The Incoming Storm
It is rare for someone to enter your life bringing with them hope of all things the future may hold. You look to them to fill the gaps left open by another no longer there. You impose on them the charge of making good all the bad in your life. They may not even know you have done this, they may close their eyes to it, they may simply ignore it. Others will step away with the charge on the friendship being too great for them to bear. While in others, the charge imposed is not enough.
Joy had never known the latter. She attracted those who were shallow, inept, selfish. Time after time she was taken in by false promises, and time after time the strength they gave her was ripped from her as each one left.
“Will you ever learn?” Mary Belle said in her thin scratchy yet commanding voice. She squinted up at Joy from the comfort of her rocking chair with bright blue eyes, set so small and round in her tiny face. The tone of admonishment was no lessened by her determination to say her piece which as far as she was concerned was long overdue. “They come, they stay and they always go.” She leant forward and pulled from a carpet bag beside her chair a piece of knitting and started to unravel it.
“He was a charmer, alright,” Joy said, standing at the top of the porch with her hands on her hips. The watery sun glinted through the bare branches of the trees. Spring was heading into summer and many trees had still to make their leafy appearance. “Company for those cold nights,”
“Not any more,” Mary Belle said. “You are too forgiving. Let him go and find another.”
Joy inwardly smiled. She knew if old fly-by-night were to turn up she would take him back immediately. She gave a shudder. A random icy blast whisked over her feet and chilled her bare ankles through to the bone. Her toes curled with the cold. “There’s a storm brewing,” she said, still gazing into the woodland still bereft of green.
Mary Belle chuckled. “No doubt. You’ve a good sense of the weather yet you wear sandals in the snow and summer dresses in the rain. You are more likely to catch your death than a prime man,”
Joy turned sharply. “Jerome was a good man,” she said sharply.
“He left you as suddenly as the others. Upped and was gone.” Mary Belle said viciously. She shivered and pulled her cardigan close. She added in a softer tone. “Beffore get inside. I’ll put on the kettle,”
“I should be going,” Joy said. She was used to Mary Bell’s acid tongue. Today though she had no desire to be holed up alone in the storm with it.
Mary Belle was disappointed. “You are welcome to stay. I won’t have it said I turned a friend out into the storm,”
Darkness of cloud descended over them while large droplets fell from the skies. Joy ushered Mary Belle inside just as lightning crackled and lit up the room.
“My knitting!” Mary Belle wailed.
“I’ll get it for you,”
Blue lightning filled the room once more and rain collided with the roof beating out a collision of monotone tapperings.
“No. Leave it.” Mary Belle said. “I was making a jumper for your Jerome,”
“You were unravelling it,”
“He’s gone, isn’t he?” Mary Belle said. “It’s my beau wool for you. One day you’ll keep a man long enough for me to finish it,” Mary Belle said. “Put a log on the fire, Joy. I promised you a cup of tea.” Mary Belle wrapped a towel around the handle of the kettle and carried it to the sink. Water spurted from the corroded taps and hissed as it hit the warm iron of the kettle. She gazed outside. Rain fell like a veil of water so dense that it obscured her view of the trees and her garden. She loved the rain. More so that the sun which she always claimed drained her with its warmth. She loved the smell of the dust that settled into the air before rain and the momentary freshness that lingered once it had stopped. A heaviness clung to her chest. Her heart was in fine form. It was more of a sense, a sense that this rain would not cleanse but annihilate.
“Bother! She exclaimed. Water poured over the lid of the kettle and splashed into the sink soaking her sleeves and hands.
“You ok?” Joy’s voice called to her.
“It’s nothing,” she replied, wiping her hands on her cardigan before takng the kettle through to the hook that hung over the fire. When she had done she turned to Joy and said. “Tell me I have not made a mistake in asking you to stay?” Her thn frame never stood more sure although there was the undoubted tone of uncertainty in her voice.
Joy grinned. “How long?”
“Maybe longer than I care to admit,” she said. “Can I sit?”
“It’s your house,”
Mary Belle seated herself into the wooden rocking chair by the fire. She made a small groan as the ache n her back tore through her.
“Stay. I have arthritis of the spine. Itll pass.”
“You never said.”
“We all have our little secrets,” Mary Belle said. “We have nowhere to go and no one to call. Tell me yours.”
Lightning briefly streaked the room. Both started as the blue flash made shadows of them before retreating to the dull light of the fire.
Mary Belle grinned. “Do you fear the storm?” she asked seeing the flames of ear in Joy’s eyes and not entirely unrelishing the moment.”
Joy wrapped her thing cardigan close and said nothing.
“There’s been talk of the incoming storn for months. They say it is unlike any other we have seen. They say we will never be the same again once it has passed,”
“Tales of old women!” Joy scoffed.
“Tales of old witches!” Mary Belle said. From he side of the cushion she removed a long white clay pipe wth a small pot.
“Is that not-?”
“Jenna’s pipe. She gave it to me the night she died. Along with those shoes.” She pointed to a pair of old pointed velvet shoes in which the toes curled round. They were heavily worn and their red colour was worn. “Played havoc with my bunions,”
©️The Incoming Storm Lorraine Poulter 2016