Beautifully written, highly original and well executed.  

Ralph Jackman, Author

Bella D'Arcy Reed's short stories

My stories

by Bella D'Arcy Reed

About my short stories

Every two months, on this page, you can read one of my short stories FOR FREE! At the end of each year, these short stories are brought together in a collection which will also be available for download from this page.

Two of my pieces have been published in the anthology Essex Belongs to Us, published this year.

A Cat for Constantinople - Queen's Command

3rd Place, Dorothy Dunnett Short Story Competition, Historical Writer's Association

"... witty, ambitious and enormous fun while still brilliantly evoking time and character."
Imogen Robertson,
Author and Chair of the Historical Writer's Association

'A cat’. Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, raised his eyes from the translated letter the scribe had handed to him.
‘Yes, Sir Robert.’ Allingham nodded.
‘The Sultana wants the Queen to send her a cat?’ Cecil’s eyebrows disappeared under the brim of his hat. ‘Constantinople is full of cats.’ The scribe forbore to comment. ‘I will read it to her majesty, it may amuse her, Lord knows she –’ he shrugged. ‘You had better get one stuffed.’ Cecil waved him away.
Days later he returned. ‘The Queen was amused. She wants to send a live cat. A black cat.’ His lips curled. ‘A witch’s cat.’
‘A witch’s cat, Sir Robert?’

> Download the PDF file to read the whole story. <

A Shift in the Gallery

Winner, The Olga Sinclair Short Story Competition, Norwich Writers Circle

Ten o’clock, the gallery opens its doors to the public. I am ready for visitors, having made sure all the pictures are as they should be. One space with an apology card - ‘Lady with Squirrel and Starling. Removed for cleaning’. Solemn woman, determined to sit still, locked into an oblique stare. The picture’s labelled ‘could be Anne Lovell?’ because her family’s coat of arms has a squirrel. That’s all I know about her, her face in a thick white bonnet, and her (possible) name. Locked in place through a few hours with Hans Holbein the Younger. He probably wouldn’t have ‘known’ her either, and here she is, where she might least expect to be, gawped at by common folk (or not, as the case now is). If it had been by a less able painter, she wouldn’t be here at all.

> Download the PDF file to read the whole story. <

Magic Carpets

Special Mention in Spread-the-Word Life-Writing Competition 2017

The Flying Carpet

Swirling its fringes, it flies past my ear, with the swoosh, but quieter, of one car passing another’s open windows. Then, like a stream of cars, another and another swish into the room from both entrances, propelled by the practised swings of the carpet-sellers. They criss-cross each other and land in a pile of panting colours: bright red, terracotta, gold, green, white, black, brown. They lie, slightly stirring, still breathing: alive, silk shimmering and wool wrinkling. They are still now, illuminated by delicate parallels of bright sun shafting through the four-leafed clover lattices over the windows. Their passengers are patterns, shapes, symbols that can be read if you know the language.

> Download the PDF file to read the whole story. <


Villa D’Este is my favourite Renaissance garden

“… or it might take such a form as that of this pool at the Villa d’Este, that wonderful Italian garden of walls and water’’. No, not walls – wall! The sound is better: wall-and-water, otherwise it will be wall-sand-water, and we can’t have that! There, with a photograph of the d’Este pool, with pots of agaves, and the water … hmm … D’Este … thirty years ago …

It was mid-April: the wisteria was about to come out over the courtyard wall of the hotel where Susan and I were staying in Rome. There were daisies and buttercups in the grass around the plane trees: truly ‘enamelled meads’. A joy to see after February and March, when the chill wind whipped across the piazzas and the Villa Borghese gardens. In its galleries, I wore two coats, scarves, and mittens on my hands in order to draw.

> Download the PDF file to read the whole story. <


Winner of the Essex Book Festival Crime Short Story Competition 2016

Several people walking past the lock had seen her without noticing her: a girl standing by the sea wall looking out over the estuary. She wasn’t really a girl, she just looked like one at that distance because of her long hair and thin body, she was, they found, forty-five.

'Natalie Ellis, Walthamstow – identified by her sister - came to Essex after a breakup with her boy-friend apparently.’ DI Lester Davies of Chelmsford CID was holding the first team meeting after the body was found on the mud when the tide went out from Heybridge Basin late the previous night. ‘Been staying with her sister in South Woodham Ferrers, who got worried and phoned the police just before midnight at about the same time the body was reported. Rob.’

> Download the PDF file to read the whole story. <


Longlisted for the Words and Women Prose
Competition 2015

It’s my birthday. You phone and say we will go out for the day. ‘It’s a secret!’ The road we travel becomes familiar. I recognise the almshouses, then the church, then see a ‘Garden Open’ sign and an arrow pointing: Easton Lodge.

You pay at a little shed as I walk to the lawn amid memories like mists. Flower beds, as they were, the cedar still there. The house…vanished, spellbound into tall shimmering birch trees, just the east wing remaining. A swirl of wind in the trees sounds like leaves being swept together with a broom… I grew up in this garden.

> Download the PDF file to read the whole story. <


Short-listed for the Essex Book Festival Short Story Competition

Anna stopped outside the kitchen, thirsty for coffee. Several staff members and patients inside were excited about what they'd seen on television. "Ellie winning another!” “Yeh! “ “Wow!" Words overlapped, spoons jingled in mugs, biscuit wrappers crackled. A room warmed by people comfortable with each other. Anna snatched her hand from the door.

> Download the PDF file to read the whole story. <