Danny: Part Nineteen

This is the nineteenth part of a fiction serial, in 822 words.

Less than a week after Toni got back from Ireland, Maria was standing outside my house when I got home from school. I presumed she wanted more of what she had enjoyed in her bedroom, but I was wrong.

“I’m coming in to wait to see your uncle when he gets home from work”. I opened the door, and she sat on the sofa. “Got anything decent to drink, Danny?”

Uncle Brian’s drinks cupboard was reasonably well-stocked, and she pointed at a bottle of Haig Whiskey. “It’s no Busmills so it isn’t, but I’ll have a large one of those”. I poured it until it filled half a large tumbler, and she lit a cigarette after sipping it. I had to go and find her an ashtray, one of the ones my gran used to use.

“Will he be long, darlin’?” I told her he might not be home for well over an hour, but that didn’t put her off. “Ah, then put the telly on, so. I’ll watch any crap, so I will”.

Looking back now, I was actually disapointed that she didn’t suggest whiling away that hour by going upstairs. By the time my uncle’s key turned in the door, the bottle of Haig was half-empty, and Maria’s speech was starting to slur. He turned white when he saw her sitting there. She ignored him at first, lighting another cigarette, and turning to me.

“Why don’t you go up to your room and make yourself scarce, darlin’.”

Less than thirty minutes later, I heard the front door close with a bang, and went back down into the living room. Brian was drinking the whisky this time, gulping it down from a porcelain tea mug. He looked up at me, and carried on gulping. Then he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.

“Christ on a bike, Daniel. That woman’s a bloody psycho! Do you know what she’s done? She got me changed onto late shift at work. Twenty years I have managed to stay on eight ’til fours, and now I have been moved onto the two to ten line. She knows people at my work, the bitch. And I don’t know what you have been saying to her, but she says that if I ever touch you again, I will end up in a cement overcoat at the bottom of the Irish Sea”.

Managing not to laugh, I promised him I had said nothing. In fact that was true. It was just that most people in the town had always had their suspicions about my uncle. And they had all been right of course.

He was too upset to do any cooking, so he phoned up for a Chinese later.

Maria had given me my freedom, although I would have to learn to cook my own meals during weekdays, or live on snacks. Brian was far too scared of her to go against anything she said, even behind the closed doors of our own house. Besides, I might tell on him now, and he could visualise the murky depths of that turbulent sea.

Of course, Maria’s good deed came with a high price, as I soon found out.

With my uncle out of the house until almost eleven every night, my evenings were free. Maria had told Toni she could see me at weekends, but the rest of the time she had to do her studies, and help around the house. She had also not mentioned to me what was about to happen.

The next afternoon as I walked up to the house, I was surprised to see a woman standing there. She wasn’t that old, and she had a toddler in a buggy in front of her. She was also very fat. There was a beer-belly hanging over the waistband of her leggings, and pulling the stained tee shirt above out to maximum stretch. The insides of the thighs of the leggings were threadbare, because her huge legs rubbed together as she walked. She turned and smiled at me, revealing a lurid tattoo on the side of her neck.

“You Danny, yeah? Maria said I could come today. Can we go inside and get on with it? I have to be home to cook my son’s tea when he gets in from college”. I was just about to ask her what she was talking about, when the penny dropped. Once inside, she wheeled the buggy in front of the television, and switched it on. Then she turned back to me, casually pulling off her leggings before removing the tee shirt to reveal more tattoos, and no bra.

“We will have to do it down here, I can’t leave my little girl on her own. Oh, and Maria said thirty quid, but you tell her I have to wait for my benefits, so I will drop it around hers next week”.

Maria was selling me far too cheaply.

My Banned List

Following my recent ‘Spamalanche’, (Spam+Avalanche) I went back into my settings and reviewed my ‘Disallowed Comment Keys’, as recommended by some blogging friends.

This is a fancy name for words you don’t allow in comments, email addresses and urls associated with spammers, or just anything you recognise as being consistent with hundreds of Spam comments every day.

For example, this is my current list of disallowed words, numbers, and terms.
(You can find yours by looking at your most frequent Spam comments, without clicking on them.)

91.211.98.0
91.211.96.0
91.211.88.127
hydroxychloroquine
chloroquine
Muchas gracias
Porn
CBD
Escortcl.com
Hairstyles
Morovicracks.com
slkjdf.net
Vapor
Hairdressing
Vape
Праздники
bitcoin
casino
slkjfdf.net
slkfdf.net
cialis
escort
escortzen

As you can see, it is a mixed bag, and all of this was generating something like 2,000 Spam comments every week. This meant I missed genuine comments, as I had no time to find them in all that junk

Almost overnight, I went from 300 Spam comments a day, down to 5-10 a day.
My Trash folder went from next to nothing in it, to a current total of 1,963 ‘disallowed’ comments.

I no longer have to worry about missing good comments, at least as long as someone doesn’t use any of those words or terms.

If you want to try this, it’s easy.

Settings > Discussion Settings > Disallowed Comment Keys

Type in anything you want to be disallowed, then remember to scroll down and SAVE CHANGES.

You can edit the list anytime you like, saving changes every time you do.

Rome Around The World

When we think of the Roman Empire, the first things that comes to mind for most of us are the wonderfully preserved ancient buildings in the Italian capital. The Colosseum, Trajan’s Column, The Panthenon, and The Palace of Caesar Augustus. I have been to Rome, and enjoyed seeing all those sights,

But the Romans had a huge empire, covering much of the known world, and it is not only in Italy that you can see evidence of their presence.

Amman, the capital of Jordan.

Tunisia, in North Africa.


Armenia, in the city of Garni.

The city walls of Lugo, Spain.

France, the city of Arles.

France, the city of Nimes.

Algeria, the ancient city of Timgad.

Turkey, the city of Side.

Libya. Roman Sabathra.

England. The city of Bath.

Just a snapshot of the remains of Roman civilsation around the world, places that we can still visit today.

Danny: Part Eighteen

This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 712 words.

It would be easy enought to sit here now and write that Maria abused me, and I hated every minute of the four hours I was in her bedroom. But that would be a lie.

They say you never forget your first time. Or in my case my first five times.

Naturally, the first go was over in seconds. Maria was very understanding. “No bother, Danny love. You’ll be ready to go again in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Leave it to me.”

Never was a truer word spoken.

As well as what Maria described as ‘straight sex’, there were other delights in her repertoire that are probably best not to go into detail about. Like the old saying goes, I walked into her bedroom a boy, and left it as a man. During the ‘downtime’, Maria went and got us more drinks, smoked an amazing amount of cigarettes, and constantly threatened me not to never tell anyone.

Especially her daughter, Toni.

I knew nothing then about female sexual appetites, but with the benefit of later experience, I can confidently say that hers were ravenous. At no time she did she comment on my age, but she did allow herself to give me a lot of compliments on my looks and general behaviour. At one stage, she came out with a very strange justification of her actions.

“The thing is, boys like you are going to need sex eventually. And with my Antonia being completely mad for you, chances are she would give in and let you do the deed. I can’t have that, Danny. She’s too young, and the chance of getting her with child is too risky. So the best thing for both of us is to give you what you need, and to get some benefit for myself while doing so”.

Like that would ever stand up in court.

When it came time to leave, she surprised me again by coming over all tender and romantic.

“I think you’re a special boy, and I want you to come round while Antonia is over in Dublin. At least during weekdays, so you can do your school work and be with your uncle at weekends. Besides, my Liam is around most weekends, so nothing could ever happen then, so it couldn’t. I want you to be happy with the arrangement, but remember it is not negotiable. I need what I need, and I have chosen you to provide it. Okay then?”

My agreement was immediate, and my nodding in that agreement was frantic.

Though I did wonder what would happen once Toni came home. So I decided to ask her.

“Well I am going to have to come round to your place. I will have a word with your uncle. Everyone around here knows he’s a nonce, and I very much doubt he will raise any objections to me spending time in your room. If he does, he’s a fool. And I don’t think he’s a fool, Danny. He will make himself scarce, believe me”.

She called me Danny from the start. Maximum brownie points.

Maria came with a huge bonus that went further than the unexpected sex. Uncle Brian was terrified of her and her husband, so once I told him he had to clear off out of the house so I could have sex with Toni’s mum, he would have to leave me alone. Or have the Malones to deal with. In many ways, Maria choosing me freed me from his clutches, and provided something I could use to keep him away from for good.

He knew only too well that if I told all to Maria, his time in this life would be short-lived. I had a lot to thank her for, undeniably. As well as providing me with a teenage boy’s dream experience, she could free me from the clutches of a predatory paedophile.

Even though she replaced those clutches with her own, at least she was female.

By the time Toni came back from Ireland, and we had our reunion, I had more sexual experience than most men three times my age.

At that stage, I had little idea that Maria would soon be farming me out to her friends.

Maria would have to go.

Danny: Part Seventeen

This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 752 words.

Toni told me that she was going to Ireland to visit her auntie and her young cousins for the last ten days of the summer break from school. I presumed her mum was going too, but she was travelling alone. Flying to Dublin airport, where her aunt and uncle would collect her. “It’s not like mum, she always loves to go and see her younger sister. She said I should go though, as the kids won’t see me again until next year”.

The day after she left, I was sitting at home reading a school book. I had left the summer homework until the last minute as always, and when someone knocked on the door, I presumed it would either be the postman, or someone selling something. But it was a surprise to see Maria Malone standing there, smiling.

“Are you any good with a lawnmower? It’s electric, and my boy Liam usually does it. But he has started his apprenticeship now, and the grass is getting long where he doesn’t bother. I don’t want to keep nagging him, so I thought with Toni away you could walk round and help me out?” She carried on smiling as I agreed to come to her house in an hour’s time. When she left, I felt embarrassed that I had forgotten to be polite and ask her in.

Call me naive, but I honestly thought it was a good thing back then. To get in her mum’s good books, help out when I could, and secure my relationship with Toni.

Despite what she had said, the grass wasn’t that long. And the lawn wasn’t that big either, as a concrete patio took up more than half of the medium-sized scruffy garden. The mower was easy to use, and I didn’t have to clear up the cuttings, as it was a hover type that just chopped them up really small. Maria sat on a folding chair watching me, smoking constantly, and drinking what looked like a gin and tonic. When I had finished, she brought me out a can of coke. “It’s warm day, and you did well, young Danny. I’ll make you something to eat now”.

It was tempting to decline her offer of food, and make the excuse of my school work. But I was still wary of upsetting Maria, and in turn affecting Toni in some way.

For some reason, I was shocked to see her turn up in the garden with a delicious bacon and brie panini for me, perfectly cooked. Befitting her painfully thin appearance, she didn’t eat anything, settling on another G&T, accompanied by at least four more cigarettes. I realised I was being snobbish, expecting her to offer some thin tasteless ham, on the cheapest sliced bread. Maria had more class than I had given her credit for.

When I had finished eating, she sat back in her chair and launched into a speech that sounded well-rehearsed. To say it raised my eyebrows is an understatement.

“So, it’s like this. Me and you are going to go upstairs to my bedroom now. My man has been inside for seven years, and I am gagging for sex. I can’t trust anyone I know to provide that for me without my man finding out. So I have chosen you, because my Antonia thinks you’re the bees knees, and I don’t think you would ever tell anyone what happens here. At least if you know what’s good for you. Because after my man had got someone to deal with me, you would be next, so you would”.

The first thing I thought of was that I was now beginning to understand her accent a lot better than the first time I met her.

The second thing I thought of was that my experience with Uncle Brian would not exactly stand me in good stead with women.

The third thing I thought of was that I had little or no chance of satisfying her needs.

The fourth thing I thought of was that she was very skinny, and not remotely attractive.

I told her I had no experience, hoping that would suffice. After all, she knew I was the same age as her daughter, and unlikely to be worldly. Her response was to light another cigarette, and stare at me until I felt very uncomfortable. I sat like that until she had smoked her cigarette, and then she stood up and held out a bony hand.

“Come on now. It wasn’t a request”.

Guest Post: Robbie Cheadle

I am delighted to host a guest post from author, blogger, and cake-maker extraordinaire, Roberta Cheadle. This is an interesting historical account, connected to the same time period as her latest novel.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a South African writer and poet specialising in historical, paranormal, and horror novels and short stories. She is an avid reader in these genres and her writing has been influenced by famous authors including Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Amor Towles, Stephen Crane, Enrich Maria Remarque, George Orwell, Stephen King, and Colleen McCullough.

Roberta has short stories and poems in several anthologies and has 2 published novels, Through the Nethergate, a historical supernatural fantasy, and A Ghost and His Gold, a historical paranormal novel set in South Africa.

Roberta has 9 children’s books published under the name Robbie Cheadle.

Roberta was educated at the University of South Africa where she achieved a Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1996 and a Honours Bachelor of Accounting Science in 1997. She was admitted as a member of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants in 2000.

Roberta has worked in corporate finance from 2001 until the present date and has written 7 publications relating to investing in Africa. She has won several awards over her 20-year career in the category of Transactional Support Services.

The story of Jurgens Nieman (10 December 1898 – 27 July 1900)

During the second phase of the Second Anglo Boer War, hundreds of Boer women fled into the veld to evade the British forces. The took their children, trusted native African workers and some livestock with them. This was an attempt to escape capture and imprisonment in concentration camps.

Jurgen’s Albertus Nieman was born on the 10th of December 1989, the son of a Boer scout also named Jurgens Albertus Nieman who was never wounded or captured throughout the war. Jurgens Senior and his 14-year-old son Jacobus Johannes fled the siege at Paardeberg under General Cronje on a young horse which had neither a saddle nor a bridle.
Jurgens’ Senior’s wife, Anna Elizabeth, had been left on their farm. When the British troops neared their home, she fled with her four young children in a horse-drawn cart, together with a small flock of sheep and a single trusted native African herdsman.

On the 26th of July 1900, Anna Elizabeth and her children were caught. The British soldiers loaded them into an open ox-wagon to be transported to the Klerksdorp Concentration Camp. During the day, other families were captured and joined the wagon train.

The following morning, Anna Elizabeth and the children walked over to another ox-wagon to meet a new family. Jurgens suddenly began to fidget and fuss. When his mother picked him up to comfort him, blood trickled onto her hands from a head wound.

On inspection, she found that her son had been shot in the head. English fire was taking place in the distance, and Jurgens was struck by a stray bullet. The baby died that evening and was buried in a shallow grave at the side of the road. A plank detailing his name and other details was planted at the site of the grave.
Fourteen days later, his father passed the grave. He found his son’s body almost perfectly preserved due to the cold weather. He took the casket with him and re-buried it at Rustfontein farm.

This is the bonnet that Jurgens Nieman was wearing when he was shot. The bloodstains are still visible. At this time, baby boys were often dressed in bonnets and dresses.

A Ghost and His Gold, a paranormal historical novel partially set during the Second Anglo Boer War, written by Roberta Eaton Cheadle describes similar tragic deaths of young children.

This is a short extract:
“A few moments later, Annette Smit enters the tent with her children, who’ve been waiting patiently for her outside the tent. She lies the dead body of her baby down on a blanket. Dropping into a seated position on the hard ground, she sits, rocking herself to and fro, and keening softly.
Her worn and seemingly bloodless body is that of an old woman and the large eyes in her white face are wild and haunted. The death of her infant on top of the recent losses of her oldest son and toddler seem to have broken something deep within her mind. It is frightening to watch.
Hatred for the camp supervisor who denied the baby a few drops of brandy constricts Estelle’s throat. The baby is dead. She’ll never take her first steps, laugh and play with her older brothers and sisters or go to school. The camp supervisor did nothing to try and save her. In Estelle’s mind, he is a murderer. Taking deep breaths, Estelle attempts to unwind the knot of anger in her stomach
.
Marta looks at Annette, her eyes are sympathetic. “It’s better that the baby died,” she says. “She’s now at peace with our Father.”
Tannie [Aunt] Sannie’s eyes flash anger. “The camp supervisor could have tried to help! Surely he could have found a few drops of brandy for Annette’s baby somewhere.”
“That is true, Sannie, but God expects you to forgive him. He’ll not forgive our individual sins if we bear grudges against someone else. Worse yet, such feelings, if not repented, could cause Him to turn away from our people and our cause.””

A Ghost and His Gold
After Tom and Michelle Cleveland move into their recently built, modern townhouse, their housewarming party is disrupted when a drunken game with an Ouija board goes wrong and summonses a sinister poltergeist, Estelle, who died in 1904.
Estelle makes her presence known in a series of terrifying events, culminating in her attacking Tom in his sleep with a knife. But, Estelle isn’t alone. Who are the shadows lurking in the background – one in an old-fashioned slouch hat and the other, a soldier, carrying a rifle?
After discovering their house has been built on the site of one of the original farms in Irene, Michelle becomes convinced that the answer to her horrifying visions lies in the past. She must unravel the stories of the three phantoms’ lives, and the circumstances surrounding their untimely deaths during the Second Anglo Boer War, in order to understand how they are tied together and why they are trapped in the world of ghosts between life and death. As the reasons behind Estelle’s malevolent behaviour towards Tom unfold, Michelle’s marriage comes under severe pressure and both their lives are threatened.
Through the Nethergate
Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather, but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own.
In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise.
With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself.

Follow Roberta Eaton Cheadle at:
Website
https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/
Blog
https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com
Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19631306.Roberta_Eaton_Cheadle
Twitter

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Amazon

Purchase Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s books
TSL Books (paperback)
https://tslbooks.uk/product-tag/roberta-eaton-cheadle/
Lulu.com (ebook)
A Ghost and His Gold: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/robert-eaton-cheadle/a-ghost-and-his-gold/ebook/product-d858km.html?page=1&pageSize=4
Through the Nethergate: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/roberta-eaton-cheadle/through-the-nethergate/ebook/product-1qkz92jq.html?page=1&pageSize=4
Amazon US

Robbie is a fully-engaged blogger, and a valued part of our wider blogging community. She also writes in many different genres and themes, with something that will appeal to everyone. Please follow the links to find out more about her, read her posts, and perhaps buy some of her books too.

Danny: Part Sixteen

This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 748 words.

As I suspected, the drop didn’t kill Sophie outright. But I wasn’t prepared for how long it took for her to be strangled by the nylon line. There was a lot of swinging around too, and the bark on the branch was rubbed away where I had fastened the line at the top.

Watching her clawing at the noose, her knees drawn up as if that would somehow help her, I had to remember to use my vantage point to look around and make sure nobody was nearby. Fortunately, it was a little early for afternoon strollers. They were probably still finishing their traditionally heavy Sunday lunches before deciding to walk off the stupor in the fresh air.

When she finally stopped moving, arms limp at her sides, I carefully climbed down, making sure not to scuff my shoes or catch my clothing. I knew enough about fibres and forensics to realise clues are microscopic.

The long way home was the best option, as I was less likely to encounter anyone making for the famous tree on the main path. It wouldn’t be long before someone found the girl hanging, and it would be better if they didn’t remember a blonde-haired boy walking past them carrying a blue duffel bag.

By the time I got home, Uncle Brian had started cooking the evening meal, ready to warm it up later. He didn’t ask me where I had been, and he knew nothing at all about Sophie. I suspected he thought I had been seeing Toni, but my absence never came up in conversation. He turned and smiled. “Chilli Con Carne tonight, blondie. One of your favourites”. He had called me blondie on and off for years, but only when my parents were not in earshot.

That was going to have to stop.

Watching the news later, they mentioned that ‘the body of a young woman’ had been found in the woods, and that an investigation was ‘ongoing’. There was the usual appeal for witnesses, and a freephone number to call. It wasn’t until her parents reported her missing when it got dark that they found out who she was.

The next day at school, everyone was talking about it. The girls in tears, mostly crocodile tears, I was sure. There was a special assembly, and the headmaster told us in solemn tones that Sophie had been found dead in the woods. I looked suitably sad, and Toni genuinely cried for her one-time friend. At break time, it was Toni who told me the rumour that was spreading like wildfire.

“She hung herself, you know. Went into the woods, climbed that big old tree, and hung herself from a washing line that she took from home. They reckon it’s because she had arguments with her parents about how she dressed, and that she spent too much money. She used to complain to me about her dad all the time”.

One good thing about those green nylon washing lines, everyone had one at one time. They mostly came from the same shop too. One day, Sophie’s dad would find their old washing line still in the shed, or wherever. Then he might wonder where Sophie got her washing line from.

Two days later, it was all but forgotten, and there was no mention of any suspicious circumstances. Everyone, especially her parents, just accepted that Sophie had hung herself in a fit of temper after a couple of years of arguments at home. I was amazed that anyone would believe that of such an egotistical girl who would never dream of killing herself.

Then again, maybe I was the only one who knew what she was really like.

Things got a lot better after that. There was no Sophie to call the shots, so Toni got back in with the girls who had been blanking her. We started to be known as an item, with everyone accepting that Toni was my girlfriend. That made her happy. “Oh, Danny. They are genuinely jealous, because you are so good-looking”. It had never occured to me before that girls might find me attractive.

Uncle Brian did of course, but that was something very different.

When we both turned thirteen, Maria Malone was inviting me in, introducing me to Toni’s older brother, and telling anyone who would listen that I was a ‘really nice boy”.

Then late that summer, during the school holidays, something changed.

Maria took an interest in me. A very personal interest.

Guest Post: Kevin Morris

I am very pleased to host a guest post from Kevin. He has a new book of poetry coming out, and has included one of the poems in his post.

The Last Day of August

The final day of August
Brings Autumn’s coming chill.
Perhaps this is the last
Of Summer’s new-mown grass.
The eternal breeze
Rustles the leaves
And my once brown hair.

(The above poem is taken from my forthcoming collection, Leaving and
Other Poems, which will be available from Amazon in late January/early
February 2022. My Selected Poems is available in paperback and Kindle
from Amazon and can be accessed here,

Links

Blog: https://kmorrispoet.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drewdog2060_
Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@apollo2362

You can find out about Kevin’s forthcoming book and read more of his work by following the links above.

January Sunday Morning Musings From Beetley

Well for once some retribution might be due for the ‘entitled’. Prince Andrew (now just ‘Andrew’) has to fight the sexual offences allegations in court, and lost his free ride thanks to his mother. It seems more likely he will pay off the accuser, as he will not appear in court in America, so would be destined to lose the case.

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The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had to apologise to parliament for breaking the laws surrounding Covid lockdowns. That sparked speculation that he is on his way out, and in advance of the report commissioned to investigate the accusations, he has seen fit to ‘disappear’. Many of his former political allies and friends look very uncomfortable as they try to defend the indefensible in his absence.

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If you read my recent post, you will know that Julie celebrated her birthday on Friday, and had a lovely day. We both enjoyed an excellent celebratory meal that evening.

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Ollie’s fur has still not grown back, but he seems healthy and happy otherwise. Unfortunately, he has started to notice the antibiotic tablets in the meat we wrap them up in, and on a few occasions we have had to force them down his throat. That is distressing, but he needs to finish the course. He has to go back to the Vet next week at some stage for his treatment to be reviewed.

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The time is coming for our five-yearly trimming of the Oak trees. Our neighbour thankfully took on the task of getting estimates for the work, which should happen before the end of March. This year, they varied wildly, with one company wanting to charge more than three times the estimate of two others. It is an annoying job, as it has to be done by people approved by the Council Tree Officer. He then inspects the work after. So we can’t just employ a willing man with a big saw!

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The sun is out again this morning, but it is still a chilly 5C. At least no rain is forecast.

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I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday. I am cooking a venison casserole for dinner tonight.

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Danny: Part Fifteen

This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 900 words.

Deliberately early that Sunday, I was behind the library when Sophie arrived. I had been thinking about the cinema date with Toni the previous day. That had gone well, with her holding my hand all the way through the rather lame Disney film she had chosen, then a short snogging session in an alleyway near her house before I left her waving goodbye to me from outside her front door. I had the feeling that she would have let me go a bit further if I had tried, but I wasn’t about to rush anything.

Sophie wasn’t dressed appropriately for a walk in the woods. Her skater-girl skirt was worn over some white fishnet tights and she had some fashionable white Converse trainers on her feet. As well as wearing far too much make-up for a girl of her age, her hair was tightly drawn back from her face and plaited at the back. It looked as if she hadn’t settled on her look for the date, so had thrown together three looks instead. A small red shoulder bag completed the outfit, and she was trying to act laid-back and cool.

That wasn’t working either, I could tell by the way she was looking at me. I realised that she did actually fancy me. That put me on the front foot.

She pointed at my duffel bag. “What’s that for?” I told her I had drinks and snacks in there for later. As we walked to the woods, she told me that she had argued with her dad before leaving home. He had said she was dressed up too much for her age, and there had been a lot of screaming and shouting before she slammed the door and walked out. As far as her parents were concerned, she was meeting her friends at the shopping precinct, and going for a burger. “They drive me mad. They want me to be a little girl, Daniel. They won’t let me grow up”.

There it was again. Daniel.

Until we got to one of the entrances to Mendlesham Woods, she walked near me, but not close to me. Although we didn’t see anyone we knew, she was obviously wary of anything getting back to Toni if we were seen to be together. Once in the woods, she sidled over and held my arm. “So how do you like me? Do you think I look nice?” I told her she looked very sexy, and even thought to add the word ‘irresistible’. That played well, and she actually blushed.

This was no casual stroll. I had a place in mind, and an actual tree to show her. A famous oak in the middle of the woods that Uncle Brian had taken me to see when I was much younger. But not so young as to forget that was the first place he ever put his hand down my trousers and told me I was special.

After the long walk to the woods, and another walk to get to the Oak, Sophie was either bored, or feeling neglected. I suspected she wanted me to get all romantic with her, tell her how much I fancied her, and try my luck with a snog, or more than that. As the tree appeared, she sneered. “Is that it? We walked all this way so you could show me a big tree?” I explained that it was a great tree to climb, and you could even get a view of the town from the branches just over halfway up.

Shaking her head, she looked at me as if I was crazy. “You want me to climb this tree with you? If that’s so you can look up my skirt, just say so. I don’t need to climb a tree for that”. With that, she raised the tiny skirt and showed me what was underneath it. I pointed at a large branch that was an easy climb, maybe fifteen feet off the ground. I explained that we could sit up there and not be seen by any other woodland walkers. She wasn’t convinced.

The trump card had to be played, so I suggested she was scared. That did it. “Scared? I’m not scared, I just don’t want to spoil my trainers”. With that, she pulled off the Converse, and raised her right leg. “Give me a boost onto that first branch, and you will see I’m not scared”. To her credit, once on the first branch she scrambled up really well. By the time I was following, she was already sitting on the branch I had pointed out, swinging her legs.

When I got up next to her, I crouched down, reaching into my duffel bag. I removed the old washing line I had found in Uncle Brian’s shed. The slip-knot was already tied. I just had to secure the other end to the branch. With my back to her, I quickly did that. “What are you doing, Daniel?” She sounded fed up, probably waiting for the snogging to start. I told her I was getting a drink for us from my bag. When I turned round, she was gazing at the view over the town, and just reached out a hand to take the expected drink.

The noose part went over her head so fast, she hadn’t even realised it was there.

Until I pushed her off the branch.