A Tiny Little Ring, A Tiny Little Part of Me

Writing 101: The Things We Treasure 

What is my most prized possession?

Since most of my challenge responses are related to childhood, my first thought was my teddy bear. I’ve had him since I was two or three and despite my growth and realization that he isn’t actually that big, he goes by the name of Big Bear. But if I’m honest, I would  be able to sleep without him. I have, a few times. His awkward size meant there wasn’t room in suitcase or rucksacks on trips. That doesn’t mean I don’t want him anymore. I hope to one day pass him on to my son or daughter, however tatty and old.

So, after thinking more deeply, I think that my most prized possession in terms of what it means to me is my ring. Apart from this one ring, I only have a couple of rings, which I don’t wear very often. This ring is a tiny little gold plated one with a heart shaped aquamarine stone, for my astrological sign-Aries. My mum bought it for me when I was thirteen, I think. Ever since she gave it to me, I have always worn it. When I can’t find it after I took it off to get a shower or bath, I have a sudden sense of panic. It seems to have thinned slightly and when I’m not wearing it, it could be mistaken for one of those kiddie’s toy rings.

But the reason this ring means so much to me, is that it reminds me that I am different, and that it’s a good thing. I feel like, even though I don’t really believe in horoscopes (but sometimes it’s fun to see what they say!) embracing a part of me, however tiny, and wearing it everyday makes me feel unique and special.

This ring will always remind my of my mum. And I know that in the future when I’m miles and miles away, studying at university, travelling, living with a partner, building a new family and whatever else I will be reminded of her and how much I love her every time I see the ring.

I have problems with marriage. Having divorced parents and watching the effects of so many failed marriages, I am wary of it. And thinking of rings, symbolizing a commitment, kind of scares me. I have a lot to say about marriage, so I’ll come back to that another time. But what I like about my ring is that it doesn’t have so much meaning and worth at risk. I’ll never have to give back this ring. I’ll never have to take it off to deceive someone (not that I would ever cheat) It can mean a lot to me, or it could seem pretty to me. Its up to me.

Another great thing about this ring is that it’s more likely to stay with me. People grow out of clothes, lose old toys, things get stolen. My hands might get a little wrinkly-or a lot-but they will still wear the ring. I hope that one day my little boy or girl, or one of my grandchildren will point at my ring and ask ‘where did you get that’? And I will tell them how I got it and how I’ve carried it through my life. It’s been through all of the things I have faced. It’s only tiny, and only represents a tiny part of me, but it means the world to me. Thanks, mum, for reminding me that I’m different.

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Writing 101: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

As I pressed my face into the comfort of my thickly sleeved arms, I did not think of the collection of bodies around me. Bodies talking, bodies laughing, bodies just sitting. I let my chin rest on the table. Wrapped in my own arms, I was protected from the awkward silences, the loneliness, the jokes not intended for me. In my small cocoon the sound of voices was soothing. All I could hear was the rhythm of their sounds, not caring for their words. I didn’t care what they thought. I didn’t care if I looked like I was crying. I wasn’t crying. I didn’t feel enough of anything to do that. My chin buzzed. Someone’s phone was going off on the table. I flicked my eyelids open, realizing that they had been closed all this time. The pale grain of the table filled my vision. For a few moments I followed the lines, hopping to new ones when they ended. Then, the vibrating phone had finished it’s plea for attention. I tightened the warmth and darkness with a gentle pull of my arms, closing my eyes consciously this time.

I could feel the grooves of my knitted jumper pressing an imprint into my forehead. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to sit there forever, holding my tired and sad head. I ignored the odd pokes and rustles attempting to rouse me at first; but soon I had blocked them out completely, I was in my own world. Just like I had tuned out of the words, I turned all sounds into my own lullaby. But I didn’t want to sleep. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but at that moment I was not going to move.

My cheeks began to grow hot, but a warmth I desired. I had been cold and lonely for too long. Here, in my own little space, none of that mattered. I remembered the rawness of my pink hands as they hung limply by my sides. I never really swung my arms much. Sometimes they called me a monkey.

This moment of quiet, lone weariness was like those long lazy stretches of time when you are just falling to sleep. Not quite there, but slowly losing grip of consciousness, slowly letting yourself be taken by dreams. Yes, this was like holding a dream. Time was becoming distorted, and I wondered how long I had been there. It could have been minutes or hours, it made no difference. I judged by the hum of noise that had lowered slightly that less bodies were surrounding me. Bodies gone to re adjust their faces and hair, bodies gone to fill up their brains with pieces if knowledge.

Somehow the sharp ring of the bell did not surprise me. It did not jolt me back up, back out of my trance. I slowly loosened my arms and allowed myself up. And I traipsed off to join the bodies, pretending to fill up my brain with a teacher’s supposedly useful chatter. But my brain was elsewhere.

Failure

Writing 101: Your Personality on the Page

What am I scared of?

Failure. Feeling like I have failed myself, or-even worse- others. I have always been one of those people that tries to please everyone. I used to get upset when things went wrong, when I caused a problem, when someone didn’t like me. But I have learned that some things you can’t control; you can’t expect everyone to like you! Still, I can’t help but feel like I have to make it up someone that doesn’t seem to like me.

When I say failure, I don’t mean little mistakes or accidents. I can cope with that. I mean flaws that were caused by me, that give me the responsibility for a downfall. I fear failure because of pressure to succeed. And it’s mainly from myself. My parents were never pushy or pressuring, or even that strict. Whenever we got reports at school, my mum would laugh because she didn’t need to put any pressure on me to do well-I always pressured myself. And I did do well. I’m one of those dark horses, always in the top set/class but quietly forgotten, until I shock everyone on results day. Nobody knows that to do so well I did so much revision my eyes spun, I went through several meltdowns and didn’t see my dad for months.

It’s not just school, though. I tend to be a perfectionist in most of the things I do. My idea is that if you do something, you have to give it meaning, and that usually means working hard. One of the reasons I love writing is because there are no right answers; you are free to express yourself with only the barriers you set yourself.

Fear dictates my confidence level. When I feel I have failed something or someone, it convinces me I am not good enough. I fall to a low that takes up to weeks and months to get out of. This is a vicious circle, making me fear failure even more because I don’t want to lose MORE confidence.

I used to have a huge fear of forgetting the memories I had spent my life making. Part of that fear was being a worrier, and I mean a really big worrier. I used to worry about every little thing. I’m not as bad now, but of course, I’m a teenager-there are plenty of things I worry about.

Growing up scares me, too. This time next year I will be seventeen. I could be driving. I will be applying for the university that I have visited and picked. I will have done my AS level exams. Some of my friends will be turning eighteen. It’s scary enough thinking a year ahead, never mind any further! I don’t know what I want to do with my life when I leave school. All I know is that I want to write.

The Brown Leather Jacket

Writing 101: Third Time’s the Charm

It had been a long day. With only an hour to go, my weary eyes flickered from the clock to my work, and back to the clock. My hands continued to lift items from the boxes, but my mind was only half aware of those items. It wasn’t the brown leather jacket that grabbed my fading attention, but the contents of the pockets. At first, rummaging through someone’s pockets had seemed like an invasion of privacy. But after the days and weeks of having to look for any sign of the owner, I had become accustomed to this part of my job.

Time had cracked the leather along the edges and frayed the lining. Inside the pockets, I fished out a scrunched up tissue. Just as I dropped it into the bin along with the countless other pieces of rubbish, out rolled a white stick. A pregnancy test stick. Leaning in to grab it, a piece of chewing gum stuck to my gloves. But I didn’t care; the stick was positive.

With a new pair of gloves on, the stick still in my hand, I stared at the two lines. So many questions bubbled to the surface of my thoughts. What had happened to this woman? Did she have the baby? Who is she?

My hands trembled as I placed the stick on my desk, on top of a fresh tissue. I went back to the jacket, nervous for what else I might find. This time, out of the pocket fell a crimson lipstick and piece of folded up paper. As I unfolded the thin sheet, I saw the words, written with an eyeliner pencil: ‘Dear Vince’

But there was no message to this Vince. Just the brown ring of a coffee cup and splodges of what could only have been tears. The questions buzzed in my mind, so many, I could not process them all.

Staring at the scrawled letters, I wondered if they would have ever been read by Vince. Was she going to finish the letter? Or was it destined to be lost, here or dumped in a bin?

Whoever this girl was, something told me that she wouldn’t want to find this jacket. She wouldn’t want to stare at the two lines on the little stick; she wouldn’t want to open up the words she couldn’t finish and she wouldn’t want to run her finger over her own tears of the past.

The Carol Concert

Writing 101: Your Voice Will Find You

Every year it’s at that perfect time. Close to the holidays, when you know the weight on your shoulders is beginning to ease away. When you can feel the excitement of that one special day creeping up on you.

When you enter the church, it’s cold. But as you gather in the pews, packed with parents, teachers and students, the warmth finds its way through the layers of thick coats and wool. Soon the buzz of chatter is silenced by the angelic orchestra. Each instrument sings beautifully to the echoing walls and crevices of the vast ceiling. People look up at the architecture in wonder. It hasn’t changed since last year, but is still as magical.

Like a child again, listening to a bedtime story, the gentle low voice reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ is a lullaby. From your trance-like state you are awakened by the passionate finale. The soulful voices fill the space beyond the ceiling, beyond the eager ears of the audience. United with the orchestra, a new, vibrant sound is formed; so powerful that goosebumps appear not just from the chill of December. And the smiling faces are reflected in the audience with hearty applause.

Without those moments of joy and infinity, what would Christmas be? The real meaning of this profit-making, money-gulping time is making meaningful memories, of happy times of togetherness that can only be created in frosty December. Music has the power to do such things; take it away and Christmas isn’t the same.

Dear Emma

Dear Emma,

I’m sorry about your funeral. I know it will be nothing like the way you would want it, but you never thought you’d have to  plan your funeral at twenty one. Your family probably mean the best for you, and I know how much they miss you. I want you to know that.

It’s been a week today. The funeral is this afternoon and I have my black suit laid out on the bed. I still wake up every morning and forget in that first fatigued moment that you’re not here anymore. But, I am beginning to accept, in small steps, that there’s no way I can bring you back. There’s no way to reverse time, reverse that car. You’d probably blame yourself, but I know you’re too careful.

My mind keeps replaying that night. You’d been gone for hours before I got the call. Your parents first, then some other relatives, then your best friends. And finally, Katie rang me. I wished so much that I didn’t have to meet your parents for the first time in the hospital through tears. Nobody expect Katie and Erin even knew me. The tall dark haired guy dabbing his tears with his sleeve.

I told myself and keep telling myself that you’d want me to be happy; and I know I’d want the same if our positions were reversed. God, why couldn’t it have been me?

Still, I can’t bear to put that suit on. How do I tell these strangers that I loved their Emma, when it is you I want to tell? I love you, it’s as simple as that. No frills necessary. You always knew that’s the way I am. And I like to think that you liked me because of it.

When we met at uni, only eight months ago, I remember how you hated me. I was too lazy, while you slogged away only to do just as well as me. Your messy blonde hair would always be buried in a book in the library. It took you weeks to realize that despite my laid back attitude, I frequented the library as much as you. Those first times we caught each other’s eyes, I remember the sizzle of surprise light up your big dark eyes. The first time you spoke, asking playfully if I was stalking you, and I had to remind you we were one the same course. Now I have to stalk through those long library corridors alone, your messy mop of yellow gone.

It took  me a long time to convince you to go on a date, and then it turned out to be a disaster anyway! Do you remember, I took you bowling and accidentally dropped the ball on your foot? Not so smooth… Yet, something made you allow me to take you out again. And again. Then, finally you were my girlfriend.

I never told you those three little words enough. You deserved so much better than me, so much more in this life you’d been working so hard to lead. I know you would have been a bad-ass teacher, and a bad-ass mother for that matter. You had so much love to give to the children you wanted to teach one day, and the children you never got to have. And all that love was taken away from the world.

I can hear Katie on the phone. She let me stay here, at her house for the funeral. It’s so weird seeing your hometown, your life before us. The suit is still folded neatly on Katie’s flowery duvet. My hands are trembling. Emma, I’m doing this for you. I will put on that suit and walk into the church and it doesn’t matter if I cry, or if I mess up my words, because I love you. I’m sorry for all the wrongs done to you in dying so young and so full of hope for the future. I’m sorry I wasn’t more worthy of you. But I loved you and I do and I will, forever. It hurts so much. I love you, Emma.

Yours,

Will

Prompt: Writing 101: To Whom it May Concern

No Dolly… but a little grey cat

Today, write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series.

Once I felt I was unpacked, and a pathway to my bed had been made through all my junk, I stumbled across a small cardboard box. It had been pushed into a corner and forgotten. Tiredness had begun to creep up on me, in gradual yawns and aches. The day had been long and filled with change. I only noticed as I pulled the curtains shut that the sun had set, had gone down hours ago.

Peeling back the brown tape, I felt a wave of confusion sweep over me; though it was mixed with the feeling of receiving a gift, as I had no remembrance of the contents of the peculiar box. There, at the top was the little toy cat, with its grey and white fur and tiny pink nose. Guiltily, I plucked her out of the box and stroked the soft fur. How could I forget you? 

My best friend had bought her for me years ago. I remembered her smile as sunny as her golden hair and her contagious laugh. Almost instantly, I was transported back to her garden and we were six again. Giggling on her swing set, bare feet tickled by the dry grass. She told me as if I didn’t already know-as if she hadn’t told me a thousand times before-that she wanted to be a vet. And I told her that unfortunately I’d given up my dream of becoming a pop star. Then we smiled for the photo that I’d keep for years and years.

I thought as I looked at the dark glass eyes shining at me. I had never given this poor little cat a name. I shall call you Megan, and I’ll never forget you again. 

Was that really four years ago?

Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths

Branches and leaves, spiders and ants.I’d found a little haven, tucked behind the shed. A faded plastic ledge offered a small, but welcoming seat to be concealed by the thick tangles of bush.

Past the shed and it’s belly of books-which seemed to always be over fed- was the tiny garden. A circle of grass and pebbles and a neat little stack of potted herbs. Only just enough space for three cartwheels. Maybe a couple of handstands.

The sloped roof with my bedroom window jutting out mirrored the rest of the street. Inside, my cabin bed only just managed to fit in my minute room, with a little space on the floor for me to lie and contemplate life and existence. One of my favourite twelve year old pastimes.

My bedroom used to belong to a baby, with thick wooden shelves, designed for nursery rhyme books, and little wardrobe handles to match the walls, which had been painted over in lilac at my request.

My next favourite place was the loft. Though horribly cold, it was the only place where I could get lost for hours with my dollhouse. No, I didn’t ‘play’. I decorated, I planned, I organised, until I would have been the top interior designer of the doll house world.

The long, laminated floors of the living room, although unknown to my twelve year old self, would be the space for hours of blanket gliding at Christmas time. And the front garden home to a trampoline, which would eventually be eaten away by ice and rust. Years of laughing in the dining room at my sister’s face covered in spaghetti. The wall of photos smiling at me in black and white would accumulate more and more of my smiles.

In the small village, a bus journey from the world of school; a walk from my best friend’s house and a an even shorter walk to the shop. And in the shop was over-priced chocolate. Chocolate!

Birthday Cake and Eating Whole Pizzas

I’m finding it hard to think of a particular meal that I really enjoyed. I am conscious of trying not to sound like I have (or have had) eating disorders, because I haven’t, but I’ve never really been into food the way most people are. Whenever I am anxious or stressed, the first problem I have is a loss of appetite. Even when I am happy and healthy, I never eat much-I’ve always had a small appetite. It is only on the odd occasion where I can finish a whole pizza on my own and shout ‘Yeah! I just ate a whole pizza!” Of course, I like treats like chocolate and cake, though.

So, I’d probably have to say my favourite childhood food was birthday cake. That smell of blown-out candles triggers my memory to relive the moments of celebration, and party hats, the smiling faces of friends and family. Every time I look through my photo albums, I always stop for longer at the picture of me and my grandpa at my sixth or seventh birthday and smile. We are so happy in that moment. It almost makes me sad to think about how long ago that photo was taken; so much has changed since then.

When I think about birthday cakes, the image of my little sister’s face slathered in chocolate icing appears in my mind. And with it, her wide pearly grin. I think of my mum and all those shopping trips for party food (and obviously, the big cake), all the setting up of the living room. For me, my brother and sister, she must have lit thousands of candles over the years. Now I remember her in every memory, always busy helping make that memory special, I feel that I was never grateful enough for everything she did.

Thanks Mum, for nearly seventeen birthday cakes and so much more.

Rosie in Red

For today’s assignment, write a scene at the park. Up for a twist? Write the scene from three different points of view.

Jessica clasped my hand in hers, the softness of her young skin against the coarseness of mine. She guided me through the park. I leaned on her and shuffled along, too slow and too heavy. My little daughter was still in there, shining through. Twenty six. Two decades had gone in a blink. And now, clutching my hand, was a young woman. No more fits of giggles or games of hopscotch. No more bedtime stories or campfire songs. No more mending of freshly broken hearts or wiping of teenage tears.

The autumn leaves, a scatter of red, brown and gold, were glued to grey pavement with the morning raindrops. A grey haze was hidden behind the thick arching branches of trees. Some leaves fluttered to the ground as we walked past an oak tree. Jessica gave my hand a gentle squeeze and glanced up at me. Our eyes seemed to tell each other more than words would, as they always had. I followed her gaze. She looked towards the bench across the field from us. A small lady was hunched over, her wrinkles deepened in concentration. She was knitting. A flash of red emerged as she lifted the sweater up to examine her work.

The same flash of red appeared before me. But not in the hands of an old lady, but upon the body of a small child, no bigger than four. Rosie. ‘Rosie in red!’ I heard myself shout. But the words didn’t come from my lips. My voice was young and full of joy. She turned towards me and beamed. Her little cheeks were a rosy red, too. Her mother turned too, carrying little Jessica. Little eyelids fluttered slowly up and down, in and out of the world of sleep. From across the road I watched my three beautiful girls, my family. Fidgeting one hand into her pocket, Kate fumbled for the car key. On finding it at the same moment Jessica began to cry, she dropped them on to the damp pavement. Before I could even see them land the flash of red came and was gone in an instant. Before I could move a muscle my wife’s piercing scream ripped through the air. ‘ROSIE!’ The van was gone in a blur. Crumpled on the pavement, she lay, limbs like a broken doll. All I could see was flashes of crimson blood. Not the rosy red of her cheeks, now ghostly white. Not the cheery red of the little sweater, now smeared with her blood. No, not a rosy red anymore. A dark ugly red. The worst red.

I hadn’t noticed Dad’s silent tears until I looked back from the curious old woman. I had been so fixated on the rhythmic movement of the needles up and down…up and down. He didn’t seem to notice my look of concern; he was in some kind of trance. I stared across the park back to the woman. His body was turned towards her, but his eyes were glazed over, brimming with his tears. Staring at nothing at all. ‘Dad?’ I croaked, my voice hoarse. No answer. ‘Dad?’ I repeated. His lips quivered slightly. This made some of the wrinkles in his mouth curve and deepen. Almost a whisper, he spoke not to me, but the woman it seemed. ‘Rosie.’ The name was so far away, tucked into the dark recesses of my mind, that I had almost forgotten. I held my breath. It was so long ago, I was too young to even remember. Rosie, my older sister I had only known through faded pictures and the few descriptions from Mum and Dad before they shut themselves out of the pain again. I used to visit her grave often and talk to her. I imagined her to be beautiful, like my mother, with her flowing blonde hair and soft green eyes. In pictures she was bright and happy with few teeth, but a giant smile.

‘Rosie in red’ he murmured, slightly louder this time. Then, without any warning a cry was released from him. A sound I had never heard from him before. It was so full of pain. I grabbed his shoulders and stared searchingly into his unfocused eyes. ‘Dad. I’m here.’ I spoke as softly as I could, unable to stop myself trembling. ‘It’s Jessica.’

I dropped my knitting needles. The man opposite me, stared.  Not at me-but through me-it seemed. The cry of a wounded animal suddenly filled the air between us. I stood up, but age was not my friend anymore. I grabbed my walking stick and began hobbling towards this man. His poor daughter looked at him, pained and helpless. But as I walked away, clutching the sweater I had been knitting for my grandson, a scarlet red (his favourite colour) I saw that his eyes were fixed upon it. As I moved it towards him, his whole body followed. Like a magnet.

‘I’m sorry.’ his daughter pleaded, ‘ I don’t know what to do.’ Her eyes were brimming with tears. As I reached them, I could see his cheeks were stained with tears. ‘Rosie’ the man whispered so softly, I was surprised to hear it. ‘Rosie?’ I asked, directing my question to the daughter.

‘She…’ she trailed off, worry wrinkling her face. ‘ She died. A long time ago. She was a child, only four.’

Four, I thought. The age my grandson would turn in only a few days time. Without sparing a moment of thought, I held out the sweater to the man and wrapped his fingers around it. Then, I turned and hobbled back to my bench. The words, ‘Thank you’ came from two voices.