Thursday, 18 December 2008

Gods and Mortals - An experimental story

The Legend: Baldur, God of Light dreamed his own death. Odin, King of the Aesir, his father and Frigg, Queen of the Aesir, his mother worried about how to prevent their favourite son from dying. Odin travels to the Underworld to speak to a long since dead seer called Volva to find out how to stop Baldur’s death. Volva warns him that Baldur will die by the hands of his own brother. Odin returns full of gloom to find that Frigg had asked every living thing not to hurt Baldur in order to prevent his dream coming true. The mistletoe wasn’t asked because it was deemed too unimportant. Because of the vows everything made to Frigg the other Gods made a new game of throwing anything they could find at Baldur in a futile attempt to try and hurt him but nothing ever did. This took place on the plains of Ida outside Baldur’s home which was based east of the Golden Hall of the Fallen where Odin and Frigg reside with all the undead warriors. Loki, the God of Mischief, learned about the forgotten mistletoe and made an arrow out of it. Loki gave the arrow to Hodur, the blind god, Baldur’s twin brother and with the help of Loki guiding his aim, Hodur threw the arrow, hitting Baldur and killing him. Baldur’s soul is taken down to the Underworld.

The Gods:
Baldur: 17 years old at present. Had a car crash a few weeks after he passed his driving test involving his twin brother and other friends, six months has passed. Always polite, friendly and nice. Doesn’t like lying or misbehaving. Also attends college with Odin, same tutor group but different course.

Hodur: Baldur’s twin brother. Is in a wheelchair after severe damage to his lower back paralysing his legs. Attends college with Odin and his brother, is in same tutor group.

Odin: 18 years old, A level student, lover to Frigg. Considerate of his mates. Always up for a laugh. Survived car crash with only a few bruises and cuts.

Frigg: 18 years old, check-out girl at local supermarket. Quite vain and conscious of her looks. Motherly over her male friends.

Loki: was involved in car crash, received several deep cuts to his arms, neck and face because of it. More depressive since the accident. Quite dark in mood, sinister appearance, doesn’t talk much with others anymore, odd ball of the group. Met others via college. Is open with no one.

Chapters:
The Dream – Baldur sees his death.
Brothers and Bruises – Hodur opens up old wounds of the past in Loki.
The Warning – Odin receives a warning from Volva.
The Evil Thought – Loki’s black mind is revealed.
The Deceit – A birthday and a funeral.

The Dream

“Ok, remind me how this goes again?”
“It’s simple. Show them your ID and walk in. They’re not going to harm you.”
“What if they ask me for a driving license?”
“It’ll be fine Baldur, just follow us. It’s going to be fun,” Frigg encouraged. “There’s nothing too it and if he doesn’t believe your eighteen then we will go somewhere else. Besides, after next week you both won’t need to lie anymore.” She smiled fondly at Hodur as well as Baldur.
“Yeah then you can buy us all a drink instead of me.” Odin joked, giving him a grin.
“You’re right; I don’t know why I get nervous, I have done it before.” He felt his heart began to slow to a gentle but strong thud in his chest as she placed a caring hand on his arm. It didn’t linger long, retreating back to the more muscled arm of their true lover.
“Now come on, one final time.” Amongst a flash of her golden blonde hair did the motherly gaze disappear to be replaced with a determined and formidable glance towards the one guard standing outside the bar entrance.
“Come on Loki. Let’s see if we can make you into a cheery drunk. Again.” Odin teased taking a few steps forward.
Loki just mumbled in reply, his ever serious face not changing a fraction.
The pair of lovers strode towards the guard, flashed their ID cards and waltzed inside, a black clothed Loki skulking swiftly behind them. It was another night where he hadn’t muttered a word but he always was the gloomy type. Leaving Baldur and his twin hovering outside the bar.
“Well let’s get going then.” A cheerful voice spoke from below his eye level in the wheelchair. Hodur’s hands fiddling with his own ID card. “It’ll be easy bro and I can always claim you’re my aid again?”
“It’s easier said than done, each time.” He looked down at the plastic card in his hand, wishing it was the new one where the details on it were true like those of his friends. Longing for the same time next week when he wouldn’t have to lie, to pretend and deceive all for a good night out. “Ok, here it goes.” He took a deep breath and began pushing the wheelchair towards the entrance and the guard.
But before he even got near the door there came several calls from inside of ‘Sarah’ and ‘Stop!’ which eventually accumulated in two girls rushing out. One didn’t see or remember the rail which framed the sloped step of the entrance and went head first over, landing in a heap on the concrete pathway. Her body began to gurgle and writhe, strangled moans emitting from her now cut lips.
“Shit.” The guard muttered running past the two boys towards the convulsing girl, her friend already standing in tears at the sight, still calling out her name. Once kneeling over Sarah and holding her head off the concrete the guard shouted into his radio on his shoulder, “Carl, code red, front door, we got another one.”
“That poor girl.” The boy in the wheelchair whispered to Baldur.
“Yeah.” Baldur answered, his eyes transfixed on the pitiful sight of another fun night ending in tragedy. “Let’s get in before he notices.”
So the pair of brothers passed the pair of friends, one whose life was quickly fading away into the shadows.

Brothers and Bruises

“What have I told you? Always call me when you need help.” Baldur chided his brother; worry clear in his voice like the ring of a bell.
“I’m fine. Just knocked some books over.” Hodur answered honestly with a smile before reaching down from his chair, picking them up and placing them back up against the wall on his desk.
The mirror pinned up on the opposite wall showed a curious pair, one stood tall half hidden by the door, the other sitting down half concealed by the end of his bed. One on the right had white blonde hair with pale blue eyes but even paler skin. The one on the left had dark brown hair, bright green eyes and healthy pink skin. It was odd that the happier and better looking of the pair was the one in the wheelchair. Further signs that the trauma caused six months ago had battered Baldur both physically and mentally but he was beginning to get back to normal.
“Oh right, do you need help with anything else?”
“No, I can manage thanks. I’m quite adapted now you know.” Hodur looked up at his brother with great affection, fully aware how Baldur longed to aid him in any means despite his now apparent independence in the wheelchair.
“Oh ok, well, you sure you don’t need anything else? Like a drink or a snack? I can go fetch you it now, I don’t mind.”
“Baldur I’m fine, honestly, go and get on with your work.”
“Ok but promise to call me if you need anything?”
“You’re sounding like Mum again.”
“Ok, ok I’m going. I’m just next door remember?” Baldur gave a timid smile.
“Baldur go! Don’t make me run you over!”
At that Baldur’s face fell blank. “I am sorry.” He quickly vanished back into his bedroom in turmoil once more.
“Ugh stupid, stupid, stupid boy.” Hodur cursed himself slapping his forehead for being so insensitive. He sat for a few seconds in silence staring at his now vacant doorway, pondering on whether to go in and talk to his brother but on further reflection he decided otherwise.
Hodur pushed himself forward, closed the door quietly and turned around again heading for his desk. He couldn’t help but pause when his eyes caught onto the photo frame beside his computer. It was the pair of them, Odin, Frigg and even Loki included, all smiling, laughing and cheering, drink glasses raised high in the air, celebrating the twins seventeenth birthday. It was only a year ago but so much had changed since then it felt like a ten years. A void of space, a period of time where everything was different to what all of them expected or even wished to have happened that year. But they all managed to recover, return to some form of normality and he was sure they were stronger friends because of it. Although with Loki it was always hard to determine how he was coping, he still covered himself up despite the scars beginning to fade.
Returning to his computer screen he signed into his MSN. The box opened up showing his twenty four long list of friends.

Loopy Loki is online.
Odin-the-wise is offline.
Frigg-loves-chocolate is offline
.

Seeking someone to talk to Hodur opened up a conversation window with ‘Loopy Loki’.

Boy on Wheels says:
Hey Loki


Loopy Loki says:
Hey Hodur


Boy on Wheels says:
You alrite?


Loopy Loki says:
Not too bad, you?


Boy on Wheels says:
Ok, upset my bro again tho tonight.


Loopy Loki says:
Is he still beating himself up over you?


Boy on Wheels says:
Yeah, I don’t think he’s ever going to get over it.

Loopy Loki says:
Well to be honest Hodur I can understand Baldur not forgiving himself but I can’t imagine how you have forgiven him. It was his fault after all.

Boy on Wheels says:
Loki you know that none of us spotted that deer until it was too late. Baldur did the only he thing he could do
.

Loopy Loki says:
Yeah crash the car and break your legs.

Boy on Wheels says:
Well what else could he have done?


Loopy Loki says:
Stop the car and risk running over the deer, not swerve madly to avoid it. I’d pick our lives over a deer’s any day.


Boy on Wheels says:
Well that’s what you would have done but Baldur chose otherwise. He’s never liked harming animals. Remember how sad he was when Odin’s dog died?

Loopy Loki says:
He doesn’t like to hurt animals? Hodur, he ended up hurting you. His own brother. It’s his fault that you’re now in that wheelchair. And it wasn’t just you he hurt remember.

Boy on Wheels says:
I know and I am sorry you guys got so badly caught up in it all. It was only ever meant to be a nice little drive.

Loopy Loki says:
Look Hodur, Baldur deserves to suffer in my view. If I were you I would never have forgiven him. I’m glad he hasn’t forgiven himself.

Boy on Wheels says:
He already has suffered Loki he now has a fear of driving. He ripped up his license the day afterwards. He hasn’t done anything wrong. It was an accident Loki, you were there.

Your Message was not received. Loopy Loki appears to have gone offline.

“Why can’t people just forgive and forget?” Hodur spoke to himself wondering where this sudden grudge against Baldur has come from in Loki. There was no sign of it there before in the whole six months after the accident, after the surgery and recovery. Again Loki’s personal opinion made Hodur puzzle about what it is he and the others actually like about him. To him he seemed a natural pessimistic with some internal hatred for the world that had no founding as far as he was aware of.

The Warning

Odin had managed to snatch the one remaining vacant computer in the computer room and quickly signed onto his email, eager to find out if anything exciting has happened on his Facebook profile. Instead he found this:
*Student Notices*
To: All Users
From: College Dean [j.norton@york.college.uk]
This is an important message to all students.
I have received a very worrying letter from our resident Police Officer, PC Volva here at the college, with regards to drink spiking in local bars, pubs and clubs in the area. Over the past few months there has a been troubling increase in the cases of young people admitted to the local hospital after having their drinks spiked with drugs as well as extra alcohol which can cause serious damage to the drinkers health and in a few unfortunate situations has resulted in tragic deaths.
PC Volva strongly recommends that when drinking from bottles using ‘Spikeys’ which is placed in the neck of the bottle still allowing space for the straw and liquid to pass through but also makes it difficult for drugs to be added to drinks. ‘Spikeys’ can be found at all pubs and bars in the area so please do ask for one next time you order a drink.
As for open top drinks such as beer or wine glasses it is simply a matter of constant observation and keeping it close on your person. If you happen to leave it for a toilet break all it takes is a less than a minute for someone to pass by dropping harmful pills or even powdered substance into it. PC Volva’s advice is to appoint a ‘drinks watcher’ when in a group and take it in turns to go to the toilet so your drink is always left with someone trustworthy.
The rule is simple “Drink and Drugs do not mix. So protect yourself, protect your drink.”

Evil Thoughts

Slipknot was yelling, screaming and swearing loudly through his speakers as he continued to doodle curvy and dagger like images upon paper in red and black ink. His black hair now past ear length swinging in front of his face, appearing almost like horns from his point of view. His nokia let out an evil laugh. He stopped his drawing, put both pens in his coffin shaped pencil tin and looked at its small, dull screen.
New Message: Kat
He selected the ‘read’ option.
From: Kat
Message Received: 19:08
Hey Loki wanna come out 2moro nite. Dave

knows a mosh bash happening. Interested?
He began typing his reply, his black painted nails seeming like blunted claws in the shimmering light of his glitter lamp on his desk.
Cant. Baldurs and Hodurs bday 2moro nite.
Within a few seconds he had a response.
From: Kat
Message received: 19:08
Aw come on plz! You cant miss it. Say your

ill or sumthin. We all miss ya. You dont
like him anyway
He picked up his mobile and clambered onto his bed.
I know but the others are expectin me to be there. Can’t bale out.
The mobile laughed again in his hands.
From: Kat
Message received: 19:09
We aint seen ya in ages Loki. Fritz even has some more

happy pills for ya.
The mention made him glance over at his gothic calendar. The Friday of that week was circled in red with the word ‘councillor session’ scribbled over it.
I’m out of pills too. I need em before Fridays session with ‘Mr. sensitive’
otherwise mum will make me see psychologist again. Could you like visit
me before you go to bash?
Her reply was a bit longer coming.
From: Kat
Message received: 19:10
I can’t but Holly can. I gotta be with Dave. Get to meet

band ya see. Which bar will ya all be at? Wat time?
He retraced his message inbox back to earlier that afternoon when he had a text from Frigg with the birthday night out details on.
I think we’re at the Ida Bar, from around 8ish. I’ll be there before if it’s
easier. I’ll probly need em just to get through the night with him around
anyway.
The photos around his room had familiar faces of the gang, but the odd few that were taken since the last summer had a face shaped hole cut into the photograph.
From: Kat
Message received: 19:10
Cool. I’ll arrange for Holly to drop em off too ya.

Shame ya can’t make it. Will I see ya on the weekend?
Tomorrow night’s gathering didn’t seem too bad to him now that he had a way of dealing with it.
Yeah I’ll be there. Thank Fritz for the pills. Tell him I’ll pay him on
Saturday. See ya soon, cheers for the help. Loki.
Leaving his mobile on his bed he returned to his desk, carefully removing the red and black pens once more and continued with his sinister looking drawing.

Birthday Card

To Baldur and Hodur

Happy 18th Birthday,
Make it a good one,

Hugs and kisses, Frigg xxx Congratz lads, Odin
Loki


Deceits and Death

He once again clung to the bar as if it was his only point of reference and allowed his long dark hair to conceal his damaged face. He received a few curious looks from the barmen regarding the black fingerless gloves he was wearing but he was beyond caring or even explaining why. He daren’t even look up to the mirrored drinks shelves, afraid of what he might see as himself. He ordered another drink and wrapped himself around his drink about to take his own kind of medication.
“Hey stranger, what you still doing over here?”
The happy voice made him jump and insides squirm, his fingers fumbled in slight panic dropping the tiny pill into his drink, he watched it begin to dissolve amongst the swirl of alcohol and ice cubes. He turned round and found the happy face of Hodur looking up at him.
“Nothing.”
“Oh right, well Baldur’s decided to have a proper drink now, only the one though. What are you having?”
“Archers peach schnapps.”
“Sounds nice, I’ll get that for him then as a surprise. I’m sure he’ll like it.”
Loki just nodded. There was another awkward long silence between the pair as Baldur’s drink was served.
“Put them both on my lap with that tray, I’ll carry them over to the table. Come on.”
Loki hesitated for a split second as he placed his glass beside Baldur’s, no difference between them, but then did as suggested. They both made their way through the crowds to the small table at the back where Frigg, Odin and Baldur were gathered, a set of sparklers were alight in the middle of the table. The lovers both had a bottle of wicked blue; each one had a ‘spikey’ device in the top due to Frigg’s encouragement for them to be safe after hearing about the police warning from Odin that same day.
“There you are Loki, what kept you?” Odin asked his voice raised over the noise.
“The bar was busy.” Was his simple answer. Loki allowed Baldur to take one of the two glasses on the tray before claiming the other.
“What have you got for me then Hodur?” Baldur asked curiously inspecting his drink with a smirk.
“Archers peach schnapps. It’s what Loki’s having.”
“Cool, smells nice. Thanks.”
Upon seeing his brother approved Hodur grasped his own bottle of beer which also featured a ‘spikey’ device in it’s neck.
“Well now we’re all together we can finally raise a toast to Hodur and Baldur. Get your drinks ready.”
“Happy eighteenth birthday Hodur and Baldur! Welcome to adulthood!”
“Happy birthday boys.” Frigg chorused brightly.
“Happy birthday.” Was Loki’s contribution without any hint of feeling behind it.
“Cheers guys.”
“And thanks for the presents they were great.” Hodur added with a grateful nod to each in turn, even Loki who simply stared into his own glass as if he was able to see through it into the depths of the earth and learn how the universe was made.
Then with a chink of their glasses they all began to drink. Loki did not pretending to not be thirsty enough yet.

***

“Baldur? You alright mate?”
“I feel dizzy.” His whole figure was visibly shaking as he clung to the wall behind the bar where he had disappeared to over half an hour ago claiming to need some fresh air.
“Maybe all that drink’s gone to your head.” Odin tried to make light of the situation.
“He can’t have done, he only had one glass of archers. That’s nowhere near strong enough and he hasn’t turned like this before.” Frigg commented seriously standing beside them looking anxious and concerned.
“Who got his drink?”
“Hodur did.” Loki answered again simple and to the point. No sign of pity or sympathy for Baldur whose breathing was picking up pace.
“I did but I did nothing to it, how could I have done? I can’t reach the bar. Loki passed it down on a tray to me to bring over.”
“Right, did you see anyone put anything in it Loki?”
“Do you think he’s been spiked?” Frigg asked panicking at Odin’s track of thought.
“Perhaps, it’s the only explanation. Either way he isn’t very well.”
“I’ll go get some help.” Loki spoke before briskly walking back round the corner to the bar entrance.
“Just sit down Baldur, that’s it and try to calm down. Loki’s gone for help.” Odin kneeled beside his best friend concern etched all over his face.
“You’ll be alright soon bro don’t worry.” Hodur added trying to be as much comfort as possible. “He will won’t he Frigg?”
“I’m sure he will be once we have help.” She looked at her watch.
Five minutes passed and the only attention they received was quiet jeering from passing clubbers.
“What is Loki doing?” she complained out loud and strode round the corner and stopped still. “That guards still there! What the hell is Loki playing at? Oy! Bouncer! We need some help over here!”
“Baldur!”
“Mate! Come on wake up, don’t go to sleep. Open your eyes.”
Frigg glanced over and saw Baldur slumped on the floor, his breathing still rapid and loud and his eyes fluttering under his eyelids. Odin knelt over him, giving him a shake and tapping his face but getting only quiet mumbles in response.
“I tell you I don’t deal with the drunks…not again.” The guard cursed charging forward and lifting Baldur’s head onto his lap before grasping his radio once more. “Greg, code red, a lad’s been spiked, left from the door. Hurry.” He looked up at the three troubled friends. “One of you should call his parents. They’ll need to meet us at the hospital.”
“What? Why? He’s going to be ok right? He’s going to be ok?” Hodur cried, tears coming through.
“Look lad, your friend is in deep trouble and unless the doctors find out what exactly he’s taken they may not be able to do much for him.”
“It’s alright Hod, I’ll make the call.” Frigg sniffed back her tears and went away to make the worst phone call of her life.
“Ugh where the hell is Loki! I’m going to kill the little git!” Odin yelled into the night but his anger vanished as Baldur’s body began to twitch.

Funeral Note

Dearest brother,
We all miss you. I’m not whole without you. Nothing is the same. You didn’t deserve to go the way you did. We all love you. Be at peace wherever you are. We will meet again, I know it. Your brother in this life and the next. Hodur.

God bless you sweetie, miss you always. Xxx Frigg

Loki will not escape justice, I swear to you. Odin

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Student Stories: Mistletoe Suprise

• Student Stories: Mistletoe Surprise

“Left a bit more.”
“No further.”
“No it was fine there.”
“It still needed a bit more slack.”
“No it didn’t.”
“Will you two make up your minds? I’m standing on a chair in high heels here!” Charlotte snapped indeed teetering in three inch high shoes upon a chair in the kitchen, holding blue tac in one hand and silver tinsel in the other.
“Oh sorry, just leave it there, that’ll do.”
“Yeah, it’s near enough perfect.” Paul teased Emily as both sat on the kitchen table and admired the tinsel which was wrapped around every cupboard handle; criss-crossed the ceiling and now bordered the windows. “This place is looking good.”
“Good but we still have more to do. Amy is in her room making lots of paper snow flakes to go on the windows.”
“Cool.”
“You can do them this time Emily, I’ve had enough of standing on chairs.”
“I did tell you to take them off.”
“Well I didn’t know I was going to be that long up there.” She complained rubbing her lower toes where the straps have dug into the skin leaving a matching red mark.
“That’s fine with me. Oh Paul, has Jack got the food in yet? We’ve all given him money haven’t we?”
“Oh yeah, he has it all. It’s just a question of when he can finish his summative on time. He’s had four weeks to do and only remembered it yesterday.”
“That will explain the ‘don’t enter’ sign on his door then.”
“Silly boy doesn’t he know about preparation and deadlines?” Charlotte criticized limping to the table and taking a long look round with a proud smile on her face. “Well this place finally looks christmasy. I don’t know why we didn’t think to do this earlier; Michelle’s flat had their decorations up weeks ago.”
“Perhaps, but it’s done and better late than never is what I always say. I think this Christmas dinner is going to be a good idea after all.”
“Yeah all we need is the Christmas tree but we’re all picking that on Saturday from Wilko’s.”
“Are we going to have an angel or a star on top of our tree?” Charlotte asked innocently.
“A star of course.” Paul instantly answered.
“No we need an angel or a fairy. They guard the presents.”
“Nah we’re having a star.”
“Well I think we should have a fairy.”
As Paul and Emily got into another big debate Charlotte shook her head with a sigh and limped away from the kitchen eager to see how Amy was getting on. Excitement now bubbled inside her with the thought of next Wednesdays Slade B, flat one Christmas dinner.

***
“I propose a toast. To us and our flat.”
“Yeah, cheers!” All agreed raising their plastic glasses filled with coco cola across the table.
“You’ve all been a great bunch to live with.”
“You too Amy.”
“Although I think we can all agree that Jack sometimes plays his music to loud.”
“Hey I can’t help it if I fall asleep.”
“Yeah but how are we meant to sleep through that noise?”
“Okay, okay, but I don’t do it as much anymore do I?”
“Yes that’s true. And we’re all glad for it.” Charlotte added with a smirk.
“Anyway I suggest another toast to you girls for not giving us food poisoning, just yet.” Paul added standing up at the opposite end of the table which was laden with now empty bowls, plates and bottles. The three boys raised their glasses to the girls who all grinned proudly back.
“Well you boys managed to help decorate and carry stuff in. So you deserve a toast too.” The girls did as Emily suggested.
“I’m glad we all enjoyed it. Now, who wants desert?” Amy announced already taking out two boxes from the fridge and cupboards.
“Oh I do.” Jack announced.
“Me too.” Charlotte added. “What is there?”
“We have either chocolate Christmas log or mince pies?”
“I’ll have some chocolate log please.”
“I’d like some too.” Mike added along with Jack.
“Well whilst I serve up desert would a few of you mind just clearing up the table a bit?”
“Sure.”
“I will.” Chorused Emily and Paul together getting up and gathering cutlery and dirty plates.
“Would anyone else like some more cola?” Mike offered, pouring the remainder of the two liter bottle into his plastic glass.
“Yes please.” Charlotte answered simply holding out her cup towards him.
Emily and Paul scraped the left overs into the nearly full bin and then left the plates and cutlery in the sink in quite a messy pile at the far end of the kitchen. It was just as she tried to rejoin everyone at the table that Paul stopped in her way with a very large and mischievous grin.
“Ah, ah, you can’t leave. You’re under the mistletoe.” Indicating with raised eyebrows the fake sprig he held above the pair.
“Oooooh Paul’s going to kiss Emily.” Charlotte cooed in a rather childish manner.
Emily felt her stomach sink with nerves and tighten in such an awkward situation.
“All I ask is a kiss. Then you can have desert.” Paul muttered quietly placing himself more in front of her to hide her from the views of the others. “Please?”
The sensitivity in his voice somehow unlocked all Emily’s reluctance to play this game. So she gave him what he asked. For both it turned out to last a little bit longer than either had expected or hoped for. When the moment was over sparkles of excitement and shyness twinkled in their eyes.
“Oooooooooooh.” The others called together at the scene before them.
But Paul and Emily honestly couldn’t care and simply played it off with laughter and apparent disregard for what did happen. Though both couldn’t help giving the other shy glances throughout the rest of the night.

***

“I guess this is goodbye then.”
“Only for a few weeks. Then we’ll all be back here eager to show off our presents. Speaking of which, here’s yours.” Paul gave Emily a nicely wrapped box complete with pink ribbon tied around it and finishing off with a bow.
“Awww thanks. Here is yours.” She handed him a triangular prism shaped box wrapped up in silver paper. “I hope you like it.”
“I’m sure I will.”
“Paul? Are you coming? We’re all ready to go.” A woman’s voice cried outside the kitchen window which was steamed up with the boiling pasta Emily was cooking.
“I had better go before Mum comes storming in.”
“Ok, well promise to let me know when you’re at home and I will call you over the weekend.”
“Will do, I’ll speak to you soon.” With a sigh they hugged each other close and gave her a pleasant kiss before Emily walked with him to the flat entrance door. “You let me know when you’re home tomorrow.”
“I promise as long as you do the same.”
“I will don’t worry. I’ll speak to you in a day or so. We’ll see if we can meet up once I know what hours I’m doing at work.”
“Great, I look forward to it.”
“Me too, bye Emily, take care and have a happy Christmas!”
“You too Paul.” She cried out watching him walk away wrapped up in coat, scarf and gloves to his car before slowly driving away with a wave.
Leaving Emily to return to her tea feeling quite alone now that everyone else had gone but she smiled knowing that it wouldn’t be this way for long. Christmas always comes and goes so fast that before she knows it she will be back here, with her friends and her new boyfriend. University really was turning out to be a whole new start in life.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Thirst: A story from my Life.

Thirst:

Just as the programme on the modern family paused for the regular channel four commercial breaks, there came a loud thud from upstairs.
“What has he done now?” Mum sighed.
“Fallen over by the sounds of it.” Becky answered not the least bit bothered about her awful pun on words. Even though she was studying a degree in the English Language with a nice helping of creative writing on the side which she preferred.
“Go and see if he’s made it back into bed Becks but don’t help him, he doesn’t deserve it.”
She couldn’t disagree with that. Dad was fulfilling the exact opposite of the dictionary meaning of ‘Dad’ and he wasn’t doing anything to change it. So she went upstairs and approached Dad’s bedroom. Although it was more like a hermit’s hovel from the state of his bed, the extremely well worn condition of his clothes not to mention the smell of decay marking his presence firmly in the household.
“Dad?” she asked the darkness shifting sluggishly behind the door.
“Ugh, yeah?” It replied with a grumble.
“You ok?”
“Yeah.” He lied as he always did. Becky knew this and so slowly pushed the door open, wary that he might have easily fallen behind it and didn’t want to make the situation any worse than it already was. As she stepped into the room one hand went for the light switch but with the landing light on behind her, it revealed a thin wrinkly arm stretching out across the far side of the bed as if it was a cliff edge. She turned the light on anyway.
“Turn the damned thing off!” he cried as a balding head with hair as fine as cobwebs emerged in her sight.
“Well how can you tell what you’re doing in the dark?” she complained.
“I know what I’m doing.” Another blatantly obvious lie. He’s been lying so often he doesn’t bother trying to make it sound anything like the truth.
“No you don’t, you haven’t done for the past three years.” Becky turned it off and walked over to him, her eyes already scanning for any sign of blood splattered on bed, carpet or the walls. But she knew that the worst bodily damage has already been done and is still continuing. “Are you hurt?”
“No.”
“Did you fall out of bed?”
“Yes.”
“Do you need help?”
Dad didn’t answer that, he just grumbled some more as he fought hard against himself to sit upright whilst kneeling down, with limited success.
“I think you do Dad, serious medical help. Come here, lean back on me.” Becky fell victim again to the small knot of pity in her heart despite the overwhelming sensation of shame and repulsion thus ignoring her Mum’s suggestion to not help him.
The darkness of his room couldn’t hide the sorry condition of him. He was sixty-three yet if you met him randomly in a street you would say he was in his nineties. His skin is as pale as milk a visible sign of his fading health. His legs are unsteady as a newborn child’s but as stiff as metal joints that hadn’t been moved or oiled in a hundred years and had been overcome with rust. His entire body was decaying like wood rotting on a sunny day and seeing him in this situation, again, convinced Becky that the largest muscle mass left in his body was his brain but even that was showing signs of breaking down.
Despite all this though he still managed to make Becky brace the windowsill to secure herself as he literally fell with his back against her legs.
“Now, we need to turn you around so we can haul you back into bed.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do but the damned cover keeps moving.”
“Well of course it will Dad, it’s not like attached to the bed is it by nails or anything. Right, I’m gonna try turning you round so I need you lift up a bit on your legs so they will turn. Ok?” Becky did try her best but his legs were acting like they were glued to the floor so not matter how much she spun and twisted the top half of his body his legs remained in the same position.
“You see, this is why you need to be in an old people’s home, at least there a big machine can lift you into bed and not me.” She muttered exasperated now realising she may miss the rest of the programme.
“Ok, can you shuffle forwards at all? We’ll see if you can grab hold of the top of the bed.”
“I can try.” He said as it was the most difficult thing to do in the world although to him it actually was, this fact was more than apparent to Becky.
Dad did try to help himself although most of it was him just falling onto his hands and then Becky pushing him from behind that extra couple of feet on the floor. By the time she had got him in the best position possible Dad was out of breath.
“Right, I’m gonna lift you up by the waist and I need you to reach out for the top of the bed please because I won’t be able to hold you up for long, you’re too heavy.”
“Ok.” He gave a weary sigh, swallowing in preparation for more exertion.
“Ready, go.” She grabbed him around the waist and lifted with all her might. Dad’s hands scuttled across the bed like drunken spiders until finally coming to a half around the bed edge behind his pillows.
“Have you got it?”
“Yeah.”
“Ok, now pull yourself up whilst I lift your legs round onto the bed.” As soon as she knelt down to do such a thing she regretted it because from her location she could see how thin he truly was. His legs and arms and waist were probably thinner than she was and she was an underweight twenty one year old.
So whilst Dad hauled himself up like a merman with no legs, Becky lifted one after the other and swung it up and over to join the rest of his body which was now roughly on the bed.
“Right, you’re back up. Now please don’t fall out bed again because I really hate doing this Dad.” She admitted for the fourth time in as many months whilst tossing the duvet back over his body. From where she stood he appeared to be what it would look like if humans were born old and not small or young. They would be frail, weak, thin, wrinkly, grey hair and have limited muscle.
“If this doesn’t show you how much trouble you’re in then I don’t know what will. You’ve lost your licence, you may never work again but no one deserves a Dad in the state you’re in.”
“I know, I know.” He muttered sighing with relief now his body was stationary.
“I don’t think you do Dad, I would have thought loosing your licence would be enough to make you sort yourself out but you haven’t. You’re still like this yet you’re not prepared to keep trying. The way you’re going you will not be around to see my graduate let alone get married. Do you honestly want that?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Well please for god’s sake do something about it then Dad. I know it will be tough for you but you have so much to gain from it all afterwards.”
“I would if you Mother would stop yapping at me, it’s all I ever hear from her, not a single word of support.”
“Oh Dad, that’s not true. She nags in the hope of convincing you to change, to take action. And we would all show you support if you did something for us to support you on. We won’t praise you each time you carry on this road. Wouldn’t you pester Mum if she was in this position?”
He didn’t answer, he never did. Something always prevented him from facing the truth be it good or bad.
“You may have lost all hope for your relationship with Mum but you still have a job on this earth as a Father so start acting like one, please? I hate coming home because it means I have to see you like this. I would rather you went far away so I could remember the Dad who was happy and healthy, not the Dad I have now. It’s why I don’t come home as often as I should do and when I do it’s usually for Mum’s benefit more than yours.” She had made her way to the door by this point in her yet again futile plea for repentance in her Dad’s ways.
“Goodnight Dad.”
“Goodnight Rebecca and thank you.”
“Your welcome, just don’t make me save you again. I’m your daughter not your nurse.”
With that she went back downstairs to quiz Mum on what she had missed of the programme giving no explanation as to her prolonged absence because none was needed. Mum knew that her daughter was too kind for her own good and that was shown because it was usually Becky that tried to aid her failing Father. Everyone else who knew about his problem has lost hope he will ever try, let alone, recover at all.

Upstairs in the safety of the dark oblivion in his room an old man lay in his bed now reflecting on all that had happened during his day.
First he had made the unsteady walk to the village bus stop to buy his supplies of tobacco and wine.
Second he had nearly fallen over whilst in the Morrison’s supermarket but thankfully managed to stabilize himself ironically on the wine and spirits shelving unit. A concerned staff member did ask him if he needed help or wanted to sit down but he shrugged them away saying he was fine and hinting to the walking stick he now begrudgingly had to use for this very reason.
When he finally managed to get home he had found one of the two golden Labrador pups, Bailey in particular, had torn apart their new blankets leaving bits of thread all over the stairs which forced him into kneeling down to pick it up. Not doing his back problem any good at all he added to himself.
Yet people would always blame it on the drink he thought. It was never the drink to Richard. It was the fact that he had rheumatoid arthritis in his shoulders, bad wear on his hip joints and simply a very dodgy back that meant he couldn’t walk straight. That’s the truth, in his mind.
Despite the fact that somewhere, deep inside his heart, trapped in a cage the small voice of his conscience whispered ‘the doctor said it’s the drink ninety-nine per cent of the time that makes you unstable’.
Just recalling all the memories of the harsh, angry, tearful and desperate comments said about him both in front of his face and behind his back stirred up the craving again. It smothered his anxious mind with the fake belief that everything was fine, he was fine and that a drink would make him feel a whole lot better. He allowed that false feeling to overpower all his senses and emotions. Letting it once more choke the voice of his conscience as it pleaded for the millionth time for him not to make the same mistake again. When the craving had wrapped around his mentality like a snake it then took over his physical body and sub-consciously guided his hand to the whisky bottle hidden under a pile of clothes beside his bed.
Cradling the bottle in his hand, like it was a vase on the antiques road show with an estimated value of a million pounds, he ever so carefully and slowly twisted the top off and stiffly put it to his mouth and drank. The poisonous liquid running down his throat gave him a temporary sense of feeling alive, like he hadn’t drunken for days and this was his first drink. That tingling sensation only helped to make him want to taste more, to feel more and the deceitful snake of alcohol laughed silently as it ever so slowly hissed his mind to an always troubled sleep. It slithered back to the now blackened depths of Richard’s heart content with having seduced its host to the forbidden liquid which made its power stronger. A power that very few could ever truly escape from until it was too late to go back.

About a hundred miles away in West Yorkshire, in a small flat, Becky and her boyfriend Andy sat down to watch ‘The Simpson’s’ as they usually do most week nights. It was during a scene of Homer sitting down before his TV with a bottle of ‘Buff beer’ in his hands that her mobile let out its cheery ring tone.
Becky got up and picked it up off the ironing board and pressed the button to accept the call already noticing the word ‘Home’ flashing on her screen.
“Hello?”
“Hello darling.”
“Oh hi Mum, you ok?” She asked, a bit surprised her Mum was calling her for once. It was usually the other way around. Becky walked away into the study room and sat at her desk so she could hear better over the sound of the TV.
“Yes I’m fine darling, just doing everything at once as always. Managed to start cutting the lawn this afternoon.”
“Oh Mum, can’t Nick do it for once?”
“Oh no, he’s just like your father. Won’t move a muscle for anyone but himself yet its muggin’s here who drives him to all his mates each weekend.”
“Well just tell him you won’t do anymore for him unless he does something for you?”
“Ha fat chance of that getting him up.”
“Well maybe once he has a job he’ll start pulling his weight a bit more.”
“Perhaps but it’s just the problem of finding a job.”
“Something’s got to turn up sooner or later.”
“Let’s hope so. Oh by the way your father is in hospital.”
“Oh why?” What confused Becky more is that Mum didn’t mention it until now.
“Well he’s spent most of the last three days in bed during the afternoon and been complaining of the trots. I haven’t seen him recently after work so before I left this morning I went to check up on him. Couldn’t wake him up, he just kept mumbling nonsense so I called a doctor round and she then called for an ambulance. Suspected he might be bleeding internally somewhere.”
“Is he awake now?”
“Oh yes, he woke up steadily once we got to York. Only then did he start swearing and cursing at me for causing all this. Right in front of John so now at least he knows what I have to put up with.”
“Well Uncle John has never been much help anyway. And typical of Dad to get all abusive when you may have just saved his life. I’ve always thought this might happen, where he might drink himself into a coma or worse.”
“Yes I know sweet heart. Perhaps this will wake him up a bit more to what he’s doing to himself.”
“Let’s hope so. How long will he be staying in there?”
“Probably for a week, they need to run some tests to find out if and where he was bleeding plus they’re not letting him leave until he’s put some weight back on.”
“Good, I guess we could view this as an emergency detox.”
“Well it will be for him that’s for sure. It will be interesting to see what he does when he comes out though.”
“Do let me know won’t you because I won’t come visit him unless he does something to change, even if it’s just speaking to a councillor again. It is such a shame he won’t talk to Doug anymore I thought he was making progress there.”
“Well he never did visit your father when he was out of detox last time so if that’s the kind of support he gives his clients then your father may be better off without him.”
“I guess but Dad needs help of any kind at the moment.”
“Yes maybe this will make him understand that his body can’t take it anymore. Anyway I can hear the dogs barking outside so I better go.”
“Ok Mum, thanks for letting me know and contact me if anything else happens.”
“Will do darling. Will speak to you tomorrow.”
“Yeah will do. Love you Mum.”
“Love you too Becky. Speak soon. Bye.”
With that the line was cut leaving Becky with a small knot of worry tightening in her stomach. Her mind was already playing scenarios before her of what it might be like to get the call telling her he had died. She quickly closed her eyes and shook away such morbid thoughts. Shocked at how dark and gloomy her imagination could be at times and cursing herself for possibly tempting fate. The truth was that although Dad never acted like a nice Dad, he was still her Dad and despite all he has done she didn’t want to loose him.

“Hello Mummy.” Becky smiled sliding into the car with her rucksack on her knees.
“Hello darling. How was the trip?”
“Cramped as always. What’s for tea?”
“Sausages and mash, how’s that sound?”
“Yummy! Haven’t had sausages in months. How’s Dad been?”
“Not too bad actually, still grumpy as usual but he actually cooked some mince for us last night for tea.”
“Wow that’s a first.”
“Yeah I know.”
“Do you think he’s honestly been off the drink?”
“I can’t say. I’d like to believe he has been, he certainly seems happier than usual.”
“Well that’s a start at least.”
A small glimmer of hope started to sprout weak buds in her heart at the thought of a reformed Dad.

When they finally arrived at home Becky of course was mobbed by two very energetic and excited puppies, Gem and Bailey, who kept jumping up at her and licking her face. Took them at least five minutes to get the message that paws on body weren’t welcome but Becky didn’t mind. She missed her ‘fur balls’ as she fondly called them and gave each vigorous belly rubs and cuddles plus all the silly baby talk over them. Eventually once the dogs were outside chasing each other Becky walked over into the sitting room where as always Dad was sat in his set chair before the TV.
“Hello Dad.” She said noticing with a smile the little bit of colours now in his cheeks.
“Hello darling. Welcome home.” He announced stiffly getting up from his chair.
“Well this is a surprise. First time you got up for me in a while.”
“Oh shush and give your father a hug. I’ve missed you.” The pair hugged and for the first time in a very long time Becky genuinely hugged back. There was a certain sparkle in his eye and a lightness in both his mood and voice, despite how thin and weak he still was, the essence of his former self seemed to have returned. It made Becky feel like she truly had returned home.
“I’ve missed you too Dad. I’m glad to hear you’re finally changing.”
“Yes and I’m trying my best. It’s hard but I am trying.” He replied settling back down against his large bent over cushions. Becky walked around his coffee table and sat beside him on the sofa.
“I’m sure you are Dad and that’s all we’ve ever asked of you. Just to try and keep trying.” Both looked at each other and smiles of fondness shone between them. “I was worried about you when Mum told me what had happened. Did the doctor find what happened to you?”
“Ah I just drank too much, simple as that.”
“I’ve always worried about this happening Dad.”
“I know darling but I promise it won’t happen again.”
“I hope so. How long has it been now?”
“About five days although it’ been two weeks if you count when I went into hospital.”
“Good and how have you found it?”
“Erm, not too bad, I have my weak moments but I get through them.” A hiss came from the now caged addiction in his heart.
She cast a glance around and noticed a familiar looking book on the table. “I see you’re finally getting into reading again.”
“Oh yes, well I needed something to do whilst I was in hospital didn’t I?”
Thus began the slow rebirth of a once broken relationship between father and daughter. Now that change was occurring, Becky hoped and wished with all her heart that this time things could only get better. Perhaps her family may gain the happy ending they all deserve.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Spooks at Ravensknowle

“Hey Emily are you ready yet? We’re waiting.”
“Yeah I heard, just finishing off now.” She replied speaking directly to the bedroom door as she hurriedly put ripped pieces of paper into several books she had been trawling through in order to prepare for her first Formative assignment. Her mind was still trying to put together answers when she put on her coat, grabbed her mobile and keys and made it out of the room.
“Where we going again?”
“Out for a walk.” Amy answered with an exasperated sigh.
“Will it be dark when we get back?” Charlotte asked nervously, locking her bedroom door also. “Should I go and get my torch?”
“Nah, we’ll be fine, we’re not walking that far. Just into the woods at the top to check out the view.”
“Yeah all we have to fear out there is Amy herself.” Emily teased slipping her arm through Charlotte's, who seemed to brighten up with the laughter.

The three flat mates went out of Slade B and into the chilling evening air. It was only half past six but nearly all the warm daylight had been leeched by the sky and dark splodges made of murky grey clouds spoiled the once dazzling blue heavens. A constant reminder to everyone that summer was over, if you could call it a summer that is, and now autumn was taking over the land. Bringing with it the usual weather of showers heavy and light as well as the constant presence of a cold wind. The friends passed other students, equally well wrapped up or if they were boys, merely walking around in t-shirts, either making their way back to their cozy flats to snuggle under the duvet or to the shop to top up their cupboard supplies.
Along their walk up the track the three of them discussed what they might dress up as for the D-bar Halloween party which was only two weeks away. It was as Charlotte was describing her red devil outfit idea that Amy spotted it.
“Wouldn’t it be awesome to come here on Halloween?”
“Erm…no…it wouldn’t.” Charlotte said trying to not to appear the slightest bit afraid of the old ruined building before them.
“I wonder how long this has been here.” Emily openly wondered following Amy without question, who had already gone down what was once a drive but now the stone walls were overcome with hawthorn and other weeds. Most of the house was surrounded by trees that have sprung up over the decades but most remained visible to the natural elements.
The building the three stood looking up at was certainly a farm at some point. The old barn was visibly what it was, attached to the rear end of the property, its large doors now missing and inside was littered with broken rafters from the also missing roof and ceiling. The house part of the farm had windows either bricked up or boarded up or simply void of glass. Above what may have been a shed or a coal bunker was a large hole in the wall. From their position it was hard to tell whether the hole was on the top floor or the bottom. Peering inside everything was of stone and dust.
“What’s that noise?” Charlotte half shrieked half whispered pointing into the shadows lurking around the bottom of the property where weeds and hawthorn grew in mass over rubble and large slabs of stone.
All three stopped their curious inspection and looked in the pointed direction to see a young man, around their age, emerge from round the corner and walk towards them with a slightly smug smile.
“Don’t worry girls; I’m just looking around, like you.” His voice had a calming resonance.
“Oh cool.” Amy replied without suspicion.
“A sad sight isn’t it. To think what this place must have been like without all this overgrowth, ruin and vandalism.” He commented openly standing a short distance away from Emily.
“Yeah, I was just wondering what might have happened to whoever lived here.”
“Ah they moved away eventually, once there weren’t enough patients in the hospital to feed. My family used to live here. A long time ago.”
“So Storthes really was a mental hospital?” Charlotte gasped with obvious disbelief as if it was the first time she had heard the news.
“Oh yeah, this place is called Ravensknowle Farm, it was a small part of Storthes Moorside Farm which is up nearer the top of the hill. Both farms would supply the hospital with food and stuff. Although my Granddad always knew it as Keepers farm. I think perhaps because gamekeepers lived here back when Storthes was a genuine hall for the wealthy families. Makes sense really, it’s close to the woods.”
“What’s your name?”
“Oh, it’s Ben.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m Emily, that’s Charlotte and this is Amy.”
“Cool. Well I’d best be going, it’s getting dark and I don’t want to get lost going home.”
“Oh you’re not a student then?”
“No, no, I’m too old for that. I do live nearby though. Maybe I’ll catch you round.”
“Yeah. See ya.”
“Bye Ben.” Charlotte said as he passed her giving a rather pleasing smile.
“Oh by the way girls, don’t try looking inside, it is dangerous believe me. The whole place has been left abandoned for too long. Have a look around its outside by all means just don’t go inside and get hurt.”
“Ok we won’t.”
“Thanks for the tip.”
He walked out onto the track and disappeared behind the wall and vegetation in the direction of the halls leaving the trio to wonder and imagine.

The following day Keepers Farm still remained in Emily’s mind, almost pestering her to retrace its history and reclaim its lost heritage. It just so happened that when she visited the shop for milk the next day there was a book all about Storthes Hall called ‘Storthes Hall Remembered’. She ignored everything else as her eager fingers flicked through its pages until they stopped.
There in black and white was a picture, a picture of Keepers Farm as it once was. Her eyes fled across the text looking for more information, she didn’t find much apart from what Ben had told her about it supplying meat and dairy products so she flicked back earlier into the book and then she really did gasp, both with excitement and surprise.
There in a small paragraph it mentioned who had lived on Keepers Farm in 1863, a man whose name was Lockwood, Benjamin Lockwood to be precise. Had she just met someone who might have carried a past relatives name or perhaps, out of all sane reason, had she met a ghost?

What Makes Halloween?

Goblins, Ghouls, Grim Reapers
and Ghosts.
Spells, Sorcery,
and Sizzling Cauldrons.
Witches, Werewolves
and black cat’s Whiskers.
Pumpkin pulp and childish pranks.
Bat wings, black capes
and burning candles.
Devil’s, Dracula’s
and dunking for apples.
Fangs, fingers that glow in the dark
and fairies.
Full Moon, flickering stars
and frightening stories.
The timeless question
of Trick or Treat?
Chocolates, candy apples
And celebrations.
Fancy dress, flying broomsticks
And fun with friends.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Autumn Parade

Crystal cold winds whisk away
the curling leaves off each tree.
No longer green in colour
as rusty gold creeps along each branch.
Fragile as a shimmering spiders thread
they drift in dancing circles
Across pathways, roads and over fields
before floating slowly down.

Acorns and horse chest nuts
pebble the ground like hailstone
Whilst berry clusters ripen into brilliant dots of colour
Brightening up these slowly withering lands.
Scrummages can be heard deep within the woods
that are now thin and bare of much life.
As creatures feathered and furry
forage for their final meals of the year.

The geese, swifts and others
have already token upon the winds
To far away lands to live out
these damp and blustery months.
Clouds pass in and out of skies
depositing drizzle or torrents to natures choosing.
Upon the harvested fields now seeded
To bring forth new life in springtime.

The leaves lay themselves upon the ground
Creating one long and vast carpet for her feet.
Berries blush their colours as she passes them by.
Trees set down their nuts and fruits to feed her.
Animals clear the earth to make her proud.
And birds parade the skies to announce her arrival.

So much does nature do for this child
Who plays outside this time of year
And who we all know as Autumn.
Setting the earth to sleep
In order for her sister Spring
To wake the world up to life again.

Friday, 29 August 2008

The Storthes Hall Foxes

Freedom at last was Emily’s thoughts as she watched her parents slowly disappear behind the building to the small car park at the top of Storthes Hall. Giving Emily chance to walk into flat one alone, although not completely, as at least two other flat mates and their parents were busy shuffling cases, boxes, computers and TV sets into their own rooms.
Emily’s allocated room for the current academic year was right at the top end of the corridor conveniently near the flat exit and the kitchen. After giving a few weak friendly smiles to the strangers and their families in she went into her room and shut the door behind her.
Her room was surprisingly spacious. Her bed was on the right had side of the room which made more logical sense to her and gave her a good sense of familiarity to her old rooms layout back at her family home.
She sighed as images of the house she had lived in for most of her life tried to mirror themselves onto the place which would become home for the next forty two weeks. Of course neither matched the other but she knew that once all her little trinkets, photographs in nice new picture frames, posters and even her favourite cuddly toys were set in their rightful place it would at least feel like home. So that’s what she did for the next two hours or so, making her room as comfortable as possible to settle in for her first night as a university student.
Sleep came rather slowly that night as she lay in bed, after chatting away the hours with her two flat mates, two lads called Mike and Paul in the kitchen over tea, as her bedroom was on the ground floor, no steep stairs to climb, but it was turning out to be a rather noisy spot. Her room faced out into the rear car park so she was able to hear every engine that went past and the voice emanating from the speaker at the gate each time a car tried to go deeper into the flat complex. Not only that but the ceiling, she thought, must be quite thin too as she could hear every footstep coming from the flat above. But the most irritating thing of all was that the wall her bed was set against was in fact part of the stair well and each time someone went up and down the stairs causing the metal to rattle and creak she could hear it. The noises of her new room made sure thoughts of home kept tugging on her heart well into the night.

The following day the trio were joined by another three flat mates, two girls called Amy and Charlotte and another lad named Jack. All six were doing a range of courses from History which was Emily’s chosen subject to Accountancy and Fashion which was Paul’s and Charlotte’s.
Once the others had more or less settled in all agreed to go up to the D-bar for a first drink together but Amy had the unusual idea of going on a group walk around the grounds, ‘a mini adventure’ she had called it and gave them chance of some space away from the other students still moving into the flats above and around them.
At first they casually made their way towards the entrance of the park where the shop and reception were based and found themselves on the ring road and the bus stop. It was still quite light for September having only just turned six o clock and Amy got curious by the woodlands and so led them encouragingly down the track before spotting a smaller earthier track leading off to their left.
“Why don’t we go down there?”
“It looks a bit muddy to me and I’ve only got my sandals on.” Charlotte complained.
“It’s dry, you’ll be fine and if necessary I’m sure one of the boys will carry you on his back.” Amy replied with a grin leading them off once more into the unknown.
About ten minutes down the small ravine pathway between two slopes of trees, hawthorn and autumn leaves they met a broken building in a man made recess that was flooded with dark brown water and they could hear water still running into it from somewhere hidden from sight.
“Must be an old pumping house or something. I heard this place used to be a mental hospital.” Mike commented ominously.
“Hey what’s that?”
“What’s what?”
“That there, can you see it? Oh there are more of them.”
“What?” Jack moaned not making out what Emily was pointing at through the fence.
“Look at the mound near the tree just across from us. Can you see them?”
“Awww they look like puppies.” Charlotte shrieked but quickly got a hush signal from Amy to be quiet.
Indeed they did look like a few months old puppies but their big ears with dark brown tips and the same colouring on their paws gave away their true identity. There were about ten of them in all, sniffing, scratching, digging and tumbling over one another on the soil mound beneath a tree on the opposite side of the pumping station.
“They’re fox cubs. Actual fox cubs. They’re adorable. Look at them playing.” Emily whispered proudly, a big smile across her face and a strong feeling of excitement welling deep within her not just for this special moment they all shared but a new found optimism for this new place.
Whilst they all watched with baited breath and quiet laughter at the wildlife circus before them Emily felt happy to be there. Her mind had already started to wander what other surprises Storthes and Uni have to offer. Her first year seemed to be turning into a truly memorable part of her life. For her and the fox cubs life in the big wide world was starting off very well indeed.

Remember this September

September means many different things
To animals and humans alike.
Usually harvest time it brings
But to students the educational hike.

For first years it’s a whole new world
So far away and stocked with baked beans.
They gather on campus both young and old
Nervously to meet their department Deans.

Second years return for even more study.
This time though each and every mark counts.
No more bar crawls or dares in the nudy.
Only after exams can they drink copious amounts.

For most third years it’ll soon be the end.
For come May they enter the world as employees.
Just one more final effort to drive them round the bend.
But soon they will finish in the early summer breeze.

All this and more will occur
During this September
And it will be for all I’m sure
A university year to remember.

‘Storthes Hall’

S tudents gather in great numbers at Storthes Hall one Saturday.
T earful mothers and proud fathers help carry the cases and boxes.
O ptimistic students lay claim to their rooms and limited kitchen space.
R etail raids harass the small shop for those essential supplies.
T hen just after four, parents leave all those students together yet alone.
H undreds then gather at D-bar to celebrate their new found freedom.
E veryone will drink away their doubts and fears well into the night.
S unday will soon arrive and bring with it an extra batch of flat mates to all.


H all life will soon settle into a routine, making it more of a home to its residents.
A s days become weeks and on into months, their tenancy too will eventually end.
L onely parents will return happy to pick up those that they missed.
L eaving as a family again for the summer but Storthes will be waiting, to welcome them back in the approaching September.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Brownies and Coffee - A Cafe Story

From the counter Sarah could survey The Coffee Pot café. Now that the lunch time rush had finished only people who enjoyed their afternoon tea came in. Either side of the door the three lattice-framed windows let in the early summer sunshine. Watching the odd dust mote float in its golden rays caused her to wonder about her daughter and whether she had enjoyed her break time that day, playing in such wonderful light. Sarah heard a sweet giggle from across the room and noticed how a young mother was playing the food train game with her toddler, who waved her hands in the air excitedly. Both were smiling. How long ago it was that I did that, Sarah thought, memories of years past replayed before her eyes in the beams of light cast on the empty tables.
Sarah checked her watch, it was ten to three. Making sure that no customers needed her immediate attention she popped her head around the kitchen door. There was Rachel busy scouring pans, utensils and baking trays in the giant sink, Johnny was stripping away the used baking parchment and putting it in the rubbish bags as well as wiping the surfaces. The kitchen was closing for the day. Her husband was wrapping up the day’s cooking in cling film and putting it in the two large fridges at the back.
“Michael, it’s ten to three,” she called to him from the door.
The man with mousy brown hair and sea blue eyes turned to face her with a tender smile. “Right you are, my love. I’ll just change and then I’ll go and pick up Amy.”
“She should have received a report from Mrs Norris today so double check she has it.”
“Will do,” he replied ripping off his apron at the neck by the Velcro tabs.
“Bye, Mike.”
“See ya tomorrow, Mike,” chorused Rachel and Johnny.
“Bye, guys, good work today,” Michael hung his apron on the side wall, put on his coat and headed towards the door. “I’ll see you at home, love. I’m making spag bol for tea,” he briefly explained as he met his wife at the counter. He did a quick mental count of the few small groups of customers whilst his hand sightlessly sought the car keys in a drawer beneath the till.
“Okay. Drive safely. I should be done by five so I’ll wait for you outside.” Sarah kissed him goodbye and watched him leave the café for the school run.
***
After the family managed to fill themselves on Michael’s delicious spaghetti Bolognese each took to their regular activities. Michael took care of the washing up, Amy went to her room to finish homework and Sarah took to the accounts of the day as well as organising future stock orders.
Michael remembered he hadn’t got Amy’s final primary school report and so he went upstairs to retrieve it. He met her pink flower and blue star decorated bedroom door and gave a gentle tap.
“Mum?”
“No, darling, it’s your Dad.”
“Oh.” Even from behind the door she sounded disappointed. “What is it Dad?”
“Erm, do you want reason one, two or three?” Michael replied playfully.
“Ugh, come on in then.” There before him sat Amy at her desk, hunched over a paper booklet full of questions and images; her pencil was already being chewed upon.
“So, how’s it going?”
“Okay. Just maths homework.”
“Good, no problems then?”
“Just a few with division but I managed to work it out.”
“Good girl. Now, your Mum says you should have a report from Mrs Norris?”
“Oh yeah, it’s in my bag.” Amy put her pencil down and went to her bag behind her bedside and pulled out a yellow sheet of paper. “Here it is,” handing it to her Dad.
“Thank you, your Mum and I will look over this tonight. So…are you looking forward to big school?” he asked sitting on the end of her bed.
“I guess so.”
“That didn’t sound very convincing Amy. You want to tell me anything?”
Amy looked up, worry in her eyes. “It’s just…well, I hardly ever see Mum any more. I know I see her at tea and in the mornings but…she hasn’t even taken me shopping for my new uniform yet and…well, it was you who took me for the open day not her. It’s always you taking me down to Brownies. Mum’s always busy.”
Michael felt a sense of relief not to hear the word bullying. “Oh, darling, come here, let me explain something to you.” He opened his arms and lifted her gently up onto his knees. “Listen, Amy, you know Mum and I run the café, don’t you?”
“Yeah.”
“Well it’s actually quite complicated to run, it’s not just about making food and selling it to customers. We have to control money, stock orders, calculate everyone’s wages at the end of each week, ring people up about orders and all sorts. The café can’t work unless either I or your Mum does the more complicated stuff. Also your Mum can do it a lot better than I can. As for the open day you know your Mum wanted to come with you, she really did. But Diane, fell ill at the last minute so your Mum had no choice. It was an unfortunate one off. If she didn’t go in, the café wouldn’t open and that café is what earns the pennies to pay for all your pretty clothes and things.” Michael paused, rethinking his discussion plan. “Look, I’ll have a word with your Mum and see if she can at least pick you up from Brownies each week, hey? And I will remind her about taking you shopping for your new school uniform. Would you like that?”
“Yeah, thanks Dad.” Amy gave him a big rewarding hug.
“Just remember, darling, that your Mum and Dad do love you, very much, even when we’re not around.”
***
Later on, when Amy was in bed, Michael rejoined Sarah in the kitchen.
“How’s it going, love?”
“Erm, do you want the good news or the bad news?”
“Good news.”
“Well, we’ve made a slight increase on our income since last month.”
“Okay, and the bad news?”
“With the rising cost of eggs, flour, milk and so forth it just about manages to cover the cost of our next order. I think we may have to consider raising our service price next month if we’re going to cover costs of ingredients. I haven’t even considered our energy bills in all this yet until I receive them through the post.”
“Okay, so what does this mean in the long term?”
“Well, we either raise service prices, lower wages or simply become unable to make enough food each week to cater for the numbers we serve.”
“Sounds to me like we need an extra small income to cover the costs you’re talking about.”
“I can’t think of what other services we could offer. We don’t have enough staff to operate a delivery service let alone a spare car and that would bring in fuel costs which have already gone up.”
“Don’t worry love, we’ll think of something.” Michael laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Oh, by the way, would you mind picking up Amy from Brownies tomorrow night? It’s just, you’re starting to spend more time with these figures than her and she’s feeling a bit neglected.”
Sarah gave a weary sigh, resting her head in her hands. “I know, I know, but someone has to do them otherwise nothing works. But you’re right; I’ll try and make a bit more of an effort.”
“Good, well you can start now whilst we see how our daughter has done in her school report,” Michael offered with a pleased smile waving the yellow paper in front of her.
***
Standing by the family car the following evening Sarah waited with other parents for the Brownie group to finish. Beside her was Kim, whose daughter Fiona, also a Brownie, was best friends with Amy. Just as a pause began to evolve in the conversation the town hall doors opened and both mums looked out across the small car park. A group of young girls emerged wearing yellow jumpers and brown body banners, most coated with badges for completing tasks. Amy and Fiona were deep in conversation when they made it across.
“It’s just so awful,” Fiona whined openly as each girl hugged their parent, Amy more animatedly than usual and with a big proud smile on her face.
“What is?” Kim asked, slightly dubious.
“The council, they’re a bunch of big meanies.”
“Why what have the council done?”
“They’re closing down the hall. They’re going to renovate it totally which means no Brownies over the summer. It means no Brownie camp!” Amy answered miserably.
Sarah began to cuddle Amy closer in an attempt to hug away her sadness at this loss and agreed that the council were meanies chucking out such a favoured and popular local group.
***
“Right girls, let’s all welcome the latest member of our group, Amy’s Mum, who will be known as Snowy Owl. She has kindly offered to host us in her café throughout the summer. This means that we may yet be able to prepare for our summer camp in August. A round of applause please for Snowy Owl.” Everyone gave an excited clap towards Sarah who stood quite timidly behind the counter.
“Thank you all so much. Now, tonight girls I am going to teach you how to make a fruit smoothie.” Amy beamed a big smile at her Mum who grinned back, equally happy.
So the Brownies were held at The Coffee Pot and when autumn came agreed to remain there even after the town hall renovations had finished. The café was safe from financial difficulty and so was the relationship between a daughter and a mother, who was lucky enough to find that balance between family life and business.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Seaside Life:

Countless human sausages all lined up in rows
Smothered in sun cream from their heads to their toes.

All stubbornly guarding their loungers and deck chairs
Eager for the sun to fry them whilst they forget about their cares.

Some prefer to simmer in the waters, being tossed by the waves
Children and adults splish and splosh until food they start to crave.

A mini army of ice-cream trucks, vans and stalls stand at the beach top.
Besieged by dry mouths and eager hands, all wanting that red lollipop.

The beach is being moved around in all those buckets and spades.
Sandcastle rise and fall, none will last these summer days.

Boats and dinghies, pedal cruisers and surf boards litter the inner seashore.
Seagulls harass the chip shops, swooping and grabbing with their ruckus caw.

Starfish, crabs and limpets are attacked by curious fingers and probing sticks.
Teenagers whether bored or stupid tomb stone for worthless kicks.

Only when the heat has passed and rain returns does this circus go.
Giving the beach back to the sea ending Nature’s seaside woe.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Summer is....

Summer is sunny days, suncream and sizzling barbeques.

Utterly clear blue skies, umbrella stands for shade not rain and ultra violet rays.

Millions of people mowing the lawn, money spent at summer sales and mingling on beaches.

Men buy sunglasses and women buy hats, melting ice-cream over hands, fingers and faces and meals eaten outside on a cool evening.

Excitable children splashing into the sea, energetic families go to centre parks and expenses are paid for those day time events that keep the children busy.

River trips upon the canal in a longboat, relaxing by pool or in the garden and rest in general to help keep you smiling through the damp and windy months ahead.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Memento


“Is Lucy asleep?”
“Yes, took nearly three stories tonight. We may have to buy some more books.”
“We’ll need them for the flight.”
“True. Just think in a few more days we will be paddling in the Spanish sea.”
“I know, Sarah’s been boasting about it to all her mates.”
“Well if she thinks she’s going to chase any of those tanned lads she has another thing coming.”
“Ah well she’s still young. I know I had the same dreams when I was her age.”
“You would actually prefer a tanned boy to me?” Dad pulled a look of rejection.
“Of course not darling.” Mum replied with a smirk reaching over for the TV remote and turned it on for the news. A pretty blonde woman wearing a pastel blue suit sat at the news desk, her eyes fixed to the front.
“In other news today Virgin Travel announces that their global flights have been cancelled at Leeds Bradford Airport for the next week due to the discovery of mechanical faults with their Boin67 aircrafts…”
“Oh no.” Both parents sat forward in their seats their faces becoming more anxious with each second.
“A spokesperson for Virgin Travel said the company sends its deepest apologies for any delay and inconvenience to customers booked to travel with them over the next few days but mechanical service must be carried out. Virgin takes its customer safety and service very seriously. For those who are affected he wishes you to call this number, now at the bottom of the screen and also on our website, in order to arrange refunds or re-arrangements to other airports for a later travel date.”
“I don’t believe this.”
“Did you get that number?”
“Yeah, I will give them a ring first thing before work tomorrow. This really is awful.”
“How are we going to tell the children?”
“With a wall between us and earplugs for the screams.” Dad gave a weak laugh running his fingers through his hair.
“Sarah is going to hit the roof.”
“Well it’s not exactly our fault. In a way Virgin are doing a good thing. I would rather fly on a safe and secure plane than one with a fault that could cause severe problems.”
“What are we going to do? Is the holiday cancelled?”
“We can still go to Dorset again. The car is our only means of transport.”
“Perhaps but we promised Sarah we would go abroad this year now she is fourteen.”
“I know love but it’s out of our hands this time.”
“Why don’t we just rearrange to leave at another airport?”
“The nearest one is Blackpool or Manchester. To be honest I think it would cause more hassle. I would prefer to just get our money back and spend it somewhere else.”
“I suppose you’re right. If you contact Virgin I will see if I can get hold of Mrs Jesse at Church Farm and see if she can fit is in for next week.”
“Dorset it is then. So, do you want to tell Sarah or shall I?”
***
“Gutted!” Rachel replied when Sarah told her the devastating news about her holiday the following day at school. The worst news since her parents refused to let her get her ears pierced until she’s sixteen.
“I know it’s so unfair. Now we’re off back to boring Dorset.”
“It is unfair.”
“We’ve been going there since I was five. Lucy may enjoy it all but I will be bored out of my mind. Stuck in an old barn on a rubbish camping bed with big spiders everywhere. Last year one crawled right across my arm whilst I slept.”
“Aw gross!”
“Yeah it was. They don’t even have a cyber café so I won’t be able to go on MSN at all whilst we’re away. Would have if we were going to that nice hotel in Spain. It has everything, cyber café, pool, discos, shops, beaches and restaurants. Mum said she would let me go with her to the Spa. I was going to come back as beautiful as Lopez. Now I won’t go there until next year.”
“No wonder you were so eager to go to Spain.”
“Yeah I was. I wanted to go anywhere else but Dorset again. God must hate me or sumthin.” Sarah groaned with teenage frustration. “Why couldn’t he make the car breakdown as well?”
“I will make sure to bring back sumthin nice for you from Greece.”
“Thanks Rach, all next week I will be wishing for it to be over and come back here.”
“Yeah straight back to school though. Half term’s only a week.”
“Even school is better than going to Dorset again.”
***
“Well troops where shall we visit today?” Dad asked at the table Monday morning his family sat around him although Sarah was already hooked up to her I-pod to blast out reality.
“The weather seems nice enough; I was thinking we could venture into the New Forest so Lucy can see the horses.” Mum suggested with a pleasant smile as she fed Lucy some more milk soaked cereal.
“Boring.” Came the ungrateful tone of Sarah.
“Mrs Jesse told me about a place called Burley there that has nice picnic areas, pubs and shops and even has a horse and cart ride.”
“They have shops Sarah; surely shopping hasn’t become boring to you?”
“They are when you have no money to spend in them.” She replied sourly back to her Dad.
“Ok then how about Mum and I give you a tenner each to keep yourself occupied whilst we take Lucy on a cart ride.”
“Fifteen.”
“Ok but that will be all your holiday money. You won’t get any more.”
“That’s fine by me.”
“Good we have a deal then.”
“Right, well you can clean Lucy up and get her dressed and I will start making a nice picnic for us then go and get the directions from Mrs Jesse.” Mum finalised handing over a milk dribbling Lucy to Dad giving Sarah a contented smile.
***
After twenty minutes travelling on the busy roads and seeing nothing out of the window but vast spaces of green shrubs and mauve pink heather ground with the occasional horse forming a dot of variety the family arrived at Burley nestled in the New Forest. Upon entering the village a family of horses passed slow and calm over the road halting the traffic for a full ten minutes. Mum, who sat in the front seat, immediately got out of the car and unbuckled Lucy from her toddler seat to bring her out to see them. Sarah just turned the volume on her I-pod up ten notches as Lucy’s squeals of delight penetrated the car windows. Once the horses had passed and trotted a few metres away from the road into the moor land to graze the traffic resumed and so the family reached the centre of Burley. Following the signs Dad drove into the car park and managed to park in the shade of a big sycamore tree.
“Ok who wants lunch?” Dad hinted getting out of the car and heading to the back.
“Do you want lunch?” Mum asked Lucy tapping her on the nose.
“Yeah lunch. Crispies.”
“Only once you’ve eaten your sandwiches young lady.”
“Would you like some pop Sarah?” Dad’s muffled voice called from the back of the car.
“Yeah.”
“Come and get it then.” There was a low mutter of complaint as she got out of the car her I-pod still firmly locked into her ears and mind. “There you go, which sandwich is yours?” Sarah didn’t answer but grabbed it for herself. “Cheer up; it’s not the end of the world you know.”
“When can I go shopping?”
“After lunch if you’re that eager. Eat first.”
A very brief lunch occurred upon the picnic blanket between Sarah and family. Before long they were giving her money, making sure she must stay within the village centre and keep her mobile on at all times and to come back to the car in an hour. With the lecture complete she skulked off, her I-pod never breaking connection with her brain.
The shops she found didn’t impress her. There were all new age, witches and wizard type shops, mainly for the benefit of tourists if anything else.
Eventually after wandering round she found herself in the Magic Cavern shop staring through the window at all the weird yet oddly cool objects on the shelves and window display. There were packs of Tarot Cards, Angel Cards, Runes, Spell books of any kind, and earrings with fairies, unicorn pendants, charm bracelets, funky fantasy pictures and a rather grand statuette of a blue dragon on the side of a smoke frothing basin. Just as she was about to move on back to the fudge shop which seemed the only thing to appeal to her she caught a glimpse of someone watching her.
He appeared to be her age but there was something, unusual about him, not the fact that his clothes were quite dark a black T-shirt with a silver howling wolf on the front and cropped black jeans with red and black striped socks on black trainers but some part of Sarah felt a twinge of fear as well as growing curiosity. Perhaps it was his very pale skin set against such deep coloured clothing or the way he seemed to be smiling at her which made Sarah blush a little.
She looked away and walked into the store, not to look or buy anything but simple to free herself from this feeling of embarrassment. Once inside she allowed herself to relax by picking a random book off the shelf and flicking through it as if interested. At the middle of the book she found a picture of faeries all dancing in a large circle around a purple fire in a wood that was full of blue bells and other wild flowers. Standing at one side of the dancers was clearly the King and Queen of the faeries. She felt a shudder along her spine.
“Please tell me you don’t believe in this rubbish?” a voice as strong yet delicate as a trickling stream spoke up behind her. She looked around and only just managed to prevent herself from screaming with fright. It was the boy.
“Erm…erm…no…” she managed to reply quickly putting the book back and casting her eyes around the now packed shop looking for an escape route.
“Good, good.” He merely said that almost visible smile returning to his face yet sparks of mischief glistened in his eyes beneath his shoulder length black hair. “My name is Nathaniel but you can just call me Nathan.”
“Erm…Sarah.” Something about his presence so close to her in the cramped shop was making speech difficult yet she felt a sense of thrill excitement swirling together with fear and suspicion in her stomach.
“Come with me, I will show you something that is a lot more fun than this place.” Without even a nod of consent Sarah found herself following him out of the shop her mind enchanted by him with curiosity.
However as they were waiting to cross the road directly outside the shop and its book wide paths they were stopped by another unexpected source.
“Nathaniel. Where do you think you’re going?” the pair of teenagers looked around for the voice, both looking equally worried by the tone of authority. Nathanial quickly caught Sarah by the hand and tugged her back into the shops entranceway.
“Where are you staying?”
“Huh?” Sarah asked completely confused and uncomfortable.
“Please tell me. Then we can meet again.”
“Erm…Church Farm. Why?”
“Right, you know the river?”
“Yeah.” She merely nodded being so overwhelmed with the anxiety in his voice
“Meet me there tomorrow night. Alone.”
“Erm…when?”
“I’ll be waiting.” With another brief smile he walked briskly out of the shop heading across the road.
“Wait!” Sarah called out running after him but halting again at the side due to traffic. “How do you know which farm I’m staying at?”
He stopped and stared over at her, a full smile brightening his face. “I live here. This is my home. I know everywhere.” Again he turned away and ran into the crowds and became invisible. Leaving Sarah with a strange sense of abandonment and the feeling a pair of eyes still lingered on her.
***
The rest of that day returned to its usual boring state but Sarah could not hide the mixed emotions churning inside and visible upon her face. Mum asked if she was feeling well or perhaps home sick but Sarah merely passed it off as deep boredom which due to her attitude before her parents could only assume as the truth.
When they returned back to the barn cottage tea time passed with little conversation other than from between Mum, Dad and Lucy playing with her new toy farm set. Sarah remained upstairs in the bedroom playing her I-pod trying to control her feelings and the nagging part of her that wanted to meet Nathanial that night. The problem was she knew she wouldn’t be able to walk down by the river without Mum or Dad accompanying her and something inside her knew she must go alone.
She didn’t have to wait long to gain the opportunity as just after seven Mrs. Jesse came over and announced that there was going to be a small firework display out at the river banks to celebrate the holiday farm’s tenth birthday and everyone was invited.
“Oh we would love to come but I think the bangs might be a bit too scary for Lucy.” Mum replied putting Lucy’s toy farm animals back into their farmhouse box.
“Can’t I still go?” Sarah interjected from her position on the stairs.
“I’d rather you didn’t go on your own dear.”
“Awww but Mum!”
“How about I go with her love? I can take the camera then and get some nice holiday snaps.” Dad offered as a compromise.
Mum paused to think before turning to Sarah. “Hummm you can go only if your Dad goes with you.”
“Thanks Mum!” Sarah yelled full of excitement rushing forwards and giving her Mum a hug.
“Hey don’t I get one for being a bodyguard?” Dad asked appearing hurt.
“No all you’re going to do is embarrass me.” Sarah answered with a smirk
“Well I’m glad that’s sorted. I will expect to see you both there then. It starts in about half an hour. Bye!” Mrs. Jesses said goodbye in her usual cheery fashion disappearing into the darkness as Dad closed the old split barn doors.
***
Sarah felt a sense of relief when she and Dad arrived at the river bank to a large crowd lining the river gathered around hot jacket potato cookers and tables where coffees and hot chocolates were being poured.
“They really are making it a celebration, fancy a hot chocolate?” Dad asked openly surveying the area but just as he finished the question he caught a glimpse of Sarah already pushing her way ahead. “Stay nearby Sarah, don’t wander off!” He yelled before shaking his head with a sigh.
Sarah wasn’t listening. She was too busy frantically looking everywhere for that boy. She had managed to work her way through to the other end of the crowds and met the opposing dark scenery the other side away from the electric hand held lamps. She stood there for a moment, rubbing her arms to keep warm and looking out across the moonlit river.
“Hello Sarah.”
She jumped inside and managed to turn around quick enough to meet the strangely unnerving smiling face of the boy.
“Erm, hi, erm, how do you know my name?” She asked suspiciously.
“Well your dad did shout it out for everyone to hear and apart from me you’re the only teenager here. Everyone else is adult.”
“Oh, right.” A sheepish smile managed to topple her nerves for a second.
“Plus you did tell me your name in Burley.”
“Did I?”
“Yes you did, now come on; let’s go over here for a bit so we can talk. I’ve been so bored recently with no one my age to chat to.”
“Erm, ok but not too far, otherwise my Dad will get panicky.”
“Of course, I wouldn’t want to worry anyone about your safety.” Nathanial turned and began a slow casual walk forwards, Sarah cautiously followed after one quick glance at the crowds behind and managed to glimpse her Dad talking to another man with a steaming mug in his hands.
They walked for a minute and then found a relatively flat patch of damp grass to sit. Nathanial graciously took off his black jacket and laid it down for Sarah to sit on.
“Thanks.”
“You’re very welcome.” He let out a relaxed almost relieved sigh as both faced out across the river. “Are you enjoying your holiday?”
“Kind of, we were meant to be going to Spain this year but due to Virgin finding problems on their planes we’ve had to come here again.”
“Oh, and what’s wrong with here?”
“Nothing I guess, but we’ve kind of seen everywhere and done everything. We’ve been coming here since I was little and I’m just getting bored of it all now.”
“Hummm. Well I can’t have you being bored in such a fair country. Would you like me to show you something that you most definitely haven’t seen before?”
Sarah looked into his eyes that sparkled and glistened like the river in the moonlight. A large bang and sparkle appeared in the sky with an almighty making her jump. The fireworks had begun. Nathanial appeared unsurprised. “Is it very far from here?”
“No, only a minute walk away, just round that corner into the field. I promise I will have you back before your Dad notices. We have time whilst everyone’s watching the fireworks.”
Sarah looked into the crowds again, now merely a mass of blackness with the odd outlines figure of light as people continued to mill about after food or drink, their heads all turned to the sky. “Erm ok, but we must be quick. Otherwise I will be grounded when we get back.”
Nathanial got up and helped Sarah also to her feet before leading her by the hand further into the darkness beyond the crowds, following the shadowy frame of the tall hedge and soon arrived at the entrance
“Wait here a moment. I will be right back.” Nathanial let her go and strode into the coal black field out of sight. The feeling of being watching swiftly returned over Sarah making her feel uncomfortable. There was a rustle of grass in the black distance and slowly Nathanial’s form reappeared with something concealed in his hands. “Now, you must promise not to scream when I show you this.”
“It’s not a spider is it? I hate spiders.”
Nathanial bellowed a laugh rich and deep. “No, no, it’s not a spider. Something much better. You ready?” Sarah nodded her arms wrapped close around herself. Nathanial slowly opened up his closed hands, a flicker of light stirred inside making Sarah give a quiet gasp of surprise until his hands revealed what was inside.
On what seemed to be a large oak leaf laid a ting creature that glowed like a candle. Its light flickered with each movement. Sarah had no doubt what it was but she still couldn’t believe it.
“Is it real?”
“As real as me and you. Would you like to hold her?”
“Hold it? Her? So it really is…”
Nathanial laughed again. “Of course it is, don’t you know anything about faeries? They’re all girls, the men look like mini moths.”
“Sounds like you know a lot of about them.”
“I guess you could say I study them. Would you like to hold her?”
Something broke the atmosphere around them. “Nathanial. You know the rules by which we live. Let the girl go. Leave her be.” It was the same voice they had both heard in Burley and like before it seemed to have no source except all around them.
“Parents, mine are as bad if not worse than yours. I best take you back to the party.” Clearly more hurried Nathanial walked swiftly away, concealing the tiny figure in his hands once more as he lead Sarah back towards the light of the crowds. “You must not breathe a word of this to anyone Sarah. This is something you must keep secret.”
“Of course Nathan, no one would believe me anyway.”
His mouth grinned brimming with mischief. “That is the wonder of myths and legends, their beautiful lies that conceal such truths. Please, take her as a gift from me to you to make your holiday a bit more enjoyable.”
“Keep her? I can’t! I don’t know how to look after a faerie? I mean what on earth do they eat?”
Her clear confusion and panic at such a proposal made Nathanial laugh. “Don’t worry Sarah; I won’t let you really keep her. No faerie should be kept as a pet. We managed to stop that happening centuries ago. No, I will let you keep her image, as a necklace perhaps?” He opened his hands from one dangled a thin gold chain which bore a very faerie like pendant. It looked like the exact mirror image of the real one.
“Wow, it’s beautiful.”
“Yes, they are such pretty creatures. Here, let me put it on.” He unclasped the link and draped it over her head and upon her neck then fastened it shut again.
“Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Now, what do you think to coming again next year? We could be bored together then.” He gave a pleasant smirk riddled with mischief waiting to happen.
“Sarah! Sarah! Where are you?” Her Dad’s voice came booming out over the crowds.
“Erm…” She replied looking worriedly into the mass of people waiting for him to come charging over and be embarrassing.
“Promise me you will Sarah. I can show you so much more if you do.”
“Erm…ok. I will, depends on parents of course.”
“Perfect. I will look forward to our next meeting.”
“Sarah! Sarah! Oh there you are. What did I tell you about wandering too far.”
“Dad I wasn’t I was just…” Sarah turned away again but Nathanial was no longer there. She searched the darkness for his shape and thought she spotted him disappearing back around the field entrance.
“You were just nothing Sarah, come on back over here where I can keep an eye on you. It’s too dangerous to let you go wandering into the dark; you don’t know who you might run into. Come on.” With a gentle tug on her shoulder Sarah followed her Dad, one hand already fiddling with the tiny gold figure captured upon the chain.
Just before she was swallowed by the crowd she took one final glance back, her promise still repeating itself in her mind. Just at the end of her vision into the darkness she thought she made out three figures, two taller than the other who stood between them. All were finely gowned; a few sparkles came from around their necks and hands depicting possible jewels. Although their faces appeared blurred the smaller figure in the middle bore the one unmistakable smile that Sarah will never forget. And within the space of a single blink those shadowy figures had vanished. Leaving Sarah with a great sense of excitement and a new found hope for her half term holidays.

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