A meeting place in the woods. I had a few ideas as soon as I saw the #writephoto prompt from KL Caley at New2Writing.com on Thursday afternoon.
That was before the world changed fundamentally, for several million people, and most of all for anyone under 71 in the UK. It’s hard to explain to people who do not have a monarchy how deeply strange it is to have had the same person there as Queen, all your life. And now she’s gone. It takes a few rehearsals to sing ‘God save the King’ as our national anthem. ‘Long may he reign’. Some people were reading it on the first televised anthem-playing, to make sure they didn’t slip up.
So a week that started with a new prime minister being forced upon us after a vote of 160,000 people (UK pop. 65 m), from a choice of two awful candidates, ended with the complete change of our way of life.
I’ve always liked Charles. God save King Charles III. I hope this flash story doesn’t land me in a dungeon in the Tower of London. It’s just under 600 words, and no disrespect is meant to any persons living or dead.
The Meeting Place
“I’ve not been here before.” Charles looked around him. He thought he knew every part of the estate, all the woods and glades, where the animals were, where the streams disappeared. This clearing was new. Although it looked old. The wood was weathered. The logs starting their cycle of decay. The chair…
He started towards it, but Meghan interrupted.
“Please sit here, if you would, and Camilla beside you. Yes, thank you.”
Charles observed Meghan’s smile at Camilla, whose overtures of friendliness were beginning to pay off. It seemed to be less of an effort, anyway.
Charles sat on the log opposite the strange chair, Camilla beside him. He hoped the chair wasn’t for Meghan. Anne sat beside him, Andrew and Edward on the other side, on the next log.
“The rest of you just arrange yourself as you wish, but Will, you sit here, and I’ll sit there. She pointed to the logs either side of the chair. Harry joined her, while Will and Kate and the three youngsters sat on the side log. Charlotte stroked the smooth surface.
“Where did the bark go, Mummy?”
“It must have fallen off as the wood aged, dear.”
Charles nodded. Charlotte seemed to be taking a good interest in the countryside. Will would be a good teacher, though. Meghan interrupted his thoughts again.
“This is a very special place, a place of history. Whatever you think of this ceremony, please give it respect, and withhold any judgments until we leave the area. Thank you.
“And now, please hold the hand of the people either side of you. Will, just place it on the wood, like me.”
Will stopped wondering where to put his left hand and dropped it to the log.
“Now close your eyes.”
Charles wanted to object. He’d done a seance at Trinity, it was altogether too juvenile and ridiculous. Unseemly even. A squeeze on his right hand relaxed him. Camilla knew how he felt. Just go with the flow.
He had no idea how long he’d been sitting there, holding Camilla’s and Anne’s hands, eyes closed, listening to the sounds of the woodland. He didn’t even know if someone was sitting in the strange chair, which appeared to be the stuff of legends.
All he knew was that his mother was speaking to him, clearly, like she always did. And she was speaking to each of them, all at the same time, with different messages.
He listened, absorbed the words, the underlying meaning, and the subtle warnings. He drew them into his heart, and made them part of himself. And promised not to lose his temper with any of the stupid people that turned up as prime ministers, now or in the future.
“Was that why you went when you did?” he asked, unable to resist.
A sigh was all his answer. But he knew that sigh, and smiled.
“Give my love to father,” he whispered to her.
And she was gone.
He opened his eyes. The others had left him, gathered off to one side, all bar Anne and Camilla, who still held his hands. Anne gave him that wry smile of hers, nodded, and stood up. Camilla smiled and helped him to his feet.
“I always said she was a witch,” Camilla murmured in his ear.
Charles looked over at the younger woman, standing uncertainly beside Harry.
“Thank you, Meghan.” Should he say more? It seemed not; she appeared content. “Shall we go back?”
© J M Pett 2022