I’ll admit, I was jealous of my brother. While my life was unremarkable, his was extraordinary.
Beautiful girlfriends. A house in Kensington. Holidays to Tonga, Maui, Cambodia.
He lived in the house ten years, but as I walk the rooms, my footsteps echoing, the place feels like a feature in a style magazine. No photographs of family on the mantelpiece. No scrappy school paintings pinned to the fridge or toys on the floor. Not even a dog basket cluttering the hall.
I cuff my cheeks dry. The man had so many trophies and won nothing.
Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the prompt picture and let your imagination fly. 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!
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.
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.
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.
The dry river bed shimmered, glassy with sun haze. A few cattle – bony as xylophones – followed tribesmen, nudging at rocks, chewing tufts of crisp grass.
The distant outcrops were scorched barren, a thicket of acacias turned khaki by weeks of drought.
He tugged his scarf over his nose to fend off a sand squall. So different from home. And yet….
Through squinted eyes, the dry riverbed became the River Affric, the cattle shaggy Highland cows, bellowing across the Glen. The outcrops were the mountains of Kintail or Mam Sodhail, the only Munro he was ever likely to climb.
In the sting of sand he felt pricks of snow, on the wind he smelt the heather, the tang of loch water.
He’d never imagined he would yearn to feel cold again, to chip at ice with the heel of his boot.
Sighing, he walked on. Towards the acacias and a hope of home.