Hiraeth #atozchallenge

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Hiraeth; a homesickness for a home you can’t return to or that never was. 

I went back the other day. I don’t know why but I was just passing. I had been to a job interview at that new office block. It was nothing special, just a call center that was expanding but easy work I could do.

On the way back, I went a different route, I guess out of old habit. I went down the road we always walked to school on. Passed the ‘big’ houses and row of trees. It’s gone now that school but the houses and tress are still there. After that though everything had changed.

Those long narrow roads we use to play on are now normal roads going around the new housing estate. The blocks of flats that we all use to have live in have been wiped away as if they were never there.

The park is still there though and I pulled up there to have a wander about. It was quiet, but I guess for the middle of a week day that it normally was. Leaving my car, I had a look around and noticed they’ve upgraded the park. There’s a whole new play set, a skateboard area and a football pitch. The old duck pond had been giving a make over too.

I probably looked liked a salesman walking around, just without a briefcase and or clipboard. It was hard to know where my flat had once been. There hand’t really been streets as it had been all one place. The new names streets give me no hint. Nor was the old dead tree stump there or the little corner shops.

The houses look nice though, better then the grey stacks we called home. I realised I missed them. I hadn’t thought about my childhood home in years but standing here now I felt the longing for my old room. We’d play games and stay up late, annoying the neighbors with our music. There had been bad times and good, like everyone else.

I saw a curtain move and a small dog began barking at a window of the house I’d stopped at. I turned and walked back to my car. There was nothing else to see and do here. That feeling of wanting to go back stayed with me but I knew I only could in my memories now.

I got the job by the way.

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Ahead #Writephoto

Sitting down on a rickety bench, I admired the view from atop the little hill we had climbed.  It was a good enough day for a walk; sunny but not too warm or bright, there was a gently breeze and Spring was busting awake in the air. The countryside rolled out below me, seeming to shake off a grey winter’s blanket to start popping with colour once again.

I breathed in the sweet, flower fragrance air and thought about how much I’d just missed this. I raised my hands and put them up to the breeze, feeling that invisible and freeing force. Lowing them, my coat and long t-shirt sleeves rolled down and I caught sight of the fresh looking, raw scar along my right arm. It went from my wrist to my elbow, were they had to put pins in to help heal the bone right.

I can’t bare to touch it and before the memories had time to build again, I looked out over the countryside. I could see some sheep in the distance like little puffs of clouds, there were a few trees just getting their green leaves back and down in that twist of valley, a river was meandering through like it had been for hundreds of years. Birds were twitting and singing passionately, though I couldn’t see them. There was all this natural blue and green everywhere.

Was this Eden?

A few shaky breaths came out of me then I noticed my arm was shaking. I drew my sleeves back down, hiding the messed up skin. Hugging my arm as a hurt child would, the mantra I had adopted began to repeat in my head; at least I’m still here. Looking down, I saw my knees were pressed hard together. I relaxed them, only to feel dull achy pain in both my legs. The right leg was scared the same as my right arm, from knee to ankle. The left wasn’t that bad because that side hadn’t been trapped by the motorcycle.

A dog’s barking drew my attention away. I raised my head and looked around. The barking was from my Westie, but I couldn’t see that white fluffy ball against the green underbushes. I clung to the bench, as I twisted around looking for him, my fingers curling over the weather-worn wood. Then he appeared trotting down the little pathway with my older Scottie dog tailing him.

‘Hey, where you two been?’ I asked them.

At the sound of my voice, they both raced over and jumped onto the bench. I laughed as they both crowed my lap and licked at me. I felt wet, muddy paws on my jeans and coat, and even wetter noses and tongues against my skin. I hugged them both, breathing in the countryside in their furs.

Two more dogs appeared at my knees; a faithfully golden retriever and grey hound.  I freed a hand and patted them both. I’d missed all these dogs for the last few months and to be out here walking with them now was like a dream. I felt tears of joy coming to my eyes.

From behind me came footsteps and my husband’s voice calling my name, ‘Casey? Are you all right?’

I nodded and wiped my face.

‘I thought you were behind me. I didn’t mean to go off like that! Are you tried?’ he questioned.

‘Not really. I was just looking at the countryside,’ I replied.

My husband sit down and I put my head on to his shoulder. He slipped an arm around me and I put my hand to his chest. I shut my eyes and for a few moments listened to his breathing and the rustle of his coat. He put his other arm around me, hugging me tightly. He smelt better to me then any countryside ever could.

‘I should get you home, you’re shaking,’ he said softly.

I felt more tears in my eyes and nodded into him without saying anything.

I still had along way ahead of me to go but I was going to get there.

 

(Inspire by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/15/thursday-photo-prompt-ahead-writephoto/ with thanks).

Dollhouse #FirstLineFridays

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‘I don’t care what you do with it. I just want it gone,’ Alex said, pointing at the dollhouse.

I withdrew my hand from the dolls’ living room and looked up at my older sister. She had a full black bin bag in one hand and a flat empty one in the other. We were surrounded by so much stuff in my late uncle’s attic it was hard to believe she could just single out one thing to just get rid of.

‘Why?’ I asked, ‘don’t you think your daughters, Sophie and Lucy would like it?’

It was hard to tell in the dim light of a single, dusty bulb, but Alex’s face seemed to pale. Her expression become tighter as if she was holding all her emotions in but I could see she was upset and distressed. She turned away, collecting herself.

‘Fine. I’ll take it for my Millie then. I’ll keep it till she’s a bit older though,’ I added.

I looked back at the dollhouse. It was a fine thing, modelled on famous Victorian ones but made more cheaply. Red brick wall paper covered the outside, only curling a little at the corners, the window frames were white but held clouded glass panes and the chimney was wobbly.

Two doors opened to reveal the inside which was divided into 4 floors then seven different rooms by staircases in the middle. The ground floor had a kitchen and servants’ bedroom. The next floor had a grand living room on the left with a fancy dinning room on the right. The third floor had a master bedroom to the right and a double children’s bedroom on the left. At the top, was an attic children’s playroom.

All the rooms were made of dark wood – walls and floor, some of which was covered by patterned wallpaper and rugs. The pretend Victorian furniture looked original and complete, sitting in the rooms I expected the pieces to be in. There were seven dolls; a butler, a cook, a maid, a gentleman, a lady, a boy and girl. They were all dressed in faded clothes and made of china.

‘You can’t,’ Alex said in a shaky voice, ‘I want it gone. Into the skip now!’

I sighed and fought back arguing, it wasn’t worth it, ‘I’ll get Michael to move it later. It’s too heavy for me.’

Closing the dollhouse’s doors, I moved on to helping my sister sorting through things. The dolls and their house lingered in my mind and when our husbands turned up at the end of the day, I had mine packed the dollhouse into our car with some other of things. I made sure to keep Alex busy so she didn’t see him taking it.

At home, we put the dollhouse and everything else in the spare bedroom to be sorted for later. Sitting before the house, I opened the doors and looked at the little dolls. They could almost be Victorian originals but I knew nothing about that. I carefully arrange them in the rooms they most fitted in; the cook and butler in the kitchen, the lady and gentleman in the living room, the maid making the beds, the children in the playroom attic. Wondering all the time why my sister had just wanted to get rid of it.

The next day, we were back in the attic again and I just had to ask her why.

‘What was with the dollhouse yesterday?’ I asked over a pile of cardboard boxes we were opening.

Alex was quiet then she said, ‘you took it home didn’t you?’

I pressed my lips together and pretended to be busy writing a label ‘glass’ to put on the box before me.

‘It’s fine. It doesn’t matter,’ Alex replied, sadly.

‘Tell me,’ I responded, ‘is it haunted?’

‘No…really, it has nothing to do with the dolls’ house.’

I waited, wanting to break the silence but knowing she needed the chance to open up.

Slowly, Alex began, ‘Before you were born, mum was sick and dad was away with the army. Uncle agreed to look after me and I moved in for a few months. His and wife daughter had long moved out but since he couldn’t bear being in her bedroom, I was put into the spare.’

Her words sparked something familiar; a family story I had heard before about the time our mum was ill in hospital. Alex had been eight then and there had been no one else to look after her.

‘I don’t know why I did it, but one night I couldn’t sleep, so I went into our cousin’s bedroom,’ Alex picked up, ‘I saw the dollhouse and was so drawn to it, I flung open the doors and began playing with the dolls. Uncle found me and he was…so angry…He took me over his knees and lifted my nightdress. He beat me with a slipper. I cried and cried. Then he dragged me out and threw me back into bed.’

‘That’s horrible! I gasped, ‘you told right?’

Alex shook. Her head was down and partly turned away from me. She was quietly sobbing. In the gloom, it as hard to tell if she was crying or not yet. Her hands were wrapped around something; a piece of cloth?

‘The next night, he came into my bedroom, saying how sorry he was. He hugged me and then he started…’ Alex dragged in a deep breath, ‘touching me…it felt wrong, I struggled against him but there was nothing I could do. He said he’d make me feel better. That everything would be okay….’

I bite my lip and tried to reach through the boxes before us, but my sister was just out of touch. She didn’t seem to care though. She was lost to her past thoughts now.

Alex wiped her face and carried on, ‘he told me to keep quiet about it. No one would listen to me anyway, mum was dying. So, I didn’t say anything and he got into bed with me often after that. As praise, he let me play with his daughter’s toys but I found no joy in them. I never told anyone, not even when dad came home and mum got better. Then you arrived and everything changed.’

‘You should have told someone,’ I growled, balling my fists.

Alex rubbed her eyes and stood up. I hurried to my feet too and crossed the distance between us. We hugged tightly.

‘It doesn’t matter now. He’s gone and so have mum and dad,’ Alex uttered.

‘But…’ I trailed, she was right, what could be done now?

‘I can finally move on,’ Alex cut back in, ‘that’s all that matters now.’

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/first-line-friday-february-16th-2018/ with thanks).

Sanctuary #Writephoto

I’m there still, in that one single memory.

Our laughter sounding across the garden, mixing with the sound of the sweet summer rain. Our racing footsteps to the old family mausoleum, the closest shelter around. Us standing in the doorway, watching the rainfall as the drops dripped off us like it did on the tree leaves.

We cuddled together upon one of the cold marble beaches that formed a broken circle around the staircase that led down to the tomb. You kissed me with the softness of first love. I said we shouldn’t, but we both wanted it and it felt so right.

Laying naked on the stone floor, staring at the mosaic on the ceiling, not thinking anything. Listening to your gentle breathing and heartbeat, realising my own was right alongside. We kept warm by shared body heat, dozing on and off. How I wished that moment could last forever.

Time and life don’t wait for anyone. At least we had all those years together and now we can finally be together once more.

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/02/08/thursday-photo-prompt-sanctuary-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Last Ride #FridayFictioneers

I thought my mum had thrown all the photos of that day away but I found one in the bottom of a shoe box. Mum had mis-timed taking the photo so instead of our smiling faces were the backs of our heads.

Tears clouded my eyes and I was there once more at the theme park, riding the wooden ‘run away’ roller coaster with my younger sister. Our cries of delight echoed in my ears as we raced around the track and then my sister flew out of the cart as we rushed down the hill. Her fingers briefly touched mine then she was gone.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/01/17/12-january-2018/ with thanks).

New Year’s Eve

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Standing on my best friend’s doorstep, looking up at the falling rain, I wondered how it had come to this. Another year was over and I didn’t want to let it go. So much had happened; good, bad and in-between. My mind jumped over the memories like snap shot photos and I was filled with happiness.

Sighing, I wondered how I was going to move on. It was a strange notion because nothing had actually changed nor would do in the coming weeks, expect for the dates. Why did I feel like this was such a big problem then? I rubbed my head and decided I was just being silly and I should let everything go.

The door opened behind me, party music and shouting voices drifted into the night. I turned around frowning and saw my boyfriend standing there.

‘It’s almost midnight. Come inside,’ he said.

‘No,’ I answered, ‘you come out here.’

I held my hand out and there was a moment where he almost pulled me in and I tried to pull him out. He stepped over to me and we held each other. Someone shouted out the number ‘ten,’ and other voices joined in the countdown.

Muttering the numbers under my breath, I drew my boyfriend closer and he started saying the numbers too. We were wrapped together, smiling at each other, breathing in the cold night air. Reaching ‘one,’ we kissed and welcomed in the new year.

 

 

Mind Falling

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Everyday I was falling through my mind. Imagines and thoughts tumbling by which I could only half process. Strangely, my current thoughts seemed to be with me and I could think as if I was on the outside again. Mostly, I wondered about when this was all going to stop and what had been the cause of it? How does one man become trapped inside of his own mind and how can he break free?

The answer hadn’t come to me yet, so I was still falling though memories. There were flashes of things I’d totally forgotten but somehow had been stored here and other flashes of things I’d rather not see ever again. There were happy scenes, sad scenes, holiday, birthday scenes and dangerous scenes that triggered all kinds of things deep within me.

After awhile, I stopped paying attention. That was until, I reached my childhood memories. A weird feeling grew and I realised how little happy memories I had at this time. Also, how much I had forgotten. Had my teacher really had green hair? Had my painting really been in that gallery display? What had been my best friend’s girlfriend’s name? Where were all this people now?

I couldn’t really answer any questions, that knowledge wasn’t stored here. What did that matter anyway? The past wasn’t going to happened again, even though right now I did feel like I was re-living it. When all those memories ended there was nothing but blackness. It seemed I was drifting through space, but I didn’t think that was true.

What was going to happened now? Was this for eternity? Or would I cycle back around. I tried shouting, but like last time nothing came of it. I tried to stop moving, but couldn’t. Then all my thoughts stopped.

 

(Inspired from; https://whatthehellisreal.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/photo-fiction-99/ with thanks).

Flames

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The flames grew, becoming brighter and warmer. Shepard shivered and huddled closer to the fire. Outside, the rain was really coming down now and the wind was hitting the countryside with force. The old, abandoned farmhouse rattled and creaked around him. Strangely though, he found comfort in all the noise.

Finally, shedding out of his soaking clothes, Shepard hung his things on the drying rack. Despite everything, most of the furniture had survived and the house appeared close enough to his memories. He hated that though as it made everything come into sharper focus.

Sitting in his underpants, he feed the fire some more wood and watched the flames. Even though he tried hard not to think about it, the memories swelled like an incoming sea. How many times had he sit by this fireplace as a boy? Too many.

Shepard shivered again, but not because he was cold. The flood gates had opened and for a few moments he was transported into the past.

Shadows danced across the wall in the farmhouse’s living room. The flames of the fire, the only light source in the room was unable to fight the shadows off. However, nothing seemed to be bothering the little boy and smaller girl who were playing with a hand carved Noah’s Arc set. They laughed as they lined the animals up two by two and made them all enter the big wooden boat.

Then though from the kitchen came sounds of raised voices. The children stopped, falling silent to listen. The voices grew, though they couldn’t make the muffled words out. A thumping as skin connected with skin rang out and the voices stopped.

The girl began to cry. Her older brother held her close but not to comfort her. It was to quieten her sobs, so they would avoid getting beaten too.

Shepard shook his head and brought himself out of his past. Grumbling, the urge to leave again grew, but he fought it away.

‘It’s only an old house,’ he uttered, ‘nothing here now.’

He felt his drying clothes. They were too wet still to put back on. He tossed more wood onto the fire, not caring that the stack was getting low. If needed there were other things he could burn.

He glanced around and spotted a knitted patchwork blanket draped on the sofa. Getting up, he shuffled across the floor and tugged it off. Wrapping the blanket over his shoulders, he took a deep breath and smelt dust. Pushing the edge of the blanket into his nose, he sniffed the wool, but couldn’t smell anything else.

Shepard saw a flash of his mother. She was sit on the sofa, knitting a blanket which humped over her big belly containing his then unborn sister. Her hair was dark and she was wearing a brown dress and slippers. Her face and arms were covered in old and new bruises. She was humming something as her needles clacked together then she was gone, back into the shadows of the past.

‘Don’t think about,’ Shepard whispered.

He stared hard into the flames, hoping they would burn the memories away.

It was too late though and just like the opening of Pandora’s box everything escaped.

Shepard sucked in a deep breath as imagines, thoughts and feelings tumbled by. Thankfully, he soon arrived at the last memory he had of the farmhouse. He saw himself, a young teenager sat in his mother’s bedroom. She was gone, fled in the night just as she had often threatened under her breath.

He looked out of the window and saw the little cross that marked his sister’s grave in the back garden. She had only been seven. He had dug that small hole himself only a few days ago whilst his sobbing mother had clung to the dirty sheet wrapped body. He had wanted to kill his father then but his mother held him back. Now though, there was nothing stopping him…

Shepard let it all go with a shaky exhale. Just the thought of all that blood again made him feel sick. He reached for his clothes and even though they were damp, he put them on. Gathering his things, he got up and after a few moments of debate tossed the knitted blanket away.

Holding onto the warm of the fire, he walked out of the farmhouse and back into the storm. It was better, he decided, to be out here then inside with all those ghosts.

 

(Inspired by a prompt at; https://scvincent.com/2017/02/09/thursday-photo-prompt-flame-writephoto/)

Job

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If Sophie was being truly honest with herself, the new job was never something she’d really thought about doing. Now, sitting at the reception desk, she cast her mind back and mapped how she had ended up here.

University had promised so much. The new friends, the new skills, the experience of adulthood and when she had left, she had thought herself walking up to employers and waving her degree in their faces. They’d hire her on the spot!

That though hadn’t happened and in the months after graduating, Sophie recalled how she had felt so lost. Sighing, she let her thoughts linger on those two years when she felt like an outcast. Her friends had all moved away and gotten jobs, cars, some had even married and had babies. She, however had been alone and stuck at home.

Volunteering had been a calling she had often answered. Sophie remembered how she had turned to that again. Finding places and people that needed her help. It had been a delighted feeling but her degree had begun to get dusty. Somehow, she had been offered a job out of the blue from one of those places. Even though it was only in the morning for half the week, it had been welcome money.

Then everything had gone down hill. Her boyfriend broke up with her, the support money she had been receiving was cut and her mum got ill. Sophie felt tears growing, she swept them away and stared hard at the computer screen. Last year, had been bad and she wished she could just erase it from history. She pictured taking a calendar and a black marker pen and just going through and blanking all the months out.

Perhaps, though it wouldn’t really matter. The past was the past and she couldn’t get rid of it. But she could just turn away from it and move on. Sophie smiled at that thought and looked around herself. Today it was quiet in the centre and the heater was blowing hot air on her face. She looked down at the contract of employment she had just sighed and even though she had re-read it a few times, she flipped through the pages again.

On the second page, it clearly outlined her dates and times of employment.

A full time job,  she thought, though I totally didn’t think I was ever going to end up here! I made it somehow and now it’s time to embrace that and start living to the full again. 

Waiting

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Time had long ago stopped in the castle. The dust lay thick and the silence heavy. Small animal bones scattered the floors and abandoned spider webs clung to the walls. In a stairwell, a forgotten suit of armour and a clock stood waiting to be used again. And in the rooms where people had once lived and worked, sharing a life now lost to the past, there were only echoes of ghosts.

(From a prompt by; https://scvincent.com/2017/01/26/thursday-photo-prompt-waiting-writephoto/ with thanks.)