That Guy (On 9 Years)

I have to write a post about it because I do every year.

Even though I don’t particularly feel like writing it this year.

But nine years ago today I married this guy. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Dancing on a rainbow. Sunshine in my eyes. He felt like the luckiest guy in the world too. He better have. He is still the luckiest guy in the world.

But yes.

Begrudgingly I say it today, I am very lucky still to be married to this guy. Who drives me up the wall, but in the same breath makes me so joyful. If anybody on earth can make me laugh when I am in a bad mood, it’s him.

My daughter has his smile.

She smiles with her entire face. Her dimples dance in and out of her gorgeous cheeks and her eyes could light the entire world. Her teeth flash in a way that is so unique to her, to him, and I promise you, when she smiles, your heart will move an inch to the right.

I see it all the time. Even strangers are not immune to her smile.

And she gets it from her Dad.

When we first began ‘courting’, I wasn’t too sure about this guy. I was impressed by his biceps, I will admit that. He smelled so good too. But I knew it would take more than an attractive body and face to make a relationship strong.

And one day he sat on the sofa adjacent to me, and we were talking about this that and the other. I said something. And he smiled. It was a small smile at first, but then his entire face lit up. I saw dimples where I had never seen them before. His eyes drew me right in. It moved me in ways I had never been moved before.

That smile could move mountains, I thought.

It’s a special smile, I can only get it out of him rarely, and not many people can coax that particular smile from him.

Our daughter, though? She graces me with his special smile every day, multiple times a day.

So I am thankful for the gift of him, his smile, and the joy that he has passed on to the next generation.

Even though, right now, he is THAT guy to me, because I am upset with him. (I say this with a smile, marriage is full of ups and downs. I still love THAT guy.)

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Hug

“Do you want a hug?” I asked my sister.

We don’t do affection. At all. Ever.

“She doesn’t,” my mum said, when my sister didn’t answer me.

I was at the door, leaving home to go back to my home after the christmas-new year break.

“Ahh, I think she does,’ and I went to hug her.

“I’m just awkward,” she murmured into my shoulder, so I gave her an extra squeeze for good measure.

My family do not show affection. It’s clumsy, awkward, strange.

Once my sister was in a state of Terrible Hurt. She was crying alone in her bedroom, in her bed, under a pile of clothes and blankets. Normally we are catty with each other, but that one time I went into her dorm room, climbed into bed with her and held her while she cried.

‘Go away” she said in the end, sniffling.

I didn’t go away, and she didn’t ask me to again.

I don’t know why it’s strange and weird and awkward to give my family affection, when I do it so freely with my children and husband. With my cousins and aunts. With my friends.

Why is it so hard?

I love them all so fiercely.

So why is it so hard?

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.

Daisies on a Teacup [26]

He stayed away for three years. Each term, when his fellow students would pack their trunks and shout their goodbyes, he stayed on. Always finding an excuse to stay. One summer he worked as an assistant for an old doctor who lived in a village not far from the Academy. Another, he found himself inundated with work that he had not managed to complete during term, and had a letter from Master Jeffman himself to say he required the services of one Thomas Norton, if his family would be so kind as to excuse his absence.

Each holiday when John stepped off the train alone, or arrived home alone, or exited a carriage alone, her eyes would lose some spark. Nobody noticed. She was still her energetic, cheerful self.

Nobody thought it odd that Tom did not come back. Not even John. He would cheerfully remark on his friend’s ability to throw himself wholly, completely into his studies. He would detail how well Tom was doing, the praise Tom received from Master Jeffman, praise which any for other boy was hard to come by.

And she smiled when her brother spoke of him. Gracious smile, and then a change of track in conversation.

Nobody noticed.

Until one day, she could not take it any longer.

She sat down, picked up her pen.

Dear Tom,

I do not know but that I despise December. It is cold. It is grey. Darkness arrives not long after it lifts. When I see the dawn, I see no colour, save for the few days of sunshine we are so blessed to have. Perpetual GLOOM, Tom. Daises on a teacup. The only thing I look forward to in December is John’s much anticipated arrival. We all wait for him at the station, you see, since he writes which day he will be here. Mary waits, too, and your mother. She expects you, even if you have written to tell her you will not be on that train.

We get up early in December, before the dawn struggles its way up our side of the hill. The Lake has finally, finally frozen around the edges. Not enough to skate on – never enough for THAT, but we still dream, Mary and I. She is preparing to set off to new horizons. Come February, she too will be gone and then it will be just me left. She will be an Educated Woman, and I shall be the last remaining farm girl.

I could spend the rest of my life here, Tom. Everyday I love it more. I love the wind blowing over the hills and meadows. I love watching the sun set itself over our lake. I love the rustle in the forest. I love the smell of pine and rose when I fling my windows open in late summer. I love, yes, begrudgingly, I love the frosty mornings of December when every leaf, every twig, every branch, every blade of grass is iced most delicately, the most beautiful handiwork ever seen. I have no desire to take myself off into the world, or throw myself into studies, or teach, or marry a rich man and sail the seas with him. I want to stay here. With my roses. With my beast.

Daises on a teacup, Tom.

Our John tells us you are doing so well. So brilliantly well. He says you will be a doctor so renowned one day that none of us shall ever hear from you again, you shall be wanted all over the world. Is that true? I know my brother, he embellishes a lot. He flourishes one’s positive traits until one becomes faultless in his description. You are not faultless, and I know you are excelling, but I want some grisly detail. I want to hear of the fun things you get up to. I want to know what you do when you are not wearing the tip of your nose away on the grindstone.

With Affection,

Laura

P.S. Can we possibly be friends again?

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[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.

Bloggiversary

I am writing an extra blog post today because it is my Bloggiversary. Nine years ago today I sat down, and decided I did not want my old blog on Blogspot, and wanted to write out the things that rattled around in my brain like dainty fairies wearing saucepans in a new, cleaner space.

So I opened up a new blog. And I called it ‘Ocean Bream’.

Not after the fish. But after a lovely, whimsical book I read called The Spellbook of Listen Taylor where a woman really, just really wanted to be asked how her ocean bream was, my love?

At the time I wasn’t married, but I was a few months into ‘seeing’ my husband, who I had known my entire life. We ‘courted’ for a while and then decided to get married in January 2014. So my bloggiversary is very close to my anniversary, and for me, somehow, that feels a little special.

Image Credit: Shawna Erback

Freight [24]

It was the sound of the thundering freight train at 10pm every night that woke her. She knew that now. At first she thought it was something far beyond the reaches of man calling out to her. Something bigger than her Beast. Something deep in the underbelly of the earth, or soaring above the stars.

When the sound reached her dreaming ears it enveloped her completely. It dragged her by her heavy limbs from deep slumber and into the world of the living. Her eyes focused on the ceiling. Silvery in the light of the moon that always bathed her room on clear nights when the it was in its full form.

He asked her. She said no.

‘Why did you say no?’ her mother had asked, when she ran in sobbing after that fateful day in the garden.

‘I couldn’t lie to him, Mother,’ she told her mother, wringing her hands.

‘It wouldn’t be a lie, dearest.’

‘It would. It would!’

‘Well, who else are you waiting for?’

‘NOBODY!’ and she slammed the kitchen door as she flung herself out, threw herself up the stairs, stamping for emphasis, and then fell onto her bed in defeat. And perhaps some despair.

His face kept rising in front of her eyes when she tried to go to sleep. His face. She loved that face. The way he smiled, always. The secret smile. The boyish smile, when he made one of his numerous jokes or teased and teased and teased everybody who let him. The smile when he was just being himself. The smile he had ready for anybody he saw – and then the smile they reflected back at him. The smile when she spoke, the one she knew was only for her, the one she knew he didn’t even know he put on. He had no idea he smiled like that for her. The smile that she had wiped off his face so cruelly with only six little words.

She wanted to snatch those words back out of the air. Unwhisper them to the wind. Take them back and tuck them away where they belonged.

But where did they come from? They had to have come from somewhere.

Her heart felt sore. Yet the tears would not fall.

Image Credit: Euston Next Stop by Philip D Hawkins

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.

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Of Earth [20]

When it rained, the earth also rained.

Upwards.

The smallest droplets rose from the surfaces of the soil, the stones, the trees, leaves, shrubs.. roses… they rose and collated in the air. A mist. It was like the soul of the earth rising to meet its enrichment.

When she looked closely enough, she could almost discern each droplet, dancing its way up through the atmosphere over the grass. Atmosphere around the knees.

Swirling, whirling.

The day it all began was one such day.

When she arose in the morning the air was dank and grey. She could see the storm clouds in her room, floating just below her ceiling when she opened her eyes.

The bustle downstairs in the kitchen was a sign of life. Sign of life returning. Everybody coming to visit.

When the wind blew, it spoke in her ears, and she strained to listen. Strained as she got dressed in the morning. Cocked her head to the side as she pulled her stockings on, brushed her hair, fifty strokes to the right, fifty to the left.

She pushed her window open, all the way, so the wind whipped through her braid, yanking the loose strands at the front of her face left and right, storming at her, roaring into her ears so loudly that she frowned and shook her head firmly.

‘I can’t hear you when you scream like that,’ she tutted at the tempest outside, and closed her window.

She went down the stairs, slowly, taking her time, soaking the stillness in. Soon the front door would be flung open. Mary and her brood piling in, pink cheeks, hats askew. John following not far behind, his big grin threatening to slice his face in half. Phyllis and her millionaire, ears dripping with glittering jewels, mink scarf tucked around her pretty neck. Her arm would be tucked tightly under his, inseparable, still in love after all these years. Soon everybody would be back from their lives, back to where it all began, back to the beginning.

And when it was all over, when they all trooped home, back to their orbits, she would step outdoors. She would turn her head up to the skies, the tempest would die to a mere whisper. And the breeze would caress her face with its gentle, cool hands, and turn it this way and that, and it would murmur in her ear.

And what would it say?

She would anticipate it all day.

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