Thursday 14 September 2023

The Wayward Wind by Liz Cox, a double brandy

It’s the wind. Always the wind which scoops up summer’s scorched leaves and drops them at my feet. Maybe it’s because I’m an October baby that autumn rather than spring is the beginning time for me.

            On this first chilled morning, as I breathe in the air, slightly smoky yet sharp, the familiar tangible smell of autumns past tell me it’s time to move on. The first tug at my hair awakes my senses. The fluttering stroke on my cheek flatters me. ‘Come on’, it breathes to me; encouraging me. I watch the first russet leaf from the oak tree float to earth and land on my toe, I know I’m ready.

            I’d been preparing all year in my mind, yet never got to grips with the idea, distracted by a stifling summer when thunder glowered on the horizon. Now the lilies have ripened, and the blackberries and hawthorns stipple the hedgerows with black and red, it can wait no longer. I can wait no longer. The time has come for the turning of a new season; a new beginning. Freedom beckons; freedom from a place in which I no longer wish to dwell, a person I no longer want to be. I reach my hand out to take hold of the sough of promise, so it can guide me forward.

            Turning my face from the enticing breeze, I push open the blue wooden door into the kitchen. As I enter, my mind fidgets with excitement, but a niggle of uncertainty gnaws somewhere at the back where the autumn air hasn’t quite reached. I will it to leave. My dog, Poppy, runs to meet me. I lift her into my arms, snuggling my lips into her soft black fluffiness. She rewards me with a kiss from her tiny pink tongue.

            Poppy follows me, as I sneak upstairs. I can hear the television blaring in the front room, where he is. I’m afraid my normally exuberant dog may give me away. But she remains quiet. She sits watching me, as I place first sweaters, then trousers and underwear into my battered brown travel bag. I remove my wedding ring and gold cross leaving them on the gleaming surface of the dressing table. Their reflection in the mirror taunts me. Poppy accompanies me to the bathroom, whimpering as I gather up toothpaste and shampoo. Her nose is touching my heel, as I return to the bedroom and zip up the bag. I stroke her soft head.

            ‘It’s OK Poppy, everything will be fine,’ I whisper. She wags her tail, as if she understands. I struggle down the stairs with my bag avoiding the loose floorboard. Poppy trots behind me, as I make my way to the back door careful not to make a sound. I really don’t want an argument. In the kitchen, I find an empty paper bag and a pen that works and hastily scribble a note. How can I say that I’m leaving after all these years? He doesn’t realise that I’m not happy. He’s content with our life, so how can I describe my desire for freedom.

I begin to write. Perhaps I’ll just say, ‘I don’t love you anymore’, keep it simple. No explanations, no recriminations. Maybe he deserves more than that, but I don’t want to list all the times he’s taken me for granted or the jobs not done or ‘the affair’. That was years ago now and it didn’t last for long. I think I was partly to blame as well. I let my attention slip. We got over that, so it would be unfair to bring it up again. I know I retreated into myself when Angela, our daughter, died; I couldn’t seem to share the grief. I knew he was grieving too, but I thought it was just me, selfish I know. She was only three. We never had any more children; it didn’t seem right somehow. He began to spend more time at the pub with his friends, often returning quite late. I used to pretend I was asleep. I turned to my garden for solace, but he wasn’t interested. All he was interested in were the interminable football matches he watched. No, I think the note should read, ‘we have drifted apart, and I can’t stay with you anymore.’ Maybe that will be more honest.

I knock over the vase of lilies on the kitchen table, as I try to anchor the note where he will see it. The vase crashes to the floor; the sound reverberating in the quiet room. The pieces splay out over the tiles glinting like diamonds in the low light. Hearing a movement from the sitting room, I freeze, but he was obviously distracted by a goal, as I hear him cheer loudly. The brackish water smells sour as I try to mop it up; I really should have changed it yesterday. The lilies are dead, so I pop them in the bin; nothing to be saved there. The glass makes a scraping sound as I try to brush it up; my heart is pounding now as if a wild animal is trying to break out through my ribs.   

I shrug into my coat which is hanging on the back of the door alongside Poppy’s red lead. I take the lead down carefully from its hook, so it doesn’t jangle.

‘Ssh! Poppy, come on it’ll be fine, be a good girl.’ As I clip her lead onto her collar and open the door slowly, so it doesn’t squeak, I feel a moment’s guilt. He loves Poppy and I feel bad about taking her, but she’s my dog even though he takes her for long walks. Perhaps I should leave her behind. As I open the door, the wind lifts my hair and ruffles Poppy’s fur. She looks up at me, and I could swear she smiles.

            ‘It’s the autumn wind Poppy,’ I say as we creep together down the cobbled path and open the gate which swings on its rusty hinges. He refused to oil it the other day, another job not done. I close it carefully, so it doesn’t bang and glance back at the lighted window. No movement. Just the roar of the football match he is watching filling the space between us.

He never heard us leave.

            Looking forward along the lane, I take a deep breath inhaling the richness of the autumn evening. I have no regret, even though tomorrow will bring its own problems when he finds out I have left. I embrace the wayward wind allowing it to carry us along in its arms towards our new life; me and Poppy together.

            I take one last look at my home of many years with a faint feeling of sadness. As I do a light from the open door illuminates the path, and I see him standing there his hair tangled by an icy autumn blast.

‘Angela, is that you? Where are you going?’ His voice is thin, sad, resigned maybe. Poppy whines and tugs me towards the house and him. For a moment, I’m caught in the slipstream which endeavours to blow me off course. I release Poppy’s lead; she looks at me then runs towards her home. I turn away and follow the prevailing wind as it blows into the future.

I’ll miss the lilies when they flower next summer, but I’ll plant new ones and watch them blossom.

About the author

Liz writes short stories and poetry and is just finishing her first novel. She lives in North Yorkshire and at the time of writing is enjoying the beautiful September sunshine 


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