Every week he’d slip and scurry to the top of Broun Mam and leave something for Peggy in the disused nesting box.
Sometimes it might only be an unripe beech bud or a sprig of Hawthorne blossom. When he could steal the time alone it would be a note, scribbled in pencil on a page he’d torn from last year’s almanac. I still listen for the waves or When I eat apples I save the pips for you. Things only significant to her, to them.
What she left in return made his hands shake for her. A peach stone sucked clean of flesh; a triangle of lace snipped from her clothing, from somewhere covered, close to her skin. The thought of these items passing through her hands, over her tongue made him shiver …
Until they stopped appearing and he saw them for what they were – things she had discarded.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as it starting point. This week we are in St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cuna. See here to join in.
The jailer’s cap was pulled down, his oily beard gingered with dropped snuff. He signalled with pinched fingers. ‘Fourth one along.’
The stench was unbearable, the path slurried with leaves, the emptying of slop buckets. I lifted my skirts to keep the hem free of filth. I stopped, called my love’s name.
A hand appeared between the bars, the wrist too slender to be his, the nails once trim now long, torn, black. A moan drifted on the wind, a sound that was almost my name.
I’d imagined him slender, grubby, downcast but still with shining eyes, still himself. The creature that clawed and thrashed at the stone was not him, not the him I wanted to remember. My basket fell to the ground, bread tumbling, bottle thudding to the muck.
‘How long has she been missing?’ Papa pulled on his boots, his braces still hanging loose, bouncing at his thighs.
‘An hour ago.’ But I was reading up in the attic before that, hiding from my sister, avoiding the grief that hung about her like a shadow. I stared up the hill, towards the foot of the glacier. ‘She wouldn’t go up there alone.’
The old Nancy wouldn’t, but this hollow girl that had replaced her, who drifted like mist through the house since the accident … Maybe.
‘If I’m not back by nightfall …’ The door slammed behind Papa’s back.
Woodbines – at the time, a popular brand of cigarettes mad by the Wills tobacco company here in Bristol. Cigarettes helped with morale in the trenches and were also used as currency.
I was going to use the brand name Five Boys chocolate but didn’t quite have the word count. Five Boys was made by Fry and Son – another Bristol company – and was famous for the image on the front of the wrapper.
Sold flowers under the gas lamp, corner of Great Earl Street and Queen Street, Seven Dials. Old enough to be your Nana, though not yet old enough to be mine. Hair dyed black as a coal hole, always a pheasant feather or a silk rose tucked in her crumbling straw hat. Face like a patch of dried chamois leather. Shared a room with some other biddies – a boot lace seller, a sheet music peddlar and one who peddled herself, if you know what I mean.
Nah, don’t know where she went. People just vanish, lad.
It’s quiet now, that clock, that bell that chimed the hours of our young lives away, that ticked the minutes off and struck the hours dead.
Ivy blinkers the windows, clogs the door that swallowed us each morning, that spewed us out just as the best of the day was done.
Here we learned of times tables and the alphabet, of continents and rivers, of brash kings and silent queens. Here too we learned of friendship, of power, of kind words and harsh words, the meaning of betrayal.
The world moves on and the pupils are grown, gone to practice what they learned within school’s rough walls.
Another two inches of snow had fallen overnight, a frost following close behind. When Lou finally ventured out, the wooden sledge she used to haul firewood skidded waywardly behind her over the hard surface, while she cracked the ice and sank ankle deep, the snow holding her every footfall.
The cold wants me, she thought, her thigh muscles burning, skirts growing heavier, stiffer.
Not for the first time, she was tempted just to stop, let the snow take her. Take the arthritis swelling knuckles, knees and wrists, take the knocking in her left lung, the ulcer on her ankle that wouldn’t heal no matter how many hawthorn poultices she made.
She stopped a moment, breathless from the wind and effort. The crows were arguing in the tree canopy, great black wings flapping like huge sheets of paper. Somewhere in the future, a black bird waited for her.
But not today.
Tugging the sledge, she headed on.
Written for FFfAW. See the prompt picture, write a tale and share with others. See here for the full rules and to join in.