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Harden Not Your Heart

Short story By: apocalypso

An old lady hobbles past you...

she's had a whole life of experiance that you dont know about what has happened to her????????


Submitted:Apr 20, 2009    Reads: 226    Comments: 10    Likes: 3   

~Harden Not Your Heart~

As she lay in bed wishing she could just go back to sleep, she thought about what she would do that day. The same as always, she reflected.

At 8:00 she got out of bed and slid her feet into her slippers.

At 8:02 she walked into her kitchen and put the kettle on.

At 8:05 she put the toast in the toaster.

At 8:08 she made herself a pot of tea.

At 8:09 she buttered her toast and smeared it with vegemite.

At 8:10 she sat down to breakfast.

At 8:11 she realised she forgot to use the strainer.

"Hello Robert! Its Mum here, I was just calling to see if you need anything, but you're not in, just ring if you do. Give my love to Winifred and the children." Victoria put down the receiver. Marco and Vilmonise whispered sweet nothings into each other's ears, while Victoria filled their food and water dishes. They had flicked their seed husks everywhere. Victoria loaded some things into her shopping trolley, and walked towards the door.
All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night,

At the supermarket,she walked down the fruit and veg aisle. A shop assistant eyed her suspiciously as she loaded apples and strawberries -her favourite, into a plastic bag. As she payed, the check out lady tried to hide giggles. Victoria glared at her. I like my name she thought fiercely. My first name is perfectly normal, my last name is quite ordinary, it's just when you put them together they sound ridiculous. Just my luck, Victoria thought, to have Sandwich as a last name.
As she hobbled down the road, her left lower back aching, Victoria saw her son drive past on his way home from work. He would drive right past my house she thought. No, it's not his fault, it's his father. His father who told him things about me, I will always be weak, feeble and inconvenient to him, even though I survived as a single mother in the 50's. It's not Robert's fault.
All along the valley, where thy waters flow,
I walked with one I loved two and thirty years ago.
Victoria had some biscuits with her cold weak tea and then she tucked herself into bed, and as always, she dreamt of black bushes and fishing boats.
Unusually, the next morning Victoria slept in till 8:30 and lay in bed till 9:00. Strangely, when she got up her feet weren't as cold as normal. As she made her breakfast, everything seemed to work like clockwork. Her toast was unburnt and her tea was not too milky or weak. She noticed that the lovebirds food was all out, so she decided to go to the shops to buy some more.
When Victoria arrived at Safeway she saw the prices on bird food had been cut in half. As she put it in her basket she noticed that a lot of her favourite items were on sale. She walked home, her back not hurting the slightest bit; Once home she cleaned out her cupboard, and raked part of her garden. She felt strangely energised, but Victoria went to bed at 8:30 as usual.
All along the valley, while I walked today,
the two and thirty years were a mist that rolls away;
At 9am, her eyes flicked open, she strained her ears. She could hear voices. Two voices, a man and a woman. Slowly Victoria eased herself out of bed. Reaching for her walking stick, she thought, what are you doing? Unsure where her surge of confidence had come from, Victoria raised her stick above her head. And slowly, but cautiously she searched the house.
She could find nothing, but still she heard the voices. They were bickering now. 'I am going mad' she told herself. "I definitely hear a voice in this room" she said thinking aloud. Her eyes roamed the room, and settled on the bird cage. "If only you had picked up your socks I wouldn't have shouted at you!" Vilmonise hollered "Me! Do more work?" Marco shouted, clearly enraged. Victoria Sandwich froze. Her birds were talking. In fact, they were arguing. Victoria's mind raced. Had they always been like this? Before today, they had seemed infatuated with each other. Now they were at each other's throats. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN MORE WORK?" Vilmonise was really screaming now, "A penny for everything I've cleaned up and I would be a rich woman!" "Then how come our house was so filthy!"
"PLEASE! BE QUIET!" Victoria bellowed. "When did you start talking?" Victoria enquired calmly, now she had their attention. "We have always talked mistress," the-pale-yellow-pink-faced love bird looked at her, startled "We thought you weren't listening."
For all along the valley, down thy rocky bed,
Thy living voice to me was as the voice of the dead,
Apparently, after some discussion, the birds said they were from another world called Heligan, and they had been sent by someone called, Salvador? The name triggered an electric response in Victoria. She shut this from her mind - I'm just mad that's all, she told herself. Vilmonise continued, "I couldn't rightly remember, at the last minute a man came running up to us and gave us a message." "That's right I forgot! You flirted with him!" Marco had opened yet another area of conflict, "and you Marco would know flirting wouldn't you!" but Vilmonise was not finished "Don't think I overlooked it!"
Victoria listened to their barrage. She worked out that they had been a married couple in Heligan that were constantly bickering. The great High mistress of Heligan was so annoyed that they were incapable of seeing other points of view that she had them turned into lovebirds (which mate for life) and doomed them to a life in a cage together forever , banishing them from Heligan to live on earth with all the other flawed people.
Victoria sat thinking, sipping cold tea. When a voice rang out in a dignified manner, "Am I right in suggesting that you are indeed Miss Victoria Sandwich?" Victoria jumped several feet, astonished; she scanned the room, No-one. "Excuse me, but if it would please you, look underneath yourself." The voice repeated in an astonishingly dignified manner. Slowly and cautiously, Victoria leant over and gazed at the floor. There on the floor was a large, shiny black cockroach, tapping out a complicated rhythm with a silver topped walking stick. It's all right she told herself, you're just mad, that's all. You'll probably go to a home soon any way.
"I have a message to present to Victoria Sandwich, if you are she, then please say so, if not, please direct me to her, if you would be so kind." "I am Victoria" Victoria answered, though she was not sure why. I have a message from Master Salva... Much to the surprise of the cockroach, at the sound of the name, Victoria left the room hurriedly. Diligently, the cockroach pursued her.
As Victoria rushed from room to room, the doorbell rang. Just what I need Victoria thought. As she opened it, she stared at the people standing there "Winifred!" she exclaimed "Stacey!" she added, then for a while there was an awkward silence. "We have come to have afternoon tea." Winifred informed. "Oh. Come in," Victoria moved for them to come in. Winifred surveyed the room in that way that she had perfected, the I-can't-believe- you-live-in-this-place-but if-you-try-and-get-a-cent-out-of-me-I'll-call-my-lawyer Look. As they sat in the living room, both Victoria's daughter in law and her granddaughter looked incredibly uncomfortable. "I can't believe you!" Marco and Vilmonise had resumed their argument. Victoria tried desperately to ignore the birds. She offered her guests tea and biscuits, they took neither. "I didn't say anything that wasn't true! Our house was filthy!" Victoria valiantly attempted to seem sane for her visitors, while the birds continued to bicker behind her. Victoria caught Stacey rolling her eyes at her mother; I love Stacey so much, thought Victoria. "Do I address Miss Victoria?" an impatient yet highly dignified voice questioned. The cockroach had made it to the sitting room after his pursuit. Completely oblivious to the talking creatures, Winifred and Stacey finally rose and said they had much to do, and how nice it was to see her so well. Victoria found herself sighing with relief when the day was over and she was at last able to climb into bed.
And all along the valley, by rock and cave and tree,
the voice of the dead was a living voice to me
The next morning the birds were still talking, and there was still a cockroach trying to pass on a message. Thinking herself mad, she ignored them and enjoyed a delicious breakfast.
On her way to the shops, Victoria passed the primary school where some of her grandchildren went. She paused. As she checked her shopping list, she let the sound of the school yard wash over her. She heard children laughing and bickering, she heard two little girls singing a clapping game. "Under the black bush under the tree boom, boom, boom, true love to you dear, true love for me!" screaming with laughter at the word love, they did not notice the old woman walking swiftly back to her house.
Victoria was practically running when she finally got home she struggled through her overgrown garden, brushing away tree branches that swatted at her face, till at last she was staring at the black bush. Quivering, Victoria crawled under it, covering her eyes from the thorns. She felt a light prickle on her face. She opened her eyes and it all came flooding back to her. She passed from one world through to the next.
All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night,

She saw the sun set and the reflection of this perfect world in the river.
All along the valley, where thy waters flow,
I walked with one I loved two and thirty years ago.
She felt the warm grass beneath her toes, and remembered walking along here before, not ever wanting to leave.
All along the valley, while I walked today,
the two and thirty years were a mist that rolls away;
As she walked, she glanced down at her hands and felt the age and the creases of her life roll away.
For all along the valley, down thy rocky bed,
Thy living voice to me was as the voice of the dead,
She wandered. Listening to the sounds, old memories past, and felt her loosening hair braid thwacking at her back. She felt at peace.
And all along the valley, by rock and cave and tree,
the voice of the dead was a living voice to me
She heard her old self, a young woman; it was a dead memory now, but a living voice to her.
She heard a rustling in the bushes, turning, she could see nothing. It was a long shot but she called out. "Salvatore?" A small face shot out from the bushes, "how do you know my brother's name?" the face demanded, the voice momentarily destroying the peace. "Your... your brother?" Victoria was astonished. This child looked nothing like Salvatore, he was tanned, she was pale and her nose was dappled with freckles. He had smooth black hair, hers was black, but it was frizzy and long. Their eyes are the same though, she thought. They both had dark eyes, almost black. "Yes, I know your brother, please take me to him." The girl hesitated but then beckoned Victoria to follow. They talked eagerly as they ambled down a path to a river that was as wide as an ocean. "How did you know my brother?" the girl Victoria now knew as Heliotrope asked. Victoria paused, how could she say it? How could you ever explain how we felt about each other. "I washed up in his fishing net once" Victoria finally decided on. Helia giggled. "Now help me undo this braid," Victoria said, laughing.
When they at last reached the river, Victoria leaned over to gaze at her reflection. She was a little surprised to see her face, she had returned to 20 years old. Her crinkle cut chocolate brown hair fell untamed past her shoulders. Helia looked a little ashamed, "I forgot my boat," she said "we will have to swim". "But I love to swim!" Victoria exclaimed. Helia looked relieved. They dived in together. Victoria spread her fingers out wide, and opened her eyes. The water wasn't salty at all. She and Helia swam for what felt like miles, til at last they emerged from the water. But strangely, they were not dripping wet; in fact they were quite dry.
"Salvatore!" Helia called out as they reached the door of the ramshackle fisherman's cottage. "What have you done now?" his voice was almost pleading "I told you if they think you're not perfect they'll send you away to the other world" "I haven't done anything wrong this time!" she snapped. "There's someone to see you."
Salvatore burst from one of the adjoining rooms "who in Heligan would come to see..." he stopped and stared at Victoria. She gulped, he hasn't changed a bit, she thought. "At last" he murmured. Sensing their need to be alone, Helia had slipped away unnoticed. "Salvatore?" Victoria called, her voice quivering.
The next morning, she opened her eyes. The light streamed in through the windows, the shutters had been left open. She was going to get up to close them but the bed was too warm and inviting. She rolled over and saw Salvatore smiling at her. She giggled. "I thought you were a dream" Victoria said. "I thought you would never come back, I sent several messengers" He responded. "So what did you do when you left Heligan?" he inquired. "I, married a man, he came back from the war but... he was different..." she left that phrase hanging in the air. "We had four children, but after we had been married twenty years he divorced me." Victoria remembered that bitter memory all too well. "They have all grown up now, with children of their own." "Why didn't you come back?" Salvatore asked her. "I suppose I just got caught up in trying to survive." Victoria finally answered.
She walked along the Valley of Cauterez, with Salvatore on her left, and Helia on her right. I feel so happy here, Victoria thought. Suddenly Salvatore stopped and touched her elbow, "You have to decide Victoria" Victoria was startled, what could he mean? "If you want to stay here you can, but what about your children? What about your grandchildren? I want you to stay, but I couldn't handle it if you kept wishing you could go back." She nodded her head glumly, her happiness evaporating. "Are you ready to leave them?" "I... I'm not sure." What could she do? She loved Salvatore, but she also loved her children and her grandkids. However ungrateful they were. "I'll have to think about it" she said after much deliberation. "Give me a day on the other side" They parted.
Victoria woke very early that morning. She didn't want to think. So she got up straight away. She decided to go for a walk.
As she hobbled down the street, Victoria tried hopelessly to ignore the bald eagle perching on a lamppost, as if it had always been there, an elephant casually drinking water from a fountain, which had long ago, due to water restrictions, stopped working. Two unicorns locked in battle their horns a sparkling blur, one turned to her and shouted "Victoria! Salvatore is calling you home" glancing around the street; it appeared that no-one else could see these creatures. Victoria muttered to herself, 'people think I'm mad any way'. There was so much to list, the pros and the cons, or whatever that actually stands for. She wanted desperately to be with Salvatore and Helia in Heligan, a perfect world, but she loved her grandchildren and her children, even though they probably wanted to put her in a home.
Back home, Victoria sat in her armchair, what else can I do? She thought. Already that day she had been to see a fortune teller, a counsellor and a financial advisor. The fortune teller had told her she had "to make a great choice soon," the financial advisor just kept telling her to sell while the market for houses was high, and the counsellor asked her how she felt about that, whatever 'that' was. With no other alternative, she impulsively reached for her bible. She flicked it open. It fell open at Psalms 95. Her eyes were immediately drawn to a phrase.
"If you hear his voice calling, harden not your heart" Victoria considered her heart. Victoria shut it immediately. I suppose my heart is hardened. Victoria thought, when Bernard left me, I had to be strong for the children. Or myself? I just tried to busy myself with them.
Victoria sat. She was not completely sure what to do. It's not like they'd miss me. But I would miss them.
Victoria picked up the phone. She dialled the number. "Robert, its mum here. I just want you to know that... no matter what, I love you, I always have. The thing is you see... a long time ago...before I was married to your father, there was a man, we fell in love, and I'm going to leave you all for him, he lives in this place called Heligan, I found it when I was a girl..." suddenly there was a loud beeping noise. Oh damn it. She thought. The answering machine can't record a message that long. Then it dawned on her. She would have to tell him in person.
Victoria ran down her street. A week ago she would not have been able to do so. But now it was as though she drew strength from the earth. She thudded hard on Roberts's neat and tidy front door, he opened it slowly, Victoria threw herself at Robert hugging him and crying. She told him everything. Right down to the tiniest detail.
Robert sat in his humungous chair, eyeing his mother suspiciously. She has always been quite mad he thought. "I'll just go and get us some tea... or coffee?" and, he thought to call the doctor so he can recommend a good home for insane people.
Stacey stared at her grandmother rather rudely. Her dyed bleach blonde hair looked almost white compared to her dyed skin - which was orange. Victoria stared at the floor, they are not going to let me out,she thought. "My birds need feeding" here's my escape route Victoria thought "dad's going to take care of it" Stacey replied coldly.
Millie entered the room and ran to her grandmother, she hugged her, and Victoria hugged her back. But Millie felt like there was something missing. "Grandma what's wrong?" Victoria stared down into those large grey eyes and blurted out the problem. After an awkward silence Millie said, "Well you have to go then." Millie ushered her grandma down the hallway and out the front door. She then hugged Victoria fiercely and said "don't worry I won't tell, just promise someday to take me with you" Victoria promised she would.
Victoria Sandwich fell down outside the black bush and crawled her way under. She lay in Heligan. She lay there in peace for quite some time until familiar strong hands hoisted her up, and carried her home. As Victoria drifted off to sleep in the ramshackle Fishermans cottage, her heart alive and open - she thought to herself, for all I left behind, I've made the right choice.


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