Author Topic: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie  (Read 24764 times)

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #165 on: October 05, 2014, 11:46:03 AM »
/chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

Bertha lived all alone now, in the same cottage in Whistledown that she'd first entered as a young bride full of hopes and dreams of the large family that was never to be.  Her faithful companion, Sooty Mr Cat, had died long ago, peacefully in a contented sleep, after living to the ripe old age of twenty, and a funeral befitting his loftiness followed.  By special dispensation, that went all the way to to the House of Commons and back via Lord and Lady Maddocks, and because so many people wished to mark his passing, the old black cat was given his very own tiny plot and headstone in Whistledown Cemetery. 

Villagers who had known Bertha all their lives, children who had been presented with her specially knitted garments or cuddled her specially knitted toys, grown-ups who had as children been proud owners of her specially knitted hats and gloves and scarves, charities who'd received her knitted donations, the Follyfoot people who'd known Sooty only in his later years when his glossy black fur was full of grey, all had heard from Bertha of the antics of Sooty Mr Cat or been lucky enough to meet him in cat person.  Hundreds of mourners came to pay their last respects the sad day when, as was tradition, Sooty's name – we will shorten it; all his friends did –  was included in the list of recently deceased read out at the end of the Sunday service and that the congregation was asked to remember in their prayers. 

But, all alone as she was, Bertha was never truly lonely  Oh, I can't deny that at times down came the Memory Box and down fell her tears, as she sifted through photos and poems and mementos of those she had loved and lost.  A picture of Sooty, the poem she'd written for him and his favourite mouse toy were now among them.  Of course Bertha mourned.  And, like many pet owners, she swore she would never, ever have another pet to break her heart by going on before.  Yet...in an odd kind of way...

...She had dozens.  Tourists who'd visited Whistledown Cemetery and been captivated by the story of Sooty Mr Cat sent her warm letters and pictures of their own precious animals.  Children knocked on the cottage door to show her their new kitten or puppy.  The horses at Follyfoot whinnied in delight whenever they saw her. Birds flocked to and squirrels ran through her garden, to feast on bags of nuts hung from the trees.  Shy hedgehogs crept out by night to drink from the saucer of milk on the door-step.  Dogs being walked wagged their tails at her; cats sunning themselves on walls and window-sills purred loudly when she stopped to scratch their ears.  And this wasn't all.   

There were frequent visitors to the picturesque little cottage, including those from Follyfoot Farm.  And of course twice a week Bertha visited Follyfoot, where she was fussed over and feted and forgot all about the manor house she came for.  It was certainly curious that Lord and Lady Maddocks should pay her for housekeeping when Mrs Smith did no housekeeping whatsoever.  But then it was curious too that their representative, imperturbable Scotsman Finlay Patterson, given to facts and fugues and never flights of fancy, should have hired her on a whim.  Or that he blamed the whim on a painting of Follyfoot.  And all because of a muddy  farm that some claim is blessed by magic, and some claim is haunted, and others claim is just a muddy farm and nothing more!

Whatever the truth of the matter, Bertha sat inbetween the autumn-haired girl and the carrot-topped youth, all come for the memorial birthday service for Little Cowboy Jimmy. It was something done every year, and attended by the villagers as well as Colonel Maddocks, Slugger and Steve, and, if they weren't too busy dealing with politics in some far-off country, and whose arrival always caused great sensation, even the illustrious Lord and Lady Maddocks themselves.  Jimmy Turner had been a grandfather figure to Dora, almost a beau to Bertha, a mate to Slugger, an acquaintance to the colonel, an employee and good friend of Prudence and Arthur's - and a complete stranger to Ron and Steve, neither of whom had met him.  But caring for others, human or animal, was a long-standing Follyfoot custom though nobody was quite sure how it began. 

If you listen now, you'll hear the bells of Whistledown Church ringing out on the whistling wind in a mixture of happiness and sadness, as if they know the answer to that secret, and know all about life and death, of broken hearts and mended hearts and icy hearts that might be melted.  Perhaps they do.

Funny how love can touch and mean and say so many different things.


Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #166 on: November 16, 2014, 10:08:33 PM »
Chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

“To Elizabeth,” Colonel Maddocks announced, adding with a sigh.  “I'll never forget the beautiful snowy evening she told me she was to marry Rodney.”  And for a moment, whiskey glass in hand and not touching his lips, he gazed wistfully out from the drawing room window at the rolling hills and windswept moors far beyond Follyfoot Farm, as though his dearest wish in the whole world would be for the scene to change to that of a white-blanketed winter landscape and for the couple in question to appear on a bell-jingling fairytale sleigh pulled by eight black horses.

“To Elizabeth,” Slugger rejoined, after an ever so slight clearing of his throat.

Geoffrey Maddocks, thus gently chastised, returned to the present and raised his glass.  Two tumblers containing the finest malt whiskey clinked together and two men each took a sip of the amber liquid.  Then, as was custom, it was his companion's turn to raise a toast.

“To Betty.”  Slugger blinked back tears, remembering his late wife.  “Always remembered.”

“To Betty. Always remembered,” the colonel repeated, and the ritual was performed once more.  And then both sank into the worn easy chairs at either side of the empty fireplace, and into a comfortable silence to sip the remainder of their drinks and reflect. 

They made an odd pair, these fast friends.  The horses never could fathom it.  Colonel Geoffrey Maddocks, tall, elegant and silver-haired, in his bespoke tailored suit, with his proud aristocratic bearing and crisp, upper class accent, was the very epitome of elegance.  Slugger Jones – his real name was lost somewhere along the road of life and never found again -  in his old woollen hat and work-clothes,with his weather-beaten face and ex-boxer's broken teeth, with his mixture of thick Yorkshire and Cockney dialect, and a heavy dose of swearing thrown into the pot, was the very epitome of rough and ready. 

To further add to the horses' confusion, they were  far removed in status.  The colonel gave orders and Slugger all but doffed his woollen hat (they were inseparable and so a vague, occasional touch had to make do) though he more usually clutched it even tighter to his head in a gesture of despair at some problem inevitably caused by a certain red-headed, denim-clad youth, while exclaiming such profound observations as, “The Guv'nor's gonna blow 'is bleedin' gasket!” 

But although both the colonel-turned-owner-of-Follyfoot-Farm and the ex-batman-turned-chief-cook-and-bottlewasher went through the motions of knowing-one's-place it was played out for the benefit of old time's sake and because old habits, like old soldiers, die hard. 

Oh, Dora and Steve (separately, without knowing the other did) explained it all to the puzzled horses.  It seemed, having shared the battlefield and senseless horrors of War, the colonel and the ex-boxer now shared confidences as only true friends can.  Of course, the horses nuzzled against Steve and Dora and nodded, trying to look wise, and wished so very much they could speak so they could ask why these two young folk, who were, too, so different in their accents and mannerisms and backgrounds, hadn't yet become, seeing as how they hadn't shared a battlefield and the horrors of War, much, much more than just true friends. 

And so it came about that every once a year, on the morning of Jimmy Turner's birthday memorial service, Colonel Geoffrey Maddocks, who'd been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and his great friend Slugger Jones, who'd been born into such dire poverty and hunger that he spent his babyhood yearning for any spoon at all to be put into his mouth, retired to the  drawing room of the disused manor house, where, with two whiskey glasses and a bottle of the finest malt whiskey that Jones had always deferentially fetched from the colonel's study in the farmhouse - the two adhered closely to the know-one's-place tradition – they would drink an annual toast to lost loved ones.   But Elizabeth was not lost to this world.  No, indeed. 

She was lost to a would-be suitor. 

The would-be suitor, one Geoffrey Edward William Albert Maddocks, as the years passed by, had mellowed and come to terms with his loss.  He could not do otherwise.  Elizabeth and her husband Rodney, childhood sweethearts, and their three children were very happy together in their home in France.  Twins, a boy and a girl, had been born within two years of their firstborn son and the trio kept their nanny on her toes with their mischief.  Geoffrey knew because Elizabeth and Rodney sent letters and photos and in turn he kept  the couple up-to-date with all his news.  The family was fascinated by Follyfoot Farm and the little ones loved to hear stories of horses rescued  and brought to live on the Farm owned by Grandpapa Angleterre, as they called him.  Elizabeth and Rodney quickly adopted the nickname too.  “Darling Grandpapa Angleterre, you are as dear to me as my own father and as dear a grandfather as he is to my children,” Elizabeth told him fondly in one of their regular phone calls.

And only Slugger, his closest friend and confidant, would ever know how a man stepping into the twilight of his years so nearly made a complete fool of himself when he'd planned to propose to a pretty young girl over thirty years his junior, who never would, he realised now, have looked at him twice as a beau.  Thankfully, Elizabeth never did discover that someone her father had asked to be in loco parentis while he was in another continent ever harboured such thoughts, innocent and platonic though his feelings were.  A timely phone call came on a wild winter's night, when a fierce blizzard hurled thick snowflakes against the window-panes and dressed the trees in gowns of white.

“Geoffrey, I have the most wonderful news and just couldn’t wait to tell you!  As my dearest, dearest friend, I wanted you to be the very first to know.  Rodney and I have decided to marry next summer!”

The memories of how she'd been bubbling over with happiness, of how he'd blown out the candles lit for the special dinner he'd cooked, of how he'd sat alone in the darkness silently weeping, all too often returned to haunt him.  Nowadays however those recollections were tinged with relief rather than heartache, for Geoffrey Maddocks had long since come to his senses and now regarded Elizabeth as an adopted daughter, thanking Heaven he'd never been stupid enough to propose marriage and broken a friendship so precious.

But our yesterdays always remain close to our hearts, filled as they are with bittersweet dreams and the echoing footsteps and fading voices of those who walked across the stage of our lives past.   For both Geoffrey and Slugger, the memorial service was not just a time to remember their friend Jimmy.  It was also a time to reflect on the years that for all of us slip silently by though surely we are young still, and gaze upon the aged with the same gentle pity of our youth.  For the two old friends there was plenty of time yet – ironically, they always allowed themselves time though time was not theirs to give - to remember those gone before. And there were many.  Family and friends, neighbours and acquaintances comrades stolen by the cruelty of War, all had taken that great journey unknown. 

After several minutes of respectful silence and when they had drained their glasses, Slugger, with a vague touch of his faithful woollen hat, would collect the empty tumblers together with the remainder of the whiskey and they would leave for the memorial service.  And as this is the final time, reader, that we enter the  grand building let's look around quickly before the door closes on it forever.

/continued on next page

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #167 on: November 16, 2014, 10:13:01 PM »
Chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended


Though it still holds itself aloof, it is many years ago since the manor house, cold and draughty now, with its large, empty rooms and silent sweeping staircases, hosted exclusive dinner parties, or glittered with jewellery worn by distinguished guests, or listened to the clash of dishes from the kitchens and the gossip of household staff. 

Curtains and carpets, artwork and antiques, clocks and chandeliers, all have been sold and left an almost empty shell.  The maintenance company needs do nothing more these quieter days other than keep it clean and carry out any necessary repairs.  Only the drawing room contains any furniture at all and it isn't much:  two worn and elderly arm-chairs that once sat in the staff quarters, a small, rickety table that knew far better days and far wealthier people, and a summer day painting of a striking young woman with auburn hair, pale blue eyes and peaches and cream complexion, who sits demurely under a rose-covered arbor with hidden laughter in her careless smile. 

The portrait of Elizabeth is the last of the hundreds of expensive paintings that used to grace the manor house walls and, as previously arranged by Colonel Maddocks, this, too, will shortly be collected and auctioned off.  Every penny raised can and does go towards the heavy expenses incurred in the running of Follyfoot Farm.

The inhabitants of its stables suspected a piece of Heaven must have been stolen and brought to Earth, but as it was so wonderful here on the Farm they made up their minds they'd never breathe the secret of the theft to anyone.  Each and every horse was different, with a different history, but all blossomed under Follyfoot's special and tender care.

Tilly and Tammy, the shy young ponies now grown in confidence, who'd come to the Farm when their kindly owner could afford to keep them no longer, burn off energy as they play together in the paddock.   Neither has ever known a harsh word – unless you count Stryker's “Yer nowt but a pair of useless s**t machines” but as he spoke with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips they didn't believe any of it, and waited for him to fuss over them as he always did.

Three of the horses,  older and wiser than others, lift their heads and toss their manes, watching curiously as the Follyfoot Land Rover trundles out of Follyfoot Farm with the two most senior Follyfooters inside. 

Jessie, the chestnut mare who lost her foal through being kept half starved; steady, reliable Dante, a gentle giant, who was found tightly tethered, barely able to stand, covered in sores in a tiny stable full of his own filth; and Drummer, the nervy horse, who'd been abandoned and left to fend for himself, who bit and kicked and thundered his hooves ferociously on the ground when first brought to the Farm, trusting no-one.  The nurturing all that winter and bleak spring had been painfully slow, night after cold, snowy night Dora sat covered in a blanket whispering to him, comforting him, until the sleep she fought against so valiantly finally overwhelmed her and she was carried to her bed.  Drummer is still wary of most, but often now he calls in his own special way to his patient nurse, with a nicker of greeting and a stomp of his hoof, quiet and content to nuzzle against her.

No, in this magical place of love and faith and confidences the horses never forget their friends either.

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #168 on: January 01, 2015, 11:26:26 PM »
A/N:  This has gotten longer than I thought with all the loose ends I have to tie up  ::) so seeing as I'm off tomorrow thought I'd stay up and work on the next piece.  (Hope you remember Colonel Maddocks' nieces and nephews from very early on in the story!)

Also, I think I may have taken some poetic licence as I definitely remember Dora riding up to Follyfoot, meeting Ron for the first time and him showing her round the stables, but I've also got it into my head that she first came to Follyfoot with her parents and wearing a summer dress. So I've combined both.  And added a Follyfoot thunderstorm.   >49<

Chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

Colonel Geoffrey Maddocks paused at the kissing gate of Whistledown Cemetery for a moment, stilling Slugger Jones in mid-pace with a gentle hand on his shoulder.  His friend looked at him questioningly and smiled his broken-toothed smile as the old soldier nodded towards the memorial bench where Ron sat inbetween Dora and Bertha chatting animatedly.  Although there were still dried tears shining on his niece's and the old lady's faces, the scene would suggest that, as he often did, the irreverent, red-haired youth, who was often at odds with the law, shirked work at every opportunity, and even once rode with the Night Riders, had successfully chased them away with his jokes and banter.

“Did you ever think...?”  Geoffrey didn't need to finish the question.  Often he never did.

“Never.  Not for a bleedin' minute,” Slugger chortled, scratching his ear where the faithful woollen hat sometimes itched.  “'E were a wild one, were Stryker.  Still is, that's why I 'ave to keep the b****r in line.  Soft 'eart to match the soft 'ead though.”  He gazed at him fondly.  Ron was this university-of-a-hard-life-graduate's son in all but biology. 

The colonel tapped on his ever-present pipe.  Out of respect for the late friend they'd come to honour, it was unlit but Geoffrey's had always been a contemplative nature.  Back in his schooldays he could frequently be found tapping pen or pencil against his lips while deep in thought.  The pipe was a natural replacement.   

He smiled wistfully.  “My niece has come a long way too since first she arrived at Follyfoot.  A long, long way.” 

The words echoed down to the memory of the summer afternoon struck by a sudden thunderstorm and the delicate girl who alighted from the sleek Rolls Royce.  The day Follyfoot changed forever.

Uncle and niece had never met before.  Post war politics and important Army business had kept Geoffrey Maddocks far, far away from his homeland for many a long year.  Besides he had had no real reason to return.  The annual tradition of the The Great Christmas Dinner, held every Christmas Eve in the Grand Hall of Maddocks Castle owned by his brother Henry, when the Maddocks clan would gather in all their jewels and finery and the press would swoop to capture their glittering arrival, had dwindled into being attended by a smattering of elderly relatives and one very small, wide-eyed and much overlooked child. 

Her much older cousins, the sad little child never knew.  The four nieces and nephews, for whom Geoffrey, to the great disapproval of his three brothers and their spouses, would cut up meat, mop up spilt drinks and dry tears (Good Lord in Heaven, the Maddocks whispered among themselves, there were household staff for that kind of thing, but really children needed to learn to bally well learn to look after themselves, and not spill drinks or handle cutlery clumsily or burst into tears in the first ruddy place!) had long since grown up and flown the nest.  The breaches of dinner table etiquette were no more.  Nowadays nobody had to silently seethe as Dotty Geoff, blatantly ignoring the hints and glares and tsk-tsks of the other adults (it was considered a shocking faux pas in upper class society to disagree in front of such lower beings as servants, therefore his brothers and their wives furiously held their tongues)  pampered to the dreadful brats' every whim and entertained them with fairytales, nursery rhymes and tales of Santa Claus. 

And yet, oddly enough, despite being so carefully moulded to fit neatly into their vast wealth and superior class status as a Maddocks should, in later years every one of the grown-up nieces and nephews, each in his or her own way, fell from grace.    Although they dutifully sent polite letters and cards to their parents and telephoned at regular intervals, their visits home were rare, their letters and telephone calls stilted, and only Geoffrey ever received genuine news from any of the four. 

Winston would actually take time out from sailing the seven seas and his many dalliances with the opposite sex, and from some distant shore ring Uncle Geoffro, old bean, and, in his booming, terrifying voice (that must surely have had enemies quaking in their boots)  bring him up to speed with his derring-do and often, too, fondly reminisce about the Great Christmas Dinners, and of how as a boy, and thanks to Uncle Geoffro, he'd firmly believed in Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and even fairies (here, Winston always chuckled knowingly, aware he was being most politically incorrect but he was on excellent terms with Robyn who took his cousin's teasing as it was intended, in good humour) though, in his defence, he added, the latter really did exist! 

Robyn (formerly Robin) banned from all future family gatherings “until he saw sense and brought a nice gaaal with him” visited Follyfoot Farm when it was in the throes of being re-built after decades of abandonment and still in all its muddy, tumble-down, pre-horse glory, he and his boyfriend picking their way carefully, with wrinkled noses and pursed lips, through what was then nothing more than a noisy construction site, causing great scandal among the villagers and construction workers by wearing effeminate clothing and holding hands.  One or two more visits followed, after which, realising that the colonel and Slugger, who had both seen too much of the world to be be surprised by anything, didn't even blink at the sight, everyone else decided, as the main characters in the play were unperturbed, it wasn't worth the trouble of their being bothered by it either and breath could be saved for more interesting gossip. The couple had since gone off to live in Los Angeles, pledging never to return until both their families – apparently, Michael's family were as homophobic as the Maddocks – accepted their relationship.

Poor over-anxious Clarissa, a musical genius who could compose the most exquisite tunes, had in later years succumbed to severe mental illness and was confined to an exclusive psychiatric hospital.  Little information on her condition was forthcoming from her parents.  “We never talk about such taboo subjects!” was the horrified answer when Geoffrey enquired after their daughter's welfare, which had been exactly the same response when he gently suggested perhaps they ought to accept Robyn's sexuality or risk losing him forever.  All visits to the hospital they curtailed, but Geoffrey was determined one day to bring Clarissa to Follyfoot Farm to recuperate, confident the magic that worked on so many would work its charm on Clarissa and bring peace at last to her troubled mind. 

/continued on next page

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #169 on: January 01, 2015, 11:42:25 PM »
Chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

Penelope, the eldest of the quartet by eight years, had inherited the heaviest dose of the infamous Maddocks' snobbery.  She owned a ranch in Texas ranch where she lived with her husband and four children and had more or less cut all ties with her family although she did occasionally send her Uncle Geoffrey photographs.  He couldn't help but notice that all four children looked every bit as snobbish as his brothers had been at the same ages.  And he couldn't help but ponder on the fact, with a guilty pang in his heart, that the first eight years of Penelope's life had coincided with his determined, but failed, attempts to combine his Army career with opening an animal sanctuary and consequently his often empty place at the Maddocks' Great Christmas  Dinner.  Had he, by his absences, contributed to Penelope's dismissive attitude towards those perceived beneath her?  Or was it arrogant to suppose so? 

Too well he remembered the self-sufficient little girl and the coldness of her big blue eyes as she copied her mother and father and aunts and uncles and gazed at him with the same contempt, cynically declaring, to their approval, that she didn't believe a word of his “silly” stories.  Oh, often when night fell over Follyfoot and he sat by the dying embers of the fire, when all were abed and the only noises came from the wind whistling down from the Moors and a contented shuffling in the stables, or perhaps, if the wind carried the brewing of an as yet faraway thunderstorm, a small whinny or two seeking reassurance from those that loved them so, yes, often, Geoffrey Maddocks would puff on his pipe and frown in concentration, wondering whether or not he was to blame.

But Dora...Dora was an unknown quantity.  The colonel had been anxious not to repeat the same mistake he'd made with Penelope – if indeed it was his mistake; despite hundreds of hours  used up in contemplation as he puffed away, he never did resolve the conundrum – but Army and diplomatic affairs kept him abroad and all the precious time he'd hoped to spend with his niece was stolen away instead on calming the volatile, for people, being people, will argue over politics or money or religion or anything else at all they can think of to argue about.

Sad to say, his first impression was that his niece would not settle in as easily as he'd hoped. Like her mother, who was currently holding a scented handkerchief to her odd-looking nose (disfigured in a horse-riding accident many years before and Prudence's excuse for hating horses ever since) while loudly expressing her distaste for everything Follyfoot, the pale, beautiful teenager was dressed as though she had just stepped out of the 1930s.  Granted, she did look enchanting, but the expensive dress, long white gloves, wide-brimmed summer's day hat and, to complete the ensemble, impossibly high heels, were more suited to a débutante’s ball or Buckingham Palace garden party than horse manure, a piercing wind, and a rugged old farm in the middle of the wild Yorkshire countryside...


Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #170 on: February 01, 2015, 11:44:25 AM »
Chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

Long, long ago a fierce thunderstorm tore down from the darkened Yorkshire skies to smite with fire the sturdy tree that had stood guard over Follyfoot Farm for a hundred years or more.  Rescuers came with water to douse the flames, with sadness and tears for an old friend, for surely the light was gone forever now from its soul?  But the rescuers were mistaken.  Though shorn of blossom and beauty, though weary and worn, the great tree stood defiant and unbowed.  Oh, how the storm tried again and again, decade after decade, to break its mighty spirit.  All in vain, all in vain.  The tree's valiant heart beat steadily on. 

It would always be so. 

The sleek black Rolls Royce had snaked down the drive towards Follyfoot where Colonel Geoffrey Maddocks stood waiting, casting, now and then, a wary glance up at the ominous grey sky above.  Tiny raindrops, angel tears, had already begun to fall ere its driver and three elegant passengers alighted.  An ageing chauffeur in gleaming uniform was the first to emerge.  He walked deferentially around to the back of the vehicle, and in one swift movement, simultaneously pulled open the car door with one hand and flicked up an exceptionally large umbrella with the other. 

With not a murmur of thanks nor even acknowledgement, two of the three elegant passengers immediately stepped under its benevolent shelter.  The third, a beautiful  young girl, dressed, in similar vein to her parents, as though she had lately come through a time warp and left behind a formal gathering being held in the mid-1930s, absently edged away from the group, gazing at Follyfoot Farm in awe.

And a certain red-headed stable-hand, never loath to miss an opportunity to impress a fair maiden, seized his chance.  His employer being at that moment conveniently distracted by Lord Arthur and Lady Prudence Maddocks, Ron Stryker gallantly offered to take the young miss on a guided tour of the stable block and introduce her to the Follyfoot horses.  To his delight, the fair maiden accepted immediately.  The colonel could only blink in astonishment as, despite the smell of horse manure (as there was always a surplus, it was currently awaiting delivery to the village's many enthusiastic vegetable growers) being carried more strongly than ever on the prettily rain-scented air, his delicate-looking niece did not hesitate – if anything, she seemed quite keen - although a certain Ronald Gilroy Stryker would have been very disappointed had he known the horses, and not himself, were the attraction.
 
The pair re-emerged after the Honourable Lord and Lady Maddocks eventually stopped looking down their noses at Follyfoot Farm long enough to realise their daughter was missing.  Ron was carrying his beloved guitar and scowling at the interruption, Dora was smiling and rubbing her ears after being entertained with a loud rendition of Woodstock by the would-be Romeo.

“And this, Geoffrey, old chap, is precisely the reason we cannot possibly take Dora with us to Brazil and must leave her in your tender care,” Arthur tsked.  “Imagine the scandal were it to become public knowledge that a Maddocks heiress mixes happily with riff-raff.  Hired staff are all very well  in their place -  indeed, as you may recollect, my darling wife and I were quite fond of Jimmy and young Davey - but hired staff must know their place and stay there.”  Unmoved by Stryker glaring daggers at him, Lord Maddocks stared back at the youth as one might stare at some vaguely interesting species of insect.

Prudence sighed dramatically and pressed a palm to her forehead as if close to swooning.  “Even after finishing school, our daughter still shows no sign of breeding.  For a young lady to be in filthy stables with vicious, beastly animals like horses and that fellow, a common...a common...”  As Lady Maddocks seemed unable to find an appropriate description, we may never know exactly what type of common fellow Ron was, but her contemptuous glare and Ron's even heavier scowl, as she indicated with a dismissive flick of her fingers that he should leave, must have summed it up adequately, for, after a quick glance at the colonel, who for the sake of peace reluctantly nodded his assent to her ill-mannered request,  the fiery-haired stable-hand gave an angry snarl and stomped off.

Readers of a more delicate constitution will breathe a gentle sigh of relief to hear that Lady Maddocks was however mollified when the young lady herself demurely proffered a hand clad in white cotton glove, either choosing not to see, or perhaps being perfectly unaware, that from its former pristine state, her daughter's glove was now stained from feeding horses treats.

”How d'ye, do, dear Uncle Geoffrey?”  She said demurely in beautifully refined voice that rang clear as any bell and was music to even the hardest heart.  “Delighted to meet you.  I've heard so much about you from Mummy and Daddy.  All about the Burial of the Bugs and the Home for Unwanted Frogs.”  She added in a whisper meant for his ears and his ears alone. 

Colonel Maddocks started, knowing all too well that any stories his family told of his youth were always preceded by a patronizing “poor old Dotty Geoff” and followed by gales of derisory laughter.  But to his great surprise there was no hint of malice in his niece's eyes.  Her gaze remained innocent and curious as a child's.  Dora was not mocking him.  Reader, she did not know how.  No matter how often she heard cruel and spiteful jibes about her uncle's state of mind, she was a slow student in such matters and never did learn her lessons.   

Great-great-Aunt Sophia, an elegant lady as regal as a Queen, and who, or so “A Dynasty:  The History of The Maddocks” tells us, wore diamond necklace, brooch and bracelet on her death-bed in her ninety-fifth year, long speculated over the possibility of the eldest Maddocks boy being a changeling, for Geoffrey's actions set him apart from his three brothers at a very early age.  Even now, after bypassing the title Lord Maddocks and lion's share of the Maddocks fortune in favour of Arthur ("Oh, Good Lord, what would I do with yet more money?  Please, Mother, I beg of you, divide the spoils between Arthur, Henry and Charles, who all have wives and I daresay will have children too some day. Bequeath to me only Father's book collection or I swear to you I'll throw every penny I inherit into the Thames!”) his sole regret was, to his family's bafflement, if only he had chosen to keep both, how much more he might have done to help those in need. 

At gatherings of the Maddocks clan, there was always a feast of tales upon which to dine concerning the idiosyncrasies of  “poor old Dotty Geoff”.

As a young boy he broke down crying when he came across three bugs accidentally squashed beneath a toy box and buried them with all due respect and solemn ceremony. Another time he broke an arm and leg falling out of a tree he'd scaled to “rescue” a cat who needed no help whatsoever and who jumped down and ran off in disgust as soon as he reached her.  Best of all, when he was six years old and concerned about the many frogs being killed and “families of frogs orphaned” by the increasing number of cars on a nearby road, he decorated the rockery of the garden pond with a grand selection of aquarium ornaments, ships, cannons and anchors, lighthouse, fairytale castle and treasure chest, every week for months spending all his pocket money at the village pet shop, and then begged/cajoled/browbeat the bemused gardener into erecting a wooden signpost on which was brightly painted “Home for Unwanted Frogs”.   

/continued on next page

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #171 on: February 01, 2015, 11:57:15 AM »
/chapter 27/Final Chapter/How I All Ended

As he grew older, their eldest son never did, as his parents hoped and prayed he would, outgrow his “obsession” for all vulnerable creatures to concentrate instead on being the privileged young gentleman he was born to be.  His brothers never could understand why so often he would nurse a sick or injured animal back to health (“best if they're put down, Geoffro, save all the bother, what?”) or give a helping hand to those less fortunate (“It's their own ruddy fault if they're homeless, old chap”) while he, in turn, never could understand how they could be so heartless. 

And so time passed by. 

Not content with the misery and pain inflicted upon millions in the first, another world war brought yet more, and all four Maddocks sons answered the call to arms.  Peacetime came.  Unlike his more famous siblings, Brigadier Henry Maddocks, Commodore Charles Maddocks and, most famous of all, Lord Arthur Maddocks - who'd worked side by side with Churchill and become a trusted confidant - Colonel Geoffrey Maddocks, a reluctant hero who did not believe in war, but who fought all the same for freedom for every man, woman and child no matter what race or creed, who saw his men as his equals - for death had no favourites - shied away from the publicity that wished to honour him. 

The gulf between himself and his brothers widened. 

While Arthur, Henry and Charles embraced upper class traditions, Geoffrey abhorred the pomp and ceremony of top brass military dinners, the gold cutlery, the ornate chairs, the never-ending flow of fine wines.  Countless millions had died.  Countless millions had lost loved ones.  Money wasted on exalting high-ranking officers could surely be better spent on rebuilding damaged lives.  It was a view shared strongly by Slugger Jones.  Slugger, too, despaired at the horror and futility of war; felt compassion for the weak and, like Geoffrey, had, too, lost the only woman he ever truly loved. It was odd to realise he had more in common with someone as lowly born as his batman than his own family.  The pair were close as brothers – nay, closer.  A friendship forged amid death, destruction and despair.  Unbreakable. 

And anger flared in the colonel's heart now when the rain fell faster and Prudence squealed as an ice cold drop hit her neck.  “For goodness sake, Geoffrey, order that idiot of a butler to open the manor house at once instead of standing there with mouth agape!” 

Slugger, who stood in the farmhouse doorway, wearing his very best apron and welcoming smile for the occasion, certain his freshly-baked batch of cakes would go down a treat with the “toffs” (Slugger had unwavering faith in his baking skills despite all evidence to the contrary) looked startled at his abrupt change of employment and smiled a little more uncertainly.

“We never use the manor house,” Geoffrey answered in clipped tones and with a calm he didn't feel.  Years of diplomacy in dealing with post-war political affairs had given him the ability to hide emotions.   “We find the farmhouse much more cosy and homely.”

Prudence looked horrified and drew breath to speak, but it was quickly taken away from her again by Dora's strange behaviour and it was left to Arthur to voice aloud her own thoughts.  “Good Lord!  Whatever is the girl doing?”
 
For, heedless of the splashes of rain and eerily silent faraway lightning, Dora stood by the Lightning Tree, arms outstretched.  “Oh, uncle!”  She turned to him, face shining with glistening raindrops.  “It's so beautiful here!  It's everything Jimmy told me it would be!  The horses, the stables, even the storm brewing...”  And she twirled once, twirled twice, holding out her arms as though she would catch the world.

“I'm afraid our daughter is quite, quite mad.  Just like poor, dear Clarissa.”  Prudence sighed and shared a meaningful look with her husband.  She had no doubt her brother-in-law was quite, quite mad too.  As was the imbecile grinning inanely on the farmhouse step and the common person so recently shooed away and who, immediately identifiable by his carrot-coloured, shoulder-length hair, could now be glimpsed from afar leaning on a stable door, chewing idly on a long piece of straw and choking back laughter.  Like to like.  Birds of a feather.  Being hidden away in this godforsaken backwoods as Clarissa was hidden away in hospital, was the ideal solution.

“The Lightning Tree,” Dora whispered in awe, recollecting the stories of Follyfoot Jimmy Turner had regaled her with when she was a child.  The Lightning Tree, he'd told her, was a symbol of hope.  And he'd told her, too, of the pact he, Davey and Slugger had made, to water the old tree.  Dreams come true if you want them to. Picking up the bucket that always rested there, she threw water over its already drenched roots. 

“Grow,” she said, gazing up beyond its empty branches.   “Dream again.”

The storm arrived barely minutes later.  Directly overhead now, fierce and wild as a demon, the rain pounding relentlessly down, the thunder roaring like a lion, the lightning streaking furiously across the blackened sky.  Each and every one was forced to seek the nearest shelter.  The chauffeur, his usual impassive expression still cracked into a rare smile at all that had happened, too late to chase after Lord and Lady Maddocks (who'd forgotten all about him and the umbrella in their hurry to escape the deluge) dived back into the Rolls.  The young folk, laughing together, sought refuge in the stables.  Arthur and Prudence, grim-faced, but the magic that was Follyfoot touching even their cold hearts, already warming towards the idea of tea and cakes in the farmhouse they hastened into. The colonel, patting Slugger's shoulder in mute apology for his snobbish relatives, as they followed them inside.

But the Lightning Tree.  The Lightning Tree stood as it had stood for a hundred years or more, stretching towards the heavens, and never wavered.


A/N: I realise I've taken extensive poetic licence with the lightning tree story as “the tree was born in a thunderstorm”, and not over a hundred years old!   >49< Hope you don't mind.  The next update will almost certainly be the very, very last tho God only knows when I'll get round to writing it.  ::)

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #172 on: March 01, 2015, 05:06:54 PM »
A/N:  Well, I still haven't quite finished but this final part seemed to be getting too long-winded  ::) so thought I'd post now and hopefully work on the rest during the week.


/chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

The boy was the last to arrive.  The handsome, dark-haired, sun-tanned boy,  the boy with thunder in his heart and a storm in his eyes.  Ignoring the kissing gate and choosing instead to leap over the opposite end of old cemetery wall, Steve landed noiselessly behind the church, stealthily as a cat, the white dust momentarily raised by his action falling in cloudy silence back down on to the quiet earth.   A wind whistled eerily, fittingly, around the ancient graves, causing him to shiver.  Though not from fear.  If you asked, the boy would tell you he was never afraid.   And yet he lived in constant fear of rejection.  Of never being good enough.

Because he loved the girl.  Or thought he might.  Love ran so deep and travelled so far, or so he'd heard, fathoms of an ocean, endless as the stars and skies, but love had never known him so how could he know love?  Besides, Dora was everything he could never be.  There were times when he clenched his fists in despair that her world was so very different to his.  Times when he heard himself utter cruel words, saw the hurt in her eyes, hating himself, unable to stop himself.

His background was of poverty, fear and hunger, of a drunken mother and barely remembered father, of moving from place to place, of struggling, stealing, fighting, destroying, imprisonment.   Hers was a gentle life of untold luxuries, of servants catering to her every whim, of exclusive education and débutantes' balls, of country estates and lords and ladies. 

Leaves torn furiously away from the tree branches by the angry wind were rushing haphazardly about the gravestones.  Somehow it reminded him of childhood. 

Mam throwing a handful of belongings, all their worldly goods, into a holdall, grabbing his hand, and they would flee once more. It didn't matter if it was noon or midnight, if a blizzard blew or the sun sizzled, whether they'd been squatting in an empty house with boarded-up windows and missing floorboards or living rent-free with one of Mam's boyfriends, they ran.  From landlords and Mam's ex-partners, from police and officials, from nosey neighbours and unpaid shopkeepers, from houses and hostels and hovels...They ran from everywhere and everyone and to anywhere and anyone.  Most of their flights he recalled as no more than brief images, but one particular day was painted vividly in his mind. 

Terrified by the shouting, red-faced, drunken man swinging a cricket bat and threatening to kill Mam over some stolen money, he felt his bowels open.  Even now he could clearly remember his discomfort as they hurried down a path strewn with broken glass and rubbish, his overwhelming fear as they ducked behind walls and fences,  the large brown dog that barked furiously as it tried to leap over a rickety fence, he and Mam jumping on to a crowded bus and the frowns and wrinkled noses and tsk-tsks, the putrid smell of the bedsit, being stripped of his soiled pants and sat unceremoniously in a shallow bath of cold water and scrubbed from waist down with half a bar of carbolic soap  in the bathroom with the cracked, dirty toilet, mould-encrusted tiles and damp, peeling wallpaper, while someone hammered on the door, urging them to hurry up.

Then one day they ran to a Children's Home where Mam left him.   He had never set eyes on her again until recently.  When everyone said he was a fool to contact her.  But they didn't understand.  She was his Mam.  The one who'd now and then taken him to the park or bought him sweets.  The one who'd scrubbed him with half a bar of carbolic soap in a shallow bath of cold water in the bathroom with the cracked, dirty toilet, mould-encrusted tiles and damp, peeling wallpaper, where someone was hammering on the door, urging them to hurry up.  So what if she was always asking him for money?  She had bills to pay, rent, leckie, gas, and she needed her ciggies and nights out at the pub to relax.  And  once, when he was three or four, she'd even kissed him.

Buried deep in memories, his brow furrowed in thoughts of what might have been and what was, Ron Stryker's sudden guffaw startled him out of his reverie. 

The Follyfooters were gathered at the memorial bench dedicated to Little Cowboy Jimmy.  Old Bertha Smith, for some unfathomable reason, was balancing a funeral wreath on her head while acting out what appeared to be a half-Hawaiian dance.  At least, as only one hand was free to perform gentle circular waves (the other being busily engaged in keeping the wreath in place) and as Bertha was half-swaying her ample hips, Steve assumed  it was a Hawaiian dance.  No doubt Ron had got everyone doing daft things like he often did.  You'd never think he had a care in the world, but Steve knew that only yesterday evening the lovely Helen had been the latest in a long line of girls to dump him.   

Helen Shepherd had turned up without prior notice at Follyfoot just a few days back, seemingly to surprise Ron.  She'd surprised him alright.  God only knew what stories the silver-tongued Stryker had been spinning her, but from the bits of the angry conversation Steve overheard it was clear she'd expected to see a sprawling farm complete with sheep, cows and pigs, and her beau lording it over his manor and workers, not mucking out stables and smelling of manure.  Less than twenty-four hours later, the romance of the decade was over.  And after crashing through the gate of Follyfoot next morning, late as always, but with suspiciously red eyes, escaping with a milder telling-off from the colonel than was the norm due to red eyes, winding everyone up and getting away with it due to red eyes, taking a snooze instead of taking Betsy for a canter and escaping with yet another milder than usual telling-off from the colonel due to eyes still being red, Ron was back to his old, jokey, clownish self.  Despite the red eyes.

Steve suspected Helen had told him Not Clever Enough and a Liability.  From what Ron had let slip, he knew she had “ambition”.  Wanted to be noticed, a career with a massive salary, to rub shoulders with somebodies.  Ron's brain may have turned to mush over Helen, but Steve had a name for Miss Shepherd even before she turned up unannounced at Follyfoot Farm, a look of disdain on her over made-up face, glaring daggers at Dora's natural prettiness.  Plastic snob.

A beautician's course at Ashtree College, a couple of mediocre O levels, and a Saturday job on the cosmetics counter of Ashtree's largest store did not exactly put the ex-city girl on the first rung of the ladder to fame and fortune.  Mr Stryker senior, however, as everybody in the surrounding villages knew and often gossiped about, was comfortably off.  What Ron had obviously failed to tell his girlfriend was, after he'd blotted his copybook one too many times by running wild, and angry beyond measure that he may even have become involved with the so-called Night Riders, his furious father had informed his only son and heir that not only did he have to start paying for his keep from now on, but he wasn't getting a penny more from Rich Daddy – and probably wouldn't until he was at least thirty, he added, incandescent with rage. 

Ron was way better off without her.  Jeez, Helen could've given Lady Prudence Maddocks a run for her money with her snootiness.  The air had crackled with her resentment of Dora while Dora, being Dora and more interested in horses, was too sweet and too naïve to even notice.  She really did think Helen Shepherd was being nice and not sarcastic when she remarked on how much she suited being a country lass with her no make-up, jodhpurs and jumper look.  Dora.  The name alone was enough to make Steve smile, as he did now.



Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #173 on: March 14, 2015, 05:35:45 PM »
/chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

The colonel told him that Jimmy Turner had suggested the name to Arthur and Prudence and that it meant “gift of God”.  Apparently, Little Cowboy Jimmy, as he was nicknamed in childhood due to his quick action of saving a horse from bolting through a crowded market after it was startled by a cruelly thrown firework, had been a devout Christian and, despite his low birth, somewhat astonishingly, a good friend of the snobbish Lord and Lady Maddocks.  Steve wasn't sure he believed all that Jesus claptrap, but from what he'd heard Jimmy Turner had been a decent enough bloke who didn't impose his religious views on anyone.  With a great sense of humour, too; often as he aged and began to ponder on his mortality he'd asked those who loved him not to mourn his death when it inevitably came, but to remember instead the times they shared together in laughter and to laugh still when they gathered at his grave, for wasn't the best joke of all that nobody truly died?  And who knew but that the Good Lord might permit him to return to listen and laugh too? 

But while it's all very well for the dear departed to lay down their last wishes before they swan off on their great adventure, conveniently leaving someone else to deal with the fall-out from instructions such as what is to become of their second-best bed or for dinner to be prepared for them every night in case they happen to return to life***, perhaps the simple and poignant “Don't cry for me when I'm gone” is the most difficult to observe.  For it's only natural that the bereaved will weep and not dance a jig or laugh heartily or light fireworks in joyous celebration when a loved one passes away.  And so, although over a decade had gone by since the death of the friend they came to honour, it was only natural that several faces shone with fresh tears.

In keeping with his wish for recalling happy times, the vicar held the annual memorial service on the anniversary of Mr Turner's birthday.   Jimmy had been a very well known and respected figure in the villages, especially during his time working as head groom and then chauffeur for Lord and Lady Maddocks when they were in grand residence at Follyfoot Manor House, then at its very finest.  But after his departure to London at the beginning of the War to help ferry the Maddocks' top secret government files, and as post-War he stayed in their employ at Saxe Coburg Mansion, his absence for a great many years, apart from a brief visit in the 1950s, meant he was gradually being forgotten.  The endeavours of Rev John Glover to create Whistledown Tourist Office, together with the re-opening of Follyfoot Farm, had the pleasant side effect of rekindling the almost lost legend of Little Cowboy Jimmy and reawakening the memories of those who had made his acquaintance.  The service attracted a healthy turnout of a Whistling Kettle, as the folk in those parts liked to call it, being very fond of confusing outsiders by inventing Yorkshire-isms.   (As you may well be unfamiliar with the term, I will take this opportunity to quickly explain it was shorthand for the Yorkshire villages of Whistledown, Follyfoot, Tockwith, Loppington, Haydingle, Foxhill, Froglea, Hillingwood and Kettlefield, and also included the bustling, much larger village/town of self-important Ashtree, which its inhabitants often claimed, was “going places” - although exactly where it was going to, they didn't specify.)   

The Follyfooters had their own pew complete with bronze plaque, which explained that centuries ago the Maddocks family had donated generously to build Whistledown Church, and that just by its arched doors could be found the last resting place of one Sir Richard Maddocks, Follyfoot Farm's founder, and his ornate seventeenth century gravestone bearing the family crest of horse, lion and eagle enclosed in a shield with the Latin motto vires per licentia (strength through freedom).  It was fortunate that they did, for very soon the house of worship would be packed to the rafters and, there being insufficient seats, some of the congregation would have to stand and some crowd at the outer doors.  All ages and all backgrounds were represented.  There were teenagers and young adults, who remembered Jimmy from when they were children in the 1950s; elderly villagers (some thinking now of their own demise and dreaming up their own awkward last request scenarios); villagers and shopkeepers and owners of cafés and B&Bs; church officials and ex-colleagues and the inevitable tourists; those who knew Jimmy only in later years when a Whistling Kettle, one and all, hoped and prayed wedding bells would ring for their friend and Bertha Smith (though this was never to be) and even those, like Steve and Ron, who hadn't known him at all...  Such was the power of Follyfoot.  And, such, despite his plea to the contrary, were the tears.

Dora cried that morning.  Jimmy had been like a grandfather to her and silver tears for yesterdays gone forever trickled wistfully down her cheeks.

She broke down over breakfast in the farmhouse, and for a time even the indomitable Ron Stryker couldn't halt the flow although he played court jester wonderfully, pulling expressions of alarm and gasping in wild-eyed horror, hands flying to mouth, declaring he, too, was horrified by the sight of the fried eggs so cruelly drowned in grease and the shocking evidence of cremated remains of sausages and toast.  But fear not, sweet maid, he dramatically entreated, knocking over his chair as he jumped up, and with one hand pressed to his heart, the other making a triumphant fist, he ignored Slugger's huffing at the slander of his cooking skills to stoutly declare he would bring the perpetrator of these monstrous crimes  to justice. 

His patience was rewarded when Dora's lips eventually curved into a reluctant smile.   Or perhaps the smile was because both the much-maligned breakfast chef and her beloved Uncle Geoffrey came to comfort her too and, though her moist eyes flickered sadly towards the person who sat opposite her, she said nothing. 

So Ron was the one to make her laugh.  Slugger the one to put a fatherly arm around her shoulders. The colonel the one to utter gentle words of wisdom.  And Steve...

...Steve stayed frozen in his seat, scowling down at his plate.  Knowing he should be the one to console her, to laugh with her, to cry with her.  But crying made him uneasy.  Tears were a luxury he'd never been able to afford.

When very young, he quickly learnt that tears incurred the wrath of his mother or the men she took to her bed.  In later years, he saw them as a weakness.   He'd grown up fending for himself, developed an iron shell, used his fists to speak.  Forgotten how to cry.

Follyfoot had shaken him up, turned him inside out till he didn't know anything any more.  The horses were so easy to love.  Animals didn't care who or what you were.  All they asked for with sad, hopeful eyes was food, shelter, companionship.  In return, they gave utter devotion.  The hard shell he'd so carefully cultivated was crumbling fast and yet still he couldn't cry.  At least, not outwardly.  Inwardly he cried every day.  For someone so near and so far.  His heart leapt somersaults when Dora smiled, shivers of happiness ran through him if their fingers touched even briefly, he ached to kiss her pretty lips.  But when she needed him most he couldn't be there.

***The story of Shakespeare bequeathing his "second best bed" to his wife is already well known.  The second incident refers to John Bowman (d1891) who believed he and his family would be reincarnated together and left $50,000 for a daily meal to be prepared in case they returned hungry (10 Unusual Last Wills And Testaments/Jamie Frater)

/continued on next page


Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #174 on: March 14, 2015, 06:07:56 PM »
/chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

A couple he knew from the village, well enough to say hello to, but not well enough to know much about, Tommy Jackson and his girlfriend, Sophie, were talking and laughing together, eyes only for each other, oblivious to the swelling numbers arriving for the church service, to the pealing church bells, to everything around them.  Why was it so easy for everybody else?   Why couldn't he be who he wanted to be?

Maybe because he'd been lucky enough to have what Steve never did, someone who loved him, even Ron wasn't afraid to show his feelings, as his recent split with Helen proved,  Though, according to Slugger, Brian Stryker, in trying to compensate for his child losing his mother when he was barely four years old, over-indulged, and Ron went completely off the rails, the reason Brian negotiated a deal with Geoffrey Maddocks to employ him at Follyfoot and keep him out of trouble.  Worked, too, even if Stryker himself didn't, being the laziest stablehand in history, Slugger grinned, affectionately swiping the back of the youth's head, which, though he intended a gentle blow, smarted somewhat (for Slugger often forgot his ex-boxer strength) and caused Ron to steal Slugger's beloved woollen hat in revenge.  But their fighting was done, as always, in good humour; they were father and son in all but biology and the greatest of friends.

Of course, Ron Stryker baulked at the idea of looking like a wimp in front of his mates so he cared in his own way.  Stir up trouble, call the horses useless old nags, do as little graft as possible, wheel and deal, chat up birds; this was Stryker's modus operandi.  But for all his female conquests – now that Helen Shepherd was out of the picture, he turned his attentions back to  Dora, who, thankfully, long ago had made it clear she was never going to be among them  - Ron only ever had two great loves:  the guitar and that bloody bike.  Hurt either and you put your life on the line.

Once, finding the guitar in the stables, Steve picked it up and was idly strumming a few notes when he was spun around so fast he saw stars even before a fist threatened to crash into his face.  Why Ron didn't swing his fist after all, he never knew.  They stood in the shadow of the Lightning Tree in the late afternoon sunshine, glaring at each other, ready to kill.  And then, as if suddenly remembering where he was, Ron dropped his arm and Steve brushed his shoulder and fixed his leather jacket.  Neither spoke.  Steve nodded; Ron nodded back.  A silent agreement, a mutual understanding.  Afterwards he never touched the guitar again without Ron's say-so.  And nobody ever actually spoke it aloud, but everybody was of the understanding the motorbike was strictly off limits unless it was an emergency to do with rescuing horses.  But then that was Follyfoot for you.  So much was said in so much that was left unsaid.  The signpost read simply “Follyfoot Farm:  Home of Rest for Horses”.  It didn't need to add that it took in people too. 

And as he stood watching all around him, on the outside looking in, something Slugger remarked in his early days at Follyfoot came back to mind.  He'd stood hesitantly in the doorway of the farmhouse, soaked to the skin from his first Follyfoot thunderstorm, rain dripping down from his hair, his clothes clinging to him.  The chief cook and bottlewasher glanced up briefly from a steaming pan and delivered his advice:-

If tha's cold, move closer t'fire

And so he'd moved closer.  Straight into Follyfoot's heart. 

He was no longer an outsider.  At Follyfoot Farm, he would never be rejected again.  He walked towards the bench where the Follyfooters sat, a laugh chasing away his habitual frown.  Perhaps one day he might share with them the stirring depths of his soul, the odd idea that amused him so.  It was the colour of their hair as they sat applauding Bertha before they rose to join him.  The colonel.  The silver frosts of a hopeful spring.  Ron.  The fiery red of a wild summer.  Dora.  The gentle calm of the soft browns and golds of autumn.  Slugger.  The white snows of wisdom that came with winter.

Seasons changed at Follyfoot, as seasons will.  Spring and summer, autumn and winter, they come and go.  Tides ebb and flow; day becomes night, night becomes day, day becomes night again.  The world spins on.  But there is a place that will remain forever in our hearts. 

Some call it home.

/continued on next page

Offline Marie

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Re: When the Snow Falls (parts one and two) by Marie
« Reply #175 on: March 14, 2015, 06:19:15 PM »
chapter 27/Final Chapter/How It All Ended

Reader, I remember the Farm even now.   I go there once in a while in my dreams.  Oh, only yesterday I closed my eyes, and deep in slumbers where a pale sun looked forlornly down through the thin fog and I watched my feet digging soundlessly...

...in soft muddy earth and the restless wind nipping my face and chilling my bones, for winter fast approaches.  But the last tender memory of autumn lingers still on the damp, misty air, and small, hardy birds not yet flown sing and trill merrily as they fly from bough to bough.  Already the familiar scent of hay and horses has begun to assail my nostrils and quickens my step and quickens my heart, yearning to be again in the place I knew so well.

There is a tree standing alone.  Struck by a lightning flash long ago.    Cold, bereft, forgotten now.  And, lonely and shivering, young and uncertain, I wrap my arms around myself.

The breeze takes pity on me then and for just a little while is gentle, whispering secrets, its words no more than kisses and sighs, but my heart understands and answers.  Raindrops from early morning rain drip steadily down through the tree's sagging, sodden branches.  Not tears, said my heart.  Never sadness.  Not tears, but heartbeats.  Comforted, I draw closer. 

Suddenly I hear them!  Their voices, their laughter, their banter, the clip-clop of horse hooves, the clank of a bucket, the swish of water.   And for just a moment, a fleeting moment, I see them, those I had loved, on the periphery of my vision, and as real as you and I!  And in that moment, that beautiful, fleeting moment, I remember my first love, my first kiss, my sweet dreams of youth, my very joy of being!

But winter comes quickly, as winter does in twilight years.  And they are gone all too soon, those I had loved, their voices no more, their footsteps stilled, and my throat raw with weeping.

The wind, the wild wind, gathers snowflakes to whirl and scatter and somewhere far, far away in the deep hush of night are those who cry unheard.  But I know as surely as the sun will rise by morning that one day Follyfoot will find them and bring them home, for long, long ago I learnt the secret of its magic.  Not tears.  Never sadness.  Not tears, but heartbeats.  A smile.  A hug.  A second chance.  A helping hand.  It was all it took to change the world.  And as the white snowflakes tumble faster and faster and faster, down from the night skies to coat the frosty earth, my heart knows once more the secret Follyfoot shared and whispers to me still:

When the days are dark
when the lost and the lonely have nowhere to turn
when the snow falls
silent and cold and cruel...
         
                                               
                                       ….reach out to me...                                                                                                     

                                                                    ...as I reach out to you...                                                                       

                                                                                                        ..and if we keep reaching...


                                                                                                                                               ….I think we might touch.


THE END

Well, it was... long...rambling...confusing... :o  but hope you enjoyed reading anyway!   >11<