Amelia – Part 1

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Where Is It?

Amelia was frantic. She’d looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it.

Frustration was getting the better of her. ‘Where did I put it!’ she said out loud.

“For goodness sake!” she stomped her foot in exasperation.

And she’d told David about it too. He’d been waiting weeks for the letter to arrive and she had texted him from the post office the minute she had it in her hand. And now she’d lost it!

It was still in its blue envelope, somewhere. But where?

Amelia sat down, took a deep breath and backtracked her steps. It had been one of those meandering work-free days. After she’d dropped off the kids, she picked up the mail, had done a bit of shopping, gone to the coffee shop, and then to the library.

She’d put the bundle of mail into her carry bag, then gone through it at the coffee shop before she opened her book to finish it.

She closed her eyes and pictured the scene, and suddenly, remembered. It was in the library book! She’d put the letter in the book to hold it open while she checked the rest of the mail. And then without thinking, moved it to the front inside cover as she finished the last chapter. Full of satisfaction at having read a wonderful story, she then blissfully closed the book.

Glancing at her watch, Amelia grabbed her keys and headed back out to the car.

She made it with 15 minutes to spare before the library closed. Stepping up to the front desk, she tapped her fingers impatiently.

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“I dropped off a book earlier, and left a letter inside the front cover.”

“Name of the book please?”

“Pearl In A Cage by Joy Dettman.”

“Just a minute.” The librarian clicked at the keys, blinked at the screen and looked up.

“The book is out.”

“Oh no! I need that book – the letter’s in it. How can I get it?”

“Well, you can’t. Not right now. We’re about to close. I can ring the borrower tomorrow if you like and see if it’s still there.”

“No! No! No! I need it now!”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

Amelia closed her eyes and let her chin drop. How could she be such a scatter-brain, she thought as she left the library. Lost in the characters of the book, she’d returned it without a second thought.

How was she going to tell David? Driving to the local pool to pick up the kids after their swimming lessons, she tried to put it out of her mind. She would have to face the music tonight, but there wasn’t a thing she could do about it until tomorrow.

It was still warm out and the car was full of happy children-chatter, so they stopped off for ice creams all round – she needed it more than the kids! It was either that or chocolate!

And then she headed for home.

As they walked up the path to the front door, Amelia admonished herself once again for being so careless…. until…. she saw something stuck in the screen door.

It was a blue envelope.

© Inara Hawley 2017

The Writing Exercise for this piece:
The character needs a particular book from the library

A Hospital Home

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Writing Exercise: An Account of An Ancestor in a Frightening Place

Antonija died of tuberculosis aged 31, but it was her four-year-old her daughter, Ksenija, who would bear the brunt of the disease for the rest of her life.

Ksenija had been diagnosed with a spinal injury which required attention, but as her family was in the grip of grief, she was kept quietly at home until her mother died. In her weakened state, however, exposure to tuberculosis was to have serious consequences. It was only after her mother’s funeral that her grandmother took her to the City Hospital in Riga for further tests.

It was a visit, she remembered well. To a small child, it was an ominous place. The rooms were huge, the windows, enormous, the beds impossibly high, and thunderous footsteps echoed through the halls. But most of all, she remembered the fear. In her child’s mind, the doctors were white giants who spoke words she didn’t understand.

The test results confirmed a diagnosis no-one wanted to hear: tuberculosis of the spine, a crippling illness which required long-term treatment in an isolation ward. She was then five years old, but in the 1920’s there was no gentle easing into an extended hospital stay. One day she just didn’t go home.

She entered hospital a confused little girl, and left, nine long years later, an insecure teenager. She had lost her mother, the safety of her home, and the loving kisses and hugs that only her family could give her. The hospital, a bleak, loveless environment, became her home, one from which she couldn’t escape.

In her own words: “The days turned into weeks, the weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years”.

(276 words)

© Inara Hawley 2017

Man of Honour

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Writing Exercise: Walking in The Shoes of An Ancestor

I was surprised to see Jekab on my doorstep. Even more surprised to find him sober.

He didn’t wait to be invited in. He barged in blustering and demanding to be heard, and a few minutes later, I knew the reason why.  And now I have a decision to make.

Yes, I owe him money. A lot of money. Yes, I am obligated. And no, I will not give a drunk money. I do not trust him.  I will not pander to the demands of an alcoholic. He knows that, and up until today, has not come begging.

But now he demands! He says the child’s needs must be met, and I have the money. The hide of the man! It is his disgraceful behaviour and irresponsible neglect that has cost him everything, not the debts he hasn’t collected. He has only himself to blame.

I abhor weakness and I abhor irresponsibility. Jekab is both of those things, but I abhor dishonour more. So, I have decided. Tomorrow, my wife will go to the children’s home and see for herself. She will tell me what is needed to be done for this granddaughter of Jekab. Then I will see if he speaks the truth.

And if he does, I will gladly pay my debt… on one condition. The money must not grace his palm. It is the child I will be helping, not him. He doesn’t deserve it, but I am not heartless. I will help the child.

After all, I am a God-fearing man of honour.

(257 words)

© Inara Hawley 2016

Lost and Found

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Writing Exercise: An Event in the Life of An Ancestor

Born in 1869, my great grandfather was both a man of means and a pauper during his lifetime. A tradesman – painter of murals in churches, he rose to become a man of property and a man of business. He lived with courage and purpose.

He married and had three beautiful daughters. Life was good. But one’s character strengths can crumble all too quickly when the heart is broken. By 1928 he lost all three daughters to tuberculosis – the great white plague. Within 6 months they were all gone, and his five-year-old granddaughter was hospitalised with tuberculosis of the spine. She spent the next 9 years in a hospital ward, during which time, his wife also died.

It wasn’t long before my great grandfather was living alone in an attic crammed full of memories, his only solace, alcohol. He had lost everything.

When his granddaughter, was released to a State Home, he visited her and what he found appalled him. She was in a pitiful state with a back brace. She could barely walk.

Suddenly, courage and purpose dormant for so long gripped him. He knew what he had to do. He knocked on the door of a wealthy man who still owed him money and demanded his granddaughter be cared for.

And she was. They adopted her in February 1938.

These are the stories my mother told me when I was writing her memoirs. She remembers it all. Others may have seen her grandfather as a good for nothing drunk, but in saving her, his heart was revealed. It was strong and true.

(263 words)

© Inara Hawley 2016

A Family at Last

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Writing Exercise: Hooking the Reader with a Family History Story

For the first time since she was five years old, my mother experienced family life. Adopted at the age of 14 her life was now taking a very different path from her Seventh Day Adventist beginnings. She would be christened in the Lutheran Church and have a far more structured existence than her birth family could ever have imagined.

While the little family of three lived together happily, there was a genuine undercurrent of sadness for my mother’s adoptive parents – they were estranged from their son. He had married a woman they did not approve of.

They had not attended the wedding, nor had their son been to visit his mother. Almost a year had gone by since she had seen her son. But circumstances had now changed. He had heard of the adoption.

Having a young girl to love and care for did much to fill the void, but a mother’s heart for a lost son will always ache. Whenever the doorbell rang, with a hopeful heart, she said, “That may be my son…”

Her husband, however, was still very angry and made it clear their son was not welcome. But he was not there the fateful day the knock on the door came. My mother was the one who ran to answer it. When she realised who, it was she threw her arms around him with pure delight. In her mind, he was her brother and she welcomed him with an open heart.

He had no such inclination. Consumed with jealousy and rage, he pushed past her and marched into the living room, into the waiting arms of his mother.

(272 words)

© Inara Hawley 2016

Putting it Out There

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Writing Prompt: Start with ‘I can’t help myself’

I can’t help myself, thought Nina. Never could keep anything to myself.

But this time she was doing it on purpose. After her chatty cuppa with Annie, Nina knew she would tell Jean, and Jean would, of course, tell her husband Dave. And Dave, always a good talker after a few beers, would hopefully tell Jim.

With any luck, it would be as easy as that. Nina knew Jim was planning something, but she wanted something special. After all, it was her fortieth birthday, and what she wanted most of all, was a few days away. One of those fancy overnight stays. It didn’t matter to where really. Just want to be looked after and pampered for a bit. No cooking, no washing, no bed making.

The kids could be easily organised. And Dave and his mates could look after the animals. So, easy to organise. So very easy. She’d given enough clues. Raved about how she’d love it. Had the magazine open. Pages and pages of holiday places. Shared all the pictures with Annie. Did her very best. Even talked about it to Jean afterwards as well.

Now for the wait. Her birthday was a few weeks away, but plenty of time. Jim wasn’t much for celebrating birthdays, and as he never asked, she never said. But her wish was out there, floating, ready to come true.

In the intervening weeks, Nina tried to put it out of her mind. No point in worrying, but lots of point in hoping. So, she did just that – dreamed and hoped.

The day arrived. A perfect day. Sunny, a slight breeze. She woke with a smile on her face.

Jim rolled over and gave her a quick birthday peck, and he was off. A busy day ahead of him. She understood. But there was tonight. He’d said to be ready at seven, and to dress.

It had to be a candlelight dinner – not too many of those in her life these days. And then over desert, the gift. She was sure that’s how it would go.

When Jim walked Nina into the private room of the best restaurant in town, a cheer erupted.

‘Surprise!’ roared the crowd.

A party. She was getting a surprise party. So, that was it. Looking at all those happy faces, how could she feel disappointed. But a part of her did feel a small stab.

Then came the speeches. Sincere words from good friends, lovely friends. That’s how it was in a small town. And then it was Jim’s turn. A man of few words, he said what he had to say, and then with a big grin, handed her an envelope.

She opened it. Her eyes widened – a booking voucher for a weekend at the Hydro Majestic. Tears welled, vision blurred for a moment. Jim looked at her with love and she looked right back at him with just as much love.

Tomorrow, she would have to cancel the reservation she had made… the just-in-case reservation. But tonight, tonight was a night for wishes that come true.

(510 words)

© Inara Hawley 2016