Gone

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I held the last photo of the ship, The Blue Royal, taken before it had sunk under stormy waves in my hands. You could barely make out the black shape of the ship against the grey sky and sea. The photo had been taken some distance away, on another ship, The Blue Princess, by a passenger wanting to capture the storm.

I knew the full history of both ships, not though interested but family history. My great aunt’s twin cousins, Lily and Rose, had been on board The Blue Royal on a cruise for their sixteenth birthday. The storm had hit the ship hard, capsized it and caused sixty-two people to drown. Twenty-eight bodies, including Lily and Rose’s were never found.

My great aunt had kept a keepsake box of them and now she’d gone, the box belonged to me. Inside were; letters, postcards, little china animals, a small china face doll, a bible and some small books. I felt a strange chill touching this stuff. I had never known these cousins.

Holding their items made me want to know more though. What had their lives and deaths been like?

I could only imagine.

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The Stranger

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There was a stranger waiting for me when I got off at the underground station. I didn’t notice him as the crowd was heavy and I was in a hurry.

The train left, rushing into the tunnel and people moved upwards to the haze of London air.

The stranger followed me, though I wasn’t aware of it then.

I walked out, into more busy crowds and made my way back home. I knew someone was following me soon after but I tried to convince myself it wasn’t true.

At my apartment door, I glanced over and noticed him. I stopped, wondering what to do.

‘Carol?’ he called out.

He knew my name! but I didn’t know him. I didn’t answer. Would he leave me alone if I said no?  If I said yes, then what?

I had paused for too long, staring at him. There was something oddly familiar about his face and hair color.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, turning away.

‘Who are you?’ I asked sharply.

‘Your older brother,’ he said softly, ‘our parents had to give me up for adoption because they were teenagers when I was born.’

 

 

Crossing #WritePhoto

Something from my childhood came back into my mind as I walked across the stone foot bridge; ‘don’t trip or the witch will get you!’ I paused, hearing a memory of girls laughing. What was that about?

I shook it off and looked over the side of the bridge. A low, slow river was running under the three stone archways, making nice tinkling and bubbling music. The water was clear, thanks to the bright day and I could see a few weeds and plants caught in the current. There was no rubbish which strangely reminded me I was so far from London.

I breathed in the fragrant countryside air and tried hard to recall that memory. Something about going to school and me hating having my hair tied up in two pigtail plaits. Two girls in bright red dresses throwing stones into the water and shouting at the witch to appear.

It was all too faded to remember correctly. Resting against the cool stone, I let the flow of the water help me drift further into my memories. I had been seven when I had been evacuated from home. There was a war on and it was safe in the countryside then London because of the bombs. I didn’t really understand anything else at the time.

I was extremely lucky as my mother was heavily pregnant and also my brother was only one and half years old, so we got to stay together. The other children, I remember didn’t and they had to say goodbye to their mothers at the train station. Our other stroke of luck was that my father’s sister lived out here and she had agreed to take us in.

It was like going on holiday, mother had said and so it sort of was. Only, I had to go to a new school and make new friends which wasn’t that bad because I was so young. I missed my bedroom and our house though, sadly it got blown up in the Blitz but I didn’t know that until years later.

My cousin! That was the other girl in the red dress and she’d told me that about tripping on the bridge and a witch grabbing you.

I felt sadden I’d forgotten that but it had been so very long ago and Sarah had died a young teenager of scarlet fever. At the time, we had all ready been moved some years, to a large house on the edge of the village and daddy was back from the war and it was all over.

Hadn’t I cried for days when my parents had told me? I had gone to her funeral in red – her favorite color- instead of black like everyone else. I was thirteen or fourteen then. And just like when I was seven and I didn’t full understand the war or why we had to move away, I didn’t understand why Sarah was gone.

We moved back to London after that I think. Dad had secured a job there and we needed to be closer. Auntie came to live with us for awhile but I think the sadness of having no daughter and no husband – killed in France- got to her and she moved away.

Other thoughts tumbled into my mind, unlocked by all of this. It was strange to come back here and remember things I shouldn’t have forgotten. Maybe, it was best that they became forgotten once again though? I felt, that these memories had come back to me and I should do something with them.

‘Grandma!’ a voice called, breaking my thoughts.

I turned and saw my granddaughter, Hattie, running towards me. My daughter and husband following behind.

‘Don’t trip or the witch will get you!’ I said.

That made her stop and glance around, ‘witch? where?’ she questioned.

‘The one that lives under the bridge,’ I explained.

Hattie joined me and tried to look over the wall but she was too small.

‘She likes little girls the best,’ I carried on, not sure if I was making it up or if more was coming back to me, ‘she cooks them in her big pot and eats them with bread!’

Hattie pulled a face and shook her head, ‘I don’t believe you, grandma!’

I swooped down on her, making crackling witch like sounds. Hattie screamed then burst into laughter as I started tickling her and I remembered, a long, long time ago, two girls laughing and tickling each other on this bridge, joking about an old saying.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/07/05/thursday-photo-prompt-crossing-writephoto/ with thanks).

Musical #FridayFictioneers

It had started with simple second hand instruments then it had exploded into a lot more. Now, what had once been Duncan’s study was his six children’s music room. He stood in the doorway, missing looking out into the garden from this window, he was glad though his children were so talented.

Duncan went to the garage which was using half of as a study. Sitting at his desk, he shuffled through his work pile. In the background, drifted the sounds of keyboard, two guitars, drums, violin and singing. Duncan hummed along with the song as he worked.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/06/27/29-june-2018/ with thanks).

Dear Diary #46

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Dear Diary,

I know I’ve been writing this for the last few days but summer is officially here! A heatwave has hit and today it was 27 degrees outside. I know, I should be doing some more job hunting but I had an interview this morning and I have one tomorrow and one next week now. So I thought I’d take a break and enjoy the sun.

The garden wasn’t was quiet as I was hoping though, all the flies were out and being loud. I watched a butterfly for awhile and I saw some bumble bees and honey bees and they were all quiet, so why do the bluebottles have to be so loud?

I read a few chapters of my new book – the supernatural detective one. No way am I going to finish that before I go on holiday. The words are a lot smaller then the last two books though the thickness doesn’t look increased. Anyway, it’s a good enough book to take away with me and I ordered the next one today, so I can go straight on with it.

The heat got too much for me and I had to come inside for lunch but then after answering some emails and some texts from the job agencies, I went out again. The new next door neighbors’ cat was drinking from the bird bath. We both got a start!

Then he came over to sniff me and say hello.  He’s a really nice ginger tom, I bet he’s a Casanova with the ladies though! After a few minutes of petting, he went under my shed and into the shade. I didn’t see him again after that.

I long for a paddling pool! Some place nice to dip my feet into. Maybe I’ll go and get one tomorrow after my interview. My brother won’t mind. He’s not due back until Friday then he’s off to visit our parents and girlfriend then back again to fly off to Germany. I was wishing I could fly off some place but with this weather who’d want to do that?

I had a quick look at some more jobs this evening but I didn’t really see any I liked the look of. Everyone keeps tell me not to be so picky, but I want to find the right fit for me and I’m okay for money right now. My part-time job keeps giving me more hours. Also, I just can’t imagine being able to work in this heat!

I might go out for a walk now as it’s not so hot. Though there might be more bugs out there. Have to put some anti-bug spray on. It’ll be nice to get out for a bit though. I might see if there are any cute men around! If not there’s always the internet!

Gift #FFfAW

Eva reached into the display case and pulled out another item. In the light, she saw it was small crystal wine glass. She twisted and held the glass up towards the old woman balanced on the edge of a fading armchair.

‘Granny, what’s this?’ Eva asked.

‘It was a gift…’ Granny uttered.

‘From grandpa?’

‘No, it was…’ Granny trailed, her face crumpled as she tried to remember.

‘That’s okay,’ Eva replied sadly.

Eva cleaned the glass and set it aside with the other items. Granny hadn’t been able to recall any of them, her memory was too gone.

 

(Inspired by; https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/fffaw-challenge-170th/ with thanks).

Fountains #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Joy had been fussy all day which had, as far as Mercy was concerned lowered the whole tone of shopping in the city center for holiday clothes. Tried from dealing with the four year old, Mercy decided to finish early and try again when she was alone.

Buying drinks and snacks, Mercy pushed Joy in her pram which was full of things she had brought, across the road to the large patches of grass that made up the ‘gardens’, though really it was just two rectangles of grass divided by a large sunk circle area where there was seating and water fountains.

Mercy found a good spot and give Joy the orange juice. It was a brilliant day; hot and sunny, with a cooling breezy and not a cloud in the sky. Mercy could almost believe that she was no longer in rainy England but in an hotter country. It was busy though and just as the shops had been crowed so was the street. There were people everywhere! The noise was like a constant loud humming.

Joy was fussing again, tugging at the straps holding her in the pram and making straining noises. Her juice forgotten but still clutch in a small hand. She was too big for the pushchair now but her habit of running off meant things had to be this way. Joy was a cute toddler but all ready spoiled by grandparents who had always believed they’d never get a grandchild. Mercy blamed them for the problems Joy often give her.

‘What is it now?’ Mercy asked.

Joy waved her free hand and give a little screech, ‘water!’

Mercy looked and saw that there were children playing in the fountains. Water jets were shooting up at different heights and seemingly at random in what would have been a nice display, if not for the children running about between them. As Mercy watched, she noticed some of the kids were only half clothed; wearing just shorts or underwear, some even had swimming costumes on.

‘No,’ Mercy said firmly, ‘drink your orange juice.’

‘Mama, mama!’ Joy cried and strained more at the straps halting her freedom.

‘Now you stop that,’ Mercy snapped and moved the pram around.

Joy threw the juice bottle away and tried to stand up in the pram.

Ignoring the watching eyes from the people around them, Mercy picked up the bottle, found it half empty and placed it into the pram. Then she put her hands to her daughter’s shoulders and eased her back down.

‘Now, listen, Joy, I said no,’ Mercy spoke in a low voice.

Joy’s face crumpled and fat tears began flowing. An awful wailing sound came out of the small mouth and more heads began turning to look.

Mercy gritted her teeth, getting ready for the rant that was about to happen.

‘You won’t get any sweets.’ Mercy snapped.

Joy screamed loudly and kicked out her legs madly out. Her hands pounded the straps and Mercy had to grab on to pram to stop it from falling over.

‘Fine, fine! You can go and play!’ Mercy half-shouted.

She released her daughter with a few clicks and Joy tumbled out of the pram.

Not dazed at all, Joy forgot her tantrum and stumbled off to the closest water fountain.

Mercy lowered her head, re-arranging stuff in the pram as if nothing had happened.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/05/21/weekly-writing-challenge-142 with thanks).

Dear Diary #45

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Dear Diary,

It’s the start of a new month but you wouldn’t believe it was almost summer with this weather! Last month we really had it all; snow, rain, wind and sun and May seems set to be the same! The weatherman said there was a chance of snow on high ground tonight and for ever where else heavy rain.

I’ve had to turn the heating back on, put extra blankets on the beds and make sure the children have jumpers again. Hopefully, this is the last we’ll see of winter though and we can move on to some decent sunny days. Though, this is England and we don’t get many of those as it is!

Today itself has been a quiet, overcast and a normal Tuesday. I packed the husband and kids off to work, then did some tidying up, the dishwasher and the clothes washing. I took the dog out for a walk close to lunchtime and talked to some of the neighbours; That new family at number seventy-two seem nice, Mrs Black has finally gotten her autistic son in a special school and the Summers have a new puppy. It’s a little red spaniel!

Then I made tuna pasta for lunch and watched the news. That poor baby with the brain trauma has died and there’s been more issues with immigrants trying to get into a America. Afterwards, I got my laptop out and did some more job hunting. There didn’t seem anything new up since Friday morning. There was one job that was an after school club but it was only two days a week and not much money.

Three o’clock came and it was time to go and pick up the children. Thankfully, they had both had a good day and we got back in time for the afternoon game shows to start. It started raining too.

Later, I made fish fingers for tea and hubby came home, tried and complaining about his boss. I did my caring wife bit then put the kids to bed early. We had a quiet evening of TV before going to bed ourselves.

Tomorrow, I’m meeting some old friends from the church’s new mum’s group for lunch. I’m so grateful as it’ll break up the repeating circle of weekdays that I seem to be stuck in. Perhaps, one of them can suggest some ideas for helping me out. Heaven knows I need a change of pace!

Zenosyne #atozchallenge

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Zenosyne; the sense that time keeps going faster. 

I opened the envelope without even realising it was an early birthday card, due to being distracted by the phone call I was dealing with. I stared at the brightly coloured drawing of two half-full champagne glasses with bubbles raising around them then at the fancy pink writing above; Happy 30th Birthday! 

The phone slipped slightly away from my ear, I ignored the still speaking voice from the other end. I glanced around the office, expecting everyone to suddenly burst into singing happy birthday, shoving cards and presents at me. However, there was just the usual chatter and background noises of the office room. No one was looking at me.

I opened the card and a bunch of people had wrote short messages and signed it. I recognised a few of the names from other floors and colleagues from my old role before I’d moved into this one.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said into the phone, talking over the caller’s voice, ‘something’s just come up and I need to go. Can you email that information and I’ll get right back to you. I’m so sorry,’ I added and hung up.

I looked down at the birthday card again in wonder then I picked up the discarded envelope. There were my initials and surname at the top followed by my office floor and address on a printed label. There was no stamp, so it had been sent inside the company. Looking at the card again, I opened it and read a few names inside, just to be sure but there was no doubt that someone had found out and sent this card around.

Putting the card back into the envelope, I locked the draw in the bottom of my desk and opened it. Inside my handbag was safely tugged away. I took the birthday card and shoved into my bag then locked the draw again.

How had they found out? I had be keeping my up and coming ‘big’ birthday a secret from everyone. I pressed my lips together and looked around again, as if the answer was out there. I looked in my in-tray where I had picked the card up with the rest of the post. There were just a few opened letters and papers in there now, waiting to be dealt with.

My phone rang, starling me out of my thoughts. I grabbed for the phone and pressed it to my ear but it was just someone else from another office asking for information on a client. I sighed and went back to work.

I had forgotten about the birthday card, until I got home and was getting stuff out of my handbag. Opening the envelope again, I looked at the card closely, but there were no further clues, expect that only ten people had signed it and I thought more people would have done. I put the card on my bookcase.

‘It’s just a number,’ I muttered to myself, ‘it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t change you.’

I went to bed but couldn’t sleep. It was four days away now and I wanted time just to stop. Could I not be twenty-nine forever?

My hopes weren’t answered and four days seemed to rush by. Before I knew it, I was awaking up and it was my birthday. It was a Saturday, so thankfully no work. Throughout the day, a few people sent me happy birthday messages online and text. I opened all the cards I’d gotten and decorated my bookcase with them.

In the evening, I meet with my family and friends for a nice restaurant meal as planned. Then I went home and to bed. Laying there, I tried not to reflected on how old I was now and what I’d not yet achieved with my life. I blamed my ninety-odd year grandma for asking again when I was going to get married and have children.

‘She broke up with her boyfriend a few months back,’ my mum had hissed at her, ‘remember? I told you. She’s single again now.’

I growled into my pillows and tossed and turned. Typical grandma and mum! It wasn’t that I didn’t want that fairy tale ending, it was just…it was a lot harder to get then the movies made it out to be! I had a flash were I missed my Ex but then I told myself he was more toad then prince and pushed him out of my mind again.

When I got to work on Monday, there were some birthday card envelopes in my in-tray. I opened them and saw that they were from a few different people; my manager, team leader, colleagues and a few other people I knew.

‘It’s you birthday today?’ a voice came behind me and making me jump.

I spun and saw one of my colleagues looking at the birthday card in my hand.

‘It was on Saturday,’ I answered.

‘Why didn’t you say?’ she asked.

I shrugged and swept all the cards into my top draw.

‘Not into celebrating, hey?’

‘Something like that….I’m sorry, I’ve got some clients to phone now,’ I said as an excuse.

The next month flew by and I was grateful for that as most people suddenly knew it had been my big three-oh birthday and had been sending my birthday cards and small presents. I wasn’t ungrateful but I’d rather it was done with now.

The rest of the year just seemed to pass so quickly. Work was busy and I got prompted for my hard work with a difficult client. In autumn, I started dating again and I met this really nice man, who definitely was more prince then toad! Then it was Halloween and soon after Christmas, I couldn’t believe how fast things were going. Time had felt slow before in the led up to my birthday but now I’d put that all behind me things were better.

Xyst #atozchallenge

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Xyst; a garden walk planted with trees. 

Escaping from the tea party, I made my way to the tree walk away. It was a place right at the back of the gardens that had been left naturally wild, once my great-great grandfather had finished having the trees planted. His original plan had been to make a wooded area for hunting in but the horses had struggled with the undergrowth and trees.

There had been so many plans over the years to clear the area and make it something else; another ordered garden, a vegetable patch for the servants, a summer house. The tree walk though was too far out to be much use for any of that, plus there’d always been the matter of the cost of it. I, though was grateful that the tree walk had been left alone and was still wild.

Leaving the neatly racked path, I stepped onto a single dirt track and disappeared into the shadows of the trees. Breathing deeply, I left the constraints of the tea party behind me. I was never very good at remembering my manners, sipping my tea and only nibbling at a sliver of cake. It was especially bad today as we had male guests and I didn’t do well when there were handsome men around!

It was best to stay away and let my mother and sisters deal with such things. Mother was determined to marry us all off before the eldest- Elizabeth now twenty three- turned twenty five. At which point, mother believed the possibility of marriage was low. I did not share that view. Perhaps it was my romantic fifteen year old nature but I wanted to believe there was going to be more to my life then marriage and children.

I let my fingers brush against the rough tree trunks and over grown grass. There was no need to be lady-like in this garden. Overhead, the birds sing of spring in a deep blue sky and the warm breeze promised summer. The scent of flowers and earth hugged the air, making me happy. Following the path, I reached the little wooden bridge over the shallow river that created a boarder to our land.

I lent over, watching the water flowing below. I liked the gentle rushing and bubbling noises. Also, it reminded me that when we had been children, we would throw sticks off the bridge and see who’s came through the other side first. This had been our secret garden; six girls just being children and escaping the pressure of adulthood.

How I wanted things to go back to those days! Being carefree and happy with only the distance shadows of a future out of our control. I sighed and wondered how much longer I could stay away. I should have pretended to have a headache or feel faint but then I would have had to go indoors. I wish I could just hide in here for the rest of my life but one can not escape one’s destiny.

I gathered the pale blue skirts of my afternoon dress and checked them for mud. Mother would not be happy if I returned unclean. Thankfully, it had been dry for a good few days now. Brushing the soft fabric off, I walked back to whatever was awaiting me.