Knitting for Leo – A Short Story

We’d like to thank Alex Grey of the UK for her touching short story “Knitting for Leo”.

After a lifetime of writing technical non-fiction, Alex Grey is fulfilling her dream of writing poems and stories that engage the reader’s emotions. Her ingredients for contentment are narrowboating, greyhounds, singing and chocolate – it’s a sweet life. Her poems and short stories have been published by a number of ezines including Siren’s Call, Raconteur and Toasted Cheese. One of her comic poems is also available via a worldwide network of public fiction dispensers managed by publisher Short Edition. Alex is not a mum, but she works in healthcare and this story comes from her compassion for the women who have shared their lives with her over the years.

You can read Alex’s blog HERE

Note: this story mentions still birth and is a work of fiction and not based on any identifiable individual.

This page contains affiliate links which may earn me a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you. 

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Rustic Reclaimed Wood Tea Light Holders

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Knitting For Leo

My mother taught me to knit. 

Back then, knitting was a necessity, not some artisan craft like it is today. She would get patterns from Women’s magazines and cheap wool from the market. She knitted my clothes – sweaters, cardigans, even skirts. I was the eldest. As soon as I could hold a pair of needles, I was knitting booties for my baby brother and sister. 

I got married in 1969, when you could buy wool in every colour that you could imagine. I was eighteen, but I already knew how to keep a house. Calum worked long hours, keen to get on in his career and be a good provider. I had a part-time job in our local greengrocers. In the evenings, we’d sit by the fire in our terraced house. It was before we had a television, so we’d talk about the future, about the children that we’d have. I’d knit and he’d do the crossword in the newspaper. I knitted tank tops for him to wear to work – he had a different one for every day of the month.  Years later he admitted that he got teased by the other juniors. But my Calum was a hard worker, and the teasing stopped when he kept getting promoted. 

Calum was already a manager by the time I fell pregnant. Lucky that he had enough tank tops, because as soon as I started to show I stopped knitting for him. I bought some new wool, all soft pastel yellow and lilac, and started knitting for the baby. My friends said it was bad luck to knit for the baby too soon, but I wanted to be ready. 

I thought I must be carrying a boy, a footballer judging by the kicking. Calum was very modern, he liked to lie by my side with his hand on my bump, feeling every movement. The basket I kept in the new nursery soon filled with clothes – judging by the size of the bump he was going to be a whopper. I started getting nervous about giving birth, but the midwife said I was young and had nothing to worry about.

The kicking stopped when I was 37 weeks. 

I remember that night – I slept for 8 hours, my longest sleep since I fell pregnant. I woke up all rested and, for a minute, everything seemed fine, but my bump did not wake up with me. I begged for my baby to start kicking again, but he was still. The hospital induced the birth, I had to go through it, but they knew it was all for nothing. I caught a glimpse of him before they wrapped him in a towel and swept him away. He looked so perfect, like he was sleeping. I wanted to hold him, but they said it was better for me not to see him, to move on quickly, a strong young girl like me could try again soon enough, these things happened.

There was no death certificate because he had never lived. Yet in our hearts, he was always Leo, due in August, our fierce little lion who almost made it.

We carried our grief out of the hospital door and swaddled it with our hopes in the little basket of baby clothes I’d knitted. I burned them all.

Of course, we tried again and within the year we had a beautiful baby girl; two years later, our son was born. I stopped knitting. Honestly, who has time to knit with two young children and a husband working all hours? 

Late at night, though, I’d hear Calum sobbing quietly beside me and knew he’d never got over losing Leo, just as I’d never got over the feeling that my knitting had cursed our firstborn. There was no emery board that could remove the festering hangnail of our hidden grief. 

Calum lived long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle and to stand shoulder to shoulder with his son when he was wed. When our first grandchild was born, I realised that I had not seen Calum smile like that since the day that I first fell pregnant and our future had sparkled with undimmed hope.  

I brooded on it after Calum’s funeral, how his poor heart had flexed with grief and joy, like the metal fatigue in those planes that crashed, destroyed by a hidden stress.

It was then I decided to tell my children about Leo. They didn’t know, you see, because we didn’t talk about these things back then. They were…surprising. They cried, but with relief, they said they had always felt that there was something, someone, missing. We had Leo’s name carved onto Calum’s headstone and I started to knit again.

I live with my daughter now. I have a lovely apartment with plenty of space for my comfy recliner chair. I have everything I need, a TV, my knitting needles and a pile of wool given to me by kind donors. It’s all colours and textures, but that doesn’t matter. Once I picked up the needles again, my fingers remembered the old patterns, so I can sit here watching my favourite shows while I make babygro’s, bootees and cute berets to keep the babies’ heads warm. 

My daughter knocks on my door.

“Mum, the driver’s here.”

“That’s fine love, I’ve got a load ready for him.”

I hand her a neatly wrapped box, the label says “Knitting for Leo” along with a charity registration number. This batch is going to our local hospital, but I send parcels to maternity units all over the country. You see, Leo’s charity got quite big once my daughter mentioned it on the internet. We must have over a hundred volunteer knitters now, each with their own sad tale to tell. 

I knit tiny clothes that would fit a doll, or a baby born too soon and too still. I finish each little outfit with a ribbon and put it in the basket by my side. I imagine how parents will take these tiny clothes and dress their stillborn babies. They will hold their precious bodies, take photographs. In that moment, the quiet infants will become part of their families forever.

I raise a cup of tea to the dead who never lived.

You never lived, but you were loved. Rest easy my son.



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The Scent of Innocence: A Flash Fiction Story

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We’d like to thank Kim Hart for her flash fiction story ‘The Scent of Innocence’. A heart-wrenching tale about remembering a son after his passing.

Kim Hart is a writer who enjoys writing drabbles, micro-fiction, flash fiction, short stories, and screenplays. She loves reading mystery novels and hopes to write one someday. She is a mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to a 3-year-old grandson, who lives too far away. She lives in the Snowy Mountains with her husband and German Shepard cross, Kody.

When Kim isn’t writing, she can be found walking to her local coffee shop for a much-needed chai latte, or in front of her T.V. watching crime dramas, renovation shows and baking competitions.

You can follow Kim on twitter at @kimh8765

Photo by Fabrice Nerfin on Unsplash

This page contains affiliate links that may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you click through and make a purchase. Affiliate links are how I keep this blog running, thank you!


Emma knew there were 11 children in the cemetery. She had counted. She needed to know she wasn’t alone in her suffering. Sometimes she wondered what their stories were, how their families were coping. She never saw anyone at their graves. Did nobody love them anymore? Were they lonely? Occasionally a toy would appear, leaning against a headstone, but she seemed to be the only parent who visited her child regularly. Would she ever stop coming?

Jacob’s headstone bore a crescent moon above his name. They had always ended each day with a chorus of ‘Love you to the moon and back’. Night-time had been their special time. After the chaos of the day, they’d settle on his bed and read; his pirate doona pulled up to his chin and Charlie bear tucked in safely beside him. Emma would breathe in the fresh scent of him as she read. Cuddles were given freely, no big boy embarrassment like at preschool drop-off. He had taken to shaking her hand the weeks before his passing. She had thought it was cute but longed to feel his little body pressed against hers. The warmth sustained her through her long days without him.

Now here she was missing everything; the warm cuddles, the soft handshakes, the whispered words before bedtime, the smell of his hair.

Emma took the store-bought flowers from her basket. A fresh bunch every week replaced the dry, drooping ones from the week before. A spider had made his home in last week’s bunch, weaving his intricate web between the leaves and petals. Dewdrops shimmered like magic diamonds between the strands. She’d take the spider home and put him in her garden. Jacob would like that. He had always loved animals, especially insects. It drove her to distraction finding bugs in boxes beneath his bed, and she was never allowed to kill anything that had made its way inside her home. She relocated everything.

“Hello there. Lovely day,” a groundskeeper said to her as he tended a nearby rose bush. Emma smiled and nodded, unable to return the pleasantry. She worried if she started talking, even to say hello, she would start crying—again. The well of tears never seemed to dry up. The only time she had been unable to cry was at his funeral service. She had been numb from head to toe, as if she was floating above the scene, watching another’s tragedy playing out like a tableau beneath her.

She took a bottle of water from her basket and filled the vase cemented to the little grave. She’d paid extra for that. She trimmed the stalks of the flowers she had brought— yellow roses and white carnations today—with scissors from her kitchen. Yellow was Jacob’s favourite colour. The ritual was almost complete. Emma said a silent prayer to a God she no longer believed in, gathered her things and began the long, lonely, silent trip home.




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Robbery: A Micro Story


A short and sweet story about the meaningful things we allow our children to steal from us.

Fiona M. Jones is a regular contributor to Mum Life Stories, some of her titles include ‘Mud‘ & ‘Tiny Green Apples‘. She is a part-time teacher, a parent and a spare-time writer, with work recently published by Folded Word, Buckshot Magazine and Silver Pen.

She is also one of the judges for our Micro Fiction Competition.

She lives with her husband and 2 sons (aged 15 & 17) in Fife, Scotland, where she works, writes & ministers. You can read more about Fiona here, in her Mum Life Success Story.

You can also follow Fiona on Twitter or Linkedin


You are hereby charged with the following diminutive crimes and shall be called upon to make recompense if guilty.

Firstly you stole my heart: you cuted me out and bent me insistently to your will until I found myself lying on the floor, playing with your toys and speaking your language.

You stole food off my plate. Time after time I wondered where the butter had gone—and wondered how you had grown so tubby.

You pilfered my fluffiest jumpers to make yourselves nests. You took my scarf to pull your snow-sledge. You commandeered Daddy’s watches to wear proudly on your arms, and you appropriated my pink bed-socks to dress your teddy bears.

You removed hair-clips from my head for miniature mediaeval weaponry, and ruined my kitchen scissors for whatever you were doing in the garage. You took my best silver ink-pen to write stories about seals and spaceships. You committed fraud, declaring at random intervals that your toys were having a birthday and I had to give out presents.

And, for my part, I have abstracted a hundred crayoned works of art and a hundred misspelled masterpieces of literature. I have stashed my swag in a cupboard you know nothing about, and I treasure them as mine.

Case withdrawn.

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Dreams & Wishes: A Short Story


Here’s a story I wrote for a short story competition that had a ‘travel’ theme. I tried to be a little more creative than simply having my character ‘travel’ somewhere in the conventional way. It has a magical touch to it, but it’s primarily an adventure!

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Dreams and Wishes

Someone once told her that if dreams and wishes were dollars and cents, she’d be a very wealthy woman by now. Their words were intended as a reprimand, but she embraced the sentiment and endeavoured to turn her dreams and wishes into a reality, a reality that would in turn bring forth the metaphorical dollars and…

   Deanna ceased typing and peered curiously over the upper edge of her laptop screen, her fingers lingering over the silver buttons of the keyboard. Two bewildered brown eyes glared back at her. She didn’t even have to investigate the scene to know there was a pool of dark grey water heading rapidly toward her one piece of sanity in this world, Miss 3’s expression said it all.

With skilful speed, Deanna snatched her laptop up into the air, just in time to see the tiny tsunami rushing across the wooden surface of the family dining table and cascading over the edge onto her crisp white skirt. She sat with well-practiced patience as the cold liquid soaked through the thick cotton and dribbled down her thigh, through the back of her skirt and onto the wooden surface of the dining chair. She secretly congratulated herself on her wise foresight in buying child-resistant dining furniture but quietly chastised herself for wearing her one piece of new clothing anywhere near said child.

“oopsie.” Her little brunette progeny was also well-practiced, in the art of subtle manipulation, projecting innocence with her tone and evoking sympathy with a furrowing of her small adorable brow.

“Quick, go grab a rag to clean this up and please use your own table for painting next time Bree, this is exactly why I bought it.” Deanna carefully stood up, streams of paint-filled water running down her leg onto the laminate flooring, she rolled her eyes as she anticipated the half hour clean-up process that would steal precious writing time. As she shuffled over to the island bench to relocate her laptop she heard the hungry cries of the newest addition to the clan bellowing from the monitor on the bench. Frustration ensued as she rushed to get dried and changed before attending to the baby.

Writing had always been a passion of Deanna’s. As a young child, she would spend copious hours jotting down adventure stories in her notebook. She even won a short story writing competition in school and was encouraged by her teacher to dream big and chase a writing career. However, life had unexpectedly changed trajectory when she was hit with an unforeseen misfortune. Her parents, whilst on a short-term mission trip, were tragically killed when an earthquake hit Haiti 8 years previously. Deanna, just 19 years of age was left to care for her 13-year-old brother.

Raising a teenager with abandonment issues and trying to juggle the plethora of bills, including a mortgage, proved to be an overwhelming task. It became necessary to quit university, taking on a job as a receptionist at a local medical centre. A few years later, after her brother himself went off to university, she married her high school sweetheart and began the journey of family life. Now that she was on Maternity leave again, she decided that waiting for her family to be grown before pursuing her dreams was too depressing a goal to set. Balancing it with family life however was a mission fraught with perilous obstacles and hindrances that she was not confident would be surmountable.

Still, no victory could be had without the attempt. If only she could get a few hours of uninterrupted time to let the creative juices flow.


As Deanna clumsily flicked her long auburn hair off her shoulder and clipped the flap of her maternity bra back in place, she heard the front door open and a familiar voice echo down the hall. Deanna had a moment of panic as she scanned the room, her eyes thrusting daggers at the pile of unfolded laundry casually thrown on the couch. She chastised herself once again for misplacing the thought that Tyler would be bringing his mother home from the airport that afternoon and she hadn’t even attempted a tidy up.

Her mind seemed to be imitating a spaghetti strainer lately. Ever since she conceived children her organisation was constantly disappearing through the holes of her mum brain, leaving only the well-cooked remnants of musings about what different shades of poop were telling her about her babies digestion and which websites she could find quick and easy recipes for fussy toddlers on.  She rose from the armchair, placing her 3-month-old sleep-thief over her shoulder and vigorously rubbing his back to dispel the gas before the distraction their welcome visitor would bring. Little Thomas obliged with the cutest of belches.

“Kathie, how are you? Please excuse the mess.” Deanna embraced her mother in law, the heavenly, familiar smell of Jasmine was as strong as ever. Kathie raked a hand through her short blonde hair, revealing new speckles of grey.

“What mess?” she queried with a cheeky smile “you have a family, mess is normal.” She waved her hand as though dismissing the notion that she would even care. “Now where is my granddaughter?” She turned toward Brianna, sitting on the carpet with her notepad and crayons and threw open her arms, inviting Brianna in for a warm Nanna embrace. Brianna complied with a giggle and an extravagant squeeze.

After snuggles with Thomas, Kathie excitedly produced gifts for each of them, purchased on her latest adventure to India. Brianna curiously examined the wooden Kondapalli toy resembling a magnificent Indian elephant, but it was the traditional Indian sweets that got her shriek of approval. Tyler, having an unusual interest in music of the world, received a CD of Classical Indian flute and sitar instrumentals and some authentic saffron. Living with a chef certainly had its benefits, there was one less chore Deanna had to navigate during the ‘witching hour’.

Deanne was pleasantly surprised to receive a genuine Kashmir Pashmina in her favourite colour beige, the silky soft material felt luxurious to the touch. Deanna was not sure when she would find an occasion to wear such an extravagant item but received it with fervent gratitude.

“Last but not least.” Kathie reached into her bag and pulled out a pair of detailed handmade leather and cotton shoes in a matching beige. “These are called Mojari’s.” The look of delight on her face could only be matched by her tone. “I bought them at a market place in Punjab”. She handed them to Deanna who ran her fingers over the detailed stitching and shiny gold thread, the pearlized pastel coloured beads and sequins where expertly embroidered into floral patterns and a few tiny sequins sporadically placed, refracted the light as Deanna turned them to and fro. They were beautiful.

“The stall holder told me these shoes have the power to transport you to another world” Kathie grinned, and her green eyes sparkled with mischief.

Deanna chuckled at the older lady’s child-like wonder. Kathie was like a second mother to Deanna, they had grown close after the death of her parents and Deanna admired Kathie’s positive perspective on life and belief in the mysteries of foreign culture. Deanna had all but no conviction in such myths, but being the storyteller she was, found such tales and legends to be fascinating.

“How about…” Kathie leaned toward Deanna as though sharing some cryptic secret “tomorrow after breakfast, you go to a quiet little coffee shop with your laptop for a few hours? Wear your new shoes, maybe they will give you some inspiration.” She winked at Deanna for she knew her heart without her needing to say anything. She was also a mum after all and she knew both the joys and restrictions that motherhood created. Deanna could feel her smile lighting up her entire olive-skinned face, it had been a long time since she’d felt so considered.


Deanna slipped her feet into the hand-crafted Mojari’s. They were not surprisingly a perfect fit. It was a very convenient similarity Deanna shared with Kathie, their shoe size, which proved very helpful for gift buying. Hence the wardrobe shelf full of shoes from around the world. These would have to be Deanna’s absolute favourite so far. So pretty and feminine, their comfort being their most attractive quality.

After detailing the procedure for warming expressed breast-milk and showing Kathie the storage cupboard full to bursting with art and craft supplies, she kissed Breanna and Thomas goodbye and slipped out the door, her laptop bag suspended over her shoulder. She took a deep breath of fresh spring air and tried to empty her mind of all her undone tasks and numerous upcoming daily activities, vowing to give them her full attention once her story was complete.

She used the drive into town to brainstorm ideas, deciding upon arrival never to do that again, as she’d gotten herself lost and ended up circling the block 3 times, costing her 15 minutes of productivity. Once inside, she found a table by the window and stared at the passing traffic and pedestrians as she sipped on her latte`. She shifted tables to the far corner as the window proved to be a distraction.

Anxiety hijacked her peaceful resolve as 45 minutes had passed since she left the house and she’d typed not a single word. She tapped her feet on the hardwood floor of the shabby chic coffee shop, remembering Kathie’s words about the Mojari’s giving her inspiration. She stared at the few paragraphs she’d produced the day before, reading them over and over in the attempt to board her previous train of thought.

She sighed as the screensaver appeared on the monitor of her laptop, the scene before her boasting the outdoor seating area of an Italian café. Luscious green vines climbed the stone walls behind the wooden tables and chairs that sat atop the cobbled pavement. The seating area was edged with terracotta pots encasing lovely green shrubbery, and a sky blue vespa was parked out the front. The word ‘Caffe’ was embossed above the large rustic wood and glass doorway. It looked very inviting and Deanne closed her eyes and imagined sitting at one of the tables, looking out at the scene beyond the borders of the photograph.

She opened her eyes and her tranquil smile retreated, replaced with a bemused frown as she was confronted by visions of a small Italian village. Stone buildings lined the cobblestone street where small European cars and scooters were parked. Pedestrians were strolling along the sidewalks and crossing the road. She scanned the vicinity and realised she was sitting at one of the tables in front of the café portrayed in the photo she’d been looking at only moments before. How could this be? One moment she was inside a coffee shop in South Australia and the next she is half-way across the world in a foreign country. She looked down at the Mojari’s on her feet. Could the mysterious fable she perceived to be nothing more than a stall holders marketing ploy, in fact be true?

She anxiously surveyed the table in front of her. A glass of Affogato coffee was resting on the well-worn surface next to an informational pamphlet on The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Her curiosity and excitement won out against her sensibilities as she entertained the possibilities. Could she see more? Do more? There were so many places she wanted to go, so many things she wanted to see. Apart from her 12th grade overnight excursion to Canberra, the nation’s capital, she’d lived out her entire life in South Australia. She glanced at her watch, three hours remained before she’d promised to be home. There would be enough time to explore a few destinations that had always been of interest to her.

She picked up the brochure, an amalgam of anticipation and apprehension forcing adrenalin into her veins. She closed her eyes and envisaged The Leaning Tower of Pisa right in front of her. With great expectation she parted her eyelids but was met with disappointment as she found that she was still sitting in the same chair at the same table at the same Café. She wound her mind back to the moment she was transported from the chich coffee shop to the scene on her laptop and recalled her actions. She closed her eyes once more and started tapping her feet on the cobblestone pavement.

She opened her eyes one at a time and was thrilled to see the famous monument looming before her. Looking around at the hordes of tourists with their backpacks on and digital cameras and phones raised skyward, she realised none of them seemed to notice that she just appeared there, out of nowhere. The pressure on her rear-end informed her she was sitting on a cement boundary post a few hundred metres from the tower itself. Jumping to her feet, she stared at the historical building. It wasn’t quite what she expected. She had imagined it being in the centre of town, hemmed in by grandiose museums, halls and art centres with elaborate stone streets, edged with hand-crafted pots filled with native Italian fauna, the odd water fountain boasting a chiselled half-naked statue. What she saw was relatively ordinary.

The tower wasn’t as sizeable as she’d assumed, and a relatively new bitumen road filled up a great deal of space in front of the building where tourists converged to snap their own piece of history. Beyond was a small grassed area and a large hedge that separated the tower from other buildings. To the left there was a grand cathedral that appeared to be under construction. She turned her gaze behind her, observing a long row of market stalls against the red brick structures on the opposite side of the street. Perhaps there would be some postcards or pamphlets with more photographs of enticing destinations.

She began approaching the stalls, but each step she took closer became more and more arduous, as if she was walking through dense mud which was becoming thicker and thicker. Eventually she could go no further. She became painfully aware of her accelerated heart beat pounding against her rib cage as she deduced that her adventures were limited to the boundary of the photograph she’d used to transport there. This revelation induced an intense desire to go home, where things were normal.

Fear made her head spin as it suddenly occurred to her that she had no idea how to get home. She reversed back to the spot near the boundary post and tried to collect her thoughts. She reclaimed her perch on the short cement pillar, shut her eyes, tapped her feet on the bitumen and imagined the coffee shop where she’d been before her adventure began. Her heart sunk when she opened her eyes and she was still in the same place. She squeezed her eyes shut once more and thought of her home, again nothing changed.

Panic gripped her entire body and threatened to steal her consciousness as she began to hyperventilate. Then she did the only logical thing she could think of, she removed the Mojari’s from her feet, closed her eyes and thought of home again. Hesitantly she opened her eyes, only to be confronted with the tower once more. She felt as though she may throw up or faint but knew in her heart that if she let fear conquer her she would never get home.

She desperately required help but knew if she shared the incredible account of how she’d materialised there, no one would even talk to her let alone believe her. Eventually she decided to take a risk and attempt to find a friendly English-speaking ally.  “Excuse me” she implored a passing Japanese lady who walked right on past her. “Excuse me” she beseeched again, this time to an older gentleman who was perhaps English or European. He too walked by as though he heard nothing. She could no longer hold back her apprehension and began to yell “Can someone please help me”. Not a soul noticed her desperate cries, they all went about their business as though her existence was null.

She saw a young boy nearby flicking through a tourist catalogue. She ran to where he stood, peering over his shoulder. He was reading an article on Australia and there were glossy pictures of the Sydney opera house. It wasn’t home but at least it was the right country. She closed her eyes, tapped her feet and imagined the scene from the photograph. When she opened her eyes, she was staring at the white arches of one of her country’s greatest architectural accomplishments.

A small sense of relief washed over her as she felt a little closer to home, but gloom revisited her once again when she recognised that she was still confined to the boundaries of the photograph. All hope fleeted, and she sank to the ground. How was she going to get home? Was there even a way? Was she condemned to meander aimlessly from photograph to photograph forever, never able to return to reality?

Deanna supposed she would conclude the story there and let her readers decide on her protagonist’s fate. She typed the words ‘THE END’ at the bottom of the page and clicked on the save button. She closed her laptop with a satisfactory smile and swallowed down the remainder of her 3rd latte. She was pleased with the story she’d produced, it was a gloomy tale but much like reality, not every story had a happy ending. The important thing was, she felt accomplished for the first time in years. She glided back into the house and was greeted by a flurry of kisses from her darling daughter and a delighted squeal from Thomas as he realised his milk train was back in the station.

Deanna felt a deeper appreciation for her kids now that she’d had a chance to be productive. She smiled with cheerfulness and thanked Kathie for being so kind as to babysit. “You were right” she said “These Mojari’s were a great inspiration”.



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Well it’s been a while since I’ve shared one of my own stories and I am hoping I’ve chosen the right one to publish. I wrote this short story last year for a competition with Odyssey house Victoria. The theme was ‘reflection’ and it had to mention alcohol or drugs in some way. Unfortunately I didn’t win, there were over 700 quality entries and this was only my 4 or 5th competition. I’ve edited it a little and feel it’s better now, but I’ll let you be the judge. Feel free to leave comments and helpful feedback in the comments below the post.

It’s a sad one, so have some tissues on the ready! Please be aware that there’s mention of the loss of a child so if this is a trigger for you, perhaps another story would be better 🙂

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Dancing Shadows

She stared fixedly at the beige jacquard wallpaper that clothed the far wall of her room. The subtlest of smile’s tugged at the faintly wrinkled corners of her mouth as she observed the sunlight dancing with the shadows of the tree branches in an exuberant waltz. She shut her eyes, listening to the sleepy rustling of leaves as the tall Eucalyptus trees swayed in the breeze just outside the French doors leading to the patio. If she relied on her senses of sight and hearing alone, she would imagine herself to be in a beautiful, magical place, but perception and reality danced in her mind to a more sombre tune than that of the light and shadows on her wall.

She thought about the relationship between the two contrasting elements. How completely different they were, opposite in fact. Neither could exist in the same space as the other, yet neither one could exist without the other. It occurred to her how similar this was to the overwhelming emotions that were happiness and sorrow. Did not the two consistently fail to co-exist in one’s heart and soul and was one not undefined without the other?

The drugs the nurses in their clinically white scrubs coerced her to consume every morning did little to change her perspective. The thoughts that haunted her mind before she arrived, were still alive and thriving, however the fierce emotions that kept company with them and screamed at her night and day, were now nothing more than a whisper and she often felt she was viewing her life from a distant point, as though outside of herself. She remembered happiness and sorrow like the loss of controlling relatives, with vague nostalgia but no real mournfulness to speak of.

Elaine, so adrift in her thoughts, hadn’t noticed the arrival of the young man sitting adjacent from her in the arm chair reserved for visitors. He sat patiently, his soft un-calloused hands with fingers intertwined, resting in his lap. He smiled widely at Elaine’s sudden perception of his presence, her blue eyes beaming with jubilation, furrowing at the corners as she returned the sentiment.

“Thomas” she declared, her heart warming at the sight of him “you snuck up on me again.” She giggled at his sneakiness, remembering what a playful child he’d been. His loving smile consumed his entire face, forcing his Emerald green eyes to close half-way. Elaine noticed he had matured since the last time he came. He had grown even more handsome and muscular. His broad shoulders sprung up and down as he chuckled at her bewilderment to see him and the apparent delight it gave her.

“Your always so far away, it’s not hard to come in unnoticed” he proclaimed leaning forward to impart an affectionate kiss on her wrinkled cheek. Falling back into the armchair, he swept aside the stray dark portion of hair that fell heavily in front of his eyes. He stared at her for a moment as though analysing her thoughts. He seemed reluctant to speak which Elaine found unnerving as he was generally the one person who spoke to her without reservation. “How are you?” He finally questioned her, concern forcing a wrinkle between his brows.

“The same as always Thomas, why do you ask?” her smile waned to an apprehensive frown and her heart quickened slightly. Why was he being so sober? It was unlike him. Their visits had always been full of laughter and lightness like a ray of sunshine on a gloomy day. No matter how much the drugs numbed her feelings, she could always find a glimmer of hope and joy in his company. Today seemed divergent though.

“Did you talk to the doctors this week?” he asked nervously, searching Elaine’s face for signs of surrender. He began rapidly tapping the arm of the chair with his right index finger. Elaine recognised the fear in his eyes and immediately desired to eliminate the burden from him, to encourage him that all was well.

“Yes, I did. It was time to at least answer some of their questions and let them know what was what” she answered steadfastly.

“They don’t want me to visit you anymore, do they?” He’d never been one to waste time with subtlety and today was no different. His directness was usually for Elaine’s benefit, to draw her out of her shell, but today it was evidence of his own apprehension.

“No, they don’t” she began sympathetically “but I told them they could keep their opinions to themselves as I have no intention of asking you to cease visitation. Your company is the only thing that keeps me going. I could not bear it if you went away.”

He relaxed, alleviation relighting the joy on his expressive face “I’m so glad you said that, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t come anymore, I’d be lost” his tone turned sorrowful and concern returned to his young face as he looked at Elaine, pleading to her with his eyes “I’d be all alone. You would never leave me alone would you, not ever again?” a single tear dropped from his lower eyelid and rushed down his pale cheek, resting motionless at the precipice of his jawline.

Elaine felt anguish return to her broken soul and she desperately needed him to know that nothing and no one could ever convince her to abandon him. “No, never” she passionately declared. She noticed that the light in the room was fading, the dancing shadows disappeared as clouds began to gather outside, camouflaging the sun. Footsteps and muffled voices could be heard at the end of the hallway, growing in volume as they approached the door to her room. Thomas slipped out the French doors just as the knob began to turn on the bedroom door and the nurse on duty entered, closely followed by Elaine’s 42-year old daughter, Ashley.

Ashley thanked the nurse who smiled in acknowledgement and left the room, closing the door quietly behind her. Ashley kissed her mother on the cheek, squeezing her arm affectionately and pulling closer the armchair Thomas had been sitting in moments before. Elaine noticed Ashley’s whiff of perfume was missing the usual underlying hint of whiskey.

“Hello Mother” her tone reflected despair at her mother’s unchanged disposition. “How are you today?”

“Fine dear”

“Has it been a good day?”

“Yes, Thomas came to visit so it can’t be bad, can it love?” She smiled knowingly at her daughter.

“No, I guess not.” Ashley replied matter of factly, rubbing her temple with her forefinger. Did you see the Doctors this week?”

“Yes dear, I spoke to them just like you asked.” She smiled and patted Ashley’s hand just like she used to do when Ashley was little and needed encouragement.

“Good, I’m glad. Did they say anything about your progress?”

“Yes, they said they had expected me to be a lot better by now, but I’m sure you know that already dear, as I’m sure you know they told me I should ask Thomas to stop coming to see me.”

“Yes Mother, I believe they are right. You have to let him go…I have.”

“Oh, but Ashley what happened wasn’t YOUR fault, was it?”

“It wasn’t YOUR fault either Mother, I really wish you’d believe that.” Her tone sounded desperate.

“But it was, I left him alone in the car while I went into the store. I shouldn’t have done that, even if it was just for a minute. He was only two, just a baby.” Elaine’s voice became shaky and she turned away from Ashley to stare out the window at the clouds moving quickly in the afternoon sky.

“He was asleep Mother, you thought it best not to wake him. How could you know someone would take him in that short time? I really feel his visits are hindering you from getting well.”

Elaine snapped her head back to glare at Ashley, frowning in disbelief “How can you say that about your own son?”

“He’s dead Mother” her graceful face contorted with agony at the memory and tears filled her eyes “you have to forgive yourself and let him go in peace. You have other children who need you, other grandchildren.”

Elaine’s gaze softened with empathy and she touched her daughters shoulder softly “You have your father love, and there are other grandparents. Thomas only has me now, that’s why I can’t ask him to go, I can’t leave him alone again, I wont.”

Tears spilled from Ashley’s eyes and she wept as her heart broke again at the realisation her Mother was never coming back to her. The pain was second only to the day her heart first broke, the day they pulled her son’s tiny limp body from the lake just outside of town. She kissed her mother gently on the forehead and left the room quietly.

Elaine watched as the clouds parted and the sun came into view again. She turned her eyes toward the far wall and smiled once again as the shadows and light resumed their passionate waltz. Like the light, her moments of joy where made beautiful because of the shadows, the shadows that were forever a part of her.

~ Jo Caddy

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Baby Oak: A Micro Story

She’s done it again, captivated the imagination with a descriptive, true-to-life tale, full of warmth and nostalgia, in her latest micro story contribution entitled ‘Baby Oak’.

Fiona M. Jones is a regular contributor to our site and the subject of one of our Mum Life Success Stories (which you can read here). Fiona lives with her husband and 2 teenage sons in Fife, Scotland, where she works, writes & ministers. If you’d like to follow Fiona’s work and journey, simply visit her Facebook page.


Baby Oak

In the muddy, brambled place we still call the Hundred-Acre Wood, a tiny oak stands barely waist-height: my babies’ baby tree.

A decade ago my children played in autumn’s treasures of conkers and acorns. They planted some in flower-pots behind the greenhouse. They neglected and forgot them, discovered something still living two years later, and began to love it again with clumsy hands and far too much water. I took pity at last on the poor stunted treelet, still hardly more than a seedling; I gave my children a spade and told them to go and set it free.

They carried the pot and the spade away down the trod path towards the old railway, through the small wooded area that probably equals an acre or two but seemed big to them when first they named it. They dug a hole, not very deep, and planted their tree; and they showed me, later, where to find it.

Half-forgotten once more, Baby Oak hides in among the tall, ragged grasses. It hasn’t yet learned to drop its leaves in autumn. It hasn’t yet claimed its own piece of sky above undergrowth and broken stone wall. But out of sight it slowly spreads its roots and survives.

When I walk through our old Hundred-Acre Wood I turn off the path to look at it again. It will grow up, as other babies do. It will spread gnarling, asymmetric branches and drop acorns of its own—for mice and squirrels to eat, for little children to collect and treasure, for future oaks to grow.


Read more Flash Fiction stories like this one, including Fiona’s stories Mud and Tiny Green Apples.

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How To Accomplish More In A Fraction Of The Time eCOVER WHITE

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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