Stone Angel is a short story inspired by a photographic prompt for a twenty-minute writing sprint while in the virtual company of Lorna Fergusson of Fictionfire.co.uk yesterday.

A couple of years ago, I approached Lorna for an appraisal of the first 20,000 words of the draft of my first novel, It’s All in the Genes. Looking back, I can’t believe I had the brass neck to send her such a higgledy-piggledy poor excuse for a manuscript. Thanks to Lorna’s comments and advice, my story took off in a different direction and turned out to be Just Say It.

About a year later, I got to meet Lorna at a fantastic Writers Weekend Workout at Winchester University.  She was one of the brilliant tutors that weekend, an event I felt privileged to be a part of.

During Lockdown and out of the goodness of her heart, Lorna has hosted three free online writing retreats, The Consolation of Writing.  I feel very grateful to have benefited from all three sessions. Little old me in the same virtual room as published authors from around the world.  Three experiences I am incredibly fortunate to have had.  So engrossed I was, I kept forgetting to unmute myself!  Thank you, Lorna.

STONE ANGEL

(433 words. 1 minute, 43-second read.)

And, there she was, after nineteen years of searching. The statue of the stone angel, ‘my’ stone angel, stood inches away from me.  May you always have an angel by your side is the inscription at her feet. She may not have physically been by my side for nineteen years, but she had been the focus of my search.

When I was ten, my adoptive parents gave me a photograph of me with my birth mother after telling me I was not theirs. They reassured me they would, always and forever, love me as their own. I am holding that photo in my hand now. My birth mother and I standing in front of this stone angel.  

She is an august memorial to a woman who died over 200 years before I was born.  I look up at her face, reaching out to touch her arm. The wind drops, the rustling of the leaves stops, and a feeling of déjà vu washes over me. I’ve stood here before. I reached out to touch her once before thirty-five years ago. I remember. Cold and hard to the touch, she stares out from unseeing eyes, but she is all-knowing. 

‘I’ve been here before.’ A breathy whisper escapes my lips. ‘Thirty-five years ago, with my mother.’  

I look down at the photo taken a handful of days before I was adopted. My mother’s face is soft, warm, but her eyes betray a sadness within. My five-year-old features stretched by a big smile as I cling to my mother’s hand, with both of mine. Totally unaware that within days I would be saying goodbye to her for the last time. 

‘I’ve been trying to find her since I was twenty-one.’ I sigh. 

I started the search with the blessing of my adoptive parents. I’d had a very happy childhood, but there was always something missing, niggling. I wanted to know why, but whatever the reason, I was prepared to forgive.  

‘You’ve always been the clue.’ I say. My voice, unintentionally, sounds an octave higher. ‘I’ve always believed that if I could find you, I would be a step closer to finding my mother.’

I’m tempted for one ridiculous moment, to take a selfie with ‘my’ angel, but I take a step back. Focussing my iPhone, I capture her as she has always been, alone, in dignified silence.

‘She’s beautiful, isn’t she? Unseeing, but all-knowing.’ A woman’s voice from behind me takes me by surprise. The tone of her voice is soft, warm, and strangely familiar.

I turn around, I see her face, and I know.