Fall #CCC

The leaves were getting their autumn colours and falling. We walked through the woods and I loved the smells drifting in the air; damp soil, rooty plants, wood smoke and…. aftershave?

I turned to my boyfriend. He was a few steps behind, disappointment on his face.

‘Did you just put on aftershave?’ I asked.

He nodded, ‘just a bit. It smell musty in here. Like my nana’s house.’

I crossed my arms and give him an angry face.

‘Sorry, babe. I just don’t like nature as much as you do.’

‘Well, maybe you need a new girlfriend then,’ I snapped and stormed off.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/09/25/crimsons-creative-challenge-46/ with thanks).

 

 

Lorn (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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Lorn; lost, ruined or undone. 

The stairs looked forbidding, so Caleb and Beth climbed up slowly and gingerly. Beth had left the books on the doorstep, ready to collect when they left. Some of the stairs railings looked like they had been gnawed by rodents, making the banister unstable.

They found the rooms in better shape up here. The bathroom, four beds and the en-suit hadn’t been touched by the flood but the vandals and squatters had been here. The bath, toilet and sink had been smashed up; cream porcelain chucks covered a chequered lino floor and water stains dotted the wall like a painting.

The first bedroom – possibly Grandpa’s room was mess of clothes, bedding and bits of furniture. The wooden bed was broken, the remains against the wall. Two double mattress were on the floor, blankets draping over. Someone had patched the broken windows with newspaper and old fabric.

‘Let’s spend time looking for things,’ Beth said.

Not giving voice to his disappointment, Caleb nodded and warned her, ‘look out for glass and needles. Who knows what was going on here.’

‘I’ll be careful,’ Beth answered.

The searched the room and found some coins, empty beer cans, food wrappers and a few photographs. The clothes weren’t worth going through. It seemed the house had really been robbed out.

‘Recognise anyone?’ Beth asked, sharing the photos with Caleb.

He shook his head, ‘no. Maybe they were Grandpa’s but I don’t know.’

‘Do you want them or not?’

‘No,’ Caleb answered and turned away.

He went into the next room which was a smaller bedroom. There were three single beds squished in, clothes heaped on the floor, rubbish in the corners and the smashed window letting all the elements in. On a bedside table, was a pile of used cigarettes, ash scattered about.

Caleb went in, just to check but there was nothing of Grandpa here. He meet Beth in the doorway and they moved on to the next two bedrooms. At some time, they had been children’s rooms going off the old wallpaper which was mostly torn away. Like the first two rooms, people had been sleeping in here but Grandpa had been using them as storage and there were a few boxes to look through, though they weren’t the first to do so.

‘More books,’ Beth said about the first box.

‘Any be saved?’ Caleb called.

‘Possible. Let’s take them. What’s in that one?’

‘A tea set…Some of it anyway. Few bits of smashed. Next one…’ Caleb trailed as he looked through another box, ‘videos.’

‘Same in this one too,’ Beth laughed, ‘and some music tapes….Your Grandpa liked sixties rock and country. Irish ballads?’

‘No idea,’ Caleb spoke, ‘there’s some photo albums here. They look okay and a school year book….Let’s take this box.’

‘Finally one,’ Beth pointed out, she moved over and opened it, ‘things wrapped in news paper…..oh, it’s horse!’

Beth held up a porcelain horse and Caleb crossed the room to look. Removing the rest of the yellowed newspaper, Beth passed him the brown and white horse. Then she picked up another wrapped form and peeled back the newspaper.

‘This one’s a shire horse. Look at the leather stuff, he’s ready to pull a cart!’

‘Do you want them?’ Caleb asked, running a finger over the cold, smooth face of the horse.

‘Sure,’ Beth said.

‘Let’s check theses drawers and wardrobe.’

There was only a few items of clothes, shoes and children’s toys. Caleb pulled a teddy dog out and turned it over in his hands. He didn’t recognise it, so put it back.

In the next room, they found more books and children’s toys. They saved the books and got ready to leave.

‘I forgot about about the attic,’ Caleb said soon after they had brought all the boxes they were taken down to the front door.

‘Where is it?’ Beth asked, looking back up the darkening staircase.

Caleb went back up and stood on the landing. He looked along the ceiling for a few moments the pointed out the almost hairline rim of the attic door, ‘there!’ he said.

‘Can you get up?’ Beth asked.

‘I’ll need a ladder….Maybe a neighbours got one,’ Caleb wondered, he came back downstairs, ‘you load the car and I’ll go and ask around.’

‘Okay…but don’t take too long, it’s getting late.’

They kissed, Caleb give her the car keys then headed out. Beth began moving the boxes and loading them into the back of the car. Soon after she had finished, Caleb appeared with a ladder and a middle aged man in tow. He had a grey, balding head, a rough covering of beard and worry lines on his face. His hands and body showed the lifestyle of a construction worker. He was wearing dirty jeans and an old blue t-shirt.

‘This is, Reggie,’ Caleb said.

‘Hi,’ Beth greeted the man.

‘We’ll go up. Why don’t you wait out here?’

‘No, it’s okay. I might be able to help.’

They went back inside. Reggie helped with the ladder then Caleb lifted the attic door and shone the torch from his phone inside.

‘Oh wow, it’s packed up here!’ Caleb called down, ‘looks untouched too. I guess no one was able to get up here. Okay, I’m going in.’

‘Be careful!’ Beth called.

‘I shall be. Here, let me pass stuff down.’

Together, the three of them emptied the attic. There were cardboard and plastic boxes filled with books, photos, film, bric-a-bric antiques, papers, two landscape oil paintings, old toys, including a collection of metal cars, a small stuff rocking horse that had seen better days, a sixties recorder player and some other things.

‘There were treasures in this house after all,’ Beth cried.

‘Some of this stuff could be worth a bit,’ Reggie stated as he inspected one of the paintings which showed a river going though a forest with a herd of deer coming for a drink.

‘Beth! Look at this!’ Caleb yelled.

‘What is it?’

‘My grandparents wedding stuff! Their clothes and photos. Wow! This is amazing. Here, I’m going to pass it all down.’

Excitedly, Caleb passed Beth and Reggie a huge white box and another that was black. Then a battered cardboard box, over flowing with dusty fake flowers, photo albums and other things.

Beth took the lid off the white box and couldn’t believe her eyes. Folded inside was a lacy white wedding dress from the fifties with a huge veil laying on top.

‘I can’t believe this survived,’ Beth uttered.

‘The old man probably wanted to forgot all about it,’ Reggie cut in, ‘from what I remember, she died young.’

Reggie handed her a loose photo which showed a  veiled bride sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce.

‘What happened?’ Beth asked.

‘Some disease. She was only like in her thirties.’

‘That’s sad.’

Reggie nodded then Caleb yelled there were some more boxes and they got back to work.

The attic was soon empty and Caleb climbed back down, ‘thanks for your help, Reggie.’

‘No probs. Be nice to see this place fixed up and lived in again. Those yobs made a right mess,’ Reggie said.

‘Yeah. The builders are coming tomorrow and hopefully, things will be better,’ Caleb explained.

‘I can’t believe all of this was still up there!’ Beth gasped, she had been looking through some of the boxes, ‘how are we going to fit it all in the car?’

‘I’ll give you a hand,’ Reggie said.

They loaded the car up, just about fitting everything in. They said goodbye to Reggie and watched him taking his ladder back across the road to his house.

Caleb then turned and looked at his Grandpa’s house.

‘You okay?’ Beth asked.

Caleb nodded, ‘just feeling bit tried.’

‘Same. Let’s get back to the apartment, unload all of this and get take out for dinner.’

‘Then tomorrow, we’ll be back to see the start of things.’

‘I’m sure it’s what your Grandpa wanted,’ Beth said and put her hand on Caleb’s shoulder, ‘he wouldn’t have left everything to you otherwise. I’m sure he was proud of you, despite everything. But none of that was your fault.’

‘I know,’ Caleb said quietly, ‘it was my drug addict teenage mum.’

Beth squeezed his shoulder but didn’t say anything else.

Caleb started the car and they drove away into the evening light.

Lorn (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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Lorn; lost, ruined or undone. 

The house was ruined. Caleb stood in the doorway, his hands running over the damp and rotting wood. He tried hard to remember the home his grandpa had once lived in but he had only visited a few times as a baby and toddler. Now, the house was Caleb’s but he didn’t know what to do with it.

‘Is it bad?’ his girlfriend’s voice asked from behind him.

‘Looks it,’ Caleb answered.

Beth poked her head in, her mess of red curly hair tied high in a bun tickling Caleb’s arm as she had ducked underneath him. Her nose wrinkled at the smell, she pulled a disgusted face then smoothed it out into a sad expression.

Caleb moved his arm, bring it over and down to go around her back. He curled his fingers around her side and held Beth for a few moments. He shut his eyes on the scene then felt Beth stroking his flop of black hair and trailing her fingers down to his cheek.

‘We don’t have to go in,’ Beth spoke quietly.

‘I need to. I want to see if anything is left before the builders come,’ Caleb answered, ‘better be careful where we step,’ he added.

Testing the bare floorboards, he stepped carefully inside and keeping close to the wall. He held out his hand and helped Beth across. Together they went into what had been a living room. The damage from the flood and vandals was worse then Caleb could have imagined, even though the lawyer had prepared them for it.

A dirty, water line about four foot up the wall ran around the room, marking the height of the flood. Wallpaper was peeling or had fallen off, plaster clumps lay about and in some parts the red bricks could be seen peering out of holes in the walls. The windows were boarded up, expect for one which was missing glass and allowing light into the miserable room.

Broken pieces of rotting furniture stuck up from the sinking floor like the arms of drowning men asking to be saved. Caleb and Beth’s feet knocked and tripped over wood, fabric bundles, glass and electric wires. Some parts of the floor giving a warning creak, making them change direction to avoid falling through.

‘I wish I could have done something,’ Caleb whispered.

‘There was nothing you could have done,’ Beth said.

Caleb kicked an empty drawer and spotted something underneath. It was a photograph. Badly water damaged but Caleb could see himself as a baby being held by his grandpa. With a flicker of a smile, he turned to show Beth.

‘He looks like you,’ she responded, ‘same crazy hair!’

‘Yeah’ Caleb said with a hint of laughter.

‘Maybe, there’ll be some more baby photos round?’ Beth wonder and she inspected the floor hopefully.

‘I doubt it. Mum didn’t bother taking many and none of the foster people had any contact with Grandpa. My adopted parents did but they would have sent high school photos,’ Caleb explained.

‘Oh,’ Beth uttered.

She stopped looking and wiped her dirty hands on the old pair of jeans she wore. She avoided looking at Caleb, hating to see him upset by the bad memories of his past.

‘Nothing else here,’ Caleb said.

He slipped the photo into his pocket and carried on his walk through.

In the kitchen, everything that wasn’t nailed down was gone. The three remaining cupboards were empty, doors hanging off. A dark flood line ran around the walls and the floor had been dug up, the plastic lino ripped back expose how bad the water had leaked through. The window and back door were boarded up, but someone had kicked it in.

Beth went to the door and swung it back and forth. It let out a squeal as the wooden board scrapped the floor.

‘Probably, squatters,’ Caleb spoke, ‘though why they’d want to stay here is beyond me.’

‘Better then the streets, I guess. Warmer and drier,’ Beth suggested.

‘Maybe, but still.’

Caleb went over and had a look at securing the door whilst Beth stepped into the over grown garden. It was hard to tell how big it was because of the tangle of bushes and plants. Rising above was an apple tree, budding with new leaves in the spring sunshine.

‘This could be nice….Needs a lot of work…’ Beth trailed.

‘Everything needs work,’ Caleb huffed.

‘Leave it. The builders will sort it tomorrow.’

Taking a deep breath, Caleb abandoned the door and walked through an open archway into the dinning room which then led into a second living room. All the wall paper had been torn off and someone had been knocking into the walls. Caleb looked at the exposed pipes as he walked over plaster and window glass.

In the second living room, Caleb went over to a bookcase in the corner. The shelves had been taken out and most of the books because someone had used them to start a small fire with in the middle of the room. There were three books left on the bookcase; Medieval History Uncovered, Knights Of The Middle-Ages and Myths and Legends of Britain. Caleb picked them up and saw they still looked readable, despite a covering of dust.

‘Grandpa liked history,’ Caleb shouted.

‘But you said you didn’t know him,’ Beth said from the connecting archway.

She walked though and joined him, edging around the remains of the black ash from the fire.

Caleb showed her the books, ‘Look okay to keep,’ he added.

‘I don’t mind. It’s good to save books,’ Beth said and she took them from him.

‘They could have burnt the whole place down,’ Caleb pointed out as he moved to inspect the damage in the centre of the room.

He toed a half burnt book and the pages crumpled.

‘This house has survived so much; water and fire, the elements, people,’ Beth voiced, ‘and now you want to save it instead of knocking it down.’

‘The money is there to save it,’ Caleb reminded her, ‘and once it’s done we can live here. Our five years of trying to save for, find and buy a house is over.’

‘And your past?’ Beth asked timidly, looking down at the books.

‘I’ll deal with it,’ Caleb replied.

He moved over and hugged her, resting his chin on top of her head. He could feel Beth shaking slightly and worried she was going to cry, he tightened the hug and kissed her forehead.

‘Don’t worry about me. Think about what you can do with the house.’

Beth nodded, sniffing a little and crushing the books to her breasts.

‘Let’s go upstairs. The flood didn’t get up there, so maybe some stuffed survived.’

 

To Be Continued…

The Poet’s House

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Arianie had only one thing on her mind as they pulled up behind the abandoned house and that was books; what condition would they be in? Could any be saved? Even good enough to sell?

Her boyfriend, Lex, turned the van’s engine off, satisfied they were hidden from view. Lex and his three friends; Tyler, Evan and Rhys got out and scouted around making sure no one else was about.

Opening the car door to let some cold air in, Arianie listened to the birds chirping, distant traffic and footsteps in the overgrown garden. She looked at the house which from the back looked fine at first glance. Closer though, masses of cobwebs could be seen in the windows, the net curtains were colored by age and dirt, just like the windows and was the back door slightly ajar?

Bored of waiting, Arianie got out, tightened the pony tail she had twisted her dark brown hair into and walked across the long, damp grass in her borrowed safety working boots. Not sure and not caring where the boys had gone, Arianie walked up onto a decking area which was tumbling away from the house.

Someone had smashed a pane of glass in the back door and used it to break in.

Putting on black gloves, from the pocket of an old winter coat that was so last season,  Arianie pulled open the door and cringed at the piercing shrike the rusted hinges let out. Her eyes shut as she yanked the door all the way open then she peered inside.

‘Arianie!’ Lex’s voice called.

‘I just want to get it over with!’ she snapped back.

‘You know the rules.’

She muttered something under her breath as Lex joined her on the decking. He nudged his way passed and stepped into the house, shouting, ‘Hello! Anyone here?’

Arianie followed him into a small room that was like a back porch area. There were mud encrusted boots on bristled mats, worn coats on hooks, bits and pieces on the shelves and a stopped clock on the wall. There was also a smell, that was hard to identity but it was a mix of dust, mold, rotting things and wet dog.

Wrinkling her nose and pressing the sleeve of her coat to her face, Arianie walked on and into a kitchen. Ignoring this room, she stepped through an open door and into a hallway.

Lex’s voice was echoing through the rooms and from behind her Arianie could hear the others coming in.

She walked through a dining room, a living room, and a front room, noticing things the men might take. The house was full of stuff and a thick layer of dust and cobwebs covered everything.

As she walked and looked for books, Arianie recalled what Rhys had said about the place. It had belong to a poet, though she had never heard the name before, he had died ten years ago and nobody had come forward for his body or estate. That was why the house was perfect target for them; lots of items to steal.

Lex came downstairs, shouting the coast was clear.

Arianie went into the hall to meet him, feeling like her allergies were starting up though she had double dosed antihistamine.

‘There’s a room upstairs just for you,’ Lex said in a low sexy voice.

Arianie pulled a face but couldn’t hide her building excitement.

Letting Lex take her upstairs and into a back bedroom converted into a study-library, Arianie found her slice of heaven.

There were floor to ceiling bookcases on all the walls which were only broken up by the door and window. Books, untouched for years crowded the shelves. There was a desk by the window, with a high leather chair and in the opposite left corner a matching arm chair that had a small table beside it.

‘Get to work,’ Lex spoke, giving Arianie’s bum a pat as he left.

Any other time she would have told him off for that but words at the moment failed her.

Slowly, walking into the room, Arianie began with the books not on the shelves; those that were on the tables or floor. Strangely, she had always been a big reader but today it was values that drew her more. Her granddad had been a rare book dealer and he had filled her head with knowledge Arianie had always deemed useless. That was until she had met Lex and got in on his ‘second hand business’.

There was never enough time on these kind of jobs, so she hurried through as much as she could. By the open door, Arianie stacked books she thought could be sellable and left others where she dropped them.

From time to time, Lex or one of the others would come and take the books away. Arianie could hear them going through the rooms, opening things and scattering everything. The poet might not have been rich but like everyone else he had things other people would pay for.

Arianie knew she would never make it through all the books in the room. So, once she had figured out if and what the system was in place to order them by, she moved quickly through the subjects.

The poet had liked classics, mythology, legends, history, old fashioned romance and poetry.

Taking down a volume of Shakespeare and seeing it in good condition, Arianie pulled out everything by the playwright and stacked it in the doorway.

‘Shakespeare always sells,’ Arianie muttered, echoing her granddad’s words to her once.

There were other people who sold well too and she was quick to find and pull out those names too.

‘No more now,’ Lex said from the doorway.

Arianie turned to him with books of War poetry in her hands.

‘Shame,’ she replied.

Checking she had all the War poetry books, Arianie quickly scanned the rest of the shelves just in case a hidden gem stuck out. It had a few abandoned places back, when she had found an first edition and signed Peter Rabbit book.

Nothing at first but then next to the desk was a section of books that seemed different. Arianie pulled them out and saw they were the poet’s published works. Maybe, no one would buy them but it was worth a shot. She added them to the pile in her hand then left them balanced on the desk whilst she looked through the draws.

Lex and his friends would never forgive her if something was missed. She might specialize in books but she also had a duty to find anything of value.

The desk was empty, just old letters, papers, stationary that weren’t worthy. Collecting the books, she went downstairs and outside into the cold air. It was growing dark which meant the raid was coming to an end.

Arianie walked to the van and saw the back double doors open. Inside were stacked a few small tables and chairs, a tall lamp, cardboard and plastic boxes which contained more breakable things and all the books she had selected.

A cold blow of air made shivers run up her spine despite the protection of her coat.  Arianie walked around and opened the passenger door of the van. She put the books into the foot well then climbed in. She closed the door and was glad that there was a separation between the back seats and the loading section of the van.

Picking up one of the poet’s own books, she sat reading, whilst the men finished the job then shut the van doors. Rhys, Tyler and Evan got into the back seats and Lex climbed into the front. Someone passed the beer cans around and they sat drinking and chilling.

‘What you got there?’ Lex asked Arianie.

‘Just one of the poet’s books,’ she answered and give a small shrug.

‘He any good?’ Rhys laughed from the back.

‘Maybe. We’ll see how much we get for him,’ Arianie responded, ‘can we go now?’

‘Sure,’ Lex said.

He started the van up, gulped down the rest of his beer and threw the can out of the window.

They drove out of the hiding place and back onto the road, mixing in with the traffic as if they were normal people heading for home.

Coffee

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They whispered love for each other over coffee, knowing they could never be together but unable to deign the feelings.

Postcard Short Story

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Dear June,

I was thinking about you the other day and realised it had been years since we had last spoke. I’m not sure if you still live at the same address, hopefully this postcard will find you somehow. We should try to meet up and maybe celebrate Valentine’s Day? That’s if you are single! If not, we could just go for drinks. I’ll be in Birmingham on that day and if you can meet me in the Dog And Duck, (the pub of our teenage years!) at around seven or eight, I’d be most glad.

Eric.

Glamping #FridayFictioneers

Glamorous camping was the latest fashion trend. I wasn’t impressed, for me camping was sleeping under the stars around a fire, getting away from all things and this ‘glamping’ was a hotel room inside a tipi. At least my girlfriend was impressed and there’s no way I’d ever convince her to spend a weekend without electricity; ‘I can’t survive without my hair drier!’

For me, the scenery and the escape from city life had made up for the luxury camping experience. Outside the Tipi of High Life there was a whole barren land to be explored.

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/01/30/1-february-2019/ with thanks).

 

Date Ideas #FridayFictioneers

Sophie picked up the jar and shook it to mix the strips of different coloured paper. Unscrewing the lid, she put a hand in, drew a red one and unfolded it.

‘What’s it say?’ her boyfriend, Adam, asked.

‘The zoo,’ Sophie answered.

They both glanced at the heavy rain falling outside.

‘Pick another.’

Sophie picked a green strip and read, ‘board game night.’

‘No. Let me try,’ Adam spoke.

He dug in the jar, pulled out a yellow one and they both read, ‘a box set day.’

‘Perfect,’ Sophie added, ‘Game of Thrones season five it is!’

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/01/09/11-january-2019/ with thanks).

My Merry Little Christmas #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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I’d had it with him! Blocking his number, I officially deleted my ex-boyfriend from my life. Sitting crossed legged and arms on the sofa, grumpily gazing at the TV but not taking the ten o’clock news in, I shoved my heartbreak away.

I wasn’t going to cry and feel sorry for myself. I hadn’t been the one sleeping around, getting drunk and kissing girls in nightclubs. We’d only been together six months, hardly anytime at all. And anyway, I’d hated his taste in music, movies, his dislike of books and his big ego. We’d had little in common from the beginning and it was only thanks to his interest in American sports we had started dating.

Still though, Christmas was around the corner and now I’d be spending it alone. Well, there was family to visit but I’d feel like the odd one out.

I looked at the Christmas decorations and the little fire burning in the fireplace. It needed stoking and more wood adding. I was in no mood to sleep now, so I got up and kneeling down, grabbed the poker. Jabbing it in, the flames woke from their doze. I put another two logs in and which the fire growing once more.

Back on the sofa, I wanted something to take my mind off things. The TV wasn’t helping, I didn’t have enough concentration to read a book and my house was all ready tidy. There were presents still to wrap, cards to write but I wasn’t feeling up to that. I needed an action plan, something to total focus on and forget about him for awhile.

I got my laptop out and went surfing the internet. There were lots of distractions out there. I clicked on link after link; reading blog posts, news, comic strips, finally I came to some Christmas craft website and scrolled through. There were lots of things I could make but my heart wasn’t in it.

Turning the TV off, I went on to a video website and listened to some live relaxing music. I made some hot chocolate and toast, curled up again and drifted into the sounds of the fire and the sad piano notes.

For some reason, that song about having having yourself a merry little Christmas popped into my head. I hummed it whilst hugging my warm mug and thought, yes, I’m going to have one of those this year and I’ll be happier and better for it.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/12/10/weekly-writing-challenge-171/ with thanks).

Frame #TwitteringTales

I saw the small photo frame in a charity shop and decided it would do to put in the wedding gift box. I was determined not to spend the small fortune my sister was demanding people did on presents. I had my own wedding to save up for as well.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/11/05/twittering-tales-109-6-november-2018/ with thanks).