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"True romance" by Sandra Arnold



When Chloe came home from school she spotted another pile of romance novels by the side of her mother’s chair. She picked one up from the top of the pile. ‘So…  has Nurse Goody-Two-Shoes married Dr Truelove, yet?’ she grinned.

Her mother rolled her eyeballs, and continued basting the roast.

At dinner time Chloe’s father’s plate resembled Mount Vesuvius. The Yorkshire pudding on top of his pile of mashed potatoes looked ready to explode. After dinner he lay on the sofa, snoring and farting while, against this familiar cacophony, Chloe tried to do her maths homework and her mother tried to read her book.

‘Tell him to go to bed to sleep,’ Chloe whispered. 

Her mother sighed and turned a page.

The next evening as her father pushed away his cleared plate, stood up, belched, farted, loosened his belt and wandered into the living room, preparing to lie down on the sofa, Chloe’s mother called after him, suggesting he go to bed. He’d be so much more comfortable in bed, she said. To Chloe’s surprise, he complied without arguing for once. When he was out of the room Chloe asked her mother what on earth had attracted her to him in the first place.

Her mother closed her book and smoothed her hand over the front cover which showed a young doctor and nurse in uniform gazing at each other. ‘He was very slim back then,’ she said. ‘Athletic. Tall. Blond hair and lovely blue eyes. Nice manners.’ 

‘So… what happened?’

‘Not long after we met he left to join his ship to fight in the war.’ She opened her book. ‘I saw him off at the docks. He looked so handsome in his naval uniform. While he was away he wrote the most beautiful love letters. Really romantic. Five years later, when the war ended, he came home and we got married.’ A long pause.  ‘But he was different. Well, that was quite a common occurrence back in those days. The war you know.’ She turned a page. ‘And he found it hard to hold down a job.’

Chloe sat at the table and opened her maths book. She closed her eyes and thought of Sean, Captain of the school rugby team. His flaxen hair. His periwinkle eyes. His square jaw and muscular body. She thought of how he’d asked her this morning to help him with his maths homework and how she’d ended up doing it all for him because he couldn’t understand any of it and she thought of the way he’d winked at her and how it had made her melt all the way down to her toes and she thought of how he’d joked that she could do all his maths homework from now on if she liked and she thought of how the other girls in her class stared at her, jealousy written all over their usually smug faces. She wondered what Sean would look like in a couple of decades. Not that he was likely to go away to war. Would there even be a war in the future? She thought again of his flirty smile. His twinkling eyes. She wondered what kind of job he’d get when he couldn’t even do basic maths. 

She heard her mother sigh and turn another page.

Chloe opened her eyes. She opened them wide.




Sandra Arnold’s work includes her two 2023 published books The Bones of the Story, Impspired Books, UK and Where the Wind Blows, Truth Serum Press, Australia and her 2019 books The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell, Mākaro Press, NZ; Soul Etchings, Retreat West Books, UK. Her short fiction has been published internationally and received nominations for The Best Small Fictions, Best Microfictions and The Pushcart Prize. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia.


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