So this is where it began. I realise that now. It all started with the gathering of bluebells.
‘Gathering bluebells in the merry month of May,’ you’d sing.
Sometimes, you’d sing June. I don’t think you knew which month it was, in more ways than one. You took me to collect bluebells. That was before you forgot about me, before you left, before the pills. The bluebells grew near our house, up the moor, and we took Kate-dug, as you called her with us. Like me she’d run along beside you, flapping, padding, ever so eager to catch your eye. Her dark curly ears flopped and bouncing like my side bunches. I had on red wellies, blue velour shorts, and matching top with a zip up the front. I remember this; I’ve seen a photo, a square crumpled photo with a creased corner. Mummy took it because it was my birthday; my face was glowing as I blew out seven spindly candles.
We walked up the high gravel path, Kate-dug jumping and leaping at your side, free from her lead. My wellies kept sliding on the loose little stones, and once or twice I’d slip and scrape my knee a bit. But I kept on scurrying behind you, trying to keep up. You never looked back. The road doubled back on itself as it went up higher, sloping to the next level. The grass tickled my legs as I went near the edge of the path, it made me feel a bit dizzy as I wobbled and looked down, we were up high already, the smoke spiralling out from our house was way below, I could see the pointy tops of the spiky trees and the old stone bridge that’s got all that fuzzy green stuff growing on it. I hear Kate-dug do her-
yelp yelp yelp
bark that she does, but as I look up ahead I can’t see you or Kate, you must be up round the next bit of the path that goes up higher again. I scramble up, the red coloured gritty stones falling loose and rolling down the path behind me. I look up as I hear the chirpy chitter chatter from some birds, flying and swooping above me in the blue sky. In the distance I can see a glowy light, like fire; sunshine, down low sinking behind a hill. I run round and up the path, and see you. With your back to me, Kate-dug sitting beside you. You both look dark, like shadows facing the sun. You don’t hear me coming up behind you, but Kate looks back at me and I see her springy tail start to wig wag. This part of the moor is flatter with little tufts of yellowy straw like stuff that Kate normally likes to sniff around. Nose to the ground; humpf, humpf, humpf, snort; blowing out the dusty stuff she doesn’t like.
I creep up behind you and lift my hand to touch yours, curling my fingers around one of your big thick sausage fingers, it feels rough with scratchy bits like it has skelf’s. You fold her fingers in, enclosing mine, giving them a tight squeeze. I look up at you, closing one eye because of the bright amber light and see your black curls wisping and blowing. Your blue-grey eyes look all shiny; wet. I smile at you, my lip sinking a bit over the gap where my two front teeth were. Away to fairyland.
‘I’ll do anything to help you,’ you said squashing my fingers and squeezing your thick bushy eyebrows together making big lines appear in your forehead, ‘Whatever you want to do or be, I’ll help you, ok?
I saw a little trail of water run down from your eye, down your ruddy face and fall down, down, onto me. It splashed onto my cheek, and I stuck the tip of my tongue out the corner of my mouth, trying to catch it, wanting to taste it; salty.
I don’t understand what you mean, but I nod my head up and down, ‘Yes Daddy,’ my bunches twitching at the sides of my head.
I must be a good girl. Mummy says I have to be a good girl just now, Daddy was in hospital for a while and I have to get him things that he needs and not answer back. But I don’t like having to take the big heavy pint glass of water in in the morning; the water swishes and spills over the sides when I carry it up the stairs. I try to balance it with the handle but it slides in my hands. He doesn’t say anything when I put it on his bedside, and I hardly ever see his face, sometimes just his dark curly hair or a hairy leg with purple veins sticking out of it. It smells horrible in there, hot and stinky, I hold my breath and get out quick.
We walk on over the top of the moor and head down towards the path at the other side. I start to skip and run ahead of you, Kate runs alongside me; she is my best friend. The path on this side is steep at first, you have to climb down some rocky bits, and then it goes down in a big wide grassy slope that I can run all the way down. I want to show Daddy I’m a big girl so when I get to the first big rock I sit on it and slide my bottom forwards to get down to the next ledge. It’s there I spot them; bluebells. On my left side, swaying, waving, and nodding their heads at me. Hello, they say. I turn to see Kate- dug waiting for Daddy at the top of the rock. She looks like she is smiling at me, tongue hanging out. I think I’ll pick some bluebells for Daddy maybe that will make him better. I shuffle my foot to the edge and lean over, reaching out a hand. My welly slides, it feels muddy under the grass, I try to sink it in sideways into the ground, shuffle, wedge, shuffle, but it keeps sliding down and down, I feel myself falling, my head first, my body is toppling over. I see down, down, down to the tiny twisty line of the path, it feels like everything is happening s l o w l y. I hear a really quiet yelp, yelp, like its miles away. Then I feel sudden yank on my right arm. It hurts, feels like my arms getting pulled off. It’s Daddy, his tight grip round the top of my arm. I look down at where the bluebells are as I’m lifted up through the air. I don’t remember crying.
Mummy says later I’m a very lucky girl, Daddy saved my life.
Rhona Millar started writing short stories, flash fiction and poetry following a Creative Writing course with the Open University in 2014. She has had a short story published by Ink Sweat and Tears, which was shortlisted for May’s pick of the month. She is an active member of Creative Writing website abctales.com and recently had the pleasure of attending a writers course at Moniack Mohr. You can find her Twitter R Fraser @RhonamillarR.