The call came just after eleven pm. She let it go to voicemail.
‘… I wasn’t able to get to a phone before now. You know how it is…’
The table was still set for two, the candles burned to black grease. At least the wine hadn’t gone to waste. She teetered out onto the veranda, glass in one hand, cigarette smouldering in the other.
She’d never liked sharing, not since she was a little girl. Back then it had been dolls and slices of black cake she’d kept to herself. Perhaps this was payback for her childish greed, a cosmic levelling.
Sipping her wine, she watched the flames enveloped the house they’d both loved, the house he’d want for his next family.
Never was good at sharing.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit the Dominican Republic. See here to join in.
Black cake is a Caribbean recipe I’ve never tried but that sounds rather amazing.
What we’d thought would be three days walking turned to five then six.
The smaller children suffered worst, those too young to understand the cold, the heat and pain it brings. The small ones added to the sound of those days – the crunch of ice underfoot, the soughing wind, children’s sobs collapsing into whimpers.
The land was a series of low hills and promontories, leading to great expanses of shale, glacial cliffs.
Those that fell – infants, the elderly, the sick – were left unburied, wrapped only in the clothes they wore. The earth too hard to dig. No spare blankets to act as winding sheets.
I think of them sometimes, pared by the ice, weathered to the colour of rock, another low hill eroded by the wind.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. See here to join in.
The fall felt sudden when it came, the troops marching along the avenues, the army encampment in the shadow of the tower, everywhere red, white and black.
Others went before us, but trouble had seemed so distant, another man’s worry. And in the meantime there had been meals to cook, clothes to launder, work and school, the thousand small things that make a life.
Now liberty sleeps, the days have taken on a darker hue and that other life has faded to a distant point on the horizon that remains just a point, no matter the miles travelled.
Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the prompt pic and have a go. See here to join in.
Apologies for the slow response to comments. I’ve dived into writing another novel and am finding hard to clamber out!
Brigstowe Bay was a grinning moon banked by rocky spurs.
At the centre of the smile was a bank of grubby sand, the Grand Pier with its sagging wooden roller coaster and sun bleached stalls selling candy floss and hot dogs.
On the northern spur, looking towards Torquay, were the wide streets and Romanesque villas of Upper Cliffside, looking down on the promenade in more ways than one.
On the southern side, set apart from the wannabe millionaires of Cliffside and the hucksters and charming liars of the promenade, was an area locals called ‘Brig’.
The pubs and cottages lining Brig harbour resembled squat toadstools, warty with jerry-built extensions, sheds and stillhouses. What fishing boats remained ran the coast, ‘fishing’ for washed up whisky and smuggled brandy.
A boy from Brig could beat a Cliffside lad hands down in a fight.
The door squeaked open. Kurt stepped out onto the tenement roof and propped the door open with an old metal chair he’d saved from a skip. He felt in the brick planter – no plants, just bricks – and fished out his tobacco wallet.
The cigarette paper slipped easily through his practiced fingers, flakes of tobacco tamed into a tube. The lighter flared, clicked shut.
The lead roof was still hot, petrol fumes dissipating a little as day gave way to night.
Laney’s voice reached him up the stairwell. ‘Kurt! Dinner.’
Downstairs the baby was giggling, hiccuping, giggling.
Not a bad life.
Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the picture and write along. See here to join in the fun.
The way down from the cliffs was a struggle, the boulders less even than they looked from a distance. The bladder wrack was still wet, slippery under her heels and she had to use one hand to hold her skirts up – she could just imagine how much trouble she’d be in if her only black dress was marked with slime and seawater.
‘Wait for me,’ she called.
Charlie was already a way ahead, striding from rock to rock. His trousers wore twin stripes down the hips, brown and green where he’d carelessly wiped his hands. His patent boots were muddy to the ankle.
Every part of her life felt shackled – working at the big house, the housekeeper with her sharp black eyes, the mistress running pudgy fingers over every mantel and sill. Free time was rare and even then she was not permitted to walk along the Front or go to the music hall or the fair, only to Church or on ‘improving walks’.
How she envied him those boots, those trousers.
She closed her eyes, breathed in the salt tang. Her corset pinched at the waist, on her lower ribs, cut under her arms. Even her breathing wasn’t free.
This was the closest she came, though.
If they sneaked down the beach, out of sight of the Grange, in the shelter of the boulders, there was privacy of a sort. The wind whipped sand in her face, tugged hair from its pins so it caught in her mouth, flicked against her cheeks – she loved it all.
Gulls soared overhead, hovering, wheeling, calling her to join them, mocking when she couldn’t.
Charlie had made it to the mouth of the cove. He sat on the sand, peeling off his boots and socks, turning up his trouser legs. He wriggled his toes in the sand like a little boy.
Hanna woke early, pushed her feet in to her sheep skin slippers, soft against her bunions.
On the stairs she always came down backwards now, since the fall.
At the kitchen counter, she rested her forefinger on the edge of the loaf, using the digit as a measure. She’d hook a finger over the rim of her coffee cup too, stop pouring when the heat reached her nail. Damn cataract operation couldn’t come soon enough.
After breakfast she walked to the lake, her stick sinking into the mud, grit rolling under her boots. At the mud flats she stopped, looked over the water, breathed in the day.
She missed the details, but she knew the sun twinkled like fairy lights on the water, that the birds sang out, defending territory and new broods.
Spring was on its way and it was going to be a good one.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View for inspiration. This week we are in Polanczyk, Poland. See here to join in.
There were four towers at the harbour, frameworks of scabby tubular steel, ladders and trusses, each six storeys high.
Matt would sit on a particular bench, by water tamed by the sea walls. The bench had a good view of all the towers but was furthest away from the litter bin. Because of the wasps and the germs.
He liked the way the towers’ uprights and diagonals acted as frames to scraps of billowing rain clouds and wispy cirrus and even bright clear blue on occasion. They cut the sky into fragments, brought it fleeting order.
When the sounds grew too much – music turned thumping, people shouting, the cars beeping, engines rumbling through the soles of his trainers – he’d go to the bench, watch the towers cut the sky into patches.
To anyone who asked – and plenty of those who didn’t – Kate would say it was because they wanted their daughter to be bright and colourful, to be a symbol of hope, connected to both the Earth and the Heavens.
Mike would stand behind his wife, smile and nod.
What he couldn’t add was that after Kate’s drink driving conviction, her brief imprisonment and lengthy counselling, after her affair and his decision to take her back, the baby was a symbol of calm after the storm.
The sole remaining, ephemeral connection between her parents.
Written For Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the inspirational photograph and pen a story. See here to join in.