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.

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.

Night [9]

The night time is awfully romantic.

It changes a town.

Lights reflect messily on the rippling surface of the river, and when she walks across the bridge under the lampposts and the falling leaves of a dark, dark November night… why, the possibilities are endless.

She thinks things she would never dare contemplate in broad daylight.

Things she has tucked away in the furthest corners of her mind.

The streets, so familiar by daylight, have turned into magical avenues. Lined with tall trees, branches half bare, half covered with yellow and brown leaves. Leaves adoring each avenue, piling under the lampposts, which light up the night softly. Delicately.

Allowing room for thoughts to steal into her mind where they have no business to be.

Mellowing her firm heart.

There he was, waiting for her, just as Mary said he would be. He stood in the doorway of the post office, his cap pulled low over his eyes, arms folded to keep out the cold. Their eyes met and his lit up. Hers scanned the ground by his feet.

‘I told Mary I would walk you as far as the dorm block,’ he began, when she stopped in front of him.

‘That would be… thank you..’ she said, her voice low and demure.

‘I daren’t go any further than that,’ he went on and a wry smile took hold of his features.

‘Aunt Martha would hang you,’ Laura smiled then.

There.

That was not so hard.

Things were normal.

It was just the night, and these strange strange streets.

Grim November evenings, still gorgeously autumnal, the river and its lights, the students walking back from the ball, carefree laughter.

Endless possibilities.

Rendered skewed by the romantic nature of the night.

‘She would hang me, and roast my legs and serve them up with dinner,’

‘Thank you, Tom. For taking the time. You needn’t have bothered yourself.’

‘Don’t I always walk you home?’

Yes but this time it feels different.

‘Yes, and thank you,’

She did not see the bewildered glance he threw in her direction, nor the way his eyes lingered on her face as she looked up through the half bare branches at the beautiful old moon, which was witness to…

It was witness, that ancient moon.

The Girl Who Laughed [8]

They sat next to the window and facing each other. An old rickety table separating them, their heads down, eyes scanning their books, lips pursed in an attempt not to erupt in uncontrolled mirth. The woman next to Laura had her head on Laura’s shoulder, and her mouth was wide open.

Clouds tinged with red and yellow sped past, and the train clattered relentlessly over jumbled piles of back garden. Clothes pinned with wooden pegs hanging like ghosts before their window for a split second before being whisked away by relativity. Time twisted and changed and distorted things. A man walking forward appeared to be rewinding himself backwards as they shot by. Like a pair of bullets from a pistol.

Each time the train lurched to the right or left, the woman sleeping soundly on Laura’s shoulder gave a little shuddering snore.

Laura glanced out of the window, then at Mary. Her friend’s dark eyes still scanned her book, not seeing any words, and Laura goaded her with a glare she knew Mary could see. When she finally looked up, both girls erupted, their books falling from their hands. The sleeping woman jerked into consciousness, and rubbed her cheek crossly. She drew her shawl over her shoulder and sniffed. Other passengers looked curiously at the two girls. One woman across the aisle tutted loudly. Another man began to smile, as though he were in on the joke.

The train drew to a stop. Both girls got up, legs shaking, and still giggling they stepped onto the platform.

‘Aunt Martha said she would be here,’ Laura said, taking her friend’s hand and tucking it neatly in the crease of her arm, clearing her throat and blinking the tears from her eyes.

‘She said nothing of the sort to me,’ Mary retorted, but allowed Laura to lead her off the platform and into the wide station. They both glanced about, suddenly looking quite small under the colossal ceilings.

‘She wrote last week. She said she would be here.’ Laura was firm. She tapped her foot.

‘Oh Laura. That woman. She was drooling on you!’

Laura began to laugh again. ‘Don’t!’ she pleaded, ‘I don’t want to laugh like this in front of Aunt Martha. She will think me most improper.’

‘You are improper! The way you carried on in that train. Very unladylike.’

‘Anyway,’ a toss of her curls, ‘Laughter is befitting a young woman. It’s vitality. I hope I shall always laugh, snooty aunts or not.’

‘Speaking of snooty aunts…’ Mary cautioned with a whisper, and then began to wave heartily at a little lady who was tottering towards them at a pace which defied her height and stature. Behind her, a tall figure hurried to catch up with this small, round fast-moving woman.

‘Snooty aunts and your brother!’ Laura whispered back, and she waved also, a bright smile suddenly transforming her features.

‘What are you smiling about?!’ snapped Aunt Martha, who, upon reaching the two girls deemed it appropriate to straighten Laura’s bonnet and tighten Mary’s collar ribbons. She inspected them both shrewdly, sharp brown eyes passing up and down their bodies with such vigour that it took all of Laura’s willpower not to burst into frightful giggles again.

Mary nudged her roughly, and beamed at her brother, who stood behind Aunt Martha, and cautioned the girls with wide eyes and wriggling eyebrows – this did not help Laura’s state, and she was mightily relieved when her aunt took hold of Mary’s arm and instructed Tom, aspiring doctor, to escort Miss Smith outside, and to follow sharp on her heels lest someone think something they oughtn’t to.

The Laugh by Julia Pappas

The Beginning [7]

Dear Laura,

Do you know what a wastrel is?

I didn’t either, until Master Jeffman called me one today. A wastrel of a boy, he said, shaking his meaty fist at me. What is a boy to do, when called a wastrel?

What did I do?

I fed the pigeons with his share of the corn, that’s what I did. I fed the pigeons and thought of new ways to become a worse wastrel than I already am. He missed his corn, at supper, and blamed the cook, who was beside herself. I felt truly a wastrel, then, and owned up to it. Suffice it to say that my revenge was short-lived, and I must be more resourceful in future when I decide to carry out acts of subtle retaliation.

On Saturday John and I stole some bread from the kitchen. It was for the ducks by Het’s Pond – they seem a little on the waify side lately. John reckons it might be because the pond has frozen over, and they have nowhere to fly to. If you’re really quiet of a frosty dawn, you can hear all the manner of bird calls. Jenny wrens, jack daws, tom tits and robin redbreasts. The ducks are quiet, then. You can see them just about waking up, stretching their wings and giving their feathers a sleepy shake. The world is beautiful at dawn; we swing our legs over the side of the bridge and yearn to fish – only we can’t break that stubborn, thick surface of the water.

John reckons they should have called it ‘Het’s Lake’, on account of the pond being 40 acres wide. I told him quite dismissively that the idea had already been put to the Council, but to no avail. John reckons he is a visionary. He has started wearing those glasses he’d squirrelled away last year, and introduces himself now to the new boys, as ‘Dr Smith’. Never to the Masters, of course, they would whip him to a pulp. A prime fellow is your brother, I say, in utmost sarcasm.

In the morning, sometimes, the folk at the House bring their skates down and have a capital time of it. We watch from the bridge, they shout eloquently at each other and have snowball fights on the ice, twirling about and making quite a show of it, their valets and servants bringing them hot cocoa on silver trays, traipsing down the side of the slope as though summoned by magic, floating over the snow like angels of warmth and luxury.

The dawn is our time, though. Our own time, away from the Masters, away from the drudgery, away from the relentless hours of physical and mental exertion. Away from bodies and ailments and the study of anatomy. We fall asleep at night as soon as our heads hit the pillows, but we always wake up just before the first light of dawn, when the stars, bright and twinkling in the winter sky, are just starting to fade. We wake up and drag ourselves down to the side of the lake, we listen to the birdsong and saturate our souls in the still atmosphere of a waking world.

And I think of you, Laura, and how I am not truly a wastrel, unless I have wronged you in some way. I am not a wastrel, if the world welcomes me at dawn, and allows me to live in the miraculous time when the sun kisses our part of the globe, and turns night into day. The air shifts, the songs start, and the day stretches, yawns, and slowly embraces the earth.

Yours, always,

Tom

Sketchbook [6]

I will draw you a picture. Close your eyes. Wait.

Draw, or paint?

Describe.

Alright. I am listening.

It’s two people dancing.

Is it us?

No! NO! For goodness’ sake. Don’t think like that!

Is it so terrible?

YES. Tom. Ugh. Don’t ruin it.

Alright. ALRIGHT. Carry on, your Highness.

Two people dancing, but they’re slow. A little rickety. There are stars above them. Hundreds and thousands of stars, and they are almost floating. Her hair is silver, ethereal…

Ahh. Like Persephone’s hair?

Exactly like that! You know, don’t you!

I like to think I do.

You do! Oh, you do. So she has her ethereal floating hair, and his is white as snow, brushed back tightly, just as he used to brush it in his days of youth. In fact I do not think he has ever stopped or brushing it like that or changed the way he got ready everyday.

You’re saying, they are dancing just like they did when they were twenty?

Ye-ee-eess. That is what I am saying. They are dancing in a window, you see, and the window is tall, with many pretty panes, and it curves at the top. Slopes up and then down. A beautiful rainbow of a curve. And each square pane is a picture of them dancing. In and out. Holding hands. Separating. Coming back together. And each pane is a different painting. There is a meadow full of poppies. An old house, dilapidated. He is young in that one. Muscular. She is so beautiful, and she holds him tightly. And in the next pane the house is freshly painted, and they are dancing close, but not holding each other, because their arms are full.

Full of what?

Little cherubs of children, of course.

Is this a moving picture?

It’s alive, Tom. Brimming with life. It moves and breathes, and there is a climbing rose growing about its edges.

Climbing rose. I like that.

It’s climbing around the edge of the window, and along all the frames which surround all the panes containing the tiny figures of my dancing couple. They are young and old. Near and far. Dear and departed.

Are there any where they are cross with each other?

Yes, a few. There is one where she dances away from him, her nose turned up, eyes closed, and he knits his brows together so that they make a nice long dark scarf. Oh, he is mighty cross.

Do they ever stop dancing? When they’re cross, I mean?

No. Never.

And this rose that surrounds them, is it thorny?

Roses, Tom. ROSES. And why do you ask such a question? I don’t know if it’s thorny. I don’t think of the thorns. I think only of the blooms.

Ah.

What do you think?

It’s beautiful.

I like to think of this painting. Drawing. Picture. Image. I think of it often.

It’s a little magical, I suppose.

Not very adventurous. But I never was, you see. You’re the one who wants to go gadding about the world, doctoring people back to health. I am quite content to stay here in a nice house overlooking the hills, rolling along with the seasons.

Pricking your fingers on the thorny rose bushes…

You’re laughing at me!

I am not!

You are! How cruel! I shan’t talk to you anymore.

Come now, Laura…

YOU may prick your fingers on the thorns. I never do.

You certainly do not.

Humph.

You ought to paint your picture, thorns and all.

I shall, I think. And I shall ignore your comment about thorns.

Image Credit: Ana Gonzalez Esteve

October [4]

The most darling month of the year, she would like to argue.

Make a case.

Type it up.

Send it to court.

Not court. That would be too drastic.

Somebody must declare it for all to know. It would be a travesty if nobody were to be so absolutely certain of the superiority of October over all the other months.

In October, her roses still bloomed. Less enthusiastically, but they opened their soft delicate petals to the grim clouds above and strove towards life. Something she always took inspiration from.

Briskly tying her boots, brightly buttoning her coat, tucking the old brown umbrella that belonged to a certain someone that she would not name under her padded arm.

Every morning at ten o’clock she exited from the kitchen door to inspect her beauties. She had twenty varieties which she had cultivated lovingly over the last six years. She had climbing roses winding their way intricately around metal trellises and wooden archways. Shrub roses adorning every inch along the pathway which curved its way around the little rose garden, and in the middle an orchard of tree roses. Yellow, white, pink and lush peach. The scent in the summer was overpowering, wafting towards the kitchen on cool gusts of wind. In the winter it was a mess of thorns, with some roses struggling their way through the dreary storms of the season.

In October, however, there was still beauty.

The trees surrounding the rose garden were alight with colour. Fiery, furious, yet lovely and soft at the same time. Tame flames. And the rose bushes still nodded with blooms, even as the season’s change wrestled around them. In the morning they were bejewelled with droplets of glittering dew.

She would cup an ungloved hand under a deliciously fat rose, and bend her nose to it, closing her eyes.

October is the most darling month of the year.

Image Credit

Love Letters #49

Let me set the scene for you.

A candid evening. Why candid? I don’t know. Candles around the drawing room. Laura in her peach dress, flowing gently from her shoulders. Golden curls pinned up; it was the evening, she would unpin them soon. Aunt Abigail had rung the bell for supper. She would join Laura after seeing to her roses in the conservatory.

Laura gently arranged the pillows, setting the tables straight. She was purposeful in every movement, as though she wanted time to tick by slowly.

They had left in a hurry; John had a patient to see to and Mary wanted to go in the carriage so she could bundle the little puddings into their own beds. Hugs and kisses, sloppy ones from the darling angels, a sweet one from Mary, a squeeze on the arm, a murmur that she would see her soon. A hug for her brother, tall and grim, lips taut. He had a patient to get to.

Laura straightened up, sighed. There was a soft knock on the drawing room door. Supper.

‘Come in,’ she said, turning to the window to pull the drapes against the darkness outside.

She heard the door open so she turned around with a smile on her face – which then froze, lips halfway there, dimples just beginning to form. A painful drop in her heart. A throb in her chest. Tightening so she caught her breath. Then she composed herself quickly, one hand on her hair, the other to her neck. Her eyes didn’t meet his, they rested somewhere on his collar.

‘Hello, Tom.’ She smiled properly, moving towards the settee. Something else to look at.

‘Miss Smith.’

Another painful throb. She could die. In fact she would. Right there. That would show him.

‘Miss Smith? Come now!’ she smiled again, ‘How could you?’ a teasing lilt in her voice. She kept her smile, dimples dancing, and sat down, arranging her skirts around her as she did so.

‘Laura, then. I.. how are you?’

‘Oh, very well thank you. John and Mary left only moments ago. Did you not see them?’

‘I did. John was in a hurry to get to old Mrs Pettiforte.’

‘Yes, indeed.’

‘And my sister frazzled, as always.’

She heard, rather than saw, the smile on his face.

‘As is Mary’s way,’ Laura agreed. ‘We were not expecting you for another year,’ she said then, abruptly. Her eyes lifted to his face. He was looking directly at her, into her soul, even. Piercing, green. His face, so familiar, so different. Older, more tired. Drawn. Something in his look compelled her to look away again.

‘I know.’ He opened his mouth to say more. She saw him swallow, hard, search her face until she flushed. She waited for him to give her more information. She didn’t know what to ask. How to ask. She could not ask. So she looked at her sleeve and picked at it.

‘Aunt Abigail and I will have a light supper here by the fire,’ she said, after a short pause. ‘Please join us.’

‘With pleasure,’ he said. She felt the settee bend as he sat down next to her.

Supper arrived, as did Aunt Abigail. Larger than life, sailing into the room and immediately taking command. Fawning over Tom as though he were her own nephew, she took control of the conversation. She enquired after his studies and his work abroad. She lamented on the Medical profession, in turns berating it for taking Tom away from them all for such a long time, and praising him for his medical feats, saving lives and relieving discomfort. Laura was quiet through supper. She kept her eyes on the bread; thick slices with a beautiful golden crust. The butter spread generously on top. Beautifully cut slices of cheese, rich and deliciously fresh tomatoes from the vegetable garden. Her tea was milky and sweet. A nice meal.

It tasted like cardboard in her mouth though. There was a pain in her chest, a lump in her throat. Her eyes glittered brightly in the firelight, her cheeks flushed from the heat of the flames. She took her tea in gulps, but the lump in her throat would not budge. It grew larger as the evening lengthened, as she watched Tom become more comfortable, as she felt his eyes look her way a few times, questioning her silence.

Finally he stood up to leave.

‘A wonderful meal,’ he said, as he bid them goodnight.

‘Laura, see the boy out,’ her aunt said.

She dragged her feet. Smiled at him, followed him out the room and down the hall. He opened the front door and stepped out into the moonlight. A gust of cold air around her, and she shivered.

‘You’d best close that door,’ he warned, ‘no use getting a chill.’

‘It was good of you to come by,’ she told him. She still did not know what he was doing home a year early.

He didn’t say anything, forcing her to look up at him. Tall, dark with the light of the moon behind him. Crisp wintry air, stars alight in the heavens. She couldn’t see his eyes, nor the expression on his face. Yet she knew he was about to say something, for there was dread in his stance. His shoulders sank with heaviness, the joy he had displayed that evening around Aunt Abigail had left him completely.

‘Laura I…’ he began.

He cleared his throat. Then, abrupt, ‘Goodnight. Be warm.’

He turned and walked down the path. She felt as though a pack of wolves ought to have been chasing him, he should race away from her, she should throw her fury at him and shock the calmness out of him. Oh she could scream! His walk was a meander. He even paused to look at the sky, then back at her. Then he raised an arm in salute.

Fingers trembling, she shut the door upon his wave and stalked upstairs to bed. Not a word to her aunt, who Laura heard humming to herself as she marched past the drawing room.

Goodnight, indeed!

Sylvester (Part 1)

I could describe a single meeting in a thousand pages, and a hundred years in two lines.

It’s all relative to perception, I think. 

The year I met Sylvester was the year I also broke both my legs in a terrible cycling accident. I never wanted to go into the details of it all, but it was ominous. I was happy and carefree sailing down the hill, the wind rushing through my hair and over my face, the sky was brilliant because the clouds were flushed with peaches and pinks, the last hurrah of a setting sun, and my legs had never worked so well, and they never would work as well as in that blissful, euphoric moment. I don’t care to think of what happened next, it doesn’t do me any favours and makes me wallow.

A girl is never any good at anything if she is an experienced wallower.

I suppose I would not have met Sylvester if I hadn’t broken both my legs. As it happened, I was lying in bed mostly for six months straight, unable to walk anywhere. The first three months were a living nightmare, and I was in a hospital bed for most of the time because the doctors weren’t sure about my spine.

I shared a room with six other women and girls, but it was interchangeable. They came and went, and nobody stayed as long as I did. During my sixth week, I lay with both my legs in a cast, staring at the ceiling until a tear rolled out of the corner of my eye and slid down the side of my head and burrowed into my hair. It was a tear of complete boredom. I wasn’t sad at all, I was just idle, listless; yawning but not tired.

That must be what it means to be bored to tears,’ I thought.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had plenty of visitors. My friends from school came around every weekend, and we had a little party by my bedside. Eventually the bulk of them stopped coming but Tommy Hill came without fail, chattering about everybody and everything and keeping me up to date on classroom and playground politics. Samantha Briggs brought me my homework, and sometimes sat with me to do hers and explain what I had missed. I got tired of that quickly, though. It was kind of her but I just wished she would let up on all the studious talk. Her large blue eyes would blink blankly at me if I dared to ask what her plans were for the weekend.

‘Well, there is that Chemistry pop quiz we have on Tuesday, and Mondays are always bulky bag days so probably homework?! Why?! Is there a test I am missing?!’

I would roll my eyes and shake my head, letting her carry on, her monotonous voice drifting above my head and over up to the ceiling, her words jumbling together and mixing up, forming mountains and tumbling down, crashing like waves on a shore of slick, black rocks.

Then, Sylvester.

I was sitting up that day. My toast was ready on the table by my bed, and I was stirring a mug of tea whilst absently staring at the small monitor on the wall opposite, where an old rerun of a staticky sitcom buzzed and twitched its way through a dreary episode, every few sentences interrupted by shrieking laughter.

‘Oh, I like this episode,’ a voice said from the doorway. I turned to look. Peculiar boy, he was. A shock of silver hair over a shadowy face. He wore a terrifically baggy T shirt, almost like a dress, and the baggiest shorts you ever did see. They hung below his knees, and his shins were scraped something terrible. He had two dimples and he wasn’t even smiling, and his eyes were piercing and black. Blacker than the longest night in December.

He was wild and brown, an exclamation mark of a human.

Pushing a trolley into the room, he said cheerfully,

‘Snacks, sweets, magazines anybody?!’

Sarah in the bay opposite sat up and said, ‘Do you have the Guardian newspaper, love?’

‘Why, yes we do,’ he swooped down and lifted the newspaper from the bottom shelf of the trolley, waving it above his head in triumph. Like he had won a gold medal.

‘Here you go, sweetheart. That’ll be £2.50’

Then he winked at me.

I turned away, back to the sitcom, and took a sip of my tea. ‘Rude boy’, I thought. He had no business winking at me.

‘This is the episode where they jump off that cliff, isn’t it?’

I looked up at him again and saw him leaning backwards to see the screen. He glanced at me so I knew he was speaking to me.

‘I don’t know,’ I said, curtly.

Image Credit

Love Letters #34

I didn’t know I could feel that way. That reckless abandon. That absolute peace. It felt like I was in a small bubble, and I knew it would pop at any moment, but I didn’t want to think of that until it happened.

I just wanted to enjoy the now most thoroughly.

We walked on the mountain for hours every morning, as the sun climbed higher and higher in the sky. I could feel its malignant beam on my back, scorching through my clothes, making my skin prickle uncomfortably before it broke down and wept rivers of sweat. My feet were sore by the end of the day.

We ate whatever we could get our hands on. Pineapples chopped, mangoes until the orange stickiness dribbled down our chins and under our shirts. Strawberries by the bowlful. Fruit in abundance.

We jumped in the lake straight after, with all our clothes on. You swore loudly because the water was deceivingly cold, and we glanced back at our parents, our relief palpable when we saw them laughing on the lake’s edge, oblivious to our transgression.

We cycled on old rusty bikes found in the garage, the wheels patched and pumped, the chains oiled. Our fingers were grimy with mud and grease, and the summer wind rushed on our faces and separated every strand of our sun bleached hair. You burned severely one day, and your mother smothered you in aloe vera and I rolled around laughing as you squelched outside like a giant slug, a brilliant scowl on your face.

We were bloated with lemonade and stuffed full of sugar, our feet hardened over the span of the two months we were there, browned and baked by the heat and roughened by hot ground beneath our bare soles.

It ended though, as I knew it would. My father had an office to get back to and yours had patients to dissect. Our mothers bundled us away in our respective cars, stuffed blankets down by our feet as we sweltered within, our noses pressed to the windows, watching as the adults exchanged handshakes and claps on the back, and our cars trundled on the dusty road, the distance between them growing with each second.

They didn’t spare a thought for the little people. They dragged their children along wherever they went and they didn’t think that in leaving the holiday house they seared our hearts. Well, my heart. I’d never experienced anything like the friendship we had. the fearlessness, the secrets, the tents and the battles.

There was never a summer quite like that summer. I don’t know who you are, and my parents are vague whenever I ask them. So I leave it, thinking perhaps someday in the future we may meet again and rekindle that bond between spirits.

But I know it will never be the same. I am too old to feel that surge of excitement when I think of the day ahead. Ants and beetles on the ground are nothing to me now. Your voice echoes through the years sometimes, and that summer heavily influences all of my choices and the way I respond to the world.

It’s the smallest things, sometimes. The smallest things.