Read one of our short story competition runners-up...

A New Start by Carol Lewis


When she awoke that morning she knew it was going to be a summer to remember… Something felt different. She’d seen him again yesterday and his look lingered ever so slightly. She felt good, someone cared; yes, others gave her food but no-one stopped to talk to her or to comfort her.

He seemed different, somehow, and she was right, that day he actually sat down next to her and shared his lunch. Usually she was wary of strangers but this felt different.

He came again the following day, must have been about the same time, and then for the rest of the week. His name was Brian. Nothing much was said but it still felt right.

It was lonely and frightening out on the streets, but safer than where she had lived before – the abuse was daily so she had to get away. Trust was not easy for her, after everything she’d gone through, but somehow she knew he was different, so one day after he’d asked her to go with him, she did. Tentatively at first, but she went anyway.

Brian had been on his own before she came along, so for both of them it was a new start.

The days passed quickly and quietly, just lazing on the sofa in front of the television until bedtime when Brian would go upstairs and she would be snuggled up on the sofa.

Sometimes at the beginning she would cry at night when he’d gone upstairs, but he would come down and comfort her and tell her it wouldn’t be right to sleep in his bed and so she stayed downstairs.

So they settled into their routine, him leaving for work every morning and her looking out of the window, waiting for him to come home, not believing her luck that someone cared so much. He’d come home every lunch hour and they would go for a little walk, rain or shine. She loved that, and she loved him… and only him.

His neighbours were pleased for Brian, that he’d found a purpose – they had been so worried for him when his wife had died recently. He rarely left the house, except to go to work – now he had a reason to live.

Days turned to weeks, then months. She became restless. She felt safe but she felt trapped. She hated feeling like that. She felt she owed him more but she couldn’t help herself.

She’d started noticing the stranger a few days before, always watching and, she sensed, waiting for her, always when Brian left for work. She knew she shouldn’t feel this way but she did. The feeling of freedom, just for a little while.

So when Brian came home that lunchtime, she saw her chance. While they were out walking, she ran and ran; Brian was shouting for her to come back but she wouldn’t listen. She felt alive, she didn’t know how far she’d gone but then he was there. He’d seen her run off and followed her. The attraction was instant and they couldn’t help themselves. In the heat of the moment, she gave in.

A few hours later, she went home. Brian was on the doorstep. He looked so upset, she felt guilty but it was done and she’d come back to him. She thought he would be mad at her but he just picked her up in his arms and told her everything will be OK, she was home now, and she felt safe. She didn’t need anyone else, she knew that now.

They settled back into their routine and that’s just how she liked it.

One day months after, she felt strange, she was scared.

Brian had been wonderful, looking after her like no-one else ever had before. She whimpered in pain, but he soothed her and later that day when it was all over, she felt at peace with the world, snuggled up with her babies.

Brian was brilliant, helping them into the world, and now they’re one big happy family… Brian, Tess and her four beautiful new puppies.

© Carol Lewis