Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Storytime - Cesca Martin

On Coffee and Roses I like to introduce you to new writers. So, I'm launching an occasional series called FRIDAY STORYTIME, where I will invite an author to be our Guest Storyteller. Our inaugural storyteller is the very lovely CESCA MARTIN...

Here's her story:

Last Year by Cesca Martin

Last year you had groaned and dragged yourself unwillingly out of bed, assuming it to be another cold winter day, ready to make an instant coffee and de-ice the car. You had left the room so as not to disturb me and walked blearily down the stairs to begin your routine. Passing the window in the hall you had yelped in surprise, run back up the stairs and practically punched me awake such was your excitement. You were noisy and I had groggily told you off for being so annoying, plunging my face into the pillow to block you out. You had changed tack then, coaxing me out of my slumber with a twitch of our curtains and the enticing view beyond. I had sat up in our bed to look. The whole world had turned white overnight. A crisp, clean layer of snow had found its way into every nook and cranny. It had spilled over gutters, piled high on fences and gates, disguising everyday objects. I joined you at the window and you had put an arm around me, pulling me close, both still warm from our bed.

Our little village was tucked in between two hills and easily cut off from the rest of the world. We had only made a vague effort to get into work. We had pushed the snow off the car and successfully turned the engine on but, as the wheels turned fruitlessly on the ice, it was obvious we were going nowhere. You had called work on your mobile phone and explained the situation. They were resigned to the fact that half their workforce were stranded in nearby villages. They had told you to take the day off and try the next day. I had done the same. We were both smiling as we hung up the phones. Even the electricity going didn’t dampen our mood. You were humming most uncharacteristically as you lit the fire. You heated water in a saucepan for some tea, your face aglow with boyish enthusiasm. We toasted hot cross buns in the flames.

We had dusted down the sledge from the loft and joined the other locals on the slopes of the nearby golf course, trying to get some speed up off the third tee. I had taken a camera and snapped dozens of shots of you, of running children, of dogs burrowing into the snow, overwhelmed by the strangeness, white flakes clinging to their fur. More pictures; of trees, their branches weighed down, the blue sky peeking hopefully through the branches. We had walked to the pub, chatting with the locals, inane talk, delighting in the day off, rubbing our hands exaggeratedly in front of the great fire. On exiting the pub some devious youths had peppered us with snowballs. Our squeals turned quickly to cries of revenge and the youths scarpered the moment we had retaliated. We had bumped into friends on the walk home across the fields. Every now and again we would dive at each other, trying to catch the other unawares, ending up in a great cold mess on the ground. I was giggling childlessly, cheeks bright red with the effort, eyelashes glistening with melted flakes.

The electricity had come back on by the time we had made it home and we had spent the evening watching DVD’s, stretched out under a rug, the embers glowing and bathing the room in a soft light. The snow was still there the next morning but the roads had been cleared and gritted in and out of the village. You had gallantly cleared the car once more and made your way into work at a slow crawl. I had watched you going, deciding to build a snowman on my own. He would hold a sign welcoming you home so when you returned that night you would see it by the gate and laugh.

Last year was eleven months ago. The snow has started to fall again, carpeting the ground in crisp white. The branches are starting to bend and give, little sprinkles fall from them like a sneeze. I’m sitting in our living room knowing I should feel the usual excitement, the child-like wonder at the extraordinary scenes. Great gusts of billowing white flakes are cascading, twirling, settling on the ground. Already children are running past the window dragging plastic sledges, beckoning to their parents who are dawdling at a distance, wrapped in huge coats, knitted scarves and hats blocking out everything but their eyes. Some are holding hands and I know they are all smiling.

I look around me. Ashes in the fireplace are waiting to be swept and cleared. The bookcase stands half-empty. A calendar still announces it is ‘August’. Cushions plumped pointlessly again and again. I don’t want to go out into the snow by myself. I don’t want to build a snowman on my own. You are not coming home today.

I would never have let you go that day if I had known. The lorry had jack-knifed on the motorway, two cars and one coach had been caught up in the collision. Two people injured, one fatally. A man, around 30, they didn’t check his ID immediately, they had been busy. They’d had so many calls that night. He had been rushed to A and E but there was little they could do for him. He had waited, drifting in and out of consciousness for an hour. He had died just before ten o’clock.

I never made it to the hospital. Bewildered, I had waited for you to come home. I had rung your mobile incessantly, hearing your voice telling me to leave a message time and time again. I had rung your colleagues and they had said you had left, had left hours ago. I had panicked, pacing up and down, ringing my parents who were helpless, now upset and confused. They couldn’t come. They were sorry. I had rung his parents, they hadn’t heard anything, his mother had started to cry. No one knew where you were. I had tried all the taxi firms, no one would take me anywhere, the roads were still bad they’d told me. You were alone in those last moments, you would have been scared.

I sit slowly, unseeingly. Outside the snow is still falling, blanketing the world in a layer of new. I sit and I pray, pray that you are going to walk through the door soon. Pray that it might be last year.

The story behind the story

The short story Last Year had been floating around in my head for a while. It was inspired by a day I spent in early 2010 when it snowed for days on end. Our village became cut off from the outside world. Work was cancelled, electricity was down and all we could do was sit it out! My boyfriend and I were racing around, totallly over-excited, building snowmen and being silly with friends. It was a free day off, a magical little 24-hour bubble of fun, and I never really forgot it. And then I suppose, like everyone, I imagine what my life would be without the people in it who matter to me and this story is about that. I hope you like it.

A massive thank you to Cesca for such a brilliant story. You can follow her on twitter @CescaReviews and visit her blog here.

Watch out for more Friday Storytime features soon!


Deborah Carr said...

What a wonderful story, so eerie and so beautifully written.

Plastic Sledges said...

That was a really nice article, well written and most certainly gave me some good memories from playing around in the snow with friends and family :)

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