We moved house recently and there are still a few stray boxes remaining unpacked. I found one this morning and discovered inside the first few chapters of a story I’d written while I was still at school. The prose is sometimes quite clunky and the grammar isn’t all that, but I’m intrigued to find out where I was heading with the plot.
Here is the Prologue to that story, c. 1992.
The family at round the wood fire, huddled together in the log cabin. The young grandchildren sat closest to the warmth, toasting marshmallows on little sticks they had gathered earlier that day. Their parents sat close by, on the rug and the small mustard-coloured armchairs. The grandparents sat on the sofa behind, staring at the fire, as if by looking at it the warmth would rise and fill them.
All of them were contented and happy – the way you should be when you’re celebrating Christmas Eve. Then, through the silence, church bells began to ring far away in the distance. They all turned to the window and looked out across the valley. As the last chime rung, the oldest of the grandchildren, who was just ten years old, began to sing very softly to herself:
“Silent night, Holy night…”
Gradually the family joined her, as their voices rose in joy and love, and the words drifted out into the cold, dark night…
“All is calm, all is bright.
Round young virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”
As they began the second verse, their Grandpa rose from the sofa, walked to the door, put on his heavy black boots and let himself out into the night. His wife followed his path of the cabin, gently closing the door behind her.
He stood with his back to her, knee-deep in thick snow gazing out across the valley. Slowly, she walked up to him and stood by his side. The view was magnificent. The whole valley lay before them, covered in deep snow which sparkled in the bright moonlight. On the surrounding slopes were more log cabins, which remained uninhabited until the summer of each year.
They kept the silence for some time before Grandpa said, “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“It reminds me of the first year we spent here.”
The last notes of their grandchildren’s song faded away into nothing and silence arrived once more.
“They said it would be hard.” said Grandma.
“Hard to look back at what happened.”
“Yes. And they were right.”
“Weren’t they always?”
“No. But, well, I know that it’s beautiful out here and everyone’s so kind, but don’t you ever think that we could have done so much more with our lives if… if… if it hadn’t happened?”
He didn’t answer, just looked and stepped towards her and hugged her to him as she buried her tears in his embrace.
“It’s alright. We did what was right at the time, and still is now, and I wouldn’t have not done it for the world. We’ve done what we were destined to do when we were born, and we haven’t failed.”
She sniffed and raised her head. They looked deep into each other’s eyes and saw their pasts flash by, then they smiled and, hand-in-hand, walked back into the warmth of the cabin to join their family.