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August Story Chat: “Backstab” by Gloria McBreen

If you love to read short stories, you will enjoy Story Chat. For links to all of the stories bookmark the Story Chat Y2 Page. Comments are closed after 30 days because of scammers. If you have comments on other stories, you can make them on this current post.

Something to Think About

  • What theme or themes did “Backstab” have?
  • Does the story remind you of any memorable one you’ve read?
  • How do you feel about Judy’s justification of her actions?
“Backstab” – Lies, Illegal activities, Intrigue – by Gloria McBreen

“Backstab” by Gloria McBreen

‘Do you feel bitter about not being able to have children?’ Millie asked her sister.

Judy bit her lip. ‘When I said I couldn’t have children, I meant that I couldn’t bring children into a life of corruption and debauchery.’

Millie’s jaw dropped. ‘You lied?’

‘No, I misled. There’s a difference. Letting people think I was infertile meant I didn’t have to endure constant criticism and opinions.’ 

‘You could’ve told me.’ 

‘No, Millie. Because I would’ve had to tell you everything and I couldn’t back then. Anyway, I’m only 38.’ 

Millie beamed. ‘You mean there’s still a chance that I’ll become an Auntie?’ 

Judy grinned and raised her eyebrows. ‘Let’s sit on the balcony.’ She slid her white Gucci sunglasses from her head to the bridge of her nose.

As the sisters settled into their sun loungers, Judy marvelled at the acres of lavender before them. She was proud of Millie and the good life she had made for herself in their ancestral homeland. She had worked hard to establish her career as a psychotherapist. Her French husband Leo, a pharmacist, doted on her and their two young sons. They deserved their comfortable lifestyle—unlike her. But things were different now. Judy had a new purpose in life. 

‘Which were you most attracted to…Lucas or the lifestyle?’ Millie asked.

‘I loved him first, and then I fell in love with the wealth. More the security of it, though. The lavish lifestyle was attractive, sure, but I realised it wasn’t for me.’

‘You hated all those parties though. Why did you continue going to them after you found out how Lucas really made his money?’

Judy enjoyed the parties and charity events at first. But when the novelty of being a rich man’s wife wore off a few months into the marriage, she began to notice things. The women at the parties who flirted with Lucas. The way he responded to them, in front of her, as if she—his wife—didn’t exist. He was a different man at those ritzy parties than he was at his charity events. 

But it was the younger women that Judy took more notice of. They were at all the parties; with different men each time. Floozies she used to call them. On the surface, they seemed to be enjoying themselves, but Judy looked deeper. It was in their eyes, their body language. She noticed how they silently communicated with each other. Things weren’t right! Lucas never engaged with the young girls, he preferred the more mature women—the diamond-clad types, who seemed to sweat Chanel and Estée Lauder. Bit by bit, Judy picked and peeled at the layers
of every aspect of Lucas Lambert.  

‘It was at those parties I learned all about my sleazy husband and his money-making endeavours.’

Millie took a bottle of Pinot Grigio from an ice bucket and poured two glasses. The late afternoon sun shone directly onto the balcony. She put on her wide-brimmed hat to shade her nurtured complexion.

‘I never liked him, Judy. I had a gut feeling about him from the beginning. Slimeball! I hope he’s experiencing hell right now.’ Millie took a generous sip of her chilled wine. ‘How did you stay after you found out about those poor girls?’

‘He wouldn’t have let me leave. I suffered one hiding from him and I wasn’t prepared to give him an excuse to do it again. I was like his charity events, put in place to create a false impression, part of his façade. The timid, ordinary-looking wife, sensible shoes, and a natural ability to melt into her surroundings.’

Judy massaged sun cream vigorously into her pale pudgy legs.

‘He didn’t know his wife very well at all, did he?’

‘He hadn’t a clue what I was up to while he was off gallivanting with his rich women, and drug-dealing buddies. All that was bad enough, Millie, but trafficking young women sickened me to the core. I couldn’t let him continue.’

‘And George?’ Millie asked with a cheeky grin.

Judy felt a warm blush tingle down her neck. She and Lucas’ accountant George, had become more than just conniving partners. 

‘This time next week you’ll get to meet him. I knew he wasn’t like Lucas and the others. I knew I could trust him.’

‘You took a risk.’

‘I had a gut feeling about him, the way you had about Lucas. It’s not easy moving millions around banks. I couldn’t have done that part without George. We knew the Criminal Assets Bureau would be all over Lucas as soon as the filth hit the merry-go-round. It was all hard work you know; virtually putting people in places where we needed them to be, then putting them there in real life—that was the hardest part. All those party people stoned on coke and cocktails
guiding me all the way through the labyrinth…without even realising it. With their loose inebriated tongues and their attention-craving egos. They taught me all the ins and outs of the business, as they called it. I developed valuable skills, Millie. I fluffed up more egos than pillows in the last two years.’ 

Judy wasn’t ashamed that she was a thief and a backstabber. It was all to save women from people like Lucas. To the left of the lavender field, she could see the roof of her new women’s refuge centre. The skylight open, just as she left it, to let the floral scent waft through her and George’s apartment. Three young women she brought with her from Dublin were already settled
in downstairs.

‘We’ll support you running the centre, Judy.’

‘I know it won’t be easy. I’ve been working on my French too.’

‘Merveilleux!’ Millie praised.

Judy raised her glass. ‘Here’s to Lucas and his seedy friends repenting behind bars for the rest of their lives.’

‘Wondering who stitched them up,’ laughed Millie.

‘And here’s to all the women who come my way,’ Judy smiled.

@GloriaMcB

Biography

Gloria McBreen

Gloria lives in Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland where she is surrounded by inspiration. The River Moy is on her doorstep and she has a clear view of Mount Nephin as she works. She’s only a few miles away from dipping her toes into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Gloria’s passion for creative writing has been reignited—after years of neglect—since joining the blogosphere about eight years ago. The writing and blogging community has been very supportive.

While blogging and working hard to develop her writing skills, she has managed to complete that novel she has always wanted to write.

After a few stops and starts, tears and dilemmas, and many arguments with one or two characters, her novel is due to be published before the end of this year. 

Contact

66 replies »

  1. Gloria, enjoyed the story and I felt like I was right there in the patio.
    This also had a timeless feel – or maybe I am just thinking 1980s because I read a review about 1980s “cops movies” and that primed me.
    But the reason I also think this felt like 80s or early 90s had to do with specific details
    Like Chanel and Estée Lauder seemed to fit that time – and so did the “coke and cocktails” (because i think nowadays there are more pills and other drugs of choice – of course coke and cocktails too – ) and even white Gucci sunglasses could fit them (or now) and even the lavender fields had a timeless vibe.

    And then they could have been drinking any kind of wine – but the specific choice of Pinot Grigio added a classic touch too! Almost like the most appropriate wine for a sunny patio and checking in kind of chat.

    I think it was interesting the way you anchored with various ethical considerations. The opening deception w: the topic of childbearing fertility – and added in the justification and societal issues (how astute) and then had the backstabbing deception that then had the Betsy serious outreach for victims of trafficking..

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Yvette. You are correct with the 80s/90s. My brain seems to automatically shift back a few decades when I write stories.
      The Internet and mobile phones rarely feature in my tales.
      We did have computers, but it was 1991 before the Internet came to Ireland. So I’d imagine it would have been easier for the account to embezzle from Lucas. And easier to hide away afterwards ie. no social media.
      Back in the 80s/90s, I remember Estee Lauder being worn only by well-off women. I was in my mid-20s when I got a bottle of Chanel No 5. Well…I thought I was the Queen Bee! 😅
      I choose Pinot Grigio as it would be a wine I would like to drink on a sunny patio looking out onto a field of lavender! (Maybe one day I will) Thanks again for your comment Yvette.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi !

        I am now an official “teetotaler” and don’t drink any alcohol – but when I did imbibe a little – Pinot Grigio was one of the few white wines I enjoyed!

        And I also enjoyed visualizing the parties – had a great gastby kind of vibe.

        And okay! How cool that I sensed the time period – and you are right about hiding out more before social media and cameras everywhere.

        Even though nirwadays we have makeup and costumes for those who need to have aliases – but much easier pre internet.

        One thing I would have liked to read about was how Althea trafficking was discovered. You gave us tidbits as to the younger ones there and various behaviiors

        But I could imagine this very striking moment when eyes meet and one of the victims reveals all in a mute with her eyes and in a stare!

        And speaking of time periods and trafficking – it seems that human trafficking is timeless and sadly quite a big problem – and so perhaps your story also offers some raising awareness about prevalence or ca just plant seeds for everyone to be more cognizant and do our part when we can!
        Okay author Gloria- hope you have a great week and thanks to you and Marsha for giving me a tasty story to chew on!
        ☀️😊📚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I was like Cathy in that I kept having to reread the story a few times to remember which sister was Millie and which one was Judy. I don’t know why especially given that the names don’t begin with the same letter, but my brain kept getting them muddled up.

    However, I enjoyed the conversation between these two sisters. It was written well and how I imagined they would have spoken, given the story behind them.

    And I have to agree again with Cathy that it’s good to leave somethihg to the readers’ imagination. I always dislike it when the whole story is told, and there is nothing left for me to think about. I never get any enjoyment from it, but when there are bits that leave me wondering, my mind starts going into overdrive.

    Overall, a great piece of writing, Gloria. It’s great to see you here as the author on Story Chat.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Hugh! It’s good for that to be pointed out again: not being more clear about who is who in the story!
      I actually had that issue myself with the earlier version and I tweaked it a bit, but obviously not enough. Perhaps I should have someone read over my short stories in future. My husband is no good for the job because he tells me everything is ‘great’ even when I know they’re not! 😄
      I’m glad you enjoyed the story Hugh and I’m delighted to be involved in story chat. Thank you very much for your comment!

      Liked by 2 people

      • It is hard to have someone read everything you write before it goes online, but it’s important. I’m so impressed with and envious of people who are part of a group of writers. I think it would be hard, but for serious writers, it is so essential.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a challenge to cut down a story 000 words without missing out some of the background. You, as the writer, know what happens, so one tends to forget the reader doesn’t if one hasn’t told them. On the other hand, it’s good to leave somethihg to the readers’ imagination.
    I love that you confess you didn’t want to go into how the villain was taken down because you didn’t know – I feel the same way about detective fiction. Although it’s what we watch most on TV, I’ve never tried to write any. There is plenty in here to for the reader to speculate about, as has been mentioned above.
    It took me a couple of reads of the beginning to remember which woman was which, but that’s just me being an inveterate scanner. Not a lot of description of the women, but my imagination tells me that Judy’s pudgy legs could be a symptom of not looking after herself in the hope her husband would leave her alone in favour of those rich older women. Perhaps a mention of her having come from Dublin earlier on might have helped anchor us without giving too much away, but I’m just niggling. I’m all for avoiding spoon-feeding the reader. We appreciate something more if we have to work for it a little bit.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. It’s an interesting premise that raises many questions about how Judy and George unpicked this criminal operation and yet remained undiscovered while the protagonists were appropriately dealt with; that’s probably for the book that will follow this teaser!
    It’s set delightfully with some great imagery; the description of the lavender, the pillows etc. There are some personal snippets of the two women – pudgy legs – but I would have liked a little more. Ditto the reference to the ancestral home; I’d love a little more of an explanation.
    I think the timing might need some work; at the outset Millie clearly knows some but not a lot of Judy’s backstory yet the women’s shelter has been set up and its first occupants installed. Wouldn’t these sorts of details have been revealed over previous glasses of something chilled and white?
    Millie appears to have a stable situation, a classically comfortable life. As such she doesn’t express much of the worry she must have felt for her sister caught up with someone so dodgy? And did she try and pass on those feelings and was she pushed away and hurt. At the outset Judy says she couldn’t say but there’s little of the emotional damage that that might have caused? What about to elderly parents too? Indeed, if I was looking for more, I was looking for the emotional context.
    For instance Judy says she had a hiding and wasn’t going to risk that again, but that’s what she did. How did she manage that terror? Weren’t there times when she thought she was going to be uncovered. George, presumably was a trusted employee; how did she come to trust him not to dob her in?
    I don’t think this was intended but, to me, Judy is something of a cold fish, rather calculating and lacking emotional intelligence. Her moral compass is working well, but I could have done with a bit more insight into how she thought and felt at different times when she was questioning the druggie contacts, who might have said something to her husband and given her away.
    All in all, this is a fine piece which would benefit from more depth to the characters emotions, to make them a little more human. Well done, Gloria!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Geoff, You bring a lot of insight into unpacking Gloria’s story. The story reminded me of a modern-day Robin Hood. I wondered if anyone would have thoughts about timing. I had to read it three or four times before that leaped out at me – her shelter is already built but she’s just getting around to chatting to her sister. It could happen, of course, but the sister probably would have gotten wind that something was going on as the shelter was being built in her backyard. In such a few words, what might she leave out so that there is room to develop Judy’s character and make her a little more approachable? Thanks again for the great analysis.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Marsha.
        So, in my head it’s this: The shelter is going to be in the downstairs part of Judy’s building. Judy’s part is the top floor. She can see it in the distance from Millie’s balcony.

        Initially, I think the conversation was between Judy and a friend. I think what happened was that, I questioned why Judy took off to France. Then I mentioned her sister…..then I thought it a better idea to have the sister in the conversation, instead of just a friend. Annnndddddd……I thought she shoudn’t share her secret with too many people.
        Do you know what – this is why it took me five years to finish my novel! Hahahaha! 107,000 words to explain everything and leave no plot holes!

        I’ve just read it again to see what I could have taken out. Mmm…I feel all the parts are needed.
        I’d be interested to hear if anyone else sees any parts that they feel aren’t necessary to the story!
        Thanks Marsha.
        And thanks again for accepting my story!

        Liked by 2 people

          • The good thing about starting out with a short story are the questions it raises that brings depth to the longer story. There are so many ways this one could go – the development of the new love affair, the back story on the childhood – why one girl ended in France and the other moved away – what happened to the creep husband – how she resolved the moral issue of taking the dirty money even if she did use it in a Robin Hood fashion – lots of room for internal talk with that one!

            Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Geoff. Lots of questions there. That’s what I like about short stories. It leaves the reader wondering about all sorts of things and forces them to use their imagination in parts.
      I suppose when there’s a limit to the word count, it’s difficult to fit in all that detail when the plot is more of the focus. But I see your point.

      Ancestral home means they were rared in France. I felt that was enough of an explanation as to why Judy choose France.

      I couldn’t go into detail about exactly how George and Judy unpicked the criminal operation because I haven’t a clue…..hahahaha! Maybe next year I’ll write a separate story about that part. But I’ll have to take a crash course on ‘How to Bring Down the Bad Guys’.

      So, the shelter isn’t really set up as such. It’s still new. Judy just brought two women with her, who are settled in downstairs. Millie and her husband ‘will’ help her to run it. Maybe I should have been a bit more clear on that part.

      Perhaps this is the first time the two sisters have had a chance to be on their own for a detailed discussion? Millie didn’t know until the end that Lucas was a criminal so she had no reason to worry about her sister. She didn’t like him, but that’s not unusual. We don’t always like our inlaws.

      Judy did trust George. They fell in love. (I’m a romantic at heart) She took a big risk yes, but with George behind her. Over the couple of years she built up strength and guts, but not to leave Lucas, to bring him down.

      Perhaps Judy’s emotional damage hasn’t manifested yet. Or perhaps she is just a cold calculating woman like you said – like Ghislaine Maxwell?
      Nah, she’s not a Ghislaine, because she had any sympathy for those young women that were being trafficked. She put herself at risk for them.

      They might remain undiscovered for now, but who knows what the future holds for any of them!

      Thank you Geoff. I hope you found it more interesting than muesli….😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks for all that Gloria, for taking the time to explain. You’re right about shorts: they need to leave a lot to the reader otherwise you’d never fit them in. Similarly it would be grand to unpack both my thinking and yours over a coffee sometime; there are many lovely nuances here. If you’re ever in London and short of caffeine…

        Liked by 3 people

        • We’d come up with great things Geoff, I’m sure!

          I was part of a writing group once but it was too far away from me and difficult to get to during the winter. So, I don’t go anymore. I miss the interaction and discussions we used to have.
          I would love a writing buddy (or two) who lived near me so we could meet for coffee now and then to chat about writing. There’s only so much ‘writing talk’ friends and family can cope with!
          “How’s your writing going Gloria?”
          “Not bad. I’m writing a story for Always Write Blog. where everyone chats about it and give feedback.”
          “That’s great. So, any plans for the weekend?”
          That’s usually how my writing chats go! 😂
          So, inviting me to meet for coffee might not be the best idea Geoff, because you might not get rid of me!

          Liked by 3 people

          • That has such echoes here. Working on a new book, dad?’ ‘Well, I’m editing one and trying to fin…’ ‘Marvellous. What’s for dinner?’ ‘Writer’s lasagne.’ ‘Oh what’s that?’ ‘It’s the same as normal lasagne only you replace the pasta sheets with your first draft…’
            Love to chew the fat, and I’ll take my chances that we’d never finish…

            Liked by 3 people

          • I don’t know if you have a University of the Third Age (u3a) anywhere close by Gloria or whether you are eligible to join but they often have creative writing groups you could belong to.
            Our local u3a writing group works very well.

            Liked by 2 people

          • No Phil. Nothing like that near me unfortunately. I’ll keep looking and you never know, there may be a little group of people like me hiding away somewhere, just waiting to welcome me.

            Liked by 2 people

      • Great explanations, Gloria. I wondered why Judy was just now studying French. Wouldn’t they have spoken French from birth? I had to laugh when you confided that you didn’t share how they “unpicked the criminal operation because I haven’t a clue.”

        Liked by 2 people

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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