Now or Never (Loves Great Adventure)
Equinox - the darkness presses in and life slows and grows darker. The village sexton stood silently by the grave; like a crow eyeing carrion on a lonely country wayfare. His spade prodding at the dark mound. We give birth astride a grave; the light gleams an instance. Then it's night once more.
She had only ever wanted a bit of adventure. Some fun. the young girl peered over the graveyard wall, as she stood at the village bus stop. The Number 9 would take her on the forty-five-minute journey into town. From there it was an hour train passage to Waterloo. Then a twenty-minute walk to King Oswald Street. Number 19 was on the lefthand side a third of the way down.
It wasn't Harley Street but it was all she could afford.
She had made the journey twice in the last week but had stopped at the street's end. There she stood until darkness fell and she made her way back to the village; her home of fear, dread, and violence.
"Next time. Next time, I'll do it," she told herself. Now it was the third time lucky. Luck had nothing to do with it. 'Come hold me tight. Kiss me, darling. Be mine tonight.' If only it had been that. If romance had been part of it; it may have been easier to deal with. But it was a cold, sudden, passionless act. A betrayal.
She was such a fool. Such a fool. She once had her cards read by an old lady who had lived in Leverett Wood. One of the cards had been the fool. Not a bad card. It was ruled by Uranus and told of the journey of the soul. It told of change. Now she had two souls in her care to guide, but as the gnarled old lady had said; we come and go but the land will endure.
In the village life went on. The church clock peeled and bells rang out telling of joy and sorrow; life and death. Her mother's treat was a glass of sherry every Sunday lunchtime. Was that the life she was destined for? Conformity? Pity? With the both of them, it would mean shame, spiteful eyes, and caustic words. Could she face this?
It was harvest time and the village was a hive of activity. The shortening of the days heralded the bounty of the land. The land that would become barren until the spring. Light brings new life. With the coming of the spring, would come her new life. Her life-changing arrival.
Times were changing but not in her world. The bus slowly approached and she tentatively put her hand out. The green single-decker slowly pulled in and she slowly stepped aboard. A single to town. 6d. She had to count the pennies because in her purse was her life savings. Every last penny. The previous year a law had been passed, but for a girl like her, who had been shamed, a clinic in a dingy London street was all that was on offer. A risk; but a risk worth taking? If not - what would life offer? Ostracised by her family- where would she go? The early morning sun had gone and a sudden squall battered the bus windows. She watched raindrops race and merge and disappear beneath the rim of the window. In front, two mothers, she had seen in the village, chattered freely as their babies slept. Outside, the sky, now as grey as pewter, sped past as the bus reached the brow of the hill and momentum took them down towards the town.
Her father was a melancholy man. His temper roused into violence. Demonstrations of his power occurred only occasionally. It was his dark cloud-covered glooms that spread discontent and a nervous silence over the house. She often lay in bed waiting for the key to turn in the front door. If she heard his foot on the bottom stair, she turned off her light and longed for the darkness to swallow her. The light of day never brought relief or peace.
In the summer, days as long as her dreams, she would escape into the fields surrounding her home. The days spent hiding in cornfields meant she didn't have to go home until sundown. She would find hollows in the crops, warm and imprinted by a just departed fawn, where she could shelter in the full light of day, cornflower decorating her canopy, and watch the colours of the sky change. The darker the blue the smaller the ball she would curl into, hoping to become one of the azure, spikey blossoms that stood guard over her. Then as dusk fell she would maybe witness hares boxing in a ritual, old as time. Each secure in their place in natures rich tapestry. Yet summer ends, and with the shortening of the days came exposure. Winter brought no respite.
Now she flew past the past a stubble patchwork of autumn, as her flight took her closer to the city, whose grey landscape may provide an escape, if not an adventure. An American soldier once told her about his home in Oklahoma, where the skies went on forever and the cornfields were the size of Hampshire. His yearning for his home ensnared her and his Elvis-smile was very persuasive.
Waterloo Platform - 12.45pm. Holding her coat tightly and carrying a leather bag, once her mothers, she was borne along by the crowds that squawked and screeched in a language that seemed foreign to her. Flashes of bowler hats, mini skirts and kaftans decorated her view but went unnoticed.
She counted the paces and the seconds that took her to the end of the street. King Oswald's Street. 1296 paces. Maybe forty-five left. She turned away but turned back. Be brave. "Be bold," she whispered. Onwards. An adventure that may save her life.
Number 19. Six steps led up to a grand black door adorned in brass. She held her breath and climbed. A plaque read 'The Solstice Clinic.' Beside the door was an enamel bell inscribed with push. She extended a finger. 'Now or Never,' she thought.