Beneath #WritePhoto

Every Christmas, my family holiday in the Lake District. We go a day or two before Christmas Eve and stay until January second. There isn’t much to do other then walking and visiting pubs as it’s out of season. You either love the escape or you don’t.

Arriving, in the pouring rain, at one of holiday homes for eight people we rent, I park up and look at the Christmas lights flashing in the windows. Going by the cars, I was the last to arrive and that made me nervous. If I had been earlier maybe I could have made up something about my ex-husband joining us later, pretending we are still together, though the official divorce had been two months ago.

Hoping my family wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, I got out of the car. Grabbing my things, I dash to the door and let myself in. The hallway is warm and dry, the smell of burning wood, pine cones and oranges welcoming me.

From the staircase to my right comes faint voices, laughed and glasses tinkling. Glancing up, I wait to see if anyone would come down to greet me but no one does. I go towards a bedroom door on my far left, the one we normally stay in. Then I stop. This year, I had agreed, not needing a double bed now, to take a single bed and share a room with my teen aged niece, Beth. That meant I was in the room on the opposite side, the smallest one tucked under the stairs.

Turning, I go to that one and walk in. Beth had clearly taken the bed by the small window. There were clothes and items scattered about, shoes on the floor, hair dryer and curler on the small dressing table, mingled with make up products. It looked like a typical messy girl teenager’s bedroom all ready.

The second bed was neatly made and looked cosy enough to curl up in and go to sleep. I put my stuff down next to it and began unpacking. At least Beth had left me some cupboard space!

I tried to delay going upstairs as long as I could but at last I had to go. Planning for the worse, I go up, my hand sliding along the banister, below which in the railings weave fake green pine needle bushels decorated with fairy lights.

At the top, a T shaped hallway and before me glass doors leading out to a small balcony. To the left, the wooden door to a small, snug room is close. To the right, an archway through to the open plan living room, dinning room, kitchen. Above which, at the back, is a second staircase leading to an attic bedroom.

I step in, get spotted by the four adults standing in the kitchen and I’m welcomed happily into the folds of my family. Someone gives me a glass of red wine, some else offers me food, a few questions are asked then the talk goes back to the conversation before.

The evening passes quickly, as it does in good company, with nice food and wine. I go to bed early, tried by a day’s work, the two hour drive and full of warmth. Beth had gone to the pub with cousins. I don’t know when she got back, I never heard her but she was asleep in her bed with I woke up in the morning.

Being the first to get up, I made coffee and tea. I had cereal and toast for breakfast. The weather had cleared and though the sky looked grey the rain had stopped. I decided to go for a walk.

Dressing warmly, I left and without planning where to go, I just start walking. I knew most of the area well and wasn’t afraid to get lost, that was a part of the fun anyway! I walk away from the holiday homes, following a little track underneath some trees. That opened into fields which a wide river ran through and a yellow path went along beside.

Birds were still singing morning song, a few cars were traveling on the single road above and sheep were dotting the hills. I just walked, taking it all in, letting go of everything that was bothering me. Nature is a good healer.

Arriving at a small lake, I take a break on a cold wooden bench. The wind playing with the bare tree branches and across the water, making waves which lap the rocky shore. I look at the reflection in the lake’s surface; the small hills, the tree, the cloudy sky. For some reason, I’m reminded of the Arthurian legend of The Lady of the Lake. 

A thin, white, female hand with fingers decorated with shinny rings, raising from the still clear water and holding aloft the bejeweled hilt of Excalibur. The sliver blade itself, glowing in the sun, water drops dripping off it, the magic waiting for King Arthur to claim it.

They were stories I loved as a child and I had been hoping to tell them my children. It was never to be now. The miscarriage in the spring had seen to that. In the summer, the divorce had began. We just couldn’t bear each other anymore, our family was gone, our hearts broken and we couldn’t come back from it. Easier to be a part then together, loveless and angry.

I feel tears come to my eyes and I let them fall. I keep saying, I wouldn’t cry anymore, but it’s still hard not too. There’s this imagine stuck in my mind of me standing before a Christmas tree, holding a baby and my husband beside me. It’s just a dream, like everything else now feels like.

It starts to rain, little drops hitting the lake, the bench, my hair. I get up and dig through my pockets for my coin purse. I take out a penny and walk to the edge of the lake. Ripples grow across the surface of the water as the rain comes down faster and bigger.

I rub the penny, make a wish; a wish that everything could go back to before the pregnancy and that it didn’t happen, my husband is still here and we are happy. I throw the penny into the lake and watch it disappear beneath.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/12/13/thursday-photo-prompt-beneath-writephoto/ with thanks).

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My Merry Little Christmas #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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I’d had it with him! Blocking his number, I officially deleted my ex-boyfriend from my life. Sitting crossed legged and arms on the sofa, grumpily gazing at the TV but not taking the ten o’clock news in, I shoved my heartbreak away.

I wasn’t going to cry and feel sorry for myself. I hadn’t been the one sleeping around, getting drunk and kissing girls in nightclubs. We’d only been together six months, hardly anytime at all. And anyway, I’d hated his taste in music, movies, his dislike of books and his big ego. We’d had little in common from the beginning and it was only thanks to his interest in American sports we had started dating.

Still though, Christmas was around the corner and now I’d be spending it alone. Well, there was family to visit but I’d feel like the odd one out.

I looked at the Christmas decorations and the little fire burning in the fireplace. It needed stoking and more wood adding. I was in no mood to sleep now, so I got up and kneeling down, grabbed the poker. Jabbing it in, the flames woke from their doze. I put another two logs in and which the fire growing once more.

Back on the sofa, I wanted something to take my mind off things. The TV wasn’t helping, I didn’t have enough concentration to read a book and my house was all ready tidy. There were presents still to wrap, cards to write but I wasn’t feeling up to that. I needed an action plan, something to total focus on and forget about him for awhile.

I got my laptop out and went surfing the internet. There were lots of distractions out there. I clicked on link after link; reading blog posts, news, comic strips, finally I came to some Christmas craft website and scrolled through. There were lots of things I could make but my heart wasn’t in it.

Turning the TV off, I went on to a video website and listened to some live relaxing music. I made some hot chocolate and toast, curled up again and drifted into the sounds of the fire and the sad piano notes.

For some reason, that song about having having yourself a merry little Christmas popped into my head. I hummed it whilst hugging my warm mug and thought, yes, I’m going to have one of those this year and I’ll be happier and better for it.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/12/10/weekly-writing-challenge-171/ with thanks).

Tree Portal #TwittingTales

My twin boys were whispering behind the oak tree. Creeping up, I shouted ‘boo!’ they both jumped, ‘What you doing?’

‘We found the way to Christmas land,’ Cody answered.

‘Like in that movie,’ Corey added.

‘But we can’t get in!’

‘We need a little magic,’ I explained.

 

(Inspired b; https://katmyrman.com/2018/12/11/twittering-tale-114-11-december-2018/ with thanks).

Christmas Caroling Cans #PhotoChallenge

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I had this weird dream last night. All these drink cans were alive, they had gather together and formed a choir. They were singing Christmas carols in loud, tin  voices.  People were throwing them money and singing along, like it was totally normal.

I knew it wasn’t real and I tried to tell everyone, but no one would listen! Then I knocked all the cans over in a rage. I got arrest for disturbing the peace and assault. I had to spend Christmas in jail.

When I got out everyone threw cans at me and said I’d ruined Christmas.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/12/11/photo-challenge-242/ with thanks.)

Safe #CCC

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The abandoned building was a good place to hide from bullies. I could get inside a half broken window but they couldn’t. In the darkness I felt safe again with only my breathing echoing and my feet scuffing the floor.

I didn’t bother with a light, I knew the way to the little room where I could sit and wait for the bullies to get bored. A few times I’d even slept there!

In winter, I got some supplies in; candles, matches, a torch, a sleeping bag, snacks, comics etc. and it became little my own little house.

 

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2018/12/05/crimsons-creative-challenge-4/ with thanks).

Onward #WritePhoto

The people of what had been Kirby town had been traveling for months, walking on the hard rocky animal tracks through the foggy and rain soaked mountain range. There seemed to be no end in sight and it was like they had been cursed to walk forever.

Wearily and hungrily, they followed their prince on his bedraggled white stallion and his surviving guards in their tattered livery. No one was sure where they were going but the wizard kept claiming the Gods would tell the prince soon enough.

A fine rain was falling and the wind kept driving into the people and animals. There was little shelter and half delirious some of the people started to believe the mountains were judging them.

But what would mountains know of having to flee your burning town? Of trying to save women from rape and murder at the hands of an army from a distant land? Of there being no help, no hope, nothing left but charred reminds of what had been?

‘Is that a cave or a gap?’ the prince muttered.

He was exhausted and finding it hard to keep the strength his people needed of him. Steering his horse off of the track and up a small ledge. He saw that a gaping hole opened inside the nearest mountain, like mouth that had been punched in.

The prince slide off his horse and lead the stallion over. The cave seemed back enough for everyone and it was also dry inside.

Prays were said to the Gods and a few people suggested that perhaps their fate was turning. Maybe tonight the prince would be told where to lead them too. Everyone settled into the cave, finding a large chamber for twelve horses, seven ponies, five goats, four dogs, two cows, one ox, one kitten and a crate full of chickens. There was also other chambers which the hundred odd humans scattered themselves about in.

No fires could be lit, there was no dry wood. The people ate whatever they had foraged, got as comfortable as they could and tried to sleep.

The prince woke early, feeling uneasy. He looked at the ceiling of the cave and wondered what to do.

‘My prince?’ ask the wizard, ‘any new thoughts?’

‘None,’ the prince uttered.

The wizard nodded and taking up his gnarled staff went out into the misty, rainy morning.

‘Shall we move on?’ the captain of the guards asked.

The prince looked around, taking in the closest children who were so tried and hungry they could no longer cry.

‘No. It seems safe enough here. We shall rest as long as we can.’

A few days passed and the people had made the best of things. Wood had been dried for a fire big enough to cook and dry clothes upon. The animals were providing milk and eggs now they were rested and grazing often. Everyone felt less hungry and tried.

On the four day, the wizard came back.

‘I have been seeing what there is to be seen,’ he announced, ‘and it looks like we must continue. The weather is turning and I fear we shall face greater hardships.’

The prince was fell silent in thought. A few voices give suggestions but at last the prince spoke, ‘tomorrow we leave. Go and find food, wood and prepare. We can’t stay here and must make it to some other town or city for the winter.’

Onward, the people of Kirby town traveled though a gap between two mountains where it stopped raining and began snowing. Some regretted leaving the cave but they knew if they had stayed they would have died, at least this way they had a chance.

On and on they pushed as winter bit in and heaped more harshness on them like never before. Some did not make it, but other weeks later, on the eve of the winter festival stood and looked down upon a valley and a town within.

Spirits soared and the people head forward. The prince feared they would be rejected or find the town in ruined but they were welcome in. A great hall lay at the heart of the town, heated by many fires and decorated with evergreen plants. The Lord welcomed them from his high seat and the prince counseled with him.

Dawn arose on the winter festival morning, crisp snow covered everything and a fine mist hung over the mountains. The people of Kirby all slept peacefully for the first time, warmed by the fires of the great hall, knowing they were safe for the time being.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/12/06/thursday-photo-prompt-onward-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Cocoon #3LineTales

three line tales week 149: a close up of a butterfly

The morning battle began, June wasn’t in the mood, she knocked on her teenage son’s bedroom door to get him up for school then opened the door and took in the mess of stuff scattered around in what little light could enter the room, it was a typical young man’s cave and June felt nauseated by a rising smell of sweat.

‘I’m sick, I’m not going into day and you can’t make me, so there!’ he shouted back from underneath the bedding.

‘Fine,’ answered June, ‘stay like a cocooned bug then and only come out when you have grown up.’

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/12/06/three-line-tales-week-149/ with thanks).

A Winter Storm #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Harper went to draw the curtains at the living room’s floor to ceiling windows of her three bedroom top floor London apartment. She stopped and looked out. Normally she could see much of London’s high end business streets, fancy apartment blocks and Big Ben on the skyline.

Tonight though, a snowstorm had hit the city and it was really coming down now. The large, heavy white flakes were sticking to everything, even things that were normally warm. The wind was gale force, gusting at 30-40 miles, creating a white blindness against the darkness and the noise it was making was louder then the London traffic jams far below.

Clutching the curtain, Harper said aloud, ‘I’ve only seen snow like this on TV in those snowed-in romantic movies. Well, it doesn’t look ‘lovely’ to me.’

She closed the curtain on the scene and as she did so she heard Big Ben strike the hour. Frowning, Harper opened the curtains and tried to look out but she could barely see anything. She listened hard but heard nothing then the howling wind.

I thought they were still repairing things, the bell and clock haven’t worked in months. How can Ben chime then? Maybe, I miss heard it? Harper thought.

Closing the curtains finally, she turned away and back to the tidy open living room. The fake fire was going in the wall, the warmth coming off it making everything cosy. The other walls were decorated with framed photos of family and friends, Harper and her husband, Hugo, at there wedding five years ago, on their honeymoon, other holidays and celebrations. The larger frames were decorate with sprigs or small garlands of real green ivy and red berries.

There was a medium size Christmas tree, shinning in the corner next to the fireplace. The red and gold colours of all the decorations and lights give a magical feeling. Other Christmas decorations hung about or were on display from shelves, adding to theme. On and around the glass coffee table were stack boxes of presents, rolls of colourful wrapping paper, bows, ribbon, labels, sticky table and scissors.

Harper went back to the red bean bag chair next to the coffee table, where she had been curled up in before. There was a fresh cup of herbal tea on the table and the TV which was turned down low showed Christmas music videos.

Sipping her tea, Harper looked at her list and decided what presents to wrap next. Not for the first time she wish Hugo was here. She looked up at the photos and his smiling face. He had gone to Germany a few days ago on a business trip and had been due back tonight but the snowstorm had grounded all the planes coming to London and Hugo had phoned hours ago to say he was spending the night in a hotel.

Harper turned the volume up on the TV as a classic Christmas song came on; I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. She hummed along as she started wrapping again. Soon she had drink her tea, sing along to more songs, found enjoyment in wrapping the presents again and Hugo had slipped from her mind.

It grew super late before Harper realised but she had finished the bow on the last present. Yawning, she put everything away and turned off the TV. Hugo had phoned to say goodnight two hours ago down a static line which was then cut off. Harper had held the phone in sadness for a few moments then decided nothing could be done and carried on with her task.

Big Ben chimed midnight.

Harper stopped, her fingers had been reaching to turn the fireplace off. She listened, counting the tolling bell sound. Reaching twelve, she turned the fire off then the Christmas tree lights and went to the window. Moving the curtain she looked out but the snowstorm was still swirling and she could barely see the lights of the neighbouring buildings.

‘Maybe, they have finished working on the clock tower?’ she said aloud.

Dropping the curtain, Harper went to bed and slept well. All that present wrapping had exhausted her.

The next day, Harper found that the snowstorm had almost brought London to a stop. All the roads were blocked by cars and buses not going anywhere as the roads were covered. Pavements were crowed by people trying to go to work or the shops but they didn’t seem to be getting anywhere either. The snow lay thick on roof tops and didn’t seem to be melting.

Harper phoned in work and told her secretary, who always seemed to be in the office no matter what, that she wasn’t going to even try and come in and would work from home. Then she added that if the snow started again, her secretary was to go home, no excuses! Then setting herself up in the study which was the third bedroom, Harper worked the day away.

In the afternoon, the snow started falling again. Light at first but then as the sky darkened heavier. Harper phoned and texted her husband a few times but got no response. She had no idea if he was coming home or not. Harper ate dinner late, setting the table for one and having a glass of red wine to calm herself. She watched the snow falling and the twinkling Christmas at the windows of other apartments.

Big Ben chimed seven o’clock.

Harper lowered her wine glass from her lips and picked up her phone. She did an internet search and found that her thought before had been right; the bell had been stopped from chiming expect for special events, whilst repairs were done to the tower. So, she shouldn’t be hearing it. What was that bell chime then? A local church bell?

Whatever, it doesn’t matter, Harper thought and she had some more wine.

Afterwards, she took the rest of the bottle and sat before the TV to watch some movies. No word came from Hugo and every hour, Harper heard a bell ring. It turned midnight again and sleepily, Harper went to bed.

Laying there, she couldn’t get the idea of Big Ben sounding out of her head though. There was no other sound like it and Harper had lived in and around London all her life, so she knew all the noises well enough. Perhaps, she thought, before sleep claimed her, someone put it on in the spirit of Christmas? 

Next morning, Harper found Hugo asleep on the sofa, still dressed from travelling and suitcase next to him.

‘Hugo?’ Harper called and touched his shoulder.

He stirred and woke up.

‘What time did you get in?’ she asked.

‘Couple of hours ago. Didn’t want to wake you, you looked so peaceful,’ Hugo replied, his voice rough with tiredness.

‘I’m up now, so why don’t you go to bed for bit?’

Hugo nodded and taking his suitcase went into their bedroom. Harper straightened the sofa then had breakfast. Afterwards, despite the food delivery three days ago, Harper decided to go to the shops. It wasn’t snowing, but there was frozen piles on the streets and it was freezing.

Setting out, Harper thought about walking to see Big Ben but it would be too long a walk.

What do you hope to prove anyway? That you’re not hearing things? 

Harper shook her head and walked to a local shops. She got everything to make Hugo his favourite – lamb chops and sticky toffee pudding for after. Then she brought the maps up on her phone and looked to see if there where any churches or chapels close by. They didn’t seem to be any.

Walking home, Harper told herself it was only a ringing church bell after all. Back home, she busied herself with tidying up, checking work emails and her phone. When Hugo got up, they had a late lunch and talked.

Harper decided to bring up the bell, ‘Last night I heard Big Ben ringing. Do you think they put it back on?’

‘I thought it was taking them years to do the work?’ Hugo said, ‘it’s Christmas though, so maybe they have?’

‘I want to go and see it,’ Harper said.

‘The bell? I didn’t think you could…The clock and tower are covered in scaffolding, so there’s nothing to see.’

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Harper muttered.

She collected the plates and went into the kitchen.

That night in bed, listening every hour, Harper heard the bell sound. She couldn’t sleep. Hugo felt too warm next to her and his breathing, plus snoring, too loud. Harper got up, thinking she would get a cup of herbal tea.

Standing by the window, sipping tea, Harper watched fine snow drifting down and the dim lights of the city.

Big Ben chimed three AM.

Maybe, it’s all in my head, Harper thought, I’m so use to hearing Ben that my mind is just filling in the sound? Unless…bells have ghosts. Is that even possible? Have I been hearing the ghost of Big Ben?  

Harper laughed, finished her tea and went back to bed.

The idea of Big Ben’s ghost didn’t want to leave her though. So, the next day, her and Hugo walked to the Houses of Parliament. Hugo had been right; scaffolding ran from floor to almost the top of the tower, hiding the clock who’s hands were stopped. There were a few notices around explaining to visitors what was happening.

‘It says here the work will be complete in twenty-twenty-one and Big Ben will only strike on special occasions, like New Year,’ Hugo read aloud.

‘So, it’s not Ben I’m hearing?’ Harper spoke.

‘Looks that way.’

Harper sighed and looked up – a long way up – at the clock face. Above a dark grey sky was threatening more snow and Harper thought she could feel water drops on her face.

‘Feel better now?’ Hugo asked.

‘I don’t know,’ Harper responded.

She touched her forehead but didn’t feel hot or unwell.

I feel….unsettled, Harper decided.

‘Pub lunch?’ Hugo asked.

Harper nodded and let him led her away.

She didn’t hear the bell chime again after that.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/12/03/weekly-writing-challenge-170/ with thanks).

Shutting Out Christmas #TaleWeaver

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On the first of December, Frank closed his front and back doors for the rest of the month. If anybody knocked he wouldn’t answer, not that anybody was likely to call upon him. However, he did pick up the phone if his granddaughter rang to make sure he was still alive but it was only for her that he would answer.

For the last few years, that’s how Frank had treated December. He had come to see it as a a month to shut out and stay inside. The week before, he brought a large order of supplies making sure he had enough food, drink, firewood, coal, candles, batteries and books.

Elise, his granddaughter would come to visiting a few times, bringing with her whichever boyfriend she was with and fresh items. Frank would give her a ten pound note out of habit for Christmas. Then on the third of January, the day after the rush of New Year, when everyone would be back at work, Frank would head out to the shops at last.

He stocked up on another month of supplies and went back into hibernation. His granddaughter visiting once or twice with a few items. February saw a repeat of that because winter had set in deep and why bother trying to get through the snow and ice, risking accident? Frank thought. His granddaughter would come again, either with the same boyfriend or a different one, sometimes alone, crying over a break up or enjoying her brief moment of single life.

Frank didn’t mind, she was living whatever life she decided and he mostly wanted to be left alone. It was how things had been for the last ten years, ever since his wife, daughter and her husband had died in a car accident. Black ice on a ungritted road had been blamed. His granddaughter had only survived because she had been with him, too ill to go out shopping.

A few days into December, Frank sit in his cold living room, the small TV in the corner off, the curtains drawn, Frank watched the fire coming to life. He had all ready had something to eat and drink, now was his time to get warm and read for a few hours. Outside he could hear the wind and rain whipping up into a storm. He felt glad for the roof over his head.

Getting into the sleeping bag which would keep the chill off his body, Frank took the current historic war novel he was reading off the top of the pile of books on the side table next to him. He turned to his bookmarked page and began reading.

His thoughts though turned to all the madness happening outside right now that he was far away from. People would be crowding the freezing streets; shopping and eating, driving around, getting angry at each other and feeling the stress of Christmas. Homeless people, charity workers and money grabbers would be begging, their words mostly ignored. The rain would be icy cold, the wind bitter, Frank would catch hypothermia again and have to spend Christmas in hospital.

He was too old and tried for all that now. Christmas celebrations were fading memories for him and didn’t care for anymore. Frank was happy shutting it all out, losing himself in some books and letting the season pass him by in solitude.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/tale-weaver-199-open-or-shut-november-29th/ with thanks).

Gull Crash #3LineTales

three line tales, week 148: gulls over a stormy sea

The stormy sea was throwing up all kinds of things and the gulls were going crazy for the fish that were being tossed up in the crashing white crested waves.

It was a sign to get off the ocean to return safely to harbour, the fishing was over for another season and all the boats were making their way back, the last catch secured below decks like a glittering treasure.

On the land, twinkling fairy lights and the sweet smell of food welcomed them back, it was almost time for the end of year celebrations, their families had been working hard to prepare for and now with the additional fish the town would survive through the winter months to come.

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2018/11/29/three-line-tales-week-148/ with thanks).