Angelic Orders by C J Richardson 2013
‘NO. NO. She didn’t seem too bad last night. Please, Mum. No. Not Gran.’
Tom ran to his Mum burying his head in her soft warm body as she tried to hold down the tide of tears that were overwhelming her.
‘There. There now. You know that she’s been ill for a long time. She was ready to go Tom. Gran was very tired and she went in her sleep. She wasn’t in any pain at all. She’s joined all the other angels now. She loved you very much and she will be watching over you right now and telling you to ‘stop crying and give your old gran that magic smile’. Remember? She loved to see you smile, didn’t she?’
‘I want her to come back. I want her to come back. Please make her come back, Mum.’
Tom pulled away from his Mum and ran out of the little cottage where he lived with Mum and Gran. How could everything look the same? Why was the sun shining? Why was Sally Jones laughing and playing with her little sister?
Tom jumped on his mountain bike and pedalled down the quiet village street. Mrs Edwards was watering the hanging baskets outside The Old Swan pub. The red post van was parked up outside the village shop that also served as a post office. Hugh Lloyd, the postman, was emptying the box on the wall.
‘Morning Tom lad, Where are you off to this morning?’ Hugh smiled and waved but Tom put his head down and pedalled faster. Hugh liked Tom and he liked Tom’s Mum too. He had been trying to summon up enough courage to talk to her for a while. He had thought that he might have a chance if he got to know Tom a little better.
Tom headed south-east over the tiny stone bridge and passed the small church where he and Gran and Mum went every Sunday morning. The little village of Llangynog nestled among the beautiful Berwyn Mountains about nine miles from Welshpool. Tom had lived there all his life and so had his mother, his Gran and her mother before her. Tom loved his home and the hills and mountains around them. He had never known his father or his grandfather. Mum had told him that they had both been killed in a car accident before he was born.
Tom cycled up to the forest and the old quarry. There were lots of mountain bike trails and he knew them well. He spent a lot of time up there with Jack and Peter his closest friends. They had all just finished their final year at the village school in Bancyfelin and would be going to the big high school in Welshpool in September.
He reached the edge of the forest and stopped to get his breath back. He wiped the salt tears from his face with the end of his sleeve before dropping down on to the grass in a crumpled heap.
He wasn’t sure how long he had been there when his crying finally subsided. He looked out across the valley and down towards the village. He could pick out the cottage and wondered what was happening. He saw a large black car pull up outside. ‘It must be Mr Williams the undertaker.’ He thought. His eyes drifted towards the church and the cemetery where his grandfather and his father were buried. He had not known either of them so it hadn’t really registered that there were real people buried in those graves. Now it hit him like a thunderbolt that his Gran would be buried there with them.
He jumped back on to his bike and pedalled hard into the forest. He rode as fast as he could, chasing away the thoughts that were tearing at his heart and choking him so that he could hardly breathe. He zipped through the familiar rows of spruce and larch, occasionally interspersed with small patches of Oak, Rowan and Ash. Flying uphill and downhill, swinging around sharp bends where his tyres screamed and the gravel sprayed out and ricocheted off the tree trunks, stinging his bare legs. He could picture his Gran, cold and lonely in the dark earth where she wouldn’t be able to see anything. How would he talk to her? He would never see her again? He squeezed the brakes hard and the bike shrieked to a halt. He needed to get home before they took her away. He would take the short cut along the ridge by the old quarry.
The wind whipped up and the sky turned dark as he pedalled. Rain and wind blew hard into his face. Tom was only wearing a tee shirt and shorts and the rain lashed his arms and legs and the top of his head as he looked down to stop it stinging his face. Nothing mattered except getting back home to see his Gran.
The front tyre hit a stone and his bike jolted up into the air. Suddenly there was no path in front of him, only open space. The trees and bushes flew up towards him and his bike was ripped away as his face hit a branch. Something sharp raked his back and he was tossed down and down hitting his legs and his arms again and again. Then......blackness and nothing.
It was dark when Tom opened his eyes. His twisted body screamed with pain and he couldn’t move or see. He lay still trying to work out how he came to be there.
‘Mum? Where are you? What’s happened? Ooh, it hurts. Mum?’ Tom winced as he tried to sit up. He felt himself start to slide and realised where he was. Tom had fallen over the edge of the quarry and was lying halfway down a very loose scree slope. The rain had stopped but the sky was cloudy and black, hiding any light from the moon. Every time he moved he started to slip further down the slope. He pictured the quarry in his mind and knew that the scree slope ran down to a ledge that was at the top of a steep cliff face more than a hundred feet deep. If he slipped down now he would go over the edge and fall straight to the bottom of the quarry. Tom lay very still and wondered what to do. He was shivering and his clothes were cold and wet.
‘No one will find me up here’ he thought. ‘I need to get back up to the top’. Tom tried to move again but the loose gravel gave way beneath him and he started to slide again. His body shook with cold and he closed his eyes.
‘Mum, I’m scared. Come and find me. Please come and find me.’ Time passed slowly and the temperature dropped sharply. Tom started to drift in and out of consciousness and dreamed about his Gran. She was calling out to him in the dark.
‘Tom, stop crying now. I’m here. There’s a good boy. It’s alright now. It’s alright.’
Tom opened his eyes and shielded them against the bright light that was hurting them. Was that a face?
‘Is that you Gran? How did you get here? Mum said you had gone?’
‘I’m not gone, Tom. I could never leave you. Here give me your hand. Let me help you.
He held is right hand up towards the light and shielded his eyes with the other.
‘Ooh. It hurts too much Gran. I can’t do it.’
‘You have to Tom. Your Mum needs you. You can’t stay here.’
Tom felt the warmth of his Gram’s hand pulling him up. He turned himself over to face the gravel and started to climb. His Gran was pushing him and willing him on from behind.
‘That’s it Tom. You can do it. Go and take care of your Mum. I’ll always be here when you need me but your Mum needs you more than you need me.’
His fingers bled and his knees were scraped clean of skin as he inched his way back to the top. Finally, he reached the bushes and few trees near the top of the ridge and found that he could get a proper foothold without sliding down.
‘Come on Gran. We’re nearly there.’ he shouted back to her, but as he turned round the light had gone. The wind was howling again and he felt very much alone.
Tom knew that he must be near the top so he forced himself on and eventually felt the edge that he had been looking for. Hauling himself back on to the path at the top of the slope he knew that he couldn’t go any further.
His eyes were closed and he thought that he could hear noises in the distance. The sounds got louder and lights were blinking in lots of directions.
‘Is that you Gran? Have you come back?’
‘Tom. Oh, Tom. Are you Ok? Oh, Tom. What’s happened to you?’
‘He’s breathing. Let’s get him to the ambulance. Come on lads. Give me a hand here.’
Tom thought he could hear his Mum’s voice and maybe Mr Lloyd the postman but he wasn’t sure. It was going to be ok.
Tom woke up and shielded his eyes. Everything was so bright and white.
‘Well! Hello, there young man. Glad to see you’re awake at last. How are we feeling then?’
Tom looked up at a man in a white coat.
‘A Doctor. I must be in hospital then.’ He thought and promptly fell asleep.
When he woke again his Mum was leaning over him.
‘I thought I’d lost you. How are you feeling darling? You gave us all such a scare. How did you manage to climb back up the quarry? Your Gran would have been so proud of you. Hugh..Mr Lloyd says that you must have a Guardian Angel looking after you.’
Tom remembered that his Gran had been there and what she had said.
‘Mr Lloyd is right Mum. I do have a Guardian Angel looking after me.’
He smiled and went back to sleep.