Our latest entry in our Creative Notebook is from talented writer Catriona McKeown. “It’s all in the getting up” is a beautiful tale about love, ageing and a surprise visitor. I suggest you make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a glass of wine, and get comfy for a few minutes with these characters.
Perfect Autumn weather activity. 🙂
Thank you Catriona for sharing your wonderful writing.
Please note all work on Seasons Online is copyright and cannot be replicated or reproduced elsewhere without permission.
About the Author: Catriona McKeown
Catriona is a freelance writer, aspiring author, teacher, wife and the mother of three exceptional children. She lives on the Fraser Coast in Queensland, but has a passion for Western Australia, especially the Kimberley, where she and her family had the privilege of living for twelve months in the remote town of Halls Creek.
If you have some writing, poetry, photography or art that you would like to send in for consideration and possible publishing in our Creative Notebook please do so via this link: Creative Notebook Contributions
Twigs jabbed and sliced, every scratch reminding him what he’d just done. His mind, a slush pool of murmurings, memories and misconceptions gone awry, fueled by the fire racing through his chest. Bursting from the scrub, he took four strides before allowing his legs to give way.
Slate, hiding under a thin layer of sand, stole his breath: an unpleasant collision of stone and bone. But not even the pain the beach inflicted had distracted him. He was still thinking of only one thing.
She had said yes.
As his breath returned, he braced himself to examine the damage. Pulling his legs around, he found his best black pants sporting holes like he was some teenage git. The pale blue hanky Eileen had given him for his last birthday would be useful to assist in stopping the blood oozing from each knee. He grimaced. He was glad she wasn’t here, that she hadn’t followed him.
As his shaking hand fumbled around the worst knee, he noticed the little girl in his peripheral vision, and he froze.
What was she doing, coming again after all this time? It must have been close to fifteen years since she had last visited him.
The young girl stood to his right, watching as though he were entertainment. He frowned at her, but she just smiled back.
“What do you want? Have you come to taunt me again?” He kept his eyebrows down close to his eyes and looked at her without moving his head.
“You hurt yourself,” the girl replied, moving closer.
He huffed, trying to ignore her, but her bright red sundress and shoes-less feet made it near impossible. She looked different to last time he’d seen her. She was a little older and her mouth naturally curved into a smile, as though she were happy.
“I came to see if you’re okay,” she said.
“Is your mother with you?” he asked, trying to sound aloof.
“She’s around,” the girl said, waving her hands as though her mother was the air she was breathing. “Why did you fall over?”
“I tripped. Not that it is any business of yours. Don’t you have somewhere else to be?”
“You came running out of the bushes really fast,” the girl said, sitting down beside him. “I know First Aid. I can help.”
His chest tightened. “You’re just a child,” he said. “What the hell would you know about First Aid?”
The girl pulled back. “Mum says you shouldn’t use words like that.”
“What? Like hell?”
She frowned. “Yes. Mum says that some people don’t like that word because it’s a reminder that they’ll be going there soon.”
He stifled a chuckle. She spoke differently. Smarter. Had someone been teaching her?
Looking back down at his knees, he noticed a deep cut and held the hanky hard down on it.
The girl simply sat and watched. “You could wet the cloth with sea water. That might help.”
“I can look after myself. I used to be a doctor, remember. After all these years, am I a stranger to you?” He was doing everything wrong. He wasn’t supposed to engage with her like this. It wasn’t healthy, his psychologist had said.
“You’re not a stranger,” the girl said. “Your name is Michael and you’re Grandma’s special friend.”
Michael looked again at the little girl. Her blue eyes were bright, her skin, healthy and tanned. This was not the way he remembered her. Amy had brown eyes like her mother, he was sure of it.
The girl placed her hand on Michael’s, sending tremors up his arm. She’d never touched him before. He hadn’t felt her touch since … well, for thirty-five years.
The realization washing over him was as gentle as it was calm, like the waves lapping the beach. “Who are your parents?” Michael asked.
“Jan and Peter,” the girl smiled. “I’m Emily.”
Michael widened his eyes. “Oh. Eileen’s youngest granddaughter.” He let out a deep sigh. “You look so much like – like someone I knew, a long time ago.”
The girl smiled.
“You ran away from Grandma’s party really quickly. Did you and Grandma have a fight?”
Michael shook his head. “No.”
“Then why did you leave?”
Michael looked down at the sand and shrugged.
“Oh, can’t you remember? Mum says sometimes old people-”
“I’m not that old!” Michael frowned, looking the girl in the eyes.
“Oh,” she smiled. “Sorry.”
He wished she’d stop smiling.
Michel looked down at his hands where age spots, highlighting grey hairs, emphasized his ever-increasing age. He was sixty-eight now. Sixty-eight and nothing to show for it.
And yet, despite her saying yes, he’d run away. He’d freaked out like an eight year old asking the girl sitting next to him to go steady.
She’d said yes. And he’d still acted foolishly. He was no wiser than the child sitting beside him.
He gazed out over the sea; blues were rolling into different shades as the sun sunk lower in the sky. Dinner would be served soon and Eileen would be wondering where he had gone. She’d be hoping to make an announcement, no doubt. Then there’d be speeches; her children would say lovely things about her because she is lovely, and because she’d spent her life being lovely to them – being lovely to everyone.
And who did Michael have to say good things about him? No one.
No one except Eileen, whose brand new engagement ring burned in his pocket. The ring would tell the world that he loved Eileen and that she loved him back. Even though they only had years left together, it was a lifetime enough to want to share. It meant he was worth something. She believed he was worth something.
Michael looked at Emily, who was watching him as if she were reading his mind.
“I do love your Grandma.”
Emily smiled. “I thought so. You look at her like she’s a big piece of your favorite apple pie.”
Emily’s face turned serious. “She kinda looks at you like that too. I hope you’re going back to the party. I don’t want Grandma to be sad.”
“I’m just scared,” Michael said. He breathed out slowly as tears spilt over the rims of his eyes. “I was married once, a long time ago. To someone a bit like your Grandma.” Michael placed his hand on his chest to try to ease the pressure building around his heart. “We had a little girl, about your age. But they got sick and left me on my own. And that made me sad.”
Emily put her hand on Michael’s shoulder and patted it, like he used to do to his daughter when she was sad.
“Grandma had someone die too,” Emily said. “I had a grandpa once. I never got to meet him, but Mum says he was nice, except he’d get angry at the footy. Do you watch football?”
Michael shook his head. “Never.”
Emily nodded. “Well, I guess you can marry my grandma then. But you would have to come back to her party. Mum says it’s not every day someone turns seventy.”
Michael nodded and eased himself up onto shaky legs.
“I look a mess.” He wiped his face with a corner of the hanky that was clean.
“There’s a tap up here,” Emily said and she took his arm. “Careful you don’t trip over again.”
They reached the tap and Michael rinsed his handkerchief. In the distance, the sun began painting the sky in reds, pinks and oranges. Bats screeched overhead.
Michael and Emily headed back up the path, through the bush, to where Emily’s house was lit up with fairy lights and the sound of people laughing.
“My pants are all torn,” Michael said, looking down at himself. “I look like a fool.”
“No you don’t. Grandma won’t care.”
Emily pulled at Michael’s hand, dragging him through the gate into her backyard. The verandah was alive with clinking glasses and smells of roasting pork.
Emily stopped Michael and looked up at him. “I always wondered what it would be like to have a grandpa. I like you. Can I call you grandpa?”
Michael swallowed a lump in this throat, and nodded.
Emily grinned. “Grandma,” she called out. “I found Grandpa!”
Eileen appeared on the back step, her worried expression turning to relief. “Michael! What happened to you?”
Michael looked down at Emily. “I got lost for a moment, but Emily here found me and helped clean me up.”
Eileen gasped. “Are you alright? Your pants are torn!”
“I had a little spill,” Michael said. He pulled a small blue box from his pocket and looked at Emily. Emily winked and gave an encouraging grin.
“But I’ll be okay.” Michael turned and smiled at Eileen like she was a piece of his favorite pie. “So long as you’re still keen to grow older with me.”