Day One – Silk ribbons and fish paste sandwiches.
It was a grey cloudy afternoon in 1937 when Miriam trudged home from school, following the route of the 149 bus. She didn’t have any money for the fare, so she would have to walk as usual. It was her ninth birthday in two days. She sighed deeply as she wondered if anyone would remember. She thought it unlikely with her parents being so preoccupied with their busy lives.
Her mother and father worked in the Terminus Café by Shoreditch Bus Station, making tea and all-day breakfasts for the bus drivers and conductors as they finished their shifts. Her parents often forgot, so Miriam wasn’t expecting this year to be any different. She couldn’t remember the last birthday cake she had. She pretended she didn’t care, but she would have given anything to be like her school friends, whose parents always made a big fuss of them while lavishing them with gifts wrapped in pretty paper and tied with silk ribbons and bows. Miriam’s friends always invited her to their birthday parties, but her mother wouldn’t let her go. She’d shout, “do you think money grows on trees, my girl? We can’t afford birthday presents for other people’s kids.” Miriam knew best not to answer back; otherwise, she’d be in for a good hiding.
She was so deep in thought that she didn’t realise how slowly she’d been walking. She should have been home by now. Scared of being in trouble, she ran the rest of the way. She arrived home, out of breath, twenty minutes late, to be greeted by her mother yelling, “what time do you call this?”
“I’m really sorry, mum. I didn’t notice it was getting so late.”
“Well, if you think you’re getting any tea tonight, you’ve got another think (sic) coming, my girl. Go to your room, and don’t make a noise!”
Miriam ran up the stairs choking back her salty tears. She didn’t dare to make a fuss, or her mother would shout at her to stop her crocodile tears. She plopped herself down on the floor next to her bed, pulled the grey flannel blanket down and wrapped it around her slim shoulders. She grabbed her moth-eaten teddy bear, Peter, and held him close. He’d seen better days as she had had him since her first birthday. She loved him just as he was and knew she could tell Peter about anything troubling her. He would never shout at her as her mother did. She nodded off while clasping Peter to her chest and dreamt that she was in the middle of a birthday party her parents had organised for her as a surprise. When she awoke, it was almost dark, and she was very sad and disappointed to find that it was only a dream.
Suddenly, Miriam heard screaming and shouting coming from downstairs. “You’ve been down that bloody pub again, haven’t you.” It was her mother’s angry voice. She was yelling at her husband again.
Miriam’s dad always ambled along to the pub after working at the café. She often noticed that he had an almost permanent bright red, bulbous nose and smelt of cigarettes and beer. She liked her dad. He was always jolly despite everything. She wanted to go downstairs to greet him but thought better of it. She didn’t want to get into any more trouble. She heard him stumble into the front room and put the television on.
A few minutes later, a voice shouted, “your dinner is on the table. Are you going to eat it, or are you going to sit in front of that bloody TV all night?” Miriam could smell the delicious aroma of minced beef and roast potatoes wafting up the stairs. Her tummy rumbled, but she knew she’d have to make do with her mug of water and the leftover remnants of her fish paste and now warm cucumber sandwich from her lunch bag. She carefully opened the brown paper wrapping and took a bite. The bread was stale now, and the crusts were hard and dry. She didn’t want to eat it but knew she’d only get into more trouble with her mother if she left it. She’d had enough of being told off today, so she chewed hard and swallowed it down with the now tepid water from her mug.
By now, she was tired and thought she might as well go to bed rather than dare to go back downstairs only to be yelled at again. She tiptoed into the bathroom to splash her face and clean her teeth and crept back to her bedroom. She climbed into her pink-striped pyjamas and pulled on the pale blue bed socks that her grandma had knitted for her last Christmas; it was always so cold in her bedroom at night. She didn’t even have the luxury of a hot water bottle to keep her warm. Nevertheless, she felt safe in bed and pulled Peter close to her. She could talk to him about her worries and fears without the risk of being told not to make such a fuss. She lay there covered with her grey blanket and her paisley eiderdown, which always felt so comforting. Finally, she drifted off into a deep sleep …
… TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
36 thoughts on “The Birthday (A Story) – Part One”
You are an interesting storyteller…..
I wonder how many parts it is.
I enjoyed reading this one.
Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, my friend. I’m glad you found it interesting and enjoyed reading part one of my story. It will either be in two parts (one due tomorrow), or it maybe be three, as the next half is rather longer than this part, and I think people don’t always have time to read that much in one go. You will have to wait until tomorrow to find out 😉✨
I will stay tuned and amazed.
and how are you feeling dear ET?
Thank you for being interested in my story, Devang. I’m feeling much better these days, thank you. I still have the odd bad day, but on the whole, I am feeling good. I hope you are well, too. I see you have a new avatar photo that comes up with your comments on my page. I like it and seeing a new photo of you. It’s lovely. ✨😊
I am glad that you are feeling good.
Depends on which pic you are seeing, because I changed them multiple times today, haha
Poor Miriam… I never had a birthday party, either, but at least my mom was a kind person. This tale is so richly woven and such a joy to read. The characters (including Peter) are vivid and realistic, and the sense of place evokess all sorts of memories (the safe refuge of a child’s bedroom). Goodness, Ellie, this is beautiful writing. I look forward to the next installment. 🙂
Aww, Mike, I am honoured to have this praise from you as the brilliant writer you are. It means an awful lot to me – thank you so much. I’m glad you found the story vivid and enjoyable. I had a bit of a job finding a picture of an old 1930s scullery, and I fact-checked all my details for this piece. I really enjoyed the process. I will publish part two tomorrow (and possibly a part three the day after, as the second part is longer than this one) ✨😊.
Really liking this story so far. Tragic…
Thanks for reading and commenting on my story, Jeff. It is tragic and it’s actually based on facts from the 1930’s, so I needed to make sure I’d done my research properly. I will publish part two early tomorrow. There may be a shorter part three to come, too, depending on the length of part two when I publish it. Glad you’re enjoying it so far 😊.
Thank you for diving into these writing projects. I’m certain they are helping your day to day outlook. I’m trying to get my father interested in a writing project. He once wrote a memoir about his time with his beloved dog. I’ve suggested that he take a stab at his personal memoir.
I definitely find it very helpful to write. I always have done, at least, since I’ve been blogging. Branching out into fiction has somehow given me an alternate view of the world. It would be great if you could get your father to write more. I’d love to read his memoir about his dog. I hope he can be coaxed to write more with your friendly and kind prompting.
Loving this story😊✨
Any further information about other parts?
Thank you so much, Vidah. Part two will follow early tomorrow, and there may be a shorter part three, depending on the length of part two. I didn’t want to give readers too much to read in one go. I’m glad you are enjoying it. Thanks again. Xx 😊🌷💕
“Fish paste sandwich” hmm, I might have to go hungry, doesn’t sound very appealing! Wonderful story though, we will all be waiting for the next part.
Thanks for your comment, Brian. I agree that fish paste doesn’t sound very tasty, although, in the 1930s, this family couldn’t afford anything better like chicken or ham sandwiches. I’m glad you enjoyed part one of my story. Part two will follow early tomorrow morning. There may be a third and final part, too, depending on how long tomorrow’s part will be. I don’t want to bore readers with a post that takes ages to plough through. I think you sincerely for taking an interest in my work 😊.
Ah, thanks, Tamara. I will be publishing part two early tomorrow morning. There may be a short third part the following day, as if I publish the rest tomorrow, all in one go, it will be a bit long for readers to plough through, I think. I will give it some more thought and make a decision before tomorrow. Xx P.S. I’m still studying your books and learning a lot. It’s certainly giving me a new perspective on life, so thank you sincerely Xx 😊💝💐
Sound good Ellie, I’m looking forward to reading the resolution of this story!
I’m very happy to hear that you are getting good and helpful information from my books. I’ve seen the entire tone and feel of your posts change from panic, desperation, despair, and manic anxiety, to a much calmer feel. You’ve gone through a big transition, and are on a different path now than where you were even 2 months ago! Keep going, this is the adventure!
Thank you, my friend. I will keep going. I have so much to live for now. Xx 🤗
That sounds very positive! Love hearing thus! 😀🙂
You did a great job of creating a very realistic and sympathetic character! The readers feel her pain.
Thank you, Ann. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I am publishing part two shortly. X 💐💕
Looking forward to part two. Strangely, I used to like fishpaste as a kid.
Thanks, Mick. I’m glad you liked my story. Part two will be published this morning. Funnily enough, I liked fish paste as a child, too. I don’t eat it now, being vegan, but there are plenty of vegan pates about that do a pretty good job of replacing the fish paste. I don’t fancy the warm cucumber, though! X
No, I couldn’t now, being vegetarian. Yes, other spreads are available.
What an engaging story! I’m very invested and really want things to be better for the poor girl.
Thank you, Bridgette. I’m glad my story drew you in. Several readers have asked if I’m going to continue the story. I will give it some careful thought, as an ongoing story isn’t anything I’ve ever written before. Xx 💞🥰💞
Well done, your storytelling skills are amazing! So proud of you 👏 💖
Thank you so much, Pamelap. That means a lot to me coming from such a good writer as yourself. I don’t find writing fiction easy, but am challenging myself to grow by writing more. I’ve already written part two and three to this story and am hoping to continue with a part four, too. Thank you again, my friend. Xx 😊🌹💞
I look forward to reading them when you share on your blog!! 💝💝
You managed to create an engaging intro. I’m sure we all sympathize with Miriam. It breaks my heart when kids don’t have a happy childhood (not that I condone spoiling them, but you know what I mean, I hope).
The mother is portrayed as mean, but I have a feeling that she almost has to be that way because of the dad. Or maybe the dad is like that because of the mom?
I look forward to learning more about this family. Nicely done!
Thanks, Sam. The father was definitely like that because of the mother being the dominant one of the couple. It was a situation rather the opposite to my Mum and my father, when I was growing up where my father was the dominant one. I’m currently doing a lot of research for the next chapter in my story. There’s a surprising amount of research to be done to get an accurate picture of the times. Glad you liked it. X
My heart goes out to Myriam and I so relate to her upbringing. I wish I could give her a hug and tell her that she’s worth diamonds. This is so beautifully written, Ellie. Go, you awesome thing! xx
Oh, thank you so much for finding the time to read and comment on part one of my story. Miriam, although a fictional character, most of the story is based on my dear Mum’s childhood with her parents. She had a tough time of it. My childhood was similar, too. I’m sorry you had a similar experience in your childhood, my friend. I so appreciate you commenting on my post, given all that you’re dealing with at the moment at home. Much love to you, dear Janet Xx 💐💖