Is there a writer in u? Or are you in a mood to read some short interesting stories? Here's the Story Section for all tastes.

The rain was starting now. It had been fine all morning but just when it looked as though she would make it through the day without crying, it seemed as though someone up there was sending out a message that it was alright to grieve publicly. Jane's eyes filled up and slowly the tears cascaded down both cheeks and dripped almost apologetically on to the midnight blue outfit which he liked so much. If she couldn't do it, she who had lost everything that was dear to her, then no-one else had the right to. She had been Gary's only close support through years of pain and suffering and was the last but one to see him alive if the condition into which he had descended and subsequently recovered from could actually be called a life. The rest of the group were beginning to drift away back to their normal routines. It had been a gathering of friends, he had no living relatives, and those friends were few in number now. There had not been many others apart from herself who had stuck with him through the past few years, and it had been hard work.

It had all been so different when they both left home in Bristol for university, she to Manchester and he to Liverpool. Out of the sight of parents they had both taken up smoking and drinking, habits frowned upon by both sets. University life however, imposed its own set of peer pressures, and social activities consisted of a regular round of discotheques and parties. With their campuses being 35 miles apart the only time to get together was at the weekend, and looking back there were little signs of the trouble to come which she didn't pick up on. Gary's cigarettes had given way to more exotic types of tobacco and his periods of what she believed to be inebriation seemed to last longer each time she saw him. When her aunty Jen died of lung cancer it was enough to make her quit smoking, and as her studies progressed the drinking went along with it.

He began mixing with an odd crowd in the more dubious areas of Merseyside and she felt so uncomfortable in their presence that the regular visits were now few and far between. When he pressed her about it she hid behind her studies as an excuse for not seeing him so much. This, together with warnings from his tutors for persistent late work submissions, seemed to snap him out of his lethargic academic attitude and at the end of their first year things seemed to be back on track. They got married that summer and rented a flat in Warrington during term time leaving them both a fifteen mile journey on the days when they had classes. It wasn't long however, before Gary's Liverpool crowd tracked them down and dragged him back into his old ways. It was then that she began to notice that things were missing from the flat. Small items of jewellery and a DVD player, clearly sold in order to feed a growing habit. He didn't come home one evening and Jane suspected didn't know what to do at first.

When he failed to return for two days she contacted the Liverpool police and was told that he had been arrested for possession of a Class "A" drug, namely Heroin. To say that she was shocked would have been the understatement of all time, and she wondered again whether there were signs in his behaviour which she had failed to pick up on. When Jane saw him at the police station Gary was a mess, hadn't washed or shaved for forty-eight hours, and stank of stale beer. That he was displaying the sign of withdrawal told her that he had become more than a casual user, and his arms were starting to display the evidence of a regular habit. He was bailed to appear at the local magistrate's court and she was allowed to take him home. As a first offender he escaped with a fine and a caution, but there was now the added problem of weaning him away from the habit which was taking up not only much of his time, but also a considerable amount of his money.

Their local university GP recommended a rehabilitation clinic where Gary could get counselling and a Heroin substitute to release him from his dependency on the drug. At first he was all enthusiasm for the program and their life returned to something resembling normality. It was when Gary realised how far his studies had slipped, and the amount of work required to enable him to successfully complete his second year that the old craving re-emerged. His will power didn't last very long and this time Jane noticed the changes in his behaviour which betrayed the return to dependency. The GP had warned her of this possibility and had told her what to watch out for, but when she tried to discuss it, Gary flew into a rage and stormed out of the flat - this time he went missing for three days.

Bearing in mind his previous brush with the law, Jane decided to wait this one out and when he returned on the morning of the fourth day, she was surprised at his condition. There were none of the tell-tale signs of drug use. His speech was clear, he had recovered his temper and he had money in his pocket - all contrary to what she might have expected. He had been back to the rehabilitation clinic of his own volition, surprising considering behaviour the week before. She was delighted and told him so - he smiled at her for the first time for quite a while. Over the next six months and as a result of a combined effort, he got back on track with his studies and just managed to squeeze through the second year without failing any of his papers. When they returned home to Bristol for the summer break it was with light hearts and optimistic plans for the future.

That future, however, would require a supreme effort for Gary when he returned to Liverpool in the autumn. Not only would he have the pressure of finals during his third year, but there would be the added problem of shaking off the crowd who had tracked them down to Warrington during the previous semesters. These were a group of down and out 'no hopers' who had fed on his weak will power, and driven by an aggressive dealer sought to drag him into their circle. He knew that if he slipped back into their sphere of influence he would end up on the streets, probably dealing himself to finance the habit. The past six months had seen him shake off both the Heroin and the Methadone but that had been under Jane's close supervision; it remained to be seen whether or not he could face his demons alone.

That was then. They had from May to September all to themselves, and it would seem like beginning their married life all over again - a life that had never really got going during his addiction. For the first time in years he felt clean and the five months away from what had become a pit of despair had reduced that memory to a locked cupboard - all he had to do now was to throw away the key. This final stage in Gary's rehabilitation faded into the back of his mind, but his awareness of it resurfaced periodically when they came across Bristol's community of drunks and addicts. These were the times when his will power was tested to the limit. There seemed to be no shortage of either derelicts begging for money or shady characters offering little bundles for sale on street corners, but their unfamiliarity strengthened his resolve. If he could maintain this in the face of known faces back at college he would be alright.

Jane suggested they take a holiday. She had always liked the South West, and they booked into a holiday flat in Paignton just off the main promenade and five minutes from the sea front. She had spent most of her childhood holiday years there and the place brought back happy memories. Gary had never been to Torbay and she took great delight in showing him around the area from Torquay to Brixham and beyond. They spent an entire day on the River Dart from Totnes to Dartmouth with its historic castle and returned to their flat via the Dart Valley Steam Railway. She had no idea that this newly reborn period in their lives could be in danger of ending so soon and so tragically.

They dined out at The Inn on the Green and followed the meal with a walk along the sea front. The weather had been closing in all day, and there was now a stiff onshore wind blowing. It was strong enough to hamper their progress as they passed the pier on the way to the harbour and by the time they reached the Yatch Club at the western end it was nearly dark. Still the lights around the inner harbour were on, so they walked all the way to the end of the left hand arm. They heard the faint cries for help through the now gusting wind, and could see the figure of a young boy in a wet suit waving from a distance of about a hundred yards. He was obviously in difficulties and a surf board was crashing its way over the waves out to sea. He must have misjudged the tide and was now slowly but surely following it out into the English Channel. Jane pulled out her mobile and was turning to the wall in an attempt to cut out the noise of the waves when she saw Gary disappear over the edge of the harbour.

He had decided to go in after the youngster and was now striking out through the increasingly heavy sea in his direction. Jane could see the progress he was making with each wave swell and held her breath as the two of them met, the boy grabbing desperately at Gary for something to keep him afloat amidst the worsening conditions. The surf board that he could have used was now long gone, and with no way of knowing how soon the coastguard would arrive, time was against both of them in their struggle for survival. Jane's heart sank with each wave that covered them and then rose with the swell which brought them back into view. The emergency services had told her that help would be there as soon as possible and she could now see the inshore lifeboat putting out to sea from just beyond the pier. Each passing minute seemed to be an hour, and hours were not what Gary and the boy had to spare.

The little craft bludgeoned its way through the roughening swell and after what felt like an eternity, reached the spot where she had last seen two heads bobbing about in the water. They pulled the boy on board and circled round several times looking for Gary, but in near pitch dark conditions no-one else was to be seen. Jane could hardly believe it when the craft turned and made its way back to shore. She raced along the wall, past the Harbour Light Restaurant and back to the pier. The boy was cold but safe. The boatswain of the lifeboat told her that they were unable to locate anyone else with him and that the rescue helicopter had been called out. She waited on the sea front with the rescue crew but no-one else emerged from the waters that evening.

Gary's body was washed up on the beach with the next incoming tide the following morning. The area was completely sealed off until he was formally pronounced as dead, and removed to the local mortuary where Jane identified him. The next few days passed by like a surreal dream and friends came from home to help her pack up and return to Bristol. The funeral had been a quiet ceremony despite all the press coverage in Torbay where Gary had been hailed as a hero. The boy, Jack his name was, and his family made the trip to the West Country to pay their respects and Jane was grateful for their concern. 'Killing Me Softly' was played at the church. They had both been fans of Roberta Flack, and after the events of the past three and a half years it seemed somehow apt.

Now standing there alone at the graveside with the rain coming down in a steady, persistent stream Jane felt as if the whole of her world had been taken away from her, turned upside down and given back for her to put together once more. It wasn't until she felt an arm around her shoulder and she emerged from her reverie that the cold, hard reality of the situation finally dawned upon her. Looking around and half expecting to see Gary's smiling face she collapsed on to the shoulder of one of her college friends and sobbed uncontrollably.