This is the visual prompt from Magpie Tales this week.

Here is my story…..

It had been a glimpse. So quick it might not have happened. Her mother’s face a white triangle in the dining room mirror. Caught like a ghost as she ran out of the French doors and into the garden. Hannah saw the ivy that dressed the back wall shift. There was that spot on the corner where the bricks had crumbled, where if you breathed in hard enough you could squeeze through the wall right out into the street. The ivy shifted and her mother was gone.

China lay all over the floor. The set Max had given them at Christmas. The one with the flowers the colour of nutmeg. Hannah had liked eating dinner off those plates. They made her mother’s overcooked meat and mushy vegetables easier to swallow. The custard apples Hannah had bought at the markets to see if they really tasted like custard sat in the wreckage, skins split.

Max’sย  pocketknife sat in the middle of it all, the blade at an angle in a pool of blood. The blood surrounded it like a halo.

Hannah felt the lash of panic. Lacerating. There was a lot of blood. It had to be her mother’s. There was no one else there. She had moved pretty fast for someone who had lost that amount of blood.

Hannah ran out to the garden, squeezed through the space in the wall. The street was empty. Hannah scanned the ground for a trail, for drops of blood. There was nothing.

She ran back inside. Called her mother’s mobile.

Where are you? she shouted. What have you done?

Hannah had heard them fighting the night before. Max and her mother. She liked Max. He was sensible, he treated Hannah like she was a real person. Her mother was going to drive him away. Hannah could see it. She made pronouncements about him that were impossible to live up to.

You are a God to me, she said. You are my saviour.

On the nights when Max stayed over Hannah would find her mother with Max’s phone at 3AM, checking his calls, his messages. Then she would move to his computer, voraciously reading his emails. Looking, just looking for something to be wrong.

Why don’t you trust him? Hannah cried.

Because he’s a man, said her mother. Love isn’t just all good times, you know. It’s warm blood and it’s cold.

Hannah knew her mother was going to destroy it all. She heard the crows making noises of sympathy in the garden. Birds knew things were going to happen before people did, especially crows, they were ancient souls.

I would kill a man who said he was going to leave me.

Her mother had said it once when she and Hannah had been watching a documentary entitled Deadly Women. She had said it with such surety that Hannah couldn’t sleep for over a week.

The front door had opened. The hinge squeaked like badly-soled shoes. A tremor ran through Hannah, more desolate than fear. Her feet crunched on the china on the floor. Little powdered footprints followed her up the hallway. Max stood there, his hand bandaged, a gash on his cheek.

I’m a saviour who doesn’t do much saving, he said.

Max had come to say goodbye. Hannah could think of nothing to say that would convince him to stay. Blood on the floor was the thing that did all the talking.

The things you tried hardest to forget never really were forgotten. They stayed like a scar made by broken glass.

Hannah heard Max had got married. A nice woman. Uncomplicated. She was glad. It had been over ten years.

She had been looking through her mother’s old cabinets and found the knife. There it was at the back of the cupboard jammed under an old breakfast tray. Hannah remembered how vigorously she had scrubbed it to get the blood off. She had used a whole pack of Steelo pads.

As she was scrubbing she wondered if she would lie for her mother if it came down to it. If she would get rid of the knife. Luckily, she never had to.

Her mother was unreachable. Highly medicated in hospital, living half a life. Hannah had gone over in her head a thousand times why her mother had acted as she had. Why she had settled for a life that was really death. Why she had wanted to kill a man who had never done her any harm. Why she had left her daughter alone.

There were no answers, just a getting on with things.

She wrapped the knife over and over in newspaper and string, taking it outside to the bin.

She walked to the shops as the crows gathered in the fig trees, putting their heads together as if whispering about her. In the thrift store she saw a teaset with nutmeg-coloured flowers. Not the same as Max’s but close enough. She bought it and took it home, surprised to find she had a spring in her step.

Hannah drank her tea looking out to the garden. The china was smooth, the painted flowers the same shade as maple leaves curling on grass. Hannah watched as her neighbour’s cat tried to squeeze through the wall even though it had been repaired long ago. His tail flicked like a kite string.

She felt like a page had been turned or a prayer had been answered.

She brewed more tea, tried to catch the steam as it rose from the cup just as she had when she was a child.

It was a fresh start.

29 thoughts on “Outset

  1. Good morning Selma, A lovely peice you have written here, most enjoyable. We too have crows. Not crows exactly, but ravens. Every evening they fly in convoy to their night shelter in the barn by the old church. How they gossip!

    Love it!

    If you would care to take a look at some of my work, please do. http://www.rivenrod.com

    All the best,



  2. kind of a sad story, I like the changing emotions from beginning to the serene end. I do think Hanna will always have the image of her crazed mother in her mind, some things are just hard to forget


  3. What a sad story. I would hate to have had a crazy mother like this one! Thankfully Hannah has a happy new beginning.

    I really loved this part:

    “Hannah had liked eating dinner off those plates. They made her motherโ€™s overcooked meat and mushy vegetables easier to swallow.”


  4. Bravo on all counts….amazing and a very true story indeed…there are mothers and women who hate men and do not want anyone else to be happy in their hate….good thing her mother was lock up… and she could enjoy her tea in peace……


  5. Hi ALEXIS:
    I am so glad you liked it. There was a similar intensity when writing it. It just sort of poured out of me. Sadly, I have known women like Hannah’s mother. I really appreciate you stopping by.

    Your name is magical. I am not surprised you notice the ravens. And yes, they really do gossip. It will be a pleasure to look at your work. On my way….

    Hi RA:
    That is lovely of you to say so. Thank you for visiting!

    Hi HELEN:
    Bit of a dark one. The stories unfold as they will. I quite enjoyed writing it!

    Hi LISSA:
    I think it will be hard to escape that image, for sure. I hope it doesn’t stop her from finding love herself.


  6. Hi AOIFE:
    What a beautiful, Celtic name you have. I am so glad it appealed to you. Thanks so much.

    I like that phrase ‘Well-Turned Tales.’ It is a good name for a story collection!

    Hi KATHE:
    I felt like there should have been a slightly positive ending. The original ending was full of misery, so I changed it. Glad you liked it!

    Hi WILLOW:
    They used to give me the creeps too but I have grown fond of them. They have a knowing look!

    Hi MELEAH:
    I based that on something I used to do as a kid. My aunt was a shocking cook, really dreadful, but she had the most beautiful dinner plates. They had these lovely woodland scenes with lots of animals and trees. The only good thing about eating her food was getting to see the scene on the plate. I ate a lot of mushy vegetables to get there!

    It is true. Some people can’t let go of their hate and attempt to infect others with it. I’m glad she could enjoy her tea in peace too!

    Sometimes I fear my stories are too long, so thanks for saying that. I am delighted you enjoyed it!


  7. Your descriptions! They’re perfect – I actually heard the crunch under her feet. Felt it too. That was just one of them…

    Are all of Magpie Tales prompts visual? I’m thinking of getting into prompt writing again. Thinking, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  8. PS I borrowed your copyright idea for the sidebar – I have no idea what I’m doing, but I remembered you had posted some stuff on copyright issues awhile back. I hope you don’t mind?


  9. Very creative Selma. I enjoyed it.

    I think I can relate to this one too much–having an imbalanced relative through marriage who is not afraid to select violece as an option to resolve disputes–imagined or real.


  10. Hi BRIAN:
    Oh, I love that you used wicked cool. That has made my day. The best critique ever. *doing a happy dance*

    Hi AINE:
    I would love if you participated in Magpie Tales. Your stories would be an absolute hit. The prompts are all visual which can be quite challenging, but also fun. Please consider it ๐Ÿ˜€

    No worries about the copyright thing. You’ve got to have it. We must protect our work. You can use anything, any time. Go for it!

    I can relate too, unfortunately. It’s a hard thing to watch when people opt for violence. Quite draining to write about, actually.


  11. I donโ€™t really find the story sad. Just as the title suggests, it is has a very strong line of optimism, courage and a zest for life. By the way, I can trace down this motif in quite a few of your stories. No matter how tragic the atmosphere, the final message is very positive. I really enjoyed the story. Thank you, Selma.


  12. Hi STAFFORD:
    Suspicion really is a bad thing. It can only end in tears. Thanks for your positive feedback. I really appreciate it!

    I am following a bit of a theme at the moment. I hope I’m not in danger of becoming a one-trick pony….

    Hi SHIONA:
    Thanks so much for saying that. It really means a lot to me. At the moment I am very much focusing on remaining positive in a personal sense – I guess that’s why my stories follow that theme. I do like to show there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Real life can be so gloomy. I am trying to avoid that!


  13. What a sad situation. I’m glad that Max wasn’t killed, that Hannah didn’t inherit her mother’s disturbances, and that both can move on with their lives. Well written!


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