Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maiden Voyage

The boat pitched against the swell of the sea and Max snatched at ropes, at anything he could hang on to. The boat shuddered as it climbed the face of another rogue wave, the wind squealing and howling its way through the rigging. Above him, the sails billowed and flapped.  It was only a matter of time before one of them shredded apart. 

The boat rolled again and he fell through the air, the deck disappearing from under his feet. He slammed hard against the side of the boat, the force of the blow leaving him winded. He gasped for air as a wave smashed over the side, drenching him to the skin. He sputtered and coughed the sea water out of his lungs, and clung with all of his strength to the side. For several short moments the boat slowed its thrashing about on the sea. It was enough time for him to finally breathe. He pushed his sodden hair from his face and tried to stand but his legs couldn't carry his weight. 

At the stern, the young boy stood manning the wheel, his face slick with sweat, his body untouched by salt water. He was bone dry. The young boy looked down at Max and released a long yodelling cry into the air. 
"Ah ha, you get sea legs on now my good friend," he called to Max.
Max dragged himself up from the deck and clung to the side. He turned to the bow, his heart suddenly battering inside his chest as a wave the size of a wall began curling over the boat.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The First Supper

Inside was filled with familiar smells of home. A candle burned brightly on the small galley table and a pot bubbled away on the stove. 
"Sit, please," said the young boy.
Max slid himself into the seat, and relaxed back against the foamy soft cushions. The boat was warm and cosy, and he thought he could live here. On the walls were photos of a woman and a small girl. His family perhaps? He didn't dare ask. The boy brought food to the table - freshly baked bread, and a large bowl of fruit to have after dinner. He then busied himself with serving the meal. It arrived before Max in an enormous bowl. His mouth watered as stared into the bowl.
"What is it?" he asked. The boy looked at him, a smile flickering through his dark eyes.
"Ah -  ancient secret from family," he said with a bit of a laugh.
"Eat up," the boy said, making eating gestures with his own hands.
Max picked up his spoon and slowly dipped it deep into the young boy's family secret, his eyes shifting back to the photos that hung on the wall.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Escape

He races after her down the jetty. The loose planks tripping him up every few feet. He can hear the others still running behind and he fears they will catch him before he can jump aboard. Ahead, the old junk awaits, the engine running, the deck lights dimmed. His legs wont go any faster and his lungs feel like they might burst. 

He sees her bound up the gang plank and leap over the side onto the boat.
"Quickly," she calls to him. The skipper has untied the ropes. A few more feet and he will be safe. He lifts his foot to clear the gangplank and his toe snags on the wood, throwing him forward onto the plank.

An icy hand wraps around his ankle and begins to drag him backward. The boat is pulling away and the plank is about to fall through the widening gap between boat and pier. He rolls to one side and raises his free leg up to his belly and then he kicks with all of his might. The snap of bone is heard even over the running engine and the grip on his ankle suddenly loosens. He clambers along the falling plank and leaps, grabbing the gunnels as the plank falls to the water below. He pulls himself over the side of the boat and falls in a heap.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Battle Weary.

It is dark by the time he reaches outside. He hears the door slam hard behind him and he staggers out onto the wet grass, the rain falling gently down through the dusk sky. There is no one behind him. No one to hunt him down for the thing he now holds. In his hand he can feel the stone pulsing; its life force thrumming its message in the dark space of his palm. Lightning spears the sky and the air fills with the rumbling sound of thunder. The storm is moving toward him. 

He travels the path around the cliff face and he looks across at the mainland. He can see the others are safe, the glow of a light in the boat shining through one of the portholes. He falls, exhaustion folding his legs at the knees. He is bleeding and weary. He lies in the long grass, the wetness cool on his face. He clutches the stone to his heart. He can't go any further. He feels the rain falling down upon him as he closes his eyes and wonder what was the point. Why did he fight so much for so little? It feels it has all been for nothing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Stone

The creature's face was vile. Its skin pinched and twisted. At first glance the small boy gasped. The creature stretched its gaping mouth into a deep black hole from which came a long guttural moan. It swung its head from side to side and then it stopped suddenly to focus its black goggly eyes upon him. Its breath now came in short fitful rasps as it inched its way across the floor toward him. It stopped in a puddle of moonlight that fell through the window. Blood seeped from its nose and the boy could now see the injuries. He lifted his hand toward it, still afraid it might do him harm. The creature tilted its head toward him. It was then he saw the single tear that trickled down its face. It lifted its arm and opened its hand. The boy looked down and saw the missing stone in its fleshy palm.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Message from the Window

He stood at The Edge and looked out. Beyond a troublesome sea, the island stood as dark and as menacing as what he had feared. Down one side, mountains rose and fell like the spine of an ancient creature that watched carefully over the land. Facing him was the place that interested him most. The great hall he had heard so much about. It hugged the cliff, its frame rising high, it towers and spires jabbing into the twilight sky. In the main tower, an enormous round window sparkled with coloured glass, its centre shining brightly as it caught the last of the light.

 The sea raged against the cliff face like it were warning the world, and keeping it safe from the trouble that lay beyond its watery boundary. There was no way to reach the hall. No way to recover the treasure he so desperately needed in order to save the others. He fought the blustery winds,and wiped the icy tears from his eyes, his vision clearing for a moment. There was nowhere else he could go. No one else around who could help. He had come to the end. He noticed the bright flash of light. Once, twice...then a sequence of flashes at varying speed. They were sending a message. He squinted into the dying light and focussed with all of his might.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Key

She wasn't scared. Not a bit,and was convinced that the noise she could hear at the base of the stairwell was nothing more than the wind  sounding its ghostly howl and stirring the leaves that had skittered under the door. There was nothing to fear. Nothing. She was sure of it though nothing explained why she slowed as she wound her way down the darkening stairwell, the musty smell of the damp rising up to embrace her. Her hands skimmed over the rough walls, her nails catching against the jagged uneven surface of the old bricks. The stairwell curled and narrowed and the howling began once again. She counted the remaining few steps to take her mind from the horrible noise, "Five...four...three..." on two, she could see where the stairwell ended. She stepped down the final stair. Before her was a door, a large tarnished key wedged into its lock. She stared at the key as the howl erupted again. String looped through the bow of the key and from the string hung a note. 
"Turn me" it said.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Posts 101

100 down...and counting

Lost

He stared into the crowd, into their blank monotonous faces. He recognised none of them. He couldn't even remember why he had come. A celebration? He couldn't recall. He no longer cared. There were other things he needed to attend to; important things to arrange and destinations that needed careful planning. 

He packed his tools into the sack and swung the bag over his shoulder. If felt heavy but only for a brief moment. It then settled upon his shoulder and he carried it like he always had; carefree and unhindered by the journey they had chosen. He would get by without them, he thought to himself. He didn't need them. They were an untimely distraction that would eventually dwindle to free him to that which he needed to do to survive and be happy. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Grove

He stepped from the boat and into the shallow water, his feet sinking into sand graves once again. He pulled one foot out with a squelching noise that broke through the silence. He sloshed his way through the water and up onto the sand. The mist had cleared and before him was a coconut grove, the swaying palms bowing from the weight of their fruit. 

He scanned the beach as he moved to the trees. His feet squelched in his sandals and the salt water stung his legs as it dried on his skin. He tried to remember the map Pa had shown him. He knew there was a path near the grove where he stood. He crept through the trees, grateful for the shade and was aware that anyone could be watching. Ahead he caught glimpses of red and blue; people walking, chatting together. He crouched in the long grass, hiding behind a fat solid trunk. The path was much closer than he imagined. He waited for them to pass and then he continued along behind them, tracing their journey as best he could from the shadows of the grove. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Burning

The flames lit the night sky, spreading their dangerous orange glow toward heaven. He could hear the crackling wood as the boat was devoured in the heat. The boy scrambled across the deck, ducking and dodging the debris that rained from the rigging above. He pulled at the satchel caught on a fixture. He tugged and yanked but it still wouldn't give.
"Hurry. Just leave it," the girl cried. Her face flickered orange as the fire danced around her.
The boy wound himself back and yanked one more time, and then finally flicked the strap of his satchel free. He raked it toward him and rolled to one side as a sheet of flaming sail fell to the deck beside him. 

There was heat and rage in the fire. The boat was dead in the water and he knew it was only minutes before they also would die if he didn't get them to safety. He scrambled across the lit deck where the girl waited, pressed hard against the side of the boat. Without thinking, he slung the satchel over his shoulder and reached out to her. She pulled on his hand and dragged him toward her, their bodies a flailing mash of arms, legs and fear.  An almighty crack filled the air and they looked up to see the mast snapping, its top half meandering its way through the rigging toward them below. Their options were gone. They huddled together and   flipped themselves over the side and into the sea.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Shop

There were too many choices, too many shelves full of possible things to take home. He glanced around the room and wondered where to begin. There wasn't time to take it all in. He needed to choose before the whistle sounded outside. With the sack slung loosely over his shoulder, he reached for the first thing he saw. The bright shiny blue thing on the shelf next to where he was standing. He had no clue what it was, only that it was possibly the most fascinating thing he had ever seen in his life. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Post

The boy edged his way inside, curious to look around. Clocks weren't the only thing that filled the shop. Behind the counter he saw dozens of wooden pigeon holes, each one crammed with letters. On the counter was an assortment of rubber stamps, an ink pad and a large ledger, opened at a page that was brimming with his Pa's loopy writing.
"I suppose you're wondering what all this is?" the old man asked. The boy hadn't seen him in the shadows, sitting back in his old wicker chair. 
"I thought you only sold clocks," the boy said. He saw a book of stamps beside the ledger and realised that the shop was more than it first seemed. Behind the counter, bags of mail spilled on the floor. There were dozens of envelopes of every size, all waiting patiently to be delivered.


Monday, January 19, 2009

The Key

I could see him as I crept through the door. He was sleeping, his head falling to one side, his chin hanging idly, a small bridge of drool stretching to his shoulder. He sat locked in the tiny office, like a small fish inside a very big pond. I could see the key behind his head, dangling from its rusty nail. He'd left the door wide open and I felt a part of me relax for just a moment. It seemed this wasn't going to be as hard as I first thought.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Trapped

I caught him out the corner of my eye, lingering in the shadows cast by the tent. I grabbed my sack from the ground and hoisted it over my shoulder. I was already running by the time the sack slammed hard against my back. I darted through the crowd with no time to look back-to see if he followed. I needed to  get back to the boat and get out of here for good. The place had served its purpose. I scurried through the remaining crowd and headed down the path toward the pier, the darkness playing tricks with my eyes. As I moved closer, I could see the pier was empty. It was no trick of light nor dark. My boat was gone and I stood trapped.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Movement

The fog stayed with him for most of the journey and gave him a place to hide from his fears. While he couldn't see what was out there, he couldn't react, and so couldn't become any more fearful than he already was. The only sound was the slosh of the water against the hull as the boat glided its way through the murky sea. He peered over the edge and was met by his pale worried features staring back up at him. The image startled him. He looked sick from fear. He wondered why she had turned back. What was it she had forgotten? Perhaps she had just changed her mind after him pleading with her not to go. None of that mattered now and besides, it was too late for him to turn back. He shifted gently about on the seat, realising movement of any kind inside a boat could be fraught with danger. He tried to get comfortable but couldn't escape the winding knot in his gut that told him the worst was yet to come.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Boat

There was a nip in the air as he hurried after her down to the shore. He shrugged the cold from his shoulders and wished he had thought to wear something warmer. The white mist had rolled in and shrouded the shore like it did every morning.  He caught a flash of her red coat as she swam into the fog and disappeared. He moved along the beach, not wanting to be seen and certainly not wanting to have to explain why he'd followed.  The water lapped at the sand and as he neared the edge, the mist drifted around him, concealing him completely.

It took only moments for the boat to appear. It glided toward where he stood, stopping just short of his shoes that were sinking into the sand. The hull of the boat crunched and grated as it beached on the shore. Here it stopped and casually leaned to one side, as if waiting patiently for him to decide. 

He stared at the boat, and considered his options, his heart thudding away in his chest. He looked around but could see nothing through the surrounding fog. He freed a foot from its sandy grave and stepped over the gunwale and pulled himself in. He sat for a moment and then felt the pull of the tide as it dragged the boat from the beach. He looked through the fog and caught glimpses of the shore as the boat rocked its way toward the place he had feared all his life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mist

It rolled like tumbleweed across the water's glassy surface. It mixed its colours; white and grey and sometimes just a pinch of  green made it more formidable that it really was. It had stealth and trickery tucked inside and by the time it reached the shore, the thing that it concealed had splayed apart the fogginess and escaped along the foreshore. It lingered on the sandy lip, where the seaside kissed the sand. And when it turned to head back out to sea, it pulled the final strands of daylight with it, dragging out the light until it snapped itself in blackness.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Potter's Room

The walls are cracked and rough and the strangest shade of grey. I push aside the wooden door and inside, I see the wheel is still. On it sits a lump of sagging clay, leaning slightly, full of pure potential. I can  hear him shuffling about behind the door. He waits sometimes for inspiration to tap him lightly on the shoulder. Only then does he begin. Today the clay is waiting and he knows he can't sit back too long and wait. 

Threads of daylight weave through the tiny window and I can see the dust performing its flitting fitful dance. He comes in view, and his hulking shape chases all the dusty bits from their stage. He sits upon the stool and the sunlight from the window forms a halo that rests upon his head. He closes his eyes and wraps his hands around the clay and then he breaths, long and slow and deep like he is drawing breath from all the Gods above. Outside, the church bells ring as his potter's wheel begin to spin.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

7 Blimble Street

Mister Didsley pushed at the gate. Trembling inside out, he spied the door at the end of the path, longing to turn and run. A bulky parcel filled his arms – “Special Delivery to 7 Blimble Street, Wavellside West”, read the instructions on the side of the box.  Making his way toward the front door of the house, the gate snapped shut behind him. Mister Didsley glanced nervously about the garden with a feeling that eyes were upon him. By no means was he the first postman to cringe as he set foot past the gate of 7 Blimble Street. More often, postmen feared dogs. Not in this case. This was something far worse than any snarling, slobbering dog. 

Thoughts of Mister Perkins, Wavellside West’s last postman, flashed inside Mister Didsley’s head. Dawdling a little too long in front of house number seven one day, the early demise of Mister Archibald Perkins was sealed. From out of the blue that day came a blustering wind that seized his large yellow postal sack, whipping it high into the air. Letters scattered from pillar to post – so to speak- and Mister Perkins was tossed down the street like spinning tumbleweed. 

In the confusion, he never saw the strange thing that followed on that day. Every letter addressed to 7 Blimble Street, floated slowly down (from among hundreds that still circled about in the sky) to slip quietly into the blue wooden post-box, landing with a soft sort of a “pfhud” sound. The tumbling ordeal was too much for Mister Perkins and he quit his job the very same day.

 

Monday, January 12, 2009

The fall

Max ran from the jetty, the feeling of dread filling him, spurring him forward to safety. No matter how quickly he ran, he couldn't go fast enough. His chest burned as he fought for air. He didn't dare look back. It could be fatal. The street had grown quiet. Even the cars had disappeared for the night. He wished he had listened to Mae and come home when she told him. He wanted to stop, to draw a big breath. The thing behind was gaining ground, he could feel it closing in. He fought back tears, refusing to give in to his terror. 

Up ahead, he could see Pa's shop. The sign that Pa kept on the footpath was still out. He was nearly home. His feet pounded across the bitumen road, his legs heavy from running so hard. He could feel his legs turning to jelly, could feel himself slowing. As he mounted the footpath, his left foot slammed into the curb. His world turned into a tumbling blur.  The world finally stopped spinning and he lay sprawled on the footpath, his breathing coming in rasps. 

He had to look, to see if it was still behind him. He rolled himself over and pushed himself from the ground and looked back down the street, his heartbeat pounding like a warrior's drum. Autumn leaves tumbled past him and continued along the empty street. It took a few moments for it to register. The street was empty. Whoever was chasing him was gone but the image of the tall lanky man still lurked in his head, causing his heart to quicken. 

Max pushed himself up and could see Pa out on the footpath, the sign in his hands. He was closing the shop.  Max relaxed at the sight of him and slowly the pain seeped from his wounds to his brain. He was still dazed from the fall. His knees burned and the heels of his hands stung. He could feel the warm trickle of something dripping down both of his shins.  He looked down and saw both legs were bloodied and glistening, a patch of skin folded back like a tent flap on his right knee. Max winced at the sight of it. A loud bang startled him and he looked up to see Pa running toward him. 
"What the dickens have you done to yourself?" he yelled, leaping over the sign he had dropped.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Planning 1

Pa set the stone down on the table as he studied the map. He swept his hand over the map and pointed to a spot.
"Here is where you will enter. The boat from here will pull up on this beach. When you go, we will need to be up early, to catch the morning mist at its best. I will let the others know when you are ready, of course. Let's not get ahead of ourselves," he said.
"Let's not be losing that stone, either," Laila said, noticing Pa had just knocked the stone from the table with another sweep of his hand.
"Laila, perhaps I should give this to you, for safe keeping," Pa suggested, picking the stone from the floor and handing it to her.
"Pa, what if there's no one to meet me? How will I get to the village?" Max asked, studying the forest and mountains that were drawn on the map. The village appeared to be miles from where the boat would land. Pa gave a short chuckle.
"Max, unless you are planning to arrive unannounced, then you need not worry about such things."
Max hadn't the time to plan anything yet. His head swam with fear, not of going to a strange place but of never finding his mother alive. 
"Now pay attention, because it is quite likely I am only going to be able to say these things once..." Pa said.
Max leaned forward in his chair, his face hovering over the map, his attention set on Pa's words as they explained the terrain set out before him. Max felt for the penny he had dropped in his pocket. He would need to remember how important it was.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Map

Pa held the stone and the tube in his hand. He rubbed absentmindedly at the stone as he spoke. 
"We must get to work. There is much to tell," he said. Max followed him up the winding stairs and along the corridor into the crowded lounge.
"Sit... and get comfortable. We are going to be here for some time," he said. 
"Is Laila coming, too?" Max had no sooner asked when he heard her climbing the stairs. She bounced through the door, her skirts swishing about her and her bangles chattering away on her arms.
"Ah, here you are. I've brought tea and scones and other goodies. We can't have you starve now, can we?" She set down a large basket brimming with flasks and plates of her finest cooking. She unpacked the things on the coffee table between them.
"Now, let me show you the map," Pa said. He pulled the stopper from the long cylinder he'd been holding and carefully he eased the map from the dark narrow tube. A musty smell swam though the air as he gently unfurled the old parchment. 

The map had yellowed from age and its edges had worn from use. Quickly, Laila made room for the map on the table and Pa lay the map out, using a plate of scones and a tea flask to anchor the map to prevent it from rolling again. Max studied the markings. The map showed two islands connected by the thinnest strip of land. 
"Where is this?" Max asked, looking to Pa.
"This is the place we are sending you. Are you sure you want to do this?" Pa asked.
Max looked at the map and then back at Pa.
"I don't have a choice," he said.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Battle-Excerpt

Battle...he had heard her say before she ran away. He was going to battle?  Max searched Pa's face for some kind of reaction but he saw nothing in the wrinkled pale features of the old man. 
"Pa, what will I need to take ?" he asked, as the old man rummaged through drawers, picking out various items and gathering them on the counter before him.
"Hmm? What's that? Oh...right, what should you take with you...you wont need much. I'm just trying to remember what I took on my first quest. Let me see, there was...now what was it...I think I took...what did you ask me again?" 

Max studied Pa's face and was suddenly concerned. Pa's memory was failing. He was the only one who knew what to teach in preparation to fight. How much could he remember and how accurate would it be? Max felt the first wings of fear flutter inside him. He had to stay focused. Mae had told him to trust. He was beginning to see that he had no other choice.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Preparation

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten, - happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another. Brenda Ueland

So in preparation for QWC's Year of the Edit beginning in February, I begin to string beads for my children's novel, so its rewrite may be complete in time to begin. In the following month of this blog, I will dabble in scenes for my book. They will make little sense but they are necessary for me to keep the energy of my writing moving. For those of you who visit in here, I apologise for the swing in content but hope you come along for the ride anyway. The following scenes, which will be posted daily, are experiments into the world of my fantasy novel; exercises to limber my brain and push me toward the finish line of February 8, where the beginning of the true journey starts in earnest.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Riding Blind 11

She noticed him chew at his bottom lip and wondered how little people changed over time. It was an old habit he had when they were together, when he doubted what he was saying. She remembered it clearly, the feelings of doubt and mistrust rolling in like a wave. She began to consider the reason she'd come.  She knew she'd been more than curious. She'd been hopeful for something new. But the new was old and she knew it would all end badly again. In a moment, it had all come undone as the fragment of trust she was willing to invest shrivelled and died. There was no need for an answer. No point prolonging what she knew had to be done. She stood and then leaned toward him, and gently kissed his forehead.
"Enough said," was all she could say. She walked inside, picked up her coat and helmet and let herself out. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Riding Blind 10

"It'll sound stupid,"
"Try me,"
"I just have always wondered that if you...you know,"
"If I hadn't run away? Is that what you think I did?"
"It seemed that way,"
"I wrote to you, for over a year. You never answered once. Why did you never answer me, Jack?"
His silence spurred her on.
"I told you why I left. I apologized over and over and without a word back from you, I decided it was time to get over you. So that's what I did,"
"Then why are you here?"
"Curious, I spose. I wasn't expecting to find you with all this," she gestured about the place.
"You seem kinda surprised,"
"I'm kinda thrown by the parenting thing,"
"I just always wondered, you know. About us. Even when I was with Lily's mother. It never felt like we did. I guess I just want to put this to bed and move on. The best way was to see you. I never honestly expected you'd turn on my doorstep,"
"So where does that leave us?"
"I guess it leaves us here on the deck, both curious." She shifted in the chair, suddenly uncomfortable with the possibilities unravelling before her.
"Ella, just stay. For a while. You can have the spare room. No pressure." he said.

She stared out at the darkness, at the waves that rolled in one after the other. She considered his offer and questioned herself, wasn't this what she had wanted? She looked over at him and met his gaze.
"What happens when it all goes wrong again?"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Riding Blind 9

She studied the ocean again, watching the waves. It was like watching the earth breath in and out.
"So why the drinking thing?" he asked.
"Because it seemed it was all I was good at. I got tired of putting myself to sleep everyday. Not rocket science, really. I just thought surely there's more to life. " She considered the irony in the statement. There was more to life. She just didn't know what.
"Tell me about Lily. Does she have a mother?" she asked.

He looked back at the ocean and took a deep breath and exhaled in time with a wave on the shore, like he was blowing it back out to sea.
"She left when Lily was a baby. Didn't see her first birthday, actually."
"How old is she now?"
"Three. Four next week."
" What made her leave?"
"God knows. I tried to find her. About a month after she left she sent me a letter. Didn't want anything more to do with either of us." he leaned and retrieved his beer from the table.
"Jesus, Jack. You're raising a child on your own?"
"Seems that way. We get by. Mum helps when she can. Hey, this is not why I tried to find you El," he explained.
"Then why did you?" she asked.
He fell quiet. She listened to the earth breathe in and out as she waited for his answer to come.



Sunday, January 4, 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Riding Blind 8

She watched him down the beer in his hand as he headed back to the fridge. He grabbed two more and carried them over. He set one down on the bench and opened the other, the hiss of gas reaching her ears as he flipped off the top and offered it to her. She reached over to accept.
"Let's sit out on the deck," he said, leading the way. 

She grabbed the bottle in both hands, lacing her fingers about its body like it were some rare and exotic treasure. She pushed back the guilt and sat herself down on the comfortable couch with the best of the view. He dropped down beside her and guzzled some beer. She felt foolish having not touched a drop. 

They sat without conversation, with the sound of the waves washing the shore reminding her of happier times spent together. He stared straight ahead as he spoke.
"I didn't think you'd call." 
A few seconds passed and he turned his head slowly toward her. In her peripheral vision she felt his gaze.
"Me either," she said, relaxing the grip on the neck of the bottle. Her hands were like ice, and she set down the beer, untouched.
"A lot's changed since I saw you last," she said, looking over at him. 
"Such as?" he asked, returning her stare.
"I don't drink anymore and you have a daughter. Two things we never thought each other would ever achieve."she said.
"And here we are," he said, setting his beer next to hers.
"Yeah, here we are."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Riding Blind 7

The child clung to his leg, hiding most of herself behind him.
"Lily, this is my friend, Ella," he said to the girl, brushing her hair from her eyes.
The girl stared up at her and said nothing.
"Ella, this is my daughter Lily." She could feel the intensity of his gaze, as though he were searching her face for some kind of reassurance. To her surprise, she found herself crouching down low, looking the child in the eye.
"Hi, Lily. How are you?" The child stared back in silence.
"She's shy. Give her a while," he said.

She followed him and the child into the house, studying the backs of their heads as she went, noting the identical hair colour. 
"Let me give you the cook's tour," he said, turning to smile over a shoulder. 
"Sure." She felt comfortably strange in his house. It was like they had never lost contact. She followed him, admiring what he had done with the place. 

They walked down a long hallway, bedrooms off either side, closed doors blocking her from the undisclosed worlds within. He led her down to the back of the house, into a large open plan room, a kitchen off to the side. The room was awash with subtle lamplight and she could feel her tenseness slowly seeping away. The house was beautiful but it was the view that undid her. 

Through open bi-folds stood a generous deck. She rested her helmet down on a side table and unzipped her jacket, and shucked it off.  She lay it over the back of the couch and crossed the room while he disappeared into the kitchen. She stood at the edge of the doorway and looked out over the deck where the sea rolled in toward them. The beach was their own private yard. She closed her eyes for a moment and inhaled the salt scented ocean breeze swirling about in the air. 

"Quite the view," she commented softly, opening her eyes. Something niggled inside her. Perhaps a small pang of envy at how well he had done for himself. She considered the clothes she stood in, some gear in her bags on the bike and a few ugly pieces of furniture locked up in storage, now miles away. She felt suddenly misplaced and deficient before him.

"Drink?" he asked. She turned toward him, and noticed Lily surveying her from the couch, cradling a can of lemon squash.
"Soft drink would be great," she said.
"You don't want a beer?"
"Maybe later," she bluffed, crossing the room. She watched as he poured her a drink and then cracked the lid off a stubby. 
"Fifteen minutes to bed, Lil," he called to the girl who responded with silence again.
He pulled out a stool for her and she sat. He leaned up against the counter beside her and stared at her for just a moment too long. 
"Want to tell me about it?" she asked, taking a sip of her drink, glancing back at the girl.
"Let me get her settled. We can go outside and talk properly," he said, setting his beer on the bench.
He crossed the room and scooped the girl into his arms. She squealed with delight all the way back down the hall, her protests finally muted by the closing of her bedroom door.

Alone at the bench, Ella toyed with her glass. She eyed his beer on the bench, a subtle sweat breaking out on the glass. Just one little sip couldn't hurt. She tried to remember her last drink but could only recall the number of days it had been in between. 343 days. She rolled the number around in her head like a prayer that might block pending disaster. 

Her memory flooded with good times and old times and times when the two of them thought that time was the one thing they would have together . She eyed the tall slender bottle like it, too, were an old lover and as the seconds ticked by she could feel herself falling under their spell all over again. She stared at the bottle, contemplating the deed. He walked back in, and dropped onto the stool beside her.
"Sure you don't want one?" he asked.
She looked up into his grey green eyes and wondered what ever went wrong.
"Sure," she heard herself say.
"Maybe just one,"

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Riding Blind 6

She climbed from the bike, and heard a screen door slam as she pulled the helmet from her head. He was already a silhouette crossing the lawn by the time she pulled her head free. The light behind him hugged his form as he slowly moved toward her. It wasn't until he was nearly before her that she could make out his features. His face broke into a huge grin.

"A bike?" he asked her, stopping a few feet away, his hands resting defensively on his hips.
"You seem surprised?" she answered, unable to contain the smirk on her face. She felt one eyebrow rise up her forehead as she spoke and felt suddenly awkward with his obvious scrutiny. 
"I just never pictured you riding a bike. How long have you..."
"The year after I left you. I was sort of encouraged to follow a whim." 
"You shagged a biker, didn't you?" he asked. This wasn't the welcome she had hoped for but his question was so close to the truth it made her laugh with embarrassed regret.

She hung her head for a short moment and then looked up at him.
"You look good El," his voice floated through the space between them.
"Come on in," he added, lifting an arm toward the house.
"You sure? I mean, if the bike thing really bothers you, I could..."

It was his turn to laugh. She walked toward him and fell in step beside him as the screen door swung open. A small child appeared beneath the porch light, her sandy hair falling in tangled ringlets around her face. 
"Daddy?" she called across the lawn, her brow creased with concern.
Ella turned toward Jack.
"You shagged someone, didn't you?" she whispered.
"Come on in. I'll tell you all about it," he said.