Time Does Not Equal Distance

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We used to measure it in minutes and then hours.

We counted the days, the weeks and then the months since you’ve been gone.

Now we count the years.

Two years to be exact.

They say that the passing of time gives you distance, but thoughts of you are never far away.

Time may heal, but we’ll never forget.

Never forget those few precious moments we had with you, and they are just moments.

Too brief, the time we got to share with you.

The days seem long now, although they are still the same amount of time.

Those brief minutes when we thought you’d be with us forever seem so much shorter now, compared to the time without you in it.

Now you are in eternity, but you are never far from our hearts.

Time does not equal distance.

You will always be with us, no matter how much time passes.

Hearts and minds, thoughts and love.

You still reside with us and always will.

It doesn’t stop us missing you.

Two years.

Time does not equal distance.

 

Short Scenes: Touch

This is the first post in a series of posts of short descriptive scenes using a particular theme. The theme for this series is 5 Senses and this post is about the sense of Touch

The cool, salt laden breeze caressed her skin as she stood on the boardwalk watching the sun set over the ocean. It was a nice contrast to the prickly heat of the day and her skin shivered deliciously as it cooled. She closed her eyes and let the gusts twine around her, lifting her thick curls from her neck and brushing her damp nape with its refreshing fingers. It played with her dark hair, gently tossing it around her face, the stray tendrils tickling her nose and grazing her cheek. She laughed with delight at its playfulness and revelled in the kiss of it against her bare flesh. The scratchy wooden railing bit into her hands as she gripped it and leant back, stretching her arms and throwing her head back to the sky. She made a picture with her upturned face and gently arched back as the last rays of the sun roved over her, setting her golden skin aglow for just a moment. She felt the magic of those dying rays like the parting touch of a lover and the heat of it radiated through her before it was gone and the sea breeze once again wrapped its gentle arms around her. With her eyes still closed, she could feel the moment the sun finally slid below the horizon. Like a soft blanket being thrown over her, dusk settled around her and she felt the beginnings of the night nudge timidly against her. Her skin rippled with the change and she sighed with contentment. She loved the hot summer days, the way her skin warmed and glistened with sweat, but this is what she loved most about the season. Those first few minutes of twilight when the wind turned cool and prickled her skin, when the eternal struggle of day and night found common ground and shared the day for just a moment.

I would love to read your Short Scenes just link to this post and use the tag Short Scenes

The Storm and the Sea

The sky above dark
The clouds bruised and swollen
The little boat floundering
Adrift on the roiling sea

The ocean below heaving
The wind howling unrelenting
Wave crashed after wave
Over port and bow

She stood at the helm
Her hands clutched to the wheel
Her shoulders hunched
And arms straining

She heard the snap and crack
Sail and mast taught and strained
The stinging needles of salt spray
Mixed with tears on her cheeks

The little white boat
So proud when moored at berth
Now alone and broken
Tossed carelessly by the storm

The water loomed menacingly
Towering over the yacht
It grinned wickedly
Before smashing the craft to bits

Her safe haven gone
With nothing left to cling to
She drifted on the churning sea
All alone all alone

She drowned in the sea
All alone in the sea
The storm was too big
With no one there to save her

The End…(not really)

31 Days of Blogging – Day 31

sometimes

 

So it is day 31 and, well, I would like to say that I have achieved my goal to blog everyday this month, but I didn’t.  It started out well, but two weeks in the wheels fell off.  Maybe I was too ambitious or maybe I was just ill-prepared, but for whatever reason, I failed.  I feel a little bad about it, but in the grand scheme of life, it is not all that important.  Although I failed to achieve my goal, I did learn a whole heck of a lot along the way.

  1. Blogging everyday is hard – I’m not an overly chatty person to begin with, but I have a very robust inner monologue and I thought that would be enough to get me through…it wasn’t.
  2. Quality beats quantity – Sure I could write down everything that goes on in my head, but there is a reason it stays in my head and doesn’t come out my mouth…internal filters.  Not everything that my inner self says should be broadcast to the world…most of it is crap
  3. Be prepared – It takes a lot of organisation and a reasonable amount of time to write a blog post – well to try to write one that is worth reading.  I wasn’t prepared for the amount of time that it took to write and edit and post.
  4. You need to be in the right head space – there were some days that my brain was so overwhelmed with the things going on in my day to day life that there was just no more room for anything else.

So at the end of 31 days I can say that I did enjoy writing the posts I published, but maybe I was a bit ambitious.  My husband and I run two cafes and are trying to get a cold brew business off the ground as well, so maybe blogging every day was asking a bit too much.  I’m glad I started it, I’m glad for what it has taught me about myself.  And I intend to keep writing it…just not everyday.

The End 🙂

An Interlude

31 Days of Blogging – Day 8

Today I am going to share with you an excerpt from the novel I am very slowly writing.

A few posts ago, I did a Writer’s Challenge – Characters that Haunt You – In that post I wrote a scene for a character that I have been holding to for a long time, Maggie.  Today I decided to write another scene for Maggie.  Technically this scene comes before the other one, but it doesn’t really matter what order they are read in.

Another of my Bucket List items for 2014 is to write 50,000 words towards my novel…here is 2,975 of them…

flame

In the beginning there was light.  She remembered that much.  A single flame and seven candles.  The only light now was in her dreams.  She dreamed of the soft green grass between her toes and the azure blue sky that stretched infinitely above her.  She dreamt of the whisper of the tall grass as the breeze danced playfully across the rolling hills.  She yearned to feel the caress of the wind on her skin and the kiss of the sun on her face.  But that world only existed in her dreams now and she wondered whether it really existed at all.  All she had now was darkness and the smell of rot and refuse.

She tried to hold on to the dream for as long as she could, but it slipped through her fingers like water.  She lay still, her eyes closed and tried to remember.  It was her ritual every time she woke from the dream; to force herself to remember.  It was getting harder and harder, the memories were faded and unclear and sometimes she didn’t know what was a real memory and what was just wishful thinking.  It had been so long.

She opened her eyes and in some ways it was darker than with her eyes closed.  Slowly vague shapes came into focus as her eyes adjusted.  There was no light, only an all pervading darkness, but she had been in the dark so long that her eyes had some how evolved and she could make out the shapes that made up her world, not that there was much to see.

The room, if you could call it that, was square.  Each of the four walls were ten paces exactly.  There was no door, there were no windows.  The walls were made of stone, as was the floor.  The ceiling was too high for her to reach, but she assumed that it too was made of the same cold, unforgiving stone as the rest of her prison.

She knew there was a shelf on one wall.  It had held the seven candles that she remembered and she could vaguely make out its shape in the darkness.  The candles were gone now, so was the flame.  They had been used up a long time ago and no one had come to replace them.  The shelf was also made of stone, built into the wall and only three fingers wide.  She had tried to climb up on it once, in the early days; those first few months when she still had hope that she could escape. It had been no use, it was too narrow and there was nothing for her to hold on to so that she could keep her balance.  The falling had hurt, the cold stone floor unforgiving.

She sighed as she continued her habitual remembering.  There was the flame and the candles.  She remembered the pain, it was important for her to remember the pain.  The pain helped her remember that she had given birth, but that memory also brought with it the grief of her loss.  The baby had not survived.  Was that why she had been locked away and forgotten?  She didn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl, she just remembered the pain and the voices telling her that her baby was dead.  She couldn’t remember anything before that, her mind was completely devoid of anything before the pain and the death of her child.  She didn’t even know her own name.  She tried not to dwell on it.  She had long ago decided that it was more important to hold on to the memories she had than torture herself with those she had lost.

She remembered the pain and the baby and she remembered being brought into this room.  There had been a door then, well actually it had been a wall of bars and a door.  At the time she had not really registered what was going on, she was sick with grief and the pain was all consuming.  She remembered the silent sisters that tended her; dressing her wounds, feeding her bitter, hot soup.  They never spoke to her, they barely looked at her.  They wore their habits like armour.  None of her pleading, her crying or her hysterics got through to them and then they stopped coming.  The next thing she remembered was the bars gone, the cold stone wall in its place, and the two remaining candles.

She remembered exploring the cell, while the light remained.  There were three square holes in one of the walls, too high up for her to reach and a hole in the floor covered with a metal grate.  There was also a metal bucket and a cup.  She had wondered about those holes, but it hadn’t taken too long for her to work out what they were for.  The first time she had been still too sick to move and had missed it.  She had wept after that first time, not knowing when the next one would be.  Fortunately, when the next one came she was ready.

She heard it first, a rumbling from above.  When she heard it she had jumped off the pallet that served as her bed and grabbed the bucket.  The scraps of food tumbled from the hole and she caught what she could in the bucket.  She had looked down at her bounty; half eaten bread, bones with scraps of meat attached, vegetable peelings.  Kitchen refuse, but she wasn’t disappointed, she was too hungry to care.

She heard the telltale trickle of water and got her cup ready, the dirty water splashing through the second hole and into the cup, filling it to overflowing.  The excess drained away through the grate in the floor.  She wanted to gulp the fetid water, but she made herself sip slowly, the awful taste souring her stomach.  She knew that she had to hoard whatever food and water she could, it was her only chance of survival.  The third hole had remained a mystery a little longer.

Those first few days she had been in a state of denial.  She couldn’t really believe that she was here and she did not think she would be here as long as she had been.  When the last candle had finally spluttered and died she thought for sure that someone would come, but no one did.  The time had stretched indeterminately; without light she had no way to measure the time.  Her “days” were only broken up by the food drops and the rest of the time she slept.  Every five food drops or so the third hole would come into play.  Warm soapy water would pour down, it was dirty, she could feel the grit in it, but at least she got to wash to some degree.

The time stretched and stretched, the darkness closed in on her.  The temperature never changed, the atmosphere was steady,  there was no breeze only darkness, dampness and a pervading chill. She remembered the panic, the breathlessness the feeling of suffocating and the debilitating fear.  No one was coming for her, no one cared.  There were other moments when she thought that she must be dead, that she was in hell, that she would spend the rest of eternity in this subsistence.  Then she would wonder why, if she were dead, did she still feel hunger and thirst?

As she laid on her bed, she let those emotions wash over her.  She needed to feel the fear and the panic, she needed to keep remembering.

Time dragged, she went through the motions, enough to keep her alive and then she started to feel angry.  The anger rose up in her as she remembered the feelings of betrayal and abandonment.  Ultimately it was the anger that had helped her survive.  She had refused to give in to the despair, refused to curl up and die.  She remembered the day she made the decision to live; things changed after that.

She couldn’t remember her name, so she chose a new one for herself.  Maggie.  She didn’t know where the name came from, but she felt right about it.  Next she determined to get strong physically.  She paced her cell, stretched her cramped muscles, and devised ways to strengthen her weak arms and legs.  She worked out a routine that she did every time she woke.

She knew that strengthening her body was only part of it, she needed to keep her mind strong as well.  That is when she started remembering.  It helped to keep her from going insane, it gave her focus and it kept her anger burning.

As her body and her mind strengthened, she had began to hear noises. At first she worried that she was losing her mind and she tried to ignore them, but they continued.  Being blinded by the dark had heightened her other senses and she could here the scurrying of rodents and insects and could smell when something foreign was in her cell, but these other noises were different; they seemed to be in her head.  It was a chattering at first, and as she accepted what she was hearing the chattering resolved itself into a voice.  It wasn’t talking to her, it was like someone having a conversation that she could overhear.  It took a while for her to realise that she could hear the small animals talking to one another.

She tried to communicate with them.  Maggie figured that if she was going mad, it didn’t really matter if she indulged it and if she wasn’t, and this was something that was really happening, then maybe they could help her.  They ignored her at first, no one like her had ever spoken to such lowly creatures before and they thought she was talking to herself, her mind breaking after being isolated for so long.  Eventually she convinced them.

It wasn’t like talking to another human, the small creatures she communicated with had short attention spans and didn’t view the world as humans did.  They were mainly concerned with where their next meal was coming from.  They had no concept of time and it took a while for her to understand a lot of their chatter.  Nothing they told her was very helpful, but it gave her something to hang on to.

Maggie closed her eyes and breathed slowly, centring her self.  She counted her breaths, controlling her inhalation, holding it and then exhaling, expelling the air from her lungs and letting her muscles go slack.  She did this a few times before standing with her feet shoulder width apart and her arms hanging by her side.  She breathed in deeply and with the inhalation, she began her kata.  She moved with grace, her movements fluid and controlled.  Her strength, agility and balance were honed by the routine that Maggie had worked on day after day during her captivity.  She moved from one form to the next smoothly, speeding up as she progressed.  By the time she was finished, she was breathing hard and sweating.  She brought her hands together above her head and slowly lowered them to a prayer position before bowing and exhaling to finish.  Now that her body was warm and flexible, she began to stretch, gently lengthening each muscle group methodically. With her stretching finished she stood and waited.

The norm, if there was one, was that the kitchen scraps would arrive about now, but that hadn’t been the case for the last few “days”.  She was beginning to worry.  Maybe they had forgotten about her, maybe they thought she was dead.  Maggie had been in this dark hole for a very long time, maybe whoever had put her here was dead and now there was no living person left who knew that there was a prisoner down here.  She shuddered at the thought.  During her entire incarceration she had held on to the belief that someone would eventual find her, now that belief was being challenged.

She also hadn’t spent this whole time waiting for someone to rescue her.  She had been working on a way to free herself and her little rodent friends had been helping her.  She was trapped, but the rats could come and go.  They had confirmed for her that she was underground and with their help she had been trying to dig her way out.  With no tools it had been rough going.  Her hands were sore and calloused from digging through compacted earth and rock.  She had taken it slowly at first, but now with the food no longer falling from the chute, she had redoubled her efforts.  If she dwelled on it too much she began to panic, so she kept a tight rein on her feelings and approached her work with controlled diligence.

The tunnel was barely big enough for her to fit, but she felt that it was more important to keep the tunnel small in the hopes that it would remain stable.  She had had a few false starts; her first attempt had ended at another stone wall, another had caved in.

She had finally been able to get a decent size tunnel.  Removing the first stone block was always the hardest and the bit she most used the rats for.  The mortar between the stones was strong, but by working at it daily, she was able to wear it down.  The rats helped by finding small holes and worrying at them until she could get her fingers in.  It took time and patience and since Maggie had an eternity of one, the other came naturally.

There were times when she felt it was hopeless and tears of frustration coursed down her cheeks.  But she really didn’t have any other choices apart from giving up and she was determined not to do that.  Now that the food had run out, it was even more important to her to get out.

Maggie crawled into the tunnel and began her painstakingly slow digging.  She felt the now familiar infusion of energy that she got from contact with the soil.  It spurred her on.  It felt good to have the earth beneath her bare skin instead of the cold, dead stone.  The tunnel was now more than twice her body length.  It was slowly inclining, she was angling it up in the hopes of reaching the surface.  She worked steadily, as she dug dirt out, she pushed it down beside her letting gravity slowly pull it down to the bottom of the tunnel.  Her cell had slowly been filling up with soil, covering over the cold stone floor.

As she dug, she made her mind think about the dream. She had been in the pit for so long that she didn’t even know if the dream was a real representation of the outside world, but it was all she had.  The last few days without food had ignited a deep longing in her.  She desperately wanted to get out, to be free, to feel the sun on her face.

Small clods of dirts began to gently fall on her back.  She continued digging, desperately wanting this to be the day that she finally reached the surface.  The rain of dirt became heavier and then the tunnel was caving in.  She scrambled up the slope, hoping that she could stop the destruction, but then she realised that it was the tunnel opening that was caving in.  By the time she shimmied back down, the entrance to the tunnel was gone.

She coughed as the dust settled and let the realisation of what had just happened sink in.  She was effectively trapped. She threw herself down in frustration and cried out, her voice hoarse from disuse.  She could not believe that this was happening to her.  She could not believe that her already bad situation had now become much worse.

All the years of pent up frustration started to rise in her throat like bile and she felt her self control slipping out of her grasp. Like a taught string finally snapping, Maggie let go and screamed with everything that she had.  She felt the emotions inside her bubble and churn, erupting out of her mouth in a strangled, desperate howl that sounded inhuman to her own ears.  The dirt around her started to churn and roil and she felt a heat entering her body, entwining her muscles and sparking something in her.

All her hurt and sadness and grief and fear coalesced into a ball in her gut and she willed it out.  The darkness around her started to glow and she closed her eyes against the unexpected brightness.  There was a sudden, unnatural stillness and then the dirt around her erupted.  She was pushed along by the dirt as it tumbled and surged around her.  She gasped for breath, her heart beating in panic.  The dirt behind her was pushing and she felt like she was being crushed against the dirt in front of her. She fought against it, frantically trying to dig her way forward when the solid dirt in front of her began to part.  She was forced along through the ever opening tunnel on a current of dirt before she was inexplicably flying through empty space.  She hung in the air for a moment before plummeting to the ground.

Maggie landed heavily on soft grass.  She moaned groggily and opened her eyes.  There was a vast expanse of darkness above her with pinpricks of light like so many scattered diamonds across velvet.  Maggie stared in wonder, her eyes hurting from the small amount of light, but she didn’t want to close them.  She was outside.  She breathed deeply, the fresh, untainted air filling her lungs.  She was outside; she was free.  She cried with relief.

Characters that Haunt You

This post is in response to the Weekly Writing challenge by The Daily Post found here.

*Warning* This is a long post!

I have a few characters that haunt me but the one I am going to share with you is probably my favourite.  She was my first complete character and she often pops into my head.  I have started writing a story for her, but her story is so big that it scares me and I worry about not doing it justice.  This challenge inspired me to take another look at her and see where she led me.

So here is the challenge:

Pick one of the characters that inhabit your brain. Today is that character’s birthday! They’re going to emerge from your head to appear in a new scene on your page or screen.

Meet Maggie…

Maggie is a caucasian woman of indeterminate age-even she doesn’t know how old she is.  She is considered short by many at only 152cm with a slim, wiry build.  She has long dark hair that she almost always wears braided to keep it contained.  Her large, almond shaped eyes are an interesting shade of aquamarine in colour and are framed with long dark lashes.  Her skin is alabaster and smooth without a mark, except for a scar on her right shoulder and a small swallow tattoo behind her left ear.  The scar is a circle with a cross through it and was most likely caused by a branding iron, but Maggie has no recollection of how she got it.  The tattoo’s origin is also unknown to her, but for some unexplained reason, she is glad it is there.

Maggie lives on the outskirts of a little town called Tananran.  It is the closest town to the Machebe desert and Maggie lives in the last house before the desert officially begins.  She likes it there, away from the townspeople who don’t quite know what to make of her.  She has lived in the town for fifteen years and has built up a reputation for being an excellent healer and herb woman, but has never really formed any relationships beyond healer and patient – well except for Tommo.  The townspeople respect her, but are a little suspicious of her.  She came out of the desert half dead, saved by the towns only healer fifteen years ago and still nobody knows where she came from or who she is.  If it hadn’t been for Tommo vouching for her, they would have most likely stoned her to death years ago.  Small towns this close to the desert have very little trust for mysterious things that come out of the desert.

Maggie doesn’t mind the solitude, in fact she prefers it.  The years prior to her arrival in Tananran are a blank and when Tommo found her she was little better than a wild thing.   She doesn’t remember how she came to be that way, but more than likely it had been caused by another human being; that was the only reasonable explanation.  The one thing she knows for sure was that she had escaped into the desert from a deep, dark pit where she had been held captive.  She has no idea how long she was in the pit for and she has no recollection of her life before the pit.  Consequently, she has a deep distrust of others and reflexively holds them at arms length.

She is happy with the life she has made for herself.  She is self sufficient, growing her own food and bartering for anything else she needs.  Her regular trips into the desert for herbs and remedies keeps her life interesting and her special relationships with the wildlife keep her from being too insular. She finds it fascinating to listen to the wildlife gossip about the townspeople, they have a very unique perspective on life.

This is the scene I wrote for her today:

Maggie stopped her horse and surveyed the valley before her.  Unfamiliar emotions tumbled around inside her and a lump formed in her throat.  The scene before her was beautiful. The sheep station lay in a shallow valley surrounded by low hills.  It was a substantial homestead with a large main house and several outbuildings.  The main house was low-set and had a large verandah wrapping around all sides.  There was a cottage garden and meandering path to the front stairs and the daisies, pansies, delphinium and snap dragons basked in the early morning sunlight.  The house looked to have been freshly painted and was a Jacaranda blue with white trim.  The out buildings and fences were also white and the roofs were all corrugated iron and well maintained. They  were all connected to each other and to the main house by covered walkways.

Beyond the homestead were the rolling hills that made up the pastureland of the station.  The grass was long and silver and swayed gently in the breeze. There was the odd scrub brush or small tree, but mostly it was grassland with a small stream ambled through the paddocks.  Hidden amongst the grass were the sheep, their dirty wool camouflaging them from the casual observer.

It all felt so familiar to Maggie.  She had seen this place in her dreams so many times and was amazed to see that it actually existed.  It wasn’t exactly the same, it was a lot bigger for one thing, but the feel of the place and the emotions that it roused in her were enough to make her believe that it was the same place.  She was not a immune to having dreams with meanings, but this dream had always felt like a fairy tale.

She heard her companions approach and pulled herself together.  It was so strange for her to be travelling with others and the weeks they had spent together had not lessened the strangeness.  The two young men had recovered well from their misadventure in the desert, surviving the near death experience with little more than bruised egos and a tale to tell their friends.  They hadn’t brushed the experience off lightly and were reluctant to head back into the desert for any length of time, even with a guide, so that had meant travelling home the long way. Tommo had insisted that Maggie take them and then she could cut through the desert to get home.  It meant months of travelling, but Tommo had insisted.  She needed to get out and see the world, he had told her, she needed to re-engage with the rest of the world, fifteen years of self imposed exile was long enough.

She sighed as she turned to look at Christian and Eduard.  They had headed off into the desert ill-prepared and had nearly paid for it with their lives.  They were lucky that she had stumbled across them when she did.  Circamber was such a strange custom to her.  The idea that you would need to go and do something stupid, a last great adventure, before settling into adulthood was laughable, but the men of Ibethia seemed to see it as some right of passage.  She had treated a lot of the young men from Tananran for injuries sustained while on Circamber and it continued to baffle her.  These two were lucky to be alive and she knew that their brush with the veil had changed them.  She hadn’t known them before their misadventure, but she could tell that it had forever changed them.  Their eyes held a haunted look that you didn’t often find in men of their age.

Tommo had told her that they would recover eventually, but the experience would always be with them.  She had worried that they seemed to have lost their joy and Tommo had agreed that they needed to find laughter again.  Part of the reason they were travelling this way instead of the much shorter, if more dangerous route, was to give the boys time to heal and rediscover the fun in life before they returned home.  They had sent messages home to let their families know they were alive, but Tommo felt that they weren’t quite ready to return to their families.  They needed to recapture what the desert had robbed from them.

Maggie looked back down at the station, “We’ll head down there,” she said indicating the house with a jut of her chin, “We might be able to pick up a couple of days work in exchange for supplies,” she said.

“Will they take on strangers?” Christian asked.

“It’s shearing season,” Maggie replied, “They’ll be grateful for the extra hands.”

She nudged her horse and started down the road towards the homestead, Christian and Eduard gave each other a look before following her.  When they had first met Maggie they were half dead with dehydration and desert fever.  She had been disguised as a man and they had thought her odd, she had saved their lives and they were forever thankful, but now that they knew her better, they still thought her odd.

As they approached the homestead, they could see signs of life.  There was a large long building close to the main house and it seemed that it was the main area of activity.  As they got closer they could smell bacon and toast and coffee and realised that the building was the mess hall and it was breakfast time.  Eduard felt his stomach rumble as the tempting aromas became stronger.  They had been eating dried meat and flatbreads for the past week as they had neared the ends of the rations and he would be willing to do almost anything to have a fresh, hot meal.

There was laughter and noise emanating from the open doors.  The three dusty travellers dismounted and tied their horses up before mounting the steps and entering the hall.  There was a hush as the workers looked up at the newcomers, but it didn’t last long.  This crowd was used to strangers; they were all transients, travelling from town to town to find work.

Maggie identified who she thought would be the Station Manager and headed confidently in his direction.  The man stood as she approached and she shook his hand.

“Good morning, sir,” she said politely, “My companions and I are passing through on our way to the capital and were wondering if you had any positions available to help us on our way.  I am a healer and herb woman, but I am willing to do whatever you may require and my two companions are young and what they lack in experience they make up for in strength.”

The man smiled at her, “We can always use a few extra hands around here at shearing time, and we are in need of a healer as it so happens.  The young men can be put to good use as well,” he nodded, “How long will you be around?”

“Only about a week,” she replied, “These young men are on their way home from an eventful Circamber and I’m sure their families are anxious to see them.”

He smiled, “I’m Toby,” he said, “And you are?”

“Sorry,” she apologised, “My name’s Maggie and the boys are Christian and Eduard.”

“Alright Maggie,” he said gesturing to a young man on the other side of the hall, “Jem here will show you where you can bunk and if you wouldn’t mind, the Master had a fall from his horse yesterday and is doing poorly…”

“Let me just get my gear stowed and I will see to him directly.”

Maggie followed Jem out, beckoning the boys to follow.  They looked longingly at the food, but came obediently.  She smiled to herself and felt that she saw the first moments of their recovery in their eyes.

Jem showed Maggie to a small room near the kitchen entrance before taking the boys to the dormitory.  The room was sparse containing only a small bed, a desk and a dresser.  It was clean and had a small window overlooking the kitchen garden.  Maggie unpacked her swag and opened the window to allow some fresh air into the room.  The scent of lavender and rosemary wafted in from the garden and Maggie took a deep breath, savouring the familiar smells.

There was a wash stand near the door and Maggie took the time to thoroughly clean her hands and face before heading into the main house.  She knocked on the kitchen door and a large woman dressed head to toe in kitchen whites looked up from the dough she was kneading.  Her mouth dropped open as she stared at Maggie.  Maggie had a fleeting moment of recognition, but it was gone before she could latch onto it.  She hesitated in the doorway, unsure what to do.  She felt like a fifteen year old about to be scolded for stealing sweetbuns and for the life of her didn’t know why.

“Ah, hello,” she said, breaking the spell, “My name is Maggie, I am the new healer and Toby sent me to look in on the Master.”

The cook shook her head and wiped her hands on her apron, muttering under her breath before looking up at Maggie with a strange look in her eye, “Maggie, is it?” she said and Maggie nodded, “Tess!” she yelled and a scullery maid ran into the room.

“Yes, cook,” she stammered.

“This is the healer to see the Master,” she said, not taking her eyes of Maggie.

“Uhh..” Tess stammered.

“Well, don’t just stand there girl,” Cook roared, “Take her to him and take this broth with you,” she said, shoving a tray into her hands, “And be quick about it or you will spend the afternoon cleaning out the ovens.”

Tess curtsied awkwardly before hurrying out with Maggie fast on her heals.

The kitchen door opened on to a long hallway with several doors opening off it.  It smelled of lemon scented wood polish and brought waves of nostalgia over her.  The hallway ended at a large set of double doors and Tess opened them into the house foyer.  The walls were hung with family portraits and Maggie slowed as she looked at them. There were a lot of photographs of a kind looking man with a lovely wife and small children.  Some of the photos had two children, some only had one.  There were pictures of the two young girls together and documented their childhood.  She traced the years as the girls grew older until the final one when they were about sixteen years old.  They were like apples and oranges, their looks so opposite to each other.  One was blonde and tall, the other dark and petite.  She studied the final portrait of the young dark daughter who stood alone in the garden holding a gardenia to her nose.  She traced the face of the girl with her finger and felt the memory come alive in her mind. She remembered the smell of the flower, strong and sweet.  She remembered the warmth of the sun and the breeze that swirled her hair.  She remembered the feeling of happiness and contentment and an expectation of the future.  She was transported to that time and that place.  The rest of the world melted away and she was the girl in the photograph.

It had been towards the end of spring and it had been a big season on the station.  The weather had just started to  heat up and the summer promised to be long and hot.  Most of the shearers were preparing to move on and there was a party planned for that night.  That had been the year that she had met Xander and that was the night he had proposed to her.

“Miss, miss,” she felt Tess shaking her arm and the vision was shattered, “Come along, miss.  I don’t want to get in any trouble with Cook.  The Master is this way.”

Maggie followed her in a daze.  The vision had been so real, almost like it had really been happening to her; almost like the memories were her own.  This house, this place stirred so many emotions and memories in her.  The dark, blank hole in her mind was stirring and it scared her.  She didn’t know whether she really wanted to know what was behind the wall of her amnesia.

Tess led her to a door on which she knocked gently before opening and going in.  Tess set the tray down on a bedside table before hurrying out.  Maggie looked at the unconscious man lying in the bed.  He was the man out of the photographs, if much older.  There was grey in his hair and in his beard and as she looked at him, her eyes welled up with tears.  She longed to throw herself into his arms and have him tell her everything was going to be alright.

She shook the feeling off and set to work.  Toby had said that he had fallen from his horse.  She looked into his eyes, lifting their lids and checking for responsiveness.  She felt his limbs, checking for broken bones and making notes of her observations.  She felt his abdomen and ruled out internal bleeding.  He stirred little as she examined him and she worried about his vital signs.  She mixed up a concoction of herbs and ground roots from her supplies and started spooning small amounts into his mouth.  She made a poultice and applied it to his head before applying a smelly ointment to his other cuts and abrasions.  She hummed while she worked, a forgotten melody that had appeared randomly in her mind.  With all his wounds tended, she brought the bowl of broth over and inhaled the savoury aromas, her own stomach awaking and protesting loudly.  She spooned some of the soup into the Masters mouth and his eyes began to flutter.  He looked around the room before focussing on her.  He smiled up at her and reached out to grasp her hand.

“Ah, Bren,” he croaked, “My bonny Bren, you are a sight for sore eyes.” And with that he closed his eyes and went to sleep, snoring softly.

Maggie sat transfixed.  Who was Bren?  He had called her Bren, thought she was Bren and it had felt right.  Something had clicked in her brain with the name, something had stirred in the pit.  Who was this man?  Why was she so overcome with emotions that she hadn’t felt in fifteen years.  What was this place doing to her?

She fled the room, running down the hallway, through the foyer and out the front door into the sunshine.  She raced through the garden, barely noticing where she was going.  She ran without thinking, without looking, through the paddock and over a small rise before collapsing under a weeping willow that hung into a small stream.  Tears streamed down her face and for the life of her she couldn’t understand why.  Her organised, perfect world was shaking and she had no idea what it would reveal when the dust settled.