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Shipton Shorts 2017 Shipton Bellinger Short Story Competition

2015 2nd place ‘Tranquility’

By Sophie Rutland

Cooing, chirping, and cheeping. The once dormant summer breeze awakens to carry the morning yawns of those stirring to tease the still-sleeping inhabitants of the street. Hunched, towering tower block trees extend their weary limbs to reach the still-slumberous sun rays as they attempt to peer through the blend of the soon to be disappearing clouds. Lined up in the near distance, watching as if in admiration, newly planted oak trees shake the few leaves they have to the rhythm of the silent breeze. Their miniature roots beginning to expose themselves through the damp and well-nourished ground below.

Darting through the tall overgrown grass of a neighbour's garden, a small tortoiseshell cat slyly disrupts the neighbourhood silence like a hungry tiger on the prowl. Watching and waiting. Its piercing green eyes scour around the abundance of paper-white daisies and the occasional glaring yellow dandelion. It's long pointed tail thudding against the cool ground, whilst it patiently waits for the chirp of a bird or a rustling movement from a potential mouse.

Far away from the outside endeavours, dreaming of mystical magical places and unknown faces, children lie peacefully beneath their soft soothing sheets. Toys, the odd sock and unread books, teddies, pens and editions of gossip-filled magazines; scatter across the bedroom floors of many. Their teenage siblings often annoyed at the loss of their favourite most-used items, which are often hidden amongst the clutter. Plastered upon the children's multi-coloured bedroom walls - mostly pinks and blues, is an array of drawings and the latest pop - group posters. It was a rare sight when a children's room is completely tidy - much to the parent's disgust.

Relieved, exhausted mothers and those expecting, take full pleasure in the chance to escape their daily duties. Their silent sleeping murmurs muffled by the cloud-like cushions comforting their deep slumber. Upon numerous of their uncluttered bedside tables, lie multiple medications (for their daily aches) and almost ancient family portraits, which would often amuse them, due to their 90's style clothes and hairstyles. Many mothers were particularly proud of their daily achievements of working long hours, taking great care of their children and keeping their house as clean as possible, which was quite a difficult task, due to the children often leaving a trail of mess.

Snoring loudly, husbands, fathers and partners are oblivious to the dancing trees outside and the sound of the blackbird's morning songs. Their work uniforms often hanging neatly nearby, which mainly consisted of plain, checked and striped shirts with the usual smart trousers. Some men in particular favoured their black shiny shoes that they regularly made sure were in pristine condition. Along with their tiring everyday jobs, they also helped their partners with the daily house chores and the care of their young and adolescent children, therefore they often hoped for many more hours until they had to wake.

Outside in the brisk summer air, envious of those still asleep in their comforting homes, shop assistants, post men, doctors and dentists, all began their lacklustre journey to their daily jobs in and around the village. Their many cars beginning to embrace the grey worn - out roads. In the village itself, there was limited job opportunities and only a few shops existed, such as the typical Spar and local café. Many residents of the village particularly favoured the café, due to its friendly and warm environment. In fact, the café was run by a small local family, who were well known for their home-made cakes and piping hot coffee. The parents, a smitten couple, who were still in love twenty years later after they had first met, had decided to quit their everyday jobs to develop their passion for cooking and baking, which led them to open the café. The woman was often the 'face' of the café, always smiling and gossiping with the village people, whilst her mousy brown hair hung loosely in a pony-tail. Her friendly, almost girl next door face, led to people, in particular women, sharing their troubles and exciting news with her, which she often felt flattered by. Recently, she had discovered some great news - a young woman who was a regular at the café had just become engaged to her long - term partner. This news would very quickly spread around the small village.

Unlike his wife, the young man who owned the café was more quiet and discrete - he would much rather be behind the scenes. However he was an excellent business man, who always had new inventive ideas and well thought out plans on how to deliver even better customer service and tasty treats. Even after years in the café industry, he never failed to invent delicious new cakes, which he developed with the help of his two sons. Both sons, aged thirteen and sixteen, attended the local school, which they described as 'boring' and 'unhelpful', however they were both excellent students with promising grades. The school itself, stood out in its barren surroundings, with its tall glass windows and modern design. Passers-by were often amazed by the giant structure of the school and the grounds, which lay in front.

To get to and from the school, the boys regularly had to follow a forty five minute long winding pavement, which took them past many busy roads, endless fields and the occasional forest. Many school children would often venture off the pavements, into the surrounding grounds, which would take them on a new exciting adventure. In the winter and autumn especially, once it gets darker earlier, the forests would become a spooky and almost frightening experience, however the children would never admit to their friends that they were in fact scared. Instead they would frantically chase each other around the tall trees, whilst shouting and singing, which would echo around the village.

Aside from the few forests, children and adults alike, also enjoyed a stroll along the peaceful river, which directly cut across the middle of the village. If you listened closely, the sound of the faint trickling water would be able to be heard, although the sound of children playing in the nearby park would often disguise the sound. Sometimes people would even be surprised at the sight of a visiting duck that occasionally would be floating along, although this would be a rare occurrence as the river was actually quite narrow. However golden fish the size of a small tin of beans were a regular sight, which never failed to excite the visitors, who could stand and point at the fish for hours on end. For this reason, fishing was banned in the area, although some outside visitors would still attempt to try.

Alongside the river, was the 'famous' village flowers, which each year was planted by the volunteer gardening group, which consisted of local families and even individuals from outside the community, who were kindly willing to help. The flowers chosen by the group often featured lilies, marigolds and sweet peas, although they made sure to add a new flower species each year to welcome the New Year. This year, they made the decision of adding pink carnations to the abundance of sweet-smelling flowers, however this was not an easy decision - the colours of the flowers were also specifically chosen, so they would all blend together in a uniformed fashion. It all sounds rather precise, but the effort of the gardeners led to great results. The riverbed became a vision of blazing pinks, blues, purples and yellows; all laid out in perfectly formed lines.

Many gardens in the village were also well presented - the elderly particularly enjoyed any occasion to re-arrange their many flower pots and window boxes. However there was one garden in particular, which everyone agreed was the most beautiful. The owner of the garden was Mrs Bloomsfield - known to most people as Dorothy. She had reached her 80th birthday milestone last year and some individuals were getting concerned that she was developing dementia after a series of accidents that had occurred. Despite this, she was still able to take great care of her garden to some degree, although she had now employed a part - time gardener named Sam, who came from outside the village. Sam was a young-looking woman - perhaps twenty five years old, but no one could deny that she was one of the friendliest and well - rounded people around. Not only could she pluck every weed from the ground and stop pesky insects from even touching the flowers, but she could also paint the most stunning landscapes and volunteer to take the local elderly's dogs for a scenic walk on the nearby hills.

It was on these dog walks, that she began to immerse herself with the village people and even other dog walkers, who came from various towns in Wiltshire. It was a popular location for dog walkers, due its common sightings of various species of wildlife, although sometimes people would disagree on whether they spotted a stoat or a weasel darting through the bushes. However this tended to be the only form of disagreement that would take place in the village as generally the village was known as one of the 'nicest places around' - directly quoted from the Sunday time's newspaper.

But this was all about to change. The once quiet village would soon become full of news reporters, policemen, neighbours too scared look at each other and suspects, who kept their secrets to themselves. Is poor elderly Mrs Bloomsfield as innocent as she appears to be? Does Sam, the new Gardner, have any other hidden talents? Or is the young man at the café quiet for reasons that he wants to keep to himself?

Who murdered her?