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Swans on the Sea - Short Story - updated version

by  scriptsplayed

Posted: Monday, February 09, 2004
Word Count: 2253
Summary: Many thanks to those who have given hints and tips and valuable comments on altering this work in every way that it needed to be. If it ever gets published, it'll be as a result of team work from the contributors on this site! Any additional comments welcomed ...




SUMMARY: Alice and her husband, Fred, had moved into their mobile home as a temporary measure. But only when it was time to consider leaving did she realise how attached to it she’d become.

-o0o-

Alice’s eyes were filled with tears as she looked out of her caravan window. The silvery coastline where she could watch the swans for hours on end always had that effect on her. She had fallen for it so deeply, it was going to be a wrench to leave.

Since ill-health had forced Fred to take early retirement from his busy job the previous summer, they had created a wonderful new life for themselves. After moving into their seaside home they had both been given a chance to breathe again; not only because of the wide open spaces and the fresh sea breeze, but also because it had allowed Fred to relax too. But it was only a temporary measure – until they could find a house to buy

During the course of that time they had taken delight in watching the chicks grow from ugly ducklings into elegant graceful birds. And what a pretty picture they painted as they glided gracefully on the estuary that lapped gently against the pebbled beach.

So, it was with a heavy heart that she saw her husband hobbling, with the aid of his crutch, into the living room. It was obvious to Alice that he was full of excitement at the prospect of moving out of the flimsy caravan, as he called it, into a proper house.

He saw her unhappy face and tried to chivvy her up.
“Come on then, love, we have to leave now if we’re to get there on time.”

Alice stared out the window again, “I’ve counted ten pairs out there. That’s four more than last year.”

“Really?”

Instead of leaving her to her daydreaming, he joined her at the window. As was normal for Fred, he rested his chin gently on her shoulder and took one of her curls between his fingers, then kissed it.

“Are you coming?”

“Yes, yes of course.”

Alice was sad, perhaps even a little irritated, that he didn’t want to know about their view anymore.

Reluctantly, she moved away from the window and draped a macintosh about her shoulders while Fred retrieved a big boxed Easter egg from the cupboard and placed it squarely in the centre of the dining table. He whistled gaily as he stepped out of the caravan.

She lingered for a moment and contemplated her homely surroundings. They bought the soft furnishings together in the January sales and she remembered when Fred had bashed his thumb trying to fix the family photographs to the wall. The lace cloth that covered the dining table had proved a bargain at a local car boot sale as had her vase that was now crammed with the daffodils she had grown herself.
Proudly placed beside the vase, in the centre of the dining room table, was a very big Easter egg. He knew her love of chocolate hadn’t diminished over the years.

She stroked a healthy leaf that poked itself from out of the immense forest of plants and a long sad sigh issued from her lips. The caravan had become her home and she didn’t want to leave it.

Outside, Fred eagerly waited for her. He opened her passenger door in an effort to hurry her up and watched as she took her time to lock the door and dawdle towards him.
Alice drifted towards the car and noticed a couple of wilting daffodil heads. She nipped them off promptly. As she did so, she detected a hint of the summer bulbs that had begun to peep through from beneath the soil.

That meant another row of beautiful flowers that she wouldn’t get to see.

As she settled herself into the confines of the car, she gazed at the horizon. The cottage they were going to see was a long way off and although Fred was at least able to drive the car today, who knew when she would be able to get to see her view again, especially when he became so frail he wouldn’t able to drive?

Fred closed the door firmly behind her then belted himself as best he could into the driving seat. The engine began to purr gently; they were on their way.

“You’re not normally like this. Anything wrong?”

Alice didn’t want to make him sad so she said, “Oh, nothing really.” And continued to look out the window.

But Fred persisted, “You were alright yesterday. Don’t you want to see this house?”

Alice thought it strange that he kept asking her. After all, it was what he had dreamed of all these many years, his dream was finally going to come true. It wasn’t like he was going to change his mind, she knew that. Once his mind was made up that was it. He had been like that throughout their marriage and, as if confirming her thoughts he gripped the steering wheel and said, “It will be nice to get out of that caravan. Now the money’s come through, we can afford a proper home.”

-o0o-

Fred drew the car up alongside a small pink cottage where a ‘For Sale’ board showed signs of age.

Together they stepped out onto the tiny cobbled street and took a better view.

“It’s a wonderful little place.” Fred said, pleased with its appearance.

Alice wasn’t impressed by it though. “Little, yes.” was all she could think to say without giving her thoughts away.

“A cottage in the country, it’s what we’ve always wanted.”

“It’s pink.”

“I’ll soon change that.”

Sally, a smartly dressed estate agent, approached them. She hugged a clip board to her chest with one hand and gripped a heavy black brief case in the other. Alice could see Sally’s hand whitening under the weight of it.

“Hello. You Fred and Alice Parker? You found it alright then?”

“Yes, thank you. Good morning dear.”

“I’m Sally,” she pointed to her name tag, “as you may have guessed. I’ll take you round.”

Sally brandished the keys triumphantly, as though they were some valuable prize and unlocked the little red door.

Inside, Sally vigorously rubbed her arms against the chill, plonked her briefcase down and flicked the lights on. But it made very little difference to the room as it remained quite dim.

“Brrr, no heating at the moment. No point really as it’s been empty for about six months. I know it’s a bit cold, but that’s to do with the thick walls. Very solid these old cottages.”

“It’s awfully dark.” Alice commented, dryly.

In an effort to encourage Alice to like the place, Sally tried her most eager estate agent talk, “Small windows,” she grinned, “Had to build them that way, what with the walls being so thick. It adds character.”

Fred felt his wife bristle and attempted to encourage her. “I’ll brighten it up with a lick of paint, Alice.”
Afraid she was about to lose a sale, Sally attempted to move them along, “The other rooms are lovely. If you’ll follow me.”

She led them into the tiny kitchen. There, old style cupboards beneath layers of paint and an Aga with a door hanging off its hinge greeted them. It was in a sorry state and would need a great deal of hard work, but Fred’s face lit up.

“I still reminisce about our first house. Don’t you, Alice? When we were married?” Fred reminded her.

Alice grimaced good-naturedly. Yes, she certainly remembered that dilapidated old house, and she admitted it had been good to lick the place into shape. It was certainly thrilling at the time. But now they were retired and she didn’t want to do that anymore.

Just off the kitchen they stepped into a small bathroom and saw that Sally rubbed at the mould growing on the wall.
“It’s only natural, considering the time it’s been empty.”
Sally stated firmly, embarrassed she had been caught.

“Doesn’t bother me. Soon fix that in no time. Alice, what do you think?”

“It’s what you’ve always wanted. It’s what you’re good at.”

“We could make it homely. Like we did the caravan.”

“Ooh, I think it would take a lot longer.”

Sally swiftly interrupted them, “Shall I show you upstairs. There’s a view of the sea from there.”

Alice’s face brightened up at the mention of those words.
With difficulty, Fred followed Sally up the narrow staircase.
“Now you’re talking. Alice likes the sea. Be it a river or a pond, she’s always lived near water.”

They entered a surprisingly large, empty bedroom.
Alice searched the horizon and felt compelled to ask, “Where is it? Where’s the sea?”

“Over there.”

Alice followed the line of the young woman’s nervous finger: through the window, over the endless mountainscape of rooftops and far in the distance. Yes, the sea was almost visible; through the gentle haze on the horizon.
Crestfallen, Alice turned away.

Ever the optimist, Sally encouraged her deflated client, “You could extend up into the loft. You’d have a much better view from there.”

Fred grinned affably, “Oh, I don’t think we’d be doing that at our age.”

“Nonsense! You’re as fit as a fiddle.”

The toured the remainder of the house at a quicker pace and were soon stood outside the front door that Sally took great pains to lock securely. She smiled expectantly at Fred.

“So? What do you think? You could make it into a lovely home.”

“We could. Yes, we could. I like it.” Fred smiled again and scratched his chin.

Pleased, Sally chuckled, “That’s very good to hear. It would be nice for the old place to be lived in again.”
While she attempted to give the impression that she had wanted the cottage for herself, Alice could see Sally was desperate for was a sale.

Fred glanced at Alice and raised his brows, “Home then?”
Alice nodded, eager to get away from the place, and smiled. Home. It would be good to get home again, she thought.
They waved their goodbyes and climbed into the car.

-o0o-

When Fred parked Alice stepped out to stand squarely at the harbour wall. The tinkling bells of the boats clanged with the sway of the waves.

Fred approached and stood at her side.

“That little place would make a good home for us.” He stated, determined to get an answer from his wife.
Alice was at a loss for words, but she knew she had to say something. “If that’s what you want, Fred.”

“It’ll be cosy. Once we’ve sorted that damp spot, of course. If you don’t like the pinky-ness of it, I’m sure one of our lads’ could paint it for us.”

Oh dear. Alice’s face fell.

“And the attic?” she asked a little pensively, sure that he had already solved the answer to that one.

“Oh, we both know that’ll be too much of a big job.”
She sighed, relieved, but she didn’t want him to be sad, didn’t want him to lose his dream. She didn’t have the heart to take that away from him.

“We could allow for it in the budget.” She edged, “we could get the workmen in.”

Alice looked out to the sea again. Gentle ripples lapped against the boats and the swans glided towards them. Alice’s eyes welled with tears, but she turned her head so Fred couldn’t see them.

Fred sighed and almost absentmindedly he stated, “Always nice to be back home.”

“Yes. Yes, it is.” She agreed wholeheartedly, “it’s lovely here.”

Of course Alice couldn’t deny that. She loved it and Fred knew it.

“Beautiful view.” He took a peek at her face without her knowing, “Would you like to stay here?”

Quickly, Alice dabbed her tears away but kept her eyes firmly fixed on the horizon.

“Don’t be silly. I wouldn’t hear of it. You’ve set your heart on that cottage. As you’ve said, we’ve got the money.”

“It would save us a lot if we didn’t buy it.”

Alice felt selfish, he was a good man and she loved him. She wanted him to be happy. “It’s your dream come true.” She persisted.

But Fred didn’t seem to be listening, “And a lot of effort.” he continued.

He took hold of her hand and could see his wife was on the verge of tears.

She looked up into his eyes. “Only if you’re happy.”
He smiled so tenderly, “Only if you’re happy.”

She looked down at his hands that affectionately covered hers.

“You and me, we’re very much like them.” She nudged her head to indicate the swans on the sea.

“Like what?” Fred laughed cheerfully, “A couple of old birds?”

She tried to hide a smile. He always made her laugh. “After all these years, am I to find out that I married a silly man?” She glanced at the sea and tried to explain, “No. They stay together for life.”

“I knew that. Come on, it’s getting cold out.”

He cupped her elbow and guided her to their home. “Come on, there’s a lovely chocolate Button Easter egg waiting for you inside.”

“My favourite.”

Fred put the key in the lock and opened the door, “Do you know, I’ve never understood the reason why we have chocolate eggs? At Easter, I mean”

Alice followed him up the stairs, “New life. New beginnings.”

They stepped inside the caravan and closed the door.