Coming In From The Storm (Part 1)

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The moors were a hard mistress and Cole was regretting travelling at this bleak time of year. The ground was hard with a week’s worth of frost. The small puddles and streams had an ice cover. The sky was a dull grey and sleet was falling. A freezing North wind blew hard, scratching the empty landscape.

Cole paused for a break and wonder what he was going to do. He didn’t have much of a choice. He had everything he owned with him including, a wild pony, named Eve, he had tamed that would take no other master. The clothes he wore, the sliver chain and cross that had been his mother’s which despite Cole’s hardship he couldn’t bear to part with.

In his knapsack was spare clothes. A cloth securing a little hard cheese, bread, dried meat. There was water in a deer skin water bag. A large hunting knife and a smaller cutting knife. Carried over Cole’s other shoulder was a large axe which he used for his trade.

His pony was carrying another bag in which was; a wheatstone, tinderbox, a lamp, candles, a small bible, a bedroll and blankets, wire traps, a leather pouch containing a handful of coins – payment from his last job. A bag of oats for the pony, some rope, a glass bottle which contained a lotion for cuts, bandages and a small wooden carved figure of the Virgin Mary.

There was no shelter on the moors and Cole knew the sleet would turn to snow as a freezing night arrived. He looked at the sky and guessed he had only an hour or two before that happened.

‘I regret leaving that farm,’ Cole muttered as he patted the pony’s rough tan coat.

Leading his friend on, Cole reflected that he should have tried harder to stay with the farmer’s family. The barn hadn’t been that warm but at least it had been dry and out of the snow. He hadn’t minded sharing with the cows, sheep and plough horses, he was use to such living.

On the farm, there had been little work to do but Cole had been useful at chopping down trees for firewood. Cleaning out the animals, setting traps for wild creatures, gathering berries, mushrooms and whatever else he could find in the little woods which the farm edged.

Things had been going well then out of the blue the farmer had accused Cole of trying it lead his eldest daughter astray. She was promised to another and though Cole had liked the way the weak sunlight shone in her red hair and pleasantness of her soft face, Cole knew better and kept his distance.

The farmer though would hear no excuses, he couldn’t have strange young men lusting after any of his five daughters. He give Cole a handful of coins and sent him away.

With nowhere else to go but try and find another farm or village to stay in, Cole was trekking across a narrow road. He didn’t know where he was or where he was heading. He just had to hope that God guided him to a safe place.

The sleet came down heavier and Cole tried to wrap his jacket tighter around himself. He was already wet and cold. His pony was fairing better, she had been born and raised on this moor and was use to the weather.

Cole felt his numb feet begin to dip and noticed that the path was going down a hill and at the bottom were some kind of buildings grouped close by.

‘Another farm! Look Eve!’ Cole cried.

Feeling excited he urged himself and the pony on wards. The tiredness and coldness and that had been aching Cole’s bones was forgotten. They picked up the pace and soon passed a tumbled down stone wall on the other side of which was a rotting sheep shelter.

‘There’s no smoke coming with the chimney,’ Cole pointed out.

They passed another of the buildings, a small barn it seemed to be. The roof had fallen in and frost was crawling along the sticking out beams. Some twisting metal was sticking out of a hole, rust claiming it.

Cole felt his excitement and heart falling. Still though he tried to hold on to some hope. Ignoring the rest of the barns and shelters, Cole went to the farm house and knocked on the door. No answer came.

Peering into a dirty window, Cole’s instinct was confirmed. There was no one living in this house.

‘We have no choice,’ Cole spoke.

He withdrew his hunting knife and used it to force the door open. Lighting a candle and placing it into his lamp, Cole led his pony into the hallway of the house.

Going into the first room, Cole left Eve and came back to shut the front door. Then he went from room to room to make sure they were alone. The house was full of dust but with furniture and belongings still in place as if the owners suddenly fled.

To Be Continued…

(Inspired by; https://promptuarium.wordpress.com/2019/11/27/suddenly-fled/ with thanks).

Smultronstalle (Part 2) #AtoZChallenge

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Smultronstalle; ‘place of wild strawberries.’ a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation a personal idyll free from stress or sadness. 

The small town of Norrtälje sits next to the Norrtäljeviken bay that leads out to the Baltic sea. There’s a large harbour here which is used by pleasure boats and opposite is a nice restaurant and ice cream parlor. In the town there’s all kinds of shops and it’s pleasant to wander around.

We go shopping first and as much as I want to walk around by myself I can’t. So, I keep my headphones on, ignore Oscar’s demands and put a few things I want into the baskets from the shops we visit. I even get some new clothes, books, stationary and snacks without having to pay for any of it myself. Hugo is generous like that and doesn’t seem to care about flashing lots of money around.

Morning of shopping done and we drive to the harbour. We are meeting Hugo’s two cousins and their families at the restaurant for lunch. There’s six of them all together- four adults, one teenage daughter and one child son. They all have blonde hair and blue eyes, nice tans and good figures.

We order food. Oscar decides he wants pancakes and nothing else. I get a burger and watch the boats till the food arrives. A mixture of English and Swedish conversations happen but I don’t join in any of them.

When the food all comes, Oscar changes his mind and kicks up a fuss. He decides he wants a burger like mine. So, Hugo has to order him one but then Oscar has to eat his pancakes as the ice cream inside of them is melting. I can only roll my eyes and feel embarrassed for mum and Hugo but they made Oscar a brat, so it’s not really my problem.

After lunch, we go onto the cousin’s yacht and go out for a ride in the bay for a few hours. It’s really nice with the water spray air and wind whipping my hair. It clears everything out of your head. Also, I really wanted to but I didn’t push Oscar overboard!

Later, we go back to one of the cousin’s house. Oscar and their son play some games outside whilst the teenage daughter and I watch TV but most of the shows are in Swedish, so I soon get bored and find some books written in English to read. We have a late tea outside in the evening light then stay until it’s really dark and Oscar gets overtired and becomes grumpy.

We go back, passing only one other car on the road on the way then we arrive home and all go to bed.

In the morning, I’m the first up. I grab some food and pack it in my bag then I head out to the clearing. Once there, I check the berries but none look ready to eat. It’s a lovely day out though, so I have breakfast then do some reading and writing till lunch time. Mum text’s me then asking where I am and if okay?

I reply back letting her know then eat my lunch. Birds are singing in the trees, there’s the noise of a tractor in the far distance and sometimes cars along the road. Once, I hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on the road. A dog barking for a minute or two. The wind plays through branches, bushes and leaves making gently noises but that’s it!

I lay down and relax. Feeling calm and safe here. I watch the sun shinning through the tree leaves and I shut my eyes for a nap.

I still miss England and my grandparents and the fact that my new home is miles away from anywhere! But I’m getting use to it and things are not so bad here after all.

 

Smultronstalle (Part 1) #AtoZChallenge

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Smultronstalle; ‘place of wild strawberries.’ a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation a personal idyll free from stress or sadness. 

The Swedish countryside reminded me of England’s farmland and meadows. There was so much open space broken only by a few trees, hedgerows, red houses and barns. All of it was circled by gigantic lakes and wide rivers, which were dotted with islands. On the shores, small docks with pleasure boats moored up, waiting to be taking out on adventures.

I could walk the countryside and lake shore for hours, sometimes even take the small boat out on the lake, lost in my own thoughts. Until my step-dad, Hugo, appeared in his old black jeep, claiming, ‘ I’ve been searching all over for you, Lacy! It’s time to come home now.’ Though it wasn’t really my home that was back in England with my dead grandparents, father and brother.

The Swedish house was a huge three bedroom bungalow with a massive kitchen, living room, dinning room at the front of the house then a walk through pantry with the bathroom and a short hallway into a snug room. This joined the back of the house were the bedrooms where. Outside there was a nice decking seating area, a large rectangle lawn surrounding the house and half hidden in the left to go wild back garden was a small wooden sauna.

It’s a world away from the two down-two up terrace house I had grown up in with my grandparents. Dad and my brother Alex aged ten, died in a car accident when I was three. Mum couldn’t cope so her parents looked after me.

Then mum meet Hugo, a rich businessman who’s half English half Swedish, they married and had a son, Oscar, and decided to settle in Sweden moving between Hugo’s summer house in the countryside and his smaller house in Stockholm in the winter.

I hadn’t seen them or even been to Sweden until two months ago when my grandma passed away, almost three years after grandpa had died of the same lung cancer. I didn’t want to come but being seventeen it was either that or go into a foster home and that really didn’t appeal to me.

Of course, mum was shocked when I agreed to move to her and even more so when she met me at the airport.

‘You’ve grown so much, Lacy!’ mum had said, ‘you look more like your dad then me. It’s all that curly dark brown hair and you wear glasses too. Your eyes are brown like his were. You have my freckles though! But you’re tall like him, he had really long legs. Well, you’ll be able to show them off. Sweden is hotter then England in the summer, but the winters are so much colder!’

I don’t hate my mum or step-family or Sweden, it’s surprisingly nice here and there’s very little traffic or people about. It’s so much quieter, stiller and cleaner then the council estate. Most of the field are either for food growth, left wild or for animals to graze on, which are mostly horses. This area is famous for it’s prize winning horses across all sports.

I sometimes like to sit and the watch horses in the fields when I come across them but most of the time I just walk around. That is the one draw back to living around here; there is nothing close by. The nearest shops are a twenty minute car drive away and they are like a small corner shop and a petrol station. It’s about an hour Stockholm, though there are other towns and big shopping places in-between.

Of course, Hugo’s summer house as a TV, DVD player, internet etc but Oscar normally wants to watch something or be on the computer at the same time I do and since he’s a spoilt brat he always gets his own way. Oscar is eleven and mum baby’s him far too much whilst Hugo is too busy to really care.

So, that’s why I spend most of my time outside.

Recently, I found the perfect spot to hide in for awhile. Following the road away from the cluster of houses that make up the neighborhood by the lake shore, through a farmer’s field that has a footpath at the edge and into a wooden area which has a smaller clearing where lots of wild fruit, vegetables and herbs seem to be growing.

There I can sit on the grass in the shade of the trees or the full sunshine if I move further out. I can read books, write in my diary, do school work, daydream and anything else I fancy doing. It’s become like my sanctuary away from the world. I’m happy there and don’t feel sad about my past and issues.

Currently, I noticed that wild strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are growing in the clearing. I’ve been watching them and wondering when they best time to eat them will be.

That’s how Hugo came to know about my special place. I asked him one day over breakfast. Oscar was stuffing his face full of pancakes which I’m sure he was addicted too, mum was busy making him some more and Hugo was reading a newspaper whilst I was picking at the cereal in my bowl.

‘Hugo?’ I asked.

He hummed to show he was listening.

‘Can you eat the wild berries around here?’

‘Sure,’ he replied, ‘as long as they are wild and not in a farmer’s field. Wild berry picking is something my parents always enjoyed doing. Bit of a tradition in Sweden.’

‘How do you know when berries are ready?’ I asked.

‘Their colour changes and they don’t taste tangy or sour. I guess it depends what the berry actually is.’

Hugo folded the newspaper and give me his full attention which I didn’t like.

‘Strawberries?’ I shrugged and tried to act like it had just come to my head.

‘When they are all red and have no green left on them,’ Hugo answered.

‘Okay, what about blueberries?’

‘When they are a sort of dark purple.’

‘And raspberries and blackberries?’

‘When they are red and black,’ Hugo said and he give a small laugh, ‘where have you found all these berries? Maybe we can pick them together?’

I debated telling him then reasoned he probably knew about the place anyway, ‘in a clearing in the patch woods, passed the first field opposite the road that turns down to here.’

‘Oh, that clearing! The fruits are good from there,’ Hugo spoke.

I nodded and took a few sips of orange juice.

‘Why do you care anyway?’ Oscar snapped, bulling his way into the conversation.

Mum put two more pancakes on Oscar’s plate – his seventh and eighth-  then sat down to finally eat something herself.

‘None of your business,’ I muttered.

‘Tell me!’ Oscar shouted, ‘mamma make her tell!’ he banged his fork on the table.

‘I found some all right and I wanted to know when I could eat them,’ I explained angrily, ‘you don’t like fruit and veg anyway, so there!’

‘I do like fruit and veg!’ Oscar yelled, ‘show me where they are! Mamma make her show me! I want some!’ and he began kicking his legs about under the table.

I moved so he wouldn’t hit me and abandoned my breakfast at the same time.

‘Oscar stop that,’ Hugo said.

‘Stop kicking, darling,’ mum added, ‘today we are going into Norrtälje to do some shopping and visit your dad’s cousins. We can get you some berries there if you like.’

I got up to leave, thinking of grabbing my things and heading out to the clearing.

‘Lacy, you’re coming to. You agreed last night,’ Mum said.

I turned ready to argue, teenage mode on and angry flaring in me. I opened my mouth to say no but both mum and Hugo had stern, no arguments please faces on and I knew there was no point. The last thing I wanted was to turn into a second Oscar and at least in Norrtälje I could go shopping.

 

To Be Continued…

Growlery #WritePhoto #AtoZChallenge

Growlery; a place of refuge or sanctuary for use while one is out sorts or in ill humour. 

Kip, loud music pumping in his headphones, made his way down to the tiny beach, taking care to step correctly on the massive stones which often had hidden slippy parts. Walking across the rough sand stone mix, he ignored the clusters of tourists that were admiring the views in the little cove area.

He went passed the high waterfall that rushed over the jagged cliff face then streamed along to the sea in a surprisingly deep trench. He head to the largest of the caves far to his right and stood just inside.

More tourists were walking the short distance through the cave to the other side which was blocked by large rocks and the sea waves crashing on them. Most of the people were talking photos and talking, making dim echos along the roof.

Kip sat on his favourite rock that was close to the arched cave opening and was shaped as close enough to a low backed chair as a rock could be. He slipped his headphones off, paused the heavy metal German band he had been listening too. He heard the sea, the waves rushing around and the chatter of voices.

He picked up a small smooth stone and rubbed his fingers across it. He looked around, taking in the rough walls and the patches of sunlight. He knew this place so well. It was nicknamed Merlin’s Cave because the great wizard was said to have lived here underneath Tintagel Castle where King Arthur was born.

Kip loved all those legends and myths, he had grown up surrounded by them. All those knights, princesses, dragons, heroes, monsters, castles and sea adventures, they flowed in his blood just like Cornwall did. As a child he had played at being a knight and now almost an adult he still daydreamed of being one.

Merlin’s Cave though, was where he came to calm down. It was his escape to place and he found a peace here, listening to the rasping sea waves, the waterfall and all the echos in the cave. The tourists he would gladly do without and that’s why he timed his trips here to avoid the bulk of them. Two or three hours before Tintagel Castle closed and making sure the tide wasn’t in was the best time to come.

Living in the town of Tintagel, made access easy for Kip. His parents ran a local pub that often bed and breakfast rooms above and the three of them lived in the attached landlord’s cottage at the back. Kip worked in the pub when he wasn’t at school and he would take over the business in the future. He could never leave Cornwall.

Kip took a few deep breaths and watched the flow of tourists, they reminded him of the sea; always coming and going. Luckily, there wasn’t much of a beach here and no one really sat around or played in the sea for long. There were better beaches to visit for that kind of thing further around the coast. They were all here for the castle really, which stood on the edge of the cliffs, high above, the remaining walls sticking up from the long grass, hinting at a history long lost.

The last of the tourists slowly left, making their way over the massive stones and up the wooden staircase along the side of the cliff. Kip watched them, glad he was alone at last. He knew eventually two staff members would come, checking that everyone was off the grounds and then Kip would have to leave but they all knew him well enough not to hurry him away.

Kip took a few deep breaths and let everything out. He shut his eyes and thought about being carried away by the sea. He was drifting and nothing mattered as everything that he was feeling was gone, carried away on the waves.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/04/04/thursday-photo-prompt-threshold-writephoto/ with thanks).

 

Vanished

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The teenage sisters walked through the acre of woodland opposite their house on their way to school like they did every week day.

Today though, they never made it.

The sisters vanished without a trace and nobody could find out what had happened to them.

 

(Prompt from; https://promptuarium.wordpress.com/2019/03/09/missing-sisters/ with thanks).

The Wrong Shoes #SundayPhotoFiction

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The teenage girl walked into the studio set, the blue and white chequered dress swishing around her. She was nervous, this was an important scene in the movie but she followed all the directions and got everything right.

During the lunchtime break, the director and wardrobe designer came to her.

‘You did just fine,’ the director said, ‘but I’m having a problem with the shoes.’

The girl looked down at the sliver slippers on her feet, puzzlement on her face.

‘They are not coming up well on the film,’ the director continued, ‘so, I decided to change them to these ones….’

The wardrobe designer came forward and showed the teenage girl a pair of bright ruby red, shinny shoes that seemed to sparkle with magic.

‘Oh!’ the girl cried, taking the shoes, ‘they are…just….I love them!’

The girl slipped the shoes on, they fitted perfectly. She smiled up at the director and designer.

‘Great!’ the director said, with a clap of his hands, ‘let’s get back to it then! We’ll need to re-shoot this morning’s scenes.’

The abandoned sliver slippers were dumped back in the wardrobe department, totally forgotten forever.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/sunday-photo-fiction-february-24-2019/ with thanks. Photo Courtesy of Susan Spaulding).

Rusted #FridayFictioneers

Once the car had been someone’s pride and joy, a key family member and creator of so many memories. Then somehow, the car had ended up abandoned in the middle of the woods. Teenagers robbed any parts they could sale and also used the inside to drink, smoke and make love.

Over time, the car become little more then a shell of rust. Rain leaked through the roof, wind blew through the shattered windows, plant and tree roots grew around and through the body work.

Another group of people, urban explorers, became interested and once again the car give joy.

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/01/23/25-january-2019/ with thanks).

 

 

Safe #CCC

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

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

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

 

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

The Tolling Bell #WeeklyWritingChallenge

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Ivan didn’t want to go into the abbey bell tower, he had a bad feeling about it tonight. Looking up at the slowly tumbling down walls, the shadows seemed thicker then normal. Ivan tugged on the edge of his father’s red Captain of the guards cloak and tried to explain with hand gestures and tongue clicking that he was afraid and didn’t want to do the night’s signalling.

His father, who held a deep disappointment that his only son was a mute, ignored the young teenage and began climbing the steps that lead into the abbey. His heavy boot steps rang out on worn stones, breaking a doomed silence that had long settled here.

Ivan trailed afterwards, knowing that even if father would listen, there was no choice. Clutching the flicking metal lantern in one hand and a heavy wicker basket in the other, Ivan fixed his eyes on the floor and ignored everything else around him as dust clouds stirred. They reached the bell tower’s spiral staircase and started the long climb upwards.

Years ago, the abbey had been home to monks, who one winter had all gone on a pilgrimage and never returned without a clue to their whereabouts. The village that had been constructed around the abbey  died of the abandonment. Now, it was a tiny out post for a handful of the King’s guards, tasked with signalling incoming threats to the close by farming villages which served the King’s castle.

Ivan had never wanted to be in the King’s service. He had liked looking after the animals and the crops his mother had owned, which now belonged to his sisters’ families. His father though had decided to find Ivan a place within the guards and thus the boy had become the night time bell signal ringer.

‘Here we are,’ father’s voice declared as they reached the small room under the bell, ‘I’ll get you a fire going.’

Ivan nodded and placed the basket and lantern on a little wobbly table. He then lit two more lanterns which were placed on stone window sills across from one another. Now, everyone could see someone was up here. Ivan peered down and saw flickers of light below; guards on watch.

‘Have a goodnight,’ father said and turned away.

Ivan glanced at the fire which was starting to grow around two logs in the small fire place then watched his father leaving. He listened as the boot steps faded and the night settle once more. Ivan still felt uneasy, something tonight felt different but he didn’t know how to explain it. Perhaps, it was just the pressing hand of Winter? There had been no threats for months, so why would there be any now? Especially, with the harvest over.

Going to the long twist of rough rope in the centre of the room, Ivan checked it over and give it a few gentle tugs. He felt the bell swing above, making soft sounds. It had taken him ages to practise how to make the bell sound without getting hurt by the rope because it was heavy and the movement powerful. It was second nature now.

Collecting the lantern, Ivan slipped through a small door and climbed another spiral staircase into the actual bell tower. The chill of wind slapped his face and he realised how cold it was becoming. Wrapping his cloak tighter, he hurriedly checked the bell, making sure the rope was tight and nothing was in the way to stop the swinging movement. Then he headed back down again to wait out the night.

At the table, he went through the basket that the elderly cook, had put together for him. There was half a loaf of hard bread, a lump of cheese, two apples, salted dried deer strips, a small sweet bun and two bottles of weak beer. Ivan smiled, the women in the camp took pity on him, even though he didn’t like it, he enjoyed the benefits.

Ivan kept the fire going, careful to use only the wood he needed. He also made the food and beer last through the night. He kept himself awake by telling himself stories, thinking about the different lives he could have had and watching the dots of lights below moving as the guards walked the abbey’s edges.

There was a shouting from below and Ivan hurried to the nearest window. Far below was a gathering of lights and movement but he could hardly make anything out. Listening hard, he heard a horn blowing and he realised his gut feelings had been right. Scrambling over, he yanked the bell rope and let the clanking chime of metal on metal ring out repeatedly.

The noise of the bell meant he could hear anything else but it wasn’t Ivan’s job to figure out who or what was attack where, only that they were and people had to know. Ivan felt the bell rope going up and down in his hands, the slight sting of burns starting but he carried on ringing as fast and hard as he could. Panic seized him, the idea that he should be fleeing came and went. The bell rang out and out still for what seemed like forever.

Ivan collapsed. His hands bloodied, his body shaking, his ears deafened. He watched the rope moving by itself until it stopped, the bell notes fading. He felt the floor vibrating underneath him but he wasn’t sure of the cause. He curled up, letting sleep take him away.

He awoke in his own straw bed, rough wool blankets draped across him. Someone had bandaged his hands but they did not feel like his own, they were numb and crippled. Ivan rolled over and tried to recall what had happened. When nothing came to him, he got up and went to the window, a few black cloak guards and women walked by about their business.

Ivan wondered around the camp then out and around the abbey. There he spotted his father and most of the guards, they were inspecting small, green bodies on the ground and as Ivan got closer he saw they were goblins.

‘Ah, there you are boy!’ his father called, then patted Ivan on the back before spreading his arms out to indicate the scene before them, ‘this is thanks to you. The attack was stopped and the rest scared off.’

Ivan nodded and nudged a small bow in the grass. He touched his head, it hurt just as badly as his hands did and when he looked he saw red dots coming through the grey cloth strips. He wanted to have a drink and lay down again. There were things to do though and his father decided if he was up then he was well enough to help out.

They worked until it grew dark then returned to the run down house where they had stew and wine by the fire. Finally, Ivan crawled back into bed and dozed there, hoping his father wouldn’t awake him to send him back into the bell tower. He slept fitfully, thoughts filled with bells and goblins.

 

(Inspired by; https://secretkeeper.net/2018/11/12/weekly-writing-challenge-167/ with thanks).

 

 

 

The Den #FridayFictioneers

Everybody knew that you could go to Rich’s house anytime. The back door was always unlocked, because it had been kicked in by the cops and Rich had never bothered to fix it. There was nothing in his house worth stealing, expect for the small stock pile of drugs which Rich kept well hidden.

I lost countless nights and days, high as a kite on the sofa or the floor. It was how we lived back then; no money, always hungry, skipping school. I regret none of it, I was at my happiest but as I know now, what goes up must come down.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2018/08/15/17-august-2018/ with thanks).