A wanderer in the time of longing – a short story


(Photo: Orchard near St Nectaire – Peter Curbishley)

It was a time of longing, a time of sweet anticipation.  Summer was drawing to a close, tucking the soft rolling landscape away.  The orchard was heavy with russets and damsons, the baskets had been cleaned in readiness and were waiting for him to return.

Early in the morning, when the carpet of dew was still perfect and sparkling, I heard the music.  I went to the window to watch for him, the horse slowed and turned in to the yard, the caravan clattering over the uneven cobbles. He smiled, raising a hand as he passed through the yard and out into the orchard. I pulled on a clean dress, covering it with a blue apron; the flower and the flute worked on the pocket in brightly coloured threads during the long months of waiting.

In a corner of the orchard the horse was tethered, drinking water drawn from the well.  The caravan was turned towards the sun, the bright green paint replaced by dark red swirls, traces of blue clouds with yellow flowers growing up and over the top, green leaves curling round the sides. Summer.

He was sitting on the back board, long legs swinging over the side.  He smiled a broad lazy smile, his eyes crinkling.  He placed the flute to his lips and blew a twirl of notes that escaped and rose up into the morning air.  My feet traced steps in the grass as I swayed in time to his music.  There were no words between us, just the music and a feeling of joy.

We walked together through the orchard; he held the boughs as I plucked the dark juicy damsons and sweet brown russets.  We filled two baskets each then rested on the bank by the river.  He took crusty bread from his pocket and a chunk of cheese which he cut into pieces. Later he took water from the river, offering his cupped hands so that I could drink.

The air was warm and still.  Where had he been since I saw him last? Had he remembered the shawl, or had he forgotten all those things I told him as we talked together late into the night on his last visit? I waited and wondered.

He looked at me and smiled, he did not like being questioned, that much I knew. I lay back in the grass and listened to his tales of black cloaked travellers who roamed vast deserts under a blazing sun; of how he had joined them, gone with them on trails invisible to him but well known to them; of his visit to the dream weavers to hear their stories as they wove them into lightly spun threads as soft as gossamer.

I closed my eyes and was aware then of his breath on my face. He gently traced a line along my mouth and up towards my eyes.  I felt a light brushing of his lips on mine.

He laughed, “I have it ma fleur, come.”

I took his hand and let him lead me back towards the orchard. The shawl was beautiful, colours shimmering and dancing in the late afternoon sun.  He helped me up and we sat together as he told how the weavers had made my shawl.

Later as he slept, I lay within the circle of his arms, watching the sunlight dancing over the golden symbols painted on the roof.  Wrapping my dreams around my nakedness, I gathered my clothes and slipped away to the river.  When I looked back the sun was going down and I could hear a flute playing softly in the distance.


Friday Fictioneers – Shrouded

I reached the tree as the mist was crowding in. I found the slab and pulled it away, dragging the box out into the wet grass.

I saw the lock was intact. I reached for the key under the leather tag round my ankle. Their thorough body search had failed to find it. The pouch was there, the stones still inside. I took them, pushing the box back into its hiding place.

I heard them coming for me.  I slid over the wall into the ditch, covering myself with earth and moss.

The mist covered me; my shroud, my escape.

(Thanks to Maggie Duncan for the beautiful photograph)

This is something new for me. I like the challenge of 100 words.

Happy Monday? It is now

Two weeks ago we completed a move to new business premises, and what started out as an eagerly anticipated adventure, has turned into a stressful and very time-consuming experience.  I should have expected it. It is like moving home x 25!

Today is the first day that I can walk freely round my new office, all my boxes of files have now been archived and I can actually see the colour of the floor tiles. The staff love their new “home” and have settled in very quickly, while it seems to be taking me a lot longer to adjust. We were 19 years in our previous building, it’s the place where our business first began and although it was old and the walls were a bit uneven, I was quite sad when I closed my door for the last time.

I not usually like this and have been quite annoyed with myself for having a gloomy mood; then today I found this:

and suddenly it is a Happy Monday.

Enjoy your Monday wherever you are 🙂

My grandmother would be laughing too

One day last week, I was buying quite a lot of bedding in a well know department store; as I walked toward the cash desk I was accosted by a slim young girl, wearing a large smile and brandishing a clipboard. She produced a card advertising a 10% reduction on purchases in return for signing up for a store card. The offer was only valid for a short time and she felt sure I would want to take advantage of it.

I usually smile sweetly and politely refuse such offers, I have had enough plastic in my purse and wallet over the years to make something really useful; but for some unfathomable reason I found myself sitting down with her to discuss the agreement for the card.

She took me through the form, asking for my name and address, pretty standard stuff, then asked for my bank details to check if I was credit worthy, and for a utility bill to check I lived where I said I did.  A utility bill is not something I expect most people would carry with them when they go shopping I told her, and in any case, I never have any utility bills in my name.  This caused her some concern as the form had to be fully completed or it wouldn’t be processed and I would not get my store card.

I actually felt relieved and said we would forget the card but thanked her for the thought.  I got up and went toward the cash desk.  The young woman followed me saying that she was sure she could get “them” to forget about the utility bill and as long as she completed the rest of the form, we would be good to go.

She asked me a couple more routine questions and then, against a backdrop of people patiently waiting to pay for their purchases, she asked me my age.  I stared at her, deciding whether to be rude or just walk away.  I mean, what sort of question is that to be asked when you’re out buying some new sheets and a couple of duvet covers.

I had a sudden flashback to a day out with my grandmother. I think I was seven years old or so and we had gone to the office my grandfather’s employer.  He worked on boats, and was often away delivering one boat to new moorings or bringing another one back to the boatyard. At these times it was arranged that my grandmother would collect his wages.

The man at the desk was not the one who was usually there, he was someone my grandmother didn’t know and he asked her lots of questions. She was uncomfortable with this and I remember her voice rising as she tried to deal with him.  Eventually, after exhausting his long list, the man asked her how old she was – ‘just for the record.’  I remember the intake of breath as she tightened her grip on my hand; she squared her shoulders and said to the little man behind the desk “Not that it has anything to do with you, but I am as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth” and taking the wage packet off the desk, she dragged me out of the office.

I looked at the glossy young woman with her nice smile and shiny clipboard and said “Not that it has anything to do with you, but I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth”

I could hear a few people laughing behind me and knew my grandmother would be laughing too.