The Swinging Lullaby

**Gold in the Who Framed Klaris Cliff? writing competition** A mother sits with her new born baby on an old garden swing. As she sings a familiar, soothing lullaby, she has an encounter with her deceased daughter's memory.

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A mother sat with her baby daughter on one of the garden swings, tucked away and hidden amongst the overgrown shrubs and greenery.

Branches, weighed down by large, ripe apples rested on the roof of the frame; ivy crawled along the wooden beam, hanging down the in small strips like fairy lights. The aging swing creaked under her weight as she gently moved back and forth, rocking her child to sleep. Humming a familiar, soothing lullaby the mother stared, without focus at the jungle of plants and branches in front of her.

It wasn’t the first time the woman had been so detached from her surroundings and lost in thought. Yet nobody really knew what was actually going on in that mind of hers; they were unsure whether or not they really wanted to.

Her vision blurred from her tears as she glanced to the solitary swing beside her, it swayed as it gently moved from side to side. A young girl, barely older than four whimpered and trembled in fright. Her skinny, little fingers clenched onto the ropes tightly.

“I want to get down!” She cried.

The mother blinked. Instantly the child transformed a few years older, but this time she leaned back and kicked her legs fearlessly. Her fine, golden hair flowed behind her as she soared through the air. She did this effortlessly, swinging so high, that if she reached out she would be able to touch the trees' branches with the tips of her fingers.

“Look at me!” She giggled.

The swinging slowed down and a ten year old took her place. The girl hung upside down from the beam as if she was a circus act, swinging the ropes with her hands as she laughed. Her hair had grown impressively long, creating a gold curtain that reached all the way to the seat.

“Beat that!” She challenged.

“I don’t think I can,” the mother replied.

Then a young teen appeared. The teenager sat with a leg on either side of the swing, leaning closer towards her mother. Her eyes were serious and her expression, urgent. She talked so rapidly her speech was barely comprehendible. The mother blinked, trying to take in the flow of words as much as she could.

“…And my mates were telling me all about what happened, and they told me what he said to her last week, and there was this massive fight over the weekend between them and-”

Her speech was interrupted by an older girl who took her place. Her golden hair was replaced by a deep purple and cut into short, choppy bob. At a first glance, it would be easy to think that she was somebody else, but hiding under the  long, heavy fringe were the very same green eyes, intensified by the thick line of black which outlined them.

Something about her was different. She no longer smiled, but seemed to have a permanent frown etched onto her powdered face.

Long, black nails dug into the frayed rope, as she stared ahead angrily. “You don’t understand.” She muttered to herself.

“I do,” the mother insisted.

“I know you do,” a more mature girl replied. Her hair had returned back to gold, shining in the summer evening, and her scowl had disappeared. Instead she smiled at her mother, and talked to her like an old friend, rather than a child. Occasionally, the aged seat would creak under her weight as she let out a light-hearted laugh.

 But the smile was forced, and her eyes had lost their shine.

Abruptly,the mother stopped swinging, and the daughter vanished, leaving behind the solitary seat that swayed in the breeze.

For a while she stared at the unoccupied swing, tears rolling down her cheeks.

Moments later, a tiny wail interrupted the silence, and so she cradled her child closer, stroking the soft, dark curls. The child quietened and stared, with her curious green eyes. Through blurry tears, the mother smiled back.

Then gradually she began to sing her familiar, soothing lullaby all over again.

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