Mitchell's Mustard Blog

November 7, 2013

The Tartan Blanket

Filed under: My Work — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — mitchellsmustard @ 5:30 pm

He spread the tartan picnic blanket out with care, making sure all corners were straight. Every year he used the same blanket to protect the importance of this tradition, it was used, washed then folded neatly and stored away until this day came around again. The tartan was laced with yellows and greens and over the years the colours had faded to give it a vintage look. He loved this blanket, not because of the colours, not because it was of an age, but because it was one of the first things that she had given him. He swept the loose mischievous blades of grass away with his hand, “she’ll be here soon” he told himself. Every year in the same spot this picnic was set, to a standard that she would approve.
The first time they discovered this spot was by chance. He had just moved to Cambridge and she came to visit. A romance by distance is hard for the strongest of relationships, but they were strong, she was his queen and nothing would stand in the way of that. They had spent the day walking around his new local area, stopping on a bridge that looked over the river Cam, they stood and they watched as the water passed below. He whispered love songs in to her ear to make her giggle, she was bashful about love. As he went to tickle her sides she ran to the steps next to the bridge, taking each one carefully in her heels. She made her way onto Jesus green and finally stopped, turning she expected him to still be on the bridge looking down at her, but he was hot on her tail. He took her by the waist, picked her up and spun her round as they both laughed. They eventually fell to the ground, laying on the grass entwined. They stopped laughing, they stared at each other, they smiled, they were in love. They spent that afternoon together sat on the bank of the river watching the water pass under the bridge, talking of future plans, not realising they would make an effort to watch the water pass this same spot on the same day each year. It was their spot.
He took a step back to view the layout of his affections, brushing his hands together as a sign of completion. Sitting down next to the picnic basket he considered opening the bottle of her favorite wine to accompany him while he waits, she wouldn’t have minded but he still felt that it would be rude to start without her. He tapped his fingers on top of the basket, some would think of it as impatient but she knew him better than that. He watched the river pass under the bridge, gently flowing past like that of his life, the occasional bit of debris twisting and tangling with its surroundings to give the water an uneven run. He sat, he watched, and he waited.
Each year they spent time at this spot talking about future plans, with each year that passed their plans became smaller but their achievements became bigger. She had moved to Cambridge, they lived in a small two bedroom house off Hills Road. The news that they were to become a family had come as a surprise, a good surprise. Nine months passed quickly and they welcomed Isabelle in to their lives, she was a quiet and adorable baby, giggles and brunette curls. The only thing that didn’t change from that moment on was the love this little family shared, his job, the money, their friends, it all spiraled around their beautiful little girl, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
He watched people pass by as he waited, the fruits of one existence viewing the many, remembering, romancing in the moment, and sympathizing. Loud disobedient children, just like their Isabelle had once been. The young and adventurous, who learn only by mistakes. Young couples holding hands, causing a smile to the happy, yet disapproving to the disgruntled lonely. And the old that take their time and refuse help, holding their pride higher than their health. He watched life, he waited, he smiled.
Isabelle grew quicker than they could have ever imagined, gone were the days of cuddles before bed, he missed the days of testing his imagination for a bedtime story, to watch her drift off to sleep as he explained how the prince and princess had met, or how they had saved their kingdom. He even missed pretending to eat and drink at one of her tea parties, he felt a little stupid when she insisted that they dine out in the street for all to see, but it was for her and he would do anything for her, that had never changed. Even through her troubled teens, the many broken curfews, the bad attitude, the long nights of waiting up for her to get home, in fear that something may have happened, dreading that phone call. He was never soft on punishment with her but he knew there wasn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for her, even when he was still upset.
He watched a Cambridge university rowing club across the river, synchronized movement by the crew pulling their racing shell from the clubhouse into the water without a hitch. This was a common pastime for many while sat on the bank of the river Cam, something he had watched with interest over years while he waited for her. He liked to reminisce about his wife, from the moment they met she was destined to occupy his mind, even when she wasn’t there. When he proposed to her he had sent the ring through the post to their home address so it wasn’t expected. He fondly remembered her face, how it turned from surprise, to a smile, to tears. She said yes as soon as she could find the words. Remembering the funny faces she used to pull at baby Isabelle to make her giggle when she thought he wasn’t watching, he never told her that he saw her.
She had started to lose a lot of weight, she looked drained. As stubborn as a mule but she knew something was wrong. By the time she had her first checkup, the cancer was diagnosed at its most advanced stage. That was the day it all changed, the day everything came crashing down. She closed up, his queen had become vacant, she had disappeared out of the back door, just leaving someone who looked like his wife behind. All communication had left, it took the playful smiles, the infectious laugh and her comical wit. A shell of the woman he loved, she had given up before the first bell, that’s what tore him apart the most.The last goodbye was the hardest part, to bury his queen, to be alone knowing that she will be waiting for him, alone.
He was staring at the water day dreaming when he felt movement next to him on the blanket, she had silently arrived. As he gazed at her his heart started to pound against his old and tired ribs. It had been three years and he missed his wife that little bit more every day that passed, she still occupied his mind, even though she wasn’t there. Caught in the right light, the resemblance was flawless, Isabelle looked like her mother. The same facial expressions that would always melt his heart. He loved spending time with his daughter, because little parts of his wife lived on in her. Just like her mother, she had grown to become an amazing woman. His heart swelled with pride.

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February 21, 2012

So here it is . . . . my Writers & Artists 2012 competition entry

Filed under: My Work — Tags: , , , , , , , , — mitchellsmustard @ 6:46 pm

Also Known As

Nothing strikes despair within like watching your girlfriend cry your name in fear and pain but being just out of reach, eye watering strength doesn’t get you any closer just like a vacant prayer. Its strange how atheists turn to a higher power in such moments like it’s their one last chance. The feeling of my heart in my throat chokes down the pride, why care what people think right now because she needs me. Seeing the disbelief in her face and the reflection of life in the whites of her bulging eyes, the way her hair dances in slow motion around her panicked features. Everything seems slower under water but time will never be on my side, watching bubbles of life leave the lips I kissed just minutes before we hit. Panic hits me as she starts to relax on the other side of the window, I kick and punch but the window just won’t budge. Is it the water that’s sending her to sleep or my inability to save her in this situation? Remembering when three addictive words passed your lips for the first time, on the other side of this window those lips are now turning blue. It was my job to protect her, not endanger. Why did I have to drive? I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window and realise how old I look, stirring to see her hand against my reflection. Palm spread against the transparent water cell. She mouths those three addictive words like she and the water have a silent understanding; they will be her last words so better make them count. No one can see tears under water but sometimes you just know they’re there, an empty stare as her body starts to dance just like her hair. The car and I start to part as it carries on sinking and my lungs start to burn, the car disappears as the bottom of the river becomes dark. Panic . . . . A huge intake of air. . . . No scream . . . . Sat bolt upright.

My nightmare is a cruel reminder of the past, creeping up when I’m at my weakest to rattle my bones like a toy. My bed sheets seem to learn a new constricting body hold each night whilst trying to find a way of making us become one. Sticky heat and sweaty pores used to be a summer rarity in my bed but now it’s the only way I know. I can get used to the clammy start to the day but the nightmares, the feeling that my heart is about to make an appearance through my chest never seems to be acceptable or feel like normality in the morning. I slowly shed my second skin to head towards the bathroom in slight fear of turning on the eye blistering light. Plucking up the courage whilst my hand is on the light cord I count to three. 1. . 2 . . 3. . The light exploded in to life and like every explosion you are left with the aftermath, the debris that needs clearing, the injuries that need attention and the surroundings that need reassurance. All this devastation behind one pair of eyes. I look into the mirror knowing what’s going to be staring back at me. The bathroom looks a mess, I look a mess and my life is a mess.

Melissa, even her name rolled off the tongue oozing with sexuality and confidence. She was what’s known as a true muse to my lost way of existence, an inspiration to do what’s right in this world of wrong doings. On the night of our four year anniversary we went to her favourite restaurant on cobbled streets in the heart of Cambridge, as always it was amazing food with great atmosphere. The entertainment was from the regular pianist we had got to know over the years who had become a good friend. He was an aging man with the heart and soul of a teen, plunging his fingers on notes that could stop you in your tracks or tap your foot without effort depending on his mood. We discussed our future. Discussed our love for each other and laughed about our plans.  This was the night she happily told me good news she was expecting our first child; this isn’t the reason I will always remember that night. I will always remember that night because that was the night I killed her.

Watching the light behind her eyes extinguish no more than a metre away, imprinting that image into my soul. After her empty shell had descended to the bottom of the river my only logical thought was to leave, get away. I knew it wouldn’t be long before they would come looking for me. I wouldn’t have the answers to their questions. They would never understand that question after question about losing my world to a murky river would send me over the edge. I wanted to swim down to find her, hold her, open my eyes and realise it was only a horrible trick from a playful night time mind. I could hold her body in mine and just drift with her, we could both slowly submerge to another existence but I was proving to be a coward. My guilt wanted me to live, to have this story and to be punished for my own decisions.

Standing in this bathroom where the tiled walls had an off white tinge, the smell of untreated mould was unbearable. I looked a gaunt version of myself in the mirror; my reflection reminded me of the junkies that lived in the alleyway behind our flat. She always used to say they looked like they wanted to be someone else, that’s what I needed to do, lose my identity, lose me. It wasn’t safe being me in this current setting. Handing myself in wasn’t an option. I knew I should, if not for her family then mine but I was scared. She wasn’t here to help me anymore; she would have known what to do. I knew nothing about losing who I was, to lose how I looked; all I could do was go into hiding. I found a motel that didn’t need my name as long as I was paying in cash, unfortunately the place looked and felt like somewhere you would only find people who had no identity. Ideal for me as I didn’t want to be found, it was what I needed but couldn’t be further from what I wanted.

She was so wonderful; I can picture her smiling in the restaurant. The beautiful black dress and diamond necklace that complimented her pale skin, I can see her in slow motion, slightly blurred like an old film recording. She had the most amazing smile, the smile that always kept my attention. I always knew whatever problems came our way her smile would defeat and conquer, I needed that smile now. From the celebration of news that I was going to be a father I decided to have a drink for the occasion, I should have made the decision to get a taxi home. Playing over and over in my head but I can’t change it, clearly not ready to take responsibility of fatherhood due to poor judgement that evening. I’ll always be paying the price.

We decided to take the back roads home coming out of Cambridge. Both feeling excited about what is yet to come of our lives we were joking and laughing on our way back. Right at that moment I felt invincible, nothing was going to stop this beautiful woman and I enjoy life. Distracted by the sweet sound of her voice and laughter I misjudged the unlit corner next to a river in a little village. The seconds it took for the car to leave the road and hit the water felt like minutes, the bank was raised so the car lifted off like it was from a ramp. Seeing the fear in her face, the smile had gone.

The rush of cold water against my skin paralysed my thoughts and common sense, panic set in and survival became all that’s known. I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when we hit, I never did like wearing them and she hated that about me. Under the water I was on the outside of the car looking in on her; I must have been thrown through my window. I had it open a little just to let fresh air into the car. As much as I tell myself that playing it over and over in my head won’t change what’s happened I still do it, my biggest fear playing on a broken record.

I felt dirtier stepping out of the shower than before I stepped into it. I was getting used to the wet dog smell from the complementary motel towels I used to dry myself off with. I sat, I paced the room. I had nothing but memories to keep me occupied. I sat and stared at a picture of Melissa that still haunted a compartment in my wallet. She was sat with a smile just like times before, a figure with his arm around her belonging to someone I used to recognise. Some mornings I would find myself styling my hair like the man in the photo to see if I could strengthen the recognition but the beard on my face would just confuse the moment. These days it just felt like an identity was slowly drifting in to the past, hidden by the beard and lack of sleep. By looking at the couple in the photo it was hard to believe I could have ever found myself in a situation like them, they were becoming strangers and the picture could well have been cut from the back of a magazine.

I could hear the sirens whilst I lay on my bed, my body felt like stone. The sirens were louder than ever before but my body seemed to ignore the pounding of my heart. I could feel my heart pound in my head; the pounding seemed to match the sound coming from the door.  I lay staring at the ceiling thinking of the other side. As I heard people shouting out in the hall way I just thought of her smile. I didn’t react when the door was forced off of its hinges. I didn’t react when the room was filled with uniformed police. Losing my own identity meant I started to lose the memories of her, she was part of the figure I recognised in the photo not part of the man I had become.

“Is this him?” said one officer,

“Yeah this is him . . .  also known as Dan Mitchell” the other officer replied whilst dropping the wallet in a plastic bag.

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