by Sharon Boyle

TILDA STRUGGLES UP a knee-strainer of a hill that’s lined on either side with squat, grey shops. The day sits between weathers: shivery drizzles to the east, windy buffets to the west. She stops to rest her Co-op bags on the pavement and catches sight of Franny’s Clothes Emporium, a sooty edifice that sits further up. She adjusts her glasses. No, her eyes are not deceiving her. In this monochrome, ex-mining town, Franny’s window showcases a knee-length dress that is a spangly, shifting shade of red.

Is it a ballsy red? A show-off scarlet? A poke-in-the-eye crimson? Tilda frowns. What possible occasion would warrant anyone wearing such a beacon of daring round here?

She picks up her bags and notices movement in the newsagent’s window to her left. The owner, outright lank and full of sharp angles, sits behind his counter, staring out. She offers a cautious smile. He raises a brow in return, not the how-do variety but the fuck-you one. It had been risky, right enough, to go for something as bold as a smile but sometimes Tilda feels the need to push against the town’s sour souls.

She steps inside. ‘Is being decent beyond you?’

This is the owner’s chance to apologise or backtrack but he does nothing of the sort.

‘What’s it to you?’ he rasps.

Tilda approaches the counter, eyes sifting through the notices decorating the till area: No Credit Given, her anger ebbing to embarrassment, Thieves Will Be Prosecuted, looking for a way out without appearing foolish, Lots o’ Luck Lottery… 

‘I’ll take one,’ she says.


‘A lucky dip. The two pound kind.’

They perform the transaction and Tilda leans on a stack of newspapers to scratch off the silvering with a penny.

The owner leans over the counter and makes a show of flicking away the metal confetti. ‘Can you not do that at home?’

‘If I win I want my winnings sharp.’

‘Winnings? In this town? Don’t think so.’

But he thinks wrong. Tilda holds up her lottery card, eyes wide.

‘Bully for you,’ mutters the owner. 

Tilda stares at the money he counts out in her hand. The queens return the stare, one of them winking when the note crinkles.  

An hour later, Tilda passes the newsagent’s. 

The owner shuffles to the door to watch her stride down the hill, for she is wearing the dress.

The weather can’t make up its mind but Tilda has. She’s leaving town, aiming arrow-straight to somewhere bright and heady where folk know how to smile big. And the raspberry-blow shade of red is perfect for the occasion.


Sharon Boyle has been published online and in magazines/anthologies including Reflex Fiction, Retreat West, Ellipsis Zine and Writers’ Forum. As well as shorties and flash she writes (as yet unpublished) YA novels. Sharon is a top-class procrastinator who likes to panic-write to looming/menacing deadlines. She tweets as @SharonBoyle50 and has a basic blog at: