Contemporary Urban Fantasy Romance

‘It’s not fair!’ Shelly burst out, the weight of her despair was so strong that she folded under it on the blue velvet chaise lounge in her new home in Kensington.

‘Which idiot, which absolute idiot does this?’ Her husband, Dan of thirty-three years glared at her, pacing back and forth, his skin flaring up in red blotches. He dug his thumbs deeper into the lapels of his corduroy coat.

'Oh, don't start.' Shelly's usual satin-like blond hair was standing at odd places and her eyeliner had begun to crease her crows feet.

'This is so typical of you!' He hissed, swiping a ceramic figurine off the side-table. It rolled over and stopped by her feet.

She shot him a warning look, quelling his budding rebellion at its root, a practice she had perfected by experience. She stood up to her full height. At five feet eight inches she was an inch taller than him and raised her voice to match his. ‘Do you think I’m not devastated enough? But feel free to rub it in, it’s all you’ve ever been good for.’

Dan gave up, his mouth retreating inwards in a thin line like a clam. He slunk out to the balcony to smoke his misery away.

Shelly bit her plump lower lip and another horrific realisation dawned. Her immense consternation could have an adverse effect on the various facial surgical procedures she had undertaken. Thus, she adjusted her expression into one of contrived serenity. 

They had just returned from a visit to their former home in St Albans. The property had been sold two days ago when they had misplaced the snake plant. Shelly had searched the driveway, cobbled pathway, bins and the grassy stretch at the front of the house. She had circled the entire property in vain. When the outer property had been searched, she ordered Dan to use their keys to enter the house. ‘But we should ask the estate agent, it’s not our house anymore.’

‘To hell with the estate agent!’ Shelly snatched the keys from Dan and scoured the house for her potted plant. She searched each nook and under every piece of furniture she had discarded. She had a splitting headache and a building thirst. She cursed her recent indulgence. Her new juice-head friends inculcated her into a vicious cycle of drinking and partying. She was forgetting things which had landed her in her current predicament. She vowed to cut down on her alcohol consumption. 

‘Maybe Tom from Best Home took it?’ Dan suggested. ‘How could you just leave your plant on the roadside?’

Shelly flung her arms about striking at the air around her. ‘There was so much going on with the move. I had put it in there so long ago, I completely forgot about it. I thought a new home deserved pots. That plant was yellowing and diseased anyway.’ Her words sank in imitation of her slumping shoulders. 

‘A snake plant is supposed to bring bad luck if you don’t care for it.’

Shelly rolled her eyes and dialled Tom’s number. 

‘Not a clue, Mrs Butler, not a clue.’ Tom’s slick salesman voice floated out of her cell phone. ‘I didn’t see any potted plants outside your property or I would have definitely called you before binning them. The new owners haven’t moved in yet so can’t lay the blame at their door. They are off on a skiing vacation and due to return and claim their property in a week’s time. Anything more I can help you with?’ 

Shelly muttered another curse and ended the call. 

‘Some local ruffian must have nicked it. Should we report it to the police? Shelly asked Dan, chewing on her nails and ruining her french manicure.

‘We? If you want to report undeclared financial assets that you haven’t paid tax on, you do it at your own risk. I’ll have no part in this. I haven’t recovered from the last time HMRC was breathing down my neck for understating our sales.’

Although the Butlers unconsciously blamed themselves for the loss of their precious snake plant, the real culprit happened to be a certain Robert Smith. Robert wore pants that morning close to tearing at the seams. His loafers had a hole where he could see his toe peeking out. He was humming the tune of ‘falling slowly.’ If he had the money to indulge his passions he would have taken lessons to learn the tune on a proper grand piano and serenaded his wife. Or if he had some money to spare he would have taken Betty to watch 'Once' in The Phoenix Theatre. It reminded him of his love story. Once upon a time he and Betty had both harboured dreams of being musicians and had met during a concert.

It was 8:35 pm and Robert had boarded the Thameslink train after fixing the leak under Mrs Anita Dinshaw’s sink. Anita was eighty-six years old and frequently called him to do odd jobs around her house. ‘Robert dear, the kitchen floor is flooded! I have no idea what to do…’ she had almost burst into tears on the phone. Robert had been looking forward to going home straight after his warehouse job, but he couldn’t refuse the old lady. He had grown fond of her over the years. She baked his favourite lemon drizzle cake or cooked spicy aubergine curry whenever he visited her. Many times he had requested her not to take the trouble for him, and as many times she had told him it wasn’t any trouble. She loved cooking for people, but people didn’t come around to see her anymore. Her children were too busy for her. ‘I’ve a mind to tell your children off for ignoring you like this!’ Robert would say.

‘If my laments have fallen on deaf ears, how would a stranger’s words matter? But you are a good man, Robert. A gem of a man if I saw one. I remember the time you took me to the ER when I had chest pain.’

Robert knew she liked having him around for some company. He didn’t charge her much, although he needed every penny. He worked at the warehouse, and wondered how long his strength would see him through. At fifty-nine years, he hadn’t too much physical strength left inside him. Living expenses were sky-rocketing in London. He and Betty had to ration the groceries and use the utilities sparingly.

Betty had left her receptionist job after being diagnosed with blood cancer two years back. After spending most of their savings on her treatment, the cancer had gone into remission, but it had also pushed the light and laughter out of Betty. He wished he could find some way to cheer her up. In their busy bee lives they had taken no time out for a holiday, always delaying it for a befitting time, and now there was no money left. So many dreams remained unrealised. They had cast away the business of living, while life subtracted every minute from their allocated quota. It ticked away with each heartbeat, promising a sure and fast approaching chasm of oblivion.  

Robert traced the snake-like, yellowing leaves of the plant with his fingertips. It nestled in a bulky ceramic red polka dotted pot. ‘You’re a neglected old chap, aren’t you? But some good old TLC will spruce you right up. I bet you’ll cheer Betty some,’ Robert smiled. He had left Anita’s house and was walking down the street to the train station when he spotted this beauty, lying like a stray puppy, forlorn and lonely on the pavement. It had probably belonged to the owners of the house who threw it out on account of its declining condition. He had scooped it right up, thinking the cosmos had placed it there specially for him. Something to lift up his monotonous day. He picked it up with some effort and it grew heavier with each step he took down the street, but he didn’t mind.

Robert stepped out of Cricklewood train station. Placing the pot on the ground, he wrapped his scarf tighter around his neck. Mid-January chill cut through the exposed skin of his face and neck. He walked down the deserted street, taking care not to slip and break a bone on the black ice covering the roads.

He huffed up to his first floor apartment balancing the pot in his hands. Betty was seated at her desk writing a letter. Lately, she had started hand-writing letters to friends and family. Robert greeted her with a peck on the cheek and placed the pot on her table. ‘Oh darling, it's beautiful!’ Betty squealed, loving it as much as he had hoped.

‘Well, it needs a bit of love, but I’m sure it’ll be thriving soon! You bring everything to life around you.’ Robert pulled the scarf from his neck and placed his bag near the coat stand. He glanced at Betty while taking his shoes off. She had already begun feeling the soil and talking to the plant like a baby. ‘You poor dear, you haven’t had a drink in a while, have you?’ 

Robert felt a pang of longing. He wished they could have had children, but fate hadn’t willed it. They had lost three children to early miscarriages. 

‘What’s in here…..’ Betty dug her fingers into the mud and pulled out one of the plastic bags stacked with fifty pound notes. She flung around in shock to stare at Robert. The plastic bag now rested on the table, mud scattered on the letter she had been writing to her sister Susie in Wales. Robert hurried over to the desk. There were many more bags buried in the almost hollow pot. He pulled out the currency notes from one bag and began counting. ‘What is this?’ Betty’s frail body shivered with a combination of dread and excitement. ‘Did you….?’ she couldn’t bring herself to say the word.

Robert’s gaze snapped to her face, reading her mind as usual. ‘Of course not, darling! I found it discarded on the roadside.’

Robert continued counting and a suspenseful hush pervaded their one bedroom apartment as his fingers worked in manic rapidity.

‘How much is it?’ Betty asked, when he lay down one bundle.

Robert wiped the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. ‘I don’t know, I’ve just counted ten grand and I’m exhausted already. There is so much more to go.’ He gestured to the densely packed bundles of sterling notes that lay in plastic bags all over the table. There was another plastic bag with large, precious gemstones in various colours.

‘What are we going to do?’ Betty asked in awe, unable to take her eyes off the cash. She hadn’t ever seen this much money in her life.

‘We’ll keep it.’


‘Life has taken a lot from us, and now it’s paying us back. Why should we refuse its ultimate benevolence?’

A light stirred in Betty’s dull eyes. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes,’ Robert smiled at her and took her hands in his. ‘Time to fulfil our dreams. It’s only fair.’

August 12, 2022 21:41

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Tommy Goround
14:52 Aug 20, 2022

Good. Clapping


Salmah Ahmed
15:45 Aug 21, 2022

Thank you!


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