Curtains and Loud Curtsies

The curtains were drab, dyed a dark, oppressive brown that hurt Miranda’s eyes as she took in the room. The bedstead was plain and the lamps dull, but it was the curtains that made the whole of the room so depressing. Miranda imagined how cheerful the room could be made to look if only the curtains were yellow, but the brown ones were so undeniably present that she gave up trying to make herself feel better, and sat on the bed with a heavy sigh.

There was a soft scuttling sort of sound inside the wall that made her cringe. Mice and rats and spiders and filth, she thought acidly. She was about to cry out, but the maid entered her room without knocking at that very moment.

The girl was as neglected as the small inn. Her apron was singed in places and her little white cap was askew and rather grayer than it should be. Her face was still fresh and young but there was no rosy tint to her cheeks nor a bright glint to her eyes. She looked defeated and tired, as if she were up since dawn and wouldn’t be abed until the small hours of the night. Miranda looked at her with distaste, feeling that maids ought not to look like this.

“Please knock in future,” she said coldly to the girl.

“Pardon me, mum, didn’t mean no disrespect, mum,” the girl curtsied nervously, knees cracking and elbows sticking out awkwardly. She didn’t sound very sincere, but rather tired. “What can I do for ya, mum?”

“My baggage is in the carriage downstairs, as you no doubt saw already. I’d like someone to bring it up. I won’t have it left in the stables for anyone to rob. When is a meal served in this… establishment?” Miranda asked haughtily.

The maid lowered her eyes before answering. She didn’t want the grand lady on the bed to see that her eyes were prickling with tears of shame. “Ya just missed dinner, mum, but tea’s at four and supper’s at six. O’clock,” she added hastily.

“Good, so there is someone civilized here,” Miranda nodded approvingly. She felt that tea should always be at four o’clock and supper should always be served promptly at six. However, she’d lately stayed at rather nicer and more modern – she winced mentally at the word – hotels where they served tea at five and supper at seven. She supposed this inn may have once been a fine place but that it had gone to the dogs when the larger and smoother road had been built a few miles away.

As the maid curtsied loudly again and left the room, Miranda stared at the ugly curtains and reflected on her bad luck. It was no use – she would have to ask her husband to spend the money they’d been saving, and build a road between their estate and the main road to London. She was tired of taking this small, pathetic byway. Every time she visited her sister in London she feared that the carriage wheels would get stuck in the seemingly ever-present mud, and this time it finally happened. Her driver was downstairs, probably getting drunk already. He’d promised that the wheel would be fixed by tomorrow and that she’d be able to get home. It was lucky, he kept telling her, that they broke down near the old inn and that she would have a warm place to sleep that night. Miranda had solidly ignored him, as she often did.

She checked to see if the door to her room had a lock. Thankfully it did, and so she felt able to take off her outer clothed and wash her face and hands in the basin in the privy that lay behind a not-so-discreet door. She touched the handle gingerly and went in. The water in the basin looked and smelled stagnant. She sighed heavily and put her face in her hands. So, she thought to herself, nothing is to go right for me today.

Mandy Meets the Goblins (Part 2)

” A goblin, of course,” said Rocky. “As a young lady like yourself should know already.” This puzzled Mandy. A lady? She, a lady? And how would she know what goblins looked like, anyway? The look on her face must have mirrored her thoughts, since Rocky spoke up again. “Well, maybe in this, this country you’re in, they don’t teach young ladies how to recognize goblins.”

“No, they don’t,” Mandy confirmed. “I’ve only ever heard about goblins in the picture books that Miss Turner has up at the school, and in those, goblins are big and really mean. You’re not mean, are you?” She’d already realized he wasn’t big.

“No, no, not at all!” Rocky looked shocked at the very thought. “We’re like… like… What is the word for someone who makes wishes come true?”

“A genie?”

“No, that isn’t it. A longer word. I cannot remember it.”

“A fairy godmother?”

“Yes!” Rocky beamed at her. “Goblins are like fairy-godmothers!”

Mandy took another good look at him. He really was quite green, and apart from the horns on his head, his skin seemed kind of strangely prickly looking too. He definitely didn’t look a thing like any fairy-godmother from the picture books.

“So,” she began slowly, thinking hard. “You’re here to make my wishes come true?”

“Well, it’s like this,” Rocky began. He tried to stand up again and fell over, so Mandy lifted him off the pillow and onto her bedside table where he could stand. “Thank you,” he said. “It’s like this,” he began again. “Goblins can’t exactly do that. Not exactly. No, what we can do is help you make a wish – only one wish, mind – come true.”

“But how does that help?” Mandy was disappointed.

“If you make a wish come true, it’s much more special than just having it come true all on its own, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” now she was getting angry. “I don’t care if it’s special, I just want my sister to stop being sick!”

Rocky jumped, with surprising speed, onto Mandy’s face and, feet on her chin, he held to pieces of her hair in his hands and leaned back so she could see his face properly. “Shush! Do you want your parents to wake up?”

Mandy shook her head, and Rocky along with it. She was a bit afraid of him now. He was very fast, and even though he hadn’t been mean, exactly, he’d been quite strict for a creature that was as tall as her hand. Once he’d jumped off her back onto the table, she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

“No need to be sorry,” he said briskly. “We’ve just got to get started. You’ve told me your wish already, right? You want your sister to get better.”

Mandy nodded vigorously.

“Let’s get started then!” He rubbed his hands together, and started bouncing around the room at incredible speed, dropping things into Mandy’s lap. By the time he’d finished, Mandy had in her hands a get-well card her sister had written for her when she was small and had gotten chicken-pox; a scarf that Mandy was trying to knit for her sister; a shoe that had been a hand-me-down to Mandy from her; and finally, a bouncy ball that they’d played with together.

“Um, what do I do with all of this?” Mandy asked.

“Look here – your sister gave you a card when you were sick, a shoe when you needed one, and a ball when you needed a friend to play with. You started to knit this scarf almost a year ago, but I can tell,” here he nodded wisely, “I can tell that you haven’t touched it for months.”

“I know, it was just too hard,” Mandy started to explain. And then she stopped. And then she thought. Her sister had stuck by her when she was growing up. But Mandy hadn’t visited her for weeks now, scared of what she’d find. She and her twin had used the neglected chores as excuses to stay away, but maybe their parents would have left the invalid’s room if she’d had someone else to sit with her for a while. But they couldn’t, since Mandy and her brother were so scared of seeing their big, strong, beautiful sister just lying there, listlessly.

“But,” Mandy began, as if she’d thought aloud. “But even if I finish the scarf, even if I sit with her, how will that make it better?”

“Maybe it won’t. But maybe it will. Maybe she misses you, eh?” Rocky stretched both hands over his had and held onto his horns. He swayed back and forth, smiling, and then, with a sudden, rushing noise, he was gone. A whisper remained in the air after him – it told Mandy that if she needed a little help, she could call on the goblins.

Mandy was never quite sure if she’d dreamed that night or not. She did, however, start going to her sister’s sickbed. She insisted on opening the windows and letting in sunlight and air. She forced her parents to leave and do some chores themselves. She knitted her scarf, sitting on the edge of her sister’s bed and getting tips from her on what she was doing wrong.  She got her twin brother to make up jokes and tell them to their sister and make her laugh.

She spent time with her. And neither Mandy, nor her sister, ever forgot that.

Not Enough Colors

The sky outside is so black.

The light inside is so yellow.

It’s so damn hot that I feel red all over.

The screen in front is blindingly white.

My hair really is brown, no matter what they say.

I wonder if I’ll ever have the guts to color it purple…

Maybe then, my eyes will look more blue again.

It’s amazing, but I’ve actually managed to avoid having anything pink in my entire room.

It’s odd, but the only green that I can see is on Dr. Seuss’s Yurtle the Turtle.

The speaker on my left has a silver glint to it with the light on the way it is.

Gold? Well, my bracelet is rusting and looks pretty gold now.

I’m quite unimaginative at the moment, so I must be missing some colors. I’ll keep looking around. Anything to distract me from the dead grey of the stone sitting in my chest.

Now

Right now. A moment that doesn’t mean much at all. There aren’t many moments that mean something specific or momentous. But right now I’m feeling. Just feeling something. Listening to the newest album of my very favorite band and savoring every note that goes through the headphones and into my ears. Looking at the little brown and black cardboard notebook in front of me and looking forward to picking up my perfectly-pointed black pen and writing in it, because it says the word “journal” on the front. Feeling the perfect and perfectly strange warm and cold winds flowing through the one open window in my dorm room and feeling that I’m perfectly dressed for both – tank top and long pajama-bottoms.

The music pierces my very core, feels like it’s flowing right into my brain. There is an atmosphere that surrounds me, an unclear one that simply points at a new type of normalcy that I’m not yet used to. The space is still too new for me to feel utterly at home in, but still, my bed in its new sheets and with the new duvet spread on it lies behind me, inviting and warm, a place that feels like my own little den.

There’s absolutely nothing special about this moment. But that’s the point. It’s just now.

A Daughter’s Fever

Miranda looked down at the small crib. It was without ornament – nothing like the wonderful crib she had at home, with the painted bars and the bright sheets and blankets. Hospital cribs don’t have to be pretty, merely functional, just like hospital beds. It was strange that she’d never thought of hospitals having cribs before. Of course, when she’d given birth there was a crib, but it was small, it was near her own bed, and her daughter hadn’t been in it much; Miranda had preferred to hold her in her arms as she slept.

Miranda stirred, tearing her eyes away from the sight of her little golden-haired girl red with fever. She’d been sick for five days already. When Miranda saw that the fever wasn’t going down, she’d taken her girl to the hospital. It was a throat infection of some sort, that’s what the doctors said, but the fever was still so high… Miranda couldn’t stop worrying. She hummed with nerves.

She looked at the lone chair that could fit beside the crib. There were others in the room, but they were occupied by other parents watching their sick infants. What a dismal place to bring a child, Miranda had thought when she’d first walked through the door to that room. Her opinion of the cheerless place hadn’t improved since. Her husband was in their chair, fast asleep; the poor man. He’d borne with Miranda’s worries and unfounded fears and had tried to calm her, but she wouldn’t calm. She couldn’t calm. She’d exhausted the poor man.

Miranda thought of her work. She was needed, she knew. Real people, everyday people, depended on her. She knew some of them would be in agonies without her support and encouragement. She felt bad for not being there for them, but that feeling was in a very small corner of her mind. She really mostly felt bad because she was worried sick and still her little girl’s fever raged on.

She looked back into the crib and wiped the sweat of her daughter’s forehead with a small white towel. The doctors said that she needed to wait and let the medicine do its work. She waited.

It Should Have Been Raining

In the books she read and the movies she watched, the weather always matched the mood of the main character. The sunny days, with breezes coming from the sea and whipping the hero’s hair around, were the good days. Those were supposed to be the days of love and laughter, high spirits and fun. The rainy days meant trouble, danger, sadness and despair – the thought that all was lost and would never be recovered.

Real life wasn’t like that, she knew, as she looked out the small window in the room belonging to her and her room-mate. There were bars on the window, of course. It wouldn’t do for the troubled patients to sneak out into the gardens at night. She wondered if the windows were small because so many of the patients were small enough to fit through slightly larger ones.

The night, she noticed, was warm. Warmer than it should be for the time of year. Perhaps, though, it was only she who was warm – she who had spent the last hour and a half sobbing into her pillow again. Her room-mate had been so annoyed by the noise that she’d tutted, gotten out of bed, picked up her pack of cigarettes, and gone out, presumably to the enclosed patio where she could smoke.

Looking out the window, she wanted to have a stern chat with Mother Nature. If movies and books were based on real life, then it should have been raining. It should have been raining.

The Perfect Room

To begin with, it would be large and airy, with tall windows at regular intervals along the wall, to let the daylight in. Curtains, easy to pull and adjust, would hang at these windows, so there would never need to be a glare of the blinding sun at any hour of the day, but only soft light filtering through the cloth.

Comfortable seating would be the next essential in this room. Comfortable couches and saggy arm-chairs would need to fill the space of the room, just beckoning and waiting to be sat on, sprawled upon or even fallen asleep on. The seating must be the type to make even the heartiest and most energetic feel as if they’d like to sink into the pillows and take a little nap.

Next, the lighting. While there must be some sort of strong central light, it shouldn’t be needed most of the time because of the many small lamps, hung with crimson or orange shades so as to cast a comfy, romantic glow. There must be a big, heavy, wooden desk with a good and upright desk chair to go with it.

Lastly, and most importantly – books. The walls are shelves, leaving not one empty space for a picture or hanging. The books are both the adornment and the purpose of the room. Their smell fills every nook and cranny and their soft murmurings are ever present, demanding quietly that you pluck them out of the shelves and lose yourself in them.

This would be my perfect room, and if I ever get enough money to own a house, I’m definitely going to try to create it.