Blessed Moment

Night was pressing its face against the kitchen window watching Val as she washed the dishes in the sink. It had been a long time since they had eaten dinner but there had been no time for cleaning up afterwards. Val sighed and placed another plate in the drying rack. The house was silent, a strange sensation after all the noise before.

It was the first day back at school tomorrow the new calendar on the notice board declared. The children hadn’t been happy about the early night and the prospect of the coming morning. Val’s ears still echoed at the screams and shouts of the tantrums, the slamming of doors and throwing of books.

Val looked up at the ceiling, her hands wrinkling in the hot water and soap bubbles popping. There was no movement from upstairs now. Before it had sounded like a stampede of elephants. Val wondered if her husband had fallen asleep with their youngest again. Five month old Jay and three year old Zak shared a room and were the hardest of the children to settle to sleep.

Washing their plastic plates and cutlery, reminded Val how she hadn’t want anymore children after Aaron. Three was enough but then Zak had been a bonus blessing and Jay had followed soon after as if God had caught up answering all her past prayers for a baby at once.

Rosie had come first, now aged eleven and taking after Val in everything. Lottie, eight and Aaron, six were glued to each other and always up to mischief. They seemed to have become the twins that Val had miscarried during the second IVF treatment. Though, she’d had Lottie and Aaron naturally.

Unplugging the sink, Val dried her hands and flicked the kettle on. She thought about going upstairs to check on her husband. Sleeping sitting up in the corner wouldn’t do his aching neck any good. Tired and reveling in the quiet, Val made herself an instant gingerbread latte and went to in the living room. It was messy with children’s things and she had to fix the sofa before sitting down.

She wrapped her hands around the hot mug and lent back, shutting her eyes. There was a blessing in this snatched moment of peace and self-care. Before she dozed off, she opened her eyes and put the mug down. Val could have turned on the tv and found something to watch or she could have go on her phone but the stillness was something to be saved and not broken.

Sipping the latte, Val rolled in the quietness and watched the night moving by the un-curtained window.

Empty

I sat on the sofa looked and round my tidy living room. I had been cleaning the house all morning as I normally did on a Wednesday which was my half day off both of my part-time jobs.

Something wasn’t right…It was too quiet.

For the last six months, I’d had six children stuck at home creating havoc and testing me none stop! My role of mother and step-mother had suddenly expanding into primary and high school teachers, artist, examiner, organiser, peacekeeper and technician.

Today, though they had all gone back to school!

The house felt too big suddenly and I a mouse. Shutting my eyes, I took a few deep breaths and told myself I didn’t miss the stress of those days. Yes, it had been nice to spend time with them all but wasn’t nicer to have a few hours to myself now?

My second husband, Dean, had missed all of this. As a key worker he hadn’t stopped and ‘normal’ had carried on for him.

‘We can send them to school you know,’ Dean had said, ‘key worker children are allowed. Paula’s children go.’

‘I know, but I feel safer with them all here. Let’s see how it goes and maybe the older children can go to school in a month or so?’ I had replied.

‘You know they are saying this virus doesn’t really effect children? All of ours are under the age of eighteen so they are fine,’ Dean pointed out.

‘On the other hand, it’s a new bug and they don’t understand much at the moment. I know keeping them out of school isn’t good but for the time I just feel it’s the right thing,’ I explained, ‘when there’s more information we can decided then.’

Maybe, I was being a too protective mother hen? Or perhaps, I felt more prepared then other parents, having once been a school teacher before ill health and the death of my fourth child had impacted.

It didn’t matter now. It was September and they were back at school. The virus wasn’t gone though but at least it was mostly being controlled and understood. I was even going back to both my jobs tomorrow. My ‘office’ job was still work from home but my house cleaning one which had been on and off was regular again.

I looked at the clock. It was creeping past lunchtime and I should get something to eat before going on the computer.

I wonder what the children are doing right now.

New Life

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In Iraq, Abida had had a nice house. It had been large and airy, with enough space for her seven children and her parents and her husband’s grandmother to all live happily together. They’d been well off. Not rich but enough to have the house with a garden and to pay the wages of a servant or two.

Now, the house like their lives was nothing but rumble. Behind in the dust they had left the newly buried bodies of her husband’s grandmother, Abida’s father and her youngest two children; three month old Fatima and two year old Shakur.

They had been in the house when the bomb had dropped and now they were in the cemetery with their other passed relatives. Her husband’s parents who were living in the house next door with his sister and her family had all died too.

Leaving had been the only chance of survival they had. For the next few years, they had travelled and past through camp after camp and country after country. Abida’s husband, Maijd, wasn’t sure where was best to move his family to. Abida’s mother had suggest many places but finally Maijd had decided on the England.

It had been a trail and taken a toil which caused Abida to have a miscarriage, but finally the family got in England and were moved into a council apartment above an empty shop.

Abida hated it. There were three small bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, a living room and kitchen. The rooms smelt like the Indian takeaway restaurant a few shops down and also cigarette smoke. There was a handful of furniture including; a sofa, a double bed, one bunk bed and two single beds. It was the total opposite of Abida’s home but far better then the tent they had shared in the last few years.

‘How can we all fit in here?’ Abida asked her husband.

‘We shall make do. The woman said this bed pulled out…’ Maijd trailed as he took the coverings off to look at the sofa bed.

‘I’m not sleeping on that,’ Abida’s mother snapped, ‘I shall take one of the bed’s in here.’

‘Then, Bibi share that room with your grandmother,’ Abida said.

The eighteen year old nodded and took her and grandmother’s things into that room.

‘Kadeem and Hayfe can have the other room for now,’ Abida directed her youngest son and daughter, ‘Tarek and Tamir will have that bed,’ she finished with a look at the fifteen year old twin boys.

The family had settled in as best they could and with hope from Maiji that this was only for now and soon they would have a suitable house. Meanwhile, the children started school, finding it difficult with the little English they knew, Maiji searched for a job and Abida and her mother kept the apartment and looked after everyone.

A month or so later and the only change was that Maiji had found a job at a food shop. There seemed no chance of the family moving again soon which as Abida put her hands on her tummy, wasn’t ideal but at least her family were finally safe.

Guinea pigs

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My husband was so unobserved and busy all the time that it took him two years to realise I had gone behind his back and brought our daughters some guinea pigs.

Zebrinny #AtoZChallenge

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Zebrinny – offspring of a male horse and female zebra

The zoo was quiet in the rain. I guess most people don’t like walking around and staring at wet animals that seem to have gloomy looks. I had promised Adya though and she wouldn’t hear about not going.

It was strange to think that in this moment I was tiring of having a five year old daughter but school was out, mum was working away and I was working at home, trying to juggle all the roles and feeling too tried to care anymore.

At least at the zoo there was things to distract Adya and walking in the rain was calming me. Without the crowds of people, I felt more safe to let her roam and do what she liked as long as it wasn’t trying to get into the animal enclosures.

‘Can we get ice cream, daddy?’ she asked as we went to see the Big Cats.

‘We just had lunch,’ I answered back.

‘Later then.’

‘Okay, later. Can you see the leopard?’

Adya pressed herself to the marked glass pane and looked around the forest scene.

I shook the umbrellas out and read the sign about the leopard.

‘I can’t see him,’ Adya whined and stuck her tongue out at her reflection.

I came over looked up, searching the thick tree branches. The leopard wasn’t to be seen.

‘Tigers!’ Adya cried and dashed over.

I trailed after her as we went from each big cat until we came outside again. The rain was really coming down.

‘Maybe we should go home?’ I asked timidly.

‘No,’ Adya shouted and stamped her foot in a puddle, splashing us both.

‘Okay,’ I uttered and huddled under my umbrella more.

People thinned out as we carried on. I saw groups of families gathered in the cafes or shops or under makeshift shelters. Adya wouldn’t hear about stopping unless that was for ice cream.

I got her a small cone and watched her get chocolate ice cream all over her face. We sat inside a cafe before heading off again. There were monkeys to see, birds to admire and an ant eater to watch sleeping. Still the rain came down and water dripped off and soaked everything. To make matters worse most of the animals were in hiding and Adya was upset she couldn’t see them all.

‘But why daddy?’ she cried.

‘Because they come from hotter places and it’s cold out. They like to stay warm.’

‘Why do they have to stay inside?’ Adya pouted.

‘Because it’s wet and they don’t like it,’ I sighed.

‘I like the rain! And I like puddles!’ Adya shouted and began stomping about in a large puddle as only a crazy five year old can.

‘There’s a cafe and shop, let’s go get a drink and I’ll buy you a teddy.’

I got a coffee and Adya a juice. I was so numb that I couldn’t feel my fingers or my feet. I didn’t take off my coat because I’d lose heat but also there was nothing worse then putting a wet coat back on.

Adya swinging her legs, sipped her apple juice and looked at the map. It was damp, full of folding lines and starting to look tatty. She named the animals we had seen; sea-lions, camels, kangaroos, red pandas etc and the animals we were to visit next; warthogs, giraffes, wolves, deer and zebra.

I half listened to her, enjoying the spreading warmth of the coffee. There were a few people at some of the other tables; a young couple on a date, a mother and two older children, an old couple and a member of staff on a break.

‘What teddy do you want, Adya?’ I asked, nodding towards the little jungle themed shop.

‘I don’t want one for there. I want one from the big shop at the front,’ Adya declared.

‘Guess it wouldn’t get wet being carried around that way,’ I mused.

‘And we have to get mummy something,’ Adya added.

‘And me….?’ I asked like a child.

Adya frowned, her small brow creasing then nodded and said, ‘yes, you can get something too, daddy.’

We finished our drinks and went back out into the rain. Adya splashed in the puddles, pointed at animals and seemed never to stop. I plodded along with water in my boots, feeling tried, craving a hot bath and a beer.

We made it around the rest of the animals and finally ended up at the last set which was deer, antelope and zebra. Most of the animals were sheltering in the low wooden stables with straw covered floors.

I picked Adya up to see better but these animals were not as exciting as some of the others. Grateful to see her bored, we hurried along and got to the zebra.

‘Why is that one a different colour, daddy?’

I looked where Adya was pointing and saw a young zebra, a year or so old and it was brown and less stripy then the others. It’s mane and tail were dark brown and longer then the other zebra.

‘Maybe, because it’s a baby?’ I spoke, ‘let’s see if there’s a sign….’

I moved down, carrying Adya on my hip. She was getting to large to carried. We came across the information point and after a scan, I spotted the odd zebra.

‘His name is Oz and his mother was a zebra but his dad was a horse, their foals are called zebrinny. He was born in twenty-nineteen. He likes carrots- a lot!’

Adya giggled and waved at the zebra, who ignored her and carried on eating.

‘That’s why he’s different then,’ I explained, ‘he’s part horse, that’s why he’s brown.’

Adya give a satisfactory nod and our day at the zoo was almost over. We walked back and went to the shop. I was worried it would be busy and noisy with children but it was nearly empty like the rest of the place had been.

Adya got a basket, leaving me to carry her pink umbrella along aside my black one. I followed close behind her, watching as she looked at the things. We went to the stuffed animals, there was a huge selection to pick from.

‘What are going to get Adya?’ I asked.

‘I want a bra-nnie! Like Oz,’ she cried.

‘Oh….’ I looked on the shelves, thinking there was no chance they’d have such a rare creature, ‘what about a tiger instead? They’re your favorite.’

She shook her head and carried on looking.

A member of staff came by and I broke with the man protectal and asked, ‘excuse me do you have a zebrinny?’

‘A what?’ the teenage girl asked me.

‘It’s a half horse, half zebra.’

She shook her head and walked away.

‘They don’t have any, sweetie,’ I said to Adya.

My daughter looked at me like she was about to explode.

‘We can just get a zebra…’

‘No!’ Adya screamed, ‘I want a zeb-brinie! And I won’t go home without one!’

I looked around desperately hoping one would appear out of thin air.

Adya crossed her arms over her chest, tucked her chin down and looked like she was holding her breath. Her little cheeks were red and her eyes all ready wet with tears. She was on the edge of a tantum.

I looked for another member of staff and spotted an older man stacking books. I went over and tried him, perhaps we could come to some other arrangement instead? Get a zebra and a horse and have someone sew them together in the back room?

‘Excuse me, do you have any zebrinny?’ I asked.

The man glanced up from the books and looked at me.

‘I’m cold, wet and tried,’ I explained, ‘my daughter wants one. I’m guessing you don’t have any, so can we sort something out for her and then we can go home?’

‘There’s one of the shelf behind you,’ the man said.

I spun so fast I almost tumbled over. I ran to the spot and hanked the half horse half zebra teddy off the shelf and looked at it like it was a miracle in my hands.

‘That one, daddy!’ Adya cried and rushed over to me, ‘he looks like Oz!’

I give her the toy and she hugged the zebrinny tightly.

Chuckling from behind made me turn and I looked at the male staff member, ‘happy to help!’ he called.

‘Thank you,’ I replied back.

We bought a few other things, took them to the till then left. In the car, I turned up the heating, took off my soaked through coat and drove us home.

Adya fell asleep hugging the zebrinny.

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

This story completes April 2020’s A-Z Challenge. It’s been fun and hard writing at times. I hope you have enjoyed reading these stories. Tomorrow, I’ll be kicking off a new month and I hope to see you there! Hayley.  

Iniquitous #AtozChallenge

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Iniquitous – grossly unfair and morally wrong.

It’s always so unfair and wrong. He’s got more then me or she’s broken it. He’s annoying me then she bit me! He started, she started, he did it, she did it!

Always fighting, like they are punishing you for having them both. Would it have been different if they were both girls or both boys? Doubtful. Siblings always fight. You did so with your own.

‘It’s not fair!’ he cries, ‘I hate her!’

‘I hate you more!’ she screams back.

You roll your eyes and silently beg for peace. Just five minutes like Mrs Elephant wanted.

‘What happened?’ you ask thinking you can play judge, jury and court all in one.

They spill the story of how one was doing something wrong but the other was sure it was right and unfair it was for the interruption to happen. How this or that might be broke, why it’s not his or her fault. He should be punished, no, she should be punished.

It’s the same old story, repeat time after time. What’s the point in trying to keep putting the bridge out of fire if it finds a way to carry on burning down?

‘Leave each other alone,’ you rule, ‘you go back to whatever it was and you come do something with me.’

Tongues stick out, there are pouts and tears. She stamps are foot and crosses her arms and declares, ‘its not fair! you love him more then me.’

Not that cliche again!

You say, ‘that’s not true. Do you want to do some baking?’

Another war stopped, another battle half won. You just hope this is a phrase they are going through. How can they love each other one moment and hate each other so much the next? It’s a bafflement never to be solved but then that’s siblings for you.

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Frankenfood #AtoZChallenge

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Frankenfood genetically modified food

It was the middle of April and we were in lockdown because of the virus. My three children; Britney aged twelve, Molly aged eight, Charlie aged four and my husband, James, had cabin fever, they were running wild because of the lack of structure and normality.

I was tired of trying to plan things for them to do and teaching my children school was harder then I had thought. My husband was working from home but there always seemed less and less work for him to do. I had worked from home since miscarrying our fourth child. I wrote blogs, shorts stories, articles and other things like that.

After going through breakfast, I pushed the kids outside to play and with my husband heading off to the study to do his job, I went upstairs to dress. I put on clothes without thinking, going for comfort as no one would see me. There was no reason for going outside today.

Brushing my hair as I stood by the mirror, I realised I had put a Halloween dress on. Orange pumpkins, carved with cute faces grinned back at me from the mirror. Laughing, I went to change but then an idea come to me…. Shrugging and thinking why not, I went downstairs and called the children together.

‘It’s Halloween today!’ I declared.

‘No, it’s not!’ Britney, snapped, ‘that’s in October and we are in April.’

‘But we are going to pretend,’ I said, ‘you all know how much mummy loves Halloween.’

‘Yes! Can we get lots of sweets?’ Charlie, shouted.

‘Sure, but first we have to get everything ready. Who wants to help with all the food?’

‘Can we bake monster cookies?’ Molly, cried.

‘I like the spider cakes best!’ Briney cut in.

‘I want sweets!’ Charlie screamed.

‘We can do anything you want,’ I said.

As one the children gave me an ear deafening, ‘Yes!’ and rushed inside.

Making a lot of noise, we got recipe books out and everything we needed. I put a Halloween CD on and we sang along to some of the songs. Soon the kitchen was a right mess but there was the wonderful smell of sweet baking things; cakes, biscuits, cookies and other things.

At lunchtime, my husband was at first grumpy with all of this nonsense. I sent him into the attic to get the decorations down and start helping the children to put them up.

‘This is silly,’ James muttered to me as he had his lunch.

‘I know, but I’m so tired of entertaining them. It won’t do any harm.’

He mumbled something I missed.

‘Here, have a cookie,’ I said sweetly, ‘you never complain about my Halloween cooking.’

‘Because it’s far too good,’ James answered then wolfed the cookie down.

Laughing, I put the rest of the cookies on a wire rack to cool and put the next lot in the oven.

‘You sure you got enough supplies in to do this?’ James asked.

I nodded, ”I’ve been getting extra things in and make sure there was baking stuff for the kids to do.’

‘Mum! Mum!’ Molly screamed as she ran into the kitchen, ‘Charlie threw a spider at me!’

I rolled my eyes, ‘okay, okay.’

Juggling baking and decorations as well as a few arguments, we managed to get everything sorted. Then whilst the children decorated some of the biscuits, I ponder what to make for dinner.

‘What do you fancy?’ I asked.

A jumble of answers came back then Charlie started shouting, ‘Frankenfoods!’

‘What is that?’ I asked him.

‘Dad told us it’s food that’s not real,’ Molly answered for Charlie.

‘No,’ Britney cut in, ‘its bits of different food all mashed together to make a new food.’

‘Interesting…We could do that though…’ I said thoughtfully.

My mind whirling, I got raiding the kitchen once more then happily went back to the table were the children sat and placed down my findings.

‘Hot dogs?’ Britney questioned as she picked up the jar.

‘No, Frankenstein’s fingers,’ I said in a creepy voice and wiggled my own fingers in her face.

Britney made a disgusted sound and slide the jar away.

‘I want one!’ Charlie cried.

‘And we can make some other things too….pizza skulls?’

‘OMG, Yes! Molly yelled, ‘I love them!’

‘Right. Britney? What about you?’ I asked.

She thought then replied, ‘burgers, chips and salad.’

‘Cow pats with lave and witches’ hair,’ I translated into Halloween food, ‘that’s your dad’s favorite too. Who wants to help?’

They all put there hands in the air and shouted ‘me!’ at the same time.

The kitchen was once again turned into a mess but finally it was time to decorate the table and put all the food out so everyone could helped themselves.

Sitting on the sofa, balancing a plate of food, I watched the childrens’ Halloween movie alongside everyone else and thought that today hadn’t been bad at all.

(Inspired by; http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com)

Sea Monster Chains #CCC

I had taken my two children to the newly restored old docks area. I was admiring the boats and my children were arguing about what sweets from the shops they wanted.

‘What’s that big chain for, Daddy?’ my six year old, son asked.

I looked and saw a huge and heavy, rusted iron chain.

‘For the sea monsters,’ I replied.

‘Sea monsters?’ my eight year old, daughter echoed.

‘Yes. It’s in case a sea monster gets into the dock and they have to capture it.’

‘And then what do they do with the monsters?’ my son asked.

‘They feed children to it!’ I shouted and playfully tried to grab them both as they shrieked with laughter.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/03/25/crimsons-creative-challenge-72/ with thanks).

Quarantine

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It was only the first day of being quarantined with my family and I’d had enough all ready!

The Real Thing #CCC

It was the same old thing and Dan had had enough. He threw his spoon into the bowl of artificial milk and porridge then declared to his family, ‘we are going to get some real food!’

‘Where from?’ his wife laughed, ‘everything is made in a factory. There is no ‘real’ to anything, not even our children!’

Dan huffed, didn’t reply and instead bundled everyone into the car.

They drove for hours, far from the city then they spotted a sign; Proper milk, eggs and beef. 

‘There!’ cried Dan, ‘real food at last!’

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2019/12/11/crimsons-creative-challenge-57/ with thanks).