The Art of the Swallows

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The Art of the Swallows
As evening approached I walked down the familiar lane that lead to a warming smile and a glowing fire. I watched the golden, fiery sphere descend into the candy-floss clouds. The swallows flew swiftly to their nests, how I wished I could join them. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There in that moment I felt safe, I felt like nothing could get me, it was just me under the watchful eye of my God.
It was the first time I had felt satisfied with my life in a long time. I used to be happy, but that was before Steve. This year had been a blur, I put myself in a bubble of isolation. I was silent.
It was a beautiful summer’s day and I had worn my hair up, the way he liked it. He said it brought out my eyes. He sat across the room from me and I knew he was watching me, making sure I didn’t ‘step out of line.’ As I spoke to Jen, I knew she was concerned, she wasn’t good at masking her emotions. Finally she plucked up the courage to vaguely ask the question I had heard a million times, “so, how are you and Steve?” And I gave my rehearsed answer, “never been better, thanks for asking.”
The problem was we had been better. He was so controlling. I couldn’t speak to another guy without being in constant terror that he would explode with jealousy. Maybe it was a good thing, it showed how much he loved and appreciated me, right? This was the lie I told myself on a daily basis and every time I convinced myself it was the truth.
That day was so striking and Steve and I looked like a perfect couple, his tie matched my dress and we walked together in perfect rhythm with our arms interlocked together. To many people this was a sign of security, but not for me. I felt like a caged bird dreaming of breaking free, but I knew it would only ever be a dream. Let’s face it, I was trapped.
The wedding had been beautiful, Steve and I had sat beside my parents during the ceremony. Everything was going well so far. Then came the reception.
After my catch up with Jen, I began to walk back to Steve to ask him to dance, I didn’t want to, but I knew I would pay for it later if I didn’t. Suddenly a man was running towards me with his arms open wide. It was Keith! I hadn’t seen him for years, he had been my best mate for years, but we had gone our separate ways after school.
I couldn’t believe he was here. Steve had moved to the back of my mind as I began to glide around the dance floor with Keith. Of course I was asked the usual question, “how are you and Steve?” and as usual I gave my habitual response, “never been better, thanks.”
I left the reception with a grin on my face, the only problem was Steve. His grip was tighter than usual as we advanced to our room. He opened the door for me, like any gentleman would do, but Steve was anything but gentle. Before I knew it I was moving through the air towards a wall and then THUD! I landed on the beautifully woven carpet so hard I could have sworn the floor was about to cave in. But it didn’t. Never have I prayed so hard in my life, “Lord, make him stop, please Lord make him stop.” I was silent on the outside, but inside my lungs were exhausted from screaming. I knew from experience silence stopped his fist advancing at a faster speed.
He was yelling now, “What the hell were you thinking Erin!” I felt like I was miles away from him as he roared, “You slut! The only man you should have been dancing with was ME!” I was soon reminded of how close he was as his knuckles crashed my temple and… blank.
Dazed and in a lot of pain I squinted as the sun shone into the bright room. Where was I? Quietly I tried to get up, I didn’t want Steve to hear me leave or I would be a dead, but I couldn’t. Every time I sat up I fell right back into my pillow. Finally a woman in a white coat came over and told me everything was ok and that I must have been hit pretty hard to earn the lump that was now settled on my forehead. I urged her to be quiet, I didn’t want her to wake Steve, but as I leant forward the penny dropped- I was no longer in the hotel room. I was in hospital.
Suddenly Jen came barging through the doors, a newspaper in her hands. “Are you all right?” she cried, “When I saw this I came straight here.” A large image of Steve was now directly under my nose and the headline read, “MAN SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS AFTER HOTEL ASSAULT.” I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know whether to feel overjoyed or embarrassed. All I knew was that I was free.
As I sat and watched the sunset from the small hospital window, I saw the swallow’s fleet freely to their nest and I eventually knew that I was now free. I had mastered the art of the swallows.

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LLL

 

As I awoke from another one of my fabulous dreams my bubble was again immediately burst. I was not a foot shorter. I was not an international country singer. And I most definitely was not living in a mansion in Beverly Hills.

For now it was just me and my acoustic guitar, banging on the doors of every record label in Nashville, but nothing. As I knocked a shimmer of hope flowed through my body, but every time I was knocked down. Most of them didn’t even hear my music they just saw a 6ft 9” girl with a guitar. I didn’t want them to see, I wanted them to hear.

As on most days I sat writing songs that would probably never be heard, I looked to my Shania Twain poster wondering if she had gone through what I had to get a successful career, but then I remembered we were very different. Shania was not freakishly tall!

That day as I drove my banger of a car down Music Row and knocked on the doors of record labels over and over and over again. Each time I got the same reply, “don’t ring us, we will get back to you” in other words, “we aren’t interested”.

These knockdowns made me feel like it wasn’t worth it, but then I would put in my head phones and listen to Dolly Parton and Shania Twain and I knew that this fire inside my belly was not going to leave until I sang alongside these amazing country musicians.

All my life I had been told that I was born to sing. I wanted to sing, but when you are my height, no one wants to sign you. The only positive thing I have ever got out of my height is my nick name.

“Whose bed have your Boots been under?” undoubtedly Shania best song. When it’s been a particularly rough day on Music row, I like to tune out from the world and imagine that Shania was singing about me. Long Legs Louise.

What happened next is something I will never forget. As I knocked on my 5th door on music row I was welcomed by a small, but deadly grey shot gun. My eyes shot open, I was numbed with fear and the only word I could force out through my trembling lips was, “why?” The harsh tone of door number five replied, “If you knock one more day, it will be your last!”

I quickly dashed away and suddenly it hit me. No one wanted me. No one cared. No one wanted a long legged, freckly country singer on their label.

There had been one too many knockdowns. I was finished.

As I drove to my motel I noticed a man on the corner of the street. He was wearing a Shania Twain tour t-shirt. I knew I could trust him, I slowly pulled over and advanced towards him with mascara plastered down my cheeks. Suddenly he reached out his hand and placed a small package into mine. I tried to speak but he placed his finger on my lips and signalled me to leave. “Who was he?”

That night as I sat in bed I finally had the courage to open the parcel, I was sure it was cocaine, but I knew, however bad it got it would never resolve to drugs. I was stronger than that.

As I tore back the thin brown paper a small piece of paper with a phone number printed on it was revealed. “Whose number was it?”

For days the number sat on the shelf, for days I could hear the phone screaming to be dialled and for days I ignored. I continued to knock on the doors of music row, leaving out door five for obvious reasons, but for some reason I had less hope and no motivation. I knew they were never going to sign me, I was just the 6ft 9” freak.

As I drove back to the motel with “Whose bed have your Boots been under?” blaring. I saw him. He signalled a phone and shook his hand frantically. This alarmed me and that night as the phone screamed to be dialled I didn’t ignore it.

“Hello who’s speaking?” The voice on the other end of the phone was undeniably, the one and only Shania Twain! I did not scream, she could not know I was merely an in superior fan, I was a woman on a mission.

“Hi I’m Louise and I was wondering if…” I was suddenly interrupted, “You’re the one on music row! You took your time.” She said excitedly, “get over to 22 Radley Place immediately, tell the gates man who you are and they will let you in.”

Never in my life have I driven so quickly, I couldn’t keep Shania waiting, my heart was racing and my face was gleaming. I was about to perform for Shania Twain!

The next morning as I awoke, I was still in my dream. I was a signed country singer, I lived in a mansion in Beverly Hills and I was touring with Shania Twain. This was not a dream. It was my life!

Explosions of Love

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“Everybody out!” yelled Sergeant Lake, the sense of urgency in his voice gave the indication that this was not just another practice drill. As I began to make my way out of the trench I suddenly stopped. Timmy! I had promised his mother I would take care of him. There was no way I could leave him in the middle of a gas attack, I would never forgive myself.

Suddenly I started to run, the gas was polluting my lungs more and more but I was determined to get to Timmy, I couldn’t leave him now. “Are you trying to get yourself killed Barker” Lake roared from somewhere in the distance. For once I didn’t care what he had to say, I knew what I had to do and nothing was going to stop me, especially not some cranky old Sergeant.

Finally I had reached the dugout and there was Timmy, completely unaware of the chaos and danger around him. There was no time to be gentle, as I grabbed Timmy I heard a loud whistling sound coming from above. My legs were moving, but I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere.

I opened my eyes to find myself in a white room with figures rushing around, I could have sworn I was in heaven. As I tried to sit up it felt like something was pulling me back, every time I would get a little further and then fall back. Finally a pretty woman in a white uniform came over to me, “Private Barker, are you ok?” she said in a soft, poetic voice, I was in such a trance that I forgot to answer, “Private Barker?, you were caught in an explosion. Private Timothy is fine, but unfortunately we have some bad news.”

Suddenly I was awoken from my trance, I looked down to see only stumps after my knees, and for the first time in my life, I cried. I felt like I had let my country down, I would no longer be able to protect them. Nurse Elizabeth sat by my side, for hours, she was the only thing keeping me reasonably calm. Her beauty stunned me, her dark brunette hair complemented her flawless, fair skin. For a moment I forgot all about my legs and that I would never be able to walk again, because in this moment I felt like I was running through fields of wildflowers alongside the most beautiful women I had ever set sight on, Nurse Elizabeth.

As the days progressed, the absence of my legs had become a little less daunting. That moment when you wake up and everything seems perfect was soon shattered into a million pieces as I remembered that I would never walk again. Although I knew it would take a long time to get used to the fact that I now had two limbs less than most, I knew that not only my physical health, but my mental health was being healed by Nurse Elizabeth.

On our daily consultations we discussed everything from the moon and back, in that moment I would forget my wounds because I knew that in that instant, I felt safe.

As my time in the great white tent came to a close my heart was gradually becoming heavier, how could I leave Elizabeth? She was the only person who I could turn to for comfort, she was the only one that didn’t judge me and she was the only one who knew how to turn the light back on in the darkest of moments.

The date was set in stone. I knew that tomorrow, at 8:00am I would make my voyage home, but not the home I had departed from almost six months ago. Invictus rehabilitation centre was to be my new home for the next while. Although I was very grateful for the opportunity to use the facility, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Not many men have to leave the girl they love on the front line

Invictus was proving to be a challenge, each day the world glared at me and laughed, but I knew I could not be defeated. I was having to build my upper body strength up in order to be more dependant, I did not want to sit helplessly in a wheel chair whilst someone else pushed me around, I was going to be the same person I was before I left for war, the only difference was I had legs then.

That night as I sat in the shoebox that was my room I listened to the wild winds roar and watched the candle flicker. I couldn’t help but think of Elizabeth, she was my light in the darkness. I needed her.

Months had passed since leaving the great white tent, but my memory of Elizabeth was still fresh in my mind. I was now able to push myself in a wheel chair and learning to carry my own bodyweight on a pair of crutches. Although the pain was extreme, it was nothing compared to the pain I was feeling in my heart. There was a hole in my heart. An Elizabeth shaped heart.

That night I cried myself to sleep, I didn’t know it was possible to miss a person so much. My hero was not a man with a gun, but a woman with a huge heart and a white uniform.

Morning dawned and I braced myself for another long, painful day. I drearily opened my thin curtains and there standing in the courtyard was the most beautiful brunette hair flowing down the side of the stunningly pale face of Elizabeth.

I couldn’t believe my eyes there she was, right in front of me, I wanted nothing more than to run to her, but I couldn’t. As she disappeared through the grey walls of my building I heard her delicate feet dance up the stairs and before I knew it she was in my arms.

Finally, the last jigsaw piece to my heart was complete. I was the luckiest man in the world and I had just fallen in love with my heroine in a white uniform all over again.

Sleeping Beauty

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Charlie and I had been friends since, well, forever. We supported each other through the tiresome time more commonly known as High School. Charlie wasn’t ‘captain of the rugby team material’ and I wasn’t much myself, in fact Charlie and I were at the very bottom of the High School Pyramid. We were invisible.

One day on a crisp, cool October day my invisibility cloak was snatched from around me. It started with a shriek and then a cry. Charlie and I looked down the corridor to see Fizz moaning when she noticed her new Mac Book had disappeared. Charlie looked at me and rolled his eyes, ‘who would be foolish enough to bring a £900 laptop to school’. We both laughed to ourselves at Charlie’s stupid question, when suddenly it went silent. I turned around to Fizz’s perfectly manicured finger in my face.

She had quickly lost her vulnerable face I had seen a few moments before, ‘Rose, sorry to be nosey do you mind if I look in your locker’, before I could answer she shoved me aside and opened my locker, ‘I knew it’, she shrieked, ‘you little thief! How dare you steal from me’? I looked at Fizz with complete confusion, ‘I have no idea how that appeared in my locker but I didn’t steal it.’ I swear, in that moment Fizz’s eyes turned red with fury, ‘don’t lie to me Rose! She screamed. By this stage people had gathered around us, no one had ever looked at me and know everyone was looking at once, I felt like a falsely accused defendant. Fizz’s eyes were staring into my soul, I turned to Charlie for back-up but he just shrugged, his jaw was dropped and his eyes wide. Fizz walked off in the direction of the principal’s office with her two evil sidekicks walking behind her.

I was sure Fizz had set me up, the ferocity was building up inside of me, how could she, what had I ever done to her. All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and cry, but I knew I couldn’t let her get to me and definitely couldn’t show Charlie how hurt I was.

The moment I’d been fearing finally came, my name blared out throughout the school as I walked, dreading what was to come. I couldn’t help but feel a thousand eyes following me, watching me like a hawk, wondering what I would steal next.

As I entered the office of Mr Henry, I could see the look of shock on his face. I sat down slowly he just looked me in the eyes and said, ‘why?’ I felt the disappointment run through every vein in my body. I had always been a straight- A student and had never got myself into any trouble, until now.

That night as I sat in Charlie’s I was miserable, we were watching Michael McIntyre like we did every Tuesday, but tonight it wasn’t funny. I had done nothing wrong but I was ashamed and embarrassed. Then suddenly Charlie, who had also been unusually quiet tonight, turned to me and whispered, ‘why did you do it? I know you don’t particularly like Fizz, but isn’t stealing her laptop a bit far?’

I looked in utter shock, the tension was building up inside of me, when suddenly I exploded. ‘I didn’t do it!’ I yelled, ‘I thought you of all people would believe me.’ I stormed out of the house, my mind buzzing with thoughts, I just needed them to be quiet, but they were screaming inside my head trying to get out, ‘why wouldn’t they be quiet.’, I thought. Suddenly everything fell silent.

There was a sense of urgency running through my mind as I sprinted after her, I needed to see if she was okay. All of a sudden the urgency left my body and the panic entered. There she was her blonde hair draped over her shoulder, her face as white as snow. I dug into my pocket for my phone, I dialled 999 and waited. Each ring seem to last a lifetime, I could still hear a raucous audience laughing in the background, the laugh grew evil, suddenly the ground beneath my feet seemed to be moving. I tried to pull myself together as the phone operator, repeated, ‘what service do you need sir’. Reality hit and I screamed, ‘Ambulance!’ like my life depended on it, but it wasn’t my life that was at risk.

Finally the flashing blue lights came into view, my heart pumping so hard I could have sworn it was going to escape my body. I watched as they lifted her tranquil body into the back of the ambulance with her distraught mother by her side. The blue lights and loud sirens faded away into the distance, my body was frozen, and I was numb with shock. She had looked so calm in the middle of so much tension, but the one thing that struck me most wasn’t her calmness, but her beauty.

That night as I lay in my bed, my emotions were exhausted, but my thoughts were racing through my mind and the one thought that I couldn’t seem to shift was, ‘is Rose going to die?’ Finally, I had enough I grabbed my phone and dialled Eleanor’s, Roses’ mother’s, number. Each dial seemed to last forever, but I didn’t have forever, I needed to know now. At last Eleanor picked up and I bombarded her with multiple questions, ‘Is she all right?’ ‘Are you all right?’ ‘What did the doctor’s say?’ As she replied I froze, the phone dropped to the floor with a crash.

My mum had heard the noise from downstairs and had come up to see if I was all right, but the only words I could get out of my mouth were, ‘She’s in a coma’. I just kept repeating the same four words over and over again in hope that they would soon sink in, but they didn’t.

Months had passed and Rose was still not awake. I couldn’t bring myself to see her because I knew that it was my fault, she would never have ran out the door if I hadn’t of said what I did. I just wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole and cry, but I was afraid that if I started crying I would never stop.

After nearly 5 months Eleanor rang me in such a state that it took her about five minutes to say her first word. Eventually she gained the strength to tell me that the doctors were going to take her off the ventilator later that afternoon.

This time I knew I had to see her, I needed to apologise to her even if she couldn’t hear me. She needed to know how I really felt about her.

As I stepped into her little private room on Ward 33 of Red Haven Hospital I was overwhelmed by her beauty. There she was just the same as the night she was hit, except now she was clothed in a blue hospital gown.

Her family left to let me say my final goodbyes. I explained that I never wanted to hurt her. I took her white hand and put it in mine, the one thing I had was about to disappear just like that. I bent over to kiss her and tears started to roll down my cheek, her colourless lips pressed against mine felt perfect I never wanted to leave. As I sat back I whispered, ‘I love you Rose, and I always will.’

Suddenly I felt her hand tighten around mine, her eyelids started to flicker, I could have sworn I was dreaming. ‘I love you too Charlie.’ Now I knew, I would never be alone again.

Operation Valentine’s Day

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It was the week before Valentine’s Day and as per usual my friends and I sat in the dilapidated canteen fantasising that the guys of our dreams would gallantly sweep us off our feet on the 14th February.

We all have different ways of picturing our perfect relationship; I like to write my own love stories and cast me as the main character, Naomi enjoys to talk about her love interest… constantly, Katie likes to keep her mysterious guy all in her head and Sophia waves at him every morning from across the street and imagines what it would be like if she had him on her arm.

I was almost certain that this Valentine’s Day I would not be single, Josh and I had been coming closer and closer every day. He would text me every night just to say, ‘Goodnight Alice’ and we ceased every opportunity we could get to chat during school. He was undoubtedly my first love.  

Unfortunately the others weren’t having just as much luck. Sophia had just discovered that Matthew was dating a girl from his school, Holly.  “I had finally plucked up the courage to knock on his door and say hi and his girlfriend opened the door” she said trying to fight back the tears, “Alice, I was mortified!” I didn’t know what to say, never have I seen Sophia so upset before, she must really love him.

I felt like I was stuck in the middle of everyone else’s love life disasters whilst my love life was going perfectly. Naomi was continuously talking about Harry and hoping that he would send her a card. As well as worrying about her own love interest Naomi was also trying to figure out who Katie fancied, but Katie was keeping her cards close to her chest.

Later that night I received a frantic text from Katie, “what should I do, Naomi keeps asking me who I fancy, but the problem is I fancy Harry too!!” I couldn’t believe it, two friends with their eye on the same guy, it was a disaster waiting to happen. I realised if Katie didn’t tell Naomi soon she was only going to feel guiltier so I gave her the only advice I knew would work, “Be honest.” The rest was up to them.

As I waited for Josh to reply to my text I realised he was taking longer than usual, maybe he was getting bored or maybe I was just paranoid. The next day in school I didn’t see Josh at all, I hoped he was all right, I was hoping tomorrow would be our first kiss and maybe he would even ask me out.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, that night he seemed busier than usual and couldn’t text me. Finally I got a text saying, “Sorry Alice but I just don’t think this relationship is going to work, I’m not ready for another relationship after Eve, sorry hope you understand.” I was distraught, how could he tell me he didn’t love me on the eve of the most romantic day of the year. I cried down the phone, to Katie, then Naomi and then Sophia.

Katie and Naomi still had a glimmer of hope that Harry would notice them and spontaneously ask them on a date. On the other hand Sophia and I had decided we would spend the night watching Romantic movies, eating ice-cream and escaping life all together.

As I walked to period 1 I saw Josh walking towards me, I quickly lowered my head to avoid eye contact, but as I did I noticed he was not alone. Clinging to his arm was Megan Forb, I couldn’t believe it. He had just lead me on, he had no intentions of ever dating me, he only ever wanted Megan.

That night we had more company than expected, Harry hadn’t noticed either Naomi or Katie. They had realised it was probably for the best, imagine the situation they would have in if one of them had been asked out.

As we sat in Sophia’s room we left behind the emotional roller coaster of a week we had experienced. We decided it was probably best to stay away from guys for a while. As we watched the rolling credits of ‘The Notebook’ fade away through the doorbell sounded. Sophia ran to answer it throwing on a hoody as she left. We all assumed it was her parents returning from their trip to Paris.

“Did you hear that?” Naomi said looking alarmed. We sprinted down the stairs after hearing several shrieks form Sophia, to find Sophia and Matthew in each other’s arms. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Although Naomi, Katie and my Valentine’s Day hadn’t turned out how we had planned, we couldn’t have been happier for Sophia. We sat upstairs leaving Matthew to explain why he had come over. Our ears pressed to the floor our hearts melted as we heard Matthew say, “I realised that Holly wasn’t right for me, the only girl I wanted was you.” Whilst I was happy for Sophia I couldn’t help but envy her a little. All I had wanted was for Josh to treat me the way Matthew was treating Sophia.

Although are plan to all have a date for Valentine’s Day didn’t work out, we realised that friends were just as good. Of course for Sophia Operation Valentine’s day had been extremely successful.

Now He’s Gone

The world felt like it had stopped every time I’d look into his icy blue eyes, I’d look so deep that I wouldn’t even see eyes any more, but a calm, still, tropical ocean. Things were different now. Sebastian was gone.

I remember the day like it was yesterday, or maybe it was yesterday, I don’t keep track of time any more I don’t see the point.

We had just had the most beautiful day at the beach everything seemed so tranquil. That night when I got back to my room, my cheeks were aching from smiling, but I couldn’t seem to shift my smile. Until suddenly the call I never expected to have to answer came. It shattered my soul, I was pretty sure my heart had just imploded, I was paralysed with sadness. The muscles in my fingers shut down as the phone fell to the ground. He was dead.

Now I have no one. Sebastian was the only person I had ever opened up to, the only person I could speak to without being in fear of being judged. I loved him and now he is gone.

I knew I was going to be the topic of the whispers that travelled the school corridors on Monday. Anger boiled inside of me at the thought of it, how could people talk about me when there was a poor boy robbed of his life because of a selfish, drunken idiot. 

I was right, as I walked in on Monday the whispers spread like wildfire. The sense of fake sympathy made me want to gag. The people in this school had never cared about me before, why now.

As I walked home that night I couldn’t bear to go back to my over-sympathetic parents who were just waiting to ask me how I was, didn’t they realise, I didn’t want to talk. As I wondered the streets I saw a group of guys spray painting the memory wall with the words, ‘RIP Sebastian’. I couldn’t believe it, those guys had scarcely acknowledged Sebastian, never mind speak to him! The rage was burning through my soul, it started to take control of my body. Suddenly I was running, my heart was pumping so hard I could have sworn it was going to escape my body, but I didn’t stop. I grabbed the tallest of the guys by the arm and ripped the can out of his hand, ‘how dare you!’ I yelled ‘Sebastian hated graffiti and everything about this wall!’ I was now screaming so loud my throat hurt, ‘You didn’t even know him!’

My vision became foggy as my eyes filled with tears. I tried to fight them back, but it hurt so bad that I feared if I held it in any longer my body would shut down.

It was getting dark now and I didn’t know where to go, I needed a safe haven. Then I remembered the cove Sebastian had shown me last year.

I made my way there slowly, as my vision was still distorted from the tears that were still gushing out of my eyes. On arrival I perched myself on the flat rock I sat on during that long, hot day last July. Tonight was beautiful, Sebastian would have loved it. As I looked out at the full moon reflecting over the clear ocean waters I imagined him sitting beside me with his easel and paints. Painting the most beautiful moonlight landscape. Every time I complemented a piece of his art he always said, ‘I’m just the interpreter, God is the real artist.’

As I reminisced a sudden calmness ran through my body as I realised Sebastian was now with the ultimate artist in heaven. 

Life became easier after I discovered my safe haven, it was the only place I felt calm. Talking about Sebastian’s death was still non-existent and would be for a long, long time, or so I thought.

Usually the calmness of the ocean erased the busy thoughts from my mind, but somehow tonight was different. As I sat on the rock a sense of uneasiness washed over me, I could have sworn someone else was there. ‘Don’t be stupid Catherine’, I muttered to myself, ‘this is your place and only your place’. But I was wrong.

‘Who you talking to’, came a voice from behind, I couldn’t have been more startled. I don’t like people scaring me. I had no idea who he was but I didn’t want him in my place. ‘What are you doing here?’ I roared.

His face corresponded a person who had just seen a ghost. He stuttered and finally, remembering how to speak again, said, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise this space was occupied, I’m just looking for some shelter.’

A wave of sympathy for the mysterious boy crashed over me. ‘I’m Catherine’, I said shyly, ‘sorry for my outburst, I was just startled.’ The boy laughed nervously and whispered, ‘I’m Noah, and I can find somewhere else to stay if you want’. ‘No’, I yelled a little too enthusiastically, ‘here sit beside me, I could use some company anyway.’

Noah and I spent most of the night laughing and crying. He explained that his recent homelessness was a result of a drunken dad and a dead mum. As we talked I realised that we had both gone through a lot of crap recently, but the one thing I had that Noah didn’t was family.

Days and months past, finally I could speak to someone about Sebastian without feeling judged. One night as Noah and I sat under the full moon he burst into tears. I recognised these tears, they were tears of guilt.

As Noah came round he explained through the occasional sniff that his Dad had gone for his usual visit to ‘The Guard’, but unusually didn’t return. The worst circumstance came straight to mind, ‘had he died?’ Noah continued explaining that the next morning they found him in the local police station charged with drunk driving. I thought by now Noah had pulled himself together, but unexpectedly he started to cry again, ‘his drunk driving…’ he sobbed, ‘lead to the death…. the death of a teenage boy.’

Suddenly my heart dropped, Noah’s dad had killed Sebastian. I didn’t know how I felt, I wasn’t angry at Noah, I wasn’t even annoyed at his dad who had killed my perfect boy. The sadness overwhelmed me, how could such a trusting, innocent boy be the son of a murderer, it didn’t make sense. Life no longer made sense.

I knew I still loved Noah, but I also still loved Sebastian. Would he understand? That I needed someone to love me and to be physically there to hold me in there arms. Right in this moment, with Noah’s arms around me I could have sworn we were infinite, nothing could stop us. I knew from then on Noah and I were going to leave are troubled pasts behind, but our loved ones would always be in our hearts.

Last Wish

Jess has changed my life forever. This time last year I hated my life, I even tried to end it. Looking back I couldn’t have been anymore selfish, I had the choice to live or die. Jess didn’t.

After my over-dose, I hated everything and everyone. I despised the doctors for saving me; didn’t they realise I was being tortured by life itself? I felt like this for those first few days in ward  33, but then I met Jess. Somehow I found the strength to go for a walk around the hospital after my second day in ward 33. As I walked along the corridor I saw her, two bulging, blood-shot, blue eyes were staring back at me. It was clear she had been crying. As she walked her head hung low, staring at the floor and only looking up occasionally to check where, she was going.

Her beautiful features stunned me; her crystal blue eyes, her lovely, long locks of brown hair and of course her amazing figure.

I was so preoccupied looking at this beautiful girl that I missed my footing and fell flat on my face taking Jess with me. As I turned to apologize, I noticed she suddenly looked different. Her hair was gone! She sat on her knees staring at the wig, which was now sprawled out across the floor, as she wept. At first I thought she had hurt herself, but I soon realised due to the look of desolation on her face, it was much more than just a silly fall.

I took a deep breath and helped Jess to her feet; I pathetically apologised for tripping her up and started to walk with her.

Having only met her I could have walked off, but I knew there was something special about Jess and I wanted to help her. We walked in silence for what seemed like forever when I eventually asked her the question that had been running through my mind for ages,’Why were you crying?’

I didn’t expect her to give me a detailed explanation as we had only just met, but when she started to speak I knew she was going to tell me everything. She had explained to me how she had been diagnosed with Leukemia just last year. A few months later she had lost all her hair. I will never forget the last thing she said,’ today the doctor told me I have 6 months left of my life on earth.’

She left me speechless. I couldn’t imagine what she must be going through, the opportunities she was never going to have, but I could tell Jess was strong.

I remember that night like no other, as I watched Jess disappear through the double doors. As I watched a question suddenly popped into my head, ‘why was she alone?’

Hours of sleep were lost thinking about Jess. I couldn’t wait to see her again. I was going to  meet her the next week after I had been released from that prison they call a hospital.

As I walked towards the doors of Starbucks I could see her waiting patiently at a table for two. I ordered two spiced pumpkin lattes. We chatted for hours about everything under the sun, but the one thing I still hadn’t asked her was, ‘why was she alone that day in the hospital?’

At long last, there was a silence so loud I could here my thoughts. My conscience was yelling at me, ‘ask her!’ I couldn’t ignore this. Nervously I asked, ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking,but I was wondering why you were alone that day in the hospital/’

Jess looked at me and I looked back, the silence was broken when Jess started to explain that she was put into care as her parents had both been tragically killed in a car accidentwhen she was just 3 years old. My mouth dropped and I muttered that I was really sorry; I could hardly get the words out as I was so shocked at what I had just heard.

Jess carried on speaking, ‘Don’t get me wrong the care home is great, but sometimes I wish I had a proper family.’ The next words that came out her mouth are words I will never forget, ‘if I could have one wish before I die it would be to have a proper family Christmas.’ The guilt ran through every vein in my body as I thought about how something that I have taken for granted all my life could be someone’s death wish.

Jess and I met up every Saturday and Friday until nearer the time of her death. We didn’t dwell on what was going to end but on what had happened. The friendship between Jess and I, transformed my life. Jess had the power to stay positive through the toughest of situations and this helped lift my own spirits.

One day as Jess and I walked along the beautiful forest , carpeted in leaves of orange,red and yellow. She was being very reserved and quiet; I knew there was something wrong. So as we sat down on the park bench, I turned and looked at those beautiful, blue eyes and simply asked, ‘ is everything ok?’

She paused for a moment and then took a deep breath, slowly and quietly she said, ‘ I was just wondering if… you wouldn’t mind coming to my support group with me?’ I was about to answer when she interrupted abruptly saying, ‘you don’t have to if you don’t want to.’ I laughed and said confidently, ‘of course I will do anything for you.’

The teenage support group was held in an old,neglected church hall, the smell of damp was over-whelming. The only thing that kept me from leaving was Jess, she needed me.

This week the group where talking about their bucket lists and their final wishes, most of the group said things like, first kiss, have a huge house party and many other crazy things, but Jess’ answer was different. Jess explained that all she wanted was to have a proper, family Christmas.

Each of these words ran clearly through my mind when out of no where an idea popped into my head. I was going to invite Jess to enjoy a family Christmas with me. I couldn’t wait to see her reaction when I told her.

I remember the nerves and excitement running through my body as I sat in Starbucks at our table for two, with our eggnog cappuccinos (as it was now late December.) Finally there was a break between conversations and I told her my idea.

In that moment it felt like time itself had stopped Jess’ face lit up like the Christmas lights in Times Square. I knew I would never forget what happened next, she lent over the table and kissed me, she was my first kiss, and I know that I will never forget the feeling of her lips against mine.  As I looked up to thank the Lord for what had just happened when I noticed a small piece of mistletoe hanging from the roof. Christmas was here.

As I put on my Sunday best on the morning of the 25th. Reality hit hard when I realised that this would be Jess’ last Christmas, it had to be special.

I remember answering the door as Jess stood there in a beautiful red dress. She was very thin now and pale, but she still looked beautiful to me.

As we sat round the table with the turkey in the middle ready to be cut, we prayed for the things we were thankful for, we prayed that the Lord would look after Jess when she was with him. At this point a tear came to my eye, but I held them back, the day was to be happy.

When it was time for the presents I watched as Jess opened the necklace I had bought her, it was silver letters arranged to spell ‘forever’ because I knew deep in my heart that Jess would be with me forever.

Next mum handed me a present, which was addressed to Jess and myself, as we opened the box if revealed a bauble with the words ‘Jess and Jacob Christmas 2012’ engraved on the side.

As Jess left that day she kissed me softly and whispered in my ear, ‘thanks form making my wish come true.’ This time I couldn’t hold back the tears and neither could she, we stood at the front door and wept in the security of each others arms.

As the months progressed Jess and I saw less and less of each other. She had become weaker, thinner and paler. It was terrifying for me knowing that soon she would be no longer there. I couldn’t even imagine what she must have been going through.

On the last week of her life on earth I sat by her side in hospital with my Starbucks cup sitting on the dresser. Those last moments with her are moments I will cherish forever. Just before the cancer won the battle she fought one more time and murmured the words, ‘thank-you’.

All I know is that I must not dwell on what has past but he grateful for what happened.Image