Here are two extracts from one of my current works-in-progress. This tale is presented in short seasonal snippets; these two are winter and summer.
What do you think?
‘Look, Lily! A robin – can you see him?’
Edith hitched her daughter higher onto her hip so that the toddler could see through the one clear window pane. She pointed at the tiny bird, perched on the gatepost at the far end of the garden. Lily pressed her forefinger to the misty glass, making a wobbly line in the condensation that was already encroaching their view.
‘Are there girl robins, mammy?’ Bobby asked, squeezing in front of Edith. Her hand squeaked against the glass as she rubbed a circle wide enough to peer through.
‘I suppose there are,’ her mother murmured.
‘Buddy,’ Lily said, poking the glass again.
‘Birdy,’ Edith smiled. ‘Robin.’
‘What are the girl robins called?’ Bobby was now doodling on the window; Edith could already see two stick figures.
‘They’re all just robins. Don’t make a mess, Bobby – mind there’s no drips on the windowsill.’
Bobby dutifully wiped the sill with her sleeve, then continued with her artwork.
The sizzle-hiss of water on flame turned Edith from the window. She gently sat Lily next to her dolls on the rug in the centre of the room then swiftly removed a large pan from the stove top, placing it on the draining board.
‘These potatoes will be ruined.’ She prodded the over-cooked vegetables, frowning as one disintegrated into the hot water. ‘Tom, hurry and fetch your Dad – tell him his dinner can’t wait any longer or it’s going to the pigs.’
‘I told him that last time,’ her eldest replied, pulling on his coat as he rushed for the door.
‘Then tell him the post has come,’ Edith called after him. ‘That’ll bring him in.’
Her worried eyes sought out the dreaded typewritten envelope, propped up against the clock on the mantelpiece.
‘Buddy,’ Lily said, holding a small rag doll above her head. ‘Bobn.’
‘It’s gone,’ Bobby sighed. ‘Tom scared it away. I was going to draw it.’
‘It’ll be back.’
Edith slowly drained the soggy potatoes and placed the heavy colander over the pan while she sliced the ham that had spent the morning cooling on the table.
‘Fetch the plates, Bob,’ she said. ‘Dad’ll be here in a bit.’
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Edith smoothed down her apron as she emerged from the kitchen, feeling the residue of butter and crumbs move from skin to cotton. Pausing on the doorstep to savour the scent of sun-warmed honeysuckle, she tucked a strand of hair behind one ear, then shaded her eyes to watch Bert slowly mount his tractor at the far end of the field beyond the garden.
Her concern for him was interrupted by a shrill shriek to her left, and she quickly turned to investigate then sighed when she saw that Tom and Bobby were fighting again. Tom held an apple aloft, grinning triumphantly, while Bobby stretched to reach it with one hand and thumped her brother’s chest with the other.
“Share, Tom,” Edith said firmly.
Tom rolled his eyes, took a large bite from the apple, and handed it to his pouting sister.
The two children muttered to each other while passing the apple back and forth between bites. Satisfied, Edith’s attention turned to her youngest child.
Just beyond the still squabbling siblings, crouched over the tarpaulin-laden bench that had earlier served as their father’s lunch table, Lily was unusually still. Her mop of curly hair hid her face, but Edith could see that the child had her bottle, held hesitantly in grubby hands. A quiet sob alerted Edith, who hurried to sit at the bench and lifted the toddler onto her knee.
“What’s the matter, pet?”
Lily’s tear-stained face held no answer.
“She poo’d her pants!” Bobby giggled behind them.
Knowing instinctively that this was not so, Edith bent her head to hold Lily’s attention.
“Why’s Lily sad?” she asked quietly.
With a sniff, Lily pointed towards the field, where a crowd of crows circled her father’s rumbling tractor.
“Dada gone,” the child said, just as another tear slid down her cheek. “Dada gone.”
Suddenly cold in the mid-summer heat, Edith looked again at Bert’s tractor. She could hear the engine running, but the machine hadn’t moved.