Empty

I sat on the sofa looked and round my tidy living room. I had been cleaning the house all morning as I normally did on a Wednesday which was my half day off both of my part-time jobs.

Something wasn’t right…It was too quiet.

For the last six months, I’d had six children stuck at home creating havoc and testing me none stop! My role of mother and step-mother had suddenly expanding into primary and high school teachers, artist, examiner, organiser, peacekeeper and technician.

Today, though they had all gone back to school!

The house felt too big suddenly and I a mouse. Shutting my eyes, I took a few deep breaths and told myself I didn’t miss the stress of those days. Yes, it had been nice to spend time with them all but wasn’t nicer to have a few hours to myself now?

My second husband, Dean, had missed all of this. As a key worker he hadn’t stopped and ‘normal’ had carried on for him.

‘We can send them to school you know,’ Dean had said, ‘key worker children are allowed. Paula’s children go.’

‘I know, but I feel safer with them all here. Let’s see how it goes and maybe the older children can go to school in a month or so?’ I had replied.

‘You know they are saying this virus doesn’t really effect children? All of ours are under the age of eighteen so they are fine,’ Dean pointed out.

‘On the other hand, it’s a new bug and they don’t understand much at the moment. I know keeping them out of school isn’t good but for the time I just feel it’s the right thing,’ I explained, ‘when there’s more information we can decided then.’

Maybe, I was being a too protective mother hen? Or perhaps, I felt more prepared then other parents, having once been a school teacher before ill health and the death of my fourth child had impacted.

It didn’t matter now. It was September and they were back at school. The virus wasn’t gone though but at least it was mostly being controlled and understood. I was even going back to both my jobs tomorrow. My ‘office’ job was still work from home but my house cleaning one which had been on and off was regular again.

I looked at the clock. It was creeping past lunchtime and I should get something to eat before going on the computer.

I wonder what the children are doing right now.

Light Stage #FridayFictioneers

The acrobats were like nothing ever seen before. Against the black stage backdrop, the men and woman were glowing neon lights come to life. They performed with a swiftness that years of practise had given them; they balanced on top of each other, swung from heights, juggled and walked on stilts.

The children wowed their wonder, cried their delight and gasped at the feats before them. When it as all over, the clapping echoed for an age and the acrobats bowed till their backs ached.

Back stage they celebrate and let their true fairy forms shine.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2020/08/26/28-august-2020/ with thanks).

New Life

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In Iraq, Abida had had a nice house. It had been large and airy, with enough space for her seven children and her parents and her husband’s grandmother to all live happily together. They’d been well off. Not rich but enough to have the house with a garden and to pay the wages of a servant or two.

Now, the house like their lives was nothing but rumble. Behind in the dust they had left the newly buried bodies of her husband’s grandmother, Abida’s father and her youngest two children; three month old Fatima and two year old Shakur.

They had been in the house when the bomb had dropped and now they were in the cemetery with their other passed relatives. Her husband’s parents who were living in the house next door with his sister and her family had all died too.

Leaving had been the only chance of survival they had. For the next few years, they had travelled and past through camp after camp and country after country. Abida’s husband, Maijd, wasn’t sure where was best to move his family to. Abida’s mother had suggest many places but finally Maijd had decided on the England.

It had been a trail and taken a toil which caused Abida to have a miscarriage, but finally the family got in England and were moved into a council apartment above an empty shop.

Abida hated it. There were three small bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, a living room and kitchen. The rooms smelt like the Indian takeaway restaurant a few shops down and also cigarette smoke. There was a handful of furniture including; a sofa, a double bed, one bunk bed and two single beds. It was the total opposite of Abida’s home but far better then the tent they had shared in the last few years.

‘How can we all fit in here?’ Abida asked her husband.

‘We shall make do. The woman said this bed pulled out…’ Maijd trailed as he took the coverings off to look at the sofa bed.

‘I’m not sleeping on that,’ Abida’s mother snapped, ‘I shall take one of the bed’s in here.’

‘Then, Bibi share that room with your grandmother,’ Abida said.

The eighteen year old nodded and took her and grandmother’s things into that room.

‘Kadeem and Hayfe can have the other room for now,’ Abida directed her youngest son and daughter, ‘Tarek and Tamir will have that bed,’ she finished with a look at the fifteen year old twin boys.

The family had settled in as best they could and with hope from Maiji that this was only for now and soon they would have a suitable house. Meanwhile, the children started school, finding it difficult with the little English they knew, Maiji searched for a job and Abida and her mother kept the apartment and looked after everyone.

A month or so later and the only change was that Maiji had found a job at a food shop. There seemed no chance of the family moving again soon which as Abida put her hands on her tummy, wasn’t ideal but at least her family were finally safe.

Just A Little Spook

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The rustling under the bed woke Penny. Moving the duvet away, she peered under the bed, looking for the source the sound.

A faint glowing child stared back at her.

‘Who are you? Penny asked.

‘I am Sally,’ came the whispered reply.

‘Why are you under my bed?’ Penny demanded.

‘I was only playing,’ Sally answered and crawled out.

Penny turned on the lamp and saw that Sally was hovering off the floor and admitting her own light which was a pale cream colour. Sally had long hair that moved as if caught in the wind and it was the same with the long dress she wore.

‘Who are you playing with?’ Penny asked.

‘Nobody. I’m alone. I was practising my spooking.’ Sally mumbled as she spun on the spot.

‘Spooking?’ Penny wondered.

‘Yes, I am a ghost. It’s what we do. We scare people.’ Sally explained, ‘were you scared?’

Penny shook her head, ‘you look like a normal girl to me, expect for the glowing of course. How old are you?’

‘I am eight.’

‘So am I!’ Penny cried, ‘do you want to be my friend?’

Sally thought what to do as she drift to the floor and sat on the rug.

Penny could see right through Sally but Penny felt more fascinated than scared. Here was a friend just as she needed one and it didn’t matter if Sally was different. Didn’t Penny’s teacher, Mrs Greene, said ‘it was good everyone was unique like a snowflake because if everyone was the same the world would be a very boring place!’

‘Let’s play with the dollhouse,’ Penny said and got out of bed.

‘You really want to play with me?’ the ghost girl asked.

Penny nodded and went across the room to turn on the light. Her bedroom became more defined, showing that most of the room was taken up by toys and child size furniture.  The doll’s house was an impressive Victorian style wooden structure which at first glance someone might mistake for a real one. However it was only fifty or so years old and only loosely modelled on the manor it had been copied from. The house stood on it’s on table pushed against the back wall.

‘You’ve lost some of your glow now,’ Penny pointed out.

‘Yes,’ said Sally getting up and floating over to join Penny before the doll’s house, ‘light makes ghosts less visible because we are made up of light.’

‘Shall I turn it off again?’ Penny asked.

‘It’s fine. I can make myself more solid. See?’ the ghost girl spoke and before Penny’s eyes Sally became less see through.

Penny opened the front of the doll’s house and they looked inside. It was well made and each of the rooms was carefully decorated with real wallpaper and flooring. The correct furniture and decorations were in their right places and it looked like you could step inside and live a comfortable life inside.

There were four floors which explained why the doll’s house was so large. The ground floor had the front hallway in the middle, to the left was a large kitchen and to the right was divided into a servants’ sitting room and servant’s bedroom. The first floor had a long sitting room on the right and a small dining room next door. The third floor had two bedrooms- the master room and a guest room. Finally, the attic had a large nursery and a joint bedroom for the children.

The dolls were little china figures and they were around the same age as the house and had been originally made for the fake manor. The dolls could be made to stand or sit or hold things. There was a father, a mother, three children- a boy, a girl and a baby, there was a cook, a nanny and maid. Each doll was easily distinguished by their clothes; the family wore brightly coloured and fancy outfits and the servants were drab.

‘My great grandfather made this for my granny when she was a child,’ Penny explained, ‘I never met him but mum says his job was making toys. He made other doll’s houses but we only have this one now. We have to be careful because it’s old.’

‘It is really pretty,’ Sally said, ‘I never had a doll’s house.’

‘When did you become a ghost?’ Penny asked then wondered if that was a rude question.

‘I am not sure. Time is not important for me anymore.’

‘Did you live in this house before?’

‘I do not know. I think I lived around here but my house is gone now,’ Sally said sadly.

‘That’s okay, you can just live here with me,’ Penny responded, ‘here.’

Penny handed the mother doll to Sally and the ghost girl made the doll hover.

‘Can’t you touch or hold anything?’ Penny asked in surprise.

‘This is the only way I can do things. I use my energy with my mind,’ Sally explained.

‘That’s pretty cool!’

‘Do you think so?’ the ghost asked shyly.

Penny nodded quickly, ‘I wish I could move things with my mind!’

Sally giggled and moved the mother doll into a the living room and sat her down in a red chair by the glowing fireplace.

For a time, the two girls played then with a yawn and a rub of her eyes, Penny looked back at her bed.

‘Do ghosts sleep?’ Penny asked.

‘Sort of. It’s hard to describe….’ Sally answered.

‘I think,’ Penny answered as she got up, ‘I should go back to bed now.’

Sally didn’t reply but Penny felt the air get colder and sadder.

‘Will you come back and play with me tomorrow?’

‘Could I?’ Sally cried.

‘Yes,’ Penny said with a small laugh as climbed into bed, ‘everynight if you want!’

‘I would like that,’ Sally declared.

‘And we can be best friend,’ Penny uttered through a yaw as she snuggled down.

‘I would like that very much!’ the ghost girl said.

Watermelon

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Watermelon summed up summer with it’s brightness and freshness. It was better then any other fruit and more refreshing then oranges. We joked about melons growing inside of us as we swallowed the seeds, red water juice dripping off chins and fingers. The rind we give to the dogs to chew on, they too loved watermelons and we’d get back to our play.

 

Empty Chair

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Old Max had for many years sat in the chair outside his front door and watched the world go by. He waved to people he knew and yelled at the kids who played too loudly.

He had a dog called Bill, who loved to bark and charge at passersby.  Old Max would laugh and just say he was playing as Bill bit someone’s leg or tore someone’s coat. When Bill became too old to chase, He would sleep at Max’s feet and growl in his dreams.

Bill passed away and the loss made old Max angry and grumpy then before. Max ran after the children in the neighbourhood and took away their balls and other toys. Parents would go over to take to him but Max was close the door in the faces.

For a few months, Max was seen to yell at no one and people said he was crazy. There was little anybody could do though but tell each other to stay away from the old man who seemed to be working his way through something.

It wasn’t until winter fell that Max stayed inside and the children rejoiced in their outside playtime. From his windows, he watched them and grumbled at their fun. What so delighted them about the cold snow and icy pathways? Max thought he could dimly recall from his own youth but it had been so long ago and his memories were full of holes.

Old Max went to bed on night soon after Christmas day and didn’t get up again.

For years, his chair sat empty on his doorstep weathering away until final the house was able to be sold and be brought back to life again.

Plans

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‘Here are the plans for the wind farm and new pier,’ Tom said and hung his drawing up.

A ripple of sniggers and giggles went around the boardroom.

Tom turned to look at his drawing…

It wasn’t his!

The picture showed a line of wind turbines out at sea and a pier below them and were those stick people on the pier?

It looked like one of his children had tried to cope his finally draft.

‘Erm…sorry,’ Tom mumbled, ‘wrong drawing.’

Shuffling through his papers then his briefcase, Tom tried to keep his cool. He need this to go well and nothing was going to stop him. Realising all his drawings were gone, he coughed and turned back to the boardroom and indicted the drawing presented before the stern business investors.

‘Anyway,’ Tom picked up, ‘as you can see this gives us the rough idea of what is going to happen….’

Trying to Juggle

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Working from home sounded great but in reality it was horrible. The kids always wanted something then the dog wanted something, then the wife was yelling at the kids or the dog of just in general.

Having a meeting was like dealing doing a deal with the devil. I was tried of telling people to un-mute themselves or turn there sound out or was that a fire happening in their background?

I just wanted a few minutes peace to write this report. My children stuck stickers to my back, I ran the dog’s paw over with my chair and my wife was asking what time I’d finished work because it was my turn to cook tonight.

The house was always a mess, the children kept moving my things and I just wanted my nice clean office back!

Right, enough is enough! I’m going to empty the shed and turned that into a office. I could lock the door and be at peace in there. I could carry my briefcase across the garden each morning and pretend I was going into work. I could get a radio and a coffee machine….

Yes, that’s what I needed, an office away from office.

Sing #FirstLineFriday

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Do you hear the people sing? from Les Miserables strangely came to my mind as we watched from the balcony as below the people gathered. It seemed the whole country was flocking to the capital, their voices a mass of shouting words which made it hard to pick out what they were saying.

Drums and other instruments echoed along said the peoples’ voices, blocking out my chance to hear what was being said. There was a marching beat going on with the drums, though a few sounded out of the beat and perhaps a trumpet? or something else forcing it’s notes through.

Handmade banners and signs waved in the wind, the writing upon them moving as if the letters were alive. I picked out the words ‘rights’ and ‘for’ and ‘stand’ and ‘truth’. The normal things that protesters wrote about.

‘What are they doing, daddy?’ my five year old daughter, Betty asked.

‘They are unhappy about something and want people to know about it,’ I said.

I picked her up and held her tightly in my arms, so she could get a better view of events below.

The police were starting to gather now. Their uniforms and see-through shields marking them out from everyone else. For the moment they seemed not to be doing much other then preparing. If fighting broke out, I’d take my daughter inside and put a movie on really loudly.

‘But why, daddy?’ Betty asked.

‘Same reason when you get unhappy and want mummy and I to know about it, ‘ I replied simply.

‘Or Freddie?’

I glanced across at my wife and our three month old son. My wife had a worried look on her face and was clutching the baby, who was wrapped in a blanket, to her shoulder. She hadn’t said anything since we had come out to look at what was going on. I knew scenes like this reminded her of the unrest in her home country.

‘Let’s go inside,’ I said gently.

‘But I want to see!’ Betty cried.

‘Maybe, another day,’ I answered and hustled my family safely inside.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/first-line-friday-june-5th-2020/ with thanks).

Highland #CCC

I didn’t want normal cows for my petting zoo. Though most children wouldn’t be bothered. I wanted something different, something more exciting.

I’m not sure why I picked Highland cattle. I guess I thought they looked kinda cute. They sure are bigger than I thought they were going to be but they do get the wow I wanted.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/05/06/crimsons-creative-challenge-78/ with thanks).