ONCE UPON A TIME:
By David Stevens.
I think that every short story compilation should have at least one story that begins 'once upon a time,' whether it is happy or sad does not really matter; it is just that it needs to exist. This is my one classically beginning story, and I think this one is both happy and sad depending on whose point of view you take when reading it. I hope you enjoyed it. David Stevens.
ONCE UPON A TIME.
Once upon a time:- A middle aged woman, a very sad looking middle-aged woman, walked down an overgrown flagstone pathway, inset into a lawn with grass in desperate need of cutting. She ducked under the low bough of an old oak tree, around which she had frequently played as a child. She stepped around a half rotted swing with one badly frayed rope, on which she had swung as a child, and entered into her secret glade, in which as a child she had held tea parties for her dolls and friends. But that had been so many years ago.
She looked up through the ring of trees surrounding the grotto, hidden from the house in which she had grown up. She was looking for something, for someone, for the thing that had defined her childhood. It would arrive soon, perhaps tumbling with laughter from the sky above, falling through the trees as it had done so many times before. Perhaps it would pop up from within a rabbit hole, or from behind one of the trees, there was no way to know just then.
It had been years ago for her, since she and it had last met, years during which she had lived out her life as wife, mother to her own children and Samaritan to any and all animals in need of her care, or just her love. 'She had lots of love to spare,' anyone that knew her would say, and they would be right.
Children's voices called to each other from the direction of the house, running towards her, laughter and enjoyment of the sunlight uppermost in their minds. She stepped behind a tree waiting to see them arrive, wanting to see them at play. Wondering if she should disturb them by stepping out of her hiding place.
There were four of them, approximately six to eight years old, how would they feel about her invading their game she wondered? They were pushing one another on the swing that now seemed so new and bright, two little girls set out a blanket on the neat cut grass, placing cups and plates out ready for a picnic. Would they welcome her as she had welcomed her visitor so many years before? She watched as the children took their places, they sat opposite to each other leaving somewhere for her to sit, if she chose to join in, the thought was enticing, but the deed was difficult for her right then, as she had only recently returned to her childhood garden.
Laughter was and still is the best medicine she knew and these children were enjoying the treatment. A voice called from the direction of the house, a woman's voice, sounding much like her mother had sounded when she had played in this same grove.
One of the children (the oldest probably), a boy, stood up and called back, running out between the trees towards the voice. Soon he returned and sat again, placing fresh baked scones, resting and cooling on a plate into the center of the rug for all to enjoy. Orange squash in plastic beakers joined the cakes.
In my day she thought it had been cups and saucers filled with water, and biscuits if we were lucky or apples poached from the orchard with a bowl of sugar to add to the sweetness. All things change she thought, deciding that today was not the day for her to appear to the children, perhaps another day, another time, perhaps once she had adjusted to arriving in the grotto, much like her friend and childhood companion had arrived, then she would meet the children and enjoy playing childish games again, but not today.
Twin boys of older parents, identical in looks, identical in the tears that rolled down their faces, stood outside of the church waiting for their father to say his thanks for the service of remembrance for their mother, now dead a whole year and much missed by the family. The boy's father had told them that their mother had gone to a better place to be with her mother, their Gran, little did that father as he explained to his son's know where that special place was.