Short stories

from The Honourable Mrs Graham

The details of my childhood are of little consequence. There was the stench off the river in the heat, and the onion domes in Petersburg ripe and golden all over, and I always wondered whether a curious finger would recoil from their metal cold. There was Jenny hiding behind father’s mahogany desk in the study, and me behind the embroidered fire screen; snatches of French passing between us like stolen sweets, sugary mouthfuls which Ekaterina had not a hope of interpreting. She wanted civilised Russian ladies, but we soiled our slippers playing with Stepka in the orchard and I had a drawer full of lonely gloves without their mistresses – I would be whipped for holding out a left hand of cherry velvet and a right of kid with lace trim, but the gloves seemed quite determined to leave themselves behind all over the place. Once I held out five fingers clad in silk to the Tsaritsa and was told that I would do. This, I suppose, was the crux. Lying in my casket, my body exposed to the hands of Frenchmen and their spit and filthy touch – still, I do. Theirs is an obscene wish, but let us be kind.

I spent my childhood touching, taking matted feathers from the ground and sticking my paws in the cook’s dough – she would rush in cursing me for spoiling it, but my fingers were fat worms, happy in a new clay. Seventeen years appreciating the surfaces of my world – it was all blessedly mine, for which I am grateful, having never known poverty or hunger. When I was handed off the carriage in Edinburgh something was undone, or reversed, and it seemed then that the world came to me for its touch. My clothes blush to touch my skin, which is whiter than the sky over Palace Square in January. The ostrich feather is delighted to curl upwards into my grip. Thomas saw heaven in the flesh of my waist and hardly dared look higher. And so, careful not to embarrass for I know what it is you want, I look away. I am kind, for I have been shown kindness. And so – I do. There is no changing that now. Look at me; the cold world is no colder than I am. Thomas! You are wrong! Pray stop your fretting, for they do not hurt me now I am gone. While I was by your side – then your anxieties were justified. You waited all my life for another highwayman to cross your path so that you could prove to me just how safely I was bestowed. I should have told you, dear, that I knew.

 

Print / Online

Ruins and other stories: Cinnamon Press Short Story Prize Anthology 2016, May 2017: “Out on Plymouth Hoe”

Fallow Media, October 2016: “From my window

Prac Crit, Edition 7, August 2016: Essay on ‘Durham Cathedral’ by Katrina Porteous

The Literateur, 3 June 2016: “Daddy’s Girl

Stand, Issue 207, October 2015: “Blackout”

2014 Flash Fiction Prize Anthology, August 2015: “Supernova”

Fuselit, Issue 18, October 2014: “Hippolyta”

Eating My Words: National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2014, June 2014: “Postcard to my best friend from a non-Londoner, one ‘dull… of soul’”

Visual Verse, 6 November 2013: “Natural History

Ink, Sweat and Tears, 13 October 2013: “The Convalescent

Cadaverine, 3 October 2013: “Middle Period

Cadaverine, 29 August 2013: “The Honourable Mrs Graham

The Warwick Review, Vol.7 No.2 Jun 2013: “Bad Choices”

Mslexia, Issue 54, Jun/Jul/Aug 2012: “Flexitime”

Ink, Sweat and Tears, 16 January 2012: “Enclosure

The Literateur, 26 November 2011: “Dutch Interior

Horizon Review, Issue 6, September 2011: “The Honourable Mrs Graham”

Nthposition, June 2011: “Snow day

(Short) Fiction Collective, 31 May 2011: “You Should Have Built Tall, You Should Have Built Wide

Likestarlings, January 2011: “L-plan”, “Case Study”, “Quaternary Period

Brand Literary Magazine, Issue 6, Spring/Summer 2010: “Love Letter”

Harper’s Bazaar, 11 August 2010: “Channel

Fractured West, Issue 1, July 2010: “Summer Camp”

Junctures Journal, Issue 12, June 2009: “Power Cut”

 

Competitions

2017

Bridport Prize (shortlisted)

2016

Cinnamon Press Short Story Prize (runner up)

2015

Bridport Prize (shortlisted)

2014

Flash Fiction Prize (shortlisted)

2013

Scott Prize for a Debut Collection of Short Stories (shortlisted)

2012

Bridport Prize (shortlisted)

Mslexia Short Story Competition (3rd)

Highland Literary Salon Competition (highly commended)

2011

Cinnamon Press Short Story Prize (longlisted)

Pushcart Prize (nominated)

2010

Short Fiction New Writers Competition (longlisted)

2009

John Muir Wild Writing Prize (highly commended)

Orange/Harper’s Bazaar Short Story Competition (runner up)