Runner Up: Claire Bennett
Coffee with a Colleague
She’d not really slept the night before, thoughts of the morning running through her mind.
She supposed she couldn’t really refuse his invitation and on the face of it, it was only coffee with a colleague, coffee with a colleague. Her mind ran over and over the phrase like some sort of mantra to help keep her anxiety at bay. Weeks of private smiles in meetings, accidental run-ins in the kitchen, graduating to the forwarding on of corporate emails, adding in commentary and recommendations of favourite books and music.
It made her feel excited in a nervy way and try as she might to keep her composure, she found her mouth fixed with a permanent smile for hours afterwards. There was an undercurrent to it all though, and that was what had kept her from sleep. Why was she feeling this oh-so- recognisable feeling about a man 30 years her senior, a man she wouldn’t look at twice if he tried to catch her eye on the tube?
Runner Up: Jennifer Harvey
This Fantastic, Incomparable, Instagrammable Life
Here, let me show you how it’s done. It’s all in the polish and the presentation. Nothing is too dull. Everything can shine and glisten. Even a life like your own.
No, trust me, it’s true. I can take your drudgery and spin it into gold.
Like this morning, when you woke feeling listless and emptied from a dreamless sleep? We can fill that space with aspiration. All you need to do, is imagine, believe, dream.
Ready? Okay, then tell me, what you see.
A room, morning bright, air filled with the oily aroma of coffee, table set with care and attention. Spoons polished. Napkins folded. A flower. And two cups. In this place you are not alone. The days begin with little rituals of affection, and life stretches ahead with such promise.
An illusion you say? Perhaps. But the dream is yours and who’s to say what’s real or imagined. Look, here, take it. Hold it to the light, turn it this way and that. See how it sparkles, how it shines. How it makes you smile.
You feel it don’t you? A flutter inside. Happiness? Yes, let’s call it that. And though it is fleeting, it fills you all the same. And your longing, is now your reality.
Believe. Imagine. Dream.
And hold on to the illusion. Face the world with a glow of perfection. They will never know. Because there you are, and they see you now, fantastic, incomparable.
And happy, oh so happy.
Winner: Anstey Harris
This is Me
Five pairs of hands bustle in. One to take the jug from her before there is a chance of the coffee splashing onto her skin. Two to thrust cushions under her wrists lest those hands land awkwardly somewhere or snag on an unseen menace.
‘It’s not just the hands,’ says her entry in Spotlight. ‘The wrists, the angle of bone and sinew, the skin tone: there are so many reasons Jennifer Dunn’s hands are THE hands.’ So many reasons her hands are insured for ten million dollars, so many reasons that no one ever touches her except with – real – kid gloves.
Her assistants – Maureen and Joe – hold the gloves and, mechanically, she slips each slender finger into place. Joe doesn’t look up. Maureen doesn’t ask about her life, what she’s been doing. Everyone in the studio concentrates on Jennifer’s matchless hands.
If Maureen had asked, Jennifer might have told her about the man who moved in across the hall yesterday: how he looked at her, really looked. How the constant cloak of loneliness she wears shifted, slipped slightly, gaped.
There is a big green bin outside Jennifer’s block. She drops the gloves in, one at a time, and knocks on his door.
‘Hi’ he says and his eyes trace the scar under her eye, note the missing hair above her left ear. He smiles.
‘I forgot to get your number,’ she says.
‘Easy,’ he says. He lifts her hand and writes – a tattooed promise – across her perfect skin.
Well! What a welcome back! Congratulations to Anstey, Jennifer and Claire. And a huge thank you to everyone who sent in a story — every last one was completely brilliant. Have wonderful weekends everyone, and we’ll be back next Friday at the slightly earlier time of 9:50 am.
For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.