Then I came across the picture to the left in an old post in my Facebook feed and I got the germ of an idea for a short story of my own. As always, it took a slightly different turn than I had expected when I started out, but still I’m pretty happy with it.
Apologies to Jilly for summarily commandeering her characters and setting for my story – it just sort of happened. 🙂
Anyway, without further ado, here is a Jilly-inspired short story using this Friday’s prompts: a character who found something unexpected, incorporating the words basket, symbol, siren, bottle, freewill, baby, future, confusion, absurdly, little, grabbing, aroma, banana, vision, identical and robbery.
I hope you enjoy it.
Jenny stood at the edge of the cliff covered in a sea of undulating wild grasses and watched the waves crash over and around the rocks below. She knew it probably carried an Arctic chill, but the sunlight glinting off the mesmerizing blue water made her think of warm summer days and soft caressing breezes.
She could feel her heartbeat slow and her breathing deepen.
She felt like she’d finally found home.
Daughter, sister, friend, co-worker; she’d been running so fast and for so long, filling those roles and more, that her current sense of calm confused her at first. Then she thought of staying here forever; jettisoning all of the commitments weighing her down and starting over again by these beautiful blue waters.
The vision of a brand-new future took her breath away.
She let herself daydream, then picked her way along the cliff, careful not to stray too close to the edge or to step on anything left by her nearby ovine companions. She smiled at their fuzzy hindquarters with their streaks of pink and blue. She’d thought the colors were a prank; like cow-tipping back home, but Angus had explained what they were for as he drove her from the train station to her Bed & Breakfast in his old-fashioned taxi.
Well, she was pretty sure he’d explained it, though his accent was so thick she’d barely understood one word in ten. She’d smiled and nodded and let him talk; lulled by the sound of his voice and exhausted from her long transatlantic flight that she was sure had stopped at every airport between Kansas and Scotland.
This morning, refreshed after a good night’s sleep on an absurdly comfortable feather bed, and her hunger stated by a full Highland breakfast, Jenny grabbed her camera and a banana from the fruit bowl by the door and set out to explore her temporary home-away-from-home.
She’d been surprised the evening before when she checked into the B&B and the owner Maeve had said, “oh, we don’t bother with keys here. Our doors are always open for those who need to enter.” Apparently robbery wasn’t a big concern in this pretty little village. What a nice thought.
The village, though idyllic, was hardly quiet. Unlike home where police sirens filled the air, here there were the sounds of sheep and crashing waves and twittering birds, commingling with the sounds of the workmen on the estate near the edge of the village.
One group of men was working on a derelict old house. Jenny wasn’t quite sure if they were repairing it or dismantling it. She stepped to the side of the roadway as a lorry loaded with stones from the nearby quarry lumbered past. When Maeve had said this morning that the local laird, Jordy MacHugh, was building an opera house, Jenny had thought she was kidding.
Jenny skirted the construction and headed down a path that eventually led to a little stone church that looked like it had grown right out of the rocky ground. Inside, the stones and old wooden pews were worn smooth by generations of worshipers. She’d never been much of a churchgoer, but Jenny felt the pull of the place and again felt like she’d found her home.
As she walked back outside the church and opened the little gate leading to the adjacent tiny cemetery with its jumble of disheveled grave markers, Jenny thought she heard a sound.
She stood still and listened closely.
There it was again; a faint mewling sound. Animal? Human?
She followed the sound. As she approached the largest of the grave markers, a huge weeping angel with wings protectively wrapped forward, she saw it.
There was a wicker basket nestled at the angel’s feet; a tiny pink hand just visible over the rim.
A baby in a basket? You’ve got to be kidding me, Jenny thought as she bent down for a closer look.
Pulling the blanket covering the basket aside, she saw that it wasn’t one baby in a basket, it was two. Identical twins from the look of it, although to be honest all babies looked the same to Jenny. There were two bottles tucked up in the head of the basket and two rattles tied to the basket’s handle.
She looked around the little cemetery. Surely the babies hadn’t just been left there. Idyllic village or not, a graveyard was no place for them.
Seeing no one, she tucked the blanket back around the wriggling little bodies as a grabbing hand latched onto her fingers held on with a surprisingly strong grip.
“Okay little one, I get the idea. I’m not going anywhere.” Jenny picked up the basket. “Let’s go see Maeve. She’s sure to know where you belong.”
“Did you say something?”
Jenny turned at the sound. A large man with red-gold curly hair was standing just outside the little gate. His voice said American but his kilt said local. Her surprise turned to relief. “Oh, thank goodness. I found your babies here and was worried.”
“My babies?” The man paled. “Oh god no!” His expression was a priceless combination of dread, distaste and dismay. “I was just working on the church organ up in the loft.”
“If they’re not yours, then whose are they?” Jenny looked around again, as if a parent was going to materialize out of thin air, but there was nothing but the faint aroma of a diaper that needed changing. “I guess we should to go–” she said.
At the same time as he said, “We should take them to —
“–Maeve’s,” they said in unison.
When they found her at The Pointing Dog, Maeve seemed unsurprised to see them. “Ah, I see the MacHugh Blessing stone had something extra in store for you.”
Jenny and Jordy looked at each other, then at her, in confusion. “But the babies must belong to someone.”
“They’re yours now.” Maeve pointed at Jordy. “The village needs more than a solitary laird.” Then she pointed at Jenny. “You need to stop running and belong.” She beamed at them both. “Now you’re a family.” With that pronouncement she walked away.
Jenny turned over the word in her mind. Family. It had a nice ring to it.