Down The Harbour [Flash Fiction] [Harwood]
Down The Harbour is a flash fiction sequel to Rounds which was written for my Open University Creative Writing course. Rounds was also included in my book Themself. Down The Harbour was written for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2017. The challenge was to write 1,000 word romance set in a harbour with a bandage in the story. The Challenge gives you 48 hours, but I was at cub camp that weekend and it left me only a couple of hours of writing time to get in a 1,000 word story that met the requirements. Here’s a slightly edited version of the story.
Down The Harbour
Alice swore softly under her breath and threw bandages from the delivery into the store cupboard. None of the midwifery supplies she’d ordered had arrived. It wasn’t one of her better days. She’d promised to get Dianne a date with Ed, and that was falling apart too. They’d settled on a trip to the movies this Friday. When Alice called earlier to book she’d been told that the nearest cinema was closing for a refit on Thursday. On top of that her car had decided not to start this morning, so she’d had to do her rounds on foot. Fortunately Lower Harwood was a small village.
As soon as her shift ended at the GP Practice Alice went over the green to Dianne’s house.
‘How’s the date with Ed shaping up?’ Dianne asked.
‘Ah, bit of a problem, the cinema’s closed for a refurb.’
‘So what have you lined up then?’ said Dianne.
‘Nothing. Yet.’ said Alice.
‘I’m not babysitting little Jock until I’ve been out with Ed.’
‘If you don’t babysit Granny won’t get her garden done.’
‘That’s your problem’
‘So, where are Ed and I going on Friday night then?’
‘Is there anything you’d like to do?’
‘If Ed is there, then I’m fine with it.’
Alice walked down to the harbour, a grand name for a canal basin with a few boats in it. Alice had a favourite bench to watch the swans and ducks swim in the reeds at the edge of the canal. A handful of anglers and toddlers with bread often shared the tow-path. It was lush, green and peaceful for the most part.
The harbour master‘s house was a grand mid-Victorian edifice that had been converted into a gastro-pub. Every time the chef left it closed for a bit, and it had been closed since January. Word gets round Lower Harwood fast, and Alice had found out from three separate sources that there was a new chef in town, and that The Harbour was re-opening on Friday. Sure enough, when Alice got to the harbour there were posters in pub windows.
Teams of four.
A brewery truck stood outside The Harbour and was unloading beer kegs and cases of bottles. An unfamiliar green haired woman in her early twenties was checking the paperwork with the driver while Harry the handyman helped stash stock in the cellar. Alice, still in her lavender midwife uniform, went over to say hello when the truck driver climbed back into the truck.
‘Hello, I’m Alice, are you the new chef?’ Alice stretched out her hand towards the stranger.
As she looked up from the clipboard Alice notice that she had very striking hazel eyes, and freckles covered her nose and cheeks.
‘Um. Yes. I’m Maureen, but everyone calls me Mo’. Mo smiled warmly and shook Alice’s hand. ‘Lavender suits you.’ she said.
‘It’s just my midwife uniform’. Alice flushed.
‘Still suits you.’
‘Thanks. Are you doing food on Friday night? I’d like to book a table for two.’ Alice said.
‘Sorry, just nibbles for the quiz on Friday, but I could do you on Saturday?’
Alice sagged. ‘I need to sort something for Friday night, I’ve promised.’
‘You could come to the quiz, it’s going to be fun.’ Mo said.
Alice retreated to her favourite bench to think things through. A four person team wasn’t exactly a hot date. She’d also need to find another couple to make up the team. Then, on the other hand, Ed was a brain box, he might be up for it.
The ducks weren’t any help in finding an alternative. So Alice walked home racking her brains. She took a detour to the library, where she found Ed in his usual seat.
Friday was a warm and sunny evening. Alice raced home after work, and showered. She paused before getting into a summer dress and decided to put a little make-up on, so that Dianne wouldn’t look out of place, or be upstaged. Then she set out for The Harbour.
Ed was already there, sitting at a table outside, with a pint. He’d not been there long as it was still full to the brim. Alice bought herself a drink and came back out to join Ed. Debs joined them too. When Dianne arrived Ed stood up to greet her, which ended in a hug.
‘Are you chaperoning us?’ Dianne raised an eyebrow at Alice.
‘Oh, nothing of the sort. There needed to be four people in the quiz team, and Debs is good at pub quizzes.’ Alice said.
‘A pub quiz? I thought we were getting a romantic dinner?’ said Dianne.
‘You will, but not tonight. But we’ll leave you alone afterwards to watch the ducks.’ Debs grinned.
Both Ed and Dianne blushed. But they still held hands under the table.
After the quiz Alice kept her promise to leave the young lovers alone. Enjoying the buzz from the drinks and coming second in the quiz, Alice wandered round the basin to sit on her bench and watch the sunset.
Mo came out of the pub after a few minutes, and Alice watched her walk round the basin towards her bench. Mo was still in her kitchen whites, although they were harlequin coloured, and she had her green hair netted.
‘Mind if I join you?’ Mo said.
‘Of course not, I was just watching the sunset.’
Mo squeezed onto the bench next to Alice, almost, but not quite touching.
‘It’s a colourful sky, there’s a dozen shades of pink, purple, grey, orange and the cloud tops are almost black.’ Mo said.
‘I love it, wish it would stay like this.’
‘How did you do in the quiz?’
‘Not bad, we came second.’
‘I think coming second is my life goal.’ Mo turned from the fading sunset to Alice and held her gaze.
Alice could feel the warmth of Mo’s body in the cooling night air.