The embers of a lifetime lay burning at my feet, memories of those I had learned to love fading slowly before me. They had given me so much strength a reason to fight. Yet, there was nobody to come home to, to hold my flesh and bone, to make me feel alive again. Only the calm waters of the brook could awaken my nightmare, for part of me still felt unsure of whether or not; I still lay on the battlefield, staring up into the abyss.
A lifetime of toil, nor riches nor fame, a mere peasant boy, “Alex, was thy name.”
It all began on Dreary Lane, home of servant girls governed by a Mrs Geraldine Fanshaw. The place was born from need; farm-labourers in haste had built four timber-framed dwellings from the remains of an old barn. These hardworking farmhands later moved to Church Street into more suitable accommodation. Then came the construction of Harmony Way, and a gang of heavily built Irish labourers moved into these crudely built shacks.
Once Harmony Ways construction was complete, the new owners of these prestigious properties required domestic servants. Dreary Lane then became home to the Fanshaw girls. These were girls considered unsuitable for living in the servant quarters, many of whom were under sixteen.
At the very end, where an evergreen mass had weaved its way up through the boards and onto the old pantile roof, I was born to a young servant girl called Connie. In the very beginning, my life was in the balance. Mrs Fanshaw stood downstairs clutching a pillow, waiting.
It would not be the first time she had to protect the Fanshaw girls’ reputation.
Without hope, friendships slowly emerged from times long since past.
It was Nancy who assisted with my birth and, who kindly gave me thy name. Her orders were made very clear; as soon as I was born, she was to take me straight down to Fanshaw. Her instructions were not to allow Connie to hold me, not even for one second; It would be better that way.
Nancy, who was now seventeen, had endured the agony of having her child taken from birth, and she was determined to try and save me. So it came as a huge surprise when a silent, little angel was born alongside me, fast asleep.
My mother lay sobbing, aware of what was to happen to me, staring at the broken window pane. Nancy put her hand softly on her shoulder, but she ignored her. It was a matter of life and death; Fanshaw was waiting. Nancy, quickly placed me in a pouch she had sewn earlier under her dress and left my little sister lying on the bed.
“It’s dead! Miss — It’s bloody dead!” She screamed glancing over at Connie, then rushed down the stairs.
Fanshaw had rushed to the foot of the stairs, still clutching the pillow and looked up in horror as Nancy came bounding down towards her. Immediately Fanshaw reached out and caught her by the shoulders. Nancy had forced tears to her eyes and began to act hysterical, repeating over and over again, ‘The bloody thing’s dead, Miss.’ It was then that Fanshaw slapped her, demanding that she calm down.
Nancy belched in her face as if she were going to be sick, then covered her mouth and pulled free to make her escape outside. She hesitated at the small green picket fence to make sure Fanshaw would not follow her; again, she began belching, pretending to be sick. Fanshaw stared at her briefly, then turned and went up the stairs. Nancy then rushed down to the brook, her heart pounding, unsure whether I was alive or dead. Once she had reached the small stream, she immediately tried to rub life into me.
It was the sweetest sound she had ever heard, and her tears became as natural as my will to live.
‘Oh, yer little beauty, you.’ She whispered holding me tight to her chest.
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The Embers Of A Lifetime
Original short story by A I Moffat
Illustrations by justanemotion.com
©All rights reserved justanemotion.com 2021
Photo of a boy by Puplicdomainpictures.
Illustrations by Annaliseart.