“Once upon a time there was a girl,” fiddling with the page between her index finger and thumb, she read the line again.
“Once upon a time there was a girl.” Thunder shook the world outside as rain slash against the single pane window; it drew her attention away from the book. Her house perched on an edge, overlooking the sea; the waves crashed into the steep cliff walls. The weather made everything look grey and dreary, but the smell of the smoky wood crackling away brought warmth to her. It flooded the room from a wood
burning stove, smoldering away in the corner. Warm tea was placed on the window sill, her bare feet sat inches away as she sat, curled up on the window ledge, an old worn book in hand.
Touching the page again a shrill shudder spread through her body, she didn’t dare continue to read. The book, she didn’t understand.
Lightning flooded the room casting soulless light, revealing other books, thousands of books in piles across the dark wooden floor. Her search for this book had been long; it had taken years, so many years, once plump youthful skin now sagged around her eyes. Spindled fingers shakily grasped the china tea cup as she brought it to her lips. Nearly a whole lifetime searching, looking for this book.
It was old, nothing interesting to look at, but it felt so familiar to her, so comforting but scary at the same time, like holding it was as similar to her as holding him again. It had followed her around all her life, always in her mind. She was always hunting, devoting her life to this book, in the way she had devoted her life to him, once upon a time.
It had taken her on a wild goose chase for years. Working hard, to earn money to travel from place to place, clue after clue, as to where the book could be. Even somebody that knew what it held, even the faintest glimpse would have sated her hunger for reason; for knowledge. She had seen every corner of the earth but had been blinded by the need to find it. She had never been close, not until now.
Friends, family had come and go, the world had spun around her in a buzz of time and she stood still in the moment, looking, searching and never letting go. Holding on to every strand of hope. Strength and determination stood on her side. She had lost so much but now, holding on to the book made her feel that she had gained everything.
He was here with her, somewhere in this little world, again. It meant more than her life more than her time. Partners, always on adventures; important adventures, always trying to save the world, appreciating the beauty of life. Staring at the stars, lying in the grass at midnight he had said he knew how to find something extraordinary, he would bring the adventure back to her. Then one day he was just gone, lost.
Lost time and no goodbyes, no reasons and no one to blame. Gone. Gone can mean so many things, it can be so cruelly ambiguous. Gone where? Gone why? Life had gone on, but she had not, the book was her life, it held all the answers; she was so sure it would explain all the questions she had. He had said it would, he had promised…
The door in the opposite corner was open a crack, dark shadows milled in the opening, almost reachable. If she really looked closely, they started revealing, slowly, particles; shadows appearing. A mist of reminiscence filled her vision. Barely visible, but as solid as reality. The strong smell of tobacco and mint filled her nose. She smiled with nostalgia. Still afraid to truly look. But from the door words floated across the room on the smoke and shadows.
“This book, it will tell you the story of our life, it will be our future, one day it will tell you everything you need to know” He uttered grinning from ear to ear, a puzzled wide eyed young woman watching him as he left. His voice had been as strong as the morning sun but as quiet as the stars in the sky, and silent for such a long time. She wanted to hear more, she wanted to know how this book could help her. She needed it to help her, it was all that was left now.
She opened the book again, ‘be brave,’ she thought, a deep breath in and finally she felt ready to do the one thing she had waited to do all these years. Understand.
Reading out load her voice quivered,
“Once upon a time, there was a girl, and I.” Tears fell down her rough cheeks as she took a moment to continue.
“The rest is our adventure to write, and my love, oh the adventures we will have!”
Urgently she flicked to the next page. Nothing. The next page still nothing, rushing through but not skipping a single page, the sound of rain hammering away, faster and faster, she turned the pages. Faster and faster. Rechecking the book, looking at it in each and every way she could, she started to understand.
Sometimes there are no answers.
Tears streaming down her face, she picked up an old fountain pen, tremoring, she started to write on the last page.
“Once upon a time, there was a girl.”
“Oh the adventures she had, if only you could have been there my love.”
Thank you for reading, bare in mind I have started doing more short stories in order to get better a writing, so any honest feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Credit to Victoria Langford for photography (please check her out she is amazing!)