The Vision


The drawing on the table was nearly finished. Propping it up against a vase, Dorothy stood back and tilted her head. It looked right. She closed her eyes and visualised the original in her mind—yes, it was perfect. Just like the vision.

It was a vision…. wasn’t it? Surely, a shimmering infant ‘being’ sitting on a purple chair with a crown and wings, draped in a blue silk cloth and flowers at his feet, was a vision and not an illusion.

The morning of the apparition was a day like any other. Dorothy had woken early, grateful for the extra time, and with her morning cuppa watched the sunrise from her little balcony. It was peaceful and calm. The perfect start to yet another busy day.

She lay back in the chair and closed her eyes to the warmth of the sun. Her chest rose as she took a deep breath, then she slowly exhaled with a deep sigh. The past weeks had not been easy—clearing out the old house and sorting through her mother’s things. Dorothy was not one for sentimentality, but her mother was. Stashed in a cupboard Dorothy found a stack of old drawings and stories… her teenage drawing and stories. So long ago, she thought, so very long ago, and so much make believe and nonsense in those scribblings. Another reading them would have seen the beginning of dreams and hopes, but all forgotten now. Those days were long gone. Dorothy hadn’t written a story or done a drawing for over forty years—tick tock, tick tock—no time for frivolities, no time for young dreams. Those imaginings were all locked away. What use were they to her now. She barely gave them a glance as put them in the trash pile.    

In the late afternoon of the last day, Dorothy dragged all the rubbish outside to the old bin and lit a match. The flames rose higher and higher as she threw drawing after drawing, and story after story into the fire. It was time to get back to her life, and the very next day she left; the tangible evidence of her imagination obliterated in wafts of smoke and burnt bits of paper floating in the breeze. The only thing she kept were her coloured pencils. She stashed them in a box with some of her mother’s things—a box small enough to fit into a cupboard, somewhere on a high shelf where it would no doubt be forgotten.

That was then and this is now, she thought, as she sat there that morning. She took another deep breath, and as she slowly opened her eyes, there it was—as bright and large as a vision could be, shimmering in the morning light. Dorothy blinked twice. It was still there. Mesmerised, she watched as the child being on the ornate purple chair beckoned to her. He appeared to be inviting her. Her eyes widened. ‘Come, come,’ he seemed to say, ‘Come into my world’.

So powerful was the image before her that she could almost hear him: ‘Step into my imagination, come hear my stories, come… come.’ Dorothy had no idea how long it lasted, but just as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone. Heart pounding, she shook her head. She realised she’d been holding her breath. What was it? The realities of Dorothy’s life did not include visions or illusions, but as the days passed, the image stayed with her. And so did the invitation. But what did it mean?

Finally, Dorothy knew what she had to do. She took the coloured pencils down from the shelf and began to draw. As her pencils flew across the page, she stepped back into a world she had quite forgotten. A world where she could stretch time and connect to her heart. As she drew and coloured, shafts of bouncing colour turned into beams of joy.  

When the picture was finished, she knew exactly what it meant and what had beckoned her. She picked up her pen and began to write.

Writing Prompt: Image of the Child Being

Inara Hawley © 2018

The Missing Pillow

1 Comment

The house was full of anticipation. Guests were arriving, beds were being made, and rooms were being spruced up by the owners.

‘Honey, where’s the brown pillow for this bedroom?’

‘What brown pillow?’

‘The one for the bed in here.’

It was the fourth bedroom. A neat and proud little room. Proud because it was the only themed room in the house. Three large paintings of red and green Japanese lettering representing peace, joy, and happiness adorned the cream walls. The curtains were a shimmering light brown with large gold rings that glided effortlessly across solid wood rods. The bedspread was a rich brown and cream floral-pattern, on which sat six pillows—two emerald green, two dark brown, and two deep ruby cushions with fancy stitching. All matching perfectly, in their perfect place.

But now, one of the big fluffy brown pillows was missing!

A search began—in the linen cupboards, under the bed, in the other bedrooms, behind the washing machine. It was nowhere to be found.  

The question arose as to who was the last person to stay in the neat little room? Family members were contacted. The room, of course,  wanted to look perfect and waited with bated breath for what was to come. Phone calls continued all afternoon. The owners had quite forgotten who had occupied the room last as they spoke, one by one, to all the family.

‘Did you take a dark brown pillow home?’

‘No, not me, but there were definitely four pillows—two green and two brown.’

They were all adamant. Everyone remembered the four pillows as they had all fluffed them up while sitting in bed, but no-one remembered taking a dark brown pillow home.

So, the bed was made up with only five pillows, but the room was not happy and nor were the owners. The guests came and went—they had stayed before, and there was much discussion about the missing pillow and what might have become of it. Conversations, in fact, continued as the months went by. Someone took the pillow, but no one was owning up. It was a conundrum. So much so, that every time a family member visited there was no peace—trust had been lost—who took the pillow?

Eventually, it became a story of some hilarity and anonymously-sent pillows started arriving in the mail with funny little notes… ‘the pillow returns’… ‘fluffy comes home’. Amusing at first, it became too much, even for the post office who rang with a plea.

‘What’s with all the pillows! They’re taking up too much space!’

Even the local newspaper wrote a humorous story, but in time, other more interesting stories took up the pages of the paper and everyone forgot about the missing pillow.

But not the neat little bedroom or the owners. For the truth be told, the neat little bedroom knew exactly who took the pillow—a secret it would keep forever.  

© Inara Hawley 2019

The Hold Up

Leave a comment

Inside, Joe scratched at the heat rash on his neck and looked around the bar. What a dump! No wonder the place was empty. If he didn’t need the money he’d be gone. Gone from moaning Mona. Gone from the divorce lawyers. Gone with a smile on his face and happy fag in his mouth. Yeah, that’s what he wanted right now as he sat back and closed his eyes – a smoke.

Outside, a man in a hoodie nervously shifted from foot to foot, his right eye twitching. The scar was painful today… his next dose would fix it. A dose always fixed it. He fingered the gun in his pocket, waiting for the right moment. It was three in the afternoon, but the place was dark. Perfect!

It was now or never. He charged into the bar and yelled, “Give me all your money.”

Joe’s eyes sprang open. A pistol was pointing right at him.

“Sure, sure… calm down… here ya go.” Joe emptied the till and shoved the money forward on the counter. “It’s all here.”

The pistol was now waving madly. Joe stepped back and put up his arms. “Calm down pal… calm down.”

The man in the hoodie had his head down and started stuffing the money into his pockets.

Joe squeezed his eyes shut and grimaced. God, is this how it ends? In a grimy bar. Take all the money! Just go. I’m not looking at you. I don’t want to know who you are. Just leave!

All Joe could hear was the hum and click of the ceiling fan. He cautiously opened his eyes. Out of the void a voice said, “Keep the change” as a twenty floated to the floor.

It was a voice he recognised.

Writing prompt:
A man with a nasty scar over his right eye enters a bar, points a gun and says, “Give me all your money”. He is wearing a hoodie and needs a fix badly. The bartender is on a minimum wage, getting a divorce, and badly wants a smoke. It’s three in the afternoon, but the bar is dark. A ceiling fan is pushing the hot air around, and the place smells. As the robber leaves, he drops a twenty-dollar bill on the floor and says, “Keep the change.”

© Inara Hawley 2018

A Mouse, Doubt, and a Ginger Beer

Leave a comment

Frank had to book the holiday online if he wanted to be in the competition. And, he not only wanted to be in the competition, he wanted to win.

His eyes had lit up when he saw the ad on telly. It would be the best surprise ever for Marge. She had been talking about a cruise for the last twelve months. And if he won? Well, that would be the icing on the cake. All that extra spending money!

The screen in front of him came to life. Following the instructions they had been given in computer class, Frank put his hand on the mouse and clicked on the little multi-coloured circle on the desktop. He had it all there in front of him. Step by step, in pictures – how to order and pay online.

He could hear the instructor now, ‘Frank, don’t despair. It’s easy when you get the hang of it.’

But what if he didn’t have the hang of it? What if he pressed the wrong button? What if he put in the wrong details? What if he was too slow? What if he booked the wrong cruise? What if he was still in the middle of it all when Marge got home? Frank was overwhelmed with doubt and apprehension.

‘Don’t be silly,’ he told himself. ‘You can do this Frank!’ Employing his careful one-finger typing, he put in the website address. Up popped a kaleidoscope of colours, moving pictures, and even a talking video. Staring at the screen, Frank felt more confused than ever, when he heard, ‘Hey Pops, whatcha doin’?’

It was young Clare, Frank’s granddaughter, holding up her keys, ‘Pops, you didn’t hear the door!’

‘Oh Clare, pet. You don’t know how glad I am to see you.’

Before he could say easy-peasy, Clare had done it all. Would he ever get the hang of this Googling, surfing, and ordering online? He didn’t think so. But then, he knew what he had to offer was worth much more.

Clare had come to ask for his advice.

So, on this hot summer day, it was time for a refreshing homemade ginger beer and a chat.

Writing Prompt: Three words – mouse, doubt, beer

© Inara Hawley 2017


Leave a comment

Chapter 1: Where Is it?

Amelia was frantic. She’d looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it.

Frustration was getting the better of her. ‘Where did I put it!’ she said out loud.

“For goodness sake!” she stomped her foot in exasperation.

And she’d told David about it too. He’d been waiting weeks for the letter to arrive and she had texted him from the post office the minute she had it in her hand. And now she’d lost it!

It was still in its blue envelope, somewhere. But where?

Amelia sat down, took a deep breath and backtracked her steps. It had been one of those meandering work-free days. After she’d dropped off the kids, she picked up the mail, had done a bit of shopping, gone to the coffee shop, and then to the library.

She’d put the bundle of mail into her carry bag, then gone through it at the coffee shop before she opened her book to finish it.

She closed her eyes and pictured the scene, and suddenly, remembered. It was in the library book! She’d put the letter in the book to hold it open while she checked the rest of the mail. And then without thinking, moved it to the front inside cover as she finished the last chapter. Full of satisfaction at having read a wonderful story, she then blissfully closed the book.

Glancing at her watch, Amelia grabbed her keys and headed back out to the car.

She made it with 15 minutes to spare before the library closed. Stepping up to the front desk, she tapped her fingers impatiently.

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“I dropped off a book earlier, and left a letter inside the front cover.”

“Name of the book please?”

“Pearl In A Cage by Joy Dettman.”

“Just a minute.” The librarian clicked at the keys, blinked at the screen and looked up.

“The book is out.”

“Oh no! I need that book – the letter’s in it. How can I get it?”

“Well, you can’t. Not right now. We’re about to close. I can ring the borrower tomorrow if you like and see if it’s still there.”

“No! No! No! I need it now!”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

Amelia closed her eyes and let her chin drop. How could she be such a scatter-brain, she thought as she left the library. Lost in the characters of the book, she’d returned it without a second thought.

How was she going to tell David? Driving to the local pool to pick up the kids after their swimming lessons, she tried to put it out of her mind. She would have to face the music tonight, but there wasn’t a thing she could do about it until tomorrow.

It was still warm out and the car was full of happy children-chatter, so they stopped off for ice creams all round – she needed it more than the kids! It was either that or chocolate!

And then she headed for home.

As they walked up the path to the front door, Amelia admonished herself once again for being so careless…. until…. she saw something stuck in the screen door.

It was a blue envelope.

Chapter 2: Got It!

Flooded with relief, Amelia rushed forward and grabbed the envelope that was stuck in the screen door.

“Thank God. Bless you, whoever you are!” she shouted to the heavens as she waved the envelope above her head. She had the letter in her hand – a good Samaritan had returned it. Amelia wasn’t about to lose it again. But then, just as she was dancing a little jig of triumph, she stumbled and lost her grip. At that very moment, the breezy afternoon whipped up a colossal gust, grabbed the blue missive and shot it up into the air.

“Oh no! Kids, help me!”

Amelia and her three children began twirling and jumping, trying to grab the flash of blue that was flurrying about in the wind. But to no avail. Suddenly, it lifted and off it went across the street.

“Kids! Go next door,” shouted Amelia. “I’ll go after the letter.” She knew her neighbour was home and would look after her brood.

“Mum!” Andy, her oldest yelled back. “You won’t get it – it’s too high.”

“Don’t you worry. I’ll get it,” shot back Amelia. Your Dad will kill me if I don’t, she thought, as she charged after it.

Across the street, she tore, not taking her eyes off the more and more distant speck of blue.  How can this be happening? It must be payback for my flighty ways. If I catch it, I’m going to change, she bargained with herself. Yes! She would take herself in hand. As each foot hit the ground, she spurred herself on chanting: “New me! New me! New me!”

Amelia was hoping it was slowing down a bit. And surely it was getting closer to the ground too. She was now three streets away from home, still running. But, if she had to turn the next corner, she would be on the main road. Please, no, not the main road, she thought.

She was now a touch breathless. It was hard work, this running after a speck in the sky, but she couldn’t afford to lose sight of it. David had been waiting weeks for the letter. How could she lose it twice in one day? First leaving it in the library book, and then letting it fly right out of her hand!

Amelia knew how much it meant to him – the first letter from his birth mother. It had taken years of searching. He would never forgive her if she lost it. As she turned the corner onto the main road, she saw the letter fly out into the middle of the street. She considered rushing out to stop the traffic, but thought better of it, and instead kept her eye on its floating path.

Then abruptly, it swooped back towards Amelia and straight into the leafy tall tree on the corner. Amazingly, it stayed there, wedged within the branches. I’ve got this, she thought, I’ve really got this now, she repeated as she headed towards the benches underneath the tree. And she did. As afraid as she was of heights, she climbed that tree and retrieved David’s letter.

She never did tell David about her escapade and she swore the children to secrecy. That night, she dreamt of chasing a blue speck… she is running, running, the blue speck falls into the back of a ute. Hang it, she thinks, I’m going after it. She commandeers a motorbike and takes off, her hair flying wildly in the wind. Crap, she thinks, was that a speed camera that flashed me? Not caring, she charges on, her quest thrilling her to the core.

In her dream, Amelia was last seen heading out of the city following a white ute.

Secretly, she loves her escapades.

Chapter 3: The Barefoot Fashionista

“This is going to be fabulous!”

Amelia loved her job as a stylist. Working for a magazine was a great job, but today, she was the stylist for a local fashion show. It was a charity do, but the best promotion Amelia could ever get if she was ever going to start her own business. And that’s what she wanted to do.

The air was buzzing with excitement. All the right people were in the audience.

Amelia had always had an eye for fashion. And, she knew precisely what an outfit needed – a scarf, beads, a hat or a splash of colour. That was why she was the stylist in charge of getting the models onto the runway looking exactly as they should.

One by one her girls hit the lights and did their thing. It was going like clockwork. The usual backstage chaos was humming along surprisingly smoothly. Of course, Amelia’s wardrobe assistant, Jeannie – perky, bubbly, enthusiastic little Jeannie was an absolute gem.

With hair and makeup done, it was, dress on, accessories, shoes and then out they went. The music was throbbing, the lights were flashing, and the dress rack was thinning – only three more to go, and then the finale. The show-stopper and only one model could do it – the fabulously tall Jo.

Putting the finishing touches to the last outfits, Amelia started to relax. She peered through the curtains – yes, it was going well. She was feeling more than chuffed when suddenly, a panic-stricken Jeannie rushed towards her.

“Jo isn’t here.”

“What do you mean, Jo isn’t here?”

“She’s not here yet, I haven’t seen her.”

“Jeannie, why didn’t you tell me? She needs to be here now!” Amelia could feel herself getting hot. She couldn’t afford anything to go wrong. She was depending on this show.

But the seconds were ticking and no Jo. How could Amelia not have noticed she was missing? Because Jeannie was so organised, that’s why, and Amelia depended on her to get the models into their dresses.

“I am so sorry. I was so busy, I didn’t notice.”

None of the other models fitted into the show-stopper.

“Oh God! What am I going to do?”

Be calm! Be calm! Amelia told herself. There has, to be an answer.

“Amelia, you could do it.”


“You’re the same size, and you’re tall enough.”


“Amelia, listen to me – you can do it, you have to do it.”

“But my hair!”

“I’ll fluff it.”

“But makeup? There’s no time.”

“Just lipstick.”

“Oh, My God! There’s no time.”

“Quick, here… put it on.”

The dress slid on like magic. A glittering sheath of beauty. Oh, how wonderful it felt!

“Sit down.”

Jeannie went to work on Amelia’s hair. She ripped out the clip and let Amelia’s blond locks fall loose. Oh, yes, this will be easy. She put a loose comb through it and grabbed the hairspray.

“Bend down, let your hair fall forward,” said Jeannie, already spraying madly.

When Amelia put her head up, she couldn’t believe it. Her hair was fluffed and really, quite spectacular. She rummaged through the lipsticks. Yes, there it was. The bright red. That’s the one.

She looked at herself. Not bad. Not bad at all. Only two minutes to show time. Amelia reached for the shoes. Oh, no, no, no! They didn’t fit. Amelia’s feet were too big.

“What next!”

“Bare feet, that’s what,” declared Jeannie

Looking around wildly, Amelia’s eyes fell on a long sheer scarf. Bright red, just like her lipstick. Yes, the perfect thing to trail along the floor.

“Thank God I painted my toenails this morning!”

Red lips, red scarf, red toenails, fluffed hair – it would have to do.

She grabbed the scarf, fluffed her hair for confidence, looked down at her big feet with the fabulously painted toes and knew she was ready.

The music cued. Amelia straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, mentally crossed her fingers and out she went.

The finale was a huge success. And ‘darling, wasn’t it just marvellous how the stylist wore the show-stopper’. Amelia’s talent was duly, noted and some even started calling her the ‘Barefoot Fashionista’.

Her business as a personal stylist had begun.

Chapter 4: Amelia’s Lucky Day

Amelia was feeling on top of the world. She was almost skipping along as she headed for work. This was her last day.

The magazine had been a great training ground, but Amelia was ready to take the leap. Her stylist business, The Barefoot Fashionista was on its way, and today, at midday she was hopefully signing up her first big client – Maggie Barker, an up and coming actress.

Amelia was ready, willing, and able, and she couldn’t wait!

She was bouncing along happily as she thought of the meeting. She was smiling at everyone she passed. As she got closer to the office, she waved to the pop-up coffee shop owners and to the sales girl from the boutique next door. She sidestepped the courier who was delivering parcels, and as she was about to walk through the front door, she noticed the camera crew further up the street. Wonder what that’s all about, she thought.

Life was good and everything was going exactly as it should be. Even the sun was shining.

The morning passed uneventfully. Amelia was handing over the last bits and pieces to the new girl, recruited from fashion school. She remembered when she started and how daunting the magazine was. She looked at the clock…. 11.30 a.m. Not long to go.

They were meeting at Maggie’s flat, not too far away. It should only take 10 minutes to get there, so she had fifteen minutes up her sleeve before she had to leave. Maggie had slotted Amelia into her tight schedule so she couldn’t afford to be late. She quietly gathered together the personal portfolio she had prepared for Maggie so she could scoot out the door quickly. She hadn’t made it public knowledge that she had a meeting and didn’t want anyone asking questions. After all, she hadn’t clinched the deal yet.

Satisfied, she was giving herself a big mental tick for organisation – not always her best strength. Just as she was about to leave Amelia noticed Bev, the head secretary purposefully hurrying towards her.

“Just popping out for lunch Bev.”

“Could you spare a minute,” Bev said, as she steered Amelia towards the Board Room.

“Can’t this wait.”

“No, not today,” said Bev, as they reached the door.

Bev stepped forward, opened the door and there stood at least 20 people – all with a glass of champagne in their hand. Amelia was stunned. This was the last thing she expected. The magazine was not one of those girly friendly places. It had been all work, work, work in the five years that she had been there. Deadlines and pressure didn’t make for a chatty social environment, but here, in front of her were all the important people, and even some of her clients – all, holding their glass of bubbly.

Surrounded by happy faces, Amelia couldn’t think of a thing to say. She couldn’t run and she couldn’t stay. She needed to get to a phone and she needed to do it quickly, but the minutes ticked by as she walked around with a smile plastered on her face.

“Thank you. This is so thoughtful.”

Tick, tick, tick.

Fifteen minutes later she was in a loo cubicle with a mobile in her hand, but Maggie wasn’t answering. She heard the door to the ladies open.

“Amelia, are you in here?”

“Yep, be out in a sec.”

“The boss wants you.”

Oh geez, what now!

Andrea waved her arm as Amelia walked back into the boardroom. There was no way she could escape the boss. She would just have to keep ducking out and ringing.

Fifteen minutes later, and Maggie still wasn’t answering.

Amelia looked at the clock. 12.30, and just as she was about to make her excuses, food trollies were wheeled into the room. Oh, I give up, she thought. I will try Maggie once more, and if she doesn’t answer, I’m going to relax and enjoy this.  Maggie didn’t answer and Amelia did relax, and she enjoyed herself immensely.

Much later, after she’d tidied her desk for the last time, and was heading down the street towards home, she saw the film crew up ahead. Right in the middle was Maggie. She had seen Amelia walking towards them, and was smiling.

Maggie had been called away to her shoot much earlier than she had expected and had turned off her phone. She’d left a note on her door.

All was well.

The Barefoot Fashionista’s reputation was intact.

© Inara Hawley 2017

Chapter 1 Prompt:
The character needs a particular book from the library
Chapter 2 Prompt:
The main character does something selfless that makes his or her life more difficult
Chapter 3 Prompt:
Create a two-level problem for your main character
Chapter 4 Prompt:
Create a ticking clock situation for the main character who has an appointment and can’t be late.


Putting it Out There

Leave a comment

I can’t help myself, thought Nina. Never could keep anything to myself.

But this time she was doing it on purpose. After her chatty cuppa with Annie, Nina knew she would tell Jean, and Jean would, of course, tell her husband Dave. And Dave, always a good talker after a few beers, would hopefully tell Jim.

With any luck, it would be as easy as that. Nina knew Jim was planning something, but she wanted something special. After all, it was her fortieth birthday, and what she wanted most of all, was a few days away. One of those fancy overnight stays. It didn’t matter to where really. Just want to be looked after and pampered for a bit. No cooking, no washing, no bed making.

The kids could be easily organised. And Dave and his mates could look after the animals. So, easy to organise. So very easy. She’d given enough clues. Raved about how she’d love it. Had the magazine open. Pages and pages of holiday places. Shared all the pictures with Annie. Did her very best. Even talked about it to Jean afterwards as well.

Now for the wait. Her birthday was a few weeks away, but plenty of time. Jim wasn’t much for celebrating birthdays, and as he never asked, she never said. But her wish was out there, floating, ready to come true.

In the intervening weeks, Nina tried to put it out of her mind. No point in worrying, but lots of point in hoping. So, she did just that – dreamed and hoped.

The day arrived. A perfect day. Sunny, a slight breeze. She woke with a smile on her face.

Jim rolled over and gave her a quick birthday peck, and he was off. A busy day ahead of him. She understood. But there was tonight. He’d said to be ready at seven, and to dress.

It had to be a candlelight dinner – not too many of those in her life these days. And then over desert, the gift. She was sure that’s how it would go.

When Jim walked Nina into the private room of the best restaurant in town, a cheer erupted.

‘Surprise!’ roared the crowd.

A party. She was getting a surprise party. So, that was it. Looking at all those happy faces, how could she feel disappointed. But a part of her did feel a small stab.

Then came the speeches. Sincere words from good friends, lovely friends. That’s how it was in a small town. And then it was Jim’s turn. A man of few words, he said what he had to say, and then with a big grin, handed her an envelope.

She opened it. Her eyes widened – a booking voucher for a weekend at the Hydro Majestic. Tears welled, vision blurred for a moment. Jim looked at her with love and she looked right back at him with just as much love.

Tomorrow, she would have to cancel the reservation she had made… the just-in-case reservation. But tonight, tonight was a night for wishes that come true.

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘I can’t help myself’.

© Inara Hawley 2016

A Beautiful Thing

Leave a comment

The vase is a beautiful thing, thought Jeannie. Tall and green. Of course, she could not see it as well as she would have liked as it was so high up, but she was sure it would be just right.

Jeannie furrowed her brow as she looked up. She had noticed it last night as she lay in bed, examining the ornate ceiling. Just the top of it was peeking out. So green and inviting, her curiosity was peaked. Why was it sitting on top of the wardrobe where no one could see it? Jeannie thought it was far too lovely to be hidden away. Nanny must have forgotten about it. And Jeannie was sure of the reason. It was because she didn’t have any flowers.

Of course, Nanny was too busy to pick flowers. She had to feed the horses, the pigs, and the chickens. Not like at home where Mummy had lots of flowers and vases full in almost every room. Jeannie loved helping her mother with the flowers, and being almost ten, she considered herself a bit of an expert. She knew exactly how to hold the clippers and where to cut, from the bottom of the stem, and to do it on an angle.

Today, though, she didn’t need any clippers, or Mummy’s help either for that matter. Nanny’s kitchen scissors would do, and today, Jeannie was going to do it all by herself.

She could see her grandmother out of the bedroom window. A tiny figure way down the paddock with a bucket, feeding the horses. Now was the perfect, time. After a quick detour to the kitchen to get the scissors, Jeannie headed out the back door in the opposite direction. Oh, this was going to be so good! Jeannie was sure Nanny would love the surprise. After all, everyone loved flowers and Jeannie knew exactly where to find some.

Trudging through the long swaying paddock grass always put a smile on Jeannie’s face. The wind gently pushed it this way and that. She felt as if she was in the middle of a magic carpet as she walked, her fingers dancing across the top of the grass. It only took a few minutes to get to the patch of colour. So, beautiful! Nanny would be pleased.

Back in the kitchen with an armful of blooms, it was time to get the vase. Jeannie had it all planned. She put the flowers on the kitchen table, then pulled the small steps out from the pantry and carried them into the bedroom. Covered in paint splats she loved Nanny’s sturdy old steps. A bit like the magic carpet, until you folded them out, you wouldn’t know the little steps were there, so artfully were they made.

Unfolding them against the wardrobe, Jeannie began her climb. She held onto the door handles as she pulled herself up. On tiptoes, she reached. A bit higher. Yes! Got it! She was oh so careful. Holding the vase to her chest with one hand, she grabbed the wardrobe handle with the other to steady herself. Bit by bit, down she came as she found each step, letting out a big sigh of relief when her foot found the floor.

Now, to get the flowers in the vase and where to put it. Jeannie had thought about that for quite a while. The best place she decided was the kitchen table. So, that’s what she did. With all the flowers in and the vase filled with water from the kettle, she carefully pushed her masterpiece into the centre of the table. Then she looked down at the scissors. Not so clean. That, and getting the steps back into the pantry, would have to be a job for Nanny.

All was ready. Jeannie was beside herself with joy and excitement. Any minute now Nanny would walk through the door. And when she did, she found her sweet granddaughter beaming from ear-to-ear, standing next to the horrible old green vase filled with the next job on her list…. the weed of all weeds, Paterson’s Curse!

Writing prompt: Three words – vase, bucket, curiosity

© Inara Hawley 2016

Writing Prompts

Leave a comment

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘I’ll be late tonight’

“I’ll be late tonight.”

She didn’t know why she said it. No one heard her. No one really cared. But she cared.

Tonight was special; she needed to mark the event. Saying it aloud marked its importance – stamped it into the universe as the ending and the beginning that it was. She took one last look at her apartment and closed the door. Later, when she returned she would be different. She would have cemented her purpose for today, the next day and all the days to follow.

When she arrived, she looked at the entrance – a simple doorway. She put her shoulders back and stepped across the threshold. She climbed the stairs and entered the room. It was filled with people. The AA meeting had begun.

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘Wind howled down the chimney’

Wind howled down the chimney

There was no way he was going out tonight in this storm. No way at all. It was too wild. That, of course, was if no one knocked on his door. He was after all, on call.

So, it was with a hopeful intent that he settled by the portable lantern to read. With the power outage, there was nothing else to do. Just wait it out. It would all be over by morning.

He looked up at the clock, the usual loud ticking drowned out by the howling wind. It was still early, but maybe he should put his book down and get some sleep. He picked up his lantern and headed towards the bedroom, when suddenly, there was a loud banging on the door.

No! No! No!

He walked towards it with a resigned sigh and opened it, shielding his face from the gust of wind rushing towards him. He moved his hand, and there before him, stood his neighbour peering out from behind a woolly coat.

Holding up a basket of bread and cheese, the huge smile on her face said it all – one shouldn’t be alone on a night like this.

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘I remember her from school’

I remember her from school. My God! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

What was she doing? And why was she doing it all by herself? It was Ellen – definitely! Plain, little Ellen Barret, gyrating in the middle of the dance floor amidst the swirling lights and pulsating music. I recognised her immediately.

The club was dark and empty. I appeared to be the first to have arrived for the cabaret. Was she drunk so early in the evening? How embarrassing, dancing alone like that! Thank God, I wasn’t such an exhibitionist!

I wondered if I should get out there and save her.

But the more I watched, the more I realised that she was doing rather a good job of it. Her moving and grooving wasn’t bad at all. So, I sat and waited. I wanted to see how this would end.

And then the music stopped.

There was a sudden rush of people to the dance floor. Clapping and cheering. What was this? Then I heard, “Well done! You’ve the job.”

Writing Prompt: Start with ‘Golden dawn came’

Golden dawn came. It was a long night, but oh such a wonderful night. The lights so mellow, the weather so warm, the music so beautiful.

It had all worked out just as she planned. Gavin had picked her up early and dropped her off at the hairdresser. Everything had to be perfect – her hair, her makeup, her very special blousy dress that hid a multitude of sins. After all, this was a very important night.

As the event organiser, she wanted it to be perfect. She only ever did one event for any organisation and then she moved on. Her reputation was at stake.

And everything did go perfectly.

All the wealthy guests came down from their sumptuous hotel rooms, glorious in their finery. Preening like peacocks. Not long into the evening, she could see it was a huge success. As they all glided around the dance floor, she took a break. An hour, that’s all she needed and she was back, smiling and weaving through the crowd. By the time the last group of guests departed, she knew it was her best event ever.

As she looked out across the sea at the rising sun, many, many, miles from the hotel, waiting for her dyed hair to dry and listening to Gavin quietly snoring in the motel bedroom, she smiled at the bag in the corner. Yes, it was her best haul ever.

Writing Prompt: HAIKU using ‘Dangerous’ 
A Haiku is 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

Rose so beautiful
enticing and alluring
but dangerous thorns

© Inara Hawley 2016

Freddie’s Prize

Leave a comment

Freddie was tense. He looked at his watch. The glowing dial told him he only had five minutes.

He was determined to do it. This time he would make it! The tower in front of him was flickering with lights. How was he ever going to get to the top without being seen? The trick was to know when the lights flicked off. There was a rhythm to it. He was sure of it. Just relax, he said to himself… just relax.

His moment came and he was away. Freddie lurched and spun, he raced and jumped, his heart thumping all the while. Half way there. Up and up. Suddenly, the last set of stairs were right there in front of him. He took a deep breath and jumped. Made it!

Only a few more steps. And suddenly, there it was – the prize. Numbers flashed, lights buzzed. Level 103 was won.

‘Freddie! Dinner,’ came a call from downstairs.

Freddie shut his laptop. His alter ego would have to wait. He was hungry.

Writing prompt: Three words – tower, watch, ego

(c) Inara Hawley 2016

The Pearl Brooch

Leave a comment

When Anna heard the voice on the other end of the line she was instantly alert.

“Sorry to ring so late, but I have something for you,” he said. “An address in Esterbridge.”

Her heart leapt. This is what she had been waiting for. Hiring a private investigator was the last thing she thought she would ever do, but there was something very comforting, even liberating, about handing it over to someone who knew what they were doing, especially after years of fruitless searching.

“Esterbridge,” Anna said to herself thoughtfully. Amazingly, not that far away, and she had three whole days to herself to explore the possibilities. Suddenly, she was wide awake. If she left now she could be there by morning. Within half an hour her bag was packed and she was on the highway heading west.

She lost track of time somewhere in the middle of the night. A heightened sense of the task ahead had kept her awake and thinking.

Anna couldn’t remember the time when she had been part of her family. Her earliest memories were clouded in smells and noises that belonged to the hospital. There were vague faces connected to ever changing people who seemed to bustle around without ever really stopping. Then came the Home. A child with injuries wasn’t on the top of anyone’s list for adoption. But Anna learned quickly, and she not only survived, she thrived. She had made a good life for herself, even mapped out her future, and today was part of filling in the map of her past.

As she drove through the bright sunny morning Anna was suddenly overcome with tiredness, and as luck would have it, over the next rise she saw a roadhouse. Even though she was only an hour from Esterbridge, Anna knew she had to take a break and hoped the place would be open. She pulled over and parked next to a snazzy-looking old Ford, and eased her stiff body out of the car. She glanced up at the sign: ‘Harry’s Roadhouse’, and saw that it was indeed open. Must be a truck stop, she thought. It looked surprisingly new as she stepped into the coolness of the building. She was struck by the décor of the place. It was an instant reminder of her childhood … lino floor, stark white walls, laminate tables, fluorescent lights, and ceiling fans. These country places never change, thought Anna as she chose a booth by the window and looked around for the waitress.

Within a minute she heard a door swing, and a young girl with short bobbed hair and an apron was handing her a plastic covered menu. The waitress beamed a smile and waited. As Anna ordered a toasted sandwich and a much-needed cup of tea, she noticed a couple sitting in the far corner booth. They were in a world of their own young, and very much in love. She watched them with interest. The woman was dark haired, like Anna, and her young man was thin and fair. Both were both dressed rather stylishly for country dwellers – the woman in a smart tailored dress with a golden brooch at her collar and the man in a light double breasted suit. Even though Anna was captivated by their joy and thought perhaps they too were going on a special journey, her mind turned back to her own mission. A childhood longing welled up as she thought about what she might find. Eager to continue, she finished her sandwich and with the last mouthfuls of tea, watched the young couple leave arm-in-arm, get into the old Ford and drive off in the opposite direction.

As she stepped out into the bright sun again Anna squinted and lowered her eyes. A shiny object by the car caught her eye, and she moved to pick it up. “Why it’s a brooch!” she said aloud. It was really beautiful with a lovely pearl setting. She turned it over… ‘To my Betsy with love always Ted’. It must belong to the woman, thought Anna. She looked up and saw that the couple were gone and there was no chance of catching them. Anxious to get going she decided it would have to wait and put the brooch into her pocket. She would deal with it on her way back. For the moment her mind was only on what lay ahead.

Anna drove slowly as she turned into the main street of Esterbridge. So this was it, the place where her parents had lived before they moved to Sydney. Now that she was here, she was bursting with anticipation. Surely there would be someone in Esterbridge who remembered them, and she knew exactly where to look first. She parked the car in front of the old church and hurried in through the open doors. With fingers crossed, she hoped to find a nice elderly cleric who knew everyone in town. And as she looked down the aisle, there he was – sorting prayer books near the front pew.

Full of confidence she walked briskly down the aisle, and without waiting, extended her hand, “Hello, my name is Anna Watson,’ she said quickly. ‘I’m looking for information about my parents, Lilibeth and Edwin Watson, who lived here in….” But before Anna could finish, the minister raised his hand, took her by the elbow, calmly guided her to a seat, and in a quiet voice said, “Now young lady, let’s start again. I’m Reverend Allen, what is it that I can do for you?”

Anna took a deep breath, and slowly said, “My parents lived here for a few years before they moved to Sydney. I was orphaned as a baby and know nothing about them. There was no family, you see, and I’d be grateful for any information. Anything at all. Apparently, my mother worked here as a teacher. Do you think anyone still living here might remember them?”

“Now, let… me… see…” he said thoughtfully. He looked up and gave Anna a smile. “Well, yes, maybe there is. I think you should have a chat with old Mrs. Bromley. Her mind wanders a bit, but her memory is as sharp as ever about the old days.” He looked at his watch. “In fact, you’ll find her at the Church Hall, just around the corner. The ladies are getting ready for their weekly morning tea. I’m sure she’d be happy to talk to you.”

Just around the corner! Anna couldn’t leave fast enough. She thanked the minister and hurried off. Within minutes she was at the Church Hall. She poked her head through the door and looked around at the ladies carrying plates and cups. She wondered which one was Mrs. Bromley. After a few discreet inquiries, she found her sitting at a small table waiting for a cup of tea.

“Hello, Mrs. Bromley. My name is Anna Watson. May I speak with you?”

“Yes dear, of course, you can.”

“I’ve just been talking to Reverend Allen and he thought you might be able to help me.” Anna spoke slowly and deliberately, “I’m looking for information about a couple who lived here a long time ago. Lilibeth and Edwin Watson. I wonder if you might remember them?”

As Anna sat down, old Mrs. Bromley’s watery eyes came to life at the prospect of a chat.

“Watson you say, Lilibeth Watson?” Mrs. Bromley responded. Suddenly a spark of recognition lit up her face. “Oh, yes dear… I do remember her. That was Betsy, worked at the local school… clever little thing… married to young Ted Watson.”

Anna felt as if she’d been hit by a bolt of lightning. Her mind was racing. “Betsy, did you say? Betsy and Ted?” said Anna, incredulously.

“Yes, dear, I remember them very well,” she repeated. “Betsy loved to write letters. No family, either of them. Always kept in touch when they moved to Sydney… but tragic dear, so tragic… both killed in a car accident you know, only the child survived. Badly hurt, poor little mite with no family… taken into care you know…” she trailed off.

Anna’s heart was beating so hard she couldn’t speak. The pearl brooch! She pulled it from her pocket and stared at the inscription… ‘To my Betsy with love always Ted’.

“But… but, the roadhouse, Harry’s Roadhouse?” stammered Anna.

“The roadhouse? Harrison’s old place? Closed dear, been closed for years….”

© Inara Hawley 1996