The Learning Curse

Just as Tom was waking up he realised that he could smell bacon and eggs cooking, and his stomach started to rumble insistently. The inky coils of unconsciousness soon evaporated, and as he lifted his sleepy eyelids, he saw mild autumnal light creeping through the gaps in the curtains, pushing the shadows back into the corners of the small bedroom. The muted call of a wood pigeon floated in from the trees just outside the window.

Tom laid still for a moment, feeling disorientated. This wasn't his usual bed, and this wasn't his usual room. There was only one bed in this room, and there were no bells ringing or house masters stomping down the corridor, shouting at all and sundry to wake up this instant. Then he remembered: it was the half term holiday and he was away from boarding school for the first time in two months, staying with his Auntie Jean in her little cottage in the country.

He held onto this light, joyous sensation for a good few moments, lying on the big soft bed with what was probably a silly grin on his face. No more of that place for a week; no more PE before breakfast; no more bible readings and prayers before bed; no more Peter blooming Prince; no more...

A musical female voice called his name from downstairs: "Tom! Breakfast, my dear!"

Tom pulled back the heavy blankets and sheets, swung his feet out of the bed and stood up, straightening his crumpled pyjamas. He took a step forward to the window and pulled the curtains open, letting the morning light fill the room and chase away the remaining gloom. He looked up and through the increasingly-bare branches of the trees to see that it was a lovely, sunny day. Barely a cloud could be seen.

On one high branch he spotted the wood pigeon, proudly puffing his chest out, calling to his fellow feathered friends. To Tom, this large, ancient oak tree was fascinating. It had been in this place for longer than he cared to think, and stood with quiet, graceful dignity against the pale blue sky and emerald hills. Not like the trees at school, which were an altogether different proposition, especially at night.

Tom shivered and turned away from the window.

"Tom!" came the sing-song call once more.

"Coming, Auntie Jean," Tom called back. He slid into his slippers and headed for the bedroom door.


The End

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