The Quiet Wooden Lady

Submitted into Contest #129 in response to: Set your story in a snowed-in chalet.... view prompt

12 comments

Fiction Contemporary Sad

Hibernating beneath thick snow, almost invisible, she’s held captive. She waits. Patiently. When the first warmth of spring tentatively touches her after the long, dark winter freeze, she stretches. Her body creaks and groans in a way only an old lady’s can. She awakes. She welcomes the warmth and allows it to enter her. To soothe her. Every beam relaxing, respectfully yearning for the long hot summer.

This is her place in the universe. This is home. This is where she belongs. This quiet wooden lady who sits by the lake. Perfectly wrapped in her pine forest blanket, sleeping peacefully against her dreamy watery shore. 

She is not a stranger to the forest or the lake. Not an intruder, or foreigner, but  a sister to them. A child of them. As much a part of it as the trees and the birds and squirrels. The unyielding legs that support her have grown entwined with the tree roots that surround her. Beneath the surface, she bonds with them. Bonds to them. They are family. Her family. They are one.

Her age, unknown. But it is not  relevant. Her weather-beaten timbers, inimitable. Beautiful. Strong. Lovingly manmade, untarnished and untouched by manmade necessities. Pure. Handcrafted. Un-spoilt. She holds a great history in her wooden walls. Every scratch, scuff and splinter a memory, a story. A link to a moment in time when she was living. When she lived.  When she was alive. But for now, she sleeps. Empty, but not sad. Silent, but not dead. Alone, but not lonely. Soon to be awoken again. Hopefully.

Barely breathing, she calmly listens to the seasons as they leave and as they arrive. Like a trustworthy grandfather clock reliably chiming on the hour. There’s always so much to hear if one takes the time to listen. And time is the gift she’s been given as she waits to be brought back to life. Small birds sleep with her. Tucking themselves into her wherever they can. Rewarding her kindness with babies in late spring. Her grandchildren. Her family.

The cool, clear lake that laps against her feet when the snow melts. A promise.

A promise of tranquil, mellow reflections on still summer evenings. Of rainbow-coloured fish that leap impossibly high, breaking the peace, sending ripples in all directions. Seemingly just for the joy of leaping. Maybe, just maybe, longing to catch a glimpse of the quiet wooden lady who sits by the lake.

The cold has all but gone. Tiny pockets of snowdrift cling on like barnacles to the roots of her siblings and the corners of her windows. She knows summer is soon to be here. The grandfather clock is soon to chime. As the light fades to a deep, uninterrupted blanket of blackness, above the forest canopy, meteors and satellites dance around in an upturned bowl of stars on the horizon. She breathes  in deeply, drawing in the mystery of the night as it surrounds her. Envelopes her. 

Bats appear from her eaves like magic, seemingly vanishing again in the blink of an eye. They sleep with her during the day. Even when she’s awake.

The evocative scent of a bonfire drifts across the lake scooping her up and taking her along with it. A memory. As a younger lady, she often stayed awake all winter. Flirting with the snow on those darkest of nights. Allowing him to settle on her. To lay with her. She teased him. Fluttering her eyelashes at him in the embers that drifted from her chimney. Unashamedly revealing to him the warmth that came from the fire within her. She never felt more alive than in those times when her fire roared never to go out. Or so she thought. Oh, the naivety of youth. She can still hear children’s laughter as they flung open her doors to play in the snow and skate on the lake. She had hugged them tightly in the evenings, wrapping herself around them as the wind, a voyeur, swirled at the windows, as they thawed themselves amongst the candles in front of the crackling fire. Bedtime stories and hot milk, then rolled up in thick blankets and asleep before their heads touched their pillows. She would never sleep during those times when the fire burned all night and all day for fear of missing something. Something so precious, so irreplaceable that sleeping would be nothing short of a crime. She missed the sound of the children sleeping. She could hear their snow-filled dreams in the silence of the night. With just the sound of the fire smouldering and the wind dying. They were her favourite moments. They will always belong to her.

But the fire eventually went out. The children grew taller and their visits grew further apart, and  so, the quiet wooden lady grew old. Gradually and gracefully. The birds continued to tuck themselves into her and give her babies in the spring. The bats slept in her eaves appearing as if by magic, and the rainbow-coloured fish swam in the lake. Leaping in the hot summer to catch a glimpse of the quiet wooden lady. She longed for the fire to be lit again, but it remained untouched for many years. The children now have grandchildren of their own. From time to time they wake the old lady. But never in the winter, and they never light the fire.

She watches the grandchildren when they visit. She listens to them. They never play in the lake. And the snow would be far too cold. They do not climb the trees or play hide and seek in the forest. They no longer hear the seasons changing. They no longer hear the birds singing. They no longer see the bats appear as if by magic. She cannot hear their dreams like she used to. The joy of her purity has become a burden. An inconvenience to them.

So, for now, the quiet wooden lady who sits by the lake, sleeps. Empty, but not sad. Silent, but not dead. Alone, but not lonely. Soon to be awoken again.

Hopefully.

January 16, 2022 19:08

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12 comments

Philip Ebuluofor
09:33 Jan 27, 2022

Never knew it was house you are describing. Wonderful rendition. Fine work.

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Phil Manders
12:17 Jan 27, 2022

☺️ thank you!

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Xylianna Clay
07:05 Jan 26, 2022

This is beautiful, I love the transition from imagining an actual wooden lady to the reveal that she's an old house. Thank you for sharing such a peaceful story.

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Phil Manders
12:03 Jan 26, 2022

Hi X Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Really appreciate it☺️

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Keya Jadav
04:24 Jan 24, 2022

A beautiful nature piece...the way of unfolding things is great along with the metaphorical features assigned to the chalet. The story is painted real. I think the last line is pretty good, bringing up the whole story. Great read! Hoping it gets recognised :)

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Phil Manders
06:54 Jan 24, 2022

Hi Keya Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s much appreciated.

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01:34 Jan 23, 2022

I love this story! It comes alive and you are right there next to the quiet wooden lady through the ages. It is an encapsulated world like a time capsule where she dreams of a past but remains constant. She is a permanent part of the landscape even to the Earth itself. She belongs to the past, the present and the future. Her silence speaks volumes to our way of life. Great story. Thank you!

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Phil Manders
08:18 Jan 23, 2022

Hi Kathryn Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. This is where I go to in my head when I want some peace and quiet ☺️ The thought of not getting a phone signal is bliss!

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Chris Manders
14:22 Jan 19, 2022

Such wonderful description - you can almost hear her gently sleeping, dreaming of happier times.

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Phil Manders
16:22 Jan 19, 2022

😊 thank you

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Deidra Lovegren
01:34 Jan 17, 2022

Drenched in nostalgia and love, full of hope and memories. This is a lullaby for the senses. 1st rate, Phil.

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Phil Manders
19:06 Jan 17, 2022

☺️ it’s my favourite ☺️

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