A Tulse Hill Christophany

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Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about loneliness by Lorraine Rogerson.

Lorraine Rogerson lives and writes in Broadstairs on the Isle of Thanet, on the North Kent coast.

Lorraine has written all her life. After she retired, she moved from official documents to creative writing, taking courses at Arvon and online, and doing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Kent. She is writing a novel set in London in 1921 about what happens when two very different women discover they are married to the same man. An early extract was published in 2019 in Unveiled an anthology from the Unthank School of Writing.

‘A Tulse Hill Christophany’ follows a couple trying to connect despite their grief.

Enjoy!

 

Oh blimey, Frank. Give me strength. It sweeps the ceiling, stretches to the walls. Their flat smells dark green, of pine-forest. Their rag-rug that they’d made together, over long dark evenings in the hiss of gaslight smelling of fish-glue, is already piled thick with needles. Oh Frank, be careful – she suffers cruel splinters in small hands and feet. She itches to sweep. On the table a tangle of bauble and string and last year’s burnt-down candles in their burnished claws.

Half-hidden by branches he crouches, stokes the fire. He turns, his face brick-red, eyes shiny. ‘Ada! There you are. At last. Did you get everything – the chestnuts? Oranges? I was starting to worry.’ He rocks back on his heels. ‘Ain’t she a beauty?’

She nods. Skirts round the tree, pulls clear of its raspy tendrils. The scullery is chilly. The sink is piled high with allotment vegetables: bulbous parsnips, carrots, potatoes. Caked in mud; her chilblains sting at the hint of them. Overhanging the draining board, a thick stalk of Brussels sprouts. A pale bird oozes damp on paper. Plucked already, thank God, and drawn. The giblets glisten red-grey-brown in a white bowl. The sight makes Ada heave. She reaches up to put her packages on the windowsill, holds her arms there in front of the glass, fingertips splayed.

Last December the light through this window had flickered blizzard white. She’d spent her days on their bed in the alcove, knitting tiny jackets and boots. They’d all laughed at how he’d wait on her, a precious Dresden doll. He’d found titbits for her, all sorts, langue du chat biscuits, honeycomb and raisins. Anything she could keep down.

Last year he’d dug a path to get to his sister’s house for dinner, leaving her here to doze and read. That was why they had to have them back this year, he said. It was only fair. ‘And it will be jolly, Ada. Do you good, a bit of company. Do us both good. And I’d have thought, by now… You can always talk to her, you know, if there’s things you can’t say to me.’

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