This can be added to, the other one I'm going to write in solo but feel free to contribute & comment.
“Can I come in” said a quiet voice. I came out of my light slumber “Sure” I croaked. The door creaked open and my mother appeared in the door way. She sat down on my bed and pulled the duvet away from my face staring at her with a sweet smile.
“There were some spare eggs and I know today’s going to be a tough day for you so I made some pancakes, they’re not perfect ‘cause I couldn’t get enough sugar but some honey can sort that out”.
My stomach rumbled at the thought of a substantial meal. My stomach was so used to broths or soups, rice and pasta, stale bread and potatoes but sometimes it just needed something more. Hopefully this rare luxury would fill that nutrient gap for a while.
I scraped the last bits of the honey out of the bottom of the small jar with the knife and thinly spread it over the “pancakes”
They were so bland but the tiny bit of sweetness from the sugar and honey was much appreciated on her tongue. My lips were slightly sticky from the honey and I savoured it for a few seconds before licking it off. There was little time.
“I love you Skyla”
“ I love you too mum”
I pulled on my cardigan and slipped on my boots and with a wave pulled the door behind me. It was time to face the day again.
“I’ve milked the cows” I said wiping sweat off my face with the sleeve of my cardigan.
“And the g-”
“And the goats” I sighed, clearing my throat “ the horses are groomed and taken care of too, but there wasn’t many supplies left for them…”
“Let me worry about that, you just worry about your chores. How about the pigs? And the chickens and the…”
“Done, done and done” I announced with a unnoticeably smug(but mainly relieved) grin.
“I would check, but today’s too busy I was ill over the weekend and had no volunteers to help me out”
I avoided eye contact. I didn’t realise how scuffed my boots were getting.
“After all I can’t force you lot to help you can I? You barely get it all done on a normal day when you have no choice!”
Why the old man was laying out all his pent up frustrations at me on this day, of ALL days when I’d done all my chores perfectly for once and had no studies to catch up on after. Finally, for once I had plans that didn’t involve going home and listen to mother complain about how father was home once a month if we were lucky, how the house was falling apart more day by day and the complete lack of money.
I wish I could show father how much I hated him, I really do, but something inside me warns me not to show him and even when I feel the heat of hate burning away at me inside I can’t do it. Something has always stopped me from letting too much on, to anyone. Lies never choke me, no matter how twisted or hurtful, even to mother. They’re just part of my soul, they’re what I was raised to, I’m accustomed to spilling venom from my mouth. Mother mourns for father nearly every day but when he returns it’s as if he’s never gone. Mother used to try and hide her sorrow for father never being there when I was younger but I heard the sobs and when she’d leave the door ajar I poked my little head on. She’d sob into one of Dad’s shirts, her nails clutching into it so vigorously I was convinced she’d tear it into a million pieces. I’d always quickly sneak away before her fit of sadness finally died down. What always remained was the watery reflections of my mother’s pain in my innocent young eyes.
Things had changed since I grew older, mother just assumed I could deal with her pain as well. She’d sob into me now telling me how much she loved me and how proud she was of me. She never mentioned father but I was no fool, I could read between the lies. All the love that she showed me was over compensating to rarely having father to give it too. Another thing being hidden from me, breaking her inside.
“I guess you’re different though Skyla, eh? You always give your best” he mumbled. Slightly taken aback by the pleasant comment by the grumpy old farmer she gave a half hearted smile.
“Get to your written studies then”
“They’re all done…sir. Can you sign me off today”
“Oh, well of course then” he was paying little attention, was busily attending to checking some apples. When handed the piece of paper, he scrawled on it and handed it back.
I ran fully clothed into the freezing stream. It was absolutely beautiful, the sun ballet danced on it, pirouettes of light and glimmer caressed the service of the clear water. The water was beautifully warm, nothing mattered right now even though the prospect of walking back five miles in water sodden clothes didn’t feel very appealing this very second. I lay on the bed of the stream, there were hardly any rocks, it was so perfect. The water surrounded me, wetness caressed my cheeks, so cooling and refreshing after a very hard day and even more unbearable few months. This had become a sanctuary when I managed to slog all my studies out. Nothing could hurt me here. I never felt alone here, I don’t know what it was, but there always felt like there was someone there, not a bad thing it was a comfort. Something that I rarely ever admitted I needed. Maybe it was the creatures that darted from tree to tree in the woods just beyond the stream. A brave fox would cunningly come for a closer look at me sometimes but then as soon as I turned for a better look they’d scurry away in a confused blur. Today was different though, it was almost a sickeningly claustrophobic feeling of someone there. I really didn’t like it. For once I didn’t want to be at the stream, the first time in years and years. It was probably getting on anyway.
I tripped and looked down at something shiny. A gold chain lay tangled up in the dirt. I wasn’t the smartest person but I was no fool, if you see something that looks vaguely of value then you pick it up. It might have been a waste of time and to be honest I knew most likely it would be, I’d found similar things many times and found out they’d of been of little value or if father was around he’d snatch them off with me and scold me for not giving it to him sooner. Then he’d accuse me of being a thief, just like my sister, who “had it coming”. Father was always well fed and smartly dressed in the rare instance that we saw them, Cecilia had been the picture of a newly born kitten when she was nearly at her end, she could barely open her eyes and would only squeak replies and what her needs were when absolutely necessary, her rags covering her from the hips to the top of the thighs and a dirty vest covering her breasts. I had not seen her touch a morsel for weeks before she left our world. I could barely stomach anything, that time was the one time I didn’t let myself shed a tear, I see her in my dreams every night.
I wore the chain around my neck as I wandered home, it was slightly heavy and it would probably leave green marks on my neck. I had no pockets though, no choice. I brushed past a shaggy youth with many satchels slung over his shoulders, large and small he looked encumbered so I paid no heed to his contact.
I turned to him with a questioning expression on my face that showed that words were not necessary.
I felt without movement for the dagger I always strapped to my thigh.
“ I’ll give you some um…”
I relaxed a little, not enough to sense the absolute and exact way I needed to move to draw.
“ I’ll give you….this beef….this cheese….these vegetables and….yes these potatoes”
All the food he offered was fine, the potatoes were far fairer than any I’d ever set my eyes on and I’d barely seen the other items enough to judge. Just for them to be there and not falling apart and, or brown was enough for me.
“Throw in five apples, two red, three green and we have a deal” I smirked, fiddling with the necklace semi flirtatiously.
He stared at my necklace, his eyes sneakily darting to my tight wet clothes against my bosom and wrapped the items in paper and handed them over as I handed the necklace. I almost salivated at the mere thought of all the food I’d just got with that necklace. Hah! I would be satisfied tonight that’s for sure, I hadn’t eaten apples for months. I suddenly feared that mother would ration the food, no? Would she? I was the one who found the necklace after all. This was technically my food. I knew how mother was though, especially since father had been missing for longer than usual, nearly 6 weeks now. I stopped, carefully unwrapped the paper so it gave no obvious sign of tampering and took a green apple out and resealed it. I balanced the bags under one hand awkwardly and took a huge crunchy bite out of the apple. Bliss. Two apples each, odd numbers never work anyway…