Secret Of The Stones
A heart-warming family story
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