Hope on the Wind

August 14, 2017

 

His mother’s tears had become the soundtrack of his sleep, and when it had become too much to bear and knowing that he was too young to offer any real comfort, he had begun to climb out onto the rooftop.

 

He would lay back on the cool clay, allowing the breeze to take him to a better place. Thomas would try to count the stars as he waited out the wailing from his mother’s room, and only when silence fell would he make his way back to his bed, pulling the blankets up under his nose to catch his own falling tears.

 

She had tried to stop him once, catching him climbing out of his window one afternoon when he had thought she wasn’t yet home from work. She was a heavy-set woman, and he was sure that he would have heard her footsteps approaching his room, but the adrenaline had been pounding in his ears, dulling the world around him, as he began to pull the top half of his body through the window.

 

‘Thomas?’ he heard her concerned voice only as she swung the door open, a look of horror on her face as she saw her son’s legs kicking mid-air wildly. ‘Thomas!’ This time she screamed, grasping first at his ankles and fumbling her way to his belt, giving him a sharp tug back into the room, both falling back onto the bed. She had begun to shake with sobs, her hands clinging desperately to him. Her tears streaming down her cheeks, coming to rest on his head. ‘You can’t leave me too!’

 

The roar of thunder pulled him from his thoughts. Thomas sniffed at the air, the scent of the rain filling his nostrils, a rush of exhilaration bringing a smile to his face. Being up here had become his escape from reality for him since his father left.

 

The rain was slick on the shingles which caused his foot to slip a little further than he had wanted, arms waving frantically as he righted himself again. It hadn’t been this difficult the last time, he thought to himself as he exhaled slowly. Then again, it had been one of the hottest days on record, the fact that he had spent the entire summer sweating in his arm cast has been a testament to this.

 

Thomas paused for a moment, thinking back to the look of fear in his mother’s eyes as she had watched him slide down the rooftop to the ground below. She had tried to put herself between him and the concrete, managing to at least soften the blow to his head after his arm had crumpled beneath him.

 

It had been a frantic drive to the hospital. The pain had coursed through him, but no tears had come. His vision may have been swimming, but he could still tell his mother needed him to be brave like his father, her hysteria enough for the two of them.

 

There wasn’t much he could do as a child but he was bigger now, stronger, and his arm had healed up relatively well. Steadying himself on the shingles once more, he stepped over a loose one, having learnt his lesson since the fall. He grabbed at the rope wrapped around him, extending it a little longer to the end of his fingers. Happy with the length, he tied a knot precisely the way his father had taught him around his waist, pulling on it confidently. He could hear his father’s voice as if beside him. Safety first. A firefighter’s mantra.

Pulling the rope firmly through the shower curtain rings now, Thomas made one final knot at the end, tightening the fabric over the wooden frame he had constructed out of broken branches. He traced his hands along the wood, momentarily contemplating the strength of the contraption now on his back. It didn’t work the first time but today was different. This time he knew what he had needed to do. Sneaking the newspaper from the kitchen table every day, Thomas would check over the weather religiously. The words had sometimes been a struggle, but he could tell from the pictures what to expect. A sun, rain clouds, blowing wind.

 

Standing atop the house, he felt the breeze pick up around him, tugging gently already at the wings strung to his back. His converse shoes, identical to his father’s, moved beneath him and Thomas felt his heart race, a smile quick to his small lips as he realised he had finally pulled this off. There wasn’t much give in the wings, but he didn’t need that; he just needed the lift to carry him. It was a crude design but much better than the first one he had used in summer.

 

Shuffling to the edge of the roof, the wind began to gust stronger now, enough to blow open the garden gate. Thomas stretched out his arms and looked down at the lawn below, his smile growing wider as he saw his mother beneath him with her hands clasped together in desperation. It hadn’t been the wind opening the gate; it had been her. ‘Thomas!’ she yelled over the howling wind. ‘Mummy needs you to go back to your window right now! It’s not safe honey!’ Her eyes grew wide as she took in the wings on his back, dredging up a memory of her husband taking his last breath. This couldn’t happen again!

 

Thomas knew the only way he could make his mother happy again would be to bring back his father and he could see it so clearly, the look of pride on her face as he led him to the kitchen table as he had every morning until daddy didn’t come home anymore.

 

‘Mummy! Thomas cried, thunder rolling in the sky behind him, ‘Wait by the window again so you can pull me and daddy in this time.’ Thomas spread his arms wide and leapt forward.

__________

Hannah Golding moved to Canada from England five years ago. She currently lives with her supportive wife and her unsupportive animals on the prairies. She's a work by day and write by night kind of girl!

 

Hope on the Wind is a Fiction War Finalist entry.
Please do not reproduce without permission from the author.
Originally published at fictionwar.com. Image credit:

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Fiction War Magazine is a quarterly independent literary journal published by Wolvesburrow Productions, Chicago.