Kate’s Boyfriend


[I used to belong to an online writing group, and each month we would write a story with a theme and a word count. This time, we were asked to write about ‘She Never Wanted It Anyway‘ in exactly 300 words.]

Her boyfriend would have blue eyes tonight, she decided: ice-blue.

No. Kate paused: why not violet? It was her favourite colour, after all, although the eyes might look a little disembodied – even Kate found her ideal man’s specifics hard to set in stone. Still, by now her experiment had woven himself into her walls, a fine-figured shadow, vaguely tall and hazy-faced, whistling in the bath, clattering in the attic, and even radiating a reassuring warmth in bed. Once she could have sworn she actually saw him through the window, taking out the rubbish. As it was, Mark – a neutral, no-nonsense name – suited her just fine. They could go days without talking, and then, on demand, he would materialize in a mental shimmer.

“What are we doing tonight?” she half-heard from the hallway.

“Sophie’s coming over,” she said, uncorking a bottle. “Remember?”

“Blonde Sophie?” asked Mark, chipper.

Kate looked up. The violet suited him, although oddly, she couldn’t quite see through him this evening.

“The very same,” she said, remembering her friend’s text: I’m finally getting to meet THE MARK??!!!

Kate prepared two glasses and her excuses: “on emergency call” would do. When the doorbell rang Mark usually vanished, so she was surprised to find him beating her to the front door, and even more so on hearing Sophie cry:

“At last!”

and – to Kate’s astonishment – throw her arms round him on the doorstep. Kate stood, open-mouthed: Mark’s blurred lines had sharpened under Sophie’s hands, his shadows shifting into a shape all too real. She watched, numb, as Mark waltzed her friend into the kitchen.


Kate found the texts a week later, and smiled. Sophie was welcome to him. She’d soon discover that there were certain parts of Mark where Kate had been – let’s say – overly experimental.

© Joanna Rubery 2017

More publishing news!


In a surprise move, another one of my flash fiction stories from last year has been selected for publication in an anthology of writing from 2017. Again, I’ll update you with more details when it’s ready.  Meanwhile, from Galicia at Carnival time, íhasta luego!

Publishing news


I’m delighted to say that one of my flash fiction stories has been accepted for publication in an online magazine! I’ll update you with more details when it comes out. Until then, from here in Spain, ¡buenos días!

Little Lucy Grey

My name is Jackie Grey. I’m forty-three, and I’m a hospital receptionist. I’ve been married to Steve, the love of my life, for fifteen years now. We have two wonderful children, Lucy and Oliver. They drive me up the wall, of course, but I can’t imagine life without them. They mean the world to me.

Sorry: Lucy and – George. We have two wonderful children, Lucy and George.

No. George Grey doesn’t quite –


“Dr Charumasami,” I say, dropping my files.

“Taxi for the happy family!” he bellows, leaving me with some scrawny pair and their bundle of joy. Dark-haired. Immigrants, I expect. Probably speak no English.

“First one, is it?” I ask, on hold to Autocabs.

“Four,” says the man, holding up his fingers, and smiles, “Four girl.”

Some people have no self-control.

“Expensive!” he’s grinning at me now. She isn’t smiling, though.


My name is Jackie Grey. I’m forty-three, I’m a hospital receptionist, and I’ve been married to Steve, the –


What now? Bloody Pam and her Pilates. I’m not trying it again.

“Any more” – she winks – “dates this weekend?”



My name is Jackie Grey. I’m forty-three, I’m single, and I don’t have any kids.

That taxi isn’t here yet. She’s asleep. He’s restless, hands jigging about. I catch his eye. He mimes a cigarette.

“Outside,” I tell him, “No – outside.”

He bangs the door on his way out, but the wife doesn’t stir, so I tiptoe over. Just for a look.

I pick her up, the bundle of joy. All big brown eyes and tiny fists. She’s very nice to hold. Very warm. Quiet, too, not a crier. Looks like a Lucy. Looks like me.

I think we’ll go for a little walk now, Lucy Grey and me.

© Joanna Rubery 2017

What’s your number?


[I belong to an online writing group, and each month we write a story with a theme and a word count. This time, we were asked to write about ‘Cutting the Strings‘ in exactly 1000 words.]

Everyone has a number. What’s yours?

I know mine. We all do, of course: it’s something we’re born with, indelible, immovable, inked into our DNA. Our number is as much part of us as the frizziness of our hair, or the slope of our nose, or the way our skin burns in the sun as we’re heading Anywhere on the back of a bike, while we still can.

I could guess your number, looking at you, although there’s no guarantee I’d be anywhere close. That’s my earliest memory, in fact: trying to guess someone’s number. We’re in a circle: the light is butter-soft, my mouth full of chocolate, my dress a gauzy pink, floating out, dreamlike, when I spin.

“Seventy-seven,” I sing, “My number is seventy-seven,” and I pirouette on velvet toes. I want to spin seventy-seven times on the spot, to show everyone how long-lived and lucky I am, but after counting seventeen I stagger, disorientated, into the sofa. The room is wheeling, and Mei is watching. Mei only comes up to my shoulder.

“What’s your number?” I ask her.

Mei whispers something, like a bird.

“What?” I say, too loud, but I saw the way her lips moved; and even before the tears, I know something is very wrong.

Continue reading “What’s your number?”


Ice Cream Van

You were inside me, once, curled up like coral. Tiny, tight-furled, almost translucent – I could see right through your pearly skin. Now it’s everyone else who sees through you instead, but it’s everyone else who’s wrong. About so many things! Like love, for example. It’s not blind at all, because I see you perfectly, even in –


– the middle of a crowd like this, I see you and I feel you, holding my hand, as I always imagined. Everyone else is blind, because they look and do not see. I see you just as I dreamed you: a perfect fusion of known and unknown. You’re mine. I’m not letting you go.

“Maria!” – I don’t know why this woman’s always so worked up – “How are things?”

She follows me everywhere, this one, and never likes my answers – see, she’s frowning now.

“Time for another chat, Maria?”

Why? We’ve had so many chats. I don’t have time for another. I tell her we’re busy again, you and me, and she pulls her disappointed face.

There’s a jingle-jangle over the road.

The woman’s lost in thought. Perhaps she’ll let us go.

Then, “I know!” She cracks a smile. “How about an ice cream, sweetheart? What flavour?”

She’s looking at you, my darling, for the first time. You‘re smiling back. I hope you’ll remember your manners.

“Thank you,” I say, for you. “We’d like that very much.”

We walk over to the van, the three of us.

© Joanna Rubery 2017

The Rules


[I belong to an online writing group, and each month we write a story with a theme and a word count. This time, we were asked to write about ‘The Rules‘ in exactly 1000 words.]

The sea was uneasy. I watched the sunset spill across the water and fragment into frothy shards.

Don reached over for his glass, brushed away a mosquito.

“Let’s stay here,” I whispered. “Please,” but my words melted in the heat. I slid down into the rattan chair.

A waiter appeared, barefoot. A westerner. He glanced at Don, twice.

My husband’s fingers tightened white around the glass.

Continue reading “The Rules”

Shelf Life


The doorbell rings again, and “Hey,” I mutter, as Bodice Ripper quivers up against me.

Miss Laura comes into the bedroom holding a box.

“It’s Miss Laura’s birthday,” I remind everyone.

“I love birthdays!” cries ChickLit, shimmying on the shelf. “Happy birthday to -”

“Knock it off,” snaps Cop Thriller.

Encyclopedia clears his dusty throat, and intones: “On this day in 1888 – “

“Guys!” I hush them. We all wobble to the edge, and peer out.

Miss Laura is unwrapping –

“Another one of us!” breathes Bodice Ripper.

“Ooh!” cries ChickLit. “What genre?”

“I hope it’s fiction,” murmurs Encyclopedia.

Miss Laura holds the new book up to the light. It’s remarkably slender, with an alluring metallic sheen.

ChickLit scowls, and says, “Way too thin for a real book.”

“Very little substance,” declares Encyclopedia, puffing up his pages.

Then Miss Laura does something strange: she attaches the new book to a long white tail, and watches, intently. It glints in a most peculiar way.

“What kind of book is that?” whispers ChickLit.

Continue reading “Shelf Life”

The Club


[I belong to an online writing group, and each month we write a story with a theme and a word count. This time, we were asked to write about ‘The Club‘ in exactly 750 words.]

Rob saw it first.

We were limbering up, and then – I remember – he went very still.

“Mik-eyyyyyy!” came a two-handed holler from across the fields. I always forgave Rob his little brother. We even let Stevie in The Club – after all, there were some games you couldn’t play with two. (“I swear on my life,” Stevie had repeated, as a bead of scarlet trickled down his palm.)

“Earth to Mik-eyyy!” yelled Stevie.

“Get on with it,” I muttered, the bat rough in my hand. I felt the prick of a splinter.

“Are you rea-dyyyy?” yelled Stevie, unnecessarily, his voice sinking in the heat. The sun was blistering that summer, I remember that.

Stevie bowled.

The ball cracked off the bat, and arced into yellow. Rob didn’t move.

“What’s he doing?” said a girlish voice behind me.

Continue reading “The Club”


Mouse trap

We feel sorry for Justine because she has a – I’ll keep my voice down – boyfriend.

Mimi and I have long been Free, but Justine’s still shackled to a man. She’s tied. She’s tangled up. She is – in other words – Trapped.

“She’s late,” says Mimi. “What’s her big news, anyway? Has she seen the light?”

“About time!” I say. I was Trapped once. Last year, I spent several weeks entangled with a green-eyed guy called Sam. He kissed me up against the fridge, but left trails of laundry everywhere. When I found his dirty socks in the sink, I saw sense.

Continue reading “Trapped”