The Grotto (Part 4)

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I took a shower when I got back home and as I stood under the hot water, I tried to clear my head. Still though the idea that my little niece was growing up and losing her believe in Christmas bugged me. How could I make things better?

My own childhood hadn’t been merry and bright. I knew around Willow’s age that there was no Santa, because nothing would bring my parents back to life. Alex and I had kept up the pretense for my grandparents a little long but then we had all gotten tried of it. We had grown up before we should have done and that was why Alex wanted his children to experience everything for a longer time.

Washing my hair, I wondered if I could write a letter to Willow pretending to be from Santa. As long as I was careful, it might just work. I could do some internet searching and see how to get it right. No one else would have to know about it.

I set to that plan after getting dressed and having something to eat. My granddad normally went out to the pub tonight but with the bad weather he was staying in. Leaving my grandparents to wrap presents, I went upstairs and loaded up my laptop. Making up a letter from Santa was easier then I thought. Only a few times did I wondered if it was the right thing to do and if I should check with Alex. I was done before I could do anything else though.

The next day when I saw Alex leaving early for work as I headed out myself, I called over the road to him.

‘I have this…’ I said fishing the envelope out of handbag, ‘can you put it under the tree on Christmas eve?’

‘Why?’ he asked, accepting the letter.

‘It’s for Willow. Just thought it might help her believing for a bit longer.’

Alex looked at the large cream envelope before replying, ‘I think we’re going to have to tell her. Jo is getting tried of all the questions and with Luke still being ill….’

‘But Christmas is so soon!’ I pointed out, ‘No, you can’t! Next year, maybe. Just give her the letter.’

I shoved his hand and the letter up and did my best sister pleading eyes.

‘Okay,’ he signed.

‘Good. See you later,’

I hurried away and went to catch my bus. On the ride into work, I wondered how Willow would take it. Would she know it was a fake or would it inspire her to carry on believing? Had I done a good thing or not? It was up to the Spirit of Christmas now.

Working at the college library was a bore most days but at least it paid and forced me to carry on looking for other job. Some days, I was able to leave early and go pick Willow up from school which was close by. She finished in three days now which meant Christmas eve was so close! The college had finished last week but the library was still open for those bookworms and panic studying students.

I finished early and since it was too soon to pick Willow up, I went home. The next few days past far too fast, so I didn’t get a chance to tell Alex about my plan. On Christmas eve, I went out with some friends and finally had some downtime. It was good to just forget about Christmas and Santa and believing for a few hours.

Late on Christmas morning, my grandparents and I went went over to Alex’s. We each had a pot or tray of something homemade that my gran had cooked or baked. Jo opened the door and seemed glad to see us. I had not seen her in a few days and she really looked tried.

‘My parents are running late, come in,’ she added.

Willow dashed out of the front room, something in her hand, ‘Auntie Angel! Dad said I could couldn’t open this till you got here!’

Giving Jo the bowl of stuffing I was holding, I went over to Willow and saw the envelope in her hand. She was still in her pajamas which were pink and the top read Princess whilst the bottoms had crowns and hearts on them.

‘What is it?’ I asked.

Willow shrugged and opened it.

I held my breath and bit my lip.

‘It’s a letter…’ Willow trailed.

I hummed and waited. In the background her baby brother Luke started crying and I heard Alex trying to shush him.

‘From…Santa!’ Willow gasped, ‘Angel! He really wrote to me!’

‘What does it say?’ I pressed, trying to keep the smile from my face.

‘He said; I’m sorry I can’t see you in person but I’ve been really busy. My elves and I are finishing up making toys packing the sleigh today. The reindeer are almost ready to fly and I have so many deliveries to make this year. My cousins have been telling me all about you and so have the elves,’ Willow read excitedly.

‘Well that’s good!’

Willow nodded and carried on, ‘it can be hard for me to write to each child, but I do try and will always take the time for those that have been really good. I hope you love the pink unicorn you asked for, it was made just for you.’

She dropped the letter and turned to the front room, ‘you should see her, Aunt, she’s huge!’ Willow cried.

I laughed, ‘what else does the letter say?’

‘That; I hope like the other presents you got too. Have a good Christmas and it’s a special time to be with your family. Thanks for believing in me. Santa,’ Willow took a deep breath, ‘he’s real! He’s real!’ she cried.

I laughed and hugged her, ‘he really is if you believe hard enough,’ I whispered.

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The Grotto (Part 3)

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We walked back down the queue which was full of chatting children and parents. Willow hugged the present as if she was never going to let it go. I really hoped there was a unicorn inside of there. Glad that was over, I realised I needed the bathroom and a drink.

‘Hey, how’d meeting the Big Man go?’ the male elf said loudly.

I stopped and grabbed my niece’s arm as he suddenly stood before us all green and bells tinkling. There was a huge grin on his face and he was just too happy. He reminded me of the Grinch after he’d stolen everything.

‘It’s fine thanks,’ I muttered.

‘I got a present,’ Willow said proudly and showed him the box.

‘Wow, that’s just great! You must have been good this year then!’ the elf said in fake shock.

‘I’ve been good! Can I have a present?’ a little boy’s voice shouted from the queue.

The elf turned and replied, ‘of course you can!’

We slipped past him and hurried away into the crowd. I’d had enough of this. Heading into the toilets, there was another queue to join but at least it wasn’t as long. I sighed and lent against the wall. Feeling tried and fed up of all these people. I shut my eyes but still the sounds came. A baby was crying loudly behind a closed door, a child was singing Jingle Bells, a young couple were having an argument and there was a constant chatter of other voices.

I felt Willow tug on my coat and I looked down at her.

‘That elf was a bit weird, wasn’t he?’ Willow asked.

‘He was just really happy, that’s all. It’s how they are, I guess…and I really needed the loo,’ I added.

‘Auntie Angel, tell me the truth, is Santa real?’

I rolled my eyes at her use of my name. God, I hated it with a passion. Like how people hate the taste of fish or the sight of a spider or the same Christmas song on repeat. And how I was meant to answer her question? I didn’t want to be the one to spoil Christmas but I hated to lie.

‘What did Santa say?’ I asked instead.

‘If I believed in him then he was real,’ Willow replied slowly.

‘Do you believe in fairies and unicorns and magic?’

‘Yes, I do! but Santa is just different…somehow.’

‘He’s more magical then the rest?’ I suggested as we become the head of the queue.

Willow shrugged and studied the colorful wrapping on the present.

After we’d been to the toilets, we went to a coffee shop, got drinks and small cakes then we walked to the bus stop. I avoided going anywhere near the Santa’s Grotto which meant we went the back way out of the shopping outlet and had to go around. Willow was quiet for the rest of the time, lost in her thoughts.

The bus was busy and I had to stand. A kind, older lady moved her shopping so Willow could have the seat next to her. I placed the bags at Willow’s feet and hung on tight. The bus driver must have been running late as he zoomed off and raced the traffic. The bus smelt like sweaty bodies, dirty water and oil. People were trying to keep to themselves with headphones, newspapers and phones whilst a few chattered about this person or that present or how they were tried of Christmas already!

‘Have you been to see Santa today? the older lady asked.

Willow nodded.

‘And that’s a present from him? You must have have been good girl then,’ she added.

Willow smiled a little and with a quick glance at me, said to the lady, ‘yes.’

‘Your sister’s so nice to take you shopping isn’t she? Did you buy a present for your mum?’

I pulled a face but held the words back in. I was too use to people guessing the relationship between us now. At least no one had called me Willow’s mum today! That’s always the worse, especially when you then work out the age difference.

‘My Auntie,’ Willow corrected, ‘she took me shopping for my family. We are best friends and she’s far more fun then my parents or baby brother.’

‘I bet she is!’ the lady said and smiled more brightly at me. ‘Are you going to save your present till Christmas day?’

‘Maybe…Do you believe in Santa?’ Willow asked.

‘Willow!’ I snapped.

‘It’s fine,’ the lady waved away, ‘yes I do believe still. It’s hard with all this technology and growing up so fast now. But Santa’s out there still, a symbol of hope and happiness for anyone who keeps believing.’

‘I like that,’ Willow said then under her breath, ‘but I’m still not any closer to the truth!’

The rest of the bus journey was normal and we got off before the lady did. We said good bye and merry Christmas then found ourselves stepping into a sleet storm. As the doors closed the bus pulled away, we hurried up the street we both lived on. My older brother’s house was first and the house I currently shared with my grandparents was close to the end of the street. Willow ran up the pathway and rang the doorbell. I had a key somewhere…

The door opened and we both rushed in.

‘It’s almost snowing!’ Willow cried to her dad.

‘It’s really meant to start tonight,’ her dad added, ‘what’s that? a present for me?’

‘No! It’s from Santa!’

‘Another one?’

Willow giggled and ran off to find her mum without taking anything but her boots off.

I looked at my brother, we were so alike we could still be mistake for twins at a distance. Same brown hair and brown eyes, same slightly over weight bodies, though he looked better then I did at the moment. There was four years between us but we’d been through everything together.

‘Hi Alex,’ I said, ‘it was hard to say no to her! but at least all the present buying is done now.’

‘Thanks, Angel. She’s really attached to you,’ he replied.

‘I should go…’

He pulled me into a hug then we said our goodbyes.

To Be Continued…

The Grotto (Part 2)

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We walked through a plastic curtain that was meant to be dripping icicles and entered the igloo. There was a thick patterned rug on the floor and a huge red plush throne which Santa was sat upon. There was a female elf at his side with a fake book holding loose papers. I remembered that we had been asked Willow’s name soon after we had joined the queue.

Santa looked like anyone you’d find in other shopping centres and events. He was tall and fat – though his stomach was probably padded out. His red suit was bright and the buttons shining. He had a huge white beard that looked almost real but really couldn’t be and matching long white hair. The face peering out from all of that was wrinkled and brushed with make up. Santa looked tried, but he was hiding it well behind that smile and twinkling blue eyes.

‘And who do we have here?’ Santa asked in a deep, jolly voice.

Willow walked over to him, her head and shoulders high, determined to gather more evidence for her mission. I hung back, hoping that she didn’t embarrass me.

‘Ah, Willow!’ Santa said with quick glance at the elf’s open book.

Willow stopped by his massive black boots and as if she was a toddler, Santa lifted her up and on to his knee. I had a flash thought about wondering how okay that was now a days. Willow seemed happy enough.

‘Have you been a good girl this year?’ Santa asked.

Willow nodded, ‘yes,’ she added.

The elf slide the book further down, allowing Santa to look at the pages.

‘Ah, I can see from the good list you have been! What would you like for Christmas?’ Santa asked.

‘A unicorn,’ Willow said quickly, ‘with a rainbow mane and tale, a golden horn and she has to be pink.’

Santa chuckled before saying, ‘I should be able to do that for you.’

‘Thank you,’ Willow replied then, ‘Can I ask you a few questions? It’s for a report at school.’

Santa looked a little worried and the elf’s big smile turned into a frown.

‘Go on,’ Santa said slowly, some of the jolliness gone from his voice.

‘How are you related to the real Santa? And don’t say you are ’cause I know that’s not true as the real Santa is far too busy right now.’

Santa looked thoughtful and in a whisper said, ‘I’m his cousin.’

‘Santa has a LOT of cousins,’ Willow mused.

‘He sure does but we must keep it a secret.’ Santa winked.

‘Are these elves real or just cousins too?’ Willow questioned.

‘Cousins. All the elves are needed at the moment to make all the toys.’

The elf shot me a look then give a small side nod to Willow. A clean sign she wanted me to remove my niece. I looked away, pretending I’d not seen and forcused on the glitter covered wall next to me as if I thought it was real ice. We had waited so long for this and I wasn’t about to drag Willow away…Unless she got too embarrassing.

‘But do know Santa right?’ Willow carried on talking.

‘Of course! And I’ll tell him you were asking about him,’ Santa replied.

‘What about the reindeer? Do they really fly by magic? Why doesn’t Santa get a motor, like on a speed boat?’

‘The reindeer do fly by magic dust but there is also a motor. It helps to get the sled around faster. That’s why it’s very hard to spot.’

‘What happens if things go wrong?’ Willow pressed.

The elf give a small cough and Santa glanced at her, she was tapping her empty wrist.

‘Santa has many back up plans if anything goes wrong. But everything is fully tested, so nothing ever does. Is that all? There are lots of other children waiting to see me,’ Santa explained.

Willow looked across at me then back up at Santa, ‘I guess….I’m still not closer to the truth though.’

‘The truth?’ Santa echoed.

‘Yes,’ Willow uttered as she swung her legs, ready to get down.

‘You want to know if Santa is really real don’t you?’ Santa voiced.

Willow looked startled at him and I bit my lip. It was so time to leave.

‘If you believe,’ Santa begin, ‘then he is real inside of your heart.’

Willow give a nod and slide off his knee.

‘Oh, don’t forget your present!’ the elf called and she handed Willow a gift wrapped in girly unicorn paper.

‘Is it a unicorn?’ Willow asked excitedly.

Santa laughed loudly and replied, ‘you’ll have to open it and see!’

‘Thanks for coming,’ the elf added.

Willow skipped over to me, a huge grin on her face. She showed me her present, her finger itching to open it.

‘We’ll open it at home,’ I told her.

Saying goodbye to Santa and his elf helper, we left the grotto.

To Be Continued…

The Grotto (Part 1)

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The queue to see Santa at the small shopping outlet was far too long but my eight year old niece, Willow, had really wanted to see him. So, after we had eaten lunch and done some Christmas shopping, we had joined the hour wait behind the red ropes.

‘Haven’t you seen Santa four times already?’ I asked her.

Willow give me a hard stare, her arms folded across her chest and replied, ‘yes, but I’m on a mission.’

I couldn’t help but smile. She was trying to look serious but it didn’t work with the cuteness of the grandma made knitted rainbow bobble hat and bright pink puff coat with unicorns on it.

‘What kind of mission?’ I asked.

‘To prove he’s real,’ Willow said in a low voice.

I lent down to hear her better as she explained, ‘kids in my class say he’s not real and it’s their parents who buy all the presents. I though want to prove he’s real and I can only do that by talking to as many ‘Santas’ as possible.’

I nodded then said, ‘but you know all the Santas are like the real Santa’s relatives, right? The real Santa is far too busy right now.’

Willow pressed her lips together and puffed out her cheeks, ‘I know.’

The queue moved a little and a mother ahead of us stopped a passing male elf to ask how long it would be.

‘It won’t be much longer now!’ the elf cheerily replied, ‘and have you been good children this year?’

I turned to Willow who was watching intently. The elf was too tall and it looked like the green trousers, jacket and hat were far too small for him. He was clean shaven and he had short blond hair. He was wearing fake pointy ear tips, there was a bell on the end of of his hat and also atop each of his green pointy shoes. He had red blush circles on his cheeks too and though it was hard to tell his age, he couldn’t have been more then twenty-six – close to my own age. Actually, if wasn’t dressed like he was I would have found him attractive!

He walked down the line, chatting to adults and kids then he reached us.

‘I think my auntie likes you!’ Willow spoke out.

‘Oi!’ I snapped and give her pink fluffy lined hood a tug.

Willow giggled and beamed at me as I felt my cheeks go red.

‘This is your aunt? Why I thought you were sisters!’ the elf said cheekily.

‘Are you a real elf?’ Willow asked.

‘Of course I am! Fresh from the North Pole! Only the best elves get to travel with Santa.’

‘How much longer is it going to be?’ I asked.

‘Shouldn’t be-‘

‘No,’ I cut him off, ‘the real time. We have a bus to catch.’

Willow look at me in shock but I tugged her hood again to stop her from speaking.

‘Oh….erm….an hour or so. He’s really popular today! I’m sure you could catch another bus….’ the elf trailed with a wide grin, ‘he’s worth the wait!’ he winked at Willow then walked off.

‘Meanie!’ Willow snarled, ‘I’m not leaving till I see him!’

She crossed her arms and turned away from me, nose in the air.

I signed and looked around. The shopping outlet shone and glittered with lights and sparkly decorations. Christmas music was playing in the background but the noise of people made it hard to only make out a few louder notes. The window displays of the near by shops were trying their hardest to compete with one another and also draw customers into spend lots of money. With it being the third Saturday to Christmas, a lot of people were doing just that.

Looking back at the Santa’s Grotto which was shaped like a large igloo covered in glitter surrounded by presents and models of penguins, bears and reindeer, I just couldn’t bring myself to drag Willow out of the queue and leave. So, we waited an hour and twenty minutes watching the shoppers and the elves until we were next.

There were two female elves at the front, one was taking money and the other photographs. They looked like twins with their green costumes, blonde hair, blue eyes and too much make up.

‘It’s five pounds to see Santa and another five if you want your photo taken with him,’ the first elf explained.

I glanced at Willow and she responded, ‘just Santa, please.’

‘Are you sure, sweetie?’ the second elf asked, swaying the large camera around her neck.

‘Yes,’ Willow and I said together.

I handed over the note from my purse and lead Willow up the cotton wool pathway. The family that had been before us came out and we went in.

To Be Continued….

Scrap Yard Boy

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I couldn’t just leave him there. He was wet, cold, hungry and crying. I had no idea who had abandoned him or why but they must have been desperate to dump him in my scrap yard or maybe his parents hadn’t cared?

It was luckily my dog found him and that I had called so late at the yard to pick up something I’d forgotten. Heaven knows how long he’s been there for. He couldn’t have been older the two or three. He dressed for a winter walk and had an old bear with him.

As the snow started to spiral down, I gathered him up and put him in the trunk. He cried softly all the way, clearly tried but too scared to do anything else. Once parked outside the glowing warmth of my home, it took a few minutes to get him out.

My wife was waiting for me, a hot meal on the table and the TV talking away in the background. She was as shocked as me to see the boy. She took him to the bathroom, muttering mothering words. I ate whilst she cleaned him and found t-shirt and shorts to dress him in.

We had always wanted a child  but God had decided it wasn’t our fate to have our own. We had spent years in fostering and adaption though had recently had to stop due to old age effecting us. My wife had loved it and I knew she missed it greatly, so she wouldn’t want to part with the abandoned boy.

She bought him to the table and got him to ate some of the stew she had made and drink some warmed milk. He rubbed his eyes sleepily afterwards and she put him to bed in one of the little bedrooms we still had.

‘How could someone abandoned him like that?’ she asked.

I was putting another log on the fire, having washed and tided away the dishes, ‘I don’t know,’ I replied, ‘ but we’ve heard all the stories before.’ I shrugged.

‘Well, he’ll have to stay now,’ she spoke.

I glanced at the clock and paper calendar on the mantle, ‘we’ll have to go and tell the officials. The offices will be closed for Christmas so we’ll have to do it in the new year.’

My wife nodded though I knew she wanted to suggest we don’t tell anyone about the boy. I couldn’t do that though and his life would be so much harder if he had to live in secret. Turning to the fire, I wondered how this had all come to be but I knew how I now wanted it to end.

(Inspired by; https://allaboutwritingandmore.wordpress.com/2017/12/06/daily-picture-prompt-334/ with thanks).

Pony Present #ThreeLineTales

three line tales week 96: an Iceland pony in the snow

She’d been asking and asking for her own pony till we’d finally given in. The problem was that the animal shelter didn’t let you adopt anything mid-December through till early January as they knew the pet was likely going to be a present. So, we had to get the pony now and with no where really to hide him, we celebrated Christmas early.

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2017/11/30/three-line-tales-week-96/ with thanks).

Believe

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I wanted to believe my daughter but how could there really be a ghost living under the kitchen sink? Opening the lime green cupboard doors slowly, I peered inside, knowing nothing was going to spring out at me but wanting to be careful for my daughter.

Glancing at Sasha as she sat at the table, watching me with large brown eyes which were like my own, I knew she was holding her breath. She lent forward on the chair, trying to see under the sink around me.

I opened the doors fully and looked inside. There was the normal collection of cleaning supplies and pipes. I moved things around as if searching for the ‘ghost’ and the plastic bottles splashed their toxic contents around. Making a mental note to put wood varnish on the shopping list, I came out.

‘No, ghost in there,’ I spoke.

Sasha had her hands over her mouth. She shook her head at me then quickly pointed into the top right corner of the cupboard.

Sighing, I checked again. There was just a small empty cobweb. I closed the doors and went over to her. My mind turning  what I should say to her. She was only five and knew of ghosts from Halloween and stories but that was it. What had now made her think they were real?

Sitting down, I said, ‘what does the ghost look like?’

‘Like me, only see through and he’s a boy,’ she answered.

‘Does he have a name?’

‘Sammy.’

I nodded, trying to keep my expression blank though my emotions were flashing on. She’s just making it up….there’s no way she could have found out.

‘Can you really not see him, mummy?’ Sasha asked.

I looked over at the sink cupboard.

‘He says he misses you…’

‘That’s enough now! Ghosts are not real!’ I snapped and stood up.

Sasha let out a little gasp and bit her lip. Sadness crossed her face and her eyes grew wet.

‘Let’s go to the park,’ I said as a distraction.

For the rest of the day I couldn’t stop thinking about the ghost. It was just too strange that she had called him Sammy and said he was about her age. There was no way I could ask her more though but there was some else who I could demand answers from.

That night as Sasha slept and my husband and I got ready for bed, I turned to him and told him, ‘Sasha says there’s a ghost living under the kitchen sink.’

‘Really? Where there? Don’t ghosts like attics, basements and old places?’ he put in.

‘She also said the ghost was like her, but a boy and is name was Sammy.’

My husband took in sharp breath as he got into bed. He looked at me then turned his attention fully to pulling back the duvet and plumping the pillows. I knew his thoughts and mine were one.

‘I didn’t tel her anything,’ he said to break the silence between us.

I sighed and we both got into bed, ‘I knew you didn’t,’ I replied, ‘but it’s just…’

My husband took my hand, ‘It’ll pass. it’s just make believe.’

I nodded and tried to get it out of my head but it stuck at the back of my mind.

 

A few days later, whilst I was making dinner and Sasha was colouring at the table, she asked me suddenly, ‘Sammy wants to know why you don’t talk about him any more.’

I dropped the knife I was chopping onions with and spun to her.

‘What?’

Sasha looked up from her colouring, waiting for an answer with a determined face.

I picked up the knife, giving myself time to think.

‘He’s not real,’ I answered slowly.

Sasha got down from the table and went to the sink. She opened the cupboard and looked inside.

I had to come over and wash the knife, so I came to her side and after doing that, I looked under the sink again. I still couldn’t see anything. I felt Sasha watching me.

‘Sammy wants to know why you don’t love him anymore, mummy,’ she said.

‘I do…love him…Do you know who Sammy is, Sasha?’ I asked her with a bubble in my throat and pain circling my heart.

‘He’s my twin brother,’ she answered.

I gasped and knelt down, a hand on her shoulder as I looked into the cupboard.

Of course, there was nothing there.

Tears clouded my vision and I couldn’t stop myself as I cried hard on the kitchen floor.

 

(Inspired from; https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/believe/ with thanks).

Fortune

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The gypsies had been at the bottom of Farmer Dolton’s field for a week now. I had seen them on my way to the school house and back each day. They collected water, attended their horses, re-build their fires, cooked meals and talked in small groups. The sun shone off their brightly colored clothes and their strange accented voices filled the air. They seemed magical to me.

Everybody told me not to go near them. My teacher explained. ‘they are uneducated,ill-mannered and thieves. Not something young respectable ladies should be staring at.’

The priest said, ‘we shouldn’t love them like our neighbors for they are beyond God’s help. They worship Satan! We should all stay clear of them because they will led us into temptation! Just like the snake did to Eve.’

My maid added, ‘they kidnap children and sell them off to fairies!’

I wasn’t sure I believed any of them. I guess that’s why I did it. I sneaked under the fence and into their camp, early Saturday morning. The air smelt like burnt fire wood and herbs, mixed with the stench of horse stables. I moved around the heavily decorated caravans, my skirts all tugged in and trying to be as quiet as possible. Luckily, no one was around.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jumped, screaming and tumbling to the floor. Though my loose hair covered my face, I could see an old woman standing before me. She was bent over, leaning on a twisted stick which her gnarled hands seemed to be a part of. Her hair was long and light grey, her brown face heavy with wrinkles. She was wearing a bright orange skirt, dark cream blouse and a brown waist corset.

She looked at me, no doubt noticing my fine blue dress, black leather boots, matching blue hat and blonde hair. I got to my feet, brushing my hair back and then fluffing out my skirts. I wasn’t feeling afraid, what could this old woman do to me?

‘Your fortune told for a few coins, child,’ she spoke in a cracked voice that reminded me of bare tree branches rubbing together in the wind.

‘My fortune?’ I questioned.

She nodded and uttered, ‘I see all that the fates allow to be seen. Cross my hand with sliver and I’ll read your palm.’

I frowned, not sure I had any silver on me. There’s only a few copper coins in my coin pouch but I had been saving them to buy sweets with after church tomorrow.

‘Don’t you want to know if you will marry a good husband?’ the old gypsy asked, ‘led a comfortable life? Be blessed with children?’

‘I am too young to marry!’ I cried.

‘Does not matter. All our fates are already written,’ she spoke then held a hand out to me.

I tugged my red coin pouch out, opened it and stared in. I pulled out two copper coins and give them to her. There was still three left for sweets now.

She whipped the coins away faster then I thought she could move. She grabbed my arm, took off my white glove and raised my hand so close to her face I could feel her warm breath on my skin. I felt a pinch like pain and I tried to wiggle away from her, but her grip was so tight!

The old women began muttering under her breath and I could feel the tips of her long finger nails against my skin.

‘There has been a lot of tragedy in your life, I see,’ she mused, ‘too much death; brothers, mother and grandma. No doubt there will be more. You will marry twice but only have three children. You’ll have a long life but death will carry on shadowing you.’

I stared at her in shock and looked down at my palm. Questions popped into my hand, but I could not find my voice.

‘Beware of traveling over seas. There’s great danger in distant lands for you. I can see you are a strong, curious lady, that might cause trouble for you, but it will also save you. Reading will make you wise and respected. You will write and that will let you be comfortable in your old age.’

She stopped and looked at me with sparkling eyes.

‘That’s all?’ I whispered.

She let go of my hand, ‘all that’s in your palm,’ she replied.

I looked at all the lines crossing my palm and wondered how she could see all of that. The banging of a door made me jump and I saw a shirtless man coming out of one of the caravans close behind us.

‘Be off with you child,’ the old woman hissed, ‘ ’tis no place for ladies like you.’

Clutching my skirts, I dashed passed the old gypsy and to the fence. There I stopped and looked back. The old woman had hobbled away and was talking to the man as he washed at a bucket. I slipped through the fence and ran all the way home. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. My fortune was my own.

Scattered #writephoto

The top floor corridor was foreboding and forever in darkness since my father had died. With my bare toes pressed against the bottom of the first wooden step of the staircase, I looked upwards into the blackness. Of course, I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear them.

They moved with shuffling, dragging footsteps and whispered so you could only catch one or two words. Sometimes one of them would wail or moan in a low undertone. My mother and the servants would blame it on the wind or an animal.

I knew differently.

A chill crept around my bare ankles and began to make it’s up, under my white nightdress. I whacked the dress down, stepping backwards then I collected the edges in my hands, wrapping them around me for protection.

‘Stay away!’ I hissed.

A low chuckle came from the darkness in the middle of the stairs and a man’s voice whispered, ‘stay.’

Scrunching up my face, I tried to make his shadowy form out. I wasn’t scared of them and as long as I kept my distance they couldn’t do no harm. I made out the shape of two long legs on the step and a hand just above the banister.

‘Who are you?’ I asked.

He just laughed and began making his way downstairs. A panic and fleeing notion came over me. He didn’t feel like the others, he was stronger… I backed away and I did think about running, but I was determined to stand my ground.

Father had had control over them and I did too, even though I wasn’t very good at it. I shut my eyes and calmed myself. Rising my left arm, I put my fingers to my neck and clutched the silver cross there. I emptied my mind then imagined light washing over me.

I heard heavy boots hitting the stairs and a soft growling. I didn’t open my eyes nor move. Icy cold fingers brushed past me, but I ignored it. I pictured a bright ball of white light coming out and hovering above me.

‘Not scared?’ the shadow man asked.

I opened my eyes, feeling the power of the light swelling within me. I could see him more clearly now. He was a tall man, dressed all in black, his face was narrow with bright red eyes and a slashed mouth which was grinning.

‘Daemon,’ I uttered.

He let out a rippling laugh which echoed through the still house. He came to the bottom of the stairs and reached out for me. His arms stretched longer then they should have and once again I felt his touch. His icy grip bit into my other arm and he breathed harshly into my ear.

‘Mine. Little girl,’ he uttered.

‘No! Daemon!’ I yelled and pushed against him.

Blinding brightness shot out from me, throwing us both back. I hit the wall hard then scrambled upwards. A wild howl filled my ears and I saw the top floor corridor bursting with scattered light. Many shadows were fleeing before it and wails echoed in the distance.

I watched the light dancing on the ceiling and walls, dazed by the patterns. It was like sunlight through a prism. The light began to fade and so did their cries. Looking down at my hands, I wondered if I had really done that. The sound of running footsteps broke me out of my thoughts. The rest of my light faded but they didn’t gather back, instead the corridor took on a peaceful darkness.

‘What happened?’ my mother gushed.

I turned and saw her in the dim lamp light. She had her maid and mine behind her.

‘I don’t know,’ I answered sulkily.

‘Where you sleep walking again?’ My mother pressed.

I faked a pause as if thinking then nodding went over and pressed myself into her nightdress. I made sobbing sounds.

My mother patted my head, whispering calming things and led me off to my bedroom. I glanced back as we moved off. I couldn’t sense them up there but I knew they would gather again soon.

 I looked down at my hands, in wonder.  Did I really now have the power to defeat them…?        

(Inspired from; https://scvincent.com/2017/09/14/thursday-photo-prompt-scattered-writephoto/ with thanks).

Outside #writephoto

He was lost and scared as he walked through the darkness in the rain. There were lights ahead, but he couldn’t be sure what they were. He thought he felt rough stone under his fingers. He carried on walking till there was enough light to see by.

Now, he knew were he was; the back area of his home. He could see the south tower, though it was wrapped heavily in shadows. Running over, he tried not to think about how much trouble he’d be in. Maybe, he hoped, no one had missed him yet.

How many times had he been told not to play on the roof? Yet, still tonight he had gone out there and he wasn’t even sure why. Trying only to think of getting back inside and to bed, he began trying to reach the third window of the tower. It was the only way back in from this side.

He climbed up, finding it easy to hold on to the worn stones. He pressed against the window. Thankfully, it hadn’t be latched back fully. Climbing through and wiggling over the ledge he entered the staircase, leaving behind him small puddles of water on the window sill.

(https://scvincent.com/2017/05/18/thursday-photo-prompt-inside-out-writephoto/)