Olde Sweet Shoppe

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I’d had the dream since a child but what child didn’t dream of owning their own sweet shop?

Things for me though had just fallen into place like it was meant to be my fate since birth. Or maybe, I just got lucky?

My uncle had a general shop which had been his father’s corner shop in the forties. The general shop sold everything you could want and things you didn’t know you needed. The stock was often seasonal and local; milk from the farm down the road, autumn apples and cider, flowers from Mr. Langes’s allotment and tools from the town’s smithy.

I always remember the smell when I entered, announced by the Victorian bell, it was a strange mix of pipe tobacco, freshly baked bread and sickly sweet ice buns, varnished wood and newspaper ink.

The sight was always one of a packed room and colourful packets and many objects placed around. It seemed you might get lost in a maze of goods and the placement of things made little sense as there was no direct order. You could find washing up liquid next to tinned peas, hair brushes next to carrots etc.

My cousins worked in the shop and I’d hang around with them. We’d take some fruit or sweets or crisp and pop and go out to play. Why didn’t they have to pay for things? I asked them. If we only take a few things it’s never noticed, came the reply.

The golden years of childhood in the seventies and eighties faded. I entered the adult world as did my cousins and we kept in touch. I moved away, moved back, did random jobs and had many relationships.

I saw the post online one evening, alone in my rented apartment. My cousins were closing the shop. I sent one of them a message to ask why and it was a simple answer; too much money being lost and no customers. It was the fate of all small shops now.

I had written back before I had given it any real thought; could I rent the shop from you and start up a sweet shop? 

I don’t know, she typed back, I don’t want you to end up in the financial issues we are facing. 

Quickly tapping on my laptop keys I answered, I understand, please let me give it a try.

Reflecting on the past and how things came to be is difficult but also interesting. I smile as I stand behind the polished counter and serve child after child, adults and families who are constantly returning and bring a new wave of people with them.

The shop no longer smells like it did before; it was cleaner and sweeter now. There are shelves bottom to top across three walls and one of those is behind my counter and the pick ‘n’ mix selection. The floor is open to the crowds and the window display is a rainbow of bright colours and calling temptations.

My cousins can’t believe I was able to turn things around for their family business. They’ve helped me a lot and we work alongside each other to keep this little shop going.

I’m on the internet too which has become my main source of income. I ship to anywhere and import too. American candy and Japanese snacks are my highest earns. It’s hard work and I don’t get a break but I love it and it’s like where I’m meant to be.

In Memory

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I could have had something simple inscribed on placate placed on the bench I’d made for my parents. The normal thing of their names, birth and death dates and perhaps stating this was their favourite spot.

I knew they had walked the cliffs often. They had meet on the beach below as teenagers so this area did hold special memories for them. Why my dad had chosen to bring my mum here to end everything, I could only guess.

Perhaps, it had been the easiest place for him to tell the old people’s home to take them on a day trip. It had been their special day after all. The career had said, my dad had asked her to go and get them ice creams whilst he and mum rested on a grassy spot.

Mum had been in a wheelchair, gone to dementia and dad with numerous other illness had recently been told he had that disease too.

I guess he couldn’t bear it anymore and that’s why he’d done it.

The placate reads;

In memory of Harry and Betty who committed suicide here on the 2 .8. 2019, their 55th wedding anniversary.

Their love began and ended on the beach below. They were always together. 

Missing you, mum and dad.  

Another Life #CCC

Jo had forgotten all about the house. During a ramble, she came across the place and memories bloomed. It was a warm summer’s day with a breeze ruffling the trees and the wild flowers making the air so fragrant. Jo had been walking without thinking, listening to music and enjoying wandering about.

She came across a fallen barb wire fence and thought it was just some old farming boarder. Then came more discarded fencing and overgrowth of nature. From behind tall bushes and trees, a building poked out.

Frowning, Jo came closer and slipped her headphones off. She looked up at the house and she remembered once living there with her other parents before the nice lady and grinning man had taken her away.

 

(Inspired by; https://crispinakemp.com/2020/06/03/crimsons-creative-challenge-82/ with thanks).

Drinks At Sunset

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The birds were singing the last songs of the day but it was still hot and hazy outside. I lent back in the garden lounger and looked at the wax crayon blue sky. It had been a beautifully day, one of this days ‘miracle’ like days that seem only to be in films.

Shutting my eyes, I relaxed into the heat, wishing and not for the first time that day, that I had a swimming pool to be dipping my feet into. We had had one in the last holiday villa we had stayed at. Oh, how it had been glorious to sit on the edge of the pool, legs in the cool water and sipping some sweet drink whilst the sun set behind the palm trees.

England didn’t really allow that setting. We didn’t have constant sun and heat that other European countries did. Still, on the rare days like this….

The clicking of ice against a glass made my eyes flicker open. My husband was stepping out of the house, two glasses of some pink fizz in his hands. He came over and hand me a glass, I smelt the hint of fruits and took a sip.

‘Something light and sweet for this hot evening,’ my husband explained.

‘What is it?’ I asked twisting the glass in my hand to inspected the drink.

Bubbles coated the sides of the glass and others raced to the surface fizzing and popping. Mint leaves floated along side the chunky ice cubes and the colour was a light pink hinting at the taste summer berries.

‘My own invention,’ my husband replied.

I took another few sips, nodded and spoke, ‘ I love it.’

Postcard Short Story

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Dear Mabel,

Do you remember our honeymoon in Greece? I found some photos of us whilst clear out the attic. It made me want to get back in touch with you. This postcard I found at the bottom of that box and I thought it would be a good reminder for you.

I’m sorry for all the mistakes I made and for all the times I wasn’t there for you. I wish I could go back and change everything. Give you the married life you deserved. I know you had no choice when you left, I know you can never forgive me but I will never stop loving you.

Bennett.

Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 2)

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Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

(Please note there is some adult content in this story)

Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I got up and went outside to the well. There was no one there but signs that people had been gathering water earlier. I pulled the handle around and drew up the rope which the bucket was attached too.

Birds were singing in the trees, animals were being noisy – demanding food-  there was no wind and the sun was all ready warming. I could smell the start of peat fires as water was heated and food cooked in the little huts.

I pulled the bucket full of water out of the well and began washing my hands and face. Then I did my feet, arms and legs, following the washing pattern I had done all my life. Normally, I would have been in the Temple bathhouse, naked with my dorm Sisters. There would have been hot water, steam and fragrant soaps.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had had a full bath or washed my hair. I wasn’t ashamed of my body but I was aware of the trouble being naked could cause. Sighing, I finished off washing and poured the water into one of the buckets that was used for washing clothes and other things, when anybody could be bothered to do so.

Back in my hut there was a warm pot of tea, a jug of ale and a bowl of thin porridge for me to have. The old woman who had woke me was serving the breakfast out. There was a low mutter of talking and I caught a few words of that but it was mostly complaints about things and a challenge for who could pick the most apples today.

Out in the orchard, it didn’t look like we had made much progress yesterday. There were many trees looking weighed down with apples. Wood ladders were laid against the tree trunks with baskets and carts drawn by old horses were under the trees. I stood with everyone else and listened to the orders given then it was skirts tied up and climbing the ladder for me once more.

My legs and arms were still aching after yesterday but I tried to ignore that and get on with bringing the apples down once more. Twisting them off, I threw the apples down to the catchers below – who were old people and children- and they put the fruit into the baskets. The large men came and put the baskets onto the carts and left an empty basket behind.

The sun grew hotter throughout the day, it made me sleepy and desperate for a cold bath. Like yesterday, we were allow to stop a few times for drink and food but it didn’t help that much. The ale tasted strange in my mouth even though I should have been use to it by now. Nobody drank much water but I would have preferred it. The food was always bread and cheese, sometimes it was fresh other times it wasn’t.

I stole two apples. I had climbed higher into the tree, balancing on the thinner branches to reach the apples at the top. Everyone’s attention was drawn to a woman with child who had fainted. It was easy for me to slip the apples into the pockets of my underskirt and take a rest on a thicker branch. From here, I could see a lot of people gathered around the woman. She was placed on a cart and taken away with some women and perhaps her husband following.

‘Come on, get back to work!’ someone yelled and everyone walked back to their choice tree.

I threw down the last of the apples and came down the ladder. The rest of the day drew itself out as if it didn’t want to end. The smell of the apples and trees clogged my other senses. I felt I could just curl up on a branch and sleep forever. Even the children who seemed to have boundless energy were tried and some had fallen sleep at the bases of trees.

Drinking some ale, I heard my stomach growl in hunger. Soon it would be time to eat. I looked up at the sky and saw that the sun was in it’s setting position but it had no intention of going down for another two or three hours. The ale tasted too malty and slightly gritty, I drank it all, too thirsty to stop.

Petting the old shire horse, who’s cart I had been leaning against, I helped pick up any apples on the ground as the pickers decided to shake the trees out. Some of these apples could be added to the collection and others would go to the animals.

I stumbled over something and decided I’d had enough of these shoes. I took them off and in my bare feet carried on working. The earth and grass were cool, reminding me of times I had run around the Temple and it’s gardens. And I felt the call. The earth whispering to me asking what I wished of it.

I had to ignore it and get back to picking up apples. I put them into the ‘basket’ I had created with my dress. It was an easier way. Then I tipped them into the wicker baskets and went back together more.

Finally, the sun was setting. The bright blue sky turning paler and darker as the sun dipped. We collected the last of the day’s apples and followed the horses and carts back. People began going their own ways. I went to the well and joined the queue for water. It as too long and I decided to go to the stream instead.

Other people were heading there too but I could walk along to find a patch of my own. There wasn’t a lot of shade out here, there was just fields. I passed some cows who were getting ready for evening milking. The sheep hadn’t been brought down from the hills yet but there were some goats milling around.

At the stream, I walked by people who were drinking or collecting or taking clothes off for a wash. I saw some naked children splashing each other. An old woman with her skirts all bunched up as she dipped her feet and legs in. A few men just in their breaches pouring water from jugs over their heads and three young women watching them and giggling.

I found a quiet spot, far down from everyone else and also beside a small tree. I took all my clothes off. Wishing I had clean ones to put on. Beside from a few undergarments, I had nothing else to wear. In the Temple, I had worn white dress with sliver thread edges to show I was a novice. I could wear a clean one everyday if I had wanted.

I took the cloth strip from my head and pulled my hair down. Leaving my clothes by the tree, I stepped carefully into the stream. It was blissfully cold. Stones felt rough under the feet, so I moved a few of them then crouched down in the little exposed area of stream bed I had made. I cupped the water and splashed it all over me. The cold of it prickled my skin but it was too nice to stop.

I tried to imagine myself in a Temple bath, cooling down after a long day. The chatter of my Sister around me. Everything was cool and clean. There would be robes to wrap in, clean clothes and lots of food to eat this evening. Autumn time had also been my favourite season of year because of that.

‘What we got ‘ere then?’

The man’s voice broke through my thoughts, I stilled and looked up at him. He was grinning, showing missing teeth, rough black stub covered the lower half of his face. His brown eyes were shinning as if he was delighted by the sight before him. He was grubby, thin and a youngish look about him, maybe in his twenties?

‘You’re the mute girl, ain’t you?’

I shook my head and wonder if I did speak would he leave me alone? Panic swelled in my stomach. I knew I should go, put my clothes on and run but wouldn’t that expose me more and invite him to give chase? Not moving might be better but I really wasn’t sure….Maybe, if I had kept some clothes on it would have a made a difference.

‘Yes, you are,’ the man said in a low voice, ‘no one has hair like your’s….’

I looked at my hair, the cherry red colour had darkened with the water and felt heavier, the long wet strands were giving me some cover. I brought more of it around to hide my chest. The man noticed the movement and one of his eyebrows raised.

‘I think you need some company,’ he said and began taking his clothes off.

I shook my head and panic made me flee. I stood, water dripping off me and rushed to my clothes pile. Without throwing anything on, I ran naked into the opposite field. He chased after me, not shouting – I guess so he didn’t draw attention. I didn’t look back, I concentrated on finding some cover but of course there was none to be had.

I dropped a shoe and tried to pick it up. A heavy weight flew into the back of me and sent me tumbling to the ground.

‘Oh, yes! That’s how I like my women!’ the man spoke, his voice full of lust.

I twisted around and saw him dropping his breaches down and his manhood on display.

I couldn’t let this happen! The Sisters prepared us well for sex and bearing children but they taught us it was an act of our faith. Our bodies were vessels for the next Sisters and we shouldn’t just lay with any man. There were rites to be done…

I scrambled upwards but the man threw himself down on top of me and grappled me to the ground. I tasted dirt and blood on my lips. His breath was harsh in my ears and I could feel the hardness of him pushing against my rear end. He tried to part my legs with his own but I strained against him.

My hands clenched around the dry soil and before I could think, instinct took over. I told the earth to blind him as I threw the soil into his face. He cried out and moved his hands off me to try and get his eyes clean. I wiggled out from under him and sat facing him, my chest heaving with deep breaths.

The man swore at me, calling me nasty names as he rubbed his eyes and blinked. His eyes had turned white.

‘I can’t see!’ he screamed.

I plunged my hands deep in the soil and felt the power growing within. The ground shook, the grass shaking wildly then the earth began splitting, a hole appearing under the man and because he was distracted by being blind, he fell into the hole. He screamed but it was cut off by the ground coming back together and the soil closing around him.

‘I didn’t mean it,’ I whispered looking at the spot the the man had disappeared from.

Grass brushed against my naked skin, the soil was cold underneath me. Licking my lips and tasted blood and dirt on them still. I turned away, saw my clothes and quickly got dressed. I ran back to the stream, washing the soil away then rushed to my hidey hole.

There I wrapped the blanket around my shoulders and curled up. The Sisters taught us to control our powers. To not use them without thinking nor in anger. I had broken that lesson. What was I going to do?

Tears washed down my face, thoughts flooded my mind and I couldn’t calm down. All I could see was the earth swallowing that man!

Darkness pressed against my makeshift shelter. I looked out from a hole and steadied myself. No one knew what had happened and if anybody asked me, I was a mute who couldn’t utter a word. The man was gone so he couldn’t say anything against me. I could carry on as normal. That would be the best thing and no one would ever know.

I got up and went to the well, I sorted myself out, tied my wet hair back up and under the cloth, brushed grass from my clothes and put on my shoes. I went back to my hut and found a little stew and tea left for me to have.

Some people were smoking in chairs beside the fire and others had gone to bed all ready. No one looked or spoke to me. I tried to act as normal, tipping the stew into my mouth and swallowing down the cooling tea. I got into bed and pulled the woollen blanket over my head.

I lay breathing deeply, my eyes squeezed shut and trying to blank my mind. I had made a terrible, terrible mistake but I would learn from it and never again would I act like that.

I was alone now. I had to control my gift. I had to stay hidden.

 

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

Deracinate #AtoZChallenge (Part 1)

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Deracinate – to tear something up by the roots

All stories start with something and this story starts with an apple. It was a normal apple, bright red and ripe for picking. I twisted it off the tree and with a quick look around, I slipped it into a pocket in my underskirt. It was the first apple I had ever picked and the first thing I had ever stolen.

I was wearing clothes that were not my own; an old, patched up blue dress with layers of grey skirts and stays for my growing woman’s shape. On my feet were falling apart brown leather shoes, worn down from all the walking and work. My hair, dirty and unwashed for days like the rest of me was a cherry red colour which shone gold in the full sun or moonlight. It was tied in a bun under a strip of cloth that covered my head.

I carried on picking apples all day. Stopping only a few times to sip ale and nibble mouldy bread. The other workers didn’t speak to me, energy was wasted by talking and there was too much to do. Also, they all thought I was a mute. The apples in their wicker baskets were loaded onto a cart and taken into a stable to be sorted. Some apples were to be sold at the markets and others made into cider.

The sun set and some of us retreated to little huts the farmer had given us for the harvest season. The rest of the workers went to houses or other places they had in the surrounding villages. We ate a weak stew then in a haze of peat smoke, pipe tobacco and sleepiness, I slipped outside.

A few feet away was my hidey hole. It was a little nook in a tumbled down animal shelter. I had made a seat out of some of the wood and placed straw on the floor. There was a holder for a small candle and a worn blanket. I wrapped myself up and lit a candle. I listened but there was only the sound of the wind and animals.

I took the stolen apple out from my pocket. I had eaten apples of course but not for a while now. Not since I had left my Sisters. I rubbed the waxy surface of the apple then bought it to my nose and breathed in deeply of the fresh, sweet and fruity scent. I bit into the apple, the flesh and juice were too sugary and crisp. It all returned me to my past.

The memory of my Sisters made tears prick my eyes. I had been born into them and grew up not knowing anything else. I had learnt many languages, to read and write them. I had learnt potion making of all kinds, casting, calling, spells both defensive and inflicting, herbs by all their names and their many usages, prayers and songs, baking and mending, romance and the weakness of men and monsters, plus so much more.

We lived in large groups in many cities, towns and villages. We had Temples which some of us also lived in though most preferred houses with their families and or other Sisters. My home was a white Temple in a fine old city. We had a patch of land that was a small farm where we grew fruits, vegetables, herbs and plants. There were also animals; chickens, cows, rabbits, bees, dogs, cats, ravens and owls.

We had been in harmony with all peoples and nature. We had been looked upon for help in a whole range of problems; sickness, death, childbirth, crop and animal failures, wars and feuds, blessings, future readings, advice, teachings and lots more. Then something had happened four years ago, some turning of the tide that caused the Sisters downfall.

War had knocked upon us. The people rose against us declaring us bad and forgetting all we had done of them. The Sisters fought back but the enemies were numerous, over powering and driven by unquenchable rage. We were torn apart. Our homes and Temples burnt with some of us still inside, the rest put to the blade or their deaths on show. We were hunted down like scared deer, not understanding why we had been turned upon.

I had been lucky, being only a girl of twelve I had escaped with some others into the crypts below. There our Fallen Sisters lay at their never ending rests. Their bodies wrapped in white sheets and tied with red ribbons. They were placed on stone shelves on top of each other with carved wooden symbols of our faith; bell, book, candle, crested moon, bunches of herbs, cats, ravens and owls.

In the middle of the crypts were the highly decorated marble sarcophagi some of which had effigies on them and there were also statues of the High and Supreme Priestess or Sorceresses. Candles, incense, fresh flowers and prayers were constantly supplied into the crypts and long Fallen In Memoria ceremonies took place day and night down there.

When we escaped, we were meant to stay together but in the darkness and vastness of the jungle we lost each other. I had wanted to go back, I had tried hard to but somehow I had never been able to find my home again. Perhaps it had been a spell cast by the Sorceresses to keep all the novice witches safe? I would never known.

Needing shelter, food and places to hide, I found work on farms. Hard work but at least no one saw me as anything other then an orphan girl on the run. I was too traumatised to speak for a long time and the label of ‘mute’ stuck to me but I found it easy to wear this mask. I didn’t have to answer any questions and say anything which might reveal or create suspicion to what I was.

Novice Sisters didn’t get the tattoos, clothes and jewellery of the faith until they became of age at sixteen then they were called Practitioners. Once everyone could see what you were it was too late to hide. That’s why only the girls had escaped and hardly hunting though I bet innocent girls had been put to fire or to water or just slain by swords.

I had the last bite of the apple and sat with the core in my hand. I thought about practising some magic on it, I still tried often to do things I had been taught. The risk of being caught stopped me. It was all a part of me though, I couldn’t forget or ever stop it no matter what I did. Magic and faith flowed through me like blood.

I transferred the light of the candle to another I had brought. I could have cast my own light but that was asking for trouble. Blowing out the first candle, I made the long way to the pig pens. There was no moon or stars in the sky, clouds were banking up there but I knew it wasn’t going to rain tomorrow. It was going to be another hot and dry autumn day.

A fat, pink pig happily took the apple core from me then snuffled back to sleep. I was half tempted to crawl inside his wooden house within him but instead I made my way back to my own bed.

I slipped through the door and into my cot. Pulling the harsh wool blanket over me, I tried to sleep. Around me, in other cots or chairs were ten or so people all fast sleep. There was snoring and mumbling, sounds of breathing and tossing, it all reminded me of the dorm room I had slept in at the Temple.

The fire was low, only a whisper of heat left within it. I could have brought it back to life and made it everlasting with no need for fuel. I could bend the flames to my will, ask them to burn this hut down, the farm and the apple trees, the people too if I wanted.

I could command the wind to fan the fire more, to blow a gale, destroy everything in its path. I could call water from the well, from the stream and the sky to cover everything and wash it all away. The earth would answer me if I whispered my wants to it, the ground could shake or spilt up and swallow everything.

Plants would be my allies, I could encourage them to grow fast, to wrap around and suffocate everything. I could speak to animals, bargaining with them to do tasks; to bring me food, to help me kill someone, to be my eyes and ears in another place.

There had been other Novice Sisters in my classes who could do things with energy from furniture and other things, pull out memories from minds, whisper thoughts into your head, make objects move and more. We each had our own gifts and talents, our favourite things to work with. Some found the powers easier to work with, others hard and some not at all.

I fell asleep and dreamed about one of those girls I knew, her name had been Aenwyn. For years, she didn’t show any magic abilities no matter what she did. Some of the other girls laughed at Aenwyn but we were friends and one day we were talking as we picked herbs. The smell of those things was heady, mixed in with strong wild garlic. Bees were buzzing in the air gathering honey for their hives. It was a hot, dry summer day.

‘Elenora, what will become of me?’ Aenwyn asked me.

‘Why Aenwyn,’ I answered, ‘you’ll get the best job of all! You’ll become a Matron. You’ll get to look after the Sisters, their daughters, you’ll work in the gardens, with the animals and in the kitchens too. You like baking bread and tending the rabbits, don’t you?’

Aenwyn nodded, ‘but I’d rather be like you, Elenora! You’ll become a druidess.’

‘Maybe, but I’d rather be an elementalist,’ I said, ‘imagine what you can do if you can bend elements to your wants?’

Aenwyn shook her head, ‘it is too great a power.’

I laughed and picked a blood red beetle off one of the baby leaves of sage. I shut my eyes in concentration and called upon the air to fly the beetle away. My request was granted and the beetled was lifted away and over the walls.

Aenwyn opened her mouth but her words were drowned out by the Temple bells, it was time for afternoon prayers. Then we would read the books of our faith before washing and changing to go for evening meal. Afterwards, we would finish our daily tasks, put the animals to bed then change and wash again for the nighttime chants and prayers then it would bedtime as the sunset.

We had lived by the callings of the bells, the tasks set to us by Matron Sisters, Tutor Sisters and Dorm Sisters. Our lives were structured, we knew what to do within each hour by heart. We knew our duty, our destinies, the powers within us until everything was uprooted by the war against us.

Someone was shaking me awake. The faint ringing of bells from my past in my ears. Waking, I saw an old woman, half her wrinkled brown face was covered by long, ragged, white hair, her simple peasant dress too loose around her wasting body.

The sun had rose and brought another day of apple picking with it.

To Be Continued…

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

Memory #WritePhoto

Who knew what the old standing stones remembered. I ran my hand along their rough cut, damp moss covered surface as I walked around each one. Did they remember where they came from? Who brought them here and what worship they became a part of?

I pressed my hot, tear stained face to the biggest of the stones. It was a much taller and narrower then the others that made up the wide circle. Perhaps it was the oldest too? Only the stones knew that answer. Breathing deep of the earthy scent and I liked the cold against my skin.

I wondered if the stones had seen sacrifice of animals and or humans and if women had travelled up here to give birth? Religious ceremonies must have been held here. I imagined everyone in my church coming here instead to hear the Sunday prayers and give worship. How did people feel about standing in the elements? Well, the church wasn’t much warmer or drier!

Rubbing my face, I turned and put my back to the stone. It was getting late, the sky was a wet dark grey, clouds heavy with snow and the temperature was dropping fast. I should go home but I couldn’t face my parents and older brother just yet. We have been arguing again about why my brother got to do things I couldn’t. He was only three years older, so why was it okay for him to go out at night with his friends and I wasn’t aloud too?

I had come here, having stormed out of my house. I could have gone anywhere; to a friend’s, to the cafe or to the abandoned farm but no, I had tracked out here in just pink ankle boots, thin tights, mini skirt, fancy top and short jacket. Not the clothes for walking or for being out in the almost minus degree evening air.

There was something quiet, calming and mysterious about the standing stones that had always called to me. I wanted to uncover their history because no one knew their true story. There were folklore and myths, some rough science stuff but no real facts about why, how and who.

The stories and secrets they held fascinated me and I felt I could imagine what the stones had witnessed by being this close to them. Would I have liked living in the time when the circle was made? Would the ancient Gods have listened to me and answered my prayers? Maybe, I would have been a virgin sacrifice, my blood spilling out over the stones as the hungry Gods grinned at my pain.

Ah, maybe it was better not to have been born back then. I lent off the stone and small snowflakes started to fall. I held out my hand and caught one, it melt the second it touched my skin. It was time to go home and face my family. Hopefully, they had no plans to sacrifice me.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2020/02/27/thursday-photo-prompt-memory-writephoto/ with thanks).

Snow Light

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My car’s windscreen wipes struggled to clear the heavy snowflakes away. I turned them all the way up and that helped somewhat. Everything around me was either white, grey or black like I had entered an old fashioned movie dead of colour.

I clutched the steering wheel tighter and listened to the faint rock music from the CD player. A glance at the Satnav and it didn’t looked like I had moved much. The time of arrival kept going up instead of down and I gritted my teeth.

If it had been anyone else but my dying father, I wouldn’t be out here now driving from my honeymoon in this snowstorm. I rounded a corner and saw in the beam of my headlights two stark trees clawing at the grey sky.

I had to pee and my ankle was cramping.

Pulling over under the trees, I got out but left everything running. The worse thing right now would be the car to breakdown.

I went behind the tree and got up real close as there wasn’t much cover here. I unzipped, aimed and relieved myself. Feeling better, I pressed my head against the tree and took a few deep breaths of frozen air.

Then for a few minutes, I walked about and stretched. The conversation with my mother came back to me as it had been doing on repeat since I had hung up the phone this morning.

‘Christian, your father is really sick. You should come to the hospice.’

‘I know but there’s a snowstorm and I can’t leave Jan up here alone.’

‘Bring her with you.’

‘And have us both stuck in the snow? No. I’ll come.’

‘I think it’s almost time…’ mother sniffed down the phone.

I rolled my eyes, she and father had been saying that for the last three months. It’s why Jan and I had brought the wedding forward but still dad hung on. I didn’t want to leave my wife in our honeymoon cabin in the magical snow covered forest, but there was no other choice.

Feeling the chill sinking through my thick coat, I got back in the car again and drove once more. Still the snowfall. It was like a blanket on the bare land softening the hardness of winter.

There was no other cars on this country road, sensible of everyone but it also meant the road wasn’t gritted and the wheels felt like they were sliding. I took it easy, watching all the time for dangers because there was also the gloom of night looming.

I thought of Jan and how she would be curled up before the fire, reading and waiting for me to call. Had I done the right thing leaving her behind?

‘I don’t mind either way,’ she had said, ‘do you want me there when he passes?’

‘He won’t pass. He’s too stubborn. This is just another false alarm.’

‘But you are still going?’

‘Yes. For mother’s sake more then his. He’s out of it most of the time anyway thanks to the drugs.’

‘Christian, it’s really coming down outside. Will you be okay driving?’ Jan had asked.

‘I’ll take it easy.’

I hugged, kissed her and said, ‘I love you, wife.’

Jan giggled and replied, ‘I love you too, husband.’

Now, I regretted leaving her and I wished I had told my mother no but what if dad was finally going and I wasn’t there when he died? I couldn’t have forgiven myself to that.

The snow became blinding and I had to slow further. I couldn’t stop though and turned my thoughts to how when I reached the main roads and motorway it would be easier. I tried to relax and just concentrate on what was ahead of me though that was only about a few inches.

Was that lights ahead? I frowned and and squinted. It looked like just one light. A motorbike then? But who would be insane enough to drive a motorbike in the middle of nowhere, in a snowstorm?

A creeping feeling raised the hairs on my arms and had the strange urge to pull over. Why? I couldn’t say. I wrestled with myself for a minute then despite not wanting too, the steering wheel was turning and I was bumping off the road into a low ditch.

Confused, I let go of the wheel and sat there, listening to the wind howling and the car engine rumbling. Where was the light I had seen? I waited for something to pass me by but nothing did. Had it been a reflection off something? I had read somewhere that snow could cause something like that.

Shrugging, I went to pull back onto the road but the steering wheel wouldn’t turn.

‘What the hell?’ I uttered aloud.

I turned the wheel this way and that whilst pressing on the pedals but the car didn’t move. The engine revved then fell into it’s comforting rumbling as I stopped trying.

‘I don’t need this! I really, really don’t need this! Come on! God damn it!’

I hit the steering wheel with my palms and threw my head back into the head rest. I shut my eyes and breathed angrily. Thoughts went through my head and I decided to get out and see what the problem was.

Opening the door, I walked around but could see I wasn’t stuck in the mud as I was frozen ground. The ditch also was only slightly lower then the road. I opened the bonnet and looked inside. Everything seemed fine in there.

I got back in the car, snow melting off me. I picked up my phone and saw I had no signal.

‘Typical! Just typical!’ I shouted.

I blared the horn in anger, got out again and slammed the door shut. I walked up and down, blaming my parents, the cancer, the snowstorm, the car, myself until my legs and arms felt frozen stiff.

Getting back in the car, I looked at the Satnav to see if there was any civilisation nearby. Perhaps, there would be a helpful farmer? Or maybe I was close to the village? The Satnav came back empty, just showing the red lined road I was on and nothing close by.

I turned off the car engine. Not sure what else I could do.

Sitting for a few minutes, I watched the snow burying my car and strangely recalled how one summer holiday my dad had let me bury him in sand at the beach. Mum had taken a photo as we had all laughed. Then we had got fish and chips followed by ice cream. Dad had then carried me back to the hotel as I dozed in his arms.

I smiled and began to recall other favourite memories. Finally, I came to one about my first diving lesson and how I had scared my dad as I had almost hit a wall. We had laughed about that long afterwards and he still wouldn’t get in a car with me driving today.

Shaking my head and laughing, I turned the engine on and the car started up. Handbrake down, foot on pedals, gear in and turning the steering wheel, the car obeyed me and pulled back onto the road.

‘What was all that about?’ I cried.

Unsure, I carefully began driving. Everything felt normal and like there had been no problems back there at all. Shrugging, I carried on my journey.

Two hours later, I arrived at the hospice and went to my dad’s room. He was sleep with the blanket pulled up to his chin. My mother was sitting beside him, face hidden in a tissue.

‘I made it,’ I whispered.

Mum looked up her, her face tear stained and eyes red, ‘he’s gone,’ she stuttered and threw her arms around me.

‘When?’ I asked.

She mumbled the time and as I held her I cast my mind back.

He had died at the same time I had seen that light and my car had stopped working.

Shimmer #WritePhoto

The church bells were ringing the start of a clear winter morning. Roger had taken to wandering outside as soon as he got up, sometimes he found his way home again and other times he had to stop and work the way back.

Today, he was by the lake and the sun was shinning from behind fluffy clouds. The light was reflecting across the water making it shimmer like glitter. Roger watched the small waves lapping the grassy shore. There wasn’t much out here, it wasn’t a place people often came.

There was an island in the middle of the lake, crowed with trees and Roger had been over there and built dens in the summer as a child. He wonder if there was anything left of those makeshift shelters that had become Knights’ castles, caves full of bears and Native American forts.

Above the island rose peaks, cast black by the sun. Had he been over there? Roger couldn’t remember, his head was getting mixed up with old age. He listened to the church bells last echoing ring and walked on. Some birds were singing but everything else was at ease.

He could have walked for days before but now just these hours in the morning tried him out. When the weather was worse, short walks were in order and afterwards, he slipped a little whisky in his tea.

Winter was’t the best season for walking in, so he lit the fire when he arrived home. He sipped his tea and sit in his chair looking out of a front window. The sun was blocked by the roof tops of houses and more clouds were moving in. It would rain soon or snow, it felt cold enough too. Maybe, that was just him?

Roger dozed after finishing his tea and the fire spreading its warm also helped. It was raining when he woke. It had gotten darker too though it was only 2 O’clock. Roger got up on stiff and creaking bones. He stocked up the fire then made half a tin of tomato soup for lunch.

He read afterwards, picking up one of the tattered books on the shelf. He lit a candle to help see by and wrapped woollen blankets around himself. For years, the heating and electricity hadn’t work. The water still ran coming from a underground spring he didn’t have to pay for. He survived by a camping lifestyle in his own home.

It wasn’t the life he had grown up in nor the one he had lived as a younger man. No, it was another sin of being old. The money stopped, yet living had to carry on somehow. This was the best he could do for now.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/12/05/thursday-photo-prompt-shimmer-writephoto/ with thanks).