A place of safety – Microfiction challenge #11

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ALI142426 Interior with a figure (oil on canvas) by Cecioni, Adriano (1838-66) oil on canvas Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy Alinari Italian, out of copyright

“Ssh, Annetta, shh! he will find us if you don’t stop making that noise!”

I could hear my sister coughing under the bedclothes, her whooping cough consuming her in the tiny pocket of hot air under the blankets. I wanted to feel sorry for her, almost more than anything – almost. After all, I knew only too well how the paroxysms felt. My chest was still weak, I was still exhausted after my own sickness.

But still…

I held my own breath as the stairs creaked like the ageing tall ships that shuddered into the harbour down below, exhausted and depleted from their travails on the high seas.

If only he had been on Defiance, which despite its name had been swallowed by waves as tall as mountains. But no. He was a charmed man. He had returned, like a bad penny, pickled in brandy and stinking of the harlots he had visited in every nasty, fetid port along the way.

“Olivia! Olivia damn you! Where’s my food? Why is the table not laid? I’ll skin your hides, you and that miserable runt of a changeling. I swear she ain’t mine…”

The same old, same old refrain. I crouched behind the bed, hating my sister for alerting him to our presence with her chest-rattling cough and the whoop as she tried to suck in more air. For God’s sake, Annetta!

I reached up, felt the profile of her forehead, her nose, her mouth gaping like a hungry bird’s underneath the covers. I pressed down, trying to smother her noise, to just shut her up for a moment, just one, blessed moment. Perhaps he would get tired once he reached the second floor, perhaps he wouldn’t bother with the servants’ quarters if we were quiet as church mice…?

His footfall stopped, I heard a thud as the final door on the landing below was slammed open, I could picture him straining to pick up on the slightest noise from us, his most definitely unloved daughters.

I held my breath. Thankfully, Annetta had managed to stifle her noise too. I heard Father trudge unsteadily down the stairs. He would fall into a drunken slumber soon enough. I exhaled slowly as I heard him kick the kitchen door shut behind him, far below. We were safe for now. I released my clamp of a hand from Annetta’s mouth and shook her gently.

“It’s safe, sweetheart, you can come out now,” I whispered, peeling back the blankets, ready to hug my little sister, to reassure her once more.

I knew, as soon as I saw her. She would never need comfort from me again.

Father had killed her, with my own, death-grip hand.

Sweet dreams, little one. Sweet dreams.


Here’s my latest entry into Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge, where this week, she asks us to write in response to the picture above. Wow, it evoked something dark in me (not so surprising to anyone who has read my blog for a while…). I found this painting truly unsettling, as you can tell.

Please do head on over to Jane’s blog to see how others have responded. No two entries will be the same, I’m sure.

Thank you Jane, for the inspiration!

TJ’s Household Haiku Challenge – Dry

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My sandpaper throat

was only eased with liquid

gold – pure firewater.

 

For twenty five years

I have not touched a single

drop – teetotaller.


 

Here are my two entries to our favourite Francophile’s Household Haiku Challenge, where this week TJ invites us to write a haiku (or two, or three, or more) inspired by the word ‘dry’ and/or his spiky photograph – a cactus.

This is the reboot of TJ’s original theme of items from around the house. A change is as good as a rest, no?

This is a fun and short prompt – so why not take part? And in case you’re wondering – no, I’m not an alcoholic!

Past Tense – Picture It & Write

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‘Actions speak louder than words’. That’s what me dear old mum used to say, bless her. Everyone thought she was a right walk-over, letting people say one thing, and do another.

She wasn’t though. She’d sit back, let ’em all blather on about this thing and that thing, how they were gonna do this or that for her, and then just see if they made good on their words. And then she’d make her mind up. If you were a goodun, she’d be your friend for life. If your promises turned out to be no more than Scotch mist, you wouldn’t see her for dust.

Take me dad. Full of bluster, the big I Am, he was. Dropping promises like pennies, but they never amounted to much. She kicked him out in the end. And good on her, I say.

Pity I’m more like him than her, between you and me. Another thing she would say was ‘an apple never falls for from the tree’. Reckon his trees were bigger and stronger than hers, ‘cos I just can’t help meself. I mean well, honest I do, but you know how it is. Dontcha?

Take the drink. It’s got a right hold on me, it has. Can’t seem to shake it off. I promised over and over I’d give it a rest, walk past the pub rather than just drop in for a quick half on the way home. It never is a quick half, know what I mean?

What’s that? Me mum? God no, she ain’t dead. Alive and kicking she is. I see her in the street every now and again but she ain’t in my life any more, so it’s past tense all the way with me. It’s easier that way.

She cuts me dead, if you like.

I may as well be.

Fancy another one for the road, love?

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Here’s my latest offering for Picture It & Write. Please take a look at Ermilia’s blog and why not take part in Picture It & Write yourself? She posts a new image for inspiration every Sunday.

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