Se­cret Of The Stones

A heart-warm­ing fam­ily story

My Weekly - - Contents - By Fran Tracey

Mummy, I’ve got one, look,” he cried, his words al­most lost on the bit­ing wind as he headed back over the stones to­wards Steph.

Mummy. He’d never call her that if he thought any­one was lis­ten­ing. Strictly Mum these days. Just turned 10 and all grown up.

He’d wan­dered ahead of her along the beach, her stom­ach knot­ted as she saw him go, his blue base­ball cap bob­bing as he hopped over rocks. He’d stay in view, she knew that, but long gone were the days when they walked to­gether hand in hand, or with Chris on the other side, and they’d pick Oli up on the count of three and fling him high in the air. Al­ways catch­ing him. Never let­ting go.

“Can you guess what I’ve got?” His cheeks were pink from the cold and ex­er­tion. Au­tumn days on Nor­folk beaches weren’t for the faint-hearted.

In the cen­tre of his palm was a piece of sand­stone. It looked like noth­ing. Just soft yel­low rock that would erode as soon as the wind whis­tled past it.

“And?” she asked, know­ing he was prep­ping her for the slow re­veal, that it was a game of sorts. One they had set up be­tween them over the years.

“What are you think­ing it is?” He smiled teas­ingly. “Oh, I don’t know, a di­nosaur egg?” “Mum, re­ally? You need to get over think­ing you’ll ever find one of those.”

So, she was Mum now, now that she was dis­play­ing signs of be­ing a lit­tle daft and fan­ci­ful.

“It’s an am­monite, look.” When Oli turned the piece of stone over, a swirl of fos­sil was re­vealed, thicker around the edges, dis­ap­pear­ing into it­self in the cen­tre. Per­fectly formed and com­plete. “How old d’you think it is?” “Older than me, that’s for sure.” Oli rolled his eyes. This joke was wear­ing thin. Steph knew she should stop apol­o­gis­ing for not be­ing the youngest mum on the block. It didn’t ap­pear to bother Oli at all.

“About 40 mil­lion years?” she added, tak­ing an ed­u­cated guess.

“Sounds about right.” Oli placed the fos­sil back on the ground. “Dad would like the am­monite,” he added.

Chris had al­ways been more of a fos­sil per­son. Steph liked a good solid rock. “Not tak­ing it with you?” “Not this time, Mum.” He al­ways would have done be­fore. In the past. But that was the trou­ble. Could you ever claw back the past? Re­live it? She didn’t think so. She hoped com­ing here hadn’t been a mis­take. “Ready to head back?” She shiv­ered. “Ten more min­utes?” She nod­ded her agree­ment, guess­ing he’d say that. He’d got the beach­comb­ing bug, had done since he was big enough to fill a bucket of peb­bles and take them to the sea to rinse them clean. It must be in the fam­ily genes.

“Shiny, Mummy. More, Daddy?” he’d say back then.

They looked so beau­ti­ful when wet from the sea, so full of jewel-like prom­ise. The colours were rich – pinks and reds, greens and jet black. Even a rich gold – mostly car­nelian, but the oc­ca­sional tiny piece of am­ber, warmer to the touch. From a dis­tance the peb­ble beaches they fre­quented could ap­pear ho­moge­nously grey, but close

The THOUGHT kept be­ing WASHED BACK into her con­scious­ness

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