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The end of darkness, the return of light

The clink of glass, followed by a dull thud, sends my mind swimming towards consciousness. Muffled voices pierce the swirling mists of sleep, and my eyelids flutter open. It’s grown dark while I slept and with the main light off, the fairy-light garlands around my window paint the room with faux Christmas cheer. I groan as the garish rainbow assaults my vision, forcing me to shield my eyes.

“What time is it?” I mutter blearily. No-one answers so I stare at the clock on the wall until I can focus. Six o’clock. Damn! Have I missed them?

I drag myself out of bed, shivering as the chill evening air hits my duvet-warmed flesh. Hurriedly donning my dressing gown, I stumble across to the window. My breath mists the pane as I anxiously peer out.

I can’t see a thing. Rain is hammering down, obscuring my view. Fat droplets spatter the window, merging together before streaking towards the ground. The faint howl of a cruel December wind cries through the gaps of the ill-fitting frame, and I feel the chill on my face.

There. They haven’t left yet. Squinting through the blackness, I can just make out the battered Ford, its doors flung wide. Two shadowy figures, hooded against the deluge, scurry towards it with bags and boxes. Bottles clink, camping gear rattles and laughter floats upon the air in spite of the weather. Tapping on the window, I wave at the faces that look my way. Smiles are exchanged, kisses blown.

Then it happens … sudden panic sets my heart racing. A longing fills me, a jealous need to be out there with them, packing the car in readiness for an adventure. No obligations hold them back, no restrictions. They’re free. I want that. I’m on the verge of flinging the window wide and shouting, “Wait! Take me with you.” But I don’t. I can’t.

Twelve months ago things were different. I was there in the cold, loading the car with my friends. We laughed, we joked, our hearts filled with joy at the prospect of celebrating the solstice at Stonehenge. We’d never done it before. It was a first.

I smile at the memory. What a day. We had snow to contend with, it was bitterly cold, but we didn’t care. We sang songs and drank beer on the journey to Wiltshire, and arrived in ample time to watch the birth of the ‘new’ sun. How magical it had been to see those first beams of light punch through the gloom, then watch the stones glow as the sun climbed higher through a cloudless sky. How honoured we’d felt to witness the turning of the sun in that sacred place. How privileged.

The days of darkness were over. Light was returning and that day was perfect. It was a day to remember for many reasons, not least that I fell in love. Arms held me as the sun illuminated the inner circle and when the sky turned red at the close of day, wine was shared and promises made. My carefree existence, a life that revolved around festivals and pagan pilgrimages, entered a state of bliss I believed would never end.

How naive. Looking back, I sensed a change was on the horizon. I felt it as I watched the sun glinting on those ancient stones. Perhaps I was touched by the gods, or was it Mother Nature whispering in my ear? I recognised, briefly, that my self-centred life was hollow, but I dismissed it. I was happy. I never imagined how quickly that would change.

A stirring in the room draws my attention; a breath, a creak, the tiniest cry. Instincts send me scurrying across the room towards the source of the disturbance. There, I scoop up the blanket-swaddled mound that requires my care. “Did I wake you, little one? I’m sorry.” The bundle wriggles then settles in my arms.

Closing my eyes, I draw a deep breath. A distinctive scent fills my nostrils, one I can’t truly describe. It’s like marshmallows melting in hot chocolate, or sweet honey drizzled over hot, buttered toast. The scent really is indescribable, delicious and unique. I bury my face in the soft blankets and, in a bittersweet moment, cradle my tiny charge as an engine revs and doors slam.

I breathe steadily, concentrating on the scent and warmth, not the anxiety of hearing my flatmates set off for Wiltshire, without me. They’ll witness the turning of the sun again. They’ll drink, they’ll party and toast the child who came into being exactly nine months after our last visit to that monument. They’ll thank the gods for her existence. A new life. A new hope.

The child in my arms gazes upward with wide-eyed innocence. Her puckered mouth crinkles into a smile that melts my heart. I adore her. She’s my world, but I find it hard to cope. I’m not used to sleepless nights, endless demands, responsibility. What do I know about caring for another’s needs? I’m not ready to lose my freedom or abandon my hedonistic lifestyle. And then there’s the panic - the fear of getting it all wrong.

I inhale her aroma again. Enough. I can’t do this anymore. This has to be a turning point. This night. Now. It’s time to grow-up and embrace the changes in my life, not fear them. I kiss my daughter tenderly as the drone of the Ford’s engine disappears, drowned out by the rain.

There. They’ve gone, and I’m okay. More than okay, I’m blessed, and I owe it to my daughter to put darkness and doubt in the past. It’s time to welcome a new life and rejoice in the warmth of motherhood.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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