Wistful #WritePhoto

It was cool on the moor today, despite the sunshine, blue sky and spring singing in the air. I hadn’t meant to go out for a walk, I had too much to do but all day the moors had been calling me like an old friend begging for a visit.

The evenings were growing lighter now, so I thought an hour before the sunsets around seven, would be fine. Some fresh air and exercise might be good, it would help to clear my head and make me tried enough to sleep.

I changed into warm and waterproof clothes and boots, I packed a bag with a few supplies, made sure my phone was changed then set out. You never knew when things might change on the moor or if you might fall on a boggy patch of ground or trip on a rocky edge. I knew from experience what it was like to be stuck out there with nothing.

I walked straight, no direction in mind, just going where the first path took me. There was low cloud cover over some of the higher hills in the distant, the clouds were all ready turning dark with the evening light. There too where dots of sheep with early lambs nesting in the bushes. There was purple heather coming up and a few wild flowers but nothing much else grew out here.

At one high point, I stopped for a breath and some water. The air was turning colder, threatening a frost in the night. I was glad I had wrapped up. I played with the gold chain around my neck then moved on to the multi-coloured shell that hung from the links. I could name all the colours on the shell without looking; red, orange, yellow and green.

It had been a present. The last birthday gift my son had ever given me. Then a few months later, he and my husband had died in a car accident. I had barely escaped the wreak and had no memory of what had happened.

The moor helped me forget, that’s why I had moved here. It was so easy to lose yourself either staring and walking upon the moor. The seasons and weather were ever changing and there was all ways something new to see or smell or hear.

I had my escape on my doorstep and I was grateful for it.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2020/03/26/thursday-photo-prompt-wistful-writephoto/ with thanks).

Dead Motel

road-3189386_1920

We had come to find and take scrap illegal.

Dawn was in the sky but it was still dark enough that we could hide if needed. Though I don’t think anybody cared. We pulled up in the empty motel parking lot and the headlights flashed across the keep out signs and the flapping yellow police tape.

The boss turned off the engine and the lights. We sat listening and watching for a few minutes. The power was still on here; lights inside and out were on. There was glass, furniture and other debris scattered around. There were tags of graffiti on the walls telling us that the vandals had moved in.

We got out of the car and slowly walked around. If there was anybody here waiting to give us trouble they’d been in for a shock because there was four us and we knew how to gang fight. Also, at least two of us carried guns and we all had knives.

Glass and rubble crushed under our boots. Birds and crickets were making a racket but nothing else came from the motel. A creepy feeling lingered, almost like we were walking into an empty grave. I felt my hair and skin rise, something was off about this place.

There were many in ways and after checking a few, we went into one of the rooms and began stripping it. Copper, other metals, anything that could easily be scraped with no questions asked. We moved through, doing as much as possible in the little time we had.

‘Not been abandoned long,’ Reggie mutter.

‘Few months at most,’ Ben hissed back.

‘Something went down here though,’ I added.

‘Double murder,’ the boss cut in.

We all looked at him, hands stilled on our work.

‘Owners hacked to death by one of their employees.’

‘Ah, I saw it in the news,’ Ben answered, ‘he buried them in the woods out back there then claimed the Devil told him to do it.’

‘Devils,’ Reggie repeated and shook his head.

Boss snorted, ‘let’s get on.’

When my turn for look out came – because always one of us has to keep an eye and ear out- we were close to the owners’ offices and apartment. I kicked the leg of a chair out of the way and looked at the still tied up police tape.

Beyond, the office looked a mess, someone had done a grand job of turning it over. I stepped closer, just wanting to confirm that no one was hiding in there. I had a small flashlight, that helped me not trip over anything.

I scanned the beam across a window then came to a stop. There was a bloody hand print on the glass.

‘Look at this,’ I called in a low voice.

Ben was closet and came over, ‘what?’ he whispered.

I nodded to the window and my light where we both then looked.

The bloody hand print was gone!

‘But…there was a…’

I shone the flashlight around, looking hard to see if maybe I had just moved off the print but no, the glass was clean.

‘Is there anything worth taking in there?’ Ben asked.

‘I’ll check it,’ I uttered, still trying to process what had happened.

Walking carefully forward, I tore the police tape down and went to the door. It opened easily and I stepped into the office. Papers and stuff were scattered around like a hurricane had blown in. The reminds of police things lay mixed in; a white glove, finger print dust, a vial.

Stepping on things, I looked around and spotted nothing worth taking. A door was blocked by a desk but a second door in the opposite wall was wide opening and leading through to the check in area.

Not enough light was entering there so someone could be hiding. Going on, I had the instinct to clutch the handle of my knife in my jacket pocket. The feel of the black, hard plastic helped reassure me.

Something crunched loudly beneath me and I looked to see it was a computer keyboard. Shaking my head, I nudged it away and carried on.

A groaning sound stopped me. I felt my breath hitch. Maybe, it was just the wind?

Under the counter something flashed and I went back to it. There was a plain gold ring on the floor. Bending down, I went to pick it up but a hand whipped out of the darkness and grip me!

I cried out and tried to break free but the fingers dug into me and I felt sharp nails leaving marking in my skin. With an unbelievable strength the hand pulled me down, causing me to lose my balance and I almost fell onto the counter top.

Dropping the flashlight and seizing my knife, I slashed out with the blade. I felt my hand released. I tumbled back, falling and landing heavily. Breathing deeply, everything screamed at me to get away and I tried to get up but then I saw the hand laying by itself.

It was the size of a man’s. The fingers were curled up and all bruised looking, the bloody, jagged nails were clutching at the carpet. The skin was yellow and brown, clearly dead. A small pool of dark blood was leaking around it.

There was no way I could have cut through bone.

Shaking, I fumbled for the flashlight and aimed the beam beyond the dismembered hand. There under the counter curled two figures. They were the size of small adults and dressed in stained clothing, one was a man and the other a woman.

They were kneeling and clutching each other as if desperate to hold on. The woman’s long black hair was covering her face which was pressed to the man’s shoulder. There were deep gashes all over her arms and legs. Her white dress was ripped up, blood and dirt stained. She had no shoes and her feet were cut opening as if she had been walking on glass.

The man had his face shadowed by the woman’s and his left arm was also hidden by her body. He was wearing a white shirt and black pants, both blood splattered and covered in dirt. Also, his bare feet were muddy and he was missing a hand.

One of them moaned then something like a word came out.

I felt the panic fade and my senses coming back. They were clearly homeless and drug users. They must have been so high or low that the man hadn’t felt his hand getting cut off.  They also smelt. The stench coming off them wasn’t just sweat but something else, like rot and putrid waste.

My hand pressed over my mouth and nose but it did little block out the smell now I was aware of it.

‘What are you doing here?’ I demanded.

Again with the mumbled word and the man moved his face. His skin was dark with something smeared across and his jaw looked to be hanging loose. The woman turned slightly and went as if to move her stringy hair but most of it stayed on her face.

‘What?’ I spoke, feeling my angry growing.

‘Help,’ the man’s rasping voice answered.

Frowning, I fixed the light on there close together faces and felt vomit raise in my throat. Their eyes and noses were gone and their faces were rotting away. Bones were showing through peeling skin. There were large chunks of them missing as if someone had cut off parts of their bodies and I could see things that were meant to stay on the inside.

‘Help,’ the man said again and raised the stump of a wrist at me.

He let go of the woman and reached his other arm out too. The woman followed, bloody arms parting the air and fingers searching. Their hands hit the floor and using this, they tried to pull themselves up and crawl towards me.

I shuffled backwards, my mouth opened and closed but no words came out. Both my hands shook. The flashlight that had been my guide and the knife that had been my protection temporary forgotten.

The woman let out an awful gurgling cry and lunged at me. As her hair flew back, I saw she had no jaw and the rest of her mouth was just a black open hole. A tooth dropped to the floor, clicking away into the darkness.

She grabbed my boot. I screamed, swung my knife automatically and lashed her across the face. Then I kicked at her and felt the force go through her spongy and brittle head. She let go, yowling as best she could with half a mouth.

The man reached for her, feeling his way and drew her back to him. They held each other like frightened children as the curled back under the counter.

Panic shot through me, I scrambled to my feet and tumbled out of the room. Slipping and trapping across papers and rubbish, I threw myself out of the office and screamed into the early morning air, ‘Go! Go!’

Bolting for the truck, I slammed into it and scrambled to open the door. From behind me, came running footsteps and shouting voices. I found the handle, yanked it and clambered in. Distantly, I heard other doors opening and shutting, the truck engine starting and the rumbling of the vibrations as we pulled away.

‘What was it?’ Reggie spoke.

‘Was someone in there?’ boss questioned.

‘Chad, you OK?’ Ben asked, ‘what did you see? A ghost?’

I didn’t hear him. Clutching my knife in both hands, I stared into the blade. There was no blood marking the shinny surface but the rotting face of the woman was reflecting back at me.

 

(Inspired by;

Snow Light

ireland-69819_1920

My car’s windscreen wipes struggled to clear the heavy snowflakes away. I turned them all the way up and that helped somewhat. Everything around me was either white, grey or black like I had entered an old fashioned movie dead of colour.

I clutched the steering wheel tighter and listened to the faint rock music from the CD player. A glance at the Satnav and it didn’t looked like I had moved much. The time of arrival kept going up instead of down and I gritted my teeth.

If it had been anyone else but my dying father, I wouldn’t be out here now driving from my honeymoon in this snowstorm. I rounded a corner and saw in the beam of my headlights two stark trees clawing at the grey sky.

I had to pee and my ankle was cramping.

Pulling over under the trees, I got out but left everything running. The worse thing right now would be the car to breakdown.

I went behind the tree and got up real close as there wasn’t much cover here. I unzipped, aimed and relieved myself. Feeling better, I pressed my head against the tree and took a few deep breaths of frozen air.

Then for a few minutes, I walked about and stretched. The conversation with my mother came back to me as it had been doing on repeat since I had hung up the phone this morning.

‘Christian, your father is really sick. You should come to the hospice.’

‘I know but there’s a snowstorm and I can’t leave Jan up here alone.’

‘Bring her with you.’

‘And have us both stuck in the snow? No. I’ll come.’

‘I think it’s almost time…’ mother sniffed down the phone.

I rolled my eyes, she and father had been saying that for the last three months. It’s why Jan and I had brought the wedding forward but still dad hung on. I didn’t want to leave my wife in our honeymoon cabin in the magical snow covered forest, but there was no other choice.

Feeling the chill sinking through my thick coat, I got back in the car again and drove once more. Still the snowfall. It was like a blanket on the bare land softening the hardness of winter.

There was no other cars on this country road, sensible of everyone but it also meant the road wasn’t gritted and the wheels felt like they were sliding. I took it easy, watching all the time for dangers because there was also the gloom of night looming.

I thought of Jan and how she would be curled up before the fire, reading and waiting for me to call. Had I done the right thing leaving her behind?

‘I don’t mind either way,’ she had said, ‘do you want me there when he passes?’

‘He won’t pass. He’s too stubborn. This is just another false alarm.’

‘But you are still going?’

‘Yes. For mother’s sake more then his. He’s out of it most of the time anyway thanks to the drugs.’

‘Christian, it’s really coming down outside. Will you be okay driving?’ Jan had asked.

‘I’ll take it easy.’

I hugged, kissed her and said, ‘I love you, wife.’

Jan giggled and replied, ‘I love you too, husband.’

Now, I regretted leaving her and I wished I had told my mother no but what if dad was finally going and I wasn’t there when he died? I couldn’t have forgiven myself to that.

The snow became blinding and I had to slow further. I couldn’t stop though and turned my thoughts to how when I reached the main roads and motorway it would be easier. I tried to relax and just concentrate on what was ahead of me though that was only about a few inches.

Was that lights ahead? I frowned and and squinted. It looked like just one light. A motorbike then? But who would be insane enough to drive a motorbike in the middle of nowhere, in a snowstorm?

A creeping feeling raised the hairs on my arms and had the strange urge to pull over. Why? I couldn’t say. I wrestled with myself for a minute then despite not wanting too, the steering wheel was turning and I was bumping off the road into a low ditch.

Confused, I let go of the wheel and sat there, listening to the wind howling and the car engine rumbling. Where was the light I had seen? I waited for something to pass me by but nothing did. Had it been a reflection off something? I had read somewhere that snow could cause something like that.

Shrugging, I went to pull back onto the road but the steering wheel wouldn’t turn.

‘What the hell?’ I uttered aloud.

I turned the wheel this way and that whilst pressing on the pedals but the car didn’t move. The engine revved then fell into it’s comforting rumbling as I stopped trying.

‘I don’t need this! I really, really don’t need this! Come on! God damn it!’

I hit the steering wheel with my palms and threw my head back into the head rest. I shut my eyes and breathed angrily. Thoughts went through my head and I decided to get out and see what the problem was.

Opening the door, I walked around but could see I wasn’t stuck in the mud as I was frozen ground. The ditch also was only slightly lower then the road. I opened the bonnet and looked inside. Everything seemed fine in there.

I got back in the car, snow melting off me. I picked up my phone and saw I had no signal.

‘Typical! Just typical!’ I shouted.

I blared the horn in anger, got out again and slammed the door shut. I walked up and down, blaming my parents, the cancer, the snowstorm, the car, myself until my legs and arms felt frozen stiff.

Getting back in the car, I looked at the Satnav to see if there was any civilisation nearby. Perhaps, there would be a helpful farmer? Or maybe I was close to the village? The Satnav came back empty, just showing the red lined road I was on and nothing close by.

I turned off the car engine. Not sure what else I could do.

Sitting for a few minutes, I watched the snow burying my car and strangely recalled how one summer holiday my dad had let me bury him in sand at the beach. Mum had taken a photo as we had all laughed. Then we had got fish and chips followed by ice cream. Dad had then carried me back to the hotel as I dozed in his arms.

I smiled and began to recall other favourite memories. Finally, I came to one about my first diving lesson and how I had scared my dad as I had almost hit a wall. We had laughed about that long afterwards and he still wouldn’t get in a car with me driving today.

Shaking my head and laughing, I turned the engine on and the car started up. Handbrake down, foot on pedals, gear in and turning the steering wheel, the car obeyed me and pulled back onto the road.

‘What was all that about?’ I cried.

Unsure, I carefully began driving. Everything felt normal and like there had been no problems back there at all. Shrugging, I carried on my journey.

Two hours later, I arrived at the hospice and went to my dad’s room. He was sleep with the blanket pulled up to his chin. My mother was sitting beside him, face hidden in a tissue.

‘I made it,’ I whispered.

Mum looked up her, her face tear stained and eyes red, ‘he’s gone,’ she stuttered and threw her arms around me.

‘When?’ I asked.

She mumbled the time and as I held her I cast my mind back.

He had died at the same time I had seen that light and my car had stopped working.

Blown In On The Wind

ghost-1280683_1920

Returning from dropping the grandchildren off at school, I sank into my armchair and looked out the window at the storm I had just battled through. The wind was as strong as a car speeding on the motorway and it was driving the heavy rain and hailstones into you like shards of glass.

I turned the TV on, then left some daytime game show sounding in the background. I changed into slippers and a warmer jumper. There was housework to do but it could wait until later.

Sitting down again, I looked at the collection of photos on the mantel and the wall. There were many of my husband who had died six years ago, we had been married for fifty-two years. He had been in the army and though the idea of being an solider’s wife had worried me, I had enjoyed the travelling and many experiences.

There were photos of my only child, my daughter, Victoria and also her husband, Danial. Both had died in a car crash, five years ago. Then there were my grandchildren, ten year old, Beth and seven year old, Alex, smiling brightly in every photo.

I got out my knitting, feeling the need to relax. My joints were aching because of the cold and I couldn’t get warm enough. The joys of old age and having to look after young children once again. I would soon feel some energy back then I could do some chores.

A banging upstairs stilled the clicking of my needles. I looked up at the ceiling, listening as the bang came again. The wind was swinging a door about, that was all.

I got up and climbed the stairs, feeling pain in my hips and knees. At the top, I saw Beth’s door moving and banging against the frame as the wind blew about.

‘She didn’t shut her window probably, that child!’ I uttered.

I went in, closed and locked the offending window. Outside, the wind carried on raging away, leaving the bedroom freezing cold. Turning the heater up, I went to head back downstairs and put the kettle on.

Something white moved out of the corner of my eye and I turned to it. Was it a bird? No..it was something else….The shape seemed to grow and become more solid, yet still see through. The white colour became more cream and I saw the outline of a long dress drifting.

The more I stared the more the ghost took form before me until a young woman was standing before the bed. Her long hair was down to her waist and her face was full of sadness. As she looked around, confusion frowned her face then she went to the window and looked out as if she was lost.

‘Hello? I said gently.

No reply.

‘I can see you, ghost,’ I added.

The woman turned and looked at me slowly.

‘What are you doing here?’

She sighed and softly, almost in a whisper answered, ‘looking for my child.’

‘Are they here?’ I pressed.

‘No,’ she uttered, ‘the strong wind blew me into your house. I am sorry.’

‘It’s okay, pet. Would you like to stay until the weather passes?’ I asked, ‘some company meet be good for you.’

The ghost took a moment to think then nodded. She turned, taking the room in again.

‘This is my granddaughter’s room. Come down into the living room,’ I spoke.

I went back down and the ghost followed me. A cold draft trailed around her and her dress floated on a wind that seemed to be a part of her.

Settling in my chair and picking up my knit, I tried not to watch the ghost hovering around.

‘They have passed,’ she muttered after a few minutes.

I looked up and saw her before the photos, ‘yes, pet,’ I replied, though there wasn’t a need too but it did open a conversation, ‘you lost your child?’

‘At birth. I followed a day later,’ the ghost answered, ‘and I have been searching ever since.’

‘That’s why you are still here,’ I added.

‘Yes,’ agreed the ghost. She give a long moaning sigh and stirred the leaves of a pot plant.

‘Where do you think your child is?’ I questioned over the clicking of my knitting needles.

The ghost was quiet and thoughtful.

‘At your house?’ I pondered after a few minutes.

‘If she was, she is no longer,’ the ghost woman replied, ‘that is why I had to leave. I cannot rest without her.’

I nodded and fell to thinking. Soothed by the sounds of the TV and needles, it was easy for my mind to drift.

‘You know, pet,’ I said, ‘stillborn babies probably go straight to heaven.’

‘Do you think?’ the ghost gasped.

‘Yes. They are innocent and have no reason to stay here. Maybe, that’s what has happened?’

‘Has it?’ whispered the ghost.

‘And perhaps, it’s not the search for your child that keeps you here but the grieve of the loss?’ I concluded.

The ghost let out a low moan.

‘Have you tried to leave?’

‘No. I did not want to,’ the ghost replied.

‘Try and see what happens, pet,’ I responded, gently.

‘Am I scared.’

‘I know but there’s nothing to worry about and your child will be waiting. If not, I shall help you.’

‘You will? Oh! Thank you!’ the ghost cried and she smiled.

‘Now, try to go to Heaven, pet.’

The ghost nodded and after a few moments, she began to fade away.

‘I am going! I am going!’ she shouted, ‘I shall be united with my child.’

‘Yes, dear. Go, go! Find your child and be at peace.’

With a finally smile, the ghost woman vanished.

Her cold spot lingered another minute or two then warmth took over once more.

I lent back in my armchair, knitting abandoned on my lap, looking at where the ghost had stood. Then, I turned to the photographs and said, ‘if I was her, I would have done the same. Mothers and children should always be together.’

Plague Pit

kutna-hora-1327862_1920

We should never have returned to the dead planet. And yet, it was full of resources. The colony need supplies for its continuance and there were people who’d pay us well for a rare item or ancient artifact.

As I walked over a wooden beam, distracted by fixing my orange radiation mask, the beam give way under my weight. I tumbled into a dark shallow pit. The sounds of falling earth deafening me as it showered down.

I lay still, trying not to panic and stay calm. I had fallen underground before and soon my team would be here. The waterfall of noise faded and I heard distant voices calling. Then a powerful light came on from above and I saw what was facing me.

The empty eye sockets of a human skull were staring back at me. The dark pits of those hollows questioning and demanding answers.

I shuffled backwards and heard the rattling of bones as my hands and feet skittled across them. There were more skulls surrounding me, their empty sockets seemingly watching me as well.

There were too many! Far too many to be a normal burial place. This was a plague pit!

I tried to fight down the firing panic and the hint of vomit in my throat. I had to stay still and in control. Repeatedly telling myself it was okay, I shut my eyes and breathed heavily into the mask and air ventilation systems.

A rope bashed my helmet with a thud. I reached for it gratefully and let my team pull me up. Scrambling to the surface once more, I lay down and just breathed. A fine mist fell then a cloud of white drenched me. I was being decontaminated.

This plant was dead for a reason and I didn’t want to become it’s next victim.

Smoke #Photochallenge

first cigarette

She took the pills and washed them down with strawberry vodka. Laying on floor with the empty bottles, she lit one last cigarette.

Dozing and watching the exhaled smoke, she imagined that soon she would be floating away and fading into nothingness.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2020/01/28/photo-challenge-300/ with thanks).

Blizzard

snow-4748519_1920

The blizzard arrived like they said it would. The snow and wind came down blindly fast. Things ground to a stop like the rusted cogs of a clock. People battled against nature, trying to get on. Children free of school were sledging and building snowmen. It seemed right to join them as not much else could be done.

Days, weeks and months past by. At first it had been fun and slightly annoying but now the blizzard was frustrating and angering people. Cars and houses were snowed in. Transport was limited. Buildings were closed due to burst pipes or lack of heating or it being too dangerous to open.

Homeless people were frozen solid in the street, buried under snow moulds that became too much effort to dig them out. Rubbish piled up around them, unable to be removed as the roads were too blocked up. People who dared to go out risked tripping over the hills of such things.

Other people froze or staved in their homes. Their bodies left because even if they could be recovered, how could they be buried?

Those luckily enough to move away did so and soon that was the only answer. The snow kept coming, the city turned to stone, trapping the people that remained.

Screaming

city-4764064_1920

A murder happened in the apartment block and ever since the screams of the woman could be heard each night.

 

Good For The Soul #3LineTales

three line tales, week 197: vinyl albums in a record shop, bowie, the cure, fleetwood mac, joy division

‘Good for the ears, good for the soul,’ my dad use to say.

He loved music but couldn’t play an instrument or sing a note and yet I couldn’t imagine him without his headphones on, feet and fingers tapping along to something.

It brought tears to my eyes picturing him like that but it was best to remember him that way instead of in a hospital bed, draped in tubes and wires, waiting for a heart transplant that never came.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/11/07/three-line-tales-week-197/ with thanks).

Leaf Pile

maple-leaf-4597501_1920

Raking leaves should have been my son’s job, just as it was mine as a kid. However, my son is gone and has been for twenty-three years. He had been ten years old, a boy full of life which had been cut short.

I pause in my raking, leaning on the smooth wooden pole as I get my breath back. Looking up at the left front window of my house, I see my wife standing there. She is stroking her short white hair, her mouth moving as she speaks but her eyes are not watching me, they are staring into the distance.

The dementia has her mind in a tight grip of late and some days she doesn’t know who she is. In my heart I know she doesn’t have much longer to live but I can’t let her go. I wave at her and get no response back. She carries on playing with her hair and speaking either to herself or to someone she thinks is there but has long since passed away.

Getting back to work, I pull the dry leaves together into a pile, freeing the grass from the quilt blanket the leaves create. I wouldn’t burn them but put them on the composed heap to be used in planting my show flowers in the spring. Garden is the only thing I have left to enjoy now.

The front door opens and I hear my wife shouting. Her words are garble and it’s hard to pick out what she’s trying to say. She pulls at her hair and dress as she comes down the path.

‘What is it, Olive?’ I call.

She ignores me, trapped in a world of her own.

I go over and leaving the rake against the side of the house. She’s clearly in distress but there is no way she can tell me what’s wrong. It could be she believes she is in a different time and some moment there has triggered the upset.

I talk to her softly, calming her though she seems unaware of me, ‘it’s fine, whatever it is. I can help. You are okay. I’m here.’

I reach for her but she waves my hands away and carries on shouting out what seems to be just random words, ‘not here! Gone! Come back! Where is he? Don’t know what to do! Alex! Alex! Frog in the hallway. Frog, frog, frog! Gone! Gone!’

It’s hard when she gets like this. I want to get her back inside and sat down but she would fight me all the way and last time she pushed me down and I almost broke my arm. I know I’m too old to deal with her now and leaving her care to a specialist would be best. I can’t though. I can’t let her go….

I pick up a stray leaf and press it into her hands.

‘Look Olive, isn’t it pretty? Listen to the sound it makes,’ I say.

She crunches the leaf, tears it up and lets the bits fall from her hand. She stares in fascination.

I give her another and another. She crunches them in her fist and tosses the leaf pieces to the wind. They blow around in the breeze and she watches them go.

I take her hand and led her to the pile of raked up leaves.

‘Where is Alex?’ she asks.

‘At school, my love,’ I reply.

I can’t explain that he’s been dead for years because she won’t understand and though it hurts, it’s easier to lie.

‘School?’ she repeats as she picks up leaves and plays with them, ‘he never comes home. Never. I miss him….When will he come? When, when?’ she cries with desperation.

‘Soon, dear, soon,’ I reply gently, ‘come back inside now. It’s cold out here and you are not wearing a coat.’

I take her arm and guide her away. She starts muttering to herself again, words I can’t catch or understand.

Once inside, I get her in front of the TV, feet up and wrapped in a blanket. Her eyes are distant. She isn’t here, she’s off in the past, some place I might not remember or don’t want to recall.

I stay with her until she is settled enough to be left again. The news is on the TV but she’s not watching it but the sounds of the voices help her to feel not alone.

‘I’m going out again but I’ll be there if you need me. It’s getting dark and I want to finish,’ I say.

She says something which is lost on me.

I get up, go to the front door and on the mat is a crumbled brown leaf. I pick it up and take it outside, feeling a pain my heart that never goes.