[MyFiction!] : Short story – “Changes”

A single leaf falls from an oak tree as the green hues change to golden blends. Grey skies and harsh winds replace those endless days of sunlight and warmth. Chills run through hands and feet and hearts and cause even the most unlikely to hide away from the frills of season change. Autumn is most definitely here.

And yet no-one knows this better than Belle. A young girl who notices that the sun no longer shines and therefore those around her no longer have hope. The fruit seller on Maple Street no longer winks at her as she walks to school, cheerfully wishing her a good day. The old man who spends hours sitting on that bench, feeding the ducks and swans that fill the lake hardly notices her now as she calls out his name. Her favourite art class no longer brings her fulfilment as Miss Johnson fails to see the good in anything when the weather changes its course. Change follows change and yet Belle never questions these changes as she already knows the answer. Instead she enjoys the wind and appreciates the rain as everything seems so much clearer after it’s fallen.

For Belle has always been brighter than the average child; able to sense when something’s wrong and when people act differently. Some may say she is unique whereas others may suggest she is just awkward. She would say that there isn’t a name for what she is. She’s just Belle. She warms to people who are giving and kind and repels those where cold chills their heart. Just last year, her mother introduced her to Edward; a strange man who had a distinct dullness in his eyes. Edward came round on a regular basis, generally in the mornings straight after Belle’s Dad left to go to work. She would hear her Dad’s car ease slowly off the drive and shortly after that the door bell would ring twice. Her mother would call upstairs telling her not to worry and then Belle would hear them whispering quietly before entering the kitchen. Belle would leave for school and when she came back Edward was no longer there. One night whilst the she was seated at the dinner table, she asked her Mum why Edward came round so often and yet didn’t make any attempt to talk to her.

“Because there is no need for Edward to make conversation with you Belle. He has a job to do and that job is to make sure the garden is kept to a specific standard. Nothing more, nothing less.”

She smiled at Belle and then continued to eat her food; making no further eye contact with Belle nor her dad. And that was that. Belle never questioned Edward’s constant re-appearance nor did she raise the subject again. She had already decided that she had no specific reason to dislike this Edward, but that did not stop her from thinking he was an unusually cold and sullen man. It was at this point, that she concluded that her house was no longer a home and that Edward had most definitely welcomed the frost into her family. This frost created small but noticeable cracks in the family unit, gradually pushing her Mum and Dad further and further apart. Weeks went past whereby not a single word was uttered; months whereby her Dad was hardly seen. She just sat and watched as her Mum became reserved and her Dad became a stranger. She listened cautiously as her Mum became enraged after he sauntered in after weeks away, unable to provide an explanation for his absence. It was as if with the autumn, he had been stripped of his warmth and loving nature only to have been replaced by a hard-hearted stranger. Belle wished with all her heart that the Dad that once cuddled up to her in front of the fire would return. She wished that he would take charge and order Edward out of the house and in turn bid farewell to the squabbles and arguments, the sniffles and tears.

But nothing was ever done to resolve the problem. Six months pass and Belle packs away her warmest clothes in cardboard boxes. Pile after pile of woollen jumpers and extra thick socks, plump coats and woven hats. Instead she unpacks her favourite top and cardigan along with an assortment of sandals and shoes. She smiles as she clicks the clasp on her sandals, illuminated by the light from the sun at her window. The sun glistens and fills both her and the room with a comforting natural glow. The house is unusually serene as she leaves for school, the quietest it has been in months. She walks down her road, happily humming to herself as she enjoys the slight warmth the change has brought. Instead of withdrawing from the wind she basks in the beauty of the breeze and inhales deeply. When she finally reaches the school gates, she runs into the school building, eager to start a new day. Today’s topic is on Seasons and she listens intently as the Science teacher explains the importance of this transformation. She nods her head at every detail spoken, and writes hastily in answer to each question asked. She receives praise from the teacher and a special certificate representing hard work. The school day ends and to Belle this is a reason to celebrate for there may just be some hope left. She rushes home to tell of her discovery but returns to an unusual scene.

The windows have all been opened, allowing for a gentle breeze to circulate throughout the house. The scent of a freshly mown lawn and the bark of an oak tree waft in and find comfort in nestling in the empty spaces of the house. She walks a little further into the living room to find her Mum and Dad talking quietly on the sofa. Her Mum’s hand rests gently on his and they turn as they hear Belle approach.

“Oh Belle, I’m so glad your home from school. Come here and sit down next to us, we have something to tell you.”

She smiled at Belle with such brightness that Belle walked over and sat in between them without question. Both her Mum and Dad move closer to her, enveloping her in two different hugs. They sat back and look at her meaningfully.

“Your Dad and I have come to a decision that will make us all much happier. You see, there comes a time in life when things are bound to change. But change doesn’t always have to be a bad thing; it can be a good thing. It is going to be a good thing. For all of us. You see, what I’m trying to say is, your Dad and I have decided to separate. Do you understand what that means Belle?

“Yes. You won’t be together anymore.”

“That’s right hunny. But I want you to understand that it doesn’t affect the love we have for you and it never will. You have to understand that we want what is best for you and that means a change for us. It will be better. I promise.” She hugged Belle closer and kissed her on her forehead, squeezing her hand as she went.

They all rose together, caught in a tight embrace before Belle’s dad announced he had to leave but would be back in time to tuck Belle into bed. He smiled at Belle and her Mum before opening the door gently, when an unnaturally bright burst of sunshine enveloped the room. Belle raised her hand to shield her eyes but she could still feel the warmth at her fingertips. Just as a gentle breeze escaped from the door, Belle sat down on the last step of the stairs. She thought of the past eight months and how so much had changed. She remembered the feeling that autumn brought and the way the cold had felt. The chills that had entered her house and now that had left. Instead replaced by a spring breeze that fills the house that is now a newly built home. She had discovered that as suggested, change can only be deemed as natural. Just as the season’s change, so do the events of life and so Belle continued to appreciate this evolution in acceptance that both should not be rejected but readily embraced.