Posted in Creative Writing.

This story was originally written for a creative writing course. The opening sentence was taken from a writing competition into which this story could have been entered.

Various feedback I have received suggested expanding this story to see what happens next.

As the last leaf dropped from the tree, Zoë thought back to the crazy events of the summer. Those bright cheerful warm mornings a far cry from today. It was foggy and the cold was biting. Daddy-longlegs flew up from the patchy grass, disturbed as Zoë circumvented the old silver birch, running her hand around its trunk.

She knocked the wind-chimes that hung silently from a branch, destroying the peace. Through the mist, from the bottom of the garden, Zoë could just make out the silhouette of the house. She paused and surveyed the rest of the garden, as the chimes continued to clang together but were somehow deadened by the perfect calm and stillness of her surroundings.

There was one summer’s day for which, however hot and sunny it had started, she will remember only for the darkness and shivering as she sat huddled with Paul, her boyfriend, under canvas clutching a hot cup of soup in the middle of the night.

It was a Saturday and Zoë had been out with Paul buying a new tent. They were going camping together later in the summer, their first holiday together, and decided, as they couldn’t wait, to test it that night in her back garden.

As night fell they eventually turned in, so kissed each other goodnight and snuggled in their sleeping bags, drifting off to sleep.

Zoë awoke suddenly, startled by the sound of the wind chimes rattling in the dead of night. The clinking faded; she could hear the faint sniffle of someone crying outside the tent. She lay there listening for a while, it died down; it must have been the wind, she thought to herself, and closed her eyes once again.

“Please?” asked a voice out of the blue, most definitely of a little girl, who sounded far to young to be out at that time of night.

“What do you want?” Enquired Zoë, wondering who it could be, as she felt around for her torch. There were no young children amongst her neighbours. Having found the torch she flicked the switch and shone it towards the bottom of her sleeping bag, and the end of the tent, where her clothes lay in a heap.

And that is when Zoë saw her, a little girl, kneeling at the foot of their sleeping bags with her head held down in shame. “Can I sleep with you tonight mummy?” Asked the girl, sheepishly, as she slowly raised her head.

Shocked, and frightened, Zoë turned to Paul, still fast asleep, and pushed his shoulder.

“Wake up!” She whispered, “quick!”

Zoë was eighteen, she didn’t have a daughter. She was too young for children yet. Who was this little girl? She turned back towards the child just as Paul moaned. “What?” He complained. But the little girl had gone…