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My now nearly-18yr-old daughter wanted to be a writer in her earlier days. Now she wants to be a sociologist. Don't ask me why!. Up to the age of 16 she was a prolific creative writer. I thought I'd post something she wrote at the age of 14 and a half. I still toy with the idea of trying to get some of her efforts published for younger readers.
Here it is:****** Late Roses *******
Some recollections never disappear, permanent imprints in the mind, so deeply embossed they can never be eroded completely. A simple stimulus, a brief sight or sound, or a distinctive odour or even a fleeting sensation evokes the quiescent memory from the unconscious.
For me the smell of burning rubber or the glint of sunlight snaking its way through the thickly curtained windows brings everything flooding back.
It was a cool crisp autumnal day, the sort only ever captured perfectly in Enid Blyton storybooks and church hymns. I’d been up until the early hours preparing food and wrapping Jess’s presents but here I was, out of bed just after 7am, roused by an overexcited five-year-old
She was in such a rampant state of almost feverish anticipation that my husband and I couldn’t help but share in her enthusiasm. We stood in the doorway, me wearily clutching my hot coffee cup, witnessing the total annihilation of countless rolls’ worth of paper enclosing the brightly wrapped presents. As far as Jess was concerned, birthdays fell into the same category as Christmas; every year without fail, gifts appeared overnight at the foot of her bed and every year without fail, she got what she had asked for. For a child of that age, overdrafts and credit card statements are no obstacle.
I glanced down at my happy daughter, her cheeks flushed with excitement, her chin stained with chocolate - evidently she had discovered the Cadbury’s fingers laid out in preparation for her birthday celebrations. Even as I contemplated this, she stood up steadily, commandingly almost, her gaudy helmet balanced askew on her clammy forehead. I nodded, reading her pleading expression like a large-print book. Even then Jess always knew how to get what she wanted.
She reached for her father, his strong palm enclosing her tiny fingers. She seemed so fragile, so precariously teetering between safety and harm. Between them they wheeled the new bicycle to the door and down the path, late roses bordering the mossy concrete.
As I closed the rickety gate behind them, I felt an amazing sense of pride flood through my body.
But my happiness was short lived. As my husband turned to wave, I saw something move in the corner of my eye. It was a car. I shouted and my family stopped dead in their tracks. It was then that I shut my eyes; they saw the car too late. The squeal of tyres, grate of metal on metal and the dull thud of two lifeless bodies ricocheting off a car bonnet reached my ears.
The ambulance was at the scene in minutes but to me it seemed like a lifetime. A short lifetime like Jess’s.
They were both pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. As a paramedic broke the news, a dreadful numbness filled me. I couldn’t breathe, but I couldn’t hurt either. Even as my fingers plucked aimlessly at the oh-so-final knot tied in my husband’s empty shoes, I realised my life was reflected in their state. Void of purpose. I closed the curtains on the harsh light of day. I locked away memories, photographs, letters, clothes and books, everything that could possibly rekindle the past.
I missed the funerals, something that tears me up inside to think about even now. Yet still their presence hung in the air, like the scent of decay on a road-kill littered verge. A gentle touch too painful to bear, but too painful to lose. Night and day merged together, like tears on a watercolour scene. My tears. I no longer lived, just simply existed, losing track of time and my grip on reality.
I sat for days on end in my armchair, living for the past but dwelling in the present. I watched the dirt pile up, suffocating me, buried alive in my self-pity. I occasionally dozed off, but haunting images disturbed me, reliving my family’s lives over and over again, eternal dêja vu.
After one such vividly disturbing vision, I awoke suddenly, tears streaming down my tired face, an aching deep inside. Not an aching of hunger, but one of deeply rooted pain. My air of surrender was evaporating. I stood up cautiously, a little shocked at my shaking, almost skeletal, legs. As I strained breathlessly to pick up my old slippers from beneath the wicker chair in the hall, brushing cobwebs from their worn fabric, I realised I was no longer fit and healthy. The slightest movement exhausted me, and my back was arched, giving me a posture not dissimilar to that of a fairytale crone.
I reached outwards for the support of the varnished stair rail, my stiff hand slipping on the once highly-polished wood. Dead grey dust carpeting the stairway blew up in clouds as I shuffled onwards and upwards. Suddenly a cool breeze licked my gaunt cheeks, its unfamiliar yet welcome freshness making me catch my breath.
As I reached the deserted landing, I caught sight of my ragged bedroom curtain blowing in the autumnal draught, the grimy, smeared window partly open.
I turned gently, my shaking hand outstretched. Carefully, hesitantly, I slid open the top drawer of my dressing table, years of memories spilling out. The smell of my husbands cigars, their sour odour, somehow a comfort, wafted, and the shrill sound of Jess’s laughter echoed. Out in the overgrown garden, late roses again bloomed.