Cross Grid #100WW

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He was close. He stood on the small around about, car horns beeping at him as the drivers zoomed over the stone cobble roads. He held up the phone and watched as on the screen came the image of everything around him. Then a hit; The Arc de Triomphe.

He smiled, of course it would make sense that the Geocache would be there! He waited till, he could cross the road enough then hurried over. A few moments later, he found the plastic box tugged into a corner.

It was another off his list.

(Inspired by; https://bikurgurl.com/2018/11/14/100-word-wednesday-week-97/ with thanks).

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The Tolling Bell #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Ivan didn’t want to go into the abbey bell tower, he had a bad feeling about it tonight. Looking up at the slowly tumbling down walls, the shadows seemed thicker then normal. Ivan tugged on the edge of his father’s red Captain of the guards cloak and tried to explain with hand gestures and tongue clicking that he was afraid and didn’t want to do the night’s signalling.

His father, who held a deep disappointment that his only son was a mute, ignored the young teenage and began climbing the steps that lead into the abbey. His heavy boot steps rang out on worn stones, breaking a doomed silence that had long settled here.

Ivan trailed afterwards, knowing that even if father would listen, there was no choice. Clutching the flicking metal lantern in one hand and a heavy wicker basket in the other, Ivan fixed his eyes on the floor and ignored everything else around him as dust clouds stirred. They reached the bell tower’s spiral staircase and started the long climb upwards.

Years ago, the abbey had been home to monks, who one winter had all gone on a pilgrimage and never returned without a clue to their whereabouts. The village that had been constructed around the abbey  died of the abandonment. Now, it was a tiny out post for a handful of the King’s guards, tasked with signalling incoming threats to the close by farming villages which served the King’s castle.

Ivan had never wanted to be in the King’s service. He had liked looking after the animals and the crops his mother had owned, which now belonged to his sisters’ families. His father though had decided to find Ivan a place within the guards and thus the boy had become the night time bell signal ringer.

‘Here we are,’ father’s voice declared as they reached the small room under the bell, ‘I’ll get you a fire going.’

Ivan nodded and placed the basket and lantern on a little wobbly table. He then lit two more lanterns which were placed on stone window sills across from one another. Now, everyone could see someone was up here. Ivan peered down and saw flickers of light below; guards on watch.

‘Have a goodnight,’ father said and turned away.

Ivan glanced at the fire which was starting to grow around two logs in the small fire place then watched his father leaving. He listened as the boot steps faded and the night settle once more. Ivan still felt uneasy, something tonight felt different but he didn’t know how to explain it. Perhaps, it was just the pressing hand of Winter? There had been no threats for months, so why would there be any now? Especially, with the harvest over.

Going to the long twist of rough rope in the centre of the room, Ivan checked it over and give it a few gentle tugs. He felt the bell swing above, making soft sounds. It had taken him ages to practise how to make the bell sound without getting hurt by the rope because it was heavy and the movement powerful. It was second nature now.

Collecting the lantern, Ivan slipped through a small door and climbed another spiral staircase into the actual bell tower. The chill of wind slapped his face and he realised how cold it was becoming. Wrapping his cloak tighter, he hurriedly checked the bell, making sure the rope was tight and nothing was in the way to stop the swinging movement. Then he headed back down again to wait out the night.

At the table, he went through the basket that the elderly cook, had put together for him. There was half a loaf of hard bread, a lump of cheese, two apples, salted dried deer strips, a small sweet bun and two bottles of weak beer. Ivan smiled, the women in the camp took pity on him, even though he didn’t like it, he enjoyed the benefits.

Ivan kept the fire going, careful to use only the wood he needed. He also made the food and beer last through the night. He kept himself awake by telling himself stories, thinking about the different lives he could have had and watching the dots of lights below moving as the guards walked the abbey’s edges.

There was a shouting from below and Ivan hurried to the nearest window. Far below was a gathering of lights and movement but he could hardly make anything out. Listening hard, he heard a horn blowing and he realised his gut feelings had been right. Scrambling over, he yanked the bell rope and let the clanking chime of metal on metal ring out repeatedly.

The noise of the bell meant he could hear anything else but it wasn’t Ivan’s job to figure out who or what was attack where, only that they were and people had to know. Ivan felt the bell rope going up and down in his hands, the slight sting of burns starting but he carried on ringing as fast and hard as he could. Panic seized him, the idea that he should be fleeing came and went. The bell rang out and out still for what seemed like forever.

Ivan collapsed. His hands bloodied, his body shaking, his ears deafened. He watched the rope moving by itself until it stopped, the bell notes fading. He felt the floor vibrating underneath him but he wasn’t sure of the cause. He curled up, letting sleep take him away.

He awoke in his own straw bed, rough wool blankets draped across him. Someone had bandaged his hands but they did not feel like his own, they were numb and crippled. Ivan rolled over and tried to recall what had happened. When nothing came to him, he got up and went to the window, a few black cloak guards and women walked by about their business.

Ivan wondered around the camp then out and around the abbey. There he spotted his father and most of the guards, they were inspecting small, green bodies on the ground and as Ivan got closer he saw they were goblins.

‘Ah, there you are boy!’ his father called, then patted Ivan on the back before spreading his arms out to indicate the scene before them, ‘this is thanks to you. The attack was stopped and the rest scared off.’

Ivan nodded and nudged a small bow in the grass. He touched his head, it hurt just as badly as his hands did and when he looked he saw red dots coming through the grey cloth strips. He wanted to have a drink and lay down again. There were things to do though and his father decided if he was up then he was well enough to help out.

They worked until it grew dark then returned to the run down house where they had stew and wine by the fire. Finally, Ivan crawled back into bed and dozed there, hoping his father wouldn’t awake him to send him back into the bell tower. He slept fitfully, thoughts filled with bells and goblins.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/11/12/weekly-writing-challenge-167/ with thanks).

 

 

 

November Day

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The conservatory was cold, so Maddie turned up the heating. Then created a nest for herself out of large cushions and soft fluffy blankets, on the large over stuffed leather chair. Snuggling down and hugging the warm mug of tea, Maddie took a few deep breaths.

Minutes before, Maddie had been in the middle of an anxiety attack. All her senses had been overwhelmed, every little sound made her nervous and her mind a hurricane of worrying thoughts. She hadn’t been able to slow down and the pain in her stomach had crippled her. Maddie had felt like the whole world was crushing her.

She had shut her eyes, rubbed her stomach in circles and thought about the sound of the rain on the windows and the wind rattling outside. That had helped ease things, Maddie had got up, made a hot drink and gone into the almost glass room at the back of the house.

Now, she could hear the rain and wind surrounding her, washing over and helping to make her feel much better. Safe in the nest, she sipped the peppermint tea and thought only of all the warmth. She was safe from everything here.

Stark #WritePhoto

Roxy was dead and drifting through a stark landscape. Below her were bare white trees,  branches reaching into an endless grey-white clouded, dark blue sky. Yellowed grass upon rolling hills created a sea for her to look down upon.

She didn’t know where this was. A countryside? A moor? Hell, perhaps and over that hill there’d be lava pools, towers of fires and demons chanting. She flew over, there was nothing. Heaven then? But it seemed too bleak and deserted for that.

Roxy was unable to stop moving but she didn’t feel anything, she was beyond that now. From time to time, she thought she saw white shapes in the distance, she couldn’t make out what they were and never got close enough to see.

On and on she flew, the landscape repeating itself. She tried hard to remember small details; the certain shapes of tree branches or clouds. However, her mind wasn’t working as it once did and she couldn’t keep hold of the memories for long.

An idea came to her, Limbo. That would explain it. So, she was trapped here until what? Roxy couldn’t recall. In fact, she was having a hard time thinking now. She slipped into the drifting motion and let it carry her away, forgetting everything.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/11/01/thursday-photo-prompt-stark-writephoto/ with thanks).

Post It Note #52

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Remember, Remember the fifth of November! Buy fireworks tomorrow. Finish off setting up the bonfire and don’t forget to check it for hedgehogs before lighting it.

 

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Restless

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The door of the box bedroom would not stay shut. Seconds after I’d closed it, the door would open again. If I was still nearby I would hear the handle turn and the door slowly moving open. I turned around to look but there never seemed a reason why this kept happening.

I would find my boyfriend, Reece, in another room of the house and start telling him about it for the hundredth time.

He would look at me with wide brown eyes, his face too quickly aged with worry lines and an expression that pleaded with me not to start anything. His short, dark brown hair always looked a mess and he seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He was in his early twenties, same as me but both of us looked so much older.

I was younger by two years. My blonde hair cut boy-short, my dull blue eyes hollowed alongside my pale face and too thin body I gave the impression that I was a cancer victim. I had never been, it was just the way I’d always come across. I had been through a lot too. Different from Reece’s experience but it still amounted to the same out come.

‘We need to replace that door,’ I snapped.

‘We don’t have the money and there’s nothing wrong with it,’ he replied.

‘But it won’t close properly,’ I complained.

‘It’s an old house. A house we are lucky to have, Joanna,’ he remind me.

And that would be the end of the repeating argument before it had time to build because he was right. His grandparents had owned the house and they had passed it to him but left hardly any money for the upkeep.

Reece had been in and out of foster care until his grandparents had ‘rescued’ him when he was thirteen. He’d only told me bits and pieces, including how he’d never had a real home and had constantly been abused.

I disliked this house but I had nowhere else to go. Reece’s love had saved me from having to survive on the streets and I was about to throw that away. Maybe, if we were able to make the house ours it would be be different. We couldn’t offered to redecorate or get rid of all the furniture and it still felt like we were living with his grandparents.

I kept trying to let the door thing go but I just couldn’t. I had a niggly feeling about the bedroom door each time I saw it open and I would have try to close it.

Finally, I’d had enough. I saved some money to buy a lock and had a neighbour, Mr Duman, who was a local handyman, fit it for me whilst Reece was out playing in a football match on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Duman was a nice man almost in his sixties and he had known Reece’s grandparents. He was tall, going grey and had a pot belly. He reminded me of images I had seen of Father Christmas.

‘This is the door,’ I pointed out to him, ‘can you please check it?’

He nodded and set to work.

‘Maybe, the hinges are loose?’ I suggested, ‘or the door frame misaligned? Does the carpet catch on the bottom of the door?’

‘No,’ Mr Duman replied, ‘that’s all fine.’

‘Then why doesn’t it stay closed?’ I pressed.

‘Could be a drift or a loose floorboard underneath?’ he said, ‘I could take a look for you, Joanna.’

‘No, it’s okay can you just fit the lock?’

‘No problems. Looks like there was once a lock here anyway. Makes the job easier,’ Mr Duman said.

‘Really?’ I asked and he showed me where an old lock had once been under the door handle.

Then he fitted the new lock and we tested it out.

‘Should be good now,’ Mr Duman spoke with a smile, ‘no more problems!’

That was true for two weeks. The box bedroom door stayed locked and shut. Reece wasn’t happy about it but he could see how much better I felt about it and that was good enough. Then I came home from my job at a supermarket early one afternoon and the door was wide open.

Forgetting everything else, I walked over and looked. The key, which was always left in the lock was on the floor next to the door, inside the room. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed, though there was only an old child’s bed under the square window and small, empty wardrobe on the opposite wall.

I picked up the key, closed and locked the door then went through the rest of the house. Everything looked fine. I tried to put it out of my mind but it was really bugging me. Why would someone do that?

‘Reece, did you leave the box bedroom door open?’ I asked him as soon as he come from work.

He was tried, covered in dust and plaster from his current builder job. He looked at me confused as he took his boots off at the front door.

‘What? No, Joanna,’ he replied.

‘It was open when I got home from work. Like all the way open and the key was on the floor inside the room,’ I explained.

Reece shook his head and dumped his boots under the coat rack, ‘I’ve not touched it.’

‘Then somebody broke in and did!’ I cried.

‘Is anything missing?’ Reece demanded.

‘No….It doesn’t seem like it, but someone must have unlocked the door!’

Reece gripped my shoulders and said firmly, ‘stop getting hysterical about it. It’s just a door, Jo. Just a door.’

I took a few deep breaths and nodded.

Reece took his clothes off so he wouldn’t get dirt everywhere and I took his things to the washing machine. Once he’d showered and dressed, he checked through the house and I made us something to eat.

‘Nothing’s been touched,’ Reece came back to tell me.

He kissed and hugged me, giving me the little bit of comfort he was able too.

We ate, watched TV and went to bed early. I had a dream where I could see the door in front of me and the key was turning in the lock by itself. The door opened, I went inside, the door closed and locked behind me. I tried to get out but couldn’t. I yelled, screamed, kicked and punched the door. Exhausted, I curled in a corner and cried.

I awoke up into darkness and heard the sound of a door slowly creaking open. Turning on the lamp, I woke up Reece and though he was grumpy, we both got up and went out into the hallway.

Reece turned on the light and we both saw the box bedroom door wide open.

‘Stay here,’ he said.

He walked down the hallway, turned the light on in the room then bent down to pick something up. Turning off the light, he pulled the door to and locked it. He came back and showed me the key between his fingers.

‘I’m keeping this,’ he said.

I nodded and watched as he put the key in the top draw of his bedside table.

Without saying anything, he walked passed me and went downstairs. I heard him trying all the doors and windows, making sure everything was locked.

I got back into bed, wondering about my dream whilst I glanced around the old fashioned decorated room. It had been his grandparents room and there was a pink ceiling, flowered wall paper and old brown furniture. At least the bed was all new. I had refused to sleep in the bed both his grandparents had died in.

Reece came back, announced everything was secure and we both tried to sleep again. However, it felt like I spent the night awake listening to a child crying and a door handle being rattled.

In the morning, the door was still locked and we went back to having believed we’d dealt with it. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong and every night it seemed I could hear crying and rattling.

I didn’t believe in the supernatural and I’d never had much of an imagination, my strict Catholic parents had beaten that out of me. That’s how Reece and I had met and stuck together; both orphaned teenagers with lost childhoods.

The noise was getting to me and I starting to hear it during the day when I was home alone. So, one afternoon I took the key from the draw and unlocked the door.

‘There now, stop crying,’ I spoke into the empty room, ‘go out, whatever you are, be free and let us be in peace.’

Leaving the door open, I went back downstairs and made some Chamomile tea. I felt better after that and waited for Reece to come home.

‘Why is that door open?’ he asked from the hallway.

‘Because, I want whatever is trapped in there to leave,’ I replied back.

He muttered something then came into the living room doorway, carrying his football kit bag. He looked flushed and tired, still damp from the shower he had before coming home. He reminded me of a child, exhausted after a hard practice session and long day at school.

‘Do you want something to eat?’ I asked to change the subject, ‘there’s pizza.’

He nodded and without saying anything else went upstairs.

I thought he would come back down but later after calling him twice that food was ready, I went up to find him.

The upstairs lights were all off except for the one in the box bedroom. I went slowly up and along in the dark, my mind turning over all kinds of things. I peered around the door and saw him sitting on the bare mattress of the bed.

‘Reece?’ I whispered softly, ‘what is it?’

He took a sobbing breathe and turned to me.

‘Are you crying?’

I went in and hugged him. He grabbed me, wrapping his arms around me and burying his face into my stomach. He broke into a hard crying which affected his whole body.

‘What’s wrong?’ I asked in a soft voice, ‘whatever it is you can tell me.’

‘It’s me!’ he broke out through the heaving, ‘I’ve been causing this!’ he waved at the door.

I stroked his hair, trying to figure out what he meant. I sat down on the bed next to him, the old springs squeaking and we held each other until he’d calmed down.

‘This was my bedroom when I first came here,’ Reece began, ‘My grandparents didn’t hurt me and they convinced me I was finally safe. For sometime though I would have these angry rages. I would destroy whatever I could, I would scare my grandma and my grandpa. It was his idea to lock me in here to keep them and myself safe.’

‘I see…’ I trailed off.

‘I got over it, I guess’ Reece continued, ‘and they let me have the bigger bedroom next to their’s. I’ve hated this room ever since. Things were better afterwards, until they…’ he stopped and took a gasping breath.

‘It’s okay,’ I said gently, ‘I won’t complain about it anymore. We won’t lock or shut this door ever again. It’ll always be open and you don’t have to worry anymore.’

He nodded and snuggled into me as best he could. I felt his crying stop and his body relaxing. I stroked his face, waiting till he was calm again.

‘We have to make this place a proper home now,’ I whispered into his hair.

‘Why?’ he mumbled back.

I took his hand, placed it over my stomach and left my hand on top of his, my fingers rubbed his knuckles.

‘Because we are going to have a baby.’

Shadows #3LineTales

three line tales, week 142: a girl and her puppy at sunset

It plays in my mind still, that afternoon fifty years ago, there was a girl and her dog in the garden playing with a ball under a sunset blood smeared sky.

I wanted to play too but the fence was high and I could only see through a hole, I tried calling out but they ignored me, so I want to the shed, took out a ladder and climb over into her garden.

It was abandoned as was the house, there was no girl, no dog, just the wind in a dead apple tree.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/10/18/three-line-tales-week-142/ with thanks).

 

 

 

Rex #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Ty listened hard to the sound, looking up at the locked door and wondering what was going on in there. The new house was creaking and not just because of the wind, there was something in the attic.

Mum and Dad said it was nothing, just the noises old houses make but Ty was old enough to know what was normal and what was not. The sounds in the attic were defiantly in the not area. It was difficult to make out what the scrapping, scratching and low moaning could be, maybe an animal?

Ty turned and went down the large staircase, he was just high enough at eight years old that his hand could hold onto the too smooth banister. The hall light was on at the bottom but the corridor was still dark. Light was spilling out of the living room door like a welcome sign and focusing on that helped Ty make it all the way there.

His parents were on the sofa watching the TV which for now was balanced on a coffee table. Around the room, were stacked cardboard boxes and mis-match furniture – some from the old house and some from the new. There was a empty fire place in the back wall and the left wall was all windows that were now blocked out by heavy curtains.

‘Mum, Dad,’ Ty called out, ‘I think there’s an animal trapped in the attic!’

His parents turned to him, looking at first disgruntled then confused.

‘What do you mean, Ty?’ his Mum asked.

‘Come and listen to the noises.’

‘That’s just the house,’ Dad explained.

Ty shook his head and held out his hand. He led his Mum upstairs, his Dad following behind. They past their bedroom, the bathroom, TY’s bedroom, turned the bend and came to the front of the steps leading up to the attic. There they stood and listened.

There was nothing at first, just the faint drift of noise from the TV and a car outside. Then came a low moaning like a cat or dog in pain. A tapping of claws? Nails? on a wooden floor, a scratching like a dog wanting to go out and the sliding movement of wood against wood.

‘See,’ TY whispered.

He watched his parents looking at each other.

‘It does sound like something, doesn’t it,’ Dad said.

He walked up the stairs slowly, each step creaking under his weight. He felt around the door frame, disturbing a line of dust which floated down to TY and his mum.

‘What’s he doing?’ TY whispered.

‘Checking for a way to get in,’ m=Mum whispered back.

‘Ah ha!’ Dad said and turned to show them the small key in his hand.

He unlocked the door and turned the handle. A mouth of darkness yawed before them.

Ty crept up the stairs, feeling nerves and excited at the same time. What was going to be there? Something hidden from the past?

The light pinged on and an awful smell filled the air. Ty stopped and put his hand over his mouth, he was going to be sick. He swallowed a few times, saw his Dad was also effected by the stink and carried on climbing to join him.

The attic was a mess; furniture broken, contains of boxes ripped up, things scattered everywhere and some animal had been to the bathroom all over the place it seemed.

‘What an earth?’ Dad muttered.

Then they both saw it coming out from behind the remains of a chair a large dark shadow which was slowly creeping towards them.

TY grab his Dad’s hand, feeling numb with fear as whatever it was came closer.

The shadow came into the edge of the light and they saw it was only a dog. A big, fluffy brown dog which was trailing a lead behind it.

‘What is it?’ Mum called as she came upstairs to join them.

‘A dog!’ Dad cried, ‘the last family must have left him behind!’

‘What a stink and mess!’

The dog hung his head guilty and give a swing of his tail.

‘Poor thing! He’s staved. Who would do such a thing?’ Mum added.

‘Bad people,’ Dad answered then tried to call the dog over, ‘come here boy, we won’t hurt you, come on.’

The dog didn’t move and let out a little moan.

‘Come here dog,’ TY called, ‘you hungry?’

The dog whined and came forward, shaking slightly. Once the dog was close enough, Dad held out his hand which the dog sniffed then Dad took hold of the lead and they all went down into the kitchen.

There it was clear the dog was very hungry and thirsty. He was also friendly enough and grateful to have been saved.

Dad untangled the lead and found the dog was wearing a collar with a tag.

‘His name is Rex,’ Dad announced.

‘Rex,’ Ty repeat and hugged the dog, ‘we’ll take care of you now!’

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/10/08/weekly-writing-challenge-162/ with thanks).

S.A.D

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It was Monday lunchtime and I was laying in bed, half dozing in the creeping silence of my house. The morning had been it’s normal hectic self; getting two kids and a husband ready, fed and out the door in time. Then I had busied myself with chores but now my mind wasn’t occupied the horrible sensations were taking over.

I looked at the pale blue painted ceiling, negative thoughts chasing each other in my head like cats and mice. I fought down the urge to linger on any of those thoughts because that would make them more real and worse. I told myself it would pass, it was just the change into the colder seasons.

Grabbing a pillow, I pressed it over my face and took a few deep breaths, until I couldn’t anymore. Tossing the pillow aside, I felt more in control. Distraction would help stop it coming back. I picked up the second hand, romance paperback I had been reading but after a few pages I couldn’t settle into it.

I got up and went on my laptop instead. I had a few things going on; looking for a job, writing a novel, a few online games with pending quests to complete and friends I could chat to. I did all of those, passing what felt like a good few hours and that helped as there was no space in my head to think about how sad I felt.

The time came to pick up the children from school. I looked outside whilst I debated over shoes and coats, it was rainy and windy with a darkening grey sky and brown leaves tossing around, typical autumn! I pushed the gloomy feeling away from me, gathered what I needed and went out.

Normally, I would walk with the school only half an hour away, but I got into the car and drove instead. The traffic and parking was bad and once I had found the girls, we joined everyone else trying to leave. I half listened to the girls chatter about their day, their friends and teachers, my concentration given to trying to get us safely home again.

Once back and everything falling into a routine again, I felt better, almost like my normal self again. There was tea to be made, more chores, homework to be done, TV to be watched, girls to put to bed, etc.

Time passed and I was in bed again, husband all ready a sleep whilst I trying and failing too. There was just too much darkness in the room tonight, too much wondering of my thoughts and I had to get up and do something. I took my book downstairs and read it until I wasn’t following the words anymore, my mind filled with worries so I couldn’t concentrate.

I took a sleeping pill, my only solution to the problem and dozed off, hoping tomorrow my depression would have gone.

Wunderbares Spielhaus #SundayPhotoFiction

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The old carpenter led the village children to the edge of the woods and showed them what he had been building in secret during the spring months.

The little wooden house stood proudly and a bit crooked amongst spindly trees. Inside wooden furniture and soft finishing the carpenter’s wife had made give the place a homely feel. And for a few minutes you could imagine a family of small people living there.

The children laughed, they thanked the old carpenter, ‘danke, danke!’ and rushed off to play.

The carpenter watched them for awhile, sadness growing in his heart then he turned and went home.

His wife was dozing by the fire, a shirt she had been mending sliding off her knees. The carpenter sat down opposite her and she awoke with a start.

‘The kinder like the house,’ he said.

‘Good, I’m glad,’ his wife replied.

A heavy silence fell between them, disturbed only by the fire crackling away. They were each lost in their own thoughts, imagining the children they had never had.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2018/09/29/sunday-photo-fiction-sept-30-2018/ with thanks).