Left #FirstLineFriday

book-2803626_1920

Spider silk clung at the doors, over the windows, across everything she had left behind. Sasha stepped up to the door, hand trembling as she put the key into the padlock that barred the way. It took a few tries to unlock then she slipped the padlock off.

Sasha set it aside and shaking even more, she reached out, her fingers clutched the handle. She opened the door, the hinges creaked in warning and all the nightmares came flooding back.

Sasha wanted to close the door and run away from it all again. Instead, she steadied herself, taking in deep breaths before walking inside. There was thick layer of dust covering everything, showing that no one had been here in years.

She walked into a spiderweb, the almost invisible strands hard to brush off. Sasha wiped it from her face, her anxiety almost flooding over. Shutting her eyes, she went to her calm place and told herself she wasn’t going to live in the past anymore. She had come here to end that.

Opening her eyes again, Sasha ignored the ground floor rooms, though the faded sounds came to her. The noise of a loud TV, glass smashing, thudding on wood, shouting. Sasha was a child again, hiding behind the sofa with her younger brother, Sonny. Fear was causing them both to shake and cry. Sonny had wet himself as their mother had screamed in pain and their father’s shouting had echoed through the house.

Sasha stopped on the stairs, the memory freezing her. She glanced to the closed living room door. She could see the room clearly; the sofa and the arm chair, facing a small cracked TV on a plastic stand, a broken coffee table and the old gas fireplace.

She reached a hand out of the staircase railing. Goosebumps raising on her arms. Sasha went upwards, children’s crying in her ears. There was a half opened door at the top then around a bend two more door frames and across the carpet were shards of wooden doors.

Forcing down everything, Sasha went into the first bedroom. Wood crunched under her feet, she peered into the gloom and felt a low gust of air rush past her legs. She glanced down, there was nothing but she was reminded of all the times she and her brother had run to their room. They had hidden wherever they could; under the bed, in the wardrobe. It had made no difference where they hid when father was in a blind rage.

Sasha flicked the light switch, her fingers finding it out of habit. No light came on above. She took her phone out and used it as a torch, the bright beam showed her that nothing had changed since they had left.

The small beds on either side of the room were unmade, things scattered on top of them. The doors to the wardrobe were open, children’s clothes tumbling out. On the floor a few broken toys lay twisted. Sasha slowly searched the room, not sure what she was looking for nor if she would take anything.

She found her brother’s teddy bear, hidden under his pillow as Sonny had liked to hide it. She took that, the worn fur feeling stiff against her hands. Sasha picked through the clothes, seeing some that she remembered her or Sonny wearing; a school uniform, a nightdress, a stained jumper…

She looked through the stuff on the bed; some books, school things, a baby doll and  metal cars. She looked underneath and for a moment was convinced she would see Sonny’s bruised and tear stained face staring back at her. There was nothing but a dead mouse and more spiderwebs.

Standing up, Sasha left, the teddy loose in her hand. She went to her parents’ bedroom which looked like someone had smashed everything up. She guessed her father had done that, perhaps after her and mum had run away. That memory stung sharply it was like a snow storm and she couldn’t see it clearly.

Sasha looked through what she could but there was nothing worth taking here. She poke her head into the bathroom, decided against going in and went downstairs again. She walked through the living room, dinning room and kitchen. She had half been hoping to find photographs but there seemed to be none.

Arriving at the front door again, she didn’t look back as she left again. Sasha closed the door behind her, re-locking the padlock. She put the key and her phone into her pocket then looked down at the teddy bear. It was smaller and dirtier then she reminded. Why had she picked it up?

She turned back to the front door, thinking she would return the teddy to the bedroom. Sonny would cry if it was lost and he would never sleep with it.

‘Sasha? Are you okay?’ a voice called out.

She jumped and turned, feeling like a child once more and someone was going to notice her injuries.

It was only her husband though, standing in between the open car door and the empty gate posts.

Sasha calmed herself and walked over to him. She hugged him without saying anything.

‘You are covered in dust and…webs?’ he questioned as he tried brushing her down.

Sasha stepped back, looking at herself and seeing it was true.

‘What’s that?’ her husband asked, pointing at the bear.

‘It’s Sonny’s. I should take it back, he’ll miss it,’ Sasha said quickly.

‘All right, but let me come with you,’ her husband said.

Sasha bite her lip, wanting to tell him, like she had done when they had arrived that she wanted to go in by herself. This time though, she didn’t think she’d have the strength. Nodding, she took his hand and they went to the front door.

Once upstairs again, Sasha placed the teddy back underneath the pillow.

‘There Sonny,’ she whispered, ‘go back to sleep now.’

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/first-line-friday-september-14th-2018/ with thanks).

Advertisements

Clock #FridayFictioneers

The huge, elaborate wooden glockenspiel clock dominated the living room. It was going to be hell taking it off the wall.

‘Leave it. Why do want that monstrosity anyway, Penny?’ my brother, Dale asked.

‘Grandpa made it,’ I reminded him, ‘my finest work whilst in Germany, he said.’

Dale scoffed and carried on packing up, he’d never believed that story.

I tried to remove the clock but it wouldn’t budge. Dale give me a hand but the clock was nailed up.

‘Sorry, Penny. It’s staying,’ Dale declared.

I burst into tears.

‘All right, I’ll try and unscrew it. I’m not making any promises though!’

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/09/12/14-september-2018/ with thanks).

At the Fork #100WW

Building with faces painted on the side

The sisters hadn’t wanted their home to be at the top of a split road, then again they hadn’t wanted their fourth generation family house to be knocked down either. So everyday, they cast warding spells in the morning and evening to keep the devil away.

One morning, the oldest sister decided that by painting themselves on the side of the house and casting an everlasting, unbreakable spell upon that would be an easier thing to do. The sisters set about that one summer and their art piece remains still, protecting the house evermore.

(Inspired by; https://bikurgurl.com/2018/09/05/100-word-wednesday-week-87/ with thanks).

 

 

Grartor Party #TaleWeaver

balloons-1786430_1280

Molly’s seven year old son, Ben, emptied his school bag on the dinning room table. Molly caught a pencil as it rolled her way then eyed the mess of school books, papers and other items. Ben had a habit of collecting things.

‘What’s this?’ Molly asked picking up a blue envelope.

Ben shrugged and his eyes drifted to the TV in the next room. His three year old, twin sisters were sat before the screen watching cartoons.

Molly opened the envelope and took out a thin slip of paper.

‘Your invited to a grartor party,’ she read aloud slowly.

The handwriting and spelling were clearly a child’s. Molly looked at the name and address at the end, but didn’t recognise them.

‘Who is Riley?’ she enquired.

‘He’s new,’ Ben said.

‘And what’s a grartor?’

‘Don’t know.’

Molly looked at the date, the party was tomorrow. She checked the address again, it wasn’t far from their house and the start time was 2pm.

‘Do you want to go to his party?’ she asked, ‘Ben?’

‘Okay. Can I watched cartoons now?’

Molly nodded and Ben rushed over to join his sister. Molly sorted through the other stuff on the table. She flipped through his work books then piled them to one side, placing on top the book he currently had to read. There was a letter from the headmaster about head lice, a letter from Ben’s teacher about an end of year trip to the zoo and a maths homework sheet due in on Monday.

Molly re-packed his school bag then added things to her calendar. Then she did an internet search to find out what a grartor party was. Perhaps, this Riley was from a different country or religion and grartor related to turning eight or something like that?

The search engine told her it wasn’t actually a word, did she mean something else? Molly scrolled down the suggested websites hoping that it appeared as some kind of new child craze like fidget spinners but there was nothing.

This is why you don’t let a child write their own party invitations! Molly thought.

She looked over at her own children and decided she’d just have to find out tomorrow.

 

The next morning after breakfast, Molly got Ben ready for the party. Leaving her husband with the twins, she took Ben shopping and got a suitable birthday present for Riley. At half twelve, she drove over to the address and parked up.

Letting Ben out, they walked up the steps to the front door of the house. Bright green balloons weighed down behind the two large flower pots, greeted them. A banner over the door read, 8 Today! and an inflatable crocodile lay on the lawn.

‘Are you excited? Molly asked.

Ben pulled a face and clutched the wrapped birthday present.

‘I bet there’ll be cake and jelly and ice cream. Your other friends will be here,’ she pointed out.

Molly rang the doorbell and it was answered by a tried looking man who had a crocodile glove puppet on his hand.

‘Hi, I’m Molly Black. My son Ben was invited to Riley’s party. Sorry, I didn’t reply to the invite, I only found it in his bag yesterday. I hope you don’t mind us coming,’ Molly explained.

The man nodded, ‘Rory James, Riley’s dad. Please come in.’

He held the door, Molly and Ben entered. The house looked freshly moved into. There were green balloons tied everywhere and in the kitchen was a table covered in party food. Rory led them into the back garden were a few children where bouncing on a  green jungle themed bouncy castle and inflatable crocodiles were dotted around. Two woman were stood talking close by, drinking out of wine glasses.

‘I want a go!’ Ben cried, cheering up instantly.

‘Sure,’ Rory answered.

Molly took the present and Ben’s shoes then he ran off onto the bouncy castle.

‘What time should I come and pick him up?’ Molly asked.

‘Oh, you’re not staying?’

‘I’ve left my husband with our twin girls,’ Molly explained.

‘Five, I think it said on the invite. My wife can confirm that. I’ll introduce you then I must get back to finishing off the cake,’ Rory said.

They walked over to the two woman and the one wearing the blue dress with the mass of blonde hair was Rory’s wife, Celina. Rory introduced them then left.

‘Can I get you something to drink?’ Celina asked.

‘No, thanks,’ Molly replied, ‘I must get back home soon, I told my husband I wouldn’t be long. We are taking the twins to the park.’

‘Oh okay.’

‘This is for Riley,’ Molly said handing over the present, ‘I wasn’t sure what to get him. So, I let Ben pick it. Young boys tend to like the same things, I’ve found.’

‘Thank you,’ Celina spoke with a smile and took the gift.

‘What is a grartor party?’ Molly asked.

‘Riley came up with it. He said it meant a great gator. He’s obsessed with alligators!’ Celina laughed.

Molly nodded, the whole green and crocodile theme clicking into place. She talked for a few minutes with other parents who were arriving then she said goodbye and drove home.

At five, she returned and picked up Ben who chatted away about the good time he had had at the grartor party.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/tale-weaver-183-making-sense-of-nonsense-grartor/ with thanks).

 

 

Postcard #48

flower-3429530_1920

Dear Jen,

I’m so sorry for your loss. How you holding up? I would have been in contact sooner but things have been hard here too. All children have been sick – stomach bug, Mabel and I have been run off our feet then we got ill too.

The only good thing is the birth of the kittens went well. They all are fluffy white and blue eyed! Winners for sure! I’ll send you photos and you must let us know if you want one. You might now be in need of the company.

All our thoughts are with you, Al.

Suitcase Bear #FlashFictionChallenge

luggage-1650174_1920

Bag handler, Frank slowly opened the abandoned suitcase, preparing for the worse. The soft, fuzzy head of a brown teddy bear popped out. The bear smiled at him then attempted to climb out of the suitcase. Frank stumbled back in shock.

‘Is this America?’ the bear asked.

‘No, it’s Scotland.’ Frank managed to answer.

‘Oh, stuffing!’ the bear cursed, ‘must have put the wrong labels on….Can you help me get there?’

‘What…?’

‘They went on holiday and left me behind by accident!’

‘I’ll see what I can do…’ Frank uttered.

I must be dreaming, Frank thought turning away.

 

(Inspired by; https://carrotranch.com/2018/07/27/july-26-flash-fiction-challenge/ with thanks).

Stone Circles (Part 4)

bodmin-moor-123577_1920

It started to rain more and it turned into drizzle. The stone did not offer much shelter but I was too tried and growing scared to move. The deepening darkness made it harder for me to see and for some reason I began thinking about ghost stories governess had told me over the years. You could hear children crying on windy nights and women wailing when it rained, ghost horses pulling carriages during storms and also the howling of the devil’s dog.

‘Rosy! Rosy!’ I cried, ‘please come back to me! I want to go home!’

I started weeping, knowing it was not gentleman or boy like, but unable to stop myself. The wind began whistling around the stones and half thought I could make it whispering voices. Was that the neighing of a horse? I pushed back my head and got to my feet. It sounded like it could be but it was hard to tell where the sound was coming from.

I shouted for Rosy with the last of my strength then listened hard. There was more neighing and above the wind and rain, hoofs racing across the moors. I heard my breath and stared through the gloom. There was something brown coming towards me, was it Rosy or something else?

Leaving the stone circle, I cross the short grass and went towards the growing shape. It was a pony for sure but was it Rosy? I called her name again and made my way over. It was her! Galloping over, reins loose about her neck.

‘Rosy! Where have you been!’ I cried and rushed to embrace her.

I wrapped my arms around her warm, damp neck and cried hard into her fur. Rosy nuzzled me and whined softly. The drizzle dripping off her. She seemed unhurt and just as glad to see me.

‘Do you know the way home from here?’ I asked her, ‘can you get us back?’

I stroked her and climbed up on her back. The saddle was still tight in place but wet with the rain. I clutched the reins and told her to go on. Rosy turned away from the stones and walked into the gathering darkness.

I had no idea where she was taking me but I had to trust her. She had come to find me, had she not? Surly, she would take me home now? I shivered with the cold and tried not think so much. I wonder if Molly had lit the fire in my room and what would be for supper instead.

Rosy sometimes walked or trotted and I let her go. The rain turned heavy, the wind stronger and the moors darker. I lay down against her mane, dozing on and off. The flickering of lights in the distance called my attention and I looked upwards. It was hard to tell what was growing ahead of us at first. Perhaps it was lightening?

I felt Rosy speed up under me and I held the reins and saddle tighter. Had she heard thunder? I could not hear anything and the yellow lights ahead were becoming more stable. Could it really be Trenworth Manor at last?

And then it was! I saw the manor looming against the darkness, a solid shape against the sky.

‘Go, Rosy! Go!’ I urged the pony.

Rosy stepped onto the narrow road which made it easier for her to gallop on. The archway door still stood open and we went through. Rosy tottered across the gardens and went towards a small cottage and a stables that stood in the shadows of the manor. Mr Marsh had left the stable doors open and Rosy went in.

There was no light inside, so I climbed off her in the dark and hurried to knock on the cottage’s door. I banged loudly on the wood, the door opened before I stopped. Mrs Marsh stood in the doorway, famed by the glow of fire and with the scent of hot food drifting out.

‘Master Dunnington! What an earth-‘

‘I got lost on the moors!’ I cried, ‘Rosy wondered off without me but then we found each other again and she brought me home.’

‘Oh well, now, we did wonder where you had gone…’

‘I’ll take him back to the house,’ Mr Marsh said coming to the door with a lit lantern.

‘Thank you!’ I said.

He walked ahead of me and I followed the lantern light to the back door of the manor. Mr Marsh had borrowed the key, so he let me in to the kitchen. There was still some warmth in the air from the dying fire.

‘I will go to see to Rosy. You should get to bed now,’ Mr Marsh said.

He lit me a candle then left. Locking the door behind him. I hurried through the dark quiet house to my rooms. Once there, I lit a few more of the candles and also the fire. It should have been Molly’s job to do this but she was not round and I was not use to calling upon her.

I got out of my wet clothes and into something else then warmed myself by the crackling fire. A linger of fear was still going through me but I put that down to being cold. Once I was feeling better, I got up and went into the next room, hoping that Molly had remembered to leave supper on the light table for me.

Lighting more candles, I saw there was something. It seemed to be soup but it had all ready gone cold. I ate it anyway and the bread because I was hungry. Tiredness wrapped itself around me and I barely blew out all the candles and crawled into bed before I fell into a deep sleep.

I dreamt of the moor and being lost. I kept calling for Rosy and for help. The wind howled around me, deafening me and the rain fell, blinding me. I could hear children and women crying and wailing, their fingers brushing me, trying to keep me back. I stumbled onward and almost walked into a tall stone. I felt my way around and realised I was inside one of the stone circles.

Was I still there now? Had my return home been the real dream?

I tried to leave the stone circle but I seemed unable to get out. The stones closed around me, blocking the moor off. They rose above my head, making a roof as they touched together. I think I scream and bashed my hands against the stones.

The sense of falling and spinning took me, I was flying and the stones were scrapping against me. I hit the floor of my bedroom hard and struggled to untangle myself from the bed clothes. Dim morning light crept around the room and somewhere I could hear a servant’s bell ringing.

I got up, looking around dazed. Was I really back? Had it all been a dream after all? I went to the window and looked out. The moors were still there, looking welcoming in the light. I watched a flock of sheep going past, chased by a dog and two men. I looked down at my hands and saw the faint scars left by the cane. Everything looked normal but I did not feel it.

Something had changed and if it was due to that nightmare or my time being lost on the moors, I was never sure. Maybe, it had something to do with the stone circles? But I always felt less confident after that and I never wander Bodmin Moor alone again.

Stone Circles (Part 3)

bodmin-moor-123577_1920

I rode Rosy the pony across Bodmin Moor. The breeze in my hair and in her mane and tail. I let her go where she wanted. Rosy had been born on the moor and found as a foal by Mr Marsh. He had taken her in, like he did with any young or hurt creature he found. She was fully tamed but also spent nearly all of her time out here, so she knew her way around better then I did. She was also more sure-footed then I ever could be.

We passed sheep, cows and other ponies – wild and tame- that roamed the land. Only once or twice did I see another person; a farmer rounding up sheep and a gentleman riding a big black horse. We heard the sounds of the quarries and saw the tall stone towers rising upwards, wheels turning. Rosy kept her distant and I agreed with her, those places were not for a gentleman to visit, unless he had urgent business there.

Some time a lot later, Rosy found a small stream and lowered her head to drink. I slipped off her back, feeling aches in my legs, back and arms. I stretched and knelt down beside the stream. The water was so clear! I cupped some in my hand and took a few sips. It was pleasant and refreshing. I drink some more then settled down to eat what Mrs Marsh and Margret had given me for lunch.

There was a hunk of fresh bread, slightly warm to the touch still, a lump of cheese, cut offs of the cooked ham, two apples, a sweet cake and a carrot. As if they had know that Rosy would be with me! I give her the carrot and one of the apples. The pony seemed grateful then wandered off to nibble at the moor grasses.

I ate everything, the moor air making me extremely hungry. I drink from the stream with I needed too. Rosy came over once more and I give her the rest of my apple. After, I folded the cloth carefully away and splashed water on my hands and face. It was a warm in the sun and waves of tiredness floated over me.

I laid down, watching the clouds going by. Rosy nudged me then carried on grazing. She would not wander far whilst I slept, she was a loyal friend, the only one I had in Cornwall. I shut my eyes, breathed in the moor deeply and let it carry me away.

It was hard to till how much time had passed when I woke up. There were more clouds in the sky and some of them had turned dark grey. The air had got chiller and the sun was struggling to get around the clouds. The weather had turned as it often does on the moors.

I rubbed sleep away, drank some more cool stream water and splashed some on my face. I climbed to my feet and looked around for Rosy.  The chestnut moor pony was no where to be seen.

‘Rosy! Rosy!’ I shouted.

Scanning the rolling landscape, I expected at any moment for her to reappear, trotting over to me. The only thing that moved through was the heather and rough grasses. I gathered my things, thinking that she had started home with it me. Perhaps, if I kept calling, she would come back?

Shouting as loud as I could, I set off in the direction I thought we had come from. After a few minutes though, I was not sure. Stopping, I looked around, trying to recall anything that would be familiar but the moor all looked the same. I felt fear growing in the bottom of my belly.

I looked back towards the stream, trying to think if Rosy had walked in a straight line towards it. There was a good possibility. Walking off again, I tried to look for anything that might be pony shaped or house shaped or even person shaped. Convincing myself, I was going the right way, I quickened my pace.

Above the blue sky was turning dark with grey clouds. The idea of being lost out here in the dark made the fear grow. I tried not to think about it. I would find Rosy again and she would take me home, she knew the way well. I felt a rain drop splatter on my hand.

‘Rosy! Rosy! Come here, girl! Rosy!’ I screamed.

I was not a young gentleman any more but a lost child. I ran, half tripping over spiky bushes and long plants. I prayed that Trenworth Manor would appear over the next rise but every time there was just more moorland.

How far had Rosy and I travelled? Why hadn’t I paid more attention to where she was going? Why hadn’t I tied her up before I fell asleep? Because I had not thought she would wander away from me, she had never done before. What if she was hurt?

I stopped, my body aching and my breath painful. I tried to gather my thoughts. It was not likely that Rosy had tripped or got tangled in something, she was so surefooted and built for being on the moors. Maybe, she had heard some wild ponies and gone to see them?  Or perhaps, sensing the change of weather and not being able to wake me, she had trotted off home.

I wiped my face, not realising I had been crying. A few more drops of rain fell. Trying to stay calm, I carried on walking. Perhaps, I would find the road back to the manor or something else that would set me on the right path? If it got darker and wetter before though, I could find a hollow somewhere and rest there.

Something that was not a normal part of the moor was growing in the distance. It did not look like a pony or a house though, it was something tall and grey. Hurrying over, I got closer and saw it a large stone. Then there was more, a number of them making a circle, no, three stone circles almost touching each other. They stood in a huge patch of moorland that had been cleared away so there was only light green grass around.

I stopped on the edge, starting in wonder. What where they doing here and who had put them like that? Stones do not stand naturally in a circle. Had they once been enclosures for animals? Maybe the layout for houses of the past? I went forward and looked closely. The stones were old, weathered with some moss growing at the base. The circles were incomplete; some stones had fallen over and there were gaps were some should have been.

I had no memory of the stones and surely, if Rosy had brought me this way I would have seen them in the distance? I walked around the outside of them, looking this way and that. I called Rosy a few times but all I heard was the gathering wind and sheep bleating somewhere.

Getting cold, I stepped inside the first stone circle and rested against the biggest stone. Too many thoughts ran through my mind so that I could not think clearly. I kept coming back to the same problem though; how was I going to get home?

To be Continued…

Stone Circles (Part 2)

bodmin-moor-123577_1920

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

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

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

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

‘Hello,’ I said.

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

‘Sir! You startled me!’ she cried.

‘Sorry…’

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

I nodded.

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

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

‘How old are you?’ I asked.

‘Seventeen,’ the maid replied.

‘And you name?’

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

‘I am Master William Dunnington.’

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

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

‘Excuse me,’ I said.

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

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

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

‘Have you finished, sir?’ Molly asked.

I nodded and stretched out as she gathered everything up.

‘I think I’ll go outside,’ I spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My eyes fixed on the pony beside him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Be Continued…

Stone Circles (Part 1)

bodmin-moor-123577_1920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Idle?’ I uttered, horrified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be Continued…