She sat, on a low wall three bricks high. A wall that once was tall, now a crumbled remnant beside the mainroad. Her socks, wrinkled; one higher than the other. They offered no protection against the easterly wind; that bitter December day. Her ditsy floral skirt flicked against the already chaffed skin leaving pink welts. A grey knitted cardi hung from her shoulders, the sleeves clenched tight in her hands as she waited. Flat barren fields of East Anglia solid from the morning frost were inviting her gaze. That look, made me wince. Her eyes glassy and wide; unblinking, she looked … lost.
I noticed her many times as we flashed by on the way to Norwich. Each time we’d go I would see her, with pain in her shape; a stillness about her. Once we stopped at the village shop, while I waited to be served I asked her story. The postmistress said, ” She’s about forty, a local she is… not been herself since her daughter… Some says she were taken and others say different.” Slowly she shook her head as she stamped my letters. “Only six she was, her girl. Where she sits, it’s where she waited that day and every one since, for the school bus to bring her; she never came.”
On one occasion I stopped, pulled the car into the lay-by. I walked over and took a space on the rough wall alongside her, leaving a gap of two bricks between us. A respectful gap I thought. My eyes gazed across the flat land as hers did. “Hello, are you … Are you okay?” I felt a tug, a connection, fleeting though it was. She sat unmoved, undaunted by my presence. I felt the cold from her, saw the fogged breath, I could taste her sadness. An overwhelming urge to reach her enveloped me. Determinedly I unzipped my parka, putting it beside her I untied my wool scarf and wriggled my fingers free of the gloves. “Please, your skin is blue, take these, they’re for you.” I shouted, as the wind whistled by my ears and bit the end of my nose. The pile almost touched her chest; I began to tremble, a feeling of despair, soaked into me. Her eyes flickered as I put the clothes in her lap. “I don’t need them, can you hear me?” A pat to reinforce the point made her flinch, and with a straight back but without a second glance I returned to the car. She hadn’t moved as we passed her, the bundle propped on her lap, her glassy eyes staring forward. Alone, she sat.
That day, the clouds gathered so swiftly that everyone around the conference table stared at the snow. The CEO said “Due to the change of weather we will take a working lunch. The sooner I get you home the better.” I remember hoping she had put the clothes on. I wondered if anyone could relieve her… because of the weather. I couldn’t get her out my mind, her eyes, the liquid that refused to drop but puddled in her lids as if scared to fall. Her forlorn image haunted me.
On the return journey we stopped next to the wall. I remember the wipers swished, the flakes came hard and fast, but she wasn’t there. Pleased to think her in the warm I began to feel better.
In the spring my job took me once more to Norwich. We stopped at the place, next the road. Amongst the grass which grew in the crumbled brick, wedged between the cracks was bunch of brown withered flowers tied with a bright woollen scarf. The connection had forever made its mark, imprinted forever in my heart.
This was entered into the bloggers bash competition 2017. I am thrilled to say my story was the winner. I was pleased and honoured to have my work chosen. I hope you like my flash fiction as much as the judges did. Since I am reposting this story long after its first airing I thought I would add an update below.
My story touched many; or so it seemed. The tale also effected me, in a way I could not have predicted. I find myself searching for the sad, the homeless, the uncared for. I take time to sit with and make a connection. I have learnt … if we don’t walk by, ashamed, with our eyes dropped. If we look and smile give a drink or shake a hand. That connection gives back humanity. This year, 2018, I have not given presents to adults but used that money to make-up a ruck sack for a homeless person. I have so far not been able to give it out. In the past month of carrying it in the boot of my car, looking for someone in need. I have been unable to choose. How do you, at a drop in centre or a night shelter,or soup kitchen or at the Quaker house … How could I just pick one. How could I say this one is more deserving. My lips tremble and my chest aches as I write this. I have phoned the Salvation army to see if they will give it for me; my bag of hope. In the newyear The Husband and I will become volunteers because life is nothing if you can’t at least try. Merry Christmas.
Please leave your comments I would love to know if a piece of writing has altered your thinking or caused a change in you.Merry Christmas.