#Writephoto – All That Remains

 

 

 

 

He came to me after dark, as night lay like soft velvet in the hollows of the hills. The fire burned low, his feathered cape laid over the chair shimmering iridescent blue as the birds stirred and gave their first sleepy chirps, my breath coming fast as he touched me and held me close. He told me his name, and I spoke it as I emerged from the dream.

‘Armand.’

The day dawned bright, my room pale, my bed cold and lonely as it always was. Yet the dream stayed with me throughout the long day, making me blush as I worked behind the counter making coffee, smiling at the customers who ebbed and flowed like the nearby sea, only staying long enough to smile and talk, but not long enough to truly connect.

I felt like the island out in the small bay. Close to, but not part of the small town that bustled along the curving shore. It takes time, I told myself, to make friends. Moving to a new place is a big step for anyone. Just give it time.

But at night feathers enclosed me in a soft embrace, my dreams taking me beyond the lonely confines of my world. Sleep became a refuge from the cold days, the aching feet, my broken heart.

One night, sleep eluded me. I sat at the window, my breath misting the small panes as I watched night leave the hills, black sky fading to blue. Glimmers of light appeared below as the town began to wake, gold in the sky over the nearby sea, flashing from the steeple on the hill opposite, soft gold to white, then fading away. My eyelids became heavy, my head drooping over my hands. A voice whispered to me. ‘Come and find me, beloved. I am waiting for you.’

I didn’t go to work that morning. No coffee scented fingers, hair gone limp from steaming milk, mouth tight from smiling so much. Instead I went across the valley, taking a gravel path past mossy walls to where the ancient church slumbered in a cradle of yew trees. And I found him.

Armand De Courcy, the plaque read, much rubbed by time. And on the marble, next to the bones that marked his resting place, was a single feather. Blue, like the twilit hills, like his eyes, like my heart.

This is my response to Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt, my favourite photo prompt in blogland. For more posts, or to share one of your own, head over to Sue’s blog for more information 🙂


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#Monday Motivations – The Bench

Esther Newton does a great writing prompt series called Monday Motivations, and her latest prompt is this lovely photograph. When I saw it a little story came to me, and so here it is:

She remembered when he’d put the bench there. He’d been young then, and strong, muscles firm against his skin, his flesh sweet against hers in the night.

Together they would sit, gazing through the trees, dreaming into the darkness, her head on his shoulder. Sometimes they would bring the radio and dance, holding each other close and swaying like the treetops above. Other times they would talk, making plans of family and home and love so strong it still left her breathless at his loss.

She still went to sit there every day, leaving the house they had built together, her old knees creaking as she negotiated the steps from the back porch. Sometimes she would take a handful of nuts for the squirrels or seed for the birds, especially when winter held the land in an iron grip, her breath misting the air.

Through the seasons she sat, as leaves turned and the evergreens dropped green needles that turned slippery brown under foot. And she would talk to him. ‘Come back to me,’ she would say, tears cool on warm cheeks, or hot against frozen skin. She would tell him her plans, tell him of the family, of all that had passed since the dark day he had left. Eventually, she would stop talking, and lose herself in a dream of summer darkness, of his arm strong around her. She would return to the house and sleep well that night, as though all the hard years since his passing had never been.

There was joy still, in her life. She brought their first grandchild down to meet him, small hand waving from the warm bundle in her arms. Then the second, and the third, speaking their names so he would know them, and they him.

Her family had tried to get her to sell up, to move on. To a place further south where the sun shone all the time, where old joints could feel young again. But she couldn’t leave their special place and, in the end, they came to understand.

And so it was, on a night toward summer’s end, while fireflies danced and the air still held the warmth of the day, that she made her way down to the bench once more, her breath catching as she negotiated the slope. It was silent under the branches, twilight sweeping the sky like soft wings.

She sat down. ‘Come back to me,’ she said, half smiling at her fantasy, dreaming of his touch.

‘I have never left you,’ she heard him say. She looked up, tears in her eyes, to see him standing just a little way down the slope. All at once lights were strewn through the branches, as though the fireflies had been bottled and shaken out along the leaves, glimmers of gold lighting his face, his dark hair, as he smiled at her, holding out his hand.

She stood, and it was as though she shed her skin, all the things that had weighed her down leaving her, so she was light as a soap bubble, rising through the air. She half ran to him, not slipping on the dry needles, her footing sure. She took his hand. ‘Oh!’ Her exclamation was soft, a whisper in the night, as she felt his warm fingers around hers once more.

‘I have missed you,’ she said.

‘And I you,’ he replied. ‘Even though I could see you, and hear you, it wasn’t the same. But now…’

‘Now?’

He said nothing, just looked past her, back to the bench. She turned and, when she saw the slumped body there, like a pile of old clothes, discarded, she understood.

And there was lightness all through her and around her, a thousand fireflies in the night, as she danced with her love once more.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Wednesday Wander – Amsterdam and London

anne-frank-houseToday I’m wandering to a couple of different places, linked by a young girl who lived over half a century ago. This is Anne Frank’s house, in Amsterdam, Holland.

I did go inside the house, climbing the steep stairs and entering through the secret door to see the rooms where Anne and her family lived for so long. I looked out of their window across the rooftops, across the view that was all they had of the outside world. I saw the little bits of writing on the walls of their rooms, then walked through the rest of the house, past the photos of the dead and dying, atrocity captured in stark black and white.

Anne, as I’m sure most of you know, was Jewish. Her religion demonised by Hitler’s regime, her family forced to live in hiding after being denied visas that could have taken them to safety. Anne had just turned thirteen when she was forced into hiding – she was fifteen when she was found and sent to Auschwitz, then Bergen Belsen, where she died. A young girl who didn’t get to live her life, all because of one man’s madness. IMG_1263This photo is of a plaque at The British Library, London. There is a tree associated with the plaque – I’m not sure if it’s the one peeping over the top of the wall, or if it was behind me, as for some reason I don’t have a photograph of it. However, here is a close up of the plaque:

IMG_1262As thunder approaches, may we all hold on to our ideals.

Thank you for coming on this Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time.


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

Impatience And Loss Beyond The Stars

IMG_0225When I was eight years old, my mother took my brother and I to see the new Star Wars movie. We were both immediately hooked. My brother had the toys; the light sabre, the Millennium Falcon, the X-Wing Fighter, the figurines. I know he wishes he still had them now. I loved the stories – the fantasy, the faraway galaxies, the struggle between light and dark and all the complicated relationships that went along with it. I might have had a crush on Luke Skywalker, too. And I thought Princess Leia was the luckiest princess in all the galaxies, despite all that she went through.

When the sequels were announced, my brother and I devoured every snippet of information, our impatience at the wait between films boundless. This was before the Internet, before pirate footage and leaked set shots, before we had access to fan fiction and groups and tabloids. We were kids, and, while our dad worked with computers from the earliest days, our lives were still far removed from dashing deeds in distant galaxies. When episode VI was announced it was originally called Revenge of the Jedi instead of Return of the Jedi – it was changed after Lucas decided that Jedi did not take revenge, as it was against their code of honour. If only we’d managed to get one of the early promo pieces featuring the original name – they’re worth a fortune today, apparently. What we did collect was bubblegum cards, spending all our pocket money and trading until we each had a complete set of Return of the Jedi cards. I still have my set today.

This Boxing Day just past my brother and I went to see Rogue One together, almost forty years after we saw Star Wars. And just a day later, the original kick-ass princess left us all, gone to a place beyond the stars. 2016 has seen the passing of so many great names and, in its final moments, does not seem to want to go quietly, stealing not just one but three names from my youth: George Michael, Richard Adams and Carrie Fisher.

May they all find peace, in the fields beyond.


This is my response, a day late, to both the 30 Day writing challenge prompt: Impatience, and the lamented passing of Carrie Fisher, George Michael and Richard Adams.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

#writephoto – Aftermath

cracked-iceI’m currently taking part in the 30 Day Writing Challenge, but I also like to take part in other blog challenges, including Sue Vincent’s #writephoto. As it turns out, today’s 30 DWC prompt is Aftermath, which also happens to fit the piece I wrote for Sue’s latest photo.

Perhaps I’m being a bit cheeky by hitting two challenges with one stone, so to speak – I do hope not. Here’s my story, inspired by Sue’s beautiful photograph.

‘So this is what you get, in the end.’

I nodded, my head on his shoulder, tears blurring the distant colours into even more fantastical shapes. His arms tightened briefly around me. I was cold, we both were, but there was nothing more to be done.

It was upon us. And with it came a sense of relief that finally our bare existence, scraping hand to mouth in an unnatural winter, might be over. I could feel snow seeping through the coarse weave of my trousers, stinging the lesions in my skin, but I didn’t care anymore.

‘We’re so stupid,’ he went on.

‘We are?’ I tilted my head to look at him and he smiled, whisky brown eyes crinkling in his tanned face.

‘Not us.’ There was that brief tightening of his arms again, comfort against the cold. ‘I mean humanity. Humanity is stupid. And we’re part of that.’

‘I guess.’ I mean, we were human, so on one level we were part of the whole. But we’d had no part to play in the first cataclysm, struggling in the aftermath just to survive. And now, once again, we were caught up in events beyond our control.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘We have no part in this.’ It was odd to hear him echo my thoughts. Strange to think anything I said or did might be on his level. ‘Stupid,’ he said again. ‘We should have been working together to make a new world, not fighting over the dregs of the old one. And now they’ve done it. Set the final act in motion.’

He fell silent and I felt him shiver against me. I snuggled in closer, trying to give him what warmth I could, but there was a cold in him I could never reach. He was older than me, his memories longer. I would hear him cry out in the night sometimes, or find him outside our camp staring up at the cold stars, tears on his cheeks. I never asked him what part of the old world was pulling at him, never wanted to pry. But now I kind of wish I had.

‘So what happens now?’ The colours were getting brighter, and there was an ominous whooshing crackle.

‘We wait. Until it’s over. It won’t be long.’

My mouth twisted, and I felt pain in my chest. Everything blurred again and I saw the field as it once was, green and flowered, the stream running clear.

‘If I have to do this with anyone,’ I said, overcome,’ I’m glad it’s with you.’

The noise was so loud now I doubted he heard me, but I thought, just before the shock wave hit us, that I felt his arms tighten around me, one last time.

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If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.