Tide

via Tide

The waves lapped gently against the cold grey stone of the port, the water inching its way down as the tide began to roll out.

Ava watched them and imagined where each droplet of water had been before it arrived here.

Upon how many ports had these same droplets smashed and broken? Had they all arrived here together like some mighty school of fish? Or was each on its own journey, joining fleetingly with momentary brothers and sisters to make a wave, before it was off again in a whatever direction the current took it?

Did the droplets know what they were doing or were they simply caught up in the wash of commotion?

Ava thought she knew how the poor droplets felt.

Yesterday her life had been steady and certain as the river that flowed through the little town in which she had grown up. Sure there had been winters so miserably wet the river had bulged and once even burst its banks. Just as there had been times her family had struggled, when illness or injury or some other unforeseeable tragedy had rocked their steady little boat. But in both cases things had always righted themselves again, returning, eventually, to normal.

And just as the river knew it flowed from and led to the wilder waters of the sea, so the Halfbridge townsfolk knew of the terrors plaguing their wider island nation, like the thumping of a distant drumbeat on the periphery of their collective conscience. But the mores of the sea did not disturb the steady flow of the river and Halfbridge continued untouched by the chaos thrumming across the country.

But that was Ava’s life yesterday. Before. Now she was staring out at the vast, unknowable ocean.

It had happened so fast the memories blurred and coalesced like her father’s dyes as he swirled the colours together to make a new hue for his thread. Gone, monsters, danger, leaving. If Ava had had to pick a colour for that blur of memory it would have been red. For the fear, the passion, the urgency and the brutality – that most of all – with which she was ripped from her peaceful, content life.

The one memory that pierced the blur was her mother’s shrill, animalistic scream.

It had pierced the still, quiet dawn then and still it seemed to pierce Ava’s every thought. The rawness, the agony enveloped in that scream clawed into her brain and nested in her memory, refusing to let go.

The fierce, terrifying ocean had violated the river and the darkness engulfing the island had finally sniffed out the delicious, enticing scent of quiet, peaceful Halfbridge and descended upon it like a pack of hungry wolves.

Ava was still watching the waves, lost in memory when she felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder.

“We’re boarding,” was all she said.

Being fourteen, Ava would have never allowed her mother to hold her hand. At least she wouldn’t have yesterday… today she took it gladly, squeezed it gently – for her own comfort or her mother’s Ava couldn’t have said.

Possessed by habit, Ava’s mother held out her other hand and looked down to ensure another, littler hand took it.

She began to sob.

Ava found herself, as she had so many times in the last day, with one arm around her mother’s shoulders leading her up onto the waiting ship. Her father was already aboard and Ava swiftly passed her mother into his arms.

She knew then that whatever awaited them on the other side of this journey would always be tainted by the inescapable, unfillable, Alfie-shaped hole in their family.

His little ghost had followed them ever since the demons had taken him. He was there as they hastily packed what they could into makeshift bindles. He was there on the riverboat as they made their way to the island’s primary harbour, the town of Nysport.

And he was here now, trailing their sobbing mother as their father led her to their cabin. Ava could almost see him, one fist tugging at his mother’s skirts, the other planted firmly in his mouth.

Ava blinked away the image and rested her forearms on the rail.

She looked out across the ocean in the direction of the mainland wondering if they’d be swept up in the tide of people fleeing the country, and if they would end up crashing and breaking against the unchartered shores that awaited them.

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Daily Prompt: Betrayed

via Daily Prompt: Betrayed

It felt like I’d swallowed a stone. My hands trembled as I unfolded the scroll. The paper was old and musty, the ink faded but I knew instantly what it was. What else could it be?

I gently brushed the delicate silver bangle on my wrist. The same one I had worn since I was eleven. I used to touch it when I felt anxious, a sort of tick, it soothed me. It represented stability, safety… love.

Now it felt like a shackle.

I felt heat rise up my chest, my neck flush and tears well in my eyes. I brushed them away with the back of my hand and shoved the scroll into the front pocket of my hoodie.

“Sweetheart?” My father’s voice floated up from downstairs. I heard the ladder creak and his head popped up through the open attic door.

“Poppet, what are you doing up here? Your bridesmaids are here, they brought stuff for buck’s fizz.” His face dropped as he clocked the scattered boxes and their contents strewn around me. “Why are you looking through those?”

“I wanted to wear mum’s veil. I thought it might be up here.”

The familiar stone mask descended over his face, the same one I’d seen time and time again all my life – every time I mentioned my mother.

“You know I threw out all of your mother’s things.” The effort to keep his voice level was clear.

“I just thought, it was from your wedding, so maybe -”

“It’s all gone,” he cut me off, “it was for the best. Now come down. Apparently there’s some make-up lady arriving soon.” He started to step back down the ladder.

“And my bracelet? Was that for the best?” my voice quavered but he heard me. His head appeared again and this time he climbed all the way into the attic and knelt opposite me.

“I don’t know what you mean.” But he did know. I knew he did.

“You lied to me,” I said, “all these years you let me think… let me think…” Tears choked my throat. He still wouldn’t look up at me. Coward. My heart pounded faster, the tears turned to anger.

“Look at me. Look at me!” I yelled. Still he wouldn’t. I reached into my pocket for the scroll but my fingers found my lighter. And I thought pre-wedding jitters would be my biggest problem today. Shame being betrayed by my father wouldn’t be solved by a sneaky cigarette…

I pulled out the scroll and the lighter, which I flicked open. My dad looked up at the click and in his eyes.. was that fear?

“Don’t,” he said.

“What? Burn this scroll? Why not? It’s clearly nothing. It couldn’t be, huh, I don’t know, magic or anything could it?” I let the lighter close and put it on my lap so I could slip the bangle off my wrist.

“Poppet… Poppy, please. I was doing what I thought was best.” He started to edge closer to me.

“By lying to me? By letting me think I was crazy, that all those memories were imagined? Do not come closer to me!”

He stopped. “S-stop shouting, Poppy, your friends will hear.”

I snatched up the lighter and held it up to the scroll, letting the dry old paper catch. I’d never seen my dad look so scared. I didn’t take my eyes off him as I slammed the attic door shut. His face paled.

“She was like me, wasn’t she?”

“And it killed her. Your mother’s affliction -”

Affliction? It was a gift! A gift you ripped from me.”

“I wanted to protect you!”

“You betrayed me!” I picked up the bangle and rolled it in my hands. “When you gave this to me, I thought it was because you loved me.”

“I do love you Pop,” he pleaded.

“But no. You gave it to me to trap me. To take away part of who I am.”

“To protect you!”

“No.” I closed my fist around the jewellery and turned it to ash. When I opened my hand the dust fell through my fingers.

“I have a wedding to get to,” I said calmly, “you should leave.”

He didn’t even have time to say anything before I vanished him.

I crouched across the attic and opened the hatch. As my hand closed on the light switch I whispered, “thanks for the wedding gift, mum.”

Cobblestones

Via Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Photo credit @ The Majesticgoldenrose

She had never stopped dreaming of that magical gateway. A courtyard ensconced in towering stone walls, seeped in history, knowledge and the secrets of the thousands who had lived here over the centuries.

The first time she’d seen them had been from her daddy’s shoulders. He’d carried her across the cobbles then put her down and stooped through the wicket gate, beckoning her to follow. Her head didn’t even brush the top.

She remembered being mesmerised by the enormous space hidden inside. Green grass, pink blossom, brown stone twisted to make towers and turrets, dozens of windows and doors. 

It was a castle from a fairytale.

She was just as mesmerised now, standing in that same courtyard, gown flapping in the breeze, nervously adjusting the cap on her head. 

She wobbled in her heels as the procession made its way across the cobbles. When she saw her father’s beaming smile she felt as high as if she was riding on his shoulders once again.

Thank you Priceless Joy for the prompt. It reminds me so much of my university so it was lovely to go back there for a few minutes for this piece 🙂

Believe

Photo Credit @ Pamela S. Canepa

Via Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Giant boots crashed through the forest. Shouts, laughter, the wet, heavy panting of a dog.

She shuffled further under the rock, hoping the dog wouldn’t sniff her out.

She was so cold, so weak. So lonely. She heard a child’s giggling as the family threw sticks for the dog to chase. Enormous paws flattened green shoots poking out of the ground and threatened to topple the rock she was hiding under.

She longed to creep out. To see the wonder and joy in the child’s eyes, wrap herself up in the warm magic of it. Like she used to, years ago.

The people sounds grew quieter as the family moved on. She crawled out, wings limp and dragging on the rough forest floor.

She watched them grow smaller and smaller, until they looked as tiny as she was, and she whispered, “all you had to do was believe.”

A girl named Natty

via Daily Prompt: Natty

“What sort of a name is Natty, anyway?”

“A better one than Yapper, that’s a dog’s name,” I stuck my tongue out at my friend.

It got me thinking though. How did I get the name Natty? I wasn’t given it, by parents or whatever. I didn’t have parents to give me a name. It must have come from other kids or the sort of guardians that drift in and out of your life when you’re a street kid like us.

“It’s cuz you never stop nattering, girl,” Old Mabs, a woman who acted as a foster mother for lots of us street kids, once told me. I’ve often wondered if she was telling the truth because I’m sure Yapper got his name because he doesn’t know how to shut up.

He’s annoying but Mabs looked after both of us at roughly the same time and I guess that makes him kind of my brother. We stick together, anyway. It’s a sort of unspoken agreement that as much as we get on each other’s nerves, we’re better off together than apart. Me or Yapper might storm off for a day or two but we always come back.

“Maybe it’s ‘cos you always look so natty,” he poked at me.

I rubbed my dirty face, which just spread the grime around more than anything, “do not.”

“Do so, your hairs all matted and stuff. Like matty, that’s what Natty means.”

“You’re making stuff up,” I huffed. I stood up and made to storm off from the dilapidated playground where we were planning to stay for tonight.

“Where you off?” Yapper asked.

“Away from you!” I shouted.

“He did make that up, that’s not what natty means.”

Me and Yapper both whirled to see who had spoken. A skinny boy wearing scratched glasses held together with duct tape and dirty clothes like ours seemed to appear from thin air. He must have been lurking near the swings, where we couldn’t see him in the shadow.

“Stay out of this, speccy,” Yapper spat, taking a step towards the boy.

“Oi, Yapper, leave him alone,” I shoved him back. “What does it mean then?” I asked the boy.

“Oh yeah, right, I got it wrong. It’s like ratty, like a rat. Ha ha, rat-face!” Yapper sneered and pointed at me.

“Yapper shut up for once!” I shoved him harder but he just laughed it off. He was bigger than me, after all.

The boy seemed uncertain, glancing nervously at Yapper as he said, “it actually means neat. Like – like smart, stylish.”

“Ha!” I wheeled on Yapper. “You said I look nice, you lurrrrrve me! Dummy.”

Yapper went red as a tomato and shuffled off to sulk on the roundabout.

“What’s your name?” I asked the boy with the glasses.

He shrugged, “I don’t have one.”

“Give yourself one,” I said.

He wrinkled his nose, thinking. “I think – I think I would like to call myself Beano. I had a comic called that once, and I think it’s a good name.”

“Then nice to meet you, Beano,” I smiled and held out a hand for him to shake. He shook it and smiled back.

“It’s better than a dog’s name like Yapper,” I whispered, jerking a thumb at Yapper who was still off sulking.

Me and Beano giggled.

 


Disclaimer: I had to Google what natty meant for this prompt, and it provided some surprise inspiration!