How was your weekend? Hope you all saw a little sunshine. Here are this week’s writing prompts to brighten your day:
Word prompt: Spies
Last week’s word prompt was The Hiding Place.
You can see last week’s picture prompt here
Your creative works from last week are as follows:
Carla Burns sent in a beautiful story:
I can’t remember which of the girls lit the candles or the fire. It seems incongruous, little flickers of firelight framing our faces in the mirror, casting shadows over Dad’s things. But all of us appreciate the warmth.
It is weeks since any of us have been here; weeks since his unexpected departure to the hospice that we all thought would be for just a few days. But here we were; a life once so full reduced to last week’s coffin and a roomful of dusty objects.
The sight of his teapot causes my eyes to sting, but, somehow, I can’t bring myself to move it. Moving his teapot would be acknowledging what none of us want to face: that the pot is cold and that we will never drink tea with Dad again.
We agree we need hot drinks, however, but, as if we are all thinking the same thing, we all opt for coffee. It has hardened slightly in the jar, and Sam chips at it with a spoon. I know it will be thin and bitter, but none of us thought to bring supplies. Like Dad, they have always just been here.
None of us sits down. We stand in the lounge, mugs in hand, daunted. How to dispose of eighty years over the next few days; how to face the unexpected memories, the painful decisions, the future regrets.
“Where do we start, Mum?” Ella whispers at last, voicing the thoughts that, clearly, the rest of us can barely acknowledge. “There’s just so much … stuff.”
Eventually Sam brings in the boxes from the car, and she and Ella assemble them in the hall. Ella brings in armfuls of newspaper and bubble wrap. They suddenly seem so much more practical, so much more adult than me.
I drift around the room, touching things, allowing half-forgotten memories to float before me; some disappearing like bubbles, some taking root, like that of the girls chasing each other with the bellows, trying to puff air into each other’s hair. And the figurine on the mantelpiece, bought by my mother to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
“But it’s not gold,” Sam had said, puzzled.
“I know it’s not,” Mum had said simply. “But I liked it, and I wanted it, and I bought it.” I smile; Dad kept it in pride of place even after Mum was gone, though I know it was never really his taste. He preferred more masculine treasures like the pipe – never smoked; the violin – never played; the inexplicable collection of dusty medicine bottles he insisted on displaying on the bookcase.
The girls have made progress without me. A box for keeping, a box for charity, a bin bag for disposal. Thank goodness for their strength and common sense.
“What’s this?” Ella asks at last, pulling an old-fashioned chocolate box from the desk. “It looks ancient.” She blows gently on the lid to remove a cobweb, and opens it. “Wow. It looks like poetry.”
Sam and I go over to look. Pages and pages, in my father’s neat hand, addressed to a woman whose name I have never heard.
“They’re not about Grandma,” Ella says cautiously.
Some of the poems are signed and dated. Most are from decades ago, before he and Mum even met. But the one on top is recent; the hand shakier, but the sentiments the same. Unexpected outpourings of love and pain, dreams and desire.
I want to wrest them out of Ella’s hands, peruse them in private, try to make sense of them. This was my father, yet here is a whole life I have known nothing about.
A whole life, hidden away in a drawer.
A whole life, hidden away in his heart.
Please click on the following link to read Shaun Kellett‘s atmospheric short:
Robert Griffiths sent a touching story:
Nowhere to hide
Matthew sat at his school desk looking down at his light brown hands which turned around revealed their white pink palms. He raised his head to see the other pupils and his eyes scanned black, white and brown necks supporting heads with varying hairstyles. Blonde, fair, auburn hair combed neat. The black hair on some girls was combed into a frazzled bee hive, heap shaped pyramid and dyed bright yellow. His eyes drew to the teacher Miss Victorina. Matthew knew the children’s eyes would be staring at her. Victorina’s enthusiasm drew out the pupils’ thirst for her teaching. Like him, this was their chance to escape the poverty that surrounded them. The person his eyes searched for sat at the furthest desk. The girl he cared for and wanted to see. He leant back into his seat thinking of Katrina and the possibility of ever calling her ‘his girlfriend’. Her parents lived in a large villa with flower- gardens, electric gates and a garage to house their cars. They worked in professional fields. He thought of his parents and the shack they lived in which was made by his father who had cleared a space in the surrounding jungle and bought planks of wood that he had nailed corrugated iron to. He had called it a house and moved in with his family. He sold fruit and vegetables two days a week in the local market and his mother washed and cleaned other people’s houses. Matthew’s chin sank down onto his chest. How can I even speak to Katrina, take her to my house, or go to see her parents in their house. Although, once she had held his t-shirt when he was playing football and another time she had flirted with her eyes.
The thoughts drained him of energy. I hate being so poor. One day I will pass the exam and go to college and become a forester. I will help the trees to grow and protect the wild animals. The money is good and I will buy a big house, a big car and have new clothes. The school bell shook him out of his reverie. He stood and ambled towards the front of the classroom. Miss Victorina stopped him.
“Matthew, stay after the lesson. I want to talk with you.”
Her soft educated voice and beautiful face left Matthew in no doubt. He stood still and waited.
“You have been distracted. Your work is not very good, Matthew. What is wrong?” asked Victorina.
“It’s that girl Katrina. She gets on my nerves. She is running around with the other boys laughing and flirting. I think it’s bad,” said Matthew and looked down.
“She’s very beautiful and clever. When you say other boys, do you mean, not with you?”said Victorina. “Matthew, just talk to her. She’s just a girl.”
“Talk to her! Do you know her parents and where they live?” said Matthew.
“Have you seen where I live!”
“Yes, I have been to see your parents about your work. Your father told me that his family are the original people of this area. They can trace your family’s history back centuries. Your mother is Chinese and that’s where your beautiful almond eyes come from. Your good looks come from your father. He is very handsome and proud. Matthew, it’s not what you have got but what you are. Show Katrina that.”
Victorina said all this sitting at her desk. Her radiant blue eyes shone with the enthusiasm she always had for her students.
Matthew stood straight and puffed out his chest. She has seen our house and met my parents, he thought.
“I’m off now, Miss, if you’re finished,” he said and made for the door.
“That’s all!” said Victorina.
Matthew walked out of school. Hope I said the right thing, thought Victorina.
As Matthew was walking across the school yard he saw Katrina bouncing tennis balls against a wall. He marched up to her.
“I want you to come with me,” he told her.
“There’s a place I want to show you.”
Katrina stopped bouncing the balls. She had a soft spot for this shy handsome boy. She knew she had teased Matthew. He marched in front of her and she followed admiring his athletic bouncy walk.
He took her to his parents’ home. Katrina strode around the shack captivating Matthew’s father and charming his mother until it was time to go. Matthew’s mother opened a cupboard door and took out a vase with a perfumed flower and gave the flower to Katrina.
“For your pretty hair,” she said.
Katrina took the flower and Matthew led them both towards her parents’ home avoiding the rubbish strewn streets.
“Sorry about that,” he said, “and the flower. I expect you are used to much more expensive presents from your parents.”
Katrina turned on Matthew with rage in her eyes.
“Sorry for what, you great big fool. Your house may be small but it’s full of love. My house is big and empty. The flower your mother gave me is the most beautiful thing I have received in many years. My parents’ expensive gifts mean nothing to them and less to me.”
She then pinned the flower into her hair.
“Look at me!” she demanded. “Look how pretty it makes me.”
They walked together along the hot dusty road. Several times Katrina tried to hold Matthew’s hand but he refused each time. Eventually they reached the road that lead up to Katrina’s parents’ villa. A huge iron gate fronted the villa. Katrina went to the supporting pillar holding the gate and pushed several numbered buttons on a box attached to it. The gates started to slide open. Matthew tried to slide away. Katrina brought him back and through the gate onto the tree lined path towards the villa. Matthew was dragging his feet. He looked with fear filled eyes towards the villa. As he reached the stone steps that led up to the front door he stopped.
“I can’t go in there. Look at me. My clothes. My shoes.”
Katrina stood on tiptoes and reached up and pulled Matthews head down. She kissed him with a long lingering kiss.
“Now you have kissed me, you’re my boyfriend. So now you must come in or I will tell my dad you kissed me.”
She took his hand and led him up the stairs into the villa where her mother and father were standing waiting in the living room. Katrina’s father was an enormous black bull with his great hands hanging from powerful looking arms and his barrel chest was round and huge.
“You are late home from school,” said her mother. “Who is this boy with you?”
“My boyfriend,” declared Katrina.
“Where does he come from?” asked her father.
Katrina told him. Her father’s face started to change. His eyes bulged. His fists clenched. He raised his arms into the air and bellowed,
“The first boy she brings home comes from the shanty town- the slum- the gutter.”
He stormed out of the room, along a corridor and opened double doors that led into his office- followed by shouts and banging noises. The mother turned to Katrina.
“I will go to him. I understand him,” she said walking into his office.
Matthew said goodbye and walked out.
The father’s bellowing hadn’t softened so the mother put her hands on her hips and looked at her husband; and even though he was ten times her size, she glared at him.
“How dare you behave like this in my house!” she said looking directly at him.
The father sat down putting his head into his hands and started,
“I come from a poor African village. I worked hard at school and got past all my exams. I won a charity scholarship to England. I studied aeronautics. I went from strength to strength and landed this job here. We got married and then struggled for years to buy this place. We raised Katrina properly and showed her the best things in life. Then the first boyfriend she drags home is from the stinking shanty town.”
The mother went over and sat beside her husband. She lifted his giant hand and kissed it and his face, whispering how good their daughter was at school, a popular pupil and how proud of her she was. The father quietened down and let out a great sigh.
“Ask Katrina to come and sit by me,” he asked.
“I will ask, but I do not know if she will come after your performance,” she said and left the room.
“Katrina, your father wants to speak to you,” she said softly.
“Yes, and I want to speak to him!” she said through gritted teeth then walked into her father’s office.
She had her father’s cleverness and her mother’s spirit.
He lifted his great arm into the air. Katrina snuggled under it. She was tiny and small, like her mother. He saw the fire inside her so whispered,
“I’m sorry, my darling girl. Tell me about this boy.”
“I met his parents today,” she started. “They are very poor. The father’s family were jungle people here before. His mother is a Chinese immigrant. They both work hard and they go to church. They teach their children to behave with strict rules and discipline. Matthew is in my class. He is shy, quiet and serious about his work. He plays football for the school.”
Her father squeezed her.
“Do you like him? Is he your boyfriend?”
“Yes, I like him. I made him kiss me, just once and told him; now you are my boyfriend.
“Where is he now?” asked her father.
“Gone home.” she answered.
“Tell him to come for tea and mother’s cake,” her father whispered.
“I will, but he is very shy,” Katrina said.
“Trust me. I can make him relax and enjoy an hour with us,” her father said.
The next morning Katrina was at school early. Matthew saw her and looked away undaunted. She went up to him and said,
“You are coming to our place for tea and cake after school.”
Matthew looked terrified.
“Father promises to be good.”
Mathew agreed and in the afternoon, they walked to Katrina’s house where her father opened the door with a large smile splitting his face.
“Come in, my children,” he said and put one of his giant arms around Matthew.
“I have rented some videos of football matches. I know nothing of football. My colleges talk of it continuously. Can we watch it together and you explain the game to me?”
Matthew said yes, with great relief then followed him into his office where there were tea and cake on a small table in front of the television. They both sat down and the father poured the tea. The mother told Katrina to come into her kitchen.
“Don’t worry about them. I have seen your father make friends in many places. He is good at that.”
The following weeks Matthew and Katrina sat together at the same desk in class. They stayed together at lunch and break. Matthew started to leave for school early to walk the long distance to Katrina’s house where she meets him at her gate. He carried her sandwiches for lunch and biscuits for tea break. Matthew didn’t like Katrina walking to school on roads with no pavement. They talk ed freely, laughed and enjoyed the walk. After school, they walked home along the shoreline. Matthew pointed out to Katrina the four islands sitting off the coast.
“That’s where the birds roast at night for safety. They fly to the mainland in the daytime.”
Matthew told Katrina with pride and he pointed out to her the different birds he knew by name. She looked up at him as if she was captivated with this information.
Soon all the pupils talked about them. Eventually even the teachers talked of Matthew and Katrina. At weekends Matthew spent time with Katrina’s father explaining the rules and tactics of televised football matches. They spoke about sport, politics and religion.
One Saturday on arriving home Matthew’s mother asked,
“Where have you been?”
“I’ve been with Katrine and her parents,” he told her with great fury and a loud voice.
“They are rich. He is African and she is from Tahiti. I’m from China and your father is Indian. That’s too much difference. Matthew, you must never see this girl again.”
“But, mother, I love her. She loves me.
At the same instance, Matthew’s father appeared.
“Your mother is right Matthew, you must stop this relationship. Tell that girl it’s over!”
“I’m going to bed,” Matthew said.
Early next morning he went off to see Katrina.
He rang the bell and Katrina appeared along the pathway and looked through the railings at Matthew.
“What’s the matter? You look unwell,” she said and feared trouble.
“It’s my parents. They told me to stop our relationship.”
Katrina said with no fear or doubt,
“Do you love me?”
“Katrina, yes of course I do!”
“Well, nothing is wrong then.”
“I’m going to school alone today,” said Matthew.
He turned and walked off. Katrina went home into her mother’s kitchen.
“Do you want breakfast?” asked her mother.
Katrina span round.
“No!” she shouted with anger.
Katerina told her mother of the conversation with Matthew.
“My darling girl, of course they disapprove. That’s just normal in their position compared to ours. Your father’s parents disapproved of me.”
Matthew walked to school that morning with anger and confusion. Once in school he strode into his classroom and up to his teacher. Victorina was wiping her blackboard free of yesterday’s lessons. Seeing Matthew, she sat down behind her desk.
“Can we talk, please, Miss?” asked Matthew.
“Yes,” she answered. “Sit in the front row facing me and tell me what’s wrong.”
Matthew started to tell her. About him and Katrina, her father, their talks and the love they had declared for each other, then about his parents.
Victorina looked up, thought and said, “I will go and speak to your parents. I’m the teacher. They will listen to me.”
She pulled out a draw, took out a cast iron key and pointed it towards Matthew.
“What’s that for?” he asked.
“Take Katrina and go to the fourth island. My parents left me a house there. This is the house key. It’s a place to hide.”
Matthew leant forward and took the key.
Rajiv Chopra brings us the delights of his latest instalment in the Mary Jane series:
The two Hobbits stood there, shivering in the dark. Their hearts were chilled, and their memories kept escaping to the warm home that they had left behind. The high-backed chairs into which they could snuggle and lose themselves in the warmth and comfort; the fireplace, the food, the photographs on the mantelpiece. It all seemed so distant now; a safe-haven, gone so fast. They sighed with regret, as they awaited, what they felt, was their impending doom.
“We promised you a journey,” said Vivien, and there was a cold sneer in her voice. “We promised you a journey, and we are going to keep our promise. Yet, the journey that each of you must undertake will be a journey inward, and not outward. They shall be journeys into your souls, to those little hiding places where you seek escape from the madness around you. This will be a journey that each of you will undertake and, to make it fun, the others shall witness your journey.”
The three stood there, beads of sweat gathering on their brows. Fear gripped them, and turned them cold. The beads of sweat became ice, and their hearts were constricted. Blood flow seemed to have stopped, and they seemed frozen.
Then Merlin spoke, “We also promised you a little bit about ourselves, and we intend to keep that promise. Sit down and listen.”
Poison Ivy and the Hobbits sat down in a heap, and looked wide eyed at the two ancient, magical creatures that stood in front of them.
“We come from the depths of the universe, and the far reaches of time. Yet, we shall continue from where the world seems to know us – the time of The Round Table.”
“Those were dark days,” said Merlin. “The Knights were engaged in continuous strife. Gawain had gone on his Quest, and though much ado has been made of it, a Quest is as much of an inward journey as outward. This is something he did not understand for a long time. Yet, he was honest, one of the most honest of the Knights. Too soon, he was gone.”
“The Kingdom was in strife. Guinevere and Launcelot had betrayed the King. The Round Table, that symbol of chivalry, was becoming desolate, and the King was turning grey.”
“I have been on the face of this earth for hundreds of years, guiding its growth, tending to Nature, and keeping things in balance. I was becoming tired, and the Darkness was rising. The time comes for Wizards to retire and regroup themselves, and regain their strength. It is then that they retreat into carefully concealed homes. Some may even say that I needed a hiding place until I was strong again to fight The Darkness. The days of the Knights was ending, and it was necessary for me to withdraw.”
“Vivien and I decided that I was to be interred in a cave of my choosing, and my making. She locked me into an old oak tree, and became The Lady of The Lake. She bore away the King to a land where he could be healed, and where he would remain until the time for him to return, if at all.”
“Once he was borne away, and safely deposited on the shores of The Grey Havens, she returned to me. Together we have remained in the Oak Tree, building our strength, and slowly bringing back the balance that has been decreed by Nature.”
“The process is long, for though Man worships many Gods, Darkness reigns in his soul, and he destroys the Nature that he should preserve and cherish. It is the fate of Man to create a Hell in which to live, while he seeks and elusive Heaven in the Afterlife. Delusion seeks Delusion. This is how it is.”