Smultronstalle (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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Smultronstalle; ‘place of wild strawberries.’ a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation a personal idyll free from stress or sadness. 

The Swedish countryside reminded me of England’s farmland and meadows. There was so much open space broken only by a few trees, hedgerows, red houses and barns. All of it was circled by gigantic lakes and wide rivers, which were dotted with islands. On the shores, small docks with pleasure boats moored up, waiting to be taking out on adventures.

I could walk the countryside and lake shore for hours, sometimes even take the small boat out on the lake, lost in my own thoughts. Until my step-dad, Hugo, appeared in his old black jeep, claiming, ‘ I’ve been searching all over for you, Lacy! It’s time to come home now.’ Though it wasn’t really my home that was back in England with my dead grandparents, father and brother.

The Swedish house was a huge three bedroom bungalow with a massive kitchen, living room, dinning room at the front of the house then a walk through pantry with the bathroom and a short hallway into a snug room. This joined the back of the house were the bedrooms where. Outside there was a nice decking seating area, a large rectangle lawn surrounding the house and half hidden in the left to go wild back garden was a small wooden sauna.

It’s a world away from the two down-two up terrace house I had grown up in with my grandparents. Dad and my brother Alex aged ten, died in a car accident when I was three. Mum couldn’t cope so her parents looked after me.

Then mum meet Hugo, a rich businessman who’s half English half Swedish, they married and had a son, Oscar, and decided to settle in Sweden moving between Hugo’s summer house in the countryside and his smaller house in Stockholm in the winter.

I hadn’t seen them or even been to Sweden until two months ago when my grandma passed away, almost three years after grandpa had died of the same lung cancer. I didn’t want to come but being seventeen it was either that or go into a foster home and that really didn’t appeal to me.

Of course, mum was shocked when I agreed to move to her and even more so when she met me at the airport.

‘You’ve grown so much, Lacy!’ mum had said, ‘you look more like your dad then me. It’s all that curly dark brown hair and you wear glasses too. Your eyes are brown like his were. You have my freckles though! But you’re tall like him, he had really long legs. Well, you’ll be able to show them off. Sweden is hotter then England in the summer, but the winters are so much colder!’

I don’t hate my mum or step-family or Sweden, it’s surprisingly nice here and there’s very little traffic or people about. It’s so much quieter, stiller and cleaner then the council estate. Most of the field are either for food growth, left wild or for animals to graze on, which are mostly horses. This area is famous for it’s prize winning horses across all sports.

I sometimes like to sit and the watch horses in the fields when I come across them but most of the time I just walk around. That is the one draw back to living around here; there is nothing close by. The nearest shops are a twenty minute car drive away and they are like a small corner shop and a petrol station. It’s about an hour Stockholm, though there are other towns and big shopping places in-between.

Of course, Hugo’s summer house as a TV, DVD player, internet etc but Oscar normally wants to watch something or be on the computer at the same time I do and since he’s a spoilt brat he always gets his own way. Oscar is eleven and mum baby’s him far too much whilst Hugo is too busy to really care.

So, that’s why I spend most of my time outside.

Recently, I found the perfect spot to hide in for awhile. Following the road away from the cluster of houses that make up the neighborhood by the lake shore, through a farmer’s field that has a footpath at the edge and into a wooden area which has a smaller clearing where lots of wild fruit, vegetables and herbs seem to be growing.

There I can sit on the grass in the shade of the trees or the full sunshine if I move further out. I can read books, write in my diary, do school work, daydream and anything else I fancy doing. It’s become like my sanctuary away from the world. I’m happy there and don’t feel sad about my past and issues.

Currently, I noticed that wild strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are growing in the clearing. I’ve been watching them and wondering when they best time to eat them will be.

That’s how Hugo came to know about my special place. I asked him one day over breakfast. Oscar was stuffing his face full of pancakes which I’m sure he was addicted too, mum was busy making him some more and Hugo was reading a newspaper whilst I was picking at the cereal in my bowl.

‘Hugo?’ I asked.

He hummed to show he was listening.

‘Can you eat the wild berries around here?’

‘Sure,’ he replied, ‘as long as they are wild and not in a farmer’s field. Wild berry picking is something my parents always enjoyed doing. Bit of a tradition in Sweden.’

‘How do you know when berries are ready?’ I asked.

‘Their colour changes and they don’t taste tangy or sour. I guess it depends what the berry actually is.’

Hugo folded the newspaper and give me his full attention which I didn’t like.

‘Strawberries?’ I shrugged and tried to act like it had just come to my head.

‘When they are all red and have no green left on them,’ Hugo answered.

‘Okay, what about blueberries?’

‘When they are a sort of dark purple.’

‘And raspberries and blackberries?’

‘When they are red and black,’ Hugo said and he give a small laugh, ‘where have you found all these berries? Maybe we can pick them together?’

I debated telling him then reasoned he probably knew about the place anyway, ‘in a clearing in the patch woods, passed the first field opposite the road that turns down to here.’

‘Oh, that clearing! The fruits are good from there,’ Hugo spoke.

I nodded and took a few sips of orange juice.

‘Why do you care anyway?’ Oscar snapped, bulling his way into the conversation.

Mum put two more pancakes on Oscar’s plate – his seventh and eighth-  then sat down to finally eat something herself.

‘None of your business,’ I muttered.

‘Tell me!’ Oscar shouted, ‘mamma make her tell!’ he banged his fork on the table.

‘I found some all right and I wanted to know when I could eat them,’ I explained angrily, ‘you don’t like fruit and veg anyway, so there!’

‘I do like fruit and veg!’ Oscar yelled, ‘show me where they are! Mamma make her show me! I want some!’ and he began kicking his legs about under the table.

I moved so he wouldn’t hit me and abandoned my breakfast at the same time.

‘Oscar stop that,’ Hugo said.

‘Stop kicking, darling,’ mum added, ‘today we are going into Norrtälje to do some shopping and visit your dad’s cousins. We can get you some berries there if you like.’

I got up to leave, thinking of grabbing my things and heading out to the clearing.

‘Lacy, you’re coming to. You agreed last night,’ Mum said.

I turned ready to argue, teenage mode on and angry flaring in me. I opened my mouth to say no but both mum and Hugo had stern, no arguments please faces on and I knew there was no point. The last thing I wanted was to turn into a second Oscar and at least in Norrtälje I could go shopping.

 

To Be Continued…

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Moonbroch #AtozChallenge

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Moonbroch; a halo around the moon which presages an approaching storm. 

Lottie threw the duvet back and got out of bed, giving in to her insomnia. Without fumbling around trying to light a candle, she crossed the bedroom in darkness. She went to the window box and moved the heavy curtains away from the window itself. A cold draft raised the hairs on her skin that wasn’t covered by the long, sweeping white nightdress.

She sat down, comfortable against the plump cushions and quilted seat underneath her. Pulling all of her long, golden hair over to her right shoulder, Lottie played with the gentle curls. First, she straightened them, then twisted the ends around her fingers before throwing the whole lot back over her shoulder.

Lottie looked out of the window into the night which stretched like a never ending sea. Below, the  gas lamps that normally lit the short driveway and gate were out. The moorland beyond, which she couldn’t see, was quiet. It was rare anyone travelled after sunset but on nights of the full moon as it was tonight, nobody left their homes.

The clouds in the sky parted, the moon shone down, casting a dim light which was just enough for Lottie to see by. She watched the moon, noticing the halo of light that surrounded it and how the clouds were lit by the glow. It was a magnificent sight.

An echoing wolf howl broke the stillness. A shiver, that had nothing to do with the cold, ran through Lottie. She reached out to clutch the side of a cushion then tried to move away from the window. Another howl, closer this time stopped her movement and she looked out again.

There was something moving in the darkness of the moor.

Lottie told herself they were just shadows cast by the moon and that the howling only seemed nearby because it had echoed. She put the cushion into her lap and played with the tassels to help calm herself down.

I should go back to bed. Light the candle and read my book until I feel sleepy, Lottie thought.

A movement made Lottie turn her head. Down, next to the gate, a huge grey-black shaggy furred werewolf was standing there in the moonlight, looking up at her with massive yellow eyes. The breathe caught in Lottie’s throat, she became still, frozen by fear that was racing through her blood.

The werewolf threw his head back and let out a mighty, long howl.

From the darkness, another werewolf, slightly smaller and with a light grey fur coat padded towards the gate and joined the first werewolf. They howled together and another werewolf, shorter this time, with a red-grey mixed coat appeared. Then it seemed, more and more werewolves kept coming forward, till at least a pack of twelve stood by the gate.

The first werewolf moved, rising on it’s long, twisted hind legs to stand taller then a man and let out a short howl. He launched himself, trying to get through the gate. He’s long front legs and muzzle fell through the bars, the rest of his body slammed against the metal frame. The gate violently shook but held. The werewolf tried repeatedly, hitting the gate harder and harder as his frustrations rose.

The other werewolves had been pacing around, waiting for the first to break through the gate. They moved in and out of the moonlight, like black ghosts. However, they soon got bored of waiting and began throwing themselves at the gate too. Jaws snapping, claws scrapping, legs flaying and their desperate snarling and howls crying out.

Lottie, fear totally over coming her, screamed and threw herself down to the floor. She tried to get up, but the nightdress was twisted around her legs. Tears of pain and fear wet her eyes. Lottie screamed again louder then before, knowing the noise would awake someone in the house.

Outside, Lottie heard the gate continue to shake and the werewolves, snarling and trying to scramble through.

Finding her feet, Lottie crossed the rug covered floor and opened the door. Light from a left on gas lamp in the hallway stung her eyes and she took a moment. Going over, she stood in the glow and tried to calm herself down.

The swinging of a door opening made her jump and Lottie looked up the corridor to see a bobbing candle in the darkness.

‘Who’s that? Lottie?’ her older brother’s voice asked.

‘Yes. It’s me, John,’ Lottie answered, her voice sounding breathless, ‘there’s werewolves at the front gate!’

‘What?’ John cried and he hurried over to her.

‘I couldn’t sleep, so I looked outside and they saw me!’ Lottie explained.

John rushed into her bedroom, his bare footsteps loud.

Lottie peered around the door frame after him and watched as her brother came to a stop at the window and swore loudly.

Turning away, John came back to her, ‘go to mother’s room. Lock the door and stay there together.’

Lottie nodded and hurried away. She ran along the corridors, her night dress flying out behind her. A few gas lamps lit her way but Lottie knew how to get to her mother’s room without being able to see the way. Up a small staircase and she was there, knocking on her mother’s door, declaring herself and begging entrance.

Her mother, Isabella, opened the door, candle in hand and the light dancing off her loose, long golden hair. Lottie rushed in, closing and locking the heavy wooden door behind her.

‘There’s werewolves outside!’ Lottie shouted.

‘Do your father and brothers know?’ her mother questioned.

Lottie shook her head, ‘Just John knows. He told me to come here, tell you and for us to stay here together.’

‘We should prepare for attack,’ Isabella said, ‘Let’s light candles and the fire. Then get dressed.’

They moved away from the door. Lottie went to the fireplace and began stacking coal and wood on top of the ashes all ready there. Her mother began lighting candles around the room. 

‘Shouldn’t we go to the cellar?’ Lottie asked.

‘There is a passageway from here to there, under the trapdoor by the window.’ 

‘Like in my bedroom?’

‘Yes. Your grandfather’s idea after that horrible night when werewolves got in and roamed through the house,’ Isabella spoke.

‘They killed grandma, uncle William who was only four years old and two maids,’ Lottie picked up, the story having been burned into her memory from the countless retelling of it, ‘the butler’s son, dad’s butler now, has bad scars from trying to protect the other servants.’

‘And it’s how your father lost his  left foot,’ Isabella finished.

Lottie nodded, ‘they trapped all the werewolves in the East wing and burnt it to the ground.’

‘And ever since then, your grandfather and father have trained everyone how to prepare and defend themselves from werewolf attacks; how to fire a gun and fight with a knife. Even you, my only daughter, despite my wishes, have been taught all of that too.’

‘I know,’ Lottie said quietly as she finished setting up the firewood.

She lit a match, placed it into the fireplace and watched the flames quickly beginning to burn the wood. Lottie stood up and joined her mother in the middle of the room. They hugged tightly and her mother kissed her forehead.

A gun shot rang out, followed by shouting men’s voices.

Lottie jumped, gasping and turning towards the door.

‘Let’s get dressed,’ her mother cried as she grabbed Lottie’s hand and pulled her towards the wardrobe.

Yanking open the doors, Isabella pushed through all her dresses and to the back of the wardrobe. She pulled out two sets of men’s clothing; shirts, large travelling jackets, trousers, long woollen socks and knee length leather boots.

Helping each other, they dressed quickly then tied their long hair up in buns.

Then from underneath her bed, Isabella pulled out a rifle, two pistols, ammunition; sliver bullets, and four daggers. They were just like the ones Lottie had under her bed.

Isabella handed her daughter the two pistols and two of the daggers, without saying anything but with a determined look set on her face.

Lottie put one of the daggers in each boot then loaded the pistols and placed them with the rest of the ammunition in the deep pockets of the jacket. Her mother did everything the same.

Ready for anything, they sat down on the bed facing the door and listened to the sounds of fighting raising from the front of the house. Gun shots, male cries and shouts mingled with the howling, snarling and painful cries of the werewolves.

A few minutes later, they heard the clattering of claws across bare floorboards, snarling, snapping of jaws and sniffing from underneath the door. Then the door shook as something huge hit it.

‘Get behind the bed,’ Isabella whispered, nudging Lottie.

The girl did as she was told, drawing the pistols and the ammo from her pockets. Whilst her mother stood up, cocked the rifle and aimed it at the door which was badly shaking as the werewolf tried to get in. The wood began splitting, cracking around a hole in the middle and a large black nose followed by a grey muzzle poked through.

Isabella stood her ground, the butt of the rifle against her shoulder, her eyes fixed along the top of the barrel. Her finger brushed the trigger, waiting for the right moment to fire.

The first werewolf from before burst through the door, using the force of it’s body to break through the hole. Bits of wood flew everywhere and the chaos, Isabella fired.

The shot was loud, deafening herself and Lottie, there was a burst of flame followed by smoke and the werewolf let out a painful cry but didn’t go down. Instead, he leapt through the air and before she could get away, the werewolf landed on Isabella pinning her to the bed.

Lottie screamed, got up and fired at the werewolf without aiming. Both bullets hit the werewolf’s bent neck and sank in deep. The werewolf growled deeply, showing off blood stained teeth, froth dripped from it’s mouth and the werewolf moved up onto of Isabella, trying to reach over to snap at Lottie.

Isabella punched the werewolf’s stomach, grappled the beast and rolled onto the floor with him. Disappearing out of Lottie’s sight. Snarls and her mother’s cries rose, claws and boots scrapped across the floor. Isabella tried to grab one the daggers in her boots but her hands were full of fur as she tried to keep the werewolf’s mouth away from her face.

Shaking, Lottie dashed around the bed and aimed the pistols again. However, she realised that she couldn’t fire as her mother was wrestling with the werewolf and the risk of shooting her was too great. Lottie held her ground, her mind running through everything she could possible do.

Lottie dropped the pistols, pulled the daggers from her boots and waited until the werewolf was on top of her mother. Then Lottie jumped on top of the werewolf, bring the sliver daggers down into the werewolf’s fur. The blades slide into the skin then the body of the beast, going right up to the hilt.

The werewolf let out an anguish cry and twisted to the side. Lottie didn’t let go of the daggers in time and the werewolf fell on top of her. Lottie kicked with both legs, used the force to pull the daggers free then plunged them down to the side of the werewolf before he could get up again. There was a crack of rib bones as the blades drove in and the werewolf’s head snapped around and he’s teeth closed around Lottie’s lower leg.

Lottie screamed in pain then gun shots from the pistols rang out. The werewolf twitched then became still, the jaws loosing on Lottie’s leg. The werewolf’s blood pooled across the floor.

Isabella dragged Lottie away and towards the trap door then down the hidden passageway and into the cellar. Lamps and candles were all ready burning down here and all the female servants were gathered around makeshift beds or the old dinning room table.

Upon seeing their mistresses, the servants hurried to help and hear the tale of the fight. The leather boot and woollen socks had saved Lottie’s leg which was badly bruised but thankfully the skin hadn’t been broken. Once it had been cleaned and treated, Lottie rested in one of the beds and fell asleep.

Voices woke her later and Lottie found that all the men had joined them in the cellar. she listened to some of their talk but finally, she rose and asked, ‘what happened?’

Her mother, father and three brothers turned towards her.

‘It’s over,’ her father replied, ‘we killed them all.’

‘Thank God,’ Lottie answered.

‘And you,’ John spoke, ‘if you hadn’t been awake and seen them at the gate we wouldn’t have had enough time to fight them.’

‘And you fought so bravely against the werewolf that attack us,’ Isabella added.

‘Yes. All the training paid off,’ Lottie said, ‘I’m glad it’s over now.’

 

 

Lorn (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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Lorn; lost, ruined or undone. 

The stairs looked forbidding, so Caleb and Beth climbed up slowly and gingerly. Beth had left the books on the doorstep, ready to collect when they left. Some of the stairs railings looked like they had been gnawed by rodents, making the banister unstable.

They found the rooms in better shape up here. The bathroom, four beds and the en-suit hadn’t been touched by the flood but the vandals and squatters had been here. The bath, toilet and sink had been smashed up; cream porcelain chucks covered a chequered lino floor and water stains dotted the wall like a painting.

The first bedroom – possibly Grandpa’s room was mess of clothes, bedding and bits of furniture. The wooden bed was broken, the remains against the wall. Two double mattress were on the floor, blankets draping over. Someone had patched the broken windows with newspaper and old fabric.

‘Let’s spend time looking for things,’ Beth said.

Not giving voice to his disappointment, Caleb nodded and warned her, ‘look out for glass and needles. Who knows what was going on here.’

‘I’ll be careful,’ Beth answered.

The searched the room and found some coins, empty beer cans, food wrappers and a few photographs. The clothes weren’t worth going through. It seemed the house had really been robbed out.

‘Recognise anyone?’ Beth asked, sharing the photos with Caleb.

He shook his head, ‘no. Maybe they were Grandpa’s but I don’t know.’

‘Do you want them or not?’

‘No,’ Caleb answered and turned away.

He went into the next room which was a smaller bedroom. There were three single beds squished in, clothes heaped on the floor, rubbish in the corners and the smashed window letting all the elements in. On a bedside table, was a pile of used cigarettes, ash scattered about.

Caleb went in, just to check but there was nothing of Grandpa here. He meet Beth in the doorway and they moved on to the next two bedrooms. At some time, they had been children’s rooms going off the old wallpaper which was mostly torn away. Like the first two rooms, people had been sleeping in here but Grandpa had been using them as storage and there were a few boxes to look through, though they weren’t the first to do so.

‘More books,’ Beth said about the first box.

‘Any be saved?’ Caleb called.

‘Possible. Let’s take them. What’s in that one?’

‘A tea set…Some of it anyway. Few bits of smashed. Next one…’ Caleb trailed as he looked through another box, ‘videos.’

‘Same in this one too,’ Beth laughed, ‘and some music tapes….Your Grandpa liked sixties rock and country. Irish ballads?’

‘No idea,’ Caleb spoke, ‘there’s some photo albums here. They look okay and a school year book….Let’s take this box.’

‘Finally one,’ Beth pointed out, she moved over and opened it, ‘things wrapped in news paper…..oh, it’s horse!’

Beth held up a porcelain horse and Caleb crossed the room to look. Removing the rest of the yellowed newspaper, Beth passed him the brown and white horse. Then she picked up another wrapped form and peeled back the newspaper.

‘This one’s a shire horse. Look at the leather stuff, he’s ready to pull a cart!’

‘Do you want them?’ Caleb asked, running a finger over the cold, smooth face of the horse.

‘Sure,’ Beth said.

‘Let’s check theses drawers and wardrobe.’

There was only a few items of clothes, shoes and children’s toys. Caleb pulled a teddy dog out and turned it over in his hands. He didn’t recognise it, so put it back.

In the next room, they found more books and children’s toys. They saved the books and got ready to leave.

‘I forgot about about the attic,’ Caleb said soon after they had brought all the boxes they were taken down to the front door.

‘Where is it?’ Beth asked, looking back up the darkening staircase.

Caleb went back up and stood on the landing. He looked along the ceiling for a few moments the pointed out the almost hairline rim of the attic door, ‘there!’ he said.

‘Can you get up?’ Beth asked.

‘I’ll need a ladder….Maybe a neighbours got one,’ Caleb wondered, he came back downstairs, ‘you load the car and I’ll go and ask around.’

‘Okay…but don’t take too long, it’s getting late.’

They kissed, Caleb give her the car keys then headed out. Beth began moving the boxes and loading them into the back of the car. Soon after she had finished, Caleb appeared with a ladder and a middle aged man in tow. He had a grey, balding head, a rough covering of beard and worry lines on his face. His hands and body showed the lifestyle of a construction worker. He was wearing dirty jeans and an old blue t-shirt.

‘This is, Reggie,’ Caleb said.

‘Hi,’ Beth greeted the man.

‘We’ll go up. Why don’t you wait out here?’

‘No, it’s okay. I might be able to help.’

They went back inside. Reggie helped with the ladder then Caleb lifted the attic door and shone the torch from his phone inside.

‘Oh wow, it’s packed up here!’ Caleb called down, ‘looks untouched too. I guess no one was able to get up here. Okay, I’m going in.’

‘Be careful!’ Beth called.

‘I shall be. Here, let me pass stuff down.’

Together, the three of them emptied the attic. There were cardboard and plastic boxes filled with books, photos, film, bric-a-bric antiques, papers, two landscape oil paintings, old toys, including a collection of metal cars, a small stuff rocking horse that had seen better days, a sixties recorder player and some other things.

‘There were treasures in this house after all,’ Beth cried.

‘Some of this stuff could be worth a bit,’ Reggie stated as he inspected one of the paintings which showed a river going though a forest with a herd of deer coming for a drink.

‘Beth! Look at this!’ Caleb yelled.

‘What is it?’

‘My grandparents wedding stuff! Their clothes and photos. Wow! This is amazing. Here, I’m going to pass it all down.’

Excitedly, Caleb passed Beth and Reggie a huge white box and another that was black. Then a battered cardboard box, over flowing with dusty fake flowers, photo albums and other things.

Beth took the lid off the white box and couldn’t believe her eyes. Folded inside was a lacy white wedding dress from the fifties with a huge veil laying on top.

‘I can’t believe this survived,’ Beth uttered.

‘The old man probably wanted to forgot all about it,’ Reggie cut in, ‘from what I remember, she died young.’

Reggie handed her a loose photo which showed a  veiled bride sitting in the back of a Rolls Royce.

‘What happened?’ Beth asked.

‘Some disease. She was only like in her thirties.’

‘That’s sad.’

Reggie nodded then Caleb yelled there were some more boxes and they got back to work.

The attic was soon empty and Caleb climbed back down, ‘thanks for your help, Reggie.’

‘No probs. Be nice to see this place fixed up and lived in again. Those yobs made a right mess,’ Reggie said.

‘Yeah. The builders are coming tomorrow and hopefully, things will be better,’ Caleb explained.

‘I can’t believe all of this was still up there!’ Beth gasped, she had been looking through some of the boxes, ‘how are we going to fit it all in the car?’

‘I’ll give you a hand,’ Reggie said.

They loaded the car up, just about fitting everything in. They said goodbye to Reggie and watched him taking his ladder back across the road to his house.

Caleb then turned and looked at his Grandpa’s house.

‘You okay?’ Beth asked.

Caleb nodded, ‘just feeling bit tried.’

‘Same. Let’s get back to the apartment, unload all of this and get take out for dinner.’

‘Then tomorrow, we’ll be back to see the start of things.’

‘I’m sure it’s what your Grandpa wanted,’ Beth said and put her hand on Caleb’s shoulder, ‘he wouldn’t have left everything to you otherwise. I’m sure he was proud of you, despite everything. But none of that was your fault.’

‘I know,’ Caleb said quietly, ‘it was my drug addict teenage mum.’

Beth squeezed his shoulder but didn’t say anything else.

Caleb started the car and they drove away into the evening light.

Lorn (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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Lorn; lost, ruined or undone. 

The house was ruined. Caleb stood in the doorway, his hands running over the damp and rotting wood. He tried hard to remember the home his grandpa had once lived in but he had only visited a few times as a baby and toddler. Now, the house was Caleb’s but he didn’t know what to do with it.

‘Is it bad?’ his girlfriend’s voice asked from behind him.

‘Looks it,’ Caleb answered.

Beth poked her head in, her mess of red curly hair tied high in a bun tickling Caleb’s arm as she had ducked underneath him. Her nose wrinkled at the smell, she pulled a disgusted face then smoothed it out into a sad expression.

Caleb moved his arm, bring it over and down to go around her back. He curled his fingers around her side and held Beth for a few moments. He shut his eyes on the scene then felt Beth stroking his flop of black hair and trailing her fingers down to his cheek.

‘We don’t have to go in,’ Beth spoke quietly.

‘I need to. I want to see if anything is left before the builders come,’ Caleb answered, ‘better be careful where we step,’ he added.

Testing the bare floorboards, he stepped carefully inside and keeping close to the wall. He held out his hand and helped Beth across. Together they went into what had been a living room. The damage from the flood and vandals was worse then Caleb could have imagined, even though the lawyer had prepared them for it.

A dirty, water line about four foot up the wall ran around the room, marking the height of the flood. Wallpaper was peeling or had fallen off, plaster clumps lay about and in some parts the red bricks could be seen peering out of holes in the walls. The windows were boarded up, expect for one which was missing glass and allowing light into the miserable room.

Broken pieces of rotting furniture stuck up from the sinking floor like the arms of drowning men asking to be saved. Caleb and Beth’s feet knocked and tripped over wood, fabric bundles, glass and electric wires. Some parts of the floor giving a warning creak, making them change direction to avoid falling through.

‘I wish I could have done something,’ Caleb whispered.

‘There was nothing you could have done,’ Beth said.

Caleb kicked an empty drawer and spotted something underneath. It was a photograph. Badly water damaged but Caleb could see himself as a baby being held by his grandpa. With a flicker of a smile, he turned to show Beth.

‘He looks like you,’ she responded, ‘same crazy hair!’

‘Yeah’ Caleb said with a hint of laughter.

‘Maybe, there’ll be some more baby photos round?’ Beth wonder and she inspected the floor hopefully.

‘I doubt it. Mum didn’t bother taking many and none of the foster people had any contact with Grandpa. My adopted parents did but they would have sent high school photos,’ Caleb explained.

‘Oh,’ Beth uttered.

She stopped looking and wiped her dirty hands on the old pair of jeans she wore. She avoided looking at Caleb, hating to see him upset by the bad memories of his past.

‘Nothing else here,’ Caleb said.

He slipped the photo into his pocket and carried on his walk through.

In the kitchen, everything that wasn’t nailed down was gone. The three remaining cupboards were empty, doors hanging off. A dark flood line ran around the walls and the floor had been dug up, the plastic lino ripped back expose how bad the water had leaked through. The window and back door were boarded up, but someone had kicked it in.

Beth went to the door and swung it back and forth. It let out a squeal as the wooden board scrapped the floor.

‘Probably, squatters,’ Caleb spoke, ‘though why they’d want to stay here is beyond me.’

‘Better then the streets, I guess. Warmer and drier,’ Beth suggested.

‘Maybe, but still.’

Caleb went over and had a look at securing the door whilst Beth stepped into the over grown garden. It was hard to tell how big it was because of the tangle of bushes and plants. Rising above was an apple tree, budding with new leaves in the spring sunshine.

‘This could be nice….Needs a lot of work…’ Beth trailed.

‘Everything needs work,’ Caleb huffed.

‘Leave it. The builders will sort it tomorrow.’

Taking a deep breath, Caleb abandoned the door and walked through an open archway into the dinning room which then led into a second living room. All the wall paper had been torn off and someone had been knocking into the walls. Caleb looked at the exposed pipes as he walked over plaster and window glass.

In the second living room, Caleb went over to a bookcase in the corner. The shelves had been taken out and most of the books because someone had used them to start a small fire with in the middle of the room. There were three books left on the bookcase; Medieval History Uncovered, Knights Of The Middle-Ages and Myths and Legends of Britain. Caleb picked them up and saw they still looked readable, despite a covering of dust.

‘Grandpa liked history,’ Caleb shouted.

‘But you said you didn’t know him,’ Beth said from the connecting archway.

She walked though and joined him, edging around the remains of the black ash from the fire.

Caleb showed her the books, ‘Look okay to keep,’ he added.

‘I don’t mind. It’s good to save books,’ Beth said and she took them from him.

‘They could have burnt the whole place down,’ Caleb pointed out as he moved to inspect the damage in the centre of the room.

He toed a half burnt book and the pages crumpled.

‘This house has survived so much; water and fire, the elements, people,’ Beth voiced, ‘and now you want to save it instead of knocking it down.’

‘The money is there to save it,’ Caleb reminded her, ‘and once it’s done we can live here. Our five years of trying to save for, find and buy a house is over.’

‘And your past?’ Beth asked timidly, looking down at the books.

‘I’ll deal with it,’ Caleb replied.

He moved over and hugged her, resting his chin on top of her head. He could feel Beth shaking slightly and worried she was going to cry, he tightened the hug and kissed her forehead.

‘Don’t worry about me. Think about what you can do with the house.’

Beth nodded, sniffing a little and crushing the books to her breasts.

‘Let’s go upstairs. The flood didn’t get up there, so maybe some stuffed survived.’

 

To Be Continued…

Komorebi #AtoZChallenge

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Komorebi; sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.

Six months trapped in hospital with a brain tumour and I didn’t want to spend another moment in doors. But my wife and nurse insisted on a few days resting and strength rebuilding at home before I went back to my hobby of hiking.

‘Take it easy,’ my wife said as we arrived at the forest trail.

‘I shall do,’ I replied and we set off.

Spring was high in the air. The flowers and leaves on the trees out in full and the gentle breeze carried their scent to me. Birds were singing loudly, making the perfect music to our walk. Sunlight was coming down through the trees, creating dancing patches of light on the ground.

The air was so clean and fresh, a shock after the disinfected air of the hospital. There was colour everywhere, so different from the blandness I’d been in. Warmth kissed my skin and I looked up at the sun through the trees’ leaves. I took deep breaths, eyes shut, let the light play across me and relaxed fully for the first time in almost year.

‘Are you okay?’ my wife asked.

I nodded.

‘I’ve missed this,’ I said quietly, ‘nature is the best healer.’

Insouciant #FridayFictioneers #AtoZChallenge

Insouciant; free from worry, concern or anxiety.

Knowing my attacker was locked away in jail meant I could take my nightly walks in peace. I hadn’t realised how fully the event had effected me and how much I had missed being able to take my dogs for a walk without having to look over my shoulder all the time.

I took a deep breath of spring evening air and felt for the first time in a year free from worry. It was like I had my freedom back and I hadn’t even realised that he had taken that as well as my body that night.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/04/03/5-april-2019/ with thanks).

FooFaraw (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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FooFaraw; a great fuss or disturbance about something very insignificant.

I turned the handle and opened my bedroom door, feeling a slight prickly of fear. Would it look like I had left it when I was eighteen? Or had my great-aunt Dorothy thrown everything I’d had to leave behind away?

The door creaked loudly then bumped against the wall. I let go of the breathe I’d been holding. My bedroom was just like it was. The walls were a pale blue with nothing on them – Dorothy had banned me from putting anything on them- the curtains were drawn over the small window and the ceiling was covered in spiderwebs.

My childhood bed was made, the desk and chair tidy, the single wardrobe was open and empty and the bookcase held a few kiddie books. It was like the room had given up waiting for my return and just settled into a life of abandonment.

I sat down on the bed, the springs squealing. I had hated it here. Dorothy had never loved me or been kind to me. She had repeatedly told me she should never have taken me in and should have given me to the children’s home. The only reason why she didn’t was because my parents had left her money in their will for her to look after me.

Dorothy had physically, mentally and emotionally abused me. Letting all her angry out for her sister’s – my mum’s- happy life before she had passed away and also the fact that Dorothy now had to take care of me. I had no happy memories here. On my eighteen birthday, I had left and the trust fund my parents had left me opened up a whole new world for me.

I hadn’t wanted to keep in touch with Dorothy but we had sometimes over the years. Later it had been nurses and care home staff writing and phoning me. Till the last day and the news she was finally gone, having left everything to me.

But I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to go back to that life. I was different now, free of all of that. There was nothing here for me. I had taken all I wanted before, so why I had come back here?

Because I had wanted to prove it didn’t matter? That everything she had done and said had only made me stronger? That the past was just that and I had escaped from it?

I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. I was making a fuss over something that meant nothing to me. I wasn’t that child anymore. I was a businessman, a husband, a gentle father, a millionaire.

I got up, closed the door behind me and went downstairs. I took nothing from the house. I closed and locked the front door behind me for the very last time.

I got back into the car. My wife looked at me put I avoided her questioning eyes. We were silent until Alexandra couldn’t take it no more and had to ask; ‘what was in there?’

‘Nothing but dust and spiders,’ I said.

‘So, it wasn’t worth you dragging me out here then?’

I shook my head.

‘I’m hungry, let’s go,’ Alexandra snapped.

‘All right. On the way we’ll drop the keys at the housing agency and let them take care of everything,’ I added.

Starting the sports car’s engine, I took a finally look at the house, a sense of complete freedom ran through me.

FooFaraw (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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FooFaraw; a great fuss or disturbance about something very insignificant.

Closing the car door, I lent back on it and took in the house before me. It was smaller then I remembered. The surrounding garden had grown wild, though a neighbour had been trimming it down but the place had the air of long time abandonment.

I tried to recall the last time I’d been here, but couldn’t, nor when I’d seen my great-aunt, Dorothy. She had been in a nursing home for years, the promises of getting better never happening and she had died alone.

Whilst, I had moved country, made something of myself and had a family. I’d left the past behind me and that included the woman who had brought me up. Dorothy had been the only family I’d had.

‘Do we have to look inside?’ my wife, Alexandra asked, ‘can’t they just stick the for sale sign up and  be done with it?’

Her voice drew me back, I looked over the car bonnet at Alexandra shivering in one of her best and most expensive coats; soft blue velvet lined with white rabbits’ fur.

I shrugged and replied, ‘there might be photos and stuff.’

Alexandra put her lips together and looked disgusted at the sight of the house before her, ‘why would you want them?’ she asked.

‘Don’t know. Just, I want to look.’

‘Seems pointless to me,’ she grumbled.

‘Why don’t you wait in the car?’ I suggested.

Without a word, Alexandra opened the door and got back in.

I opened my door again too, put the car keys on the seat, told her I’d be back soon and closed the door.

I walked up to the house. Tall plants brushed my legs, leaving water droplets behind and my shoes crushed on weeds growing in between the path. At the front door, I put the key into the lock and was transported back to the past; I was a teenager coming home from school once again. It was like the last forty years hadn’t happened.

The door was stiff and I had to shove it open. The familiar scent of moth balls, dried roses, herbal creams and varnished wood hit me. Then over that came the smell of mould and damp, stagnate water, stale air, rust and rot. I gagged and turned away, wanting to throw up but I held it down.

I had no idea when someone has last been in here but had to have been a good few years. I walked through the hallway, the wooden floor and walls dulled, dust covered and on the ceiling loops of spider webs draped down like bunting. A black sixties cord phone sat on a small table next to the coat hangers where a pink house coat hung forgotten.

The living room was like I remembered; filled with great-aunt Dorothy’s collection of dolls and figurines, a bookcase of old books, an eighties TV in a huge wooden box, a record player, two arm chairs covered with knitted blankets and on the wall a few photographs of Dorothy’s life but none showed her with family and none were of me.

In the kitchen, the smell was bad. No one had really cleaned things out. The sink tap had dripped, the plug had become blocked and there was the source of the stagnate water. I hurried away and upstairs.

Avoiding the small bathroom, I peered into Dorothy’s room. A place forbidden at all times to my younger self. Someone had been in here, no doubt a friend or nurse had come ever so often for more of her things. The wardrobe and chest of drawers were open, clothes poking out. Books were missing from the shelves and other things too.

I shut the door behind me and turned to the last room; my bedroom.

To Be Continued…

Alexithymia Dear Diary #atozchallenge

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Alexithymia; An inability to describe emotions in a verbal manner.

Dear Diary,

I had the results of the test back today and at the age of thirty-one, I can finally put a name to my many issues; I’m autistic.

I feel pretty torn over it because on one hand, I’m like yeah that explains why I am like I am, my brain works differently from other peoples’ but that’s okay because you’ve survived this long and you can now have help if you need it.

On the other hand, I’m like oh my God. What I’m going to do now? I’ve got this label over me and it’s not good. How can I explain it to people, will people’s opinions change of me? My whole world just got thrown out of the window and how can I now carry on living with this news?

So, yeah. I’ve all this stuff in my head now but of course I’m struggling to express it or understand it. It’s like I’m not bothered, it’s a fact I have autism, can’t change that so no point freaking about it. It’ll take me awhile to accept but I will.

The specialist said learning more about it could help and also figuring out what kind of support the university and work could give me.

Am I going to let this stop me getting my computer games design degree? No! I just have another thing as well as being a woman in a male dominated industry to deal with but that makes me more determined then ever to prove I can make something I love and dream about a reality.

 

(This is a fictional story)

(Join in the challenge here; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Meow

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Beth heard a cat meowing and hurried into the garden, Was that Shadow calling because he was hungry? Beth’s eyes fell onto the small pile of turned up soil at the bottom of the garden and she remembered, he was gone.