Pink Slippers (Part 2)

(Continued from Pink Slippers part 1).

Lying in his new bed, Kyran rubbed Bunny’s ear and sucked his thumb on the other hand. The house had been making some strange noises and he’d been scared. Now, though he was on the edge of falling to sleep. I soft crying caught his attention and he wonder if Baby Kat had woken up again. Listener harder, he realised it was Harriet Hippo and he could hear the voices of the others trying to calm her.

‘What’s it?’ he asked sleepy.

‘I’m missing baby hippo,’ Harriet answered.

Kyran looked at the ceiling, which was reflecting the multi-coloured fairy lights strung up over his bed and wondered if he had seen the baby hippo almost Kat’s toys. Pushing back the duvet and blankets, he picked up Harriet and Bunny and took them to his half-opened bedroom door.

Peering out, he saw and heard nothing. The night light in the hallway glowed and the bathroom light was shining through the open door. Kyran noted the baby gate across the stairs and his parent’s door being a jar. He tiptoed out, opened Kat’s door a little more and slipped inside.

Her room was dimly light by a lamp on the changing table next to him and another night light in the far corner. Quietly, Kyran walked around checking out the shelves and the still unpacked boxes.

‘She’s not in here,’ he whispered.

‘Check the crib,’ Bunny suggested.

Nodding, he walked forward and looked down at his sleeping sister.

‘Look!’ Harriet gasped.

He twisted his head and stared down at the back of the crib. There were three shapes sitting there. Kyran frowned and moved closer. He dropped Harriet into the crib and watched her rub noses with a smaller hippo. The two small teddy bears, who had been standing guard of the baby hippo, seemed happy to give up their duty. One baby to watch over was far easier.

‘Let’s go back to bed and leave them here,’ Bunny whispered.

Kyran nodded his agreement and walked back to his bedroom. Rubbing his eyes, he climbed back into bed and snuggled down again. Putting his thumb in his mouth, he sucked it and rubbed Bunny’s ear again.

‘Did you find her?’ Bearington’s whispering voice drifted up from the end of the bed.

‘Yes,’ Bunny answered, ‘they’ll stay with Baby Kat now.’

‘Good. Goodnight then.’

‘Bark!’ Sir Barks-Alot added.

‘Goodnight,’ Mr Snuffles murmured.

Kyran smiled and let sleep wrap around him. He dreamed he was back in the old house again, standing in the front garden with Harriet Hippo in his arms. The wind shook the trees and the house looked menacing. Harriet wriggled in his arms and he set her down on the floor.

‘We have to find my baby!’ Harriet cried and pointed towards the house.

Kyran bite his lip, the house looked scary and he really didn’t want to go inside.

‘Quickly!’ Harriet called and trotted over to the front door.

He followed her and pushed opened the door with a loud creak. Stepping into the hallway, he saw that the wall paper was coming away from the walls and the house was very dark. He heard Harriet sniffing around and something crunching under her large feet.

‘Upstairs,’ she muttered before beginning the climb up.

‘I can’t see,’ Kyran hissed back.

‘It doesn’t matter. You know the way.’

Screwing up his face in thought, Kyran decided she was right and followed her up the stairs. Around them the house groaned and made other unpleasant noises. The front door slammed and Kyran jumped. He glanced back at where it should have been, but couldn’t see anything. He froze, caught in the middle of the stairs, unable to go up or down.

‘Come along! We have to hurry!’ Harriet’s voice came out of the darkness.

‘No,’ Kyran sobbed, his bottom lips shaking and tears pricking his eyes, ‘the house doesn’t want us here. It’s angry we moved away!’

‘But we have to find her! We can’t leave her behind!’ Harriet shouted from the top of the stairs in the darkness.

Clutching the railing, Kyran lifted his foot up and climbed the rest of the steps. At the top, Harriet tugged on his pants and led him into his old bedroom. He felt around for the light switch on the wall, but wasn’t tall enough to reach it. Picking up Harriet, he let her click it on. The room was bathed in a dirty yellow light. His bed, Baby Kat’s cribbed and their wardrobe where still in place. Setting Harriet down again, he watched her run around the room searching for her baby and calling out. Kyran walked over the wardrobe and opened the door. A wooden box flew out, hitting his shoulder and causing him to cry out. Twisting around, he saw the box lid flip open and a pair of pink ballet shoes fly into the air on little pink wings.

‘Harriet! Look out,’ Kyran called.

He ducked as the ballet shoes swept passed him and tangled themselves around the hippo.

‘Get off her!’ he yelled and rushed forward, but the box moved and tripped him up.

Sprawled across the floor he cried loudly and yelled for his Mummy.

A white light came on above him and Kyran woke in a heap, tears wet on his face. He heard his bedroom door open and hurried footsteps coming over. He tried to see through the tears, but give up as he felt his Mummy’s arms wrap around him.

‘Hush. It’s okay. I got you. Did you have a bad dream?’ she asked.

Kyran nodded, ‘the box,’ he sobbed.

‘The box?’ his Mummy repeated, unsure she had heard him right.

‘In the wardrobe. I found it,’ Kyran answered in between short breaths.

He felt his Mummy frown as she pressed her head back to his, ‘It’s okay. It can’t hurt you. Go back to sleep now.’

‘It’s the shoes,’ he gasped and tightened his arms around her, ‘they don’t want us here and the old house don’t want us back.’

‘What are you talking about, Kyran? What shoes?’ his Mummy asked.

‘The pink shoes in the box,’ he replied, ‘in the wardrobe.’

He felt Mummy let him go and turn around. She got up and he wiped his face quickly. He watched her opened the wardrobe door and stare inside. She looked deeper, but it was dark inside and she couldn’t see very far. Kyran felt around for Bunny and after failing to find her, checked the floor and saw her leg sticking up. He got out of bed, picked her up and opened his top drawer.

Pulling out a torch, he brought it over to Mummy and give it her. Clicking it on, they both looked into the wardrobe. After a few moments, she walked in and checked the back corners. In the right one, she found a small wooden box. Picking it up, she brought it out and put it on the end of the bed, as Kyran sit opposite and began pulling the duvet back around himself.

‘Don’t open it,’ he called out as he saw his Mummy’s hands press down on the lid.

‘Alright,’ she said, ‘I’ll take it with me.’

Turning off the torch, she put it back in the draw and balanced the box on the top as she kissed and hugged him goodnight. She tucked him in then left. Kyran watched her pull the door slightly closed and listened to her footsteps going into the room next door. He sniffed and shuddered, felt for Bunny and hugged her tightly.

‘We should never have opened it,’ Bunny whispered in his ear.

Kyran heard a shuffling on the bed and rolled over as Bearington and Mr. Snuffles came to lay on the pillow beside him. He felt the duvet dip slightly above him and looked up to see Sir Barks-Alot watching him.

‘It doesn’t matter, it’s gone now,’ Bearington responded.

‘Do you think the shoes will get Mummy?’ Kyran questioned.

‘No, no. She’s a grown up. The shoes would never think of doing anything to her,’ Bunny answered, ‘go to sleep now. It’ll be better in the morning.’

Nodding his head, Kyran closed his eyes and tried to fall back to sleep. It took a long time for him to do so and in the morning, when Baby Kat started crying he didn’t get up as he usually did. He rolled over and went back to sleep, till his Daddy woke him for breakfast. He hardly talked as he got washed and dressed, but a soon as they were in the kitchen and he saw Mummy he rushed over to her.

‘Did the shoes get you? Where are they?’ he asked.

‘The shoes?’ his Daddy cut in.

‘They didn’t get me,’ his Mummy laughed, ‘and I put them away. There was a box in the back of his wardrobe and he had a nightmare about it,’ she explained to his Daddy.

‘I should have taken the box when we found it,’ his Daddy muttered shaking his head.

‘Did you look inside?’ Kyran pressed as he fisted the bottom of her t-shirt.

‘Yes,’ she answered.

Kyran gasped and felt like crying again.

‘But it’s okay. They were things just left by the last family that lived here. Maybe we could find them and give the box back?’ Mummy suggested.

Kyran pulled a face and hugged her. She rubbed his back then helped him on to the chair next to her. Daddy was busy getting things ready for breakfast and Kat was in her high chair, watching everything going on.

‘I won’t open the box again, if that’s what you want,’ Mummy spoke seriously.

Kyran nodded.

‘Ok. What do you want for breakfast?’

Afterwards, Kyran went back to his bedroom to finish unpacking the rest of his toys and boxes. Humming to himself, he pulled things out of the boxes and found a new home of all of his things. His friends watched him from the bed, making suggestions about the placing of certain toys and books. Finally, everything was unpacked and he went to join them on his bed. Picking up Bunny he sat her in his lap and looked around his room.

‘The walls, floor and ceiling still need doing,’ Bunny pointed out.

‘You’ll have to pack everything away again,’ Bearington mused, ‘you wouldn’t want paint and wallpaper over anything. Can you imagine that?’

Kyran giggled, ‘I guess so.

‘What about the box and the shoes?’ Mr Snuffles required.

‘Don’t bring that up!’ Bunny snapped.

‘Mummy will keep them safe. She said she was going to try and give the box back to the family that where here before. We shouldn’t be scared,’ Kyran explained.

‘We are going to brave and grown up,’ Bunny declared.

Kyran nodded, ‘and the new house isn’t scary at all.’

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Pink Slippers (Part 1)

Kyran’s new bedroom smelt funny. Sniffing and holding the small breath, he tried to figure out what the smell was, but beside from old, he had no idea. Clutching Bunny to his chest and stroking her soft felt fur, he tried to remain calm. Sucking in his bottom lip, he looked at the bare wooden floor boards and the cardboard boxes scattered there. He tried to turn Bunny around to show her that all their stuff was here, but Bunny didn’t want to look, she was afraid and wanted to go back home.

‘This is our home now, Bunny,’ Kyran whispered and rubbed the tips of her long ears, ‘Mummy says this room will look just like mine soon enough. And it’s all ours’, no more sharing with Baby Kat. See, Bunny.’

He held her up and showed her the room.

A soft baby’s crying started up and Kyran lend to the right on his new bed, so that he could see out of the open door. The bare hallway and rickety railing meet his eyes. He listened and heard the distance voices of his parents. The baby stopped crying and Kyran settled back on the bed. He glanced at Bunny, smoothed out her flower patterned dress, then at the boxes on the floor. Mummy had left him the task of unpacking some of his toys and books, but he hadn’t felt like it.

‘What Bunny?’ he asked and held her up to his ear. He nodded his head a few times before answering her, ‘yes we should get Mr. Snuffles out of the box. He might have hurt someone with his spikes.’

Sliding off the bed, Kyran went to the first box and opened it, inside were his books. Moving on, he looked through a few others, before finding his soft toys. Pulling this box back to his bed, he sat down and began pulling everyone out. Mr. Snuffles was first and the hedgehog looked relieved to be out of the box. Setting him down next to Bunny, Kyran watched Mr. Snuffles snuffle around and Bunny start talking to him whilst point out the new furniture.

Next, he pulled out Bearington, Sir Barks-Alot and Harriet Hippo. Arranging them at the end of the bed, he watched them greet Bunny and then join Mr. Snuffles in looking around.

‘It’s not so bad,’ Kyran said and cast a look around the room.

‘But the paint is peeling,’ Bunny pointed out.

‘What is that smell?’ Mr. Snuffles wondered.

‘Are you not afraid of that wardrobe?’ Bearington asked as he rightened his stomach stuffing and patted down his yellow fur.

‘Bark, bark, bark,’ Sir Barks-Alot cut in before he went to the edge of the bed and started growling.

‘Did you find my baby yet?’ Harriet Hippo questioned.

Kyran shook his head and looked at the large fitted wardrobe that loomed over his bed. He was afraid, but there was no way he was admitting it in front of his friends. Getting off the bed he started to walk over, but then came back for the large basset hound.

‘Defend me, Sir Barks-Alot!’ he cried and rushed up to the wardrobe with the dog barking loudly in his arms.

He yanked open the doors and looked into the emptiness. There were two metal railings above his head and some shelves too. A shoe rack was on the floor and some startled dust bunnies. He threw Sir Barks-Alot inside and watched him chase the dust bunnies away.

‘There’s nothing in here,’ Kyran called back to the others.

‘That’s good to know,’ his Mummy’s voice called from the doorway.

Sheepishly, Kyran peered around the door at her and wondered how long she had been there for. Smiling back, his Mummy walked in and began opening some of the boxes he had yet to do. He joined her and watched as loose strands of her blonde hair, which matched his own, framed her face and lay on her neck. She was wearing dark jeans and a loose green top.

‘I’ll put away some of your clothes for you and then I have to go and help Daddy set up Kat’s bedroom,’ she explained, ‘Are you animals settling in?’

Kyran looked to where she had nodded and saw his friends gathered at the end of the bed where he had left them, ‘yes,’ he responded, ‘it smells funny though.’

Mummy placed an armful of clothes on his bed, went to the window and opened it. A cold wind rushed inside bringing with it the fresh smell of the outside. Kyran went to the window and looked out. He could see the house next door and some of the street.

‘Be careful. Don’t lean out,’ his Mummy warned.

‘Okay,’ he called back.

Grabbing Bunny, he showed her the view outside.

‘Here’s Sir Barks-Alot. Look he’s got dust bunnies on him!’

Kyran giggled into Bunny’s ear and watched as Mummy tossed the dog back on to his bed.

‘Wow, there’s so much space in here. I think we might have to dust before we put any of your stuff in though. Let’s go and get some cleaning things.’

‘Can’t I stay here?’ Kyran asked.

‘I’ll have to close the window…’

‘No, no! I’ll come,’ he half shouted.

‘Alright, calm down.’

He threw his arms around Mummy’s legs and hugged her tightly. Pressing his face into her jeans, he took a deep breath. He felt her hand patting his head and heard her speaking gently. After a few moments, she tugged at his hand and he let her hold it and led him out of the room. Going downstairs, he saw his Daddy and Baby Kat in the living room organising some of the large plastic boxes.

They walked down the dimly light hallway and into the kitchen. There his Mummy got him a drink of orange juice and collected some cleaning supplies in a tub. She often him something to eat, but he shook his head. Going back up, Mummy paused to tell Daddy she’d be back soon and he asked if she had seen Baby Kat’s bouncing chair. She had no idea, so she took Kyran back upstairs.

Leaving him to put away his socks and underwear in his chest of drawers, she cleaned the wardrobe out. Kyran put everything neatly away then help Mummy hang up and organise his clothes and shoes. Afterwards, she kissed his head and went downstairs again. Kat was crying loudly and clearly wanted something.

Kyran turned to his friends and watched them staring into the wardrobe.

‘What’s that?’ Bunny asked.

‘What? Where?’ Kyran responded.

‘Looks like a box,’ Bunny answered.

Kyran picked her up and they walked into the back of the wardrobe. In the darkness of the farthest corner was a wooden rectangle box which he didn’t recognise and Mummy must have missed. Picking it up, he tucked Bunny under his arm and brought out the box in both his hands. His friends clustered around it and Kyran pulled them all into his lap so they could see what was inside together.

There was a lock on the front with no key inside the keyhole and this made him wondered if the box would actually open. Putting his finger nails into the black line where the lid ended, he eased it open. A collection of girly treasures lit up his eyes and took his breath away.

‘Look, Bunny,’ he said and pressed her face to the edge of the box.

‘I smell flowers!’ Mr Snuffles cried.

‘Those pink slippers look like a dancer’s,’ Bearington added.

‘Bark, bark!’ Sir Barks-Alot jumped in.

‘Is my baby in there?’ Harriet Hippo asked expectantly.

‘It must have belong to the girl who’s room this use to be,’ responded Bunny.

‘Maybe,’ Kyran muttered and he began pulling things out of the box.

Firstly, were the pink ballet slippers with their matching ribbons and worn soles. Next, the two dried rose flowers, tided together with a faded pink ribbon, thirdly a bar of soap wrapped in brown paper. Then there was a small photograph showing a young girl with her grandparents, followed by a letter and a book of poetry.

Kyran laid these out on the bed, then picked up a small golden egg. It felt cold in his hands and he couldn’t see anyway to open it. Giving the egg to Bearington to hold, Kyran pulled out some another small books and sheets of music paper.

‘What is that?’ Bunny asked.

He looked down and saw a small silver heart on a chain. Pulling it out, Kyran looked at it then give it to Bunny. He removed a few more sheets of notepaper with curly handwriting across it, then pulled out a ring with a red stone on the top.

‘That’s it,’ he said, dropping the ring to Bunny and peering into the box.

‘It’s shiny,’ Mr. Snuffles commented about the ring.

‘Perhaps we should put them back,’ Bearington suggested.

Kyran nodded as Sir Barks-Alot started barking madly at the door. Kyran looked across and saw his Daddy standing there with a puzzled look on his face.

‘I found it,’ Kyran said quickly, ‘it was in the wardrobe. I was going to put it back!’ and he shoved the books and ballet slippers in the box.

‘Wait, hold up,’ his daddy said and walked over to him.

Kyran tried to put everything else back, but his Daddy swing the box away and began taking everything out.

‘It looks like a time capsule. I guess the little girl left it behind,’ his Daddy mused.

Kyran nodded and showed him the photograph of the girl and her grandparents.

‘We should put it back.’

‘I was going to,’ Kyran responded, ‘I just wanted to see what was inside.’

‘And now you have, so let’s put it back.’

Collecting the egg, locket and ring from his friends, Kyran put them inside the box and watched his Daddy stacking the books away. It took a few minutes to fit everything back into the small box, but once it was done, Kyran showed where he had found the box and his Daddy put it back.

‘Let’s go and see if the pizza is here yet,’ his Daddy said closing the wardrobe doors.

Kyran nodded and held his hand out.

To Be Continued…

Tap

Laying in the original Victorian bathtub, Deni heard the tapping again. Frowning, she listened hard and tried to pin point where it was coming from, but she just couldn’t do it. The wind was howling crazily outside and rattling the thin old windows, whilst the laughter and cries of the children living below her drifted upwards. A cat meowed somewhere and pop music tickled the air. All of it contributed to create interference to the tapping’s source, Deni realised.

Settling back in the hot water, she let her thoughts drifted and tried not to think about going back to work tomorrow. The weekend had been too short once again and full of being with friends who had settled down into adult life.

‘When are you going to get married?’

‘Have you been looking for a proper house? You really need to get out of that attic bedsit.’

‘Do you actually know what you’re going to call your first child?’

Deni sighed and pulled herself further down into the water, so that she could blew bubbles across the soapy surface. She watched rainbows of colour shimmer across their tops before the bubbles popped. My life is like that, she thought, just one popped dream after another.

Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap,

She paused and listening to the tapping, it sounded like someone tapping their fingertips against a wooden surface. Deni pulled herself up and got out of the bathtub, the sudden movement of water splashed around like a small section of the sea trapped between some rocks. Grapping a towel, she wrapped it around herself and slipped on her dressing gown and slippers.

Opening the bathroom door, she listened, but couldn’t hear the tapping anymore. Making a face, she went back, pulled the plug and watched the water swirl away. Picking up another towel, she dried her hair and then went into her bedroom. The wind pressed itself against the large windows crying to be let in. Deni shook her head slightly and turned away. Rain battered the windows behind her, almost as if the wind had become mad at her.

Drying and putting on some fleecy pants and a loose night top, Deni sat on the edge of her bed and brushed her hair.  Digging out her hairdryer from the deep drawers of the dresser, she set it up and turned it on. Her hair was short and took only a few minutes to dry. Getting into bed, Deni thought about the tapping and wondered what was causing it. The noise had been going on for a week or so now and she had half-convinced herself it was only the piping or some other old fixture within the Victorian town house.

Snuggling down, she left the lamp on and dozed off into her thoughts. The tapping woke her a few minutes later. Sitting up, Deni listened to it and realised it was now the only sound she could hear. Getting up, she went to her bedroom door and looked around it into her living room-kitchen space. She could see nothing and there was enough light fliting in from the streetlamps. Putting on her slippers, she left her bedsit and went into the hallway.

Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap.

Where’s it coming from? She wondered.

Setting off slowly down the stairs, Deni paused on each of the four floors and listen to the tapping. As she reached the ground floor, she pressed her ear to the door of the landlord’s rooms. The tapping seemed to be coming from there. Deni knocked and waited. When the door opened, she smiled sweetly and launched straight to the problem of the tapping.

After a few puzzled moments, the landlord explained he couldn’t hear anything.

‘Please. You have to do something, find out what it is and stop it. The noise has been districting me for days,’ Deni pleaded.

‘Alright. Come in and see if you can hear it,’ he said gruffly.

Deni thanked him and stepped inside. After a few moments, she could hear anything, but then the tapping started up again.

‘Do you hear that?’ she whispered.

‘Sounds like it’s coming from the basement. Maybe we should go and check it out?’

‘I…don’t know,’ Deni muttered.

‘There’s nothing down there,’ the landlord replied confidently.

Nodding, Deni let him led and together they entered the basement. In the torch beam, the basement seemed empty, expect for the maze of pipes running above their heads. The tapping had stopped as soon as they had entered and after a few minutes of looking about, they had discovered nothing.

Returning back to the hallway, they said goodnight and Deni walked the four sets of stairs back to her room. Getting back into bed, she lay there wondered what the tapping was and when it would start again as there seemed to be no reason behind it. Closing her eyes and dozing off, she wondered if animals were to blame.

Grave

Abandoned graves at the old cemetery at the Sanctuary of Sacromonte, Amecameca, Mexico State. Photo by AlejandroLinaresGarcia on Wikimedia Commons

Dear Hattie,

I hope this letter finds you and your family well. Sorry it has been such a long time since I last wrote to you. My daughter has been trying to get me into sending virtual letters on the computer and though I have made some progress, there’s still nothing like physically creating and sending a letter! To me it is a shame that the new generation might never send a handwritten letter in their lives. I guess everything is going to be ‘digitalised’ soon enough and perhaps it will make the world a better place.

I actually do have a reason why I’m writing to you and not sending this by email, it’s because I wanted to include these photographs, part of a land map and a letter I found the other day in my father’s deep chest. I’m sad to say the chest has been sitting in the attic gathering dust and being forgotten about instead of being put to some good use. It seems like much of the items from our time are being rejected by our grandchildren. Not like when we were younger and our grandparents’ relics fascinated us.

I was walking in the woods yesterday, just like I had done a million times before, it was for no reason, other than to get out of the house for a bit and away from the missus – she’s still fine and going strong by the way, but I leave much of her care in the hands of the nurses and my daughter. I find it much easier and less stressful. It felt like the first day of spring, with the sun in an almost cloudless sky, dappling through the just sprouting tree leaves. Grass and wild flowers peppered the ground, whilst the earth felt drier. I hadn’t planned a route; I was just wondering and reflecting.

Oh, you’ll remember how we use to run through the trees playing some game or just to cool down, laughing at everything and scaring all the animals away. We would paddle in the brook, play ‘Pooh Sticks’ on the bridges and gather wild flowers to take home for mother’s dressing table or the front windows. Those summer days seemed endless and we never thought we’d be so old like we are now nor have children of our own. Everything was easier, quieter and natural back then. Sometimes when I go into the woods now, I’ll sit on a bench or tree stump and imagination myself young again. I make myself believe we are playing hide ‘n’ seek and I am the one counting. My brothers, sisters, cousins and friends are all hiding and the air is filled with laughter and hurried footsteps. Those precious days.

I crossed the bridge you use to call The Fairies’ Bridge and sadly it has been replaced by a metal structure now, which looks nothing like the wooden steep arch we use to skip across and sing allowed to the fairies on. There used to be an old wall which ran alongside the path and no one could see over. Do you remember that? It would grab our curiosity for a few moments and then we’d be off on other adventures. Well, yesterday I found a gap in the wall, which is badly tumbling down and discovered what had laid behind it all this time.

I had to fight my way through over grown bushes and trees, then the ground became slightly different and nature less wild. A large space had opened up before me and trying to defend themselves against the ever encroaching nature were some gravestones. At first I thought it was just a pet graveyard or the resting place of one rich family. However, stepping fully into it and looking around, I spotted the sloping roof of the old stone building we had sometimes played in. Of course, I did actually know this until I had made my way over and further explored the area. I found what might have been the remains of other buildings too.

Going back into the graveyard, I wondered about and tried to look at some of the names on the stones. Most of them had disappeared and the few I could make out had no meaning to me. However I came across, what seemed to be the ‘newest’ set of the headstones and they could still be read. On three of them I found our family name and that of some other relatives. I jotted them down in my notebook and I’ll write them out for you now.

Mary Joneson, born 1882, died 1932.

Fredric Joneson, born 1878, died 1924.

Their son; Jimmy, born 1904 died 1910.

Bethany Joneson daughter of Mary and Fredric, born 1908, died 1948.

Her husband; Edward Joneson, born 1906 died 1939

Their son; John, born 1933, died 1948.

James Jonesson, born 1883, died 1920.

His wife: Elizabeth Jonesson, born 1885, died 1940.

I suspect that like me, you don’t recognize the names, but I did some more research and I did find out that they are from a branch of cousins who died out. Though as you can see from the photographs, it seemed that our parents and grandparents did know them as the names and dates match up. The map, you’ll find I’ve marked a few things on just in case you decide to take a look yourself- though please feel free to give me a call and I’ll happily accompany you. The stone building was actually a small village church. Though I never would have believed that without seeing the photos of it! As for the letter, you’ll find it as deeply interesting as I did. It was written by Bethany to our great aunt Eliza. I’ll have to see if there are any more in my father’s papers, though I fear they might have been lost when we emptied the house.

I’d be delight to hear any light you can shed on this. It has inspired me to keep digging and get a family tree made. I still can’t believe that we never knew about the graveyard, it looks like a place we would have just loved.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Arthur

Strength

The dull knife shook in her hand. Even though she knew the blade couldn’t do much damage, just holding it give her the strength she needed to leave him.

Pandas

Waiting for a bus, I noticed an older woman slightly apart from everyone else.

She was wearing a pink onesie covered with large pandas that had soulless eyes.

Where was she going and where had she come from? I wondered.

Sleep

Okay, sleep now. Sleep now! Damn it! My eyes flicker open and I stare at the dark ceiling above me. Why can’t I sleep? It’s a natural thing like breathing and it should come just as easily and without the thinking. But no, my sleep won’t come, like it didn’t come last night or the night before. Sleep reminds me of grains of sand, slipping through your fingers. It’s difficult to stop of course, but if that hand closes tightly, then there always be grains of sand still in there. My sleep is one of those grains.

I roll over and Luke’s back is immediately in my face. He’s curled up, breathing gently, in the deepest of sleeps. Whilst I’m sprawled across the bed, breathing heavily, and wide awake. I try snuggling into him, but it takes awhile for me to find a comfy spot for my head. I breathe in deeply, smelling the warmth and the cleanness. Relax and drift. Relax and let it all go. Now remember to breath softly, let your body sink into the bed and just stay still.

Damn. I can’t do this! I’m up from the bed in a single movement. Throwing the duvet away and standing up. Luke doesn’t move or make a sound. I look jealously down on him and leave the room. The floor is cold, but I’m far too awake. I go into the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea.

When I was little and sick, my mum would make me a cup with lots of milk and a bit of whisky. That always smoothed and sent me drifting off. But we don’t have any whisky because Luke doesn’t drink and I forgot to get the milk. This single tea must do it all and these sleeping tablets. I don’t bother trying to be quiet. Luke sleeps like the dead.

Curling on the sofa, I put the news channel on and try to bore myself to sleep. The voices of the news reporters do make me sleepy, but the flashing images just give me a headache. Or maybe that’s the tablets? I know all the current news stories. I watched them this morning, lunch time and this evening. It seems that the day’s events just circle around and the news reporters have become fixated on the updates from Iraq, the house fire that killed those kids, the fact there’ll be frost tonight in the middle of March.

I sip my tea and watch the news from around the world. Nothing much new there. Turning the TV off, I get my Kindle and start reading War and Peace. It’s a long, boring book and it should put me to sleep. But English Lit students have their brains reprogrammed and no book can truly become boring. We can question and analyse every detail whilst we read. My brain becomes more awake.

I look for something else to read and end up with a collection of First World War poetry. It’s easy enough to read, but it does tug at your heart. I can only take so much, before I’m busy imagining life in the trenches and my mind is off on other tangent. To bring myself back, I look through the free downloaded-able books, but that only lasts a few minutes. Unlike a library or a book shop, my mind is never that interested in the book lists on the screen. I guess not being able to physical touch the book or flick though the pages is the cause.

It’s raining outside and I stand by the window, watching it. I’ve opened it a little, though the cold air isn’t helping. I like the rain. It’s relaxing and there’s something about watching it fall. Those tiny droplets falling on things and making them shimmer or smell sweeter. The ugly streetlamps, don’t look as bad when their light captures the shine of the rain. I let my thoughts drift and empty my head.

Being this high up means that I can see some of the cityscape, it’s not that pretty to look at, but our place looks over the cathedral and its gardens. I can see lights shining in other windows and I wonder why. What are people doing over there? Is that an office and they are working late? Catching up on some forgotten report or writing up some data. Maybe they are a guard patrolling the floors? Are those apartments over there? Has someone just got in from a trip and having something to eat or relaxing before sleep. Did they get lost in a good book and forget the time? Maybe it’s a student’s place and there’s a party going on, an essay being written or an all night gaming session happening. Or maybe someone just forgot to turn the lights out.

I wonder what would happen if someone turned the city lights out. There would be complete blackness. I’m sure no one would mind that much and it would only be the night owls affected. With the lights out, we could see the stars and the heavens above. Like that TV show said. The stars would be so bright and we could track them. The window isn’t angled to see much of the sky and it’s too cloudy.

I close the window, pick up my kindle and decided that some internet surfing might be in order. Something to focus and tire my brain out would be useful. Maybe an IQ test or a hidden object game or cards, anything that would make me forget about sleep. I surf the net. Check my social groups, play a few games, ponder what I’d like for my birthday, see if my friend sold her childhood toys yet and then I take a tour of the USA. We are planning to holiday there, but can’t decide where to visit.

After all my surfing, I’m feeling tried and sleepy. I tidied up, trying to keep my brain empty. I’m worried that if it starts thinking again, then the cycle will start again. I go back to  bed and find Luke still asleep. He’s rolled over and taking up my side of the bed too. I push him and try to get him to move. But he’s like a log and I’m far too tried now. I don’t want to wake him, but I can’t sleep on the sofa.

I shake him, kiss him and poke him awake. My eyes have got use to the dark again now, so when he opens his eyes, I can see them. He mumbles and moves over. I lay down, my head hitting the pillow and all I can think about is sleep. Finally! But then Luke is throwing the duvet back and getting out of the bed. I cold draft hits my back and I half watch him shuffling around the room.

Tossing the duvet over, I try to sleep. I feel myself dozing off and I don’t fight. I just stay calm and relaxed. I feel myself balancing on the edge of sleep. My vision is black and sprinkled with white dots. I’m warm and safe. Let go now.

Suddenly, the bed sinks down, the duvet is moved, I’m cold again and a solid arm tries to grapple me. I become fully awake. I roll over planning to attack. What has disturbed my peace? It’s only Luke getting back into bed and wanting to snuggle. He’s puzzled for a few seconds, but doesn’t let go. I slip into his arms and we hold each other.

His breathing is in my ear, tickling my hair. I’m uncomfy and feel a bit suffocated. As much as I want to move though I don’t and I try so hard to climb my way back up the mountain of sleep. But I keep sliding off. There are no real thoughts in my head, it’s just I can’t sleep like this. I push away from him, making him come awake too. I ask him to tell me a story because I can’t sleep. He says he’s too tried and can’t think.

He hushes me. I’ve to pee. Why does that always happen when you are settled and don’t want to move? I’ve no choice. I get up and go to the bathroom. The flushing noise sounds so loud in my ears. Sweet bed and glorious sleep! Please come to me now. I need to do it and this time…this time if I don’t I’m going to give up and go and do something.

I crawl back to bed, snugly beside Luke and try once more. My eyes are heavy and they shut easily enough. I feel myself drifting and that little voice inside of me screams yes! Yes sleep is here! It has come at last and soon we shall dream like everyone else. But then Luke rolls over. His elbow hits my cheek and I’m wide awake. He jumps up at the same time as me. My hand flying to my stinging cheek and the tears of pain already in my eyes.

I’m sorry, he says. It doesn’t matter, I mumble back.

He kisses my cheek and once more we settle down. I turn as I lay back down and he wraps his arms around my body and we spoon. My favourite position. We can both be comfy holding each other now. I feel safe and loved like this too. I shut my eyes and try to get back into that state once more.

I drift. I imagine waking up tomorrow, safe in Luke’s arms with him kissing me and mumbling in my ear. I imagine the sex and the dozing time afterwards. There’s so much to wake up for tomorrow.     

Hailstone

The hailstone bounced off the window as Eureka sat alone at her desk. Turning her head to the side, she watched the tiny chips of ice peppering the newly flowering pink bush. She sighed and turned back to her computer, wondering if she would ever get this presentation done. Tapping the mouse, she flicked through the first four slides, but didn’t get the motivation she was looking for.

Maybe I should just go home and finish this tomorrow? She thought.

A quick glance at the clock told her it was a little after nine pm. She had done just five slides, one of which was the title, since she had started three hours ago. Rubbing her aching head, Eureka decided to give up and emailed the presentation to her home computer. Slowly, she gathered all the paperwork she needed that was scattered around her desk and placed them in her small suitcase.

Leaving the office, she made sure her computer had turned off, the lights were out and the windows closed. She gave the cleaners a hurried goodbye at reception and walked across the road and up the ramp to the tram station. Checking the timetable, she saw there was a tram due in a few minutes. Feeling relieved about that, she sat down on the edge of the metal grill bench and rubbed her swollen ankles.

Wrapping her woollen coat more tightly around her, Eureka fixed her gaze down the line and looked out for the headlights of the tram. A soft shuffling caught her intention, but she deicide it was only the breeze moving leaves or some animal. Clutching her handbag and the suitcase handle, she tried not to think about how dark it was.

The light in the shelter was on, but it wasn’t very bright and only a handful of lights came from the surrounding offices’ windows. The only two streetlamps were out and the rest were gathered further down and shone out over the docks.

The tram will be here soon, she thought and kept her eyes fixed ahead.

The shuffling came again, followed by a raspy cough.

Eureka knew she wasn’t alone.

Desperately trying not to move, she told herself to remain calm. It was probably just someone else who had been working late like her and was waiting for the tram home. The homeless never drifted this far from the city centre to bed down. A light patter caused her to look up. It was hailstone again. Having moved, she glanced around, but saw no one standing on the platform or going passed on the road.

Still feeling uncomfortable, she looked up the tram tracks and saw two headlights bobbing upwards. The tram was here. Standing up, she went to the edge of the shelter and watched the white lights growing. Clutching her things, she moved further out, but instead of feeling hailstones on the back of her neck, she felt fingers grabbing her.

The Swimmer

As she swam another length of the swimming pool her mind was empty. It was too early for much cohering thinking and her body was running on auto.

The Pineapple Journals

She watched the reflection of the hedge in the soaking grill tray on the window sill. The soap foam on top of the water had gathered together to look like frogspawn in the corners of the tray.

‘I thought you were cutting the hedge?’ she called out.

‘I was,’ he replied from the hallway, ‘but Z is coming around and I need to tidy the study.’

He walked into the kitchen and began to eat the bacon sandwich she had made. He stood beside her, leaning on the kitchen counter and together they watched the soap bubbles pop in the grill tray.

‘I’m showing him my poems,’ he started.

‘Ah, the mysterious poems…’ She placed her brunch down and went to tickle him, ‘When do I get to see them?’

‘Soon!’ he half shouted as he dodged her attack.

‘Before you publish them I hope!’

‘Of course! Thanks for the sandwich.’

He kissed her forehead and left the kitchen.

She listened to him go, with his bare feet slapping on the steps leading up to the attic and then the door clicking into place.

Sighing, she went to the sink and ran the hot tap. It took a few minutes for the water to get hot, so she watched the reflection of the hedge once more. It was swaying in the wind this time. The large leaves moving on their branches to a rhythm only they could hear.

She washed her plate, the scissors and the knife first and then lifted the grill tray from the window sill. The image of the hedge vanished as the grill tray plunged into the soapy water.

She scrubbed it clean and then left the tray on the drying rack with the other things. She went to tip the water out of the bowl, but the shrill ringing of the phone cut in. She let the bowl slip back into the sink and went to answer the phone.

‘Hello? Oh, hi Z…yes he is….well, he’s in his study right now…yes…yes…okay, I’ll let him know…Sandwiches? Salmon paste only? Right…I’ll prepare them…How did you know? I always make a cake on Sunday…Three? That should be fine. I’ll let him know. All right. Bye Z.’

Smiling, she placed the phone down and then ran up the stairs. Just before the attic steps, she paused and grabbed the edges of her skirt up. The steps still had the appearance of being new and you could make out the grey nails poking up from the wood. He said he would paint them….

She knocked and then stuck her head around the door.

‘Z is coming at three,’ she called out.

When he did not reply she entered the room. He had converted the attic into a study last year. He had spent hours relaying the floor boards and painting the walls. To her eyes it still looked new, through as she wondered in deeper, it became clearer that the study was in full time use.

‘Hi? Are you still in here?’

She looked into the dark spaces along the back wall, where their old sofa still sat and her great-grandma’s rocking chair was beside it. On her left was his desk and two chairs on either side. His computer was humming loudly and she could hear the fan whirling around.              She nipped behind the desk and woke the computer up.

‘Boo!’

She screamed, spinning around and almost falling on to the desk.

He burst into laughter, ‘I so got you! Your face!’

She placed a hand on her heart and slowed her fast breathing, ‘Don’t do that!’

‘Sorry.’

She waved his open hands away and stepped out from behind the desk.

He placed his book down and went to her.

‘Forgive me, I just couldn’t help it and you were trying to sneak-peek at my poems!’

She drifted to the window and opened it. He followed her and then wrapped his arms around her waist.

‘Z is coming at three,’ she spoke.

‘Ah, then we still have time…’

‘Time for what?’

‘For this!’

He grabbed her, scooping her up into his arms, as she burst into playful screams. She lightly hit his head, but he ignored her.

‘Put me down!’ she cried.

He stumbled on the edge of a rug and nearly threw her on to the sofa. They both burst into laughter, as he climbed on top of her.

‘My heart went then,’ she giggled.

‘Mine too…’ he whispered and started to kiss her neck.

They made love on the sofa and after she fell asleep in his arms.

‘It’s nearly two….’ he muttered into her ear.

‘What?’

‘Two. It’s nearly two o’clock. You said Z was coming at three.’

‘Oh my gosh! The cake!’ she cried, sprang up from the sofa and rushing to the door.

‘Honey! You might want to put some clothes on first…’

‘Oh my!’

She darted back and began to pull on her underwear. He burst into laughter and then she threw his trousers on to his face.

‘You better get dressed too!’ she snapped.

‘Yes, I’ve to prepare my poems.’

She pulled on her skirt and blouse, doing the buttons up as she went across the room. Opening the door, she hurried down to the kitchen. There she got everything out to prepare the salmon paste sandwiches and the cake, whilst he prepared his poems.

*

 Z arrived just as the clock in the living room chimed the hour. She went to the door to let him in, the smell of just baked cake following her.

‘Z, it’s nice to see you again.’

‘You too,’ he replied.

She let him in and Z took off his black jacket and hat.

‘Smells good.’

‘I hope it tastes good too,’ she replied.

‘I’m sure it will,’ he said, kissing her on her cheek, ‘Is he around then?’

‘He’s in the study. Go up.’

‘Thanks,’ and he went up the stairs

She went back into the kitchen and moments she later was climbing the two flights of stairs with a tray. The study door had been wedged open, with a triangle piece of wood that had once been used to stop their car from rolling off the sloping driveway.

‘Sandwiches, tea and cake,’ she said.

‘Looks good,’ he said and began to clear the desk.

She set the tray down, added some milk into the cups and then poured the tea out.

He had brought the rocking chair up to the side of the desk, so that she could sit down beside him once she was done sorting things out.

‘So, how have things been?’ Z asked.

‘Good,’ she replied. ‘I’ve been trying to hold things down…’

‘I’m sorry. I will cut the hedge back soon and paint the stairs. Just the poems….’ he replied.

‘I know, I know. We have to buy bread somehow….’

‘Did you not use to make your own?’ Z inquired.

‘I still do! Here try a sandwich.’

She handed the plate to him and Z took one of the small triangle shapes.

‘So what do you think?’ he asked.

‘The poems are good, your best yet I think.’

‘Well, that’s good news.’

He sipped his tea and eyed a slice of cake.

‘Here,’ she said, ‘you always were one to have pudding first.’

They laughed and then the conversation took a strange turn.

‘So there’s still no pitter-patter of tiny feet around here then?’ Z asked.

They did not reply, but looked away from each other and their guest.

‘That would be great for the article you know……’

‘But you could just write it without,’ she said, ‘I’m sure people will think it wrong of us…’

‘They’d find it shocking! An eccentric poet, his wife and their new born child living like peasants in this day and age?’ he joined in.

‘Well….I wouldn’t say peasants…..you are rich! Have you seen the sales for your last collection? They’ve gone through the roof!’ Z said, waving his arms around.

‘So? I don’t want the money.’

Z opened his mouth and then shut it quickly.

‘You might not want it, but we do need it,’ she said.

‘I’m sorry,’ he replied.

‘Yes, we can’t be completely self-sufficient, you know.’

‘I see,’ Z cut in, ‘Can I try the cake, please?’

‘Sure.’

Whilst Z tucked in, she eyed her husband. He was typing on the computer, his cup of tea resting on a pile of books beside him.

‘It wasn’t as if we didn’t want one,’ she said breaking the silence.

‘One?’ he asked.

‘A baby.’

‘It’s natural of course,’ Z joined in.

‘We tried…’ he said slowly.

‘Have been for a whole year now!’ she snapped and stood up.

‘Ah…I’m sorry,’ Z replied and finished his cake.

She began to gather the things up and put them back on the tray.

‘That was great, honey….’ he said.

She picked up the tray and left the room. The door slammed behind her.

‘Something I said?’

‘The baby thing,’ he sighed, ‘I just don’t know why we can’t…..’

‘Ah,’ Z said, ‘I put myself in it again, didn’t I?’

He nodded his head, ‘But you are a dear old friend and I’m sure she’ll forgive you.’

‘I hope so……back to the poems then?’

*

   She was sit outside, reading a book of his poetry. The chickens were clucking and wondering around at the bottom of the garden. The other side had been dug up and spilt into squares and the beginning of green shoots could be seen poking up from the earth.

She heard the front door slam and the gate creaking open. She turned the page and began to read the next poem. She knew the words on the page well. She had seen these poems develop and form a life of their own. She knew all the hidden things that lurked in-between the lines and the words that were not written, but still needed to be read.

‘Honey?’

The back door opened and he came out.

‘Are you all right?’

‘I’m fine…’ she replied.

She looked up at him and saw the worry lines deepen across his face. He took the other chair.

‘You know what Z is like……I’ll tell him to keep his mouth shut next time.’

‘It’s all right,’ she sighed.

‘Why don’t we go in, now?’

He stood up, but she turned her head and looked over at the hedge which was growing wildly and looking like a plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

‘I’ll do the hedge soon,’ he said.

She stood up, picking up the book and went to him.

‘Are the new poems like these?’ she asked.

‘Similar. You can see them tomorrow if you like…’

She reached up to kiss him on the lips.

*

‘The Pineapple Journals?’

She looked up at him, as the sun poured into the attic. He was lying across the sofa, looking at the roof beams. She was sitting in front of the computer, looking at the title page to his new collection of poems.

‘Yes…..Read the first one, it explains everything,’ he pointed out.

She scrolled down and began to read the poem.

‘I was thinking,’ he said suddenly, ‘we should plant pumpkins.’

‘Pumpkins?’

‘On the allotment…’

‘I want a baby,’ she sighed.

‘Ah…’

She looked up from the screen at him and he seemed to be frozen in place on the sofa, staring across at her.

‘Well, maybe we could try again?’ he grinned.

She smiled softly and laughing, went to him. He stood up and they hugged.

‘When the poems get published we’ll have enough money to build a nursery.’

She nodded her head and kissed him.

‘And Z will finally be able to write his article for his magazine.’

She laughed again and he squeezed her tightly.

‘Still though…we should plant those pumpkins first…’

‘You and your pumpkins,’ she sighed and patted his cheek, ‘Next you’ll be asking to plant pineapples!’