During the past nine months of blogging I have had many kind requests for me to feature more of my writing. Today I am very pleased to post my first winning story, which was printed in Writing Magazine last year. As it is quite long, I have chosen to split this into two parts with the concluding part appearing tomorrow. Enjoy and I look forward to your comments.
BIDING HER TIME
Aged seven Queenie fell in love for the first time. The only time. From the moment she saw Thomas, she knew that here was her future husband. He just didn’t know it yet.
It was the first day of school and Queenie spotted Thomas at the front. Straight backed, tall, skinny, he sat next to the teacher’s desk. His blond hair was cut short military-style. The worn out trousers were a hand-me-down and the navy blue fisherman jumper had been repaired at the elbows. Nervously he fingered the black slate, then the chalk, before rubbing his dusty fingers across his trousers, leaving a white smiling streak grinning for the rest of the day.
Carefully Queenie edged past the other desks but felt a slight tug on her new skirt; it had caught on a wood splitter from one of the desks and sighing, she gently released the skirt and realised she could easily mend it later at home.
Tentatively she opened the lid of her desk, then, as she twisted to listen to her friend, it slammed shut. The classroom fell silent and all eleven pairs of eyes were on her. Even his. Thomas’s. She smiled sweetly, shaking her head, the long pigtails waving apologetically to the teacher, the red bows catching the sunlight.
“Well, Queenie,” said the teacher. “Thank you for that, but please in the future leave it to me to settle the class. To work…”
The rest of the day passed in a blur as Queenie hugged her secret to herself and there it remained for the weeks, months and years ahead.
The infamous tales of Thomas and Queenie quickly spread across the small fishing island as the academic pupils rivalled for first place in every subject. Their nine fellow school friends awaited each test result with anticipation, as first one week Thomas excelled in maths, the following week Queenie produced a stunning essay.
One day as the sunlight streamed in through the windows, Thomas’s arm flew up in answer to the teacher’s latest maths question.
“Yes, Thomas. Please answer. Let’s see your ability to predict the future,” said the teacher with a quizzical smile. “Or shall I finish the question first? Eagerness is all well and good, but do be patient.”
Shamefaced Thomas remained silent for the rest of the day and he waited for Queenie to outshine him. She didn’t however, and stayed mute herself, feeling for him and his embarrassment.
Through the years the pair struck up a lively banter, but it was just that, banter. Yet Queenie knew. She felt her love flourish as Thomas grew into a young man; strong and broad now, regularly working on the boats, helping to bait the longlines at five in the morning before school.
With frost on his overcoat and hat he scrambled late into class and was allowed a minute to put the coat by the fire and to thaw his numb hands. He added his coarse grey woollen mittens to the rows already hanging on the wooden railings. Water dripped from them all and formed small pools below. A warm fug penetrated the classroom and by lunchtime the now only slightly damp mittens were retrieved, hats donned and coats buttoned up as they headed out again.
“Queenie! Wait!” called Thomas one day at home time. They were thirteen, she older by a month and therefore the boss – or so they joked.
She stopped, as did her heart for a second. The sun hung low in the sky, the sea mist coasting up the cliffs and across the playground, lapping at their feet.
“Here. Borrow my gloves. I saw yours still sopping wet from lunchtime. Mine are dry.” Gratefully she accepted and as she lent to pick up her books, Thomas, with his long arms, reached over and took them.
“Let me. I’ll walk you home.”
Anxiously he talked about the fishing, the latest herring prices and his uncle’s new trawler. Queenie smiled, her long brown hair tucked under her fur hat, the brown coat sweeping the ground. She could bide her time. Already a head taller than her, Queenie glanced up at Thomas, his blond hair darkening to a soft longer brown, a cap perched on his head. Yes, I can wait, she thought.
A few months later Queenie quietly let herself into the classroom, her eyes red and downcast. She raised her head only once, to look at Thomas’s desk, now unoccupied.
Her friends approached cautiously, as if trying to rescue an injured and frightened bird.
“We’re so sorry to hear about Thomas’s father,” uttered one friend.
“They say it was quick,” another tried to reassure. “Heart attack, wasn’t it?”
“How is Thomas? When is he coming back?”
Queenie just shook her head, unable to answer, her summer coat clasped tightly around her.
“Class, please settle.” Even the teacher was subdued. “We are all so sorry to hear about the loss in Thomas’s family. As some of you may know, he will not be returning to school…”
“What?!” The uproar was controlled but loud. Shocked chatter reverberated around the room.
End of part one…To read the concluding part, please click here.
© Annika Perry