A Chapter by Alice

The face did not come back the next day, of course, or the day after. It never left me though; it was on my mind, fleetingly, every day. I could not concentrate properly on anything, no matter how hard I tried. My thoughts in turn led to my missing sister. I had not thought of her so frequently for years. The end of November drew closer and closer, but the threat of Christmas was nothing compared to the threat of what I had seen on that single day. I wondered casually whether I might be insane, but I didn't try to do anything about it. The promised flood of customers did not seem to appear, and I was worried for Dianne, but she told me that I should wait until December, and then the shop would be filled with people. I continued to work and worry, until a greater concern took over and I forgot all about what I had seen that day when I was looking out the window.

It was a Sunday - my day off. I was reading in my room when I heard my mother calling me from downstairs. I went downstairs I heard her asking - 'What has she done? Oh - ok.'

  She passed the phone over explaining that it was 'work'. I took the phone without comment, annoyed that she had been prying into my business, and doubly annoyed that she had assumed that I had done something wrong.

'Hello?' I said, expecting to hear Dianne. The voice that answered me was not Dianne's however; it was male and unfamiliar. I wondered who it could possibly be.

'Hello - this is Mrs Philips' son - Dianne Philips? Your manager?'

I asked if there was anything wrong. I already had a dislike for this son.

'Yeah - um - Mrs Philips isn't feeling too great at the moment. She's had a bit of an accident you see. She took a bit of a fall in her kitchen and hit her head. She has to stay in hospital for the rest of the week - the doctors are worried about concussion - and she's worried about the shop.'

I was stunned - I had no idea what to say. All I could mumble was a startled 'that's terrible' before the man continued to speak.

'You know that it would be terrible for the shop to close so close to Christmas. It doesn't need a lot of looking after but it really does need to stay open, she's told me. It'll make all the difference. Do you think that you would be up to looking after the shop on your own?'

I told him that that would be fine and was about to ask more about Dianne, but he interjected and told me that he would be in to check on me every in case there were any problems, thanked me and hung up. I was stunned, and decided that I would have to visit Dianne as soon as possible and find out whether she was ok. I was already confronted with the dilemma of whether I should choose a card from our shop or whether I should go somewhere else. I hoped that Dianne was ok; I didn't know much about concussion and I hoped that she was coping well. The fact that she had been hospitalised was worrying. I hoped very much that she got out soon. But that was how I came to be in charge of the shop on my own for the next few days.


Aside from worrying about Dianne, and hoping that I was a good manager, the week that I spent on my own with the shop was a pleasant one. The responsibility was refreshing for somebody who was so often regarded as immature. A few customers asked after Dianne and I solved my problem by choosing a very large get well soon card and asking people if they would like to sign it. I ended up with two; Dianne was very well known in the town and when people heard that she was unwell they came into the shop simply to ask how she was getting on. I was very pleased with my card idea and decided that I would take the two cards to her on Saturday, when the shop was only open half day. I would have gone in sooner but, my only transport being the bus, travelling to the next town and back at the time when the shop closed would have been impossible. Our local hospital was in the same town as my old school; there was a huge fuss at one point because the council were planning to close it down. I would have asked my father to take me, but he worked late in the same town as the hospital and would have been reluctant to drive home only to drive back into town again. I decided that it would have to be the weekend.

Dianne's son was called Barry, and he visited around midday to see how things were going. I always felt uneasy around him; he always tried to strike up conversation and lent on the counter while I stocked the card racks. One day he asked how I could bear to work in the place. I looked up in surprise.


'I've been telling her for years that the shop won't stand the competition from the multinationals,' he elaborated. 'Well - look at the place. It's not exactly progressing with the times. She should look at getting a better selection - finding herself a niche so she wont have to compete.'

'I think Dianne's found her niche already - she knows what people want around here,' I told him, but he wasn't listening.

'I mean - I grew up with this place. She's bitter because I don't want to take it over, because she thinks that in some way I'm betraying our family's traditions. She should take a look at me though - I one hundred percent Philips. I went away and studied business, and now I'm a shop owner myself, though I can tell you - my place isn't suffering from the economy as much as hers. I don't want to break it to her, but with the current financial climate and with her health failing and everything, I'll be surprised if this place makes it past this year. I've offered to pay for her to go into a retirement home, but she's so proud. I'd take this place over and make it into something better, but she's so sentimental...'

And he carried on in this fashion for a while. I was glad when he left.


On the Wednesday of that week the shop was particularly quiet. Barry had come in for his little visit. He had unexpectedly started asking about me; my future plans, and if I had any interest in finance. I told him that I wanted to be an historian, hoping that this might dissuade him from his usual tirade on the virtues of progress. Unfortunately this seemed to have the opposite effect, and he began to talk about how we must have a knowledge of the past if we want to draw any sort of meaning from the future.

'I mean - look at me,' he remarked. 'I grew up in the business world. I know how things used to be and for this reason I understand the significance of what we have got ourselves into today, and how we are going to get ourselves out of it, and what the world will be like after. You always have to look at the bigger picture...'

He left eventually, and I sat behind the till and covertly began to flick through a book that I had secreted away beneath it. This was the only rule that I had broken in Dianne's absence; Dianne would not allow reading, even when there was nobody in the shop, though I suspected that this was because she wanted somebody to talk to. I decided that there was no harm in it, and was very diligent where hiding the book in the presence of any customers was concerned. As soon as the bell on the shop door sounded, it disappeared and I was smiling and asking them if they were having a nice day or if I could help with anything. I learnt more about the residents of the town in that week than I had in four years, and for the first time since I had moved there I felt something not too dissimilar to affection for the place, even I still would have had no desire to remain there had I been given the choice. On that Wednesday, however, somebody visited the shop, and my world changed forever.

I was reading, when I felt a chill, and looked up.

The door was open.

 It was a weighted door, and it was closing slowly, but nonetheless it was open. Why hadn't I heard the shop bell? I walked to the door and forced it closed, and then slowly looked around.

There was a person standing behind me, female, with her back turned. All I could see was her coat, and her hair. I'll always remember that hair. She was standing beside an old upright display, the sort that spun around, and, in our shop, was stacked with postcards showing the work of a local photographer. I shivered, but spoke.

'Can I help you?'

She turned around, almost surprised that I had spoken to her.
I took a step back when I saw her face.
I knew that face. I had seen it before, from the other side of the window.

© 2010 Alice

Author's Note

Ignore Captain Capitalism. As this was a NaNoWriMo project I didn't have time for my usual careful consideration of characterisation. Barry is probably the most stereotypical character I've ever created.

My Review

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When the son calls in regards to Dianne's fall, you're missing a word. He "says he will check on her every _____."
as well as when he's talking about how Dianne is bitter." I___ one hundred percent Phillip's"
But good chapter!

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Haha 'Captain Capitalism'.
I think its okay to have some kind of Stereotypical character in once or twice, it gives off a kind of light releif. And Barry isn't over the top, but subtley done.

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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2 Reviews
Added on February 9, 2010
Last Updated on February 9, 2010



United Kingdom

I’m a prose writer, mainly one that works on novels and doesn’t finish them. I want to use this place like an online notebook. I’ll be posting as I write, which means a lot of this .. more..

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