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  1. NIGHT WALK by Norma Armand Ciara looked forward to the party as the gang would be there. When her shift ended, she left the restaurant having changed into a yellow crop top, black miniskirt and high-heels. It was a warm and vibrant summer evening in the city centre. Music blared from pubs and bars, punctuated by masculine belly laughs and female cackles. Ciara stood at the busy bus stop and observed the countdown sign, which showed the bus was due to arrive in five minutes. She texted Ellie, then lit a cigarette. The bus came late. Positioned in front of the doors, she boarded first, climbed the stairs and once seated, texted Ellie again. The sound of a gentle sigh alerted Ciara to the presence of someone beside her. An upward glance revealed several empty seats ahead. Ciara felt uncomfortable. The stranger gave her a shy smile and said, ‘Hello.' Ciara’s thumbs froze over her mobile phone. ‘Don’t talk to me.’ ‘Okay,’ he spoke calmly. 'If that's what you want.’ Ciara didn’t reply but shifted her body towards the window. If his leg strayed over she’d create a scene. There were enough men on the bus to sort him out. The stranger kept quiet. He faced forward with folded arms and kept his distance. She occasionally sneaked a peek at his profile. He appeared to be young with even features and was casually dressed. He'd probably get off soon, Ciara thought, but he didn't. Twenty minutes later, the bus approached Ciara’s stop. ‘Excuse me.’ The stranger got up and instead of standing aside, headed down the stairs in front of her. Damn! Now she faced the dilemma of getting off knowing he would follow her or stay on to the next stop and walk back. She considered texting Ellie to suggest a few of them meet her at the bus stop. But why the hell should this moron affect her behaviour? He'd be sorry if he tried anything. She'd bite his nose off, and even if she died, he'd have a job explaining that to anybody. Ciara smiled at the thought and alighted when the bus drew to a halt. The stranger stood alone at the shelter, and she gave him a dirty look before lighting a cigarette. ‘They're really bad for you,’ he said. 'I don't remember asking your opinion.' She exhaled a cloud of smoke in his direction. ‘Can I walk with you for a bit?' Ciara didn't answer. She rolled her eyes and started walking along the main road, feeling inexplicably unafraid. The stranger caught up with her, and they walked together. A few minutes later, she turned up a side street. 'It's not good for a woman to walk alone late at night.' ‘I know. I might meet someone like you.' 'No. Not someone like me.' Ciara's phone buzzed, and she answered it. 'Yeah, I'll be there in five.' 'Going somewhere nice?' ‘A party. Not that it’s any of your business. You wanna get in?’ ‘No.' 'I can get you in if you want. You can meet my friends.’ The thought amused her. They could get him drunk. Get him hooked up. Maybe with Alice. She was a bit of a weirdo. Ciara and the stranger turned another corner, and she arrived at the house. She texted Ellie to say she was outside. The door opened, allowing a waft of sickly sweet alcohol and noisy music to escape into the street. ‘Ciara! Come in, come in,' Ellie said and grabbed her arm, surrounded by her other friends. 'You coming?' She turned to look at the stranger. ‘No. I'll wait outside.' The door closed before she could say anything else. Wait outside? He'd have a long wait. Ciara soon got caught up in the atmosphere of the party, where she danced, drank vodka, smoked cannabis and got intimate with Charlie. But her thoughts kept returning to the stranger. She left Charlie’s lap and out of curiosity went to the front door and opened it, not expecting to see anyone. But to her amazement, the stranger was sitting on the wall. He turned around instinctively. ‘Are you ready?' ‘I'll just get my bag,' Ciara answered, surprising herself. 'Did you have a good time?' he asked as they stood on the pavement. ‘Yeah, it was fun. I need to call a cab.’ 'Can we walk for a bit first?' he asked. 'Okay, but if you've got nowhere to go, you can't stay at mine. My parents are Christians with a capital ‘C.' 'You sound like you don't like them very much?' 'They live their life. I live mine,' Ciara stated flatly. 'Family is important,' he said gravely. 'Not to me, it isn't,' Ciara sang. 'It will be one day.' 'Yeah, when l have my own kids, maybe.’ ‘Maybe before that,' he reflected. 'Oh well,' Ciara replied with a shrug. 'Can l see you home?' Ciara considered this for a moment. 'Okay,' she said. They got a cab and continued to chat until they arrived outside her house. ‘I'll pay,' he said. 'Thanks.' Ciara hesitated before opening the car door. 'What's your name?’ 'Benedict,' he answered. ‘Ciara.' 'Goodnight, Ciara,' he said and gave her a broad smile. Ciara got out of the car and watched on the pavement as the vehicle speed away. The following day, Ciara heard the news that a teenage girl had been raped and murdered after getting off a bus in the vicinity of the party. She almost stopped breathing. It had to have been the weirdo who’d befriended her last night. Switching on the TV, it transpired that the victim had travelled on the same bus and got off when she did; which probably ruled him out. Ciara shuddered, realising she’d had a lucky escape, but it felt like more than that. Benedict had told her it wasn’t safe to walk the streets alone late at night. He said that family was important. And days later, when the CCTV from the bus was released, she saw herself, but not Benedict. And Ellie had no recollection of seeing anyone with her when she’d opened the door at the party. Ciara began to change her attitude about a lot of things. She decided to go back to church, much to the delight of her praying parents and became an active member of the youth ministry. As for Benedict, Ciara often thought about him, but she never saw him again because he had returned to heaven.
  2. Hi My name is Norma and I'm based in the UK. I write short stories, mainly of secular fiction and have put a Christian one, 'Well of Loneliness ' on the Reading Room. I have written a couple of longer Christian stories that I wil share in due course. I have also self published a book called 'Powercharged,' a collection of Christian Short Stories for children. You can find it on Kindle and Amazon by following this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Charged-Collection-Christian-Children-ebook/dp/B019KGC5WK/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=norma+armand&qid=1598552632&sr=8-1
  3. I'm not sure we should be writing horror stories as Christians. There is enough of this genre already out there. We know bad things happen and should put them in our stories to show that good can come out of bad and the power of prayer.
  4. Hi F Thank you for your glowing review. It is a work of fiction.
  5. WELL OF LONELINESS By Norma Armand I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon when I looked out of my window and saw the flashing blue lights of an ambulance. I opened the front door to investigate, and that’s when I saw Trudy and her husband standing outside Dorothy’s house. Trudy’s face was ashen as she told me her mum had been found dead in the bath. I was horrified as I had a close relationship with my elderly next-door neighbour and meant to pop over for a chat in the days leading up to her death. The thought, like so many others, had bobbed to the surface before sinking again. And I begin to feel guilty for not acting on God’s promptings, believing I must be a bad Christian for letting Dorothy down. Jeff, my husband, told me these things happened. Dorothy’s life had been long and fruitful, and she’d died because it was her time. I couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. But my negative thoughts and feelings persisted long after my neighbour’s funeral. I neglected to read the Bible, and my worship became dry. And as I sat in church one morning, it dawned on me they were all deluded. They believed in a God that didn’t exist, so I stopped attending services. Jeff wasn’t a believer, but he worried about my depression. He had his own health problems to deal with as he had multiple sclerosis and retired from work on medical grounds several years ago. However, he could walk short distances with crutches and drove a car, which gave him some independence. I worked full time as a telephone debt advisor. It’s the kind of job that requires excellent listening skills and a great deal of patience. After a while, I found I could no longer focus or function effectively, so I took sick leave. And the longer I stayed away, the harder it became for me to return. When my salary halved, money became tight, and I struggled to pay the bills. This put a strain on my marriage as Jeff couldn’t understand what was going on. I didn’t know myself. I only knew that darkness had descended and I couldn’t find my way out. My doctor continued to prescribe me with antidepressants, which made me feel listless and numb. A night, in bed, my mind turned to all the things in my life I was ashamed of. The wicked thoughts, words and actions. My inadequacies as a human being. My utter worthlessness. My father loomed largest. I found him physically repulsive, and I always wondered what my mother, who was slim and attractive, ever saw in him. I wanted him to die so that she could marry someone handsome. And death came suddenly one morning when my father went to investigate a roof leak. He fell off the ladder and broke his neck. I’d just turned twelve. My mother and siblings took it quite hard, but I was secretly happy. I’d got what I wanted, but mum never married again or took a partner, despite my encouragement. I was disappointed by her devotion to my father, and whenever l thought about him, it was always in derogatory terms, which persisted long after I'd become a Christian. It was a habit, a reflex action. Only later on in my Christian walk, did I repent of this sin and changed my thinking. Yet here I was, dredging up the past, and hating myself all over again. Even worse than this, I started to believe that Jeff’s illness was my fault. A punishment from God, and the reason why my prayers for his healing hadn’t been answered. It became too much for me to bear and I silently sobbed, so as not to awaken Jeff. But my body shook the bed, and his arm went around me. I started wailing then, and in between the tears, I kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.’ Jeff tried to comfort me as best he could, but my emotions were too strong to be assuaged. ‘You can’t go on like this, Marion,’ Jeff said. ’You’ve got to get some help.’ He was right, of course. I knew I needed help. I had put him through enough stress already. ‘I’m going to make myself a cup of tea,’ I said and got up. As I entered the kitchen, an inner voice spoke to me and said, Why don’t you kill yourself? It seemed like a good idea. What did I have to live for? It’s not as if I had a good relationship with Shelley, my daughter. She‘d turned against me as a teenager, and we rarely saw our grandson. Even Jeff would be better off without me, and maybe my death would bring about a reconciliation between them. That thought comforted me as I opened the drawer and took out the large carving knife. It glinted in the light. I only needed to switch the handle and plunge the point deep into my chest, and my life would end. ‘Marion, what are you doing?’ I jumped at the sound of Jeff’s voice. I turned around to see his concerned eyes shift from the knife to my face. ‘I was about to peel an apple,’ I lied. ‘I love you, Marion,’ he said. Shaking, I put the knife down and supported my weight against the work surface. Wrestling with my emotions, I looked up and said, ‘Okay.’ I swung my head toward the doorway and frowned. Jeff wasn’t there. I called his name but only heard a high-pitched ringing silence. Apart from the passage lights, all the others were off, and he wasn’t on the stairs as I climbed up them. I pushed open our bedroom door, and to my astonishment, Jeff lay in bed, fast asleep. I couldn’t believe it. Jeff’s legs didn’t allow him to move that quickly. Yet somehow he had. ‘Jeff?’ He stirred slightly as I slipped beneath the covers. I decided not to wake him. ‘I love you too,’ I whispered in the dark. I must’ve fallen asleep, for when I next opened my eyes, sunlight poured in through the net curtains. I reached for my watch on the side table. It read 12:30 pm. I sat up as Jeff entered the room and perched on the bed. I thought I'd better let you sleep,’ he said. ‘Half the day’s gone, already.’ I sounded as though I had something to do; somewhere to go. Not that I’d made any plans for months. Time mostly passed in a haze as I operated on autopilot, but today felt different. ‘I don’t know how you managed it,’ l said, swallowing hard, ‘but thanks for stopping me last night.’ ‘How do you mean?’ He looked baffled. ‘You came into the kitchen after I went down. Don’t you remember?’ ‘I know you were upset, but I didn’t get out of bed.’ ‘Of course you did. You stood in the doorway when I...’ ‘I did have a strange dream though,’ Jeff said. ‘I dreamt that you were in the kitchen, holding a knife and I told you that I loved you.’ ‘It wasn’t a dream, Jeff. It really happened. I was going to kill myself.’ ‘I’m glad you didn’t.’ He put an arm around me. ‘I think God had a part to play in this.’ I’d never heard Jeff give God credit for anything. ‘It’s a miracle,’ I said as the truth dawned on me that something supernatural had happened. ‘I suppose it is, ‘Jeff said and laughed. We both did, only I had tears in my eyes. ‘Can we pray together? Now?’ I asked, seizing the moment. He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘If you want to.’ I put my hands together, closed my eyes and gave thanks to God, for snatching me out of the enemies clutches. When I’d finished, Jeff joined me in saying ‘Amen.’ From that day forward, my faith in God was restored. I started reading the Bible, and the words came alive. I copied scripture from Isaiah 43:18–20 and stuck it on my bedroom wall. It read, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” I did indeed. I realised God had more for me to do, and I was ready and willing to embrace whatever lay ahead of me, knowing I would not have to face it alone. I reclaimed my life, which involved returning to work. And it was tough, especially on the first day. But having survived it, I knew things would improve, given time. And at home, the tensions eased in my marriage. Jeff and I didn’t talk about what had occurred on that fateful night, but it changed both our lives forever. I went back to church, and Jeff joined me, and not because I wanted him there. He made the decision alone, and I believe it was his way of giving thanks to God for saving my life and of course, to learn more about our wonderful, merciful Saviour.
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