H is for… Home

By Vita Forest

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She stops the car and turns off the engine.  What had that man on the radio just said?

“A home is somewhere you feel safe, a sanctuary.”

She remembers the sinking feeling as she turns down the road, how her fingers clench the steering wheel, as she gets closer and closer to the house where she lives.

“Shelter is a basic human need, unless your basic needs are met, it’s very hard to function.”

It’s an imposing building in just the right area.  An impressive building, a building to get lost in.  A building that swallows you up.

That does not sound like a home, she thinks.

It was great for parties.  It was wonderful for a crowd, when he would be distracted, on his best behaviour, trying to impress.

“Unless your basic needs are being met, that fight or flight instinct is on alert.  It may be hidden beneath the surface, but it means that you are living in a state of constant stress.”

But when they were there alone, it was a cold, lonely place.  Full of unspoken resentment and tense undercurrents.  Tiptoeing around issues, wondering what kind of mood he would be in that day, wondering how she would manage it.  Waiting until he was asleep before creeping in to slide beneath the covers.  Or sleeping in the spare room if the air still crackled with anger.  He always fell asleep immediately.  How was that possible?  She lay there drowning, fretting, wondering what she could possibly do.  And then got up the next day and went on with the charade.

She drives on and parks on the street at the address her friend had given her.  She unbuckles her seatbelt and reaches for the Peace Lily strapped into the passenger seat, uncrinkles the cellophane wrapping and straightens the bow.  She climbs out of the car.  Flat 7…  She walks through the gate and along the path, reading the numbers as she goes.  There it is, a plain wooden door with a brass number displayed jauntily on the door frame.  She knocks and hears footsteps coming toward the door.

“Hello!  Come in!”

The flat is small and modest, but the furniture sits well in it.  The light pours through the windows and a vase of nasturtiums sits happily on a table.

Her friend looks happy again.  Her friend looks content.  Her friend looks like she has done the right thing.  This is a home.  This is what a home looks like.  This is what a home feels like.  This is what she needs.

“And how are you?” her friend asks.

She looks down at her hands, at her perfectly manicured hands and thinks – I could tell her, I could just come out and tell her.  I could start to make it real.

“I need to tell you something,” she says.

F is for…Flowers

By Vita Forest

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He walked out.  The order was made.  For her – one dozen red roses.  Long stems.  Fragrant – none of your greenhouse rubbish.  Big showy box (not how they described it, but still, that is what it was).  Message – Loud and clear.

For her sister – a mixed bunch, blue and white.  There were some roses, but not red ones.  White, waxy looking things.  Bit of greenery, a few sticks.  Modern.  A friendly gesture, a peace offering.  Recognising she is a bit alternative.  But who can resist flowers?  (Hope she can’t.  She was a bit non-committal so far).

For her mother – irises.  She had mentioned she liked them.  Reminded her of Van Gogh.  Remembering that, he had them throw in a couple of sunflowers for good luck.  A bit of Provence, a bit of Mediterranean colour.  Message – I listen and take note.

For her grandmother – pink roses and baby breath.  Old fashioned.  Sweet.  Just like her good self.  A bit of nostalgia for the old girl.  She’ll probably cry.  But in a good way.

He crumpled up the bill and threw it in a bin as he sauntered back to work.

 

Years later, she remembered that day.  Her, her sister, her mother, her grandmother.  She counted them off on her fingers.  They had all been delighted.  Overwhelmed.  All of them.

But now she saw it differently.  He had deliberately chosen to have her roses delivered to her work.  For maximum exposure, for the maximum number of people to see them, to pass on the story, to agree with the view from the outside that he was perfect, he was considerate, he was wonderful.  There would be no dissenting voices, no note of caution, his tentacles were slipping into every crack.  Everyone who could have warned her, who had the slightest doubt, had been seduced alongside her.  His charm, the beam of his flattery was infectious.  (Like a disease, she thought grimly).  It was not just her.  It was all her defences too.  Everyone who looked out for her.  That had been the beginning of the end.  The trap had been set.

 

Now another man brought her flowers.  A hand-made bouquet, freshly picked from his garden.  They were his grandmother’s roses, still blooming every summer, even after all those years.  Every year, he cut back the bushes, every year he was rewarded with new buds for his care.  The roses sat in a cut-glass vase alongside a handful of yellow daisies and a sprig of fern.  All tended by him.  All brought to her.

 

 

 

 

D is for… Doorknob

By Vita Forest

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In the middle of the madness, they had seen it one day at a stall at the markets.  Nicola had watched as Bea picked it up, turning it over in her hands, feeling the weight of it.  It was made of ceramic and decorated with roses, daisies and the smiling faces of pansies. Bea held it for a long time.  She looked at if from the front, at the cheery blooms  in magenta, scarlet, cornflower blue and gold.  She examined it from the side, at the delicate chain of daisies that ringed it.  She held the doorknob and twisted it a little, as if opening an imaginary door.

“Show me,” Nicola said.

Bea passed it over wordlessly.  Most things she did at the moment were wordless.  Wordless hugs, silent tears, stony stares into space.

“Where will we live?” She had whispered that day when they told her it was ending, really ending this time.

“I don’t know yet,” Nicola had answered, her arms around her.  “We’ll have to sell the house.  We’ll have to see how much money there is.”

She remembered how Bea’s head had dropped forward, her hair obscuring her face.  Nicola’s arms had tightened around her as they rocked back and forth.

“Pretty,” said Nicola looking at the doorknob, looking at Bea, looking at the price tag, looking up to see the marketeer beaming at her expectantly.

“I made it myself, ” she informed them, “It’s hand painted and then glazed.  The flowers are based on the ones in my garden.”

“Hmmm,” answered Bea and walked on.  Nicola put the knob down, smiled and did the same.  But she had seen how Bea had cradled that pretty thing in her hand, how her eyes had lit up.  It had given her an idea.  Later, while Bea sat texting at a table with her Chai latte, Nicola had sneaked back and made a purchase.

After dinner she knocked on Bea’s door.  She was sitting at her desk poring over her books.  The exams were only weeks away now.

“I got something for you,” Nicola said.  She held out the small paper bag.  Bea looked up questioningly and took the bag.  She drew out the soft pile of red tissue paper and silently peeled it back until the door knob was revealed, nestled in the wrapping.

“And no matter where we end up,” Nicola said, “We’ll put that handle on your door and that will be your room.”

Bea stared down at the present for a moment.  Then carefully placing it on the desk, she rose from her chair and hugged her mother.

It was going to be ok.

B is for… Bed

By Vita Forest

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She left the house that morning with the final three boxes sitting snugly in a row across the back seat.  The removalists followed the car up the hill and away, away from it all.

They stopped at her sister’s place to pick up the pieces.  The pieces of frame to make up the bed.  The mattress that slept under another bed.  The pile of carefully folded sheets that fitted the mattress exactly.

She had been floating.  Floating around the house.  Sleepovers with the kids on foam mattresses in their rooms.  Or wrapped in a too big sheet on a camp bed in the study.  The study that she had made into her fortress.  A brass lock from Bunnings that came with its own set of screws.  The little screws she had pressed through the paint on the door until the tips pierced the wood, that she had wound down and down with the screwdriver til they sat flush against the surface.  The tiny bolt sliding deftly across to the door frame.  Sweet dreams indeed.

The truck waddled along behind the car, pulling up behind her at the new home.  The removalists gave their shoulders a quick roll, then started to empty the truck.  Boxes, bedframes, ficus in terracotta pot, her favourite chair and the Hundertwasser print bought in Berlin.  All hauled through the gate to the courtyard, across the grass, skimming the gardenia bushes and up the stairs to her new life.

An hour later, her parents rang the new doorbell and came in with a thermos of tea to keep them going until that new kettle could be located (Kitchen Box 2).  Her sister arrived with her niece and bag of home-made granola.  They stood on the balcony in the sunshine and sipped tea from plastic mugs, the removalists sculling theirs black and strong before going back to work.  Steadily the rooms filled with boxes and bookshelves and chairs and un-assembled wardrobes.

She unwrapped her share of plates and cups and kitchen stuff and decided that the mugs should go on the open shelf near the window.  Her sister unpacked clothes, carefully folding them into neat squares smoothed of any creases, before packing them away in the newly assembled chest of drawers.  Her niece drawing on used sheets of packing paper with a selection of five crayons while sitting inside an empty suitcase.  Her mother collapsing spent boxes into flat rectangles ready for the garage.  Her father laying out slats and legs and pieces of frame and building the bed.

The bed for her new bedroom.  The bed from her sister’s that would be hers for now.  And as she carried boxes down to the garage and hung pictures on the hooks around the walls, her mother made the bed.  The sheets, the pillows in matching cases, the quilt from childhood.  All there in her new home, the bed from her sister, put together by her father, made up by her mother.

That night she slipped down between the clean, crisp sheets and smiled up at the new ceiling and let go.

A is for… Art

By Vita Forest

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Last weekend, Max, Lucy and I ventured across the water by ferry to visit the 20th Biennale of Sydney at its Cockatoo Island Precinct.  The theme of the Biennale is “The Future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed“.  Venues are organised into different “embassies” with Cockatoo Island being the “Embassy of the Real”.  Cockatoo Island  has served many functions over the years including Penal Colony, Home for Orphan boys, an industrial site for shipbuilding and even the setting for a Wolverine movie.  Its industrial past means that it contains some absolutely HUGE industrial/warehouse type spaces and the the artists have taken advantage of these.

“I need a massive space large enough to hang a silver zeppelin and a life size three-dimensional rendering of a hot air balloon,”  Lee Bul might have asked.

“Sure!”  Would have been the answer.

“Oh, and a life size illustration of a merry-go-round.”

“No worries!”

In a not quite so cavernous (yet still very spacious) rectangular room, William Forsythe’s Nowhere but Everywhere at the same time can be experienced.  This is the kind of art my kids like, it’s not “stand back and look at something” but “get in and experience it” art.  First we lined up for a few minutes peering beyond the doorway to the room which clacked gently with the swing of hundreds of weighted, pointed pendulums which swung at slightly different tempos in slightly different orbits.  People moved up and down the long room, attempting to navigate their way without bumping into any of the pendulums.  The pendulums were attached to frames set on runners into the high ceiling and these were controlled electronically to move in slightly different formations to the ones around them.

Once the requisite number of people had exited, we were allowed through the doorway and given our instructions – we had to leave bags in the storage area and were not supposed to touch.  Also – no running!  Off we went, into the airy room.

Watching the metal pendulums put me in mind of armies – advancing and retreating.  Or the opening credits of Game of Thrones – another complicated machine with parts that rise and fall.  Moving through it felt like being out on the harbour again – the pendulums rising like the swell of a wave.  It was a moving maze, with no fixed path and no one solution.

The simple aim of moving from end to the other, was not so simple.  You could see where you wanted to be, but getting there involved side-steps, diversions and unexpected obstacles.  Some people strode purposefully through the swinging pathways, others found small spaces of calm to stop and look around.

As a participant, you were very aware of the space you were in, of every step, of the floor, of the ceiling and the space between.  You had to concentrate and be right in that place, in that time.  There was no point concentrating on the final destination.

Afterwards, we stood at a doorway open to the harbour breeze and looked back inside.  A mother seemed to skate side to side through the swinging points, while the baby strapped to her torso held out her hands to try and catch the silver streaks.  Two small children walked forward with great concentration, holding Beanie Boos in front of them, as if they were being guided by them.  And a tall man lolloped in zigzags, taking tight angular turns to avoid the pendulums smacking him on the back.

Max set up his phone and did a spot of slo-mo filming, while I read that the work was by William Forsythe.  The name rang a bell.  Then I read that he was also a choreographer and remembered his work with the ballerina Sylvie Guillem.  He designed this artwork to turn everyone into a choreographer, everyone into a dancer.  Go and try it out – it’s fun!

A to Z Challenge – Ready, Set…

By Vita Forest

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A to Z challenge April 2016

A few days ago, I signed up to the Blogging from A to Z April  2016 Challenge which certainly sounds challenging.  Basically, participants have to do a post a day for the whole of April, with Sundays off for a bit of a breather.  The first post should be about something beginning with A, the second B, and so on, until we reach Z at the end of April…

I have thought of a few topics and plan to write a mixture of Travel-type observation posts, but with the bulk of them being intensive flash-fiction sessions to build my creative writing muscles.  I will give myself a time limit and a topic and produce… something.  There are  few topics for longer works that I might start exploring too.

Apparently, some bloggers have written all their posts already and will just post them in the coming month, but not me I’m afraid.  I have made some rather nice pictures containing the letters of the alphabet, but that is as far as my preparation has gone.  So good luck everybody!  Looking forward to seeing some fine work and discovering new blogs.

It’s really going to be a challenge.  Come along for the ride!

 

An unlikely encounter with the Black Revenge

By Vita Forest

A piece of Flash fiction for you in response to a writing prompt on Story Butter – “17th century pirates pass through a time portal and find themselves nearby a modern cruise ship. Tell us what happens next.”

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“Come up on deck, you’ll want to see this.”

Never before had the boy given him an order.  Never before had the boy addressed him without any sort of deferment.  And so never before would the boy receive such a thrashing…

Adam opened one eye and saw the boy standing in the doorway, the door which he had opened without knocking.  He was white-faced, seemingly unaware of his transgression.  He stood waiting, already half-turning.  Adam blinked and grimaced, he supposed he would deal with this insolence later.  What could it be?  Another ship lurching recklessly across their path?  It almost wouldn’t be worth the bother.  Unless they could take the ship too…

“What is it?  Another ship?”

“Yes but…”

“I’ll be right up,” he barked curtly.

The boy hesitated then left.  Adam threw back the bedclothes and swung his feet to the floor.  He stretched his arms and felt the snap in the sinews of his right shoulder.  He wouldn’t recognise himself without it now.

Coming so quickly out of sleep, the boy’s disrespect had unnerved him.  But Adam pulled on his boots, and stepping over to the window, wrenched the curtain along the rail.  And stopped.

There was nothing but white.  White?  Snow this time of year?  But then he looked down and saw the sea jade-green below, and the white rising like a wall out of it.  This was no swirling storm but a solid barrier, rising higher than he could see.

More urgent knocking at his door.

“I’m coming!” he roared and threw his belt around his waist.  Adam opened the door and followed the boy up the stairs, his hands kneading the leather scabbard as he went.  They burst out onto the deck into the glare of the summer sun.  Adam blinked, blinded temporarily, then saw the whole crew lining the port side of the ship in front of the white wall.  When they heard him, they turned their faces, slack-jawed toward him.  He was irritated but also deeply fearful.  What had made these hard men look like that?

The boy was babbling, “It just appeared…out of nowhere.”

Adam looked up, his eyes following the line of white, up, up, surely not up some more.  But still it rose, until Adam had to throw back his head, stretching all the muscles in his neck.  This ship was colossal, it was like looking up from the base of a cliff.  It dwarfed them, how could that be?  He could make out the tiny silhouettes of people looking down.  Looking down at them and… waving?  They were waving down at them as if they were in some insignificant dingy, not the Black Revenge.  He dropped his gaze to see where the monster ended.  There, in the distance, he could just make out the indifferent blue of the sky outlining the edge of the other ship.

“Lefroy?”

His first mate was at this side immediately.

“Cannons ready?”

He bowed.

Adam nodded grimly and climbed up to take the wheel.