For the first time in two months the market was awake once more.
People set up their stalls under a orange-yellow sky, greeting each other. Plastic and paper rustled in the breeze whilst the heavenly scent of fresh bread, cakes and pies called to be tasted.
Harriet and her mother set up their small farm’s produce stall. There were eggs laid by their chickens. Homemade jams, marmalade and chutneys using fruit and veg from their field. Golden honey from Harriet’s beehives and goat’s cheese from mother’s goats.
The nervousness in the air was broken by the first customers arriving. Harriet let go of the breath she was holding. It felt like things were returning back to normal.
The Lady hadn’t left her home when she had passed on. It wasn’t that she was trapped there, she could come and go as much as she wanted. The Lady had loved the house so much that she couldn’t help but walk the corridors and through rooms still.
The Lady was glad people still came and stayed in her house. She loved hearing them praise the decor and paintings, the gardens and the water fountains. Also, it was so nice to hear the laughter of children once more as they dashed from room to room.
She knew her presence was felt because people talk about smelling her perfume. It was one she had made herself using roses from the garden and water from the spring. The Lady felt pleased by this, she liked them to know she was still here watching over her house.
Away, away, away we go. High above the land and into the world of the birds. Clouds like candyfloss, like soft pillows we rise through to the dawn light sky. There is the sun, Ra shinning his mightiest and touching the mountain tops.
The morning wind in our faces so fresh and clean! Far below the sea laps and reflects us. We gaze in wonder like the first people, nature spread before out feet, a bounty to delight us.
As Jay’s hand scrapped against the hard stone wall of the cave, he wondered if he had made a mistake coming in here. It had been fun at first showing off to the girls and proving he was braver then the other teenage boys but he hadn’t expected the cave to be so long.
The light of his phone lit only a patch of the floor and base of the other wall. Minerals shone under the glow and dripping water echoed making Jay feel disoriented at where the sound was coming from.
I should get out of here, Jay thought.
Something though made him carry on. Deeper and deeper, passing through narrow and wide sections, the dripping water calling to him like a Siren.
Jay’s feet splashed into water. His phone light danced along the surface of a dark pool. Ripples lapped against distant walls and small waterfalls made their way down the sides and into the pool.
I should stop, Jay thought but he couldn’t.
Water rose over his shoes, soaking his socks and ankles. Strangely the water was pleasantly warm even though Jay knew it should be icy cold. He tried to stop and turn but he couldn’t. It was like his feet were stuck on the track of a ride.
Right before the panic hit him, Jay heard the loveliest singing he had every heard. Soft female voices song words he couldn’t make out or were in another language. Calmness came over him and Jay felt himself drifting, lulled by the singing.
His legs splashed through the water then he was up to his stomach and he could no longer touch the floor. Jay began swimming, knowing only that he had to find the singing women and nothing else mattered anymore.
The rain dripped off the cafe’s canvas shelter. I looked up and just listened to the soft, steady beating noise. It was nice and calming and eased my anxiety more then the hot chocolate in front of me.
There was only handful of people on the street and they were hurrying about their business, masks on their faces and shopping bags crinkling beside their legs. Of the cafe tables, two or three had people sitting at them, the rest, spaced out were empty. Inside the cafe no one was allowed to sit, it was outside or take away only.
Two staff were behind the counter, masked and gloved and working as best they could. No food was on offer today, so the chocolate chunky muffin or slice of banana cake with thick frosting, I would have got to accompany my drink wasn’t there.
The gentle voice of my boyfriend broke in to my thought.
I nodded, ‘just adjusting. The rain’s helping. How’s you tea?’
‘Fine,’ he said and took another few sips.
Watching a man and his dog walk by, silence crept between us again.
Normally, we’d have lots to chat about and catch up on but this wasn’t a normal date. It was the first time we had been outside in public in twelve weeks and we decided to move in together before, perhaps that had been too soon but things had been fine.
‘We can leave whenever you want to,’ he spoke again.
‘I know. I’m okay.’
I picked up my hot chocolate and took a deep drink. It was nice and rich, the chocolate heavy but creamy. The warmth spread in my chest and I felt better.
I loved the pick your own farm which was close by. As I child, my parents had taken me and now, I took my own children. We visited often during summer and autumn, to pick fruits, veg and herbs. It was great to take over flowing baskets home and cook with things we had picked.
This year we were missing out. The farm was closed because of the lock down but they still delivered a weekly box of goodness to us but it wasn’t the same for me. I brought some seeds and plants online and told the children we were growing our own.
There was nothing better then plucking, deep red strawberries, plump raspberries and green heavily smelling herbs straight off the plants and out of the Earth herself.
Old Max had for many years sat in the chair outside his front door and watched the world go by. He waved to people he knew and yelled at the kids who played too loudly.
He had a dog called Bill, who loved to bark and charge at passersby. Old Max would laugh and just say he was playing as Bill bit someone’s leg or tore someone’s coat. When Bill became too old to chase, He would sleep at Max’s feet and growl in his dreams.
Bill passed away and the loss made old Max angry and grumpy then before. Max ran after the children in the neighbourhood and took away their balls and other toys. Parents would go over to take to him but Max was close the door in the faces.
For a few months, Max was seen to yell at no one and people said he was crazy. There was little anybody could do though but tell each other to stay away from the old man who seemed to be working his way through something.
It wasn’t until winter fell that Max stayed inside and the children rejoiced in their outside playtime. From his windows, he watched them and grumbled at their fun. What so delighted them about the cold snow and icy pathways? Max thought he could dimly recall from his own youth but it had been so long ago and his memories were full of holes.
Old Max went to bed on night soon after Christmas day and didn’t get up again.
For years, his chair sat empty on his doorstep weathering away until final the house was able to be sold and be brought back to life again.