A Winter Storm #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Harper went to draw the curtains at the living room’s floor to ceiling windows of her three bedroom top floor London apartment. She stopped and looked out. Normally she could see much of London’s high end business streets, fancy apartment blocks and Big Ben on the skyline.

Tonight though, a snowstorm had hit the city and it was really coming down now. The large, heavy white flakes were sticking to everything, even things that were normally warm. The wind was gale force, gusting at 30-40 miles, creating a white blindness against the darkness and the noise it was making was louder then the London traffic jams far below.

Clutching the curtain, Harper said aloud, ‘I’ve only seen snow like this on TV in those snowed-in romantic movies. Well, it doesn’t look ‘lovely’ to me.’

She closed the curtain on the scene and as she did so she heard Big Ben strike the hour. Frowning, Harper opened the curtains and tried to look out but she could barely see anything. She listened hard but heard nothing then the howling wind.

I thought they were still repairing things, the bell and clock haven’t worked in months. How can Ben chime then? Maybe, I miss heard it? Harper thought.

Closing the curtains finally, she turned away and back to the tidy open living room. The fake fire was going in the wall, the warmth coming off it making everything cosy. The other walls were decorated with framed photos of family and friends, Harper and her husband, Hugo, at there wedding five years ago, on their honeymoon, other holidays and celebrations. The larger frames were decorate with sprigs or small garlands of real green ivy and red berries.

There was a medium size Christmas tree, shinning in the corner next to the fireplace. The red and gold colours of all the decorations and lights give a magical feeling. Other Christmas decorations hung about or were on display from shelves, adding to theme. On and around the glass coffee table were stack boxes of presents, rolls of colourful wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, labels, sticky table and scissors.

Harper went back to the red bean bag chair next to the coffee table, where she had been curled up in before. There was a fresh cup of herbal tea on the table and the TV which was turned down low showed Christmas music videos.

Sipping her tea, Harper looked at her list and decided what presents to wrap next. Not for the first time she wish Hugo was here. She looked up at the photos and his smiling face. He had gone to Germany a few days ago on a business trip and had been due back tonight but the snowstorm had grounded all the planes coming to London and Hugo had phoned hours ago to say he was spending the night in a hotel.

Harper turned the volume up on the TV as a classic Christmas song came on; I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. She hummed along as she started wrapping again. Soon she had drink her tea, sing along to more songs, found enjoyment in wrapping the presents again and Hugo had slipped from her mind.

It grew super late before Harper realised but she had finished the bow on the last present. Yawning, she put everything away and turned off the TV. Hugo had phoned to say goodnight two hours ago down a static line which was then cut off. Harper had held the phone in sadness for a few moments then decided nothing could be done and carried on with her task.

Big Ben chimed midnight.

Harper stopped, her fingers had been reaching to turn the fireplace off. She listened, counting the tolling bell sound. Reaching twelve, she turned the fire off then the Christmas tree lights and went to the window. Moving the curtain she looked out but the snowstorm was still swirling and she could barely see the lights of the neighbouring buildings.

‘Maybe, they have finished working on the clock tower?’ she said aloud.

Dropping the curtain, Harper went to bed and slept well. All that present wrapping had exhausted her.

The next day, Harper found that the snowstorm had almost brought London to a stop. All the roads were blocked by cars and buses not going anywhere as the roads were covered. Pavements were crowed by people trying to go to work or the shops but they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere either. The snow lay thick on roof tops and didn’t seem to be melting.

Harper phoned in work and told her secretary, who always seemed to be in the office no matter what, that she wasn’t going to even try and come in and would work from home. Then she added that if the snow started again, her secretary was to go home, no excuses! Then setting herself up in the study which was the third bedroom, Harper worked the day away.

In the afternoon, the snow started falling again. Light at first but then as the sky darkened heavier. Harper phoned and texted her husband a few times but got no response. She had no idea if he was coming home or not. Harper ate dinner late, setting the table for one and having a glass of red wine to calm herself. She watched the snow falling and the twinkling Christmas at the windows of other apartments.

Big Ben chimed seven o’clock.

Harper lowered her wine glass from her lips and picked up her phone. She did an internet search and found that her thought before had been right; the bell had been stopped from chiming expect for special events, whilst repairs were done to the tower. So, she shouldn’t be hearing it. What was that bell chime then? A local church bell?

Whatever, it doesn’t matter, Harper thought and she had some more wine.

Afterwards, she took the rest of the bottle and sat before the TV to watch some movies. No word came from Hugo and every hour, Harper heard a bell ring. It turned midnight again and sleepily, Harper went to bed.

Laying there, she couldn’t get the idea of Big Ben sounding out of her head though. There was no other sound like it and Harper had lived in and around London all her life, so she knew all the noises well enough. Perhaps, she thought, before sleep claimed her, someone put it on in the spirit of Christmas? 

Next morning, Harper found Hugo asleep on the sofa, still dressed from travelling and suitcase next to him.

‘Hugo?’ Harper called and touched his shoulder.

He stirred and woke up.

‘What time did you get in?’ she asked.

‘Couple of hours ago. Didn’t want to wake you, you looked so peaceful,’ Hugo replied, his voice rough with tiredness.

‘I’m up now, so why don’t you go to bed for bit?’

Hugo nodded and taking his suitcase went into their bedroom. Harper straightened the sofa then had breakfast. Afterwards, despite the food delivery three days ago, Harper decided to go to the shops. It wasn’t snowing, but there was frozen piles on the streets and it was freezing.

Setting out, Harper thought about walking to see Big Ben but it would be too long a walk.

What do you hope to prove anyway? That you’re not hearing things? 

Harper shook her head and walked to a local shops. She got everything to make Hugo his favourite – lamb chops and sticky toffee pudding for after. Then she brought the maps up on her phone and looked to see if there where any churches or chapels close by. They didn’t seem to be any.

Walking home, Harper told herself it was only a ringing church bell after all. Back home, she busied herself with tidying up, checking work emails and her phone. When Hugo got up, they had a late lunch and talked.

Harper decided to bring up the bell, ‘Last night I heard Big Ben ringing. Do you think they put it back on?’

‘I thought it was taking them years to do the work?’ Hugo said, ‘it’s Christmas though, so maybe they have?’

‘I want to go and see it,’ Harper said.

‘The bell? I didn’t think you could…The clock and tower are covered in scaffolding, so there’s nothing to see.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Harper muttered.

She collected the plates and went into the kitchen.

That night in bed, listening every hour, Harper heard the bell sound. She couldn’t sleep. Hugo felt too warm next to her and his breathing, plus snoring, too loud. Harper got up, thinking she would get a cup of herbal tea.

Standing by the window, sipping tea, Harper watched fine snow drifting down and the dim lights of the city.

Big Ben chimed three AM.

Maybe, it’s all in my head, Harper thought, I’m so use to hearing Ben that my mind is just filling in the sound? Unless…bells have ghosts. Is that even possible? Have I been hearing the ghost of Big Ben?  

Harper laughed, finished her tea and went back to bed.

The idea of Big Ben’s ghost didn’t want to leave her though. So, the next day, her and Hugo walked to the Houses of Parliament. Hugo had been right; scaffolding ran from floor to almost the top of the tower, hiding the clock who’s hands were stopped. There were a few notices around explaining to visitors what was happening.

‘It says here the work will be complete in twenty-twenty-one and Big Ben will only strike on special occasions, like New Year,’ Hugo read aloud.

‘So, it’s not Ben I’m hearing?’ Harper spoke.

‘Looks that way.’

Harper sighed and looked up – a long way up – at the clock face. Above a dark grey sky was threatening more snow and Harper thought she could feel water drops on her face.

‘Feel better now?’ Hugo asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Harper responded.

She touched her forehead but didn’t feel hot or unwell.

I feel….unsettled, Harper decided.

‘Pub lunch?’ Hugo asked.

Harper nodded and let him led her away.

She didn’t hear the bell chime again after that.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/12/03/weekly-writing-challenge-170/ with thanks).

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Shutting Out Christmas #TaleWeaver

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On the first of December, Frank closed his front and back doors for the rest of the month. If anybody knocked he wouldn’t answer, not that anybody was likely to call upon him. However, he did pick up the phone if his granddaughter rang to make sure he was still alive but it was only for her that he would answer.

For the last few years, that’s how Frank had treated December. He had come to see it as a a month to shut out and stay inside. The week before, he brought a large order of supplies making sure he had enough food, drink, firewood, coal, candles, batteries and books.

Elise, his granddaughter would come to visiting a few times, bringing with her whichever boyfriend she was with and fresh items. Frank would give her a ten pound note out of habit for Christmas. Then on the third of January, the day after the rush of New Year, when everyone would be back at work, Frank would head out to the shops at last.

He stocked up on another month of supplies and went back into hibernation. His granddaughter visiting once or twice with a few items. February saw a repeat of that because winter had set in deep and why bother trying to get through the snow and ice, risking accident? Frank thought. His granddaughter would come again, either with the same boyfriend or a different one, sometimes alone, crying over a break up or enjoying her brief moment of single life.

Frank didn’t mind, she was living whatever life she decided and he mostly wanted to be left alone. It was how things had been for the last ten years, ever since his wife, daughter and her husband had died in a car accident. Black ice on a ungritted road had been blamed. His granddaughter had only survived because she had been with him, too ill to go out shopping.

A few days into December, Frank sit in his cold living room, the small TV in the corner off, the curtains drawn, Frank watched the fire coming to life. He had all ready had something to eat and drink, now was his time to get warm and read for a few hours. Outside he could hear the wind and rain whipping up into a storm. He felt glad for the roof over his head.

Getting into the sleeping bag which would keep the chill off his body, Frank took the current historic war novel he was reading off the top of the pile of books on the side table next to him. He turned to his bookmarked page and began reading.

His thoughts though turned to all the madness happening outside right now that he was far away from. People would be crowding the freezing streets; shopping and eating, driving around, getting angry at each other and feeling the stress of Christmas. Homeless people, charity workers and money grabbers would be begging, their words mostly ignored. The rain would be icy cold, the wind bitter, Frank would catch hypothermia again and have to spend Christmas in hospital.

He was too old and tried for all that now. Christmas celebrations were fading memories for him and didn’t care for anymore. Frank was happy shutting it all out, losing himself in some books and letting the season pass him by in solitude.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/tale-weaver-199-open-or-shut-november-29th/ with thanks).

Gull Crash #3LineTales

three line tales, week 148: gulls over a stormy sea

The stormy sea was throwing up all kinds of things and the gulls were going crazy for the fish that were being tossed up in the crashing white crested waves.

It was a sign to get off the ocean to return safely to harbour, the fishing was over for another season and all the boats were making their way back, the last catch secured below decks like a glittering treasure.

On the land, twinkling fairy lights and the sweet smell of food welcomed them back, it was almost time for the end of year celebrations, their families had been working hard to prepare for and now with the additional fish the town would survive through the winter months to come.

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/11/29/three-line-tales-week-148/ with thanks).

Postcard #52

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Dear Santa,

This year I’ve tried to be good but sometimes it’s been too hard like when my brother pulls my hair or Mummy says my way of helping is the opposite. I know I should be trying harder in school but its been tough as I’ve had to be on the same table as Rebecca Bentwood and we really hate each other. I hope she’s on the naughty list this year!

I’m trying super hard to be good and helpful now that your elf has appeared to watch me. He has been sitting on my bookcase for the last few nights now and each morning he has left me a chocolate to count the days down with. I have started my list which I hope to send to you soon, this is just a postcard to remind you about me and wish you well.

Mummy said it would be a good idea as you get lots of letters every year asking for presents but not many children ask how you are. Daddy said it was a nice thing to do. I drew you a picture too of your reindeer getting ready to help you.

Hope you are well, all the best,

Sophia Locke

Oil Can Man #FridayFictioneers

Everyone has a hobby, for my uncle Earl that was collecting old oil cans. He claimed he had over a thousand and he wasn’t far wrong because we did find something like that when we emptied his house.

My family were for throwing them all in the skip but there was something that made me set them aside to auction off. That turned out to be a wise choice as they raised more money that anyone could have ever thought, thus leaving me a grand inheritance and  a well learnt lesson that to the right person it’s not rubbish.

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/11/28/30-november-2018/ with thanks).

Untrodden #WritePhoto

The snow lay thick across everything. Hilda stepped outside her house, admiring the view and taking a photo with her phone. This early in the morning, nothing but birds had touched the snow and it looked as pure as it been in the clouds.

Hilda felt like laughing, she wasn’t sure why, maybe due to the overwhelming joy in her chest? She loved winter, there was just something so magical and special about the season compared to all the others. Maybe, it was also because her family came from Russia, the home of winter.

It was too cold to laugh, her breath was misting badly in front of her because she had been stood too long. Instead, she smiled and carried on walking down the country lane. There was no wind but some loose snow was drifting from tree branches. Hilda wished it would snow again, there was nothing like the feeling of snowflakes on warm skin.

Following the path around, she came to a breathtaking sight. Snow covered hills rose in the distance, the tops of which were covered by fog. Naked trees spiked the fields, frost bitten and snow draped. A wobbly wood and wire fence ran to the left of her, frozen snow domed the posts.

She scooped a handful of snow up in her gloved hands, patted it down and threw it at a near by tree. It fell short with a soft plop. Hilda laughed, feeling such like a child again that she could no longer contain herself. As her voice faded, she heard something, a faint cry?

Holding her breath, she listened and heard what sounded like a baby crying. The spell of magical winter gone, Hilda grew concerned and tried to follow the sound. It seemed to be coming from the tree she had thrown the snowball at.

How was it possible that a baby was out here alone? she wondered.

Hilda searched around the tree trunk, the crying had grown louder. She moved some snow away and found a little hollow. What was that inside? She reached in, thinking it just more snow but instead her hands withdrew something else. Holding it up to her face, Hilda saw the tiniest kitten she had every seen. It was snow white, with blue eyes and a touch of a pink mouth.

‘Oh! You poor thing!’ Hilda cried, ‘What are you doing out here?’

The kitten give a small whimper.

Quickly unzipping her coat, Hilda tugged the kitten inside to keep it warm. Zipping up again, she inspected the trunk and roots of the tree carefully but she found nothing else. Still worried that there might be more kittens or a mother cat out here, Hilda wandered from tree to tree, bush to bush, anywhere an animal could hide from freezing.

Sometime later and far down the lane, Hilda had to give up which really wasn’t what she wanted to do. There had been no other signs of cats though and Hilda’s worry had moved on to the kitten in her coat. She could feel it’s warm and gentle breathing against her chest.

Heading back home, Hilda decided she would have to find out how to take care of the kitten. She had never had a pet before. Maybe, someone had just lost the little thing and she could find the owner in the village or at one of the farms?

As soon as I know the kitten is okay, I’ll do that, Hilda decided.

Days later and after a lot of asking around, no one had come to claim the kitten. Hilda had decided to name her Snowy and she was doing great. Her time outside had’t seemed to have effected her that much. Snowy was growing stronger all the time and Hilda had fallen in love with her.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/11/29/thursday-photo-prompt-untrodden-writephoto/ with thanks).

Post It Note Short #53

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I think, Dear it’s time we got a new Christmas tree this year. Ours is looking too sad now.

 

 

Dear Diary #50

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Dear Diary,

It’s officially winter today, though it feels like it’s been here for awhile, expect for the snow which I hope keeps away for longer! The weather has settled into a pattern of being wild, wet, windy, cold and getting dark so early that all but the morning daytime feels lost.

Today, I’ve been busy getting the Christmas decorations out and some of them up. The kids, now claiming they are ‘too old’ for such things took awhile to get into the mood of things but those decorations that reminded them of silly times – a school play, craft pieces, a photo on Santa’s knee, helped to get them into it.

Of course, only two sets of lights worked! So I left Danny testing them in the shed and I took Emma out to buy some more and a few other things. The shops were busy as was to be expected but we got through okay. Christmas music was playing in all the shops and it felt like everyone had suddenly got this idea that now was the time to start celebrating officially. Though TV and shops have been creeping it in since the start of last month!

Back home and more decorations to put up and it turns out I was right to replace the lights as poor Danny couldn’t fix them. I cheered him up with hot chocolate and crumpets which were so lovely in front of our still new fireplace! A fire really does add that cosy, cheery feel to Christmas. I don’t know how we coped without it before!

I made a nice stew and dumplings for tea and we watched a Christmas movie, though the kids were still tutting and spent more time on their phones/games then watching it but at least we were all together and that’s good enough for me.

Then before we came to bed, I walked around and just smiled, Christmas is truly here and it feels so good and welcome, the perfect beacon of hope in the long winter nights.

Adrift #FFfAW

The days and nights had become one long stretch of nothing. It seemed there was only the sea and the sky left, the rest of the world has just gone. Dad and son sat in the tiny dingy, thinking, sleeping, daydreaming, hallucinating, hoping and praying to be saved. The sinking of the fishing boat haunted them but they were far away from that now and everything else. Large waves rocked the boat, the sky grew black, another storm was coming and this time they might not survive.

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/fffaw-challenge-193rd/ with thanks).

Fading #TwitteringTales

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It was a photo everyone always laughed over. Those old cameras creating ‘ghost’ images when the button was pressed too fast. There was more to it though because the girls in the background, my cousins, had been long dead before the printed date on the back said.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/11/27/twittering-tales-112-27-november-2018/ with thanks).