Freewrite – A Bunch of keys
The keys jingled in her hand, creating a tinkling sound, not unlike the sound of sleigh bells in the Christmas carols that had been playing non-stop since October. She glanced around her as she exited the car and headed towards the house. All the houses on the street were bright and colourful, bright twinkling lights, and gaudy fake snowmen standing proudly in gardens, some were even singing, proclaiming to all that this was the season to be jolly. She blinked back the tears as the words played in her head, it may be Christmas eve but there was nothing inside her that felt remotely jolly right now. As she entered the only dull lifeless house, she shivered at the cold air in the hallway. The house was eerily quiet, as if even it knew there was something just not quite right. Her mother had loved Christmas, normally at this time the house would be warm and cheery, the smell of mince pies in the air, the dogs yapping cheerily as the kids ran wild, making the most of fun time at grandma’s house. Placing the keys on the table, she picked up the mail from the floor and tried her hardest to ignore the wrongness of the room. It had been a while since this house had held any warmth or laughter, even though her mother had only passed away yesterday, she had been moved to the hospice over three months ago, once her condition had deteriorated far beyond what could be managed at home. Her throat felt tights as she opened up a Christmas card wishing her mother all the best in the new year. She sank down in the seat as the knowledge swept over hr once more that her mother wasn’t going to see any more new years, she was gone, there would be no more Christmas or new years, not now or ever again.
freewrite for assignment, unedited and uncorrected.
The Christmas Spirit at our table
Rebecca put down the centrepiece, and stood back to survey the table. The small posy of holly and ivy was the perfect finishing touch, now everything was set for a magnificent Christmas dinner. The table was awash with a vibrant visual display; the red tablecloth, green placemats, and bright white plates with gold trim created a kaleidoscope of colours. The sharp spicy smell of the mince pies, offset the soft aroma of the vanilla scented candles, they wafted together to create a warm and inviting fragrance.
She had always prided herself on her Christmas celebrations, especially Christmas dinner. Each year she worked hard to create the perfect meal. She liked to see the family seated around the table with funny anecdotes and fond reminiscences filling the air. It was the idyllic follow up to a day of gift giving and celebrations. Moving round the table she placed the cutlery down swiftly and efficiently, but her fingers started to shake slightly as she neared the top of the table, the only seat without a place setting. Moving on to the other side of the table, the slight tremor in her fingers caused the fork to clatter into the knife as it was laid down. Taking a deep breath, she steadied herself and placed the next setting without incident.
She had never expected today to be easy. The pain was still too new, the grief still raw and potent. Far too painful to discuss or examine but she hadn’t realised it would be this hard. Sharp knives of pain hit her at the most unexpected times. The sense of loss and devastation was accompanied by a swell of emotion that caused her breath to hitch and eyes to sting. There was no room for grief today though, no time to spill the tears and no place to deal with the aching pain threatening to tear her apart.
It was Christmas day! A time of smiles and joy, of magic, happiness and miracles. Her kids deserved that at least, the chance to play and revel in new toys and the magic of the season. To have faith in the birth of a miracle child and the mystical delight of a bearded man who delivered toys with a booming laugh and a twinkle in his eyes. They were too young to understand what had happened merely two days before and far too innocent to comprehend the measure of what had been lost. They knew the bare details of course, that grandma had been sick and was now in heaven. Tears had been shed and questions asked and answered. Yet, at the ages of four and six death and loss was no competition for magic and toys.
The quick “ping” of the oven timer broke her out of her reverie. As she opened the door, the aroma of oil and meat drifted up. With careful hands, Rebecca removed the turkey and placed it on the counter, covering it with foil as she moved on to the trimmings. It was funny how certain smells could invoke vivid snatches of memory. One whiff of strong sage and she was transported back to watching her mother capture the essence of Christmas with flour covered hands and bright smiles.
Her mother had been the one who instilled the magic of Christmas in Rebecca’s heart. Who had taught her that it was about more than presents and parties. Most of the traditions she now followed had been adopted, then adapted from the ones she had carried out with her mother during her own childhood. Today, with a bittersweet mixture of grief and pride, she had followed tradition to the letter.
As Rebecca carried the food to the table a soft smile broke across her face when she heard the gleeful laughter of the children as they played. As she called the family in, the joyful chatter grew louder. She watched as everyone took their seats at the table, her daughters and nephew fighting over the chair next to grandpa and then the quick scrabble for seats next to each of their dad’s. Rebecca met the eyes of her sister, both relieved and saddened to see a reflection of her own grief and confusion mirrored there.
They all took their places at the table, smiles and compliments being passed over the food. Within minutes the crackers were pulled, jokes were being told, and prizes claimed and swapped. They ate too much, laughed loudly, and smiled brightly. Everything was exactly what one would expect from a loving family sharing a Christmas meal. If, on occasion, their eyes strayed to the empty place at their table, and the laughter seemed a little forced, well that was only normal.
They had learnt the hard way that Christmas wasn’t always a time for miracles.
Although I guess for me, there is.
Now that the confirmations are up and people know I have left the lj idol race, I just wanted to say thank you to every single person who has read, commented on and voted on my entries over the last fourteen weeks.
I have adored this competition and being talked into it by my favourite super sekrit ninja was the best thing I have ever done. It has gotten my creative juices flowing, given me confidence in my writing, allowed me to write and discuss things I had never brought up with anyone before.
It has also introduced me to some of the nicest people and some of the most talented writers it has ever been my privilege to know. My lovely rejeneration
whose entries have never ceased to blow me away. The wickedly dark joeymichaels
who has thrown everyone for a loop tonight, the amazing oneonthefence
who has made me laugh and cry with her words. The always funny and thoughtful drjeff
whose entry about his kids, I actually printed out to show my husband because it blew me away that much, and of course my lovely partners beautyofgrey
who are funny, talented and were such a blast to work with.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end. I'm going to be out of commission for part of March and maybe April, and where there is no guarantee that I would even have been in the game then, it would have killed me to go out missing a deadline knowing that a few weeks previous I could have given someone else a shot. The lovely poppetawoppet
was always one of my favourites and I know she is going to rock this :D
Thanks also to my lovely Zomebie girls and Ames and V and Becks and Rev and Rhia for always taking the time to read my entries and throw a vote my way and listen to me banging on endlessly about this competition week in and week out. Special thanks to my lovely ninja for forcing me down this road into the first place.
I guess there is nothing left to say but see you in the home game
This week my lovely partner intrepia
and I wrote about lives that might have been, and what actually comes to pass. It has been a pleasure working with her and I hope you enjoy both our entries.
What if you knew what the future held?
It is a question that has been asked in too many films, tv shows and books to name. The idea that if you somehow knew... where life would take you. What lay ahead of you. How things would turn out.
What would you do if you had that power? If you knew you could change anything?
If you knew that the kiss behind those bike sheds would ruin a lifelong friendship. That going to that particular club on that particular night would bring you to the love of your life, the one who shattered your heart into so many pieces. That turning up on that one day would show you the truth of those you loved.
If you knew, Would you change anything? Or maybe even everything? Would you risk a different path and alter everything you ever knew about yourself, for this one chance at something different.
If I had known going into my journey, that I would miscarry eleven times, that I would say goodbye to my hopes, dreams and sometimes my sanity, would I have had the courage to try the first time?
If I had any idea that when I brought my beautiful boy into the world, he would be facing a constant uphill struggle, lung problems, muscles problems, eye problems, would I still have told him to fight so hard?
Maybe I would have went straight for IVF. It was the one thing that finally worked for me. So if I was armed with the prior knowledge, then I would be able to go straight to that. No pain, no loss, no heartache or regrets. I would have the child I always dreamed of without any of the negatives. In theory that sounds like a dream come true, right?
But then what if that one change affected everything? What if, in knowing my future and trying to control it, I ended up with a beautiful little girl? As I would have been aware of the risks of me being preterm I could have made the doctors aware, had them keep a closer eye on me. If I could change all of that, then I would have this perfect, healthy little baby. I would finally have my perfect childbirth experience. Instead of watching my child come into the world tiny, in pain and fighting for his life, she would suckle at my breast, pink, pretty...perfect.
There would be no living at the hospital for five months, familiarising myself with the machines that help my child breathe. There would be no living under the constant fear of something going wrong. No hospital stays every christmas, no eye doctors, lung doctors and physiotherapists. There would be no guilt about what I could have done differently, what I could have done to save my child this pain, this hardship, this constant daily struggle
I would never have to suffer the pain of loss and fear and guilt. It all sounds pretty much perfect doesn't it? I would have so much to gain, but what would I lose?
The answer to me, in a nutshell is..... everything.
Because that beautiful, perfect, healthy child wouldn't be my Robert. For all of the things I would seem to have gained, I would have lost the greatest gift life has ever given me, my son and the lessons he has taught me.
My son has taught me so many things since the day he was born. He has shown me the meaning of courage, beauty, strength and unconditional love.
There have been so many bad moments, so many times when it felt like I could not put one more step forward, when the constant run of bad news made me feel like giving up, giving in
. But one wide smile, a soft wet kiss on the cheek from wind snapped lips, an unexpected hug accompanying the words "I love you mummy"
wipes out every moment of fear and pain I have ever felt.
I am the person I am because of my experiences, and I am the mother I am because of the special little man god gave me to love.
Each night I sing my son a lullaby. My favourite line by far is the following.God looked down from up above and he picked you out for us to love
he picked you out from all of the rest because he knew that we'd love you the very best.
So I’m glad I never had the precognition of what was to come, that I never knew what life had in store for me, that I was never given the chance to choose.
Because I know that no matter how many 'do-over's' I was ever given, I wouldn’t take them. Robert came to me as a gift, special, amazing, unique
He is more than just a sum of his parts, more than the illnesses that try to define or limit him. He is my special little man. He is bright, funny, sweet, loving and loves me more than anything in the world (or at least he does until his father comes home).
He is the child I dreamed my whole life of having. My one perfect act, my miracle, and I wouldn’t change him for the world.
This has been my entry for therealljidol
. All comments and constructive criticism are more than welcome. My partner for this week has been the lovely intrepia
she has been lovely to work with, a link to her entry will be up shortly.
We all take risks that change our lives and open up horizons we never thought we’d dare to fly in. But I was never much of a risk taker; I preferred to stay safe, hiding in the shadows, never calling attention to myself. Growing up, my life revolved around books, books and more books, unlike people, they never judged. I read to myself, I read aloud, I read in school, I even read walking
to school. I was the one who read my little brother his bed time story each night. My mum tried a few times but apparently I always did the voices better.
One of his favourite stories was the three billy goats gruff. He loved the tapping sound I would make with my fingers as each Billy Goat tripped over the bridge, ready to face and defeat the ogre, and my loud troll voice as the troll attempted to stop each goat in turn, before being tricked, deceived and eventually defeated. This story to me was about taking risks. Each billy goat was willing to risk the danger of the ogre, to get to something they wanted, something better
. But recently I have found myself sympathising with the ogre, his desire to keep his world hidden, safe and to himself. Well let’s just say I have understood that feeling a lot of late.
When I first joined Live Journal, I found that I had a passion for writing, as well as reading. I’m not one of those people who always loved writing, who carried a notebook about with them everywhere ready to jot down their ideas. I enjoyed creating stories in my head, and deciding on different ends for the stories I loved. But it was Live Journal that first gave me the inspiration to put pen to paper, or rather finger to key.
But writing brought with it, insecurity and it's own risks. The day I posted my first ever story the worry and paranoia was intense. What would people think of my writing? what would they think of my content, my ideas? My first pieces were very safe, neutral even, but still I worried. Live Journal in all its anonymity made it so that I couldn’t see who was reading my work unless they commented, but I didn’t want it locked down, because what is the point in writing a story if you can’t share it with readers.
As I wrote more and made some friends, I found myself relaxing slightly, becoming a bit more comfortable with my words and ideas. (Although the first time I found out my husband had been on my LJ, I was filled with a couple of moments of abject terror). Then I started pushing my boundaries a bit more. I wrote my first story with sexual content, and the fear was back. What would people think? Would people judge what I had written? What if it was awful?
This fear never truly went away, with so much on display I worried constantly about who was reading it, what they thought. My uncertainties were so deep, that when I joined this competition, I actually set up a separate journal to enter. On my main journal
, all my previous writing had been fanfiction. Stories created in worlds people already knew, with characters they cared about, it was as safe as writing can ever possibly be.
I had no idea as yet what I was going to write for this competition, but I knew it would be original work, and I didn't have the courage to share that with everyone just yet. As the weeks went by in therealljidol
, I opened up more than I ever dreamed I would, or even could. There were times when the prompt literally had the story flying out of my fingers and times like this week where I never knew what to write. I originally thought I would be writing fiction, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead each week I found myself laying out little pieces of myself. My family, my hopes, my dreams, my losses, my pain, my triumphs and my fears. Each week I shared more than the week before. Each piece allowed people get a little closer, and revealed a little bit more about me, and I loved every minute of it. The encouragement and support, that I received from the participants in this competition was overwhelming.
But still I was afraid to share this with my world at large. With the exception of a handful of friends, no-one knew about this journal, or my participation in the competition, at least not until last week. Last week I finally let my mum read the piece I’d written about her, and let my husband read all of the pieces I had written about our life, and our son. The day after that I posted the links on my main journal and invited anyone who was interested to go and have a look.
I don’t know what changed, but I was finally comfortable sharing my world and ideas. Not only was I comfortable with it, I welcomed it. Not because I believed that they are great works of literature, but because they were pieces of me, pieces I wanted to share, and I was proud of them.
Now, I find myself enjoying wondering who has been reading my lj, and what they thought of it. Do any of my stories give someone some hope, or a different view of things. Do they make them smile, laugh or even cry?
I am no longer the ogre on the bridge, fearfully guarding my secrets and forbidding anyone interested in sampling the grass. Nor am I afraid to cross the bridge myself, if there is something worth the risk. I know some people will cross over and may hate what they find. Both here and in my main journal I’m sure there are things people may like, dislike, agree with, or disagree with. But it no longer worries me.
So anyone who now wishes to trip trap on either of my LJ’s is more than welcome. Come over, pull up a chair, comment and give me a shout. I like meeting new friends and sharing new passions. Have a look round and a really good rummage, because everything here is for the sharing.
This has been my entry for therealljidol
All comments and constructive criticism is more than welcome. My partner for this week has been the lovely rattsu
it has been a lot of fun working together, you can read their entry HERE
. If you liked this entry, please consider voting for me HERE
That summer was the hottest in Glasgow for over twenty years. I remember everyone talking about it, making fun of the people who disappeared abroad and were experiencing lower temperatures than those to be found at home.
I remember our neighbour Mrs Bates telling my mother over the garden fence in a gleeful voice that it was raining in Greece.
“Serves them all right,” she stated. “Running off to those ridiculous foreign resorts, with their fancy foods and gigolo waiters and all that S.E.X.”
My mother had quickly looked over at me to see if I was listening. Our neighbour was an older woman, very much of the old school of children should be seen and not heard. She probably hadn’t even noticed me sitting there, my face buried in my book whilst my free hand stroked the hair of my little brother sleeping on my lap. But my mum knew I was there, she also knew that spelling out words hadn’t worked around me for nearly four years.
But she simply smiled and agreed with Mrs Bates, rather than making a fuss. My mother was an agreeable sort of woman, always ready to soothe ruffled feathers. As our neighbour started on the behaviour of the local ‘hooligans’ though, my mother smile had faded as her eyes drifted towards me again. As Mrs Bates continued on about the local kids exploits, water pipes being left off to create fountains, ball games in areas where there were clear ‘no ball games’ sign. The laughter and squeal of the local children creating an unbearable level of noise. My mother’s sparkle disappeared completely.
I knew exactly what had cost my mother her smile. During this summer, the hottest on records, the kind of summer every kid dreams of, I’d rarely ventured further than my garden.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like the neighbourhood kids. Some of my best friends from school lived around me. Nor was it because I wasn't old enough, at nine years old I was older than a lot of the other kids. The world was different twenty or so years ago, and we lived in a close community, the kind where everyone looked out for everyone else. So my containment to my garden had nothing to do with my lack of friends, or my mother’s worry for my safety.
The answer to it all lay in my lap, literally. All two feet four of him, with red hair and an impish smile. The reason I stayed in the garden was my lovely, sweet, wonderful five year old little brother.
We’d always been close, I was over the moon when I found out my mother was expecting a baby, I played the doting big sister from day one. I had fallen in love with John from the minute my mother brought him home from the hospital.
There never existed between us the sibling rivalry or jealousy that can sometimes occur between the beloved only child and the new ‘interloper’. No John was my heart from day one, and I adored every inch of him, down to the small spattering of freckles on the bridge of his nose.
I knew my mum worried a bit about our closeness, just as she was relieved that she never had to deal with the petty squabbles, she worried that he was too dependent on me, and that he was holding me back.
It was obvious quite early on that John was different from me. I was a quick baby, waking by ten months, gabbing away before I was two, and reading before I was four. I never walked anywhere when I could run. I was quick, fast and very little could slow me down.
John had been different, at eighteen months he still hadn’t been walking. My father had brushed off her concern, blamed it on me the‘mini mum’
. He said John was just lazy, after all John merely pointed at something and I’d fetch it for him. But by the time John was four, the drag in his left leg was too noticeable for even my dad to ignore. They diagnosed it as a muscle problem, said that it wasn’t too bad, that it could be fixed almost completely with physiotherapy, but it would take a couple of years.
There had been an improvement over the last year, but his leg combined with a bad case of asthma, meant that John couldn’t run and play in the same way other kids did. Not that my mum hadn’t given it her best shot sending us out, armed with sunscreen and jeely* pieces with a call to enjoy ourselves and not go too far.
But when I came home with a burst nose, scratched cheek and a sobbing John, it didn’t take too long for the story to come out. I’d sat in the living room and listened to Kim Mathers mum screech and shout at mum about me, the ‘delinquent daughter’, complaining about her poor Kimberley’s black eye and ripped shirt. My mum took it all in her usual calm manner, filled with regret and apologies, until Mrs Mathers made a remark about John, startlingly similar to the ugly words her daughter had used. It was then my mother’s temper broke and my father had to restrain both me and
my mum whilst he loudly and none too politely asked Mrs Mathers to leave.
She had left with the ugly words, ‘delinquents, disordered and cripple’
ringing in my ears. That night I had slept with a still quiet john wrapped around me, cuddled in close, his breathing making the soft snuffles that come with too much crying. Each one tore at my heart and I swore to make Kim’s life a misery for the rest of mine.
Mum never tried to send us out again after that, she allowed us to stick to our confinement of the garden. She did make one of two failed attempts at getting me to go out alone, but faced with John’s tears and my stubbornness, her resolve soon faded.
So we spent that summer together, we played He-man and She-Ra, discovered an ant colony, learned about flowers, birds and butterflies, from the multitude of books my mother got from the library. We made ourselves a world of adventure, and when we got bored with that, we disappeared into another world in one of my books, curled up under the tree in the garden, John’s head in my lap as he listened to the adventures of Peter Pan and Peter the High King of Narnia.
My mother thinks I missed out that summer but I look back on it as one of the best times of my life. It was in that golden age where you are old enough to understand the world around you, but still young enough to believe in magic and the endless possibilities that the world could contain. I was surrounded by the love of my family and lucky enough to have a family in which that love was often expressed and never doubted.
Four years later we had another of the hottest summers on record. Again we had the usual gleeful people making fun of those who had headed off to sunnier climes only to find it colder than sunny Scotland. (Not Mrs Bates though, she headed off to Benidorm that summer in search of dodgy foreign food and a summer gigolo, after her husband had left her for the Bingo caller at our local Mecca Bingo.). John now had four years of School behind him, and I‘d just finished my second year of secondary school. His leg and chest were much improved and he spent most of the summer running around with his friends playing football. He was still slightly slower than the other boys, but luckily he had become best friends with a boy in the year above him who was as fiercely protective of him as I had once been.
The forced separation was good for us, allowing John to finally stand on his own two feet and for me to realise that he could survive without me, and I without him. I spent most of my summer with friends of my own, giggling over whose boobs had grown and how gorgeous Tommy Anderson was. I lost my crush on him quickly the following year when he dated Kim Mathers for three months, (no I never did forgive her).
Despite spending most of that summer apart we did have a couple of days that were reminiscent of that wonderful golden summer of a few years before. Where we sat under the garden and read stories and made daisy chains (Ok I made them whilst he told me to stop being such a girl) and put the worlds to right before heading in for dinner.
I’ll admit in a way I missed him, missed him needing me over everyone else, but I got over it quickly. I had never resented John needing me, and so refused to resent him not needing me.
But those four or five years where our worlds had been so wrapped in each other had forged a bond between us so deep that we remain amazingly close to this day. Despite the four year age gap, we were never too busy for each other, we share the same social group, the same friends, and I grew up to marry his best friend, the boy who had been so fiercely protective of him all those years before.
Despite the slow start John became more like me than anyone would have thought, when given the choice he would run, not walk. He leaped into things with no fear and little resistance, and embraced life with a fire and passion that can be hard for even me to keep up with.
My mum likes to say that I taught him to walk, then run, and then smile as he out lapped me.
* Jeely Piece - A Jam Sandwich
This has been my entry for therealljidol
Feedback and Constructive Criticism warmly welcomed.
I made it to week 10, yay. This was my personal goal, so thanks to everyone who has voted for me so far. Long Live LJ
Over the course of the last few months in LJ Idol, I have talked a lot about me, my family, my husband and in particular my child. I find so much pleasure in my family that I sometimes find it hard to remind myself that there are other things worth talking about. I am totally the woman on the bus who bores you rigid with stories of her ‘beautiful boy’.
But there are other things I love; I have an overwhelming obsession with Supernatural, a passion for reading, and writing and a fixation for go-karting. There is also the fact that I am a Star Wars fanatic but until recently had to be forcibly held down to watch an episode of Star Trek (This changed with the reboot movie, yes I am one of those
fans). I have an all consuming love for all things Joss Whedon and Terminator, and there is of course the fact that I am more geeky than my husband, who plays online gaming.
But when I sat down and tried to start writing about any of these things, nothing was coming to me. Then inspiration hit and I realised that for my open topic entry in the Live Journal idol competition I wanted to write about Live Journal.
About a little over a year ago, I decided to do a part time degree in literature. As it was a long distance course, and the only computer we had in the house was a PS3, my hubby bought me the lovely laptop on which I’m typing (it is a wonderful, if sometimes unreliable little bunny that I have named Jimmy. No I have no idea why). As I bought the laptop about a month before my course started I first used it to have some fun. As everyone knows the most fun you can have with a computer is on the internet and at the time, my main obsession was Supernatural. So I went to ‘ye old trusty google’ and did a quick search. Most of the links it brought back were for Livejournal. Now although I had been involved in fandom before, it had been a long while ago, way back when LJ was in its infancy, so the world of lj was, if not a stranger then definitely a distant cousin that I didn’t really know very well.
The first link I clicked took me to a community looking for people to beta read their fiction stories, and my first instinct was that this would be pretty good practise for my degree. Editing work in a genre that I enjoy sounded both fun and educational, so I signed up. The first person to message me was autumn_lilacs
(known forever more as Ames, lemonade woman, ASS, Hey You and various other affectionate names, but very rarely by her actual name), the rest was pretty much history. I got myself a livejournal in November 2008, joined some communities and jumped into the fray.
Nowadays, I help moderate and maintain a writers community, I have a wonderfully entertaining flist on not one but two journals and I now find myself writing for a Live Journal writing competition. Live journal and the people who are part of it, have entertained me, encouraged me, inspired me and befuddled me. I have found a wealth of knowledge and opinions that have made me grow, challenged my ideas and beliefs and opened my eyes to a much larger and far more interesting world.
But that hasn’t been LJ’s best gift to me. No the best gift of all is the people I have met along the way. My wonderful already mentioned Ames who never lets me put myself down, no matter what stupid mistakes I make. My awesomely amazing internet wives faithbeckett
who love me regardless of what nonsense comes out of my mouth and who go out of their way to make my day. My other fellow mod sablier_bloque
who loves her obsessions (new and old) with a passion that always makes me smile. The awesomely wonderful mahret83
who believed in my writing so much she pestered me until I caved and joined lj idol. The amazingly talented and beautiful Zombie crew who are never too busy to lend an ear, and are always ready with a shoulder to cry on. The divinely funny Laura whose sardonic sense of humour masks the heart of a true sweetheart, and everyone else, far too many to name who have gone out of their way to make me smile, share my sorrows and brighten my day. Then there are the new friends I have made here on myscribbles
the amazingly talented rejeneration
who shares my supernatural obsession and whose entries never fail to blow me away. oneonthefence
whose entries always move me and whose kindness and interest always make me smile, and every other person who has taken the time to comment on my entries and vote for me along the way.
All of these people have taught me that the only difference between your ‘real life’ friends and your ‘online friends’ is simple geography. They have been my rocks, my heart and my inspiration through a truly horrible year, and have surrounded me with a love that makes me feel blessed to know each and every one of them.
I started off 2009 with a vague interest in the internet, and some fun new acquaintances. But I ended it with a wealth of knowledge, a more open outlook, a lot more friends than I ever dreamed of having, and a few soul mates that, despite the oceans and miles separating us, are truly some of the greatest friends a person could ever hope to have.
So my thanks go out to live journal and to the talented and amazing people that keep it as alive and vibrant as it. Thank you for inspiring me, entertaining me, stimulating me and always giving me something new to write about.
I started reading at a pretty early age. My mum fully encouraged it, mainly because it kept me occupied in the long hours I spent at my grandmothers waiting for her or my dad’s shift to finish. It also kept me entertained on bus rides, stopped me getting underfoot in the kitchen whilst she cooked dinner and allowed her to feel better that I wasn’t sitting in front of a television all day like some kids.
Of course this hobby also caused me to need glasses at age seven (eye strain from reading under the covers by torchlight). Got me into trouble at school (reading under the desk when the teacher was boring me rigid), and nearly got me run over by a car no less than four times (Reading on the way to school despite the fact there was two main roads between home and school). But this isn’t a tale about how much I read, but rather what I read at a specific period in time and what fantasies I happened to create in my head while I was reading.
As a pre-teen I gorged on the adventures of Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, the twins at St Clares and the naughtiest girl in school. I longed to be a red headed adventurer. To walk on my hands and float down a lake pretending to be the lady of shallot. Or to run off to boarding school and make lifelong friends, conquer my weaknesses and learn how to play lacrosse (even though I had no idea what lacrosse was). As a teenager I lost myself in the worlds of Morder and Narnia. I fell in love with Mr Darcy and remained baffled at the interest Heathcliff held for Cathy (or anyone for that matter).
Then one day, I was sitting in my nana’s waiting on Sunday tea being served and bored senseless when she asked me if I would like something to read. After greedily grabbing the book from her hands, I was dismayed to find out it was a Mills and Boon. I had always avoided these, but I was bored, and depressed and spending Sunday afternoon in my nana’s, so I went for it, and there my friends is where my beloved, if short lived obsession with Mills and Boon was born.
I found them to be almost perfect. I nicknamed them as candy floss for the brain. They didn’t have the emotional impact or depth that the heavy hitters I loved had, but they had a charm of their own. They could be enjoyed without thinking too much and more importantly they could be started and finished in one sitting. So I read, and then read some more, and then some more. Now as you have probably noticed from what I mentioned earlier, I am very easily influenced by what I read. As a child I wanted to tame dragons, storm the fires of Mordor, ride on the back of Aslan as we raced to save Narnia together.
Well the books may have changed but my imagination hadn’t. Only now I didn’t want the perfect adventure, I wanted the perfect man. The strong dark, six foot six
millionaire billionaire who ran his own company by day, and disappeared off on secret espionage missions at night. The one who would take one look at me, and instantly fall in love. Who would always see me as beautiful and never find fault with me. We would live happily ever after in our mansion, surrounded by our six perfect children. The sex of course, would also be amazing. From day one I would see fireworks (literally, he would have set them up to go off when we finally sealed the deal). We would sail into the sunset and live happily ever after. We would never worry about anything, never have a cross word and never, ever stop loving each other.
Of course life isn’t a romance novel. In the end that is not what happened, not even close. I never met that man, I met Robert, my husband. We met when we were both young, we were each other’s first loves. We never actually dated (unless you count necking in the house of friends whose parents had gone out, after drinking cheap wine) so he didn’t ‘woo’ me. When we moved into our first flat, we didn’t have two pennies to rub together. We started with second hand furniture, no cooker, a small portable telly, and a big new bed.
The next few years were rough but happy. He wasn’t my billionaire but he was mine and that was enough. Then we moved onto our second stage, starting the perfect fairytale family. This part would be easy, right? Unfortunately not as easy as we thought, after heartbreak, disappointment, and pain layered on pain, we came close to giving up. Not just on having a baby, on everything. On our happy ending, on life and on each other. Luckily we didn’t, and one day our wishes finally came true and we got our little miracle.
After that things started to fall into place. We bought our first family home, our son came home, and we got on with the business of being a family and this is where you find me today. Eighteen years after I picked up that first Mills and Boon and my life is very different to what I expected. I never went on my adventures with Frodo and the gang. Anne Shirley and I never became bff’s, and I never married that tall dark and handsome millionaire. My husband has never once referred to me as his fragile little dove (or even Mi Amore, I always wanted someone to call me that). We never moved to the mansion in Paris, and that idyllic family with no trials and tribulations never existed.
Instead I have a man who has a slightly worrying addiction to Call of Duty. Who on being asked “Does this dress make my bum look big?” answers with the age old classic, “no the fat on your bum makes your bum look big”. We have had more than our fair share of rocky patches, fights, and times where we really thought we couldn’t take one more step further. But we have also laughed ourselves silly watching cheesy comedies. Smiled as we snarked in our own secret language, and cried as we faced heartbreak and total joy together, hand in hand. We have been driven to the edge more than once and always come back stronger.
Instead of meeting the perfect man I met the perfect man for me. The one who smiles as I squee over my latest ridiculous obsessions, who tells me I’m beautiful when I feel truly at my worst. He is my favourite cushion to cuddle up to whilst watching TV and the perfect hot water bottle on a cold Scottish night. He has taught me that in life you are only as strong as the person holding you up, and that Happy Ever After, is only the beginning of the story.
He is my other half, the better half of me, the person who makes me better.
So in the end you can keep your billionaires, stuffyour prince charming’s and throw your brooding Heathcliff types off the tallest hill in the moors.
I wouldn’t swap my better half for any of them.
Unwrapping the best present of all.
I have always adored Christmas. I loved it as a child, the presents, the smiling family, the wonderful dinner, and most importantly the traditions. Attending midnight mass, pancakes for breakfast on Christmas morning, the family cinema trip on boxing day.
As I grew older and started building a home of my own, I started my own traditions. Christmas Eve shopping with my fiancé, putting the tree up twelve days before Christmas, exchanging one gift on Christmas Eve.
I make a massively big deal about Christmas, can easily say it is my favourite time of the year, and I like it to be perfect, organised exactly, with complete precision. Everyone getting the present they wished for, everything running smoothly. I even got married in December so that I could have a Christmas wedding. (Yes some of my best friends in the world, did avoid me like the plague in the run up to that event, how did you guess?)
Then one Christmas, four years ago I was given a most unexpected Christmas surprise. On the 19th December 2005, one week before Christmas, my son came into the world. He hadn’t been expected so soon. Hadn’t been expected till April actually (maybe he was as much of a Christmas lover as his mother) because he was here. He weighed 760 grams (I lb 11oz) and he was sick, more sick that you should ever see your child be.
I first saw him that evening, he was bright red (the colour of Christmas), swaddled in bandages as white as snow, and so tiny and fragile it didn’t seem possible that he could be here. But he was, and his little chest was rising, up and down, over and over again. I could see his heart beat through his delicate skin. He was here, he was ours and he was in desperate trouble.
Three days before Christmas, the doctors called us in for a meeting. We were shown x-rays, masses of white on black that looked like the spattering of snow covering the icy roads outside. We were told the ventilator breathing for him was damaging his lungs, extensively. The smattering of black through the white were the holes in his tiny lungs. He wasn’t fighting back, and if he didn’t get better, he wasn’t going to make it.
They gave him three days, three days to start fighting, or to stop.
It was three days till Christmas
On Christmas Eve, we went to register his birth. I sat in the registry office, watching people come and go. A woman came in, tall in her mid forties, very pretty. Her voice broke as she told the desk clerk she was here to register a death. I wondered how hard it must be to deal with the loss of a loved one so soon to Christmas. My husband and I left the office in silence, my hands wrapped tightly around my sons certificate of birth, neither of us mentioned, or thought about whether we would be back here in a couple of days.
That evening I attended midnight mass. On the way to my seat I bumped into the mum and dad of an old school friend of mine, she had given birth to a baby boy three weeks ago, her mum spoke to me softly, kindly. Her eyes averted my gaze, almost guiltily as if she was embarrassed about her good fortune, next to my tragedy. I told her how well my son was doing, what a fighter he was. She smiled, and relieved excused herself and went to sit down with her family.
I sat in the back row and cried through the full ceremony, I tried to stop, I never showed my emotions in public, stiff upper lip etc, but the tears kept coming, blindly, freely, falling as if I had no control over them at all. By the time I got home there were no tears left. My husband asked me how mass had gone and I smiled and said fine, if he noticed the redness of my eyes of the dried streaks of tears, he didn’t mention them. I didn’t mention his either.
When we woke up the next morning, we smiled as we exchanged gifts, hugged and joked about our choices for each other. Then in almost silence we went to see our son. When we stepped into the ICU that day, the air actually felt different, the lights were dimmed and soft carols played in the background. There were presents at his incubator, wrapped brightly. One was from a local church, the other from the midwives, we had brought our own too, a small blue bear that when wound up played Fluer de Lise, it was his first Christmas after all, we had to get him a present.
There was a tiny knitted stocking hanging from his incubator, my gran had made it, inside was the small statue of the Virgin Mary I had brought back from the Vatican that June, where I had sat in mass and prayed to the Lord to give me my son, I figured if he didn’t hear me there, he would never hear me. He heard me, I found out I was pregnant two weeks later. I had taken that small charm with me to every scan, saying a silent prayer each time, to the mother of mothers that my child would be okay. Now it stayed with him, a mother watching over him for the times I couldn’t be there.
I looked down at my son in the incubator, feeling already that some of the dread was passing, it was Christmas morning, the deadline had passed and he was still here, that had to mean something right? He looked far more peaceful than he had on previous visits, his chest was rising much more slowly, and he wasn’t wriggling as much. I wondered if it was the music soothing him, I had listened to a lot of classical music during my pregnancy as it always woke up the baby inside me and started him kicking and I loved that. My husband used to joke it was him telling me to turn it off.
That day the doctors came to see us, they explained that they had switched our son to a lower frequency ventilator, one that didn’t damage his lungs as much, and for the first time he had taken to it. He said it was still ‘touch and go’ but the news was hopeful, it was a step in the right direction. To us it was a miracle, the best Christmas present ever. Finally in the depths of darkness, there was some hope.
Like all good Christmas presents the joy is in the unwrapping, and we watched as our son was slowly revealed to us over the course of the next five months. At two weeks he came out of his incubator and into my arms for the first time. I only got to hold him for a couple of minutes, he was as light as air and fragile as spun glass, and it was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced. At six weeks he came off the ventilator, breathing unaided for the first time in his short life. At nine weeks he came off morphine and started to notice the world around him, on my birthday I held him, and he lay staring up at me, his tiny hand curled around my fingers as he stared unblinkingly, his gaze saying loud and clear ‘Hey mummy, I’m here, quit fretting’. It was the best birthday present I have ever had.
At eleven weeks I gave him his first bath, surrounded by nurses who all wanted to see my beautiful boys face without anything covering it. At fifteen weeks he went into a cot and wore clothes for the first time, I went nuts buying as many baby clothes in size 3lb as I could, I adored getting him dressed in the morning, then bathing him and preparing him for bed each night before I had to go home. I even adored the piled of washing I had to take home with me, as I felt like a mum at last.
At eighteen weeks he came off oxygen altogether for short periods of time, and we enjoyed play time for the first time ever, mobiles and soft cushions providing hours of fun. Finally at twenty one weeks, we got to bring him home. Nothing that had come before beat that sense of exhilaration as we left the hospital with our son nestled safely between us. We hadn’t told anyone that he was being released in case it didn’t happen so we enjoyed going home and surprising everyone, it felt like Christmas in May.
This year my son turned four, and his love for Christmas puts mine to shame. He went to see Santa, excitement making him bounce. He asked question upon question, when is Santa coming? How long is it now? How will he find the house? Are you sure he got my letter?
On Christmas Eve we baked cookies together for Santa and laid them out neatly with the milk and two carrots for the reindeer, he had wanted to leave out eight, as there are eight reindeer after all, but I convinced them, that they would share. We sprinkled the lawn with magic Santa dust to help Santa find the way and then we cuddled together as we read Twas the night before Christmas.
The next morning, we watched and laughed as he excitedly unwrapped every present, stopping to play with each one in turn before moving onto the next. We sat down to dinner and couldn’t help but laugh as he stated this was his favourite part of the day, the family dinner.
As I put him to bed that night, shattered and exhausted from his big day, my smile was blinding, it had been the perfect Christmas, exactly the way I planned, but nothing will ever make me forget that one Christmas that although didn’t go to plan, did give me the chance to unwrap the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.
My first ever fiction entry, and the first one that none of my friends are online to read meep.
Ok here goes nothing.
warning: deals with sexual and physical abuse, though not overly graphic.
She cowered in the corner of her bed, her ears straining to hear the footsteps. It was a sound she dreaded, but one she always had one ear ready for. It gave her a moment, a few precious seconds to prepare herself for what was to come.
It had started when she was five, the innocent cuddle turning into something more, something that made her stomach knot and the bile rise in her throat. She was too young to have any concept of what it was, she just knew in her blood, in her bones, that it was wrong.
Many years had passed since that day. At thirteen she now knew exactly what it was he did to her. She knew what he really meant, when he spoke of love, of needing her, of needing this. His words were as wrong and twisted as what he did, love and need, replaced with the vile monsters of lust and want. They twisted and corroded her, inside and out, ruining any chance she would ever have of viewing any of these words with anything but revulsion.
Her hatred for him now, came second only to her hatred for herself. She had thought of stopping it so many times, considered telling someone, a friend, her teacher, her mother. But each time she was stopped by the knowledge that once the words were spoken, he wouldn’t be the only one people looked at with distrust and revulsion.
She was a clever girl, she had read up on abuse cases, on rape trials. She had seen how the acts of the damned can be twisted so that the victim is the one who bears the scars. So she stays silent, she stays still. She listens each night for the sound of his footfalls, she prepares her body and mind to take her away from this. To detach and take her to a place better, safer.
Because she knows that somewhere out there, there is a place so much better than this.
He dodges the first blow, knowing deep down that not only does it delay the inevitable but it will only make her madder. She will think he is being clever, trying to outwit her. It will infuriate her, and make the next blow, the one that does connect, hurt so much more.
As the pain makes his head ring and shoulder throb, he forces himself to stand as still as he can. He fights every natural instinct he posses, the ones that tell him to run, to hide, to hit back, even to put up his arms to defend himself. He had learned long ago, that these actions just made it worse, they fuelled her temper like oil on a fire. If he stood still, if he took it stoically, her rage burned out quicker and she was less likely to hit somewhere that people would see. Somewhere that would require explanation.
She hadn’t always been like this. He remembered a time where she had been like other mothers. She had cooked a roast on Sunday’s, baked home made pies, attended each school concert with a wide smile and a proud glance.
Back then those arms and hands being used right now to spiral his body into agony, had been used to stroke gently at his cheek, and engulf him in a loving hug. The mouth that at this moment screamed vile obscenities ’ugly/stupid/worthless , had once kissed him good night and whispered words of gentle encouragement.
That woman was now gone forever. She had disappeared around the same time his father had left them. He had spent the first few years, hoping, yearning for the return of that soft gentle woman, the one who had loved him so fiercely. But he had learned the hard way, that there was no return to that life. The only time he even caught glimpses of her was when they visited his father’s grave.
There she would break down, apologise for her acts, her words. She would beg her father for his forgiveness, as she explained how hard it was, how hard the boy made it for her. Then her arms would enfold him, stiff and cold as she cried self pitying tears into his shoulders and told him it would never happen again.
He would smell the liquor on her breath,and catch a glimpse of the hardness in her eyes and he would know that the words meant nothing. They were part of her ritual, her quest for absolution, even as she committed the acts that should damn her. It was in these moments that he would quietly ask his father why? Why had he left? Why hadn’t he taken him with him.
Most people feared death, but he didn’t, anything had to be better than this.
When I first saw the prompt, I decided to look up what reprobate meant. For some reason I had always classed it as a sort of loveable rogue, but when I realised that this wasn’t the case and read the actual description.
1. A morally unprincipled person.
2. One who is predestined to damnation.
It forced me to look at what types of people, I honestly believe are beyond salvation. At this point, my son was telling me about his day in nursery and as I looked at the beautiful three year old (soon to be four) in front of me, I felt the usual overwhelming rush of love, I feel whenever I am near my son, and I wondered not for the first time, how any human being could ever hurt a child, and there my answer was born.