A taste of freedom

Image: Pixabay

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.

‘Come on!’

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.

The closest thing to freedom.

***

The image is of Seafield House in Westward Ho!, UK. My current obsession.

What Pegman Saw: A way of seeing

Image: Google Earth

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.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #74: Patches

CCC#74

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.

And feel calm.

***

Written for Crimson’t Creative Challenge #74. See the pic and write a tale. See here to join in.

Friday Fictioneers: Rainbow

PHOTO PROMPT © Jeff Arnold

They called the new baby Rainbow.

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.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #73: What Sunny found.

CCC #73

The note led Sunny to a clearing in the woods, to a shipping container half concealed by ivy and brambles. If it wasn’t for the stencilled letters and numbers, it could be something from a fairy tale, home to a sleeping princess.

Once she’d cleared the growth from the door, sweat darkened her top and her arms were lacy with scratches, threads of blood.

She stared at the block of metal, wondering why. Why someone had sent her a note telling her to come. Why she’d obeyed it.

The sun was dropping lower, midges rising from the grass. Time.

She pulled the lever. The bars squeaked, turned slowly, rust catching on rust.

‘Come on,’ she muttered.

With one last tug the mechanism released. An animal smell – ancient and rank – hit her along with a wave of heat. She swallowed, tried to ignore the call to vomit.

‘Oh, no,’ she sighed.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge #73. See here to join in.

Now, why did Sunny follow those instructions – something unresolved from her past, her present? What did she find in the shipping container?

Do drop me a line telling me what you think.

What Pegman Saw: Dust and Ashes

Image: Google Earth

There were the remnants of a fire, set in a dip overlooking the canyon. Pike scuffed the blackened ironwood with his boot, kicking up dust and ashes.

‘She was here.’

Root stood silhouetted against the ripening sunset, one foot up on a rock, thumbs hooked in his trouser pockets. He raised an eyebrow.

‘Smart enough to make a fire out of nothing,’ said Pike. ‘Stupid enough not to think we’d find it.’

Root nodded, chewed a fragment of nail from his index finger, spat it into the drop below. ‘Which way?’

Pike pointed down the canyon. ‘She wouldn’t last long out here and she knows it. She’ll head for people, hope she can get a lift someplace.’

Root nodded, heading back towards the Jeep.

Pike smiled to himself. The least he could do was give her a head start.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its starting point. This week we visit Happy Jack, Arizona. See here to join in and have fun.

Friday Fictioneers: The Linnet of Livorno


PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

Granny Cora was in music hall back in the day.

She started aged seven with her parents and four siblings – The Flying Beneventis – though the family name was Mossop and the closest Granny came to Italy was sharing a Penny Lick on Blackpool seafront.

At the age of twenty-one Granny married her manager, Gordon, and shed her leotard to become a novelty act – The Linnet of Livorno. She’d stand alone in the limelight and whistle. One moment she was a blackbird, the next a mistle thrush, always ending with a song to make the heart break – the nightingale.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the picture prompt write, share and read the work of others.

I don’t know what the bird in the picture is – I’m pretty sure it’s not a mistle thrush, a blackbird, a nightingale, or even a linnet. But whatever she is, she inspired me to travel back in time.

NB

A Penny Lick was a small glass for serving ice cream most common during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The glass would be rinsed off (not very well!) before being used for the next customer.

Wilton’s Music Hall is the oldest music hall still standing in London. It really gives an idea of what a typical Victorian music hall was like.

What Pegman Saw: A little spare

Image: Google Earth

A group of boys were hanging out in the shelter of the bridge. Twelve to fourteen years old, skinny backsides slipping out of baggy jeans and cargo pants. They weren’t up to much – drinking, smoking, tossing rubbish and rocks in the lake. Old enough to get into trouble.

Maybe that’s where her Gabino would be in ten years time, hanging out with his cousins, boys from the neighbourhood. Boys with connections.

Marcia shivered, lit the second cigarette of her rest break. She was lucky. Her job was better paid than many, meant she had a little money spare each month as long a no extra expenses came up. If mother could only stay well enough to care for Gabino while Marcia worked, their little family might stand a chance.

She dropped her cigarette stub on the foreshore, pressed the final light from the ash as the phone in her pocket vibrated.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Earth as its prompt. See here to join in.

Jane Dougherty’s Words and pictures poetry challenge: The Whisperer

Michael_E._Arth_-Moscow_Metro-_oil_painting,_1980

Tasha had taken the cold journey from home in her stride. She examined every passersby closely: the women with their head scarves in shades of mud; the men’s faces hidden by Party caps, their hunched, overcoated shoulders.

She watched the trams and buses jostle through the city, along Gorky Street. The child hardly spoke, her expression curious but calm – she hadn’t reached for her grandmother’s hand once, not even when a milkman’s horse reared as they crossed the road.

‘This way, Tasha.’

The girl followed Ludmilla obediently, wide, dark eyes everywhere as they entered the metro station. The vaulted roof was golden and blood red with Soviet stars, chandeliers and mosaic tiles blinding in electric candlelight.

Ludmilla caught a glimpse of Tasha’s reflection as they rode the escalator to the next platform. That river of brunette hair, the narrow, pale face – she could almost be her Kaya at that age.

The golden station glittered and dissolved. She turned away, not wanting her tears to be seen. Her poor, betrayed Kaya.

A small hand slid into Ludmilla’s and she shivered. ‘Aren’t you looking forward to me getting my special prize, Babushka?’

‘Of course,’ said Ludmilla, trying to smile.

Tasha held her hand for the rest of their journey and it took all Ludmilla’s strength not to scream.

***

During the Soviet period, children were actively encouraged to inform on adults, even if they were relatives – even if they were their parents. See the story of Pavlik Morozov. Though the truth of the Pavlik legend is contested, the fact he was hailed as a hero by the Soviet state is not.

Written for Jane Dougherty’s Words and pictures poetry challenge. And what a fabulous painting she’s chosen. It’s entitled Moscow Metro and it’s by Michael E. Arth. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a poetry challenge, but Jane was happy for me to write prose, so here it is.

What Pegman Saw: Folly

Image: Google Earth

‘What’s the point of it?’

The tower was five storeys high – bruised white washed walls, red corner stones, an onion dome roof.

Steph shook her head. ‘No point. Just a wealthy man showing off. That’s why they call them follies.’

Up close what had looked like a wooden door was just painted plaster, the grain worked in with a fine brush. It was cold under his hand, the surface slightly damp.

‘So, are there rooms inside?’ he said.

Steph peered at her guidebook. ‘Says here – the brick and plaster construction was thought to be solid until 1996 when a scan revealed a hollow chamber inside.’

Dai’s fringe flopped over his eyes. He gave her a lopsided smiled. ‘Like a burial chamber?’

Steph rested her hand on his, fingers curling round his. ‘Like a prison,’ she whispered.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as its jumping off point. This week we visit French Polynesia. See here to join in.