Creative Nonfiction

Carol sat across from her friend, Samuel, tapping her foot and humming a careless tune. She wanted just to talk to her friend about something important, but her courage was failing her this evening. So she decided to let the moment come by itself.

  As she let her mind wander, she was taken back to the time when she was fifteen and Samuel thirteen when his grandmother had just died. The family needed to clear out her house, which turned out to be quite a massive task considering how big it was. Samuel’s father and four brothers had all once lived there, and many old trinkets and memories had been left behind for many years. It took them nine months to clean the place out, top to bottom, all three floors.

  One afternoon in late spring, Samuel asked Carol to come with him and his Mum in the car down to the park for some ice cream. Since they were already going and Sam would be bored without her. She gladly agreed, and they all made for the car.

“We just need to pick up Mark from his mother’s home” his mum hastily explained, swerving the car down laneways through town that Carol had never noticed before.

 They pulled up after a few minutes outside a tall Victorian style house. Carol remembered thinking that this was exactly the kind of house she would have liked to live in. It was tall and made of old red brick with ivy climbing around the windows and door. The garden was overgrown, not with weeds, but great massive plants and flowers with names too unpronounceable to write down here. They belong in a Latin Dictionary.

Inside, the hall was almost bare. But that should be expected since they had cleared out a good four quarters of the place. They still had the shoe press and coat hanger, along with the deep red carpet that old people generally have in their homes. It smelled dusty, but homely. Carol got a sense that by walking through these doors, she was walking into a very special part of this family’s life. She had been welcomed to see the very place her best friends father grew up, the place where they had Christmas and Easter and a great many birthdays. Surely you don’t just invite anyone to see your dead grandmother’s home. You’ve got to be special. Liked. It was rather humbling.

 She came back to planet earth from her nice thoughts when she heard her name being called. It was Samuel’s mum from the back garden door, poking her head out and asking if she would like a cup of tea.

 “Oh- uhm, yes please, thanks very much”

 The sun was gone, down to another distant land to wake many sleeping children for school and some weary men for work. All it had left behind was a deep blue sky speckled with stars and a great glowing moon. Carol shivered and drew her blanket tighter around her shoulders.

“Hey Samuel?”

“What’s up”

She chuckled as she went back to when they were just children. And she smiled when she thought of the house. She wasn’t afraid anymore.

“Remember that time you took me to your Nan’s house” she began. Samuel smiled as the memory came back to him also.

“Ohhhh, yeah! I forgot about that. I remember how you kept saying how much you liked the kitchen and It was your favorite room”. Carol laughed and rolled her eyes.

“Is that the only thing you remember”

 “No” he said slowly and tried to keep thinking. “I remember we found the old radio they used back in 1940 to listen in on the war, you were fascinated by that”

"Oh stop pretending, you loved it too” she chuckled.

“Wouldn’t it be great to go back? Not back in time, but back to the house?” she asked after a moments pause, leaning back.

 “Well yeah, I think about the house from time to time but… doesn’t some old couple live there now?”

Carol paused. This was her moment.

 “Not anymore Sam”

With a flourish, she took a letter from her pocket (it was originally an email she had printed out for the drama of the moment), and slapped it upon the wooden stool beside him. Sam stared at it and looked very stiff. He was a fast reader, but he hadn’t been sure what to expect. Carol watched anxiously as his face changed from stiff, to confusion, to realization and then to joy. He looked up at her with his cheeks glowing and a big smile.

 “You bought it? You bought the house?”

 “I did! I bought it! And its not just for me”

“No. You didn’t”

“Oh yes I totally did” she smiled all-knowingly and scooted her chair noisily closer to his. “How would you like to move out of your parent’s house and come live with your best friend? 

It was a wet and rainy Monday morning when Carol slung together her bags, and stepped outside her door. It shut heavily behind her and she stood beneath the safety of the porch for a few moments. The raindrops hung along the edge of the roof until they became too heavy for themselves to hold, falling to a puddle. Carol breathed in the cold air and put on a brave face. She pulled her raincoat hood over her head and propped up her umbrella. Not thinking, she began jogging out of her driveway, as the rain beat mercilessly against her.

 “Oh well” she thought to herself as she ran. “At least the nearest bus stop has shelter”

Her boots were soaked through to her socks by the time she arrived on the doorstep of her new home. All along the bus ride she heard the rumble of thunder and felt a little uneasy. The pathway that led from the gate to the door sunk slightly in the middle and a deep puddle had formed. Of course, Carol didn’t notice and she stuck her already-soaked boots right in it.

 “Agh! This is just not my day…” she cried, frantically hopping out of the puddle and up onto the safety of the doormat. She stuck her hand in her pocket and fumbled around. “Keys, keys, keys...” She pulled out the jumble of car keys, door keys, house keys that she owned, and flipped them one by one over her thumb. The sky was a heavy grey and the world felt dark, despite being midday, and over the horizon, lightning flashed and thunder crashed. Carol shivered. Her boots were full to the brim with rainwater.

 “The key isn’t here?” she said, confusedly looking around.

Somehow, in the middle of the deep puddle behind her, a little light glimmered. Carol breathed in her annoyance as she stepped down, bent over and stuck her hand into the water.

“You know, for a rain-puddle, this water is surprisingly clean” she observed, grasping for the key, wrist deep in water.

Behind her, the door slowly slid itself open. A golden rectangle of light went across the garden and over our unfortunate Carol. She felt the light go around her and for a moment she didn’t move. She wasn’t at the wrong house she was quite sure. Slowly, still ankle deep in a puddle, she stood up, and looked over her shoulder.

Warm light covered every object in the hallway and up the staircase, almost as if everything was made of gold. She saw no one, no one stood by the door, no one was there to have opened it. But she swore, from somewhere deep in the house, she heard the sound of laughter. Not regular laughter, or belly laughing, or that polite chuckle you and I might do around guests, but the sweet and innocent sound of a baby’s laughter.

But it was her house alright.

Cautiously, she tiptoed inside and peeped behind the door. No one. The light seemed to have dimmed to be a lot less golden and just looked cozy. She dropped her bags beside the shoe-rack, and clicked the door shut.

Soon, a young woman in sopping wet socks had figured her way around the gas stove (her own grandmother had owned one), and was cooking herself a dinner of French toast.

 She pulled open one of the cupboards, looking for salt. Then jumped back in shock at what she found instead. Before her, sat a beautiful porcelain tea set. Complete with four tea cups, saucers, a milk jug, a squat looking teapot and a sugar pot. All beautifully painted with images of flowers, honey bees, trees, and upon the teapot there was an image of baby girl playing in the grass with a baby bunny. She put a hand out to touch it, but instantly drew back in pain.

 “Ouch! Its boiling hot!” she cried, putting her finger in her mouth to cool off. She snatched up a tea towel and used that to take down this strange and beautiful find. She pulled off the lid to reveal a full pot of green tea. The trapped steam rose up and into the air.

Carol took two unsteady steps back. She had quite lost her appetite.

She strode out into the hall to retrieve her suitcase, and pulled it wearily up the stairs. “Everything makes sense in the morning” she reassured herself.

She pushed open the door to a bedroom she had remembered liking a lot when Sam showed her all those years ago. Anyone who had lived here since then had left the room untouched. A double bed by the wall, a tall window to the right, and across from the door was a table and chair with an oval shaped mirror. Perfect. She dropped the bag on the chair, and used the last of her energy to perfectly throw herself upon the mattress. 

A mother stands over her crying baby’s crib, weary. It has been a long and tiring night. Awake, asleep, awake, asleep. Now, she has given up being firm and is desperate for rest. She scoops the writhing child up, and places her gently into her own bed. She herself sinks into the mattress and pulls the sheets over her. The baby makes a sort of nest out of one of the pillows. The one her father might have used. Her podgy hands open and close in her sleep, searching for something to grasp. Her mother slides her fingers closer, and the baby latches on.

 “Mary-Bridgett…” she breathes.

 The grandfather clock that stood in the hallway chimed midnight. Carol's eyes flickered open. A pitted feeling resided in the bottom of her stomach.

"What a strange dream…" she thought, hardly daring to even whisper it into the darkness.

 Too anxious to sleep, she sat up in bed, pushed open the French window and listened to the sounds of the night. The rain had not yet ceased and continued to pour down, a lot more softly now. Somewhere in the distance an owl let the rain know he was awake and wanted to find some breakfast, but didn't feel too comfortable with getting his feathers drenched.

From somewhere downstairs drifted the soft, sad sound of a piano.

Carol’s ears pricked. Her feet tapped to the rhythm. She felt the music sink into her bones and lead her to a world that wasn't her own. She pulled off the sheets, and as her toes sunk into the carpet, she felt her senses become electric. The gap between what was real, and what once was, became smaller.

 A golden light, identical to the one that had greeted her just hours ago, lit up the hallway. A young and pretty woman, walked right past the open door, turned the corner and went down the steps. Carol quietly rushed after. She might have called out “stop!” or even tried to run after her, but something had been put on her conscience that said this was no longer her world to control and make decisions. Whatever happens now, has already come to pass, there is nothing she could do to prevent that, if she tried.

 The woman made her way through the passages of the house to the kitchen. Carol followed closely after. It seemed whatever room she was in, the golden, nostalgic light was also.

 A young, handsome man stood with her also, chattering casually. They were both smiling, equally smitten it seemed. Carol only stood in the doorway and watched.

 He must have said something terribly kind, for she seemed to turn to him with a gasp, and they embraced. When she pulled back however, he leaned in once more and softly kissed her on the cheek. Then swiftly turned and left, leaving her stunned, feeling her cheek.

 The light vanished. The woman had disappeared with it.

It reappeared however, from behind, shining out of the parlor door. Carol rushed to it, and looked on. There she was again, arranging flowers into a vase upon the coffee table. The same handsome young man as before was watching her, admiringly, from his seat just behind. She made a comment, but nothing was audible, the piano played on, always suiting the moment, never stopping. He replied, standing up, and strode over to her from behind, placing his hands on her waist. She did not object. Soon she had turned to him slowly, and he leaning in for another kiss once more. This time it landed on her lips. She turned to him and they kissed passionately, he held onto her affectionately by the waist, and she pulled him in by the shirt collar.

 Carol only silently observed as he stumbled back upon the armchair, and she with him, leaning on his chest.

Carol was left to only imagine what might have happened next when the image once more faded away into nothing.

 The golden glow shone from the room just to the right of the parlor door. She slipped from one doorway to another, and peeped inside. This had once been a music classroom, so she had been told, with a beautiful black piano by the window, and a shelf filled with sheet music. The same young woman sat by the piano, playing the magical music that had brought both existences together.

They say we are all born with a little magic in us, but very few ever learn to tap into it. We shall never know for sure how she did it, even I am a little stumped on the subject, but this young woman had used her music to pull herself back into the world, even just for a few fleeting moments. But not for nothing.

 Her piano playing was soft and enticing, it seemed more and more in the real world now than it did before. She had her back to Carol, so she couldn’t see her expression, or hear her, if she were even speaking. But she felt like this was no longer a memory, but a vision.

 The music died down to nothing, just as the song ended. Like images in the mist, everything began bleeding away into nothing. Carol strained her eyes just as the woman turned around on her seat.

 She placed a hand on her round stomach, in which another life itself was forming, in which a tiny heart was beating. The woman looked right at her, right into her eyes.

 Then she was gone.

There was no silence. Before she could even breathe, a scream was heard from the doorway.

 Two tall men, dressed in black, were clinging to a terrified little girl, as they dragged her away from her home and through the door. She was crying out for help but no one seemed to hear, or care. She was barely five years old, powerless against these two fully grown men who lifted her beneath her arms, carried her out of the door, tossed her into a car, and were gone.

 All they had left behind was a hollow silence, and a name.

 “Mary-Bridgett” she whispered. 

Mary-Bridgett was taken away to a nunnery that night, where she resided for the next sixteen years. Then she was adopted by an elderly woman in the countryside. It didn’t take long for pretty young Mary-Bridgett to catch the attention of Tim O’Sullivan, a young man who lived nearby. When she came of age, he asked her to marry him. He whisked her away to a much happier life than she could remember. But something was missing. She took up a search to find the family she knew she had been taken from.

 Her mother meanwhile, knew her child had been taken from her because she was born out of wedlock. She carried that shame to her grave, never telling her four sons that they had a sister. It was a shock when they received a letter from “Mary-Bridgett O’Sullivan”, a woman who claimed to be their long-lost sister. She had been prompted by a young woman called Carol Finnigan, who had moved into the old home and uncovered “family secrets”

Mary-Bridgett got to meet her brothers, but never saw her mother again.

Yet, somehow, she had managed to bridge the gap between what is real, and what once was, for the love of her daughter. 

July 29, 2022 22:07

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