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Flowers Fade - Revamped Chapter 1, New Chapter 2 and 3

by scriptsplayed 

Posted: 11 February 2004
Word Count: 6255
Summary: For those who have read Chapter 1, Carrie's name has been altered to 'Tully Bellis'. Hope this doesn't ruin people's perception of the story, but I feel it fits better.

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Beneath the dappled shade of her big straw hat Tully’s face, though only slightly withered with age showed contentment, which was unusual considering what she had done. Satisfied her apron was tied protectively over her favourite cream dress she carefully tipped an egg cup of powder into the steel can as the familiar swish of water began to froth and bubble up in the dark confines of the vessel.

She knew why flowers faded. Knew that all they needed were three small things to survive; the warmth of sunlight upon their faces; a gentle breeze to caress their leaves and a mild drench of cool water to tickle their roots. To lose either one or all of these meant they would wilt and die, as though snubbed by nature’s callous confidence. Only, nature wasn’t at work in this greenhouse: Tully was. Having trapped them in an unnatural state, imprisoned within a pot to stand for endless hours beneath the clear glazing, she knew they depended on her. Totally. And that was why she attended them so purposefully.

It was the summer of 1970 that she remembered the most; a hot, sticky season that had forced her to make a decision. Forty had been a good age. It was an age that brought confidence to know where you stood in life. And hadn’t her friend, Sarah, mockingly told her, “Life is supposed to begin at forty, Tully.”

Sarah had sucked on her cigarette, raised a finely pencilled brow and smiled her deliciously wicked grin. Sarah was apt to such mannerisms that hinted at depths deeper than any abyss. Very dramatic was Sarah. With all that flaming red hair and those gorgeous green eyes she couldn’t hope to be anything else.

Flowers poked their pretty heads into Tully’s face and breathed in their spicy scent by way of a precious gift. Slowing the flow of tap water, she tipped the excess from the can and began to understand what it all meant. Flower power and peace. They were the shiny new symbols of the preceding decade, secret messages that had wrung the neck of the family unit dooming it to uncertainty, spurred on by the frustrated, passionate outburst of the country’s educated youth.

Tully’s thoughts turned back to the time when, even before the sun rose, she would slip from beneath her sheets and into her wool housecoat. From there she would stroll into the garden, over the stone paving that weaved its way between the trees, with one purpose in mind; to welcome her beautiful flowers into the new day. She would carefully choose from her varied range of secateurs, as a doctor might a scalpel, there were several of them all shapes and sizes and each for a specific job within her garden. She would pull her stiff gloves over her hands so they fitted snug around her fingers and, once she had pruned any dead leaves or unwanted plant from sight, the can would be filled with water and a scoop of plant food. After the torture they had endured, that would invigorate them.

All this, before she saw to Trevor’s needs.

Poor Trevor. He didn’t know how she felt because she didn’t tell him. She often wondered how good it must feel not to be subjected to your emotions. And yet it was hard for Tully to comprehend how a man who proclaimed to love could wander through life not noticing how his behaviour – or the lack of it – affected another’s. Particularly one as close to him as she. And yet, Tully was not his wife. Nor was she his girlfriend or even, come to think of it, his lover. The days of yearning for a sparkling ring had long since dulled. They had tried hard to rekindle the passion they had experienced in the first thrilling months of togetherness, they both knew that. But their time had come and gone in a whisper of a moment and she thought of him now, sitting there alone. Silent and waiting for her to come to him.

She stood among her flowers and looked at her life in her mind. It presented a sad picture. In fact, she would go as far to say it presented a miserable failed reflection of her former self.


Lying in the hospital bed, Tully felt cared for and loved. And even though the child they had hoisted from her body, not quite two hours before, lay wailing in the cot at her feet, she thought it a restful place. White sheets and green walls. There was something pleasing about the palette that had been chosen. She closed her tired eyes and sighed deeply as the thick pillow sucked her head into its cool depths. Tully liked clean cotton, she liked the sharp, fresh smell of it. So she brushed her cheek against it and breathed deeply.

Portobello Hospital was not a nice place to be, not for Trevor at least. Quickly, he had kissed the black strands tangled about Tully’s sweaty forehead and told her it was time for him to leave. Trevor had never liked hospitals. Having spent half his childhood in one it brought him nothing but bad memories of scowling nuns and grief too unbearable to think about. Tully had tried to understand him and to forgive. Her mind reasoned that he was a father now and because he found himself ill at ease waiting around with nothing better to do than trying to find something to say, it was not really his fault. He had put on a brave smile and even though he was proud of the little girl Tully had taken twenty-six painful hours to bear she knew he itched to exit the intolerable confines of the ward and leave. She knew he wanted to tell the world and to down ale with those who would be pleased to help him celebrate, so she had released him from his awkward bond.

Orange dahlias, squeezed into the plastic pot beside her bed were Trevor’s favourite, not hers. They were brash and bold and glared at you spitefully, poking their thousand and one tongues out at you for having dared cut them down in their prime only to trap them where they could merely sit and wait for death’s embrace. After all this time, he still didn’t know her and she was sad about that.

He had failed to notice how sallow her skin had become. Failed to notice also when, as though an eerie evening shadow had crawled silently into her life, dark shadows had crept under her eyes and tiny pink blotches spitefully protruded from her once milky skin. How withered and withdrawn she had become without the sun’s gentle caress these past few months was beyond his comprehension. To him, she looked as beautiful as the Snow White of the fairy tale; with her pale skin, dark hair and eyes as blue as the midnight sky, he looked at those ruby lips as though they invited him to touch.

Outside the window, Tully could see the cool wet Spring of May 1963 and she offered it a feint smile of gratitude. The winter had been harsh and everyone had suffered. The thaw, and even the terrible destruction it had brought with it, had been welcomed; because it meant life could return and things that were once green and good would be that way once more.

The apple tree distracted Tully as its knotty knuckles rapped against the window pane. It offered up fresh pink blossoms by way of recompense and her cheerless heart eased a little. She thought of the child she had invited to abide with her on this cruel planet and of the life the girl would inevitably suffer. Tully’s body had already resisted condemning her child to it when the cord tried to snatch from her the very life it had fed to her. Its slimy tentacles had hugged her baby tight about its tiny neck, unwilling to let her go, so the door to her world had been quickly sliced open and the child snatched from her womb to be thrust into the cold blinding spotlight of the theatre. Already, the poor little mite had had a taste of what was to come.

The sixties decade was an experimental one. An age of parties, drugs and rock that made you vomit with excess if you couldn’t keep up. And Tully couldn’t. She had spotted Trevor well before his wandering eyes rested on her. Cock sure with confidence, he had leaned against the bar with his feet splayed uncivilly apart, a pint of larger in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She sat with her thin, frivolously pretty sister, Iris, at a corner table not daring to think that the good-looking Teddy boy would glance her way.

“Boys don’t make passes at girls in glasses.” Iris had mimicked cruelly, hoping Trevor would make a bee-line for her instead.

Unusually, he didn’t. Tully quivered and slid back into her fake leather chair as a quick thrill rushed through her when she noticed that he walked towards their table and looked directly into the eyes behind her batwing frames.

“Trevor Banks.” He grinned cheekily.

He had one big gorgeous smile that proudly displayed a perfect row of white teeth and his bright blue eyes sparkled invitingly. He reminded her of Tommy Steele, the actor that smiled when he sang on the telly. She thought it odd that a warm man like him would have a cold name like Steele. But it suited him, nevertheless, just as Banks appeared to suit Trevor. She wondered if his name originated from a long line of bankers, just as her family name she liked to think resulted from a long line of flower growers.

As he twirled the manicured, glossy quiff between the fingers of one hand he proudly held out the other for her to take. And she did. And they danced. All night, until he walked her home, slipped into her bed and into her body. It was the first time anyone had noticed her. It was the first time she had felt loved and wanted and needed.

Because she didn’t have a phone, he had stood on her doorstep the very next night and was brazen enough to ask her out again. And every night after that. And each time, they fell into each other’s arms the way they had the first time until she began to feel sick of the sight of the morning and her landlord began to ask the questions she didn’t want to answer. When her bulge began to show he didn’t have to ask anymore. Without anywhere permanent to live, her body had slowly expanded under the roof of her landlord’s house until he had kicked her out of it; disgraced and unwanted.

“No kids, I said. No kids, no animals!”

The weedy little man, although cruel, was right. He had made his rules up before she was given the key. Of course, she had been warned, but she certainly hadn’t planned for this to happen. Neither had she given any thought to how she would raise her baby. But Trevor didn’t worry. He never worried about anything, which was one of the things she liked about him. So she didn’t need to fret because he had it all worked out; his mother would put them up until they found a place of their own.

“You’ll be here for the full two weeks Madam,” the nurse interrupted her thoughts, offering her a pill with a thimble sized cup of water, “only then will you be allowed to go home.” A hint of an all-knowing smile added to her already fully lined face.

Home? Where was home?

As Tully lay in the hospital bed awaiting the pill to dismiss the throb of the caesarean, she thought about returning to the box room she had shared with Trevor for the past two months. It was time to move on. And if Trevor was not going to do something about it, she would have to.


New plants would be made to feel welcome. She had arrived at that a firm decision as she potted a big leafy variety for the balcony of the small city centre flat she had found six weeks after she had exited the hospital halls. It hadn’t been easy. Carol, the baby she had christened after some disagreement with Trevor, was not a calm child. Her laborious wails were heard throughout the night and woke the neighbours on more than one occasion. Tired, weary and ready to give up, Tully was pleased when she’d at last found a landlady happy to take them in. It wasn’t much, just a one bed flat, but it was clean and furnished and away from Trevor’s mother; that was one redeeming feature already. And, yet another was found in the garden it offered. It was only a balcony sized plot but it was big enough to make her heart tingle with expectation. She didn’t see any problem with it as she stood on it with Carol in her arms and looked far into the distance across the mountainscape of roofs.
The soft soil crumbled easily between her fingers as she nestled the begonia’s roots firmly into the bed. It hadn’t taken long for her balcony to become thick as a forest glade and Trevor had not forgotten to admire her skill with the trowel.

“You should get a job in a nursery.”

A frown crunched on her smooth brow.

“You know, one of those plant places.”

The frown faded.

Common sense told her that Trevor wasn’t so bad after all. He hadn’t altered that much after moving in with him, but she had detected a hint of change that wasn’t altogether pleasing. He was certainly unlike most other men, where they would see changing a nappy as a demeaning task, he at least would help. He seemed almost to enjoy it, which was fine, because Tully did not.

She had thought perhaps she would grow to love her child, to look forward to a cuddle and to listen to her gurgles, but it hadn’t happened. That tiny connection between mother and baby had somehow not arrived. Depression, that’s what her sister Iris’s verdict was and although she tried her best to help she only succeeded in hindering more. Tully had grown weary of her young baby’s tears and, if she was honest, she could tell she wasn’t cut out for motherhood. Plants suited her better. They were silent and, like her, they enjoyed the peace.

“I think I’d rather like that.”

The baby wailed again.

Tully peeked from behind the leaves and pleaded with Trevor.
“You’re better at it than me.”

Trevor flapped his newspaper shut and left the room. She wasn’t sure if he was angry or not, but she knew she was right, he was better at it than her. The child’s moans immediately ceased the moment he took her in his arms and rocked her to sleep as any good parent would. As he cradled Carol he put a finger between her rose bud lips and cooed good-naturedly. He loved his daughter. The way her thick mop of soft black hair curled round his little finger and the way she smiled up at him adoringly with those big blue eyes that looked like his made his heart melt. He smiled at her and rocked her gently until her sobs faded to gurgles then he gave her back to her cot. After he had tucked her in snug and tight he returned to gaze at Tully as she sifted the soil in her delicate fingers.

“You are beautiful, you know.”

Tully looked up at him leaning in the doorframe. A spontaneous giggle bubbled up from within her.

“Why, thank you, Mister! You’re not so bad yourself.”

He pulled her to her feet, took her in his arms and squeezed her tight, not wanting to release her. As he began to undo her buttons, she looked down at the floor and examined the squiggled pattern of the cheap carpet Trevor’s friend had given them; it was either that or the dump.

“Not now, Trevor. Please?”

Reluctantly, he let her go and watched as she bent to her knees again to continue caressing the soil. Jealous, and not quite understanding why, he did an about turn, slung his jacked carelessly over his shoulder and walked out the door while striking a match on the wall.

She watched him go without a saying word.


Sarah was perched on her chair in the centre of the stage which was, by rights, her place to be. She consciously attended her posture by positioning her stockinged legs with knees tight together and crossed neatly at the ankles so to carefully hug the leg of her chair and she folded her long hands neatly across the lilac paper that wrapped a big bouquet. In this she displayed a faultless portrait of elegance. She smiled a lot too; she had reason to. Her red lips stretched easily across her pale, slightly freckled face making her a beautiful, if fragile, object to gaze upon. She knew she was beautiful because people often told her so and if they didn’t she would have wondered why as she had spent an awfully long time making her sure she stayed that way. To reinforce this elegantly refined poise, her eyes were apt to focus totally and absolutely on their subject; so immersed in concentration where those green jewels, that the object of her attention was never conscious the mind behind them wandered elsewhere.

As she sat on that chair on the stage in the big school hall she focussed on the Headmaster, Mr Johnstone, while her skilfully manicured nails plucked absentmindedly at the tips of the leaves nestled within the bouquet she was about to hand over. She had arranged it herself, that very morning. A creamy array of elegant tulips nestled amongst thick leaves of the darkest green together with a sprig of purple heather to add colour. Amongst the leaves, she had also hidden three blood red roses. She didn’t know quite why she had done this, but it seemed somehow appropriate. And a damned fine job she had made of it too. People had always admired her incredible ability to arrange flowers to suit the mood of the person they were being given to; it was her gift. She knew she possessed that artistic eye, to see the beauty in something that could be created. Nothing was natural in Sarah’s opinion. Nature could always be improved upon with a little nudge, tuck or a pull here and there.
The Headmaster glanced at her and smiled. What? What was that? Sarah couldn’t quite make it out what he had said. Nevertheless, she reflected his beaming face, prepared her most elegant poise and rose to her feet, understanding this was her queue. She had no doubt that was why everyone applauded.

She carefully measured her strides to where Mr Johnstone stood. With her confidant smile firmly fixed and the bouquet hugged in her arm as though she cradled a child, the walk was all too short for Sarah; because she loved these attention-grabbing moments. If she had been given the option of another life, she would have been an actress. Admired and revered for her skill to be someone else with such convincing aplomb. After all, she had had enough practice at it. But Sarah didn’t have a good enough memory. Thoroughly embarrassed by her lack of ability to remember any lines at all she learned to understand failure. “In one ear and out the other!” Those were the words her mother constantly berated her with. And that’s what stuck in her head to the degree that she convinced herself of it and didn’t try too hard at wasting her time on frivolous pursuits.

She glided to the podium and glanced at the paper nestled safely there; a neatly typed white sheet, which was thankfully, very clear.

“Thank you so very much, Mr Johnstone. You have been too kind.”

Her eyes dazzled him into a trance and the poor man flustered, for once unable to control his stiff manner. When he bowed his shiny head she was well aware she had once more elicited that effect she had on men. She didn’t think it any great skill to possess, merely she understood they were all like that towards any women who had learned to use their feminine whiles. Politely dismissing his attention, for she knew it was cruel to prolong his agony, she turned neatly to the audience of parents and teachers and pupils of the school.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and children, of course. I am so very proud and honoured to be able to present this gift to a woman who has given so much of her time and energy to one of the school’s more recent projects. Without her skills we wouldn’t be able to take pleasure in nature’s gifts nor would we be able to see such glories unfold before our eyes every season. When one has the ability to create things, to grow things from nothing but a seed, it is a far too often undervalued and abhorrently underestimated skill. These things that grow are worth much and teach us a great deal; that we, all of us, are all part of something bigger than the whole we see before us. And that in order to survive, at times we must return to the very thing we came from: the earth; the soil; the dust from which we were all created. It is with utmost great pleasure that I have the honour to present this bouquet and a cheque by way of thanks for her unstinting and generous labour.”

Sarah turned to the Headmaster and offered another neat smile. He nodded his consent kindly for her to continue.

“Ladies and gentlemen, and children, I present this gift to our very own Tully Bellis.”

Tully was shocked. She hadn’t thought she deserved anything like this. She had been asked to attend, but had no idea that she was to be presented with any kind of token for the work she had undertaken. It was no chore to be able to use her skills to help at the school that her daughter attended. To accept this gift was an embarrassment. She always hid behind her plants, they were quiet, they required only her loving tender touch, they didn’t push her out to the open world and onto a stage where everyone would look at her and judge. No, of course, she didn’t want this. But it was going to have to be taken. So she stood, ungainly at first, but took strength from Sarah’s beaming smile. Her wooden legs strolled along the central aisle towards the stage, whereupon she mounted the shiny steps uneasily, as though she expected to slip at any moment, until she found herself stood before the beautiful woman thrusting an equally beautiful bouquet into her face.

They were lovely and her favourites.

Tully was speechless. She hadn’t prepared anything because she was unaware this was going to happen. Everyone had been exceedingly careful not to divulge any information. So successful had they been with their secrecy that Tully stood as though drugged as the clapping died down and an awkward hush slipped into the great hall. She looked about her; at the Headmaster; at the audience of people she had grown to know and to the pupils who she had taught a love of flowers to. It was all amazingly too much. She glanced apprehensively at Sarah.

“I – I really don’t know what to say.”

Sarah’s smile encouraged her.

“Except, thank you. Thank you, you are all, too kind.”

Sarah stepped forward and forcefully put her hands together above her head, laughing graciously for Tully. The audience joined in and Tully was allowed to step down. Everyone glowed. Tully, simply looked down into the flowers, stepped off the stage and scurried quickly back to her seat which was still warm.

The presentations were over before Tully thought about looking at the clock again. As soon as Mr Johnstone announced that tea and cakes were to be had in the canteen, she tugged her child so they could make their getaway. But just as they reached the door, Sarah gripped her arm.

“Oh please don’t go. I believe that’s where you’re off to, isn’t it? My, at least may I offer my congratulations? When I realised it was you had given the garden a much needed spruce, I was overjoyed to hear it! And isn’t your daughter adorable!”

Sarah clasped her hands between her knees and bent down to Carol’s level. Tully, nodded, smiled politely and turned away again, wishing she could escape, she didn’t really understand why this woman she didn’t know was happy at her being presented a prize.

“Oh, please don’t go,” Sarah begged, tugging at her arm again, “I would like to ask you something.”


“Yes. My garden. My very own garden. It is such damned a mess I thought perhaps you could offer me some advice. Perhaps even take a look at it? Offer your opinion so to speak?”

“Well ...” Tully stammered, unable to allow the words to come forth as her mouth had become very dry.

“Oh please do.” Sarah pleaded now, “I would be most unhappy if you didn’t.”

“But I, er, this bouquet ... you arranged it yourself?”

“Yes, yes of course I did. You like it?”

“Very much. If you have the gift to put these together, you don’t need any advice from me.”

“Oh, but I do. You see, I can put a simple arrangement together but I haven’t got a clue as to how to make them grow. Please do say yes. You had better,” she smiled good-naturedly, “because I won’t let you go until you do!”
Tully couldn’t be rude. Above and beyond her innate shyness, she didn’t know how to cope with this situation. It was all too alien to her. And yet she saw in Sarah a wonderful light of hope that she wanted to never let go of. She smiled, grateful.

“Yes. Alright. It will be my pleasure.”

“Good. That’s settled then. Come, take some coffee with me. I do so find these events too terribly, terribly boring and it would be lovely to share some of the silly conversations that are bound to come up with someone I believe I could like.”

Tully felt a surge of pride well in her heart. No one had ever said that to her before, at least not one who was so obviously popular with everyone else. Sarah pouted her lips and offered her pleading baby smile, though it wasn’t needed, Tully wouldn’t refuse.

“Could I just put these in water? Then I’ll join you.”

“Oh, but of course. Terribly remiss of me. I’ll come with you, gives me an excuse to escape the menagerie.”

Sarah took hold of Carol’s little hand and clacked in her expensively heeled shoes alongside Tully’s silent mules. Side-by-side, they strolled across the wooden floors of the brightly lit corridor, until they entered the kitchen adjacent to the canteen where Tully placed her flowers carefully in the sink.

“There, that should do it.”

Sarah gripped Carol under her arms and hoisted her up to sit on the unit. She played with the lace on the little girl’s collar.

“Tully’s not your real name is it? It seems too, well, ordinary for someone like you.”

Tully was unable to decipher whether she should feel wounded or praised.

“Forgive me, I don’t mean to be rude, but it is, don’t you think?”

“Yes it is.”

“What? Your name? Or that you agree with me?”

“It’s my name. After the plant. Tulip.”

“There, see. Something a whole lot more exotic.”

“It was my mother’s stupid idea.”

“Oh, not so stupid I think. It shows there is something different about you. You’re unique. Even if only your name sets you apart, it’s a thing to be valued.”

Tully was indeed perplexed. Sarah had entered a kind of trance-like state so she decided it would be best to offer an explanation.

“Our family name, Bellis, is a plant too, so our mother gave us flower names.”

“Us? You have a sister?”


“You’re lucky to have a sister.”

Tully thought Sarah wouldn’t think that if she knew Iris. But, respectfully, she kept her thoughts to herself.

“I’m the only daughter, and that can be trying at times.”

Tully began to understand where Sarah got her confidence from as well as her beauty. She had been the first born child and was spoiled. As Sarah chatted away, Tully observed her new friend’s beauty; those emerald eyes; that flame red hair tied neat in a bun to the nape of her neck and she could understand why Sarah’s mother made the most of her daughter. Most ginger people didn’t know which colours to use, Tully always felt they should take a leaf out of Mother Nature’s book and Sarah had obviously done this. Her neat sage green two piece suit was complemented by a paler green chiffon scarf. Tiny diamonds glinted at her ear lobes like drops of water while an even bigger one blazed on her marriage finger.

Sarah caught her as she looked at it.

“Big mistake this was.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Tully became intrigued. She hadn’t assumed Sarah would resent her nuptials, partly because she had wanted them so much herself she couldn’t understand any woman who felt trapped by it and wanted to escape.

“Yes, strange I know. That I should choose to give up my freedom just as the fighting for it begins. Still, you must eat the pie you chose to buy! So my mother always said. I assume you’re living in sin?”

Tully’s cheeks coloured.

“No ring. Give’s the game away.”

She hadn’t thought of it like that before, but supposed Sarah was right.

“You’ll have to forgive me; I do have a tendency to be a little blunt. But then I say, at least everyone knows where they stand.” She giggled girlishly and wrinkled her nose.
Tully couldn’t see how anyone could take offence at this woman. She was too friendly and gave the impression that she liked people too much for that to happen.


A single bracket formed at Sarah’s lips as her eyes rolled out of her sockets, “Heaven preserve us.” she hissed to Tully, and then turned to the intruder, “Mrs Ramsbottom! Why hello, and don’t you look mighty fine in that wonderful creation! I was just saying to Tully here, my how you’ve out-done yourself today.”

Mrs Ramsbottom certainly had gone over the top with a fuchsia pink mini skirt and box jacket lined with thick white piping at the collar and hem. It might have looked wonderful on a much younger woman but Mrs Ramsbottom, who touched sixty, looked simply silly. It was a shame as she was so excited and so very happy. If her face looked old, her enthusiasm was not as she bubbled with excitement and waved her hands in the air at the sight of Sarah. When she reached her she squeezed her in her arms.

“My darling, you made such a wonderful speech up there. We were all so very proud of you.”

“If you must thank someone, thank Tully.”

Immediately on edge, Tully took a step away.

“My dear,” Mrs Ramsbottom smeared, “you are very clever. I do wish I had your skill. Mine only rises in the oven.” A laugh tickled her throat so Sarah and Tully would know it was a joke, when Sarah chuckled politely, Mrs Ramsbottom’s chin wobbled as she attempted to change the subject, “You must come and sample a slice of my cake.”

Mrs Ramsbottom was not going to accept a refusal as she gripped Tully’s daughter by the arm and wheeled her out towards the waiting crowd. Sarah grinned as she followed behind.


Tully and her daughter clambered aboard the big red bus that would carry them home. Carol’s tiny hand pulled at her mother’s as she clattered up the steps. Once up the stairs, she sat proudly in her favourite seat at the front where everything could be seen. Inside, freshly painted poles and new leather upholstery offered a sense of comfort and of security. Its engine purred softly as it patiently waited for the passengers to settle then, after a double pling of its bell, lurched forward on its way to jog obediently through the urban streets as a dutiful dog respectful of its master’s command.

From their vantage point, they could see into the gardens below; there were a lot of trees and shrubs, some bushy, some tall, some spindly and not cared for at all. Many of them were overgrown under the lush summer sun’s warmth, and Tully noticed that to save them time, or perhaps because they couldn’t be bothered, some people had hidden their grass beneath ugly slabs of concrete. She thought that a shame as she believed flowers could give so much pleasure. She stared down at her own flowers then buried her face in them. Crunching the paper against her breast she pushed her face into her tulips and breathed in their soft scent. Her daughter, perched beside her on the seat with legs too short to touch the floor, tugged at her mother’s elbow.

“Could I smell them too?”

Tully, although happy to oblige, made sure her child didn’t pull at the ribbon.

“Careful now.”

“They are pretty, mum.” Carol’s eyes twinkled.

Tully smiled and Carol could see her mother was happy at last. She had been adored this afternoon and it showed. From the moment she had escorted her daughter through those school gates not quite six months ago, she sensed her world had been exposed to fresh new possibilities and that afternoon she had been directed along a new avenue, shown another route available to her.

She wriggled her nose and caught her reflection in the window. For a long while she hadn’t wanted to look too deeply at her image for fear of what she would find there. She presented a sullen face. Plain perhaps. Depressed even. And worn without having to do very much. She guessed that was probably her trouble, she had been doing things she hadn’t really wanted to do. But in the slim brackets surrounding her lips she found a little hope rising and at the crows feet too, that splayed out from the corners of her eyes, they were not to be dismissed as ugly either. Together they were lines that represented a woman who smiled rather than frowned and this she was thankful for. She had a face that held no remorse. No secrets, no hidden depths. It was a face that lived life as it happened, rather than having to hunt for something, anything, to turn up. To be honest, it was rather unlike her antics in the garden where she would grab her spade, her shovel or her trowel and feel no fear of digging deeper. The good solid earth presented no problem. It yielded to her efforts. But as for her soul and her emotions? They were blank. What lay beneath she wouldn’t allow to grow for fear of it being cut back and dumped, discarded on waste ground, unwanted.

Her ghostly reflection stared back at her, how happy she had been that afternoon. She had been given free rein to laugh again, to be young and carefree and confident. A little praise had certainly encouraged a little life to enter her heart. It was only then that she began to realise how much neglect there was.

When the bus neared the corner of their street, she plinged the bell and rose from her seat, urging Carol to follow. Carol easily slipped off her seat and jumped to the floor looking to her mother for praise that didn’t come. Tully’s heart lurched as the bus halted and she wondered if she was really such a bad mother. She always made sure Carol didn’t want for anything. She was loved, mainly by Trevor. He was the one who would whisk her up in his arms and turn her upside-down and play happily for endless hours without tiring. Why couldn’t Tully give her child that little childishness she needed? It was a simple thing and one which irked her a great deal more than it should have done.
More frequently of late she discovered herself interrogating love and all that it entailed. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t let go her restrained energy and become a child again. She knew she needed to meet Carol at her level and laugh and have fun the way she used to as a child. What was wrong in that after all? It certainly didn’t seem to stop Sarah having fun. She made a pact with her heart; it was to allow herself to feel again. Not only that, but to feel her girlishness again. As she stepped down the stairs to be with her child, a buoyant urge injected itself into her spirit and she almost skipped along the path to her front door.

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Comments by other Members

scottwil at 15:51 on 15 April 2004  Report this post
Hi Kaye, this is a very well written and considered start. Lots of layers and interesting analogies.
I think the relationship with Trevor feels incredibly authentic.
The only section that I would question is the meeting with Sarah. It ends quite abruptly with the entrance of Mrs Ramsbottom without any promise of what's to come from Sarah, who I assume will become a major character. This might be deliberate of course.
I think Tully Bellis is a magnificent name.

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