SHORT STORY ENTRY: Bath Short Story Competition

Dear all,

Another short story entry I can blog as the long list has been published. Check out the competition and long/short list here: 
Bath International Short Story Award 2016 maximum word count was 2200)

Stay in the ShadeThe day was not for spats. It was too hot, too dry and sibling patience frayed easily in crowds. The plan: Shop. Gift. Home. ‘I want to say the temperature is bothersome, is that right? Is that a word? It’s not middle class twatishness is it?’ Sarah asked.‘Probably,’ Jeremy replied, indifferently. He tweaked the front of his cap and felt tiny rivers of sweat escape.‘It all depends who hears me anyway,’ Sarah continued, trying to see past her reflection; her shape was clearly outlined in a shop window that was glinting a vicious white from the sun. She missed the subtlety of his tone completely, ‘I think people can say that without coming across posh. If I had said - one feels bothered - no, no - it’s rather bothersome - then perhaps it could sound a little Jeeves & Wooster,’Jeremy ignored her postscript and stared over the waves of bobbing heads filling the view down the retail fuelled scrum that was Oxford Street. At their current rate it would be hours before they made it through the shops on their list. Sarah’s extreme play of emotional blackmail earlier in the week, well rehearsed he was sure, was the only thing that could have forced him to town on a Saturday; the youths, the price tags, the insane squirming and sidestepping all too much for him. In a way he was glad of Sarah’s incessant chatter, it helped him anchor to the moment. The need to reply every so often was a pain but manageable. ‘Would mum like this, do you think?’ Sarah pointed to a flowery ankle length dress in the shop window, West Country meets California hippy.‘You mean, would mother like this?’ Jeremy surprised himself cracking a joke with his sister, very unusual. Stress does funny things. Their mother’s birthday was coming up, a number to be celebrated but not mentioned, and they had promised each other to make an effort with a party and gifts. Their local High Street was ruled out. ‘Oooo, yes, I like that! I wonder if mother dearwould like this?’ Sarah drawled in return.‘If she saw us… ’ Jeremy said, looking the dress up and down. A bit young, he thought.‘She’d be shocked we made it five minutes,’‘Yep. I’m surprised myself.’ Jeremy said, quickly adding a smile; he didn’t want to ruin things. ‘Do you think we could skip the shops and just say our gift was getting on for a day without fighting? She’d take that, I think?’ Sarah moved closer to the window, cupped her hands over both eyes and pressed them against the glass to cut out the   glare. ‘She would… if she believed it, maybe we should ask the shop for the CCTV as evidence?’ Jeremy felt the sharp corner of a boutique bag dig into his ribs and jumped forward as a chorus of girls in loose t-shirts that showed the sides of their bodies and coloured bras ambled by. Two were in deep conversation and the other was shouting loudly into her phone. He masked his discomfort as they glanced back.‘I wouldn’t mind taking a closer look at this, do you mind if-’‘Holy. Shit.’ Jeremy stood motionless; shock had rooted him to the spot. ‘Jesus! You scared the hell out of me!’ Don’t make me jump like that. It was only a bloody pinch,’ Sarah flashed an angry look his way but immediately saw he had turned pale, the shadow from his cap’s peak exaggerating the white of his wide open eyes, and his hands were shaking.‘You’re not going to fucking believe it,’‘Don’t swear like that, you know I hate it. Seriously, it’s not funny, what’s wrong?’‘Look inside the shop,’‘Why? What is it?’‘Just look… don’t go in!’ Jeremy grabbed his sister by the elbow, frightening her more than the tremor in his voice had. She looked up at him with unease but a lifetime of reading his body language and seeing behind his bravado told her he was not joking around. Whatever it was, he wasn’t pretending.             ‘Okay,’ Sarah said gently, almost soothingly. She backtracked the few steps she had taken to enter the shop and stood next to her brother. She could feel his chest and shoulders trembling and his discomfort was starting to panic her, ‘what am I looking at?’‘The man in the brown blazer,’ Jeremy flicked his head forward, his eyes fixed like a laser.‘Who is it?’‘Look!’‘I am looking! Who is it? Please, you’re scaring me,’‘I think… it’s Uncle Alistair,’‘Uncle… ’ Sarah narrowed her eyes and studied the man in the brown blazer. Inside the shop the sun’s intensity was curtailed by two wide signs hanging a metre inside the doorway casting an attractively cool looking shade, ‘No, can’t be,’‘That’s fucking him,’‘Jesus,’
The train waiting to depart at Platform 1 from London Charing Cross was starting to bustle with suburban shoppers and museum roaming families returning from their day trips. Sarah and Jeremy had boarded as soon as it had pulled in and enjoyed the first few minutes of the empty carriage before it gradually filled as its departure time neared. All of the small thin windows had been pulled open, except the ubiquitous glued shut one, and the still-open doors allowed for a nice breeze. They had kept quiet at first, each taking a moment to rest and cool down.‘We’re not mad, that was him?’ Sarah eventually asked. She had taken a newspaper from another seat and was fanning herself. ‘Definitely him,’‘I don’t understand, I just-’‘If he’s here then dad’s got to be here,’ Jeremy said. They both faced forward and stared at the scratches in the grey plastic-moulded seat back. He had stated what they had both been thinking since walking away from Oxford Street. ‘I mean… we don’t know that. It could be… ’ Sarah stalled and looked out of the window at the row of strangers lining up on the other platform waiting for their train. They were a cliché of over-heated weekend commuters. She watched as one man in particular wildly flapped his sweat-stained shirt to force up air, exposing his hairy, sagging belly.‘He was out shopping like he didn’t have a care in the world,’ Jeremy’s words were full of bitterness. ‘It was him? I mean, it definitely was him?’‘Yes. You know it was,’‘I wonder where he lives?’‘Christ’s sake, I’m wondering a lot of things,’‘Okay, calm down! Please. There’s no point in getting wound up,’‘Sorry… I didn’t mean to shout. It’s just, like, he’s there, getting on with his life,’‘What are we going to do?’‘I… I’m not sure. I can’t think straight,’The train doors beeped and shut and the final few passengers to board made their way along the aisles looking for spaces in the overhead racks to sling their bags and coats. The gentle acceleration from the station relieved all those starting to get itchy and a new flow of air hit welcoming faces. As they emerged from the station’s canopy and bright sunlight covered the train and flooded the carriage, Sarah looked out of Jeremy’s window and saw the Thames shine. ‘Are we going to tell mum?’