Our creative writing group were given the task (our homework) of writing a short piece of fiction that continued on from the words ‘And the candle went out’. I found it interesting how a story, once you decide a theme, takes on a life of it’s own. I have continued the story as a personal project as I, the writer, wants to know what happens next!
And the candle went out. Extinguished by a draught that had slipped through the partially open window. Only the moonlight remained, casting an intermittent illumination through the the scudding clouds. It was not enough to see, to finish writing the letter, the letter that would change everything.
Without any means of relighting the candle she carefully set down her pen, stood up and carefully navigated a route around the unfamiliar furniture to the bed. There, in her uneasy sleep the past seeped stealthily into her mind.
In her dream it is spring time. The sunlight is shining through the canopy of diaphanous, bright green leaves of the beech trees, sentinels, lining the pathway. Musicians play, huddled in the small bandstand on the far side of the park by the river. The music has a strident military air, in tune with the troubled times. A clash of cymbals rang out, startling the pigeons which take flight in a flurry of feathers.
“Have you told your father?” she asks, “About us, our relationship?” she adds, as if there may be some uncertainty about the subject of her enquiry.
He stands in silence gazing at the cloud of cherry blossom at the far end of the path.
“I will do so, my love, I will. I promise.” His voice sounds less certain than the words spoken.
“But when will you Samuel? I have been imploring you to do so for many months.”
“I feel l must wait. I sail within the week, indeed l must attend the port on Tuesday.”
“So soon!” Miriam said. Suddenly the war seems close, enveloping their lives.
“With the future so clouded with uncertainty l am reluctant to raise the matter with my father…..”
Miriam woke, troubled by her dreams, the room filled with grey light and a sense of foreboding. Reluctantly she left the warm comfort of her bed and, wrapped in the counterpane she stood at the window, looked out at the skeletal trees floating in the the low mist, the lawn, in the foreground covered with the corpses of leaves. Her contemplation was broken by a sharp rap on the door. It was the maid, Jessie. The day had begun in the retreat.
Later, she sat at the small mahogany Davenport set in the window. The unfinished letter lay spread before her. Its words told of their first meeting in Portrush, told of her undying love for him. The letter spoke of the obstacle in their path to happiness; her Catholic upbringing. Miriam picked up the pen and charged it with the black ink from the pot. For a moment she hesitated, stared, unseeing at the garden, now washed with weak sunlight. Was Samuel still alive? He had not responded to her previous letters. The news from Crimea was pessimistic. Would Samuel’s father inform her if he had died? The pen, almost possessed with a life of its own, began to write across the cream paper.
My darling, l know not whether you are alive or a sad victim of this dreadful war. But, l must tell you of news, that in happier circumstances, would be joyful. You have a son. I have named him Samuel, young Sam…………