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Reflections - Louise Charles

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Moon

This is a collection of short stories by Louise Charles. Some of these stories have been published in a variety of media including popular magazines, anthologies and online story sites.

The remainder have been on a mixture of long lists, shortlists and honourable mentions and have finally find a home here in ‘Reflections’.

All stories have been critiqued and commented on by fellow writers at Writers Abroad, an online community for expat writers.

I hope you enjoy the tales, which are a blend of humorous, dark, historical and contemporary genres and which can be read at leisure, whenever you have a spare five or ten minutes.

Website: - www.louisecharles.com

A Life Sentence

A Room of My Own

A Slip of the Tongue

Empty Promises

No Going Back

Reflections

Seven Rivers

Smiles and Heartaches

Stalemate

Summer Hat

The Grapevine

The Last Dance

The Crunch

Through The Looking Glass

Watching Over You

Wolf Moon

A Life Sentence

Domenica paced the cell as she had been doing for the past four hours. What were that damn jury talking about? She kicked the wall with the toe of her boot, dry white plaster dusted the leather.

‘Hey!’ yelled the prison warder. ‘Cool it, Domenica, there ain’t nothing you can do but wait.’

‘I don’t do wait,’ Domenica muttered under her breath as she slumped onto a plastic chair. ‘What does someone have to do to get something to eat round here? I’m starving.’

In the distance, she heard the jangling of keys, doors slamming and the uneven footsteps of her lawyer, Nathaniel. An old sports injury meant that one step was lighter than the other.

‘Hi, how are you?’ Nathaniel smiled through the bars. With his thick halo of blond hair and baby face, he looked like a heavenly messenger.

‘What do you think, angel? I’ve been stuck in here for hours waiting. Where’ve you been?’ She stood opposite him, her feet slightly apart and still she was taller.

‘Don’t call me that. I’ve been trying to make a deal.’ Domenica shook her head and wrapped her hands round the bars bringing her face as close to Nathaniel as she could.

‘Told you, I don’t do deals, like I don’t do waiting. Tell those fuc...’ Nathaniel shot her a warning look. ‘Just tell them to make their damn minds up! Wave a wand or something.’

‘Do you want to spend the rest of your life in jail, Domenica? You think you know what it’s like? You think you’re playing a game? Well, honey, I can tell you this isn’t one you're going to win easily.’

‘What does it matter? Just swap one kind of prison for another.’ Domenica drew out a piece of paper from her jacket pocket. It was a letter, which had been folded and unfolded many times. She didn’t need to read it any more but she liked to keep it close as a reminder. She waved it in front of him. ‘I told you I did it a thousand times, and I told you why.’ She watched as Nathaniel ran his hand through his hair and blew gently.

‘My job is to keep you out of jail, Domenica. That’s what I’m paid to do.’

A phone rang. The warden nodded as she replaced the receiver.

‘They’re going back in, Counsellor.’ She unhooked the keys from her belt and strode over to the cell.

‘My bag?’ Domenica asked icily. The warden thrust it at her.

‘Thanks - for nothing.’ Domenica rummaged for a few seconds and pulled out a silver tube. With an expert hand, she ran the bright red lipstick over her lips and rolled them together.

‘I’m ready.’

***

Six months earlier, Domenica Hart stood on the steps of Clouds Hill rehab centre and allowed the afternoon sun to warm her face as it would never warm her heart.

‘Fools’, she muttered under her breath. The discharge committee had been a cinch; she’d kept her nose clean, done as she’d been asked with only one thing on her mind – making her father pay.

She checked her watch just as a silver taxi pulled up. ‘Harts Department Store, Watley Street.’ She stepped into the back seat.

‘That’s across the border, Ma’am. Gonna cost you a lot of money.’

Domenica stared at the greasy strands of hair that barely covered the back of the drivers head.

‘What are you worried about? If I can afford to walk out of here,’ she pointed to the large sign advertising the clinic, ‘I can afford your scruffy little service. Now do you want the ride or not?’

The driver shrugged, closed the dividing window between them and sped off with a squeal of tyres.

Domenica strode through the familiar glass doors with the two gilt handles forming the letter H. It was Sunday but she knew he’d be here, as always after church. She felt in her pocket, and the cold steel reassured her. Despite the no smoking signs, she lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply blowing the smoke out in large rings.

She stopped outside a large, ornate carved ebony door and took a deep breath before entering without knocking first.

‘Good morning, father.’

‘Domenica...’

‘Surprised to see me? Thought you would be.’ Domenica flicked grey ash onto the peach carpet and stepped over it.

‘Woops, made a bit of a mess, nothing that can’t be hidden though.’ She stared at her father. ‘But then again, you’re good at hiding things, aren’t you?’

‘Domenica, your behaviour really is intolerable.’

‘You made me what I am. You’re looking at the product of your making.’ She glanced around the office, once the place where she had felt the most comfortable. Protected and loved - or so she had thought. She noticed that all pictures of her had been removed.

‘So, you really believed that you could just wipe me out of your life?’ She laughed, feeling a little hysterical. ’It’s you who should have been locked up. Not me.’

‘I know you’re angry.’ Her father hadn’t moved since she’d entered the office. He sat like a king behind a huge walnut desk and played with a gold fountain pen. The hatred rose in her throat.

‘Do you? How do you know how I feel? Everything I believed in has been a lie, and you wanted to cover it all up. You set up your own daughter. You wanted to hide me away and so sure of it weren’t you? You thought that your money could shut me up.’

‘That’s not how it was at all, Domenica. The doctors, they told me you would have these...’ her father looked down at his lap as if he had dropped something. ‘That you would have these delusions. The drugs have meddled with your mind. I wanted to help you, I wanted to do the right thing, but, Domenica, you are making it very difficult for me.’

‘You made your bed, you can damn well lie in it.’

‘I’ve warned you about swearing before, Domenica. No daughter of mine should speak such filth. I’ve prayed for you every day.’

‘Yeah, well. What’s the punishment for swearing?  Liars and cheats burn in hell.’

Her father stood up. He was a small man, when she was young he had seemed like a giant. He walked over to a settee, set against two large glass doors.

‘Why don’t you come and sit for a while, let’s just take some time out to think.’

‘I’ve had a lot of time to think in that five star loony bin you sent me to.’ Domenica paced the room. ‘But you didn’t count on that did you? You thought that my drug habit was just the thing you needed to put me away like you did my mother.’

‘I never put your mother anywhere. She