Empty Swing

There was one swing in the playground that no one ever sat on. Sometimes flowers, teddy bears and cards decorated the swing then were gone. Despite all the stories, one stood out the most; a little girl fell off the swing to her death. But no one knew the truth for sure.

Horizon #writephoto

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The horizon didn’t look like anything Peaches had imagined it to be. She had thought it was going to bright and colourful, like in the old photos and film reals she had seen, instead though it was a dull blue-grey.

‘Not the promises I was led to believe,’ she muttered.

She lent her too thin body forward and rested her chin on her knees. Her arms were tightly wrapped behind her knees, keeping the long wool skirt in place and stopping the strong breeze from getting in.

Around her all the children and some of the adults from the Church Of The Redeemed Evangelists were splashing in the salty water or playing in the sand or exploring the rocks and caves. Cries of delight but also screams of pain could be heard amongst the babble of voices.

Peaches ignored them all, feeling tried and empty of the hope she had been holding in for so long.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ a sharp female voice asked.

With only moving her eyes, Peaches looked up and realised she wasn’t the one being addressed. Before her was a small woman, wearing the clothes of a Senior Sister; a long black dress which completely covered her body and a black head dress with a grey trim. Next to her was a small girl with blonde hair in a blue wool dress who was crying and rubbing her face.

‘My eyes hurt!’ the girl cried.

‘I knew this trip to the surface world would bring nothing but troubles,’ the Senior Sister spoke loudly, ‘and what have you learnt out here? Nothing. It would have been better to remain in the Temple. Come along, child. We shall wash your face.’

Peaches watched the Senior Sister taking the girl’s hand and leading her away to the little camp set up in a sheltered spot. There were two other Sisters sat there and from their clothes Peaches could tell they were Mothers, the highest of the female order.

‘I don’t want that to be my fate,’ Peaches whispered.

She looked at the horizon again, it still seemed bleak. However, there could only be freedom on the other side.

Peaches cast a long look around then slowly got up. She made as if she was just walking along the rough sand. Finally, though she was out of sight and trying to figure out how she could reach her horizon.

 

 

(Inspired by a prompt from; https://scvincent.com/2017/03/09/thursday-photo-prompt-horizon-writephoto. With thanks).

Flames

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The flames grew, becoming brighter and warmer. Shepard shivered and huddled closer to the fire. Outside, the rain was really coming down now and the wind was hitting the countryside with force. The old, abandoned farmhouse rattled and creaked around him. Strangely though, he found comfort in all the noise.

Finally, shedding out of his soaking clothes, Shepard hung his things on the drying rack. Despite everything, most of the furniture had survived and the house appeared close enough to his memories. He hated that though as it made everything come into sharper focus.

Sitting in his underpants, he feed the fire some more wood and watched the flames. Even though he tried hard not to think about it, the memories swelled like an incoming sea. How many times had he sit by this fireplace as a boy? Too many.

Shepard shivered again, but not because he was cold. The flood gates had opened and for a few moments he was transported into the past.

Shadows danced across the wall in the farmhouse’s living room. The flames of the fire, the only light source in the room was unable to fight the shadows off. However, nothing seemed to be bothering the little boy and smaller girl who were playing with a hand carved Noah’s Arc set. They laughed as they lined the animals up two by two and made them all enter the big wooden boat.

Then though from the kitchen came sounds of raised voices. The children stopped, falling silent to listen. The voices grew, though they couldn’t make the muffled words out. A thumping as skin connected with skin rang out and the voices stopped.

The girl began to cry. Her older brother held her close but not to comfort her. It was to quieten her sobs, so they would avoid getting beaten too.

Shepard shook his head and brought himself out of his past. Grumbling, the urge to leave again grew, but he fought it away.

‘It’s only an old house,’ he uttered, ‘nothing here now.’

He felt his drying clothes. They were too wet still to put back on. He tossed more wood onto the fire, not caring that the stack was getting low. If needed there were other things he could burn.

He glanced around and spotted a knitted patchwork blanket draped on the sofa. Getting up, he shuffled across the floor and tugged it off. Wrapping the blanket over his shoulders, he took a deep breath and smelt dust. Pushing the edge of the blanket into his nose, he sniffed the wool, but couldn’t smell anything else.

Shepard saw a flash of his mother. She was sit on the sofa, knitting a blanket which humped over her big belly containing his then unborn sister. Her hair was dark and she was wearing a brown dress and slippers. Her face and arms were covered in old and new bruises. She was humming something as her needles clacked together then she was gone, back into the shadows of the past.

‘Don’t think about,’ Shepard whispered.

He stared hard into the flames, hoping they would burn the memories away.

It was too late though and just like the opening of Pandora’s box everything escaped.

Shepard sucked in a deep breath as imagines, thoughts and feelings tumbled by. Thankfully, he soon arrived at the last memory he had of the farmhouse. He saw himself, a young teenager sat in his mother’s bedroom. She was gone, fled in the night just as she had often threatened under her breath.

He looked out of the window and saw the little cross that marked his sister’s grave in the back garden. She had only been seven. He had dug that small hole himself only a few days ago whilst his sobbing mother had clung to the dirty sheet wrapped body. He had wanted to kill his father then but his mother held him back. Now though, there was nothing stopping him…

Shepard let it all go with a shaky exhale. Just the thought of all that blood again made him feel sick. He reached for his clothes and even though they were damp, he put them on. Gathering his things, he got up and after a few moments of debate tossed the knitted blanket away.

Holding onto the warm of the fire, he walked out of the farmhouse and back into the storm. It was better, he decided, to be out here then inside with all those ghosts.

 

(Inspired by a prompt at; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/09/thursday-photo-prompt-flame-writephoto/)

Tree Man (Part 2)

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Poppy pressed her face and hands to the icy cold window and looked outside. There was no sign of anyone. Maybe, the stick man shaped like a Christmas tree had disappeared? Poppy wondered about that for a few moments, but then she saw him.

Tree-man was making his way down the pathway and even though he was tiny, the bright green colour Poppy had given him glowed against the white frost.

Poppy opened her mouth to shout to him to come back but then she thought better of it. Hurrying into her wardrobe, she put on some fleece pants, socks and a jumper. Going to her door, she crept out again. The house was quiet and as she passed her parents’ bedroom door, she thought she heard the turning pages of a book.

Downstairs she crept and in the hallway put on her coat and wellington boots. She reached for the keys next and unlocked the door with a bit of difficulty. Pulling the front door open as quietly as she could, Poppy slipped outside.

A cold wind wrapped around her and her breath misted before her. The frost sparkled on the ground looking like someone had spread sugar on the road.

‘Tree-man?’ Poppy whispered.

‘Yes?’ a distant voice called back.

‘Come back here,’ Poppy said.

‘Why? You are there and I am here now. Let’s go see the lights together,’ Tree-man spoke out.

‘But…’

‘You’ll be safe with me!’ Tree-man shouted.

Poppy looked behind her at the hallway. The light was on as her mum had left it lit for her dad’s return. She could feel the warmth also coming from the house and she felt torn.

Tree-man reached the gate, he stopped and waved at her.

‘Just a few minutes. That’d be okay,’ Poppy said under her breath.

Slipping the key into her pocket, she stepped out and closed the door softly. Poppy hurried down the path and bent down to look at Tree-man.

‘Can you pick me up?’ he asked.

Nodding, Poppy held out her hand and he jumped into her palm.

‘Where do we go?’ she asked.

‘Down the street,’ Tree-man directed.

‘Okay.’

Poppy opened the gate and went though. Even though it seemed the frost would crunch under her boots it didn’t nor was it slippy. Carrying Tree-man loosely, Poppy walked down the street and admired the neighbours Christmas lights.

‘Isn’t this magical?’ Tree-man spoke after a few moments.

‘Yes,’ Poppy replied.

‘Look at that deer and that wreath and that sign,’ Tree-man pointed out.

Poppy did, but she wasn’t as fascinated as he was. She was starting to feel cold and also worried. What if someone saw her and they told her mum?

‘We should go back,’ Poppy spoke up.

‘Just a little more, please! I do so love Christmas and it’s so pretty!’ Tree-man cried.

‘But I could get into trouble…’

‘Look at that!’ Tree-man cut in.

Poppy did and she saw the house at the end of the street brightly light up in blue and red flashing lights.

‘Closer! closer!’ Tree-man called.

Frowning, Poppy walked on then came to a stop before the house. The bushes that lined the front walls were divided into red or blue lights as were other plants in the garden. Two real looking but fake baby white trees were on either side of the door, decorated with shinny red baubles and white fairy lights. The walls of the house was covered with flashing stars and other Christmas themed lights.

‘Wow,’ Tree-man breathed.

‘I’ve seen it before,’ Poppy commented and then without thinking, she added, ‘there’s a house on the next street that has a family of polar bears in the garden.’

‘Oh, I’d like to see that!’ Tree-man said.

‘No. We must go back now,’ Poppy replied and she turned around.

Tree-man put his hands on the lowest triangle on his body, ‘no!’ he shouted.

‘Then you’ll have to get there yourself,’ Poppy snapped.

‘Fine!’ Tree-man shot back and he jumped from her hand.

Poppy watched him land on the pavement then walk off. Her mind fully made up, Poppy walked back to her house. Reaching the front door, she turned and looked up the street, but she couldn’t see the Tree-man.

Car headlight lit up the road and Poppy gasped. That could be her dad arriving back!

Fumbling in her coat pocket, she took out the keys and unlocked the door. Rushing in, she closed it and kicked off her boots. As she struggled out of her coat, she heard the car pull up. Tossing her coat on the hanger, she hurried upstairs and took off her clothes.

‘Hello?’ her mum’s voice called.

Poppy stopped trying to take the pants off and got quickly into bed. She pulled the duvet up and shut her eyes. She heard her bedroom door open slightly and then the front door also opened.

Keeping her eyes squeezed shut, she heard her mum go downstairs and talk quietly to her dad. Then they both went into the kitchen or the living room.

Poppy let go of the breath she had been holding and opened her eyes. She thought about Tree-man and where he might have gone. Should she have really left him out there alone? But what choice had she had?

Settling back, Poppy listened to her parents coming upstairs and going to bed. She waited a good few minutes, counting in her head then she got out of bed again. Going to the window, she opened the curtains and looked out.

Tree-man wasn’t there and it had started to snow.

Tree-man (Part 1)

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Poppy was just about to wipe away the drawing on her new mini whiteboard when her mum walked into the living room.

‘Time for bed,’ mum said.

Poppy looked up with a frown. She wasn’t feeling tried, even though the fire had made the living room really warm.

‘You’ll get wrinkles if you frown like that. Come on now,’ mum added.

Putting down the whiteboard and pens, Poppy got up and headed out of the room.

‘What was that you were drawing?’ her mum asked as they went upstairs.

‘It was a Christmas tree, but it turned out wrong. So I made it into a tree-man,’ Poppy explained.

‘Oh okay. Go brush you teeth then get your nightie on. I need to check on Oscar.’

Poppy nodded and went into the bathroom whilst mum crept into the baby’s room.

As she brushed her teeth, Poppy thought about the tree-man. He hadn’t turned out how she had wanted either. Maybe tomorrow she’d have another go at drawing a Christmas tree.

Teeth clean, she got changed and into bed. The last of the fire’s warmth left her and Poppy felt cold. Wrapping herself up, she had made a nest when her mum appeared at the door.

‘Would you like a story?’

‘No,’ Poppy said, ‘I’m tried.’

Nodding her mum went to close the door then added, ‘I’ll send your dad up to say goodnight when he gets back.’

‘Okay,’ Poppy muttered.

She settled down and shut her eyes. Poppy lay still for a good few minutes, letting thoughts come and go. Then she threw back the duvet and got out of bed. Slowly, she opened the door and looked out. The light from her parents’ room was on and the door was almost closed.

Poppy sneaked out and went downstairs as quietly as she could. Going into the living room, she found it dark and lit only by the last glow of the fire. Poppy made her away around and found the whiteboard and pens. Picking them up, she took them back to bed with her.

Wrapped up again and with the night light on, Poppy looked at the whiteboard. The tree-man was gone. Frowning, she turned it over, but found the other side empty too. Raising the board above her head, she looked down at the bed. There was a strange green, spiky looking stick figure on the fleece blanket.

Poppy dropped the board on to the floor.

The stick figure let out a small cry and turned around.

A scream escaped Poppy’s mouth and her bedroom door flew open.

‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ her mum said loudly.

‘There was a…thing…’ Poppy cried.

She scrambled from the bed and looked through all the blankets. There was no sign of the green spiky stick man.

‘It was just a dream,’ mum said.

Poppy went to argue with her, but thought better about it. She let her mum help her remake the bed, then Poppy got in and lay down again.

‘Goodnight,’ her mum said and left.

‘Night,’ Poppy called after her.

As soon as her mum had gone, Poppy lent out of bed and picked up the whiteboard. It was still empty on both sides.

‘Where are you?’ she whispered.

‘Here!’ a small voice cried.

Poppy grabbed the night light and shone it on the floor. Crawling out from underneath the bed was the tree-man she had drawn. His body was three thin green triangles on top of one another. His legs were long and his feet flat. His arms and hands were the same, but he had long fingers. His head was made of a smaller triangle with large black eyes in the middle and there was a fuzzy green outline all around him.

‘What are you?’ Poppy breathed.

‘Tree-man,’ he replied and he give her a wave.

‘How did you come off the whiteboard?’ Poppy asked.

‘No idea,’ Tree-man replied.

He wandered across the room and stopped at the large teddy bear which guarded the foot of Poppy’s bed. He reached out and poked the bear’s foot pad with a long spiky finger.

‘He’s not alive,’ Poppy said as she slipped out of the bed.

‘He is,’ Tree-man spoke, ‘you just can’t see it.’

With a nod to the bear, he moved on and began climbing the curtains.

‘What are you doing?’ Poppy asked.

‘I want to see the Christmas lights,’ he answered.

Reaching the window sill, he went behind the curtains.

Puzzled, Poppy pulled back the curtains to make a gap of her head. She looked out and saw the house across from her light up by white lights. There was a small deer in the garden and the two small bushes by the door were sparkling with flashing fairy lights.

‘It’s so pretty,’ Tree-man said.

‘Yes,’ Poppy replied.

‘We should go out and see more.’

‘No,’ we can’t! It’s night time and I’m not allow too,’ Poppy explained.

Tree-man looked at her reflection in the window, his expression unreadable because she hadn’t given him a detailed face.

‘I’m going back to bed. It’s cold,’ Poppy announced.

She closed the curtains and went back to bed. Settling down, she ignored the sounds coming from by her window. Then though, she felt a blast of freezing air. Tossing the bedding back, she got up once again and went to the window.

One of the top windows was open and Tree-man was nowhere to be seen…

 

To Be Continued…

After The Madness

And after the madness what happens? I wondered as I stood by the sink still washing pots from yesterday. Life returns to normal and the Christmas glow disappears.  It was a true conclusion, but not the one I wanted.

Placing another plate on the drying rack, I wondered what was the conclusion I wanted. Behind me in the living room came the sounds of children at play. My two younger brothers, one sister and two step-sisters, were going through presents again. Arguments were breaking out backed by the sound of electric toys playing music and other sounds.

My parents were still slummed in bed; tried, drunk and stuffed from yesterday. They had done a great job though and it had been another Christmas to remember. Today, was their day off, but there was so much to do.

Blocking out the now loud sounding voices, I started cleaning a pan. It was easy scrubbing having been left to soak. What really was the point in this whole Christmas thing?  I thought, going down a different path to try and figure out the answer to my first question. Wasn’t once a celebration of winter and the final harvest?  Then it was religious and now it’s mix of those and consumerism. 

Finishing the pan, I shook the water off and towered it on top of the pile. I went to sweep a loose strand of blonde hair back but stopped as I caught sight of the yellow washing up gloves. I tried shaking the hair away, but it didn’t work. Sighing, I tucked it behind my hair and felt a slight wetness.

The sounds from the living room increased and one of my step-sisters burst through the door.

‘Chis just hit in the face!’ she shouted.

‘I didn’t!’ Chris called from the hallway.

I rolled my eyes and let the next pan I had grabbed sink into the soapy water. I looked at her face, there was a slight red mark on her left cheek.

‘She started it anyway!’ Chris cut back in.

Someone started crying in the background and I knew it was time to give up on the washing up again. Taking off the gloves, I left them by the sink.

‘Both of you say sorry and forget,’ I spoke.

Sweeping past them I went into the living room and saw my other siblings sitting amongst wrapping paper and cardboard boxes. It was the youngest who was crying; my other step-sister. I picked her up and all thoughts about Christmas went out of my head. Even though That madness was over, more were sure to happen in this house.

The December Sea

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I knew it was going to be a disaster from the start. Who goes to the seaside in December? But the girls and wife instead.

‘You do know it’s going to be freezing right? And everything will be shut?’ I stated as we sat around the dinning room table eating breakfast.

‘But we can still build sand castles,’ Sky, the oldest, cut in.

‘And get ice cream? Not all the shops will be shut,’ Charlie added.

‘Can we go crabbing too?’ Ethany, the youngest, piped up.

‘I think the fresh sea air will be great for everyone and Lexie would love the change of scenery,’ my wife, Sue, finished the conversation off with.

From the closed dinning room door came the soft yipping of Lexie, the king charles spaniel puppy. She was banished to the hallway whenever we were eating as she couldn’t be trusted and the kids liked sneaking her titbits.

I grumbled into my toast, ‘this is a bad idea.’

‘Can we take, Bob?’ Charlie asked.

From under the table came the thumping of a heavy tail. My old yellow Labrador let out a soft chuffing sound. He was allowed in because he kept my feet warm and all he did now a days was sleep.

‘Maybe not…’ my wife said, ‘he’s very old and I don’t think he’d like it much.’

‘We could put his coat on and if he get’s tried dad can take him back to the car,’ Charlie suggested.

‘I’d feel bad if we left him behind,’ Ethany added with a pout.

‘Okay,’ Sue said, ‘let’s get ready then.’

So, off to the seaside we went and you know what? I was totally right.

We found a sheltered spot in the entrance to a small cave to set up camp. The girls went running about the empty sand, shouting and playing games. Lexie ran with them and also had a couple of dips in the cold sea. The waves were pretty big as it was quite windy. I, my wife and Bob sat on the picnic blanket, huddled in our coats coming to the realisation that that this was a bad idea.

Soon enough, Ethany came running back to us crying.

‘What’s wrong?’ Sue asked.

‘There’s sand in my eyes! Sky did it!’ Ethany shouted.

‘Come here. I’ve got some wipes.’

Sue pulled Ethany into her lap and cleaned her eyes.

‘Do you want to go home?’ I asked, hoping that the answer would be yes.

‘No,’ Ethany sniffed, ‘I’m okay now.’

She hugged her mum tightly then got up and walked over to her sisters. They were building a sand castle close by and Lexie was eating seaweed.

‘Stop Lexie from eat that,’ I called after her and pointed at the puppy.

Ethany nodded and broke into a run.

I watched Ethany pulling Lexie away and fought down the urge to tell my wife that we should leave for the tenth time.

A few minutes later, a huge wave crashed on to the beach. The girls screamed. Sue and I rushed up and over. The younger girls had managed to escape, but Lexie and Sky hadn’t. I grabbed Sky first and hauled her away by the hood of her coat. My wife was yelling something Lexie, but I had to make sure my daughter was safe first.

‘You okay?’ I asked her.

Sky nodded, breathlessly. She was dripping wet.

‘Lexie!’ Charlie and Ethany were screaming over and over again.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw my wife stood ankle deep in the sea. She was half bent over, her hands in the water, searching.

‘Get back to the cave,’ I said to all the girls.

I turned and made my way towards the sea. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sky struggling across the sand then shepherding her sisters back to our camp.

‘I can’t find her!’ Sue hollered above the wind and the waves.

I quickly scanned around, looking for any flashes of black, white and brown in the grey-green-white topped sea.

‘Lexie! Puppy!’ my wife screamed.

‘There!’ I yelled and pointed at some shape far to the left of of us that seemed not to be a part of the sea.

I wadded into the freezing water. Feeling my thick wool socks and trousers getting soaked. The waves bashed around me as if threatening me to get out. Frantically, I kept looking then dipping my hands and arms under the waves. The cold shot through me and in seconds my fingers felt numb.

A voice at the back of my head was repeatedly saying, she’s gone, she’s gone. How can a little dog survive this?  

I had a flash image of my little girls all crying and sobbing, ‘Daddy, why didn’t you save our puppy?’

Then my numb fingers hit something; wet fur. I clutched hold tightly and like a fisherman wrestling with a big fish, I yanked the king charles puppy from the raging sea. Holding her by her collar and scruff of her neck, I trudged back to the shore.

‘Oh my God! Lexie! Dave!’ my wife gasped.

She rushed over, out of the sea herself and joined me on the wet sand. She took the puppy from me and held it close to her chest like one of her babies. Tears were streaming down her face and her cheeks were flushed a deep red.

I watched her, struggling to steady my breathing and waiting to feel my body again. She checked the puppy over. Lexie was alive, but only just.

‘We must get her warm,’ Sue was saying.

She jogged across the beach and I saw the children rushing to meet her.

I walked back. My feet sinking into the sand, sea water dripping off me. When I reached the cave, my wife had wrapped Lexie in a towel and put the puppy inside her in coat. The girls were crowded around her, demanding to know that Lexie was okay. Bob was standing up, wagging his tail in greeting and wondering what all the fuss was about.

‘We need to go home now!’ my wife declared loudly.

Finally!

‘Yes, of course. Right away!’ I said, ‘girls help pack up.’

Quickly, we packed everything away and gathered things up. My wife stood holding Lexie in her coat and giving a few instructions. I held my tongue still even though the words I told you so and this was a bad idea were on my tongue.

‘Ready? Let’s go,’ I said and went to step outside.

The sky which had always been dull grey had now turned darker and from it was falling snowflakes and sleet.

‘It’s snowing!’ Charlie declared.

‘So it is. Come on,’ Sue cut in and strolled out.

We followed after her, trying to hurry across the sand. Reaching the car, everything and everyone bungled in. I started on the engine and my wife turned up the heater.

‘Everyone okay?’ I called.

A choir of female voices answered, ‘yes.’

Nodding, I drove us home and the snow began to fall more heavily. An hour later, I pulled into the driveway and turned off the engine.

‘How’s Lexie?’ Sky asked for what felt like the millionth time.

‘Better now,’ Sue replied.

‘Do we still have to take her to the vets?’ Charlie questioned.

‘I don’t think so…but we’ll see how she is within a hour,’ Sue replied.

We all got out the car and unpacked. Once in the warmth, dry space of home, everyone got themselves sorted. I got in the shower afterwards, when the girls, wife and dogs were okay. The hot water swept the remaining coldness from me and I felt cleaner too.

Going into the living room afterwards, I saw Lexie and Bob curled up together on the big dog bed in the corner. All my girls were snuggled on the sofa under a blanket and there was a Disney Princess movie on the telly. It all seemed so normal.

‘Let’s think twice before we go to the seaside again,’ I spoke out as I sank into the armchair.

 

(Inspired from: https://scvincent.com/2016/12/08/thursday-photo-prompt-smoke-writephoto/ with thanks. Click to read other people’s stories or to create one yourself.)

Letters To Santa

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Meka sink down into the sofa, it was the first time in days she’d had some time for herself. Taking a sip from her wine glass, she placed it down and opened the two envelopes in her lap. It was the first chance she had gotten to read the letters the kids had wrote to Santa.

Starting with her son’s one, she read it quickly. He had asked for a new bike. A bright blue one. She’d got him a helmet too and the new coat he’d seen last week. Folding the paper back up and slotting it into the envelope, Meka picked up the pink one.

Pulling out and unfolding the paper, she read what her daughter wanted.

Dear Santa,

I have been really good this year. I only want one thing and that’s a unicorn! 

Love Ginny. 

‘A unicorn?’ Meka cried, ‘that wasn’t what she said. She wanted a doll’s house.’

Re-reading the letter, just to double check there had been no mistake, Meka put it back in the envelope then placed both letters on the table. Having a mouthful of wine, she grabbed her laptop and began looking for a unicorn soft toy.

Cracked Ice

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Mark threw a stone into the iced over lake. There was a loud cracking sound followed by a few smaller ones. He moved closer to the edge, crunching over the frosted grass.

The other six children gathered around too and looked at what had happened to the smooth white surface. Large lines cut there jagged way across and small sections had broken away. Water bubbled slowly upwards and over the ice chucks.

‘It’s not safe to skate on,’ Mark declared.

The children groaned. They had hurried out of school, gone home to get their ice skates then rushed to the lake. Their were cheeks were flushed red with the cold and they were all eager to have some fun. Now their hopes had been dashed.

Mark dropped his shoulders and looked further out across the lake. Being the oldest he felt he should come up with an idea of what to do now. However, nothing came to him. He looked up at the already darkening sky.

‘Maybe tomorrow,’ he said in a quiet voice, ‘it looks like it might snow properly.’

‘Then we can skate?’ one of the youngest girls called out.

‘Maybe,’ Mark answered.

He turned away from the lake and led the children back to the bridge. From there they could see the large cracks the stone had made more fully. Water was now lapping around the tiny ice floats and making them bump together.

‘Everyone should go home,’ Mark spoke.

With loud mutterings, all the children turned and began heading off to their houses. Mark lingered. He looked over the bridge once more, watching the sky changing color. Giggling voices drew his attention away and he watched as two teenage girls appeared at the edge of the lake.

Without really knowing why, he ducked down and watched them putting on their ice skates. A part of him knew he should shout over that it wasn’t safe, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. The girls went on the ice and began skating and Mark spied on them, but even if they had noticed him they were too busy.

The girls’ scarfs and loose hair flew about as they spun. They laughter rose and fell. Mark recognised them from school, not that he had ever been as close to them as he was right now. He liked the red-head the best, Rose was her name, but her friend, Beth, with the darker hair was also pretty.

Mark heard a massive crack and before his eyes the girls disappeared. A large hole appeared in the middle of the lake and water was splashing up from it. Without thinking, he ran over the bridge and down on to the lake. The ice held his weight, but he was slipping everywhere.

He reached the hole, even though the ice was breaking up around him. He tried to reach out for the girls as they hands were reaching up from the water. He could hear them both struggling to breath and stay a float. He grabbed hold of one of them and tried to pull her out, but she was too heavy.

Fighting down panic that he would fall in too , he tried harder and managed to drag Rose out. She lay face down on the still cracking ice then tried to get up. Mark moved on to help her friend, but as he reached out for that hand, it slipped from his and down into the water.

‘Beth can’t swim!’ Rose cried.

Rose joined Mark and their hands both dipped into the freezing water in search of the other girl. Mark’s hand only meet water. From underneath them came more cracking sounds and instinct kicked in.

‘We have to get off!’ Mark yelled.

‘No! We can’t leave her!’ Rose gasped, water dripping off her.

‘We have no choice!’ Mark answered back.

He grabbed Rose and started pulling her away. She tried resist, but her ice skates made it easier for Mark to move her forward. They reached the bank as a handful of adults arrived and came to meet them.

‘There’s a girl still in there!’ Mark shouted and pointed across the lake.

The adults rushed into action, Mark turned his attention fully to Rose, who knelt on the snow crying and shaking. He helped wrap her in a blanket and get her to her feet.

As they were walked away by two adults, Mark looked back over his shoulder. The other adults were pulling the girl from the lake. He could see them trying to help her, but it was too late.

 

Story prompt from: https://scvincent.com/2016/12/01/thursday-photo-prompt-cracked-ice-writephoto/ with thanks.

Journals (Part 6)

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(Please be aware this story contains adult sexual content.)

The week went by like lightening and the normal days were only broken up by me putting up gran’s house for sale. I felt a strange sense as I pulled up outside on Friday morning and saw the for sale sign in the garden. Getting myself and Freddie out of the car I walked up the house.

‘We won’t be able to do this for much longer,’ I told Freddie.

‘What?’ he demanded, his four year old mind not gasping my words.

I kissed him instead of trying to explain and unlocked the front door. Going in, the familiar smells had vanished under the heavy odors of cleaning chemicals. The estate agents had suggested we paint and varnish, but that would have been another few weeks and as a family we’d had enough. Gran’s house, the home I’d grown up in, had become an albatross around our necks and it was time to cut it loose.

‘We could move in,’ Dan had suggest the first time we had walked through together.

‘It needs a lot of work,’ I had added, ‘and up dating.’

‘There’s no wifi!’ Ty had shouted.

‘The bathroom sink tap still won’t turn off,’ Darla told us.

‘I think…it’s best we sell it,’ I had concluded.

And now it was happening. I walked from room to room, double checking that what we were leaving behind – old furniture and such- was fine to be left. In the kitchen, I got Freddie a glass of water and began opening the cupboards. They were all pretty much empty. I collected the mugs and drink making stuff we had brought with us.

At the door, I turned and looked back. How many hours had I spent in this kitchen whilst gran had cooked? How many birthday parties had there been a cake on that table? How many times had she sat and talked with her friends about my mum’s pregnancy and disappearance?

Something on top of one of the cupboards caught my eyes. It was a black box file. I put Freddie and the bag of stuff down and went over. I had to drag a chair from the table to stand upon to reach it. The file was heavy. I placed it on the table and opened it.

‘What’s this?’ I said aloud.

‘Don’t know, mummy. Let me see!’ Freddie spoke out.

I went and picked him up, swinging the file around the table to save me walking back to it. One handed, I looked through the mount of paper inside. There was a mixture of newspaper and cheap women magazine pages, handwritten letters, cards, notes and at the bottom….

My heart skipped a beat. The torn pages from the 1979 diary!

I gasped and tipped the box upside down.

‘Oops!’ Freddie squeaked then reached out for the scattering of papers.

‘No, darling,’ I told him gently and tried to hold him out of the way.

‘Want!’

‘No,’ I said firmly.

I pulled back the chair and sit down with him on my lap. Trying to keep both his hands in mine was tricky. But I snuggled him against me and hummed softly. I sorted the journal pages out then setting them aside, even though it was hard to do, I looked through the newspaper clippings.

‘Missing twenty-two year old woman,’ I read one of the headlines, ‘police are searching and asking for information about Mary Winacott. Who was last seen at home by her mother the morning of Monday 23rd April. Mary went to work but never arrived. Her mother said Mary was spending the night at a friend’s, but she didn’t turn up. Mary has a young daughter. If you have any information connect the police.’

Below was a grainy black and white photo of my mother. She was smiling and her hair was pinned up. It was just her face, but I could make out a necklace around her neck and the collar of a dress. The photo had been blown up from one I had seen always on the mantle in the living room.

Freddie started wiggling and wailing to get down.

‘Okay. Okay. We’re going,’ I told him.

I packed all the papers back into the box and got up. I scanned the kitchen on last time, collected the bag I’d left by the door and turned to go. Juggling everything in my arms, I opened the door with my foot and walked out.

Freddie burst into tears, crying out words that I didn’t understand. I took him outside and set anything down.

‘What’s wrong, Freddie?’ I asked.

He sobbed, wiping his nose and face.

‘We’re going now. Say goodbye house. Goodbye granny,’ I told him.

‘No,’ he sniffed.

I dug a tissue out and wiped his face.

‘There. That’s better. You okay now?’ I asked.

He nodded, but didn’t seem so sure.

‘Let’s go and get lunch,’ I spoke.

I picked him up then reached for the box and bag.

‘No, bye bye granny,’ Freddie said.

‘Huh?’ I stopped.

‘No,’ he wailed into my ear.

‘It’s okay, Freddie,’ I soothed, ‘let’s go.’

Clutching everything, I went to the car. Freddie was still sniffing as I put him into his car seat. I put the box and bag in the boot and got in myself. With a last look at the house, I drove off wondering why I had asked Freddie to say goodbye to the house and granny when I had never asked him before.

It wasn’t until the next day I had a chance to go through the box. Darla was at the shopping mall with friends and I had talked Dan into giving her a lift and taking the boys there for the afternoon too. I had been craving some me time for awhile now and after I had done a few things I wanted, the box started to call to me.

Curling up on the sofa, some animal document on TV and a cup of green tea on the coffee table, I opened the box for the second time. I split the papers into piles; newspaper clippings, magazine cut outs, letters, cards, notes, photographs and the journal pages. Starting with them, the true story about my birth and my mother’s disappearance reveled itself.

All the questions and answers I had been asking and searching years for, came to light. Gran had known all along who my father was, she just hadn’t been able to fully prove it. The police had looked closely at everything they could, but they had been unable to prove it too or fully connect him to my mum’s disappearance. A body had never been found, but gran knew she was dead.

She wrote; I can feel it. My Mary is gone. I’m not sure how I know, but I just know. I keep praying they find her body, I want to bury her next to Jim –gran’s husband and my mum’s dad, he had died when my mum was about ten, an accident at work in a factory.- I need closure and so does Maya. She’ll want to know what happened when she’s older. I’m going to gather everything for her and keep it safe till the time comes. 

The writing ended. I moved on and looked at other pages and the other things. As soon as I heard the front door open, I scrambled up and flew into the hallway, the papers scattering in my wake. My family stood by the closing front door, weighed down by their shopping.

‘Mr. Bradwell is my father and he murdered my mother!’ I shouted cutting through their conversations, ‘gran proved it, but the police didn’t believe her as there wasn’t enough evidence! But now we can do it.’

I dragged in deep breaths whilst looking at the shocked faces of my children and husband. Then Dan broke the silence, ‘what do you need us to do?’ he asked gently.

The End