Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Bedtime Story (20/9/2017)

This story may seem a little sad on the face of it, but I've never been one to shy away from dealing with some of the bigger subjects in life.  This week's story is all about love, loss and memories.

For the podcast version of this story, simply click here.

One Last Trip To Granny's House

Alice sat on the front doorstep of Granny Jane's house.

Or at least, it used to be Granny Jane's house.  Now, the rooms were empty of furniture.  All the pictures had been taken off the walls.  It looked bigger and smaller, all at the same time.  It was Granny's house, but... not anymore.

Alice gazed at the big "SOLD" sign in the front garden.  She didn't like it.  She wanted to run and tug it out of the ground and throw it away.  She wanted her Granny back.  She missed Granny Jane's cuddles.  Her funny stories.  The birthday cakes she made for Alice every year...

But the last few months, Granny Jane hadn't been very well.  When Alice and her mum came to visit, Granny would sometimes be in bed.  Other times, she'd be sitting in her favourite chair, very quietly.  She still gave brilliant cuddles, but Alice didn't want to squeeze her too hard.  It was almost as though she was frightened Granny Jane might break.

Alice sighed.  She was supposed to be helping her mum and Uncle Joe to do "a last little clean" of the house, before the new owners arrived to collect the keys.  But Alice didn't like walking around the house, now.  It was strange and sad being there without Granny.

"Alice!"  Her mum's voice seemed to echo along the empty corridor.  "I thought you were going to help wipe down the windowsills?"

Alice rested her chin in her hands.  Why should she clean the house, just so someone else's granny could move in?!

"Alice!"  The voice came, again.  "The new owners will be here, soon!"

Alice stuck out her lower lip and frowned.  She felt almost as though she couldn't move.  She wanted to guard Granny Jane's house.  She wanted to be there when the new owners arrived.  She needed them to know that someone very special had lived here, first.

Sure enough, before long, a blue car that Alice didn't recognise pulled into the large driveway, behind Uncle Joe's truck.  And to Alice's surprise, it wasn't a little old lady that climbed out, but a smiling man, no older than her dad.  A lady got out next, clutching a puppy in her arms.  And then, from the back of the car, a little girl who looked the same age as Alice, stepped into the sunshine.  But she wasn't smiling.  In fact, she looked downright miserable.

Alice rose to her feet, staring at the family.

"Hello!"  The lady called, waving at Alice.  "Are you Laura's daughter?"  She jogged over, still holding the puppy.  "I'm Isobel," she explained.  "We're picking up the keys today."  The puppy squirmed in her arms, desperately trying to escape.  Alice smiled in spite of herself.  Isobel grinned.  "This is Stanley," she chuckled.  "He's very friendly.  And house trained!"

Alice stroked Stanley's head for a while, then pointed into the house.  "Mum's upstairs.  You can go in, if you like."

Alice watched the man take a baby seat out of the car.  He unstrapped a gurgling little boy with tufty brown hair and lifted him up into his arms.  "Hi," he called to Alice, as he followed his wife into the house.

The little girl hung back, staying by the family's car.  Alice could hear her mum and Uncle Joe talking to the new owners and she felt sad.  It was really happening, now.  Granny Jane's house was going to belong to someone else.  Alice folded her arms across her chest and wandered down the driveway, until she was close to the other girl.  "Are you okay?"  She dug into her pocket.  "I've got tissues, if you need one?  You look like you're going to cry."

The girl shook her head and quickly wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.  "I miss my old house," she whispered.  "And my old school and my old friends."

Alice sighed.  "I miss my Granny," she replied.  "She used to live in your new house."

The girl sniffed.  "My Nanna and Grandpa live near here.  Mum keeps saying I can see them more, now we've moved."  She stared at her feet.  "But I really don't want to go to a new school."

"Are you going to the one in the village?"  Alice asked.  The girl nodded and Alice smiled.  "That's my school!  And you look my age.  You'll probably be in my class.  I'll look after you, if you like?"

The girl managed a smile.  "Thanks," she said.  "I'm Freya, by the way."

"My name's Alice," Alice told her.  "Don't you want to go into the house?"

Freya shook her head.  "No," she sighed.  "It's real, if I go in.  I really have moved to a new place and I really have left all my friends behind."

Alice raised her eyebrows.  "I didn't want to go inside, either," she confessed.  "If I did, Granny Jane would really be gone."  She sighed.  "It's a nice house, though.  I could show you around?  Maybe it won't be so hard if we do it together?"

Freya thought about it for a moment, then nodded.  "Okay."

Alice led Freya into the empty corridor, then through to the large, bare lounge.  "Granny Jane used to call this the sitting room," she said.  "I think because it has the sofa in it.  Or, it used to..."

"We've bought a new sofa for this house," Freya replied.  "It's purple!"

Alice grinned.  "Granny Jane's was this funny pinky colour.  And she had an armchair she liked to sit in and look out of the window, into the garden."

"It's a very pretty garden," Freya said, staring through the glass.  "The roses are really nice."

"Granny loved gardening," Alice explained.  "I used to help her, sometimes."   She sighed, remembering.  "Would you like to see the kitchen?"

The two girls wandered into the kitchen and Alice pointed at the old-fashioned oven.  "That's called an Aga," she explained.  "There's a modern cooker as well, but Granny loved using that, instead.  It kept the kitchen really toasty and warm."

"I wondered what an Aga was," Freya said, touching it, gingerly.  "Mum said it was the Aga that made her want the house."  She paused.  "She said my bedroom is already painted yellow, too.  That's my favourite colour."

"Oh!"  Alice smiled.  "The yellow room upstairs is where I used to sleep over, sometimes!  I can show you, come on!"

They dashed up the stairs, together and headed straight for the light and airy room.  "If you look out of the window, you can see the church on the hill," Alice told Freya.  "It sort of glows at night.  I used to think it was magic, but Granny Jane says there are special lights on the ground that come on at night to make it look bright."  She paused.  "I mean... She used to say..."

Freya squeezed her new friend's hand.  "You must really miss her."

Alice nodded.  "I do.  I can't believe she's gone."

Freya sighed.  "She's not really," she said, thoughtfully.  "When our old dog died, my Dad said he wasn't really gone, because I could still remember him.  That meant he would stay with me, forever."

Alice smiled.  "I guess that's true," she said.  "I'm always talking about Granny Jane, so I guess... She's always with me, in a funny way."

"Exactly," Freya smiled.

"You must really miss your old friends," Alice said, gazing at Freya.

"I do," Freya sighed.  "But... Mum says I'll make lots of new ones."

"And you've already made one," Alice beamed.

Freya grinned.  "I hope you don't mind me saying this, but... I'm really glad we're moving into your granny's old house.  If we weren't, I wouldn't have met you and you wouldn't have made me feel better about the whole thing.  And you're right.  This is a lovely house."

Alice smiled back at her.  "Actually, I'm glad you're moving into Granny Jane's house, too.  If someone else's grandma had moved in, it might have been too sad.  But Granny Jane would have loved to see a family living here, with kids playing in the garden."

"And you can still come to visit," Freya suggested.  "Then you can say you're still going to Granny Jane's house!"

Alice gave her a half-smile.  "It's not her house, anymore," she said, softly.  "This is the last time I'll visit Granny Jane's house."

Freya's smile disappeared and she stared at her feet.

"It's your house," Alice went on.  "So, when I come over, I'll be visiting my friend Freya's house."

Freya peeped back up at her, with a big grin on her face.  "Really?!"

"Of course," Alice nodded.  "Like you said, Granny Jane is with me all the time.  She doesn't just have to be in this house.  Besides, I've got so many memories in this house that it'll be kind of nice to add some new ones!"

Freya gave her a hug.  "Thank you for making me feel better!"

"Thank you for doing the same!"  Alice smiled.  "Hey?  Did your old house have a swing in the garden?"

Freya shook her head.

"You're going to love this one, then," Alice declared.  "Wait until I show you the one Granny Jane built for me, in the back garden.  It goes really high!"

And with that, the two new friends went rushing off outside, to start making new memories in Freya's new house.


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