Category Archives: Amazon Published Stories

Crystal

I took a deep breath and held my head high as I walked up the garden path to the Jones’s front porch.

This is only temporary, I told myself. This is just until you get back on your feet, there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

I raised my hand to the doorbell, and just as I was about to push it, the front door opened. I forced a fake smile onto my face, and drew in a breath to say hello as Mr Jones looked back at me with a critical stare.

“You’re late” he said before I could even utter a greeting. It was true, I was late. I was supposed to be at their house for 7 PM. According to my watch the time was now one minute past. I fought a strong urge to roll my eyes as Mr Jones continued to fix me with his menacing gaze.

How the hell had it all come to this? Three weeks ago I had been a web designer in a large marketing firm in the city. Although my career was only in its infancy, I knew that I was going places! I absolutely loved my job and I took pride in the work I did.

But, when the company suddenly went into liquidation, without any prior warning I was left stranded, without a job. Sure, they’d given me a redundancy package – but that was barely enough to keep me going and as a result I had to take desperate measures. I found myself babysitting for my neighbours!

I was in my late twenties, college educated and with a good few years of commercial experience under my belt. And yet here I was, struggling to make ends meet and taking on a job that would definitely have been more suited to a ditsy high school student.

It wasn’t just the job that made me feel low and substandard. It was the way that Mr Jones had begun to treat me since I had lost my position as a designer.

I could tell that, up until now, Mr Jones had always been jealous of me and my husband Rob. Rob and I earned a decent living, and with our incomes combined we could afford each to run a sports car, take multiple holidays and even have a pool installed in the backyard.

While the Jones’s weren’t exactly poor themselves, they did have two children to look after, and send to a very expensive local private school, so I’m guessing that when it came to disposable income, the Jones’s had none.

Mr Jones would sneer when he saw me pulling out of my driveway, and I have to say that it give me sense of triumph and satisfaction. He wasn’t a pleasant man, and I revelled in the fact that my success had seemed to cause him so much displeasure.

But all that was over now, and the tables had turned. When I lost my job, I lost Rob too. It was without a shadow of a doubt the worst week of my life. Rob had decided that the optimum time to tell me that he’d been having an affair with one of his work colleagues would be the same week that I lost my job. I just couldn’t believe it! A part of me thought the he saw an opportunity to break the devastating news to me when my defences were down, and I wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight.

He was right. When he first broke the news to me I didn’t even cry. Under any other circumstances I probably would’ve cried, smashed up the house and broken his nose too! But not then. I just told him to pack up his things and leave.

That left me with a house to pay for, a car to run, bills to pay – and no money to do it with. I suppose that’s why, in a moment of madness, I found myself walking over to the Jones’s house and asking them if they had managed to find a full-time babysitter, like I knew they had been looking for.

The look of triumph and delight in Mr Jones’s eyes as I explained my situation to him and his young wife Lisa was sickening. Lisa, on the other hand, was utterly sympathetic to my situation and offered me some work there and then.

Lisa was over 10 years younger than Mr Jones. They’d only been married a couple of years and a lot of the time I found myself feeling sorry for her. She’d taken on a man in his 40s, who was obviously entering the midlife crisis, and his two children as well. I could tell that the fact that they went out to dinner together twice a week to fancy restaurants did not make up for the fact that they had absolutely nothing in common.

I often found myself wondering why she married him. She was warm, bubbly and carefree. Quite the opposite of Mr Jones. It wasn’t as if she married him for the money or anything, I thought anyway. From our infrequent talks while we were both mowing the lawn or watering the garden, I learned that Lisa had been a photographer before she married Mr Jones. She specialised in weddings mostly, but she told me that every now and again she would get hired to shoot lingerie or swimwear catalogues.

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Candice

There were times in every waitress’ life where they could start telling time by the appearance of regular customers, and, for Leanne, Candice and Heath were that kind of customer. She’d long since become friends with the two, who ate a late dinner at the diner Leanne worked at every Friday night after finishing their own work. She could never quite remember what it was Heath did—something profitable, since he nearly always left her a hefty tip—but she knew Candice was a professional welder.

She knew a lot of things about Candice. Fridays were Leanne’s favorite days, and she often organized her entire weekly schedule around them. Her coworkers loved it; she was willing to trade any day for a Friday, and never took them up for vacation days. They teased her about it, too, but she didn’t pay them too much attention. After all, they all had their own favorite customers. It was just that Candice was especially important to her.

(Oh, and Heath. She always seemed to forget about Heath.)

So, it was perfectly reasonable for her to get worried when she happened to look up at the clock and noticed that it was nearing 10PM—and Candice and Heath were nowhere to be seen. Perfectly reasonable.

At first, she thought the clock had gone wrong again. It was an old thing, with a grimy glass cover and hands that always seemed to get stuck on the six every other week, so it wasn’t the most trustworthy thing. She took out the stool from under the counter and climbed on top of it to inspect the clock, and found it to be ticking away steadily. So, it wasn’t a problem with the clock. They were just late.

It happened—not often, but more than once. There were always good explanations for it, but Leanne couldn’t help but get worried every time it happened. She worried that, while she waited at the diner for them, Candice was in the hospital, badly burned by molten metal, in extreme pain or even… She didn’t want to think about it, but, at such times, it was often all she could think about.

Luckily, there were no other customers, and her only coworker was Greg, the chef, who spent all his free time playing online poker on his phone, so she was able to fret freely and without interruption. She paced throughout the diner, cleaning and re-cleaning the tables until they squeaked and shined, unable to keep still. It was all she could do to keep the idea of a dead Candice off her mind.

The door chimed, and Leanne’s head shot up. There, standing in soaked raincoats, were Candice and Heath, hale and whole. She sighed, relieved. “It’s about time the two of you showed up,” she said.

“It’s all my fault,” Heath said, scooting into one of the booths with Candice. Leanne sat down next to them, her order pad out; it was perfunctory, really, because she already knew what they were going to order. “One of the parents didn’t come by and pick up their kid… It was an absolute mess. The police were called and everything.

Oh, right! Heath was the principal of that fancy private elementary school across town. “Oh, that’s awful,” she said, hoping that her relief didn’t show through her voice. “Poor kid. I hope everything turned out alright.”

“He called me over to keep the kid company while the teachers figured everything out with the police,” Candice said, flipping idly through the menu. “I’ve never played so many games of Hangman in my life.”

“She’s great with kids.” Heath was giving Leanne a look she didn’t quite understand, a sort of weird smile. “And people in general, of course, but especially kids.”

“That’s because I am a kid.” Candice had a sweet laugh, one that made Leanne’s heart miss a few beats. “And, as a kid, I’d like a plate of chocolate chip pancakes for dinner tonight.”

“Do you want Greg to make the whipped cream into a smiley face?” she asked with a grin.

“You know me too well, Lee.”

It was only when Heath coughed loudly that Leanne realized she and Candice had been staring lovingly at each other for probably over two minutes. “And I’ll have the meatloaf, of course,” he said, obviously trying to sound annoyed but unable to keep the weird smile off his face. “With no gravy on the mashed potatoes.”

Leanne quickly dropped off the orders with Greg—who seemed annoyed by it; he must’ve lost some big money—and returned to sit with her friends. Even when they got their food, she continued sitting with Candice, talking animatedly while Heath stuffed his face full of food. She noticed that her hand had, somehow, ended up on Candice’s knee, but didn’t do anything about it. Candice didn’t seem to mind, anyway.

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