Together We Stand – Episode 03

“Haven’t you looked inside?” Tanni asked.

“It’s a covered wagon, isn’t it? I presume it’s some kind of dwelling, like the pioneer settlers in America.” He peered closer at the canvas in front of him. “Good lord. That looks like a bullet hole.”

“It is,” Tanni confirmed. “There are more, too. Most of them are patched, but he left one or two as a reminder. At least, that’s what Mr Samuel told me.”

“A reminder of what?” He met her eyes and coloured slightly. “I knew little of my uncle, Miss Phillips. My sister and I have lived in America for the past ten years.

“My father considered Uncle Samuel unsuitable company. He was a younger brother who had cut himself off from the family, and my father was not one to be easily defied.”

Tanni winced. She knew all about fathers who were not easily defied.

“The wagon was the one your uncle used in the Crimean War.”

“I didn’t know Uncle Samuel had served as a soldier.”

“He didn’t.” She looked again at the picture wagon, trying to take it all in, and the astonishment of such a precious gift, even though it was one she could never accept. “Can we look inside?”

“Of course.” Henry scrabbled in his pocket, bringing out an envelope.

He held it out towards Tanni, who shook her head. If she once held that key in her hand as hers, she would never be able to do the sensible thing and hand the gift back.

She closed her eyes, wishing Dad were still here, sober or not. He had never lifted a finger to any of them, not even when he’d scarcely been able to walk.

Like Mam, she’d understood, as her younger brothers and sisters would never do, his pain and frustration, and the nightmares that had never ceased to haunt him. Dad would have understood about the picture wagon and everything it meant.

She watched as Mr Gillingham unlocked the small door in the wooden panelling at the back of the wagon. Acrid fumes crept out as the door opened, catching Henry at the back of his throat, causing him to cough.

Tanni, on the other hand, breathed them in, harsh as they were. The magic was still there.

It was the magic of the picture wagon, along with the passion that had still gleamed in the old man’s eyes as he taught her how to use his beloved cameras, her strong young hands working the equipment his arthritic fingers had no longer been able to use.

She’d thought it had faded over the years, when Mr Samuel had become too frail to walk the short steps to the picture wagon.

Especially after Dad died, and there had been no choice but for her to leave school and take the first employment she could find to eke out the money Mam made nursing Mr Samuel and taking in washing.

As she stepped into the familiar cocoon of the wagon, she knew the passion was still there, as strong as it had been since the day the old man had invited her to look through the viewfinder of his camera and she’d first seen the upside-down and back-to-front image of the scene about to be captured for ever.

It was impossible, but she knew that she would never be able to let this go.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.