The Rules by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: Masterminds | Word Count: 1000 exactly (in Word) | Genre: Crime/Domestic Noir

The sea was uneasy. I watched the sunset spill across the water and fragment into frothy shards.

Don reached over for his glass, brushed away a mosquito.

“Let’s stay here,” I whispered. “Please,” but my words melted in the heat. I slid down into the rattan chair.

A waiter appeared, barefoot. A westerner. He glanced at Don, twice over.

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The Club by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: The Club  | Word count: 750 (exactly) | Genre: Sci-fi/horror

Rob saw it first.

We were limbering up, and then – I remember – he went very still.

“Mik-eyyyyyy!” came a two-handed holler from across the fields. I always forgave Rob his little brother. We even let Stevie in The Club – after all, there were some games you couldn’t play with two. (“I swear on my life,” Stevie had repeated, as a bead of scarlet trickled down his palm.)

“Earth to Mik-eyyy!” yelled Stevie.

“Get on with it,” I muttered, the bat rough in my hand. I felt the prick of a splinter.

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Perfect Fit by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: Coming Undone  | Word count: 1200 (exactly) | Genre: Contemporary fiction

No. Surely not. The dress was a –

Fran twisted sharply in the changing room and peered over her shoulder. It couldn’t be – could it?

She turned back again, and dared to look at her reflection. The dress shimmered in the pearly light, a shifting, iridescent blue, as if whispering silken secrets. Fran lifted one hand and traced her fingers – haltingly – down her figure. She couldn’t quite believe it, but the dress was a perfect fit.

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Time To Go Home by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: Going Home | Word Count: 500 | Genre: Mainstream fiction

“Higher!” she squeals, ” High-errrr!” and I push the swing harder so it arcs up into the spilled blue of the sky, even though I know what’s going to happen next. And on cue Izzy swings back down and kicks her legs and shouts, “Tooooo hiiiigh!” and I catch her as she jumps, like I always do. She lets me hold her tight and breathe her in: her dimpled skin, her hot little hands, her smell of sugared strawberries, until she struggles and wriggles and tears away to run free, blonde curls bobbing, across the grass.

We are back at the park again. There are others here today, of course – it’s a perfect summer’s day, unclouded, not too hot. I sit on the warm slats of my usual bench and watch Izzy scrambling up the slide, past the older boys kicking a football, indifferent, and wonder how many years I have left before they see her, they really see her, and I lose my little girl. But right here in this park, under the buttery sun, there’s nobody with eyes for her but me.

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White Lies by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: A White Lie | Word Count: 2500 | Genre: Mainstream fiction

I knew something wasn’t right when my mother stopped abruptly by the kiosk, clapped her hands lightly, and said, “Let’s have an ice cream!”

I looked up at her, squinting in the summer holiday sun.

“Ice cream!” shrieked Peggy in delight, and tried to spin around, but stumbled.

I caught my sister’s arm, and said, “We’ve only just had breakfast!” but my mother was already clinking coins over, distracted. Somewhere above us, a seagull began its harsh, halting cry. With a cone of whirled white in her hand, my mother glanced up.

“Be careful,” she said, eyeing the gull, “Or he’ll take it. – Wait!” she added, as I reached out, “Ladies first.”

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The Door by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: New Life | Word Count: 1000 | Genre: Mainstream fiction

The iced wind seared my patchy scalp, and I coughed again, a raspy, racking ache. My fingers stung. Perhaps we should never have walked all this way to the hospital, but when I was little, March never used to be this bitter. I remembered sunshine. We’d even drive over to the beach sometimes, and –

“Mum,” sighed Amy, “How much longer will this take?”

I caught us frozen in the glass front opposite: my daughter, a sliver of sulky green; myself, a sharpened stick. It would be the last time I set eyes on either of us.

“A few minutes,” I said, glancing at my watch. There was less than half an hour before my appointment.

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The List by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: The List | Word Count: 1500 | Genre: Mainstream fiction

It’s unexpected, the text. So unexpected that when I glance at the number, I nearly drop my phone.

I’m sorry, Sarah. My heart crashes into my ribs. I’m sorry about everything.

I can’t believe I’m reading this. I can’t believe –

Are you free tonight?

I take a quick breath in and start to choke.

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The Conversation Garden by Joanna Rubery

Prompt: Conversation with my Spouse | Word Count: 1200 | Genre: Mainstream fiction

I knew it instantly. You were there – then half a second later, you were gone.

“Stand back!” shouted the doctor, that antsy one you never liked, and “This way,” said Agnieszka, doe-eyed,“This way, Mrs Johnson,” guiding me out through the swing doors to the empty corridor, as behind us they worked away on you, in vain.

I made a sound. Agnieszka squeezed my shoulder.

“It’s too late,” I told her.

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