Avenue #writephoto

It was too late to go back, Saly realised. She had meandering around the park without thinking. Now, she was at the far side where park met meadows and farming fields. Casting around, she spotting a bench and slipping the headphones off, she went and sat down.

Curling her fingers over the bench lip, Saly looked at the canopy walk away created by the two rows of closely planted trees who’s branches arched and touched high above. When she had been younger, she had believed such structures were tunnels into other lands filled with magic and wonder.

Taking in a very deep breaths, Saly smelt the ting of smoke over the fresh air and earthy scents. There were no signs of flames though, so the gently breeze must be carrying it. She sniffed, thinking maybe it was her partly blocked nose that was causing her to think she was smelling the smoke. Saly had been over the last few days, sensing things that weren’t really there.

Looking down at her knees, she wondered if things would ever be the same again. Of course, they wouldn’t be, not now that he had gone and she was alone again. But that had been one love and surely there’d be another? There’d always been before. It was hard though, Saly told herself, the death of a relationship seemed the end of everything.

Noticing that she was very much alone, Saly let the silent tears she had been holding in all day finally fall. Her auntie had always told her it was stupid to cry over men and a sure sign of weakness. Saly had agreed but how could she stop all these emotions when they were constantly consuming her like an over flowing bathtub?

There’s someone better out there for you, she chatted in her head, this is just another trial run for the real thing. 

Wiping away hot tears, Saly sat up straight and become determined not to cry over him anymore. Staring at the canopy walk of trees, she got up and went over to the entrance. Shadows were playing across the ground and there was feeling of protection within the sheltered area.

‘When you walk out the other side,’ Saly said aloud, ‘you’ll have left your past behind you and take your first steps into your future.’

Slowly, she walked underneath the trees, trying to stay true to her words. For the last few steps she held her breath then taking the first step out, let everything go. She smelt flowers and the coming hot summers. The endless possibilities of her future stretched before her. Saly walked away, her heart lighter.

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/05/17/thursday-photo-prompt-avenue-writephoto with thanks).

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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).

Not There #writephoto

There was someone on the stairs. I pointed at the strange dark shape and said one of the few words I could, ‘ogog!’ Look!

Nanny didn’t pause but carried on taking me upstairs in her arms.

I pointed again, waving my hand more and wiggling against her. I had a bad feeling about the dark figure that was coming out before us. I cried  and tried saying whatever I could but Nanny hushed me and held my waving hand.

We passed the ‘shadow man’ and I felt a cold wave like a winter wind brushing against me. I think I saw a smile on the face, but it was hard to make out. Then the coldness and the man was gone. I twisted and looked over Nanny’s shoulder but there was nothing on the stairs.

And that was how it all began.

It was strange for a child to avoid their nursery but I always tried too. I hated going up the stone staircase to the attic at the top where my toys were because I knew on the tenth step lived the shadow man. It always felt icy cold on that step, day or night, summer or winter.

Nobody believed me about him. Nanny said it was my imagination. My maid, Martha, told me it was just shadows. The housekeeper, Mrs Williams, claimed it was a drift coming from the window. My father declared it was a trick of the light. My mother scoffed then ignored me again as she always did.

So, I stopped talking about him and tried to ignore him too. It was hard because he always seemed to be there. I would have to climb the staircase at some point during each day; after lunch or after my lessons or when my mother had a party and she didn’t want me to be seen.

Pausing at the bottom, I gather the long puffy skirt of my dress and the white underskirt up to reveal the matching colour satin or silk slippers before climbing. Sometimes someone else would be with me; Nanny, Martha or Mrs Williams but as I got older they would send me alone.

On the ninth step, I would stop and look at the tenth. There was nothing making it different from all the other twenty-one steps but in the shadows next to the banister a darker shape lingered there. If I stayed long enough, I’d be able to make out the figure of a man. He was taller then father, dressed in a suit and had long hair tied back with a ribbon. His other features were harder to make out; his face was blurred by black mist but he had eyes, a nose and a mouth that always smiled at me.

I plunged through the coldness, holding my breath then raced up the rest of the stairs. At the top, I would peer down but there was never anything there. I would go into the nursery, close the door and try to play with my dolls, rocking horse, tea-set and jigsaw puzzles. When I grew bored or tried, I would climb into the window box and read one of my many books. Until Nanny or Martha would come up to either lit the lamps or take me to bed.

He would be there, awaiting on the tenth step. Stronger outlined in the night but still blurred and blending with the shadows. He would watch me and smile. I tried not to look but I knew what he was doing all the same. He never did anything else but I think that’s what made me most afraid of him. I hoped he was just stuck there with no power, but who was to really know?

Long after I left my parents house, got married, moved into a new house and had children of my own, the shadow man still haunted me. Who was he? What did he want? When I could not sleep or was bored, I would try to find out but I never got any answers.

Then one day my daughter pointed something out on the stairs leading to the nursery. I looked and saw the shadow man standing on the tenth step, awaiting us.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/05/03/thursday-photo-prompt-ascent-writephoto with thanks).

Caim #atozchallenge #writephoto

Caim; sanctuary; an invisible circle of protection, drawn around the body with the hand to remind one of being safe and loved, even in the darkest times. 

I watched the sun rising from my window. It had been another sleepless night. Too many thoughts in my head and nothing to settle me. I pressed my cheek to the cold, wet glass as the clouds began to light up.

A story, told by one of my childhood’s nannies, came into my head. It was about a boy who got lost in a dark forest where an evil witch lived. The boy wanted to protect himself but carrying nothing, could only use a spell his mother had given him. Using the air, he drew a circle around himself with his hand, whilst at the same time recalling a memory of being safe and loved.

The boy walked further into the forest and happened upon the evil witch. She tried to capture him, so she could eat him, but the evil witch’s spell bounced off the boy. The witch tried again and again, chasing the boy through the forest as he tried to get away. Finally, the boy made it out of the forest and back to his village. The evil witch could do nothing but hover on her broomstick at the edge of the trees, cursing the boy.

The boy ran into this house and was greeted by a happy and tearful family, for they had all thought he’d never return. The boy told of how he had cast the Caim spell his mother had taught him and when the evil witch tried to capture him, it was that spell that had saved him.

I sighed and moved my head away from the window. I had long given up believing in fairy stories. The idea of casting that spell stuck with me though. Getting out of the window box, I stepped into a patch of dawn light laying on the bare floor. Shutting my eyes, I thought about the best time I had felt safe and loved. I drew a circle around myself in the air.

A touch of warm brushed my skin, opening my eyes and looking out of the window, I saw the valley below full of sunlight. I wasn’t sure if the spell had worked or not but I felt a lot better that day for the first time in weeks. And that night, I slept well.

 

(Photo prompt from; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/29/thursday-photo-prompt-valley-writephoto/ with thanks).

Carved #writephoto

I stopped before the rock and slightly tilted my head to one side as I pondered what to name this shape as. Around me other staff and volunteers were doing the same; standing before rocks and naming them. It was all in aid of our big push to encourage more visitors to the visit this section of moorland which was famous for it’s strangely shaped rock formations.

I ran a few different names through my head; the up turned wheel, the melting pot, the hole, the bowl…The Giant’s Bowl? That sounded kid friendly and the rock did kinda look like a mis-shaped bowl. All the names had to be approved anyway, so why not?

I jotted down on the map I had which showed little drawings of all the rock formations. I moved on to the next one which kinda looked like a tea cup on a plate if you saw it from a certain angle. With a shrugged, I named it The Giant’s Tea Cup. Sticking with that theme, I named a few other rocks close by then moved further out.

Two months later, everything had been approved and I was putting up name signs for The Giant’s Breakfast Table section of rock formations.

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/22/thursday-photo-prompt-carved-writephoto/ with thanks.)

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).

Arch #WritePhoto

Walking around, I imagined the ruinings whole and humming with life. Men shuffling around in brown robes, saying prayers and gardening. A bell tolling, the smell of smoke and tingle of food.

I entered the main part of the Abbey. I touched a cold, grey brick in the huge stone wall. How many other fingers had also pressed here? I looked at the archways on either side, stretching down the nave which ended in a massive empty window. I thought once, coloured glass depicting scenes from the Bible glowed in the sunlight there. Now, a single tree was framed perfectly.

I went over, the illusion of the framed tree breaking. I felt the draft more and wondered what had happened the window. The ledge was too high for me to lean out of. I turned and looked back. What had people thought as they stood on this alter stand?

Had God ever been here? Had He abandoned the Abbey when the monks had? Did He still come now and wonder through these empty arches? No one could answer those questions but Himself.

As for me, I enjoyed the peace that still remind in places liked this.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/08/thursday-photo-prompt-arch-writephoto/ with thanks).

Dark #writephoto

The first snowflake fell onto my book’s open page before I could turn it. I paused, tutted and watched the flake melt into a water dot over a word. Turning my head up, I saw the sky had grown dark with heavy unfriendly grey clouds. It was time to go home.

Gathering my things, I knew everyone thought I was strange. Why would a young woman go out to the lake to sit and read in the snow? I liked the peace and the distance from people. I didn’t feel the cold at all, in fact, I didn’t feel anything and hadn’t since the incident.

With everything neatly placed in my army hiking bag, I began walking back. The snow was deep but my footprints from hours ago were still clearer. I traced over them but the opposite way this time. The wind picked up as more snowflakes began to fall. I powered on, enjoying the feeling and sight of raw nature.

I almost slipped into the lane but was able to hold on. There were a few four by four car tire tracks marking their way through the snow. A few meters up, off to the side lay an abandoned blue car, half buried in the snow. I had checked as I’d arrived and no one was inside, thankfully. They’d have frozen out here.

A few minutes later and I’d arrived at the edge of the village. The tops of houses stuck out of the snow like early spring flowers. Nobody was walking the streets or driving down the roads. They were all inside, sat by fires, keeping warm and safe. I should have been so too, but there was only so much of being inside I could handle.

I needed to be out, feeling all kinds of weather against my skin. Doing something physical and being my past self. I wasn’t very good at being a ‘normal person,’ it had been sort of trained out of me. I had liked that life, it give me my place in the world but now on almost permanent leave due to injury and mental health problems, everything had been turned around.

Reaching the front door of my parents’ cottage, I didn’t want to go in. The urge to stay outside lingered. However, the wind was really howling and blowing now heavy snowflakes into me. So unless I wanted to get lost in a blizzard and or possibly die, it was time to go in and find another way to spend my time.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/03/01/thursday-photo-prompt-dark-writephoto/ with thanks).

Dusk #writephoto

Flopping down onto my beach towel, sea water dripping from my hair and the surfboard abandoned at my side, I watched the sky. The sun was setting in a bright wash of colors; orange, yellow and red glowing whilst blue, pink and the white clouds mixed into the background.

Waves crashed onto the beach, racing along the sand then dragging what it could back as another waves formed behind it. As I watched, the sun seemed to sink into the sea, leaving behind blotches of fading colors. It was time to give up for the day.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/02/22/thursday-photo-prompt-dusk-writephoto/ with thanks).

Between #Writephoto

I don’t remember much about the Between, but mum said I spent a lot of my childhood there. I was an only child and Mum was a single parent on the run from her abuse ex-husband, a father I never knew. We moved around so much, not having much contact with anyone. Years later, I asked her why that was, couldn’t she have gone to the police or someone for help? She said, things back then were just different. It was normal for a husband to hit is wife.

I didn’t go to school and was only let out sometimes, so the Between was my imaginary world. Mum said it started when we stayed in a semi-abandoned farmhouse when I was around six. She let me out to play in a wild meadow and I came back talking about fairies and unicorns.

From then, I would often talk aloud and play with the things from the Between. I drew pictures too, to show mum what the animals and people were like. She kept some of them that I had drawn in a small sketch book. There was a fairy princess and queen, a unicorn, strange dragonflies and butterflies, gremlins, goblins, imps, pixies and other fantasy creatures.

‘You must have told me about them and I just imagined it all!’ I laughed to my mum.

‘No. I never said anything about any make believe things,’ mum explained, ‘not even Father Christmas or God.’

‘Oh…Then I must have read about it somewhere,’ I wondered.

‘Perhaps. I don’t remember,’ she replied, ‘I was sad when you grew out of it though.’

I hummed as I thought back. It was hard to remember clearly, but I started high school in one of the towns we were hiding out in. Something about being forced to go…But it meant that town became our permanent home. I had something of a normal life then and the Between was lost to me.

‘I guess it was a childhood thing,’ I added with a shrug, ‘but why were you sad?’

‘Because it meant you were grown up.’

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2018/02/15/thursday-photo-prompt-between-writephoto/ with thanks).