovation.  God gave you gifts.  You should have played on those strengths but instead you squandered them.  Wasted.

Don’t you think I know that?  Don’t you think I wanted a life full of possibilities.  Why don’t you listen?  I am unable.  I am beaten by my own psyche.  I am at constant war in my head.  You don’t understand.  I could weep for what could have been.

You should weep.  You should cry until you’re dry and left with nothing but the shell you are.  Pay your penance.  You infuriate me.

I’m sorry.  Please.. I can’t take this pressure.  I feel exhausted.  Lost.  Confused.  My whole body aches.  I need to lie down.  You need to stop.

Yeah, that’s right, shut the door.  Escape to your dreams. You say you want to be different but you do nothing to prove it.  You follow the same moulded path to nowhere and then blame everything else.  But it’s you that’s the loser.  You.  

I know. Please...shhh.. You win.  You always win. I must sleep.

Go.  Snooze and lose.  And when you wake up, I’ll still be here.  Ten times stronger with a bag full of guilt for you to feast on.  I’m part of you and I will never be silenced. 
















Thursday, 10 April 2014

Invasion



“So tell me about the dream.”

Silence.  Thoughts.  Recollection.

“Well I was walking down the street, I think it was in the city but I’m not sure. It felt like the city.  It was night time and there wasn’t anyone around but I sensed I was being watched.  Followed. 

“By?”

I don’t know but not something good.  I was afraid. Then the street came to an end.   I couldn’t go anywhere.  There was a door at the bottom,  a ‘once was’ door,  all bricked up so I couldn’t go in.  I pushed at the bricks but it was solid and wet and cold.

“Like when it happened?”

“I suppose.  I heard shouting.  A group of guys.  At first I was terrified and then I realised they were yelling at me to come to them.  How to get out of the dead end. Escape.  I had to walk through a tunnel but I really didn’t want to.  I couldn’t see what was there.  I was shouting back at them, telling them that I was too frightened to go in but they couldn’t hear me.   Then one of the guys appeared at the end of the shaft.  He beckoned to me and told me to come quickly.  It was ok.  I trusted him, like I knew him. He reminded me of my friends brother but it wasn’t him.

“Do you find your friend’s brother a safe person?

“Huh?  Yes.  He’s kind.  I’ve known him a long time.  He listens properly.”

“Ok.  Then what happened?”

“I ran down the subway.  My clothes were ripping as the tunnel got narrower.  Like they were being pulled from me.  Torn.  I was frantic.  I got to the end and the man wasn’t there anymore.  Just the group of guys.  I knew I was in trouble. One of them was just staring at me...like he was going to kill me. 

“Did he remind you of anyone?”

“Evil”

Silence.  Thoughts.  Joining up dots.

“Are you OK?  We can stop. “

“No.  It’s fine, I’m fine. Somebody pushed me and I ended up in another street.  I had scratches on my neck and arms. My shirt buttons were all gone.  I felt exposed and pathetic.  And scared.  

“Pathetic?  Why pathetic?’

“Weak.  I shouldn’t have looked like that. Sullied. Wrong.”

“And what was on this street?”

It was really dark.  I was looking all around me when I saw another door.  A steel door. Like chequer plate. 


It said open, as if it was a shop or something but it wasn’t.  I kept knocking on it.  My knuckles were bleeding because I knocked on it so hard.  I was screaming but nobody came.  Then I saw the skull. 

“ Was it the same skull?” 

Silence.  Thoughts.  Nightmares. 

“The same one he had tattooed on his chest  you mean?  Yes. It was. On the door. And on the window.”

Silence.  Thoughts.  Nausea.

“Do you want a break?”

There are no breaks. Not for me.   I felt like he was behind me.  I daren't turn around.  I felt the presence of him.  My skirt was gone. I felt his dirty fingers on my thighs.   I tried to scream but nothing came out of my mouth.  I felt like I was being choked. I couldn’t breathe. I was afraid to breathe.

Silence.  Thoughts.  Disgust.

“Then I heard a bleeping noise.  Coming from behind the steel door except it wasn’t.  It was my alarm and I woke up.”



Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Hell Dust



The sloppy trainer on his right foot kept slipping off because the lace was missing and the movement was agitating the blister on his heel.  Mickey was cold in just the long sleeved t shirt he’d worn for the past 3 days and he felt edgy.  His mouth was dry and the half bottle of tepid water couldn’t sate the baked feeling in his mouth.   He kept his head down as he walked furtively through the streets, watching his right foot curl up on every tread in an attempt to keep his shoe on his foot.  His breathing was hard.  He couldn’t seem to get enough air into his lungs but he could smell the grime and disgrace seeping from his clothes.  His mobile buzzed in his jeans pocket and as he pulled it out he saw on the screen it was Chantelle.  Not what he was hoping for. He pressed decline.  It rang again and he continued to ignore it.  The texts shortly followed.

Answer your phone Mickey.”

Answer me or I’ll come find u

Again, the buzz reverberated in his pocket.  Fuck.

What? what’s your deal Chan, you fuckin’ stalker.” The fingers of his free hand subconsciously stroked his back pocket, feeling the crumpled paper inside.  Safe.

“Where’s my money, Mickey?  WHERE’S MY MONEY?!”  She screamed down the phone.

He wanted to reach through the mobile and grab her by the throat. The pitch in her voice was enough to send a saint into a sociopathic killing spree.

“ Shut your whore mouth.  I ‘aint got your money.”  

Mickey could feel the sweat prickling his forehead like tiny insect bites and his nose was running. He wiped it on his sleeve and his forearm felt tender from the bruising. 

Chantelle was crying now; a mixture of despair and anger coming through her sobs.  He felt the background sensation of self loathing but not enough to do the right thing. 

“Babe.  I swear I don’t have it.  You’ve put it somewhere. Stop givin’ me grief girl, don’t need the drama.”

She called him a lying prick and hung up.  He stared at the screen and gave a derisive snort.  Fuck her. What was the point?  What was the point in anything, it all turns to shit anyway. 

He turned down Jacko’s alley without looking up from the gum splattered pavement. His body knew where to go without thinking about it.  Big H was already there, leaning his bulk against the graffitied door.  Mickey walked up and fist bumped him and slid his scrawny length beside him, kicking the burnt foil and debris away from his feet as he reached into his back pocket and handed over the moolah; the fistful of twenty’s he’d taken earlier from Chantelle’s vintage sugar bowl.  The one that she’d kept as an heirloom from her Gran and used as a savings pot.  Sugar money.
   
Big H was already heating up.  

Mickey rolled up his sleeve.  The faded green ink of Chantelle’s name wrapped around his forearm, intermixed with scabs and contusions, bore the sickening representation of his reality.   He leaned forward and pulled the other lace from his trainer, catching the sullied string on the eyelets as he yanked it in haste with trembling fingers.  All that mattered now was the freedom.  Freedom and borrowing some fun from the future.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Gruff




Once upon a time, in a land of mist and many dragons and rotten monsters lived a Princess. She went by the name of Petal. She wasn’t one of those posh, stuck up Princesses and she wasn’t really pretty and she wasn’t really clever, in fact she was just an ordinary girl with dreams and aspirations about...ya know...stuff.

The Queen, her Mother was droolingly beautiful but very uppity and suited the role of stroppy despot very well.  It was what had led to her having had three husbands. 

The first one, Petal’s real Father, had been a weak King.  He’d stolen all the jewels and gambled away all the riches and was carted off to the dungeons where he’d eventually escaped and rode off to another town, never to be seen again.  It had nearly destroyed the Kingdom but the Queen had worked hard at being bossy and strong and had very soon met a sailor.   He would sail here, there and everywhere and bring back riches from different lands that he would woo the Queen with.  Since she liked all things shiny, this was a good tactic and she soon fell deeply in love with him and they got married.  But he was a fickle and shallow soul, in all reality and would sneak off and play with the wenches and make merry with the girls in the back of the stables.  The Queen sent him off with a face like a slapped arse  when she caught him chin deep in several petticoats in the west wing of the castle.

  The third husband had been too clever for the Queen and he hadn’t really liked Petal all that much either.  There had been so much arguing and raised tempers and if you didn’t know the answer to a question the King asked, he would have you whipped or writing lines in a locked cell.  It made Petal very anxious and it also made the Queen more uppity than ever.  The King eventually died from a bad mood and the Queen was left without a man to nag and berate so she turned her attention to Petal.

“Child.”  She said, despairingly.  “ You must make something more of yourself and become a strong Princess.  I want you to help in the courts and learn the law and I want you to teach the people how to speak properly and I want you to learn about riches and finance.  You are sometimes a very silly girl Petal, with a head full of gobbledegook and sausage sandwiches.”  She said curtly.

Petal, the petulant princess just stood there with a sulky face as she was prone to do, even though she was thinking of rainbows and lollipops and all things lovely that lived outside the castle walls.

“ You must dress more beautifully and make pretty with your face and hair “ The Queen continued, looking petal up and down with disdain.  “ I want a princess that I am proud of and that I can show off to all the world. For soon there will be many Princes riding here in Aston Martins and soft top Bentleys with diamonds and lush fur coats and they will laugh and scorn unless you do something with yourself!”  The Queen slapped Petal on the right cheek, “Take your bottom lip off the floor!”  She scolded. 

“But I don’t want to do those things”  Petal whined. “  I don’t want to know the law or count the money and I don’t want shallow Princes with jewels and alloys, these things are not for me, Mommy dearest.” 

The Queen slapped her on the other cheek and gasped. 

“But I want to paint and make pretty things. I want to tell stories to the world. I want to ride and ride in the fresh air to many different lands and learn new things about life. I want to find Puff the magic dragon and make him happy again.  I want to meet my true love in a faraway place and he will have a beautiful mind and a warm heart and he will know me without knowing me because we are the same.  We will dance in the meadows and kiss under the cherry trees and be married by moonlight .  We will have 150 babies and feed them on tigers milk and green bananas and we will live happily ever after for ever and ever.”  

“You are stupid Petal and I should have had a son!”  She snipped.  “ You are not a bard or an artist or a minstrel, you are a simple girl and you must become sensible and practical and stop living in castles in the air.” 

“But ... This castle is on a hill.. “  Petal stated, obviously.

“ You will amount to nothing unless you heed my advice and heed my advice you will, because I am Queen.”  Said the Queen and off she flurried.

Petal did as she was told as she was a people pleasing Princess and had learnt that upsetting people only made them mean and nasty towards her.  But it didn’t last long because Petal got bored.  Instead of counting the money and adhering to the ledgers she would make pretty shapes with the coins or see how high she could stack them before they fell down.  The Queens accountants grew weary of her silliness and sent her off to the courts.  Again, Petal grew agitated and found some of the rules of law, very stupid indeed. 

“Petal, you cannot let this man go without punishment for he stole seven green apples from the market place!”  Said one of the court officials.

“But he was hungry.”  Petal replied wondering what all the fuss was about. 

The court officials found Petal too wishy washy and ridiculous and sent her off to teach the people how to speak properly. Instead of teaching them in a manner best to cause narcolepsy, Petal decided to tell the people stories and teach them to talk with fun and laughter and excitement.  The people learnt well and soon started story telling themselves.   This made the Queen very angry and red faced.

“Petal !  You are filling the townsfolk's heads with nonsense and rhyme. Why can you not do anything properly and sensibly?  You are useless!  Go to your room at once!”  

Petal felt very hurt and misunderstood.  She lay on her bed and looked at the ceiling until the day turned to night.  It was then she decided she would go on an adventure.  Petal had dreamed of such things but had never really had one and figured it was time she did something about that.   Sneaking out of her bedroom and past all the guards, Petal realised she was pretty stealth like and might make a very good magician.  She made her way to the stables to find her horse, Chopper.  Now Petal loved Chopper because he was a bit like her.  He wasn’t anything fancy or anything to shout home about and he was a bit tatty with rat coloured hair and a tiny lot bonkers but he was the most lovable horse on the planet, she thought.  

Off they rode into the night.  Petal fell off a few times because she wasn’t very good at riding horses and Chopper would sigh, externally,  in a neigh like way and wait patiently as she got back on board.   Eventually night turned back to day again and Petal saw the wonders of the outside.  The pretty flowers and woodland creatures and willowy trees and she smiled from ear to ear which really hurt her mouth as she was so very used to sulking.  After a while and a few minutes more, Chopper and Petal reached the shimmering edge of a great big lake and an entrance to a cave.  What a marvellous adventure this was turning out to be!  She decided to go inside the cave and see what she could find.

To Petal’s shock and surprise she found a very large and indignant dragon.  She nearly peed her pants in excitement.

“OH MY!”  She exclaimed. “Are you Puff the magic dragon?”  She hoped dreadfully that it was as she crossed her fingers for good luck.

“No.  I am Gruff the not so magic dragon, distant cousin, 75 times removed from Puff.  Sorry to disappoint.”  He said gruffly.

“Do you know where Puff is and if he’s happy yet?”  Petal inquired.

“He’s frolicking by the sea somewhere and I suspect that one who frolicks is generally in good spirits.”  Said Gruff, impatiently.

“Oh. Well I’m very happy to meet you anyway, Gruff!”  She offered politely, “I’m on an adventure and I never expected to meet a dragon.  It’s all so very exciting!” 

“No it’s not.  It’s all so very unnecessary and a drain on my time, if I’m perfectly honest.”  Gruff turned to look at her properly as he’d been trying to ignore her in the hope she’d go away. “ Ah, Petal, the petulant Princess, I gather you are here to seek meaning to your life?”  He grumbled.

“Well actually, I was just going on a bit of a junket really, to see what I could find. “

“ Which is the same thing Petal.  People only go on adventures because they are unfulfilled and can’t make head nor tail of what it’s all about. Your little jaunt has led you to me so I feel dragon bound to give you some inspiring advice.  If I do so, will you clear off sharpish and leave me be?” 

Petal sat on a rock and looked at the delightfully handsome and wise beast before her.  He was a little bit stern but he was magnificent and Petal listened intently to his wisdomous advice. 

Gruff gave a mighty roar type cough, shrugged his scaly shoulders and directed his fierce yellow eyes towards Petal.

“Beware of those who show and tell
And vexing souls, that always yell.
And those in silk and golden rings,
Who promise lots of shiny things.”

“Oh you mean like presents?”  Petal interrupted.

The dragon sighed and set fire to a nearby collection of dried leaves.  “Yes Petal, like presents and gifts. People are lured by all things material and pointless.  It’s the way of your kind but it is a fools journey.  Now please, dont interrupt me when I’m on a roll.” 

“Oh.  Sorry Gruff.”  She smiled sweetly and nodded her head for him to continue.

“And those who are not what they seem
For they will shatter all your dreams
Pretend to share your point of view
When really they have faces, two.”

“Why are you speaking in rhyme ?”  Petal asked the mighty beast.

“Oh for the love of all things mystical!  Im a bloody dragon! It’s what we do.”

“Faces two... Hmmm .. You mean like REAL monsters?”  Petal asked wide eyed and curious.

“These people are the real monsters, you walk among them.  They do not live in fairytales but nextdoor.  Are you starting to get this yet?”  Gruff said flatly. 

“Yes, yes..I’m listening.”

“ Whilst you keep your head up in the sky,
In kaleidoscopic, cherry pie,
Of heart and mind you must be sound
And make your way on solid ground.”

Gruff eyed the Princess skeptically.  He wasn’t entirely convinced she was taking this all in. 
“Look”  he continued.  “I suggest you go home and figure this all out.  By the time you get back to the castle you will find that the Queen has met a new man.  He is kind and arty, farty and because of him she will be nicer natured and will be besotted by his curly hair and fanciful ways.  She will be so engrossed that you will be free to be the silly Princess that you are.”

“Oh.  Wow.  Lovely,”  Petal smiled feeling all enlightened and a lot confused all at the same time.  She raised herself from the rock and stubbed her toe on it as she made her way outside the cave and onto her trusty steed. 

“Thanks Gruff!”  She waved and smiled at the not so magic dragon. 

“The only person that can stop you Petal, is you.”  The Dragon bellowed his final piece of advice after her as she galloped through the forest.  “And your Mother, she can be an arsey bugger.”

The End.