Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lost on the Rock Contest - 3rd Place

Our third place winner in the Lost on the Rock contest is Sue Harding of Warwickshire, England. I understand that some of her intimates refer to as the "Knitting Assassin". Perhaps that's because she hangs about with so many of those noir-ish types. I have had occasion to drop in on her blog I Refuse To Go Quietly! and have always enjoyed the writing she presents.

Take a moment to drop by Laurita's Calling Shotgun to read our interview with Sue. We'd now like to present Oubliette, another fine tale...


If I climb to the top of the stairs, there is a low door leading into a small attic. I come up here when the memories become too real. This is my place of ‘leaving behind’ the pain; it is my oubliette, my place of forgetting.

No-one else comes here. Only one other knows of it and he is sworn to secrecy. It is something we share and yet he can only ever wait outside because I will not let him in.

It was all so long ago and yet I remember it as sharply as if it was just happening. In some ways, perhaps, it still is.

Neville knows not to come in. We have been together so many, many years and yet I have never allowed him into my secret room. Obligingly, he has never asked. He merely accepts that from time to time I need to withdraw from life and be separate.

It was Neville, you see, who found out what had happened all those years ago. He had been exploring the woods and had come across the old potting shed at the back of the old nursery. It was all broken down and overgrown; the glasshouses standing vacant, the panes broken or missing.

I’d stopped crying by then, afraid it was the nasty man come back to check on me after he'd pushed me down into that dungeon-like cellar. When I felt the noise of footsteps above me I panicked in the darkness and stumbled into a pile of old clay plant pots. With his curiosity aroused Neville had discovered the door and pulled it open.

Thinking to make my escape, I’d leapt forward snarling and spitting like a cat, ready to attack and plunged forwards bowling him over. I was startled by the brightness and by the figure of a young lad rather than the horrible old man who’d smelled of dirt and tobacco. I’d been almost hysterical when Neville had grabbed hold of me and it was only when he shook me hard and yelled back at me that he wasn’t going to hurt me that I finally stopped screaming.

Neville, my saviour. He became a good friend in the days and months that passed, after he’d taken me safely home. I swore him to secrecy that he must never tell anyone what had happened to me and when we finally arrived back at my home he honoured our agreement. My mother was crying with relief and my father just wouldn’t let me go. They’d been about to call the police when they couldn’t find me, having searched the surrounding area for hours. Neville backed up my story that I’d been playing hide and seek with some friends, down by the old nursery, when I’d got stuck in the potting shed after the door handle had come off. He’d heard me crying and rescued me.

So, Neville became quite a hero and a fixture in my life from that time on. We grew up, he went off to college and I stayed on at school, being a few years younger. We courted and eventually married. At least, that’s the happy ending everyone believed.

The truth, hidden behind the aspects of middle-class conformity and appearances of genteel post-war Britain, was quite a different prospect; 1950’s society still clung precariously to established stereotypes of propriety that would not have openly accepted the arrangement that governed our marriage.

Neville endured the probing questions that suggested our lack of offspring might represent a failing on his part, even to the point where he didn’t contradict the misconception that others were happy to believe.

All these years he has patiently stayed beside me, content to be my protector and allow me to live a quiet and sheltered life. Our arrangement is simple – that part of his life is separate. He is very discreet, of course. I often wonder what makes him stay. Perhaps there is more to love and living our lives together than can be explained away by a simple definition.

But even now after more than sixty years there are times, flashbacks, to a long ago summer when a sunny day brought to a halt the excitement and wonder of youth and ushered in the loss of innocence, as I retreat once more to my place of forgetting. There, in my times of solitude, I block out the worst images and fight to replace them with blackness, as if splicing and editing cine film until I can look back and not see the past.

Neville found me, he rescued me and he has sheltered me all these years, but still I am tied to the trauma of what happened back then. How I wish I could wipe away the memories of a past that will not go away. Perhaps, if I had the determination and the courage, I would bow to his gentle suggestion of counselling, but I am trapped by the fear that it might bring other memories to the surface. Solitude is a small price for me to pay but it has cost Neville dear.

After eleven years' hard-labour as a Library Assistant I am fortunate to have been able to give up work this year and am now a 'kept woman'! (well, I think that sounds better then the 'pensioner' connotation of early retirement!) I now spend my days reading, writing, knitting (no, it's not boring - excellent time to mind-plot!) and in keeping with my persona as a life-member of the Campaign for Real Ale, consuming quantities of quality brews and red wine - though not both at the same time!

I hang out at my blog: - callers there are most welcome, especially if they'd like to contribute to 'Thursday @ 3'!


Angel Zapata said...

Such tragedy to be a prisoner of the past. You've painted a somber, yet beautiful portrait of pain. There's a true sense of that complex, imperfect intimacy between Neville and herself. Well done, Sue.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Beautiful story, Sue. Neville is quite the hero in all respects; so much more so than a man in a red cape could ever be. That she honours him without being able to 'find' her missing innocence is what makes this story special to me. All three stories so far have been just magnificent!

Anonymous said...

A great story Sue.
I love the idea that you explored so well of what is really meant by 'love' and 'living together'. Neville's love goes way beyond conventional definitions.

Paul D Brazill said...

Very nicely done, indeed.

Chuck said...

Sue, that is a spellbinding story that hooks the reader in very few words. I wanted to read more, and afterall isn't that the mark writers shoot for?

I believe it could have been number one and the decision must have been a tough one for the judges. Great job.

Halli Gomez said...

Incredible writing! I was drawn in from the beginning and wanted more even when it ended. Fabulous!

David Barber said...

Great story, Sue. Very well done.

SueH said...

Thankyou everyone for your kind comments! Am 'reet chuffed' !

Francis said...

I love how you have crafted such a huge, multi layered and affecting story with so few words. The writing was so vivid that I found myself watching it as I read (if that makes sense?) Superlative narrative pull!

Chris Alliniotte said...

Excellent writing Sue. Your depth of character is simply stunning, and this is so complex a story in such a short span. Well done.

Anonymous said...

This is excellent Sue. Beautiful and sad. I love it. Well done, you :)