Read one of the 2018 runners-up, A Special Sunset by Lucy Garrod
The yellow ball of fire spread its magnificent rays of light everywhere. Reds and oranges changed to hues of pinks, purples and reds. Against the dusky sky the few clouds that were visible were flushed with the palest pink.
“Wow!” breathed my friend as she witnessed the vision before her. “That’s some sunset.” Wide eyed she pointed a finger towards the glowing collision of colour. I smiled happily, pleased my friend was impressed. She stood for a few minutes then turned to go. “Have to dash, things to do, you know how it is.” I nodded. I knew exactly how it was, however, I was inclined to linger.
Looking hard at where the sky was more intensified one or two stars already set could be seen. A distance from the sunset where the sky was darker there were pinheads of brightness only visible if I held
by Short Story runner-up Lucy Garrod
my eyes steady. There were trillions of stars on the far horizon that were almost lost to view. It wasn’t difficult to imagine them there. As I looked my mind filled with most beautiful memories.
As a child I had lived in a small market town in Norfolk. In those days and at my young age evenings were made for laying out school clothes for the following day and going to bed early. On rare occasions I was allowed to stay up late (well, nine o’clock to be precise) and it was on one of these special times that my thoughts went back to.
The whole family was going to a musical festival at the church. Father took our bicycles from the shed, leaning them against a brick wall at the back of our house. Slowly and carefully he checked each tyre and light to make sure everything was in good working order. I was hopping from foot to foot impatient to be off but Father took no notice of me, he just unhurriedly carried on his check. At last we were ready to ride out into the cold, invigorating night. The evening went well and I arrived back home for once tired and eager to be tucked up in a warm bed. After returning our bikes to the shed Father stopped me in my tracks as I headed to go indoors.
“You were so excited tonight you didn’t see those,” he said pointing upwards. Puzzled, I threw my head back and stared at the velvety sky. The myriads of stars were so clear and bright I felt I could reach out with my hand and pluck one out of the heavens. My mother and sisters came to look too.
Mum pointed out the groups of stars and galaxies she could name, I do remember her patiently outlining the ‘Plough’ and telling us that many of the names were
Arabic; some formations were shaped and named after the semblance of an animal. I loved that you could see star after star after star. I was oblivious that my fingers and toes and the end of my nose had grown numb with the cold and that I had felt tired. That night was filled with peace, beauty and a stillness that was pure magic and it will never escape my memory.
A year or two later we went for a family holiday to Hunstanton. This was another of those times when I didn’t have to go to bed early. Late one evening we were enjoying a walk along the sea shore when we saw the sun sinking over land and sea. Hunstanton, although on the east coast is on The Wash, and if you are in the right place at the right time, as we were, it is possible to see the golden orb of sun stretching its magnificent fingers of light until the sky enfolds it and it fades from sight. This was the most magical part of the day for us. The phenomenon of the sun part drowning in the endless sea and part sinking into the dark earth, its bright vivid colours turning slowly into a mixture of warm dreamy colours like purple and indigo until it disappeared was heart-stopping.
Time marched on and it wasn’t long before I was a student at a senior school – where I was bullied. When things got too much for me I would lay on my bed and look out of the window at the great expanse of sky and experience that same sense of peace and stillness I had known on that frosty evening of long ago. The vast sky with its many fluffy clouds scudding hurriedly by diverted my attention from ‘me’, reminding me that life was larger than my present difficulties.
Of course, it was under the velvety cloak of a dark sky that I was to have my first kiss. It was a time of discovery of oneself in relationship to others. It was also a time of new friendships and interests.
After many false starts in choosing a career, I finally hit upon the right one. I would need qualifications but embarking on this journey didn’t begin immediately. Under the smoky, barely visible skies of an industrial town to which my parents had moved, I met my husband-to-be.
On our honeymoon, each day after our evening meal we walked along the tree-lined promenade in the cool evening air. It had been a long time since I had enjoyed gazing at a sunset, romantically. This was the idyllic time and place to enjoy this gift of nature; and we did.
It wasn’t until after the arrival of our son, then four years later our daughter, that I began studying for what I felt was my vocation. With a family to look after there was little time for anything else, least of all
looking at sunsets! I qualified and we moved our family north and work began.
The next 35 years flew by. The once popular song ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ from Fiddler on the Roof, in which one season swiftly follows another, said it all. Time sped by. My life was filled with people, problems, joys and sorrows. I continued working, my children grew up and married, moving away, making lives for themselves in places I’d scarcely heard of. We were delighted when our first grandchild arrived on the scene. Work responsibilities and our domestic life were forgotten as we travelled the miles to see her.
Before our second precious grandchild arrived we both retired and moved house. Until then, life had been full-on for us; now we are not quite so busy. There is beautiful scenery where we live, wonderful walks and just enough commerce for our needs. Yet still, after our hectic life, there was this nagging feeling that there had to be more. I hope you don’t think that sounds terribly ungrateful of me. Though conscious of the good life I have and the things I now enjoy, I have felt a little lost on occasions. I wondered how I could fill my time; my life was different after retirement.
I found the answer. Encouraged by my family I took my courage in both hands and learning of the various local groups around, I chose one to join. Over time I have made friends and learned new skills. Sometimes we arrange to have a meal together, often we simply go for a walk. We have witnessed the sun rising between majestic mountains, embracing the heavens with grey, then purple and cerise pink frondy arms of vibrant colour; we have seen sunsets that are washed out and watery, hardly reflecting the sea beneath. At other times the sunset is awesome; like a ball of fire slowly sinking into the earth, illuminating its way as it disappears below the horizon, reminding us that God’s in His Heaven. It has taken me a long time to get to this stage of satisfaction with what I am doing.
My friend has returned to look at the sunset with me again, she has dragged poor Brian along and I can see he is reluctant to come. I smile apologetically at him when he explains he was clearing up.
“He just has to see this sunset,” my friend says.
I stand to one side so that Brian can see. I feel very nervous. I want him to like what I show him. Brian is the art teacher for the group I’ve joined.
The sunset is all my own work.