Writing Purples

I am supposed to be writing for myself this month but there are six days (about) left and I only have ten thousand words of the fifty thousand minimum limit. I shall give up without much of a fuss this month And hope for the best in the next month I set aside for some writing.

With cheer I say, I do believe I have once again stumbled upon the Writing Blues! Everything seems to come to a juddering halt before the brick wall of discouragement. None of my characters will adhere to my commands. They have wilful souls of their own, and oddly, all seem to be biased towards the defiant, sullen demeanor. This will not do at all, because they can’t all monopolise the brooding inclination. They can’t all have the same damn personality!

These aren’t blues, though, so much as purples. This is not the muffled thump of me falling into a pit of writing misery. This is the tremulous hanging in the airless space between inspiration and avolition. Between red and blue. In purple.

Sandstorm

It was the darkest, coldest night of the year, she felt, as she stole her way out of the side door and into the blackness outside six months ago. The world was alive, still. Cars and lights and surges of people milling around malls and shopping centres like the sun was not going to rise in 3 hours.

It was the meanest, cruellest thing, she said as she ate two scoops of chocolate ice cream.

It was the harshest storm, she whispered, as she put the coats away in the cupboard.

The floors were polished to a shine. Gleaming in the dark. When the sun rose she could see her reflection in them. Her face distorted, blurry, somebody else.

The windows were dusty, so she got her cloth and slapped at them until the sand fell in little heaps on the windowsill. Then she dampened her cloth and smeared the windows so they became muddy. She could no longer peer out of them at the sand storm outside.

‘Perhaps it is for the better, perhaps seeing the storm is worse.’

There was food they had left on the table. Bits of rice by empty plates. Clumped with leftover sauce, some yogurt smeared on the side of the plate. Glasses covered in greasy fingerprints. The dim light that fills the room after a day of torrid heat, after the sun is covered by sand dunes, yellow world, dust up nostrils, clogging all the openings into the house. And when you step outside you have to cover your face. Wrap a scarf around your head, over your nose, only your eyes visible. Like a face veil.

And silence.

I don’t think you realise this, but sandstorms are silent.

After the initial gust of wind and wailing currents, there is only silence.

And a fog of dust.

Don’t stay out too long, you shall wheeze.

It was the coldest, harshest winter.

But the summers are long and arduous. And mountains of dust engulf the city every other week.

This Land [30]

The long, harsh winter was finally over.

She realised it one crisp day in May, when she felt the warm sun on her bare arms. Her first roses were blooming. Bright, peachy yellow ones. And their sweet lemony scent danced on the breeze and filled her with such joy. Enough to go running barefoot in the gardens, flinging her hair free, the joy of the glorious sun coursing through every vein in her body.

She knew what she would do now.

She knew with all the conviction in the world.

She would go to the train station, and wait on the platform for his train to draw in. She would step forward, and immediately tell him yes.

No, she would hand him a letter.

No, no. That would be silly. She already wrote him a letter. She would just wait for him. And he would know. Why should he not know? He would know!

She raced back indoors, drawing her shawl over her shoulders in the sudden chill that hung around the back door.

‘Letter for you Laura,’ Phyllis called from the drawing room. Phyllis was visiting for the week. She debated whether to go in and get it or not.

‘Who is it from?’ she stood in the doorway, her left foot tapping impatiently on the floor.

‘Well,’ Phyllis peered at the handwriting, ‘it looks like Mary’s handwriting actually. It came through this morning. Ethel collected the letters from the post office.’

‘Oh. Mary!’ Laura darted across the room and snatched the letter from her younger sister’s hand. She ripped it open and hurried out of the drawing room, with Phyllis looking after her as though she had sprouted another head.

‘Why the rush!?’ Phyllis called anxiously, getting out of her chair.

‘I am meeting .. I am going to the train station,’ Laura threw over her shoulder, before taking the stairs two steps at a time. She dropped the envelope on the floor and shook the letter out, reading as she hurried into her room and shut the door behind her.

Dearest Laura,

Your letter was beautiful. I do miss you so. We have settled in nicely by the sea. John’s practice is marvellous. And I am doing so well with so much fresh air to cleanse my lungs. They have accepted my application at the College and I have my first class on the first week of June. It’s only a small class; I shall be teaching the summer students before they move me onto something more permanent. They say it’s a probationary period. I am not at all nervous, I tell you. We are both looking forward to your visit in August. I have the most wonderful room here for you. It looks right over the sea and the window is as tall as I am! Every night when the days are clear I watch the sunset and I think how you would adore this darling little room. You would feel right at home here. And come September, when our number shall increase by one… I feel giddy thinking about it!

Now for the real reason I write to you so hurriedly, Laura. Tom refuses to tell you, so I must do it myself and warn you before he arrives, lest you have the shock of your life. He is engaged to be married, my love. To Rosaline. Remember Rosaline? You got on really well with her at the Winter dance when you came to visit us at Leighton. He is bringing her and her mother back with him for the summer. Says he wants to give them the tour of the town. I expect he wants to show them the old haunts. Rosaline tells me he tells her about your roses and she is keen to see them. I write only to let you know, so you don’t keel over or anything silly like that.

With all my ferocious love,

Mary

She finished reading the letter and her legs were frozen in place. A soft knock on the bedroom door, and when she didn’t respond, Phyllis pushed it open and peered around.

Laura’s face was pale.

‘So you know,’ Phyllis’s voice was gentle as she came into the room and took her sister into her arms.

Laura shook herself free, tossing her head.

‘Know what?’ she snapped, folding the letter and putting it away into her drawer.

‘About Tom?’

‘Oh! Yes, of course I know. Why are you being so motherly all of a sudden?’ she said curtly, pulling on her coat.

‘Laura, come now, don’t…’

‘I’m going for a walk, Phyllis. Please. Allow me to get dressed in peace.’

She pushed past her sister, seizing her shawl and wrapping it around her neck. She picked her hat up and stalked out.

Hill [28]

Is this how the story ends?

Will the edges be tied together like a piece of cheesecloth containing three warm scones? Put gently into a woven basket and carried over the edge of the hill?

They never told her there was a cliff on the other side.

You don’t hurtle to your death, though. No. This isn’t that kind of story. Death and decay and spattered brains on relentless rocks do not soothe a soul.

When you walk over the edge of the hill, you don’t exist anymore in the world as we know it.

It was the calmest tempest. It swooped around her, lifting her hair, caressing her hem, plucking at her sleeves with a gentle roar. Its breath was warm, while the sleet fell around her. That is how she could tell the different between a storm and the Beast. It huddled over her, protected her from harsh elements. It whispered in her ear, and she knew which way to turn in a blizzard. Should she stray too far from the Lake, she would lose it. And that is what she was most afraid of.

‘You know,’ Tom said to Laura, one such day, when the tempest blew warmly around them as they stood on the edge of the Lake, ‘I always think that the Beast has you in its grip, and doesn’t want to let go.’

Laura smiled, but she didn’t look at him. It was as though… no. It couldn’t be.

‘You understand what it says,’ she told him instead, ‘you know the language it speaks.’

‘I do, and sometimes,’ he lowered his voice, ‘sometimes Laura I worry about the things it says.’

‘Tosh!’ she threw at him, tossing her head, and walking back up the path.

He stood at the edge of the lake as she vanished into the darkening woods behind him, and watched the sun set serenely over the waters.

There was no wind, save for the whirlwind that caressed his hair and blew kisses on his cheeks. He stood for the longest while, beyond the sunset. He stood until the stars glittered one by one into existence, revealing themselves in their shining glory when daylight removed its mask and became night. He stared up at them, and even as he did, a decision was forming itself in his mind.

If she goes, he said to the tempest, I will go with her.

December [27]

I like to think December is dressed in ermine. Her neck drips with rubies. She has a cane, silk pearl gloves, and her hair is done up in such a way as to declare she has all the time in the world. It gleams when the light moves on it, just so, and she does not wear a hat. No sir. A hat would destroy the effect she so longs to have on people.

Would you like an ermine coat, Laura?

Goodness me, no. What an awful thing to want to wear. I don’t know where I would even wear an ermine coat. To the town market? While I am weeding the garden? Milking the cow? Shooing chickens out of the kitchen?

Oh, I am sure you could find somewhere to wear an ermine coat.

Catch me wearing an ermine, Tom. Just catch me!

I take it you still despise December?

Oh, despise is too strong a word. I think December is very beautiful.

But she does not make you happy?

She makes me more sad than happy.

Sad, Laura? Why?

She is gloom. Doom. Darkness. She has disdain for the sun. She is lofty and cold. She would never embrace you in her ermine arms should you need comfort. Why, she is an icy woman with no heart.

December, with no heart!? It cannot be.

I am very firm in this conviction. She has no heart. If she had a heart, she would relent a little. Give us some hope.

I think she is very hopeful.

Does she give you hope, Tom?

She sent me a letter, last year. A letter that gave me a lot of hope.

Ahh. Yes. She did do that.

[25]

Note: I write these daily Novembers to the background noise of my kids screaming. These days like to run around chasing each other and scream. It’s some kind of game. Their cries pierce right through my ears. They interrupt my thoughts and halt my words and make my brain feel like mush . I stop them sometimes, and other times I let them do it, because it seems like they enjoy it and they need to get it out of their system.

I am actually behind.

I am behind and I could panic about it but I won’t.

I won’t let the overwhelm overwhelm me.

Let this be my 25th post.

It has no substance.

My brain is mush.

But brains are mush. And it is within that mush that ideas grow.

Beast [23]

The first time they encountered the beast it was when the children were all swimming at the Lake.

It was not really a ‘lake’ – it was a small body of water surrounded by tall fir trees. You could access it via a stony, winding path, the edges of which were flanked by a low stone wall built by hand over a century ago. All the town’s children traipsed down the path in the torrid summer weeks, picnics and clothes in baskets, their chatter and laughter rising higher than the trees which brought them relief from the heat.

It was the longest day of summer. The hottest day. From the moment they woke up in the morning, they were stifled by the heat. When a ten year old Laura went downstairs, all the windows had been flung open, and the drapes hung lifeless in a nonexistent breeze. They had a light breakfast of bread and cold milk, before their mother shooed Laura, John and Phyllis out to the woods to play in the shade. It was cooler there, and on her way out Laura asked if they could swim in the Lake.

‘Yes, yes of course. Don’t forget to take your swimming things. And have Minnie pack you a lunch,’ was the response.

They met Mary once they reached the winding stone wall path. She was picking her way among the scattered stones three paces behind Tom, her older brother. As they neared the Lake, they heard splashing sounds, laughter and screams, and they all smiled at each other in anticipation.

They had to turn a final bend, which, when they did, they found themselves faced by a larger thicket of tall pine trees, rather than the slope down to the Lake that they had anticipated seeing. Tom, who was ahead, stopped dead in his tracks.

‘That’s funny,’ he said, as the others reached him, ‘that isn’t supposed to be there.’

‘We must have taken the wrong turn,’ John said quickly, grabbing hold of his sisters’ arms. The earth went silent. They could no longer heard the shouts and whoops from the Lake.

‘We can’t have taken the wrong turn,’ Tom hissed, ‘there is only one straight path.’

The children stood still. Frozen in place.

A wind started to blow. They felt it surge at them, and before they had any time to react to it, it swelled around them with a shriek so deafening that they fell to the ground. It pulled at their hair, hot and damp, tugged at their clothes, and roared in their ears. Laura, who had fallen next to Tom, locked eyes with the older boy – his, vivid, green, wide, looking directly at her, just so, in that way; she knew immediately he had heard exactly what she had.

Then it stopped, and when they looked up, the world was loud again. Birds chirruped in the trees. The path was clear ahead of them, sloping down to the grassy edge of the lake, where they saw their friends leaping into the water, squealing and splashing as though nothing was wrong.

Image Credit: Olga Beliaeva

Sunrise and Rainbow [22]

My sister sent me a text when I was downstairs in my mother’s house, working at the dining table.

It was 7am. The house was silent. Everybody was fast asleep.

‘There’s a rainbow outside’ she wrote.

Immediately I jumped up, yanked open the curtains, and this is what I saw.

On one side, a gorgeous rainbow. Then behind me, opposite the rainbow, the prettiest sunrise!

Needless to say today I did not manage to sit to write a proper blog post. But I can’t miss a day, not when we are this close to the finish line. Every day in November a blog post! So here is my contribution from today. My eyes are stinging with exhaustion, I am about to collapse into bed, hoping my kids sleep through the night tonight! And I am happy I managed to get a post out before November 22 ends!

Life [21]

When Tom was set to leave for three years to study the first years of his Medical degree under the renowned Master Jeffman, he went to find Laura.

She was sitting with her mother in the garden, swinging her foot beneath her, a laugh seemingly frozen on her face. He paused for a few moments; the roses grew up and about the trellis surrounding her stone bench, clustered together, so numerous and nodding in the soft breeze.

He approached them with a smile, and Laura looked towards him, eyes dancing.

‘Come and sit with us, Tom,’ she said gaily, ‘we are just enjoying the roses and the sunshine. What little of it we shall have before autumn sets in.’

‘I don’t know,’ Tom looked at the sky, ‘it looks like we shall have much of this sunshine yet,’

Mrs Smith stood up, ‘I have my calls to make, dears. I’ll see you for supper, Tom?’

‘Oh no. I sha’n’t stay that long,’ he said, ‘my train leaves in an hour. I only came to say goodbye.’

‘Goodbye?! I thought… John said… he mentioned you would be travelling together?!’

‘Ah yes. I will wait for him at the Halfway Point. I have some clouds to catch.’

Twinkle in his eye.

Laura’s mother shook her head, turning back towards the house, ‘My boy,’ she laughed, ‘Don’t let those young men at Jeffman’s take your joy.’

‘I won’t.’

When she had gone, Laura patted the seat beside her.

‘Sit awhile,’ she said.

‘I don’t have much time,’ he scanned the garden, hands in pockets, then paced in front of her.

‘Laura,’ he began, then stopped abruptly.

‘Go on,’ she said gently.

‘As you know, I will be gone for three years. Four, maybe, if it goes as well as I hope,’ he looked earnestly at her then.

Her eyes were downcast, and he saw how tightly she gripped the edge of the stone seat.

He went on, ‘And I was hoping – well, it would be my greatest honour if… if you would wait for me.’

Her eyes met the brilliance of his. A sudden wind surged through the garden, and her shoulders rose up to he ears. Her eyes, usually dancing with light and laughter, brimmed with something he could not describe.

‘Tom, I..’ she began, and her voice was like a knife through his chest.

‘Just say yes,’ he whispered, defeat written all over his face.

‘I can’t promise you that, Tom,’ she said sadly.

He didn’t wait for an explanation. He could not. He did not know how he would react, whether his heart would write itself on his face, whether she would scorn him, or hold him in disdain.

‘Very well. Goodbye, Laura,’ he said, in as calm a voice as he could muster.

The he turned on his heel and walked down the path. She did not watch him go. She let the wind follow after him, she heard the wind whisper in his ears, and she strained to listen to what it said.

He asked her, and she said no.

Image Credit

Company [15]

Republishing this as part of my NanoWrimo. It fits. It belongs. Is it cheating? Maybe, maybe! But it belongs.

A basket of strawberries, over a slender brown arm, gleaming in the heady sun of July.

A basket of strawberries, and fields rolling away with greenery and promise. Insects buzzing in the thickets nearby, birds chirruping, as a soft breeze swooping through the very tips of the trees, a gentle swooshing sound, bringing a coolness that prickled the tiniest hairs on her skin.

Perhaps now she would turn, and would see a tall, handsome figure walking up the hill towards her. Perhaps he would call on her to wait for him. She would stand, alright, and wait for him, and when he joined her he would whisk her away somewhere. He would have his motorcar waiting, and they would sail into the horizon. Where would they go? She wasn’t entirely sure, but it would be somewhere great. She would look upon his face and a thread of understanding would pass from his eyes to hers. She stood, now, in the long, almost still, summer afternoon, at the crest of the hill, with the scenery rolling away from her, far into the distance, and shadows of clouds drifting lazily across the sunny landscape.

And so, so still, almost like a picture.

‘Hi! Laura! Hiiii!’

She whipped around, her basket almost slipping from her arm. A tall figure, marching up the hill towards her. He was waving his hat madly, certainly not her mysterious handsome stranger. He was handsome, there was no denying that. Handsome, but so… so … familiar. For it was only Tom.

‘Oh. It’s you.’ she said, when he had reached her, and she continued to pick her way across the field. She lifted her skirts a little, the meadow grass rising high above her hem.

‘You say that like you are disappointed,’ he said, there was a small twinkle in his eye, so slight, and it irritated her.

‘Am I not the handsome stranger you so anticipated?’

She looked sharply at him, but there was only amusement in his eyes. Bright, mirthful eyes, as blue as the deep sky all around them.

‘No, not disappointed,’ she said lightly, shifting the basket to her other arm. He glanced inside. Strawberries of all kinds and colours tumbled over each other, small ones, big ones, shaped like tomatoes and hearts, bright red, gentle pink, red tinged with white and green.

‘I’ve come to drag you back for supper.’

‘Much ado about supper,’ she picked a wild strawberry from her basket and popped it into her mouth, ‘I’m not hungry’.

‘My sister sent me after you,’ he said, ‘I’m to bring you home immediately.’

‘Well you needn’t always do as you’re told,’ she scolded, severely, ‘I was rather enjoying my solitude and expecting to have an adventure, until you came along and dis-enthralled the occasion.’

‘Oh, I dis-enthralled the occasion, did I. And what occasion was this, that it commanded you to trail your muddy skirts in solitude through the fields?’

‘Never you mind!’ she snapped.

‘My, but you are sour today.’

She sighed, and then glanced at him. He was looking expectantly at her, and his face was so youthful, so carefree, and his eyes danced just so, in that boyish way of his, that she relented a little.

‘I was longing for an adventure,’ she said, finally, stooping a little to pick a wild stalk from by her feet, ‘and I supposed, when I saw your figure in the distance, that you might be it.’

He contemplated her for a few moments, and his face was blank, and then he erupted into loud laughter, and she laughed with him, because it was frivolous and silly, and he made it seem so carefree, and it made her happy.

‘Ah, hence the disappointment’, he said, wiping his eyes, ‘come now, Laura, your adventure shall not forsake you, but it is time to go back for supper, else they’ll all be mad, and we shall have a merry time of it.’

Irritation set in again, and made her square her shoulders, ‘need they be so .. so.. rigid!?’

‘They are worried,’ he smiled gently, ‘John isn’t here, so I expect I am your company for the evening, and your mother wanted to make sure that you were available for it, and behaved like the lady that you are.’

‘Lady, indeed!’

‘Well, is the promise of my being company not enough to entice your stubborn spirit?’

Laura threw her head back and laughed heartily, ‘Oh, Tom. Company, really?! You aren’t company anymore. You don’t need me there to entertain you, when all the others are there. You’re simply — why, you’re part of the furniture!’

He regarded her silently, and the laughter vanished from his eyes. She didn’t notice, for her back was to him, as she sailed along ahead of him.

The breeze rustled through the tall meadow grass, the buttercups and wild daises rippling in wonderful waves across the sloping hills, the wind pushing clouds along in the sky, the leaves gently conversing with each other in the distant thicket. A loud motorcar announced itself on the road just beyond the field, whizzing past in a flash of silver and red, and then silence once more. Silence and the earthly sounds of nature, and the two of them, picking their way through the field and on to the road, her ahead, him behind.