It's dark in here. That's because I live at the bottom of the jewellery box along with the other outcasts: the tangled necklace with the broken lobster claw and teddy pendant she got for her eleventh birthday, along with the bracelet that's missing a couple of gem stones.
She always says she will have them repaired but never does, preferring to spend the money on more fashionable pieces instead that imitate Asian and Oriental designs.
An untrained eye might imagine that they were found by a back-packer on their travels, but they weren't. They can be bought from any shop on the high-street, and are merely echoes of worlds she's never seen.
Not all of us down here are broken though. I'm not, and neither is the engagement ring she got from Mark, (who eventually cheated on her with Shannon from Reception) or the belly bar she took out when she put weight on and decided looked too young for her anyway.
The ones at the top who get worn more often pity us, (\u2018how boring it must be,' they say to each other in whispers they think we can't hear, \u2018being cooped up down there, month in, month out,') but in a way they're jealous.
As I've said, you could buy them in their hundreds if you wanted to, and they are without sentimental value like the childhood necklace or the belly bar that reminds her of her wild teens and early twenties. They're easily replaced and she gives them away when they become outdated - or chucks them if even her younger sister and the charity shops say no, thanks.
She doesn't like Mark's ring or me, so it isn't often that her fingers dig through the chunky bangles and strings of beads to bring me to the surface. It happens maybe three or four times a year when she has arranged to visit The Matriarch. The ring doesn't even get a look in.
Why Mark wouldn't let her give it back to him so that he could give it to someone he did love is beyond us; at least that way it would have been enjoyed. All the same, seeing as I'm an heirloom and the ring is eighteen carat white gold with a diamond the size of her little fingernail, we're here to stay. We're what she calls "investments."
Perhaps you imagine that I get bitter when the voices of the favoured ones float above my head, chattering away about their ventures out of the box: days at work, dinners, dates, parties and who was there, who wasn't there, what she wore...you get the drift. Or worse, maybe you feel sorry for me. I'd rather you didn't. Pity the rest but not me.
I'm not so keen on their weight pressing down on me but I don't mind the dark. In fact I quite like it. It reminds me of home, my real one, from before I met people.
As for being bitter, you can rule that out.
I'm a pearl, darling; it's not in my nature. You lot have seen me as a symbol of love for thousands of years and I do try to live up to my name by being kind - although I cannot help but wince sometimes at the irony, given that the first person I ever met died. Don't look at me like that; it wasn't my fault. But that's why she doesn't like me. All the same, when you have being kept in a family for over a century you do take an interest in your present owner, even if it's not reciprocated, so I enjoy listening to the young ones' gossip. Let them have their fun while they still can. The best they can hope for is a place in a child's dressing-up box in just a few, short years so they might as well enjoy it.
I might be old-fashioned and be from a past that she and you would rather forget, but I'm not like your kind. I will endure and outlive the others, her - even you. And I never forget. My memory doesn't grow weak with age, it gets stronger.
I can still smell what my home was like; still feel the movements of the person who found me when he panicked and rushed too quickly to the top, and the urgent, grasping hand of the first, but different person to ever touch me, as though I had only stopped smelling and feeling them a minute ago.
The memories of my owners and the events in their lives play like the films you are so fond of; the moment when her grandfather proposed to her grandmother, and the christening of her mother, they are all here ready to be relived whenever I choose. The stories I could tell you would fill every evening of your life and I would still have more secrets to share, so I don't begrudge the others their moments. Being 130 years old is not without its perks.
No, it's not jealousy or bitterness that concerns you when you're an heirloom, but preservation and stability. It is an unspoken rule that I am passed onto the nearest living woman in the family, and there have only been two times when I have not been passed down either to a son's wife, sibling, or in the more usual way from grandmother, mother to daughter and so on: the first time was in the 1940's when my owner died childless and I was given to her niece (my current owner's great-grandmother.)
The second was ten years ago when the great-grandmother's daughter skipped her own daughter and passed me down to her grandchild instead, and so here I am.
Both times were disruptive and it's not something I'd like repeating too often, although I fear it will happen again. I know your standards are different, but when an owner approaches thirty and shows no sign of wanting to settle down with someone and have children, you do get a little worried. She hasn't had a steady boyfriend since Mark, and they split up over three years ago.
What's the matter? Oh, I see, you're trying to work it out. I know, family trees are so confusing but try to keep up. Maybe telling you their names would have made it easier, but as I've said, stability and preservation are the keys. You do not hear of farmers giving names to their livestock because there is no point getting attached when they will only be sold, or worse.
It is the same with me: they will all pass on, leaving me behind and I have too much time to want to spend it all grieving. You will never hear me say their names. Take an interest, certainly; empathising with their joys and sorrows goes without saying but I will not love them. It's not worth an existence of endless heartache. It's funny really, in a desert-dry sort of way: A pearl that cannot love.
Before she grew up.
I suppose you think it strange that her grandmother (or The Matriarch as she jokingly calls her) skipped a generation and gave me to someone who doesn't like me, but it never used to be this way. When she was little and used to visit her grandmother she would ask, (very politely after giving her a peck on the cheek) if she could play with her jewellery box. The answer was always yes, and she would very carefully hunt through the diamonds and gold to find me, pin me to her jumper and wear me for the rest of the time she was there.
It became something of a ritual, to the point where her grandmother began to pick me out herself and would put me on the coffee table ready for when she arrived. When she was eighteen, The Matriarch had a heart attack, and fearing that she would never leave hospital, insisted on the girl's mother driving for two hours to get me, so that she could give me to her personally before it was too late.
The English are not a nation comfortable with the heat. An August afternoon in the city with the sun baking the pavements, overheating not just the diesel engines on the buses as they thundered by in a cloud of dirty fumes and dust, but the irritable people with fried tempers. Blaring car horns, sweaty armpits, uncomfortable in the heat. Manners and courtesy boiled away. Midsummer madness.
Fiction - 'Olde' Hull By Christopher Skolik
Martin sat on the wall, low, it was covered in graffiti; a matrix of over written names and messages to some dead junky, written over and over. Felt as though the sentiments were actually holding the place together, the place made up of the memories of those who knew Matt Kirk. Martin didn't. But he still felt the depths of this place.
Was there still enough of Old Hull left to lead Martin back into a better past?
Fiction - A Clever Use of Bins By Frankie Lassut
An uplifting, 'ultimate' romance fantasy.
Colin was the world's most romantic man, it was official.
Well, ok. His wife, Jean, had written into the local radio station, Hull Online, and told the presenter guy what he did for her i.e. washing up, ironing, rubbed her feet, was always telling her how lovely she looked (especially each time she bought a new dress), took her out for meals regularly etc.
She had won hands down.
Fiction - A Nice, Romantic Man By Frankie Lassut
Men! All the same! But, all I want is a nice one! All he has to do is be interested in me, and throw rose petals in my scented bath (which he ran) just like in American Beauty! Not much to ask is it? I deserve it.
She walked in the countryside with him, hand in hand; there was plenty of energy in the new romance.
Love was in the air! Wildlife could sense this. Birds sang, grasshoppers rasped, and butterflies just did what they do.
They came across a copse.
Fiction - All The Fun Of The Fair By Nick Quantrill Photographs by Darren Rogers
Jimmy held his hand out to the old man lying in a bed of wet cardboard boxes. 'Help you up, there?'
The old man took the hand. 'Good on you, son.'
Jimmy took the strain and pulled. 'No problem. You might want to get your face looked at, though.'
The old man took a tissue out of his pocket and wiped the blood from his nose. 'Don't worry about me, I'll be fine.' He laughed and wiped his hands on his trousers. 'So who are you, then?'
'New around here?'
Fiction - Side Orders - A Joe Geraghty Story By Nick Quantrill
'Ahmet's paranoid, man.'
I turned to Darren and shrugged. Ignoring him, I continued looking out of the car window and into the Hull night, the city flashing by. 'You've been robbed twice this week' I said. It had just turned midnight. People were staggering home, the streets slowly emptying, but plenty of drunks still wanted their fix of fast food.
'Bad luck, Joe. That's all. It happens.' Darren laughed. 'It's cool to have a bodyguard, though.'
'I guess so.' It'd make a good story down the pub, if nothing else.
Fiction - A Story About My Brother By J.W. Robinson
I was about twelve-years-old when my brother, James, came home from the supermarket carrying an enormous cardboard box and announced that he was going to live in it. He had been behaving strangely for a while. My mum said it was a phase he was going through and she didn't like to antagonise him too much; he was prone to emotional outbursts. Nevertheless I think she worried when he took that box up to his bedroom and climbed inside.
Fiction - Mary and Me By Leah Scarpati
The train station was full of children, a mass exodus of sorts. Some were crying, others were brimming over with the obvious excitement of their impending 'holiday'. A variety of ages, the children were all dressed in their best clothes and stood around on the platform with their boxed up gas masks hung over their shoulders and suitcases littered around with their names and destinations printed on them.
'Now you listen to me Billy,' his Mother said. Her voice wobbled a bit.
Fiction - Incident Number 33217 By Grant
Colonel Hafetz strode purposefully down the hall of the Knesset. He gripped the attaché case firmly and braced himself for his meeting. A quick reveal of his ID causes one of two guards stationed to open the door and announce:
'Mr. Prime Minister, Colonel Hafetz.'
Colonel Hafetz enters and a silent Prime Minister gestures him to sit.
The Colonel places the silver case on the desk, unlocks it and turns it to
Fiction - 100 Words Competition - Summertime By Julie Hines
The curtains of early darkness are drawn back for summer.
Gardens become beautiful this time of year.
Contrast of flowing colour. The fragrances of the pink Fuchsias draped in deep purple emphasizing their elegance. The Stock has a powerful aroma. Yellow Marigolds resembling regimented soldiers.
Placing the bulbs into her basket, she made her purchase.
Fiction - Fiend By Jarrett
It happened when I was only seven. They let their eyes off of me for only a moment and he snatched me away. I never saw them again. They are the only ones I ever loved. In fact, it was so long ago I don't even remember how it feels, and to be honest I don't want to; I'm sure it will only bring pain.
I don't know why he did it. I'll never fully understand why he did, but I've come close. I guess like me he yearned for that same feeling so many people take for granted, love.
Fiction - Leonard By Frankie Lassut
Ring ring, Ring ring ...
Leonard smiled, and tubbed his hands together. He picked up the phone, and went into voluntary professional mode:
'I've got nothing to live for. The credit card companies are threatening to take my house away to
pay my bills, which they have piled the interest on.
My wife got fed up of it and left with my children, and my firm has collapsed.
I don't know what to do.
Fiction - One All By Mike Watts
The knock on the door sounded official; usually callers just pressed the bell, but this morning, they didn't...
Dean's heart rate moved up a notch.
'Who the fuck's that?'
He stood up from the chair that he was slouched in and walked over to the window.
Parting the curtains slightly, he observed two powerfully built characters standing there.
One was holding a clip-board; his sleeveless arms were loaded with tattoos
Fiction - The Dance Of The Pheasodile By Tim Roux
I have to admit that I am in a bit of a predicament.
I have regained consciousness to discover myself swinging upside down outside the plate glass window that wraps around the lawyers' office where my wife works - where she is a partner, in fact. I am bumping up against the pane as I dangle here. I can see several of the office staff taking pictures of me with their mobile phones, and feverishly distributing them somewhere over the ether.