Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 2)

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Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

(Please note there is some adult content in this story)

Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I got up and went outside to the well. There was no one there but signs that people had been gathering water earlier. I pulled the handle around and drew up the rope which the bucket was attached too.

Birds were singing in the trees, animals were being noisy – demanding food-  there was no wind and the sun was all ready warming. I could smell the start of peat fires as water was heated and food cooked in the little huts.

I pulled the bucket full of water out of the well and began washing my hands and face. Then I did my feet, arms and legs, following the washing pattern I had done all my life. Normally, I would have been in the Temple bathhouse, naked with my dorm Sisters. There would have been hot water, steam and fragrant soaps.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had had a full bath or washed my hair. I wasn’t ashamed of my body but I was aware of the trouble being naked could cause. Sighing, I finished off washing and poured the water into one of the buckets that was used for washing clothes and other things, when anybody could be bothered to do so.

Back in my hut there was a warm pot of tea, a jug of ale and a bowl of thin porridge for me to have. The old woman who had woke me was serving the breakfast out. There was a low mutter of talking and I caught a few words of that but it was mostly complaints about things and a challenge for who could pick the most apples today.

Out in the orchard, it didn’t look like we had made much progress yesterday. There were many trees looking weighed down with apples. Wood ladders were laid against the tree trunks with baskets and carts drawn by old horses were under the trees. I stood with everyone else and listened to the orders given then it was skirts tied up and climbing the ladder for me once more.

My legs and arms were still aching after yesterday but I tried to ignore that and get on with bringing the apples down once more. Twisting them off, I threw the apples down to the catchers below – who were old people and children- and they put the fruit into the baskets. The large men came and put the baskets onto the carts and left an empty basket behind.

The sun grew hotter throughout the day, it made me sleepy and desperate for a cold bath. Like yesterday, we were allow to stop a few times for drink and food but it didn’t help that much. The ale tasted strange in my mouth even though I should have been use to it by now. Nobody drank much water but I would have preferred it. The food was always bread and cheese, sometimes it was fresh other times it wasn’t.

I stole two apples. I had climbed higher into the tree, balancing on the thinner branches to reach the apples at the top. Everyone’s attention was drawn to a woman with child who had fainted. It was easy for me to slip the apples into the pockets of my underskirt and take a rest on a thicker branch. From here, I could see a lot of people gathered around the woman. She was placed on a cart and taken away with some women and perhaps her husband following.

‘Come on, get back to work!’ someone yelled and everyone walked back to their choice tree.

I threw down the last of the apples and came down the ladder. The rest of the day drew itself out as if it didn’t want to end. The smell of the apples and trees clogged my other senses. I felt I could just curl up on a branch and sleep forever. Even the children who seemed to have boundless energy were tried and some had fallen sleep at the bases of trees.

Drinking some ale, I heard my stomach growl in hunger. Soon it would be time to eat. I looked up at the sky and saw that the sun was in it’s setting position but it had no intention of going down for another two or three hours. The ale tasted too malty and slightly gritty, I drank it all, too thirsty to stop.

Petting the old shire horse, who’s cart I had been leaning against, I helped pick up any apples on the ground as the pickers decided to shake the trees out. Some of these apples could be added to the collection and others would go to the animals.

I stumbled over something and decided I’d had enough of these shoes. I took them off and in my bare feet carried on working. The earth and grass were cool, reminding me of times I had run around the Temple and it’s gardens. And I felt the call. The earth whispering to me asking what I wished of it.

I had to ignore it and get back to picking up apples. I put them into the ‘basket’ I had created with my dress. It was an easier way. Then I tipped them into the wicker baskets and went back together more.

Finally, the sun was setting. The bright blue sky turning paler and darker as the sun dipped. We collected the last of the day’s apples and followed the horses and carts back. People began going their own ways. I went to the well and joined the queue for water. It as too long and I decided to go to the stream instead.

Other people were heading there too but I could walk along to find a patch of my own. There wasn’t a lot of shade out here, there was just fields. I passed some cows who were getting ready for evening milking. The sheep hadn’t been brought down from the hills yet but there were some goats milling around.

At the stream, I walked by people who were drinking or collecting or taking clothes off for a wash. I saw some naked children splashing each other. An old woman with her skirts all bunched up as she dipped her feet and legs in. A few men just in their breaches pouring water from jugs over their heads and three young women watching them and giggling.

I found a quiet spot, far down from everyone else and also beside a small tree. I took all my clothes off. Wishing I had clean ones to put on. Beside from a few undergarments, I had nothing else to wear. In the Temple, I had worn white dress with sliver thread edges to show I was a novice. I could wear a clean one everyday if I had wanted.

I took the cloth strip from my head and pulled my hair down. Leaving my clothes by the tree, I stepped carefully into the stream. It was blissfully cold. Stones felt rough under the feet, so I moved a few of them then crouched down in the little exposed area of stream bed I had made. I cupped the water and splashed it all over me. The cold of it prickled my skin but it was too nice to stop.

I tried to imagine myself in a Temple bath, cooling down after a long day. The chatter of my Sister around me. Everything was cool and clean. There would be robes to wrap in, clean clothes and lots of food to eat this evening. Autumn time had also been my favourite season of year because of that.

‘What we got ‘ere then?’

The man’s voice broke through my thoughts, I stilled and looked up at him. He was grinning, showing missing teeth, rough black stub covered the lower half of his face. His brown eyes were shinning as if he was delighted by the sight before him. He was grubby, thin and a youngish look about him, maybe in his twenties?

‘You’re the mute girl, ain’t you?’

I shook my head and wonder if I did speak would he leave me alone? Panic swelled in my stomach. I knew I should go, put my clothes on and run but wouldn’t that expose me more and invite him to give chase? Not moving might be better but I really wasn’t sure….Maybe, if I had kept some clothes on it would have a made a difference.

‘Yes, you are,’ the man said in a low voice, ‘no one has hair like your’s….’

I looked at my hair, the cherry red colour had darkened with the water and felt heavier, the long wet strands were giving me some cover. I brought more of it around to hide my chest. The man noticed the movement and one of his eyebrows raised.

‘I think you need some company,’ he said and began taking his clothes off.

I shook my head and panic made me flee. I stood, water dripping off me and rushed to my clothes pile. Without throwing anything on, I ran naked into the opposite field. He chased after me, not shouting – I guess so he didn’t draw attention. I didn’t look back, I concentrated on finding some cover but of course there was none to be had.

I dropped a shoe and tried to pick it up. A heavy weight flew into the back of me and sent me tumbling to the ground.

‘Oh, yes! That’s how I like my women!’ the man spoke, his voice full of lust.

I twisted around and saw him dropping his breaches down and his manhood on display.

I couldn’t let this happen! The Sisters prepared us well for sex and bearing children but they taught us it was an act of our faith. Our bodies were vessels for the next Sisters and we shouldn’t just lay with any man. There were rites to be done…

I scrambled upwards but the man threw himself down on top of me and grappled me to the ground. I tasted dirt and blood on my lips. His breath was harsh in my ears and I could feel the hardness of him pushing against my rear end. He tried to part my legs with his own but I strained against him.

My hands clenched around the dry soil and before I could think, instinct took over. I told the earth to blind him as I threw the soil into his face. He cried out and moved his hands off me to try and get his eyes clean. I wiggled out from under him and sat facing him, my chest heaving with deep breaths.

The man swore at me, calling me nasty names as he rubbed his eyes and blinked. His eyes had turned white.

‘I can’t see!’ he screamed.

I plunged my hands deep in the soil and felt the power growing within. The ground shook, the grass shaking wildly then the earth began splitting, a hole appearing under the man and because he was distracted by being blind, he fell into the hole. He screamed but it was cut off by the ground coming back together and the soil closing around him.

‘I didn’t mean it,’ I whispered looking at the spot the the man had disappeared from.

Grass brushed against my naked skin, the soil was cold underneath me. Licking my lips and tasted blood and dirt on them still. I turned away, saw my clothes and quickly got dressed. I ran back to the stream, washing the soil away then rushed to my hidey hole.

There I wrapped the blanket around my shoulders and curled up. The Sisters taught us to control our powers. To not use them without thinking nor in anger. I had broken that lesson. What was I going to do?

Tears washed down my face, thoughts flooded my mind and I couldn’t calm down. All I could see was the earth swallowing that man!

Darkness pressed against my makeshift shelter. I looked out from a hole and steadied myself. No one knew what had happened and if anybody asked me, I was a mute who couldn’t utter a word. The man was gone so he couldn’t say anything against me. I could carry on as normal. That would be the best thing and no one would ever know.

I got up and went to the well, I sorted myself out, tied my wet hair back up and under the cloth, brushed grass from my clothes and put on my shoes. I went back to my hut and found a little stew and tea left for me to have.

Some people were smoking in chairs beside the fire and others had gone to bed all ready. No one looked or spoke to me. I tried to act as normal, tipping the stew into my mouth and swallowing down the cooling tea. I got into bed and pulled the woollen blanket over my head.

I lay breathing deeply, my eyes squeezed shut and trying to blank my mind. I had made a terrible, terrible mistake but I would learn from it and never again would I act like that.

I was alone now. I had to control my gift. I had to stay hidden.

 

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 1)

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Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

All stories start with something and this story starts with an apple. It was a normal apple, bright red and ripe for picking. I twisted it off the tree and with a quick look around, I slipped it into a pocket in my underskirt. It was the first apple I had ever picked and the first thing I had ever stolen.

I was wearing clothes that were not my own; an old, patched up blue dress with layers of grey skirts and stays for my growing woman’s shape. On my feet were falling apart brown leather shoes, worn down from all the walking and work. My hair, dirty and unwashed for days like the rest of me was a cherry red colour which shone gold in the full sun or moonlight. It was tied in a bun under a strip of cloth that covered my head.

I carried on picking apples all day. Stopping only a few times to sip ale and nibble mouldy bread. The other workers didn’t speak to me, energy was wasted by talking and there was too much to do. Also, they all thought I was a mute. The apples in their wicker baskets were loaded onto a cart and taken into a stable to be sorted. Some apples were to be sold at the markets and others made into cider.

The sun set and some of us retreated to little huts the farmer had given us for the harvest season. The rest of the workers went to houses or other places they had in the surrounding villages. We ate a weak stew then in a haze of peat smoke, pipe tobacco and sleepiness, I slipped outside.

A few feet away was my hidey hole. It was a little nook in a tumbled down animal shelter. I had made a seat out of some of the wood and placed straw on the floor. There was a holder for a small candle and a worn blanket. I wrapped myself up and lit a candle. I listened but there was only the sound of the wind and animals.

I took the stolen apple out from my pocket. I had eaten apples of course but not for a while now. Not since I had left my Sisters. I rubbed the waxy surface of the apple then bought it to my nose and breathed in deeply of the fresh, sweet and fruity scent. I bit into the apple, the flesh and juice were too sugary and crisp. It all returned me to my past.

The memory of my Sisters made tears prick my eyes. I had been born into them and grew up not knowing anything else. I had learnt many languages, to read and write them. I had learnt potion making of all kinds, casting, calling, spells both defensive and inflicting, herbs by all their names and their many usages, prayers and songs, baking and mending, romance and the weakness of men and monsters, plus so much more.

We lived in large groups in many cities, towns and villages. We had Temples which some of us also lived in though most preferred houses with their families and or other Sisters. My home was a white Temple in a fine old city. We had a patch of land that was a small farm where we grew fruits, vegetables, herbs and plants. There were also animals; chickens, cows, rabbits, bees, dogs, cats, ravens and owls.

We had been in harmony with all peoples and nature. We had been looked upon for help in a whole range of problems; sickness, death, childbirth, crop and animal failures, wars and feuds, blessings, future readings, advice, teachings and lots more. Then something had happened four years ago, some turning of the tide that caused the Sisters downfall.

War had knocked upon us. The people rose against us declaring us bad and forgetting all we had done of them. The Sisters fought back but the enemies were numerous, over powering and driven by unquenchable rage. We were torn apart. Our homes and Temples burnt with some of us still inside, the rest put to the blade or their deaths on show. We were hunted down like scared deer, not understanding why we had been turned upon.

I had been lucky, being only a girl of twelve I had escaped with some others into the crypts below. There our Fallen Sisters lay at their never ending rests. Their bodies wrapped in white sheets and tied with red ribbons. They were placed on stone shelves on top of each other with carved wooden symbols of our faith; bell, book, candle, crested moon, bunches of herbs, cats, ravens and owls.

In the middle of the crypts were the highly decorated marble sarcophagi some of which had effigies on them and there were also statues of the High and Supreme Priestess or Sorceresses. Candles, incense, fresh flowers and prayers were constantly supplied into the crypts and long Fallen In Memoria ceremonies took place day and night down there.

When we escaped, we were meant to stay together but in the darkness and vastness of the jungle we lost each other. I had wanted to go back, I had tried hard to but somehow I had never been able to find my home again. Perhaps it had been a spell cast by the Sorceresses to keep all the novice witches safe? I would never known.

Needing shelter, food and places to hide, I found work on farms. Hard work but at least no one saw me as anything other then an orphan girl on the run. I was too traumatised to speak for a long time and the label of ‘mute’ stuck to me but I found it easy to wear this mask. I didn’t have to answer any questions and say anything which might reveal or create suspicion to what I was.

Novice Sisters didn’t get the tattoos, clothes and jewellery of the faith until they became of age at sixteen then they were called Practitioners. Once everyone could see what you were it was too late to hide. That’s why only the girls had escaped and hardly hunting though I bet innocent girls had been put to fire or to water or just slain by swords.

I had the last bite of the apple and sat with the core in my hand. I thought about practising some magic on it, I still tried often to do things I had been taught. The risk of being caught stopped me. It was all a part of me though, I couldn’t forget or ever stop it no matter what I did. Magic and faith flowed through me like blood.

I transferred the light of the candle to another I had brought. I could have cast my own light but that was asking for trouble. Blowing out the first candle, I made the long way to the pig pens. There was no moon or stars in the sky, clouds were banking up there but I knew it wasn’t going to rain tomorrow. It was going to be another hot and dry autumn day.

A fat, pink pig happily took the apple core from me then snuffled back to sleep. I was half tempted to crawl inside his wooden house within him but instead I made my way back to my own bed.

I slipped through the door and into my cot. Pulling the harsh wool blanket over me, I tried to sleep. Around me, in other cots or chairs were ten or so people all fast sleep. There was snoring and mumbling, sounds of breathing and tossing, it all reminded me of the dorm room I had slept in at the Temple.

The fire was low, only a whisper of heat left within it. I could have brought it back to life and made it everlasting with no need for fuel. I could bend the flames to my will, ask them to burn this hut down, the farm and the apple trees, the people too if I wanted.

I could command the wind to fan the fire more, to blow a gale, destroy everything in its path. I could call water from the well, from the stream and the sky to cover everything and wash it all away. The earth would answer me if I whispered my wants to it, the ground could shake or spilt up and swallow everything.

Plants would be my allies, I could encourage them to grow fast, to wrap around and suffocate everything. I could speak to animals, bargaining with them to do tasks; to bring me food, to help me kill someone, to be my eyes and ears in another place.

There had been other Novice Sisters in my classes who could do things with energy from furniture and other things, pull out memories from minds, whisper thoughts into your head, make objects move and more. We each had our own gifts and talents, our favourite things to work with. Some found the powers easier to work with, others hard and some not at all.

I fell asleep and dreamed about one of those girls I knew, her name had been Aenwyn. For years, she didn’t show any magic abilities no matter what she did. Some of the other girls laughed at Aenwyn but we were friends and one day we were talking as we picked herbs. The smell of those things was heady, mixed in with strong wild garlic. Bees were buzzing in the air gathering honey for their hives. It was a hot, dry summer day.

‘Elenora, what will become of me?’ Aenwyn asked me.

‘Why Aenwyn,’ I answered, ‘you’ll get the best job of all! You’ll become a Matron. You’ll get to look after the Sisters, their daughters, you’ll work in the gardens, with the animals and in the kitchens too. You like baking bread and tending the rabbits, don’t you?’

Aenwyn nodded, ‘but I’d rather be like you, Elenora! You’ll become a druidess.’

‘Maybe, but I’d rather be an elementalist,’ I said, ‘imagine what you can do if you can bend elements to your wants?’

Aenwyn shook her head, ‘it is too great a power.’

I laughed and picked a blood red beetle off one of the baby leaves of sage. I shut my eyes in concentration and called upon the air to fly the beetle away. My request was granted and the beetled was lifted away and over the walls.

Aenwyn opened her mouth but her words were drowned out by the Temple bells, it was time for afternoon prayers. Then we would read the books of our faith before washing and changing to go for evening meal. Afterwards, we would finish our daily tasks, put the animals to bed then change and wash again for the nighttime chants and prayers then it would bedtime as the sunset.

We had lived by the callings of the bells, the tasks set to us by Matron Sisters, Tutor Sisters and Dorm Sisters. Our lives were structured, we knew what to do within each hour by heart. We knew our duty, our destinies, the powers within us until everything was uprooted by the war against us.

Someone was shaking me awake. The faint ringing of bells from my past in my ears. Waking, I saw an old woman, half her wrinkled brown face was covered by long, ragged, white hair, her simple peasant dress too loose around her wasting body.

The sun had rose and brought another day of apple picking with it.

To Be Continued…

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Apple #WritingPrompt

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My favourite apples were those picked straight from the tree covered with water drops from a light autumn shower or droplets from a misty morning.

It seemed like I spent all my autumn days outside harvesting, sorting out the animals and making sure everything was ready for winter. I had lots of help, I was the only girl out of eight children. The joke was my mother had kept trying till she had a girl but I had turned out more boyish then some of my brothers!

I was fourth generation of farmer and it ran strong within me. I had favourite jobs and ones I hated but I still did them all. My best was apple picking. I loved getting the reds and greens off the trees, stacking them in baskets before putting them in the trucks to go to the shops.

There was some comforting about the weight in hand, the smell of the crisp apples under my nose and when I tasted the sweet tang of the fruit nothing could bet it.

One of my brothers joked that it was apple juice that ran in my veins instead of blood. I believed that could be true. Another brother said I had been born from an apple seed mother had swallowed on the advice of grandma. A third claimed they had found me under an apple tree on harvest moon night!

However, I had come into the world my name; Autumn Apple Atkins was fitting and perfect to my ears. Some sniggered at it, others had used it to bully me but to me it was who I was and where I had come from.

My father had promised me the orchard and I could think of no greater thing to inherit then the trees that bear the fruit I love.

 

(Inspired by; https://sarahelizabethmoore.org/2019/11/03/writing-prompt-44/ with thanks).

Apple Harvest

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Four generations of apple trees had been growing in the last field of his farm. Before he had just sold them to anyone who would have them but for the last few years he had kept a barrel or two back.

The idea of hosting a few days of Halloween themed fun had been his daughter’s idea. He hadn’t been that much into it, but now money and publicity was pouring in. A great bonus to the struggling farming business.

Toffee Apple Tasting

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There were a few things that sum up autumn perfectly and one of them is toffee apples. As you do the weekly shop and pick up the normal fruit and veg, you spot the boxes in the last section of the large open fridge. Strolling over, you see sticks coming out of red glossy apples and next to them are chocolate covered sprinkle apples.

Your mouth starts to water as you remember how sweet they taste. You select a few, knowing that next week they might not have any in. Then you carry on with your shopping list but you can’t wait to get home now. At the till, you hurry through packing and paying, keeping up a light chat with the small woman scanning your shopping.

You leave, go to the car and place everything inside then you drive slowly home because the rain is heavy and the wind gale force. When you get back, you see your family is still out. Your husband has taken the kids to a birthday party at a soft play centre. You unpack and twice have to draw yourself away from grabbing a toffee apple.

Once everything is sorted, you chose one of the bright red apples and curl up on the sofa with it. Enjoying the sound of the weather outside, you don’t turn the TV or radio on. You unwrap the treat, the plastic coat so loud as you twist it off. You breath deeply, smelling the crisp apple and sweet, sweet treacle toffee.

You turn the stick slowly, marvelling at the perfect, thick toffee and wondering how did they get it so good. Your own attempts at making toffee apples drifts into you mind, but you shake them away now isn’t the time to reflect on your failures. You bring the apple to your lips and began nibbling at the lip of toffee on top.

A blast of sticky sugar hits your tongue, you shut your eyes and moan softly in pleasure. You nibble more, feeling like you can’t get enough now you’ve started. Then you hit the rock hard toffee and cold apple layers. You go more slowly, careful of your teeth. When you finally bit into the apple, the sweet and softness of it goes perfectly with the toffee as if they were made for each other.

You carry on eating, rolling in the happy feelings, until all the toffee is gone and you are almost at the core of the apple. Saddness creep in under the sugar rush. You wish there was more… You lick your lips, feeling sticky as you look at the apple core.

The sound of car pulling up on the driveway shakes you out of the pleasure. You hear car door and voices; your family is home. Spring up from the sofa, you put the apple core, stick and plastic wrap in the bin and wash your face.

The front door opens and you fight to keep down the sugar rush as you greet your family. They must never know.

Apple #TwitteringTales

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‘Eat the apple, child.’

‘Will it really work this time, step-mother?’

‘Do you want a prince?’

‘I’m having doubts….Isn’t there a better way?’

‘Not if you want true love.’

 

(Inspired from; https://katmyrman.com/2017/09/26/twittering-tale-51-26-september-2017/ with thanks)

 

 

Money Tree

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Standing under the first apple tree in the row of twenty at the end of my field, I thought about what my granddad had told me when we had been planting these trees thirty years ago.

‘Money grows on trees, you know. And these trees are very special. They are going to make you lots of money, Abbey.’

He hadn’t been wrong. The trees produced a large amount of sweet apples which were good for eating and cider making. The extra money had always been useful and the harvest had never failed.

Staring up through the branches at slices of sky, I wondered what was going to happen now.

‘I wish you did grow money,’ I said.

The wind gently shook the trees, rustling the green leaves and I breathed in the heavy fragrant scent of spring.

 I shut my eyes and though it was childish, pretended that the trees were answering me.

‘Perhaps, we can’t grow real money. But haven’t we provided you with more?’ the trees whispered to me.

‘And I’m grateful, but now…I’m at a loss. I don’t want to give you up but what else can I do?’ I asked.

The trees seemed to sigh.

Money isn’t a thing that bothers trees; they didn’t value it. Life however is something they need.

‘You could be cut down….’ I mutter and picture this bright meadow gone and replaced by houses.

‘Whatever will be will be,’ the trees tell me, ‘if you have the power to change it then try. Life’s cycle will continue no matter what.’

‘Then, I’ll try and change it…Everything in my power I’ll do and I’ll save you trees!’ I yell.

Birds startle into the sky flapping loudly and the wind shakes the trees as if they are cheering me on. The field becomes quiet again and I know what I must do.

Toffee Apples

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As the crunch echoed in her ears, she felt like autumn had really arrived. The sweet, crisp taste of apple and hard toffee mixed on her tongue and filled her with a bliss that seemed unbeatable. She swallowed and had to hold back her moan of pleasure. This was almost as good as pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice latte. It was the essence of autumn wrapped up.

Cooking Up A Storm (Part 2)

Midnight was meowing behind the front door when I got back. I unlocked and opened it to scoop him up. Burying my face in his warm black fur, I tried to hold my tears in. I closed the door with my foot and sat on the sofa. I rubbed the cat against my cheeks and made soft meowing noises back. Midnight, strangely a big fan of cuddles for a young male cat, demand more.

‘Did you miss me? Yeah, you did. You eat all your food? Good kitty,’ I baby talked.

He gave me a string of meows then fell into purring and curling into ball in my lap. I stroked him and watched him dozing off. The warm and content feelings jostled with my sad ones and I did wipe the corners of my eyes.

‘He just had to bring her up,’ I told Midnight, ‘I know I shouldn’t complain. It’s still important to talk about her, but today? No. I don’t want to think about it.’

My phone ring and I scrambled to find it in my bag whilst trying not to disturb Midnight.

‘Hello?’

‘Becks, hey! Is your car okay? When you coming over?’ Dawn’s excited and rushed voice shouted in my ear.

‘Car’s fine. What time did I say? Five or six?’ I answered.

‘It’s quarter to now,’ Dawn responded then began speaking to someone else in the background.

‘It is? Oh. I still need to ice the gingerbreads. Everything else is ready though. So, six then.’

‘Can’t you come now, please?’

I petted Midnight as a long hum escaped my pursed lips.

‘We need to set up the table then get ready and that’s going to take a while. I need to wash my hair still and Amber just found out she can’t get into her costume.’

‘It’s baby weight!’ Amber’s voice yelled back followed by bursting girly laughter.

‘I can’t,’ Becks pressed, ‘if you want them to look right, I just can’t. And there’s no way I’d want to rush them after all my hard work.’

Dawn signed heavily down the phone then whispered to someone else, ‘she can’t get here for another hour.’

‘Look. I’m about to do them now, so I’ll just set the table when I get there. Okay?’

‘All right, please try to hurry though,’ Dawn said back unable to hide the disappointed tone.

‘I’ll try. Bye.

‘Bye, Becks. She says an hour. I’m going to wash my hair…’

I hung up, then moving Midnight off my lap, went into the kitchen. The heavy smell of ginger, cinnamon and toffee blasted all other smells away. I checked the toffee apples and finding them set, moved them on to the table with the collection of other things. Then I put all the gingerbread shapes on one plate and prepared the icing.

‘It’s too silent, I mumbled.

Finishing off the icing, I went and turned the TV on. Midnight jumped up on the coffee table, tail swinging and watched me channel flicking. There wasn’t much on, so I put the news on and went back to the kitchen. Feeling better, I sorted out the icing for colouring, then got piping the designs on the biscuits.

I didn’t need any inspiration or drawings, I had been making these gingerbreads for the last five weeks. With the news reporters droning on in the background, my hands worked by themselves and I began thinking again. My dad had been right about my mum. Tonight had been her favourite out of the whole year, just like it was mine. She would spend the whole of October planning and preparing. Sometimes, especially as I got older, she’d call me in to help make cakes or muffins or something that involved pumpkins.

I felt my chest get a little tight, but instead of stopping I thought it best just to go on thinking about her. She was never a ‘normal’ mother or wife, being a white witch saw to that and yet, she manged to embrace everything and make it happen. That’s what my dad was talking about before.

Almost an hour later, I was done with the forty gingerbreads. Leaving them to officially set, I wrapped up each toffee apple in black Halloween foil finished with a bit of ribbon and put them in a carry bag. Digging out my notebook, I ticked them and the biscuits off.

‘So, now I get it all into the car, grab my suitcase, put food down for Midnight then it’s party time!’

Midnight meowed at his name, but didn’t appear, which meant something on the TV had his attention. I put some more food in his bowl, topped up his water, then picking up my notebook again, ran through the list once more; ‘pumpkin pie, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, Halloween cookies, lemon cheese cake spider web, Halloween cupcakes, Graveyard mud moose pie, toffee apples and gingerbreads. Yep, all done. Okay, to the car.’

I grabbed a large bag from the table, which had the cookies, cheese cake and muffins carefully boxed up inside and headed to the front door. I got my keys from my handbag on the way and went out to the car. I spent a good few minutes, carrying stuff out and storing it as carefully as possible in the boot and backseat.

Midnight tore himself away from the TV to watch me. Finally sorted, I locked the car and hurried upstairs. Taking my small suitcase -thankful I packed my clothes and personal stuff last night- from the corner and going back down again. I nudged Midnight out the door and hurried to the car. Ignoring his howl of unhappiness, I put my suitcase on the passenger seat.

‘Done. Everything. Good. Front door. Midnight, what are doing? Are you in or out, kitty? Aww, I’m sorry.’

I picked him up and Midnight tried to climb on to my shoulders.

‘I’m sorry you can’t come. Oh! The TV.’

I darted back inside, putting Midnight on the sofa and turned it off. Then remembering, I hadn’t closed any curtains or checked the windows or the back door, ran around the house doing that.

‘I’m good now. Bye, Midnight.’

He gave me a long mournful meow, like a toddler who didn’t want to be left. I waved good bye to him all the same and locked the front door. Getting into Herbs was like stepping back into the kitchen. The car smelt of warm spices, pumpkin and other sweet delights. I checked the time and then my phone. Dawn’s house was half an hour away and it was five past six.

I texted her then drove off, the excitement of the party finally hitting me.

To Be Continued…

Cooking Up A Storm (Part 1)

The small square kitchen breathed of sugar and spice sweetness, which was my favourite scent. Though only just, as I loved the aroma of damp, earthy leaves and trees on a crisp mid-autumn morning, the most. Twirling the golden toffee around the last of the red apples, I hummed along to the Monster Mash. My body and feet moved in time with the beat, my slippers slapping. I stopped my hands to ease the toffee and apple apart. The strands snapped and I beheld my creation.

Glistening like gold under the kitchen lights, I set the toffee apple down on pale blue side plate that was cover in hard yellow sugar glops. Checking the pan, I saw there was just enough left to get a second coating. Glancing to the right at the almost ready toffee apples, I went to the oven behind me and peered in at my last lot Halloween gingerbreads.

The timer went off. Grabbing gloves, I opened the door and pulled the tray out. The smell of hot ginger and cinnamon biscuit dough hit in the face. Smiling, I put the tray in the only gap left on the work top and inspected the different shape gingerbreads. There were three bats, two spiders, two witches on broomsticks and three ghosts.

‘They turned out pretty good, better than the last three lots,’ I said.

Letting them cool, I second dipped the last apple and sang along to the Time Warp. Setting the apple with the others, a soft meowing tickled my ears. I looked over at the back door and cat flap as my small black cat, Midnight, popped through.

‘Hi, kitty!’ I called.

Midnight looked up at me with large green eyes and meowled loudly.

‘You hungry? Where you been, huh? I missed you this morning.’

Midnight responded with a few mews.

I moved and got him some food. He curled around my legs, rubbing his head against my jeans. As soon as his bowl was filled he lowered himself over it and began eating nosily. Leaving him to it, I tided up and filled the dishwasher for the third time. My IPod cycled through some more Halloween themed music and I joined in with the lyrics I knew.

Washing my hands and slipping off my apron, I searched around the kitchen for my phone. Finding it on the little wooden table, I pulled out a chair and pressed it on. It was almost four PM and I had two text messages. The first was from my dad, telling me he had fixed my poor Mini car, Herbs, and the second was my best friend, Dawn, checking how I was getting on. I replied back to her first, letting her know in shorthand that everything was fine and there’d be enough sweet dishes for the party tonight.

I called my dad, ‘hi. I just got your text. Sorry I was in the middle of making toffee apples.’

‘Hello. Oh, okay, that’s fine,’ his soft fatherly voice spoke.

‘So, can I come and get Herbs?’

‘Yeah. He seems to be running fine again now. Are you going to come in the next hour? Just I was going to go out and pick up that cooker for Mrs Dwight.’

‘I can do that. Then I’ll have time to load him up too. I’ve baked too much….’

My dad laughed, ‘send some of it my way.’

‘I shall do. I’m on my way then.’

‘See you soon.’

‘bye.’

I hung up and stepping into the tiny corridor that joined the kitchen, living room and stairs together. Going up and into the first room on the right, I dusted my jeans off and dug another purple t-shirt out from the draw. Switching tops, I put on my dolly shoes and grabbed a purple knitted jacket. I crossed back over the stairs and around into the bathroom. Double checking my chestnut hair and face for flour etc, in the mirror, I let down my hair and put it back up in a neater ponytail. I also add a touch of pink lip balm.

Looking back at myself, I muttered, ‘you’re working too hard, Becks. Those bags are getting bigger and your cheeks are too red.’

I poked my face and debated putting up some makeup.

‘No. No time. Got to get Herbs and then ice those cookies.’

Going downstairs again, I saw Midnight looking up at me as if he was waiting to hear where I was going. I petted him, told him I’d be back soon and to eat the rest of his food. He meowed loudly and stayed put, as I grabbed my bag and left.

Outside a chilly breeze was brushing against the windows and playing lazily with fallen leaves. I walked with my back to it, taking in deep breaths of the wonderfully smelling air. I heard children laughing and talking loudly from a back garden across the road. Crows and other birds called from the rooftops and I couldn’t help but think that it really did feel like Halloween today.

I walked the twenty minutes to my dad’s house and got that nice familiar ‘home’ feeling. My dad was standing between his car and mine, leaning against the sky blue gate. He was checking his phone and sensing he was about to call or text me, I called out a loud hello and hurried over.

‘I’m here. Sorry had to change tops,’ I explained.

‘It’s fine. The brakes are fixed now. Here’s your keys,’ he said and passed them to me.

‘Thanks, so much. I’ll bring the leftovers tomorrow and we can have a post- Halloween party,’ I suggested.

Dad shook his head, ‘you be safe tonight okay? You mother had a bad habit of spell casting and mixing potions on this night….’

A bit my lip and looked down as my thoughts rose up about mum.

‘Seems you’re too busy with your baking right now to bother with all of that again. The shop still going good? Money alright?’

I nodded, ‘yes. It’s all good and under control. We’re planning Christmas stuff now. You should call by sometime.’

‘Maybe, maybe. I should go.’

‘Oh, okay, thanks again. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

We hugged, kissed cheeks then got into our cars. I waved to him and let him drive off first. I drove home, my thoughts still on mum.

To Be Continued…