I’ve no idea why I’m taking up this particular challenge, as you’ll see I’m not a natural writer or a very good one at that. But apparently I was in the mood for a challenge, and had a need to step out of my comfort zone, and I have stepped very far out of it.
He hadn’t seen her in years and for once in the forty-seven years since their first meeting, he hoped she had stopped haunting his steps, and it had been months since he last dreamt of her.
It was a bitterly cold winters evening, and he could still remember standing outside her home, shivering from the cold and the expectation of what was about to happen. This was when it all went wrong, when his life became a series of a few gentle highs and far too many tragic lows.
Very early that morning he had woken up in a cold sweat, his wife, long used to his nightmares merely rolled over and fell back into a light sleep. She had never truly slept well since their first night together, and while his nightmares seemed to have finally ended, their grandson, the only surviving grandchild, now woke them up with his own.
He had dreamt of that road, that very road that led to where she lived and the one he would travel around for hours longer just to avoid it. He was with his father and three younger brothers and they were passing by her home when he saw her running from the ruins of her home. She was screaming at him, as she ran towards them when the horses suddenly bolted. He watched his father, his brother fall onto the hardened dirt road, their necks snapping as they landed. As he reached for and grabbed the reigns he looked down and saw the bodies of his mother, his sisters, then his own children, as they lay upon the ground as the horses rode over them.
Bronagh, his wife, was always the strength he needed to have survived these terrible years, the one who had kept him from committing that horrible sin that his sisters, his brothers the twins, and the youngest, thought was their only answer. And then their own children, ten sons, six they lost to accidents, to illness, and the four, who now lay in the ground outside the churchyard. Their youngest, their only daughter, was the only one to have survived long enough to have married and have had children of her own.
Brigit, was the one child he had the least to do with, he fiercely disliked the name his wife his wife had chosen for her, but couldn’t deny her the joy of naming her first, and later only daughter after her beloved Saint in the hope it would bring them the happiness that was missing in their lives. But the child had reminded him of her, he could never stand to be with her alone in the same room, the child he had the year before had committed to asylum.
He had lay there in bed, trying to calm down his old heart while listening to the snores coming from the next room. For the first time since he came to live with them, their only grandchild was sleeping peacefully. It was possibly the first time in years he had fully slept. Before he left for the war he was a happy child, never failed to bring out Bronagh’s smile, that beautiful smile he loved and often missed. In his way he loved the boy for this, more so he realised when his grandson returned from was now being called the Great War. Withdrawn, quiet, he rarely uttered a word except at night when he awoke the house with his screams. Bronagh would go to him. Eventually she would calm him down and then stay with him until the dawn, dozing in the chair she brought in after the first night. This was the first night they had slept in the same bed in a year.
He never knew what war was like, what his grandson had been through, but he knew what it was like to hold a gun, to have pointed at someone, shaking, trembling from the soles of your feet to the finger that lay gently on the trigger. Your concentration centred on trying not to pull that trigger when suddenly it happens. At first he tried to justify it by telling himself that she had startled him, it had been an accident, but he knew he shouldn’t have been there that night, he didn’t want to be, he knew it was wrong and yet he went, he had done it.
She’d aged greatly this past year, each death of their children had brought more lines to her face, but now her only surviving child having been committed to the asylum far away in Toronto. Johnny, as she called him in danger of following his mother, had taken it’s toll. “I never deserved your love,” he whispered to the cold air, his wife continued her gentle snores, at long last she was truly sleeping.
A fierce winter storm wailed outside, earlier he had barely made it to the barn and back to feed the animals, now he couldn’t see the barn through the snow.
Bronagh was in the kitchen, he could hear her quietly singing to herself as she prepared their dinner, she hadn’t sung in years he thought. He and Johnny sat in the room she called the parlour, although it was hardly as grand as that. He watched his grandson as he sat in silence, staring at the wall as he had done each day since his return.
Bronagh’s calls from the kitchen, letting them know that their dinner was ready was met with silence. Curious, and slightly worried she left to tell them off for ignoring her, as entered the hallway she noticed the front door had blown open, letting some snow into the house. She swept the snow back outside before closing it, making a mental note to have John fix the door. “Where’s your grandfather?” she absently asked her silent grandson, as she looked upon her husbands empty chair.
“He’s gone to Brigid.”