white ceramic mug beside black iphone 4
Image from Unsplash taken by Sebastian Bednarek

Jane stared out of the window. The rain lashed relentlessly, filling the gutters and running in rivers down the street. What a day for a first day at work. And she had to look good. Her interviewer, Matt, had emphasised that her appearance was part of job performance. “We are a design firm, Jane, and we have to look like appearance matters. And you need to change your name for work hours. Have you thought about Styria?” He grimaced. “You are the best applicant for the job but ‘Jane’ is a little, well, plain.”

This needed a little lateral thinking. There was no way any hairstyle would survive, even in the car, so she could wrap her hair in a boho scarf. Jane looked at the little honda sitting forlornly outside. She would get her feet soaked in the few yards from her door. That meant she wore boots to the car but changed at work. In fact, she could get completely changed at work. Jane hesitated. As long as they didn’t mind her diving in looking like a fisherman before she got changed. She swallowed. This was the perfect job and she had been craving something like this since school. She had to make a good impression.

The drive to work was one of the worst she had ever done, peering through the sheets of water as she swooshed into the carpark of the elegant and modernistic building, water spraying as she turned. The race from car to office was equally challenging and she dripped over the expensive marble floor as she ran to the bathrooms.

Thank goodness she had left plenty of time, Jane thought, as she looked at herself in the mirror. She definitely looked ‘boho’ with her hair quickly dried and wrapped in the tie dye scarf, and the flowing skirt and blouse that had survived the car journey uncreased echoed the bright colours. She swallowed. Did she look right? Had she hit the right note with what seemed more like partywear than the severe business suit of the last job. She took a breath and left the bathroom, almost colliding with a tall, elegant blonde with well cut, dripping hair and soaked, fashionable clothes. She stared at Jane for a long minute.

“A headscarf! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s genius!” She smiled warmly at Jane. “You must be Jane, or Styria. I’m Mel, but if you get calls for Cytheria, that’s me.” She shook her head. “I don’t know where Matt gets his ideas. I’ll meet you at your desk in a minute, once I’ve dried myself off.” She dived past Jane, trailing a cloud of expensive scent.

Jane hung up her coat on the coat pegs in the office and stashed her bags under the desk with a place card with her name on in beautiful copperplate. Everything looked so styled. The office furniture gleamed, abstract prints hung on the walls and even the pot plants seemed chosen for effect.

“Good morning Jane, or Styria.” Matt came over. “I’ll give you the tour in a moment, but I think you should have this first on such a morning.” He set down a cup next to her. Jane looked at the carefully constructed, uncomfortable looking mug. “The boss doesn’t normally make drinks for the staff, but today is definitely a day for a nice cup of cocoa.” He smiled and went to hand another, similar mug to Mel.

Jane picked the cup up with care and took a tentative sip. It was perfect – warming, soothing, old-fashioned cocoa. She was going to like it here.

The Chase

man in black jacket driving car during daytime
Image from Unsplash taken by Aubrey Rose Odom

Marge checked her speed. Fleur was driving at a sensible speed for once, which made it much easier to follow. She was not going to let her get away with her schemes. Marge had rights and she was determined to use them. She would not be distracted by Fleur’s games and schemes. They would not escape this time.

“Fleur did you seriously pay your cousin to drive your car to the next town?” Nick stared at his fiancée.

Fleur grinned. “I told him that there was likely to be issues, and that your mum would follow.”

“And he was okay with that?” Nick asked.

Fleur laughed. “He thought it was hilarious and said he would promise not to lose her. But what choice do we have? If we want to have any chance of choosing a decent wedding venue, we have to find some way of leaving her behind.”


white and red striped textile
Image from Unsplash taken by Sincerely Media

“Only you would pick a male saint for your saint’s day.” Martin shook his head and smiled at his wife. “You had the pick of them all and you are so feminine.”

Lady Freydis smiled happily. “But I love this day. I can find violets as well as blossom and the days become brighter.” She hugged her husband. “Thank you for remembering. It has been some years since I celebrated.”

“Why Caradoc?” Martin asked.

“I knew him.” Lady Freydis trailed her hand over the heavy damask cloth set under the pretty pink runner. “He made such sweet music. I visited my cousin, she was at Merlin’s Bridge and we were passing to St Brides and we visited.” She smiled at the memory. “He knew us for what we were and he said some harsh things, but he let us listen to his music and he blessed us as we went.”

“That must have been a special moment.” Martin said. “To be blessed by a saint.”

“And you have made me this wonderful meal.” Lady Freydis sighed. “And it is so very pink.”

“I ordered the cake specially from Adele’s cousin.” Martin waved a hand at the towering confection. “She promised to bake in lots of the glitter.

Lady Freydis sighed. “I never wear pink now.”

“I know.” Martin said.

“I wore it because I thought Lord Ragnar liked it.” Lady Freydis ran a manicured finger over the iced pink tea jug.

“I know.” Martin said again.

Lady Freydis glanced carefully at Martin. “Now he is dead and I wear blue these days, and sometimes green, because it makes me think of you.”

Martin had no idea why blue or green would remind Lady Freydis of him, but he smiled. “I am blessed.”

Lady Freydis bent to catch the scent of the bright pink roses dipped in glitter. “So I hardly ever have anything pink.”

“I know.” Martin smiled.

“But I think I have always secretly liked pink, deep down.” Lady Freydis said as she caressed the vivid pink glass and the bottle of pink champagne. “I think that actually I didn’t wear pink for Lord Ragnar. I think I wore it for me.”

Martin just smiled and dropped a brief kiss on Lady Freydis’ glorious golden hair.

Lady Freydis looked up at him. “And that is why you are the perfect husband.” She reached up to kiss him passionately. “Thank you.”

“Happy Saint’s Day.” And Martin hugged her.

Music in a Bar

“Why bring me here?” Jess asked her brother. “I don’t understand.”

“I’ve sort of fallen for someone.” Kai answered. “It’s complicated.”

“It’s always complicated with you.” Jess answered. She looked around the dingy bar with the stained tables and dated chairs. The evening sunlight was slanting through the worn blinds but it showed little except the tired houseplants. The place was clean – mercilessly, relentlessly clean, and the glass of house red she was nursing was okay, but it was nothing special. Kai, who knew his wines, had a glass of beer in front of him. “How did you find this place?”

“Jim told me.” Kai said briefly. “See how it’s filling up? Aren’t you glad that you came early?”

Jess looked around the bar and it was indeed filling up. All the chairs were taken and the bar was ringed by young men. There was a hush of expectancy hanging in the air and conversation was falling away. “What is going on? Is this why you are moping around?”

“Shush.” Kai said impatiently and then silence fell.

Jess stared at the woman who came self consciously from behind the bar. Her hair was scraped back and the unflattering dress hung loose around her spare frame and the work roughened hands that brushed down over her skirt were unadorned by rings and her nails were plain. The thin face that looked anxiously around was scrubbed clean and angular. Jess glanced around the bar. Every man there, and it was almost all men, were leaning forward slightly, fixed on the youngish woman who sat at the scarred piano.

“She’s called Cecily.” Kai whispered to Jess, earning him a glare from the nearest men.

Cecily managed a forced, nervous smile and then started to play. Everything changed. Suddenly there was a glow in the air, a sense of wonder. Her unremarkable hands suddenly were enchanted. They danced gracefully over the battered keys, coaxing music that called to the soul. Arpeggios soared over a sublime rhythm, while the themes and counterthemes entwined and raced along the compelling song. Jess was caught, entranced, as Cecily coaxed the music of the gods to ring around the battered bar. You could almost see a golden haze hanging in the room as the glorious performance held everyone in its magical grasp. And in the haze of the music, she was gloriously, wondrously, goddess-like and beyond beautiful, lit from within by the inspiration of her playing.

Then she stopped. Cecily stood, pushed a strand of mousey hair from her face, smiled awkwardly and then scuttled behind the bar, where she started washing glasses. It seemed almost sacrilege to break the spell and clap over the last echoes of the ringing notes, but first one, then several, then the entire bar clapped wildly as Cecily blushed awkwardly and racked up the glasses.

“That’s why we come here.” Kai said, placing another glass of unremarkable red in front of Jess. “She plays most nights. And we are all a little in love with her.”

And Jess understood.