‘Faith, Hope and Love’ by Fran Macilvey

To celebrate the completion of my second book, The Seduction of Susan Scott, here I serialise a short story – quite a long one, as it turns out – which I have had on the books for a while.

Part One

***

“Elaine!”

My mother stands as still as a painting, waiting at the back door, calling me into the house. Whooping and hollering, I’m out having fun with my friends. On our streets, broad-leafed trees stand guard, their branches creaking in a conspiratorial breeze. Broad fingers of shadow, stretched by the dimming light of evening hide me as, rising from my knees and leaning into a crumpled trunk, I gaze at my mother’s face unobserved: Her eyes are closed against the low flare of late evening sun and her face glows bright in the light.

She is a fire woman, who relishes sunlight and spends most of her time indoors. Like my father, I am a child more at home in colder weather. Yet I play in the sun.

“Elaine!” Mum’s voice finally jolts me. With deliberate slowness I saunter over, so that she is forced to linger at the step. I know she wants to, and that despite the lateness of the hour there will be no hurry, no cross words from her because I refuse to move more quickly. We both know that to rush indoors, away from open fresh light and breezes, is a shame: It is not right to move away from beauty, to abandon displays of God’s love for dim corners of man-made stone.

We wait and watch as gold light breaks from the clouds for a final blaze, and then sinks gently in a halo of orange. As shadows lengthen, still, we watch. Only when coldness pricks my skin, does my mother drape her arms around me in a heart-shaped hug and pull me indoors. “To bed, now” she whispers, and I turn in and go up the stairs. I give my teeth the briefest of brushes, threw off my clothes and launch myself into bed.

***

Downstairs, Marian does her evening checks, securing the high, awkward catches for the bathroom windows and the small pane in the front hall. Among the trees outside, darker people plot and plan at nightfall. The house has already been burgled, though there is precious little to steal. Marian doesn’t really care about “stuff” but in this neighbourhood the insurers do, so she obliges them. In any case, though the contents of 3, Larch Avenue are not worth much, replacing them is a chore she could do without.

Marian usually goes early to bed. She has Elaine to look after, and the cat and the goldfish. Who would have thought that she would become the sole carer of a thirteen year-old girl? Who is looking after whom?

***

(to be continued)

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