Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Our place

A couple of months ago I entered a short story competition held by Dragonfly Tea, and didn't win. I wasn't expecting to win, or even be shortlisted, I just wanted an excuse to stretch my fiction writing muscles. And it was fun! I haven't written anything longer than 500 words (fiction-wise) for a long time. Was nice to put a little more thought into the story than my usual flash-fiction bits. 

Anyway, seeing as I didn't win, I thought I'd put it here for anyone interested. The theme was "discovery" and it has dialogue and everything (like a real story!).

Our place

The one thing Anna kept of her mothers was her diary. On those particularly sad days, when the weather seemed to reflect her mood, she would make herself a cup of tea and shut herself away to read her mum’s words.

Today was one of those days. She had argued with her husband and needed advice. It was always these moments when the absence of her mother hit her hardest. And so she boiled the kettle and pulled out the diary.

Instantly she felt that strange mix of comfort and regret. Reading her mum’s musings about daily life made Anna feel close to her again, but at the same time a sense of ‘what if’ stung her sharply. What if she had never gotten sick? What if she was here today? What if she had lived and got to witness her daughter get married and meet her first grandson?

Breathing deeply Anna tried to put those questions aside. As she wiped away the hot tears from her cheek, she noticed a slip of white poking out from the lining of the diary. Intrigued, Anna began to pull at it, careful not to rip the fragile paper. It slowly revealed itself to be some pencil drawings, arrows and a few scrawled directions. It was a map.

With a furrowed brow, Anna rifled through her memory to place the descriptions. The map was titled ‘Our place’.

“Rich, look at this, where do you think this is?”

As quickly as it had enveloped them, the tension from their previous row dissipated.

“Looks like Hope Cove, near your parents old place. Where did this come from?”

“Mum’s old diary, it was in the lining.”

Anna paused. She remembered the house in Hope Cove, but she still couldn’t picture where this map was trying to describe.

“Do you think we could go there?” She asked her husband; suddenly it seemed imperative that she see this place.

“I mean, yeah, we could. We would have to plan it though, it’s quite a drive and we’ve got Jacob to think about too.”

“Well, he could come – we could make a little holiday of it.” She countered.

“OK, sure, let me look into it. A bit of a break might be good for us anyway.”

She looked at him, suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude and gave him a long hug. Holding in every emotion that was trying to spill out from her she said, “Thank you.”

After a couple of evenings on the Internet and on the phone to her dad, the trip was planned.

“Dad doesn’t know what ‘our place’ means.” Anna commented while buckling her seatbelt.

“That’s odd.” Replied Rich.

“He said they had plenty of special places, but none of them were near Hope Cove.”

Rich offered a non-committal ‘hmm’ whilst worrying that it may be an ‘our place’ from a previous relationship.

Anna had always been especially close to her mother and idolised her. He worried that this trip could lead them somewhere unwanted. He turned to her and asked one last time, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes. I’m sure.”

And with that, they started their drive, with folk music on the radio and Jacob babbling in his car seat.

After a few hours and two toddler tantrums, they arrived at their B&B. It was cosy, child friendly and smelled like the seaside. Anna hadn’t been back to Devon since her mother passed away. She always thought it would be too painful, but the nostalgia that came with the sound of seagulls and scent of fish and chips in the breeze eased her fears.

Settling in for the night, Anna was both excited and nervous about the trip to ‘our place’ tomorrow. She poured over the map one last time before bed, noting the tiny hearts dotting a path to what appeared to be a beach. ‘Where do you want me to go mum?’ She questioned silently, before falling into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Loading the car the next morning, Anna had given up trying to understand the significance of ‘our place’.

“Let’s just go, see what it is and then we can get ice creams and just enjoy the seaside.” She rationalised aloud.

Rich nodded and began to follow the Satnav to Hope Cove while Anna entertained Jacob in the back. He then switched to the directions from the map, asking Anna to navigate. They parked up on some grass to follow the rest of the map on foot.

The directions were vividly written, it wasn’t “Right at the big rock”, it was “Right at the rock that looks like a giant bear.” Her mum did always have a way with words.

Soon they found themselves on a tiny spit of sand, completely separate from the rest of Hope Cove. There were small rock pools lining the edges and a couple of bushes dotted around. It was like a private piece of serenity amongst a busy seaside town.

Looking at the patterns of the rocks, Anna’s memory jolted.

“I’ve been here before.” She murmured, taking in every sight and sound meticulously.

Like an old stop-motion animation, her memories came trickling back.

Her mum brought her here when she was a toddler. Just the two of them. They would explore the rock pools and paddle in the sea. Her mum would have a flask of tea and would talk to Anna about her day, even though she was too young to comprehend. ‘Maybe that’s why I always make tea when I read her diary’, Anna thought.

Her eyes welled up, “This is our place. Mine and my mum’s.”

Rich took her in his arms, feeling his own tears falling to join Anna’s. He sat her down on a mound of sand and picked up Jacob, placing him happily on his knee.

“Well, why don’t we make it our place now too.”

She looked up at her husband’s kind eyes and her son’s smiling face.

“I like that idea.” She said, with happy tears replacing her sad ones.

“It will be our place.” She said with a sigh, “Thanks mum.” 

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