Cards and Carpets: 2013 365 Challenge #46

Abstract Card Commission Complete! Hurrah

Abstract Card Commission Complete! Hurrah

Valentines Day is a bit different with kids in the house. I would try to describe it but it wouldn’t be better than the great post written by The Clothesline, so I’ll just shamelessly plug it here:

The First Valentines Day vs the Tenth Valentines Day

I’m not a big VDay person any more (maybe when I was sixteen) but it was nice to go to the coffee shop with my husband after dropping the kids off at nursery. Even if we did talk work before going to look at carpets.

I did manage to finish my cards commission by the skin of my teeth (my friend will be here to collect them in an hour) but I nearly forgot to walk the dog… All in all it was a normal day.

Claire’s post isn’t very romantic I’m afraid. It was the next thing on my list of topics to write about, it wasn’t meant to land on or near Valentines Day. That’s life I guess. It’s also quite long so I’ll keep my daily chit-chat to a minimum.

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Claire chose a table in the corner of the coffee shop and sat down. The latte didn’t look up to Starbucks’ standard but the mug was warm and she’d tipped in sufficient sugar to mask any unwanted taste. Looking around the crowded room she felt the warmth spreading through her hands and down into her body. She let out a sigh and closed her eyes.

The phone rang for several seconds before she recognised the sound as hers. It rang so rarely she’d forgotten the brassy ringtone selected to be audible in bars. I should probably change it to birdsong or something. As she patted her coat pockets to find the source of the noise Claire noticed several blue-rinse grannies doing the same thing and let out a chuckle. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

“Hello?” Claire hoped it was a sales call she could ditch quickly. She hated trying to hold a personal conversation in a public space.

“Claire, it’s Ruth. Where are you? Robert said something about you losing your job and ruralising. I told him he’d finally gone senile.”

“I’m in a coffee shop Ruth. Can I call you back?” She heard an intake of breath down the phone and felt her happy mood drain away. “I’m not fobbing you off. It’s just hard to talk. I’m all pressed in with people.” She nearly said the blue-rinse brigade but realised her southern vowels were carrying rather too well above the northern hubbub. She drained the last of her coffee and pulled at her coat, all the while keeping the phone to her ear.

“Hang on Ruth, I’ll go outside. Do you want me to call you back, save your bill?”

Her sister agreed and Claire was able to put her coat on with two hands. She hesitated then pulled on her gloves and hat too. The Skoda was parked at the other end of town and she had no idea how long her sister would talk for. Even though the sun was shining it was still sub-zero by the lake.

The phone connected after one ring. “Thanks for calling back. I needed to talk to you. I already called Mum and Robert.”

Claire felt a heavy weight drop into her stomach. Ruth rang Robert; that could only mean major news. Hang on, she rang him before me? Shaking away the irrelevant thought Claire looked around for somewhere to sit down.

“What is it?”

“I got the test results back. They’ve seen something and they want to investigate further.”

“What do you mean something?” Claire took a sharp breath of icy air and began coughing. As the fit passed she processes the words. “Do you mean a lump? A tumour? Cancer?” Framing words around the thought made them too real.

“They don’t know. A lump, yes, but it could be benign. They won’t know until they do a biopsy.”

Claire had majored in arts at school, science was not her forte, but she had a feeling biopsies meant inserting needles where they didn’t belong. Ruth confirmed it.

“They said it will be done under anaesthetic so I won’t feel it.”

A shiver tore through Claire, chilling her from the inside out.

“When?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Oh god.” The sunny street dimmed as the words took on sense. “Do you need anything? I’m in Cumbria but I can head down if you need me to take Sky.”

“It’s fine, Sky will be at school and Mum will pick her up. It’s not a complicated procedure. I just thought you should know.”

“Of course. I’ve been meaning to call and ask about your results. It’s just. Well.” What excuse was there? I’ve been swinging through the trees like Tarzan or following an Aussie I only just met up mountains I’ve only just heard of? Even by their family standards that was pretty lame.

“It’s okay, you don’t need to explain. It must be difficult, with your job and Michael.” Ruth trailed off, waiting. When Claire didn’t add anything she gave a small sigh. “You can tell us what happened you know. We won’t judge.”

Ha! Not judge? It’s practically the family motto. Claire forced the thought away. “Sorry sis, there have been a lot of changes. I’m not being coy about Michael, there’s nothing to say. He wanted something I couldn’t give him so it needed to end now before it imploded later. And I haven’t lost my job but I am fighting to keep it, using a skill-set I didn’t possess last week. But none of that matters if you need me in Cambridge.”

There was silence. Claire wondered if Ruth was even still listening or whether she’d gone to see to Sky. She waited, unsure what to do. Her bum was freezing to the bench and she’d lost the feeling in her nose. Do I hang up and call back? Then she heard an rush of breath and what sounded like sobbing. Must be Sky.

It took a moment to realise the crying was coming from her sister. “Ruth? Are you okay?”

The sobbing intensified and Claire listened helplessly, feeling awkward at witnessing her sister’s grief. She got up and walked along the street to get her blood moving. Eventually the sobs gulped to a halt and her sister’s voice wavered in apology.

“Don’t be silly. You cry if you need to. I can’t imagine how scary it all is.”

“It’s not that. Well, I am terrified. More about how it’s going to affect Sky. No, it’s just you had everything. The flat, the job, the fit bloke. If it didn’t work for you, who does it work for? What is there to live for? Where’s the hope?”

Claire’s heart pounded loudly, thrumming in her wind-frozen ears. A lump formed in her throat and she grasped for words. “You have Sky. She’s your hope, surely?” As she said the words Claire felt the falseness. She couldn’t imagine living her future for a child who would be ever ungrateful. At the same time it rang true and she knew it was the right thing to give Ruth hope.

“You’re right. I’m being silly. It’s just, you and Michael, you clicked. He adored you. We all hoped he’d be the one.”

We? Claire didn’t like the idea that her family had been discussing her love life in her absence. If she thought they talked about her at all she hoped it was to envy her new car or latest work achievement. Did Michael adore me? Images flashed through her brain like a movie on fast forward. They were good pictures, full of laughter and understanding. It made her ache with emptiness.

She heard a loud noise coming from Ruth’s end of the phone and for once was relieved to have their conversation cut short by her niece.

“You give Sky a hug from me, Ruth, and let me know how it goes tomorrow. I can be in Cambridge if you need me. Just call.”

Her sister murmured her assent and hung up, leaving Claire motionless and alone on an unfamiliar high street.

***

Bribery and hurrah for Funny Blogs – 2013 365 Challenge #39

Magazine-craft Aliens (made with Daddy)

Amber’s Magazine-craft Aliens (made with Daddy)

I managed to bribe my son into nursery today with promises of a buying a new magazine tomorrow (the kids love getting magazines, but they’re so expensive!).

He still didn’t quite manage not to cry. Poor wee man, my heart went out to him. We’re all so poorly at the moment none of us know where we are. (Turns out they’ve had Scarlet Fever at nursery and I suspect that might be what Amber had last week. Maybe even Aaron. Poor buttons.)

Luckily his big sister was there to help him settle today – goodness only knows how he’ll cope when she starts school in September. Hopefully by then he’ll be more confident, having survived the terrible twos. (I find the threes are the tiresome threes but that might just be me!)

Aaron's magazine-craft artwork

Aaron’s magazine-craft artwork

Talking of terrible twos I stumbled across a new blog today that had me laughing so hard I wept. I love those moments when you just can’t stop laughing and every new gem makes you laugh harder.

I only found the blog because the author liked yesterday’s post (and I lost the ‘like’ when I had to replace the post with the full one. I got caught out by scheduling a half-finished post and then not having internet access.) Anyway the blog is theclothesline.ie and these are my favourite posts (though I loved many more)

Things I am Banning from My House

I’m a Survivor – the Highs and Lows of Parenting a Two-Year-Old

Painting for a card commission

Painting for a card commission

Today has been about catching up with the blog, painting card stock and learning about Smashwords. I really want to get January’s posts up for free but I don’t think I’ve had enough sleep to read the style guide without nodding off (that is not an aspersion on the quality of the guide but due to my cold-drenched state!)

For once I’m actually looking forward to sitting down with the children tomorrow to do craft. I think that’s about the limit of my current mental powers.

Update: I did manage to plough through the Smashwords style guide and – hurrah! – the first volume of instalments is now available FREE on Smashwords. Just follow the link in the margin. It wasn’t a bump-free road. The style guide you can download is essential and easy to follow. However despite my very best efforts I still have a persistent blank page between instalments 23 and 24 which will probably stop the book being accepted into Smashword’s premium catalogue. I don’t really mind, it’s free after all so it’s not about making money, it’s just bugging me. I’ve uploaded five new versions but can’t seem to fix it.

Walk. Away. Walk. Away. Now.

Can’t.

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“Get me down!”

Josh grinned up at Claire from the gorge below and cupped his hands to his mouth. “That’s the general idea. Just do what the man tells you, you’ll be fine.”

His words were barely audible over the sound of rushing water and the thudding of Claire’s heart beneath the harness.

“Okay Claire, there is nothing to be scared of. You’ve seen the others do it and they’ve all been fine, haven’t they?”

Claire dragged her eyes away from the yawning space beneath her and looked at the owner of the voice. He seemed to expect something from her so she nodded, not trusting herself to speak without swearing or sobbing.

“So, what we’re going to do is talk you through it one step at a time. You trust me, don’t you Claire?”

His voice was safe, like a kind GP or a favourite Uncle. His rich Cumbrian accent washed over her and she found she could breathe again. Then her eyes were pulled to the drop beneath her feet and her lungs once more emptied of air.

“This is no different to the drop you did at the training centre. You just need to turn around and lower yourself backwards. You don’t even need to look down.”

“I don’t need to look,” Claire bit out through clenched teeth. “I can hear the sound of the damn waterfall smashing on the rocks fifty feet below me.”

Part of Claire’s brain wondered at what point Dave’s patience would snap and he would either push her over the edge or give in to her demands to be freed from the harness. The pep talk before they left the centre to walk down had informed them all that even those terrified of heights would be encouraged to descend the 17m drop into the gorge and that the thrill of abseiling down the side of one of The North Pennines’ highest waterfalls always encourages cheers and applause. Claire glanced down at the group of faces peering up at her from below.

I don’t want a sodding clap I want a drink.

She picked out Josh’s face from the crowd. He is not going to let me hear the end of it if I chicken out now. It’s his fault I’m here in the first place. Him and sodding Carl.

Claire let her mind drift back to the email she had received from Carl that morning, just after check-in at Alston YHA.

Claire, we feel your blog needs to be spiced up a bit. Coca Cola are concerned that you are not promoting the outdoors enough. Hiking and biking is all well and good but they want to see more adrenalin. Try for some rock climbing, abseiling, maybe a sky dive. Make sure you post pictures. Carl.

The swearing had gone on for some time but when she had shown Josh the cause of her expletives, he’d merely laughed and said “Good on him.”

She wondered now whether Carl and Josh were in secret collusion to maximise her humiliation.

“If you set Carl up to this Josh you can kiss goodbye to your free ride.” Claire’s words were lost in the spray from the falls. She turned back to face Dave and caught him exchanging grimaces with a colleague. He quickly smoothed his face back into a mask of patient concern but it was too late.

Roll your eyes at me will you, you silly old man? We’ll see about that.

Claire took a short step to the edge of the gorge, threw a glance at Dave’s mate to make sure he was gripping the rope, and tipped herself backwards. Her feet skidded on the slippery wall and all plans of walking slowly down the gorge vanished. Her stomach shot up to her chin as she fell down the cliff-face until she felt the harness catch under her bottom. The motion caused her to spin and her vision filled with alternate views of white water and dark gorge. Freezing spray drenched her and the roar of the rushing water rang through her head.

The world stumbled to a halt as Claire hung suspended from the bright yellow rope; the only primary colour in a field of muted greens and greys. The few seconds it took to lower her to the ground dragged by but eventually Claire felt her boots touch rock. Traitorous knees failed to support her and she landed in an ungainly heap on the wet stone as the rest of her group whooped and clapped.

“Good on yer, Claire.” Josh rapped his knuckles on Claire’s helmet and beamed at her.

She glared up at him for a moment before reaching up her hand. “The least you can do is help me up, you bastard.”

“Hey, it wasn’t my idea. You said you needed high-adrenalin stuff for Blog Fodder. Well, how’s your heart rate? Is she pounding?” He pulled Claire to her feet and leaned in close. “Nice arse by the way. Great view.”

Claire felt the blood heating her frozen cheeks. She considered pushing him into the water but decided she’d save her vengeance for later.

“I hope you got a picture of something other than my rear, I’m not putting that on the blog.”

“Aw, go on, that’ll get the punters coming for sure.” He winked. “No pun intended.”

It was only once she had trudged all the way back to the centre and handed in her gear that Claire realised what he had said.

“I’ll get you, Josh. Just you wait.”

***