Pen To Print

Click "Enter" to submit the form.

Showcase: Inner Vow + Be More Vixen

Dear Readers

This marks my last week as Showcase editor as I hand the reins to Claire Buckle for May.

Today, I’m presenting two short stories: Inner Vow by Norma Armand and Be More Vixen by Lynda Shepherd. These are both beautiful stories, reminding me of inner strength and the power of belief in yourself. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Before you dive into these make-believe worlds, as it’s national poetry month, I’m delighted to share my Haiku poem on the power of being you.

Keep being you!


Connect with me on: or through Twitter/Instagram: @palaktewary


Power Of You

Crossing oceans and
leaping mountains can be done
just believe in you

© Palak Tewary, 2021


Norma, in Inner Vow, tells a story with so many lessons. What I took away from it was the power of letting go of the past, and that moving on is where the real strength lies.


Inner Vow

I vowed if I ever clapped eyes on Martin Truegood again, he’d be sorry. He got what he wanted and discarded me like a chocolate bar wrapper.

I got what I wanted too but, in my naivety, I believed our intimacy was the beginning of a loving relationship and not just a one-night stand.

I should never have gone to his place when he invited me over, but I didn’t know his parents would be out and I just went with the flow. We hadn’t even been on a date. But I desperately wanted to be his girlfriend as he was gorgeous.

My friends wondered why I suddenly stopped talking about him. I felt too embarrassed to tell them.

The following morning, having spotted Martin in the college grounds, I rushed over to greet him. He stood chatting with two friends, and didn’t turn around when I called his name.

“Martin, are you deaf or something?” I said, slapping him on the back.

He slowly turned around, as did his mates. I’ll never forget the look he gave me. The warm, sparkling brown eyes that had melted my heart were now cold and cruel.

“What do you want, Sasha?” He spoke as if to an irritating child. I couldn’t understand it. What was happening? What had I done to cause this sudden change in his behaviour?

“I just wanted to… say hello.” My voice trailed off as Martin turned his back on me. Stunned, I retreated and heard laughter, like machine-gun fire, behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and through watery eyes saw the three of them staring at me.

I left college the following summer and got a job with a local authority. Eighteen years have passed, and I’m now a Team Leader in Housing Advice, which is a demanding but interesting job.

Over the years, I’ve thought about Martin and his surname, which should have been Toogood, because he’d proved too good to be true. When I think of him, I’m filled with shame and regret, as I lost my virginity to that moron. But I’m glad he’d used protection, and I hadn’t ended up pregnant.

At work one afternoon, the reception area was packed, and I told the staff not to issue any more tickets for the day.

Lola, a housing officer, stood at my desk, waiting to discuss her claimant.

“I have a woman fleeing domestic violence from her partner. She’s got two children and lives in private rented accommodation. She says her partner tried to strangle her last night and her neighbours called the police,” Lola explained.

As Lola talked, I examined some of the standard documents required, including the Tenancy Agreement. My eyes froze on seeing one of the joint tenant’s names. Martin Truegood. Could there be more than one? I examined the children’s full birth certificates, and his name appeared there too.

“Are the children with her?”

Before Lola could answer, I heard a commotion in reception. I rushed out to see a man banging on the glass panel, which the staff had lowered.

“I want to see Jenny. I know she’s in here,” the man raged.

Although fuller, and with a receding hairline, the face of Martin Truegood was unmistakable.

“What’s the problem, sir?” I put on my authoritative voice.

“Are you the manager?” He scowled at me, not displaying any signs of recognition.

“That’s right,” I said.

“I want to see her. She told me she was coming down here today.”

“We’re not at liberty to disclose whether someone has come in to use the service or not, sir.”

“Can I see someone in private?” he said, lowering his voice. “It’s important.”

“As you can see, we’re at full capacity today and all our interview rooms are full. You’ll have to come back in the morning. We’re open from…”

“Sasha. It is you, isn’t it?”

Taken aback at hearing him speak my name, I blushed.

“Wait there a moment,” I said, and retreated to the back office and closed the connecting door.

“Keep your claimant in the room,” I told Lola, who held a phone to her ear. “Her partner’s in reception.”

She nodded and told me she was awaiting the details regarding the crime reference number.

At that moment, another officer came by on her way to reception.

“Is your room free?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said.

“Don’t call anyone else. I need to use the room for ten minutes.”

I went round to the reception door and called Martin to come through and led him into the vacant interview room. I joined him on the other side. We sat facing each other across the wide desk.

“What is it you want to tell me?” I felt nothing but revulsion for the man as I studied a series of scratch marks engraved along his left cheek.

“ I want to tell you I’m sorry; about the past, I mean.”

I cast my eyes down to the desk and tapped my pen against the paper on my clipboard.

“OK. What else do you want to say? One of my officers is waiting to use the room.”

“I don’t know how to say this,” he began, studying his hands.

Just then, there was a tap on the door, and I saw Lola through the thin glass panel.

“You’ll have to excuse me for a moment,” I said, leaving the room.

Lola and I moved to the end of the corridor.

“The police told me they believe she is the perpetrator of domestic violence, and her partner is the victim.”

“Her partner?” I echoed.

“He was found with scratches on his face and bruising all over his body. The woman and children had no injuries.”

“Thank you, Lola,” I said. “You’d better wrap it up and tell the claimant we’re not going to provide any temporary accommodation.”

I returned to the interview room, where Martin sat with his head resting between his folded arms, on the table.

As I sat down, he slowly raised his head.

“Martin.” I spoke more empathically. “What do you want to tell me?”

“It’s quite embarrassing, actually, and you’ll never believe me.”

“Go on. I’m listening,” I said.

“It’s about my partner, Jenny Appleton.” He lifted his eyes to the ceiling and swallowed hard. “She hits me.”

His shoulders started to heave as the tears came. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he said, frantically trying to stem the flow with his knuckles.

“You don’t have to apologise, Martin. It’s not your fault.”

I didn’t feel good about seeing Martin like this, and the animosity I felt towards him melted away.

“I’ll get you some tissues and a glass of water. Then I’ll see what support we can offer you,” I said, leaving the room again.

As I walked along the corridor, I saw Lola showing her claimant out. She was a tiny, slender woman with bleached blonde hair and a firm mouth. It seemed incredible she held such control and power over Martin Truegood. I hoped he would eventually find the strength to move on with his life. I now knew I had the strength to move on with mine.

© Norma Armand, 2021

Do check out Norma’s book of short stories, Unearthed, on Amazon. Find it here.



Through beautiful prose in Be More Vixen, Lynda reminds us that finding the strength to believe in yourself and following your dreams is what’s important.

Be More Vixen

From beneath heavy eyelids, I glance at my bedside clock. Three am… sigh. My mind is too busy for sleep. I’m nervous about my first showcase at our local camera club. Am I ready for feedback? Do I really fit in amongst this group of passionate amateur photographers? I get up and pad over to the open window.  Outside, bud-strewn branches poke skyward like festival goers’ arms, with next-door’s fairy lights like lighters being held aloft, as a crowd-pleasing ballad is played. Security lighting from my neighbours’ on the other side suddenly flash-flood the lawn and I see a fox stretch its russet form; head lifted, ears twitching.

On instinct, I lift my phone from the sill, trying to capture the vixen’s graceful alertness. She tilts her head towards me for a moment, her fiery amber eyes challenging, daring me to take another shot. I do this; not one, but a three-shot burst. A screech breaks the silent night air and my vulpine friend’s ears twitch again. She pauses, then darts across the lawn, leaping up onto the bin by the shed, reaching the flat roof and then onto some unseen landing mat beyond, tripping the security light again.

Sitting back on my bed, I stare at the last image I captured. The vixen’s expression: alert and determined. I feel calmer, somehow. With my first showcase at Castle Green camera club shimmering on the horizon, I finally fall into a fitful sleep.

At lunchtime, my mobile rings. Emma Camera Club flashes up on screen.

“Hi, Emma.”

“Sam, I just wanted to check you’re OK getting to the hall to set up by seven tonight.”

“Yes, thanks, Emma.”

“You’re our only debut contributor this evening. Is that all right?”

“Oh, er…yes, I suppose so.”

“You don’t sound too sure.”

“I, um, just feel a bit out of my depth, I suppose, amongst people like Simeon, with the places he goes, the subjects he captures,”  I admit, then wish I hadn’t. I must sound like such a wimp. Simeon’s genuine interest in the world around him shines out in his photography, just as much as it does in person.

“He speaks very highly of you. We do have him to thank, though, for some press joining us. The important thing is that we continue to attract more members by showcasing our offering and what’s on our doorstep.”

I think about the selection I’d decided on, then what I took last night of the vixen’s lawn antics and the other nature-focused photos I’d taken ad hoc around the town recently. It felt as though they would show far more of what she was talking about. No special lenses, just a phone and whatever light was available to me at that moment. It didn’t get much more ‘on our doorstep’ than that.

“Actually, Em, I was thinking I might make a few changes to my selection.”

“Whatever you decide, Sam, enjoy yourself. See you there!”

“Sorry, boy,” I say, as I shuffle through the photos on my screen.  Somewhere amongst these are my first showcase.

Gray, my rescue dog, lets out a wheezy whine. I’ve been home from work an hour and it’s nearly his dinnertime. I have to make a decision. The last image of the vixen on my lawn stares up at me. After Emma’s  call, the fox has been on my mind for most of the afternoon. I want to use my nature-inspired images. They’re so alive, so vivid, but are they as good as the carefully composed ones spread in front of me? ‘Stick with what you’ve got,’ the anxious little voice in my head tells me. ‘They’re printed. Make a selection that shows a good narrative and slip them into their mounts’. That’s all that’s left to do until I get to the social hall.

I get up as Gray makes another disgruntled snuffle and push open the sliding doors. He scampers out onto the lawn and locates one of his favourite, if slightly chewed, tennis balls, bringing it over for me to throw. I indulge him; he’s kept some very strange hours of late. It also gives me even more time to think about just what is stopping me from using the photos I took last night and what the other club members may bring. I scuff my slipper in the door track and look up again at my borders filled with alliums, foxgloves, daffodils and tulips beginning to blossom colourfully into life. Gray has dropped his ball and has paused to give some of my late-flowering dwarf daffodils a good sniff.

“Gray!” I call. I’ll give him his dinner now. He’ll probably sleep while I’m out. He comes in and laps up around half the contents of his water bowl, before lying down to pant for a minute, watching me. I spoon out his favourite beef and farmhouse vegetable. On my knees, I stroke his velvety head. He pauses, looks up and regards me with those eyes that seem to see into my soul and I drop a kiss on his forehead before going back to the table.

Birds, squirrels, a certain very important pug and the vixen. The latter’s image drawing me in again and again. What would Simeon do?


I remember the chat we had a month ago when camera club members had been encouraged to put their names down to take part in the showcase with the theme ‘Emotion’.

“That’s great.”

“You think?”

“I do. It’s a great angle; the way you’ve got the light refracting through the stained glass.”

“Hmm.” The photos were from a trip Simeon had organised with a few of the others members to our local church.

“You’re doing well. You should definitely put your name down for the showcase next month.”

Simeon handed me the pen; our fingers touched for a few seconds too long. We smiled awkwardly at each other, then he turned away to talk to Emma, our events coordinator.

“Sam should sign up, don’t you reckon, Em?”

“Absolutely. It’s a great opportunity to share your progress and members get so much from it. Simeon will tell you.”

“Indeed. Alan Harborough showed me how to get some great original twists on subjects. You’ve already got that down. Do it!”

I scribbled my name down on the list, feeling the warmth of Simeon’s encouragement.

“Thanks, Emma, Simeon.”  I picked up my coffee. “How’s your photography going at the moment, Simeon?”

“Good. Very good, actually. Thanks to a spot Alan told me about, I was lucky enough to sell a picture to County Times a couple of weeks ago.”

“That’s brilliant! Congratulations,” I’d said, absently resting a hand on his arm.


My gaze moves from the pile of images waiting being put into mounts, to my laptop screen and my close-up of the vixen: eyes staring, blatant. The selection I had were made up of images of people captured going about their business from dawn to dusk. A study of life. It had been OK, I’d thought. Overthinking had led to a lack of sleep. Then Emma phoned and I was thrown back to how the shots of the vixen, my darling pug and a collection of wildlife had made me feel: wonder, emotion.

Finishing his meal, Gray jumps up on the chair in front of the laptop and puts a paw on the mousepad, as if to suggest he knows what to do.  I smile, lift him and sit down with him on my lap. A couple more clicks and my printer begins to whirr again. I give my beloved pug another ear rub and he jumps down, just as the last of a dozen photographs thunk into the delivery tray. I carefully pick them up and arrange them in three semi-circular rows in front of me.

“They’re more immediate,” I say to Gray, who is now back on his daybed, making doggy snoring noises.

“Right then.” I gather up my previously selected images and push them to one side. I set to work, putting a mixture of the photos  from last night and others taken since the day I brought Gray home from the rescue centre, into a series that charts emotion and the season. The camera club became part of my life around the same time. I start with an image of Gray in his pen at the rescue centre, then a few weeks later, a contented look of adoration lighting up his wrinkled features from the sofa on his favour tartan blankey, the squirrel caught mid-dart along my garden fence, as Gray naps in the late afternoon sun on a pile of leaves, the bored office worker I sat on a bench opposite one lunchtime, a blue tit pecking away on the slats next to him at the remains of his discarded sandwich and, finally, the vixen on my lawn. The last a zoomed-in image of her face: eyes like a candle flame, brilliant in the darkness. I feel a sense of rightness, as though things just might be slotting into place. Finally ready, I zip them into my portfolio, heading out to the community centre.

“Look, practically the entire club are spending all their time looking at your photographs. The press photographer is having a hard time getting close.” Emma nudges me. I smile; the evening feels dreamlike. Or is it one too many plastic cups of white wine warming my bloodstream? Amongst the crowd, I can hear comments: “urban”, “immediate” and “natural.”  My eye involuntarily catches Simeon’s and he smiles. ‘Pleased for me,’ I think. I walk slowly through the throng towards him. Perhaps the time has come to be more vixen?

© Lynda Shepherd, 2021


Issue 8 of Write On! magazine is now available. Read it online here.

If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! ‘Showcase’, please send your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to:

Norma, in Inner Vow, tells a story with so many lessons. What I took away from it was the power of letting go of the past, and that moving on is where the real strength lies.