Sunday, 30 November 2014

Voices on the Wind, Beth

November 2014

As she turned the corner onto the beach Beth felt the full force of the wind. She hadn't been down to the sea for a long time and sweet memories of picnics with her grandmother came flooding back wrenching at her heart.  She could see her mother waiting for her near the dunes. She was looking up at the clouds being chased by the wind, then turned and catching sight of Beth  waved and beckoned. Beth's artist eye formed a palette of the colours before her. The mellow gold of the dunes, the brown tufts of grass, the slate grey of the sea with the white foamy crests of the waves, overhead the pearly grey of the sky and the clouds being tossed about by the wind and in the middle of it all her mother's jacket in her favourite shocking pink.
Part of her wanted to run to her mother, bury her head on her mother's shoulder and release the tears within her, but she also  wanted to savour the moment and  so she walked slowly towards the picnic rug.

Susie watched her daughter's progress along the beach and felt the excitement welling up. The happiness for her daughter overflowing in her heart. Beth had such a sensitive artistic soul. Her father, Martin, had been so surprised when the teachers had told them that their daughter had an exceptional talent, a rare gift for painting and drawing. He couldn't think where it had come from .He and his father were from a long line of mechanics and car dealers, that was their passion. It was his mother who had told him then about his English grandfather. He had been an artist before the First World war but no-one knew much about him. There were two paintings of his grandmother, one in a bluebell wood and one of her sitting at a desk. His mother Frances had encouraged Beth to become an artist and left her a small legacy to set up a studio. Martin and Susie were so proud of their daughter's talent and had built a little gallery next to the garage to exhibit her beautiful paintings of the New England coastline.

Beth's phone beeped and she took it out of her pocket to read the text, I miss you so much, will arrive at 8pm Love forever, A x. The thrill that shot down her spine had nothing to do with the Winter breeze.


 Beth at nearly forty had put aside any hope of falling in love like her grandparents and her mother and father. Her friend Hetty that she'd known since nursery school had quickly had five children to create the large family that she had always dreamt of and Beth was greatly loved by them all. Hetty was always telling her that she'd make a brilliant mom.

 Then in the Spring an agency for a magazine in New York had asked her to go to London with a well-known travel photographer to cover the story of the poppies around the Tower of London. Someone had seen her paintings and thought they had just the right touch of sensitivity and nostalgia . They wanted to stage an exhibition of photographs and paintings along with historical documents.

Beth went to New York to meet the photographer and travel on together. His name was Archie and he was from Charleston. As they shook hands a jolt of electricity ran up Beth's arm, she jumped away and looked into Archie's eyes- He looked as shocked as she did.

On the flight to London Archie told her all about his work. He had been travelling the world taking photographs for documentaries. His family were all in Charleston, but he'd never married or had children. He was warm and funny and Beth soon found herself telling him all about her English great-grandfather. She told him about the bluebell woods and then about her grandmother, Frances,who had passed on so many family traditions and a strong bond of love.

It was while they were looking at the poppies that it happened. Archie had been taking shots of the vast display and was muttering something about the connection between all the blood that had been shed at the Tower of London and Flanders fields.
Beth was mesmerized by the poppies. Each one represented a young life that had ended during that war one hundred years ago.
 There wasn't one for her great-grandfather, but in a way part of him had died along with all her great-grandmother's hopes for a life of married bliss.
 There must have been many more like him. The tears were running down her face, Archie went towards her and it just seemed like the most natural thing to do, to lean into him and be comforted by his strong arms. Beth felt like she had come home. As Archie kissed her hair and whispered in her ear,
'It's alright, honey, everything is alright'
It was as though a missing piece of her had been found.
Archie took her hand and looked her in the eyes.
'How about we go find those bluebell woods?'


As her daughter approached and settled on the rug, Susie handed her the biscuit tin, proudly telling her that she'd made the gingernut cookies from her grandmother's recipe.
Beth bit into the cookie, savouring the sharp tang of the ginger and the salt on her lips from the sea spray. Then she could contain herself no longer and flung herself at her mother.

The words tumbled over each other as they fell out of Beth's mouth like a happy bubbling torrent.  Her eyes shone brightly with love and joy as she told her mother that Archie was on his way to stay for Thanksgiving and wanted to marry her and have a baby and that they loved each other with all their hearts. She had never dreamed that she would have been this happy.

Susie hugged her daughter, tears streaming down her face. The two women looked up then, their tears mixing with the salty air and the joyful laughter that followed carrying upwards to the sky.The voices on the wind sang gently together, 'Everything is going to be alright.'


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