Visit #TaleWeaver

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I hadn’t seen my great aunt Sophia in five years because I had been travelling the world and Sophia only had a landline phone. So, I thought it would be nice to go and spend sometime with her. She was my oldest relative and I loved hearing the stories of her life, family members and past friends.

Great aunt Sophia’s cottage hadn’t changed. There were roses, honeysuckle and jasmine growing up the house towards the thatched roof. There were loads of other flowers and plants in the front garden which reminded me of being in a gardening shop. There was actual a sign with faded words on it declaring Plants for sale on the front gate.

I walked up the path and knocked on the door with the iron knocker. How many times had I ran around this cottage, laughing and chasing butterflies? So many of my summers had been spent out here as my parents, who worked difficult, long hour jobs in London had used great aunt Sophia as a nanny.

‘Sophia? It’s me, Hattie! Are you home?’ I called out.

I tried the door and found it locked.

Dumping my heavy hiking bag, suitcase and duffel bag on the doorstep, I walked around the side of the cottage. The back garden was a huge acre lawn with large trees dotted about to give shady patches and at the sides were long flower beds containing all kinds of bright, sweet smelling blooms, wild flowers and small evergreen plants.

There was no path across the lawn, so I walked on the grass down to the bottom, where half hidden by a weeping willow was a large Victorian glass and iron greenhouse. The door was open and I stuck my head inside to call out, ‘great aunt Sophia? It’s Hattie.’

‘Who?’ a soft, old voice spoke.

I entered the greenhouse, heat wrapped around me, catching my breath and making it harder to breath. Long leaf tropical plants brushed my face and arms, making me feel like I had walked through spiderwebs. Narrow bench tables ran down in rows though here and there, a rickety table or a massive plant pot sat.

Slipping through a gap, I saw a white haired and hunched woman in her late eighties, sitting on a old wooden chair, looking around confused. Sophia was so much older then I had last seen her, there were more wrinkles, her skin was too tanned with sunlight, her eyes looked duller, her hair shorter but she was still great aunt Sophia. She was wearing a pale blue summer dress with a white lacy trim.

‘Your only grandniece, Henrietta. Hattie. Hat. We spoke on the phone this morning, auntie Sophia. Remember?’

Sophia stared at me, taking in my boy short brown hair, sun kissed skin, my too thin but muscular body, the torn jean shorts and white crop top I was wearing.

‘Ah! Hat!’ Sophia cried.

She struggled to take off the thick gardening gloves she had on.

‘Here,’ I said and helped her take them off.

‘I was just repotting these baby cacti,’ she replied.

I looked at the tray she had been working on and saw lots of new cacti in tiny brown plastic pots. There was a mix of different kinds; some looked like little tufts of fluff, others was straight and tall, there were round pin cushions, some had different colour ‘buds’ on them.

Behind the tray, more cacti grew and some were quite big having been in the greenhouse for more then forty years. I realised we were standing in cacti corner and the familiarity of it made me feel right at home.

‘You should have seen some of the cacti I saw in America! They were huge!’ I spoke.

‘Is that where you’ve been, Hat?’ Sophia asked.

I nodded, ‘I went to California, Texas, Arizona, Washington D.C, New York and Louisiana.’

‘All of those?’

‘Yes. I’ve been to other counties too. Canada, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and Italy.’

‘Your parents funded it?’ Sophia asked, knowing it was true.

‘Mostly. I did work in a few places. I taught English.’

Sophia patted my hands, ‘I bet they were glad to get rid of you again.’

I sighed and decided not to get into that argument. It was a part of an old family feud; parents having children and not bring them up themselves; old traditions and rich fathers.

‘It’s too hot in here,’ I said, ‘let’s go in and I’ll make us afternoon tea.’

Sophia agreed and we left the greenhouse for the coolness of the cottage. In the kitchen, I found everything I needed to make a pot of old English tea, sandwiches, and small cakes. I brought everything into the living room which was soft and cosy.

Sophia was dozing in a large armchair and I took the other one. The windows were open and I could hear bees buzzing and smell the flowers outside.

I poured the tea and give Sophia a cup.

‘How are you?’ I asked, ‘have you been trying to go out?

Sophia glanced at the windows, ‘no,’ she replied.

I clutched my saucer and cup, wondering how to carry on this conversation. Great aunt Sophia had agoraphobia. No one knew for how many years she had suffered with it, she had had lots of treatment but nothing worked for long.

Now, it was so easy to blame it on her old age; she struggled walking and standing, she had bouts of confusion and she didn’t have many local family and friends to visit anymore.

‘And why would I want to?’ Sophia picked up, ‘the world is a bad place. I’m safe here and anyway my plants need me.’

I sighed and sipped my tea.

‘You must have seen the badness in your travels. I worried about you. I got all your postcards…’ Sophia trailed off and got up to go to the fireplace where there was a stack of postcards resting against the wall.

‘I saw lots of good and amazing things too. I got photographs to give you,’ I replied, ‘and I’m glad you got my postcards.’

Sophia sit down again, postcards in hand, she shuffled through them, looking at the imagines of all the different places.

‘Do you like them?’ I asked.

‘Yes. Very nice,’ Sophia replied, ‘where are you going to go next?’

‘Nowhere.’

‘You’re staying at home?’

‘I’m going to stay here and look after you,’ I said.

Sophia smiled but said, ‘I don’t need looking after, child!’

You do, I thought, instead I replied, ‘I meant help you out and stuff, like I did before.’

‘Right then. Those cacti still need potting. Off you go!’

I rolled my eyes, grabbed a cake and left the cottage for the greenhouse.

Somethings never change but I was happy to be back again.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/tale-weaver-232-july-18th-visit/ with thanks).

The Loneliest Day

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The phone rang, Jen tutted and abandoned the cake batter she had been mixing to answer it. It was probably a cold caller and she should just let the answer machine get it but she had finally got month old baby Louis down for his afternoon nap and didn’t want anything disturbing him.

‘Hello?’ Jen said into the phone.

‘Hi, it’s only me,’ her husband, Mike spoke, ‘I tried your mobile. I thought you might be a sleep.’

‘No,’ Jen replied with a sign, ‘I was in the kitchen.’

‘Okay. I just wanted to let you know I’m not sure what time I’ll be home,’ Mike explained, ‘there’s been a full office computer crash. Some idiot downloaded a virus yesterday and it’s super bad. I’m not letting anyone from the IT department leave till we’ve fixed it.’

‘I see,’ Jen uttered.

‘I’ll get something to eat on the way home. Don’t wait up for me, you still need to rest as much as possible.’

Jen nodded.

‘How is Louis?’ Mike asked.

‘Good. He’s sleeping now and he drink a full bottle before.’

‘Super! I got to go. Got the big boss at my throat. See you later, Honey.’

‘Bye,’ Jen said as the ring tone beeped in her ear.

She hung the phone up then stared at it. Why did things like that had to happened? Jen hugged herself and tried not to let the silence of the house get to her. Feeling a slight chill, she moved back into the warmth of the kitchen.

There in the bright lights, surround by cooking equipment and ingredients she could pretend that everything was normal again. Busying herself with finishing off mixing the cake batter, she was just about to divided it into the paper cupcake cases with a baby’s cry came from the living room.

Jen paused and tried not to rush off. Hoping, he would stop and settle again, She began scooping batter into the cases. She made it to four then give in and went into the living room.

‘I’m coming, Louis,’ she called.

Jen stood over pram then picked Louis up. She mumbled things to him and snuggled him. Then realised he needed changing and went and did that. Wrapping him up again, she tried to get him back to sleep but he seemed too awake. Placing him into the pram again, she wheeled him into the kitchen and parked him up.

Finishing dividing the cake mix, she placed the tray into the oven and set the timer. Washing her hands, she tidied everything up then wondered what to do next. On the counter was a pack of spaghetti and a jar of bolognese sauce, this evening dinner.

‘We won’t be needing this now,’ Jen said aloud and put them away, ‘I’ll have some soup instead and you can have some more milk.’

Louis made a moaning sound and Jen checked on him. He had taken both scratch mitts off again.

‘How do you do that?’ Jen wondered.

She put the mitts back on and wheeled him back into the living room. There, she put the TV back and set the channel to one with afternoon game shows as had became her habit. Picking up Louis, she sat cuddling him on the sofa. He dozed on and off then wanted feeding again.

The timer went off whilst she was feeding him and Jen, who hadn’t mastered juggling a baby and other things yet, had to place him down and go to get the cakes out. Louis started crying and her repeatedly tell him she was coming right back had no effect. Cakes out and left to cool, she washed her hands and hurried back to breast feeding him.

Settled again, Jen felt waves of tiredness drifting over her. Louis was a heavy, hot, soft bundle in her arms. The house was warmer now as the heating had come on. Rain was tapping against the windows and even though it was almost four o’clock, night had rolled in.

Realising, she should close the curtains, Jen got up careful and placed Louis in his pram again. She went over to the window and looked out. The street lamps were on and there were cars and people outside. A front door across the road was open, light pooling out and two people were stood in the glow.

A stab of loneliness hit Jen. Her hands slipped from the curtains. She had been ill throughout the whole of her pregnancy and had to have time off work sick then take early maternity leave. Luckily, she and Louis had got through the birth fine, but Jen was recovering and hadn’t left the house much in the last ten months now.

Family and friends had been regularly visitors throughout those months and Jen was grateful for those mornings and afternoons spent with in their company but the mid-week period was the worse time. It was just her and Louis for eight or nine hours whilst Mike was a work and everyone else was too busy.

Jen closed the curtains and tried to get rid of the dreadful feeling filling her up. She checked on Louis who was fast asleep then went into the kitchen. She ate one of the just cooled cakes and made herself a cup of tea.

To help focus herself, Jen thought about plans for the next few weeks. After her last hospital check up, she would started to go out more. She had seen a mums and babies play group advertised at a local church on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. There was also baby swimming on Monday and Friday mornings at the sport centre. On Wednesdays there was the lunch club at her work that she could take Louis too as well.

‘See? You are going to be fine,’ Jen said aloud, ‘just get better.’

Grabbing another cake and her cup of tea, Jen went back to the sofa. Adverts were flashing on the TV and Jen got ready to watch the next quiz show, feeling that little bit better.

November Day

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The conservatory was cold, so Maddie turned up the heating. Then created a nest for herself out of large cushions and soft fluffy blankets, on the large over stuffed leather chair. Snuggling down and hugging the warm mug of tea, Maddie took a few deep breaths.

Minutes before, Maddie had been in the middle of an anxiety attack. All her senses had been overwhelmed, every little sound made her nervous and her mind a hurricane of worrying thoughts. She hadn’t been able to slow down and the pain in her stomach had crippled her. Maddie had felt like the whole world was crushing her.

She had shut her eyes, rubbed her stomach in circles and thought about the sound of the rain on the windows and the wind rattling outside. That had helped ease things, Maddie had got up, made a hot drink and gone into the almost glass room at the back of the house.

Now, she could hear the rain and wind surrounding her, washing over and helping to make her feel much better. Safe in the nest, she sipped the peppermint tea and thought only of all the warmth. She was safe from everything here.

Tea Service #FridayFictioneers

It had been a passing comment from a half-heard conversation that pinged the light bulb in Angel’s mind.

‘I wish there was a vintage tea shop like this near me,’ the bride from the wedding party spoke.

Angel stopped with her patterned tray stacked with fancy tea cups, matching saucers and a cake plates. She looked around. The hotel’s private party room had been transformed into a Victorian tea room; white clothed round tables, tier stands stacked with delicate looking foods and huge vases overflowing with flowers.

‘Yes,’ Angel whispered, ‘that could be my own business.’

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/09/26/28-september-2018/ with thanks).

Postie

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Postman Bert finished his cup of tea and looked outside. The rain was falling steadily from a dark grey sky and the wind was sweeping leaves about. It looked like autumn out there for sure.

He returned his cup to the small canteen counter, said goodbye to Maureen who was busy making toast for another postman and went to collect his bags full of letters and small parcels. Then he left the post sorting office and started his rounds. The weather was just as bad as it had seemed inside but Bert didn’t mind that much.

He rode his bicycle for ten minutes then turned down a small street. Here, he padlocked his bicycle to a lamp post and started delivering the mail. And that was how it was for much of the morning; he went from street to street, door to door, posting through letters of all kinds and sometimes parcels.

At one house though as he was getting the right letters for that address, he saw an envelope with his name on it. Bert stopped and read the child’s handwriting on the front. The address had been the post office. Wondering why this letter for him had been mixed in with someone else’s, Bert turned the envelope over and saw the return address was for the door he was standing before. That explained it.

Bert posted the other letters through and put the letter for himself into a deep pocket of his red coat. Then he finished off his morning round and went back to the sorting office for a lunch break.

Whilst waiting for his hot lunch, Bert took the letter from his pocket and opened it. The child’s handwriting was difficult to read in places but the words brought a smile to his face. It wasn’t often a postman got thanked for doing his job and that made Bert feel happy.

Dear Postman Bert, 

Thank you for delivering my birthday presents last week. Mummy has been in hospital and she is now getting better at home, but she wasn’t able to go out and buy anything. She brought things online and she wasn’t sure they would be here on time but you and the post office helped to make it so! 

I had a great day and enjoyed all my new toys. 

Thank you, Bethany Wardle.    

Tea #TwitteringTale

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In the time it had taken to break off the engagement the teapot had go cold. I wasn’t bothered, never be a fan of tea. I picked up a wedge of Victoria sponge cake and ate. Strangely, my mind was clear, it had been the right decision for us both.

(Inspired by; https://katmyrman.com/2018/08/07/twittering-tales-96-7-august-2018/ with thanks).

Fallen #Writephoto

Alice knew she looked a mess but in that moment she didn’t care. Pressing her back into the rock she was resting against, Alice cried harder into her hands. The ferns and trees muffled her sobbing and protected her from curious eyes. Letting it all out, she wondered how things had gotten this bad.

Taking deep, shaky breaths, she wiped her face then rubbed her hands dry. She sniffed loudly and dug around her little blue handbag for a tissue. Blowing her nose a few times, she crumpled the tissue up and dumped it back into her bag.

Looking around, she admired the view of forest, letting nature distract from her depressive thoughts. The dark green ferns were growing in wild clumps, reminding her of dinosaur movies and the large trees were letting dappled spring sunlight in. The rock she was resting on felt cold and rough. She reached out and touched the rock’s companion who was just as cold. Millions of years old rocks seemed beyond belief but here they were and so was Alice.

The sharp barking of a dog drew her attention. She looked quickly around but the forest was too dense. Something broke through the trees and Alice saw a massive grey dog coming towards her. She tried to move but her back hit the rock hard and she cried out. Alice stumbled away, hand trying to rub her back and at the same time trying to keep her balance. She failed and fell sideways into the ferns.

Crying out even more, Alice struggled to get back to her feet. The giant of a dog appeared above the waving ferns and peered down at her. Alice stopped moving and held her breath. The dog was sniffing with a big black nose and paws the size of tea sauces were stomping down the ferns in attempted to get to her.

A scream ripped out of her before she even meant it. The dog stopped, stared in panic and backed off quickly. Alice gasped for breath and pressed a hand to her chest. Pushing herself up, she saw the dog standing some distant away but still watching her.

‘Duke! Duke!’ a man’s voice shouted from the other side of the trees.

The dog turned towards the voice, tail swaying.

‘Go away,’ Alice hissed through clenched teeth.

The dog give a single bark and sat down, sad looking eyes studying Alice.

Staying still and hoping the ferns hid her from sight, Alice watched a man dressed for hiking enter the clearing. He approached the dog, fussing over him. Alice saw the dog was so tall that he came to the height of the man’s hips and the man just had to reach his hand out to pat the dog’s large head.

A fern branch snapped and Alice’s eyes shot to the man’s.

‘Oh my god,’ he half shouted as he rushed over to her, ‘are you okay? What happened? Did Duke scare you? Was that your scream I heard? I’m so sorry,’ he gushed, his words tumbling together so that Alice struggled to understand them.

The man pulled her up and out of the ferns before she could reply. Alice felt her cheeks getting hot and avoiding his eyes, she dusted herself off. She knew how odd she must look to him. He was dressed to be out here in boots, water proof pants, t-shirt, fleece jacket and rucksack. In stark contrast, she was dressed in a business suit; black blazer, white blouse, black pencil skirt, black tights and black flat shoes.

‘He wouldn’t have hurt you, honest,’ the man was babbling, ‘He’s a big baby. Scared of his own shadow. Typical, great dane. I’m so sorry. Are you hurt?’

‘No,’ Alice forced out.

She looked up at the man and had to fight down even more shock. He was ruggedly handsome with longish sandy colored hair, a matching stubble beard, a nicely angled jaw and cheeks, he had shimming blue eyes and soft kissable lips. Was he a fallen angel? Alice had forgotten how to breath.

‘Then…then is there anything I can do?’ the man asked.

Alice had the impression he was taking her in for the first time and wondering why she was out in office clothes with a tear stained face and her mud colored hair tumbling about like she’d been hit by a hurricane.

‘Would you like some tea?’ he asked.

Alice puzzled, ‘tea?’

The man took his rucksack off, dug around and came out with a thermos. He unscrewing the lids before pouring hot tea into the cup and giving it to Alice. She accepted it gratefully and warmed her hands on the hot metal whilst watching the steam floating upwards.

The great dane yawed loudly as if with bored of this whole ‘saving the damsel in distress’ scene. He laid down, sprawling in the grass and shade of the ferns, looking as harmless as the rocks next to them.

‘Thanks,’ Alice began, ‘I’m not too keen on dogs and he’s so big, he startled me. I’m Alice by the way.’

The man nodded, I’m Kipp. He’s Duke,’ he said pointing at the dog who give a single wag of his tail.

Alice smiled into the tea and took a sip. It tasted sweet and milky, just the way she liked it.

‘So, how did you get out here, if you don’t mind me asking?’ Kipp questioned.

‘I had to get away,’ Alice sighed, ‘my job interview went disastrously wrong. I was so upset and embarrassed, I decided to have a walk.’

‘Surely, it couldn’t have been that bad?’ Kipp asked.

Alice sipped more tea and shook her head, ‘I was so nervous that I tripped through the front door then I couldn’t remember the interviewer’s name. I got all my answers mixed up and I knocked over a glass of water and she got covered in it. When I tried to help her clean up, I hit my head on the desk and fainted.’

‘That’s not good,’ Kipp said, there was a hint of laughter in his voice.

Alice looked up, she had been staring at Duke whilst she spoke, scared of what Kipp’s reaction to her story might be. She saw though that he was trying very hard not to laugh and keep fixed a serious expression his face. He looked so cute and funny that Alice couldn’t help but giggle.

Kipp relaxed, a large grin spreading across his face, ‘I guessing you didn’t get the job then?’

‘I don’t know…she said she’s call me but I’m guessing not,’ Alice replied.

‘Well, you know what to do next time now.’

Nodding, Alice drank the tea. It was making her feel better and so was talking to Kipp. Though, she would have preferred him not to have seen her in this state. He probably has a girlfriend, she thought then scowled herself, this was not the time to be thinking of romance.

Kipp rubbed the back of his neck, cast a long look at Duke then turned to her.

‘Getting a job is hard,’ he said, ‘but you’ll get there.’

‘It sure doesn’t feel like it. I’m no good at interviews, I get so nervous!’ Alice replied.

‘It’s all about practice,’ Kipp explained.

Alice finished the tea and handed back the cup, ‘thanks, I really needed that,’ she said.

Kipp took it from her with a heartbreaking smile, ‘it sure looked like you did. Happy to help.’

He fixed the cup back on the thermos and placed it in his rucksack. Swinging his bag back on, he looked around casually, giving the impression he wanted to leave. Duke on the other hand, seemed to have fallen asleep.

‘How old is he?’ Alice asked.

She knew she was clutching at anything she could just to stop Kipp leaving.

‘About five years old,’ Kipp responded with a slight shrug, ‘he’s super lazy. A trait of the breed. He’d sleep all day if you left him be.’

Alice hurried to think of another question but her mind had gone blank.

‘Anyway,’ Kipp said, pulling the straps of his bag up, ‘it was nice to meet you. Good luck with the job hunt.’

‘Thanks,’ Alice mumbled.

Kipp whistled then called for Duke.

The great dane raised just his head and looked grumpily over. Then slowly he got up on his long legs and ambled over.

Kipp patted Duke’s head and they turned to go.

Say something! Alice screamed at herself.

‘I should repay you,’ Alice gushed.

Kipp looked over his shoulder, ‘it’s fine.’

‘No wait,’ Alice cried, fumbling for her phone in her handbag, ‘let me give you my number and I’ll buy you dinner,’ she added without even thinking about it.

A confused expression clouded Kipp’s face, ‘no,’ he said and came back over to her.

‘But…I….I…’ Alice trailed, words failing her.

‘I should buy you dinner,’ Kipp stated.

Alice opened her mouth then closed it. What had he just said? Words tumbled around her head, she tried to make them say something but it was too hard.

‘If you want that is,’ Kipp added, ‘I’m liking the wild forest woman look you’re rocking there.’

Alice reached up to her hair, where his finger was pointing and pulled out a piece of fern.

‘Oh…I…’ she mumbled and tossing the fern away, began tugging at her hair in search of more.

‘It sounds like you’ve had a bad day,’ Kipp went on, ‘and I wouldn’t be much of a gentleman if I didn’t try to make it better. So?’

Alice stopped panicking and dropped her hands from her hair.

‘Yes,’ she breathed, ‘that would be nice.’

Kipped held out his hand and shyly, Alice took it.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/05/10/thursday-photo-prompt-fallen-writephoto/ with thanks).

Today

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It’s raining today, so I can’t be bothered to write. It’s more of a drink tea and read day.

Postcard #37

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It’s autumn here now. It’s turning colder and the wind is blowing stronger. The leaves are starting to change colour and fall. I’m sitting outside, writing this and thinking about you.

Do you remember that September day forty years ago when we sat on this very porch and drank hot tea together? I’ve polished that memory until it’s shined out all the rest. I hold it close to my heart. You told me once you had done the same, is that still true?

I wish we could see each other again. I hate how we have separate lives when we should have had one life together. Don’t you remember the promise we made to each other? Always and forever.

Well, I’m going to up hold that and hope that you do too.

All my love.

Summer Cold

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You had been feeling run down all of yesterday but you had thought you were just tried after running from meeting to meeting. Now though, as you wake up, you realise you have a cold. Struggling to get up, you hope a shower and a cup of tea will help. Doing that seems to help but even before you get dressed you know you’re not going to make it.

You phone in sick and crawl back to bed, feeling guilty. You should go in but your head is pounding, your nose dripping and your eyes feel so tried, you don’t feel like you’ve just been asleep. You pull the duvet over our head, nestle into the pillow and let sleep cart you away again.