Today I thought I would share a piece of my writing with you. The following short story is one that I wrote when I was 21 and was for inclusion in one of the charity anthologies that I’ve put together. A Flower can be found in Write For Haiti, an anthology with stories based on the theme of Kindness. Any proceeds from sales of the book go to the Random Acts charity.
115 Oak Avenue was a perpetual Halloween haunted house. In appearance anyway. Martha Curtis took residence in the threadbare, high-backed chair that sat just out of sight in the bay window at the front of the house. Her bony fingers creeping around the edge of the curtains to keep watch over her personal jungle. The street was barely visible through the mass of green, she liked it that way. The fire crackled and spat behind her as she let the curtain fall back into place again. The early afternoon sun crept in through the glass, creating a spotlight for the dust dancing through the air. Taking her glasses off their perch at the tip of her nose, setting them down gently on the table beside her, Martha let her eyes close. The clock striking two with a tiny, broken cuckoo.
Eyes shooting open, her hand grasps for her glasses as the other sweeps the curtain aside. Boys. Five of them. Standing in her garden like they own it, eggs in hand.
A sticky explosion of yellow clatters across her favourite window, smearing the world outside. She reaches for her trusty cane, perched patiently at the side of the chair, and pulls herself to her feet. Shuffling towards the front door as fast as her creaking joints will carry her. Throwing open the door she discovers more goo, smeared across the rotting porch wood. They boys already gone.
“Stay off my property!” she calls into the growing darkness.
Sniggering drifts from behind the shrubs by the gate. Martha’s eyes narrow, waiting for the boys to re-emerge. They don’t.
She sniffs, the cold air outside wrapping around her. “Hmph!”
Retreating inside, she treads the familiar path back to her chair. The warmth of the fire crashing over her like a wave as she enters the room. She sighs as she watches the yellow gloop trek down her window, collecting in a puddle at the bottom. She knows it’s best to clean it now, before it dries, but her energy has left her. Resting her head against the back of her chair again, she drifts into an uneasy sleep.
Her clock announces it’s seven. Five hours is too long to have napped. She pulls herself from her chair, stiff and sore. The light is fading outside, a dark blue sweeping across the sky. The streetlight on the other side of her hedge wall sends an orange haze through the windows. Martha squints as she turns to the window, intent on closing the curtains. The window is clear. Clean. A frown creases her forehead, her eyes darting from side to side as she studies her garden outside. Not a soul.
Drawing the curtains across the window, Martha’s frown remains. The egg had vanished. As she sits in her chair, she wonders if she had just dreamed the boys earlier. She was sure they had attacked her home. But what of the egg then?
Rain splattered across the windows as Martha sank into her chair the following morning. A dull grey smearing into dark green outside. A wind howled noisily over the fire. Martha tutted and picked up her book, opening it carefully to the dog-eared page where she had left the story last.
A strained squeak pulls her attention to the window in time to see the iron gate swinging closed at the end of the garden. Frowning, she glances around the parts of the garden she can see. There’s no one there. The wind must have blown the gate open, she thinks. It’s still raining outside, not the weather to be trudging outside. She will have to wait till it stops to make sure her gate is shut tight.
The sky has grown dark by the time the rain has stopped. Wrapping a shawl around her shoulders, Martha steps outside. She stops at the bottom of her front steps, a large hole to the side of the path catching her eye. Someone has thought it amusing to dig up her garden. Fury washes over her. The hole has been dug in the area she likes to watch from her window, how could she have missed someone digging there? Cursing under her breath, she makes her way to the gate, only to discover that it is firmly closed. She stares at it for a moment before turning back to the house. The wind had blown it closed again, that was all.
Her book is awaiting her return on the arm of the chair, the fire crackling across the room as it slowly dies. She’s brought the cold air from outside back in with her and she sits with the shawl tightly wrapped around her for a time.
A shovel being driven into the dirt, someone small grunting as they work. Martha’s eyes open, squinting in the bright morning light. Her book has fallen to the floor during the night. She stoops to pick it up and hears another grunt. Straightening as fast as she can, she peers out the window. The morning has brought more rain, a light drizzle. There’s a small person standing with their back to her window. She can’t see who they are, they’re hidden behind a bright yellow hood from the jacket they’re wearing. Martha’s on her feet as she sees the shovel being driven into the ground. Throwing the front door open, Martha strides out onto her front porch.
“What are you doing?!” she shouts, arms flailing about.
The small person turns to her, eyes wide. It’s a little girl. Her blonde curls tumbling from the dry safety of the hood and sticking to her crimson face. Without a word, she sprints out of the garden. Martha watches as the girl stops briefly at the gate to make sure it’s closed before disappearing into the street beyond. The hole lies unattended before her but Martha doesn’t dare to step out in the rain to see what the girl was trying to bury. She retreats back into the house, wishing the neighbourhood kids would just leave her be.
She shuffles into the kitchen, pouring some water into the kettle and placing it on the stove to heat. A cup of tea is all she needs to forget the events of the morning. Something to calm her down. Returning to her chair, she peers out the window before sitting down. Something bright and yellow catches her eye through the rain. Thinking the girl has returned, Martha rushes to her front door again, ready to shout once more.
At the bottom of her steps, beside the path where the girl had been digging, a beautiful sunflower sways gently in the breeze. Martha frowns, that had not been there when she had chased the girl away. She takes a step closer to the flower, something crunching under her foot. Lifting her foot, Martha sees a note underneath a stone on her porch. Stooping to pick it up, Martha glances around the garden to see who could have left it. She lifts it close to her face to read.
Dear Old Lady,
Mummy told me that you lived here alone and that you don’t like children. It must be lonely with no one to visit you. I wanted to give you something pretty to look at to help you know that I care about you. Everyone deserves something pretty to look at our their window. Daddy planted this sunflower outside my window when I was born so it could grow with me but I think you need it more. I hope it makes you smile.
Martha looked up at the sunflower that this little girl had spent a day planting in her garden. She clutched the letter close to her, a small smile playing at her lips for the first time in years.