The Right Way

Content Warning: This essay deals with issues around sexual assault and triggers.

I didn’t have an answer for her.hands-2545754_1920-2.jpg

Instead of repeating the question, we sat together in awkward silence. It was probably only uncomfortable for me though. She was used to it. Years of training had taught her to be patient and wait for the client to speak.

“I don’t want them to ever know I was a victim.”

“Why not?”

I wanted to tell her I was embarrassed. I knew that I didn’t need to be. I knew deep down that it wasn’t my fault. Unfortunately, it still didn’t stop me from feeling shameful.

* * *

I didn’t have children at that point in my life.

I had only been attending counselling for a few weeks, and would only stay for a couple of months, but back then I talked about everything in my life apart from the rape. The only time it was mentioned was when we spoke about my future offspring and how it would affect them. Even then, all that time ago, the thought of having children and them knowing that their mother had been sexually assaulted weighed heavily on my shoulders.

She told me I had nothing to feel ashamed about; I was a survivor. She also told me that even though she could help me, she would never be able to make me forget, no matter how much I wanted to. It was at that moment I knew counselling wasn’t right for me right then.

Now, a few years on, I have managed to cool my anger over that. I can live with the fact I have to live with it. I do feel like a survivor. I survive every day.

But I still don’t know how I will ever tell my three boys.

Sometimes it’s difficult putting a brave face on things. My husband knows my triggers, the things and mannerisms which freeze me to the spot, but my boys don’t yet. They are too young to explain it to. A word, a colour, a place, a behaviour; four specific things which are meaningless to you, have so much power over me. Sometimes its crippling, sometimes a deep breath will see me through.

Today, they wanted to watch a video on YouTube. Thomas the Tank Engine graced the screen for the millionth time this week. Who knew that the very word which makes me feel sick to my stomach would be repeated in this particular clip, over and over again?

I had options. I could turn it off, but then I would have to deal with confusion and tantrums that ultimately would remind me of why I had to turn it off in the first place. I could lie, say the TV was broken. I could explain that sometimes certain things make Mummy feel uncomfortable. Then my five-year-old would make me explain it multiple times so I wouldn’t be able to escape from it anyway.

Instead, I left the room and busied myself with something in the kitchen.

I don’t know if there is a right way to tell your child. Maybe my husband will give them the heads up when they are older. Maybe I will be able to use my platform as a writer to find the strength to speak out more.

What I do know now though is that I want them to grow up knowing that their Mummy is a survivor.


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Two Blue Sofas

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It had been a long time since she had driven past that sideroad but today a diversion, put in place due to roadworks, had taken her to a section of the city she had almost forgotten.

At the end of that little road was a small, second-hand furniture shop. She had only visited it once, ten years ago, and she’d never been back since.

* * *

Walking side-by-side, but never hand-in-hand (he just wasn’t the type), they entered the cold, garage-like room. It only took them about fifteen minutes before they emerged back into the sunshine with a receipt for two blue sofas. He held the piece of paper in his hand. They cost £50 for the pair.

It hadn’t taken them long to pick the furniture out because really there hadn’t been much to choose from. The living room of the new flat was a light shade of aquamarine, so she figured they’d fit right in. He tested them out by sitting with his legs stretched over the cushions, shoes still on. Not that he would have cared about that.

He talked one of his mates into lending him a van to collect the sofas the next day. She didn’t go with him; he didn’t have a license and his driving was terrifying at the best of times. She pinched a cigarette out of his packet before handing him the box, the lighter, his phone, wallet, and the van keys he’d placed carefully on the kitchen side the night before. The tires squealed as he shot out of the driveway and she waved as he drove off. If he returned it, she didn’t see.

That night, they snuggled together on one of the sofas and watched Juice while devouring popcorn. He’d always had a thing for Tupac. When the film ended, he turned her over and fucked her during the end credits, coming inside her before they had finished rolling. After that night, she couldn’t remember another time they sat together like that.

A month or so later, she noticed a small rip on the arm of what had become ‘his’ sofa, near to where his ashtray sat on the cushion. She often thought that this should have been her space. In contrast, her sofa was immaculate (as much as a second-hand sofa could be anyway). Sometimes though, when he wasn’t there, she would jump up and down on it hoping it would break.

Instead, it was them who broke.

It happened on the same day she noticed it, next to the tiny tear on his sofa. She stretched out one hand and used her index finger wipe a red smudge. How cliché, she thought, a lipstick stain. She wasn’t really that surprised if she was being honest with herself, but she was hurt he’d taken someone else on the sofa. Their sofa.

The other woman was a singer from Caerphilly. Cathy, he said. He’d met her online. They’d been talking for a while before she decided to brave the trip to Norfolk. He said it was love at first sight and she was planning to move closer to him so that they could be together. He liked that she didn’t steal his cigarettes. She liked how strong he was.

By the time Cathy had moved into the flat with him, she had moved out and taken the two blue sofas with her. She heard from a friend it took three weeks for Cathy to find out how he liked to keep his women in order.

Before the year was out, she gave the sofas away to her sister and boyfriend for their new house. They covered them with heavy, white throws.

* * *

The lights in front of her turned green and she pressed the accelerator with more force than she’d intended. As she drove down the road, she smiled to herself, pleased she’d been able to give those two blue sofas some happiness before they were chucked on the bonfire.

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Waiting with the Flowers

copy-space-2518265_1920 (2).jpgThe floral pattern on her cotton dress almost matched the scene around her; Beautiful bouquets filled with gerbera of every shade of the rainbow laced the florist’s counter. Outside the shop’s window, there was snow on the ground.

“Can I help you?” The young man in front of Edie appeared from nowhere. His frown etched itself on the part of her brain that didn’t forget quite so quickly.

“You don’t have to be so rude.”

“You’ve been standing here for fifteen minutes now. I’ve asked you once already if I can help. I’d also like to point out – madam – that this is the third time this week you’ve come here. Not once have you bought anything. Now either tell me what it is you’re after or please, move along.”

He was talking too quickly at her. She stopped listening after ‘madam’, too distracted by the sights and smells. She couldn’t see them, but she knew there were lilies nearby. Their aroma stuck to the tiny hairs in her nostrils.

Her hands were hooked in her belt, as though she could prevent them wanting to roam. She was trying to be on her best behaviour but resisting the temptation to handle the fauna which engulfed her was almost unbearable.

“How many orders do you make up a day?”

“I keep busy.”

“In my day,” Edie stopped briefly to think. When had it been her day exactly? “We used to make up fifty, each of us girls. Wouldn’t catch a boy doing it then. Not a man’s work, they said.”

“Now listen, I really am going to have to ask you to leave. Is there someone I can phone for you, Mrs…?”

“Just Edith, but everyone calls me Edie.”

“Okay, Edie. Did you come with a coat?”

“A coat? Don’t be silly. You youngsters aren’t hard enough when it comes to the cold. In my day we would stroll about wearing t-shirts in January!”

She tried to do a little spin and a curtsy in the middle of the shop, which almost resulted in a statue of Cupid being knocked to the floor. “Plastic anyway,” she mumbled under her breath.

“Now, Edith—”


The young man sighed. “Edie. Is there someone waiting for you at home that I can phone to come and collect you?”

A smile belonging to a teenager greeted her face like a toddler to its mother after preschool. “No. He would have left already. He should be here in a few minutes.”

“Ah yes. The elusive Graham?”

“You know him?”

“You mentioned him when you came here on Monday.”

“I don’t think so. Today is Monday. December eleventh.”

“No it’s not, it’s Friday. The fifteenth.”

“Now don’t argue with me, young man. I haven’t lost my pebbles just yet.”

“Marbles,” he muttered under his breath.

“Today is the eleventh and Graham promised me he would meet me here. He even wrote and told me, see?” Edith fished out an old worn letter from her pocket, made soft and flimsy from years of being handled. “Here!”

He gently grabbed the letter. As he read, his eyes became glassy and then, carefully, he placed it back into her hand. “I see.”

“You read it, yes?”

“I did.”

“You read the part about the beautiful florist? That’s me he’s writing about.”

“I can see that, Edie.”

“See this bit:

“‘I shall meet you after you finish work on the 11th because I cannot bear to be apart for a moment longer. As soon as I saw you through the window of the florists’ shop, I knew you had to be mine.’

“He’s talking about me there.”

The young man sighed once again. Not out of frustration this time but pity. “And the year is 1950, right?”

“Well, when else would it be? Says so in his letter.”

“It does indeed Edie,” he smiled at the woman in front of him while trying to envision the woman she used to be. “Listen, why don’t you come and sit behind the counter with me while we wait for Graham? I’ll make us a brew each.”

“Well that’s very kind of you, I’m sure he won’t be long.”

As he waited for the kettle to boil, he fished his mobile phone out of his pocket.

Which service do you require? asked the operator.

“Police. I have a concern for welfare.”

Connecting now.

He watched as Edie untucked her hands from her belt and stroked the petals of freshly cut roses.

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New year. New me?

About halfway through 2017, I decided to take a step back from the blog with the aim of focusing on The Novel. I am pleased to say that although I’m a couple of months behind my initial deadline, I am on track to completing my first draft.

So what does that mean? The blog can start up again – yay!

I have decided to step back from a couple of the things I was doing on here though – Author Advice, the Prompt Pot, and Seven Sentence Reviews – as honestly there just aren’t enough hours in my day.

Since becoming a mummy to three noisy boys, I now have to be super focused. The Novel just won’t see the light of day unless I am a bit selfish with my time.

Thanks to all who continue to follow, comment, and take the time to read my posts. I am looking forward to sharing more of my creative writing with you all this year, the original reason for this blog in the first place.

Here’s to a fab 2018 ya’ll!

Newshound to Novelist


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365 Days of Inspiration: Our Readers’ Favorite Stories on Writing and Building Community

So proud to have been part of this in 2017.

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The Drive

It always ends the same.

On the rare occasions when I need to take a long drive, silence will eventually envelop the inside of the car when, after a few hours, I lose my voice to the radio of my youth. It is then, in treacle fog, I am left alone with my thoughts.

I question it all: My life, my marriage, my role as mother, my stance as writer. My status within the different aspects of my world come under scrutiny inside the courtroom of my mind.

I turn the music dial louder to drown out the internal monologue and instead focus on counting down the miles until I reach my destination.


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So… I made it into a book (eek!)


Sensorially Challenged Volume 1 – cover artwork by David Fielden


Last year, a writing friend suggested submitting something for this. The plan was that once 100 stories had been received, it would be published. Well, folks, that’s exactly what happened.

The challenge was conceived by award-winning editor, writer and poet, Allen Ashley. He works as a creative writing tutor with various groups across north London. You can find out more about that here (just scroll down the page a bit).

Here’s some more information about the book:

“I’m pleased to present Sensorially Challenged Volume 1, a book crammed with sensorially overloaded tales that ooze with purple prose.

“The book contains 100 sensory stories, written by 100 authors who submitted their aromatic, delicious, velvety, pretty, and noisy tales to Allen’s Sensory Overload Writing Challenge.”

You can buy the book here and proceeds from book sales are donated to the National Literacy Trust, a fabulous charity that gives disadvantaged children the literacy skills they need to succeed.

Sounds super right? All of the authors featured would love your support with this one and all you have to do is buy a copy of the book and, if you’re feeling even more super, maybe share the love on Amazon/Goodreads with a review.

Thanks, you lovelies,

Newshound to Novelist.

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As teenagers, we used to smoke together under the old oak tree on the village green. You would light my cigarette for me and take one, long drag before handing it over. It glowed like a candle. I miss that.


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I think a part of me wanted to face my past
but I didn’t yet know that I wasn’t ready.

For too long my life had been left at half-mast
in a permanent state of limbo.

It was time to raise the flag and face the consequences.

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The Fear

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I placed a shawl around my shoulders. It was just the right thickness to help ward off the chill within the room. This small comfort was enough to keep my fingers typing away for another twenty minutes. Then I came to the end of that chapter.

I allowed myself quarter of an hour, that was all, to make a cup of tea, check my phone, Facebook, and Twitter. If I’d had more time I would have grabbed a handful of chocolate chip cookies, but it was back to the grind again. More minutes later and I’d finished another scene. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

By this point I started to feel the chill in my tiny office. There was a draft coming through both the window and the bottom of the door. It was time to make a hot water bottle and I allowed myself another second fifteen-minute break.

Ready once again, I sat down to edit another section. I reached for my brew and worse than being cold, it was empty. Gone. I asked myself: “Do I make another or just plough on?” That was when I heard her again, telling me I should stop; telling me to grab a thick blanket, put the TV on, and watch Homes Under the Hammer with a warm drink and biscuits.

Damn she’s good.

Writing a novel is the fun part. Giving myself creative licence to run free over the keyboard of my dreams is bliss. No need to set up timers. I could sit in front of the computer all day and reel out pages and pages of nonsense with the occasional gems. It’s the editing that gets me. Every. Single. Time.

I don’t want to murder my darlings. I don’t want to watch my impressive word count figure diminish. I don’t want to reread what I’ve written, knowing full well a lot of it will suck. At least that’s what she’ll tell me, Inner Editor. Where did my partner in crime, Creativity, run off to?

There’s another voice though. I think it’s Guilt. I feel guilty for not working on this project I’ve already spent so many hours on. People are expecting me to finish. Heck, I’m expecting me to finish. I feel like I cannot write another word of any other story until this one is done. Please tell me I’m not the only one?

What if though, that other voice I can hear isn’t really guilt? Maybe it’s future me, reminding me that it will all be worth it in the end. Maybe what I’ve written isn’t really as I bad as I think it is. Either way, I need to get this done.

I will give myself to the top of hour. It’s just enough time to have a cup of tea, devour the remains of a half-eaten sandwich, and post this on my blog. I can’t be the only writer who fears reaching the end of her project, right?

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