Happy New Year to you one and all.

Let's get 2015 started with a free short story.

I hope that you've had a great year.  It's been great to have you along for the ride.

A huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment, share an item, subscribe to The Awkward Squad Newsletter, buy a book, leave a review – or all of the above.  You are very much appreciated, and I just can't say that enough.

Let's keep things rolling along with your first free story of 2015.

Audio version to follow soon, and soon I'll be releasing a collection of short stories as a book – stay tuned.

***

Granny Jankovic

They’re here again. The children. It won’t do.

Last Monday I set off to do my shopping as usual, and there they were, playing in the park. “Look out!” they called.  “There goes Granny Jankovic.” I stopped in my tracks and turned on my heel, and off they ran, squealing and scampering away to hide behind the bushes.

“You little rascals,” I said. “I’ll wash your mouths out.”

“Ooh No!” they shouted, peering out at me, all wide eyes and cheeky grins. I gave them a cheery wave and I was just about to set off, when I noticed her.

There was one little girl who hadn't called out, hadn't run away. She stood and stared at me. Defiant. Cold.

I turned and walked away. But for the rest of the morning, I couldn't get that little girl’s heartless stare out of my mind.

On the way home, I hurried past the park and kept my head down. I didn't want to be bothered with their daft games. I just wanted a nice cup of tea by the fire. And I thought the children hadn't noticed me. But then I heard it. One word, shouted with all the might they could muster: “Witch!”

I pretended not to hear. Of course, it was that girl who’d put them up to it. It was obvious.

The next day, I’d forgotten all about it. So when I discovered that I’d run out of cat food for Bathsheba, I quite looked forward to my trip into town.

I smiled as I neared the park. It always did me good to hear them playing. But as soon as the children saw me, they stopped what they were doing and turned to face me. They didn’t say a word, they just stared. And of course, she was there, hands on her hips and a cruel smile on her lips.

I just kept walking. But I hadn't gone far before the shouting started. “Witch,” they jeered. “Hag. Dirty old crone.”

Hot tears stung the corners of my eyes. How could they be so hurtful? But of course, I knew. They’d never have said those words if she hadn't whispered them into their ears in the first place.

When I’d finished my errands, I caught the bus back.  It meant that I had to go rather out of my to get home, but at least I didn't have to walk past the park.

By the time Monday came around again, I’d convinced myself I’d been fussing over nothing. It was just a bit of silly teasing. It’s what children do.

But they weren't in the park. They were right outside my house. As soon as I opened the door, they started hissing and shouting. I slammed the door and stayed in.

Now they’re here again. And it just won’t do.

I take the doll from the drawer, and peer through the lace curtains. And when I fix my eyes on that little madam, I put the needle where the doll’s heart would be, and I push hard.

***

I hope you enjoyed this short story.   Commenters are always very welcome around here, and if you know someone who might enjoy it, do please feel free to share the story.

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