One by one the young teen girls enter, excited to spend some time with their friend. They admire me as they enter: “Cool!” is a comment I particularly liked. The girls spread themselves around the living area – sprawling on the sofas or sitting on the floor. Their chatter remind me a little of the twitter of birds in the spring time and is a sound I enjoy listening to. I am ignored while conversation flows and the movie is watched. I bide my time, knowing I will once again become the focus of their attention. In the meantime, the dad is chopping vegetables in the kitchen in preparation for the dinner he is cooking. The sounds are unable to drown the children’s banter and laughter, adding instead to the atmosphere within the apartment. Dinner is ready! I am taken aside while the noodles are spring rolls grace the table. The food is enjoyed, with many coming for seconds. The dad does cook tasty noodles and the girls have looked forward to eating them since they received the invitation. The table is cleared and then it is my turn. I hope that they will enjoy what I bring to them.
I find myself in the lower level of an old ship. A calendar on the wall says 1682. There is a small window, and the view is nothing but open sea and a setting sun. There is a staircase and I can see daylight at the top.
“Where have they sent me to this time?”
The twins enjoyed their fun at my expense. They would catch me with my guard down and trick me in subtle ways. It was never my choice to time travel; I had no wish to live what the history snippets in class showed us. I preferred modern life with all its comforts and privileges. I look down at myself. At least this time I was wearing clothes, even though they were ragged and threadbare! No shoes though. I shuddered in horror at the dirt encased on my skin. Lifting an arm, I sniff myself. Yikes! I smell as if I haven’t washed for months.
I look up the staircase again. The light beckons me, promising me warmth and fresh air. Dare I go up? I hesitate, not sure of the role I have been placed in. Damn the twins! If they wish for adventure, why don’t they travel the centuries? I make a fist at them, knowing they are watching and shaking their shoulders in mirth at my expense.
Bracing my shoulders, I take the first step up the staircase. It creaks and I hold my breath. No-one comes. Up I go, trembling hand holding tightly onto the bannister. My head pops out into the open air. I inhale its saltiness and stare at the huge rolling sea surrounding us. I notice the feet coming towards me, shod in well-worn shoes.
“There you are lad! Have you brought up the drink?” My gaze travels up to the speaker’s face. His unkempt beard covers a smile yet does not detract from his twinkling eyes. “We are thirsty and wish to celebrate our find.” My gaze is distracted by the flag flying on the mast. Is that the Jolly Roger?
I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now…
I had fought bitterly with dad when he moved us all to a new country, a new lifestyle, a new language. Spanish had never been my favourite subject at school and I resented having to speak it now. I had called him all sorts of names and had not really spoken to him for weeks. Mom had tried to calm me done but I would have none of it. Dad had always been my favourite parent: we would shoot hoops together, run, watch sport on TV to the exasperation of Mom. We would spend hours together in the garage working on the old Mustang we were fixing with no words needed to fill the quiet gaps. And yet he uprooted us with no explanation, with no warning. It hurt that we left the Mustang behind. It was not the car I was sad about losing, but what it meant to me: hours spent with him fiddling with the mechanics of it and just being together.
Now I have come to understand the reason why we left, I regret all the hurtful words I said, the anger I expressed, my bitterness. What I regret most is the time lost: time I could have spent with him sharing new experiences. I wish he had told us why we moved. Maybe if he had we would have been vigilant, would have noticed the strange questions being asked, and been wary of the over-friendly American girls. But it is too late now. Tears slide down my cheeks, dripping onto the still body of my father. If only I could rewrite the past. If only I knew then what I know now.
We bought the house and land for a song. Neglected. Abandoned. The owners grateful that someone wanted to take it off their hands.
“The house is in the middle of nowhere. Don’t know what granddad was thinking when he bought it and went to die there.”
I don’t know about their granddad, but I knew why we wanted to move there. We needed to move away from the crowds, the whispering behind our backs, the looks (sometimes of pity, sometimes of judgement) that we received each time we left our home. The last two years had seemed interminable. The same questions asked over and over again. The events leading up to the murder prodded at from every angle. The media hounds baying at every door and window.
When the trial was over, my family and I sat in a room and decided on the type of life we wanted. The children were in agreement with us that we needed to move away from the city. Abby wanted horses. Mikey wanted a place where he could paint to his heart’s content. And Cyrus? He wanted peace and quiet “from the maddening crowd”. My wife looked at me and uttered what was deep in my heart.
“We should take our money and move out into the country, maybe even to another state. Lets find the place we always dreamed of. That place where there are no offices and telephones keeping us tethered to the Company. There is no longer any need to please my father and the board of Directors. Let us please ourselves and go live off the land.”
I love her so much. This woman who chose me, who believed in me when no one else did, who stood by me and gave me strength.
And now 6 months later we stand before the house of our dreams. I see the amount of work before us and I smile. Fixing her up and bringing her to her former glory will help me forget the events that brought me here. I look at my children. Abby is running and shouting as only a 5 year old can after being cooped up in the car for so long. Mikey is admiring the view before him and is already snapping pictures of the house and its views with his camera. Cyrus has a look of contentment on his face.
“We will bring her to her former glory Dad. I can’t wait to get started.”
He walks off to investigate. Lindy stands next to me and puts her arm around my waist.
“We will be happy here. You will see.”
I kiss her. Then taking her hand, we walk together towards our new home and the future that it promises.
My mind feels fuzzy. Shaking my head, I try to remember what I had been doing and how I landed up in this silent street. The snow is falling gently on my uncovered head: soft flurries that muffle the surrounding sounds. Feeling a little dazed, I focus on the figure ahead of me. A young woman holding a multi-coloured umbrella. Surely she saw something?
“Hey, wait up!”
She continues walking away, minding her own business. I shuffle forward, feeling a sense of urgency. Why will my feet not listen to what my brain is telling them to do?
“Wait! Help me. Please.”
My voice is not loud enough. She walks on. Unconcerned and oblivious to my confusion. I lean against the wall, hoping the dizziness I feel will pass. My body surrenders and I fall to the ground, sliding against the wall.
The world becomes black for a while as I pass out. Consciousness returns with the slamming of a door. The sound of crunching gravel comes near and I focus on a pair of men’s shoes matched with dress pants.
It was supposed to be a carefree day filled with sun, laughter and swimming. I had been looking forward to the event for days. When Ray asked me to join him, I had been enthusiastic. I was so certain he had wanted to move our relationship a step further than what the last few years had brought. It was the first time he had been willing to take me to meet his friends, to spend time together other than at my place. I had been so wrong.
I looked out at the ocean that surrounded me. The storm clouds were gathering and the waves were a little choppy. I could see Ray’s head bobbing a little in front of me. I wondered briefly whether he had any regrets; whether he wished he had treated me a little differently. I realise now that I had been little more than a pawn in his plans – plans that had backfired and left me floating in this sea. I felt hurt that he had used me. But more than hurt, I felt anger. If I got through this, I would never forgive him.
The continued movement of my arms and legs helped to warm me a little. I was grateful that my fear and insecurity had encouraged me to wear the bright orange life jacket. At least it helped me to stay afloat. I did not know, however, for how much longer I could keep moving. My legs and arms were feeling tired; and my fear of the wide open space was beginning to invade the core of my being. The ocean was so vast and I felt so insignificant. Tears began to fall down my cheeks. I could die out here and no one would know.
Another sound suddenly broke the silence of the ocean. I looked out into the horizon, daring to hope. The large chopper was flying close to the sea. The coastguards? Or was it more of those men, come to find to they felt belonged to them? Eyes wide, I watched it get closer.
(This piece of free writing was inspired by Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday Picture prompt)
The woodcutter had lived in this forest all of his life keeping the trees from encroaching the surrounding villages; and helping those in need of wood choose the best tree for their needs. He saw himself as a keeper of the trees: preventing young saplings from being hacked by those impatient for kindling; re-directing those who would massacre what he protected for gain and profit. Many looked at him askance, seeing only a weather-beaten and solitary man in tattered clothing with the axe of his trade in his hands. He did not mind their pity, or even their contempt. He would never trade the peace he had living in nature with their fine clothes and daily worries. He lived his life in contentment, accompanied by birdsong and the lilting whisper of the trees.
Life as he knew it, however, was soon to be turned upside down.
The time of change came at twilight. The sun was sinking and the forest was preparing for the night. As he did every evening, the woodcutter was tending to his chores: feeding his chickens, checking that the coop was securely closed, harvesting vegetables for his dinner. The serenity of his world was broken with hurried footsteps and panicked movements. Branches of trees were quickly pushed aside and small creatures hurried out of the way.
A young girl raced into the clearing. Eyes wide and blonde hair tangled. She looked at the woodcutter, silently pleading for help. Fear surrounded her, enhancing her vulnerability. The girl reminded the woodcutter of the deer he sometimes came across in the forest. Graceful and yet fearful of the human presence. The sprite in front of him showed no fear of him, however, and instead looked at him with trust. Trusting his instinct, he drew her into his rough abode and hid her below the floorboards covered with crates. Not a word passed between them; their instant mutual trust needing no words and no explanation.
Soon after two men on horses appeared in the clearing. Exiting his home, the woodcutter stood in front of the door with his calloused hands resting on his axe. As he settled, he let out a piercing whistle to call home his faithful companions. The men came to a standstill before him, high in their saddles.
“Old man, have you seen a fair child pass by? She was caught stealing in the southern village and has slipped through our fingers.”
The woodcutter looked into the eyes of the speaker and knew him to be telling an untruth.
“No person has passed by my abode for many years. Not many know where I live and look for me instead on the borders of the forest.”
“You lie! We can see her flight cut through across these trees. She left behind her trampled grasses and broken leaves.”
Standing steady, the woodcutter merely shook his head. He did not like the aura around these men who believed that all should cower before them.
“You tell us where she is, old man, or you will regret it!”
The raised hand holding the riding crop halted as growls came from two magnificent dogs that had appeared beside the woodcutter. His companions had heard his call and cut short their nocturnal foray into the forest.
“I think it best you be on your way gentlemen. You will find no lass here and you would be wise to heed the warning of my fair companions. There is not much I can do to prevent them from protecting what they feel is theirs.”
Taking heed, the horsemen turned their horses and headed back the way they had come. “We will be back old man – and next time with dogs and guns.”
“But by then, ” the woodcutter whispered, “we will all be ready.”
She made it onto the train just as the doors slid shut. Breathing a sigh of relief at having made it, she looked around as if searching for a seat. She needed to know whether she had been followed by anyone. She had to be careful as she did not want to put Justin’s life at risk. The man’s voice over the phone had sounded so cold, so emotionless, and she could well believe that he would carry out his threat if anyone came with her. The police had not wanted to her to leave alone and had not listened to any of her protests. She had left them making grandiose plans, sliding silently out of the side door she had hidden behind the curtain used to create balance in the room. It was not their son whose life was at risk and she had no intention of waiting for them to come round to her way of thinking.
Sitting next to a large woman covered in gaily-coloured scarves and a teen bopping to the sounds coming through his headphones, she took the time to calm her racing heart and freed her mind of fear so that she could think quickly and act swiftly. She could feel the bulge of the pearls in the rough burlap pouch pressing against her ribs; the pearls that were the ticket to her son’s life. She did not mind letting them go: they seemed cursed to her. Her love had been killed bringing them home, Justin had been kidnapped, and her life had been turned upside down. She would exchange them in a heartbeat and not mourn their loss.
The train climbed steadily up the sheer cliff of the mountain, leaving the large town behind. It was almost time for her to leave the train and she hoped she could find the strength to do so. Standing up and looking out of the window, she noticed the sheer drop of the mountainside. She believed she did not suffer from a fear of heights and hoped she would not suffer any vertigo as she jumped from the train. Moving to the end of the car, she relied on the knowledge that many people would not pay attention to her. Eyes were closed, heads were bowed as people either read or played games on their mobile devices. For once she was glad that generally people were self-absorbed and did not spend their time noticing those around them.
She opened the door and felt the rush of cool air against her face. Closing the door behind her, she edged towards the right side of the car. With the image of her son’s face in mind, she jumped – trusting that a mother’s love would protect her from breaking any bones.
This post was inspired by Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompt. This week the prompt is a word bank including the words: train – burlap – fiction – pearls – vertigo. Would you join us and give free writing a go? You may be surprised with what you come up with.
Earning her trust is so difficult. I have tried everything: eating the food laid out before us before encouraging her to eat; leaving her alone while she dressed and undressed; standing at a safe distance from her while communicating. My patience has known no bounds as I try to build a foundation of trust. She reminds of a young horse who has never been ridden: skittish, distrusting of the unaccustomed weight on the back. Bit by bit, little by little, I believe that I will gain her trust and her belief that I will cause her no harm.
The authorities found her in the small closet, curled up in the small space and cowering from the light. Malnourished and mute, it took several hours to remove her to the hospital where she bit, kicked and screamed. Eventually she was drugged to sleep so that they could heal the burns and lacerations that were all over her body. When I saw her lying so small and still in the hospital bed, my heart wept. No human being should be treated thus: worse than an animal, beaten and taunted until all innocence and trust has been destroyed.
My beautiful Mattie has been with me for a year now. No longer is she skin and bones. Her hair shines now and she has learnt to walk without fear in the sunlight. She will always be small for her age but I encourage her to thrive in the here and now. Family and friends believe me to be insane: to take on a nine year old child who cannot speak, who shies away from touch and does not show any emotion. And yet, when I look at her, I know that deep within my soul I am doing the right thing. I know that while helping her heal, I am healing myself too.
“Good morning Mattie. How is my Angel doing today?”
Not expecting an answer, I complete setting the table for our breakfast. Once Mattie is seated, I begin to fry some eggs. I crack the shells in front of her and pop some bread into the toaster. I take a unopened carton of juice out of the fridge and pour a glass for her. Once our meal is ready, I sit opposite her with a smile.
“Thank you, “she whispers.
Tears form in my eyes. Her first words to me, the most precious words I have heard in a long time.
(This piece of free writing was inspired by Kellie Elmore’s prompt: Trust)
My poetic journey has been threaded through many aspects of my life.
I remember reading poetry with our teachers at school as part of our English curriculum. There were times I did not “get it” and, on reflection, I think that was because I was young had not yet experienced all that life throws at you. However, there were poems that we read that captured my attention. The first time a poem really stood out for me was when I was in grade 7. We were doing the First World War in History and our teacher introduced us to the poetry that had been written by soldiers who had fought in the war. Wilfred Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum Est, struck a chord in me as I read the words describing the soldiers dying in the trenches.
English at university level introduced me to even more beautiful poetry: my favourite poet became William Blake as I explored his written words with my classmates; and the epic poem by John Milton titled Paradise Lost captured my interest. I read these poems more than once during the year I studied them and I still have their tomes gracing my bookshelves.
Now I read poetry for pleasure. I enjoy the imagery that is created in my mind, the turn of phrase, the succinct description of an emotion or event. There have been moments when I have tried my hand at writing poetic verse on a whim (some of you may have even read some of my attempts!). I have discovered that
A manner of expression,
A way to create and bring pleasure.
with words and forms that capture the mind.
Poetry reflects the world we live in,
the environment we experience.
Poetry mirrors life.
Do you enjoying reading, and even creating, poetry?
(This post was inspired by Kellie Elmore – a poet who creates beautiful imagery. Join her and her writing bandits for this week’s prompt)