The only thing Sundays are good for is laying in bed, reading books and drinking tea.
The only thing Sundays are good for is laying in bed, reading books and drinking tea.
Cynophilist: A person who loves dogs.
Even though it was a warm sunny day, the blinds were drawn over the top floor photography studio’s windows. No sun was leaking into the cool room which was artificially lit to create the perfect cast of light and that was just how Pepper liked it. Standing next to her tripod, with her hand on top of the large camera balanced on top, she waited whilst her assistant, Angel, rearranged things.
‘Stay still and be a good girl, Tilly,’ Angel was saying gently as she placed the tiny puppy in an overlarge tea cup.
Pepper watched and felt the tiredness of holding a smile on her face for so long. The little black and tan terrier puppy was so cute. It was hard not to smile. The cuteness was made made even more so by the set up for third lot of photos; puppy at a tea party. Pepper and Angel had made up the small platform to look like a small garden with a picnic and afternoon tea going on. Tilly, the puppy was the center piece.
Angel stepped down from the platform and out of view. Leaving Pepper to do her side of the work. Looking at the camera screen, Pepper took a few photos, till she had the perfect one. Then getting out, she went over and scooped the puppy up. Tilly yipped and wagged her tail madly. Her little tongue licked everywhere it could and Pepper broke into laughter.
‘This is still the best job I’ve ever had working with dogs,’ Pepper announced.
‘Mine too,’ Angel answered.
She had come over as well, a clipboard in her hands.
‘What scene is next?’ Pepper asked as she cradled Tilly in her arms.
‘The cakes,’ Angel replied.
They both smiled at each other. This scene was going to be fun to photograph.
I’ve no idea how I ended up walking through this field. But here I am surrounded by long grass, wild flowers and the calling of birds. It’s a warm afternoon, but I can’t see the sun above me and the sky is a strange off blue color.
There’s a cottage ahead. The yellow thatch roof rising through the green leafy trees and tall bushes. There’s nothing else to do but go over and see if anybody is home. The field leads me to a small brown fence over which is a short carpet of grass. Bright flowers dot around the cottage and a wire washing line is stretched in the garden.
I go to climb over then stop. There’s an old woman beating a green rug on the washing line with a wooden tennis racket looking thing. Her white hair is piled up on top of her head and she’s wearing many skirts, a grey blouse and a pale blue apron. I can just about hear the thwacking sounds.
Climbing the fence, I walk slowly over, hoping that she spots me before I have to call out. Luckily, she does and she stops her work long before I reach her.
‘Hallo!’ she calls out and waves the tennis racket thing.
‘Hi,’ I answer back with a wave too.
‘Nice day for a walk,’ she adds.
‘Yes,’ I reply.
I come to the end of the washing line and look up. There are many green rugs hanging down…actually….they are strips of grass….
Puzzled, I look across the garden and see strips of dirt close by. There’s also a small red wheelbarrow, a spade and a large black bucket.
‘I’m just dusting my lawn,’ the old woman says, cheerily and as if that’s a perfectly normal thing to do.
I open my mouth, questions popping, but no words come out.
‘It can get quite dusty you know. And yes, there are other ways to do it but I prefer the good old fashioned method!’
She shows me how by beating a strip of grass. Only, she does it lighter then before.
I nod and slowly say, ‘how does it get dusty?’
‘Oh! Heaven knows!’ she cries and throws her hands up to the sky.
I glance up, half expecting to see a pig flying by.
‘Do you some time to spare? I’d be ever so grateful if you could help me,’ she asks and nods towards the dirt strips.
I look around, shrug and reply, ‘why not?’
‘Good. Then start digging, deary!’
Still puzzled, I walk to where the last dirt strip is as the old woman takes up beating the grass again. Looking down, I see how she’s cut the strips out and then I pick up the spade and start with the next one.
It’s actually easier then it seems as it appears the grass is use to being cut up. I slice the spade in and make my way around. It’s like a knife through butter. The smell of fresh cut grass and unearthed soil floods my nose. The grass strip comes up and I put it into the wheelbarrow. I start on another and quickly cut that strip loose too.
I look up as I place it into the wheelbarrow and I see the old woman taking down the first strip of grass. I watch her replace it into the lawn then return for the second piece.
‘This is so weird,’ I mumble.
Returning to my task, I dig up more pieces of grass and when the wheelbarrow is full I drive it over. I help the old woman take them out and hang them up. She begins beating the first one and dust raises off it.
‘How long does this take you?’ I ask her.
‘A few days,’ she answers.
‘And how many times do you do this?’
‘Oh, three or four times a year!’
‘Grass gets very dusty in the summer, deary,’ she explains.
I look at her, but her face is just that of a plain woman in her early seventies. Her cheeks are fat and wrinkled like the rest of her skin. Her eyes are a warm blue, shinning with knowledge and happiness. Her white hair is long and tightly held back in a bun. Around her neck is a string of white pearls and there’s an old wedding ring on her finger.
‘Don’t you have anyone to help you?’ I ask aloud.
‘Sometimes, I do,’ she replies with a mysterious tone to her words, ‘it’s mostly just me though. I don’t mind. Keeps me busy.’
I nod and hear a shrill whistle sounding. Looking, it seems to be coming from the cottage and there’s smoke now rising out of the chimney.
‘It’s time for tea. Do you want to join me?’ the old woman asks.
She hurries off, leaving the grass strips on the washing line but taking the tennis racket with her. I follow and go through the small blue door after her. It leads straight into a kitchen. I stand in the doorway and look around.
It’s a very old fashioned farmer’s wife like kitchen. There’s a huge black wood burning stove against the far wall. A large oak table and chairs in the middle, a metal sink and draining board under a netted curtain window. Sky blue cupboards and work surfaces line another wall.
The old woman rattles around cups and things. Humming to herself. I pull out a chair and look down to see a fat old ginger cat curled up on it. I pull out another chair instead and sit down. I hear a clock ticking somewhere and the warmth of the kitchen hugging me like a old friend.
‘Here we are,’ the old woman says and sets down a tea tray.
There’s a tea pot wearing a tea cosy, milk jug, sugar cube bowl, a plate of biscuits, two pattern flower china cups and matching saucers.
‘Thanks,’ I reply.
We have tea and it’s good. I nibble at a biscuit and look around the kitchen. There’s not much else to see though. I want to talk, but I don’t really know what to say. Finally, the old woman breaks the silence.
‘I must get back to keeping my corner of the world tidied now and you should be getting home.’
‘Home?’ I say aloud.
‘Yes. It’ll be dark soon and the woods can be a dangerous place. Even for yourself.’
She pats my arm and gets up.
‘But….I don’t know the way…I found myself in that field. I don’t even know where I am!’ I cry.
The old woman tuts at me, ‘just head back the way you came, deary.’
I move my tea cup away and get up.
‘Goodbye,’ she says and gives me a little wave.
I don’t wave back, but go straight out the door, too confused to speak.
In the garden, the grass is still hanging on the washing line and there are dirt strips in the lawn. The sky is turning a dark blue and the birds are still singing. I walk off, feeling like that’s the only thing I can do. I go back over the fence and through the field. I look back at the cottage, smoke is still coming out of the chimney and the old woman has gone back to beating the grass again.
I turn, take a step and stumble. My legs go out from under me and I land face first in the grass. My eyes shut. I take a deep breath and open then again…And I am no longer in the field.
My study comes to life before my eyes. I blink and the rest of the long grass is gone, replaced by the bookcases, my desk and a fire crackling of the fireplace. I sit up in the deep plush chair, disturbing the book that’s slipped down on to my lap. I pick it up and read the title; Maps Of The Old Worlds.
Lizzy didn’t want to get up, but the alarm clock was demanding she did. Throwing the bedding back from her nest, she got up and ran to the bathroom, before her body had time to register the cold. She got in the shower and blasted hot water until she felt like a layer of skin had been burnt off.
She got out before she had fully thought about it. Leaving the shower to drip itself to a stop, Lizzy wrapped three towels around herself and went back to the bedroom. There she got dressed, trying not to take too long to decide what office clothes to wear. Anything warm and comfy would do.
In black trousers, a dark blue blouse and a long black cardigan, Lizzy sat before her mirror and sorted out her hair. Then abandoning the towels on the heating rack, she went into the kitchen and made breakfast. It was at that point Lizzy’s mind fully awoke. It was as if someone had flipped the switch that made her off autopilot and on to normal again.
Lizzy sighed as the kettle clicked and the microwave binged.
‘I don’t want to go to work today,’ she muttered, ‘its going to be another blue Monday.’
She made a cup of tea then collected her porridge out of the microwave. She put the TV on just for background noise and had breakfast whilst half watching the news. Then she left her things in the sink, feeling an odd sense of satisfaction that no parent or housemate could yell at her. Living alone might have it’s loneliness, but there were so many benefits.
Gathering her things, putting on her shoes and coat, she risked a peek out of the windows and saw the streets below shining as if a million tiny diamonds had been dropped on the tarmac. The weather forecast hadn’t lied.
Leaving, Lizzy didn’t bother calling the elevator, but went straight down the five flights of turning stairs. She braced herself at the front door then opened it. An icy wind blew in her face and around her legs like an old man’s wandering fingers. Lizzy fought it off and hurried outside. She walked boldly to the bus stop and waited with a few other people.
There were two old women dressed like Antarctic explorers with shopping bags on wheels. A middle-age man in a tried grey business suit who looked washed out by society’ demands. Four chatting school girls in mini skirts and nothing covering their legs, but short socks. Lizzy wondered how they masked the cold they must be feeling so well.
The bus pulled up and it was full as was to be expected. She showed her pass and had to stand up for the twenty minute ride into the city center. Luckily, her office was just around the corner. Getting off in a sea of people, Lizzy hurried down the slippy street and to the office door. She took off her gloves keyed in the numbers and opened the door when it clicked.
Climbing the stairs, she decided to head straight to the kitchen and make herself a hot drink. Maybe some fancy fruit tea? She pushed open her office door and stopped.
Brightly colored Christmas decorations were hanging from the ceiling and the windows. Plastic ornaments spun in the breeze from the door and the soft notes of Christmas songs tickled her ears. In the far corner, a fake green Christmas sat. Heavily decorated with cheap tatty things which the string of fairy lights lit brightly up.
Lizzy walked in and closed the door. A few people were at their desks all ready. Their voices as they spoke to one another or to someone on the phone rose and fell. She went into the small kitchen and found that had had a make over too. Someone had hung some mistletoe up by the window and there was a wicker gift basket by the sink.
She went over and looked at it. A large noticed announced it was a collection for the homeless to be given to the church just up the road on Christmas Eve. Lizzy tucked the card back and made herself a strawberry and lime tea. She took it back to her desk and just sat there for a few moments.
There’s just something, she thought, about Christmas decorations that makes you feel at home. I guess I was wrong about it being another blue Monday.
The soft knocking on the door disturbed Faith. She rolled over, still half asleep and whacked her hand into the pillows on the other side of the bed. Moaning, she lay there for a few moments, but then the knocking got louder and she forced herself up.
‘Hello?’ she called in a tried voice.
‘It’s only me, Miss,’ the voice of Faith’s maid, Mary, called through the door.
The door creaked opened and the young woman shuffled in carrying a large jug. She was dressed in a typical black dress with a white frilled apron. Her dark hair was tied up under a white cap, allowing too much of her rosy face to be seen. Mary walked across the room and over to a bowl by the window. Tipping the jug gently, water splashed down and into the bowl. then placing the empty jug down, she moved to the wardrobe.
‘I heard something last night,’ Faith said as she slide from the bed, ‘it sounded like a man pacing the hallway. There seemed to be no one there though. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?’
Mary paused in her search through Faith’s wardrobe, ‘So, you’ve heard him have you, Miss?’
‘Heard who?’ Faith snapped.
‘The ghost solider, Miss,’ Mary said.
Faith frowned then began washing her hands and face.
‘At least that’s what the Morgans use to call him,’ Mary added as she selected a morning dress of pale blue and white trim from the wardrobe.
‘I don’t believe in ghosts,’ Faith finally responded, ‘no, no, one of my walking dress, please.’
Faith waved the maid’s choice away then waited till she came back with a totally different dress; of lime green and black strips, before beginning to get dressed. Both women stayed silent throughout then leaving the maid to tidy the room, Faith went downstairs.
Walking into the dinning room, she found breakfast all laid out and awaiting her. Even though she didn’t feel like eating, Faith sat down and made herself a cup of tea. Sipping, she heard the grandmother clock chiming eight and the maid humming above her. With some light pouring in through the window, it felt easy to dismiss the boot steps of last night.
Nipping on some toast, Faith decided she had enough and went out for a walk. The fresh morning air really brought her back to her senses. The small village was all ready wide awake. Shops were getting ready to open and people were hurrying about. Faith walked passed the small church and out into the countryside.
The smell of grass and animals hung in the air, but Faith felt at home. She looped around the village, enjoying the warm sun and the birds flapping between the trees and hedgerows. Coming back into the village, she went into a tea shop and sat down to have some lunch.
‘Are you the new school teacher?’
Faith looked up at the waitress who had appeared with her tea and sandwiches, ‘Yes. I am.’
‘Am sure the Rector is delight you are here. He has been trying so hard to manage things since dear Mrs Pieton left us.’
‘I am sure he has been more then capable,’ Faith said as she arranged her napkin and hoped the girl got the hint to leave.
‘I heard you had brought the Morgan’s house. It’s haunted you know,’ the girl added.
Faith shot her a look, ‘I believe in no such things.’
The waitress bobbed and left her to her lunch.
Upon returning home, Faith found Mary in the study. The maid was emptying some of the books onto the shelves.
‘Good afternoon, Miss,’ Mary said, ‘I thought I would get started in here.’
‘It will take a long while to sort all my books and things,’ Faith added.
She walked over to her chair and sat down at her desk positioned under a window from which the front garden could be seen.
‘Would you like me to help you dress for the dinner you have tonight, Miss?’ Mary asked.
‘Yes, at the Rector’s?’
‘Of course. No, we still have time. Mary…what else do you know about this…ghost?’ Faith asked.
Mary slipped the last book in her hand onto a shelf then turned to her, ‘they say he was a solider, who was wounded on a battlefield close to here. He walked in begging for help, but the villagers were all scared and no one would open their door.’
Faith tapped a pencil on the desk and looked thoughtfully at the maid.
‘This cottage was empty at the time. The family in Manchester. He broke in through the back door and fell in the hallway. When the family returned, they found him dead and decided they could no longer stay here. If that had happened to me I would have left too!’ Mary gasped.
‘Where is the proof though?’ Faith asked a few moments later, ‘was there anything in the papers? Any witnesses?’
‘No, Miss. It is believed the army covered it all up,’ Mary answered.
Faith sighed and looked out of the window. The summer’s day was really getting underway and she could see the flowers in the front garden waving in the breeze.
‘Please go and get my dress ready for tonight,’ Faith uttered, ‘I wish to read awhile in here before I get dressed.’
‘Very well, Miss,’ Mary replied.
Curtsying, the maid left the room quietly.
Faith turned and began searching through the boxes. She found one of only three books she owned on the science of the supernatural and took it back to her desk. Flipping through, she read a few passages about ghosts before Mary knocked on the door and requested if she was ready to dress.
To Be Continued….
Xenophobic: ‘A person who is fearful or contemptuous of that which is foreign, especially of strangers or of people from different countries or cultures.’ From thefreedictionary.com.
The girl making his coffee in the retirement village cafe wasn’t the normal one. Henry stopped suddenly and felt someone bump into the back of him. An angry snappy voice sounded in his ears, but he never heard what they said. He couldn’t take his eyes off the girl behind the counter. Her skin was dark, as dark as the night, he thought and her black purple hair was all twisted together in many braids finished off with plastic pony beads.
Someone, probably the man behind him, brushed hard passed Henry and up to the collection counter. He heard a low muttering and the other woman behind the counter taking the next order. He felt the urge to get out, but he still couldn’t take his eyes off the foreign girl. She turned and he saw her bright white eyes with a dark brown center staring at him. She was saying something, but he could not hear her.
She placed his cup of tea down and moved it across to him. Henry looked down at it, chewing his tongue with his remaining teeth.
‘Did I put too much milk in it?’ the girl asked with no trace of an accent.
‘I didn’t save this country for the likes of you,’ Henry growled.
The girl froze and Henry was aware that everyone else seemed to as well.
The girl opened her mouth and shut it again, her face crumpled like paper, but then she seemed to hold on and uncreased her expression.
‘I’m very grateful though,’ she muttered.
‘I don’t care,’ Henry snorted.
He turned and left, trying not to hobble so much. Behind him voices started whispering, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. It didn’t matter, he didn’t care.
The Author Blog of Jason H. Abbott
Welcome to my Blog of short and long stories.
Learning and teaching the art of composition.
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