Tuesday, 5 August 2014



This year I’m joining Zoe Brooks’ second annual Magic Realism Bloghop. Magic realism brings the unusual in to our everyday world, and can include folklore, mythic or fantasy elements. One writer I've particularly enjoyed in this genre is Joanne Harris. 

My contribution is a story - the first time I’m posting one on my blog. So I hope I can keep your interest as it's a lot longer than my regular posts, and that you enjoy the tale of Ivy Dreams©.

There are some great bloggers participating, so please, find a little time to put your feet up, relax, take the tour and enjoy what's on offer!

     ‘Good grief!’ Ivy exclaimed, sitting up and blinking rapidly, but the face wavering among the tree branches remained. A minute ago she’d been sprawled on the couch daydreaming, watching the branches of summer green leaves swaying with soft grace in the evening breeze, her imagination captivated by the tall stately oak at the bottom of the garden. 

Ivy stared at the man’s thick black curly hair, beard, striking symmetrical features; his dark shining eyes gazed into her soul. He smiled. Bewitched, Ivy returned his smile. She looked away, then back again. He was still there. A tiny voice said this either had to be an optical illusion, or she was hallucinating.  A gust of wind shook the leaves and the mysterious image vanished.

She’d had a rotten day. Her boss, Gregory Bing the Elder, had run her ragged, his normal patience deserting him for warmer climes; his abrasive voice still echoed in her head. And he’d had the cheek to hustle off at five on the dot without the slightest acknowledgement that she would have to stay late to finish.

And to think she indulged, on occasion, in various romantic scenarios with him - of course, only since his wife died. She sighed, tucking a few stray hairs back into her bun. I’m fifty, overweight, worked at the same firm for thirty years, my hair’s going grey and I’m excited by a tree. A cloud of gloom, the precursor to an evening of wine and chocolate, settled itself comfortably into the barren spaces of her heart.

Yet Ivy remained glued to the window, lingering after sunset, after the first stars winked into view, even after the sharp edge of anticipation faded. At one o’clock in the morning, she surrendered, went to bed, and dreamed of a handsome dark haired companion escorting her through glades carpeted with flowers where ethereal music played, and time had no meaning. 

In the bright morning sunshine she doubted she’d seen anything. Ready for work, white blouse crisp with spray-on starch, arrowed pleated skirt, she sipped her morning coffee by the window, scrutinizing the tree. Nope. Nothing. Just as she’d suspected - a trick of the light. She’d been working too hard, and was losing her marbles.

Then he materialized and she was gazing into his eyes. The cup hit the carpet and she yelped as hot drops of coffee spattered her feet and ankles, but she didn’t look away. He stared at her with intense longing, before disappearing.

He was real. She hadn’t imagined him. Once, maybe. But twice? 

Ivy spent fifteen minutes removing the coffee stains while her emotions buzzed with an unfamiliar exhilaration. Who was he? Logic said his existence was impossible, implausible. But his appearance had to mean something significant. And why had he chosen her to reveal himself to?

Always first in the office, Ivy wasn’t bothered when she arrived late that morning. The world was different, the air cleaner, colours brighter, scents more fragrant. Usually she felt invisible - a full-fledged member of the silent army of women of a certain age and class whose physical attributes were on the wane. Today though, she was vibrant.  A slight suspicion raised its head.  The mysterious man? She dismissed the idea as impossible. Yet as she walked through the foyer, her thoughts kept returning to the enigmatic face and to his eyes in particular. Compelling was how she described them. 

     ‘Dammed car,’ she said to Muriel, the scrupulous office supervisor. The strange man’s smile sprang to mind. Here was a chance to test her theory. ‘This is your fault,’ she said silently to him. ‘Can’t you fix it?’ 

     ‘No problem.’ Muriel said beaming at her. Ivy couldn’t remember Muriel ever smiling at her with such genuine amiability. ‘These things happen from time to time. Oh, and Mr Bing won’t be in today.’ 

Ivy sighed with relief, glad she wouldn’t have to see him - resentment still gnawed after yesterday. Whoever her baffling friend was, he was working miracles.

As the day passed she discovered that when something awkward cropped up, or someone approached her with a hint of ill-humour on their face, merely thinking of her secret collaborator removed the problem. Frowns disappeared and kind, friendly words generated a sense of companionship with her colleagues – something she’d not experienced in years.

Arriving home, Ivy burned with impatience to see her dark-eyed hero. Eyes glued on the tree, she paced the living room, nibbling at her fingernails, willing him to appear. The bubble of hope that had sustained her all day shrivelled and popped. Wasn’t this typical? Promises on the horizon never moving close enough to become reality. As she perched on a stool in the kitchen sipping hot milk, she had a brainwave. Giving him a gift would demonstrate her gratitude.

The clock had struck midnight when she tip-toed down to the tree, grateful for the cover night provided from neighbouring curiosity. Spade in one hand, the other clutching the silver charm bracelet she’d received for her thirteenth birthday, she felt like an idiot standing out in the garden in her nightdress - until she remembered the cheery looks and friendliness of her colleagues. Today had been different.

Choosing a spot near the tree, she dug, the soft earth yielded easily. 'Take this, and thank you,' she whispered, placing the bracelet with tender care into its new home. After covering her offering, she stepped closer to the tree stroking the rough ridged bark. At first, firm to her touch, something shifted, rippling as power flowed through her hands, up her arms, and she shuddered as waves of pleasure thrummed through her body. When the ecstasy ebbed, she was cold and her arms stiff.

In her dreams that night, she walked once more with her captivating companion in the enchanting forest of wonders.

The next day, from the minute she arrived in the building, people continued to treat her in a most cordial fashion.

     ‘Good morning!’ 

     ‘A lovely day, isn’t it?’

     ‘Thank you.’ She sent grateful thoughts to her guardian angel. ‘This is your doing’. The hidden intimacy of invoking her otherworldly collaborator thrilled her. 

On impulse, she made a lunch time hair appointment for colour and cut, and was quite a hit with her new shorter, more fashionable, style receiving compliments all afternoon. At the end of the day, when Ivy was finishing up, Gregory Bing came into her office. She looked at him, eyes puppy soft and eager to please, her irritation with him forgotten.

‘Miss Carter... um... Ivy. I’m afraid I was rather brusque with you the other day. I wonder if I might make it up to you.’ He paused, ‘would you be interested in coming for a drink with me tonight?

     ‘Me?’ she squeaked.

     ‘Yes, you.’ His blue eyes twinkled.

     ‘I’d love to,’ she exhaled in a breathy rush.

Gregory Bing took her to an expensive bar in the centre of town where they sat in a secluded corner. Despite her lack of opportunities for a number of years, Ivy found herself at ease in his company as she discovered a humorous side of Gregory she’d not known.

     ‘Tell me,’ he asked, leaning forward ‘I don’t mean to pry, but is there anyone special in your life?’

     ‘No,’ she blushed, unable to look at him. ‘No, there isn’t’

      ‘Good, I’m glad,’ he said. Ivy’s blush deepened. 

She thought of how her mysterious man was fulfilling her desires, and felt blessed. By the time the evening ended, it was natural for him to place a delicate kiss on her cheek.

The feel of Gregory’s lips still lingered on her skin that night as she knelt offering her grandmother’s pearl necklace into the opened earth by the tree.

     ‘Thank you,’ she said pouring her heartfelt gratitude into her words. ‘Thank you for everything.’  Her unknown benefactor had sent Gregory for her to love, and maybe, just maybe, he’d love her in return, and she wouldn’t have to spend her final years alone.

As Ivy approached, the tree’s long branches stretched shadowy fingers towards her. She spread her arms wide, eager to receive its pleasure. But instead of bliss, jagged needles stabbed, piercing her skin, and as she looked up, she saw his spectral eyes filled with rage. She tried to pull away but couldn’t move, couldn’t scream. The pain escalated, intense knives of agony searing her nerves, her heart pounding so fast she thought she was going to die. At last the torment ended, and she collapsed in a huddle on the damp earth. Later, when she’d stumbled back to the house, she wrenched the curtains closed and lay in bed sobbing.

She didn’t sleep much that night as her body kept twitching with residual pain. In the morning, listless, grey smudges under her eyes, she peered out of the window with trepidation, relaxing when she saw no sign of him. She left the curtains closed.

 Ivy’s heart skipped and the tribulations of the night receded when she entered her office, and spotted a red rose wrapped in silver foil on her desk. A card lay beside it. I enjoyed last night, read the message. Will you join me for dinner at 7pm? She buzzed through to Gregory’s office.

     ‘Yes, Ivy?’ His deep, mellow voice sent shivers down her spine. 

     ‘Yes, Mr. Bing. I mean, yes, Gregory, the answer’s yes.’

     ‘Good. Thank you, Ivy. I look forward to this evening. May I have the Harrison files?’

     ‘Yes, of course. Right away.’

As Ivy placed the files on Gregory’s desk, he uttered a weird sound. His eyes bulged with panic and his mouth made odd fishlike movements as he gasped for air. His body shook, stiffened and he fell backwards in his chair, his head lolling to the side at a peculiar angle. Ivy rushed forward, grabbing his shoulders.

     ‘Help! Help!’ she screamed, struggling to stop him toppling to the floor.  Muriel came running. ‘Call an ambulance,’ Ivy shrieked, unable to look away from Gregory’s face. His eyelids fluttered like the wings of a trapped moth and his breath came in short wheezes. No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. 

     ‘Move back,’ someone said prising her arm from under Gregory’s head. A couple of men laid him on the floor, another gave mouth to mouth resuscitation. After the paramedics arrived, they carried him out on a stretcher.

People huddled in small groups, their voices muted, dismay and pity in their eyes. Bing the Younger dashed in and out, and work stopped. Ivy went back to her desk and stared at the red rose. Muriel brought her a cup of hot tea.

‘Here, drink this. It’ll help. What a shock for his poor son.’

Ivy didn’t answer. She sat, stunned, incapable of speech. Then the phone call. 

     ‘They say he suffered a massive heart attack and, I’m sorry to tell you, but he was declared dead on arrival at the hospital,’ Muriel informed her.

The news spread through the office, but the tsunami inside Ivy’s head turned their voices to babble. An awful dread overwhelmed her as she understood the happiness she yearned for, which had come so close, was now denied her.

     ‘Come on.’ Muriel took charge. ‘I’m sending you home.’

She helped Ivy downstairs, and put her in a taxi. Gregory Bing’s stricken face haunted her on the ride home.

Ivy opened the curtains. Leaves sparkled as a light wind danced through the branches of the magnificent oak. He was there, but she was numb, indifferent to his possessive devotion. Their eyes locked and a hot shaft of hatred speared her heart. She yanked the curtains shut, stormed into the kitchen, flicking savagely through the phone directory till she found what she wanted.

     ‘Yes,’ she insisted to the chirpy voice at the other end of the phone. ‘The job must be done today.’  She returned to the dimly lit room and sat on the couch, back straight, head erect, waiting.

After the loud whine of the chainsaw, the cracking and ripping of trunk and branches, and the tree’s dying screams had ceased, she listened to the silence. 

                                                                 THE END

Useful Links: 
A comprehensive introduction to the genre of magic realism. 
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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....

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