Week Four of Sunday’s Scraps originates from a prompt in a short story writing competition. The idea was to create a story that contained the elements of tragedy without any of the characters dying; past, present, or future. It was a foray into a world beset with sadness. Whether I pulled it off it is not for me to say, and certainly this snippet will not provide the answer either. This is merely an introduction to the path the story ended up taking. So, without further ado – any excuse to use that phrase! 😉 – here we go!
Let me know your thoughts, if you care to share. How would you have tackled this type of prompt?
They called me Susan
#sundaysscraps #reallife #British #womensfiction
They called me Susan. I felt sure it wasn’t my name. A memory—at least I thought it was a memory—of being by the sea came to mind. Playing on the sand with a blond man and woman, and an older boy. Laughter filling the air, waves lapping the shore, me screaming because of the ice-cold water and then … eating ice-cream. But, the adults before me now insisted my name was Susan. They said I’d been poorly and was confused, and with soothing voices they assured me I was Susan.
‘We should know, love. We named you so at your christening.’ The dark-haired lady gave a soft laugh, her kind eyes sparkled, and she wrapped her slender fingers around my hand. I felt safe. A little groggy and sore, but safe.
Those people—I understood them to be my parents—took me to the park every day for more than a week. My “illness” meant I’d been stuck inside for weeks with little fresh air. Being better now meant going outside to play. Not with other children, though. Not yet. Only with Mum and Dad for now. I wore a sun hat and sunglasses, like Mum’s, because of the strong sunshine, Mum said. Although it didn’t strike me as warm outside at all. Quite the opposite. Dad played catch with me. I wasn’t very good, but he didn’t mind. We ate fish and chips while sitting on a park bench, shivering a little. Dad suggested we feed the birds with some scraps and they scooped up pieces of crispy batter like hungry vacuum cleaners.
That memory of the beach became more distant, replaced with new and exciting images. Over time, I grew convinced I’d dreamt the whole seaside thing. With no proof of it being anything else, I accepted being Susan.
For a while, nothing changed. My small family of three was a happy unit. Dad left for work and Mum and I looked after the house. He called me his “precious little princess” and bought me sweets every night.
Many months later, long after my fourth birthday, another child came to the house. A boy. He screamed so loud he woke me up early one chilly Wednesday morning. I came downstairs, and he sat at the kitchen table, bawling his eyes out. Mum saw me approach and guided me into the lounge, telling me not to worry. The boy had lost his mummy and daddy and he was staying with us for a few days. When I opened my mouth to ask her something, she popped a piece of toast into it and told me to eat up quietly. They never allowed me to eat in the lounge while the TV was on, so I lapped it up and was soon distracted by colourful and noisy cartoons. I ate my breakfast feeling all grown-up to be trusted not to make a mess.
He wasn’t the only boy who came to stay. Barely a week passed by without a new child propping up the kitchen table, crying and sobbing, their faces all red and puffy. I became used to watching TV while eating my breakfast and took little notice of them. None of them stuck around for long so I gave up trying to make friends. They were all boys anyway, and watching cartoons made me laugh, which boys never did.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Next week’s scraps come from Living up to his Name – a character memoir of Oswald Arthur Postlethwaite, entertainer par excellence, if he says so himself!