Black Velvet…

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When I was seven, my mother bought me a black velvet dress for my birthday. It had a white collar with white cuffs on the small puff sleeves.

I felt like a princess, and couldn’t stop rubbing my hands over it. Mother told me to stop doing it, as I would ruin it.

My stepfather Joe said he would take me and my brothers to the park. As we left the house, my mother said not to give me any ice cream.

We played on the swings for a bit and then Joe brought my brother’s some ice cream.

I walked away, wondering if he would do as he was told. I didn’t go far, for I hoped I knew better than that and I was right.  Joe handed me an ice cream, telling me to please be careful.

I said I would, but what child can eat an ice cream without getting it down themselves?  Not me anyway. I kept rubbing at it, making it worse. The velvet was sticking up where I had rubbed it and there was no way to hide it.

All the way home, I wished Joe would run away with us, but he told me not to worry. He would say it was his fault, which in a way it was for buying it for me. I know that’s an unkind thought, but when we got home before he could say a word, mother ripped the dress from my body,  leaving her nail marks on my back because the fabric was too hard to tear.

Joe got both barrels of her temper until I thought his ears would swell and drop off.

This memory has returned, because my daughter who lives next door, was playing a song I haven’t heard for a long time. It was one of my favourites, called Black Velvet.

It’s a funny old life isn’t it, the way old memories come back?

Anita Dawes 2018

A Very Special Moment…

 

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Merlin has been sitting on the desk with me a lot lately, so when he turned up again this morning, I simply stroked his head and went back to what I was doing on the computer.

He moved a little closer and I began to wonder if something was wrong. I studied him for a while, then gently put my hand on his head. He looked bright enough and his head and ears felt cool, so I let my hand slide slowly down his back. He looked up at me with so much wisdom and intelligence in his amber eyes and at that moment, I experienced a deep communication between us as our eyes met.

It is usually difficult to see Merlin’s eyes properly, as they seem to vanish in his black face, but for once I could clearly see him looking at me.

He stretched his head towards me until our heads were almost touching. I was sure he had something to tell me, but all I felt was such overwhelming sadness. Was it just his sorrow, or my own somehow joining together?

“You okay, Merlin?”

I had the strongest feeling he wasn’t, as I knew old age was creeping up on him too. I had seen how many times he missed the couch when a jump failed, and how he often stumbled as he walked around. I found myself wondering if he ever thought about how much time he had left, as I often did. The thought that neither of us might not last much longer brought tears to my eyes.

He stayed with me for a while and I with him, sharing something very special.

Two old souls, emotionally communicating on some deeper level.

AAA (2)

 

More Muddy Waters…

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Well, I have been simplifying and streamlining like a mad woman. I have cut and pruned, deleted and unsubscribed, all those things and places that I thought were a good idea at the time, but somehow never got around to learning. They have all been weeded out.

There seems to be a strong gardening influence going on here, don’t you think? This is probably because after I finish spring cleaning the inside of my head and my office… there is a load more of the same to do outside in the garden!

All things considered, I  don’t appear to have so many balls in the air now, and feel the better for it.

That was when something amazing happened.

Anita and I have long wanted to write a book together, but despite regular discussions, we never seemed to agree on anything. No change there then! This in itself is not unusual in this house, but I digress.

Something was mentioned and caught our interest, and as we continued to talk, we could see the magic beginning to grow into a great idea. I won’t say any more, but I have the feeling it could be amazing.

I honestly believe that everything we have learned, every failure and disappointment, even the pruning casualties this week, have all been leading us to this moment.

So, from having too many irons in the fire, we have added another one!

And then disaster struck!

The internet had been playing up, constantly buffering and crashing, but I was patient, thinking it would right itself. When several days passed without improvement, I decided to refresh Firefox, my browser. All this managed to achieve was the total loss of all my bookmarks and password recognition and no possible way of retrieving them that I could see.

By this time, I was thoroughly disgusted with my stupidity, so I changed browsers, returning to Internet Explorer, which always seemed to work well enough on my laptop.

But… by then everything was going from bad to worse, and I wanted to shoot myself. Nothing had really changed, and I didn’t like the layout on Int.Explorer. All I really wanted was to stop all the buffering and delays.

This is a classic example of my prowess or lack of it when it comes to computers. I had to stop for the day round about then, as my brain was showing  signs of self-destruction.

The following day, my mind decided to work better, and I reinstated Firefox. I am still unable to get my stuff back, which means I will have to collect them all over again. But the buffering has now stopped, so that’s a small price to pay.

I cannot believe the mess I made, simply trying to make my life easier…

 

Spoken… #Poetry

 

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Spoken

Chinese whispers

From forked tongues are born

They fly like poison darts

Leaving damage in their wake

Lives destroyed, reputations shattered

Families broken,

Sticks and stones would hurt far less

Than whispered words, hardly spoken

I know these darts I feel their poison

My back a road map

To whispered words hardly spoken…

AAAAA

Love Really does Make the World go around…

 

 

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This week I have been thinking about all the different kinds of love there are, and how many I have had the good fortune to have shared. Unfortunately, this also highlighted the ones I haven’t or made a complete hash of, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, right?  At least I can’t.

I miss not knowing my dad, and I really wish I had never known my mum. (but that’s another story altogether!) Then there were two husbands one after the other that I’m glad I don’t miss in the slightest.

I was told once long ago that I have two brothers somewhere, and they are possibly who I miss the most.  I watch Anita’s son and daughter sometimes and really envy their relationship. They do fight and argue sometimes, but they are always there for each other, instinctively knowing what each of them needs and offering it before the need to ask.

It would appear that missing things is one of the saddest aspects of growing old and I don’t care for it too much.  I don’t want to spend any of the time I have left complaining about this and that, bemoaning what was and what could never be.  My life has been what I could make out of it, good or bad, and I’m not really the kind of person who will waste any time worrying about all the ifs and maybe’s. What’s done, is done.

 

I was wondering what to write about this week, and then I started thinking about all the things I love now. (And I did need the reminder).

Which was a nice change from all the problems and mini-disasters that have been depressing my family and me of late and it lifted my mood considerably.

So much so, that when I ventured outdoors yesterday, battling against strong, chilly winds to run an errand, I began to notice things that I might not have seen last week. Mother Nature’s presence was everywhere, and I wondered if the weather would be kind and not ruin her efforts. But it was good to see them nonetheless, proving that Summer really can’t be far away after all.

 

Back to all the things I love at the moment…

I love having the strength of my family around me.

I love that I still have most of my health and some of my mental faculties. (More important than I ever knew it could be)

I love that I have learned so much this year, mainly from the people I meet online every day. (And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart)

I love that I am enjoying writing my books and loving every frustrating minute of it.

I love all the people (and I am sure you all know who you are) who, with their advice, patience and humour have inspired us so much.

watermark xjj

 

A very Special Day…

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Yesterday was my birthday and it didn’t rain, so I managed to visit our local pond/lake. I was desperately in need of a walk and some fresh air after all the editing.

The family gathered at our house with their arms full of flowers, and massive balloon in the shape of a butterfly dominated the scene. Such a beautiful balloon too, I will be sorry when it deflates and is no more.

We drove to the pond and parked at one end. The walk all around it is rather long, one of the reasons I wonder why they call it a pond, so we always walk halfway around and then stop for lunch at the waterside cafe.  I had one of the best cheese and ham panini’s ever and ate it with our new baby on my lap. Barely two months old, she was fascinated by all the trees and ducks. I think she was eyeing my lunch too!

I could sit and watch the antics of the swans, geese and ducks all day, but dark clouds were beginning to gather, so we took off again to walk back to the car park on the other side of the pond. As we walked, we noticed that one of last years cygnets was following us. It was a little intimidating, as swans have a reputation for being anti social. This one, a huge lumbering beast out of the water, was hellbent on saying hello to anyone brave enough to stop and talk. This happened to be me, and when I extended a hand in friendship, he bit it. Now this should have hurt, for they have serratted bread knives in their mouths, but it was gentle and didn’t hurt a bit. I couldn’t help wondering why he was being so friendly and whether it was a good idea.

I hadn’t mentioned it, but I had seen the ravens watching the ducklings and knew what they were about. I prayed they would go away and not bring death to such a beautiful place. It would seem we cannot escape sadness, even on a glorious Spring walk…

watermark xjj

#Writer’s Wednesday… #Simple by Anita Dawes #Mystery #PsychologicalSuspense

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Chapter One

Gran stormed across the clearing, bending to pick up a stick from the ground without breaking her stride.  Simple, sitting against the woodpile, was in for another of her beatings.  I yelled for him to run, but he didn’t hear me.  Lost in one of his daydreams I guessed.

I watched in silence as Gran repeatedly swung the stick hard against the side of her son’s head.  There were no words to describe Simple’s pain or the pain of watching.  He probably didn’t even know what it was for and I hated her for making me feel all the things he couldn’t say. He didn’t move or look her in the face, not until she let the stick drop from her bony fingers did he feel safe enough to close his eyes.  He slowly put his hands to his battered head, blood pushing its way through the gaps in his dirty fingers.

 

Jack was Gran’s firstborn, a mean son of a bitch.  Then came Simple who was soft in the head and lived in a dream world.  Tommy, my favourite, was the youngest and nowhere near as bad as Jack.  They were supposed to make sure Simple stayed away from town.  Gran never could bear the thought of Simple going anywhere near there, but never let on why.  The beatings came when he forgot, and somehow Gran always found out.  I figured she should give up on the beatings; it wasn’t helping him to remember to stay away.

I knew why the others went to town so often.  The girls there let them do whatever they had a mind to.  I couldn’t figure why Simple sneaked off; not for girls, I knew that much.  Tommy and Jack had teased him enough about Lizzie, the day they caught him spying on her as she washed in the river.

Watching Gran beat Simple made me think back to the day I lay by the river. I was trying to catch hold of the whispers in my head while looking at the reflection of the clouds in the water.  It was something I liked to do and usually had the place to myself.

That particular day, I had company.  Lizzie was taking a bath and Simple was watching from the bushes.  Without warning, the boys appeared and dragged Simple out of the bushes he thought hid him from sight.  Jack grabbed Simple viciously between the legs, saying it was time he knew how to use it.  They called for Lizzie to come out of the water.

I hid behind a rock, too scared to run back to the cabins.  It wouldn’t matter if I told Gran anyway, she’d say they needed their fun and to let them be.

Tommy helped Lizzie up onto the bank.  She stood there naked, her dark hair dripping.  The water running down her skinny legs made muddy pools at her feet.  Jack stopped her from picking up her clothes.  ‘You won’t be needin’ them just yet, Lizzie.  We’re goin’ to have us a little fun.  It’s Simple’s birthday.’

‘No it ain’t, and I ain’t doing what you have a mind to.  Not with Simple.’

Jack took hold of her arms and roughly pulled her close to him.  ‘You’re mine and you’ll do like I say, missy.  You’re his birthday present.’

Simple tried to move away but Jack held him back; telling him he didn’t want to miss out on such a fine gift.  He threw Lizzie to the ground like a rag doll.  I watched, too afraid to move.  Jack had ears like a bat if I moved an inch he would hear me.  Fear and fascination swam together in my head; knitting an invisible chain that held me fast behind the rock.

Jack stood between her legs and unfastened his belt.  He undid his belt, pushed his pants down and fell on Lizzie, pumping his body up and down.  Tommy pulled Simple down on the ground beside them, slapping Jack’s bare behind.  ‘See, Simple, this is how you please the girls.’

There was much grunting and groaning before Jack let out an even bigger groan and rolled away from Lizzie, his thing still dripping as he pulled up his pants. Tommy pushed Simple down on top of Lizzie and he lay there like a big lump.  As Jack pulled him to his knees, a clump of Simple’s dark brown hair came away in his hand.

‘You see how I did it, now set to, before I tell Gran what we saw you tryin’ to do in town again.’

I wish I knew what Simple did that got Gran so mad, so fired up about him being in town.  He was crying like a baby, tears and snot sliding down his face.  Jack kicked him viciously and he fell forward, stopping himself from flattening Lizzie by putting his hands out, hitting the ground so hard the dry dirt sprung up between his fingers.

I wished there was something I could do to help Simple, but Tommy and Jack had been at Gran’s grog again and I knew if I showed my face, they would do the same to me.  Lizzie seemed to have gotten over the idea of Simple getting at her, giggling as Tommy pulled Simple’s pants off.  I couldn’t bear to watch anymore and turned my face away, but I heard every sound that escaped from Simple’s lips.  I wondered what thoughts were running through his head if any.

For days after, I couldn’t bear to look at Simple or talk to him and knew how much he missed that.  I was the only one who spent the time of day with him.  The others always teased him, saying words over and over before moving on to the next the way Simple did.  I spent hours getting him to speak slowly, and with me, his stammer wasn’t so bad. When Simple got worked up his words stuck, stretched out like an echo rebounding around the woods before finding the end of it.  Most times he gave up trying to say what was in his head.

The back of Gran’s cabin was the only place to find any shade unless you took off into the woods, which wasn’t always a good idea.  Folk around here tend to look out for their own and looking out for the neighbours wasn’t their way of doing things, especially the Spiers.  We’d been having trouble with them for as long as I could remember.

I sat with my back against rough, weathered timber that had been cut from the woods, grateful to be alone to hear the wind rush through the trees, whispering my name.  Emily, the name my heart recognised. Not Leanne, the one they called me.  I got to thinking that Gran would have renamed me, not wanting anything to do with town folk or the names they called their children.  Seeing as how Uncle Jimmy had let slip that my folks had come from the town, I got to thinking how on earth Gran could be mine.  I figured the only way was one of my parents must have been kin to my grandpa.  That could account for the way she looked at me sometimes as if I didn’t really belong.  Part outsider; which is how I felt most of the time.

This got me looking closer at Gran’s boys.  They didn’t look like they come from the same seed either.  Jack, mean and dark, had the best looks. Tommy was the just the opposite.  Fair and plain, as if they forgot to give him character.  I’d been told that Simple was soft in the head because Gran had been too old for birthing. That couldn’t be the true reason, for Tommy was all right. Didn’t matter to me though, I liked him the way he was; all soft and gentle, yet big enough to make me feel safe.  Big enough to squash the rest of them flat should he take a mind to.  Reckon that’s why Uncle Jimmy keeps clear of Simple.  I heard him tell Jack one day that Simple would snap soon enough with all the teasing he gets.

I told Gran once that sometimes I thought I could hear my Ma calling me by another name, could feel her reaching for me and almost make out her face.  Gran said I must be getting soft in the head like Simple and warned me not to talk rubbish again.  I knew better than try.  She would whop me like she always did when something didn’t please her.  It didn’t pay to have an opinion or argue with Gran about anything.

Lizzie said it was just my imagination playing tricks on me, but I didn’t believe any of it.  I felt it in my heart, not my head, and it wasn’t the summer heat frying my brains as Tommy suggested.

Gran said she would be making one of her rare trips to town soon.  I would be twelve next month and according to her, a young woman needs new clothes.  This meant material for Gran to make a new dress, two if I was lucky.  Gran hated going to town, but she knew you couldn’t trust men folk to choose anything.  I knew how hard this would be for her and my heart reached out to hug her, my body slow to follow.

Gran waved the air in front of her to keep me away.  ‘No need to thank me, girl.’

I wished what I felt inside didn’t always show so quick on my face.  My life would be a mite happier if it didn’t.

Lizzie had told Gran about the young’un she was expecting and Gran wasn’t best pleased.  Didn’t matter who the pa was, she didn’t ask.  All she said was, it had better be stronger than the last one. ‘You ain’t made for young’uns, Lizzie. Age has taken your best chances. This has to be the last one, that’s if you can keep it from falling away before its time.’

In the past, Lizzie had managed to keep one until it was three months old.  It was sick from the start, Gran said.  And Lizzie too foolish to give it the right kind of care.  No milk to speak of and she forgot about it for days on end.  Took off with Jack and left it crying.  I asked Gran why she didn’t take care of it, seeing as how she knew better.  It was a stupid question and I almost felt the heat from her eyes singe the hair on my arms.

‘The brat’s Lizzie’s, not mine,’ she snapped.

I couldn’t understand Gran’s way of thinking or feeling.  All hard and shrivelled, weren’t any softness about her, not even around the eyes.  Something bad must have happened to make her so hard.  There wasn’t anything I could do, no way for me to change her.  The child Lizzie lost had been buried just outside the clearing by a big old redwood.  I would sit there sometimes and lay a few wildflowers on the makeshift grave.  All Lizzie said was I was too soft to live in the woods. She didn’t seem to care about the loss.

‘Gran should’ve taken you to town years ago, left you outside the church.’  She often said that when feeling particularly mean.

When Gran didn’t ask who the pa might be, I wondered if she might have something to say if she knew it might be Simple.  I found myself hoping this one would be strong.  Having a baby around would be real nice.  I could help Lizzie take care of it.

Just then, Jack stormed into the cabin behind me, yelling about the Spiers’ messing with his traps again, taking his kills.  That I knew to be one mistake they would pay for.  Gran told him to hush up and let Jimmy take care of it when he got home.  Jack went on and on about the Spiers, he had a thing about them. Every time anything went wrong or the still broke, he would say they had been at it.

Gran told him he was too thick to take care of any one of them.

‘It’s no wonder you lost your kill, shouting your mouth off in town. Makin’ out like a big man, letting’ on where you left the traps.’

I heard Tommy ask how she knew.

‘It ain’t hard to figure, when she knows you couldn’t keep your mouth shut if she was to stitch it.’

Jack must have lost his temper and thrown a chair across the cabin, because something hit the side where I sat, listening.  The thought of Uncle Jimmy coming made the cool spot behind the cabin too cold and I moved off into the sun.

I wondered what he wanted, what brought him down from the mountains.  Jimmy was a mean one, even meaner than Jack was.  Tall and quiet, he liked killing, hunting things.  Animals, men, even bugs weren’t safe.  He would flatten anything that crossed his path, his hands quick as lightning, grabbing winged creatures from the air.  Didn’t seem to matter some of them might sting.

I saw him swallow a wasp once after teasing Simple with it.  Mostly he liked pulling the heads off his kills.  Said even a man ain’t nothing without it, get rid of the head, you get rid of trouble.  That’s what he believed.

His visits were always too long.  Tommy hated him and swore he would take off one day and never come back.  Gran laughed.  She’d heard him say it so often; she didn’t believe he had a mind to do it.  I could see in his eyes that one day he would, he was tired of living in fear of Jimmy and being in Jack’s shadow.

I thought about taking off some days.  Thing was, where to?  I guess Tommy had the same trouble.  Town was good for letting off steam, but the woods were home.  Clarksville was growing speedily, too fast for Gran’s liking. She said it was getting closer to the woods each year.  Full of outsiders thinking they can wander where they please and look down their noses at the way we live.  The sheriff was up here just last week, telling Gran I should be attending school.  She sent him off, saying I knew all I needed to.  School didn’t have anything she couldn’t put in my head.

There were times when I wondered if she was right.  Maybe I would have liked school, made friends of my own age.  Throwing the idea at Gran did no good at all; she had a thing about town folk.  Strange, when I’d heard Jimmy say that grandpa had been from Clarksville.

‘Your Gran liked town folk fine back then.  Never did say what changed her mind.’

Jimmy said grandpa died one winter, caught by one of his own traps. Wolves ate most of his body.  I could understand how this would make Gran sad, but I couldn’t make sense of the way she spoke about town and the folk that lived there. Outsiders, she called them.  There had to be a reason for the way she hated them.  I knew better than to ask, but by keeping my ears open, I would hear most things soon enough.

Jimmy had brought down two headless deer for Gran’s larder.  I wondered what he did with the heads.  Tommy said he ate them, but I figured he buried them, although I half wondered if Tommy was right.

Uncle Jimmy hadn’t been with us for more than a week, when the sheriff turned up again, warning Gran to have a word with her boys.

‘Ned Harrison’s been shooting’ his mouth off about Tommy, if he sets eyes on him again he’s gonna kill him. Says he’s been messing’ around with his wife.’

Jimmy stood there the whole time, his rifle cracked open across his arm.  The sun lighting up the fact the barrel weren’t empty.  It didn’t seem to worry the sheriff, he had his hand on the butt of his own gun, looking Gran in the eyes.  I could see Tommy hiding behind the water barrels while the sheriff tried explaining to Gran that he couldn’t keep an eye on Ned all the time.

‘Wouldn’t want your boy to lose his head over a piece of pussy.  Have a word with him, Ma’am.’  Touching the rim of his hat, he bid Gran good day.

I reckon he saw Tommy because he doffed his hat again as he passed the water barrels.

Tommy tried to get out of a beating by telling Gran the sheriff wanted to get it on with Ned’s wife himself.

‘Jealousy is all, Gran.  Ned ain’t gonna shoot no one, too full of grog mostly. When he ain’t drinking’ he’s sleeping’. ‘Lizabeth’s real nice Gran, I like her and old Ned ain’t gonna last forever the way he’s carrying’ on. I figured on movin’ in when he passes.’

‘Is that so?’  Gran said.  ‘Got a mind to help him on his way, bring more trouble that ain’t my doing’?’

‘No Ma.’  Tommy said, his eyes and voice pleading for her not to reach for the stick by her feet.  I could see in her eyes it was no good, she needed to whop him for reasons of her own…

Simple is just 99p this week… just saying!

Loves Dreaming… #Poetry

 

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Image by Pixabay.com

 

Loves Dreaming

 

When the lights go out, whose arms hold you in sweet embrace?

Do they feel like your partners? Don’t turn until morning

It could be loves dark memory from repeated dreaming

Does his breath on the back of your neck set your heart racing?

Do you long to turn, touch his lips to your own waiting desire?

Whose face will you find on the pillow beside you?

Which one of your lovers will make you turn, reach out in ecstasy?

Who wins the racing beat of your heart?

AAAAA