Red and Gold
Here’s a tale by Ellie for consideration by #J.A.MesPress for their forthcoming ‘Rebirth’ anthology. I think it’s rather special, but then I would, wouldn’t I?
Title: Red and Gold, 999 words
Author: Ellie Cooper
The young girl gazed across the field. Dusty red poppies swayed steadily in a tired breeze. Swallows dove joyfully like ribbons across the land, barely touching the bobbing heads of the sorrowful watchers. From a bramble-wrapped stone wall a bashful brown rabbit darted, and scurried through the long, tan grass leaving a wistful peace behind. Above the green dome-like hills an orange sun blushed with pink slowly sank beneath the horizon, milky trails of colour washing across the surrounding landscape.
The girl tilted her head, her blonde hair catching the last of the sun. She clutched a basket of blackberries, freshly picked. She would present them to her mother on her return, and consequently a sweet dessert would follow, much to the girl’s delight. This was the first time she had been sent to gather berries. The task usually fell to her older brother, a source of wisdom the young girl had always admired. But today, her mother had sent her.
She had been watching her mother make the dinner. It smelled lovely, triggering delicious anticipation of something nice. Her mother wore her pretty bright blue dress, her golden hair scraggily pinned up and eyes that the girl so vividly remembered and had inherited. Lovely, grey eyes. Her mother had looked across and told her that now she was five, she was old enough to gather the blackberries.
Thrilled at this new responsibility, she had eagerly run from the house, barely hearing her mother’s warnings to be careful. She needed no directions as many a time she had followed her brother, sneaking from the kitchen.
Now the girl remembered those times and knew where the best berries grew. She had chosen the finest berries, not resting until she reached one at the top of the bush, though it had resulted in a grazed elbow. The girl hadn’t cried, though she had wanted to for her arm hurt fiercely, but she was a big girl now. Five years old, and she was growing up.
But the girl didn’t remember this place. A field full of lovely red poppies. She liked poppies; her father had told her about them many a time. These reminded her of a song with which her father used to sing her to sleep. A song of colours and corn, of deeper, darker meanings that the girl did not yet understand.
As she watched the poppies dance in the corn, a surge of inspiration hit the girl’s mind. She would take some of the flowers for her father. She placed her basket down on the track and lithely climbed over the gate. She decided to pick five poppies, one for each of her years. That way, there would still be plenty left for anyone else to pick them for their father. As she picked five of the best blooms around her, the girl remembered something her mother had told her. That tomorrow was a special day. A special day for fathers, when their children gave them gifts. The little girl smiled. What a perfect gift for her father. Five poppies from his daughter.
Soon, satisfied with her bundle, the girl clambered back over the fence and collected her basket. The sun was almost behind the hills, and she knew her mother would worry, but the girl was too happy with her gift to mind. She happily skipped home humming the song that her father sung to her so often, and picturing his face when he saw the poppies.
Upon arriving home the girl hurriedly placed the berries on the great wooden table, ignoring her mother’s questioning glances, and filled a jug with water. She carefully carried it up the stairs and tentatively opened the door to her parent’s room. She placed the jug on the table next to her father’s bed, and dropped the five poppies into it. Once finished, she stood back to admire the present and smiled. The flowers seemed to light up the room, blooms of crimson amongst the browns, like splashes of blood. The girl delved deeper into her thoughts than she had ever done before, and for a brief moment the words of her father’s song were no longer just a swirl of words, but something that had meaning.
Her mother’s shout startled the girl from her trance, and the song again became just that; a song. Forgetting all she had been thinking the girl ran back out of the room and again became a carefree five-year-old.
Her father never forgot the day he woke to find a jug of five poppies next to his bed. Neither did his daughter, for each year poppies yet again appeared at his bedside, though each year as the girl grew older an extra poppy appeared in the jug. No words were spoken between the two about the gifts, for none were needed, but the special bond remained. As the girl grew and learned more about the world, her father revelled in the sight of his little girl who left poppies at his bedside becoming a woman, finding a job and a perfect man, and having two children of her own.
The day after fifty poppies filled the father’s room a funeral procession took place in the church in the nearby town. The girl, now a woman, stood at her father’s grave. Family and friends surrounded her, her own little five-year-old clutching her skirts uncertainly. Then, as the poppy-red of the sun slowly disappeared, the girl began to sing the song that her father had sung to her all those times. It would always be so special to her that she would pass it to her own children, to be sung evermore in the family line. Now the girl understood the deeper meaning of the song, but in her heart the words would always be simply of colours and corn, and a bright field full of new poppies swaying on a fresh autumn evening, calling her father back to life in her mind, reborn.