Category Archives: Short Stories

Anna Browne’s Christmas Party – PART ONE

Here it is, lovelies! The overwhelming winners of my first #WurdyParty poll were ROSIE DUNCAN from Fairytale of New York and HARRI LANGTON from Welcome to My World – but you might recognise some other characters in Part One of my Christmas story…

So, without further ado, here is PART ONE…

Anna Browne’s Surprising Christmas Party © Miranda Dickinson 2015

PART ONE

Food.

Tick. A team of caterers were busy laying out gorgeous-looking platters across four white-cloth covered tables.

Bar.

Tick. Trays of sparkling wine glasses were being polished by two bartenders and would soon be filled with warm, spicy mulled wine.

Decorations.

Tick. Frosted white tendrils of ivy curled along window ledges and along the edges of tables. Garlands of sweet-scented eucalyptus and fir studded with winter white roses looped over two exquisite fireplaces at either end of the room, and delicate bowls of Christmas roses, red berries and frosted apples adorned every table. Tiny sparkling crystal and silver decorations were suspended on strings of pure white fairy lights over the whole room, creating the illusion of a twinkling, night sky. It was perfect. The guests were going to love it.

Music.

Hang on… Where was the music?

Anna Browne looked up from her list to survey the room. The space that had been cleared halfway down Hillford Hall’s elegant stateroom for a makeshift stage was worryingly empty. The band had said they’d be arriving at three p.m, hadn’t they? One look at her watch confirmed it was almost four-thirty. Where were they?

‘Excuse me,’ she called to a smartly dressed woman moving silver chairs around the tables where her guests would soon be seated.

The event planner smiled and hurried over. ‘Everything okay?’

Anna forced herself to take a breath. Almost everything was, she told herself. This was the only thing missing. ‘It’s all wonderful, Erin. It’s just – weren’t the band supposed to be setting up by now?’

Erin checked her watch. ‘They are a little late,’ she frowned. ‘But I know them well and they’ll pull out all the stops when they get here. I heard traffic was bad out of Birmingham this afternoon. The day before Christmas Eve is always a bit of a nightmare.’ She smiled and placed a reassuring hand on Anna’s arm. ‘Trust me, they’ll be here. I’ll give their manager a call, find out what’s happening, okay?’

Anna nodded, returning Erin’s competent smile. ‘That would be good, thank you.’

The event planner already had her mobile pressed to her ear as she walked away.

‘Hi D’Wayne? It’s Erin from Hillford Hall. Are you on your way?’

Packing her nerves away, Anna wandered over to one of the enormous sash windows that overlooked the ground of the hall. It was the easiest party she’d organised, thanks to the friendly event planner and her brilliant team. Hillford Hall was everything she’d hoped it would be, too: a gorgeous red sandstone stately home on the edge of the Staffordshire border set in acres of beautifully landscaped parkland. A light dusting of snow that morning had completed the magical setting, each tiny flake frozen into perfect position under the darkening clear sky. The moon had already appeared in the deep winter blue, throwing long shadows from the ancient oaks and beech trees across the snow-covered lawns. Anna could see a trail of silver lanterns marking the path from the car park to the grand entrance of the hall, flickering white candlelight beckoning guests to enter the frosted splendour of the party.

Anna relaxed a little, smiling as she imagined her brother’s face when he saw the photographs she’d emailed him earlier. ‘You’re goin’ a bit upmarket, in’t you, An? Stately homes and Christmas soirees… Mum would have a fit!’

Good job my mother isn’t invited tonight, she thought, the memory of their final row still fresh. Perhaps there would come a time when she could be civil with Senara. But it hadn’t arrived yet.

‘Twenty minutes,’ Erin called, summoning Anna’s attention. ‘They’re held up in traffic.’

It would be cutting things fine, but with guests due to begin arriving at seven-thirty p.m. there was still time for the event band to set up and sound-check. Anna raised her hand in thanks and turned back to her list…

* * * *

‘I just can’t believe you’re here!’ Harriet Langton hugged her cousin for the fiftieth time since she’d picked her and her husband up at Birmingham Airport. ‘Auntie Rosemary is so excited – I swear she’s been stockpiling Yorkshire Tea and Cadbury’s Mini Rolls for weeks.’

Rosie Duncan laughed and hugged her cousin back. ‘Mum’s talked of little else since we told her we were coming for Christmas.’ She took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of Harri’s tiny cottage on the edge of Stone Yardley. Cinnamon, recently baked gingerbread and brewing coffee mingled with lavender that hung in bunches tied with gingham ribbons from the white-painted cast iron bedframe in Harri’s bedroom where the two cousins were getting ready. ‘It’s good to be home. I don’t have time to think about England most of the year but when Christmas comes it always makes me a bit homesick.’

Harri’s blue eyes widened. ‘But you have Christmas in New York, every year, right on your doorstep! Stone Yardley can hardly compare to snow in Central Park, or shopping at Macy’s, or skating at the Rockefeller Center. The High Street and Viv’s kitchen shop’s window display aren’t a match for all of that.’

Rosie giggled. ‘Are you kidding? We don’t have the Stone Yardley W.I.’s annual festive knit-a-thon, or the festive Victorian shopping night – I miss all those things. And besides, it isn’t about the place; it’s about the people. I love Ed’s family, but nothing can beat being with you lot.’

‘Second Christmas in a row we’ve been together,’ Harri grinned. ‘Can you believe it’s been a whole twelve months since we were all together on Long Island?’

‘I know. Where has all that time gone?’

A burst of laughter from downstairs made Harri and Rosie share rolled-eyed looks. ‘Ed and Alex are getting on, then.’

‘Was that ever in any doubt? Ed’s been keen to meet him again since you two first visited us. He’s very keen on Alex’s real ale recommendations.’

Harri laughed. ‘Who knew our other halves would bond so well over Enville Ale? I did wonder if Ed would find this place a bit twee after your gorgeous apartment.’

‘Ed’s wanted to experience a true English village experience for years, but we’ve always been so busy at Christmas we couldn’t consider it before. He’s been like an excited kid for weeks about coming here. Besides, your cottage is lovely. Which do think? Diamonds or amethyst drops?’ Rosie held up two pairs of earrings and checked her reflection in Harri’s bedroom mirror.

Harri finished pinning her auburn curls into a side-plait and sat beside Rosie on her bed. ‘Diamonds. They’ll look amazing against your hair. I am so happy you’re here, Rosie. It reminds me of all the Christmasses we had as kids. Do you remember playing that trick on James when we sewed his duvet to his mattress? He couldn’t work out why he couldn’t get his feet into bed! How old were we then?’

‘We must have been about eleven, or twelve? We plagued him so much, didn’t we? It drove Mum to distraction, I think.’ Rosie smiled at her cousin. ‘You look gorgeous in that dress, H. Emerald green is your colour.’

Harri blushed a little and pulled up the neckline of her strapless velvet dress. ‘Alex likes it. You don’t think it’s a bit too – revealing?’

Rosie laughed. ‘You are nuts, do you know that? You look wonderful. Perfect for Hillford Hall. I still can’t believe we managed to get invites for the party. Mum was over the moon when I told her.’

‘Auntie Rosemary loves the place. She’s decorated the staterooms there for so many weddings over the years she practically knows every inch of it. I think she and Barnie might end up tripping up the aisle in one of them one day, you know.’

‘He certainly seems to be wining and dining her,’ Rosie replied, smiling at the recent revelation that her mother was dating her gentle-spoken delivery driver at Eadern Blooms. ‘She tells me off when I ask about Barnie but she’s smiling in a way I haven’t seen for years. I want her to be happy.’ She looked at the small alarm clock on Harri’s bedside table, beside a faded framed postcard of the church of Santa Maria della Salute by the Grand Canal in Venice. ‘It’s almost seven o’clock. Shouldn’t we be going?’

‘Oh blimey! We’d better get a wriggle on.’

‘Are you sure you don’t mind driving? I’m sure we could find a taxi even in Stone Yardley.’

Harri shook her head. ‘They’re like gold dust this close to Christmas. Besides, I want to enjoy tonight without getting tipsy. Honestly, it’s fine. Al and Ed will have hangovers enough for all of us if they have a successful evening at the pub.’

They collected their wraps and handbags and began to make their way down the creaking narrow staircase. In the cottage’s small living room, Alex and Ed were eating pizza and talking loudly, their conversation falling away when Harri and Rosie entered the room.

‘Wow,’ Ed said, blowing a wolf-whistle. ‘You English ladies know how to dress up.’

Alex snorted with laughter. ‘How cheesy are you, Mr Yank?’

‘What? I thought I was being suave and debonair.’

‘Nope, mate. Cheesy and just a little bit creepy. Girls, you look great. Wish we were coming with you.’

Ed feigned offence. ‘Ah, but we weren’t invited, Al.’

‘Shows what they know, eh?’

‘Poor baby,’ Rosie said, edging around the coffee table and a very disgruntled looking ginger cat to plant a kiss on Ed’s forehead. ‘Will you manage without us?’

‘I guess we’ll cope. Al’s going to school me in warm ale and British village gossip.’

‘He’s a trooper,’ Alex smiled.

Rosie saw something unspoken pass between Alex and Harri – and noticed that Harri didn’t give her fiancé a kiss. Something had felt off between the pair of them since they’d picked her and Ed up from the airport and she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. Their shared home was a little cramped but cosy and even Harri’s grumpy cat Ron Howard seemed grudgingly fond of Alex. They smiled and joked and appeared to be happy, but Rosie couldn’t shift an irritating little mind-itch that something wasn’t quite right.

Harri was as chatty as ever as they drove through the country lanes from Stone Yardley to Hillford Hall and Rosie resolved to bide her time. Maybe in the elegant surroundings of the Christmas party she would have the chance to ask her cousin about it.

Stepping out of the car in the frozen night, Harri and Rosie stopped to gaze up at the wintry hall, its windows throwing warm light out of its icy windows across carefully maintained knot gardens edged with yew. Swags of Christmas garlands tied with sparkling gold ribbons had been draped across the large pillared entrance, a deep crimson carpet cloaking the end of the silver lantern-marked path and rising up the steps.

‘It’s like a fairytale,’ Harri breathed, her breath forming silver moonlit clouds in the frosty air. She linked her arm through Rosie’s. ‘Ready to go in?’

Rosie smiled at her cousin, catching sight of the merest hint of sadness in her eyes. ‘Absolutely.’ By the end of this evening, she vowed, I will find out what’s really happening with Harri and Alex

TO BE CONTINUED…

©Miranda Dickinson 2015 – All Rights Reserved.

Who will be the next guest at Anna Browne’s Christmas Party? Check out my Twitter poll and vote BEFORE 8PM to make sure your favourites appear in the story. Find out who will be invited in PART TWO, coming tomorrow!

A BIG, SPARKLY SURPRISE…

I wanted to do something a bit special to thank all of my lovely readers, Twitter followers and Facebook lovelies this Christmas. It’s been delayed a little by THE LURGI (boo), but here it is…

A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson

SURPRISE!

ANNA BROWNE from my latest novel, A Parcel for Anna Browne, is throwing a special VIRTUAL WURDY-CHARACTER CHRISTMAS PARTY that will be serialised over next week (starting Monday 14th and running till Friday 18th, with an extra-sparkly omnibus edition on Saturday 19th).

All of my characters from all seven of my novels are eligible to attend – but here’s what makes it really special: YOU will decide who comes to the party! I’ll post a Twitter poll every day here and will post the options on my Facebook Author Page here, too.

Every day, I’ll write a new bit of the story and post it here, on my website – then, on Saturday, you’ll be able to download the entire short story for FREE from here.

It’s going to be lots of fun – and I’ll be writing it in real time, so the story will completely be steered by you and the choices you make!

Ready for some fun?

Tell me the first TWO characters who will arrive at Anna Browne‘s party:

Fairy Tale of New York

  • From Fairytale of New YorkRosie Duncan, Ed Steinmann, Marnie Andersson, Zac the Fit Guy, Nate, Celia, Stewart, Mimi Sutton… PICK ONE and comment below or tweet me using the hashtag #WurdyParty

 

 

Welcome to My World

  • From Welcome to My WorldHarri Langton, Alex Brannan, Viv Brannan, Chelsea, Emily, Ethel Bincham, the Stone Yardley WI ladies… PICK ONE and comment below or tweet me using the hashtag #WurdyParty

 

 

GET YOUR VOTES IN BY 8PM (GMT) TOMORROW EVENING (13th Dec) and the very first instalment will be posted here on MONDAY, together with the next character poll! Ever wondered what your favourite character is doing these days? This is your chance to find out!

Let’s have some fun, lovelies! xx

 

#Wurdy5k BONUS TREAT: Merry Christmas, lovelies!

We-ell, I couldn’t finish the #WURDY5k treat bonanza so close to Christmas and not offer you a festive treat or two, could I?

Thanks so much for all your lovely comments about the past five days! I hope you’ve enjoyed the fun!

And so, as an extra bonus treat, I have a singalong EP to download for free and a very special Christmas Short Story, PLUS read on for an exclusive competition!

To help your festivities go with a swing, here’s my Sparkly Christmas Medley, featuring seven of my favourite Christmas songs. Click on the cover below to download for free:

Sparkly Christmas Medley EP cover

 

And here is a lovely, sparkly, magical Christmas story, The Christmas Window, to warm the cockles of your heart! Click the cover below to download for free:

The Christmas Window by Miranda Dickinson

 

And last, but by no means least, here’s a special competition to round off my #WURDY5k celebrations nicely. I am offering one person the chance to appear in the acknowledgements of my seventh novel, A Parcel for Anna Browne, which will be published by Pan Macmillan in September 2015.

To win, all you have to do is email me: mirandawurdy@gmail.com and tell me WHY you should appear in the thank you section of my book.

I will announce the winner on Twitter after Christmas. Best of luck – and have a very happy, merry and jolly Christmas! xx

#Wurdy5k Treat Five: Short Story – Remember

I promised on Twitter that when I reached 5,000 followers, I would do something very special. So, welcome to #WURDY5k – five days of exclusive treats to say thank you for your support!

For your fifth treat, here’s Remember – a spooky short story I wrote with the sole intention of scaring myself. It’s about one woman’s fascination with memorials – untended graves and roadside tributes. Discover how it shapes her life in more ways than she could ever have imagined… Click on the cover below to download the story for free, with my thanks!

Remember Cover

That’s officially the end of my #WURDY5k treats…

…but you know me, always one with the surprises! SO, watch your inbox at 3pm tomorrow for a bonus surprise!

#Wurdy5k Treat Four: Short Story – First Steps in Selfishness

I promised on Twitter that when I reached 5,000 followers, I would do something very special. So, welcome to #WURDY5k – five days of exclusive treats to say thank you for your support!

For your fourth treat, here is First Steps in Selfishness – a short story I wrote about a woman who wants to lead a double life. But what would her family think if they found out she’d lied to them? Will she go through with the daring thing she intends to do? Click on the cover to download the story for free, with my love!

First Steps cover

Watch out for your fifth #WURDY5k treat tomorrow…

 

#Wurdy5k Treat Three: Short Story – Love, Loss and Coffee Cake

I promised on Twitter that when I reached 5,000 followers, I would do something very special. So, welcome to #WURDY5k – five days of exclusive treats to say thank you for your support!

For your third treat, I have Love, Loss & Coffee Cake – a short story written about my much beloved characters Auntie Mags and Uncle Dudley from my third novel, It Started With a Kiss. I touch a little on their story in the book, but wanted to tell it from Mags’ point of view, long before the book begins. It’s one of the stories I’m most proud of and I really hope you enjoy it. Click the cover to download the story for free, with my thanks!

Love, Loss and Coffee Cake cover

Watch out for your fourth #WURDY5k treat tomorrow…

#Wurdy5k Treat Two: Short Story – Son of the City

I promised on Twitter that when I reached 5,000 followers, I would do something very special. So, welcome to #WURDY5k – five days of exclusive treats to say thank you for your support!

For your second treat, here is Son of the City – a story I wrote for my friends at Gallery Church, Birmingham about how hope can be found in the hardest situations. Click on the cover to download it for free, with my love!

So

Hope you enjoy the story! Watch out for your third #WURDY5k treat tomorrow…

#Wurdy5k Treat One: Short Story – New York Spring

I promised on Twitter that when I reached 5,000 followers, I would do something very special. So, welcome to #WURDY5k – five days of exclusive treats to say thank you for your support!

For your first treat, here is New York Spring – a nostalgic New York story with a hint of mystery that I wrote for the lovely Sabine Edwards as part of the Authors For Japan auction. Click the cover to download it free, with my thanks!

New York Spring by

Hope you enjoy the story! Watch out for your second #WURDY5k treat tomorrow…

 

Here’s a FREE short story for you!

You know I love to spring surprises on you… Well, here’s an exclusive short story as a Thursday treat with my love!

I wrote this story last year based on a character who was in the original first draft of Take A Look At Me Now. Originally, Nell went to her local coffee shop to mull over the news about losing her job instead of just walking around the car park as she does in the finished novel. I cut manager Tony and his branch of the Ben’s Beans coffee shop franchise out in the end because it slowed the pace, but I still wanted to tell his story.

A Nice Place to Sit is the result…

A Nice Place to Sit by Miranda Dickinson

It’s about the need to feel part of somewhere and something, even when life seems to suggest that there’s no longer a place for us. It’s about finding positives and meaning in bad situations. And it’s a story of hope.

I hope you enjoy it!

Click HERE to read and download the story for free…

 

Feel the Love – a FREE exclusive short story for you!

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovelies!

Whether you love it or loathe it, I’ve deemed today my #FeeltheLove Day of Sparkliness, aiming to give everyone a reason to smile…

So, here’s an exclusive short story, written especially for you. Click on the image below to read and download it.

Enjoy! xx

First Steps in Selfishness cover