Another new contributor to the short story blog today, another lady (where are you guys?!) called Catherine Smith. Cath has elevated the short story to an artform with these very short shorts! So short in fact, I have published two together, so that you get to see as much of Caths writing as possible.
These are both brilliant little vignettes, and are terribly evocative. You’ll read them and instantly be wanting more. A great talent to have. Leave Cath a comment here and I’ll make sure she gets it.
Steph couldn’t wait. It was Easter and that meant one thing – the annual family get together at her grandparents’ place down in Cornwall. It had become something of a tradition over the years, ever since her grandparents had decided to retire and move back to where they’d grown up, met and lived until her grandfather’s job had taken them away to London. Every year the whole family would make their way from wherever they happened to be and stay from Good Friday to Easter Monday – even Uncle Dave would come over from Connecticut, so important was this weekend in Steph’s family calendar.
She wasn’t sure what it was she looked forward to most about these weekends. Certainly, getting away from the bustling pace of city life for a few days of Cornish sea air was part of it – walks along the beach, BBQs on the terrace, camping in the back garden; what Ivy Pine Cottage lacked in bedrooms, it more than made up for in outside space. Her grandmother’s cooking was another; she couldn’t remember ever coming through the front door and not being greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread, cakes or hot cross buns. She loved catching up with her various relations, finding out what they’d all been up to, and fussing over Bonnie, her grandparents’ playful and much-loved labrador.
Perhaps what she looked forward to more than anything else though was Ivy Pine Cottage itself. It was a quaint, old place, that looked as if it had grown from the land on which it stood, so naturally did it blend in with its surroundings. Steep stone steps led up, past the ivy and beneath the old pine tree that gave the cottage it’s name, to a wooden front door with a wrought iron knocker. Going inside was like stepping back in time; a crackling fire and ticking grandfather clock stood either side of a small black-and-white TV, the furthest modern technology had been allowed to intrude into the living room. Watercolours and oil paintings lined the walls; faded sepia photographs stood in frames on the mantelpiece. Tiny doorways that her dad always had to duck through connected the various rooms and nooks and crannies, each filled with more photos and memories. At night, the place echoed with the sound of Bonnie’s gentle snoring as she lay asleep on her rug in front of the fire. If a house could be a hug, or a favourite pair of slippers, this was it.
The conductor announced her stop then, forcing Steph to abandon her daydreaming and get her things together. She smiled and waved at her parents, who’d come down the night before and had offered to meet her at the station to take her the last few miles. She turned to look at Paul and smiled; this was to be his first Easter at Ivy Pine Cottage, and she very much hoped it wouldn’t be his last.
© Catherine Smith
“This was our spot. Every Sunday when it was nice we’d pack the folding table and chairs in the boot and drive out here, stopping off along the way at our favourite bakery to pick up some rolls and pastries to take with us. It was our chance to have some ‘us’ time, away from friends, family, work and the rest of the world. We’d sit and look out at that amazing view over a chelsea bun or pain au chocolat and while away the hours without a care in the world. Sometimes we’d go all afternoon and not say a word to each other, just enjoying being alone in each other’s company, only looking up every now and again to share a look or a smile before going on to the next chapter or nodding off again in the sunshine.
“It was always so peaceful here, with only the sound of the birds and leaves rustling in the breeze to break the silence. No matter how stressful the week before had been, a few hours up here and everything was better. If we’d argued, which we hardly ever did, we’d leave the best of friends again, whatever little thing forgiven and forgotten.
“One Sunday, my world changed forever; one minute he was sitting next to me in his usual spot and the next he was down on one knee with love in his eyes and the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen in his hand. It’s still my most treasured possession. Well, after him.”
“Possession now, am I? Charming!”
Her husband came over from the car, interrupting her story, and bent down to kiss her with smiling eyes, as in love with her now as he’d been all those years ago. Her eyes shone as brightly as the ring on her finger, which had aged a little better than she had, though no less gracefully.
“Granny and Grandad sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”
Their two young grandsons giggled mischievously and tucked into the rolls and pastries from their favourite bakery that now covered the folding table, enjoying their Sunday afternoon.
© Catherine Smith