This week it was all about structure. Weaving together all the elements we’ve been learning about throughout the course.
I chose to post a short story using the classic five stage structure: Set-up. Complication. Crisis. Climax. Resolution. Not an easy task bringing everything together. But, I received some lovely comments again this week so I’m hoping I got it right.
Here it is…
I want to reach out and touch her hair as it moves in the breeze, but I’m reluctant to distract Chloe from her book. So I’ll just sit and watch instead.
She looks so beautiful, lying under the magnolia tree at the bottom of our garden. Spring has arrived, along with another year of my daughter’s life. She’s turning into a young lady. It’s hard to believe she’s a teenager already.
The glorious scent of the blossoms wash over me as I turn my face towards the April sun. Isn’t it lovely to feel the first warmth of spring sunshine on your face? A warm glow but with the hint of much hotter summer rays to follow shortly. The grass will need its first cut of the year soon; I do so love that smell. How can this not be the most perfect day?
She smiles as she reads. I can’t see the title of the book, but it’s obvious she’s engrossed by the speed she’s turning the pages.
I look back up to the house and see my husband, sitting in his chair in the conservatory, glasses perched on the tip of his nose, reading the paper. Tom looks just as handsome as the day I married him. A few grey highlights now streak his thick dark hair, and his six pack is long gone, but he still looks good for his forty eight years. A fine catch.
They argued this morning, about Chloe going out tonight. And they haven’t spoken since. I guess it’s the start of things to come. I suggested I’d go as well, keep an eye. But no. Not that they listen to me any-way. Stubborn father, stubborn daughter.
Chloe was a long time coming. We struggled through six rounds of IVF treatments before we struck gold. And what a winner she is. A real mixture of Tom and I but with so much extra, thrown in. With my long blonde hair, and his lean, graceful limbs, she’s a beautiful creature. But she isn’t our little girl any more. She’s growing up, fast. Changing, becoming a young woman. She has to make her own path. But that isn’t going to be easy, for any of us.
Tom must sense I’m looking at him because he lifts his head and smiles. Chloe doesn’t notice, though. She’s far too buried in that book. They had a really close relationship, until recently. -Well, since our daughter turned fourteen, and started pushing her new boundaries. They worry me now. I don’t like standing by, watching their awkwardness grow and tangle around each other.
“Cup of tea?” Tom calls as he pushes the conservatory door open. I smile at him, shaking my head. Chloe hesitates for the briefest moment, before looking up from her book.
“That would be nice.” It’s a start. At least they’ve spoken to each other.
Tom goes off to put the kettle on.
I close my eyes and lay back on the grass. It really is a gorgeous spring day. Birds are singing their happy songs, and bees are buzzing around the flower beds. I love this time of year, a season so full of promise.
Tom arrives a few minutes later, with Chloe’s favourite mug in his hand. “Good book?” – he asks, passing her the steaming cup.
“It must be,” I answer for her. “She’s not spoken since I sat down.”
I don’t open my eyes.
“It is, yes,” comes her brief, tense reply.
I could lie here, like this, with my little family, forever. The best things in life really are free, trust me.
“Soon as that sun goes in it’s going to get chilly though,” Tom says, more to himself, than to us. At least he’s trying. – “I was thinking about fish and chips for tea.”
I don’t need to say anything; he knows it’s my favourite.
“Sounds good.” – Chloe nods, letting the book rest in her lap, and takes a sip of her tea. Fish and chips, another delicious smell. How many others are there? Hot toast is another for sure.
I open my eyes and look at my husband and my child. How did I get so lucky? Two wonderful people. They just need to get passed this new, difficult phase. Find each other again. Be the father and daughter they used to be, not so very long ago.
“Come on, let’s go up now,” Tom says. “It’s getting cold.”
“You two go,” I say, “I’ll be up in a minute.” I just want to stay here for a few more minutes.
“Meet you up there.” Chloe sighs, starting off up the garden, alone.
“She is such a lovely girl,” Tom says, once she’s out of ear shot.
“Of course she is – she’s ours.”
“I’m worried. It’s getting harder now she’s growing up, and so fast. I honestly don’t know how to handle this…” He mumbles away to himself, pushing his hands into his pockets and shrugging. Things are certainly getting tougher.
I remain silent. Not that he would hear my advice anyway. I’m always by his side, but he needs to work this one out, by himself.
Tom follows Chloe up at a much slower pace, leaving me to the dregs of the sunshine. Why can’t things slow down? Life is too rushed. Work and school will come again tomorrow, and I’ll be left to mooch about the house by myself – once more. Can’t they just stay home all day, with me?
Chloe shuts herself in her room and turns the music system on, loud. Tom stands in the kitchen and stares out of the window – to the garden below. The ceiling vibrates with the noise from above.
“Come on, love. Put the kettle back on, make some tea. Let’s sit down together, relax for a bit.” And so Tom clicks the kettle back on, and I wait for him in the conservatory. We sit in silence, he in his chair and me in mine. Funny how people do that, isn’t it – pick a seat and stick to it. We do the same thing in the lounge. I guess other people do this, too.
The music stops and we both look up.
“I’ll go and see her, Tom, have a little chat.” And so I leave him drinking his tea.
Chloe is sat on the edge of her bed, the book she’d been reading lying open in her lap, staring out at the same view as her father downstairs. They should be looking at it together. I sit down, on the other side of the bed.
“Chloe, honey, you know your dad loves you. He’s just worried about you, that’s all. You’re still so young – to be out – without us.” And she is, young, but, she does have to start somewhere. It must be hard for her too, starting out on her own adult journey. I remember being her age – like it was yesterday, except there hadn’t been a father at my house, just a mother, who wasn’t actually home very often. And so I’d been able to come and go, by myself, from far too young an age, and I grew up fine. But things are different now. I’d turned out okay, granted, but what if I hadn’t been so fortunate? What if something bad had happened when I’d been out, alone? And so I understand where Tom is coming from, trying to keep her from harm, but, well, our daughter needs to start taking a few steps by herself, at least. “Your dad’s only trying to keep you safe, Chloe. Just go with it for now, sweetheart, please, he’ll come round.” She doesn’t answer, but the expression I can see on her face, in the reflection of the window, tells me she isn’t convinced. “Come downstairs soon, love. Don’t sit here by yourself too long.”
When I get back downstairs, Tom has moved to his seat in the lounge, watching the news – and frowning. The usual horrific story lines flash across the bottom of the screen as the presenter informs us the missing teenager, from a town not far from ours, has just been found, strangled and dumped in a derelict cement works.
“Maybe you should go and talk to her, Tom, I don’t think she’s listening to me.” He sighs and points the remote control at the screen, to make the awful, tragic news disappear.
The day Chloe was born had been a tough one, but Tom had stayed with me the whole time. He hadn’t shied away at the blood that spilled out of me. Hadn’t faltered when the doctor said the baby was in danger. He’d stayed. With me. It was just a shame I couldn’t have stayed with him.
I’m with him now, nearly every day, he just doesn’t know it. I try to help out, whispering little things in Tom’s ear I think he might forget, like Chloe’s things for school, or his pass for the office. He always smiles when he thinks these things have just popped into his head, in the nick of time. I send him dreams, too, sweet dreams, snapshots of the times we shared together – before I had to leave.
Chloe saw me – quite a few times – when she was a baby, but obviously she couldn’t tell anyone. How do I know? Because she used to smile and point at me – when I sang her lullabies at night in her crib – when she woke, and I soothed her back to sleep again. I send her dreams, too, sweet dreams, where the world is made of candy floss and chocolate. I would love to have stayed, to be her mum, but that’s never a role I was destined for. I understand that now, and one day she will, too.
I wait on the stairs, until Chloe starts down from her bedroom and Tom comes up from the lounge. I touch the both of them at the same time as they meet, stiff and awkward, in the middle. It takes a few seconds before my love brings them back together again.
“I’m sorry, Dad.”
“No, I am sorry, honey.” I’m not sure whose arms go around the other first, but it doesn’t matter. All that does is they are together again and will work it out. And they will, because I’ll always be here to make sure they do.