Morning Dream

Early Monday morning. My lover has left before the light of the day has come into our bedroom. Six-thirty am. Breakfast meeting. Urgent. Lips on mine then gone. Perfume. Kenzo. Flowers. Pretty.

The door of our apartment. Click. Locked.

Return to my dream.

Gliding in the sky. I float on my back. It is morningtime and all of the clouds are fluffy and white and the light is soft on my body. Far below is the end of the city. The forest begins here. Trees are tall and dark green like swaying giants with the breeze. But even they are far below and small under the limitless sky of pale and pretty blue.

I breathe. Even and low. My mind is empty of thought and my eyes are filled with the beauty of the vast azure umbrella above. Winds, so light, move me up and down. I am an infant carried in tender arms, stroked all over first by tiny wafts then sudden flurries and the feintest of caresses.

This feeling of freedom without limit, carried without fear or care, brings many different sensations all at once. I glide deeper into sleep while my body feels excited. Tears roll along and down my face now that I understand truly what wonder is like. Now I understand what perfection feels like. I cry as I float so high above the forest. It is not a cry of joy or pain or sadness. It is all of these and more that I cannot give words to. I gasp for breath in the arms of the most beauty I have ever known. I grow hot. My whole body flushes. And I cry. If this is paradise then I want it to be with me forever. It must never end.

This is a mixture. A little of the feeling I have when I look into my lover’s eyes. A little of the feeling of my favorite ice cream on my tongue. A tiny bit of the feeling I have when I pee, that thrill and tickle. A little of the feeling of standing on a mountain with the world spread out below. It is so many things this feeling. It is a thing you cannot say. You can only feel it. And when you do you will cry too.

When I wake the light in the room is stronger. Only thirty minutes have passed. It feels like I was flying for many hours or many days. Time was not there in the sky of my dream. No covers are on the bed now. I am a little sweaty, just a very little. One hand is across my belly and the other lies, open with fingers curled on the cooling sheet.

Such a beautiful dream is sad when it ends. I stay there and I do not move for many minutes more. I do not sleep again but I close my eyes and see a little of that glorious blue. Tonight I will seek that blue once more.

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What Lives in the Bush

The face was there, between the fence post and the eucalyptus tree, just beyond the boundary of the property. When it saw her looking it turned and ran, or drifted rather, without a sound. And so she ran too. She ran as hard as she could and when she reached the fence, with one hand on top of the fence post, she vaulted it and chased.

When her breath finally gave out and she could no longer run as hard and slowed to a jog the one thing she noticed as the silence of the forest surrounded her, was each footfall’s sound, the sound of her feet crunching the leaves that covered the ground all about. But the face, the girl? she was chasing, made no such sound.

As Melissa stopped she listened, she listened as closely as she could, even holding her breath and wishing the pounding of her heart would quieten so she could hear better. The girl, at least she seemed to be a girl, must only have been a short way ahead of her but the forest was silent. Wouldn’t someone as fast as that, and Melissa wasn’t slow, she was known back at school as lightning after winning every sprint and distance there was to win in the district, wouldn’t someone that fast trail crushed leaf and broken stick noises in her wake as she fled?

Exhausted from the pursuit Melissa sat down on the carpet of leaves to catch her breath. She flicked off an ant that had begun making its way up her shin. With ticks about, not to mention snakes, she would normally not wear cut-off jeans into the bush. But she was only out walking in the pasture on an idle Sunday and the summer had been so very hot. Proper jeans would have baked her like a potato in its jacket out in the paddock without shade.

“Well,” she thought “looks like she’s gone. I better get back and get started on lunch.”

Standing and brushing bits of leaves from her shorts she called out, in no particular direction, “You don’t have to run away, I’m pretty friendly really. Come down the house if you’re hungry or anything. It’s ok.”

Only her footsteps could be heard as she made her way out of the forest towards the homestead but she had that feeling you get when someone is near.

She thought to herself, “Is she real or did I just get too much sun?”

As she bounced over the fence back into the property a face that seemed to be a girl, or not, or something else entirely, gazed at Melissa with great, wide eyes, soft as a pink sunset. There was longing in those eyes, a sort of loneliness, mixed with the self-possession of one who is used to solitude. The girl, or not, or something else, licks a few ants off the bark of the eucalyptus tree and turns to walk back into the bush, glancing back once or twice.

~ ^-^ ~

The Australian bush is such a varied and differing set of environments that it’s hard to run out of stories set in and near it. There are so many myths and stories from the original inhabitants and the European newcomers – two-hundred-odd years is new right? – but even so, there is always room for a few more.

This is a beginning, or a part of, or an inkling at least, of one of my own. I hope you enjoyed it.

A Sort of Decision

“We’re getting to that point.” she said

“What point?” he asked.

“The point where I decide whether to fire you or kill you, of course.”

“Well, if given the choice I would prefer you fired me, Vanessa.”

“The choice isn’t yours, Andrew, I just have to decide.”

Andrew’s face begins to cycle through states. Confusion, surprise, self-pity, back to confusion. He thinks about running for a fraction of a moment then realises where he is.

The room, windowless and sound-proof except for the endless exhalation of the air-conditioning, was designed to be private and secure; in other words, no escape.

“You know, Vanessa, that it wasn’t me who leaked the designs don’t you?”

“This isn’t about that. And yes, I know it wasn’t you.”

“Then what? What is this about?”

“Think, Andrew. And it’s not what, it’s who.”

“I have no idea…”

“Yes you do, Andrew. March 17th, a party.”

“After the Strathgen presentation? At Daniel’s?”

“Yes.”

Andrew looks into Vanessa’s eyes as he rubs his chin with his hand, and thinks – hard. The penny drops; it’s in his eyes. Vanessa knows the moment he does.

“Prue..I mean, Prudence. It was the only thing I did at that party that wasn’t just chat.”

“Yes, Andrew, it was Prudence.”

“It was only…”

“I know it was only. To you it was only. To me it was far more than only.”

“Do you mean?”

“You know I do, Andrew, I don’t make a secret of it. Everyone in the company knows.”

“What, about you and Prudence…?”

“No, about me, my..orientation. But Prudence was a large part of it, yes.”

“I’m sorry, Vanessa, I really didn’t know. Prue..Prudence didn’t mention it…”

“That’s a matter for her and me. I’m dealing with it. No, this is about you, Andrew.”

Andrew having gotten over the shock of the situation, feels the anger rising.

“Let me understand this, Vanessa. You are here in this room with me considering whether or not to kill me, based on a casual fuck in a bathroom with a colleague six months ago?”

“Yes.”

“With a colleague whose involvement with you was only ever an office rumour, as far as I knew. I’m supposed to be responsible for whatever came after? You’re not serious.”

“I am serious, Andrew. We were waiting for the new marriage laws to be passed and then we were going to be married. You destroyed that, Andrew. You.”

“Listen, Vanessa, I didn’t rape her you know, Prudence was every bit into it as I was. If anything, she almost dragged me into the bathroom.”

“I don’t care about that. She may have been experimenting, I don’t know, but she left me soon after and I hold you responsible.”

“But I didn’t even see her after that night..”

“I don’t care. Something changed in her after you two..afterwards.”

“It’s not my fault, I don’t…”

“That’s enough, I’ve decided…”

“Decided what?”

“What to do, of course.”

“And?”

“Wait here, Andrew.”

Before he can move Vanessa slips through the door beside her. Andrew hears the lock click into place. The air-conditioner stops its breathing.

~ ^-^ ~

This is my little foray into melodrama, soap-opera, whatever you would choose to call it. It is fun to write and the cliff-hanger is so delicious. Never thought of myself as a tease, literately-speaking, naturally. I hope it was fun for you too.

What’s in a Name?

Her name is Charlotte though everyone always called her Charlie, that is despite her obvious loathing of the gender obfuscation. The truth is, and was, that her father had wanted a son and had been delivered a girl instead. Complications during childbirth then removed any chance of a boy ever being delivered to Mister and Missus Brown. And so Charlotte became Charlie. The monicker stuck and spread throughout family then friends while Charlotte managed others’ expectations by being the most gentle and feminine of girls one could ever encounter.

Can you imagine the mocking a person, and more so a girl, is subjected to when entering school labelled with the name Charlie Brown? Teachers, thinking it to be cute, would address her in that way despite knowing her name was actually Charlotte.

In the beginning Charlotte would correct her teachers and her classmates, trying to assert herself with her proper name. It was never to be. The temptation was too strong and, in children at least, irresistible. Her teachers gave in far too readily which at first surprised then disappointed Charlotte. She thought she could expect more from adults.

It was easier, no, not easier, less painful, to give in in the end and to resign herself to wearing that awful label.

In her teens, when a girl stands on that narrow sliver of land, precipices either side separating her from childhood on one side and adulthood on the other, Charlotte dove headlong into being the sort of person people would expect a girl called Charlie Brown to be. She clowned, she played the dark, depressive, tortured soul, she drank, smoked, and slept with boys and girls until she reached a nadir, at seventeen.

A teenage cliche, the fodder of news pulp, Charlotte found herself one night, alone and lying on a filthy floor beside an equally filthy toilet at the back of an inner city pub. She awoke to the smell of vomit, her own, and piss, not hers, and she had an epiphany. It crept then crept then barrelled headlong into her aching head; you aren’t fucking Charlie, you are Charlotte, so be Charlotte!

Years of giving in then overcompensating with pretentious femininity then giving in again, to a stupid name, had torn her. Enough, no more Charlie, no more jokes, no more surrender. Charlotte is here and she will not surrender again.

~ ^-^ ~

This started out to be a cute story, light-hearted, about a girl with a cute name. Then the writer’s experience (of the world, not personal in this case) took over and chose to pursue something more interesting, and a whole lot darker.

One aspect of writing, for many if not all, is embedding oneself in the story. With that can come the pain of being in that person’s mind, for the duration of the story at least, and a kind of hangover for a time afterwards when real life comes back into focus. I guess that’s why some writers refer to the process of writing fiction as opening a vein onto the page. After writing this beginning, immediately after the last full stop, I felt the urgent need to stand up and make a cup of tea. You writers know this feeling I’m sure. And for readers who don’t write, this is why we writers are kinda weird. 

Footprints in the Snow

Elizabeth made a circle with her finger on a pane of freezing glass in a window that faced the back field of the manor house in which she was staying for the weekend, the weekend before Ginny, her friend since kinders, was going to be married.

Footprints in the snow led up to the house, almost. One pair of feet had made them and they stopped, perhaps five metres from the rear doors, down the middle of the vast lawn now covered in snow by the early spring blizzards that had assaulted this part of the country.

Had she walked, alone, back from the village pub? The footprints were not very recent. A light dusting of snow had covered though not obscured them. But they stopped before they reached the house and there were not another set going back.

Elizabeth pulled her dressing gown tighter around her and walked to the stairs. The house was quiet. It was early but not that early. Someone should have been awake. But there was not a sound, not the faintest sound. It was the quietest she had ever known the world to be. Nothing moved or scratched or squeaked or groaned as old houses always do.

She walked, one foot securely on a step before the next one came down. At each step she stopped and listened. Nothing.

Perhaps they were all still at the pub, maybe they’d stayed, being that they had had a lot to drink and it was late by the time she left. But how? How had she come home? Elizabeth walked, quickly now, to the garages, with their entrance by the kitchen door. Perhaps she’d driven. Why she would have after the amount of wine she’d put away, but the possibility was there.

Three cars, four spaces. Hers was empty. Ginny’s car stood nearest the door then Clive’s, Ginny’s fiance, then an empty space, then Robert and Eliza’s car.

If their cars are here, shouldn’t hers be? She could always have left the car at the pub and ridden back with Ginny. But where was Ginny? And where was Clive or Robert or Eliza for that matter?

She went through to the conservatory, nearest the footprints in the snow, and rubbed a circle in the misted glass to see outside. They were there, the footprints were there. They did stop where should thought they had, at least four or five metres from the house. The rest of the snow-covered expanse was pristine, not a blemish.

But what was that, beside the final footprint, a spot? No, several spots. Red.

~ ^-^ ~

I have no idea where this might go next, if anywhere, but it intrigues me. The seed of the story came to me in the shower, no idea why, so I jotted it down.

The Urge to Run

Sand. Toes rubbing against sand. Sand between them, between toes and underfoot. At this time of the morning, early, before the sun has risen, in the chill, she gazes out toward the horizon. Her arms are folded against the cool air or against the world, she doesn’t know really, she can’t feel that much right now.

Sitting here with knees drawn up, a blanket draped across her shoulders, she isn’t thinking about Annie or the fight or the thrown bottle or the wine-stain on the carpet and the wall.

The sun will come up soon, not yet though. She has an hour or maybe more until the light of day drenches her in penetrating brightness. If only it could stay dark for days, for weeks or months. Then there might be enough time to really think about what happened.

She could walk into the sea, disappear under the water, become a selkie. Nobody would know the lone seal seen now and then on rocks and in the ocean, was her. And when she came ashore years from now nobody would know her after so much time had passed.

Annie would be gone too, long departed. None of this would ever have been resolved. No explanation would ever have been given and no shame would ever have to be borne into the future. One event, brief and of no import, would have been forgotten years before as would she have been. Annie’s life would have continued with a wrinkle or two until she left her life behind.

Still the sand remains between her toes. Moments have passed, not years. Waves roll in and tug at the shore, taking out grains of sand only to wash them ashore once more.

A sense of Annie drifts all about her. Gulls wake. The tide begins to creep in. Of course it’s a dream, a delusion, that she can leave and never return. Life is not a movie. So many of her things are at Annie’s, things she could never leave behind. And if this thing were never to be resolved it would burn inside her.

Her muscles groan as she stands after so long sitting on the sand. She is dizzy for a moment then gathers her courage about her and trudges up the beach to the car park. It’s time to face what may come.

~ ^-^ ~

Selkies are fascinating creatures of myth. If you wish to know more of them you can start here. (It opens in a new tab)

Life Changes

Party night in Declanville.

Gina will be there with Tom, of course. Marti said she would try to get there but she has something on. Ben has a thing but Ben always has a thing. Eva has asked me to keep a dance for her whatever that means and Anne will do her usual thing, stand by the wall with a drink, rejecting every guy who comes into her space. Anne is cool but she’s too cool if you get what I mean.

Simon was going to be my date but he got an urgent call to fly out to Jakarta for some computer emergency. I mean why don’t they have people there, a country pushing a billion people? This world is a mystery I tell you.

At the last moment Antonia, yes that Antonia, jumped in to say she’d go with me but I would have to buy the drinks. Sure Antonia, you are that special I don’t think.

Anyway, all this for a party? I mean really it’s not that big a deal and if I want to go I can go on my own. It’s not nineteen-fifty is it?

There use to be a time when Saturday night was the biggest night of the week. Me and Gina and Annie woud blow our pay at the mall and spend hours getting our makeup just right, tipping back voddies, getting primed .

Am I getting old? This stuff feels so pointless to me now. Even a year ago I would have spent all day prepping for this party but today, I slept ’til eleven then met up with a friend, Rikkie, for lunch, then on to a new gallery opening up near Central before hanging out in the park with my iPad, shopping for books online.

Two years ago spending a day this way was for olds and losers and now it’s my life. Can things change so much in such a short time? Really? I mean I get the biggest buzz now out of breakfast with a frothy coffee and a croissant and hitting the Paddington street market. I might find something handmade. Madness!

Here I am in front of my makeup mirror, eye-lining and eye-lashing and eye-rolling and thinking, why am I doing this? Simon’s off in Indonesia and even if he was here he would be away once we hit the party, talking to his friends about cricket or rugby or whatever it is they find to talk about, and Eva would be doing her best to get me into a quiet corner to work her charms on me. Until a few weeks ago I was the only one who didn’t know Eva was hot for me. I guess I knew she was that way and really, who cares, but I had no idea I was her type anyway.

Almost ready.

Marti just called to say she definitely has something on and won’t be going. Gina called to tell me Tom just slipped over in the shower and she has to take him down to Accident and Emergency to get checked out, something with his back. That would just leave me and Eva and a bunch of acquaintances I don’t really care for that much.

Saturday night, eh? It’s not what it was and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I like the way life is now, it feels comfortable and parties of the sort I used to like now seem more like noise than fun.

I just called Eva to see if she’d rather go for a drink at the local than shout over dub and strangers, just a drink. She said “yeah ok”. There was a tinge of excitement in her voice, unwarranted, it’s just a drink and a chat but then, who can quell the hopefulness in a heart set on conquest.  I can keep the makeup and throw on something normal to wear. Heels, sure, but not the spikes.

A quiet drink with a friend. That’s my Saturday night. And why not?

~ ^-^ ~

This is very loosely based on experience. It is sometimes slightly shocking to compare how you live now to even a few years ago. Attitudes change with time, locations and environments change, even friends change. Individuals within groups find other interests or become busy or enter relationships that hold their attention. It’s just life, I just chose to compress it into a small part of one night.

Hands and Hearts

In her open palm she saw the world. The earth laid out before her eyes, the valleys and the hills. Parallel lines like the furrows of farmers’ tilled fields. And when a single tear fell onto the fields there came a flood. The water and the salt found deeps into which to settle and to flow along.

Light from the window she sat beside bleached the landscape of her small world into a white expanse. All detail was gone until a cloud, a single cloud drifted in front of the sun’s glowing intensity and plunged the landscape once more, into all its complex patterns.

“Anna, I have your tea” a voice said.

“Thank you, Maha, please put it over there and sit with me.”

Maha sat. Anna reached for her hand and drew it into her lap. Maha did not speak. She sensed no words were needed.

When Anna laid Maha’s palm open on her lap she gazed at it. With a finger she stroked it. Maha flinched. Reflex. Instinct. And then she relaxed.

Anna peered closely at her Maha’s hand, as brown as a leaf in autumn. She saw how the lines flowed, the hills and the valleys, like her own but as various as the lands of the earth. She thought how it was made, by love. She thought how it had grown and the hills and the valleys grown along with it.

This hand, as her own, had felt warmth and coldness, hard and unforgiving surfaces, rough and smooth. This hand had held other hands, the hills and valleys creating tunnels and caves in darkness then parting, bringing back the light.

Maha’s hand had held her own as they had walked these six months through halls and on beaches, across restaurant tables and in sleep. Maha’s hand had explored and glided along Anna’s own hills and valleys, at night, in the morning, chill and cool, just before the first light bathed their room in its golden beams.

Anna gazes at Maha’s hand upon her lap. A single tear falls onto the fields and finds the deeps into which to settle and to flow along.

When she raises her head to gaze upon Maha’s sweet face, there are tears in her eyes also. Anna rests her head on Maha’s shoulder. Maha rest her hand upon Anna’s golden hair. Together they feel the gentle rays of morning sun, and breathe.

The tea has gone cold. They do not notice.

Milly’s Plan For Happiness

To Milly Ozk the world is an easy place to understand. Everything is on a scale of happiness from one to ten.

Drinking freshly made fruit juice on a hillside while watching a bright, orange sunrise is a ten. Finding a plant in her garden has died from frost is a one.

But how can a plant dying be on a happiness scale? To Milly, it is very simple. Everything alive will die one day and if it is this plant’s time to die then she can plant another one and enjoy watching it grow. She will be happy there is a new life and it will be happy to grow.

Does Milly ever feel sad? Oh yes, of course she does but she never forgets that even when she is sad, there are plenty of other things to find happiness in. If she breaks a favourite cup, she can go out to find another one that might become her new favourite. If she sees a war on TV she can find out how to help, maybe by knitting some gloves for refugees who are cold. It might be a small thing but lots of little things make big things. that’s how it works for Milly.

To Milly, happiness is everybody’s to find and it doesn’t need to be big happiness.

It began when Milly was seven years old. She was home in bed with a cold. Her arms and legs were aching and her nose was running and running and she couldn’t stop coughing because of the tickle in her throat. She was miserable. She cried and asked her mother when she would be better again. Her mother told her that nobody could say but she would get better and when she did she could go back to school and play with her friends.

Milly was still miserable as she suffered through her cold but she saw something in what her mother told her. She saw that instead of only thinking about how sick she felt, she could think about what games to play with her friends when she was feeling better. It made her smile just a little.

As she grew older Milly found that she could always cheer herself up when things were not going well by thinking how she would feel when the bad thing passed, as it always did.

When Milly was thirteen her mother grew ill, she lost all of her energy and had to visit the hospital a lot. She lost all of her hair and wore caps and beanies and even wigs. She would take Milly shopping when she could and they bought beanies together. Her mother started out buying plain beanies and when she grew tired of those she took Milly along to street markets and art fairs to find wild designs to wear. Even when Milly knew her mother was suffering she enjoyed shopping with her to seek out crazier and crazier beanies to brighten the days.

After her mother died Milly was sad for a long time. A week passed then two and three and four. In the second week she was passing her mother’s cupboard that had been closed for a month or more, since her mother went to the hospital for the last time, and looked inside. On shelves and on racks she saw dozens of multicoloured beanies. She picked one up and she cried. Her legs grew weak and she sat on the floor in the doorway as tears poured down her cheeks. Her heart was breaking and even the beautiful midday sun that streamed in the window could not brighten the pain she felt deep inside.

And then, into her mind came a picture, more like a home movie really, of her mother and herself at an art fair. The day was sunny. The few clouds that hung in the sky were white and fluffy. Her mother was laughing when she tried on beanies with chickens on them and smiling flowers and weird faces in wild colours.

When she opened her eyes and looked at the beanie in her hand, wet from her tears, Milly saw it was one they had bought at that very art fair, the one with the strange, misshapen chicken on it. Despite her tears and the pain in her heart, she smiled. And then she was laughing. She was crying and laughing all at once.

Her father rushed into the room to ask if Milly was alright. “Oh yes” she said “I just remembered when Mum bought this. It was a perfect day.”

“I miss her a lot, mouse.” her father said, tears in his eyes now.

“Me too, dad” Milly said “but she wouldn’t want us to be so sad. Mum always smiled.”

“I know Milly.”

“And I can wear all of these!” Milly said, waving her hand at the beanies in the cupboard.

“A different one every day.” her father said

“Every day, yes. And then I can get more when I run out. Can I Dad?”

“Of course you can. We’ll go together if you like.”

“That would be great!”

She looked at the beanie in her hands.

“A different one every day.”

~ ^-^ ~

It’s probably bad form to say it but I love this little story. It’s another one that just flowed from my mind right onto the page. Perhaps it’s a little sentimental but what’s wrong with that I say. During the conversation, Milly with her father, I actually had tears in my eyes.

And it’s another complete story too. It could be expanded of course. For now though, it stands as it is, a flurry of unedited writing, straight from me to you. I do hope you enjoy it.

A Precious Moment Shared

There is a certain kind of precious beauty in solitude.

The leaf, brown and tired, that fell from the tree at that moment before Alison’s eyes was not a special leaf. It was an ordinary leaf like any other. The moment of its falling though was special to Alison because she was the only one to see it. In this park, on this bench, now and not at any other time, something changed in the world and she was the only one to see. In all of the history of the past and all the time that would follow Alison’s memory of this falling leaf would be unique.

The leaf touched down. It rested on a carpet of many other leaves, similar but not the same. In time it would be warmed and cooled and wetted and dried. In time it would become a part of something else, not of a tree this time, but of the forest floor. It could feed the tree from where it had come. It could feed an insect that could be eaten by one larger and become a part of all life.

It could but it did not.

In a moment in which a human and a leaf came together to share whatever destiny may be, Alison bent down and lifted the leaf from its bed. She opened the book she had been reading and placed the leaf, with love, between the pages, to go with her until the book was read then to live a very different life from that which it would have had, on a shelf in a room, among other books, some with leaves sleeping inside, most without.

Years from now when her hair has turned to white or to grey, when her days of sitting in cold parks have given way to staying in warm rooms when the weather has turned, Alison may open this book and find the leaf sleeping among the old and yellowed pages, and remember the day, long ago, when she and this precious, ordinary, leaf shared a moment that no one else could ever share. Theirs alone for all of time.

~ ^-^ ~

Despite this being a tiny story I feel that it is complete. It’s more of a feeling, a moment. It took a very short time to write but after reading it back and with no editing, I felt warm inside. Some small pieces feel as if they are a part of something bigger; this does not. I think I’ll leave it just like it is. What do you think?