Her Reflection

silver-1 SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

She walks along the dunes. There had been very little time away from others. So very few opportunities to be alone. She needs this more than air.

Morris agreed to keep an eye on the children. They were not enthused.

“He’s boring, Mama!” Ethan complained.

“Yeah, and his breath smells!” Lilly pouted.

“You don’t have to kiss him,” she replied. “And if you are bored, I can leave you some chores.”

They skulked away, displeased, but there was nothing for it, grumpy neighbor-as-babysitter or not. She knew she was becoming increasingly impatient. She did not want to cross the line into unkind.

It wasn’t their fault that Paul left. It wasn’t their doing that their dad did not see fit to shoulder any responsibility. She knew they missed him. He didn’t even think of calling on their birthdays. She knew Ethan cried for his dad in his sleep.

She almost took them with her to the dunes. Almost made it a family outing. Lilly loved running in the sand. Ethan’s eyes always lit up at the space. Like her, he loved the breeze and silence.

But she could not. Not this time.

This time she needed to replenish. For herself. For them. They needed a sane mother. She was running low on how.

 

She walks and breathes and ruminates and lets the worries and the sorrows stream out and flow down her cheeks and neck and chest till they evaporate.

There was a time she had hoped to have a house on the dunes. There was a time she had a dream of living in the solitary calm of gulls and tides and estuaries.

It wasn’t that she regretted having the children (marriage was a whole other story, given what non-partner Paul turned to be). She did not. Not once. She couldn’t imagine her life without them. Just for this morning, though … she needed to let be a part of herself that did not have them in its center.

She walks as if in daydream. The light shimmers and the estuary glints silver in the shrinking distance. It gives her peace. A reminder of how every stagnant-looking pool may in fact be only a pause in flow.

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto challenge

 

 

No Quarter

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Photo: jurien huggins on Unsplash

 

She would give him no quarter.

Heed no pleas or demands.

He will have to obey.

It was how it was done.

No experience? No matter.

He will not fall

Behind!

First the tasks,

Then the chores

And more lessons to mind.

Math and science

Books and rhymes.

This was school,

Not play time!

 

 

For RDP Monday: Quarter

 

Tomorrow’s Orb

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

” … And that is when the sun became the liquid gold …” Marianna tucked the blanket tighter around the child and bent to kiss the flaxen head. The short soft hairs tickled her lips. She hadn’t yet gotten used to the severe buzz cut. She resisted touching her own head.

“…and in the morning?” the little one murmured, half-asleep.

“It will turn itself back into an orb and rise into the dawn …”

The almost translucent eyelids fluttered open once to rest on the flaming horizon, before closing, heavy, onto the small cheeks. The girl’s breathing deepened and slowed in time with the surf, arms secured around a well-loved doll.

Marianna stared at the reflection of molten lava on the water, listened to the murmured rush of the waves, rocked on her heels, and hugged herself.

At least the weather’s holding.

The child turned. An arm slipped out of the protection of the blanket and Marianna tucked the slim limb back under the covers, securing the doll where it could not be seen. It was a forbidden toy, yet Marianna could not bring herself to discard it. Not when so much had already been lost. She swallowed, and her hand rose of its own accord to feel the expanse of her head, the hair no longer there.

It was the least of it. Better they be seen as male, anyway.

The sun sank, gold, into the sea. She thought of the bedtime story and of the simple acceptance of young minds. Of the trust, the effervescent hope. Her own breath deepened as her daughter’s face at rest loosened a coil of tension in her chest into tendrils of comfort.

They’d made it this far. The beach was secluded. The trees and darkness offered their own respite. She, too, needed sleep.

May morning come, she thought. She lay her head on their pack of belongings and spooned the child against her heart. The last of the light licked the dampness from her cheek. May we safely see tomorrow’s orb rebirthed.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s Write Photo prompt

 

 

A Hole In The Sky

dusk SueVincent

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

“There’s a hole in the sky,” the child’s voice rose then hushed in part-fear, part-wonder.

“Indeed there is,” his father nodded.

The boy flicked his eyes away from the luminescent heavens just long enough to discern that his father wasn’t joking. He’d half-hoped his father would be, and his chest flooded with something like alarm when it did not seem that he was. What does it mean to have a rent in the ceiling of the universe? Would something fall through it? Would the world cave in like a shattered egg?

“Will it repair?” His voice was small.

The man put down the kindling he’d been arranging in preparation the evening’s fire. He straightened to a stand and leaned a heavy hand on the narrow shoulders of his son. Bird-like, the boy was. Fluttery and slight.

His youngest had always been a bit prone to the dramatic. The first to pick up on a change in atmosphere, the first to be reduced to tears, the first to wail at even the smallest prickling. Also the first to smile a welcome, the first to notice a green leaf peeking out of the frozen ground, the first to note the song of birds or a task well done.

He worried about such a skinless child, walking a life that did not always refrain from brushing far too crassly against tenderness. There were plenty of those who had repeatedly pressed him to be firmer with the youngster. To “toughen up the boy into a man” or “teach him how to grow a thicker skin.”

“How would I change the stripes upon a tiger?” he’d find himself replying. “Can I will a doe to become a lion?”

He could not bring himself to pain the boy as means to scar him into roughness. The child was made to be whomever he was made to be, and all a father could do was try to shepherd him toward maturity. Such as when taking the boy on this father-son hunting journey.

He squeezed his son’s shoulder and the boy raised a frightened face to meet his eyes.

“The sky will repair, Son,” he said, “though it may not go back to what it was before. For nothing can. It will move on — from day to night to cold to warmth to wind to storm. It will tear holes in clouds for sun to stream through. It will shred them to no shade. It will sew the threads together to again cover the sun. It is all as it is and all as it should become.”

The boy nodded. He swallowed down the tears that threatened, and tried to still the tremulous vibration of the world inside his mind.

“Now, as the sky does what it can,” the man handed his son a water-skin. “Let us do what we must. If you will fetch water, I will light the fire in tonight’s hearth.”

 

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

 

Not Here!

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Photo: Keith Channing

 

They had everything.

The Papa Chair. The Mama blanket. The two Cub chairs. The inner tubes: one small, one large. Even tin cans emptied to serve as sand pails in the refilled beach’s rectangle.

What a perfect day!

The lake awaited, wet and cool. The silty mud. The pebbles, the weeds to wade across or pull.

They swam. They flipped. They raced. They flopped.

The hours passed. The contents of the picnic basket made their tummies nice and full.

They rested till the water once more called.

Then one cub disappeared.

“Nicko!” they yelled, frantic with the possibility of the awfulness that might unfold.

“One moment!” the junior responded from the direction of the small structure. “I’m not done.”

Relief was quickly replaced by wonder only to be followed by surprise and whiff of horror.

“Nicko??!!?” the Mama dashed across the small beach to stop what was already well set into motion. “That’s not an outhouse! It’s my changing room! Go in the bushes! Not here!”

 

 

 

For Keith’s Kreative Kue #253

 

 

 

Upstaged

 

The lights seemed brighter than usual that night. The music louder than remembered. The movements blurred. The words slurred. The heels on the wood rung jackhammers in his head.

He clenched his teeth and dug his nails into the worn velvet of his seat to keep from squirming.

She’d worked so hard for this.

The years of training. The months of practice. The weeks of rehearsals. The days of excited anxiety as the premiere neared. The long awaited curtain calls.

He was not going to let his daughter’s performance be upstaged by a migraine. Or a stroke. Or an aneurysm.

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

Wait For The Light

Photo prompt: Dale Rogerson

 

“Can we go to the playground, Mama?”

The woman stroked the small forehead to compose herself and smiled into the over-bright eyes. “It is the middle of the night, Cara.”

“Can I see?”

The woman tucked the blankets under the child and lifted her. The bundle in her arms felt devastatingly like the infant Cara had been a handful of winters ago, and heartbreakingly almost as light again. She turned so her daughter faced the window.

“It’s dark,” the girl sighed. “I’m tired, Mama. Maybe I wait for the light?”

“Yes, Cara,” the mother whispered. “We wait for the light.”

 

 

 

For Rochelle’s Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

Valentine’s Vice

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Photo: Tara Meinczinger on Unsplash

 

“Where’s Valentine?”

I peered into the other room. “Lollygagging.”

“Again?! I thought I told him to give up that nonsense. He’s way too old for this kind of foolishness. I’ll douse him with cold water!”

“He’s not osculating, Mama.”

“Stop being a Peeping Tom …” Pause. Sigh. Flick of the hand. “What’s he doing, then?”

“Just dawdling.”

“With whom?”

“His phone …”

 

 

 

For Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt: Lollygag in 60 words

 

 

Common Good

fire AmitaiAsif

Photo: Amitai Asif

 

“What are you grateful for, Mama?” the girl asked, head bent over her slate.

“I’m grateful for fire,” the mother said.

“For fire?” the child paused, somewhat dismayed. Perhaps she thought she’d rise up to the top of gratitude instead. Perhaps because her foot, where an amber had landed and left a painful blister, was not particularly appreciative of flames. Perhaps because fire-related chores of breaking kindling and cleaning out the ashes needed doing before she could go out to play.

“Yes,” the woman smiled, one hand stirring the oats even as a foot rocked the cradle which held the girl’s new brother. “Because without fire there will be no breakfast, no tea, no warm bath. Without it there would be no hearth, no place to get out from the damp, nowhere to warm your hands. Without it there would be no pots, no pans, no knife, no shovel, no kettle, no cake, no bread.”

Speaking of the last, the woman rose to rake the coals and make room for the dutch oven before shoveling a heaping mound of glowing red atop the lid, so the sourdough loaf could bake. She could feel the girl’s eyes on her, reassessing what she’d been privileged to always take for granted. What the mother knew could not.

“It is the common that we often forget to be grateful for,” the mother added, her lilting voice directed at the infant, who’d began to fuss, as her words matched the pace of her resumed cradle rocking: “Air to breathe, water to drink, flour for bread, cloth and fleece, a garden and field, to grow our food in.

“And,” she tugged fondly on a ringlet by her daughter’s chin, “having the common things all tended to, gives us the comfort in which to appreciate the more obvious gifts we cherish … like you, and little David, and your Pa.”

“And Gwendoline,” the girl reminded, eyes flicking to the swaddled corn-doll that she liked to tend.

“And Gwendoline,” the mother grinned. She peeked at the letters on the child’s slate. “And children who do their chores, as you will need to as soon as your S and W here receive a bit of mend.”

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Common

 

 

I’ll Be The Quiver

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Photo: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

I’ll be the quiver

For the arrows

You don’t yet know

How to hold.

I’ll guard the darts

The barbs

The jagged

Points,

Safe within the

Burnished leather

Of my years,

Till you grow enough

To be the quiver

For your own

Sharpened spears.

 

 

For the dVerse quadrille challenge: quiver