Moniqa's Tale

Moniqa's Tale

A Story by HoWiE

This was an experimental piece written as an exercise a few years ago - I had to put myself into the persona of a little girl who had been locked out of her house for the afternoon - a true story relayed to me by my friend Moniqa.


Autumn, 1978.
     I�d eaten bugs before; it wasn�t a habit, more another pastime to which my Mother hadn�t warmed. The bugs on Father�s allotment were best: soft centred with a crispy chitin shell and not at all stringy. I�d snuck away from the other girls to kick over stones and clods of earth on the carefully tilled ground. I liked to hang out alone with my thoughts sometimes.
     I flopped back unceremoniously into a patch of cool rhubarb leaves and watched a clique of ants busying up the side of my faded dungarees. As I idly mused at the dishwater sky I heard the faint tap-dance of light rain on the leaves about me. It seemed to be time to go.
     My Dunlop Green Flash slapped noisily on the rain spattered pavement as I raced home with the dark puddles leaping up at my feet and dancing in my wake. Monochrome at its best, Fallowfield was being further bleached by the encroaching dusk by the time I arrived home. I rapped on the glossy red painted door and waited; the doorbell hadn�t worked for months, not that it mattered as I couldn�t reach it anyway. The drizzle had matured to heavy droplets and I shivered as the wind began to blow it under my tee-shirt. I knocked again, louder this time and wondered why the doorbell was so high. Each knock echoed throughout but remained unanswered.
     The house was empty.
     Everyone had gone.
     I was alone... cool.
     Then it struck me, I could now do whatever I wanted, I was unrestrained, unleashed, unbound. I could go anywhere, do anything and answer to no-one. Pushing my unruly black curls out of my eyes I fixated on the end of the road and pondered upon how far it went. I stared upwards and felt the fresh rain on my upturned face noting the way it ran, in tiny rivulets, down my cheeks. I closed my eyes and allowed the droplets to pool in the sockets; I stuck out my tongue and tasted it.


     �Child, you�ll catch your death!�
     I guess I must have looked pretty strange stood there, eyes closed, tongue out and wobbling back on my heels as I tried to keep the puddles in my eyes from spilling over. Ms Redfearn, though, I figured had seen most things at her age. Ms Redfearn was eighty years old, lived next door and smelled of tea.
     �Come in, come in, you�re soaked to the skin.� She ushered me inside and quickly closed the door. �I heard you knocking; your Mum and Dad must have gone out.�
     �And my sisters.� I informed her. Her brow furrowed, �do they normally go out and leave you like this?�
     �No, first time,� water dripped off my tresses and onto my nose. �Can I have a towel please?�
     Towelled dry and warm, I sat down on Ms Redfearn�s flowery sofa and looked around as she busied herself in the kitchen. �Tea dear? Earl Grey or Darjeeling?�
     I liked Ms Redfearn�s house. It was filled with old lady stuff: flowery sofa and matching curtains, fluffy slippers and porcelain dogs on the fireplace. I kicked off my shoes and stretched my feet out. The gas fire flickered and hissed as I drew white tufts of fake fur rug between my toes. On the mantelpiece I spied a faded sepia photograph in a bronze frame. I reached up for it, turning it over in my hands as I examined it and leaving faint finger print smudges on the burnished surface as I did so. It was an old picture of a young girl, little older than myself, sat on a drab shingle beach wearing a hat.
     Soon enough Ms Redfearn returned with a tinkling pewter tray of Darjeeling tea, china cups and saucers and Chocolate Digestives. The corners of her watery blue eyes crinkled as she poured me half a cup. �That picture was taken seventy two years ago,� she said. Her mouth curled slightly at the corner. �I was on holiday in Ramsgate. I was eight years old.�
     I sipped the strong hot tea and let my fingers hover over the plate of Digestives. Ms Redfearn seemed to read my mind and gave out a sudden laugh that sounded like Christmas bells. �If you want to dip your biscuits you can dear.�
     Mum and Dad never let me dunk my biscuits.
     �Would you like to see more pictures of what it was like when I was your age?� She asked.
     �Yes, please.� It seemed altogether more appealing than exploring in the rain, especially when there were more Chocolate Digestives on offer.
     I was left with the ticking of the Swiss wall clock for company whilst Ms Redfearn trundled upstairs to find her old photo albums. Time stood stand still here, captured in the distant memories that lurked behind each photo and ornament. Even the wall clock with its carved wooden figures only made noise to fill the empty space when there was no conversation. I got up and took a brief tour of the small room pausing to examine the paraphernalia on the teak sideboard, most of which was covered in a thin layer of dust. One of the photo�s, though, appeared to have been handled quite a bit. It was an old black and white shot of a soldier, his rifle slung over his shoulder and his peaked cap sat on the back of his head. He was leaning up against a rickety road sign but I couldn�t read it properly, it looked foreign.
     �A handsome man was my Jack.� Ms Redfearn reappeared at my shoulder clutching some dusty photo albums.
     �Jack?� I puzzled.
     �My husband, Mr Redfearn.�
     I was surprised. �I didn�t know you were married.� I said trying to picture Ms Redfearn with the tall moustachioed soldier. She smiled. �Where do you think my children and grandchildren came from?�
     �I don�t know,� I answered truthfully. I began wondering again. �Where ...?�
     �Ah!� She waved the question away. �Not a question for me to answer child, come sit back down and have some more tea.�
     So we did.
     Over the next two hours we sat huddled together, sipping tea, dunking Digestives and looking through her old photo�s. I thought how different she looked from me and about how different her life must have been. Ms Redfearn told me how the soldier in the picture had been killed on his way home, after the war. It was very sad. I saw tears in her eyes when she said that she missed him still and felt the hot wetness pricking at mine too. There were pictures of other holidays, Herne Bay, Scarborough, Sheerness and Great Yarmouth; places I�d not heard of. I asked Ms Redfearn whether one day I�d be lucky enough to go to Sheerness for my holiday but strangely she just laughed. I studied the pictures of her home town when it was bombed by the Germans but could hardly recognise it as a town at all. I said then that I didn�t like the Germans and was surprised when she chided me. �Don�t hate them Moniqa, they�ve done nothing to you and it was a very long time ago. They were just following orders, just like my Jack and his friends.� She sighed and traced some of the images with her fingers. As she did so a winsome smile touched her features and just then, I saw an inkling of the young girl I last saw sat on the beach at Ramsgate.
     There came a sudden chiming from the hallway and Ms Redfearn hurried to meet it. Moments later my Father came striding into the sitting room. �Where have you been?� He exclaimed.
     �Oh hello.� Was all I managed. It suddenly occurred to me that other things existed outside Ms Redfearn�s flowery time capsule. Ms Redfearn folded her arms against her bosom and eyed Father critically. �She�s been here with me for the past couple of hours. I found her outside in the rain.�
     �Ah yes...� Father said shifting his feet uncomfortably. �Thank you, Ms Redfearn.� He reached out and I slipped my hand into his. He mumbled something to Ms Redfearn about Mum and Asda as he led me into the hall. At the door she planted a kiss on my cheek and told me to come round any time I wanted. I thanked her for the evening and even allowed her to wipe the chocolate arcs from the corners of my mouth.
     Home hadn�t changed much save for the mountain of green and white Asda shopping bags that occupied the space where the kitchen table had been. Apparently there had been a sale on. I could smell dinner cooking and my mouth watered. Mum was clattering about in the kitchen, Father was ensconced in his armchair illuminated by the evening news and my sisters were thumping around upstairs. Things seemed back to normal.
     Outside, it continued to rain.


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© 2008 HoWiE

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I love the way she gets herself lost in this little time capsule with Ms Redfern. It's a lovely image, a little girl and an old lady looking over old photos and seeing the differences, as well as the similarities in their lives. Nicely written. XX

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Reality becomes intermeshed with personal memories of post war Blighty and nudges pictures of allotments
I'd wandered through behind the blacksmith's on the way to the playing fields

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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2 Reviews
Added on May 20, 2008
Last Updated on May 20, 2008



Plymouth,, Devon, United Kingdom

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