Stone Circles (Part 2)

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Early morning light woke me. I rolled over, rubbing my eyes then sat up. Someone had undressed me, leaving me in just shirt and underwear. I paused, a strange tuneful humming coming from the next room. I got up, saw fresh clothes laid out on the bedding box, my trunk open and half unpacked.

I dressed then went to the corner and moved the faded tapestry there to reveal a small door. Opening this, I entered a room that was trying to be too many things at once. There was a circle tea table under the window with two chairs, a small writing desk in the corner next to it. Along the next wall was a fireplace, another hidden door to the left and a bookcase to the right.

The other side of the room was a nursery; a large wooden trunk sat closed against the wall, there was another bookcase holding a few toys; a wooden boat, balls, tennis rackets, dolls. There was a dolls house, a tiny table laid with a tea set and in the corner, my favourite thing of all; a dappled grey rocking horse. His mane and tail were real grey horse hair, his black eyes were wide and his mouth open showing teeth and red lips around the metal bit.

I was not alone in the room. A young woman, dressed in black with a white pinafore and cap was by the first bookcase, putting away books that she had taken out of my trunk.  I could see bright red hair poking out of the caps edges and a hint of flat black shoes under her skirts. She was humming loudly and had not heard me enter.

‘Hello,’ I said.

She jumped, a book flying from her hand and spun around to me. More loose strands of red hair framed her flushed pink face which had a covering of freckles. Her nose was upturned, her eyebrows raised in shock and her bright blue eyes fixed on me.

‘Sir! You startled me!’ she cried.

‘Sorry…’

She bent, picked the book up and shoved it on to the shelf, ‘I was worried you would not awake,’ she said, her voice sounding very Cornish, ‘I came up after Mrs Bennett told me too but you were all ready sleeping. The trip from London was tiring?’

I nodded.

‘I have never left the village. My cousin works here as the gardener’s hand, he recommended me when Mrs Whitley enquired. This is my first job, would sir please be understanding of that?’

I was use to that being the case at Trenworth Manor. Seemed my aunt found it hard to hire more experienced servants. Or perhaps, she was more understanding of the younger ones now having me in her life.

‘How old are you?’ I asked.

‘Seventeen,’ the maid replied.

‘And you name?’

‘Molly Pickworth, sir,’ she answered and give a little curtsy.

‘I am Master William Dunnington.’

‘I know,’ she uttered, her cheeks flushing deeper red.

I looked away from her as was gentleman like to save her more blushing. My glance ended over at the table and I saw it was set out for a meal. There was a silver tray with a covered dish, milk jug, sugar bowl, jam pot, a teapot and tea cup on a saucer. My stomach growled loudly, breaking the silence that was growing.

‘Excuse me,’ I said.

‘I believe it is porridge, sir,’ Molly voiced, ‘Mrs Marsh sent it up an hour or so ago. It should still be warm.’

Nodding, I went over to the table and helped myself. Molly carried on unpacking, trying to be as quiet as possible. The porridge was good, still warm and nice with sugar and jam. The tea was also nice and comforting. I felt better after eating and drinking it all and turned to look out of the window whilst I rested.

Surprising, it was nice day outside. Sunlight was pouring across Bodmin Moor from a really blue sky, the grass and bushes were a wash of green and I could just see little colours of flowers. Bird song was drifting through the air and I could just hear the calling of cows from a nearby farmer’s field.

‘Have you finished, sir?’ Molly asked.

I nodded and stretched out as she gathered everything up.

‘I think I’ll go outside,’ I spoke.

‘As you wish, sir. If there is anything else….’

‘No, that’ll be all,’ I said as if I was the lord of the manor.

I got up off the chair and went back into my bedroom. I went out the door and back the way I had come last night. I should have sought Mrs Bennett and asked her if my aunt wished to see me, but I knew my aunt would not want too, she rarely give me an audience.

The smell of freshly baked bread and something sweet, hint my nose at the bottom of the main staircase and I walked towards the kitchen. Opening the door, I saw the back of the elderly cook, Mrs Marsh removing bread from the oven. Her granddaughter assistant, Margret who was almost twice my age was at the sink washing something. There was a fire burning in the stove and a kettle boiling on top. The scrubbed, wooden table was piled with a mixture of different foods and the back door was half open, suggesting a delivery of things from the village had just arrived.

I coughed and walked in, making sure I was heard, Mrs Marsh was partly deaf.

‘Oh, it’s the young master,’ Margret said, turning around.

She was tall and curvy, wearing a simple dark green dress with a peek of white underskirt showing at the bottom. Her arms were going thick with muscles from carrying and working hard in the kitchen. Her face was pleasing with rounded cheeks, plump lips, blue eyes and dusty blonde hair poking out of a too small white cap. I noticed too the gold band on her ring finger and the growing bump of her stomach.

‘I sent his porridge up,’ Mrs Marsh half shouted as she tipped a loaf of bread out on the counter.

Steam curled upwards, trying to mix with Mrs Marsh’s white hair that was held back in a tight bun under her cap. The old woman had dark blue eyes which were slowly failing her and her face was all wrinkled and worn. Her skin was darkened by the sun and I recalled she liked to doze outside. She was wearing a dark blue dress, covered in flour and other stains.

‘Thank you for that, it was most needed,’ I said.

I walked in and inspected the items on the table; there were fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked ham, cheese, butter, two dead chickens, three dead rabbits, a pot of jam and another of sugar. There was also a jug of milk, a bottle of sherry and larger bottle of Cornish cider.  My aunt had ordered Mrs Bennett and Mrs Marsh to buy more food in as usual during my stay.

‘I’m going out to the moors. Can I take some of this with me?’ I asked.

‘Boys, always hungry,’ Mrs Marsh said with a hint of a smile.

A few minutes later, I was handed a cloth wrapped package of food and sent out the kitchen door. Unable to keep the excitement within me down, I broke into a small run and dashed through the little patches of gardens. There was a tall wall with an arched doorway at the back which led out onto a small road. I took this way to the moors.

There is nothing like the sense of freedom you get from the moors. There’s this vast spread of rough land as far as the eye can see and it’s empty of people. The smell of the heather and wild flowers flooded me and a realisation that I had truly missed this hit me hard.

I was about to run and spend the day explore the moor when the clop clop of hoofs and the stomping of boots from behind stopped me. I turned and saw the old gardener, Mr Marsh – Mrs Marsh’s husband- coming towards me leading a stoat chestnut moor pony, her mane and tail a mixture of dark brown turning black.

‘Hello, young master!’ he called to me with a wave.

I walked back through the arch and towards him. Mr Marsh looked like a gardener should; large boots covering his lower legs, baggy trousers and a loose dirty white shirt with rolled up sleeves. He had white hair, kind green eyes and a less wrinkled face then his wife. Soil was ingrained to his hands and other places. His skin was dark – the sign he spent all his time outside and his back was bent forward, another sign of all his hard work.

My eyes fixed on the pony beside him.

‘Rosy!’ I shouted and dashed over. I threw my arms around the pony’s neck and hugged her tightly. She smelt of fresh hay and warm fur.

Mr Marsh chuckled, ‘heard you were back, Master William. Thought I’d get her ready for you to ride.’

‘Thank you,’ I said, my voice muffled.

‘There you go, then,’ Mr Marsh said and handed me the reins.

A little spark of fear quivered in my stomach. I had not ridden a horse in a year, what if I had forgotten? Rosy nudged me with her pink nose and I patted her. She had always been a quiet and patient pony, unlike her wild cousins that roamed the moor.

I climbed into the saddle with only a little help from Mr Marsh, who then walked us to the arched door.

‘Looks a good day for it,’ Mr Marsh spoke and he give me the reins again.

I nodded, seeing the blue of the sky against the greens of the moor. Then Rosy was walking on, sure footed across uneven ground that was half hidden by the heather, mosses and grasses.

To Be Continued…

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Stone Circles (Part 1)

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Every summer, I travelled from boarding school in London back to my aunt’s house, Trenworth Manor in Cornwall. My parents had died when I was a baby, leaving me a fortune and placing me in the care of my mother’s childless and widowed twin sister. My aunt, not knowing what to do with a boy had always put me in the care of others.

I was thirteen that year and growing into a gentleman all ready. I had short brown hair, that curled at the ends, light brown eyes and my face, though still  rounded with child-likeness was becoming more strong and defined. I was tall for my age but thin as I had yet to fill out. I also had some faded scars on my palms, the results of being caned too hard a few months back.

Looking out of the small, two horse drawn carriage’s window, I saw the scene around me began to change. After travelling many hours by a few different horse drawn coaches, I was pleased to see Bodmin Moor growing wild all around the road as it meant I was almost at my aunt’s house. She lived in a small manor house, left to her by her husband, on the edge of the moors and overlooking a tiny village.

The two brown horses clopped through the half open gates, the carriages wheels crunching over stones then we were there at the front door of Trenworth Manor. The driver let me out and I looked around at the house. It hadn’t changed in a year, it never really seemed too. The huge grey stones and plan front loomed over me, the handful of windows seemed to be judging me like eyes and the door was a closed mouth, keeping it’s secrets inside.

I went up the steps whilst the driver lowered my trunk. The door open as I got there and the housekeeper, Mrs Bennett, peered out of the gap. She was a short, stocky woman, with a huge bosom that her practical black and white frilled dress seemed unable to keep in. Her face was worn and wrinkled more then her years but she must have been in her mid-fifties that year. She had small, unhappy brown eyes. Her dark brown and grey hair was to her shoulders and plaited back.

‘Good day, Mrs Bennett. Please inform my aunt Mrs Whitley that I have arrived,’ I announced.

Mrs Bennett grunted at me like an old dog, opened the door wider and walked off. None of my aunt’s servants had ever had the time for me either. I walked in, hung my hat on the stand and went into the parlour to await my aunt or Mrs Bennett’s return.

I heard the driver drag my trunk into the hallway and stop to catch his breath. I had all ready paid him and we had known each other for a few years now. He should also remember that he wouldn’t get any hospitably here.

After a few moments, he left, closing the door behind him. I heard him urging the horses on and the coach wheels starting up. I went to the window and watched them leave down the short driveway and out onto the moors.

Turning, I took the parlour in; a few chairs were dotted around, two low tables placed between them, a small fireplace in the far wall and on the mantle a ticking brass carriage clock. My aunt never had visitors. Expect her solicitor and sometimes people looking for work.

I didn’t sit but walked around the room, stopping sometimes at the window or the fire place. I was tried and hungry, wanting to eat and go to bed. The minutes passed and Mrs Bennett came bustling back, tutting over my abandoned trunk in the hallway before coming into the room.

‘Your aunt is not feeling well today. She’s employed a new maid to wait on you,’ Mrs Bennett replied in a clipped voice.

‘Oh. Has my governess not arrived yet?’ I said.

It was normal for my aunt to employ someone to teach and keep an eye on me over the summer. For the last few years, my governess had also been the teacher of Bodmin town’s girl school. Before that, there had been a string of young women in their first appointments as governesses. I could not really remember them all.

‘No,’ Mrs Bennett sniffed, ‘your aunt has decided you are too old for one now. You should be able to take care of yourself.’

I was taken back by this and didn’t know what to say.

‘I disagree,’ Mrs Bennett said in a low voice almost as if she didn’t want me to hear but could not help speak her thoughts, ‘boy should not be left to wander around and idle away!’

‘Idle?’ I uttered, horrified.

Mrs Bennett rose to her short, full height, holding her head high and staring down her nose at me as if I was something disgusting that shouldn’t be inside the parlour.

‘I have too much do. You know where your room is,’ she added then turning on heel, stormed off.

Unsure what to do, I walked slowly to the connecting rooms I always stayed in. Trenworth Manor seemed un-decorated and half empty of furniture. The wallpaper and paint were badly faded, where there were small paintings on the walls they were dusty, the rugs and floorboard, though clean were threadbare and scuffed. The staircases’ banisters had been polished so much, they had turned dull.

The furniture that did dot the hallways and gathered in rooms was old, some tables and chairs going back generations – family heirlooms. The fabric on the curtains, chairs and cushions were so faded you could no longer see the colours or patterns. There were perhaps only a few ornaments – vases that stood empty in on window sills, animal and people figurines on mantles and bookcases.

The manor give the impression it had not been lived in for years but someone was trying to keep up appearances. There was a pressure of silence, broken only by the ticking of clocks that echoed around and the creak of wood. There was a faint musty, damp smell masked by the scent of lilies and fire smoke. I also recalled the smell of dried fruit and green leaves from Christmas.

I climbed two staircases, down a short corridor and arrived at the first of the three doors. Opening the door, I entered the bedroom and found someone had recently aired it out. The window was open, the breezy moving the curtain across the plush window box seat. Taking up a whole wall and most of the room, was a large double four poster bed with dark red velvet curtains swept around the wooden poles. At the head, two small tables guarded either side and at the bottom there was a worn bedding box.

In the opposite wall, was a white marble fireplace. Coal, firewood and kindling stacked neatly and waiting to be lit. On the mantel, was a small sliver joint picture frame containing paintings of my parents looking at each other. There was also a small blue vase and two china dogs. On the wall above was one of my favourite paintings; Bodmin moor in all it’s summer glory was the ruins of castle in the distant. To the right of the fireplace was a small dark wardrobe.

Smiling at the familiarity and glad not be be travelling anymore, I relaxed. Taking off my shoes, I climbed up onto the bed. Laying down, the pillow felt soft on my head and the blankets warm underneath me. I yawed then shut my eyes, feeling sleep hushing me away.

To be Continued…

Lonely Grave #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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The meadows stretched for miles and miles. Not many people came by, sometimes a farmer or a lost hiker, but they never saw the headstone standing alone on the little hill before the leafy woods.

Birds soared above, sometimes landing on the headstone that marked the life of someone now long forgotten. Other animals also came, they sniffed the stone and moved on. Nature grew moss and grass across the stone, protecting it from the rain and snow.

And the ghost whom the gravestone belongs to drifts evermore, silently haunting, waiting to be released.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/07/16/weekly-writing-challenge-150/ with thanks).

Star Storm #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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The road before me stretched out like a never ending twisting black snake. My car’s full beam headlights showed there was nothing in the way. Just some warning signs about cattle or horses or blind bends decorating the road side. On both sides rose dark hills dotted with trees. Sometimes, I’d pass large farm houses or small cottages who’s windows glowed with light but were quickly swallowed into darkness once more.

‘Arriving at your destination on the left,’ the male robot voice of the Sat Nav called out.

I indicated out of habit and pulled into a small empty car park. Turning off the engine, I gathered my stuff and got out. The late evening air was warm with an underlining cold breezy. Struggling to juggle everything, I locked my car and turned on my torch. Following the large beam of light to a gate, I opened it and went through then began my walk up the high hill.

My heavy equipment dragged me down, but I ploughed on. My breathing hard in my ears and the only sound to be heard for miles. I turned my thoughts to think about how worthwhile this night would be. After months of planning this was finally it! And when anyone asked where I was back then I could say with pride that I was here watching it all.

I climbed to the top, caught my breath then began setting everything up. Once done, I gazed up into the sky through the telescope. There were billions of stars up there, all shining down and just waiting to be discovered. Beyond which of course were even more things which it made me feel like this was just the brink. After a few tries, I found the right place in space and watched with held breath the spectacular rain of shooting stars.

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/05/28/weekly-writing-challenge-143/ with thanks).

Carved #writephoto

I stopped before the rock and slightly tilted my head to one side as I pondered what to name this shape as. Around me other staff and volunteers were doing the same; standing before rocks and naming them. It was all in aid of our big push to encourage more visitors to the visit this section of moorland which was famous for it’s strangely shaped rock formations.

I ran a few different names through my head; the up turned wheel, the melting pot, the hole, the bowl…The Giant’s Bowl? That sounded kid friendly and the rock did kinda look like a mis-shaped bowl. All the names had to be approved anyway, so why not?

I jotted down on the map I had which showed little drawings of all the rock formations. I moved on to the next one which kinda looked like a tea cup on a plate if you saw it from a certain angle. With a shrugged, I named it The Giant’s Tea Cup. Sticking with that theme, I named a few other rocks close by then moved further out.

Two months later, everything had been approved and I was putting up name signs for The Giant’s Breakfast Table section of rock formations.

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/22/thursday-photo-prompt-carved-writephoto/ with thanks.)

Ahead #Writephoto

Sitting down on a rickety bench, I admired the view from atop the little hill we had climbed.  It was a good enough day for a walk; sunny but not too warm or bright, there was a gently breeze and Spring was busting awake in the air. The countryside rolled out below me, seeming to shake off a grey winter’s blanket to start popping with colour once again.

I breathed in the sweet, flower fragrance air and thought about how much I’d just missed this. I raised my hands and put them up to the breeze, feeling that invisible and freeing force. Lowing them, my coat and long t-shirt sleeves rolled down and I caught sight of the fresh looking, raw scar along my right arm. It went from my wrist to my elbow, were they had to put pins in to help heal the bone right.

I can’t bare to touch it and before the memories had time to build again, I looked out over the countryside. I could see some sheep in the distance like little puffs of clouds, there were a few trees just getting their green leaves back and down in that twist of valley, a river was meandering through like it had been for hundreds of years. Birds were twitting and singing passionately, though I couldn’t see them. There was all this natural blue and green everywhere.

Was this Eden?

A few shaky breaths came out of me then I noticed my arm was shaking. I drew my sleeves back down, hiding the messed up skin. Hugging my arm as a hurt child would, the mantra I had adopted began to repeat in my head; at least I’m still here. Looking down, I saw my knees were pressed hard together. I relaxed them, only to feel dull achy pain in both my legs. The right leg was scared the same as my right arm, from knee to ankle. The left wasn’t that bad because that side hadn’t been trapped by the motorcycle.

A dog’s barking drew my attention away. I raised my head and looked around. The barking was from my Westie, but I couldn’t see that white fluffy ball against the green underbushes. I clung to the bench, as I twisted around looking for him, my fingers curling over the weather-worn wood. Then he appeared trotting down the little pathway with my older Scottie dog tailing him.

‘Hey, where you two been?’ I asked them.

At the sound of my voice, they both raced over and jumped onto the bench. I laughed as they both crowed my lap and licked at me. I felt wet, muddy paws on my jeans and coat, and even wetter noses and tongues against my skin. I hugged them both, breathing in the countryside in their furs.

Two more dogs appeared at my knees; a faithfully golden retriever and grey hound.  I freed a hand and patted them both. I’d missed all these dogs for the last few months and to be out here walking with them now was like a dream. I felt tears of joy coming to my eyes.

From behind me came footsteps and my husband’s voice calling my name, ‘Casey? Are you all right?’

I nodded and wiped my face.

‘I thought you were behind me. I didn’t mean to go off like that! Are you tried?’ he questioned.

‘Not really. I was just looking at the countryside,’ I replied.

My husband sit down and I put my head on to his shoulder. He slipped an arm around me and I put my hand to his chest. I shut my eyes and for a few moments listened to his breathing and the rustle of his coat. He put his other arm around me, hugging me tightly. He smelt better to me then any countryside ever could.

‘I should get you home, you’re shaking,’ he said softly.

I felt more tears in my eyes and nodded into him without saying anything.

I still had along way ahead of me to go but I was going to get there.

 

(Inspire by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/15/thursday-photo-prompt-ahead-writephoto/ with thanks).

Mists #writephoto

He watched the mists rolling across the field and patchy woodland from his bedroom window. He was still in his pajamas, the blue and white stripped ones that his wife had brought him last Christmas. His lower back ached and so did his upper legs, as if he been sleeping on a pebble beach instead of the well worn soft bed.

He did the morning exercises like his doctor had told him too. The bending and stretching helped a little but he’d still need some pain killers to get through the day. Perhaps, he’d take a bath later, if he remembered though he already knew it was going to be another day inside; watching TV, reading, napping, cooking then falling asleep on the sofa.

Watching the mists would entertain him for awhile and if it cleared up maybe he’d go for a walk. It didn’t though. Just like the snow and ice the other day, the mists hung around as if they were happy to be there. He didn’t really mind, it was interesting to see how the mists give everything an out of focus look.

In the evening, it was nice to see that the mists even softened the too harsh Christmas lights coming from other peoples’ houses. He looked at the small tree his daughters and grandchild had set up for him before the front window. The lights were on a timer so he didn’t have to do anything. He and his wife normally put the tree up and placed the children’s presents under for them to open on Christmas day…

This year, he’d be going to stay at his eldest daughter’s for a few days. Then his youngest daughter was bringing her family for New Year’s week. He was looking forward to seeing everyone and having the company. It was going to be just what he needed to being some brightness and colour back into his life again.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/12/14/thursday-photo-prompt-mists-writephoto with thanks).

Magic #writephoto

Winter arrived over night whilst everyone slept. The forecast had said it might sleet but they didn’t predict the thick blanket of snow that lay on the ground and trees. Looking out of my bedroom window, I felt torn by the view. It was amazing, the snow made the woodland and fields magical, like a fantasy land. However, leaving my front door and going to work was going to be hard.

Telling myself it might not be so bad and maybe it was only a little dusting over icy ground, I got ready. Before I left though, I put the TV on and the news that in the area I lived in was totally snow covered didn’t make me feel any better. Still though, no snow going to stop me!

Stepping out, my boots sink ankle deep into the snow, breaking the perfect surface. The air give me a cold hug and my breath misted before me. Birds were singing in snow draped branches and only the middle of the stream was flowing by. A part of me knew it was bad, but I walked to the driveway.

I got in my dad’s old Jeep which had been a joke thirty-fifth birthday present but I actually really appreciated it. Turned out a Jeep was a urban-countryside vet’s best friend. It took a few minutes to prepare for travel then the engine turned on the second try and I set off.

The tyres crunched under snow, at first finding it hard to grip but then getting there. I took it easy, not fast and trying to see the outline of the road. I got about a few miles away and then I saw a bank of snow up ahead and I just knew the wonderful Jeep wasn’t going to make that.

Leaving the engine running, I got out and walked over. There was a dip in the road here before a small bridge. The snow had filled the dip, finding support to make a raise. I looked to other side but there wasn’t enough gap between the trees to get by. Other thoughts ran though my head; getting a shovel and digging, calling neighbouring farmer to plough me out or walking.

A flake of snow spiralled passed me. I watched it join the others at my feet. Then looking up, I saw the dark morning sky start to rain down snow. It fell slow and gentle, melting on my warm coat or drifting through the trees to add to the ground. I had a flash back to childhood and playing in the snow.

It wasn’t enough to distract me though and I stepped back to the Jeep. Once in, the snow began to fall faster and thicker. I slowly turned around and drove back home. Defeat isn’t a word I use but there was no other way to put what had happened.

Once home, I phoned in work and found that so many other people were stuck too that the lead vet had closed the practise. Hanging the phone up, I felt a little better. Sitting at the kitchen table, I watched the snow dancing and tried to capture that ‘magic’ feeling from childhood again.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2017/11/30/thursday-photo-prompt-magic-writephoto/ with thanks).

The Paper Mill (Part 2)

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Laying in bed, the bedside lamp on to keep the dark at bay, my thoughts kept going back to that girl. She had either run away from home or just didn’t have a home to go back to. I tried to imagine living like her; no family or college, no money or food, no bed or clean clothes. It would be hard. Tossing about, I finally settled down but my mind still wouldn’t turn off.

Tomorrow, I told myself, I’ll get somethings together and take them to her. Maybe she’ll talk to me then and perhaps I can help. Or maybe, the other side of my mind thought, I should just let it go. It’s none of my business. But by seeing and talking to her I had made it my business.

In the morning after a shower and breakfast, I should have sat down to work on one of my essays. I didn’t have classes today and tomorrow was Saturday, so I should have been thinking about going back to the library. Instead, that homeless girl was still in my mind, so I set about finding things she could have.

My parents had died when I was ten, so my grandparents had took me in. They were currently away on holiday, visiting their other daughter and grandchildren in America. There was still a lot of my parents’ things in the attic but I didn’t have time to look through all that. What if the girl had left the mill because I’d scared her? I needed to get there as soon as possible. Luckily, close to the front door was a bag of clothes my gran was putting out for charity collection.

There were a few of my tops that were too small now, but might fit her. I also selected an old green jumper and two pairs of my grandpa’s trousers. There was my old winter coat in the closet, a bobble hat and matching gloves. Taking everything back upstairs, I put the clothes in a rucksack then brought that down. In the kitchen, I took some tins of beans and soup that had ring pulls. Some cans of fizzy drink, bottles of water, a packet of biscuits that no one of liked and a bag of dried fruit.

With those in the bag, I wondered what else would a homeless girl need. Perhaps; sanitary towels, painkillers, matches, candles  and a few other bits of pieces. the rucksack was heavy but it would be worth it. I got ready to go, saw it was raining and decided on my wellington boots and an umbrella. Was there a spare one to take her? My grandpa liked to collect useful things, so at the back of the closet were a few spare umbrellas. I chose a small pink one then set off.

The day was dull and it must have been raining to awhile because there were large puddles and everything was dripping wet. I walked slowly, weighted down with the rucksack. Some of the streetlamps were still on but they didn’t seem to be doing a good job. I hoped it wouldn’t get any darker. Following the country lanes around and to the bridge I didn’t see anybody or cars.

Going over the river, I picked up my pace and hurried through the rows of houses to the mill. I squeezed the gap in the fence and made my way over. In the gloom and rain, the paper mill looked darker and more dirtier. I could hear the rain falling into holes in the roof and dripping off metal.

In through the door and I had to get my phone’s torch out to see. There was no keeping quiet with my wellingtons and heavy rucksack on the debris covered floor. I thought I went to the room she had been in, but I must have taken a wrong turn because I ended up at a metal staircase. At the top of which was a void of darkness. Shivering, I turned away and weaved my way back again. All the rooms looked the same but at last I found the right one.

‘Hello?’ I called, ‘It’s me Darcy.’

The fire wasn’t lit but there was enough dim light from the tall windows to see that she was still there. She was sat on the floor, huddled in dirty blankets with a sleeping bag wrapped around her. She turned and realised it was me.

‘I thought maybe….I could bring you somethings,’ I spoke, not sure what really to say.

She turned away from me without saying anything.

I walked over and placed the bag down.

‘It’s not much just some food and clothes,’ I added.

There was a large piece of cardboard next to my feet, so I sat down. I opened the bag and took anything out. She kept her head turned away from me as if I wasn’t there. Whatever I had been thinking might happen, it hadn’t been like this. But why would a teenage girl suddenly gush out her life story to a stranger she’d never meet over some old clothes and food? Had I really thought we’re going to become best friends?

I waited a few minutes, listening to the rain falling and feeling the cold stiffen my limbs. She was quiet, ignoring me and because she was keeping away from me, I couldn’t make out her face. I wanted to catch her eye so at least I could try and say something else, but she didn’t move.

‘Fine,’ I sighed, ‘I’ll go.’

I picked up the rucksack and slowly walked away. Every now and then I glanced over my shoulder, but the girl hadn’t moved. At the doorway, I stopped and thought about saying something else to her, reminding her of her manners maybe? Get angry and yelling out my disgust at her? Perhaps hoping her the best?

The words, whatever they were, wouldn’t come out so I turned away and walked back through. Even though my mind was still on her, I couldn’t help but think about what the paper mill would have been like in the past. It would have been loud with machines cutting up the trees and making the paper. The air would have been heavy with wood dust and chemicals. People would have been everywhere too.

I made it out in one go, only to find the rain had got heavier and the wind had picked up. I opened my umbrella and hurried home, my heart and thoughts weighed down.

 

To Be Continued…

The Paper Mill (Part 1)

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The worse thing about autumn was it got dark far too soon and I’d always been scared of the dark. I hadn’t meant for it to be so late when I left the college library but I’d been doing research for my last two essays of the year. I hadn’t notice the time until I’d left and gone to the bus stop. I’d missed the last bus home.

So either, I walked the half an hour into town and got another bus or I walked the forty minutes home. If it had been raining which made it darker, I might have gotten the bus but I decided that I could make walking home. Most of the way would be well lit by street lamps and I had gone this way lots of times in the last year.

Drawing up all my bravery, I set off at a hurried pace. My heavy rucksack almost dragging me back whilst making my shoulders ache, distracted me as I went. My college was on a limbo boarder of just being outside a village and on the edge of countryside. The fastest way home was to half walk through the village then go up some country lanes.

I was about halfway home and just about to walk over a small bridge. Behind me an abandoned 1800’s paper mill ruled over the little houses that had once been home to it’s workers. The village had sprung up around the mill but once they had cleared all the trees, it started to get expensive importing more, sales had dropped too and the mill had closed it’s doors.

I stopped and faced off with the darkness before me. A single street lamp on the bridge was the only barrier between us. Beyond that the quiet countryside seemed to stretch endlessly away. I could hear the faint flow of the low river going under the bridge and something else in the distance behind me.

I listened harder, half turning to the sound which was like a muffled crying. I looked back at a row of houses, most had dim lights in the windows and others were draped in black. The paper mill looked eerie, like a silent empty watchman. I tried to tell myself the noise was just a cat or a baby but this feeling of strangeness grew in my stomach.

What if someone was hurt and only I could help them?

Glancing at the bridge, my mind made a choice that I didn’t get a chance to think about. I turned away and walked back towards the houses. I followed the sound along those small well lit pavements, thinking at any moment I’d find the source. Arriving at the gates of the mill and peering though the towering bars, I spotted the flicker of a fire in a ground floor window.

A voice in my head told me to go and my feet began to move away but the rest of me stayed at the gate. The crying was coming from the mill. Thoughts ran though my head; it’s a trick of the darkness, it’s an echo from something else, it’s a ghost, a homeless person, an animal. Why am I here? Go home!

I couldn’t though…

Looking further along the metal fence, I found a hole large enough to fit through and I stepped into the cobbled courtyard of the mill. Trying to walk in a hurried but quiet way didn’t work, so instead I give up trying to hide my presence and just went over to the steps. Looking up, I could make out how run down the mill was now but there was too much darkness to see further.

I went to the window the fire was coming from. I couldn’t see in though as the wall was too tall. My hands touched the cold damp stone and quickly withdrew as if something had bitten me. Coming away, I crept around for a bit, trying not to let the deep darkness creep me out more. Every shadow was a good hiding place for someone and I was just waiting for something to happen. My throat got dry, my heartbeat was loud and fear was making me sweat despite the cold evening.

Taking out my phone and putting the torch app on, give me some more light and helped to keep the shadows at bay. I found a half open metal door and slipped into the building. There was a maze of rooms and a musty smell. Carefully walking, I spent a good few minutes figuring out where the fire was burning. Trying to convince myself it was just kids messing around and perhaps one had got left behind, helped make me feel better.

Standing in the doorway of the right room, I saw a small fire on the floor and next to it was a small humped over person shape.

‘Hello?’ I called out.

The shape moved, twisting around to look at me whilst gasping. I couldn’t make anything out as my phone light didn’t reach so far and there wasn’t enough light coming from the fire. I heard scrambling and the person getting up and moving.

‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ I spoke in a shaky voice, ‘I think I heard you crying. Do you need help?’

‘No,’ the voice of a girl sounded back.

I sighed, glad the person wasn’t a man nor hurt. I waved in the door, wanting to move closer but then not moving as there might be danger.

‘What do you want?’ the girl demanded.

‘Nothing,’ I replied, ‘what are you doing here?’

‘This is my home!’

‘Your…?’ I trailed and looked at what I could see.

Then I stepped inside the room. It was bare but for the fire and small pile of stuff on the floor. I got closer to the fire, drawn by the heat and I saw a girl in her late teens, just like me. She was wearing layers of ripped clothes, her hair and face were dirty but she was standing defensively, ready to fight.

‘I’m Darcy,’ I spoke to break up the tension.

She shook her head at me.

‘How did you end up here? Where are your parents?’

‘None of your business. Go away,’ she snapped.

I frowned and thought about saying more. I had the urge to help her but what could I do? Turning away, I walked back to the doorway. Then with a glance at her went through and tried to remember the way out.

 

To Be Continued…